Highest Svalbard sea ice since 1988 with Bear Island in the south surrounded

From Polar Bear Science

Posted on April 8, 2020 |

From 3-7 April this year, sea ice around Svalbard Norway has been the highest since 1988, but only 6th or 7th highest since records began in the 1970s. Pack ice is year surrounds Bear Island (Bjørnøya) at the southern end of the archipelago for the first time since 2009 at this date, and continues the pattern of high extent and thickness of ice in the Barents Sea since last summer.

Bear island 8 March 2019_first bear seen since 2011_Bjørnøya Meteorological Station photo SVALBARDPOSTEN
Svalbard ice extent 2020 April 7 graph_NIS

On the 3rd of April 2020, it looked like the highest extent on record had been reached, according to the NIS graph above. But because the graph only goes back to 1981 (see the ‘Min/Max’ dotted line), that’s not the case: it was only the sixth highest compared to records that go back to at least 1969 (and 81,483 sq km above the 1981-2010 average).

However, the difference between extents on 3 April 1988 (511,048 sq km) must be almost statistically indistinguishable from 3 April 2020 (507,194 sq km) because it’s certainly indistinguishable on a graph as crude as the one presented to the public above. Although their archived ice charts availble online only go back to 1998 for April, the NIS noted on 3 April 2020 via Twitter [my bold]:

“The last time there was this much #seaice around #Svalbard on this day of the year was 1988, with 511,048 sq km. This year’s extent has only been exceeded by, in ascending order, 1988, 1971, 1977, 1969 and 1978.

On the 7th of April, NIS noted the ice was similarly 7th highest on record (79,124 sq km above the 1981-2010 average at 502,563 sq km), compared to records going back to at least 1969.

Svalbard ice extent 2020 April 7_NIS

The ice that surrounded Bjørnøya at the southern end of the archipelago last year in early March, which brought bears to the island for the first time since 2011, was gone by 21 March or so. Although 2004 had the highest Svalbard extent at the end of February (making 2020 the second-highest at that date), there was no ice anywhere near Bjørnøya in early April 2004.  While there was ice that far south in 2000 at 3 April, as well as in 2001 and 2006 and 2009 at that date, the presence of ice surrounding Bjørnøya in 2020 was still a rare occurrance in early April: note that Bear Island isn’t even included on the Svalbard ice map for 2009, below:

Svalbard ice extent 2009 April 3_NIS archive

We likely won’t hear about March and April visitors to Bjørnøya until later in the year.

Below is the global ice extent at 7 April 2020. Note that while ice is gone from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, polar bears seldom venture that far south, as is also true for the southern Bering Sea in the western Arctic, where the ice will likely retreat north quickly:

masie_all_zoom_4km 2020 April 7

Graph below shows how global ice extent in 2020 and 2006 at 7 April compares to the long term average (back to 1979):

Sea ice extent 2020 and 2006 with 2x deviation closeup at 7 April 2020_NSIDC interactive

March extent average for 2020 came in higher than the last five years (or, as the NSIDC prefer to put it, the ’11th lowest’ since 1979):

March 2020 average graph 1979-2020 NSIDC

67 thoughts on “Highest Svalbard sea ice since 1988 with Bear Island in the south surrounded

    • It may well be due to the lockdown(s).

      If Arctic melt is significantly affected by reduced albedo, due to industrial soot, then the shutdown of Chinese industry for much of this year may well have had an effect on albedo and melting.

      We would need the skills of Eschenbach, and his CERES data, to see if the shutdown has indeed changed Arctic albedo.


    • Running with that one, if the World is ”healing” because of a global lock down, and only after a few weeks, then, there is no Climate crisis, no emergency and no Tipping point.

    • The oceans will continue to rise and fall, just as they’ve been doing since they existed, regardless of what humans do.

    • I wonder what horror stories would have been created if the models had said that global warming would lower sea level:
      Islanders would be no longer able to fish?
      Coral reefs would dry out and die?
      Coastal cities would suffer subsidence and collapse?
      … the biodiversity loss and total extinction of species by 20xx?

  1. Not good news. I’m tired of living in an ice age. Snowed yesterday here in upstate NY and snow is forecast into mid next week. Global warming has been promised for the last 35 years, where is it!!


    • You’ve got it all wrong. The official word out of the Ice Loss Task Force Briefing is that this is the most wonderful ice, ever. It’s beautiful ice, terrific ice. It’s the best ice ever seen!

      • The Ice Loss Task Force will be very disappointed nothing interesting has happened since the low of 2005. That’s why they had to add a straight line to graph to guide you eye away from the fact is has not gone anywhere except mildly upwards in 15 years.

        If that’s run away melting it’s not running very fast.

  3. good.

    11 Apr: Deutsche Welle: Coronavirus: German lawmaker calls for delay to EU climate targets
    The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to cause a deep recession in Europe and elsewhere. A German politician thinks the EU’s climate targets should be deferred in the face of the potential economic crisis.
    by Elliott Douglas
    The coronavirus crisis calls for an urgent review of Germany’s climate targets under goals set by the European Union, the leader of the economic council of the conservative Christian Democrat party (CDU) said on Saturday.
    The COVID-19 pandemic is “putting the German economy to the test,” and the EU should consider a “deferment of climate policy targets,” Wolfgang Steiger said in comments published in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
    Steiger said the fallout from the pandemic on the economy could amount to a new “de-industrialization” of Germany. Experts are predicting a global recession as a result of the business shutdown and subsequent layoffs…
    Despite the huge stimulus, Steiger told the paper the German economy could, for now, do without the financial burden of climate change goals…

    However, Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, warned against “connecting climate protection and economic prosperity.” It may be possible “to use the exit from the corona-crisis to promote climate-compatible and sustainable economic structures,” she said…

    • Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, is non-essential, and ought to be home collecting unemployment.

  4. There is certainly more sea-ice now then when Willem Barentsz landed at the northwest tip in 1596. The sea-ice fluxuates, rather than trending in one particular direction. Or this seems to have been the case for the past 500 years. The Dutch have some hard-to-verify reports from the 1600’s of ships that sailed nearly to the Pole, during times the Arctic Sea had far less sea-ice.


    The records of the distant past are able to be ignored by Alarmists, but the records I’d really like to see are those of the many Russian bases on the sea-ice from the spy-vs.-spy days of the cold war. I discuss these bases a bit here:


    One Russian base of particular interest is NP 22, which drifted around for eight and a half years, from September 13, 1972 to April 8, 1981. This base lasted longer than any other base, and also was operational when sea-ice levels peaked in 1979. I don’t see why information about the drift of this base, and sea-ice thickness it experienced, should be top secret any more. If anyone can find information about what it experienced, and send it along to me, my Corona Virus self-isolation would be far more bearable. 🙂

    • 1979 was an extreme high anomaly, up there with the extents of the Little Ice Age

      Thank goodness for the people trying to live up there, that there has been a slight reduction, even though only partly towards the much lower Holocene norm.

    • Ian I thought that the declining polar bear population threat due to climate change had been refuted long ago.

      They keep showing this picture as though we have caused this animal’s demise, the poor thing has died a thousand deaths. I imagine that all wild animals who survive to old age ultimately starve to death. Would they otherwise disappear in a puff of smoke?

      Wikipedia, sadly another once trusted source gone, or may as well be gone.

    • Not good news. I’m tired of living in an ice age. Snowed yesterday here in upstate NY and snow is forecast into mid next week. Global warming has been promised for the last 35 years, where is it!!

        • A weather high temperature record set in 1910 was finally beaten. What’s the temperature at this very moment? What will the high be in the coming days? Did they have a recording station at the airport in 1910?

          • Did they have an airport in 1910? Well, at least they have records for .000000242% of the time. The 99.999999868% is obviously irrelevant.

        • According to the BoM observations the highest recorded at Perth airport on the 11th was 39.2C at 02:00pm.
          The airport records go back to 1944.

        • If you can believe that statement ghalfrunt. Hottest day ever I mean. Meaningless bit of information too, Australia is a huge country. I live 4 thousand kilometers from Perth and it got down to 4.8 C this morning. It snowed in Tasmania the last two weekends and we’ve had dustings of snow in the Victorian and NSW alps too. And it’s not even winter for a while yet!

          Anomalies, they’ve always occurred, in a country as big as Australia, what do they mean?

        • The temp gauge at Perth has been moved a couple of times. Comparisons over 100 years are dubious.

    • Can you name a year when overall extent wasn’t on a downward slope this time of year?

      The overall extent is quite aveage for the last decade, but the extent is unusually great in the Atlantic sector, from Greenland to Novaya Zemlya.

    • ghalfrunt, I sense your angst. I think you should go north and find one of those cuddly white teddy bears and hug them and squeeze them, before those evil SUV drivers kill them all. Good luck.

    • It’s because if you love Arctic sea ice extent so much and it starts increasing (as summer lows have, statistically, from 2007) , then you can’t express your glee and jubilation about how fabulous it is that it’s decreasing …… or something like that.

      There but for the grace of God go I.

  5. If anyone is paying attention, silica rich volcanoes go off mostly during solar minimums. These are the kinds that are explosive and shoot aerosols high into the stratosphere. The theory is something (cosmic rays?) penetrate into the magma chamber and pressurize it. There have been quite a few studies on the eruption/solar min connection and they point to this. Japanese study:


    Krakatoa went off the last couple of days and the volcanoes in Iceland are starting to swell. If in fact we do get one or two major explosions in the next year it may be a real game changer. The last 4 months have shown a substantial cooling in the oceans especially from the Gulf of Alaska south to the tropics. The trend is down and the Arctic ice will follow suite if it continues on.

    Impressive Krakatoa eruption video: https://twitter.com/ISCResearch/status/1248860200506920960

  6. Thank you Susan, without you we wouldn’t be getting any news on polar region ice. I can tell when things have been turning colder by the hiatus in reporting. Graphical series and images were weeks to months out of date before Corona became a big concern.

    Same thing with the Dreaded Pause in temperatures for two decades, a pause in sealevel rise and abandonment of high tech temperature buoys when their data didn’t please the consensus which led to egregious adjustments to put them back on track to their preconceived paths.

    Corona likely will be the final straw (er telephone pole) in the collapse of the whole Catastrophic AGW meme which has been on life support since warming stopped (except for a couple of El Ninos) and seems now to indicate a decline in temperatures on schedule with a 60-70yr natural cycle in temperatures. Certainly the cash is gone, and a Trump victory is pretty much assured.

    • But skeptics risk shooting themselves in the foot by associating warming skepticism with coronavirus conspiratorial skepticism and opposition to lock-downs. That will poison the brand.

    • Gary, I’m posting to add to your second paragraph “and an abandonment of data from 400+ weather stations that had reported for over 100 years each, just in the USA [begin speculation] on suspicion that they confirm the decline in temp.” [end speculation because I/we have no access to the data from those stations.]

  7. In more modern scientific terms, it is the 56th lowest ice extent on record, and worse than we thought. We clearly is past the tipping point.

  8. Request for information: (leaving any influence by genus homo aside for the moment …)

    Does anyone know how many years it takes from the start of a new glaciation until it reaches full strength? For instance, from the first weakening of the Eemian until the Laurentide covered Chicago and NYC and then halted?

    I asked a scientist once, and she said it is hard to know because the retreat 12,000 years ago obliterated a lot of the evidence of the expansion. Her best informed estimate was 5,000 years. That seemed long to me.

  9. Bad luck for the Climate Alarmist crew. Right now they are locked up like everyone else and cannot do their usual mayhem. Besides, while Coronavirus steals the limelight nobody listens to their rambling. And when this finally peters off and the world wants some new disaster porn, we are freezing up. And with it, all their crappy models. We have seen what models are worth during the COVID crisis. Not the toilet paper you can print them on.

  10. ” March extent average for 2020 came in higher than the last five years. ”

    It’s correct. Here is the top 10 of a descending sort of the Arctic sea ice extent data for March months:

    2012 3 15.20
    2010 3 15.14
    2013 3 15.03
    2020 3 14.78
    2014 3 14.76
    2019 3 14.55
    2011 3 14.55
    2016 3 14.40
    2015 3 14.37
    2018 3 14.30


    Nonetheless, the same people provide for daily data as well:

    While the absolute data looks quite good

    the anomaly data based on their 1981-2010 climatology

    lets me think that we’d better wait for a while until we sell the bear’s skin.

    J.-P. D.

  11. Highest Svalbard sea ice since 1988 with Bear Island in the south surrounded
    And next year maybe the lowest? Maybe the higher still?
    It matters not a jot how this year ( or last year, or next year) varies. What we really need to know is that we have truly left the Little Ice Age and not returning to it.

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