A warm winter is coming to the Arctic

The forecast comes of the heels of a warmer-than-average summer in much of the region.

1251

Less sea ice and more precipitation than normal can be expected in the Arctic this winter, as temperatures in the region look set stay above normal during early part of the season, says an international panel of meteorologists based on a compilation of regional outlooks.

The forecast, agreed upon during the most recent meeting of the Pan-Arctic Climate Outlook Forum, comes after a summer in which temperatures were above average over most of the Arctic.

The temperature outlook for the November-January period calls for at least a 50 percent chance of warmer surface air over much of the region, with the exception of the eastern ​Canadian ​Arctic​ and parts of the Greenland icecap, where the chances are in the 40-50 percent range.

Sea ice
The autumn freeze-up of sea ice is expected to be earlier than normal in Hudson Bay, Baffin Bay and the Beaufort Sea, and later than normal across most of the eastern Arctic. The March 2019 sea ice extent is expected to be below or near normal.

The PARCOF outlook suggests earlier-than-normal autumn freeze-up in Hudson Bay, Baffin Bay and the Beaufort Sea, and later-than-normal freeze-up across most of the eastern Arctic from the Barents to Chukchi Seas. For the 2019 March ice extent, the expectation is below-normal ice extent in the Bering Sea and below to near normal ice extent in the Barents Sea and Sea of Okhotsk.

At left, the actual freeze-up date. At right, the deviation from normal, based on the 2009-2017 period. The freeze-up date is first day when the ice concentration exceeds 50%

2018 outlook for autumn freeze-up by region

Region

Autumn freeze-up

Confidence

Hudson & Baffin bays/ Labrador Sea

Gulf of St. Lawrence

Greenland Sea

Barents Sea

Kara/Laptev/East Siberian seas

Chukchi Sea

Beaufort Sea

Sea of Okhotsk

Bering Sea

earlier than normal

near normal

near normal

later than normal

later than normal

later than normal

earlier than normal

near normal

later than normal

moderate to high

low

moderate

moderate

moderate to high

high

high

low

low

The figure above shows the March 2019 probability of sea ice at concentrations greater than 15%, based on the Canadian Seasonal to Inter-annual Prediction System. The black line indicates the predicted mean ice extent for 2019, while the green line indicates the average observed mean ice extent during the 1998-2017 period

Outlook for 2019 sea-ice extent, by region

RegionSea-ice extentConfidence
Greenland Seanear normallow
Gulf of St. Lawrencebelow normallow
Bering Seabelow normalmoderate
Barents Seabelow to near normalmoderate
Sea of Okhotskbelow to near normalmoderate
Labrador Seabelow to near normallow

 

Precipitation

The PARCOF consensus outlook suggests that the chance of above normal precipitation is above 40 percent over the entire Canadian and Russian Arctic, with some exceptions over eastern Russia, Baffin Island and Hudson Bay, where the model was inconclusive.

Over Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland and much of Alaska the data were inconclusive.

In the northern Atlantic region, there is at least 40 percent chance for below normal precipitation (orange areas). The area corresponds to the cold spot over the North Atlantic in the first map, and the chance of above normal precipitation is likely linked to the high probability of below normal temperatures over this region.

The Pan-Arctic Regional Climate Outlook Forum is a flagship activity of the Arctic Regional Climate Center Network. It is modelled on the Regional Climate Outlook Forum, which is supported by the World Meteorological Organization.

The second PARCOF meeting, held on October 30, brought together representatives and scientists from most of the Arctic Council members, as well as representatives from indigenous groups and shipping companies.

The first PARCOF meeting was held in Ottawa, Canada, in May.