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No ice on the west coast of Spitsbergen


No ice on the west coast of Spitsbergen

The odds of ice developing in the fjords are very poor. To see sea ice this winter, it's necessary to go to the east coast.

Researchers have little hope ice will form in the fjords along the west coast. The reason is a considerable amount of warm water is being introduced into the inlet systems. Even in Van Mijenfjorden, which should be icy out to Akseløya, there is a lot of open water and Frank Nilsen, a professor of oceanography and acting director at The University Centre in Svalbard, said he believes there is little chance of ice being there this winter.

Open door

"Simply put, there is a lot of warm water along the shelf of Spitsbergen and there is nothing that prevents the water from flowing in," he said. "The door is standing open for allowing warm water into the fjords."

After several bad years, last winter saw a large amount of ice in the fjords. It resulted from a current following the coast of Sørkapp and then proceeding northwesterly, creating a barrier to the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. That's not the case this year and the waters of Isfjorden are warm.

There is still a small chance there will be ice in smaller sub-inlets, but low pressures that flow west of Spitsbergen are providing the long-term effect of an influx of warm water.


Torgeir Mørk, a meteorological consultant, has little faith ice will appear.

"I have strong doubts about that," he said. " I do not think we'll get it."

The forecast for the coming days calls for a low-pressure system that will bring milder temperatures and precipitation. Subsequent days will be colder, but even if the air temperature drops it will take longer before the same thing happens in the fjords.

"It looks like on Thursday, the 17th, that we will be down to 12 to 14 degrees below zero," he said. "Then you're starting to approach normal temperatures, but when you looking so far ahead in time during a week the forecasts begin to diverge somewhat."

"I highly doubt that there will be ice on the west side," Mørk added. "I can't imagine it."

Biggest decline

An article in last week's Svalbardposten co-authored by Janne Søreide, Ragnheid Skogseth, Ylva Ericsson, Maja Hatlebakk and Denis Moiseev stated we may face the biggest decline in sea ice formation in western Spitsbergen ever. That assertion is based, among other things, on surveys from February.

"The sea ice is currently largely absent in western Spitsbergen," they wrote. "Even Van Mijenfjorden, which is normally considered a 'safe' fjord with lots of sea ice, is still mostly open water."

"This is one of those extreme years with hot water, which began in 2006," Nilsen said. "But now, for the past five years it has been very extreme. The entire bay is warm."

Translated by Mark Sabbatini


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