(Image source: ECMWF)
It’s a long way out, but current weather model forecasts show a strong storm forming over central Russia and moving north into the Arctic Ocean by mid-April. Models show a major storm tearing up through Russia, gaining strength as it comes to the sea ice edge on April 13th.
The storm drops down to around 975 mb by this time, a pressure comparable to a weak to moderate strength hurricane. However, the effects of such a system would be spread over a broader area, so peak wind speeds probably wouldn’t approach that of a comparable tropical system.
Nonethelss, such a storm has the potential to drive strong winds into the region, possibly disrupting an area of historically thin sea ice. The back side of the storm also digs deep into the mid-latitudes, pulling up warmer air from the south. Such processes could enhance early season sea ice melt and breakage, especially given the demonstrated fragility of sea ice during both the summer of 2012 and the winter of 2013.
There isn’t too much precedent for strong storms disrupting spring ice so early in the year. But the Great Arctic Cyclone of the summer of 2012 and brisk winds offshore setting off a major sea ice cracking event from February to March of 2013 provide evidence of the severely fragile state of Arctic sea ice. So it can’t be entirely ruled out that a strong storm system such as the one predicted could have a major impact.
The date, April 13, is still a long way off. But if the storm emerges as predicted, we may see yet one more major Arctic ice event in the coming weeks. One with the potential to accelerate early season melt and break-up. Definitely something to keep a watchful eye on.