Heading back to Arctic in April
In two months’ time I’ll be heading back to Arctic for a third trip out onto the sea ice around Svalbard looking for the Wanderer of the North. At the moment I am going through my Arctic gear to see that everything is up to spec. I also keep an eye on the weather and ice conditions up there to know what to expect. So far, things look good and the mild winter in Europe might actually help the conditions there as it forces the cold air to stay.
The climate in the Arctic region
It is characterized by long, cold winters and short, cool summers. This is the norm even if it varies extensively across the Arctic region. Most parts experience long periods with some form of ice on the surface and much of the Arctic is moderated by ocean water and its temperature.
The warm and swift West Spitsbergen Current is the big factory that gives Svalbard up to 20 °C higher winter temperature than similar latitudes in continental Russia and Canada. This current keeps water around Svalbard open and navigable for most of the year.
You also have a second current that impact the climate of Svalbard. The cold Arctic East Spitsbergen Current. This current is the reason that the East Coast of Svalbard has a significantly larger area of ice-covered sea than the West Coast.
The time for a buildup of sea ice
It is February and March that normally sets the tone for the buildup of sea ice around Svalbard. To get a good ice-cover you need cold temperature and as few storms as possible. This will help both the Ringed seals and the Polar bears. The Ringed seal need ice caves for their pups and the Polar bear need seal pups for survival.
The sea ice in the Arctic region is extensively monitored. I use the Norwegian Meteorological Institutes ice service when I check the condition. They publish a new five times each week and give you access to old data for free.
This is the last measure.
Being outdoor 24h7 in the Arctic
You need to be properly prepared if you plan on doing an expedition like ours. We will be outside in the Arctic weather all day and night. Sleep in tents and use snowmobiles for means of transportation. So, in every sense this is an Arctic expedition.
I would lie if I said it isn’t tough, but frankly these expeditions have been easier than I thought. Mainly due to good planning together with the knowledgeable guides. Still it will drain the energy from you, and you will get back exhausted. That I can assure you.
For me the culprit is the wind and not the temperature. That is why I have started to look at a second weather service, Windy. It is a service that not only gives you a forecast, but also a great indication of the wind situation. The chill factor from the wind in cold climate is not something to take lightly. You can’t leave your skin unprotected from the element particularly when you are driving.
What is my expectation for the Arctic expedition?
Last year was a good year for the ice dependent Arctic animals and this looks to be on the same course. Much can happen during the coming two months’, but I sincerely hope it will continue on the course it have.
I hope that mother nature treats the animal in Svalbard good so they can show us their best side and maybe brings us a few more meetings than the last time. I have come to terms that once you find something to work with then do it because you won’t know when next time will be.
Rest assure that I will continue to monitor the ice situation in the fiords we normally visit.
Beware that I have used two photos from mobile phones in this blog post.