CORNER BROOK — It’s the second half of January and it looks as though the western Newfoundland coastline is going to experience another rather light year for sea ice coverage.
Paul Veber, superintendent of ice operations with the Canadian Coast Guard, said there is usually at least some fast ice frozen to the shoreline or some rubbly slob ice in the bottom of most bays by this time of year.
But, as satellite imagery and a recent reconnaissance flight over part of western Newfoundland earlier this week confirmed, there is virtually no ice to be found.
There was some ice deep into the Humber Arm earlier in January, but the little bit that was there has since been blown back out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Veber said, despite the bitterly cold temperatures the region has experienced since Christmas, the surface temperatures of the sea are still too warm for significant ice to develop.
“When ice is developing and storms pass through, the wind and wave action breaks up ice easily when it is only new ice,” explained Veber. “We have had a fair bit of wind pass through this fall and early winter. That inhibits the ice development because it keeps breaking up.”
According to imagery updates from the Canadian Ice Service, there is a bit of thin ice along the shores of inner Hare Bay and in Pistolet Bay on the Northern Peninsula and along some parts of southern Labrador.
While the lack of any significant amount of ice means navigation has been hampered by winds only, Veber drew attention to maps of the coastline further north along the Labrador coast. There is plenty of ice from Cartwright up to Cape Chidley — the northernmost tip of Labrador — and beyond.
The winds and the currents will eventually send much of that ice down to the Newfoundland coastline, and some will likely find its way in through the Strait of Belle Isle and to the shores of western Newfoundland.
“What you see up there is what will make its way down into the Strait and cause challenges later in the season for the (Straits ferry MV) Apollo, or the (MV Sir Robert) Bond, which is supposed to be in place for February,” Veber said.
Western Newfoundland has set records for low sea ice levels in the past couple of winters. Veber said the experts look at trends in context of the 30-year average of ice coverage.
“We certainly do see a trend of less significant ice conditions,” he said. “We may have the same amount of surface coverage, but the thickness of the ice is reducing as well. The shorter the season, the less thickness can be developed.”
While this year is shaping up to be another one with thinner ice coverage than normal, Veber said there is no reason why next winter won’t see a buck in that trend.
“Within the trend, we see these anomalies as well ... next year could be a challenging ice year with more significant ice than now,” he said.