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Small scale weather station. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Meteorological condition

During 2013, the NAO index changed from negative values in January–March to slightly positive values which lasted the rest of the year. During winter (2012 –2013) northerly, northwesterly and northeasterly winds prevailed over the Barents Sea; during summer (April–August) southerly, southwesterly, and southeasterly winds prevailed. During autumn (September–October) wind direction shifted to easterly and northeasterly.

Air temperatur picture, frosen face. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Meteorological condition

Air temperature data from the NOMADS (NOAA Operational Model Archive Distribution System website were averaged over the western (70–76°N, 15–35°E) and eastern (69–77°N, 35–55°E) Barents Sea. During 2012, positive air temperature anomalies prevailed in the Barents Sea, with the largest values (4–7°C) in the eastern part of the sea from January to April (Figure 4.2.2).

Acustic doppler current profiler for mooring. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Oceanographic conditions

Volume flux in the Barents Sea varies within periods of several years, and was significantly lower during 1997–2002 than during 2003–2006 (Figure 4.2.3). During winter 2006, volume flux was at a maximum throuhout 1997-2013; whereas, during fall volume flux was anomalously low. After 2006, volume flux has been relatively low, particularly during spring and summer. During 2013, volume flux was generally larger than the 1997–2013 average.

Temperature sampling equipment. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Oceanographic conditions

Throughout 2013, positive surface water temperature anomalies prevailed in the Barents Sea. The largest anomalies (up to 4.0°C) were found in the eastern sea. Compared to 2012, the surface temperatures were much higher (by 1.3–2.7°C) in most of the Barents Sea, especially in its central and southern parts. In August–September 2013, during the joint Norwegian-Russian ecosystem survey, the surface temperatures were the highest since 1951 in about 50% of the surveyed area (ICES AFWG, 2014).

Temperature sampling equipment. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Oceanographic conditions

The Fugløya–Bear Island section receives all Atlantic Water entering the Barents Sea from the southwest. Throughout 2013, Atlantic Water temperature was 0.2°C - 0.5°C above the 1977-2014 long-term average (Figure 4.2.10). Similar to temperature, water salinity also was above the 1977-2014 long-term average throughout 2013, with the anomalies ranging between 0.02 and 0.05, and trending downwards throughout the year (Figure 4.2.11).

Seaice condition in the Barents Sea. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Oceanographic conditions

Meteorological conditions over the Barents Sea during winter 2011/2012, resulted in decreasing sea-ice coverage. From January through July 2012, ice coverage (expressed as a percentage of the sea area) was 17–32% below average and 7–25% lessthan in 2011 (Figure 4.2.11). During February and July 2012, sea-ice coverage was the smallest observed since 1951 for these months. In August and September 2012, there was no ice in the Barents Sea; the ice edge was located much farther

Harp seals are migratory and have a much wider distribution range than ringed seals, bearded seals, and walruses; they also have a more pelagic life history (Lavigne and Kovacs, 1988; Haug et al., 1994a). Three different populations inhabit the North Atlantic: the Northwest Atlantic population off Canada’s east coast; the Greenland Sea (West-Ice) population which breeds and moults just north of Jan Mayen; and the East-Ice population which congregate in the White Sea to breed. 

Hooded seals form one stock in the Northwest Atlantic and another in the Northeast Atlantic; although, recent genetic studies suggest no biological distinction between the groups (Coltman et al., 2007). In the Northeast Atlantic, whelping takes place in mid-late March in the West Ice, not far from where the West-Ice harp seals give birth. Between breeding and the moult, hooded seals carry out feeding excursions to the continental shelf edge off the Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland and to areas in the Norwegian Sea. 

Among the toothed whales, the long-finned pilot whale, sperm whale, the northern bottlenose whale, and killer whales are summer visitors to the Barents Sea. The Northeast Atlantic population of long-finned pilot whales number some 780,000 individuals (NAMMCO 1998), but only a very small (and unknown) part of this population enters the Barents Sea. Few sightings have been made in areas covered by IMR surveys; these sightings are insufficient to estimate

Killer whales occur in all world oceans and most seas, but their relative scarcity and sporadic occurrence make them difficult to census in the Barents Region. Photo-identification techniques have been used to recognise >400 individuals in northern Norway. Coastal killer whales are tightly linked to the availability of herring. During winter, killer whales aggregate in and around Vestfjorden in Lofoten, foraging on over-wintering herring. 

Among the baleen whales that frequent the Barents Sea on a seasonal basis, the minke whale is the most numerous. Recent estimates suggest that the population is quite stable (Solvang et al., 2015), although minor variations do occur in both distribution and point estimates. The most recent point estimate for minke whale abundance in the total area is numerically lower than previous estimates, but not significantly different from estimates based on the two preceding

Fin whales and humpback whales are the second and third most abundant baleen whales in the Barents Sea, respectively. Both are fast-swimming, migratory species that over-winter in the south and occupy the Barents Sea during the productive summer months. The summer activity of these whales is dominated by feeding and during most of the winter; they are thought to fast while they are breeding. In the Barents Sea, fin whales generally inhabit deeper areas along

Mercury is the single most toxic element for seabirds. Mercury, along with Cadmium and lead, is one of the heavy metals that are of environmental concern as it can be toxic at levels only moderately elevated above natural ambient levels.

Bottom sediments (Photo: Mareano)


The surface sediments, i.e. the predominant sediment type of the upper ~ 50 cm of the seabed, form the uppermost part of a sediment sequence covering the rocks of the Barents Sea. This sediment sequence varying in thickness from a few to several hundred meters and was mainly deposited during the Quaternary (the last 2.6 million years), a time period where glaciations took place repeatedly.

Example of a seabed consisting of muddy sand and gravel. Distance between the red laser dots is 10 cm (photo;


The map service shows the grain size of seabed surface sediments of the Barents Sea. The map has been compiled in cooperation between the Geological Survey of Norway, Trondheim (Aivo Lepland), and OAO "SEVMORGEO", St. Petersburg (Aleksandr Rybalko), in the frame of the Norwegian-Russian Environmental Commission Workplan 2013-2014, OECEAN 5. Existing maps produced by various organizations served as a basis for the compilation.

Bottom sampling (Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute)


This biotope map, covering the entire Barents Sea, has been compiled in collaboration between the Geological Survey of Norway, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and the Russian Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography (PINRO) in the frame of the Norwegian-Russian Environmental Commission Workplan for 2011-2013 and 2013-2015.

Protcted areas in the Barents Sea area

Environmental management

The protected areas in Northwest Russia are divided into different categories of protection and management. In strict nature reserves (zapovednik) no economic activities are permitted. National parks are designated to nature conservation, research, educational and cultural purposes as well as controlled recreational activities. In national parks there are restrictions to the management of natural resources. Nature parks (prirodnyi park) are the equivalent of the Norwegian

Genetic similar groups of Atlantic salmon. Source: CGF)


Scientists, managers and commercial fishermen from Northern Norway, Finland and north-west Russia, White Sea area combined their efforts in the Kolarctic salmon project (2011-2013), with the aim of providing a better knowledge-base for the countries salmon management. Within this joint and unique effort bio-specimen were sampled along the North-Norwegian coast and in Russian Barents and White Seas generating the most comprehensive ecological and genetic datasets for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).