Currents sea Ice extent and Historical Ice Chart Archive

Sea ice in the Barents Sea. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

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The Historical Ice Chart Archive is hosted by Norwegian Polar Institute. In a deep dive into the huge amount of data, ACSYS published i 2002 historical sea-ice observations in the Arctic region between 30ºW and 70ºE in the form of digitized maps, stored as shape files. The earliest chart dates from 1553, and the most recent from December 2002. More recent charts are available electronically from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute ( Vessels sailing to the

Arctic to explore or to hunt whales and seals made early sea-ice observations. Over the centuries, technological advances and commercial opportunities in the Arctic led to more frequent and regular sea-ice observations, with associated increasing accuracy. As sailing ships gave way to steam powered vessels, and with the advent of aircraft and satellites, regular mapping of sea ice conditions became an organized activity. From 1967 onwards, hand drawn weekly charts were produced, showing not only an ice edge, but also concentrations of sea ice within the ice pack. Since July 1997, improved technology allowed daily production of digital sea ice maps on workdays. In an effort spanning many years, early observations from ship logbooks and other records were collected, translated as necessary, and plotted as hand-drawn maps. For more recent years, sea ice charts from various organized sources were collected. Prospective users should consider the uncertainties related to the ice-edge definition, and to the difficulty of navigating in remote areas prior to the satellite era. The data set contains 6007 maps in total (for the period 1550-2002).

Historical Ice Chart. Metadata

BarentsPortal presents selected historical ice chart of sea-ice observations in the Arctic region between 30ºW and 70ºE based on ACSYS HISTORICAL ICE CHART ARCHIVE, (1553 – 2002). In BarentsPortal selected historical data are presented together with sea-ice extent during the last 10 -15 years. BarentsPortal financed in 2009 a project with goals to present selected historical sea-ice data (from the first records, and two years with extreme sea-ice extents), and to aggregate satellite maps showing sea-ice in the Barents Sea during the last 10-15 years.

See a full report of ACSYS HISTORICAL ICE CHART ARCHIVE, (1553 – 2002), Tromsø, Norway, January 2003. IACPO Informal report No. 8

Daily ice charts are now available electronically from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MET) (

See archived ice charts: