The Barents Sea has become substantial colder since 2015–2016. However, its air and water temperatures in 2020 were generally higher than long-term average, being typical of warm year. In autumn, the areas covered by Atlantic (>3°С) and Arctic (<0°С) waters changed insignificantly compared to 2019; while the area covered by cold bottom waters (<0°С) increased and turned out to be the largest since 2011. Ice coverage of the Barents Sea has increased since 2016 due to lower temperatures and lower inflow of Atlantic Water, but the ice coverage in 2020 was still below average. There was almost no ice in the sea from August to November. In November, the ice coverage reached a record-low value of 3% since 1951.
Meteorological and oceanographic conditions
The Barents Sea is a shelf sea of the Arctic Ocean. Being a transition area between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Basin, it plays a key role in water exchange between them. Atlantic waters enter the Arctic Basin through the Barents Sea and the Fram Strait (Fig. 3.1.1). Variations in volume flux, temperature and salinity of Atlantic waters affect hydrographic conditions in both the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean and are related to large-scale atmospheric pressure systems.
Figure 3.1.1. The main paths of Atlantic waters in the Barents Sea as well as Fugløya–Bear Island Section (1), Kola Section (2) and boxes in the north-western (3) and north-eastern (4) Barents Sea.