Nfld. & Labrador

Coastal ice levels above average with consistent cold temps

"Quite ahead of average," says superintendent of coast guard's ice-breaking operations.

'Quite ahead of average,' says superintendent of coast guard's ice-breaking operations

Canadian Coast Guard vessel Henry Larsen has been busy with heavy sea ice off Newfoundland. (Courtesy DFO)

With cold temperatures comes ice, and this winter has seen a higher than usual level of ice around coastal Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the Canadian Coast Guard.

"We're quite ahead of average," says Brad Durnford, superintendent of ice-breaking operations.

"It's quite significant, given that over the last decade or two, our ice concentrations have been trending downward."

The level of first-year ice, Durnford said, is above the 30-year average recorded by Environment Canada.

It's making for a busy season for the coast guard's icebreakers.

"We are quite busy. We've had lots of work around the coast of Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence especially," he told CBC's The Broadcast.

"Currently the Fogo Island ferry is requesting assistance every morning, just to get going in the morning, so we break a track for them and they proceed on their own for the day. We've had numbers of ferries on the west coast with the Strait of Belle Isle constantly needing attention."

So far, Durnford said, Marine Atlantic's ferries have been able to run on their own — when they do run, that is.

'Nothing out of the ordinary'

The coast guard has one boat on Newfoundland's east coast, another one on the northeast coast, and four in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Durnford said.

They're all operating in a timely manner, but if there are multiple calls it might take time for the vessels to respond.

"Nothing out of the ordinary. We see just the odd commercial vessel getting stuck outside," he said.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada tweeted this photo of an iced-in ferry. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

"We've had a few fishing vessels get stuck this year. But it's business as usual, just a bit more demand this year given the higher concentration of ice."

Durnford said the first-year ice, or ice formed just this year, along coastal Newfoundland is measuring anywhere from a foot thick to six feet thick, depending on the area.

But around coastal Labrador, it's thicker, longer-lasting multi-year ice from the Arctic drifting down to the Cartwright area, he said.

And it'll still be some time before the ice goes away.

In the spring, when the ice starts to move off, Durnford said crews will start moving into smaller harbours to clear ice for the fishing season, so vessels can get out. But not any time soon.

"That's a few weeks away yet."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The Broadcast

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