Lack of ice around P.E.I. in January called 'very unusual'

Mild temperatures so far this winter have meant a lot less ice in the sea around P.E.I.

Average January temperature 4 C above normal

There is snow around the shore of Charlottetown Harbour, but no ice on the water. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

Mild temperatures so far this winter have meant a lot less ice around P.E.I.

"Looks like we're about three weeks behind the average ice conditions," said Brad Durnford, superintendent of icebreaking operations with the Canadian Coast Guard.

"With all the warm temperatures we've been having and storms moving through the area, we haven't had a lot of ice formation."

Durnford said the coast guard does not currently have any of its icebreaking ships in the area, because there is no need for them.

The normal average temperature for a day in January on P.E.I. is -7.7 C. So far in 2021 the average has been more than 4 C higher, at -3.3 C.

Effects will be felt through the summer

The late ice formation will have an impact on the spring side of the season as well. Because the season is three weeks behind, the ice won't have as much time to grow as thick as it usually does, leading to early breakup.

There has been a trend toward less ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence over the last 30 years, said Durnford, but it is particularly striking this year.

Sea ice around the Atlantic region in 2021 (right) compared to one year earlier. (ECCC Canadian Ice Service)

"The entire region, right from Labrador coast, down to Strait of Belle Isle, all the way down into the gulf, it's the same story," he said.

"It's very unusual."

On the Northumberland Strait, the lack of ice will have knock-on effects right through the summer.

Ice cover helps the water in the strait cool down over the winter. Lack of ice can lead to warmer than usual water temperatures through the summer, which can lead to problems for oysters, which prefer the cooler water.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning


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