The 2012 Arctic ice outlook is mixed. Any Arctic vessels looking to transit the Northwest Passage will have a much better chance entering from the Atlantic and Baffin Bay vs the Bering Sea. There will be delays in the shipping season through the Bering and Chukchi Seas as they have had a tremendously challenging winter throughout these areas as the National Snow and Ice Data Center lays out below:
Overall, Arctic sea ice extent remained lower than average in January.
However, in the Bering Sea, ice extent was much greater than normal. The
heavy ice cover caused problems for fishermen and made for an arduous
late-season resupply mission to Nome, Alaska. The Arctic Oscillation,
which had been in its positive phase most of the winter so far, switched
to a negative mode, bringing cold weather to Europe and changing the
direction of sea ice movement.
January 2012 compared to past years-
Arctic sea ice extent for January 2012 was the fourth lowest in the
satellite record. Including the year 2012, the linear rate of decline
for January ice extent over the satellite record is 3.2% per decade.
Based on the satellite record, before 2005 average January ice extent
had never been lower than 14 million square kilometers (5.41 million
square miles). January ice extent has now fallen below that mark six out
of the last seven years.