Shores of the Barents (Murman
) Sea. From "Tabula Russiae", Joan Blaeu's, Amsterdam, 1614.
The southern half of the Barents Sea, including the ports of
Murmansk (Russia) and
Vardø (Norway) remain
ice-free year round due to the warm
North Atlantic drift. In September, the entire Barents Sea is more or less completely ice-free. Until the
Winter War (1939–40),
Finland's territory also reached to the Barents Sea, with the harbor at
Petsamo being Finland's only ice-free winter harbor.
There are three main types of
water masses in the Barents Sea: Warm, salty
Atlantic water (temperature >3 °C,
salinity >35) from the
North Atlantic drift, cold Arctic water (temperature <0 °C, salinity <35) from the north, and warm, but not very salty coastal water (temperature >3 °C, salinity <34.7). Between the Atlantic and Polar waters, a front called the Polar Front is formed. In the western parts of the sea (close to
Bear Island), this front is determined by the bottom topography and is therefore relatively sharp and stable from year to year, while in the east (towards
Novaya Zemlya), it can be quite diffuse and its position can vary a lot between years.
The lands of Novaya Zemlya attained most of their early Holocene coastal deglaciation approximately 10,000 years before present.
International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the "Barentsz Sea" [
sic] as follows:
- On the west: The northeastern limit of the
Norwegian Sea [A line joining the southernmost point of
West Spitzbergen [
sic] to North Cape of
Bear Island, through this island to Cape Bull and thence on to
North Cape in
- On the northwest: The eastern shore of West Spitzbergen [
Hinlopen Strait up to
80° latitude north; south and east coasts of North-East Land [island of
Nordaustlandet] to Cape Leigh Smith (80°05′N 28°00′E / 80°05′N 28°00′E / 80.083; 28.000).
- On the north: Cape Leigh Smith across the Islands Bolshoy Ostrov (Great Island) [
Storøya], Gilles [
Cape Mary Harmsworth (southwestern extremity of
Alexandra Land) along the northern coasts of
Franz-Josef Land as far as
Cape Kohlsaat (81°14′N 65°10′E / 81°14′N 65°10′E / 81.233; 65.167).
- On the east: Cape Kohlsaat to
Cape Zhelaniya (Desire); west and southwest coast of
Novaya Zemlya to Cape Kussov Noss and thence to western entrance Cape, Dolgaya Bay (70°15′N 58°25′E / 70°15′N 58°25′E / 70.250; 58.417) on
Vaigach Island. Through Vaigach Island to Cape Greben; thence to Cape Belyi Noss on the mainland.
- On the south: The northern limit of the
White Sea [A line joining Svyatoi Nos (
Murmansk Coast, 39°47'E) and Cape Kanin].
Other islands in the Barents Sea include Chaichy and Timanets.