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North Pole notes (continued)

Filed under: — gavin @ 22 August 2008

This is a continuation of the previous (and now unwieldy) post on the current Arctic situation. We’ll have a proper round up in a few weeks.

638 Responses to “North Pole notes (continued)”

  1. 601
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #600
    1) Salinity is increasing near the surface (approx from 30.9 in the 70s to 32.3 in 2007, suggesting an increase of 0.07 degree celsius in freezing pint)
    That would be a decrease in freezing point, from -1.696ºC to -1.776ºC.

  2. 602
    Phil. Felton says:

    1) Salinity is increasing near the surface (approx from 30.9 in the 70s to 32.3 in 2007, suggesting an increase of 0.07 degree celsius in freezing pint)

    That would be a decrease in freezing point (-1.696ºC to -1.776ºC)

  3. 603

    #600, Very good info Hans, thanks.. There is obviously less old ice loaded with fresh water, the salinity balance is trending towards an open Arctic ocean.

    Why is it so warm now? Check out:

    Last 30 days have been extremely warm in the Arctic. So the question to those who favor temporary warm advection as the cause for the great melt of 2008…. Does your explanation also include present warming? How can warm surface air return so prominently when the ice was always more scattered due to winds. A greater ice surface cant be the cause for warmer air? Or is it as I always wrote, that the air itself, the entire air column, is warmer as a whole. Summer clouds favor cooler surface warming, late autumn clouds favor a warmer surface. Clouds
    and a stable heat source were always present.

  4. 604

    We have had a number of comments on this blog regarding ice extent vs. ice volume. There is news on that front, today on BBC, at:

    The short version:

    “The thickness of Arctic sea ice “plummeted” last winter, thinning by as much as 49 centimetres (1.6ft) in some regions, satellite data has revealed. A study by UK researchers showed that the ice thickness had been fairly constant for the previous five winters. The team from University College London added that the results provided the first definitive proof that the overall volume of Arctic ice was decreasing. The findings have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

    “”The ice thickness was fairly constant for the five winters before this, but it plummeted in the winter after the 2007 minimum,” lead author Katharine Giles told BBC News.”

  5. 605
    Garry S-J says:

    There is some more about the reducton in Arctic sea ice thickness here, for those without access to GRL:

    (I am sure the use of the term “trend” in the final paragraph was not intended to imply any statistical judgment!)

    CAPTCHA says “and Broiled”. Spooky.

    [Response: paper available here – gavin]

  6. 606

    #604-605. These reports contradict what was published during the end of last winter when it was said that the ice gained some thickness:

    I can’t read Gavin’s link.. I am not a member of the AGU

    But I am more inclined to follow IR downwelling as a significant melt/thinness component:

    Really fascinating stuff, too bad we don’t have preceding years to compare this data with.
    August shortwave went down significantly, yet the great bulk of the melt of 08 started about mid august. I have some extensive data which shows a strong Atmospheric warming signal, which agrees with the trust of the reporting of thinner ice, an overall continuous warmer atmosphere must result in thinner ice year round.

  7. 607

    As I read the CBC story from February, I really can’t tell if the thickness increase mentioned is local or more widespread (the only geographical reference is \some areas\), nor what the timeline for the comparison is. So it’s hard to say whether or not there is a real conflict between the two stories.

  8. 608
    dp says:

    Funny the comment about the last 30 days bieng warm in the Arctic. How come the ice cap is reforming faster than it did last year?

  9. 609
    Hank Roberts says:

    > how come …
    Because there was less ice at minimum last year?
    It’s not an “ice cap” — it’s sea ice.

  10. 610

    #608. The ice was scattered over a wider area at the onset of freezing. Winds over the entire melting season favored its dispersal rather than compression as of last year.

    #607 Kevin,
    From Clarence above , read details and caveat in #491, this model shows as much volume if not more than last year during peak ice moment. It is likely not as researched as as with the two reports quoted lately. But I am glad we are getting any volume data rather than none. Its probably a work in progress, there is no doubt about extensive melting, but exact details are hard to come by.

  11. 611

    October has been very warm, incredibly cloudy, on Cryosphere Today sea ice extent of 2007 should be the same as 2008 in a few days. Strange that 2007 is catching up in coverage with 2008 which started with a much wider scattering of ice. DWT wise, October 2008 has tied October 2007, surface temperatures are following closely: ..

    November just started is equally warm. The fair argument to restate is how it gets this warmer, with a lowering in the sky sun? With ice covering most of the Arctic ocean now? THe answer is simple,
    the atmosphere is warmer.

  12. 612
    dp says:

    I noticed last winter sea ice cover in the Barents Sea was below average, and is below average now. Does this mean that the Gulf Stream could be strengthening?

  13. 613

    #612- Very likely Niet! I have a US Navy Polar atlas made in the 50’s, which equates extreme Minima with the current Barents sea extent. Traditionally this area was more open for the reasons you just mentioned. Russian side of the Pole has always had thinner ice, now combine this known history with overall much warmer air:

    And you get what you got….

    If you mention the Gulf Stream, would you be kind enough to point some evidence, like Hank would write…..

  14. 614
    dp says:

    #613 I was just speculating, so no evidence, and no idea where to gain any, hence the post. I just thought that with the warmer tropical seas we keep reading about the Gulf Stream might gain some extra oomph. With the retreat in the Barents maximum it seemed there might be a case for adding 2 and 2 together. You experts can tell me if it makes 4.

  15. 615

    For Thinner 2008 ice, less volume, take a close look:

    There is a wide array of differing ice formations, with a lot of open water now,
    study the “egg” code, to understand better:

    Now go back, prior to the serious melt period, 1996:

    Look for the 3rd line down in the egg code, find “1.” which is Medium first year ice 70-120 cm. There are plenty in 96 at the same date almost in all regions. Go back to 2008, there are plenty 1, 7, 8 and 9’s 0-10, 30-70 cm ice hardly any “1.”. The difference is amazing, also considering the lack of multi-year ice, a scarcity in December 2008. The packs are so few, scattered and small they are hardly reported.

    The real meaning is seen by those who travel on the ice, no multiyear ice packs makes traveling way easier, its a tactile sense, warmer temperatures are reflected in mirror like thinner ice…. If there is anything which proves warmer air, its in the ice over the entire Arctic. Its climate not in numbers or words, its climate change by example there is hardly a debate here about this astounding change.
    There is no need for charts, averages and demonstrations, its here and present literally changing the seascape.

  16. 616
    Mike Bryant says:

    I have sent these questions, concerning a curiosity, to Dr Chapman at CT.

    Dr William Chapman,
    Can you please explain a couple of things on the Cryosphere Today “Compare side-by-side images of Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent” product, please?
    Why does the snow in the more recent dates cover areas that were previously sea inlets, fjords, coastal sea areas, islands and rivers? (Water areas, most easily discernible in the River Ob inlet)
    Why does the sea ice in the older images cover land areas? (Land areas, most easily discernible in River Ob inlet)
    See this overlay:
    Looking forward to your answer,
    Mike Bryant

    [Response: It’s probably related to the footprint of the satellites being used, which (I’m guessing) prevented sea ice from being detected near land in the earlier data, but now that the current satellite products include snow on land, there is more continuity. However, the distinction between snow covered sea ice and snow covered land in coastal regions is probably undetectable from the satellite, so what counts as ‘sea’ or ‘land’ is based on a priori geography. Not sure what influence this would have on the published trends – very small in summer, maybe more in winter. – gavin]

  17. 617
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sekerob pointed out in the Antarctic thread that the Arctic is getting lively again. Is this still the most current thread available?

    Have a look:

  18. 618
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oops, wrong end of the planet, I meant NORTH:

    But I suspect we’re seeing funny looking daily charts due to the long holiday weekend in the USA and the unreliability of daily numbers due to clouds and other problems in the data, rather than some natural event.

  19. 619
    Hank Roberts says:

    Related, from here:

    February 15, 2009
    In an opinion piece by George Will published on February 15, 2009 in the Washington Post, George Will states “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

    We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

    It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

    [Response: Opinion pieces don’t get fact checked and are almost never corrected. This is something that is apparently fine in US journalistic traditions, but continues to puzzle me greatly. – gavin]

  20. 620
    dhogaza says:

    Look again at the arctic chart. It’s not nearly so weird now (just changed in the last couple of hours).

    With my luck it will change back to “weird” by the time this post is approved :)

  21. 621
    Don Flood says:

    Something goofy is going on:

    Watching over the past several days, it appeared, until 30 minutes ago, that the World was about to end.

  22. 622
    Hank Roberts says:

    Don, ‘About the data’ — it takes time to determine a trend, especially in noisy data (and when everyone’s on a long holiday weekend, I bet).

  23. 623
    Doug Bostrom says:

    A heads-up that some poster at Slashdot has taken a recent issue with sea ice extent measurements from NSIDC and is trying to blow it up into a systemic, longterm problem with measurements. Prepare for freshly armed zombie hordes to come over the parapets. In reality the issue appears to affect perhaps three weeks of data.

  24. 624
    Sekerob says:

    Doug #623,

    Unfortunately for the zombie hords, there are multiple collectors against which to soundboard the different products. How SIE/SIA of NSIDC compares looking at Arctic ROOS, Cryosphere Today, JAXA etc, gives me enough reference to know that NSIDC is doing okay, probably even near the highest number reporters on SIE and middle-ish for SIA. Long as there is consistent measuring, as what was mentioned on the bulletin at NSIDC, we’ve got good indicators where things are trending and all are telling the same… it’s going down, rapidly. Zombies there were, lobotomised from the Nurse Ratched clinic there will be.

  25. 625
    Hank Roberts says:

    For more information on the current data outage, please see the February 18 update to Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis, “Satellite sensor errors cause data outage.”

    I don’t suppose there’s a chance the sensor just got /.ed?

  26. 626
    Sekerob says:

    Saw this today and it’s perfectly logical. Meltponds on Sea Ice, and I suppose on Greenland glaciers too, but to lesser extend maybe, accelerate melting.

    captcha: vears storm

  27. 627
    Phil. Felton says:

    There has been an increase in missing swathes showing up on CT’s comparison page (uses SSM/I) and NSIDC’s extent bounced around at the weekend. So while NSIDC have shut down for the moment Arctic ROOS and CT are carrying on without major problems. I got chucked off WUWT for having the temerity to say that describing it as the ‘sensor having a catastrophic failure’ was an exaggeration!

  28. 628
    rando says:

    I look at the graphs on the nsidc site from time to time, and noticed a couple unusual sudden ‘steps’ in the plotted arctic sea-ice data over the past while that looked spurious. I work with real-time ‘time series’ streamflow data, and when I see something similar i.e.- sudden spikes or flatlining in what is usually a smooth trend-line during a period when you don’t expect it, for example in the middle of winter in the sub-arctic, my first instinct is to suspect sensor malfunction. Considering the degree of world-wide focus on this topic (arctic sea ice) I really wonder why there isn’t more attention payed to quality control of the raw data sets. Even something as simple as automated rate-of-change filters that you can create in Excel. At any rate, I’m glad to see the error was caught and will be corrected soon.

  29. 629

    #619 Profoundly accurate statement by Gavin. It is a gift for an audience poor in science , this is why G. Will writes like this. Fuel for ignorance. A well thought figure, or apparently nerdy like chap, spews nonsense through medias which were invented by the vast scientific effort, which also gave climate science. It is the voice of anti-science, anti-reasoning condensed in a media package, rather a Public relations format, persons set free to distort at will (the pun is intended) as a means to promote a book, or a click, a media niche market similar to fake moon landings.

    Meantime, it is truly warm in the Arctic everywhere, as :

    My impression, education of AGW is just starting, the science may be old, but the ignorance
    on the subject vast, deep and disturbing. There is hope only with a huge education effort.
    Which requires empathy for the planet and its people especially for those who are in isolated locations.
    Not TV adds and silly props, rock solid education, immune to PR firms and lobbyists, human to human intellectual persuasion, on a higher level, rendering the dumb media market population and ratings much smaller.

  30. 630
    rando says:

    Hey Wayne. Caught your interview on Discovery Channel last night. Very interesting correlation between observed sun disc size-shape and ‘local’ atmospheric temperature. Looks like you’re on to something.

  31. 631
    Sekerob says:

    Yesterday saw a news flash that parts of China had not had rain/precipitation for 110 days and the successful deployment of firing up iodide crystals to cause the clouds to rain out. Think to have seen references some months ago to Pacific conditions being responsible for this.

    From monitoring the Rutgers daily snow maps I’d say that the first half of the month has seen a mean of below average acreage of snow on the Northern Hemisphere. January was right on the anomaly line, drastically less than January 2008. Where there is no snow now, the albedo is not working to favor any deflection of energy back to space.

  32. 632

    #630, rando, sure I have been at it since 2000, any one with a little training can do this work.
    You can see first hand a slow but gradual change in sun discs, but it requires patience
    a great deal of time and effort. Eventually this idea will catch on and will be integrated
    in the data acquisition networks. In the future , there will be a camera that will tell you
    the exact temperature of the atmosphere above, the total weighted atmospheric temperature, with one snap shot of the sun. This capacity will be not so far away. The mathematics are not complicated, but there are a few “bugs” to work out. Mean time consider the vertical diameter sun size itself as a thermometer reading. The bigger the vertical sun, the warmer the atmosphere
    all with respect to comparable elevations of course.

    Speaking of which, big time expansions were recently measured in the High Arctic, again!!!
    Its like the movie Ground Hog day, there is no relenting, no sign of a deep freeze in the atmosphere, just a warming.

    #631 I’d like to point out that the stratospheric vortex vanished unusually early this year.
    North Pacific Lows continuously crashing in the Arctic affected pressure heights all winter,
    perhaps rendering the Vortex, as it was a little more unstable, it eventually demolished itself, and ozone levels have been extremely high ever since . The winter of 07-08 was remarkably blue and cold in the Arctic, as opposed to grey and warmer in 08-09.
    This is not a coincidence, when the vortex was really strong a month ago, it got really cold pretty much everywhere, now that it is gone, the weather shows many observable different features, namely cold air periods persisting way shorter, replaced by longer bouts of very warm air.

  33. 633
    RichardC says:

    Take a look at the sea ice concentration
    It’s early in the melt season and I can see ocean currents in the ice already. You can see the transpolar drift shooting through the nozzle between Alaska and Siberia. The Fram Straight is the drain. It’s even worn(?) a nice canyon

    This could be the year the drain comes unclogged and a whole new surface regime must come into play. Perhaps the ice crammed up against Canada will get dragged along with the a stronger TransPolar Drift as the ice dam is removed. It’s going to be fast, in my opinion, especially with so many alternative drains which will open along with the Fram Straight. A couple of unusually warm years in a row ought to give us an ice-free September and October in the arctic. Other predictions?

  34. 634
    dhogaza says:

    Other predictions?

    Whatever will be, will be :)

    Seriously, as expected, the melt season’s accelerated greatly this last month, but I think the NSIDC’s caution in predicting what will happen by September is warranted (especially seeing how the denialsphere uses any statement they make that’s not cautious): it appears virtually certain september will have a lower minimum than the 1979-2000 average, but as to how low? Depends on what happens between now and then. (paraphrase)

  35. 635

    #633, It will be another near record ice extent year, tempered by clouds, watch closely for cloud coverage break, There is now an El-Nino watch:

    I think that this may help the cloud coverage until Arctic Ocean air gets too warm, if the high solstice sun has a chance to maintain itself over a wide region of the Arctic Ocean for a few weeks, the melt would be incredibly fast because the ice is already thin in many areas. Too bad we dont have model ice volume estimates readily available to confirm how bad it is at this point in time.

  36. 636

    Other predictions?

    Easy–in September the denialosphere will not be talking about sea ice extent.

  37. 637
    RichardC says:

    Interesting little article on the “official” start to the commercialization of the Arctic Ocean.

  38. 638

    Arctic Ocean clouds are doing their reflec-thing with predictable results:

    These are key times to watch keenly. In a few months, as usual, all to often, Mr X the skeptic, will eventually promulgate a verdict “Arctic ice is recuperating, global warming is a hoax” ,
    however, in advance from such common contrarian edicts, I launch a pre-emptive strike to the Mr X out there, look at :


    daily, and judge cloud extent first before ripping up AGW theory as a get rich scheme for researchers.

    If the cloud domination continues unabated until end of August, and the melt is about as strong as 2008 or 2007 the ice is incredibly fragile (this is the current scenario), if there is a substantial difference in extent come september 12, 2009 having a lot more ice,
    it is not surprising, and this does not mean that AGW theory is done for, or the Pole is cooling. If the clouds continue a great overage of the Arctic Ocean and there is less ice extent than 2007………… yikes!