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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. 201

    Timothy, A cup of Tea with first year ice is bitter, drinkable, if you have no choice, tea with old multi-year ice is as good as Iceberg tea! So you are right, first year ice is more salty, but I didn’t misspoke,

    For extent minima forecast calculation, someone out there can take this map:

    Calculate the area of deep bue, that would be an intelligent estimate of how much more ice is about to vanish.

  2. 202
    Figen Mekik says:

    Hey I’m a geologist turned Quaternary oceanographer and aspiring climate scientist. These fields aren’t as different from one another as some may think.

  3. 203

    Detail further to #196–

    “Multiyear ice has distinct properties that distinguish it from first-year ice, based on processes that occur during the summer melt. Multiyear ice contains much less brine and more air pockets than first-year ice. Less brine means “stiffer” ice that is more difficult for icebreakers to navigate and clear.” (NSIDC: All About Sea Ice: Characteristics: Multi-Year Ice.)

    “. . .sea ice is a porous material made up of pure ice laced with brine-filled cavities and air bubbles.

    “Unlike other porous materials, such as sandstone or bone, sea ice’s microstructure and bulk properties can change dramatically over a small temperature range. Sea ice becomes permeable and brine can travel through the solid when temperatures rise above about -5∞C, if the brine-volume fraction is 5 percent and the salt content is 5 parts per thousand.

    “. . .In polar regions, a snowstorm can elevate the ice temperature and push down on the surface. Brine cavities grow larger and connect, so the ice becomes permeable. Sea water percolates up through the ice to flood the surface. . .

    “. . .once percolation begins, brine pockets quickly connect with each other to create large-diameter brine channels along which most of the fluid transport takes place.

    “During the 1999 voyage to Antarctica, [mathematician Kenneth] Golden, Victoria I. Lytle of the Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart, Australia, and their coworkers ventured out onto the ice to examine brine channels in the field. They used chain saws to cut out slabs of ice 15 to 26 inches thick. Beet juice scrounged from the ship’s galley revealed the intricate brine pathways threading through the ice.”

    (Science News Online:

  4. 204

    #200 John, Interesting, the ice is disappearing at locations where SST’s are -4 C…

    Its not a simple thing to analyze.. But the over all picture, straight thermal physics, may be easier to understand.

  5. 205
    LG Norton says:

    Apparently the Gas Hydrates on the ocean floor are beginning to melt.

    Arctic Ocean beginning to release methane

    This article was written in April, but apparently now ships in the arctic are beginning to see these methane burps.

    On another note, has anybody taken a look at that huge area of fast ice along the North Eastern Coast of Greenland. From what I can remenber, it has always survived the summer melt, but now MODIS has shown that it has broken into large flows, and soon will drift out to sea.

  6. 206
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Clathrates + permafrost release = we’re screwed
    My 2 cents.

  7. 207

    #204 Wayne Davidson

    I keep thinking there was some sort of circulation shift somewhere that no one is picking up on?

    I am very interested in the why or how at the moment.

  8. 208
    Ike Solem says:

    Andrew, let’s compare two possible energy sources: Alberta tar sands on one hand, and solar photovoltaics on the other.

    Tar sands are a mixture of gravel and bitumen, an extremely heavy crude oil. There are hundreds of different compounds in oil sands, and many of them are toxic, and are left behind as residues of the processing. See Naphthenic Acids Contaminated Tailing Pond Waters in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (2005)

    Currently, there are three industrial plants that recover oil from the lower Athabasca oil sands area, and there are plans in the future for several additional mines. The extraction procedures produce large volumes of slurry wastes contaminated with naphthenic acids (NAs)… The process-affected waters and fluid tailings contaminated with NAs are contained on-site primarily in large settling ponds. These fluid wastes from the tailing ponds can be acutely and chronically toxic to aquatic organisms, and NAs have been associated with this toxicity…. The bioremediation techniques have limited success to date in biodegrading NAs to levels below 19 mg/L. Some tailing pond waters have been stored for more than 10 years, and it appears that the remaining high molecular weight NAs are refractory to the natural biodegradation process in the ponds.

    So, that’s the cost of contaminating huge amounts of water with toxins. By comparison, solar PV plants can be made extremely clean – see the Italian Helios PV plant, for example.

    The hydrographical location of the Helios production works spurred its pool of engineers to study the top technologies for eliminating process waste discharges at the source, opting for an entirely environmentally friendly closed-circuit production cycle…. The waste, separated and treated in a selective manner, is collected and treated to obtain pure and ultra-pure water for reuse. Thanks to this innovative system it is possible to reuse about 97% of the water needed by the production line, thereby avoiding environmentally degrading discharges and reducing the consumption of water, a precious asset for the entire community, to a minimum.

    Once in operation, no water is needed for solar PV or wind turbines – but oil sand extraction plants and coal-fired plants and nuclear power plants will always need large volumes of water in order to stay in operation.

    As far as energy use goes, it turns out that three to five times as much carbon dioxide is emitted by oil sands processing as by normal petroleum refinery operation. Those resources should not be developed at all – they should be left in the ground, and Canada should start focusing on wind and biomass (as they are a bit far to the north for solar).

    Coal is not any better, despite what the $2 million ACCCE coal campaign would tell you. We can’t even remove sulfur, mercury, arsenic or selenium from coal, let alone capture and store the CO2 – the one highly-touted effort to do that, FutureGen, has been a technological flop so far, with no end in sight. FutureGen was supposed to separate coal into a stream of H2 and a stream of CO2, with the CO2 to be buried – but no aspects of the technology are all that reliable, with the main problems being the usual ones with coal – the sulfur and arsenic and mercury and selenium, and the highly toxic sludges produced as waste.

    What about energy costs? It’s already clear that solar PV factories can be operated using power derived entirely from solar panels and wind farms – this is called the solar breeder concept. A one giga-watt solar power system could probably keep a large-scale manufacturing plant going.

    Take a look at Volvo’s renewable-energy based production plant in Ghent, Belgium:

    Notice that they use a mixed system – wind turbines, biomass furnaces, and solar PV panels – to meet all their energy needs without resorting to fossil fuels. If a large-scale truck factory can do that (producing 40,000 trucks per year), then so can any other industry.

  9. 209
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #205

    On another note, has anybody taken a look at that huge area of fast ice along the North Eastern Coast of Greenland. From what I can remenber, it has always survived the summer melt, but now MODIS has shown that it has broken into large flows, and soon will drift out to sea.

    Yes, I was discussing that with someone earlier this year, it’s the ‘egg-shaped’ bit near the top middle of this MODIS picture from about a month ago, it was even larger at the minimum last year.

    Look at it now (~ a week ago, rotated ~ 90º counter clockwise):
    You can see there’s a huge chunk missing from the south and some major separated fragments in the north. I’m guessing it’s been fed by what looks like a glacier to the west so if the fast ice goes you’d imagine there would be consequences for the flow?
    If you’ve got a fast link check it out at 250m resolution, it’s dramatic!

  10. 210
    WhiteBeard says:

    #176 Lawrence Coleman,

    Spend some time nosing around the links at:

    Per BPL, clicking on the google layer at:

    then the link at U.S. Geothermal Resource (3-10km depth) produces some breakdown on the potential at state by state resolution. What’s particularly useful is the depth at which potential is available for a general area displays by clicking on the pie graphs for each state. The needed holes are rather costly, and they get more so the deeper you have to go. All areas are not equally endowed, with much of the nation’s population being left rather deep and cool, if not exactly high and dry.

    All may not be as dire for the many as a casual glance might indicate. There seems to be a bit of a breakthrough that should cheer the distributed generation fans. One workaround on the depth issue:

    A 1 page gloss on the Alaskan project at Chena Hot Springs, a natural spa area that has a long (by Alaskan standards) history of use. They do space heat, and grow much of their food in a greenhouse with geothermal:

    They are installing one at a Florida oil well this summer, per a recent report.

  11. 211
    Terry says:

    Re Ice melt, I wonder how this fits in with current thinking about how it is unprecendented.


    Interesting I thought.

    [Response: So the ice near East Greenland allowed travel to 10º 30′ W between 74 and 80º N? Shocking. And it got warmer two years after 1815? I wonder why. And how does the Svalbard temperature rise to 1922 compare to temperature today? – gavin]

  12. 212
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Re: 205 Norton: Just read that article..sent shivers down my spine. 500+billion tonnes of methane hydrates aready issuing to the arctic sea surface.I saw that no-one was willing to speculate on a time frame for complete hydrate melt. Only that, that would depend on the arctic ice melt above with subsequent warming of the sea bed to higher than -1C as is happening already. Methane is 20X more potent than CO2..that’s the eqivalent of 10+ trillion tonnes of CO2. If this is true we will be witness to the last century of inhabitable planet earth!!
    Ok! if mankind is a smart as it believes it is..there is a solution..right???

  13. 213
    pete best says:

    There is an article in the UK newspapers the Independent about the sea of galilee drying up and the water levels becomming dangerously low. If there any evidence of any of this being attributed to climte change as well as humans pumping a lot of water for grow crops.

  14. 214
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    A just-in article on ‘spiegel on-line’,1518,574815,00.html says that the NE and NW passage are now open for the first time in history. What’s quite sobering I thought was that the arctic melt for summer 2008 will be about as severe and maybe even more than summer 2007. This given the fact that the air temps have been cooler this year in the northern hemisphere…shows how strong the forcing is of a still relatively warm arctic ocean. It also indicates to me that we have free fall! – each consecutive year from now should set a new record.

  15. 215
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #211

    It’s interesting that Terry brings up retreat of the ice in the N Atlantic in 1922 but fails to mention that the same year an expedition to Wrangel Island (off Siberia) was stranded because the island was ice bound and the supply ship couldn’t make it. A Soviet expedition landed there in 1926 and were trapped there for several years by heavy ice and were finally relieved by an icebreaker in the summer of 1929 (which at times could only make a few hundred meters/day).

  16. 216
    Timothy says:

    [206,Philippe] – “Clathrates + permafrost release = we’re screwed
    My 2 cents.”

    Let’s not get down-hearted. We can still make a difference. I’m almost resigned to losing the Greenland ice sheet, though if biochar sequestration is all it’s said to be by some, even that might not be lost.

    If the clathrates are as bad as you think, then it just shifts our influence from trying to save the Himalayan glaciers to trying to save the East Antarctic ice sheet. For sure, a world which involved the melt of all ice except the EAIS would be problematic, but saving ourselves 70m of sea-level rise would still be worth doing and give us a much better chance.

  17. 217
    Hank Roberts says:

    Terry, I’m curious — how did you come across the material you posted here? Where did you find it? Did you know it was about the years right around the huge volcano? I’m wondering if you were fooled? Did you find that on some blog that misled you about its context?
    Did you find it yourself, looking for cool years, but not understand it?

    No shame fooling yourself (or even being fooled) once. Lesson is: it’s a mistake to try to find something to prove what you want to believe.

    With science it works the opposite way. Don’t be fooled again.

  18. 218
    Timothy says:

    Looking at the latest NSIDC extent graph, and comparing with the one from two days previous:

    Interesting differences. Obviously some of this is the wind pushing ice about and the 15% criterion at play.

    However, it looks like the Canadian archipelago is starting to freeze up again, and also some of the open areas of the Beaufort Sea (north of Alaska?). The 2007 minimum looks safe.

    Anyone else see the Morgenstern paper in GRL? Sounds like O3 might explain the discrepancy between Arctic and Antarctic sea-ice trends.

  19. 219
    Jack Roesler says:

    Could someone here give me an accurate answer as to how much of the heat trapped by our greenhouse gases, and the extra water vapor they’ve created, is being stored in the ocean’s waters? I’ve read everything from 10% to 90%.

    [Response: The answer is closer to 90%. But it’s possible there is some confusion over what you are asking. Do you have links to the different assessments? We might be able to explain them. The reason why the ocean is taking up so much is because of the heat capacity of water – it takes much more energy to warm the oceans than it does to warm the air (or melt the ice). So for a temperature rise that is roughly comparable in air and surface ocean, the energy change is much larger in the ocean. – gavin]

  20. 220
    CL says:

    L G Norton, 205, said :

    “…but apparently now ships in the arctic are beginning to see these methane burps.”

    Do you have a source for that report, please ?

    Timothy, 216, answering Phillipe Chantreau’s

    “Clathrates + permafrost release = we’re screwed”

    said “Let’s not get down-hearted. We can still make a difference.”

    Interesting remark. Being happy or depressed is irrelevant, the glaciers keep on melting regardless of anyone’s mood.

    I don’t fight because I expect to win or lose, I fight because it’s the only right thing to do.

    I thought we were screwed 30+ years ago, when the first plausible predictions of this scenario were publicized, and people failed to act in a rational manner to avoid the danger.

    I think folks have to ask themselves why they are worried. For one’s business investments ? For one’s own survival ? Or, for one’s children’s future ? Or for civilization and the human species ? Or, for all the living things on the planet ? Why ?

    Trashing the biosphere shouldn’t be something we are down hearted about – what’s the appropriate response ? The whole human race should apologise to the universe for the insane crime we are committing here…

    to paraphrase Joni Mitchell,’they paved paradise and put up a parking lot, and then the parking lot fell down on their heads and killed them all’…

    I fight because my conscience tells me that a bad thing is happening, and I can’t stop it, but I don’t have to join in…

    I’m happy every day, because I’m *alive* and I prefer to be happy, even though this horrible event is unfolding, where everything I have loved – the good people, the forests, rivers, lakes, the wonders of the oceans and high mountains – it’s all slipping away forever…because of human stupidity and ignorance.

    Despair is pointless. Do something.

    Learn how to make shoes for yourself, because if all that methane comes out in the next decade, there aren’t going to be any shipments of Chinese shoes coming to the shops…likely, there aren’t going to be any shops with anything at all…

    or, am I wrong ?

    reCAPTCHA seems to get ever spookier..’DYING determinedly’

  21. 221
    Kent Guy says:

    Just been catching up on a week’s worth. I hope, good citizens of Real Climate, you can forgive one more off-topic diversion, because if you are still reading, Amanda Eldridge, you might be just the person to sort this whole mess out!

    Because you are right – you and your generation will be the ones who suffer. Please read as much as you can, get as informed as you can, get help where you can. The science community (and Real Climate) is here to help – it is scientists who have raised the alarm, after all. But so far, no-one has heeded that alarm. In the end, it comes down to the world’s politicians… and this is where you come in!

    Yours is the first thing I’ve ever read from a child where I can feel the ANGER. That anger is right, and what is needed – our generation has failed and is dumping its responsibility on your shoulders. What if millions of 13 year olds across the world got as angry as you? So start a website – get all the help you need from friends and family. I even have a catchy slogan to get you started – next to a picture of the Earth, put “You Broke It, You Fix It”, and get kids who agree to sign up. And say it loud and proud to the politicians of the world – the deals they make in 2009 ending up in Copenhagen in December will probably determine what sort of a world you will live in. The world needs to hear your collective voice screaming as loud – and as soon – as it can!

  22. 222
    Mark says:

    CL #220:

    ““Let’s not get down-hearted. We can still make a difference.”

    Interesting remark. Being happy or depressed is irrelevant, the glaciers keep on melting regardless of anyone’s mood.”

    But if you go now “we’re boned” all that’s left to do is give up. How many people who give up get anything done? If we’re going to give up, we might as well go big time. Run up HUGE debts, trash anything we want, break any laws and find the nearest attractive creature that can’t run away from amorous advances.

    After all, if we’re doomed, might as well go out with a bang, eh?

    ‘course that seals our fate: we really ARE boned because of our decision it was too late.

    Or take the positive view and at least, even if you’re wrong, you’ve enjoyed working on something new and interesting, maybe even gotten life to last longer. Maybe, even if we’re wrong, something later will give us a massive opportunity to change. E.g. space elevators and useful large space station/cities could be achievable before we get a runaway CO2 catastrophe.

    But if we give up, we really are doomed.

  23. 223

    To go WHERE NO SHIP has gone before, Congratulations on Polarstern

    Placing human eyes amongst the open water North of Beaufort, a new ice free ocean has its first ship. True exploration and science at its best.

  24. 224
    Eric Swanson says:

    Re: #209 –

    Phil. Felton notes the changes in the ice along the North Eastern coast of Greenland. It would appear that the winds have forced the broken ice to move northward. Recall that last Winter, there was a considerable flow of sea-ice in the opposite direction, that is, out of the Arctic Ocean thru the Fram Strait. Here’s a link to an animation.

    Notice the apparent storm caused shattering of the sea-ice in the Beaufort Sea (the lower RHS of the screen) early in the animation. With the extent this year again approaching record minimums, I think we will see a similar flow pattern repeated this coming Winter, if the prevailing winds are a repeat of that seen last year. There might even be an increase, if the land fast ice continues to break up and thus the effective width of the Fram Strait would be greater. That would translate into major flows of fresh water in the form of sea-ice into the East Greenland Current, thence into the Labrador Sea. I think this can only continue to freshen the waters in the Sub-Polar Gyre and the Nordic Seas.

    Does anyone have any oceanographic data on the strength of the THC sinking in the Greenland Sea this year? I don’t mean the data from the RAPID current array from Florida to Spain. I’d like to know, were there any of those “Convective Chimneys” found in the Greenland Sea?

    E. S.

  25. 225
    Jack Roesler says:

    Gavin: In answer to your response in #219, one reference is the following, in which it says the oceans hold 80% of our trapped heat.

    Then on page 106 of Robert Henson’s book, “The Rough Guide to Climate Change”, second edition, he puts the percentage at 10%.

    I have read other estimates that it’s 90%.

    With your resources, I’m sure your figure of 90% is correct.

  26. 226
    CL says:

    Mark, 222,

    Am I mis-reading you, or did you mis-read what I wrote ? Perhaps I didn’t express it very clearly. *I* will NEVER give up. Nor will I party the final days away in glorious rioting…(if that appealed to me, I’d be doing it anyway, regardless of AGW).

    My point was perhaps too subtle. If the prospect of global cataclysm is truly upon us and unavoidable, then almost everybody is going to go through some heavy emotional and psychological re-adjustments and re-evaluate their motives. What I’m saying, is that one’s mood is an independent variable, which can be consciously selected. But this isn’t the place for a seminar on the inner game and all that…

    Well said, Kent Guy. Love and rage !

    Spooky reCaptcha does it again ‘Amanda 1901’

  27. 227
    Hank Roberts says:

    Nice imagery available, for example:

  28. 228
    Tim McDermott says:

    re Phil Fenton (209):

    This image of Northeast Greenland shows the fast ice is fast no longer. I wonder if anyone has instruments on that particular outlet glacier. It would be fascinating to see how much it speeds up as the blockage to the sea is cleared. And if you go down to 250 meter resolution, you can see meltwater ponds on the main glacier.

    Timothy Chase: I agree that we can’t lose heart, but some days it is hard. But my 10 year old daughter is having serious worries about her future. She doesn’t know the half of it, but still she worries about just growing up and having a family of her own. So I do what I can.

    reCAPTCH: Change Jr.

  29. 229
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #130
    I suspect some warmer air than measured at 2 meters a factor in this years melt. The physics of ice and air interactions needs very close scrutiny, if warmer air is responsible, as I think so, we have to find it.

    Wayne one thing to consider is the Greenhouse effect! As we are told frequently (and as you know from your daily life), the length of daylight is falling rapidly in the N polar regions, however the IR isn’t. See here for example:
    Note that the short wave (solar) is about 1/3rd of its midsummer value while IR has hardly dropped.

  30. 230

    RE 220 & 222, here’s an attitude I can ID with:

    Excerpts from: “The Delusion Revolution: We’re on the Road to Extinction and in Denial,” by Robert Jensen, AlterNet. Posted August 15, 2008.

    “Our current way of life is unsustainable. We are the first species that will have to self-consciously impose limits on ourselves if we are to survive…”

    Then it goes on about how we need to change our conception of the future, and ends with:

    “We should not be afraid to face the death of the old future, nor should we be afraid to try to earn a new one. It is the work of all the ages, and it is our work today, more than ever. It is the work that allows one to live, joyously, while in a profound state of grief.”

    I know I thought some 18 years ago (when I became more intensely aware of GW & started reducing our GHGs cost-effectively) that all I’d have to do is tell people about it & how they could save money while saving the earth, and they’d tell others, who’d tell others, and I could get back to my regularly scheduled life, including reducing our GHGs. Instead it’s been like a nightmare of wall after wall of denial and lack of clear understanding. But now with growing talk about GW, I’m beginning to feel a tad bit more optimistic — just hope the talk turns to walk in time to avoid the really bad stuff.

  31. 231
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #228

    It’s Felton by the way but no big deal.
    Yesterday’s image was too cloudy to see that detail but the one you posted from today shows how much breakup there has been since the one I posted from 10 days ago. It’s spectacular if you view it at 250m resolution, the ‘fast ice’ has been smashed to smithereens, another few days and the glacier will be exposed to the sea!

  32. 232
    Robert Henson says:

    To Jack Roesler (225):

    Thanks for catching the discrepancy between the value in my book of “at least 10%” for the percentage of total AGW-trapped heat that’s gone into the oceans in the last half-century and the values of 90%+ found elsewhere. I don’t have notes with me right now, but I believe I obtained the 10% value by comparing total anthropogenic radiative forcing (~1.6 W/m2 in IPCC AR4, p.131) to the increase in global ocean heat content (~0.21 W/m2 in IPCC AR4, p.387).

    None of my reviewers changed the “at least 10%” value, but I can’t square it with the 90%+ values noted here today. Any thoughts?


    [Response: The 90% is the where the total anomalous heat has gone (Levitus et al, 2002). Your calculation isn’t the same thing at all, and actually isn’t quite right. First off, the net forcing in 2006 is not the net imbalance in 2006 – the planet has partially warmed up already and so some part of the total forcing has already been adjusted to. Hansen et al (2005) estimated the current imbalance at about 0.8 W/m2. Next, the flux going into the ocean this year (or this decade) is not the same as the averaged flux since 1960. It is likely to have increased as the forcings have increased. In fact, almost all of the 0.8 W/m2 estimated imbalance is likely going into the ocean (once you’ve averaged over enough ocean ‘weather’ like El Nino/La Nina etc.) (see this discussion for more details). So, I think the bottom line is that the 90% is correct. (Sorry!). – gavin]

  33. 233
    LG Norton says:

    Re: 220

    The source of the article is from Natalia Shakhova, currently a guest scientist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks who is also a member of the Pacific Institute of Geography at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladivostok.

    I wonder if some reporter took her out of context

    Here is another of her articles, showing the burning of methane on the arctic ice
    Igniting methane on the arctic ice

  34. 234
    Gareth says:

    Re methane/hydrates. I’ve been following this issue at Hot Topic (eg here, and see links in that post), and I think a couple of things are germane. The first is that it would seem unlikely that the entire store of methane hydrate on the Arctic sea floor would “burp” at once. However, a chronic leak could still have the potential to have dramatic impacts. The global warming potential of methane is usually quoted as 23 times CO2, but that is on a century timescale. Over 20 years, the GWP is 72. The impact of even small increases in atmospheric methane could be profound.

    Perhaps David Archer could chip in, provide more enlightenment on the work that’s being done in the seas off Siberia, and deliver some kind of assessment of our vulnerability to methane hydrate releases in the Arctic.

  35. 235
    pat n says:

    Wayne, based on the latest info at the nsidc site, I think there’s a good chance (about 90%) that Arctic sea ice extent in 2008 will drop below the record low set in 2007.


  36. 236
    Hank Roberts says:

    Not the ‘entire store’ but there are arguments for ‘burps’ in the past (craters in the seabed, for example). Once a layer of sediment starts to lift off of a deposit, removing some pressure and letting seawater in, a layer or bed could turn into a storm of bubbles very quickly.

  37. 237
    Hank Roberts says:

    > next to a picture of the Earth, put “You Broke It, You Fix It”, and get kids who agree to sign up.

    And call it to the attention of the very few who own and control most of the planet.
    “You will not be outraged by outrageous statistics if you don’t comprehend the numbers.”

  38. 238

    Hi Pat, Hope the guys will come up with a few answers with respect to this melt, I got some serious concerns related to about how we are judging the rate of GW increase. My estimates in March or April are getting close with respect to ice, however surface temperatures are said to be cooler, which does not match either current ice extent, neither refraction sun disk expansions
    which agree with the melt extent. Montreal summer 2008 sun disk data show no cooling as well.
    Hence its difficult to project anything from surface temperatures data, its understandable why models dont fit to surface data, otherwise they would never give coherent forecasts. I dont know if Alaska is also showing some cooling on your surface plots, if they do, The digging for answers must be deep.

  39. 239
    Aaron Lewis says:

    gavin’s inline in 232.
    Some of the heat imbalance goes into warming (and weakening or even melting) the ice sheets. Of course, at some point the strength of the ice foundation fails, the potential energy of the ice sheet is converted into kinetic energy, and all of the energy does end up in the oceans, but perhaps the process has some interest that is worth thinking about.

  40. 240
    Timothy Chase says:

    Phil. Felton wrote in 229:

    Wayne one thing to consider is the Greenhouse effect! As we are told frequently (and as you know from your daily life), the length of daylight is falling rapidly in the N polar regions, however the IR isn’t. See here for example:

    Note that the short wave (solar) is about 1/3rd of its midsummer value while IR has hardly dropped.

    Phil, the graphs are impressive!

    Wayne, I know you were asking earlier about the emissivity of ice. Turns out to be fairly high, but variable, depending not just on the wavelength or angle but type of ice.

    Here is one source to check out:

    Hobbs (1974, p. 223) devotes part of one page to the subject. “Since the absorptivity of ice is large for wave numbers below 10 000 cm-1, and the reflectivity is small, the emissivity of ice should be close to unity in the infrared region”

    Rao et al. present a graph which shows ‘lake and new sea ice’ to have emissivities of approximately 0.85 between 10 and 37 GHz, increasing slightly with frequency. (No citation?)

    AVHRR notes

    … and another:

    Emissivity of Ice and Water
    Almost Perfect Black Body Radiators

  41. 241
    Nigel Williams says:

    Regarding hydrate happenings: Once a patch of hydrate begins to degas it will create an up-welling bubble stream that resembles an airlift pump. This will promptly induce an upward water flow with the development of a circulating cell which will pull water from beyond and above to the source of the bubble stream.

    This import of energy will then support the degassing process and could well lead to the rapid collapse of the locally-available hydrate area. The induced water velocities could readily approach those required to strip un-compacted sediment off hydrate deposits.

    So the risk of a blow-out from a significant area is high and real, and would be limited only by the physical layout of the deposit and the resistance of the overburden sediments to erosion and heat transfer.

    The evidence at the surface would be the methane gas delivery via a mass of bubbles, accompanied by discoloration of the water carrying sediment, as well as significant surface disturbance as the circulating cell provides an outward vector to the surface waters. The core of the up-welling could present a danger to any floating object, due to the reduced density of the ‘water’ in the stream.

    Are there satellite sensors in orbit that can detect methane blooms, or keep an eye out for the surface signatures?

  42. 242
    Timothy Chase says:

    Hank Roberts wrote in 237:

    And call it to the attention of the very few who own and control most of the planet.
    “You will not be outraged by outrageous statistics if you don’t comprehend the numbers.”

    Please see:

    Update: As was pointed out in the comments, the author of the site is counting a 1-year increase in Bill Gates’ net worth as income. (Wikipedia confirms that Gates’ wealth “briefly surpassed $100 billion in 1999”.) I guess the author only counts positive income, because there’s no 50-kilometer deep spike to reflect Mr. Gates’ subsequent loss in net worth.

    Throwing off the curve
    Posted by Eric Seymour at 05:28 PM

    … but on a related note:

    Bill Gates checks out Canada’s tar sands
    Posted by Lisa Stiffler at August 21, 2008 11:32 p.m.

  43. 243
    crandles says:

    patn said
    “Wayne, based on the latest info at the nsidc site, I think there’s a good chance (about 90%) that Arctic sea ice extent in 2008 will drop below the record low set in 2007.”

    About 90%?
    On 9 August 2008 extent was 852k km^2 behind 2007 (per IJIS data)and there was 1311k km^2 extent reduction after 9 Aug in 2007. Reductions would have to be 65% faster than 2007. (2007 was fastest decline in last six years.) Note I am cherrypicking 9 Aug which was a maximum in the extent difference to make the 2008 rate of decline look good.

    We are now about 456k km^2 behind with 410k km^2 melt left in the 2007 season. So now we need 111% faster than 2007 to reach a record. I think this indicates we are not keeping up with the rate required to reach a record.

    That doesn’t mean we will not have a record. As we approach September the extent reductions may well become more variable. I am sure some better analysis than that is possible. However, I do wonder when I start counting the number of factor involved: water salinity, SST, depth of warm water temperature, areas of different ice thickness, ice concentration, first year ice/salt levels in ice, air temperatures at 2m and other heights, wind directions, storms/wave heights and angles etc.

    There are a lot of factors. So are speculations based on a favourite subset of information likely to be overfitting the results to the inputs considered? Doesn’t it really need models that try to take all these factors into account?

    Anyway 90% seems a pretty high figure when it appears to me that we are not keeping up with the required rate.

  44. 244
    Mark says:

    Gareth, #234. I would think that if we can get something down there and convert these hydrates to something a little less volatile in place and put them back there (heck, maybe using the pressures and the temperature difference to generate on-site energy), this would be a good thing for “geoengineering” to do. It doesn’t “fix” anything currently a problem, but it does remove a HUGE risk for the near future if the pessimists are right.

    Better than, in my opinion, trying to take carbon out of the atmosphere and hide it underground (unless they found a way to turn it into graphite to be put in the oil wells with local CO2 neutral power generation)

  45. 245
    Mark says:

    CL, #226, I wasn’t thinking you were giving up, I was just using the quote to start off with.


  46. 246
    Gareth says:

    Are there satellite sensors in orbit that can detect methane blooms, or keep an eye out for the surface signatures?

    There’s the Sciamachy Envisat data, but that wasn’t showing anything last year. It would be interesting to see an update.

    And Mark: if wishes were ponies, I’d have enough to mobilise a tribe.

  47. 247
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Note: The risks of Clathrate release, release of CH4/CO2 from permafrost, and other unknown unknowns are precisely the reason why I have argued strenuously that there needs to be more to the economic analysis than rising sea level.

    The process of clathrate release is interesting. Back in the 90s, I reported on the modeling of limnic eruptions of the type that occurred at Lake Nyos in Cameroun. In this case, a CO2 vent feeds into the bottom of a deep volcanic lake. CO2 goes into solution in the cold, dense bottom waters, further increasing their density. The process is stable until something overturns the water. Then, the CO2 is released an the frothy mixture rises explosively to the surface like a shaken can of soda. In this case, though, you have 3 phase flow, so the dynamics will be even more complicated. Has anyone modeled this?

  48. 248
    Robert Matlock says:

    Reply to Crandles

    In the 2007 NSIDC graph, the inflection point in the sea ice extent occurred just after 1 July. It is not clear that it has occurred yet this year — i.e. the rate of melting does not appear that it’s begun to slow down. The second derivative is not yet positive (or at least not recognizably so). So Pat N’s conjecture that there is a 90% chance that we beat the 2007 minimum is quite reasonable.

    What is special about 9 August. You do seem to be cherry picking. And the numerical argument you present is a reminder of why we invented geometry. Look at the graph!

  49. 249
    CL says:

    Mark, 245, Ah, I see. No problem :-)

    “People are so stupid and so destructive — we can do nothing for them.” So I withdrew from society. I thought I would leave and just sit on a hill and watch it collapse.”

  50. 250

    229 and 240, Many thanks Phil, that`s it! Of course its the greenhouse effect, but 3d graph as to where the IR is coming from towards the ice is crucial. Again,
    I supect an inversion, 2 meters above the ice sounds reasonable that there is an inversion starting there. So there is Warmer air right above, bombarding the ice with thermal IR, in return the ice itself keeps this air quite warm at levels uncertain, but its a fair guess that clouds bounce back a great deal of Thermal infra red, greenhouse gases will only amplify this effect. So it is very possible that colder surface temperatures measured at 2 m above the ice are misleading. And that a better measurement would be to
    pinpoint the warmest air above the ice, and see how thick and warm it is. Since no one is there except Polarstern, I hope they do regular radiosonde probings
    of the Upper air. Gribb would give an idea as well, but I suspect that this warmer air is a huge thermal source. Enough as I already measured in the spring,
    to be compared with 2007 density weighted temperatures of the entire atmosphere. The cooling in 2008 was near the surface, but the atmosphere remains just as warm as a whole.

    I am also curious about Alastair 9 inch assertion, is there something there as well?

    I would say that we are not seeing a major player
    in this melt, so its safe to say that it will surprise still.