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Nenana Ice Classic 2019

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 April 2019


Perhaps unsurprisingly given the exceptional (relative) warmth in Alaska last month and in February, the record for the Nenana Ice Classic was shattered this year.

The previous official record was associated with the exceptional conditions in El Niño-affected winter of 1939-1940, when the ice went out on April 20th 1940. Though since 1940 was a leap year, that was actually a little later (relative to the vernal equinox) than the ice out date in 1998 (which wasn’t a leap year). 

Other records are also tumbling in the region, for instance the ice out data at Bethel, Alaska:



While the trend at Nenana since 1908 has been towards earlier ice-out dates (by about 7 days a century on average), the interannual variability is high. This is consistent with the winter warming in this region over that period of about 2.5ºC.  Recent winters have got close (2012/14/15/16) (3 to 4 days past the record),  but this year’s April 14th date is an impressive jump (and with no leap year to help calendrically).

As usual, I plot both the raw date data and the version adjusted to relative to the vernal equinox (the official time of breakup was ~12:21am).

  [As usual, I predict that there will be no interest from the our favorite contrarians in this]












15 Responses to “Nenana Ice Classic 2019”

  1. 1
    David Appell says:

    There’s also a record of the ice-out date on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

    There the trend is -5.6 days/century since 1887, but the 30-year trend is -28 days/century.

  2. 2
    Carbomontanus says:

    Most impressive is Severnaya Zemlya in Russia, the last archipelago in the world to be mapped, under Stalin.

    Stalin also seems to have borrowed Graf Zeppelin to fly over it for possible mapping..

    But in quite recent years, it has been possible to sail all the way around both Severnaya Zemlya and Franz Josefs land during the season..

    However, there seems to have come more frost again in the Northwestern passage, where a private katamaran with sails and outboard motor plus even a large passenger cruise ship with paying passengers passed through for the first time, some years ago.

    According to sea ice maps, Roald Amundsen would not have come all the way to Gjøa Haven by the first season, in 2018. And he froze tight at Cape Chelyuskin With his new ship Maud in 1918. Where Nordenskjølds polar ship Vega and Fr.Nansens Fram had easily passed through in the season decades earlier.

  3. 3

    When do we get to call it a downward hockeystick?

  4. 4

    One lake in New Hampshire? Why not go to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and check out some real statistics

    What’s nice about tracking ice-out dates is that the data doesn’t suffer from UHI effects, instrument changes, calibration issues, etc. that will impact thermometer readings.

  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
    Dan H. says:

    This smashed the previous record earliest melt, which lasted for 79 years, by over 6 days!

  8. 8
    mike says:

    Hey, dudes, it’s just one year of ice melt, don’t get all sky-rockety, but hang on to your hats!

    I am hoping to hear Nigel put this in context for us all.



  9. 9
    Jeromecauth says:
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  10. 10
    Dan C. says:

    @mike #8. It’s 90 years of ice-out data–not one. That is all.

  11. 11
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    The most reliable signal from rising trends in temperatures come from ground temperature profiles in permafrost boteholes. Since the permafrost (if continous) prohibits water circulation in the ground, there are no other influences on ground temperature than temperature at the ground surface. This of course can be changing because of other variables than the air temperature, mainly thickness and duration of snow cover, caracteristics of the vegetation and moisture content of the active layer (the uppermost part of the ground, which thaws every summer and is therefore not part of the permafrost – mainly ranging from av few decimeters in cold arctic regions up to several meters above “warm” alpine permafrost fx here in Southern Norway). Since the ground is a slow conductor of heat, the shape of the mean temperature curve down in the ground will give a very good indication of the trend in air temperatures at the location of the botehole bakcwards in time, provided there are no big changes in snow conditions. Fx in Svalbard a borehole at Janssonhaugen near Longyearbyen gives a very clear signal from the exceptionally fast rising air temperatures in Svalbard in the last several decades. Normally you would expect the depth of zero annual amplitude (zaa) to be around twenty meters, but now in the latest decades zaa is at around sixty meters depth. Almost exactly the same extreme warming trend is seen in akaskan boreholes and boreholes in the Alps, in scandinavian mountain regions etc.

  12. 12
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    Sorry for my writing errors: boreholes (not boteholes) and characteristics (not caracteristics).

    For some data on ground temperatures in Svalbard compared to other arctic regions have a look at slides 6 and 7 here:

  13. 13
    mike says:

    to dan at 10: I have reconsidered. The ice-out stat for this year looks bad.

    It could be an outlier, but I don’t think it is. The outlier argument is likely to be made by many about this year’s early ice out date. We haven’t hit Wadhams territory yet, but I honestly don’t think this ice out data point is an outlier.

    The warming of the Arctic could turn out to be a big problem with numerous feedback consequences. I tire of typing in these concerns because I can be assured that numerous folks who post here regularly will try to act like the adults in the room and minimize the concerns.

    It’s too bad that our species is not willing to do very much about the underlying problem of CO2 emissions and CO2 accumulation in atmosphere and oceans.

  14. 14
    mike says:

    Per #9: I know the moderators have better things to do with their time, but I question the utility of slowing discussion by delay for moderation when a spam post about toothpaste etc. apparently passes muster and makes it through the moderation process.

    But who, knows, maybe someone here was really scratching their head about toothpaste…



  15. 15
    Mark Ulmer says:

    You might find this interesting:

    “Finally, as everyone knows, breakup has already occurred at Nenana and Bethel, and it was the earliest on record for both locations. This morning, however, the Kuskokwim at Bethel was glazed over again with a dusting of fresh snow; this seems like a pretty unusual event (freeze-over after spring breakup), but others might know if it’s been seen before.”

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