Latest Arctic Sea Ice Data

29 06 2017


Mark Cochrane

Another year of low ice cover in the Arctic. So what’s new? Few know about this and fewer care. The decline has been going on so long that we fail to be shocked anymore. In the graph below the gray area is where 95% of years should fall. We are well below that area, yet again, about where we were last year. The dashed line is 2012 when we experienced the lowest sea ice cover (in September). Depending on the vagaries of the weather, this year may or may not be the lowest on record but just looking at the area of cover is misleading, since it tells you nothing about the thickness of the ice.

As the ice cover expands in the cold Arctic winter it covers the ocean and traps the heat it contains. This allows the air temperatures to drop very low above the ice. Think of the ice as the covers on your bed. If your covers are thick your body heat stays contained even on a cold night. If you have just a thin sheet you don’t stay quite so comfortable.

In the Arctic, sea ice gets thicker the older it gets as it goes through successive winters. As recently as the 80s, 30% or more of the ice cover was 5+ years old and first year ice was not much different at about 35% of the area. Now, older ice area has been reduced to <5% while first year ice makes up nearly 70% of the area.

Thin ice breaks easier during Arctic storms and, much like crushed ice in your drinks, melts faster. Open water in the Arctic summer enjoys 24 hours a day of sunlight. Ice reflects most of the heat, but open water absorbs almost all of it. This makes the Arctic ocean warm more and more year after year, which in turn makes the formation of new ice in teh winter harder and harder until later in the year, after enough heat escapes the surface waters. That heat plays havoc with the regional weather in the Arctic. The Polar Vortex is weaker and slower to form making it more likely that cold Arctic air will spill out in bursts across North America and Europe.

The ‘death spiral’ map shows how sea ice volume is circling the drain that will one day, in the not too distant future, end with an ice-free Arctic summer. How much ice have we lost in the last 4 decades? Comparing April 2017 to April 1979, the reduced volume of Arctic sea ice would be nearly enough to cover the entire combined land area of both Canada and the United States with 1 meter of solid ice.

Alas, the only thing poorer than the human race’s ability to understand the exponential function and large numbers is its grasp of geography…


The scariest charts you’re likely to see

9 12 2016

I have now seen one of the charts below, the one I’ve called ‘tipping point’, several times on the internet. I have searched high and low for its origin, and have now finally discovered it…. the Notre Dame International Security Center. It hardly sounds like a left wing University. From its own website, it states…:

The Notre Dame International Security Center was established in 2008 to provide a forum where leading scholars in national security studies from Notre Dame and elsewhere could come together to explore some of the most pressing issues in national security policy.

The center is directed by Professor Michael Desch.

At this site, you will find loads of climate data in graphic form……. and it’s where I discovered the two gobsmacking charts below.  Does this mean the NDISC is taking Climate Change as a serious threat to the security of the US?  We can only hope so, and also hope that they somehow get the ear of the Trumpet…..

You may or may not know that the Arctic polar region has experienced unprecedented temperatures; as high as twenty degrees C above normal. Places where the sun doesn’t even shine (because it’s winter…!) have even been above freezing, for days and days.

The result of this, it appears, is that the sea ice is not reforming. Dare I say, not reforming at all…? This anomaly is so extreme that it’s in the sigma 8 territory of statistical numbers.  σ8 is so weird, that were climate change a gambling game (and you have to wonder sometimes, looking at the policies of the morons in charge) that statistically it would be as uncommon as willing lotto….. or maybe, even more impossible.

Of course, it will almost certainly get colder again before the Northern Summer takes a grip again next year, but surely, we have reached a tipping point…. will next Summer be ice free? Watch this space…..



Tipping Point…..?

Arctic Sea Ice is Falling off a Cliff and it May Not Survive The Summer

3 05 2016

Near zero sea ice by the end of melt season. The dreaded Blue Ocean Event. Something that appears more and more likely to happen during 2016 with each passing day.

These are the kinds of climate-wrecking phase changes in the Arctic people have been worrying about since sea ice extent, area, and volume achieved gut-wrenching plunges during 2007 and 2012. Plunges that were far faster than sea ice melt rates predicted by model runs and by the then scientific consensus on how the Arctic Ocean ice would respond to human-forced warming this Century. For back during the first decade of the the 21st Century the mainstream scientific view was that Arctic sea ice would be about in the range that it is today by around 2070 or 2080. And that we wouldn’t be contemplating the possibility of zero or near zero sea ice until the end of this Century.

But the amazing ability of an unconscionable fossil fuel emission to rapidly transform our world for the worst appears now to outweigh that cautious science. For during 2016, the Arctic is experiencing a record warm year like never before. Average temperatures over the region have been hitting unprecedented ranges. Temperatures that — when one who understands the sensitive nature of the Arctic looks at them — inspires feelings of dislocation and disbelief. For our Arctic sea ice coverage has been consistently in record low ranges throughout Winter, it has been following a steepening curve of loss since April, and it now appears to have started to fall off a cliff. Severe losses that are likely to both impact the Jet Stream and extreme weather formation in the Northern Hemisphere throughout the Spring and Summer of 2016.

Melting more than Two Weeks Faster than the Early 2000’s

Since April 27th, according to a record of sea ice extent provided by JAXA, daily rates of sea ice loss have been in the range of 75,000 square kilometers for every 24 hour period. That’s 300,000 square kilometers of sea ice, or an area the size of New Mexico, lost in just four days. Only during 2015 have we ever seen such similarly rapid rates of loss for this time of year.

Sea Ice Rates of Loss Steepening

(We’ve never seen early season sea ice losses like this before. Severe sea ice losses of this variety can help to generate strong ridges and extreme heatwaves like the one we now see affecting India and Southeast Asia. Image source: JAXA.)

However, this excessive rate of loss is occurring across an Arctic region that features dramatically less ice (exceeding the 2015 mark for the same day by about 360,000 square kilometers) than any other comparable year for the same day. In essence, extent melt is now more than a week ahead of any other previous year. It is two and half weeks ahead of melt rates during the 2000s. And this year’s rate of decline is steepening.

Current melt rates, if maintained throughout summer, would wipe out practically all the ice. And, worryingly, this is a distinct possibility given the severely weakened state of the ice, the large areas of dark, open water available to absorb the sun’s rays as Summer progresses, and given the fact that Arctic heat is continuing in extreme record warm ranges. Furthermore, melt rates tend to seasonally steepen starting by mid June. So rapidly ramping rates of loss seen now, at the end of April and through to the start of May, may see further acceleration as more and more direct sunlight keeps falling on already large exposed areas of dark, heat-absorbing water.

Huge Holes in the Beaufort

All throughout the Arctic Basin, these sunlight-absorbing regions take up far more area than is typical. The Bering has melted very early. Baffin Bay is greatly withdrawn from typical years. Hudson Bay is starting to break up. The Barents and Greenland seas feature far more open water than is typical. However, there is no region showing more dramatic early season losses than the Beaufort.

Beaufort rapid melt 2016

(This Beaufort sea has never looked so bad off so early in the year. High amplitude waves in the Jet Stream continue to deliver record warmth, warm, wet winds, and record sea ice melt to this region of the Arctic. For reference, bottom of frame in this image is around 600 miles. The wispy threads you see in the image is cloud cover, the sections of solid white are snow and ice. And the blue you see is the open waters of the Arctic Ocean. Open water gap size in the widest sections is now more than 150 miles. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

There, ice continues to rapidly recede away from the Arctic Ocean shores of the Mackenzie Delta and the Canadian Archipelago — where a large gap has opened up in the sea ice. Now ranging from 70-150 miles in width, this area of open water consistently sees surface temperatures warm enough to melt sea ice (above 28 F or about -2 C).

This great body of open water the size of a sea in itself has now created a new early season edge zone for the ice. A place where a kind of mini-dipole can emerge between the more rapidly warming water surfaces and the cooler, reflective ice. Such a zone will tend to be a magnet for storms. And a low pressure system is expected to ride up an extreme bulge in the Jet Stream over Alaska and Canada and on into this Arctic zone over the next few days. Storms of this kind tend to hasten melt and break up of ice in the edge zones by generating waves, by pulling in warmer airs from the south, or by dropping liquid precipitation along the melting ice edge. And the fact that this kind of dynamic is setting up in the Beaufort in early May is nothing short of extraordinary.

Arctic Heat Like We’ve Never Seen Before

Further to the north, high pressure is expected to continue to dominate over the next seven days. This will generate further compaction of the already weak ice even as it allows more and more sunlight to fall over that greatly thinned white veil.

Freezing Degree Days Cross -1000 threshold

(The Arctic is now so warm that this graph is now too small to capture the excession of extreme heat in the region. Freezing degree days are now more than 1,000 less than during a typical year and the already much warmer than normal 1980 to 2000 period. Image source: CIRES.)

Temperatures for the Arctic are expected to range between 2.5 and 3.5 C above average over the next seven days. Very warm conditions that will continue to hammer freezing degree day totals that have now exceeded an unprecedented -1000 since the start of the year in the High Arctic region above the 80 degree North Latitude Line. In layman’s terms, the less freezing degree days the Arctic experiences, the closer it is to melting. And losing 1000 freezing degree days is like removing the coldest month of Winter entirely from the heat balance equation in this highest Latitude region of the Northern Hemisphere.

From just about every indicator, we find that the Arctic sea ice is being hit by heat like never before. And the disturbing precipitous early season losses we now see in combination with the excessive, extreme warmth and melt accelerating weather patterns are likely to continue to reinforce a trend of record losses. Such low sea ice measures will also tend to wrench weather patterns around the globe — providing zones for extreme heatwaves and droughts along the ridge lines and related warm wind invasions of the Arctic that will tend to develop all while generating risk of record precipitation events in the trough zones. To this point, the North American West is again setting up for just such a zonal heatwave pattern. Extreme heat building up in India and Southeast Asia also appears to be following a similar northward advance.






Climate Reanalyzer

Earth Nullschool

Arctic Sea Ice Graphs

Hat tip to DT Lange

Sarc. Hat tip to Exxon Mobile (For its failure to report scientific findings on the impacts of climate change, and for its never-ending political and media campaign aimed at preventing effective climate change mitigation policy over the past 40+ years)

Warm Arctic Winter sees sea ice max out at a record low

22 03 2015

Whilst the entire planet has warmed over the last century, the Arctic has seen the greatest rises in temperatures.  One of the most obvious symptoms of that change has been the changing patterns of sea ice movements covering the Arctic Ocean each winter. Although the extent of its summer time melt is variable from year to year, there has been an obvious sharp downward trend in the amount of Summer ice left each September, but, as the Arctic moves into 24 hour darkness through Winter, most of the ocean freezes over again and everyone concentrates on how low the Summer maximum coverage goes.

This year though, unusual (but predicted) winter warmth at the edges of the sea ice has led to a most unusual refreeze, and a record low for the maximal ice extent has occurred….  This year’s maximum extent of ice coverage of 14.54 million square kilometres, was more than a million square kilometres below the long-term average.  Usually, the peak of the refreeze happens in March, but this year, ice coverage started dropping in late February.  Then it stabilised for two weeks. And that was that…..  This change in behaviour took the cover area outside of two standard deviations of the 1980-2010 average ice extent.

The NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center) which monitors these things, tells us that there may be further freezing yet to occur, but unless that freeze is extreme, ice coverage is  not likely to revert to where they were in February.

What caused this unusual drop?  Temperatures above most of the Arctic were, surprise surprise, unusually warm.  In the Barents Sea, many locations temperatures reached levels that were a full 10°C above average.  Just think about what it would be like if the temperature where you live reached such heights?  Oh hang on…..  it happened here just last week, and Western Queensland has been 10°C above average for a couple of weeks now…. (last Thursday here in Cooran, we had 12°C above normal for this time of year, only for the one day fortunately… and March temperature records in Queensland tumbled all over the place)

But back to the Arctic….  Ice extent was lower there, in the Bering Sea, and in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk.

What does this mean for this summer’s melt?  Who knows…  All bets are off now as far as I’m concerned…  If you compare the graph above to one of recent summer melts, you’ll see that in 2012, the summer that saw the greatest loss of ice, actually had a winter maximum that was late in the year and above average—the exact opposite of this winter.  So if this Arctic heatwave continues, will we see the first ice free Summer sooner than anyone has predicted?