River ice in Alaska: “pretty good proxy for climate change in the 20th century”

From Physics Today News Picks:

Wall Street Journal: Every winter since 1917, people in Nenana, a village 55 miles southwest of Fairbanks, have wagered on the exact moment that the ice breaks up on the nearby Tanana River. For the 450 townsfolk, the annual Alaska ice lottery, called the Nenana Ice Classic, is a financial lifeline that offers some their year’s only employment. Winners last year shared a jackpot of $303,272.

River ThawBut for many geophysicists, the contest itself is something more valuable than any monetary prize.

The Ice Classic has given them a rare, reliable climate history that has documented to the minute the onset of the annual thaw as it shifted across 91 years. By this measure, spring comes to central Alaska 10 days earlier than in 1960, said geophysicist Martin Jeffries at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks — and that trend is accelerating. “The Nenana Ice Classic is a pretty good proxy for climate change in the 20th century,” Dr. Jeffries said.

Interesting thing about that, their ice measurements show a significant increase in thickness.

[2009] 9-Mar 45 Inches
[2004] 9-Mar 28.0 Inches

h/t to Tom Nelson

See the data and graph here:

Jan Janssens offers us this graph:

Click for a larger image

Mike D offers us this one (inverted Y scale from graph above)

nenana_ice_breakup_dates

Thickness data from: http://www.nenanaakiceclassic.com/Ice%20Measurement.htm

Official 2009 Nenana Ice Classic Website
Date Ice Thickness Hi/Low Temp Precipitation
5-Feb 42.5 Inches
19-Feb 45.5 Inches
5-Mar 41.5 Inches
9-Mar 45 Inches
2008 Ice Measurement Nenana Ice Classic
Date Ice Thickness Hi/Low Temp Precipitation
11-Jan 38.8 Inches
21-Jan 44.0 Inches
15-Feb 41.0 Inches
1-Mar 51.0 Inches
10-Mar 44.5 Inches
17-Mar 46.3 Inches
20-Mar 47.5 Inches
24-Mar 46.0 Inches
28-Mar 54.5 Inches
31-Mar 47.5 Inches
3-Apr 45.6 Inches
7-Apr 44.3 Inches
11-Apr 45.6 Inches
14-Apr 44.3 Inches
17-Apr 44.6 Inches
21-Apr 40.5 Inches
2007 Ice Measurement Nenana Ice Classic
Date Ice Thickness Hi/Low Temp Precipitation
11-Jan 40.5 Inches
7-Feb 42.0 Inches
14-Feb 44.0 Inches
21-Feb 46.0 Inches
28-Feb 51.5 Inches
8-Mar 46.5 Inches
12-Mar 46.0 Inches
15-Mar 46.6 Inches
19-Mar 49.0 Inches
22-Mar 51.0 Inches
26-Mar 49.0 Inches
29-Mar 48.7 Inches
2-Apr 49.7 Inches
5-Apr 48.8 Inches
11-Apr 46.5 Inches
2006 Nenana Ice Classic
4-Jan 43.0
31-Jan 38.0
9-Feb 35.0
15-Feb 38.0
23-Feb 36.0
2-Mar 45.0
6-Mar 42.0
9-Mar 34.0
13-Mar 32.0
16-Mar 32.5
20-Mar 34.5
23-Mar 34.3
27-Mar 34.0
30-Mar 34.5
2-Apr 32.7
2005 Nenana Ice Classic
14-Jan 29.0 Inches
8-Feb 35.0 Inches
17-Feb 40.5 Inches
24-Feb 40.0 Inches
3-Mar 42.0 Inches
10-Mar 33.5 Inches
14-Mar 37.0 Inches
17-Mar 42.0 Inches
21-Mar 36.3 Inches
24-Mar 37.0 Inches
28-Mar 36.0 Inches
31-Mar 36.0 Inches
4-Apr 32.0 Inches
7-Apr 35.5 Inches
12-Apr 40.0 Inches
15-Apr 40.0 Inches
19-Apr 35.3 Inches
21-Apr 35.5 Inches
2004 Nenana Ice Classic
7-Jan 21.5 Inches
4-Feb 30.00 Inches
11-Feb 35.0 Inches
18-Feb 36.5 Inches
25-Feb 37.5 Inches
3-Mar 25.0 Inches
9-Mar 28.0 Inches
15-Mar 33.0 Inches
18-Mar 33.5 Inches
22-Mar 34.5 Inches
25-Mar 34.7 Inches
29-Mar 35.0 Inches
1-Apr 35.5 Inches
2003 Nenana Ice Classic
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72 thoughts on “River ice in Alaska: “pretty good proxy for climate change in the 20th century”

  1. This geophysicist would be well inspired to know something about atmospheric circulation before drawing conclusions about the climate from one record…

    REPLY: You mean like the conclusions drawn only from Arctic Sea Ice? – Anthony

  2. “By this measure, spring comes to central Alaska 10 days earlier than in 1960, said geophysicist Martin Jeffries at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks”

    All very nice, except this compares what happened after a positive PDO. Do the same comparison in 30 years or so, after a negative PDO has wrought its magic. Or better yet, if the records are so good, what’s the entire history reveal of the ebb and flow of ice melt dates, not just a select period that follows a positive PDO.

  3. Heh.

    What’s the correlation between ice thickness and time of breakup?

    Seems like it would be more related to water rise and fall and river height rather than thickness.

    I can see breakup being delayed in drought years. And being early in years with a lot of sunshine.

  4. In 1960 the ice broke on 2 May and in 2008 the ice broke on 6 May.

    I extrapolate from this that winter is getting longer and it must have been pretty warm back in 1960.

  5. Is it just me, or is there something wrong that causes what should be a graph or something to appear as code?

  6. Average for years 1960-1968 = 8 May

    Average for years 1990-1998 = 29 April

    Average for years 2000-2008 = 1 May

    Sorry but this might show it got warmer in the 1990′s but it pretty clearly shows it has got colder since then.

    REPLY:
    No need to be sorry, it did get warmer in the 90′s – Anthony

  7. Why not just take the cowards way out, and focus on when breakup occurs?
    I hear it’s a bid deal and the pot prize can be huge.

  8. Makes me think of how people watch cherry blossom in Japan. Here is an extract from wiki

    “The blossoming begins in Okinawa in January and typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of March or the beginning of April. It proceeds into areas at the higher altitudes and northward, arriving in Hokkaidō a few weeks later. Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties. Hanami festivals celebrate the beauty of the sakura and for many are a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. The custom of hanami dates back many centuries in Japan: the eighth-century chronicle Nihon Shoki (日本書紀) records hanami festivals being held as early as the third century CE.”

    I wonder if there are any long term records of this???

  9. Will be interesting to see this year’s break up.

    MN going to +5 F tonight. Snow.

    Record snow in N.D.

    90% ice cover Lake Superior.

    Maybe the wonks can be hoisted on their own petard with this one.

  10. Looking at the dates 2008 was about in the middle of the range

    1 20-Apr 1940 1998
    2 21-Apr
    3 22-Apr
    4 23-Apr 1993
    5 24-Apr 1990 2004
    6 25-Apr
    7 26-Apr 1926 1995
    8 27-Apr 1988 2007
    9 28-Apr 1943 1969 2005
    10 29-Apr 1939 1953 1958 1980 1983 1994 1999 2003
    11 30-Apr 1917 1934 1936 1942 1951 1978 1979 1981 1997
    12 1-May 1932 1956 1989 1991 2000
    13 2-May 1960 1976 2006
    14 3-May 1919 1941 1947
    15 4-May 1944 1967 1970 1973
    16 5-May 1929 1946 1957 1961 1963 1987 1996
    17 6-May 1928 1938 1950 1954 1974 1977 2008
    18 7-May 1925 1965 2002
    19 8-May 1930 1933 1959 1966 1968 1971 1986 2001
    20 9-May 1923 1955 1984
    21 10-May 1931 1972 1975 1982
    22 11-May 1918 1920 1921 1924 1985
    23 12-May 1922 1937 1952 1962
    24 13-May 1927 1948
    25 14-May 1949 1992
    26 15-May 1935
    27 16-May 1945
    28 17-May
    29 18-May
    30 19-May
    31 20-May 1964
    32 21-May
    33 22-May

  11. And when you cut all four legs off a bullfrog, they become stone deaf and ignore your command for them to jump !

    I thought Austen’s comment about water levels in the river was very pertinent. It is along the same line as the break-up of the Larsen-B ice shelf. It sits on the East face of the Antarctic Peninsula, jutting out into the Southern ocean towards South America, so the whole Atlantic Ocean goes sloshing through there every day with the tidal bulge, not to mention the terrific storms the area is known for, and all that roiled water goes slamming right in under the Larsen-B ice shelf. So why wouldn’t it break up every now and then.

    This is one of those, ‘butterfly wings beating in a Brazillian Jungle, and causing a subsequent tornado in Kansas’ anecdotal distractions. Great fun for the Alaskans, and more power to them; but hardly even local climate evidence, let alone global. Stuff changes; always has, always will.

    George

    PS Pretty picture though Anthony, and thanks for sharing; but another one of those grasping at straws last ditch stands of the MMGWCC fanatics.

  12. One point I hadn’t realized before is that the frozen river is down stream of Fairbanks, Alaska’s second largest city, with an urban population of 51,926. So it isn’t a crystal clear wilderness stream but one that is subject to urban influences. I have no idea how they keep the streets of Fairbanks ice free but any run off from that would be one small factor for instance…

  13. I live on the west coast of BC, but much further south.

    I see 1964 was the latest breakup year.

    We’ve got snow on the ground today, its damn cold and we broke lots of snow records from 1964 this winter. We had 4 feet of snow fall in 35 days in Dec/Jan where we normally have just rain.

  14. Leif Svalgaard (08:25:30) :

    it would be nice to have a plot of the dates [one per year] since 1917 [and fix the html...]

    Here’s a start, for you, Leif:

    These are Julian dates for the annual breakup, 1917 to 2003. Original data here:

    ftp://sidads.colorado.edu/pub/DATASETS/NENANA/nenana.dat

    The “trend” looks relatively flat until ~1960, then begins to decline, i.e. breakup earlier and earlier each year (on the average). Now this is only through 2003, so the uptick (smoothed) at the end may have continued since then. I don’t know. I don’t have time right now to find the breakup dates for 2004-2008. If someone else can find them, and post them, I’ll update the figure.

    Basil

  15. I keep a yearly update of the Nenana-Ice classic results at my website (under Climate). Last update dates from May 08. Evolution can be seen in this graph:

  16. While I was writing, Bernie linked (indirectly) to this:

    Be careful comparing my chart with this one. The scaling of dates is reversed between the two (in mine, higher values imply later dates, not earlier ones).

  17. Something I don’t see covered very well in this article is what is being dumped in the river today as compared to 1917. There are many chemicals that end up on today’s roads and winter storms and spring rains wash these chemicals into the river.

    What affect would different chemicals have on the river whether salt to keep the roads clean or some factory that may be polluting the river?

  18. “Levels of GCRs appear to have a relationship to the state of the stratospheric polar vortex and, more indirectly, to the state of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The polar vortex circles the globe at around 450N, and has widespread climatic effects over the Northern Hemisphere. Higher levels of GCRs are one of several factors that appear to be associated with a stronger, colder polar vortex.”
    Link http://www.hartnell.cc.ca.us/faculty/mercurio/download.html

  19. It should be pretty easy to take samples from that river and test the % of rock salt and soot in it.

    What is the break-up date of more pristine rivers (assuming long-term records have been kept)? Does their trend match the earlier-break-up trend of this river? If not, why weren’t they selected by Martin Jeffries as proxies for climate change? Eh?

  20. I was just looking at the population numbers for Fairbanks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairbanks,_Alaska
    It appears that the city has spread fairly dramatically and there is now a county with a population close to 100000.

    http://factfinder.census.gov/

    Perhaps there is someone with some local statistical information that would allow us to plot indicators of any UHI or other local effects – e.g., # building permits, miles of road, tons of road salt, sewage volume, etc.

  21. Here’s my calculated averages compared to the 13 (earliest records) and 10 (1960) days early in the WSJ article.

    30 Year average
    Melt is 3.7 days earlier than earliest records
    (1917-1946 compared to 1979-2008)

    Melt is 4. 7 days earlier than 1960
    (1946-1975 compared to 1979-2008)

    10 Year average
    Melt is 5.2 days earlier than earliest records
    (1917-1926 compared to 1999-2008)

    Melt is 5.0 days earlier than 1960
    (1956-1965 compared to 1999-2008)

    I don’t see how one could get 10 or 13 days early for any averages, the maximum difference I see in a 30 year average is 5.1 days and 8.7 for the 10 year.

  22. http://www.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF3/317.html

    Many references to extensive forest fires in Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada are found in the writings of eighteenth and nineteenth century explorers. Some recognized that lightning was the cause of forest fires, but the explorers frequently attributed the fires to native peoples. Authorities on forest fires, including H. J. Lutz of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have concluded that early native peoples were, in fact, responsible for many fires.

    Some fires were intentionally set to get rid of mosquitos or possibly to increase moose browse. Others were accidental from signal fires or camp fires going out of control.

    Indians were not the only starters of fires. In 1915 the “Kennicott fire” was intentionally set by a woodcutter to create fuel wood for use at the Kennicott mine. Sixty-four thousand acres (100 square miles) was burned. In the same year, sparks from a train set a fire that burned 384,000 acres near Chitina.

    Prior to 1940, there were a number of large fires in Alaska and Yukon that each burned more than 100,000 acres. Among the biggest were the 1,900,000-acre fire at Lake Iliamna in 1935, the Sheenjak River burn of 312,000 acres in 1937 and the Mosquito Fork Flat fire along the old Valdez-Eagle trail that burned over 900,000 acres in 1922.

    In Alaska alone it is estimated that there are about 200 million acres of “burnable” land, of which about half is actually forested. Only about seven percent of the burnable land can be considered commercial forest capable of producing 20 cubic feet per acre (1.4 cubic meters per hectare) or more of wood annually.

    Virtually all the northern forest has been burned over during the last 200 years. It is estimated that a million acres each year is burned, on the average.

  23. I lived in Snowbanks.

    I doubt if there is little if any runoff in the winter as things stay quite cold.

    The first place to snow snow melt is on the southern exposures of hills and on evergreen trees.

    By late March, if it is in the 20s, you can wear shorts the sun is so warm.

  24. By this measure, spring comes to central Alaska 10 days earlier than in 1960, said geophysicist Martin Jeffries at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks”

    I’m no climate scientist – just a guy who stumbled onto this website and have found it very interesting. My stupid question is: if we”ve been seeing spring come 10 days earlier (on average) than in 1960, do we know if winter has been coming any earlier? thanks.

    John v

  25. My parents built a house on a lake in 1995, and have been recording the dates that the lake freezes and thaws. Just recently I move the record from the hand-scribbled notes on the garbage pickup schedule taped inside a cupboard to a fancy chart they can track the next 20 years in.

    Year Freeze-Date Thaw-Date Days-Iced Days-Clear
    1996 November 15, 1996 April 24, 1997 160 205
    1997 not_available April 23, 1998 159 206
    1998 November 20, 1998 April 8, 1999 139 226
    1999 not_available April 19, 2000 151 214
    2000 November 7, 2000 April 20, 2001 164 201
    2001 November 26, 2001 April 30, 2002 155 210
    2002 October 31, 2002 April 14, 2003 165 200
    2003 November 4, 2003 April 6, 2004 154 211
    2004 November 23, 2004 April 7, 2005 135 230
    2005 November 29, 2005 April 13, 2006 135 230
    2006 November 2, 2006 April 18, 2007 167 198
    2007 November 14, 2007 April 19, 2008 157 208
    2008 November 23, 2008 (still frozen)

    I find it interesting that… this lake wins prizes for being the purest, most pristine in our urban area (Calgary), and the lake height is kept as consistent as possible.

    While it’s interesting and all, I can assure you this does not accurately depict much of anything, other than freeze-thaw dates. Even 1998 doesn’t really stand out a whole lot.

    We defined freeze date as the first date the lake was completely frozen over, in spite of it typically sitting partly frozen for a few days prior. This was mostly because we noticed winds were messing with the ice until it was completely covered. Similarly, thaw dates are the first day the lake was completely ice free, since once the breakup begins there are usually huge rafts of ice piling up at one end or another.

    Hope this is in some way entertaining.

  26. My 2002 report of the 2002 Nenana Ice Classic, published under the Irish spelling of my name, can be found here:

    The Nenana Ice Classic 2002 or How to Lose Money Gambling on Global Warming

    http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/nenana_ice_classic_2002.htm

    With some degree of immodesty I reviewed my words from 2002 and found them to be prophetic!

    So what is the significance of the Nenana Ice Classic Proxy? As is the case with most Phenology Proxies, the real answer is probably: not very much. Just as tree rings measure cellulous formation during the growing season and leaf emergence measures prevailing spring temperature and precipitation conditions, the Nenana Ice Classic is measuring the time of ice breakup on the Tanana River at Nenana Alaska, during a 32 day period from late April to late May; nothing more and nothing less. Many events will affect ice breakup, including ice thickness, air temperature, water temperature, water levels and flow rates. To conjecture that a log of the Nenana Ice Classic will prove or disprove the existence of global warming, or global cooling for that matter, is idle speculation with absolutely no basis in fact. This is not to imply that Phenology is without value. Provided the data are accurate, evaluated objectively and their limitations are clearly understood, they can be of great scientific value. The problem with Phenology is that it is now being used advance a political agenda rather than a scientific one. Of course, if the Global Warmers were to publish the full data as illustrated above, they would be due an apology, but on their past record is seems doubtful that one will be needed.

    Given that the paper from 2001, was worthy of publication in Science, why have we not heard more about the Nenana Ice Classic in the last seven year? Perhaps this graphic, complete through 2008, will explain.

    We live in a world where Science publishes the trivial but politically correct work of Drs. Segarin & Micheli while the very significant work of Drs. Livingston and Penn is rejected.

    I am looking forward to the 2009 results for the Nenana Ice Classic.

    Mike

  27. George E. Smith’s comment about tidal bulges has me wondering whether there is any correlation between the ice break up and a spring tide at high water.
    A spring tide would put maximum stress on the ice at high water. All we need now is an almanack showing new moon dates and tide tables for the area…

  28. Peter Hartley (07:58:50),

    Thanks for that excellent link. Especially interesting [from the link]:

    …this paper was fully peer-reviewed and published in a major journal, the evident statistical flaws escaping the notice of the reviewers or editors.

    More evidence of sloppy and/or devious climate science peer review.

  29. Here we are Nenan ice breakup as a pseudo temperature graph, done to the minute.

    Spooky?

    How? Subtract date/time from 1st Jan of year, invert data and offset to a sane Y axis. Why 9 year smooth, gives good results, compromise.

    Now someone will tell me it is upside down. :-)

    Sanity check. Last four days of the month are
    4
    5
    5
    5
    4

    early, late, late, late, early
    Graph is down, up, up, up, down

  30. BarryW, “Looking at the dates …”
    Well, waddya know! A bell curve. Who would have thought it?

  31. The WSJ said….for their “warm” argument:

    “Yet, England basked in its fourth-warmest January since 1914, the British Met Office reported. The crocus and narcissus at the U.K.’s Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew flowered a week earlier than last year — 11 days ahead of their average for the decade and weeks ahead of their pattern in the 1980s.”

    HUH??? HA HA HA HA.

    Is that the best they and the UK MET (for shame! LOL!) can come up with??

    THAT IS CHERRY PICKING EVEN BEFORE THE DAMN CHERRY-BLOSSOMS HAVE FORMED ON THE TREES–ESPECIALLY IN LIGHT OF THE FEBRUARY WEATHER IN THE SAME LOCATION!

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA

  32. Some similar interesting data.

    “The first long-term studies of climate change took place along the coast of Hudson Bay at places like Churchill and York Factory. They are part of the longest and most comprehensive set of weather observations in North America, if not the world.

    As part of daily activities at any Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, weather patterns, rainfall, and casual observations were recorded and eventually archived by the company. In fact during the early 1800s, there were at least three times as many weather stations in Northern Manitoba as there are today. There is even evidence that a weather station was planned for Cape Merry in the mid-1700s.

    Weather records for York Factory and Churchill date all the way back to 1714 and 1718, respectively. The Hudson’s Bay Company kept accurate records to assist in their business decisions regarding the fur trade. Their archives contain journals from over two hundred trading posts throughout the Canadian northwest.

    York Factory, as the main depot and administrative center for the Hudson’s Bay Company, has the most complete set of meteorological records. Its first weather entry was made by James Knight on September 6, 1714. ”
    snip

    Short-term climate change is not a new phenomena. Over the fifteen years between 1720 and 1735, the first snowfall of the year moved from the first week of September to the last. Also, the late 1700s were turbulent years. They were extremely cold but annual snow cover would vary from ‘extreme depth to no cover’. For instance, November 10th 1767 only one snowfall that quickly thawed had been recorded. June 6, 1791 many feet of snow in the post’s gardens. The entry for July 14, 1798 reads ‘…53 degrees colder today than it was yesterday.’

    We seem to be running in roughly forty year cycles of warming and cooling – within a longer term warm period. This century has been marked by a warming period (1910-1940) followed by a cooler period through to the 1970s. The latest warming trend began in the late 70s, early 80s.”
    snip

    http://www.polarbearalley.com/hudson-bay-post-climate-change.html

  33. Shawn Whelan wrote:

    “We seem to be running in roughly forty year cycles of warming and cooling – within a longer term warm period. This century has been marked by a warming period (1910-1940) followed by a cooler period through to the 1970s. The latest warming trend began in the late 70s, early 80s.”

    Good observations on the cycles, bro. There are many such cycles (which of course the Wall Street Journal conveniently left out):

    The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (which has very recently shifted over to its cold phase)

    The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. (which is still in its warm phase and helped give us a snow drought in the SE USA). Hey don’t laugh….our snow droughts are 8 inches annually LOL.

    The El Nino / Southern Oscillation index (OK he did mention briefly the “La Nina).

    So, for the many of the great minds who believe that the atmosphere is greatly affected by the different types of oceanic forcing described above….just so happens probably just as many of those great minds are watching another animal….that is the SUN.

    And we are about due for another Grand Minimum (and if Father Sun keeps up his snoozin’ right now…well…..).

    So the quote in the WSJ article about trends over a 150 year period, while remarkable, are not totally unexplainable.

    This is especially true in light of the fact that many scientists believe that SIGNIFICANT minima in sun activity occur every so often (the exact intervals are being debated right now)….and such events lower the global temperatures.

    Some have reported that the solar activity of the past 75 years is its greatest it has been in the past 10,000 years, and thus, that there shows a good correlation as to why all of the warming trends over the same period.

    It amazes me the WALL STREET JOURNAL and the BBC and other reputable news organizations…that even they…would be “snowed” by the AGW orthodoxy.

    I remember when I as a kid I was taught to believe that the world began in 4004 BC.

    There are many people today who STILL believe that.

    In similar vein, the New International Church of Anthropgenic Global Warming….seem to think the world BEGAN about 150 YEARS ago when modern records started being kept!

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA

  34. Perhaps OT, regarding Alaska ice roads and start-end dates:

    http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/detect/land-road.shtml?page=land

    End dates are fairly consistent, but start dates were in mid-November in the 1970-’s, but are now in mid-January! The latest date on the graph is 2004. Does anyone know where to obtain more recent data?

    There is a note about “foothill restrictions” — does anyone know what this means?

    Also, does anyone know if the trucks and loads are the same or similar weights over the past 30 years? I could see a shorter duration if the trucks and loads are heavier, as they would wait until the ice is thicker to begin travel.

  35. Roger Sowell,

    I think that the ice road metric is utter bollocks. Their link to the modelling project comes up empty, so no help there. The graph should be useful for any oil exploration company planning work in Alaska (winter time only, ground is a soggy mess in the summer) but is so intertwined with changing regulatiory requirements that one cannot infer anything about temperature. Given that we have temperature records for Alaska, many not tainted with UHI or microsite issue, that one wonders why such a unspectacular “proxy” is posted at all.

  36. savethesharks (13:17:55) : said

    “The WSJ said….for their “warm” argument:

    “Yet, England basked in its fourth-warmest January since 1914, the British Met Office reported. The crocus and narcissus at the U.K.’s Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew flowered a week earlier than last year — 11 days ahead of their average for the decade and weeks ahead of their pattern in the 1980s.”

    HUH??? HA HA HA HA.”

    Where on earth did this come from? Have you got a reference? Are you talking about 2009? I am looking at CET now and that statement is not remotely true.

    TonyB

  37. For the sportsman amongst the readership, wishing to advance the social programs in Nenana Alaska, I am going to share some graphics with you. If anyone scores please remember the Tip Jar on our host’s website.

    http://www.surfacestations.org/donate.htm

    Any calculations involving ice breakup should be done using Julian dates and times, with all times calculated in Alaskan Standard Time. Not unexpectedly, there is a very strong time-of-day signature associated with breakup as the following graph demonstrates. Could the Sun be melting the ice?

    Nenana Ice Classic Breakup By Hour Of Day (1917-2008)

    Surprisingly between 11PM and Midnight, there is an unexpected increase in ice breakup events. Anyone who has even vacation by a lake in the winter is familiar with ice cracking during the night as it cools and expands. I suspect we are dealing with a similar phenomenon here. If you do decide to wager, don’t forget the witching hour.

    The following graphic shows breakup by Julian Day. The highest probability breakup is Julian day 120. There is a cluster of breakup days from 125 to 128. And let us not forget the outliers at days 110 and 141.

    Nenana Ice Classic Breakup By Julian Day (1917-2008)

    So when will breakup occur this year? While Alaska had an incredibly cold winter this year, there was a warm spell at the end of January and beginning of February. Currently ice conditions are very similar to 2008. Last year, breakup occurred at 2008/05/06 22:53AST, which was Julian day 127 and hour 23, which is right in the middle of the second high probability cluster refinanced above. I would expect similar results this year for the Julian day but you can pick your own hour. How sure of this am I? Not very, this is why it is called gambling.

    I did try many other ways display the data, including correlations with other climate events such as the PDO, but none of them were very convincing. In case any of you are wondering, I have never gambled on Nanana or any other game of chance unless I am donating money to a local charity. My belief is statistics is such that I know that the house is always going to win.

    Mike

  38. The meter-thick ice in these northern rivers doesn’t melt away by early May; it is broken up and swept downstream by the melting of snow in the drainage. Soot lying on the sidehills would certainly accelerate the freshet. The Tanana empties into the Yukon a good thousand kilometers from any tidal influence. IMO an early break-up reflects the warmth, sunshine and rain of the previous two or three weeks.

  39. “”” Oliver Ramsay (15:12:56) :

    The meter-thick ice in these northern rivers doesn’t melt away by early May; it is broken up and swept downstream by the melting of snow in the drainage. Soot lying on the sidehills would certainly accelerate the freshet. The Tanana empties into the Yukon a good thousand kilometers from any tidal influence. IMO an early break-up reflects the warmth, sunshine and rain of the previous two or three weeks. “””

    So I gather that Alaska has some sort of gravity shielding dome over it that prohibits tidal forces from operating in the State ? That’s a pretty cool trick if you can pull it off.

    Here in California, we have lots of places that aren’t near any coast; but they still get their fair share of earthquakes that get triggered during the proper tidal phases. And they pretty much come on schedule just when that USGS outcast Jim Berquist (I think that’s his name) says they will.

    Maybe California should ask Obama for a gravity shield too.

    George

  40. January 2009 CET was 3.0. Average for the whole series (from 1659) is 4.6.
    It was about the 210th warmest.
    It was actually the 24th COLDEST since 1914.
    Who are these guys?

  41. Backing Smokey backing Peter Hartley

    Don’t forget the late (and missed) John Daly’s comment on this event:

    http://www.john-daly.com/nenana.htm

    John Daly noticed a significant increase in snowfall over the time of the Nenana Ice Classic, as well as the UHI effect. Snow would tend to destabilize the ice causing dynamic breakup. Daly noted gross cherrypicking of dates for the 2001 paper “Climate Change in Non-traditional Data Sets” plus its publication date timed for a climate conference. A whole catalogue of bad science.

  42. Roger Sowell,

    Loads have got heavier as trucks got more powerful. I have seen loads moved that would never be allowed in the lower 48, loads that had one semi in front and 2 in back pushing.
    As far as the Ice Classic goes if we had a lot of snow I bet early, light snow I bet late, runoff breaks the ice up in my opinion.

  43. OT anybody following the Catlin Arctic Survey? http://www.catlinarcticsurvey.com
    These people are pretty amusing. My niece makes better preparations for going to the mall than they did before attempting to walk to the north pole. Sure hope nobody gets hurt and they achieve all their objectives, which seem to primarily be finding ways to make climate models appear to be accurate.

  44. TonyB

    “Where on earth did this come from? Have you got a reference? Are you talking about 2009? I am looking at CET now and that statement is not remotely true.”

    I STAND CORRECTED TONYB. (HA HA HA HA toward me then!)

    I was paging through all the threads pretty quickly. The first thing I clicked on on THIS thread was the very first three words were the Wall Street Journal and I guess I was not paying attention not noticing that was NOT the main article.

    You are correct the WSJ article referenced was 2008. (LOL)

    I get bored at work and multitask sometimes and sometimes I speed through things too fast.

    But at least I did not mistake October’s global temperature data with Septembers’. (Ha Ha again).

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA

  45. Don S: I think that Arctic expedition was mentioned here. Apparently the most important part of a modern global warming expedition is a blog. They’re using a satellite phone for public events, while “navigation is being conducted by means of more traditional methods, relying on the position of the sun and wind direction.” Yeah, sure this is a scientific expedition. Scientists would be using GPS for navigation and precise sample measurement. Indeed, there is mention of a GPS beacon which the base can access, but not a navigational device.

  46. Catlin Arctic Survey

    Total distance travelled
    28.89 km
    Average daily distance
    2.9 km
    Estimated distance to North Pole
    925.63 km
    Time on Arctic Ocean
    10 days

    So in another 300 days they will be there. Back in the 1800′s and the first half of the 20th century the explorers thought nothing of walking hundreds of miles through the Arctic Winter.

  47. It’s interesting to note that for total ice extent in the arctic measured on the JAXA graph 2008 matched 2004 until recently, but from that river the ice thickness is 40-50% more in 2009. Which goes to show I guess how a localised measurement is not a good proxy for climate change in the 20th Century.

    Regards

    Andy

  48. George said:
    So I gather that Alaska has some sort of gravity shielding dome over it that prohibits tidal forces from operating in the State ? That’s a pretty cool trick if you can pull it off.

    Here in California, we have lots of places that aren’t near any coast; but they still get their fair share of earthquakes that get triggered during the proper tidal phases. And they pretty much come on schedule just when that USGS outcast Jim Berquist (I think that’s his name) says they will.

    Maybe California should ask Obama for a gravity shield too.”

    George, your faith in the man is astonishing! But you could give it a shot; he should have time to look into it pretty soon.
    Would you actually want one?
    I think the problem with the tidal method of moving ice in northern rivers would be an inadequacy of “proper tidal phases” to provide a break-up phenomonen for each of hundreds of tributaries and main courses, and all at somewhat different times. Then, of course, there are the lakes that would require a hell of a surge, maybe a couple of weeks later. But then, if you’ve got that schedule you were talking about, you could clean up on all the little lotteries from Whitehorse to Marshall. You’d have to get Sarah to reinstate gravity. Come to think of it, she must have started on that already as the snow-melt seems to consistently flow down into the rivers, some years earlier than others.

  49. Don S

    The catlin survey is being run by a nearish neigbour of mine. They have carried out enormous preparations and the expertise of Pen Hadow the leader stands scrutiny against the bext arctic exploers in the world.

    Their progress is very slow partly because they are pulling a heavy sledge with a radar that measures the thikness of the ice and they are drilling holes.

    I seriously doubt the scientific purpose of the expedition however-Pen just wanted to be out in the snow-the sponsors have another agenda.

    Measuring the thickness of the ice in a straight line 700 miles long just gives a reference point over a very small area for one date and means nothing unless it is repeated for many years.

    The satellite measurements of ice area since 1978 don’t reflect the conditions before that and I think the danger is that people will read too much into the data collected.

    This entry from the expeditions diary amused me

    “Tuesday, 10th March 2009

    Due to intense and fierce weather today, the team has decided to remain at camp.”

    Tonyb

  50. Tonyb, Shawn, Don
    It reminds me a bit of the Lewis Pugh expedition last summer. Remember that? He was going to Kayak to the N pole to raise awareness about how the Arctic ice had all melted. Except that he got stuck in the ice having only got 1/10 of the way there :)
    Of course this fact was never reported in the media, though his enthusiastic start was.

  51. PaulM

    Yes, that analogy did cross my mind!

    No doubt the reason for the publicity tap being turned on and off at will was the involvement of Richard Bransons son on the Kayak expedition.

    TonyB

  52. TonyB,Shawn,AnonyMouse:

    My mind presented analogies to Shackelton and Scott when I first read the communications from the Catlin team, as it did last year when the abortive kayak trip took place. TonyB, I concur completely that no actual science is likely to be accomplished on this venture. Pen Hadow is the sole redeeming factor on the expediton, but I wouldn’t go elk hunting involving a six mile walk in the Montana snow with a flask I couldn’t open with my gloves on. Nor would I take gear I had to sleep with in order to keep it functional.

  53. “”” Oliver Ramsay (23:02:27) :

    George said:
    So I gather that Alaska has some sort of gravity shielding dome over it that prohibits tidal forces from operating in the State ? That’s a pretty cool trick if you can pull it off. “””

    Well Oliver, I suppose you did catch that note that someone posted, that we did in fact have a few small shakers in the State of California in the last few days, and on the way home that night, I noted the rising full moon, and I just griinnned; and whispered to myself in the car; “Have a beer on me Jim Berquist !”. “You called another one right on schedule.”

    The tidal bore effect is quite apparent for the break up of the Larsen-B ice shelf; but less so for the Tanana River ice. Yes there may not be a water surge to assist; but there still does have to be a tidal bowing of the ice which will influence breakup, if you get new/full moons close to the breakup time.

    But I thought the note relating to water levels in the river, was most applicable to the situation.

    George

  54. George,
    I spent the winter of 1978 camped on the Klondike, chopping holes in the ice for drinking water. By the time spring came, I was hauling water from the far side of the river because I was hitting gravel on my side at a depth of about four feet. The outside bow of the river was deeper because the water runs faster.
    A couple of years prior to that I had been the first of the year to put my boat in the Yukon at the abandoned settlement of Minto. I’d been camped on the bank for about 3 days waiting for the ice to go out. There were a few others camped there at the time, waiting to do the wilderness paddle down to Dawson 200 miles away. We knew the river was going to open because it was Spring and the snow had been melting. Snow melts, swells river under ice, ice breaks and is carried downstream, piling up in noisy, enormous jams that are terrifying to approach in a canoe.
    It would take more than one beer to convince me that the moon has any more to do with break-up than it does with germination of radish seeds.
    I’m sure you’ve seen Mike Monce’s elegant handling of gravity on the “Heavy” thread.
    As for LarsenB, of course, that makes sense. In the arctic, even more so, perhaps.

  55. The English would pull sleds around the Arctic for hundreds of miles back in the 1850′s while looking for Franklin. They mapped at thesame time. Amundsen was a lot smarter and used dogsleds. They would build a small igloo in to sleep at night.

  56. Catlin Arctic Survey

    Total distance travelled
    28.89 km
    Average daily distance
    2.9 km
    Estimated distance to North Pole
    925.63 km
    Time on Arctic Ocean
    10 days

    Now they seem to be going backwards.

    Total distance travelled
    26.67 km
    Average daily distance
    2.42 km
    Estimated distance to North Pole
    927.85 km
    Time on Arctic Ocean
    11 days

  57. The earth is some four and a half BILLION years old. To try and interpret weather history or make a forecast by looking at the period form 1917 to now (or even going back to the 1700s), hardly a dot in geological time, is superfluous. Ice ages have come and gone and the earth will go on warming and cooling as it has done before man was here and it will continue after we are gone.

    I do have a couple guesses in the Nenana Ice Classic and I’ll let you know if I win.

  58. Looks like it is getting close to breaking up. They are predicting this weekend as local conditions have been in the upper 70s recently.

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