Icebreaker at the North Pole

From the Alfred Wegener Institute news that a ship that reached the real geographic North Pole, unlike the hapless group of Whisky sponsored rowers (Row to the Pole) who are pointlessly attempting to reach the location of 1996 magnetic pole, which doesn’t even exist there anymore.

Research Vessel Polarstern at North Pole

Bremerhaven/North Pole, 22 August 2011. You can’t get any “higher”: on 22 August 2011 at exactly 9.42 a.m. the research icebreaker Polarstern of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association reaches the North Pole. The aim of he current expedition is to document changes in the far north. Thus, the researchers on board are conducting an extensive investigation programme in the water, ice and air at the northernmost point on the Earth. The little sea ice cover makes the route via the pole to the investigation area in the Canadian Arctic possible.

Sea ice not only plays a role in the selection of the route, but is above all a major research focal point. How thick is the ice and how old? To what extent has it been deformed by pressure – is there snow or puddles of melting water on it? Satellite measurements, too, supply ice information, but measurements are still required on site to be able to interpret these data correctly. Light energy causes the ice to melt and heats up the water in the summer months. The warming of the Arctic and the related changes in heat and gas exchange processes between the ocean, sea ice and atmosphere are the paramount focus of the investigations. The oceanic currents that exchange water masses with the Atlantic and the Pacific are also undergoing change. Redistribution of the freshwater input from rivers into the Arctic Ocean is one of the factors that influence these oceanic currents.

Light is the source of energy for tiny algae that live in and under the ice and form the basis of the food web in the Arctic Ocean. Biologists classify species and determine the number of algae as well as the small and larger animals that feed on them. The researchers follow the path taken by the organisms from the water surface to the seafloor, where the remains end up as organic substance at a depth of thousands of metres after the organisms die.

These deposits on the seafloor permit conclusions to be drawn on how living conditions were in the course of the Earth’s history. After all, the sediments and the animal and plant remains they contain are up to several million years old. Following the expedition, sediment cores will be analysed in the laboratory. To improve the models of the Earth’s climate history, chemists, physicists and oceanographers additionally examine the environmental conditions in the present-day oceans. They draw conclusions on how fast organic substance is transformed and relocated as a result of altered current conditions.

All 55 scientists and technicians from six countries on board the Polarstern have a common goal: studying the changes in the Arctic. This is also reflected in the name of the expedition “TransArc – Trans-Arctic survey of the Arctic Ocean in transition”. The researchers have been investigating their questions jointly with the 43 crew members since the Polarstern left the port of Tromsø (Norway) on 5 August. The first ice floes appeared on 8 August. Since 9 August the Polarstern has been sailing through dense pack ice on the route along 60° East in temperatures of around 0° C. At first it was predominantly one-year-old sea ice, now older and consequently thicker ice floes appear.

“From a scientific point of view the North Pole is not more interesting than other places in the Arctic,” reports Prof. Ursula Schauer from on board the Polarstern. The oceanographer at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association is the chief scientist of the expedition. “The expected changes are rather minor here. However, the northern part of the Canadian sector of the Arctic still numbers among the least researched regions on the globe because of the dense pack ice.” Schauer was in the central Arctic the last time in 2007 and is now experiencing a similarly small ice cover as the year that went down in the annals as the one with the lowest extent of sea ice since the beginning of satellite measurements in 1979. Initial measurements of the ice thickness confirm this: in 2011 as well as in 2007 the most frequently occurring ice thickness was 0.9 metres. As a comparison, the most frequently measured ice thickness in 2001 was around 2 metres. In that year the extent of the ice cover at the end of the melting period corresponded roughly to the long-term mean.

The Polarstern is at the North Pole for the third time in its history. On 7 September 1991 it was one of the first two conventionally driven ships to sail there, along with the Swedish research icebreaker Oden. Almost exactly ten years later, on 6 September 2001, it carried out a joint expedition at the North Pole together with the American research icebreaker Healy.

After the investigations at the North Pole and subsequently in the Canadian Basin the vessel will head for the Siberian Sea. The researchers want to study the oceanic circulation from the deep sea to the shallow shelf seas and habitats from the ice edge to the ice-free ocean. The Polarstern is expected to return to its homeport of Bremerhaven on 7 October. For all those who would like to follow the events on board until that time: the members of the expedition report regularly in the blog of the magazine GEO at (German language only) www.geo.de/blog/geo/polarstern-blog.

###

The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and oceans of the high and middle latitudes. It coordinates polar research in Germany and provides major infrastructure to the international scientific community, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctica. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the seventeen research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

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84 thoughts on “Icebreaker at the North Pole

  1. So the ice wasn’t melting fast enough so they thought that they will give it a helping hand by breaking it up? Unbelieveable!

  2. How long does it takes for the wind to push away patches of ice that have been slit through from the icebreakers?

  3. I wonder if the crew of the Nautilus measured the thickness of the ice they broke through in 1959. Vaguely remember seeing open waters near the sub while surfaced at the North Pole. Anyone have acces to those photos?

    Bill

  4. I can imagine those researchers stood at the stern of the research vessel looking backwards and proclaiming, without a hint of irony,

    “Oh look, the ice is breaking up and melting faster than we ever imagined, How terrible, it’s worse than we thought! Mankind must be to blame!”

    Yeah, mankind is to blame. It’s the kind of man who is PILOTING YOUR BLOODY BOAT!!!

  5. Note very, very carefully that this is the icebreaker’s THIRD trip to the north pole, each trip accompanied by other surface ships, and (apparently) that several nuclear icebreakers (all Russian) made the trip before ….

    Though, I most certainly suspect that the CAGW – obsessed ABCNNBCBS media will not mention that fact very loudly, since it detracts from the overriding message that the Arctic melting “now” and “it’s worse than we thought” ….

    So polar ice has been in this condition before, and will be in today’s conditions in the future.

  6. Arctic ocean sediment cores (not just one at the North Pole) could tell a very revealing story about climatic cycles if enough were taken over the whole ocean, especially at sensitive points such a band that includes the summer melt ice extent edge. Cores taken in the 1960s and 70s throughout the other ocean basins were quite useful in proving the Milankovich cycles control much of the glacial/interglacial timing.

  7. The aim of the current expedition is to document changes in the far north.

    Is there a baseline to compare against or are they creating the baseline? It’s implied there’s been little research there, so there is currently no baseline to use for comparison.

  8. Hey, Anthony, sorry to be off topic here – but WUWT featured a number of stories about the Australian Carbon Tax with the Julia Gillard’s year-old government its single-seat majority forced through the Australian parliament. Here’s some news that could possibly change everything including the Gillard Government itself.

    An Australian MP has been accused of using an official credit card to pay for prostitutes, sparking a political scandal that could bring down the government.

    New South Wales state police said they are looking into new evidence that Craig Thomson misused a trade union credit card when he was a senior union official in 2005 and 2007.

    A conviction for theft or fraud would force Mr Thomson to quit parliament and cost Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s year-old government its single-seat majority.

    With opinion polls showing the government has become deeply unpopular, observers agree that the ruling Labor Party would have little hope of retaining Mr Thomson’s seat in an ensuing by-election.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2029178/Australian-MP-Craig-Thomson-used-official-credit-card-pay-prostitutes.html#ixzz1VseZ5bcK

  9. Sounds like an interesting expedition. I’m jealous — would love to visit the far North someday. One can catch a hint of a pre-determined bias in the stated purpose of the expedition, but they appear to be doing some serious work and, hopefully, collecting some worthwhile data. Definitely more valuable than the many publicity stunt expeditions we’ve seen in recent years.

  10. What sort of damage is ice-breaking doing to high latitude ice coverage? I thought ‘everyone agreed’ that open water generated positive feedbacks that produced more open water.

  11. If one ice-breaker can have a measurable effect on Arctic sea-ice extent (as measured by satellites say) then we are in big trouble. I seriously doubt it and see no reason why people should complain about such a voyage. Scientists should be in the Arctic if they want to study Arctic sea ice after all. Unless they went there just to ruin my 5.1 million sq m ice extent prediction – which isn’t looking too good right now. Dang ice-breakers.

  12. I can’t believe some of the commentry here is to be taken seriously. Does anyone really believe that an ice breaker trail through the Arctic is likely to have any significant impact on the rate of ice melt/ break up? Either get serious or admit you’re having a laugh!

    I know that ther AGW case is often overcooked – please excuse the pun, but this kind of opinion makes a complete farce of skeptical opinion – if indeed it is intended seriously?

  13. What possible purpose would deliberately using ice-breakers to speed up the demise of the Arctic Ice serve?

    It’s not like alarmist scientists would use continuing ice loss as “proof” of AGW, or that there are literally billions of dollars worth of natural resources waiting to be exploited should weather conditions in the region moderate.

    Oh. Wait………..

  14. Ben Kellett says:
    August 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm
    I can’t believe some of the commentry here is to be taken seriously. Does anyone really believe that an ice breaker trail through the Arctic is likely to have any significant impact on the rate of ice melt/ break up?

    ___________________________________________________________________________

    Do you seriously believe that the Russians would spend hundreds of millions of dollars building and operating a fleet of nuclear powered ice -breakers if they didn’t have a significant impact on the rate of ice melt/ break up?

  15. @Ben Kellett says:
    August 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    No doubt the work of lurking warministas out to besmirch our reputation. Just like at the Tea Party rallies!

  16. JaneHM, Anything is possible –
    The ice coverage, even at maximum melt, is measured in millions of square kilometers. The amount of ice which is broken up by ice-breaking ships is minuscule by comparison. Not to mention that such ice is still around to be counted in the figures; it’s not melted by the ships.

    The ships make progress possible locally. They can’t have a significant effect upon the metrics of Arctic ice coverage.

  17. RACookPE1978 says:
    August 23, 2011 at 11:32 am

    “Though, I most certainly suspect that the CAGW – obsessed ABCNNBCBS media will not mention that fact very loudly, since it detracts from the overriding message that the Arctic melting “now” and “it’s worse than we thought” ….

    So polar ice has been in this condition before, and will be in today’s conditions in the future.”

    Isn’t it fair to state that polar ice has already been in every condition previously observed and also in every other condition that is imaginable? What has the Polarstern group seen that is either new or unique?

  18. Um…
    There are millions of square km of sea ice in the arctic basin. Open leads from and close regularly, such as those the subs surfaced in during the 1950s and 60s. The size of a ship and it’s track through the ice are easily seen as insignificant against that backdrop. The Polarstern was at the pole in 1991 and 2001, now again in 2011 for ongoing studies. It can cruise through 1.5m ice and ram through heavier ice.
    In 1959, the Skate reported “The Ice at the polar ice cap is an average of 6-8 feet thick” in both summer and winter.

  19. Anything is possible says:
    August 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Ben Kellett says:
    August 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm
    I can’t believe some of the commentry here is to be taken seriously. Does anyone really believe that an ice breaker trail through the Arctic is likely to have any significant impact on the rate of ice melt/ break up?

    ___________________________________________________________________________

    Do you seriously believe that the Russians would spend hundreds of millions of dollars building and operating a fleet of nuclear powered ice -breakers if they didn’t have a significant impact on the rate of ice melt/ break up?

    ———————

    Yes, I seriously believe they built them to aid shipping and earn revenue from doing so:

    A nuclear powered icebreaker is a purpose-built ship for use in waters continuously covered with ice. Icebreakers are ships capable of cruising on ice-covered water by breaking through the ice with their strong, heavy, steel bows. Nuclear powered icebreakers are far more powerful than their diesel powered counterparts, and have been constructed by Russia primarily to aid shipping in the frozen Arctic waterways in the north of Siberia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear-powered_icebreaker

  20. Ben Kellett says:
    August 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm
    I can’t believe some of the commentary here is to be taken seriously. Does anyone really believe that an ice breaker trail through the Arctic is likely to have any significant impact on the rate of ice melt/ break up?
    ———————————————————

    One crack caused the destruction of a space shuttle. One crack in a structure under pressure can cause significant damage. Put a single small crack in a car windscreen and see what happens. In the Arctic each season we have dozens of icebreakers at work putting cracks in the icepack. Whilst the stresses acting on the Arctic ice pack might not be akin to the scenarios I’ve provided above they are certainly present.

    The ice pack each year is under tremendous stress from wind and ocean currents and ice movement into warmer waters plays an important role in determining how much ice is lost each summer.

    Please explain to me, why you are so absolutely certain that channels from ice breaking activity will not cause large chunks of ice (much large than the original channel created by the ice breaker) to drift off into warmer waters like other ice which has been freed from the pack clearly does.

    Do you have ironclad proof that this is not occurring

  21. Ben Kellett says:
    August 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm
    I can’t believe some of the commentry here is to be taken seriously. Does anyone really believe that an ice breaker trail through the Arctic

    They even have a number of tourist trips on Russian ice breakers. Surely this is more a threat to the ice than the usual drivel about cow farts and the like. They are shooting camels in Australia because of their contribution to CO2. Also, I don’t trust this activity – the polar year (or two) they had a last year there were boats all over the arctic with scientists cracking up the ice. Remember there is some desperation on the CAGW side.

  22. Dave, et al;
    “pack ice” is smaller pieces of ice jammed together by winds and currents. When an icebreaker spreads them enough to get through, a while later they are jammed back where they started. All the ‘breakers do is push it aside for a little while. If rejamming occurs too quickly, they can get locked-in, no matter how big and powerful they are.

  23. P.S.
    I felt the quake here in Vancouver, too, for about 1/10 of a second. A wee bump, about an hour delayed!
    I think that’s what it was …
    :)

  24. Ben Kellett says:
    August 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm
    I can’t believe some of the commentry here is to be taken seriously. Does anyone really believe that an ice breaker trail through the Arctic is likely to have any significant impact on the rate of ice melt/ break up? Either get serious or admit you’re having a laugh!

    I know that ther AGW case is often overcooked – please excuse the pun, but this kind of opinion makes a complete farce of skeptical opinion – if indeed it is intended seriously?

    Contrary to what is claimed ice does not melt much at the Arctic. What happens is that it breaks away from the ice anchored to shorelines and then flows as ‘pack ice’ around the sea current the polar gyre out of the Arctic ocean at places like the Fram Strait where it moves South to warmer waters and melts.

    Ice breakers cut the ice up and break its connection to the land anchors. This allows the sheets of ice to move with the polar sea currents and break up more. Assisted by the repeated transits by the icebreakers along the ‘passages’ by the shoreline to keep the passages clear. There are multiple icebreakers operating continually in the Arctic now.

    Now Ben, what do you think – in a fragile eco system where it is apparently really really important (we are told) for the ice to remain, is it really sensible to operate fleets of icebreakers with the sole purpose of clearing the ice for shipping?

  25. Wow, just wow. Sometimes, I guess it needs spelled out. Though I would have thought many could make the connection themselves.

    Does anyone here believe there is just one ice breaker out there in the arctic ocean? Guys and gals, between the Russians and our researchers there’s hundreds of trips through the ice this year alone! Don’t tell me that doesn’t have an effect. It does, and it needs to be quantified and caveat needs to be stated when talking about ice loss.

    Geez, catch a falling clue!

  26. There’s this really handy summary of arctic conditions at a site some of you may have heard of called “Watt’s Up With That”. The sea ice page links to this image:

    It shows that the route to the pole is not solid ice. The satellites estimate the concentrations at less than 70% ice covered for most of the trip to the pole.

    If the ice is already so broken up that there are large section that are ice free, how much difference could a single ship make sailing thru regions that are broken ice to start with?

  27. Dave! Sea ice doesn’t behave like a car windscreen – surely you know that? Do a little research as to how this ice behaves before coming up with such shots in the dark.

    Oh..and by the way.. I would be keen to see definition “iron clad proof”? Does this exist in any practical form? I guess Gore et al would prefer us to believe so when it comes to proof of CAGW but I was firmly under the impression that even our most eminent scholars throughout the ages have struggled with this concept outside of course of the purely conceptual!

    So, when you ask for “iron clad proof,” you effectively ask the impossible, as I’m sure you’re aware. And that also applies to all the questions we might ask of AGW climate science and skeptical climate science alike. While much is questionable for sure, we shouldn’t need and in fact can not expect to attain “iron clad proof” in order to come to a well reasoned conclusion.

  28. Ian! While I can see why you might beliee this to be the case, my understanding of melting pack ice is that it acts more like porridge than floating polystyrene. I’m sure if there were a deliberate and concerted effort on the part of all the fleets of ice breakers to carve ice away from the the land, it might just have an effect but we’re talking about one research ice breaker here. To my mind, this constitutes valuable research- much more so than pseudo research by polar explorers with limited capability. If the study is done ethically, then it might yield some surprises….

  29. @ James Sexton.
    James, you keep pitching them, and we keep missing them.
    But just so you don’t think everyone is stupid.
    1. Some of the comments as I read them were in reaction to the one voyage and not a comment on the total amount of ice breakers and their effects.
    2. No doubt there are likely many ice breakers out there. Seems too obvious to even comment on.
    3. When I was in Nain (Northeast Canada) the local Inuit were complaining about the ice breakers because, although the broken up ice closes back quite quickly it generated enough vertical displacement (basically an ice bank) that it was dangerous to snow mobile. But the ice closes fairly quickly and is not broken up and melted as you are hinting.
    4. In the post the scientists mention a reduction of sea ice extent. There is little doubt there is less ice in the Arctic. I think you are hinting it is caused by ice breakers and that would be a rather dense comment without proof.
    5. The scientists noted the ice thickness was 0.9 m rather than the more typical 2.0 m. How do you attribute average ice thickness to the presence of ice breakers?
    6. How many ice breakers would it take to eliminate Arctic ice? I’m sure the Russians have calculated it accurately enough to know they could never build enough ice breakers or they would have done so.
    7. Most ice breakers IMO would be put to work opening up a passage for trade and not sailing to the north pole. Such trade routes would be located at the edges of the Arctic ice sheet and I don’t see this as having a serious effect on the overall ice extent.
    Steve

  30. Sliightly off topic…. but Ice extent/area just taken another little dive! It’s going to be really close to 2007 this year but I’m pretty certain our ice breaker isn’t responsible! Next year’s recovery will prove that!!

  31. Ben Kellett says:
    August 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm
    Ian! While I can see why you might beliee this to be the case, my understanding of melting pack ice is that it acts more like porridge than floating polystyrene. I’m sure if there were a deliberate and concerted effort on the part of all the fleets of ice breakers to carve ice away from the the land, it might just have an effect but we’re talking about one research ice breaker here. To my mind, this constitutes valuable research- much more so than pseudo research by polar explorers with limited capability. If the study is done ethically, then it might yield some surprises….

    No Ben – YOU were talking about one research icebreaker.

    It is one of many. I don’t believe you can support their having no effect. They turn sheets of ice into pack ice – ice floes that can be carried by wind and currents out of the arctic. Even making sure that passages like the Fram strait are clear for shipping (and for the ice ).

    Personally I do not believe that the area of ice is an important metric. But if it is seen as important for the survival of the Earth as we know it to have a solid arctic ice sheet, then stop the icebreakers destroying it.

  32. James! You’re right, it needs to be quantified! And I’m pretty convinced if you did this, you would find a negligible effect. For every chunk of ice broken off from the land anchor or larger body of pack ice, you would discover another chunk would join from another fragmented area – the net result being no discernible loss or gain. But in fact, the whole system is far too dynamic to be sure one way or the other.

    So let’s just have a bit of consistency here. There may come a time when for whatever reason, we will value ice breakers in the arctic. It might be for exploration of hidden resources or it might be for research showing how resilient or how fragile the arctic can be.I for one certainly don’t have a problem with data capture in this region. The more we know, the more we’ll understand. At the moment, we have precious little data, so let’s not get too suspicious of research in this area otherwise we’ll surely shoot ourselves in the foot and end up as guilty of hypocracy as the those blinkered by AGW.

  33. Ben Kellett says:

    August 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm (Edit)

    Sliightly off topic…. but Ice extent/area just taken another little dive! It’s going to be really close to 2007 this year but I’m pretty certain our ice breaker isn’t responsible! Next year’s recovery will prove that!!

    ########

    Recovery? to what level?

    Since its colder ( according to Girma) (hehe) and since we are entering a solar min, you should predict a huge recovery.

  34. So if I take 50 icebreakers ( a conservative or large number) from here;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_icebreakers

    and assume an average beam width of 25 meters (a reasonable average beam width path);

    and assume each of those 50 vessels transits 1000 km through 100% pack ice (or say 2000 km through 50% pack ice);

    I get 50*0.025*1000 = 1,250 km^2 versus 15,000,000 km^2 (in winter) versus 3,000,000 km^2 (in summer). Or on average there is 9,000,000 km^2 of sea ice, 1250/9000000 = 0.014%, or if you use the minimum you get a whopping 0.042% of disturbed ice.

    To even get to 1% during the summer minimum, you’d need to multiply the above 0.042% by 24, that would meen, for example, 24*50 ships = 1200 ships. Or if you keep it at 50 ships you’d need each of them to travel 24,000 km.

    So a small number is indeed a small number, any which way you could possibly cut it, as it were.

    And mind you that that’s just disturbed ice, which just backfills the temporary path opening that each of these 50 icebreakers makes, whist not a single kiilogram of ice was melted by these icebreakers per se.

  35. “JaneHM, Anything is possible –
    The ice coverage, even at maximum melt, is measured in millions of square kilometers. The amount of ice which is broken up by ice-breaking ships is minuscule by comparison. Not to mention that such ice is still around to be counted in the figures; it’s not melted by the ships.

    The ships make progress possible locally. They can’t have a significant effect upon the metrics of Arctic ice coverage.”

    Sounds much like the CO2 arguments. How can a few parts per million of a trace gas affect the whole climate. Do a few square kilometers of icebreaker tracks have a similar effect? Who has collected any data or made any measurements?

  36. Can I refer to the OT submission?

    Wil says:
    August 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    The Australian Opposition has just called for a motion in the Australian Parliament in the last half hour that Standing orders be suspended and the Australian MP referred to (Mr Craig Thomson, member for Dobell) explain issues raised by various media outlets that:

    * He misused funds of the Health Services Union for personal expenditure when he was General Secretary.

    * How his credit card was allegedly stolen and his signature forged to pay for prostitutes with his union credit card.

    * Whether he misled (the inhouse) Fairwork Australia in their investigation into the use of his union credit card.

    * Why defamation charges were dropped against the Fairfax Press who had raised the issues and how the NSW Labor Party had met outstanding legal fees.

    This motion has just been defeated on party lines and those with a vested interest in the government status quo. However Thomson was forced to resign from his position as Chair of the Parliament Economics Committee BUT not his seat of Dobell

    I agree with comments by Wil that if a by-election was to result Labor would be defeated and if it flowed onto a general election, the government would go down in a landslide together with its carbon tax. Still a long way to go yet but wouldn’t it be hilarious if an Australian carbon tax went up in smoke over the revelations of a willing whistle blowing prostitute?

  37. Correction to my last post. I believe Motion may has been carried 73-71 (even though PM was absent) and member will have to explain his actions to House. Stand by and fasten your seatbelts.

  38. OK, I understand the situation now. Standing orders were not suspended as although Opposition won the vote, an overall majority of 76 votes is required (what a pity). You can unfasten your seat belts but the government and Mr Thomson and are still in for a very bumpy ride.

  39. @ Steve from Rockwood and Ben Kellett

    Steve, most of your points I agree with. However, you should consider what effect it has by opening up a peripheral waterway.

    To both, ice loss isn’t due mostly to melt, per se. It is a misnomer. Ice loss occurs when the currents, both wind and sea move the ice out of the arctic. Proof of this assertion is seen yearly in March and September. March is the month the ice maximum occurs, always it starts to recede then. Oddly, temps in that area are still well below freezing. September is the month the minimum occurs, but always temps are diving. Ice loss, if we’re attaching “melt” to it, should lessen as temps lower, not increase. Yes, undercurrents have warmer water, but how warm is the water in March? Its the currents and wind that causes ice loss. The melting occurs when the ice is moved out to the Atlantic.

    If we have groups of people breaking ice, it allows the ice to be moved. One or two, sure it won’t make any difference. Have you checked where the ice is moving from? Where the ice is? Where the multimeter ice is? What’s odd is I’m not one that is emotionally invested in the icecap. I truly hope it all melts soon. Then, and only then will we be able to get over this obsession with such a small part of the world. It isn’t significant, but open sea ways on the top of the earth should be a considerable boon to shipping.

    But, to show what I’m talking about….. and I hope you both click on this, because my internets are giving me fits and I went through some considerable grief in order to show you what I’m talking about, please look at this. Or just go here….. here.

    There’s all sorts of traffic up there. The pic displayed in both is representative of just one particular point in time.

    As to the snowmobiling….. the parts of the arctic I’ve visited, snowmobiling would never had been an option……. there was just too much of the breaking. BTW, ice, in regards to how we are discussing, is a dynamic substance. It moves, it breaks, it changes form even when the temps are consistently well below freezing. Hope you guys and others enjoy.

    James

  40. Slow to Follow said: Nice picture of nuclear ice breaker “Yamal” here, along with mention of Medieval Warm Period ice free seas:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icebreaker

    I saw the Fram in Oslo when I was there last year, and it’s definitely a museum worth seeing if you are ever in those parts. Unbelievable how that relatively small ship got itself stuck in the Arctic ice and drifted for the whole winter, and the photos and artifacts are excellent.

  41. I forgot to thank Ric Werme once again. While I’ve got most stuff memorized, I always go to your button at the top to use the “anchor”. I c/p your example and insert what I want where. I’ve always meant to thank you. Just thinking it needed said. Thanks again!

  42. @James,
    I clicked on your two links and was quite surprised by the amount of ships active in the Arctic. My first response was – what the hell are they doing up there?
    I also want to say I always enjoy your posts. Even when confronting you are respectful and loaded with information.
    But a couple of quibbles:
    1. While your map shows a number of ships in the Arctic, when you zoom in it still looks like rather a meek gathering. Only 1 ship in the entire Hudson Bay? Wouldn’t want to get stranded there and find myself asking for help. Hudson Bay is 1,000 km across. It would take several days just to cross it once.
    2. Your comment on ice melting in March (when the temperature is below freezing) and freezing in September (when the temperature is above freezing) is interesting. I noticed the same thing when I lived in Northern Ontario. For example, the temperature in March was below freezing but the snow was disappearing from my driveway. No melting, just disappearing. Trust me, I’m the shovel guy. I attributed this to sublimation. Try this link: http://www.theweatherprediction.com/habyhints2/369/. In the fall, even though the day temperature is above freezing, I think the cold nights and lack of direct sun produce a lag effect that sees ice building even though day time air temps are higher than freezing. I’m not a climate scientist but I do shovel snow. And the nice thing about March is, you can sit inside and nature shovels the snow for you. Unless it snows.
    3. I’ve been to many parts of Northern Canada, Salluit, Nain, Puvirnituq in Quebec and Labrador and Holman on Victoria Island (for example) usually in late winter and what amazes me is the lack of anything for hundreds of kilometers. We would fly in on Twin Otters and then helicopters (often over the oceans in the Otters) and not see anything – no polar bears, no ships or surfaced submarines, no row boats with scotch drinking morons – absolutely nothing. It is a very large and desolate area that Arctic. Regardless of the 200 vessels on your map.
    4. I believe the Arctic is a very special place (from a scientific point of view) as it does seem to be very sensitive to world temperature changes. I see this as a good thing. If we aren’t catastrophic in our predictions we can use this sensitivity to study a phenomenon that is hard to see (or measure) over our short lifetime.
    Thanks again for the great links.
    Steve

  43. King of Cool says:
    August 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm
    “the revelations of a whistle blowing prostitute?”
    ===================================
    There are a 1000 jokes hiding in that statement.

  44. Well after looking at this;

    http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shiplocations.phtml?lat=90&lon=0&radius=700

    and considering that there are only ~4 ships in areas of appreciable Arctic sea ice extent, at present, I can see that my previous estimate was overly conservative by a factor of 4-5.

    So a better estimate would be 0.01% disturbed ice by icebreaking capable ships based on a summer minimum of 3,000,000 km^2, or 300 km^2 in total on an annual basis. In other words, well within the error estimates of sea ice extents/areas, by aboot two orders of magnitude.

    NOTE: Buoy numbers are not ships, by anyone’s metrics.

    :)

  45. people who posit that icebreakers have any measurable effect on measurements of area and extent have some proving to do.

    Just plop down in front of your computer and start look at,,, lets say, Modis imagery.

    But I can save you some time, the cell sizes for calculaying area and extent is on the order of Kilometers.

  46. THE MAIN ICE EDGE…EXCLUDING OPEN WATER…LIES FROM THE SOUTHWEST
    COAST OF PRINCE PATRICK ISLAND NEAR 76N 122.6W TO 75.2N 121.6W TO
    72.5N 127.8W TO 71.3N 133W TO 71.3N 139.9W TO 72N 144.2W TO 73.1N
    155.1W TO 74.4N 162.8W TO 74.3N 170.2W TO 71.9N 176.3E TO 72.6N 165E
    AND CONTINUES WEST. OPEN WATER EXTENDS 10 TO 40 NM BEYOND THE MAIN
    PACK WEST OF 142W. THE EDGE OF THE MAIN PACK IS MAINLY 2 TO 7 TENTHS
    FIRST YEAR AND OLD ICE.

    1 TO 2 TENTHS NEW AND YOUNG ICE LIES ALONG THE COAST FROM 20 NM EAST
    OF KAKTOVIK TO HERSCHEL ISLAND.

    FORECAST THROUGH SATURDAY…LITTLE CHANGE.

  47. Steven Mosher says:
    August 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    The Skate was at the pole during the biggest Solar Max that we know of.
    Today, the icebreaker is at the pole during the weakest Solar cycle in a hundred years (at least).
    While you are at it, you might want to look at that thickness data again.
    You also need to refresh your memory by taking another gander at those photos of Skate & Seadragon, noting the thickness of the ice the subs broke through.
    You’re not hitting on all cylinders, despite the sarcasm of your comments.

  48. Steven Mosher says:
    August 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    people who posit that icebreakers have any measurable effect on measurements of area and extent have some proving to do.
    =============================================
    Didn’t say that it did. I said, it needs to be acknowledged that it happens and that it should be measured. At this point, it is beyond me or anyone else to prove or disprove anything in this regard. But, Steven, you know this. Ironically, there is a certain correlation to all of this activity. :-) BTW, did you check out the fleet lurking in the midst of our MYI? Or the armada moving around the peripheral between Greenland and Norway? No way the currents move the broken ice out to sea….eh? I understand the vastness, I’m wondering if you understand the stubbornness of humanity.

  49. Steve from Rockwood says:
    August 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    @James,……
    ======================================
    Steve, thanks for the kind words. But, there are times I’m less respectful that I’d wish I would have been. My experience toward the Arctic is confined to off the coasts of Alaska. My father’s was confined to Greenland. We compared notes. While there were many similarities, there were many differences. I would assume there are many more differences concerned with the coasts and islands of Canada.

    I hated shoveling, knowing that it would only engulf me. Thank God for sublimation! It truly is a dynamic that can only be properly appreciated by experience.

    While you can probably discern already, my comments were to provoke rather than assert. I’ve no idea if or how much the ship movements effect anything. But, I do know it is occurring and most people don’t know that it does. And, it is increasing yearly.

    “… what amazes me is the lack of anything for hundreds of kilometers.” I was never not in total amazement of the vast nothingness of the arctic nothingness. To this day it is beyond my fathom, and I’ve seen it, lived in it and it still boggles my mind. Nothing for as far as a person can see, and nothing for as long as one wanted to see it…….. sometimes, longer.

    Thanks again,

    James

  50. Steven Mosher says:
    stuff that is almost intelligible.

    Steven, you’re a bright guy! Please! Start using a spell check! So much is lost when you don’t. And, there isn’t any reason why not except your stubbornness.

    As to your posit @ August 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm —————- Understand what I show was just one point in time. There could be more or less activity in the arctic circle Again, one or two, yeh, its a “so what!” But, given that we don’t know the time nor the amount nor the extent, dismissal isn’t something anyone can view as objective. But go with it if you want. Guaranteed, it’ll be addressed with or without you.

  51. If the magnetic North Pole was at a different location 50, 40, 30, 20, and 10 years ago, wouldn’t comparisons between the ice at its current location and that of its previous locations fall into the category of apples and oranges? To get accurate measurements for comparisons, don’t you have to measure the same thing at the same place at the same time of year? And to determine the possible causes of variations, don’t you have to factor in such things as tourists, ships, air-quality, ad infinitum? Just asking . . . .

  52. Comments about icebreakers causing the loss in ice extent are just desperate attempts to explain something that isn’t supposed to be happening. Face it; the ice extent this year, as well as the ice area and ice volume, are quite likely to end the melt season at record lows.

    And I say this as one who thinks that the warmists/alarmists are completely on the wrong track, but facts is facts folks. Grow up and face reality. It’s not the end of the world (that the alarmists are predicting.)

    Incidentally, I guessed (and, yes, it was just a guess) that the extent would come in under 4.5 km2 in all three polls here this year. I did that even though I’d much rather we put all this nonsense to bed with a >6.0 minimum some year soon. But the freeze-up last winter was slower than ever, so I figured there would be thinner ice and a lower extent. Comparing the state of the ice this year to the state of the ice at the same time last year, we’re very likely to challenge the minimum 4.2 km2 of 2007 before this is over. Personally, I now think we’ll break it.

    Unlike the warmists/alarmists, I’m not “hoping” we break it. I just think that’s what the evidence indicates is a likely outcome. But until people start taking off their tinted “bias” goggles, it’s hard to weigh the evidence that’s out there for all to see.

    It speaks volumes that you have to go to a warmist/alarmist website to get any consistently good information on this year’s melt, and only because this year is headed to a new low. If it was headed to a recovery, we’d be talking about it daily in here. True science isn’t supposed to be like that. It’s a shame.

  53. Rod Everson says:
    August 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Comments about icebreakers causing the loss in ice extent are just desperate attempts to explain something that isn’t supposed to be happening. ………….

    It speaks volumes that you have to go to a warmist/alarmist website to get any consistently good information on this year’s melt, and only because this year is headed to a new low. If it was headed to a recovery, we’d be talking about it daily in here. True science isn’t supposed to be like that. It’s a shame.
    ================================================================

    Rod, it’s funny, I’ve stated earlier that I’ve no emotional attachment to the ice, other than I wish it to go ahead and the arctic be totally devoid of ice. It is only then, I believe, we can move on from this strange obsession. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of what it’s doing. Nor, does it mean any statements of mine are desperate.

    What I find odd is your certitude. Anyone can go to Anthony’s ice page. Are you sure you’re dealing in reality? Sure, it can go to a new low, but maybe not. I don’t know how you can discern it is or will be a new low. Tell me about desperate, again?

    Icebreakers? That’s a great mischaracterization. How about shipping traffic with icebreakers in the lead? But, what is the greatest hoot of all? ……….“True science isn’t supposed to be like that. It’s a shame.”

    That’s wonderful. “I haven’t looked at it. I know it isn’t true, so I won’t regard it. And you, sir, don’t know what true science is about!” You know?, I’ve seen sad, and I’ve seen shame. This would be one of those moments.

  54. Heh, it’s not enough to melt it but to weaken it structurally. Maria calls gravity the wind.
    ==============

  55. Back in Feb 2010 I observed here

    http://thesequal.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=climate&action=display&thread=31

    Arctic Warms Seals Vanish Icebergs melt
    « Reply #11 on Feb 20, 2010, 1:45pm »
    The work of ice-breakers by the nations bordering the arctic ocean in keeping shipping lines open may also be implicated in the break up of arctic sea-ice and the ease with which the wind canflush it out of the Polar Basin southwards where it melts.

    Change in Arctic sea-ice, like every other aspect of climate, is an enormously complex interaction of many variables. To try to pin it all on AGW is naive. Perhaps the effect of the ice-breaker is the nearest to an unequivocal “anthropogenic signal” we can find in the arctic.

  56. “who are pointlessly attempting to reach the location of 1996 magnetic pole, which doesn’t even exist there anymore.” – Probably not. That’s why they put down that strange looking lable, ‘1996’. Not ‘2011’ or some such number.

  57. phil c says:
    August 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    you beat me too it

    if man made CO2 can cause massive changes in climate then why would similarly small man made changes in the arctic cause massive changes to the arctic ?

    Some calcs above would seem to show that the changes may even be in the same order of magnitude (A-CO2 as part of the atmosphere).

    Isn’t the whole CAGW thing predicated on POSITIVE feedbacks ?

  58. Does anyone else sense the irony of a Russian icebreaker named “Yamal?”

    Regarding the impact of ship traffic upon the Arctic ice…..I have thought about this long & hard and believe it likely that ship traffic would disrupt the integrity of the ice mass could lead to loss from the effects of currents, wind and melting. Think of how rapidly shaved ice melts in a drink vs. ice cubes. The ice is only a few meters thick after all.

    We cannot know the answers without studying the situation, it would make an interesting project. If the UN is so concerned about the ice mass, they should declare a one-year moratorium on ALL ice-breaking activity in order to judge the effect upon sea ice extent. When pigs fly.

    This is a very interesting article regarding the increase in tourist cruise ship activity in the Arctic!

    http://www.omrn-rrgo.ca/docs/Stewart.pdf

  59. I see I started quite a debate with my earlier comment “What sort of damage is ice-breaking doing to high latitude ice coverage?” Sorry I missed most of it because I had to go give the first atmospheric physics / earth science lecture of the acamedic year yesterday. One research question I’d like to know the answer to is ‘what is the maximum horizontal distance that the stress on the ice propagates away from ice breaker?’

  60. Just out of curiosity, I wondered how the NRL chart of sea ice compares to Cryosphere’s depiction of the same. I found the ice itself to be very similar. What is amusing is how Cryosphere greatly exaggerates the size of the Arctic relative to the size of the earth.

  61. Still can’t see anyone on the drifting North Pole camera, but it looks like the pools are refreezing now.

  62. Just out of curiousity I went into the Shipping Tracking webpage at http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/ to see if I could find any pertinent info. Nothing shows for the Arctic.

    However, when I dropped down to the Antarctic, seems that China has one of its bulk cargo vessels stuck in the icepack or inland. As the AIS shows, it is a live position as shown here:

    Oh – and if it’s vast stretches of “open water” during the height of Summer, and there is no land at the North Pole, just what are those folks standing on once off the ship??

  63. _____________________________________________________________________________
    Regarding the impact of ship traffic upon the Arctic ice…..I have thought about this long & hard and believe it likely that ship traffic would disrupt the integrity of the ice mass could lead to loss from the effects of currents, wind and melting. Think of how rapidly shaved ice melts in a drink vs. ice cubes. The ice is only a few meters thick after all.

    We cannot know the answers without studying the situation, it would make an interesting project. If the UN is so concerned about the ice mass, they should declare a one-year moratorium on ALL ice-breaking activity in order to judge the effect upon sea ice extent. When pigs fly.
    _____________________________________________________________________________
    What we have here is the classic argument from ignorance;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

    Shaved ice that’s a meter thick, that’s some big glass you all are ah holdin’ there. :(

    We can also place a rough estimate of the increased surface area of ice that is relatively thin with respect to its horizontal dimensions, T << L and T << W, and is broken up into smaller pieces. Placing reasonable numbers on the number of pieces from an initial single piece yields a number that's only a few precent greater than the original surface area.

    Last I checked, the Arctic was not made up out of ice cubes or shaved ice, but rather very thin aspect ratios of ice slabs.

    So since I haven't included the surface area effect into my previous estimate of surface area disturbed, and assuming this effect increases the surface area of said disturbed ice by 10%, using one meter thick ice yields;

    Area * Thickness * Surface Area Increase (%) = 300 km^2 * 0.001 km * 0.10 = 0.03 km^3

    Now compared to total Arctic sea ice volumes of 4,000 km^3 (summer minimum) to 20,000 km^3 (winter maximum) yields a range of 0.03/4000 = 0.00075% (summer) to 0.00015% (winter).

    For other informal fallacies used throughout this thread (subs and icebreakers) see;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_repetition

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_cause_and_consequence

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_composition

    Give me one more whack at this, and I'm quite sure I can show that icebreakers and subs lead to a net gain in Arctic sea ice extents/areas/thicknesses/volumes.

    Or perhaps Ancient Aliens did it, we should investigate this possibility, however remote it may be, using the UN.

    No wait, Ghosts did it, we should investigate this possibility, however remote it may be, using the UN.

    ;-)

  64. No one has observed that the same Alfred Wegner Institute as orgainzed this trip by icebreaker is the same institute that organized six weeks of air flights over parts of the Arctic Ocean last year to measure ice thickness. My feeling is that they are among the “good guys”.

    IanM

  65. Kelvin Vaughan says:
    August 24, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Still can’t see anyone on the drifting North Pole camera, but it looks like the pools are refreezing now.

    =========================

    Yup. Also, new ice is already forming at the edges of certain parts of the pack. Especially in far Western longitudes.

  66. Tony,

    Not a lot of meat here (dated 8/25/2011);

    http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEMT7TRTJRG_index_0.html

    ESA states that for the main E-W route “recent satellite data show that the most direct course in the Northwest Passage now appears to be navigable as well.

    I’ve been watching the MODIA Aqua/Terra images on a daily basis, but it’s been mostly cloud covered these past ~two weeks;

    The last one is from a week ago.

    I’ve also been looking at USGS Landsat 5/7 imagery, but all recent images show cloudy conditions.

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