Final 2011 sea ice outlook submitted to ARCUS

While I’ve sent this to Helen Wiggins at ARCUS (and have confirmation of receipt), I’m also posting it here for the record.

PAN-ARCTIC OUTLOOK  FROM WUWT (acronym for WattsUpWithThat.com)

  • Extent Projection: 4.5 million square kilometers, which is down from 5.1 million square kilometers predicted by WUWT readers in July. Readers polled responded with 23.21% of responses in the range of 4.4 to 4.6 million square kilometers. It is the opinion of the website owner (Watts) that the NSIDC September average will be lower than 4.5 million sq kilometers chosen by reader poll, possibly meeting or exceeding the 2007 minimum.
  • Techniques: web poll of readers
  • Rationale: Composite of projections by readers, projection bracket with the highest response is the one submitted.
  • Executive Summary: Website devoted to climate and weather polled its readers for the best estimate of 2011 sea ice extent minimum by choosing bracketed values from a web poll which can be seen at:  http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/31/final-arctic-sea-ice-forecast-poll/
  • Estimate of Forecast Skill: none

submitted by Anthony Watts to ARCUS on September 1st

See the WUWT Sea Ice Page for the most current status of sea ice

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39 Responses to Final 2011 sea ice outlook submitted to ARCUS

  1. Nice bell curve in prediction. WUWT?

  2. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    Thanks, Anthony! It was fun & useful exercise, seeing how widely divergent the professionals were on their predictions (Canadian Ice Service at 5.0 MKm2 for example).

    You said:

    It is the opinion of the website owner (Watts) that the NSIDC September average will be lower than 4.5 million sq kilometers chosen by reader poll, possibly meeting or exceeding the 2007 minimum.

    That certainly appears likely now. Do you predict that we will hear more “Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral” stories in the media, or are the US and world citizens sick of the topic? Considering all of the recent developments (Spencer’s paper, carbon deposition, etc.) I think folks are catching on that the science is hardly settled. It never is. Cheers, and Happy Labor Day weekend!

  3. Keith says:

    There was a bit of confusion over whether the poll was looking for average September extent or minimum extent. It’ll be interesting to see whether that confusion leads to the WUWT figure being closer to the actual average than it might otherwise have been.

    2007 was 4.28m sq km by the way.

  4. Keith says:

    Bit OT, but huzzah! The South Pole webcam is back online. Looks cold…

  5. Robert M says:

    “It is the opinion of the website owner (Watts) that the NSIDC September average will be lower than 4.5 million sq kilometers chosen by reader poll, possibly meeting or exceeding the 2007 minimum.”

    I hope not, can you just imagine the shrill screaming from the alarmists that would ensue.

    If I hear about a death spiral one more time…

    REPLY: Well they say I’m always wrong…so we’ll see ;-) – Anthony

  6. Scott says:

    I think that 4.5 million km^2 will actually be very close. Nice to see a submission that agrees with my vote for once….dang democracy!

    -Scott

  7. arctic io says:

    The deathspiral of monthly forecasts here is more dramatic than the real one. However, currently the NSIDC graph is already very close to 4.5, so to get real winter has to come back next week with massive surface freezing. The good news is the learning curve seems to be positive.

    Here is a nice Envisat radar image showing all the low concentrated sea ice waiting for compaction, nonetheless.

    http://www.arctic.io/zoom/ouYS/0.45;0.3;1.37/Envisat-Radar-2011-09-02

  8. otter17 says:

    So looks like the average September extent is indeed a lock for 2nd lowest, and maybe record lowest. Any guesses when/if the extent increases above the blue trend line on NSIDC’s graph?
    http://nsidc.org/icelights/files/2011/07/20101004_Figure3.png

    Looks like the PIOMAS volume will likely get a record low this year too, according to the last section of NSIDC’s arctic news page.
    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    Incredible that the estimated September volume looks like it could be at less than half the 1979-2010 average, and it seems like the volume anomaly continues to trend downward too. It seems to me that the Arctic is going to be ice free unless something changes. What can potentially change to prevent this?

  9. Perry says:

    otter17 says:
    September 2, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    “It seems to me that the Arctic is going to be ice free unless something changes. What can potentially change to prevent this?”

    The NH winter, 2011/2012. Probably! (;<}

  10. John Marshall says:

    It should still be more than 2007.

  11. mwhite says:

    I believe the melt peaks during the middle of September, but it appears that in parts of the Arctic the freeze is already under way

    “http://www.rowtothepole.com/latest-news/”

    “Whilst the horizon looked more promising what was noticeable was the rate at which the water was freezing. The leads from yesterday hadn’t closed up with ‘bergs but had, in fact, started to freeze. In some places what was free flowing water was now 25-30mm of ice.”

    “Our day at the pole” 28th August 2011

  12. mwhite says:

    I believe the melt peaks during the middle of September, but it appears that in parts of the Arctic the freeze is already under way

    http://www.rowtothepole.com/latest-news/

    “Whilst the horizon looked more promising what was noticeable was the rate at which the water was freezing. The leads from yesterday hadn’t closed up with ‘bergs but had, in fact, started to freeze. In some places what was free flowing water was now 25-30mm of ice.”

    “Our day at the pole” 28th August 2011

  13. Bill Illis says:

    otter17 says:
    September 2, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Looks like the PIOMAS volume will likely get a record low this year too, according to the last section of NSIDC’s arctic news page.
    ———-

    PIOMAS is a joke.

    Its trendlines even project Winter ice volume at Zero by 2030. Year-round that is again – even during the six months of darkness when temperatures get down to an average -24.5C across the Arctic ocean.

    http://neven1.typepad.com/.a/6a0133f03a1e37970b014e885c65ac970d-800wi

  14. Keith says:

    Bill Illis says:
    September 3, 2011 at 4:57 am

    PIOMAS is a joke.

    Its trendlines even project Winter ice volume at Zero by 2030. Year-round that is again – even during the six months of darkness when temperatures get down to an average -24.5C across the Arctic ocean.

    http://neven1.typepad.com/.a/6a0133f03a1e37970b014e885c65ac970d-800wi

    :-D

    But that would make it, um, even er, what’s the phrase…

    RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!

  15. otter17 says:

    Bill Illis,

    I believe the graphic that you linked to does not count the roughly 15 % of sea ice that may stick around at the top of Greenland for a while longer, up until maybe September 2030’s. I would have to double check on that one, but I have seen that graphic before and remember there was a caveat associated with it something like I described.

    Also, I’m not sure about the dynamics of the Arctic, but if the ocean up there happens to be ice free for the summer months (in the future) and the air temp warming continues, wouldn’t the water be storing heat that could prevent substantial ice buildup in the winter? A thin layer of winter ice would have some volume, of course, but not an appreciable amount. Again, we would have to consult the PIOMAS literature, or other experts to find if that is likely to happen.

    You quickly dismiss the trendlines for the winter months, and I would agree that it sounds implausible. Isn’t it a bit crass to simply call PIOMAS a joke just based off of that, though? Do you know if the scientists behind PIOMAS think that the winter month trendlines will continue or the situation will evolve into a new state? Maybe it ends up being no ice for maybe 3-6 months and then a thin layer during the dark months?

    Heck, maybe the trend reverses, but it sure doesn’t look like it for now.

  16. otter17 says:

    Ah, here is some mention from NSIDC concerning how the trends are going at the moment.
    http://nsidc.org/icelights/2011/07/14/heading-towards-the-summer-minimum-ice-extent/

    Under the “Why does the amount of summer sea ice matter?” heading
    >> “As ice cover retreats, additional areas of open water absorb more heat during the summer, leading to a positive feedback effect where the loss of sea ice in turn leads to more sea ice loss and puts more heat into the upper part of the ocean. While ice will grow back during the winter period of polar darkness, come spring it will be thinner than it used to be, melting out all the more easily the next summer.”

    Haven’t found any indication what they think the winter months could look like in the future years… if volume truly goes to zero.

  17. RACookPE1978 says:

    otter17 says:
    September 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm (Edit)

    Ah, here is some mention from NSIDC concerning how the trends are going at the moment.
    http://nsidc.org/icelights/2011/07/14/heading-towards-the-summer-minimum-ice-extent/

    Under the “Why does the amount of summer sea ice matter?” heading
    >> “As ice cover retreats, additional areas of open water absorb more heat during the summer, leading to a positive feedback effect where the loss of sea ice in turn leads to more sea ice loss and puts more heat into the upper part of the ocean. While ice will grow back during the winter period of polar darkness, come spring it will be thinner than it used to be, melting out all the more easily the next summer.”

    One can actually calculate the net effect of “melting all” of the 4.0 million km^2 of sea ice: The present 4.0 million square km under today’s condition of sea ice represents an area equal to the whole region between 79.8 north latitude and the north pole. When you calculate the net radiation affect of that much additional “open ocean” being exposed to the sun’s light for the entire 30 day period centered around Sept 22 – the fall equinox, which pretty much falls right across the minimum sea ice extent – you find that the increased absorption due to what little solar heat is present from diffuse radiation is more than balanced by the increased evaporative loss of heat from that open water. Further, since the sun’s heat from direct radiation – at the actual angles of the sun at that time of year – is reflected identically from both ice-covered surfaces and from open water or melt water, the net heat loss is increased from the Arctic waters if those waters are NOT covered by sea ice in September.

    So, you see, contrary to what the CAGW extremists propagandize, the net effect becomes an actual increase in heat loss when the sea ice is melted (since the sea ice insulation between the water at 4 degrees and the atmosphere is lost) .. which makes sense and matches measured temperature at 80 north from the DMI. You see, contrary to NASA-GISS propaganda, measured summer Arctic temperatures have decreased since 1958, and have decreased faster in recent years as sea ice levels have decreased between June and September.

  18. Bill Illis says:

    otter17 says:
    September 3, 2011 at 1:06 pm
    Bill Illis,

    Isn’t it a bit crass to simply call PIOMAS a joke just based off of that, though?
    ———————————–

    Yes it is and I should have used something else.

    But, every now and again, I have a hard time being politically correct and just calling data like this “debatable” or something. The ice today (near the minimum) is 2,400 kms by 2,400 kms.

    The open water Arctic ocean surface temperature is between -0.5C and -1.4C currently (whereas the air temperature is +2.0C in the summer months and today it is about -1.5C). The Ocean freezes at -1.5C given the salinity in the Arctic so there is little chance of it not re-freezing completely in the winter when the air temperature falls to -24.5C and there is no sunlight.

  19. Kevin O'Neill says:

    RACookPE1978 says:

    Further, since the sun’s heat from direct radiation – at the actual angles of the sun at that time of year – is reflected identically from both ice-covered surfaces and from open water or melt water…

    This might be true if the surfaces were perfectly smooth. There are few perfectly smooth surfaces in the arctic.

  20. RACookPE1978 says:

    Kevin O’Neill says:
    September 4, 2011 at 9:42 am

    This might be true if the surfaces were perfectly smooth. There are few perfectly smooth surfaces in the arctic.

    Odd “foundation” for an assumption about geographic information.

    If there is ice present that affects the arctic albedo, then it is as rough as it is now, or as smooth as it is now. What parts of the ice are rough (thrust up blocks usually) are short, and are part of the normal heat absorbing surface. So, the more rough the current ice extents are, or the mre rough the assumed ice extents will be, the MORE heat is absorbed and the less is reflected. Assuming ice is present at all.

    Melt water is in very thin sheets (less than 1 meter thick) across the top of (the obviously flat portions) of the ice. So melt water cannot have meaningful waves of any height, regardless of wind conditions. What is not waves in melt water is reflectively flat.

    “Open water” strips as now between ice floes does not allow room (the many kilometers) for waves to grow to any height. Those breaks are only in meters long intervals, ans start and stop irregularly.

    So that leaves the full open ocean as a concern. Smaller “real” waves under the clear skies required for direct radiation to get through the clouds, as what you might see in a 1 or 2 km wide lake – or even a 10 or 20 0km wide lake, are meaningless since the sun’s energy is slightly better absorbed on the “uphill” part of the waves where it is exposed to light, and completely shaded on the equally long “downhill” part of the waves. Under storms, when they do occur in the arctic summer, the sky is darkened with heavier clouds that block the sunshine coming through, and reflect away the sunlight from above.

    Result? The diffuse radiation from near-directly above that can get absorbed when the sun is at low incidence levels is reduced when waves are present, and the direct radiation is near-zero. So the presence of waves means that there is almost sunlight to reflect, and so the reflection of energy due to the waves is meaningless.

    So, what are the measured wave heights in the open ocean above 80 north, and what are the storm frequencies above 80 north in the arctic summer? If you have no measured data, you have no further basis for comment.

  21. SteveSadlov says:

    Looking at the pole cam, I’m impressed with the dump from the recent storm. Probably a foot or more of powder. All melt ponds are now frozen and covered with snow. The sun is only a few degrees above the horizon at that latitude presently. So even with relatively clear skies the sun will be incapable of melting either the snow or the upper reaches of the underlying sea ice.

  22. SteveSadlov says:

    Meanwhile, things appear to be firming up in Chukchi and Beaufort. Quite a bit of 7/10ths or better in the zones close to the ice edge. This year it seems air temps are leading the sun angle rather than vice versa. That is lowering SSTs in that area, earlier than normal. Also, the interesting cycling of wind compression noted last week may also be a factor.

    Reiterating again, something I’ve noted for years, the NWS Ice Desk consistently depicts more extent and area than the various remote sensing products. This is probably due to additional non remote sensing observational techniques (e.g. air craft and ship’s reports). This warrants further study.

  23. SteveSadlov says:

    Looking at the Pole Cam …

    More snow has fallen. Also, I noticed yesterday a polyana had opened a few miles away (could see the reflection from the water). looks like it’s freezing up. Guess what, that means a step function increase in area and extent.

  24. Julienne says:

    Steve, the extent continues to drop and is now tied with 2007 at NSIDC, below 2007 at the University of Bremen (I haven’t checked the other sites). The North Pole Cam, while interesting,
    doesn’t indicate what’s going on for the rest of the ice pack. The old ice that was transported towards Siberia has held on for quite some time this summer, but that looks to be breaking up now. If that does melt out in the next few days, expect a step function decrease in area and extent…

  25. SteveSadlov says:

    Reiterating again, something I’ve noted for years, the NWS Ice Desk consistently depicts more extent and area than the various remote sensing products. This is probably due to additional non remote sensing observational techniques (e.g. air craft and ship’s reports). This warrants further study.

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

    Continuing to reiterate this. Remote sensing people hate this.

  26. SteveSadlov says:

    Pole cam is depicting yet another storm. Near white out. This is perfect timing, getting the dump just as the sun is setting and temps are dropping. Volume, baby!

  27. Louise says:

    There seems to be a new ice volume minimum this year http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2011/09/piomas-august-2011.html

    Anyone care to comment as to what may be causing this?

  28. SteveSadlov says:

    “Let me stress that these volume numbers aren’t observed data, but are calculated using the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System”

    The algore-ithm did it.

  29. SteveSadlov says:

    Pole cam shows this latest dump continuing. Soon the instruments you can see a few yards away will be buried. That’s a pretty healthy rate of accumulation and a massive early season pack for those upper latitudes. Usually only see things like this in the mid latitudes.

  30. SteveSadlov says:

    New image now on the Pole Cam. The second major storm has ended, leaving a really nice looking pack with a wind sculpted top. Looks like there is still blowing snow. The polyana I noted a few days ago a few miles out is gone. Looks like there is a pressure ridge there now. Obvious what happened there, the opening froze over with thin ice then the older ice on either side closed, pushing all the new ice up and thickening things up. The weeks long sunset has begun, and it’s beautiful.

  31. SteveSadlov says:

    Another storm, dumping again. This is a cold storm, internal temp of the camera is -0.5 deg C (temps usually come up a bit while it’s snowing up in the High Arctic).

    Maybe start taking bets on when the equipment will get buried and go off line forever.

  32. Scott says:

    Steve –

    I’m no expert, but to me all this snow is a bad thing. Snow is typically a good insulator, and thus it might be “protecting” the ice below from the cold air above. I’d rather see a snowless winter followed by a massive dump of snow right before winter’s end (the snow at the end would then protect the ice by a combination of albedo and insulation changes).

    -Scott

  33. SteveSadlov says:

    The snow is falling near the pole, it is of no consequence vis a vis general ice formation from below from sea water. In that area the ice is very old. If anything, top accumulation will add to overall volume.

  34. Scott says:

    I respectfully disagree. The net heat transfer in winter is from the sea water to the atmosphere. Adding a layer of insulation in that system will slow the heat transfer. And while I don’t think the ice near the pole is in nearly as bad a shape as some people do, I don’t know if I consider it to be “very old” and would rather see it losing ocean heat as much as possible.

    -Scott

  35. SteveSadlov says:

    Scott you are referring to the areas where new ice is forming after having either melted or sloughed off to other regions. The pole cam is no where near such an area. The ocean there is probably not transferring much heat upward.

  36. Scott says:

    I commented this on Steve Goddard’s site, but thought it would go nicely here too:

    JAXA showed its first day-to-day net gain for September 2011 between 09/09 and 09/10. This of course doesn’t mean that 09/09 was the minimum, though it is a possibility. My spreadsheet predicts we’ll see another 43680 km^2 of loss, so actually being at the minimum would be a welcome difference. CT’s area metric still hasn’t set another minimum since a few days ago, but it’s so close that there’s a good chance of it, and my spreadsheet says >50% likelihood.

    The differences in the metrics is surprising:
    Bremen extent already has 2011 as a record low.
    CT area has a record low, but just barely and it’s more of a tie.
    JAXA area seems to be tying for a record low, though it could end up above.
    NSIDC extent was near 2007 but is diverging upward and will likely not approach the record.
    JAXA extent is about halfway between the 2007 and 2008 values, very unlikely for a record.
    DMI 30% extent minimum is looking to be closer to 2008 than 2007.
    NANSEN area is much closer to 2008 than 2007…just barely under 2008.
    NANSEN extent is higher for 2008 than 2007…good chance of being above it for the minimum.

    Combining all the above on both a daily and monthly basis and I’ll think we’ll end up seeing 2011 as in between 2007 and 2008 overall. Considering the warm winter last winter and the poor weather up through mid July this year, I don’t think that’s unexpected. Arguably, the only good weather we saw the whole time was the end of July/start of August and then maybe the last week or two. However, if the CAGW believers are right, I see no way we won’t crush the record next year.

    -Scott

  37. Scott says:

    Steve, have you studied heat transfer? The atmosphere above the ice and pole cam is colder than the sea water below, so there has to be a net heat transfer that way – that’s basic thermodynamics. And for a cooling of the Arctic, that is what we want to happen. Any extra insulation will slow that cooling, and that’s exactly the reason why thicker ice adds thickness more slowly than thin ice – the ice itself is extra insulation.

    Personally, I’d rather add several more inches of good, solid ice on the bottom of the ice pack in exchange for some snow on top early in the season. I’m all for the maximum transfer of ocean heat to the atmosphere during new ice formation. That’s just my opinion, feel free to have your own.

    -Scott

  38. Keith says:

    Looking at all the chartsengrafs today, I’m calling the minimum. Anyone want to join me?

  39. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    The Germans state that the Arctic Sea Ice Extent is now a new historic minimum (4.240M sq.km) as of September 8, 2011:
    http://www.iup.uni-bremen.de/seaice/amsr/minimum2011-en.pdf

    NSIDC is a bit more circumspect:

    On September 10, Arctic sea ice extent was 4.34 million square kilometers (1.68 million square miles). This was 110,000 square kilometers (42,500 square miles) above the 2007 value on the same date. The record minimum Arctic sea ice extent, recorded in 2007, was 4.17* million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles).

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

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