Model predicts Arctic sea ice extent

From the University of Washington , some great news if it holds predictive power over time in the face of a cyclic, noisy, non-linear system.

Model provides successful seasonal forecast for the fate of Arctic sea ice

Relatively accurate predictions for the extent of Arctic sea ice in a given summer can be made by assessing conditions the previous autumn, but forecasting conditions more than five years into the future depend on understanding the impact of climate trends on the ice pack, new research shows.

Current conditions form an important starting point that governs how the ice responds to weather in the course of a few years, University of Washington-led research shows. But eventually climate trends overtake that starting point as the primary influence on the overall predictability of sea ice conditions.

“The Arctic is one of the places where conditions are changing the fastest of any climate system in the world,” said Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, a UW doctoral student in atmospheric sciences. “Current trends are so strong that it takes five years to establish a new mean.”

Blanchard-Wrigglesworth is lead author of a paper explaining the research published Wednesday (Sept. 21) in Geophysical Research Letters. Co-authors are Cecilia Bitz, a UW atmospheric sciences professor, and Marika Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

Research from the National Snow and Ice Data Center indicates the low point of this summer’s Arctic sea ice cover was 36 percent less than the average minimum from 1979 through 2000, and was just a fraction above the record low in 2007.

In the new study, the scientists used the Community Climate System Model version 4, one of only a few models that have successfully simulated the rate of Arctic sea ice decline that has occurred so far.

They found that measurements of ice thickness and area in September could provide a good gauge for what the ice expanse would be like at its low ebb the following summer, July through September.

Such predictions are important for shipping – knowing whether the Northeast and Northwest passages might be ice-free in summer, for example – or for natural resource interests such as oil exploration. They also are important for native populations who depend on the sea ice for their livelihoods and to conservationists trying to preserve species such as polar bears.

Measuring the area of Arctic sea ice is relatively simple for satellites, Blanchard-Wrigglesworth said, but determining the thickness – and thus the volume – is much trickier and something for which satellites have only produced reasonable estimates in the last 10 years or so.

“The key thing about assessing the model is comparing the model’s trend and variability to real-world conditions,” he said. “With a successful comparison, we believe the predictive results we see in the model are relevant to the real world.”

Since the current sea ice conditions are instrumental in forecasting conditions only a few years in the future, they don’t tell scientists what lies in store for the icepack at the top of the world in the coming decades. Many scientists believe the Arctic could be completely free of sea ice in summer by the middle of this century.

Based on the model’s results using projections for increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, Blanchard-Wrigglesworth agrees.

“It’s reasonable to think the planet will follow the model fairly closely if the forcing conditions evolve as they are predicted to,” he said.

###

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, and computing support was provided by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The paper is available at http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2011/2011GL048807.shtml.

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47 Responses to Model predicts Arctic sea ice extent

  1. rbateman says:

    “It’s reasonable to think the planet will follow the model fairly closely if the forcing conditions evolve as they are predicted to,” he said.

    It’s unreasonable to expect that models are suddenly to be found to closely match future conditions based on predictions that have failed in the face of reality. This is nothing more than trendism.
    In 1979, an Ice Age was just around the corner, and it was based solely on a then current trend.
    So, this time it’s going to be different?

  2. omnologos says:

    If this survives a week unscathed, it’ll be an achievement in climate science

  3. John Marshall says:

    Five years to find the established trend? In a 80 year cycle. We will see but there are so many inputs into ice cover that I find it difficult to believe this claim for this model. Very short, months, time scales might be correct but time will introduce a lot of divergence.

  4. Rhys Jaggar says:

    I don’t think it’s posisble for such a theory to be correct in a cyclical process.

    That’s because if the trend is up, then it will keep going up if current conditions are dominant.

    If you see the cycle as something close to a sine wave (of course it’s not exact, but it’s not too far off), you’ll probably find this works at the points of maximum change.

    There must be inflection points too though. Something which causes ice extent decrease to accelerate then decelerate again to a minimum. And something which causes ice extent increase to accelerate and then decelerate again to a maximum.

    I suspect there will be a ‘golden latitude’ where, if you measured the temperature at all longitudes where there is sea, throughout the year, you will be able to correlate that brilliantly with future ice trends.

    That’s a scientific hunch, which I suspect some scientists, somewhere around the globe, are probably testing at this moment.

  5. geoff says:

    On France 2 news last week, a “climate expert” predicted that by 2016 the arctic will be free of ice in the summer.

  6. PeterF says:

    “Relatively accurate predictions for the extent of Arctic sea ice in a given summer can be made by assessing conditions the previous autumn”

    Big deal. This is like forecasting tomorrows weather to be the same as today’s weather – you will be right in about 65% of your “forecastings”

  7. Gerry, England says:

    So the model uses the unproven link between CO2 and climate change – something that is looking less plausible as each year passes and despite the attempts by ‘scientists’ to rig the data to prove it – therefore it strikes me that it is unlikely to be of any use and any current correlation is by chance or trendism as stated above. I agree with Mr Jaggar that climate change is cyclic and unless B-W also thinks this is true and has factored all the elements that cause the cyclic change into his model then I can’t see it being of any use. Since so many of the climate change community fight so hard to deny any cyclic change exists I would doubt that B-W is any different.

  8. Garry says:

    New York Times
    January 28, 1934,

    THE WEEK IN SCIENCE: OUR MELTING NORTH; New Evidence Supports Geology’s View That the Arctic Is Growing Warmer

    By WALDEMAR KAEMPFFERT. ();
    Section SPECIAL FEATURES EDUCATION-SCIENCE, Page XX7, Column , words

    TWO pieces of evidence were recently presented to substantiate the views held by most geologists that some day there will be no frozen North and that vessels will sail in Arctic seas now imperilled by ice floes. One piece of evidence comes from Greenland, the other from Alaska.

  9. Typhoon says:

    Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth doesn’t leave much wriggle room worth blanching about with regards to longer term predictability for Arctic sea ice extent.

  10. John W says:

    “Current conditions form an important starting point that governs how the ice responds to weather in the course of a few years, University of Washington-led research shows.”

    So, it’s chaotic.

    ” But eventually climate trends overtake that starting point as the primary influence on the overall predictability of sea ice conditions.”

    But, it’s not.

    The same “powerful software tool” (Community Climate System Model) that “proves” the heat is hiding in the deep. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/09/18/trenberths-missing-heat-look-to-the-deep/#more-47647

    “The fourth version of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM4) was recently completed and released to the climate community.”
    http://www.cesm.ucar.edu/

  11. Don K says:

    Am I the only one who finds the Abstract to be more or less incomprehensible?

    I think that it might say that one can predict future Arctic ice cover accurately for 12 to 24 months based on current ice cover. And perhaps an additional 12 to 24 months if one predicts based on Summer ice thickness. Beyond that, you need to predict climate.

    Can we predict climate? (And do we have even the slightest idea WHY Arctic ice cover is declining?)

  12. Luther Wu says:

    Models and inputs and agendas…
    While the quotes attributable to Blanchard- Wigglesworth are not out of line, the rest of the piece is just another effort to guide the reader to the dark side of fear and guilt and more funding.
    I rate this with yet another “Ho- Hum”

  13. John W says:

    Playing around with the “powerful” software from: http://www.cesm.ucar.edu/experiments/cesm1.0/
    I happened upon this:
    “The computation of the implied northward transports follows the conventions described
    in the paper by Trenberth and Caron (2001). ”
    http://www.cesm.ucar.edu/experiments/cesm1.0/diagnostics/cam5.1_amip_1d_002/atm_1981-2005-obs/set2/set2.htm

    LOL

  14. Luther Wu says:

    All apologies to Mr. Blanchard- Wrigglesworth for misspelling his name in previous post…
    should have paid more attention to actually ‘typing’ in typing class, rather than to the cheerleaders, (which is >really why I was in typing class.)

  15. Bruce Cobb says:

    I see Wrigglesworth used a “state-of-the-art global circulation model (Community Climate System Model version 4)” to produce this paper, so the output, while rubbish, is at least good quality rubbish.
    “Such predictions are important for shipping – knowing whether the Northeast and Northwest passages might be ice-free in summer, for example – or for natural resource interests such as oil exploration. They also are important for native populations who depend on the sea ice for their livelihoods and to conservationists trying to preserve species such as polar bears.”
    Shipping and oil companies would have to be idiots to base their plans on papers such as his. Native populations probably laugh privately at such “research”, but pubicly will accept it to stay in line for any “climate reparations” headed their way. As for “conservationists trying to save polar bears”, all they’re trying to save is their rapidly-dwindling spot on the CAGW gravy train. Besides, the new “threat” is for walruses http://www.livescience.com/16102-walrus-arctic-sea-ice.html. Unfortunately, they aren’t nearly as cute or cuddly looking.

  16. Claude Harvey says:

    Making a living in AGW related prognostication appears to be the easiest money on the planet.

  17. Verity Jones says:

    “The key thing about assessing the model is comparing the model’s trend and variability to real-world conditions,”

    And let no climate scientist forget that.

  18. M.A.Vukcevic says:

    Here is a useful reference that the University of Washington may find helpful for updating the Arctic temperature model:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/CO2-Arc.htm

  19. Mike Davis says:

    Here I thought this was a reprint from the Onion!

  20. Viv Evans says:

    ““It’s reasonable to think the planet will follow the model fairly closely if the forcing conditions evolve as they are predicted to,” he said.”

    I surely can’t be the only one who finds this pronouncement slightly … odd.

  21. Tom in Florida says:

    “It’s reasonable to think the planet will follow the model fairly closely if the forcing conditions evolve as they are predicted to,” he said.”

    Isn’t that like saying if it keeps raining the ground is predicted to stay wet.

    “Such predictions are important …. They also are important for native populations who depend on the sea ice for their livelihoods and to conservationists trying to preserve species such as polar bears.”

    Apparently earlier native populations who lived without these predictions didn’t survive. And once again we see the polar bear card being played. Give me a break.

  22. Gail Combs says:

    “M.A.Vukcevic says:
    September 24, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Here is a useful reference that the University of Washington may find helpful for updating the Arctic temperature model: http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/CO2-Arc.htm

    What a great graph to send to friends or blow up and hang on an office wall!

    I really love the graphs you present, but this is the best. Simple and to the point.

  23. Bill Yarber says:

    I was just looking at this year’s Arctic temperature chart and noticed that the first 100 days were about 4K (C) warmer than the long term trend. The Arctic temperatures during the first quarter of each year might be a better indicator of September’s minimum with using a “state of the art” GCM.

    Bill

  24. RandomThesis says:

    “It’s reasonable to think the planet will follow the model fairly closely if the forcing conditions evolve as they are predicted to,” he said.

    He’s got it bass ackward. The planet will do what do what it’s done for millions of years. Just because someone creates a model doesn’t change that. The question is ‘Will the model predict what the planet ends up doing. Check back in thirty years.

    This may however indicate a big problem with how climate scientists see models.

  25. ShrNfr says:

    Well done if it works. A noisy non-linear system is chaotic by definition. The question is not one of being able to predict far into the future, but one of how far you can predict into the future with a reasonable skill score.

  26. Frank Kotler says:

    Did I miss the part where they actually made a prediction?

    My prediction for an ice-free Arctic: Not this century!

  27. Olen says:

    My first camera was a Brownie Hawkeye Kodak using with a single meniscus lens. In other words it took very good snapshots at about 1/30th of a second. What happened before and after the shutter opened and closed the camera could not record and unless it was a shot of a kid jumping out of a barn loft it is difficult to know what happened after the photo.

    Short term research to predict the future of climate over a long term is like taking a snapshot and predicting what happened after. By the way, don’t try to take a close up picture of a bull with a Brownie Hawkeye. When you do that the future is predictable.

  28. Peter says:

    I don’t see much value in spending money on such a prediction.

  29. Theo Goodwin says:

    I see that they did not publish the physical hypotheses on which their predictions were based. For that reason, everything they said amounts to “We looked at old graphs of Arctic sea ice extent and volume then forecast from them our graph for the coming year or years.” The fact that the exercise employed a supercomputer instead of pencil and paper is quite irrelevant.

    No physical hypotheses means no prediction means no science.

    And please don’t give me the excuse that the physical hypotheses are “embodied” in the supercomputer code. You, researchers, put them in there didn’t you? Are you now saying that you can’t get them out? That is equivalent to “The dog ate my homework.”

  30. R. Gates says:

    ““It’s reasonable to think the planet will follow the model fairly closely if the forcing conditions evolve as they are predicted to,” he said.”

    ———
    Meaning, reality will follow the model if reality evolves to follow the model…or it will be right if it’s right. About the best CYA statement you could make.

  31. Werner Brozek says:

    “M.A.Vukcevic says:
    September 24, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Here is a useful reference that the University of Washington may find helpful for updating the Arctic temperature model:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/CO2-Arc.htm

    That is very revealing! However it stops in the year 2000. Do you have more recent graphs to 2011 and predictions for the next 10 years? Thank you!

  32. Septic Matthew says:

    Anthony Wrote: some great news if it holds predictive power over time in the face of a cyclic, noisy, non-linear system.

    I agree with that. The abstract is all I can access without paying; was someone able to find a free copy of the paper?

    “It’s reasonable to think the planet will follow the model fairly closely if the forcing conditions evolve as they are predicted to,” he said.

    for example, the model predictions will have to be recalculated in Mt. Tambura erupts.

  33. Septic Matthew says:

    I mean, “if Mt. Tambura erupts”.

  34. George E. Smith says:

    “”””” The Arctic is one of the places where conditions are changing the fastest of any climate system in the world,” said Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, a UW doctoral student in atmospheric sciences. “Current trends are so strong that it takes five years to establish a new mean.” “””””

    This is one of the main reasons I didn’t bother to get a PhD; you learn more and more, about less and less..

    For expectant Dr. Ted Blanchard-W(r)igglesworth’s edification; there is ONLY ONE place “””””where conditions are changing the fastest of any climate system in the world,” “””””

    For the English impaired it has something to do with the meaning of the word “fastest” or simply the suffix “est”.

  35. George E. Smith says:

    “”””” M.A.Vukcevic says:

    September 24, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Here is a useful reference that the University of Washington may find helpful for updating the Arctic temperature model:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/CO2-Arc.htm “””””

    Home run Vuk ey; you don’t happen to have that graph of the average jumping distance for bullfrogs versus the number of legs you cut off; you know; the one that proves when you cut all four legs off, they become stone deaf, and won’t jump, no matter how loud you yell at them.

  36. M.A.Vukcevic says:

    Gail Combs
    Thanks. Some time a simple graph is far more convincing than pages of incoherent ‘postdoctoral gobbledygook’.

    Werner Brozek
    The Arctic temperature and the geomagnetic field correlation up to 2010, with some background information is shown here:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/NFC1.htm
    I have no idea what the CO2 has done since 2000, I presume it has gone up too.

    George E. Smith
    Home run Vuk ey; you don’t happen to have that graph of the average jumping distance for bullfrogs..
    Hi there George
    I will eventually will get to it; to paraphrase Mark Twain
    …but I am aware that only the frog will be celebrated..

  37. William Willoughby says:

    Science has come a long way since 1979 and keeps getting better and more refined at a geometric rate. Unfortunately most of the people commenting here have not. “But I have no beliefs. Belief gets in the way of learning” – Lazarous Long

  38. Roy Clark says:

    The key is at the end of the article:

    The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, and computing support was provided by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

    It’s that gravy train again.

  39. DavidS says:

    Mmmmm. If my house is on fire there is a good chance it will burn down.

  40. F. Ross says:


    George E. Smith says:
    September 24, 2011 at 9:47 am

    “”””” The Arctic is one of the places where conditions are changing the fastest of any climate system in the world,” said Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, a UW doctoral student in atmospheric sciences. “Current trends are so strong that it takes five years to establish a new mean.” “””””

    This is one of the main reasons I didn’t bother to get a PhD; you learn more and more, about less and less..

    For expectant Dr. Ted Blanchard-W(r)igglesworth’s edification; there is ONLY ONE place “””””where conditions are changing the fastest of any climate system in the world,” “””””

    For the English impaired it has something to do with the meaning of the word “fastest” or simply the suffix “est”.

    One of the bestest,/b> posts I’ve read on this subject. : )

  41. Latitude says:

    William Willoughby says:
    September 24, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Science has come a long way since 1979 and keeps getting better and more refined at a geometric rate. Unfortunately most of the people commenting here have not
    ==================================================
    Excellent point William…..not sure it’s the one you wanted to make though

    How may times have they changed satellites? frequency?
    “improved” their measurements? formulas?

    By their own admission it’s not the same, because they openly admit they are constantly “improving” it…………

    What they are reading for ice area/extent/volume today, has no relation at all to what they read 30 years ago.

    Yet, the computer games are based on trends…….

  42. Philip Bradley says:

    They found that measurements of ice thickness and area in September could provide a good gauge for what the ice expanse would be like at its low ebb the following summer, July through September.

    What this really says is that no amount of modelling could (significantly?) improve on an estimation using last years ice area adjusted for thickness.

    If they had, they would have said so.

  43. I await then news reports like. “According to our models the Arctic is ice free now.”

    Not that they will look at it, they will just believe what the model says it is like. Reality is unreliable.

  44. Streetcred says:

    “Such predictions are important for shipping – knowing whether the Northeast and Northwest passages might be ice-free in summer, for example – or for natural resource interests such as oil exploration.”

    Who was it again that listened to the warmistas and ran down its icebreaker fleet in favour of charter of a foreign vessel only to find that that resource became too busy and unavailable?

  45. John Trigge says:

    My understanding is that the ‘record’ low ice extent turned out to be significantly due to strong winds that year.

    Do these models have the predictive power to allow for these wind events?

    And what makes the 1979-2000 average ice extent such a good measurement datum? I know this is commonly used but it is still only an arbitrary ‘line in the sand’ on which to base measurements.

    this summer’s Arctic sea ice cover was 36 percent less than the average minimum from 1979 through 2000

  46. don penman says:

    Why only September? why not October and November also?If we only look at September then it is just like saying that because we have seen the Arctic Ice September minimum decline since the 1970s then we will continue to see it fall in the future ,this is a simple model and i don’t see anything new here.

  47. SteveSadlov says:

    Did the model predict this year’s early inflection point and rapid freeze up?

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