Northwest Passage: still impassable

impassable

im·pass·a·ble  [im-pas-uh-buhl]

–adjective
1.  not passable; not allowing passage over, through, along, etc.: Heavy snow made the roads impassable.

2.  unable to be surmounted: an impassable obstacle to further negotiations.

There has been a lot of hype this year citing data which is suggesting that we’ll be able to navigate the Northwest Passage and some even so bold as to suggest a completely ice free Arctic Sea. You could say: “A picture is always worth 1000 data points.”

I’d say “impassable” fits this picture pretty well:


Image rotated- click for source image. Credit: Terra/MODIS  true color

Some reference views to help you get your bearings, here is what the area would be like if “ice free” as some folks are predicting to happen this summer:

And here is the overall photo area with more familiar landmasses visible:

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108 thoughts on “Northwest Passage: still impassable

  1. This is very upsetting.

    I had booked passage on the USS Al Gore for a close look at the boiling seas around the north pole.

  2. So much for that North Pole water ski spectacular I was planning. I’ll have to tell the topless ski babes that they’ll have to wait until The Goreacle & Hansen have managed to make Mother Gaia adjust her behavior to their unassailable data.

  3. Jack,

    If you have access to the ‘WayBack’ machine and could join the Navy’s nuclear sub program, then you could see an ice free North Pole area. Set the timer for 1987, or the 1930s.

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  5. Here are the Artic ice cover images for this day July-2nd from 2008 back to 2001 :








    (2005 only had Jul6th)

    This year has significantly more ice than last year. And while this year is a little lower than other years, it doesnt seem significant.

    An animation sequence would be nice.

  6. Are those Google Earth Views the ones that ecotourists use when planning their trips to see the melting polar ice cap aboard icebreakers? Or when planning treks across Greenland’s melting glacier cover?

    When fantasy and reality collide, reality will always win out.

  7. But the media never lies. They’re fair and balanced…right?

    Why, number of my friends would disagree strongly.

    They think ABC, NBC, CBS, The New York Times, and Washington Post are right-wing propaganda rags who toady to (and are in the pay of) the industrial fascists who own and run this country.

    (A/k/a “Life in New York City”.)

  8. “some even so bold as to suggest a completely ice free Arctic Sea.”
    You mean that there are claims we will see this happen this year?

    So which scientists have made that claim?

    None?

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

    REPLY: Here you go, the name isn’t “straw man” but rather Mark Serreze. He’s a senior researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo.

    http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=61847&sectionid=3510208

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/weather/06/27/north.pole.melting/index.html

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=5265092&page=1

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25419299/

    And this one from your part of the world:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/feature/story.cfm?c_id=26&objectid=10518139

    You must not get out much. Might want to research a bit before tossing out the straw man argument.

  9. A team of NASA and university scientists has detected an ongoing reversal in Arctic Ocean circulation triggered by atmospheric circulation changes that vary on decade-long time scales. The results suggest not all the large changes seen in Arctic climate in recent years are a result of long-term trends associated with global warming.

    This was written November 13, 2007 as a press release by NASA located here http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2007-131

    The authors have the audacity to suggest:
    “Our study confirms many changes seen in upper Arctic Ocean circulation in the 1990s were mostly decadal in nature, rather than trends caused by global warming,” said Morison.

    Of course Brit Hume covered it on the Political Grapevine, a place where succulent bits of truth still survive. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,311884,00.html

    But the mainstream media did not give it “exclusive” status since it doesn’t fit the template.

    REPLY: Hi Ryan, I reported on this last year, see this
    https://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2007/10/03/nh-sea-ice-loss-its-the-wind-says-nasa/

  10. Geez Anthony, do I really need to explain the difference between “ice free Arctic” and “ice free North Pole” to you?

    except for one misleading headline (the ABC I think) all of those articles were refering to the possible melting of a large area of thin one season ice that covers an area around the north pole, none of the articles claim an ice free arctic this year.
    The NZ Herald story you link to speculates about an ice free arctic – but in 5-10 years.

    While your enthusiasm for your cause is commendable, perhaps you should slow down and critically analyse stories before blogging about them, this isn’t the first time in the last couple of weeks that you’ve got the wrong end of the stick.

    REPLY: Ok lets look:

    CNN- “The North Pole may be briefly ice-free by September as global warming melts away Arctic sea ice, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.”

    ABC – “The distinct possibility that this summer — for the first time in recorded history — the North pole could be free of sea ice, is now a common subject of discussion among the world’s climate experts.”

    MSNBC-AP “There’s a 50-50 chance that the North Pole will be ice-free this summer, which would be a first in recorded history, a leading ice scientist says.

    And by some mechanism you think that there will still be ice at lower latitudes while there’s none at 90N? To borrow your phrase; Do I really have to explain the differences between 90N and 80N from a air temperature and solar irradiance perspective? Do you really think if the ice is gone at 90N there will be some left at 80N? I consider it unlikely, just as unlikely that we’ll have and ice-free north pole.

    As for the NZ Herald article, yes 5-10 years, stock Hansenisms. Knew that going in. Just trying to make you feel at home. Sometimes people across the pond get upset when I only quote American media. Sorry for that, I won’t attempt that next next time.

    The way you phrased your comment, you set yourself up as if you’d never heard these stories. Then toss out straw man, maybe it is you who should slow down before wording comments? I honestly thought you hadn’t heard of these stories. Or was that just a setup? Just asking, hard to read where you were coming from.

    Wrong end of the stick? Not a problem, anyone who can’t make mistakes must be superhuman. If I didn’t make mistakes, I wouldn’t be learning anything. Feel free to point out mistakes anytime, but please kindly leave tired stereotypical rhetoric like “straw man” behind. Next thing you know you’ll have a snotty non de plume and call us deniers. ;-)

    Cheers, no hard feelings. – Anthony

  11. Yes Anthony, I did know about these reports and that they refered specifically to that thinner ice presently near the pole.
    I also initially assumed that you were also aware of these reports and understood their true nature and that you were deliberately misrepresenting them by refering to a completely ice free Arctic Sea. If that were the case describing your post as a “straw man argument” would be accurate.
    Apologies if I was in error in my assumption that your misrepresentation was deliberate.

    Now frankly I’m not sure what to think, you seem to now be claiming that thin ice at 90N can’t melt ahead of thicker ice at 80N and that therefore if the ice at 90N melts through, all of the arctic ice must go.

    Sorry, but I don’t see that as a line of reasoning that would hold up to scrutany.

    Certainly no hard feelings, I agree entirely that we need to learn from our mistakes. All I can add is that before we can learn from them, we have to be able to recognise that we’ve made them, and humble pie isn’t usually very sweet.

  12. A lot of these news reports talk about an ice free north pole for the first time “in recorded history”. Of course, to have recorded history, there has to be a recorder. One has to wonder, what was the state of the ice cover at the north pole during the Viking era?

    At that time, Vikings were raising cattle in Greenland. As some of the ice retreats from the coastal regions of Greenland today, some of the Viking farms are being revealed, for the first time in “recorded history”. Vikings weren’t much for recording things, which is why we don’t know what was going on to the detail we know now. I was surprised to hear there were about 400 farms during that era in Greenland.

    It wouldn’t surprise me to find out the north pole, and large areas of the polar region, was free of ice at that time; at least during the high summer time. Yet, the polar bear and its prey, the seal, survived that time period quite nicely. As the SUV and coal fired power plants had not existed at the time, one has to assume the warming was not man-made.

    Several months ago it had been reported, in the NYTimes no less, that Greenlanders are enjoying fresh vegetables for the first time in a long time.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/28/world/europe/28greenland.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

    Two observations here:

    1) We are really seeing a repeat of history, as the Vikings easily matched the agricultural prowess of today’s polar inhabitants, and,

    2) Polar warming has its benefits.

    Another thing that sort of bugs me.

    The AGW crowd keeps talking about how ‘thin’ the ice is around the north pole. If true, why hasn’t this warm globe of ours had an easier time of melting the ice cover this year? After all, thinner ice should be easier to melt. The only possible explanation, there is less heat available to do the job. Which means, the planet is cooling.

    And there is the matter of soot, from Chinese coal plants, contributing to the melting of the ice cover. Again, something other than global warming at the root of thinner polar ice cover.

    It is also possible, with all the variations at play here, we could see the north pole clear of ice, while other regions of the polar sea are covered in ice. Every time I read something from someone who actually works with these issues, they try to caution people about drawing any conclusions about global warming being the principal cause of ice melting up there. Winds, tides, currents and other local variables cause wide variations in the thickness and areas covered by ice.

    Regards

  13. Actually it would be most unusual for the NW Passage to be open yet. The time of least ice is almost invariably second half of August and most of September.
    The NWP is spoken of as though it was one route when in fact there are many theoretically possible routes. They all start through Lancaster Sound. The media tend to draw the obvious line straight West from here to McClure Strait and on. However this is an icebreaker route only as the area after McClure Str. there is almost certain to be heavy sea ice at all times. The viable route is south down Peel Sound to the N. Canadian coast and then W. However Peel S. is probably never ice free, tho’ last year was relatively easy (Don’t quote me but 2/10s ice ??) The least ice thereafter is found by going clockwise round King William Is. through Rae Str. and Simpson Str. The latter on the S. side of King W. Is. is shallow and so only small to medium vessels can go this way. Others (e.g. the occasional ice-strenthened cruise ship) would have to choose an alternative; probably Victoria Str. to the W. of King W. Is. However this is almost always beset by ice which blows down from the N. and is trapped by the islands there (Franklin). Thereafter a clear passage until into the Beaufort Sea where there is usually an open passage some 20 miles wide along the N. coast, but this can quickly reduce to Zero in a N. wind. From Point Barrow onwards no problem.
    The above all refers to ‘The Season’ as given above and it is short.
    My wife and I are both experienced cruising ‘yachties’ and last summer had the opportunity to help sail a yacht (49′) from Cambridge Bay on Victoria Is. round to Nome, Alaska. The yacht had its timing right. It had left Greenland on 10th August. We joined on 25th August (4 on board) and were through Bering Str. on 10th Sept. They had only moderate Ice in Peel Sound, but we had none thereafter – a disappointment.
    I have some thoughts on this lack of ice in the Beaufort sea. There is a significant current running N through the Bering Str. A knot and a half and 50 miles wide is a lot of water. We know that the PDO ‘flipped’ last year. My thought is that that was ‘warm’ water going north. I have seen an animation of last summers’ ice loss and it clearly shows the ice receeding rapidly N. of the Bering Str. which would fit. Just a thought. The ice in other parts of the Arctic did not appear to be markedly different from recent years.
    Incidentally surprisingly few vessels have traversed any route through the NWP. Not counting multiple passages and as at end of 2006, and according to a list I was given, 73 in total and of these 23 yachts. That is not to say that vessels working in that area (e.g. Canadian CG vessels) would not be well capable of doing so but have reason to do so

    Thomas Gough (UK)

  14. The Northwest Passage is not impassable.

    The first recorded passage of the “impassable” Northwest Passage was completed in 1906 by Roald Amundsen in the Gjøa. When they were due north of Kansas (way due north) they met a whaling ship out of San Francisco. Apparently the captain of the whaling ship didn’t know that he wasn’t supposed to be there.
    The Gjøa is on display at the Maritime Museum at Bygdøy, Oslo.

    During WWII a Royal Canadian Mounted Police vessel, St Roch, took 28 months to cross from west to east completing the journey in 1942. In 1944 she took only 86 days to complete the return trip. From 27 months to 86 days? That’s GOT to be proof of Global Warming. The St Roch did it again in 1950
    The St Roch is on display at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

    Since then it has been done in many times including by a supertanker and a cruise ship the MS Explorer that later sank off Antarctica.
    The MS Explorer is on display at the bottom of the ocean.

    J. Goetz Replies: The MS Explorer? Isn’t that the name of Bill Gates’ yacht?

  15. Heh, not a very smart idea to look at it in July, not that the majority of the commenters seem to notice. The minimum occurs around September in the northern hemisphere.

    Take a look at this graph:

  16. Actually, Andrew, what I, and most inquiring minds take away from Anthony’s post is that all that warm Arctic water should certainly heat the air above it, no?

    Its heat capacity is 2000 times larger, its emissivity 700 times larger. It’s high summer after all. Water was just running off the Greenland ice sheet last year when my Senator visited.

    Well now, why can’t the warm air melt all the snow nearby, if not the anomalously thin ice?

  17. Andy Revkin’s NYT DotEarth blog has three recent posts about Arctic ice extent including an animation graphic of the last 25 years. I believe I can see the effects of the 1999 Gakkel Ridge volcanic eruption appear as a ‘Great Blue Spot’ of thinner ice, surrounded by thicker ice. Andy’s has consulted experts who minimize the effect of the volcano on ice, but the most honest among them admit that they don’t know for sure.
    =============================================

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  19. The above comments all point to something that is never mentioned with the NorthWest Passage when the media talks about it becoming passable. Even if it does melt enough in some or all years, it only late-August to mid-September that it is passable.

    It is never going to be a shipping route, even if global warming actually occurrs at some point. No shipping company is going to sail up to the northern tip of Baffin Island in August, wait there for a few weeks to see which one of a dozen passages opens up and sail through at top speed, hoping to not get caught in ice flow movement. They are not going to risk millions of cargo on this fickle freeze, unthaw, ice shift, strait.

    It is a fantasy. The NW Passage is for ice-breakers, a few adventure yachts and local Inuit boats (in late-August to mid-September, for the rest of the year, it is for snowmobiles.)

  20. Andrew W, I’m not sure that the realclimate page is saying what you think it’s saying.

    Serreze and team at the UCNSIDC really have made some very dramatic statements that this year has a very good chance of being ice-free at the north pole. Realclimate is affirming that Serreze and team made those claims about the effects of global warming. Serreze affirms himself in the comments that he predicted an ice-free pole this summer. Serreze and RealClimate are only saying that the media is blowing things out of proportion, not that the predictions weren’t made.

    Not only is Serreze wrong in his prediction, he is hugely super-wrong.

    Yeah, yeah. I know. This ice is thinner, or it’s an anomaly in the overall trend. Maybe next year the ice will start disappearing faster than ever. I doubt it and can’t find any real research to suggest it will, but we’ll see next year.

    The point is that an AGW scientist made a clear prediction, and it turned out to be very wrong. That is just an individual data point in a much larger trend of GW predictions that haven’t been happening.

  21. Sean wrote: “During WWII a Royal Canadian Mounted Police vessel, St Roch, took 28 months to cross from west to east completing the journey in 1942. In 1944 she took only 86 days to complete the return trip. From 27 months to 86 days? That’s GOT to be proof of Global Warming. ”

    I’m not certain if this is a joke or not, but If it’s not a joke can you answer the following:

    1. can you cite a reference?
    2. if the passage from west to east took 28 months, were they doing anything besides just taking passage? That is, were they charting unknown areas or doing some other type of exploration?
    3. what were the weather conditions during each trip?
    4. did the return trip take the same route?

    Curious people like to know these things!

    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate Project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  22. Realclimate is anything but objective.

    If Real Climate were really the garbage blog that many skeptics assert it is, then why does Anthony link to it in his blog roll? RC is, in my opinion, the “go-to” blog for accessible climate science.

  23. And yes, I realize that it is just barely July now and the minimum ice point hasn’t arrived yet, but if last year didn’t have a melted north pole and so far we have more ice than last year, I really don’t think that this year will be the year of the ice-less north pole.

  24. OK, I got a hot question for you, Anthony. One of the experts that Andy Revkin consulted about the ‘Great Blue Spot’ appearing over the volcano in 1999 says that the region is obscured by clouds so he can’t say what was on the surface. But, if the volcanic plume did break the surface then you would see clouds form right there. Can you ask among your meteorologist friends if there was anything unusual about the clouds over the Gakkel Ridge area in January of 1999? Please.
    ==========================

    REPLY: Meet you halfway. I’m awfully busy today, so if you can get some sat photos of the period I’ll pass them around for a look. You can usually tell what type of clouds they are form sat photos.

  25. “…..When fantasy and reality collide, reality will always win out.”

    True, but the NY Times and the Guardian will report that fantasy won anyway.

  26. Uh… that North Pole webcam isn’t. The current location of NPEO 2008 Ice Mass Buoy 30065 is 84.664°N 0.874°E. It’s at the right end of the purple line on the drift map, or about halfway to Greenland. And is the visible water just melt puddles or has the ice melted under that water?

  27. Of course the NW Passage is still impassable. It’s early July still.

    No one is predicting an “ice free Arctic Sea” this summer. Some are predicting an ice free North Pole. Ice melt around the pole is not symmetrical – far from it. It is influenced by the shape of the basin, the winds, where ice piles up, the distribution of first-year and multi-year ice, and so on. The prediction is that the sea AT the north pole will be ice free – everyone acknowledges that there will still be a lot of ice in the arctic basin, even if the pole itself melts this year.

    Jack Simmons siad:
    “As some of the ice retreats from the coastal regions of Greenland today, some of the Viking farms are being revealed, for the first time in “recorded history”.”
    ONE farm was uncovered, and it was not uncovered by retreating ice. It was buried under sand in a river bed, and uncovered as the sand washed out.
    Viking farming was always tenuous, and the vikings dependent on hunted seal meat in most years. Poor farms regularly lost all breeding stock in winter, and had to be re-stocked from farms in more advantageous areas. Only a handful of the farms were ever able to raise cattle, and they had the smallest cattle recorded in any human settlement.
    Today Greenland grass farmers run a thriving dairy economy, they are getting two hay cuttings a year for the first time ever, they are growing crops the vikings could not. The ag evidence is consistent with Greenland being as warm or warmer than when the vikings were there.

    No one says there aren’t going to be wins in AGW-induced change. The argument is that the net is going to be very strongly on the loss side, with sea level rise and loss or expensive impact on low elevation infrastructure and lands, degradation of ecosystems and loss of accompanying ecosystem services, ag climate belt shifts with desertification of some highly productive farmlands and shifts of staple crop belts onto less rich farmland, and so on.

  28. Andrew W (00:19:53) :

    “Geez Anthony, do I really need to explain the difference between “ice free Arctic” and “ice free North Pole” to you?”

    If you still have the energy, your time will be better spent explaining the difference to the governments and major media of western nations….. and to the general public. We have been bombarded with reports of the arctic melting. If any of these sources have distinguished between 90N and 80N, I have not seen it. Instead, we are told that the polar bear is threatened and that oil companies will soon be drilling for oil in the arctic, neither of which statements make any sense if we are only talking about a small circle of open water at 89N. The polar bear is now official designated as a threatened species by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The belief that the whole arctic is melting is now incorporated into government policy.

    We’ve all seen the pictures of polar bears supposedly drowned. Are you agreeing with us that such reports are overblown, inaccurate and borderline hysterical?

  29. From Andrew W:
    “except for one misleading headline (the ABC I think) all of those articles were refering to the possible melting of a large area of thin one season ice that covers an area around the north pole”

    This paraphrasing of the intent of these articles is much more vague and forgiving than the tone of the actual articles. Nobody sells headlines about maybe, possibly melting ice somewhere up north. Hansen certainly doesn’t bother to add this kind of uncertainty to his statements anymore. Lets break this down: 1.) Is the ice AT THE NORTH POLE single year ice (i.e. it was ice free last year)? http://nsidc.org/sotc/sea_ice.html 2.) Is it unheard of/unusual to find open water at the North Pole? (see Oldjim’s link above) 3.) Is there proof that global warming is causing the disappearance of Arctic Ice? Will this be supported by the behavior of the ice this year, and if not what other factor is interfering with AGW? 4.) Is the ice at the North Pole the thickest/oldest ice, and therefore an indicator of an alarming climate shift? http://www.crrel.usace.army.mil/sid/IMB/thickcli.htm

    The intent of this post is to point out the ridiculous hype that is being trumpeted by activist scientists and journalists. Andrew W, if you can’t see that you’re wearing your straw hat over your eyes.

  30. Anthony

    Andrew W does the same thing on Steve Mc’s blog; There we ignore him where possible. We all know and read, I hope, RC and are well aware of it’s shortcomoings.

    Jack Simmons ;;;; Sea level does not rise with the melting of ice on water ie the Artic. AND yes they are growing stuff on greenland but it’s not cos the climate is so much warmer but that they have better technology, Plants, seeds and machines.

  31. It will be interesting to see how far down the ice gets at minimum this time before it climbs back up. Its recovery last year from minimum to maximum looked to be about 10% greater than other years going back to 1978 (as in the climb back up was a 10% greater climb than in other seasons, not that there was 10% more ice at the top of the climb in terms of sq km). However, if this year’s minimum is not as deep as last year and if the weather this coming winter repeats itself, and if the climb back up is as much as it was last time, there will be more ice in the Arctic. Lots more. Maybe more than in any other year since 1978.

  32. Tony Edwards. Thanks for the links, the pictures are really fascinating. That’s what I love about this blog you get some great information.

  33. So, Ice, what caused the MWP, cow/sheep toots? You seem to have missed the point about Greenland being as warm or warmer than today.
    No one says there aren’t going to be wins in AGW-induced change. You’ll forgive us, I hope, if we haven’t kept track of what AGWers are currently saying. The words to the song you people are singing keep changing, although the tune itself tends to stay the same (except, perhaps for the shift to manmade Climate Change instead of just Warming – a whole different key there, or perhaps the same, just an octave higher). Yeah, we get the alarmist bit – catastrophic sea level rise, ecosystem degradation, climate belt shifts, hurricanes (wait – are you people still saying hurricanes caused by AGW), fires, droughts, floods, tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc. etc. Amazing what C02 – no, strike that, Man’s Evil C02 (different from Nature’s, and far more powerful, since it only contributes about 3%) can do. Did you know that C02 is plant food, and the rise in C02 of the past century is responsible for about a 15% increase in plant growth? Indeed, we need MORE C02, not less. But, since we’re not contributing much percentage-wise, it isn’t up to us. Where did most of the increased C02 come from? From warming, which creates off-gassing, primarily from the oceans. What caused the warming? I’m glad you asked. It’s that big yellow thing in the sky, which oddly enough goes through cycles. We are now, by all appearances going into a cooling period, and very likely a significant one. Like it cold? Good.

  34. Thomas Gough: The distribution of subfossil Bowhead Whales strongly suggest that the route west from Lancaster Sound through McClure Strait was at least intermittently open in the periods 3000-5000 and 8500-10000 years ago. Of course temperatures in the area were something like 1.5-2 degrees centigrade warmer then.

  35. There is some dicussion of Greenland above so perhaps this is not too off topic.

    Excerpts from http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/a-tempered-view-of-greenlands-gushing-drainpipes/index.html?partner=rssyahoo&emc=rss

    … a new Dutch study of 17 years of satellite measurements of ice movement in western Greenland concludes that the speedup of the ice is a transient summertime phenomenon, with the overall yearly movement of the grinding glaciers not changing, and actually dropping slightly in some places, when measured over longer time spans. …

    … But for the moment, the study, which is being published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, throws into question the notion that abrupt ice losses in Greenland are nigh. …

    The science is not settled.

  36. Pingback: MSM: North Pole May Be Ice-Free This Summer! Satellite Data: More Ice Now Than Same Day Last Year | THE POSTHUMOUS LUGER

  37. Andrew W. You skewed your information, just as you misrepresented the media statements. They were nothing but alarmist hokum, making dire threats based on * nothing*. You seem to be deluded; perhaps you need a trip to Alaska.

    d

  38. Monk (07:50:17) : “And yes, I realize that it is just barely July now and the minimum ice point hasn’t arrived yet, but if last year didn’t have a melted north pole and so far we have more ice than last year, I really don’t think that this year will be the year of the ice-less north pole.”

    Nice try at a save, but you’re ignoring the fact that the ice is thinner. Keep in mind that nobody is claiming a certainty of an ice free pole, only a probability.

    George Bruce
    I don’t know enough to comment on the well being of polar bears. Regarding oil drilling, the Russians at least seem to be making such plans.

    Tamara (11:28:08) : “The intent of this post is to point out the ridiculous hype that is being trumpeted by activist scientists and journalists. Andrew W, if you can’t see that you’re wearing your straw hat over your eyes.”

    My point is that Anthony was attributing claims to scientists that they weren’t making, and then refuting these non-existent claims, classic straw man.

    Certainly what is a small story has gotten more sensationalist coverage than it deserves. I would compare an ice free area at the pole to a weather event – it might be consistent with a trend, but in itself it’s not important.

    Stephen Richards: “Andrew W does the same thing on Steve Mc’s blog”

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented at Climate Audit, you’re making it up.

  39. Anthony,

    M. Jeff has brought up what I think is a good idea-prodding blog – Dot Earth at the NYT. Andrew Revkin tries to set up a forum, providing what appears to be an even-handed presentation of the latest data which at times either favors or challenges AGW ideas. He is concerned not just with the AGW issue (which I think he somewhat leans towards) but also with issues that population, fuel use and land use will have on the environment (where he despairs that world-wide environmental damage is not getting its due attention, which I believe is true). But he can’t be pigeon-holed as an AGW ideologue – he does work to moderate the comments section.

    In the comments section, the AGW’ers do resort to ad hominem attacks against skeptics, but the discussion is lively, to say the least. Been there (along with Kim), and it’s messy, but sometimes fun – the AGW’ers are easy targets to logic and facts.

    Please consider adding Dot Earth to the blog roll. As M. Jeff pointed out, Andrew Revkin linked today to a long term study that debunks the AGW claim that Greenland is melting away through moulins. And Andy will no doubt take heat for that. Good for him.

  40. For those arguing that thin ice is historically more likely to melt – surely this is partly based on the traditional location of thin ice at the edge of the ice pack, in lower latitudes, with higher temperatures? I don’t see how the history of such ice melts could be relevant for ice closer to the North Pole.

    Also, there was a heatwave in the Arctic last year, with one weather station reaching 22 degrees celsisus in July 2007 (see below). Sounds like weather, rather than climate.

    http://climatechangepsychology.blogspot.com/2008/05/2007-temperatures-record-22c.html

    It would be great to compare monthly satellite temperature data for the Arctic for 2007 and 2008, and to correlate this with ice coverage. Has anybody done that?

  41. KuhnKat wrote: “McGrats, the St. Roche became frozen in the ice on the trip west. The return trip had little problem.”

    Thanks for the additional links. As a person who served on a small wooden intelligence “ship” with 19 others, I can relate to much of what was in the story.

    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate Project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  42. Tamara asks:
    “Lets break this down: 1.) Is the ice AT THE NORTH POLE single year ice (i.e. it was ice free last year)? http://nsidc.org/sotc/sea_ice.html.
    The ice moves. It can be single year ice at the pole, even if the pole didn’t melt last year.

    2.) Is it unheard of/unusual to find open water at the North Pole? (see Oldjim’s link above).

    Finding ‘Open water’ is a much different thing from ‘ice free.’

    3.) Is there proof that global warming is causing the disappearance of Arctic Ice? Will this be supported by the behavior of the ice this year, and if not what other factor is interfering with AGW?

    Proof? of course not – there is no ‘proof’ that gravity makes apples fall, either. What there is, is north polar amplification as predicted by the modern models, ice loss FASTER than predicted by the models, positive feedback as predicted by the models. Arctic ice area is at low negative anomalies not seen previous to two years ago, and dropping fast. This will, at the very least, be the second lowest level observed, by a LONG way over the third lowest. Accompanied by GRACE satellite data showing substantial ice loss from Greenland, and large temperature increases in recent years, all in accord with model predictions – this is very strong evidence for AGW in action.

    4.) Is the ice at the North Pole the thickest/oldest ice, and therefore an indicator of an alarming climate shift?”
    No. The thickest/oldest ice tends to congregate over around eastern Canada and Greenland, where it gets pushed and piled up by wind and current. The amount of multi-year ice even there is way, way, way down from 20 years ago.
    The fact that temps at the north pole itself are getting warm enough to create the possibility of an ice free (not just some open water) N pole IS an indicator of an large climate shift.

  43. IceAnomaly:

    NASA claims that the 2007 anomaly was due not to low temperatures, but to and errant wind from the Arctic Oscillation which blew accumulated ice into currents that took it out of the Bering Strait, where (of course) it melted in warm waters of the Pacific.

    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/quikscat-20071001.html

    NASA has also commented that the “dirty snow” phenomenon is a significant factor affecting both land and sea ice and reducing albedo both directly (darkening) and indirectly (elimination of ice via “salt on the driveway” effect). While Anthropogenic, “dirty snow” is not a CO2 phenomenon and is an incredibly cheaper and easier problem to solve.

    http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=16674

  44. Accompanied by GRACE satellite data showing substantial ice loss from Greenland, and large temperature increases in recent years, all in accord with model predictions – this is very strong evidence for AGW in action.

    Sounds to me like it is only proof of ice loss. How has this proven AGW? From what you have prevented it could just as easily be argued that it is caused by natural warming.

  45. A fair response, Anthony about the cloud pictures. Dr. Robert Reves-Sohn at Woods Hole said that he found satellite pictures of the clouds in the visible spectrum with the help of an expert. He has commentary at Andy Revkin’s DotEarth. Perhaps he can direct us?

    Even if the plume didn’t break the surface, any open water would put up a lot of fog in the cold of winter as it was when the eruption happened, January, 1999. Perhaps thinned and warmed ice might even sublimate at a faster rate than usual. That could certainly make cloud cover. I wonder if the cloud doesn’t confirm that the volcano had a surface effect.
    ======================================

  46. Jerry Magnan at 15:06, yes, ain’t we got fun over there. Andy has been responsive to unresolved questions that arise and has lots of scientific contacts. Remember, too, most of the true believers came to their beliefs, mistaken as they may be, from the best of motives, to save the earth.
    =========================================

  47. Evan said:
    NASA claims that the 2007 anomaly was due not to low temperatures, but to and errant wind from the Arctic Oscillation which blew accumulated ice into currents that took it out of the Bering Strait, where (of course) it melted in warm waters of the Pacific.

    You have this backwards, the transpolar drift blows out into the Atlantic via the Fram strait, as it did all this winter removing more multiyear ice.
    The surface melting which has occurred relatively early this year causes a reduction in albedo.

  48. Oldjim (09:30:27):

    Thanks for that excellent link [once again] refuting James Hansen.

    And speaking of straw men, Andrew W certainly veers far from the central point in the overall climate discussion, which is the hypothesis of those believing in Anthropogenic [human caused] Global Warming [AGW]: specifically, that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide [CO2] will cause catastrophic, runaway global warming within a short time frame.

    If the believers in AGW would admit to the fact that any warming due to CO2 is insignificant, and is so far down in the noise that the effect cannot be measured, then there would be no purpose in their belief. But they can not admit that CO2 forcing is very minor — or their entire hypothesis is falsified. Therefore, they must believe that increases in CO2 will cause runaway global warming, leading to a planetary catastrophe. Only then are they justified in their true belief that they can save the world through multi-trillion dollar schemes like carbon sequestration and forcibly reducing CO2 emissions to 1990 levels, with its concomitant destruction of our national prosperity.

    But fortunately for rational scientists, the empirical [real world] evidence refutes their AGW belief system.

    CO2 has never caused runaway global warming in Earth’s 4.6 billion year history — even when atmospheric CO2 concentrations were many thousands of parts per million — compared with less than 400 ppm today. Furthermore, a significant increase in atmospheric CO2 would be highly beneficial for both plants and animals.

    So, Andrew W, where is your AGW god now?

  49. Smokey (23:23:09) said: “And speaking of straw men, Andrew W certainly veers far from the central point in the overall climate discussion”

    Ahh, this thread is about this years North Pole sea ice melt, not surprisingly for most (though presumeably surprising to Smokey) that’s the topic I’ve focused on.
    You are criticizing me for sticking to the topic of the post, rather than heading off on some wider discussion about all things AGW??

    Smokey goes on: “If the believers in AGW would admit to the fact that any warming due to CO2 is insignificant, and is so far down in the noise that the effect cannot be measured, then there would be no purpose in their belief.”

    Plenty of AGW deniers/denialists/delayers/doubters/Gollums/sceptics/realists/whatever accept that the AGW signal is real and measurable. Even if they don’t accept any catastrophic consequences.

    Then Smokey shows his ignorance about the whole debate with:
    “CO2 has never caused runaway global warming in Earth’s 4.6 billion year history”
    So what? No one supporting the IPCC conclusions or involved in putting together the IPCC reports is claiming that increasing CO2 levels on the order of that which is involved in AGW will cause “runaway global warming”.

    Smokey finishes with: “So, Andrew W, where is your AGW god now?”

    The only thing about Gods that Smokeys comments brings to mind is this from Friedrich Schiller: Against Stupidity, the Gods Themselves Contend in Vain.

  50. Evan said:
    NASA claims that the 2007 anomaly was due not to low temperatures, but to and errant wind from the Arctic Oscillation which blew accumulated ice into currents that took it out of the Bering Strait, where (of course) it melted in warm waters of the Pacific.

    Seems unlikely. There is a regular ocean current going North through the Bering Strait at about one and a half knots. Given in relevant Admiralty Pilot book and I experienced it in Sept. 2007 (see earlier comment). It would take an awfully strong wind to make ice drift along at more than 1 1/2 knots. Anyway the idea is probably killed off by this thought:- The current mentioned rapidly deceases N. of the Bering Strait, so the ice being blown down from the N. would have piled up ‘waiting to get through’. Ice charts for the relevant period don’t show this.
    Looks like clutching at straws.

  51. Why doesn’t the Google Earth image show any sea ice ?

    The public is being manipulated by phoney images. Everything from using a palatte of RED to cover temperature maps, to omitting sea ice from google images, the public is being manipulated by the most cynical of PR tricks. Madison Ave. would be proud of the deceptive advertising campaign of the Global Warmists.

    PS … We have only been accurately measuring polar ice since satellites were launched in 1979 !! How in the the name of SCIENCE can we draw any substantial conclusion about what constitutes NORMAL sea ice cover over a paltry 30 year history ?

  52. Re the transpolar drift stream effect – apparently it doesn’t go down into the pacific but past Greenland into the North Atlantic http://nsidc.org/seaice/processes/circulation.html
    From the NASA paper http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/quikscat-20071001.html
    Nghiem said the rapid decline in winter perennial ice the past two years was caused by unusual winds. “Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic,” he said. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters.

  53. Reply to McGrats:
    During WWII a Royal Canadian Mounted Police vessel, St Roch, took 28 months to cross from west to east completing the journey in 1942. In 1944 she took only 86 days to complete the return trip. From 27 months to 86 days? That’s GOT to be proof of Global Warming.

    Was a joke.
    The 27 month journey was not becaise they were doing anything else. I think they just had bad luck or maybe good luck in 1944.
    Roald Amundsen on the otherhand was taking his time. Amoung other things they hiked to the Magnetic North pole and determined that it had moved 30 miles since 1831. He actually planned on a 5 year trip.

  54. What we have here is a great example of how writers lie without saying anything wrong. And then the follow-up by their defenders who attack all criticism by parsing the original work sentence-by-sentence asking “what’s wrong?”.

    What’s wrong? The words “arctic”, “ice free”, “unprecedented”, etc. are used to give the impression that something different and bad is happening. And of course, the implication is that it’s global warming. The lie is that no background info is given … the kind of background that so many of the posters above have provided.

    Now add to that the next lie … the lie by Linear Extrapolation. Point to a trend and observe that if it continues something really bad will happen … all the ice will be gone at the North Pole! Oh, and don’t bother to give the reader any idea of how (un)likely that may be. (Also, get the story out before the trend breaks down!)

    What you now have is a story that editors who (1) believe AGW is real and/or (2) who know sensational stories sell will love.

    Add to the mix, some lawyer or PR types who know how to parse a story and attack all critics and you have the AGW propoganda campaign.

    The only question really is what are the motives of the liars. Are they true believers in AGW trying to save the planet? Or, are they just trying to sell papers/stories? OR, are they pushing for greater government control of resources and people?

    Fortunately, it appears the sun and the oceans are about to expose the BIG LIE for all to see. Delicious!

    Scott

  55. Evan said:
    “NASA claims that the 2007 anomaly was due not to low temperatures, but to and errant wind from the Arctic Oscillation which blew accumulated ice into currents that took it out of the Bering Strait, where (of course) it melted in warm waters of the Pacific.”

    First, Evan, ice did not exit the Bering straight. that claim is backwards on the wind direction, the current direction, and the facts. When trying to understand this stuff, details matter,and that’s a pretty big detail.

    Second, your cited article doesn’t say what you claim it says. The very first paragraph says:
    “A new NASA-led study found a 23-percent loss in the extent of the Arctic’s thick, year-round sea ice cover during the past two winters. This drastic reduction of perennial winter sea ice is the primary cause of this summer’s fastest-ever sea ice retreat on record and subsequent smallest-ever extent of total Arctic coverage. ”

    Later, it says:
    “The scientists observed less perennial ice cover in March 2007 than ever before, with the thick ice confined to the Arctic Ocean north of Canada. Consequently, the Arctic Ocean was dominated by thinner seasonal ice that melts faster. This ice is more easily compressed and responds more quickly to being pushed out of the Arctic by winds. Those thinner seasonal ice conditions facilitated the ice loss, leading to this year’s record low amount of total Arctic sea ice. ”

    Wind was ONE cause of the record sea ice loss, and it was a significant cause only because of the very large (and temperature-mediated) loss of perennial sea ice that predated summer 2007.

  56. Andrew W.:

    “So what? No one supporting the IPCC conclusions or involved in putting together the IPCC reports is claiming that increasing CO2 levels on the order of that which is involved in AGW will cause “runaway global warming”.”

    Apparently you have never been regaled with the TIPPING POINT argument? And YES, Hansen and others supporting IPCC HAVE made this argument!! It has been one of the presses most cherished possesions.

    Google or Yahoo “tipping point ipcc” and spend a few hours looking at what has been used to try and terrorise the public into giving up what freedom they have left.

  57. KuhnKat:

    “Tipping Point” do s not mean “Runaway Global Warming.” Runaway warming refers to a venus-like scenario, where positive feedback has a gain greater than 1. hansen does not say this, anywhere.

    Tipping Point” refers to a point where we are committed to a different hotter climate regime. Not “runaway,” but a new stable state substantially warmer than now.

  58. IceAnomaly said:

    “Tipping Point” refers to a point where we are committed to a different hotter climate regime. Not “runaway,” but a new stable state substantially warmer than now.”

    That is wrong, as can be seen here.

    And regarding Andrew W’s (23:58:35) response to my (23:23:09) post, I will not argue. I leave it to the readers of this thread to make up their own minds on the matter.

  59. KuhnKat, a tipping point is where a system rapidly moves from one (relatively) stable situation to another.
    Runaway global global warming is when a positive feedback has a value greater than one, the oceans eventually boil, we end up like Venus etc.
    Checking through the net I notice that there is speculation about “climate surprises” by some who’re suggesting that methane escaping from melting permafrost and sediments on continental shelves could lead such a situation.
    I’m sceptical and so is the mainstream.
    if you want to go and attack such speculation, have fun.

  60. There has been a lot of discussion about the reduction in ice cover at the Arctic being a sign of global warming as predicted by Hanson and that we can ignore the increase of ice cover in the antarctic.
    I have been doing a little digging and in the paper “Climate Sensitivity to Increasing Greenhouse Gases chapter 2” by Hanson et al. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/effects/downloads/Challenge_chapter2.pdf it clearly shows in diagram 2.2 that the theory predict equal warming at the north and south poles
    Also in the paper “Soot climate forcing via snow and ice albedos” by Hansen and Nazarenko http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2004/2004_Hansen_Nazarenko.pdf
    It states
    Contributed by James Hansen, November 4, 2003
    Plausible estimates for the effect of soot on snow and ice albedos (1.5% in the Arctic and 3% in Northern Hemisphere land areas) yield a climate forcing of 0.3 W m2 in the Northern Hemisphere. The ‘‘efficacy’’ of this forcing is 2, i.e., for a given forcing it is twice as effective as CO2 in altering global surface air temperature. This indirect soot forcing may have contributed to global warming of the past century, including the trend toward early springs in the Northern Hemisphere, thinning Arctic sea ice, and melting land ice and permafrost. If, as we suggest, melting ice and sea level rise
    define the level of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, then reducing soot emissions, thus restoring snow albedos to pristine high values, would have the double benefit of reducing global warming and raising the global temperature level at which dangerous anthropogenic interference occurs. However,
    soot contributions to climate change do not alter the conclusion that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been the main cause of recent global warming and will be the predominant climate forcing in the future.

    Now comparing these two papers where the first predicts that AGW will force equal temperature rises in the Arctic and Antarctic and the second a clear suggestion that soot will have a major forcing effect in the Arctic one can perhaps draw the conclusion that as the Antarctic doesn’t appear to be losing it’s ice cover that the main reason for the loss of ice in the Arctic is soot.

  61. Justme put a great link to sateliite images of north pole sea ice. You can change the dates and compare two different images. I started looking in late June 07 to see what changes and how fast during last summers large melt and I noticed that most of the melt was in the western Artic sea and not so much in the east. In fact it was quite rapid after July 5th. If air temperature was the major reason for this melt, wouldn’t the melt be more uniform? Certainly there are other forces at work here as many have mentioned on this blog, most obviously ocean currents.

  62. Glenn: That is almost certainly just problems with the satellite data. Similar things often happen. Also notice how several thousand square kilometers of ice mysteriously materialized overnight in Hudson Bay.

  63. Oldjim,

    For the record, that you would lower yourself to link to the Hansen article as a way to refute his prognostications is unconscionable! (Heh, just kiddin’).

    Figure 2.2 from the article – indicates that there would be comparable increases in temperature at each pole from the doubling of CO2. Ain’t happenin’. The AGW’ers have a problem – leave the primary AGW prophet, and you lose your political/bucks contributary base. Accept anti-AGW critiques, and you commit political suicide.

    As for soot, the AGW’ers have a problem – indict the Third World for the AGW problem and you’re condemned to the nether wold of multi-culti hell. But when the prime anti-AGW prognosticator explicitly condemns the Third World generators for soot generation, then anti-Western CO2 policy proscriptions are relegated to irrelevance.

    Sweet!

  64. OldJim,

    The Hansen article you cite, “Climate Sensitivity to Increasing Greenhouse Gases” is from 1984. It is 24 years old.

    Initial 3D climate models did not properly capture the goegraphy of the surface, and did not couple atmosphere and ocean effects. Those early models predicted amplified warming at both poles.

    Subsequent generation models, beginning in the early 1990s, did do a better job of capturing surface geography, and eventually coupled ocean and atmosphere. Those improved, more recent models, running at higher resolution on faster computers, for close to 20 years now show strong Arctic amplification, and weak or nonexistent Antarctic amplification.

    You are citing something known to be wrong for close to 20 years, and claiming that it is wrong and therefore the climate science is wrong. This is not correct.

  65. IceAnomaly,

    You may well be correct about the old Hanson paper but that still leaves the 2003 paper which puts most of the blame on Arctic melt on soot not CO2.
    I haven’t been able to find a later prediction but I am sure you will point me to one.
    In the meantime this report states http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DE5D81639F933A05752C0A960958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all
    The computer models on which climatologists mostly depend for their predictions give different answers when asked how much Antarctica would warm in the future. Some but not all say the warming there will be the most rapid on the globe. Observations of Antarctic temperatures over the next few years may well be one of the best tests of the models’ accuracy, said Dr. James E. Hansen
    Given this statement by Hansen I really would appreciate a link to any forecasts he has published to allow a judgement to be made

  66. Further to me last post I dug this out from the IPCC WG1 AR4 Report Chapter 11.8.2 which does show lower temperature rises forecast for the Antarctic as compared to the Arctic and also states in the report
    “It (annual estimated temperature change) is estimated to be 2.6°C by the median of the MMD-A1B models with a range from 1.4°C to 5.0°C across the models (Table 11.1). Larger (smaller) warming is found for the A2 (B1) scenario with mean value of 3.1°C (1.8°C). These warming magnitudes are similar to previous estimates (Covey et al., 2003). The annual mean MMD model projections show a relatively uniform warming over the entire continent (with a maximum in the Weddell Sea) (Figure 11.21; Carril et al., 2005; Chapman and Walsh, 2006).”

  67. The picture of the three submarines surfaced at the North Pole in 1987 is especially interesting. While the water is not “ice free,” it does appear to be open, though heavily dotted with bergs.

    Now let us suppose the exact same situation develops this September, a full 21 years later. I predict the following:

    Alarmists will leap up and down punching the air as if they had just won the World Series. They will pound their chests like victorious gorillas. They will gesticulate wildly with wide eyes when speaking with the media, and then the media will go ape as well, running every which way in a frantic scurry to be the first to report the earth-shaking news.

    At this point it will be wonderful to pull out the old picture, and say, “Oh, by the way, this photo was taken in 1987.” (Hold in reserve the information, “while it took until September for the leads and polynyas to form this year, when this picture of three submarines was taken in 1987, it was only the month of May.”)

    Most wonderful to behold is the amazing shift in tone that Alarmists go through, when confronted by such evidence. I think Andrew W is a fine example.

    One one hand they seem to deem the public to be mere rabble, which can only be motivated by whipping them into a frenzy with the most wild statements. But then, when confronted with their own wildness, they abruptly are cool, calm, collected, sophisticated, and say, “I say, Old Chap; what ever gave you the idea I would ever suggest such a thing. I distinctly recall differenciating between “ice-free” and “open,” and definately spoke of the “pole,” and not the “arctic.” You really must learn to attend to my words more cautiously.”

    Then they saunter off with their noses held high, which is a good thing, as by then you feel ready to pop that nose…..BUT, as soon as they are around the first corner, and chance upon an innocent bystander, you can bet even money that they will be right back to beating their chest like a gorrilla again.

    When Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” I wonder if he ever dreamed they’d number in the hundreds of thousands.

  68. OldJim says:
    “You may well be correct about the old Hanson paper but that still leaves the 2003 paper which puts most of the blame on Arctic melt on soot not CO2.”

    Actually, Oldjim, that paper says no such thing. It says that black carbon may be one factor in warming, adn that is seems to be the dominant factor in explaining the DIFFERENCE between the amplified arctic warming predicted by the models, and the GREATER amount of arctic warming and ice melt that we are observing.

    Not that black carbon carries “most of the blame on Arctic melt,” but that it is the reason that arctic melt is even greater than predicted by the models that don’t include black carbon.

    It is also not clear to what extent the arctic black carbon is anthropogenic – soot emissions in europe and the old soviet union, the primary sources of anthropogenic black carbon in the arctic, have plummeted over the last few decades. But ice loss is accelerating nonetheless.

  69. IceAnomaly,

    You state, “But ice loss is accelerating nonetheless.”

    Is it? Please note the picture of the three submarines at the pole in 1987.

    Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes it is even worth a thousand posts. It may even be worth a thousand peer-reviewed studies.

  70. Look at the Register for Steve Goddard’s latest exposition of the inconsistencies in Hansen.
    ==========================

  71. Hmmm, I wonder why i can’t compare any date in May ’87 to today on the sea ice satellite pictures? Shouldn’t we see that open area at the north pole?

  72. Check out this article on some modern day Vikings sailing the Northwest passage in 2007. This is a quote from the article “The elements were in his favour. For nearly six weeks that summer the entire Northwest Passage was ice-free, a phenomenon that occurs about once every decade.” Hm so that was not the first time it was ice free.

    http://www.uphere.ca/node/220

  73. OK, this really isn’t difficult to understand…

    A) On the topic of the “Northwest Passage” being free of ice so as to be navigable, as happened last year at the end of August:
    1) In 1906 Amundsen took over two years to make the trip, and was stuck in the ice twice. NOT ‘commercially navigable’.
    2) The RCMP St. Roch did it in 28 months in 1940 – it was a small ‘ice-fortified’ schooner; it made the return trip in 86 days, a record, in 1944, after ‘extensive upgrades. So a small ice-fortified ship with extensive upgrades made it in 86 days. That does not indicate ‘commercially navigable’.
    3) Since then, we have ice-breaker accompanied Navy ships, and small shallow-draft sailboats and yachts making the transit… still, not even close to what would be considered ‘commercially navigable’ for cargo ships.
    4) Even though last year may have seen a ‘commercially navigable’ channel, GW (or AGW) doesn’t mean it will happen this year or next; only that the trendline is towards higher probabilities. As someone said, no shipping company is going to stay poised at Baffin Bay waiting for it to open – yet. But if the trend of longer and longer periods of a ‘commercially navigable’ NWP occurs, you can bet that is exactly what they will do. Time will tell.

    B) On the topic of the North Pole itself being ice-free – all the articles say, “Yes, the conditions are good for it to occur this year, but it’s no big deal”. Anyone, whether they are alarmists, AGWers, deniers, skeptics, sloppy journalists or excitable headline-writers, who is making a big deal over whether or not 90N is ice-free does not understand its relative insignificance. It’s just one tiny data point in the entire Arctic Ocean, which by happenstance of wind and weather may or may not be ice-bound, ice-free, or some of both at any given moment.

    C) On the concept that “If the North Pole at 90N is ice-free, you can’t tell me 80N will have ice”, I most certainly can. The North Pole is NOT the same as the Arctic Ocean. Ice floats. It moves. Wind piles up ice to be thicker and less likely to melt in many areas other than the North Pole. Again, whether or not 90N itself is partially or even ‘completely’ ice-free is not particularly significant.

    D) On the idea that there is more ice-cover than last year… well, duh. Last year was a record low… GW (or AGW) does not predict every year will establish successively new lows; climate just doesn’t work that way. The trendline may lead to lower and lower records, eventually… but not necessarily every year. Having said that:
    1) It does indeed look like better than even odds that we WILL have a new record low this year.
    2) …in SEPTEMBER… which is when the low always occurs! The fact that the ice cover this year, in July, is still above the record low of last year and below the average for the last 30 years doesn’t really tell us much. AGWers have no business making predictions about any particular year, but neither do the skeptics… both show ignorance, or worse. And, stating that there is a 59% chance of a new record low is not a prediction; it’s an effort to quantify what physics indicates is most likely to occur.
    3) Not to mention that “total ice” is not the same as “total ice cover”. Ice thickness is obviously very important as well.

    To me, it looks like the NWP will indeed open up before August 21st – IOW earlier than last year… while it appears that the NEP may very well stay blocked. I obviously could be wrong; but let’s just check back on August 20, OK?

  74. Well, the Northwest Passage appears to be open, on today’s AMSRE graphic… although it will probably take a few more days to confirm it.

    The Northern Sea Route (aka Northeast Passage, above Siberia) appears that it may soon open as well.

    Now, the next question is, will the North Pole be ice-free this year? I doubt it, although that also depends on how extensively you define the area as “the North Pole”… does anyone know the official definition?

    With the most recent increase in melting in early August, it certainly seems possible for either the record minimum arctic ice level to be broken again, or for the date of the arctic ice minimum to be delayed, or both.

    It will be interesting to see how things look around Sep 15th.

  75. The USA National Snow and Ice Data Center Daily Sea Ice Index showed Parry Passage and McClure Strait ice free := <15% ice cover on their daily arctic sea ice concentration image for 2008/Aug/19.

    For 500 years Europeans have been trying to sail through the NW passage, finding heavy ice even at the end of summer. Now the deep water, international passage has melted free of ice 2 years in a row.

    Their graphic comparing the 2007 season to the 1979 to 2000 average shows that on average melting stopped at the end of August prior to 2000. Now it continues for several weeks into September.

    REPLY: Yes but this is nothing unique. The NW passage has opened several times this past century.

  76. Yes it is nothing unique, the Parry passage opened last year too.

    The Amundsen route of NW passage has opened several times this past century, but not the Parry passage. It is important to make the distinction.

    If you are claiming I am wrong, maybe you could give me the dates when the Parry passage was open previously?

  77. This is the daily Arctic satellite photo. It shows the open NW Passage. It does not open for more than a couple of weeks.

    http://ice-glaces.ec.gc.ca/prods/FECN14CWIS/20080815000000_FECN14CWIS_0003916089.txt

    “This
    will gradually clear the remaining ice in the Northwest Passage and
    provide an open water route across the Northwest Passage for a third
    year in row towards the end of the month.”

    The month they are referring to, is August. As you can see, they are correct. Now, it should stay open for a few weeks, more or less.

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080301faessay87206-p10/scott-g-borgerson/arctic-meltdown.html

    “As soon as marine insurers recalculate the risks involved in these voyages, trans-Arctic shipping will become commercially viable and begin on a large scale.”

    This is a graph of this year’s ice melt compared to other years and to the average year.

  78. Don’t forget that whatever the name, Parry, Northwest, Amundsen, They are all PASSAGES. There is a reason that they were named passages. Could it be that they are and have been sailed in the past?
    Perhaps ‘passage’ had an alternate definition in the past.

  79. [Snip] Just because it is hot in the south in July doesn’t mean the ice has melted in the north by July. Maximum ice melt takes place in late August [Snip]. It is late August now. The passage is open again for the second year in a row… and the second year ever on record. Wishing something isn’t so, won’t stop it from being.

    Reply (from JG): Please watch the name calling. As you can see from the edited comment, your point still comes across.

  80. The sea ice concentration chart at the NSIDC website showed clear wide channels through McClure Strait and Parry Channel on Sep 7 and 8.

    The NE passage along Russia opened earlier.

    It is amusing to see the unfounded speculation about the deep water NW passage opening in previous years, before 2007. Never happened, at least not anytime in the previous 5 centuries. The Parry Passage got it’s name long before Amundsen made the first ever transit of the southern, shallow water NW passage from 1903 to 1906. He only made it part way each summer before ice locked up his ship again.

    Apart from submarines, every transit has been recorded. There aren’t a lot of them, but the number is increasing every decade as the ice thins out and disappears from more of the arctic seas every year.
    http://benmuse.typepad.com/arctic_economics/2008/07/northwest-passage-transits.html
    http://www.arctic.gov/files/AMTW_book.pdf

    Apart from saving 6 mega meters in travel distance between Europe and Asia the NW passage will be able to be sailed by very large bulk carriers which don’t fit in the Panama or Suez canal, or even in the English Channel.

  81. It is amusing to see the unfounded speculation about the deep water NW passage opening in previous years, before 2007. Never happened, at least not anytime in the previous 5 centuries.

    Sooo, it could have happened before all this “unprecedented catastrophic warming”…

  82. Never happened, at least not anytime in the previous 5 centuries.

    Well, sure, but that was the Little Ice Age.

    There were a couple of crossings in the 40s, IIRC, but I don’t know which passage they used.

    We simply do not know the future of Arctic ice. We are still spitballing over the effects of particulates which are said to cause anything from 20% to 90+% of Arctic melt (depending on whether you use NASA or skeptic sources) and have nothing directly to do with CO2. We don’t even have decent surface stations up there (and satellites can’t cover it either).

    I wouldn’t be investing in NW Passage, Inc., just yet.

  83. “Sooo, it could have happened before all this”

    Maybe it is just me, but that sounds like a theory without any facts to support it. If the facts don’t fit your theory perhaps you should find another which matches observed facts.

    This web page needs a new title. The Canadian Ice Service declared Parry Channel and McClure Strait Navigable by non ice-breaking ships on 2008 Sept 4. Second time in History, and the second year in a row. It has cleared even more in the last week and the melt hasn’t stopped yet.

    Vikings never made it much farther west than Greenland in the Medieval warm period. A few artifacts have been found a bit of the way along the Coast.

    Asian artifacts such as coins show up along the west coast, but not in the arctic coast going east to Hudson Bay.

    No evidence of sea traffic either direction before 1906. There was a lot of wealth in Asia which Europeans sought to reach by sailing the arctic for the past 5 centuries without making it through the ice. Now clear sailing in the arctic is becoming a predictable arctic event.

    The Inuit have been observing arctic weather as a matter of life and death for a millenium. Their oral tradition includes years without summers, but no summers without ice.

    British Navy expeditions searching for the doomed Franklin expedition didn’t put much faith in native accounts of what happened to the crew of the ships, but the native descriptions of cannibalism among the despairing sailors were accurate.

    Archaeological evidence gives good insight into the Inuit lifestyle from the time the arrived in the arctic around the year 900 Common Era.

  84. So it does. And so does the evidence of Viking western-style agriculture in Greenland. (Settlements as far north as the 70th parallel.)

    But actually, one can’t say either way. Saying “for the first time in history” gives an entirely false impression of extent of knowledge. Informative qualifiers are necessary, sayeth the history biz.

    Same with sunspots and hurricanes. In the Good Old Days, many, if not most of them, went unreported (there being limited means with which to observe them and less rigor in recording them). Unless one wants to reduce measurements to contemporary means, comparison is meaningless (and even then, highly problematic).

    Would the Canadian Merchant Marine (had there been one in 1000 AD) have declared the NW passage “open” during the MWP? Maybe. Maybe not. Quien sabe?

  85. October 2 and it is still clear sailing along the Northeast passage, eh!

    You really do need to change the title of this web page.

    The USA National Snow and Ice Data center noted that the summer of 2008 is likely a record minimum for arctic sea ice volume, in addition to being the 2nd lowest surface extent on record. That old La Nina she ain’t what she used to be. Even the La Nina cold end of the oscillation can hardly make a dint in the relentless warming of the arctic.

    Antarctic ice extent has been below average since July, and has been declining since the beginning of September.

    Pretty hard to argue with the observed fact that climate is warming, but some folks still do. I wonder if they have some sort of affiliation with the flat earth society.

    REPLY: The title was correct at the time it was written, thus will remain unchanged. We don’t do revisionist history here. And no were aren’t part of the flat earth society, your comment is juvenile, but typical for persons such as your self that demand others change their views (or writings) for them. 2008 arctic sea ice extent came out above 2007, by 9%, the season is starting again, 2009 will be even more ice.

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