Arctic Sea Ice Melt Season Officially Over; ice up over 9% from last year

We have news from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). They say: The melt is over. And we’ve added 9.4% ice coverage from this time last year. Though it appears NSIDC is attempting to downplay this in their web page announcement today, one can safely say that despite irrational predictions seen earlier this year, we didn’t reach an “ice free north pole” nor a new record low for sea ice extent.

Here is the current sea ice extent graph from NSIDC as of today, notice the upturn, which has been adding ice now for 5 days:

Here is what they have to say about it:

The Arctic sea  ice cover appears to have reached its minimum extent for the year, the second-lowest extent recorded since the dawn of the satellite era.  While above the record minimum set on September 16, 2007, this year further reinforces the strong negative trend in summertime ice extent observed over the past thirty years. With the minimum behind us, we will continue to analyze ice conditions as we head into the crucial period of the ice growth season during the months to come.

Despite overall cooler summer temperatures, the 2008 minimum extent is only 390,000 square kilometers (150,000 square miles), or 9.4%, more than the record-setting 2007 minimum. The 2008 minimum extent is 15.0% less than the next-lowest minimum extent set in 2005 and 33.1% less than the average minimum extent from 1979 to 2000.

Overlay of 2007 and 2008 at September minimum

The spatial pattern of the 2008 minimum extent was different than that of 2007. This year did not have the substantial ice loss in the central Arctic, north of the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas. However, 2008 showed greater loss in the Beaufort, Laptev, and Greenland Seas.

Unlike last year, this year saw the opening of the Northern Sea Route, the passage through the Arctic Ocean along the coast of Siberia. However, while the shallow Amundsen’s Northwest Passage opened in both years, the deeper Parry’s Channel of the Northwest Passage did not quite open in 2008.

A word of caution on calling the minimum

Determining with certainty when the minimum has occurred is difficult until the melt season has decisively ended. For example, in 2005, the time series began to level out in early September, prompting speculation that we had reached the minimum. However, the sea ice contracted later in the season, again reducing sea ice extent and causing a further drop in the absolute minimum.

We mention this now because the natural variability of the climate system has frequently been known to trick human efforts at forecasting the future. It is still possible that ice extent could fall again, slightly, because of either further melting or a contraction in the area of the pack due to the motion of the ice. However, we have now seen five days of gains in extent. Because of the variability of sea ice at this time of year, the National Snow and Ice Data Center determines the minimum using a five-day running mean value.

Ongoing analysis continues

We will continue to post analysis of sea ice conditions throughout the year, with frequency determined by sea ice conditions. Near-real-time images at upper right will continue to be updated every day.

In addition, NSIDC will issue a formal press release at the beginning of October with full analysis of the possible causes behind this year’s low ice conditions, particularly interesting aspects of the melt season, the set-up going into the important winter growth season ahead, and graphics comparing this year to the long-term record. At that time, we will also know what the monthly average September sea ice extent was in 2008—the measure scientists most often rely on for accurate analysis and comparison over the long-term.

It will be interesting to see what they offer in the October press release. Plus we’ll be watching how much ice we add this winter, and what next year’s melt season will look like. Hopefully we won’t have a new crop of idiots like Lewis Gordon Pugh trying to reach the “ice free north pole” next year.

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MattN

As expected…..

MattN

BTW, this is ice extent. How did ice area do?
REPLY: May I kindly suggest you research this yourself and report back, I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment. – Anthony

Well, yea, but this is young ice and tends to stick closely with its family, what about next year when as an adolecent it rebells – then ur gonna have problems!

Michael

So why does the Jet Propulsion Laboratory site still highlight ‘historic sea ice changes’ and recent major melting that are clearing arctic ice routes on its home page???

Michael

BTW isn’t it spelt Arctic not artic?

MikeEE

“…natural variability of the climate system has frequently been known to trick human efforts at forecasting the future.”
Shouldn’t that be the lead? That’s big news!
MikeEE

Mike Bryant

How do you like the title of the article?
Arctic sea ice settles at second-lowest, underscores ACCELERATING DECLINE
Maybe it’s just me but somehow an increase does not seem like it should be called an “accelerating decline”.
http://www.nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

Tom in Florida

Once again I will beat the tired old drum of why the use of 1979-2000 averages. Why not 1986 – 2007 averages? It’s still 21 years. Better yet why not use 1979-2007 averages? I think we all know because it will lower the amount of difference each year from the average, and of course we can’t have that.

Brute

I wish the stock market was doing as well……………
(NSODC).
(NSIDC)?
Sorry Anthony……pet peeve.
(I’m one of those weirdos.)

And NASA’s “headlining” press release panders to the fearmongers even further: “ARCTIC SEA ICE REACHES LOWEST COVERAGE FOR 2008” (see http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NasaNews/2008/2008091627534.html ).
Jack Koenig, Editor
The Mysterious Climate Project
http://www.climateclinic.com

I bet $6 there’s another increase in 09.
The earth will keep changing whether we want it to or not.
http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/the-changing-earth/

Brute

I especially like “second lowest on record”.
Maybe its the greater than, less than thing that they don’t get?

Lloyd Graves

I agree completely with Mike Bryant. A decelerating decline and very likely an acceleration into early and higher ice levels as NH moves into winter. I prefer the non politically tainted web site:
http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm
from Japan.
Why such biased language is deemed necessary from NSDIC is a mystery.

Eric Gamberg

Obviously this post is unrelated to this and other threads, but is interesting, especially as no one has posted pictures of this USHCN site.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/science/earth/16moho.html

Lloyd Graves

Please correct to NSIDC

Eric Gamberg
crosspatch

This is great news. As 2007 resulted in the loss of most of the “mature” (several seasons old) ice, the 2008 ice would melt much easier. Had conditions in 2008 been anywhere near conditions in 2007, we might have seen a total melt. The 2008 melt season began with thinner, newer ice than 2007 did. New ice has a high salt content and melts easier and is less dense. Each summer that ice is exposed to sunlight causes the brine to work out of it causing its melting point to rise so it takes more heat to melt it. So that 2008 finished ahead of 2007 with a more “fragile” ice pack is significant.
The real test is going to be 2009. 2009 will start with a much larger base of second year ice than 2008 did.
Hooray for the baby ice!

Mark Nodine

MattN (18:12:45) :
BTW, this is ice extent. How did ice area do?
REPLY: May I kindly suggest you research this yourself and report back, I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment. – Anthony

If I’m reading the graphs correctly at Cryosphere Today, the Arctic ice area is virtually indistinguishable from this time last year (maybe slightly more), and the Antarctic ice area is over a million km2 less. The overall anomaly is still pretty scary.
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

Patrick Henry

The problem with this comparison is that we have not yet reached the date of the 2007 minimum, which occurred late in September.
http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/seaice/extent/AMSRE_Sea_Ice_Extent.png
The 9% number will likely be significantly larger by then.

Ray Reynolds

I would caution against any forcast. We witness AWG people making dire predictions…lets not do the irrational same.
Still, there’s a damn lot of snow still left on the mountain behind my house and theres been ice under the lawn sprinkler for weeks now.
Northeastern great basin.

Patrick Henry

Here is a number NSIDC isn’t advertising – the average daily extent for January 1- September 16 from AMSR data for each of the last four years.
http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/seaice/extent/plot.csv
2005 – 10,914,719
2006 – 10,689,056
2007 – 10,647,319
2008 – 11,074,703

Bobby Lane

Matt N,
here’s a graph from Cryosphere Today entitled:
Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.area.jpg

Jeff Alberts

So why does the Jet Propulsion Laboratory site still highlight ‘historic sea ice changes’ and recent major melting that are clearing arctic ice routes on its home page???

Lack of oxygen at high altitudes.

This was just reported as undeniable evidence of Global warming on the CBC in Canada this AM, so the environmental media feed is still operating.

Patrick Henry

Here is a number NSIDC isn’t advertising – the average daily extent for January 1- September 16 from AMSR data for each of the last four years.
2005 – 10,914,719
2006 – 10,689,056
2007 – 10,647,319
2008 – 11,074,703

An Inquirer

Yes, the minimal Arctic ice extent is over 9% higher in 2008 than 2007. However, the minimal ice area is virtually the same in both years. Furthermore, it is not clear that the decline in ice area has actually stopped this year.

So the NY Times leads with Arctic Ocean Ice Retreats Less Than Last Year and on the Left Coast, the Seattle Post Intelligencer goes with North Pole ever closer to having no ice
Go figure, huh?

Mike Bryant

2008 Sea Ice Extent 29th Largest in the Written History of Man
2008 Sea Ice Extent 7th Largest in the Entire Millenium

Bobby Lane

MattN:
Here ya go.
One for the Northern Hemi
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.area.north.jpg
and one for the Southern Hemi
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.area.south.jpg
Mark Nodine:
I don’t think there is much to worry about with the Southern Hemi. The overall ice area is less than last year in gain, but so is the loss too. In other words, the curve is not as deep (or steep) as in preceding years. It is simply smaller and less extreme. The last summer bottomed out at 2.1 or 2.2. The three preceding Antarctic summers bottomed out below 2.0. In fact, since 1978 only 2001 and 2003 bottomed out higher than 2008 . We will have to see how this summer goes to see what the right half of the curve is like.
Plus, as has been well noted here, temporary trends do not equal an inevitable runaway trend that should incite panic. Not that you are saying that. Until something lasting and consistent happens, however, I am not going to lose sleep over it. So far all we have from comparison the historical data is a lot of not-so-well understood oscillations, and there may be other factors (ocean currents, wind, and volcanic activity for example) contributing that we do not yet understand how they fit in to math and the behavior of the ice. Factor in, too, that this is probably the first time in history where large segments of the population, and the media, are paying attention to every little dip and rise in the ice measurements. Thus when something is expected to happen, even little changes can seem big when, overall, they are just business as usual.

James S

So, let me get this straight. Last year we had a large amount of melting which meant that the ice that formed over the winter was “first year ice”. This is, supposedly, inheritently easier to melt due to different checmical composition and the fact that it is thinner.
This “fact” was beaten into everybody earlier this year when there was talk about an ice-free North Pole.
Now we have ended up with 9% more ice at the end of the melting season, which shows that the first year ice has held up far better the expected. Next year this ice will become (by definition) multi-year ice and so be even less likely to melt.
But this is all still a bad thing and demonstrates that we are reaching a tipping point?!

Mike Bryant

James S
You got it!

I’ll admit that I stole this post from Lubos Motl but it certainly puts into perspective the claims that the Northwest passage has not been clear for thousands of years
http://iainhall.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/time-magazine-northwest-passage-navigable/

Mike C

Time to revise them computer models and take the Polar Bear off the threatened list.

Patrick Henry

Arctic Sea Ice At Lowest Recorded Level Ever
ScienceDaily (Sep. 16, 2008)
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915162428.htm

Kohl Piersen

How can anything about ice extent which is restricted to the last few years, or the satellite era possibly point to a ‘tipping point’, or serve as the basis for conclusions on anything other than those few years?
I really don’t get it.

Jared

Yes, James, even though the resulting melt was certainly less than many alarmists had predicted (hoped for?), they will still spin it how they want.
As for me, I couldn’t be happier with how 2008 ended up. The odds were certainly against it, with the large areas of thin ice, but it held up well enough that 2008 will have a much improved start going into fall than 2007 did. Which bodes well for further improvement next year, especially if another cold winter follows.

Am I missing something about the multi-year ice vs single year? Surely only the areas that melted last year and subsequently refroze over winter are single year ice and the rest (the vast majority) is multi-year? Thus the ratio of multi-year ice to single year ice must be quite high.

Mike McMillan

Here’s from the uber-reliable Associated Press via Foxnews.com –
Given recent trends, triggered by man-made global warming, scientists warn that within five to 10 years the Arctic could be free of sea ice in the summer.
Even though the sea ice didn’t retreat this year as much as last summer, “there was no real sign of recovery,” said Walt Meier of the snow and ice data center. . . “We’re kind of in a new state of the Arctic basically, and it’s not a good one,” Meier said. “We’re definitely sliding towards a point where the summer sea ice will be gone.”

I do wish they’d lay odds out in Las Vegas. I could use some cheering up $-wise.
Mike
Houston Ike refugee

JP Rourke

I think everyone should pay attention to Ray’s wise words… try not to ‘forecast’ anything… remember the person who said, at the beginning of June, that only 11 weeks of melting remained? Or just 2 weeks ago when another person said the melting season was over, it had leveled off and even started to refreeze? Both look pretty foolish now.
As the article correctly cautioned, although the melt season *appears* to be over, you really can’t definitely state that until there has been a sustained upturn… there just haven’t been enough days yet, or a strong enough upturn (in fact, to me, the chart looks pretty darn flat). For that matter, if you think the IARC-JAXA has better data, take a close look at both 2006 and 2007 – they had a slight additional reversal downward after the first ‘minimum’, with what appears to be a new lower minimum in late September of 2007.
There’s just too much unpredictable weather behavior to call the minimum until well after it has occurred. And, even assuming the minimum so far this year stands, year-to-year variability really does not make a trend in just one year… if you think so, and that a 9% rebound from 2007 to 2008 will indicate continued rebound to 2009, what would you have said in 2006? That year ALSO saw about a 10% rebound from the record low in 2005… I’m curious, does anyone here know what was said in those days, were there any predictions for continued ice growth in 2007? And how did that look after 2007 had come to pass?
Predictions of ice growth then would have been foolish; not because 2007 took a sudden downturn – that was due to unpredictable weather anomalies – but because you just can’t predict any particular year AT ALL, much less on a erroneously-labeled one-year ‘trend’.
And the same goes for this year, about any next-year predictions…
I wouldn’t dare make any predictions about what next year will BE; I might venture an opinion that IF next year shows at least 10% ice growth from 2008 to 2009 or, even better, if it climbs above the infamous ‘average’, that we are pretty definitely in no danger of an arctic ‘tipping point’ any time in the next few years. And, also, that IF 2009 takes a dive like 2007 did, I would take a more serious look at what kind of tipping point we would be likely approaching, and where it might actually be, and what could be done about it.
But this year can’t ‘prove’ anything by itself, either one way or the other.

the Arctic ice is really not delining but in the recent years back in 2006 was sheared off,due to the Solar Maximum sunspots had to do with the weather global warming…

Peter Martin

It would be courteous to the the guys at NSIDC to reference their website when making a quote from it.
http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
This is the 9.4% figure in its full context:
“Despite overall cooler summer temperatures, the 2008 minimum extent is only 390,000 square kilometers (150,000 square miles), or 9.4%, more than the record-setting 2007 minimum. The 2008 minimum extent is 15.0% less than the next-lowest minimum extent set in 2005 and 33.1% less than the average minimum extent from 1979 to 2000.”
Is there any particular reason why you cherry picked the 9.4% figure but omitted the others?

Aussie John

In Aust we also have the media already reporting extremely low ice figures and experts (I’m pretty sure I heard he was from the NSIDC) talking about this being the effect of AGW.
just couldn’t wait until October to spread the ‘good’ news.

Peter Martin

OK I have just noticed that you have included the other figures lower down. You aren’t quite as bad as I was suggesting 🙂
But how about some more graphs like this one?
http://nsidc.org/images/arcticseaicenews/20080904_Figure5.png

Peter Martin

OK I have just noticed that you have included the other figures lower down. You aren’t quite as bad as I was suggesting 🙂

H

Some of you may be interested to read what the Department of Climate Change in Australia has said to me in response to my query on how they viewed Christopher Monkton’s paper on the falsification of the “Hockey Stick”. I was interested to know whether it affected the government’s plans for an Emmissions Trading Scheme. The reply came to me from an e-mail address [Climatescience@environment.gov.au]. I am not sure how to show the quoted section and hope I have done it correctly. However, the response argues that the melting ice sheets is “unequivocal” evidence of the recent warming not being within historical bounds. The other thing to note about the response was that it came with two different fonts. It was simply a cut and paste job. Probably from the deparment’s FAQs guide. It reads:
“A number of scientists have tried to dispute the findings of others, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate (sic) – the world authority on climate change reporting – that the warming the globe has experienced is within normal limits. This is not the case, global warming is unequivocal, the evidence being in melting ice sheets, warming oceans and comparison with climate records.
“The most recent research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the pre-eminent science body in the USA. This research confirms that surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were warmer over the last 10 years than any time during the last 1300 years, and, if the climate scientists include data derived from marine and lake sediment cores, ice cores, coral cores and tree-ring records, the warming is anomalous for at least 1700 years. Their study used methods that are more sophisticated than others used previously.
“Thank you for your query.”

Perhaps others may wish to comment on the quality of the science at the esteemed Department of Climate Change in Australia.

[…] http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/artic-sea-ice-melt-season-officially-over-up-over-9-… Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)As Arctic Sea Ice Melts, Experts Expect New Low – NYTimes.comArctic sea ice drops to 2nd lowest level on record […]

Perry

As yet, I have not had any response to emails sent to the BBC. Still, I am not downhearted and here’s another one.
Dear Mr Black,
From Anthony Watt’s website, wherein he explains the unvarnished truth about global temperatures.
“Though it appears NSIDC is attempting to downplay this in their web page announcement today, one can safely say that despite irrational predictions seen earlier this *year, we didn’t reach an “ice free north pole” nor a new record low for sea ice extent.”
http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/artic-sea-ice-melt-season-officially-over-up-over-9-from-last-year/
* I wonder who was doing that? Was it Richard Black, Environment Correspondent?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6610125.stm
BTW, I read your latest contribution this morning. Spin as much as you like Mr Black, you and your contacts are fighting a losing rearguard action against the reality that our planet’s temperatures are ultimately controlled by the warmth from the sun. It occurs to me that you personally should now be publicly reconsidering your position on AGW, don’t you?
Yours truly,

I’ve looked for, but have been unable to find, a clip of Don Adams, in the role of Maxwell Smart, saying,”MIssed it by that much.”

Phillip Bratby

The ice will all be gone in 5 years (good old BBC). http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7619770.stm

Leon Brozyna

What should now be interesting is how the upcoming season’s ice increase proceeds; how rapidly it proceeds and to how great an extent. The melting and freezing depends not only on the air temperature but also on ocean circulation patterns {how much warm Atlantic water gets pumped into and joins the Arctic Ocean’s circulation pattern}.
Since the Arctic atmosphere has been cooler this past year, perhaps it will aid in greater ice formation. But if the ocean itself is still warm at depth (especially along Alaska/Canada), perhaps ice there will be slower to reappear. Only time will tell. We’ll see over the course of the next few years what pattern, if any, emerges.
O/T – Didn’t we just recently see WUWT reach 3 million hits? Just look at it now, about ready to reach 4 million hits.