NSIDC makes a big sea ice extent jump – but why?

Something odd is going on at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Look at this image:


The image is directly from NSIDC’s Artic Sea Ice News page today. Of course there’s the large drop of about 1 million sqkm of sea ice in the last couple of days that is puzzling.

If this were real, we’d also expect to see something also on Cryosphere today plots, and while that group does not do an extent graph, they do make an areal graph. It “should” show something that reflects the drop but instead goes up. WUWT?


While ice extent and area are not exactly the same, they are closely related. So one would expect to see at least some correlation. But we have zero. I suppose there could be a wind issue that is compacting sea ice, but surely there would be something in the area graph.

Something seems not right, and NSIDC owes the public an explanation as they did for a previous drop in extent change from January 15 to 26 which is currently in their Feb 3rd news release.

h/t to Joe D’Aleo and many WUWT commenters.


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Don’t forget that Cryosphere Today has a 4/5 days delay with respect to NSIDC. Actually, the slight increase in CT is seen a few days ago in NSIDC (beginning of February).
Nevertheless, the NSIDC data re still inconsistent with the JAXA data available from this site, for example, which show the ice is increasing again.

John Egan

Here’s their satellite map –
It has been all over the place the past two weeks with lots of triangular blank areas.
If you look closely there are three main areas that have changed OVERNIGHT.
1. The Gulf of St. Lawrence has had a major ice breakup?
2. The entire SW quadrant of Hudson Bay has had an ice breakup?
3. The Chukchi Sea in eastern Siberia has had a major ice breakup?
I have contacted Environment Canada in Manitoba and left a message.
I wish confirmation whether or no such a breakup has taken place on Hudson Bay since it would be a major news event. If not, then it is another “October Surprise” for agencies that are entrusted to provide accurate data.
Just FYI –
For the past three days the temps at Churchill, MB have been steady in the 0 degrees F range dropping to the minus teens yesterdays. Winds have been generally moderate.


I sent an email to NSIDC informing them that their area image is wrong. Seems like they are trying to push their agenda with misinformation if you ask me. Both of these other sites show the real story:


I saw this as well. The NSIDC “recent” graph has been weird for a while, but not that bad. Neither AMSR-E nor NANSEN are showing anything like that:


While I agree that a huge spike down in ice extent at this time of year is unusual and warrants an explaination, comparing it to ice area is apples and oranges.

jack mosevich

Slightly OT but U of Colorado sea level data is a bit more up to date: http://sealevel.colorado.edu/
Also these curves are inconsistent with NSIDC too.


By the way, I just discovered that NSIDC’s Antarctic sea ice extent is doing exactly the same?!

I have been head scratching over this one all weekend.
if you look at the latest daily image I think you will see a couple rather unique features, like straight line swathes of missing ice ( or data ) around Chukotsky. Both on the Bering side and the Chukotsky Sea side.
Plus Hudson’s Bay seems to have a large crack running through it. Are we perhaps seeing athe result of satellite repositioning in response to the latest “incident”?
Anyone have a better thought?
I would expect some sort of comment if this data is validated as the NSIDC is keenly aware of the interest in this data.

John Goetz

Cryosphere Today actually shows a large area of ice missing between Feb 14 and Feb 15 in the Bering Sea area close to Russia. See http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=02&fd=14&fy=2009&sm=02&sd=15&sy=2009

I’ve found the NSIDC to be exceptionally open with their data and methods. I’ll download the gridded near real time data tonight and take a look at what’s happening.

I believe NSIDC is having issues with there data processing. Other datasets are showing no breakup or the like:

Frank Miles

absolutely crazy! how can that much ice disappear in a day (response to the cryosphere data) it takes weeks to melt a large snowman !!


This means an alarmist news article or a few hundred is about to pop up in the very intelligent media.

Funny data? Or funny data readers? The Arctic will be ice free by March.
Two points:
It is possible the frigid massive Arctic cold front winds are pushing and stacking the ice up.
Is the raw, unprocessed satellite data available anywhere? Or a competing data reduction group?

P Folkens

If temps are lower than average, why would the ice extent fall so abruptly?
Granted, this is just one data site, but Point Barrow has been running below average most of January and February (so far). The February average hi-lo is -23°C and -30°C and is the coldest month of the year. Tomorrow’s forecast is -26° and -34° as it’s been much of the month and we’re half way through.

Douglas DC

Unless there’s a major eruptive event happening,I would bet there is a data problem.This time of year it’s nearly impossibel to have that kind of breakup…

Dennis Wingo

Here is a graph that is completely orthogonal to the drops recorded by other sources.
This one is showing a large increase in ice over the past couple of weeks.

Ron de Haan

OT but still icy hot: First Carbon-Free Polar Station Opens In Antarctica
Read the BS (Bad Science) Arguments and never trust any data coming from this station.
“Thomas Leysen, chairman of Belgium’s Umicore, a leading manufacturer of catalysts for cars who attended the ceremony, said it made good business sense for companies to help protect the environment.
“The global credit crisis is a result of unsustainable behaviour. We can’t deal in an unsustainable way with our planet otherwise we will also face a crisis which will be even bigger than the credit crisis,” he said”.
Scientists monitoring global warming predict higher temperatures could hasten melting at Antarctica, the world’s largest repository of fresh water, raising sea levels and altering shorelines. If Antarctica ever melted, world sea levels would rise by about 57 metres.
This will have affect some 146 million people living in low-lying coastal regions less than one metre above current sea levels, researchers said.
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said failure to reduce emissions by 50 to 85 percent by the middle of this century could be catastrophic.
“Globally we will be in a temperature increase zone that the earth has not known for the past two to three million years,” he said.

Just prepare for the worst…

I know what happened. Debris from one of the smashed satellites got in the way of the NSICD satellite camera / sensor, causing a false reading of diminished Arctic ice extent! 🙂

Arn Riewe

I don’t disagree with any of the speculation, but why do we have to speculate? With that big a change there should be a post to explain what could be causing this at NSIDC! Or are they just blind?


If you have been following the Cryosphere maps it’s obvious that there are serious data problems. The ice in the St Lawrence area, off Labrador and in the southern Hudson Bay has been popping in and out of existence repeatedly the last few weeks, though the Bering Sea is a new problem area.
There are other smaller scale anomalies. For example the Bothnian Gulf is shown as ice-free, while it is actually completely frozen.
For a reality check it is a good idea to use national ice sites which are for the use of sailors and fishermen, not politicians:

Pierre Gosselin

Orwellian or what!
I’ve been looking at the sea ice maps every day, and haven’t noticed anything unusual happening.
Looks like Mann’s or Hansen’s fingerprints on this.
REPLY: Way off base there Pierre, they have nothing to do with this. Don’t ascribe motives where none are warranted. – Anthony


Perhaps this has been noted already. However this site also doesn’t show any dramatic ice loss.
As other has observered the images seem odd with straight lines missing. It is a similar problem seen sometimes on Cryosphere todays regional images. There are vertical “blips” here and there.
In my simple opinion it is either “lost” data or some corruption. This should be corrected in the next few days.


Could it be a “data-carryover” like for global mean temperature? Not for one month this time, but for a year?
I just checked the Nansen ROOS page, and find a striking pattern.
In Cod we trust

James Chamberlain

It appears that Cryosphere Today posts data to their coverage vs. time plots about a week after the fact, that is why it is likely not showing on the plots on their site yet.
Also, in Cryosphere Today, my feeling is that there are frequent graphical or satellite errors. Sometimes they are corrected for, sometimes they are not. I do not follow the NSIDC data as much, so I do not know their patterns.
Is an agenda at play? I don’t know.

Pierre Gosselin

Look at the maps yourself:
Compare Feb 15 to Feb 10.
-Aleutian Islands (north) less ice today
-Eastern Siberia Sea not much net change
-Barent’s Sea ice seems to have grown slightly
-Eastern Greenland slightly less today
-Western Greenland slightly more today
-Northern Quebec scantly more today

Pierre Gosselin

“Are we perhaps seeing athe result of satellite repositioning in response to the latest “incident”?”
For the benefit of future readers: I suspect he’s referring to the collision of an Iridium and russian satellite last week.

Pierre Gosselin

Make sure someone downloads their data.
LOL! Maybe Obama and Holdren are getting ready for stage 2 of their Power Grab.

just me

***Breaking News*** CHINA: RICE BAG FALLEN OVER! SITUATION UNCLEAR!… it is daily data… if there is an error, the error will be corrected. Your minds have to be extremely twisted to see an agenda.
BTW: no UAH temperature blog entry in this month at Watts Up? An agenda?
REPLY: RSS was posted, I just haven’t gotten around to posting up UAH yet. I have a life outside of this blog. Which is why it has now been all day since I have been able to comment. – Anthony

Pierre Gosselin

Eyeballing the graph, ice extent is about the same as it was back on January 10, 2009.
Now compare January 10 to February 15 here:
I rest my case.

Pierre Gosselin

Photos show no such shifting.
They screwed up.

Pierre Gosselin

Peter Hearnden
It gets down to credibility. What would happen if the Commerce Dept managed their data that way?
These climate departments screw up the data more often then they get it right. It’s a bleeping circus!

Image at NSICD has now been corrected.

Ben Kellett

Sad though it is to admit, I follow the NSIDC ona daily basis! Some may now understand why I have been drawing attention to NSIDC on other recent topics asking if anyone knew what was going on. I have tried to contact NSIDC regarding the sudden re-alignment of the up spike shown last week which was very quickly smoothed down the way. No response to date.
This sudden ice loss shown today though is a complete joke! Just yesterday all was well in the Arctic (albeit the line looked suspiciously close to the 06/07 line). But today another (this time) major re-alignment down the way. Has anyone noticed how during the freeze season, the re-alignments are always down and during the summer melt season the down spikes are never re-aligned up the way? I personally find this very odd – a simple law of averages would suggest there’s something a bit fishy about that alone!
I have also checked archive temperatures on “Wettercentral Top Karten” for the affected areas for the past week. There is no way that temperatures have been anywhere near the values required to melt that volume of sea ice.
I smell a rat!

Pierre Gosselin

Appears they’ve taken their fiction off the internet:

Leon Brozyna

Valentine’s Day & President’s Day together give gov’t & university workers a three-day weekend. Is anyone minding the store? Or maybe NSIDC is too busy gearing up for a visit by Pres Obama tomorrow; he’s to be in Denver; maybe hoping for a little show-and-tell?
Do all entities share data from a single satellite or do they all have their own satellites providing imagery/data? For example, do JAXA & NSIDC each have their own satellites or does a single satellite send each the same data?
Whatever the case, NSIDC has got a problem. They’re showing the sudden appearance of large swaths of open water (noted quite accurately in several previous comments).

Pierre Gosselin

Climate satellites colliding – LOL!
Can’t say I’d blame them for trying. Those bloody satellites haven’t quite been delivering the data they want to see.

OT but Sky & Telescope magazine, March 2009 has an interesting article “Should we blame the SUN for Global Warming?”, also the main front page story.
On page 32, one can read: “The Little Ice Age can be explained in the models through a combination of the fairly intense volcanic activity and the relatively low solar output”, says climatologist Michael Mann (Penn State University). “When you decrease solar output by the amount we think took place during the Maunder Minimum, the models predict that has enough influence on the North Atlantic jet stream to cool parts of Europe a couple of degrees Celsius, even though the that same change in solar output cooled global temperatures by only a tenth as much”.
Interesting, I thought the Little Ice Age didn’t happen according to Mann and his hockey stick?

a jones

The graph on the NSIDC website has just changed in the last few minutes, it is now 19:30 GMT and I last checked half an hour ago. Most of the drop has been removed and it almost looks as if they are now using the plot of a couple of days ago. No comment on the site yet though.
Kindest Regards


The data has been fixed and updated. I guess it was a problem.

Ben Kellett

just me (11:11:42) :
***Breaking News*** CHINA: RICE BAG FALLEN OVER! SITUATION UNCLEAR!… it is daily data… if there is an error, the error will be corrected. Your minds have to be extremely twisted to see an agenda.
BTW: no UAH temperature blog entry in this month at Watts Up? An agenda?
That’s just the point! It is NOT daily data when it constantly being “re-aligned”. Now, I know I am unable to prove this to you because NSIDC doesn’t allow access to yesterday’s record. I can assure you though, that yesterday the graph showed almost an exact tracking of the 2006/07 line and the satellite image did NOT show the massive areas of melting ice shown today. Last week a similar (albeit less extreme) situation occurred. There was an upspike (not nearly as impressive as the current down spike) with relative ice growth shown particularly in the Barents Sea. That up spike was quickly adjusted down the way a few days later so that it no longer appeared on the image. I might understand it if the up spike appeared to be followed by a down spike but no, just a complete wiping off the record. Let’s see what happens with this down spike. Will it stay or will it go? All things being equal, it should go and it should also be wiped from the record because it is clear (see my previous post) that all this sea ice can not have melted since yesterday!

Walt Meier

We’re looking into it. For the moment, we’ve removed the data from the timeseries plot.
You need to remember that this is near real-time data and there can be data dropouts and bad data due to satellite issues. While the processing is automatic, the QC is partly manual. Thus errors do happen from time to time and one shouldn’t draw any dramatic conclusions from recent data.
I’m not sure why you think things like this are worth blogging about. Data is not perfect, especially near real-time data. That’s not news.
Walt Meier
Research Scientist
ps – FYI, the JAXA data is from a different sensor, so it is not consistent with our data, but it provides a good independent check. If the JAXA data does not show a dramatic change while the NSIDC data does (or vice versa), then it’s likely an issue of missing data or bad data.


Pierre — If it was so easy for us to figure out they screwed up, why wasn’t it easy for them? And if they knew, why didn’t they put up a simple message that they screwed up and will have to get back when fixed.
Surly they could see the curves didn’t add up from a simple deduction standpoint.
It’s odd the data consumers are the ones finding the screw ups.

Robert Wykoff

One thing I noticed watching the AMSR-E ice chart that Mr. Watts has a link to, is that every single time the current trend line is about to cross the “high” 2003 line, the slope instantly drops to zero, or negative. I’m sure its a coincidence, but just watching the curve while it was increasing last week approaching the magical “blue line”, I predicted a sudden drop in ice, and lo and behold it occured.


Looks like it was an error. It’s all fixed now.

Pamela Gray

I still stand by my prediction posted in another thread. Extent will grow to normal levels and thickness around the edges will be resistant to summer melt, especially if the wind continues to compact.


This is OT but I have a question. George Will wrote a piece recently attacking climate hysteria. Will’s piece was itself attacked on Nate Silver’s site 538.com. I know it is a political site, but that is where I saw the claims made. Silver showed a series of graphs showing constant, steep global warming occurring for about 100 years. What is the problem, as you see it, with those graphs???
REPLY: You are right it is OT, I don’t have enough time in my life to keep up with all manners of external opinon, nor do I care what Will thinks about 538.com. – Anthony


I’m curious if there were other times when there was an error in calculating ice areas and if so, did the areas incorrectly decrease or increase?