Update on Arctic sea ice melt – "Ice pockets choking Northern Passage"

First let’s get a look at the current NSIDC graph:

Courtesy National Snow and Ice Data Center

Courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data Center

and now the JAXA graph:

Courtesy of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

There’s an interesting news article from Canada that talks about what is being seen in the northwest passage areas.

Ice pockets choking Northern Passage: officials

By Randy Boswell, Canwest News ServiceAugust 1, 2009

excerpts:

Despite predictions from a top U.S. polar institute that the Arctic Ocean’s overall ice cover is headed for another “extreme” meltdown by mid-September, the Environment Canada agency monitoring our northern waters says an unusual combination of factors is making navigation more difficult in the Northwest Passage this year after two straight summers of virtually clear sailing.

“In the southern route,” Canadian Ice Service officials told Canwest News Service, the agency “has observed more ice coverage than normal. This is partly due to the fact that the ice in the Amundsen Gulf consolidated this past winter, which is something it didn’t do in 2007 and 2008.”

The result, the agency said, is that ice conditions “are delaying any potential navigability of the Northwest Passage this year. This is opposite to what Environment Canada observed in the last week of July in 2007 and 2008.”

Scientists believe the ongoing retreat is being driven by several factors, including rising global temperatures associated with human-induced climate change, and the associated breakup and loss of thicker, multi-year year ice that is being replaced only seasonally by a thin layer of winter ice that disappears quickly each summer.

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

Read the complete news article here

What they still don’t seem to be mentioning is wind patterns.

For example, watch this superb animation done by Jeff Id of The Air Vent:

Here is another video I posted on You Tube last month which shows the flow of sea ice down the east coast of Greenland. Clearly there is more at work here than simple melting, there is a whole flow dynamic going on.

Then read what NASA research has determined. It could explain a lot of what is observed from the news article published by Canwest.

NASA Sees Arctic Ocean Circulation Do an About-Face

PASADENA, Calif. – 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.

Scientists used measurements from Arctic Bottom Pressure Recorders

Click for Larger image

It certainly would be nice to see this reported when stories on summer ice melt occur.

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MattN

It looks like the graph has made “the turn” and the slope of the line is beginning to level off. This looks earlier than normal and appears to me that it should track with 2005 and 2006 fairly closely.
In other words: no new record minimum….

Ron de Haan

Right.
There is no warming of the Actic since 1958 according to an earlier WUWT publication by Steven Goddard, see http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/05/13/arctic-non-warming-since-1958/
See also a listing of peer reviewed scientific studies and analyses about the Arctic:
http://www.climatedepot.com/a/2226/Now-Debuting-Climate-Depot-Arctic-Fact-Sheet–Get-the-latest-peerreviewed-studies-and-analysis

Shawn Whelan

The Southern route of the NW Passage is blocked East of Cambridge Bay. Likely a West wind pushed the ice there and only an East wind, a storm or an icebreaker is going to get the sailboats through there this year. At least three sailboats are stuck in Tuktoyuktuk waiting for the ice to clear.
And if they get through there the Western end is plugged up with old ice. The old ice was blown in there by the wind. Not looking good for an open NW Passage at this point.
Then there is the story of the Resolute, the ship the famous Whitehouse desk is made of. Abandoned in the NW Passage it floated out as a ghost ship the next Summer.

John Egan

One needs to remember that the current NSIDC director, Mark Serreze, says that Arctic ice is in a “death spiral”. Kinda makes one question the validity of the data since the agency now has a stake in seeing the ice disappear.
We shall see.
I’ll take the Canadians on this one.

Not so surprising as the Dakota-pulling-radar voyage by German Polar Institute showed much thicker ice “than scientists expected”. Catlin freezing their a** off, carbon-free-powered ship crew saved by oil tanker (priceless!) and recent Greenpeace ship freezing into 6m thick ice were also quite amusing events. Imagine all those long faces if the ice hits 2005 bottom: “worse than expected”, “unseasonably thin ice”, “now we all die!”

MikeEE

Those are unfortunate color choices for that bottom picture on changing ice conditions. In the picture yellow is a neutral color but is generally taken as, and used as, a color to indicate warming. Thus the overall perception is one of more warming than is the case.
MikeEE

Pieter F

On Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” in one of the late episodes of the 2009 season it was mentioned that the Bering Sea ice came farther south than in any of the previous five seasons of the program.
Helen Fields wrote on the Discovery Channel’s web site for Deadliest Catch:
“The Bering Sea, where the boats of Deadliest Catch do their work, is not known for toasty warm weather. But still, some years are colder than others. The last two winters have been particularly chilly — and they’ve been huge years for ice. The last time the ice came this far south was in the early 1970s, when scientists first used satellites to monitor the ice.”
Haven’t seen that report on ABC, CBS, NBC, or the AGW blogs.

Bill Illis

Ocean currents pulled a lot of sea ice out of the eastern entry to the NW Passage over the winter. Based on this, one would have expected the Passage to open this year but there is no melt in the central region or ice break-up on the western exit so it is not going to open this year.
Any ships parked off Baffin Island waiting for the go signal should just head home.
There is a great cloud-free satellite pic of the NW Passage (sideways) from MODIS from a few hours ago and one can really see what is going on.
http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/2009215/crefl1_143.A2009215021500-2009215021959.4km.jpg

From my latest work, my guess is that sea ice will level off and have greater extent than 07 or 08. The weather patterns aren’t the same as the past two years and the remaining ice is thicker.

Mike Nicholson

I have a question, and my apologies if it has been asked before, which I’m sure it has. why is it that the period of 1979 to 2000 is taken as the average for sea ice, and I think for average global temperatures? I can see no significance to the dates apart from coinciding with the year I first got married and the year the divorce was finalised !

David

Pieter F (07:59:45) :
Now that I think about it, the last map up there, the yellow/red one, does have some circles on it. Is this where Anthony set his pots? 😉

Evan Jones

why is it that the period of 1979 to 2000 is taken as the average for sea ice, and I think for average global temperatures?
1979 is the first year of reliable satellite measurement.

Tonyb2

Anthony
Whenever I see the video’s of ice movements in the Arctic basin I’m always left with the the impression that movement of water through the Bering Straits into the Arctic basin cause an outward movements of cold water and ice down both sides of Greenland so here is a hypothesis:-
The movement of water through the Bering Straits caused by the PDO into the Arctic basin results, because of the shape of the basin, in cold water being displaced southward past the east coast of Greenland and down the Cabot Strait passed Newfoundland. This displacement of cold water in the melt period pushes the boundary layer between warm and cold water in the North Atlantic southwards – ice builds up near Newfoundland, ice on the east coast of Greenland and ice bergs in the North Atlantic. This influences the jet stream ( boundary layer between cold and warmer air). As a result the jet stream responds by also moving southward causing it to pass across or to the south of the UK. The result is cooler wetter periods in the UK and northern Europe in general.
In summary the variation in the Pacific ocean conditions c

In case someone missed this, history of the Artic exploration.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/20/historic-variation-in-arctic-ice/
detailed analysis of Artic ice and temperatures
http://www.arctic-heats-up.com/chapter_1.html
Artic daily mean temperature
http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

Tonyb2

Oops!
Missed the lats scentence.
What I meant to say was:
In summary climate changes in the north pacific couple cause changes in the North Atlantic resulting changes in the weather and climate in the UK and Europe.

Rhys Jaggar

Looks to me like NW Passage will be more icy this year but the NE Passage will be clear soon.
Looks to me that 2009 ice may start to track 2005 ice extent, which would imply that the 2007 minimum was just that and that return to less extreme melts may slowly be occurring.
Does the PDO influence ice melt at all? Or are these decadal-scale factors in this article thought to be key in this arena?

Nogw

However, I saw, yesterday, at Discovery, a program made by the BBC, which said that, for the first time in history, polar bears were drowning because of the lack of ice.

I, too, wonder why the U. of Illinois’ Cryoshphere Today uses a 1979 – 2000 base since nearly a decade has passed since 2000.
If they were to use a base of 1979 to, oh say, 2008, this year’s polar ice extent anomoly would probably show well above normal and…oh, I guess I just answered my own question.

Theo

In progress: First attempted circumnavigation of the North Pole in one (summer) season, in a sailboat. From Norway to Greenland.
http://www.seilmagasinet.no/id/31923
Click “Følg ekspedisjonen i kartet” for a GPS-track. We’ll see how far they get…

John Peter

DMI have arctic ice extent exactly on the 2008 limit http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/icecover.uk.php and let us not forget that the Antarctic paints a different picture with sea ice extent being above the 1979-2000 average. http://www.nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/S_timeseries.png (and that is NSIDC) so overall there does not seem to be a worrying acceleration of ice smelting here on mother earth. At the current rate of arctic smelting it is doubtful if Messrs Gore and Hansen will be able to visit the north pole in a sailing yacht in 2014 or thereabouts. I also wonder if Steig ever looks at the NSIDC antartic ice extent and pontificates over how this increase can happen considering his recent paper. He must ponder how he can make reality comply with computer modelling.

Mark Nodine

Question: The AMSR-E graph shows a consistent tick at the beginning of June where the method for measuring the ice extent is changed to take into account melt areas on top of ice. Where is the corresponding blip when the method changes back for the winter?

John F. Hultquist

Climate normals are set by international treaty to be an average over 30 years with the last year ending with a zero. After 2010 there will be updates.

Jim Watson (08:52:57) :
I, too, wonder why the U. of Illinois’ Cryoshphere Today uses a 1979 – 2000 base since nearly a decade has passed since 2000.
If they were to use a base of 1979 to, oh say, 2008, this year’s polar ice extent anomoly would probably show well above normal and…oh, I guess I just answered my own question.

Since CT gives priority to the actual areas rather than anomalies your suggestion is without merit! Since their anomaly plot only shows two periods of lower anomaly than present between 1979 and 2008 it clearly would still not show above normal in any case.

crosspatch

I tend to like this graph better as it puts the current year in context with other recent years.
So we aren’t far off from 2005/2006 ice amounts.

Carlo

Northwest Passage 2009
by Blake
I realize it’s not a race but Bagan, the Nordhavn 57 that is one of six yachts aiming to transit the Northwest Passage this summer, better get a move on.
http://trawlercrawler.net/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=103

AnonyMoose

Usually conditions up there are described based upon how much is open, not how much is closed. I wonder about the choice of language, and how the Northwest Passage ice cover numbers from this year compare to previous years.

Mark Nodine 9:25
Because the tick is a change in calculation methodology specifically to account for meltwater on top of the ice. There is no equivalent event at the end of the melt season that would need a methodology adjustment.

Mark

Why isn’t the average 1979-2007?

Pierre Gosselin

On average sea ice melt doesn’t start leveling off until August. Another 10 or 12 days to go.
Personally I think we will end up 0.4 million sq km above last year. So you choose the headline:
1) 3rd lowest level on record!
or
2) The most sea ice in three years!

However, I saw, yesterday, at Discovery, a program made by the BBC, which said that, for the first time in history, polar bears were drowning because of the lack of ice.

Of course, they won’t tell you that polar bears are very good swimmers or that polar beat populations have increased. I read a long time ago, somewhere, that this whole polar bear myth was based on an environmentalist claiming the polar bear looked sick, therefore it was sick even though this person had no veterinary training to make such a judgment. It would make sense, because facts are a climate change advocate’s worst nightmare. Facts don’t scare people.

rbateman

evanmjones (08:20:49) :
1979 is the first year of reliable satellite measurement.

Which is every bit as ominous as the invention of the telescope ( leading to sunspot observations) just prior to the onset of the Maunder Minimum.
Hook, line & sinker.

RW

“What they still don’t seem to be mentioning is wind patterns.”
The article says “the ongoing retreat is being driven by several factors”. It’s a newspaper article, not a science paper, so expecting a full description of all of them is a little bit unrealistic.
“Arctic ice driven by the wind not global warming”
This is deeply flawed thinking. The ice responds not to one stimulus, and one stimulus alone. Clearly, it is affected by wind. Equally clearly, that does not mean it somehow stops being affected by the ambient temperature.

Pierre Gosselin

Matt N
I think this is only a temporary left turn. The Arctic is warmer than normal and is expected to stay that way for the next week.
1. http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php
2. http://wxmaps.org/pix/temp2.html
But as you can see in no. 2, the Arctic will be averaging below freezing in a week or so. Not that air temperatures play a big role in sea ice extent. I think it’ll track roughly parallel 2008, 400,000 sq km above. Two weeks and we’ll know a lot more.

Squidly

MikeEE (07:45:39) :
Those are unfortunate color choices for that bottom picture on changing ice conditions. In the picture yellow is a neutral color but is generally taken as, and used as, a color to indicate warming. Thus the overall perception is one of more warming than is the case.
MikeEE

Have you ever noticed the colors that the MSM News uses for their forecast maps? Since when did 70F constitute a RED color? Anything over 80F is almost BLACK. It has gotten so ridiculously stupid that the colors mean nothing anymore. They have actually gone beyond “spooky colors” now. Its just stupid…

Mr Green Genes

Mark Nodine:-
It’s less pronounced but it seems to me to be around the end of January.

noaaprogrammer

To get a better feel for annual trends of max and min artic ice extents, I would like to have Jeff Id release a time lapse video with snap shots of just these events – or allow one to choose which month to annualy loop over.

crosspatch

” Halfwise (09:51:36) : ”
It isn’t just “melt” ponds. Over the summer rain collects on top of the ice, too. The only way to really verify that accuracy of these estimates are to take a submarine under the ice and check to see if the concentration numbers match actual observations. There was such an event in early July at the “pole” cam where they had a significant rain event. As of today the website is still showing the July 29 picture but those ponds were starting to freeze over.

Flanagan

Satellite data seem on the other hand to indicate a crubming NW pasage (not to mention the NE which is almost open already)
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/NEWIMAGES/arctic.seaice.color.000.png
It should be emphasized also that a similar “slowdown” was observed in 2007. IMO, such a change is observed when the Hudson bay gets completely ice-free, which occured recently. We should wait and see… without forgetting that an area of 4 million km2 would already be a confirmation of the long trend decrease.

Robin Kool

Pierre Gosselin (10:25:09) wrote:
“…. The Arctic is warmer than normal and is expected to stay that way for the next week.
1. http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php
2. http://wxmaps.org/pix/temp2.html
But as you can see in no. 2, the Arctic will be averaging below freezing in a week or so. Not that air temperatures play a big role in sea ice extent. I think it’ll track roughly parallel 2008, 400,000 sq km above. Two weeks and we’ll know a lot more.”
The more I read, the more I get the idea that air temperatures have indeed very little to do with polar ice melting in summer. Instead it is how warm the water is and how fast it flows under the ice, right?
((Plus the wind breaking up the ice and pushing it south).
My question: what is the temperature of arctic water right now, and how fast does it move under the ice? Is somebody measuring that?

Bob Kutz

For a real up close look at what’s happening in the Northwest passage right now, take a look at;
http://www.aroundtheamericas.org.
This is a group of guys sailing, as the name implies, around North and South America. They are currently in the arctic ocean, near Tuktoyatuk in Canada’s Yukon territory. They’re more or less AGW believers, though they seem to be amicable people, and it’s kind of interesting to watch their progress . . . . even as I quietly root for the ice.
I wish them godspeed, and hope they safely return, but I hope the ice is non-cooperative nonetheless. The daily log contains quite a bit about the arctic communities and sailing, and they don’t tend to pontificate on climate issues, so it’s an interesting read.
Anyway, my two cents.

Mike McMillan

Using already archived satellite data, it should be possible to estimate the volume of Arctic ice flowing out around both sides of Greenland. Simple subtraction from the area/extent numbers should give us a good value of the annual melt.
That graph would be far more relevant to global warming debate than the ones above, which don’t differentiate between melt and transport.

Jordan

From the above excerpts:
“.. an unusual combination of factors is making navigation more difficult in the Northwest Passage this year .. observed more ice coverage than normal .. delaying any potential navigability of the Northwest Passage this year .. ”
Abnormal conditions are blocking the Northwest Passage? When the BBC reported this back in 2007, navagability was reported to be abnormal and linked to global warming:
“The most direct shipping route from Europe to Asia is fully clear of ice for the first time since records began, the European Space Agency (Esa) says.
Historically, the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans has been ice-bound through the year. But the agency says ice cover has been steadily shrinking, and this summer’s reduction has made the route navigable .. Scientists have linked the changes to global warming which may be progressing faster than expected. ”
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6995999.stm)

Rob

evanmjones (08:20:49) :
1979 is the first year of reliable satellite measurement.
Arctic Monthly Sea Ice Concentrations: 1870 – 1998
If only the recent 1979 – 2000 data is trusted what is the point of
Walsh and Chapmans Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Data Set 1870 – 1998.
http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/guide/Data/walsh.html#descript
Is it not also around the time the PDO flipped to its warm phase.
With the sun at its most active in 11,500 years and the PDO in its warm phase is it any wonder there might be a degree of melting.
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/sea.ice.anomaly.timeseries.jpg

A few weeks ago, the warmaholics made a great deal of fuss, because the 2009 graph crossed the 2008 one. People postulated that this trend would continue, and there would be less ice at minimum this September than there was in 2007. Now, I expect complete silence fromn the warmaholiucs when, on August 5th/6th, 2009 crosses 2008 again, this time the other way. If 2009 continues tracking like 2005, then minimum in 2009 will be about 600,000 sq kms more than 2008, and 1,000,000 sq kms more than 2007. Meaning more multiyear ice in 2010, and a further recovery of the sea ice in the Arctic Basin.

Mike Nicholson :
“I can see no significance to the dates apart from coinciding with the year I first got married and the year the divorce was finalised !”
Global warming causes divorce?!

G. Karst

July (month end averages) NSIDC
1980 Southern Hemisphere = 16.1 million sq km
1980 Northern Hemisphere = 10.4 million sq km
Total = 26.5 million sq km
2008 Southern Hemisphere = 16.6 million sq km
2008 Northern Hemisphere = 9.0 million sq km
Total = 25.6 million sq km
2009 Southern Hemisphere = 16.6 million sq km
2009 Northern Hemisphere = 8.8 million sq km
Total = 25.4 million sq km

bluegrue

Why isn’t the average 1979-2007?

I don’t have a definite answer, but a reasonable rationale for this. The average is meant to give a reference of what is “normal”. It simply doesn’t make sense to change your reference every year. It is my guess that in the long run they’ll adopt a scheme similar to WMO standards: take the average of the last three completed decades, e.g. the 1961-1990 period used by Hadcrut or 1951-1980 by GISTEMP. Trouble is, we do not have that much data so far, so they take two completed decades of observation as the “normal period”, just like RSS and UAH.

OceanTwo

I don’t see a problem with taking 1979 to 2000 as the ‘average’. If you take any range within that range you do come out with a fairly consistent range of averages. That is, although it is arbitrary, there does need to be some base line average to compare it to.
The problem arises when people assume this ‘average’ is normal. It may well be, but there is no statement to that fact – it is simply the average of the years 1979 to 2000. As long as the comparisons are consistent, there isn’t any foul ball.
I have also been watching this ice coverage issue for a while. I have also noticed that the AGW crowd often move the goal posts; “well, it’s not ice coverage which is important, now, but ice volume”, or distract with other observations “the amount of second year ice is greatly diminished” (well, duh! 2007 was a low year for ice – saying the same thing but in a different way).
Even so, the majority of people have no clue that 9 million odd square kilometers of ice ‘disappears’ every year based on this new phenomenon called summer…