It's probably nothing*

4-21-11 From the Nenana Ice Classic web cam - click for the latest image

Tom Nelson points out these three related items. It seems the “pretty good proxy for climate change” is proxying the wrong message this year.

Overheated Arctic update: Nenana ice was gone by this date in 1940, but still 41 inches thick this year

Nenana ice

21-Apr 41.4 Inches

Nenana Ice Classic Breakup dates

20-Apr 1940 1998

2009: River ice in Alaska: “pretty good proxy for climate change in the 20th century” | Watts Up With That?

The Ice Classic has given them a rare, reliable climate history that has documented to the minute the onset of the annual thaw as it shifted across 91 years. By this measure, spring comes to central Alaska 10 days earlier than in 1960, said geophysicist Martin Jeffries at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks — and that trend is accelerating. “The Nenana Ice Classic is a pretty good proxy for climate change in the 20th century,” Dr. Jeffries said.

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* That great phrase coined by Kate at Small Dead Animals

[UPDATE] I hope Anthony won’t bust me for adding a graph of the Nenana breakup dates over time. The error bar (95%CI) shows the error for the Gaussian average.

You can see the changes due to the PDO in the data.

w.

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Al Gored

Great phrase indeed. Should be the first line in the Abstract of tooooo many ‘published’ papers these days.
Or maybe they need a whole new Journal of Probably Nothing, peer reviewed by experts in that field.

Don

May 9th 10:15 am

Lady Life Grows

I am going to email this to my alarmist sisters, and ask for good warmist evidence in exchange. I will cite the ref you had two days ago that liberals see only the warmist evidence and never see things like this, while we see only things like this and never see the best alarmist evidence. (Actually, I think we do–you cannot escape that evidence. But I needn’t mention that to my sisters).

Shoot! Looks like I won’t be winning this year’s Classic. 🙁

vboring

How long does it take for 41.4″ to break up?
If daytime temps are in the 50s, and overnight just barely freezing, are we talking days or weeks?

And I chose a date in mid-May.

tjfolkerts

What was the point of this posting?
* The ice thickness is about normal for this time of year.
* The ice often breaks up when the thickness is ~ 35-40 inches, so it could go any time.
* 194o was cherry-picked. The other 4 earliest breakups are all 1990+
* The trend is to break up 0.07 days earlier each year, or 7 days earlier now than when the contest started ~100 years ago. That trend seems to be accelerating.
So overall, this seems to confirm that ice is breaking up earlier (ie that Alaska is getting warmer over the last 100 years).
REPLY: Read the tags, it’s humor, of which you have routinely demonstrated to have none. – Anthony

Jimmy Haigh

40″ of ice? Must have been a toaster of a winter according to the ‘theory of CAGW’. Look for a big red blotch in Alaska on Hansen’s next maps.

bricro

And we’re using 1940 as a baseline because… it’s the earliest recorded break-up date (tied with 1998)? 1941 occurred on May 3…
Last year, the break-up was on 4/29, which is on the early side, yet on 4/19, the ice was… 40.9 inches.
In 2009, the break-up was on May 1st, also on the early side (note that in 1964, the break-up occurred on May 20), and yet the ice thickness on 4/23 was 42.7 inches.
2008 broke a bit later (May 5), and they had 40.5 inches on 4/21.
2007 was quite early (4/27), and there were 46+ inches on 4/11 (the last reported measurement). And so on.
So, two things:
One, the presence of 40+ inches of ice on 4/22 isn’t indicative of a late thaw.
Two, that DenialDepot post about focusing on near term noise, instead of long-term trends, was satire, not an instruction manual!

MattN

Bi-modal distribution of the dates. Interesting….

vboring

Checking a handful of previous years, the thickness measurements stop several to many days before the ice actually breaks up, presumably for safety reasons.
In 1993, the last ice measurement was 25″ on 9-Apr, but the ice didn’t break up until 23-Apr.
1996’s last reading was 41.5″ on 22-Apr with a break up on 5-May.
Unless the weather interferes, we should see a 5-May break up.
To use this as an indication of spring start is flat out stupid, though. More likely than not, the break up date is more strongly correlated with melt water from upstream, which is mostly an indication of whether the surrounding weather is snow or rain.

Bruce

Tim Folkerts: “That trend seems to be accelerating.”
Surprise … warmists always assume that an upward trend always continues and when it doesn’t its just an aberration that will be corrected “sooner than we thought”.
Weather goes in cycles.
Interesting that the two most common days for breakup 29-Apr and 30-Apr had these years:
1939,1953,1958,1980,1983,1994,1999,2003,2010
1917,1934,1936,1942,1951,1978,1979,1981,1997
Thats 5 1990+ Tim. Seems pretty well distributed to me.
The closest weather station suggests cooling since 1990.
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/gistemp_station.py?id=425702610000&data_set=1&num_neighbors=1
Nenana’s weather station stopped reporting in 1969.
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/gistemp_station.py?id=425702600010&data_set=1&num_neighbors=1

Another good proxy: mounds of snow and temps in the 30s in Michigan. Used to be golfing this time of the year.

Catcracking

I spent a full winter living in Fort McMurray, Canada in Northern Alberta; and the annual break up of the river is a huge event, with betting, and it is a site to see. Everyone visits the river to view the magnificent site of huge chunks of Ice lying around the bridge over the Athabasca river.
I’m sure that there are many other towns that find this event an important part of spring. After a long hard winter of many days at minus 40 degrees it is a welcome sign.
I’m not an expert with only 1 year of observation; but since the ice chunks are massive and thick, I’m not sure that the ice thickness itself determines the date for the breakup. I’m sure that the water flow and runoff/melting from the upstream areas has a huge effect. I wonder how thick the ice typically is at breakup.
Hopefully someone from the cold north country can provide a better insight.

Ed Forbes

I use Tioga Pass Road (Highway 120) through Yosemite National Park as my bench mark for spring in California.
Normally they open the road about Memorial Day. This year the Sierra high country is sitting on about 170% of normal for snow pack, so the first I will likely be able to drive this route is mid June this year.
This drive just after they open the road to traffic with the mountains in full spring melt is one of the best drive in the world IMO. Yosemite Valley gets the press, but I like this drive better than through the valley, and the valley is spectacular.

“Nenana ice was gone by this date in 1940, but still 41 inches thick this year”
This is obviously not peer reviewed as it is clear to me that if the Nenana ice was gone by this date in 1940 then it could not possibly still be 41 inches thick this year?
After May 12th I shall collect. my winnings! – Tripod or no tripod.

Jim G

Another proxy, 36 degrees F, 40 MPH winds and snow in the warmer part of WY right now, where I live, and it is usually so nice this time of year. ( I am prevaricating through my clenched teeth.)
Spring has sprung,
No sign of sun,
The snow still flies,
While I tell lies,
So don’t move here,
Too many already so near,
Try Texas if you will,
East and west coast voices are too shrill,
Outsiders tend to vex us,
But our climate does protect us.

Charlie Foxtrot

Video of the breakup. The ice is quite thin, with open water. Not what I expected to see based on the reported thickness. Perhaps the water was hot from global warming, which melted the ice very fast.

DirkH

bricro says:
April 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm
“Two, that DenialDepot post about focusing on near term noise, instead of long-term trends, was satire, not an instruction manual!”
So, you say, it’s probably nothing?

sharper00

“REPLY: Read the tags, it’s humor, of which you have routinely demonstrated to have none. – Anthony”
It’s also tagged “Climate News”
I’ll have to join Tim Folkerts in not getting the joke. I mean it’s not just I’m not personally amused, I literally don’t understand even what the underlying joke is. You picked a particular measure of a particular area by which the current year isn’t doing as bad as other years and then said it shows the Arctic is giving the “wrong message”.
Unless you intended to show how absolutely ridiculous it is do such a thing while ignoring the obvious trend for the whole area this year so far and in previous years then I don’t get it.

u.k.(us)

Looks like the river flow is picking up, which I assume is a major factor in the break-up.
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv/?referred_module=sw&site_no=15485500

Robertvdl

http://seaice.alaska.edu/gi/observatories/barrow_webcam
Barrow Sea Ice Webcam
Web cam overlooking the landfast ice (or coastal ocean during the ice-free period in summer) from atop the ASRC building in downtown Barrow, Alaska. The camera is looking approximately NNW.

Jeff

breakup date is not a good proxy for climate change … since nobody can define climate change … now if climate change is code for global warming … then, no, its still no a good proxy …
from NASA: “Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.”
so is the atmosphere the main driver of river ice breakup in Alaska ? If not then its not a good proxy …

Frank K.

Bruce Hall says:
April 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm
“Another good proxy: mounds of snow and temps in the 30s in Michigan. Used to be golfing this time of the year.”
Yeah, we’re supposed to get a rain/snow mix tomorrow morning in western New Hampshire (yuck). Well, at least I don’t have to mow the lawn yet…

Robert M

What UK(US) says is true, (about river flow) but we have had a fairly cold/dry year, which means that the ice is pretty thick and there is not a lot of snow out there to cause the river to rise. I live about 200 miles south of Nenana and most of the snow at lower elevations is all gone, and the water content was not that high anyway… Temperatures are right down the middle of average, and are forecast to continue… On the other hand a really windy day or a warm sunny day could do it… If I was a betting man, I would bet early May rather then late April… 🙂 But I won’t be putting my money where my post is as it were. 🙂

Gneiss

The overall trend 1917 to 2010 is toward breakup getting earlier by an average of .75 days/decade, statistically significant but not large.
From 1950 to 2010, the trend was a bit steeper, 1.2 days/decade.
From 1970 to 2010, a bit steeper than that, 1.7 days/decade.
That does seem to indicate a change, as geophysicist Martin Jeffries suggested.

Theo Goodwin

Lady Life Grows says:
April 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm
“I will cite the ref you had two days ago that liberals see only the warmist evidence and never see things like this, while we see only things like this and never see the best alarmist evidence.”
Hey, here I am. Cite the evidence. I have been in Central Florida for the last five years. Can you show me some evidence of global warming here in Central Florida? Right. I did not think you could. On the other side, I can give you ginormous evidence of global cooling. How about record low temperatures for three years in a row? How about dead plants in the yard, including some ornamental trees? These are plants that have been around forever but froze over the last three years. Anyone who cares not for doomsday theories has no reason to believe that the planet is warming.

DirkH

Gneiss says:
April 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm
“The overall trend 1917 to 2010 is toward breakup getting earlier by an average of .75 days/decade, statistically significant but not large.
From 1950 to 2010, the trend was a bit steeper, 1.2 days/decade.
From 1970 to 2010, a bit steeper than that, 1.7 days/decade.
That does seem to indicate a change, as geophysicist Martin Jeffries suggested.”
The average length of a warming panic is 30 years.

Theo Goodwin

In Central Florida, it used to be a common saying that you need a wetsuit only November through February, the water temperature has recovered by March. Not any longer. No. Nada. The water temperature at Daytona might have recovered by mid-April. Pictures of Spring Break drunks do not count as evidence.

Catcracking

Great post Anthony, it is a shame that some fail to comprehend your intent. As I mentioned earlier I spent a winter at Ft McMurray and the river breakup in the spring is something I will never forget. There are probably hundreds of locations that witness the ice breakup annually.
Following site provides two videos (2007) of U of Alberta study that will help one view and understand how important this annual event is to those who live along rivers in the far northern climes. Ft McMurray is 273 miles north of Edmonton. It is a violent event!! And flooding is a concern due to ice jams.
http://staff.civil.ualberta.ca/water/FEHicks/MAGS/Athabasca.htm
Watch the short video to get a picture of how violent the ice break up really is at least on the Athabasca River in Aberta. For me this gives a perspective that the break up timing is really determined by what happens upstream if the location

icecover

AW re Tim Folkerts above… I have also noted this throughout the AGW community, a very distinct lack of sense of humor about nearly any topic. Have others taken note?

Gneiss

Theo Goodwin writes,
“Can you show me some evidence of global warming here in Central Florida? Right. I did not think you could.”
Global warming? Of course not. Central Florida warming, perhaps. I happen to have these ones on hand:
Panama City 1895-2008, about +.1F/decade (+.6F/decade since 1970)
Ft Lauderdale 1895-2008, +.2F/decade (+.3F/decade since 1970)
Tallahassee 1895-2008, no trend (+.5F/decade since 1970)
All these trends except Tallahassee 1895-2008 are significant.
“On the other side, I can give you ginormous evidence of global cooling.”
No, you can’t.

Dr. John M. Ware

The daylilies tell the tale. Usually first bloom here is between the 12th and 18th of April; earliest in the past 10 years was April 7 in either 2006 or 2007; can’t recall. This year: first bloom was yesterday, April 21, second latest since we’ve been here (1993). This winter was cold; the spring has been cool to warm to capricious; the season is late by at least a week, closer to two.

Catcracking

I should have mentioned that the Athabasca river in Alberta flows north into colder and more frozen land. Obviously it is a different and more problematic since the ice is not flowing into areas already broken up. Thus the ice jams and potential for flooding.
THE FACTS: Unless the land it totally flat, rivers of water run downhill. The vast percentage of rivers on the planet flow in a southerly direction because the source (usually in the mountains) is to the north of the mouth.
If the source of a river is at a higher elevation than the mouth, that river will run from the source to the mouth. However, if that (higher) source is to the south of the mouth, that river will then flow to the north (downhill).
Below is a partial list of rivers (length listed when known) that do just that. We haven’t listed rivers that run to the northwest, or rivers that don’t meet the exact requirements
Athabasca Alberta, Canada, 765 miles

Gneiss:
Satellite temperatures vs CO2.
More satellite temps vs CO2.
Still more satellite temps.
You can apologize to Theo any time.☺

Gneiss

icecover writes,
“I have also noted this throughout the AGW community, a very distinct lack of sense of humor about nearly any topic.”
You must be reading the wrong blogs.
But did any of the regulars here see a joke, before Anthony declared his post was one?

Jason Joice

What a debacle!!!

Tom in Texas

Gneiss says:
April 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm

And I’m sure those trends were from raw temperature data taken at rural sites.

Bruce

Gneiss, all of your temperatures are actually evidence of UHI.
In 1895 Tallahassee’s population was less than 3,000. It is now growing at a rate of 12% per year and is now 180,000+ people.
Maybe you could find some non-growing cities ….

Willis Eschenbach

I have added a graph to the head post showing breakup dates. One of the reasons it’s so hard to predict is that it depends on mechanical factors (thickness of ice vs. amount of water in the river) that may have little to do with temperature.
w.

Willis Eschenbach

Gneiss says:
April 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm

The overall trend 1917 to 2010 is toward breakup getting earlier by an average of .75 days/decade, statistically significant but not large.
From 1950 to 2010, the trend was a bit steeper, 1.2 days/decade.
From 1970 to 2010, a bit steeper than that, 1.7 days/decade.
That does seem to indicate a change, as geophysicist Martin Jeffries suggested.

Sorry, but you can’t compare trends of different lengths like that. Doesn’t work, bad math, no cookies.
The trend in general was warmer to 1940, cooler to 1970, warmer to 1998, cooler since then … and the trend for the last 20 years is about zero.
w.

Martin Brumby

@Theo Goodwin says: April 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm
Hey, Theo!
You’re allowing your judgement to be clouded by logic again!
Now, if you used post-normal logic and paid more attention, you’d remember that things getting cooler are yet another sure-fire demonstration of warming.
And silly stunts like taking photos of a tripod on a frozen river aren’t “good proxies” past a certain date (to be plucked out of thin air) but are incontravertable proof of hyperthermalist doom when melting occurs an earlier date.
Simples!
Once you realise this, I’m sure you’ll be ecstatic that the great wad of your tax dollars that get thrown to those who promote the cAGW agenda and subsidising crackpot schemes to save the planet will be helping to keep that little tripod standing a just couple of seconds longer every year! (Using a cherry-picked and ‘homogenised’ trend line, of course!)

wayne

Probably NOTHING?
I’ve been waiting for the forgotten name of that town from last year! Nenana, how could I forget that? N..vowel..n..vowel..n.vowel. Got it. Now if I can’t remeber it again next year, I am getting older.
Just put in my 2 bucks in for a breakup of yesterday… guessing about what ice is going to do and when always ends up leaving me way way off the mark. ☺

Jimmy Haigh

Gneiss says:
April 22, 2011 at 6:52 pm
“You must be reading the wrong blogs.”
OK. Name one funny warmist blog.

P. Solar

w. says:

[UPDATE] I hope Anthony won’t bust me for adding a graph of the Nenana breakup dates over time.

Nice graph, it’s always quicker to assimilate what’s going on with a graphic. Also good to see gaussian filter for smoothing. However, I wondered how you got it to run to then of the data, an 11year filter should stop in 2005.
We aren’t using some Mannian padding techniques are we?
To look at the data I’d guess you have padded the incomplete data by padding with the last value repeatedly. This gives the false impression of a levelling since 2005 whereas the data appears to continue downwards.

P. Solar

Jimmy Haigh says:
April 23, 2011 at 2:34 am
Gneiss says:
April 22, 2011 at 6:52 pm
“You must be reading the wrong blogs.”
OK. Name one funny warmist blog.
RealClimate is a joke.
😉

P. Solar

Is that your graph Willis? Link to data source anywhere. I’ve only found bits of it and in a messy html table I don’t want to waste time collating by hand.
rgds/

Ice thickness is a measure of the winter temperature (and duration) and the break up date is more related to the spring conditions than ice thickness:
2000 – Apr 13 – 36 inches: break up May 1
2001 – Apr 16 – 33.5 inches: break up May 8
2002 – Apr 29 – 42 inches: break up May 7
2007 – Apr 11 – 46.5 inches: break up Apr 27
So yes – “it’s probably nothing” 😉

Jessie

Thanks for this post,
For the first time I went to Small Dead Animals. c/- of the ‘Its Probably Nothing* comment.
Kate runs one of the best blogs I have ever read (besides your et al Anthony).
What a hoot, this clever and gorgeous gal Kate has great insight with cutting edge commentary.

Gneiss

Willis writes,
“Sorry, but you can’t compare trends of different lengths like that. Doesn’t work, bad math, no cookies.”
I’m curious where you got this “math” rule from. Can you cite the source?
“The trend in general was warmer to 1940, cooler to 1970, warmer to 1998, cooler since then … and the trend for the last 20 years is about zero.”
So you refute me by comparing trends of length 45, 30, 28, 12 and 20 in one sentence?