Sea Ice News: Arctic sea ice "may" have turned the corner

UPDATES: New NSIDC data and a press release from them added below.

While some folks (Joe Romm in particular) are touting the recent University of Bremen press release suggesting a new record low has been met, declaring record minimum Arctic extent was reached on Sept 8 at 4.24 million km2, (See http://iup.physik.uni-bremen.de:8084/amsr/minimum2011-en.pdf) five other sources of sea ice data, NSIDC and JAXA, DMI, Cryosphere Today, and NANSEN don’t agree with that new record claim (at least not yet). While still far from certain, as weather, wind, and ocean currents could still force a turn downwards, the NSIDC graph suggests we may have turned the corner this year.

NSIDC extent - 5 day average - click to enlarge

[UPDATE: This extent graph above (dated 9/12) was updated by NSIDC since posting this story ~ 6AM this morning, and it shows further deviation from 2007, compare to the NSIDC graph of 9/11 below.]

Below, I’ve added a vertical line to show the turning point for the 1979-2000 average (in red) and how it compares to the current NSIDC data.

red line shows the turn point for the 1979-2000 average - click to enlarge

The JAXA graph, which uses a different satellite sensor (AMSRE vs SSMI) also suggests that we didn’t yet reach a new record low and that we may have turned the corner.

JAXA Arctic Sea Ice Extent - daily data - click to enlarge

The Danish Meteorological Institute shows much the same:

Danish Meteorological Institute-Arctic Sea Ice extent daily data - click to enlarge

NANSEN’s Arctic ROOS plot shows a similar turn, and suggest that not only have we not reached a new record low, but the extent has not gotten lower than 2008:

NANSEN Arctic ROOS Sea Ice Extent - click to enlarge

Cryosphere Todayhas an anomaly plot that shows so far, 2011 has not exceeded the 2007 record minimum.

Cryosphere Today Arctic Sea Ice Anomaly - click to enlarge

CT does have an area graph, which you can see here, which seems to match the 2007 low, but unlike the other data providers they don’t provide year to year extent comparisons, only seasonals.

For extent, only the University of Bremen (shown below) shows this year to be lower, and has no turn. It uses the same SSMI sensor as NANSEN and NSIDC, it uses the same AMSRE sensor as JAXA, which doesn’t show a record low, so the difference must be in processing of the data:

University of Bremen sea ice extent - click to enlarge

Given that five other sources of sea ice data don’t show a new record low, and suggest that the corner may have been turned, I find it rather odd that the University of Bremen would stick their neck out and declare a new record low before the traditional end of the Arctic melt season.

The wording from their press release hardly seems scientific and more than a bit over the top:

Alerting message from the Arctic: The extent the the Arctic sea ice has reached on Sep. 8 with 4.240 million km2 a new historic minimum (Figure 1). Physicists of the University of Bremen now confirm the apprehension existing since July 2011 that the ice melt in the Arctic could further proceed and even exceed the previous historic minimum of 2007. It seems to be clear that this is a further consequence of the man-made global warming with global consequences. Directly, the livehood of small animals, algae, fishes and mammals like polar bears and seals is more and more reduced.

The answer to why such language might be used, perhaps prematurely in the face of other datasets which presently disagree, may be found in the proximity of the upcoming Climate Reality Project (aka the Gore-a-thon) on September 14-15. Al needs something to hold up as an example of gloom, since sea ice didn’t repeat the 2007 low in 2008, 2009, or 2010, and the Antarctic has not been cooperative with the melt meme at all, remaining boringly “normal” and even above normal last year.

We’ll know the answer when we see if this Bremen missive is included in Al’s upcoming presentation.

As for whether or not Arctic sea ice extent turned the corner this year, note below that in the prime ice areas, surface air temperature is well below freezing. So. it is up to the wind and ocean currents and other vagaries of weather to determine if we have in fact bottomed out, or if there’s still some loss to come.

If it has turned the corner, it will be about a full week earlier than usual. There could still be another downward blip, as happened in 2010 and in 2007, so I’m not ready to call a turn for certain yet, but it does look encouraging.

Stay updated with all of the latest plots and maps at the WUWT Sea Ice Reference page. Readers may also be interested in the WUWT forecast submission to ARCUS and the notes with it.

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

UPDATE2: NSIDC has posted an update in their Sea Ice News section, which I’m reposting below in entirety for WUWT readers:

Overview of conditions

On September 10, Arctic sea ice extent was 4.34 million square kilometers (1.68 million square miles). This was 110,000 square kilometers (42,500 square miles) above the 2007 value on the same date. The record minimum Arctic sea ice extent, recorded in 2007, was 4.17* million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles).

The rate of decline has flattened considerably the last few days: Arctic sea ice is likely near its minimum value for the year. However, weather patterns could still push the ice extent lower. NSIDC scientists will make an announcement when ice extent has stopped declining and has expanded for several days in a row, indicating that the Arctic sea ice has reached its lowest extent for the year and has begun freezing over. During the first week of October, after data are processed and analyzed for the month of September, NSIDC scientists will issue a more detailed analysis of this year’s melt season and the state of the sea ice.

NSIDC’s sea ice data come from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) sensor on the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F17 satellite. This data record, using the NASA Team algorithm developed by scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, is the longest time series of sea ice extent data, extending back to 1979.

Other sea ice data are available from other data providers, using different satellite sensors and sea ice algorithms. For example, data from the University of Bremen indicate that sea ice extent from their algorithm fell below the 2007 minimum. They employ an algorithm that uses high resolution information from the JAXA AMSR-E sensor on the NASA Aqua satellite. This resolution allows small ice and open water features to be detected that are not observed by other products. This year the ice cover is more dispersed than 2007 with many of these small open water areas within the ice pack. While the University of Bremen and other data may show slightly different numbers, all of the data agree that Arctic sea ice is continuing its long-term decline.

For more information about the Arctic sea ice minimum, see the NSIDC Icelights article, Heading Towards the Summer Minimum Ice Extent.

*Near-real-time data initially recorded the 2007 record low as 4.13 million square kilometers 1.59 million square miles). The final data, reprocessed by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center using slightly different processing and quality control procedures, record the number as 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles). NSIDC reports daily extent as a 5-day average. For more about the data, see the FAQ, Do your data undergo quality control?

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Richard Telford

You are misinterpreting the Cryosphere Today plot as it is an anomaly plot, not a plot of absolute area. It is possible to set a new record minimum area without having the largest anomaly, as the largest anomaly in 2007 does not occur at the time of minimum area.
REPLY: No, I clearly say anomaly, I’m not confusing anything, Note that the anomaly has headed back up from it’s low so far this year. My point is that it hasn’t gotten anywhere close to 2007 low anomaly, and with the current conditions may not drop further. Don’t gripe about me using it unless you are prepared to also gripe at CT for not providing an extent graph like all other organizations. For some reason, they only provide area on their public presentation. – Anthony

I’d be pretty reluctant to say the ice has “turned the corner” when recent lows have occurred a week or two later. OTOH, one thing that’s interesting in the NANSEN’s Arctic ROOS plot is the longterm average curve that has a minimum around September 6th.

RICH

The “turn” looks early when compared to the previous 8 years.

The sea ice anomaly chart looks a lot like the Arctic ocean SST record, especially when compared with the recent summer minimums.
http://i54.tinypic.com/ekripx.jpg (from Bob Tisdale blog)

It’s a small difference indeed, 2007 and 2011; however, it is not interesting which year will be ‘winning’, it is the downward trend that is important;
2007 was an extreme year whith an exceptional low sea ice extent, 2011 is catching up while changing the linearity of the downward trend of minimal sea ice extent into an exponential curve to a sea ice free summer within a few years; that is the real worrying thing;
please check my website for more graphs;
http://www.zeeburgnieuws.nl/nieuws/kv_noordpool_zeeijs_min_2011.html#dieptepunt
there is also a page in English:
http://www.zeeburgnieuws.nl/nieuws/mb_arctic_melt.html
regards

Is this years Arctic sea ice extent lower or higher than 2007?
Was 1934 or 1998 the hottest year in the USA?
How many angels fit on the head of a pin?
All of the above questions are of about the same level of importance. The ice extent is very low and the minimum will be virtually indistinguishable from 2007 levels, whether or not it ends up higher or lower.

Luther Wu

Quick! Run a bunch of icebreakers around the Fram straits- we gotta get that ice down to at least 3 times the size o’ Texas, just so we can listen to the warmists howl.

Michael Jennings

Martin van Etten says “2011 is catching up while changing the linearity of the downward trend of minimal sea ice extent into an exponential curve to a sea ice free summer within a few years;” How much you want to bet? Put your money where your mouth is hot shot and let’s place a wager about whether the Arctic is ice free in summer “within a few years”. We’ll let Anthony hold the money, just name your bet amount.

Looking a Bremen’s graph, note the thickness of the red line – surely a lot of room for error there? Would an earlier turn indicate the possibility of some cooling actually happening?

Paul_C

I am only going from memory and hearsay but I believe the NW passage was open in about 1890 and again in WW2. Seem to remember military using the passage in the war.
If that is true there is more ice now

Roger Knights

The odds that 2011’s minimum will be icier (extent will be greater) than 2007’s (per JAXA) are currently 90% on Intrade, here: https://www.intrade.com/v4/markets/contract/?contractId=744206

jason

Wait for it, R Gates will be along to represent the “lukewarmers” any minute now….
Me? Since the “record” is since 1979 I think this whole focus is insane.

Richard

Jacobson, M. Z. 2010. Short-term effects of controlling fossil-fuel soot, biofuel soot and gases, and methane on climate, Arctic ice, and air pollution health. Journal of Geophysical Research. VOL. 115, D14209, doi:10.1029/2009JD013795
http://nsidc.org/icelights/2011/02/23/is-dirty-air-adding-to-climate-change-2/
I would suggest that the recent minimum (or low value) for Sea Ice is in part due to the significant volcanic activity that we have seen in the last couple of years.

Roger Knights

We’ll know the answer when we see if this Bremen missive is included in Al’s upcoming presentation.

If Al does include it, he’ll look like a cherry-picker later on. We won’t let him forget it.

John Peter

“As for whether or not Arctic sea ice extent turned the corner this year, note below that in the prime ice areas, surface air temperature is well below freezing. So. it is up to the wind and ocean currents and other vagaries of weather to determine if we have in fact bottomed out, or if there’s still some loss to come.”
I think that is “spot on”. As can be seen here http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php the current temperature is exactly on the long term average and is unlikely to go substantially up again to provide surface smelting. Any deterioraton in extent would be down to wind and currents. In any event I don’t understand this obsession with Arctic ice extent. It has been shown so many times that wind and currents are the main factors and any smelting has no effect on ocean sea levels so will not help James Hansen achieve his five meters by 2100.

Arctic sea ice minimum is (nearly) the lowest in 10 years. There, we can say it. The brackets define the dispute with Uni of B. Now we can interpret it. What does it mean to this debate? Not much. What does (the difference) mean to the debate. Not much. So why engage polemical on the data-sets, when it is the (hysterical) interpretation (“a new historic minimum” death to all creatures…) that matters?

sailboarder

It looks like soot is doing the damage, as per:
“Impure as the Driven Snow Smut is a bigger problem than greenhouse gases in polar meltdown..
…such dark carbon triggers melting, and may be responsible for as much as 94 percent of Arctic warming. ”
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=impure-as-the-driven-snow

Steeptown

Personally, I don’t see a problem with a big arctic ice melt in summer. It is a good thing. It freezes again in winter.

Paul_C

Jason – “Me? Since the “record” is since 1979 I think this whole focus is insane.”
100%

DR

Steve Goddard notes Bremen does not have Sept 2007 ice data archived
http://www.real-science.com/uncategorized/shock-news-bremen-missing-september-2007#comments

Martin van Etten says:
September 13, 2011 at 5:32 am
… to a sea ice free summer within a few years;
====================
The Mean Temperature above 80°N as seen here:
http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php
has been almost entirely below normal temperatures during the entire melt season in that region (temps above 0°C) calculated from the period 1958-2002. The same phenomenon also took place last year. This seems to be a contradiction of an exponentially increasing sea ice melt. I do not see how the arctic will end up ice free at any time at all this century let alone any time soon.

beng

If one thinks Arctic sea-ice is “too low” in Sept, just wait a couple months — it’ll make a dramatic recovery.
Besides, more Arctic Ocean free of sea-ice in the warm season means more light penetrating the water, more phytoplankton production & more food-chain feeders like whales.

Steve Keohane

jason says: September 13, 2011 at 6:05 am
Me? Since the “record” is since 1979 I think this whole focus is insane.

I have to agree, the beginning of this record was probably a high point for ice area/extent after 30 years of cooling. We probably need a minimum of sixty years to catch most of the natural cycle to even determine what ‘normal’ is.

Gary

Go Baby Ice!!!

Bloke down the pub

The last time I commented on this topic at wuwt Steve Mosher jumped down my neck, saying that the drop in av.air temp above 80North below freezing was irrelevant as the higher heat capacity of the ocean would carry on melting the ice. Looking at the multi-year graphs, I note many years appear to have an up-tick about the time air temps drop below zero. Not saying anything much, just that it’s interesting.

Martin van Etten says:
September 13, 2011 at 5:32 am
. . . 2011 is catching up while changing the linearity of the downward trend of minimal sea ice extent into an exponential curve to a sea ice free summer within a few years; that is the real worrying thing; . . .

Why is that a “worrying thing” and not a welcoming thing? A warmer Arctic ocean means open sea lanes, and easier resource extraction. A warmer sub-Artic means more land for crops. A warmer temperate zone means more shirt-sleeve weather (which is about to disappear here in New England, as Winter looms). What’s not to like?
/Mr Lynn

Brian

It’s so close that it really doesn’t matter if it does or doesn’t set a new low.

On the Sea Ice page, look at the
Arctic Sea Ice Concentration – Same Date Compared With 2007 [Sept 9]
Compare Alaska Brooks Range and Eastern Siberia. There is much more ice and snow in 2011. Is that an early snowfall?

Deanster

Luther Wu … “icebreakers” …
Ya know .. I’ve always wondered what effect they have had on arctic ice. I mean …. kitchen table experiment … I always notice that crushed ice melts faster than a solid block. Maybe the low arctic ice extent and area have nothing to do with Global Warming .. but with Ice Breaker Ships carving the ice up into crushed slush.
I say .. we ban icebreakers from the arctic for awhile and see what happens!
….. hmmmmmmmmmmm

Some European

How convenient it is to exploit minor disagreement between extent datasets as evidence of large uncertainty to distract attention from the record in sea ice AREA and VOLUME.
And to distract attention from the fact that you and your readers have ‘predicted’ this year’s minimum extent would bottom out at 5,5, sorry 5,1, oops 4,5 million square kilometers. That’s a mere 30% off. I’ve got no problem with that…

Luther Wu says:
September 13, 2011 at 5:37 am
Quick! Run a bunch of icebreakers around the Fram straits- we gotta get that ice down to at least 3 times the size o’ Texas, just so we can listen to the warmists howl.
===============================================================
Indeed, the Russians have a fleet of nuclear powered ice-breakers, they’ve been very active in the arctic this year.

Frank Kotler

Certainly looks like this year will be “near” 2007. All the CO2 added to the atmosphere since 2007 has increased ice melt by… not much.
I’d be a lot more “alarmed” if ice extent were increasing!
North Pole cam shows we’re near a “tipping point”. If all that ice slides off the edge of the earth, it will prove the earth is flat, eh? 🙂
Best,
Frank

SteveSadlov

At high longitudes the ice edge was very stable for weeks / months. And now, there is accumulation there.

Two points:
1. I believe the Cryosphere Today record low anomaly in 2007 occurred in October, not at the time of minimum area. Indications that I’ve seen show that this year is very close and perhaps lower than 2007 in terms of minimum area.
2. The minimum extent has an average date of Sept. 12. So if we are at a minimum, it’s about average (maybe a couple days early), not a week early.
NSIDC will be posting an update in a couple of hours and we’ll be watching our data closely and will announce the minimum for our data when we are confident there won’t be further decline. We’ll also probably comment on the Bremen data and the reasons for it’s difference with other measures.
Walt Meier
NSIDC
REPLY: Thanks for commenting Walt.
1. That may be true, I don’t know for sure.
2. This shows just one more reason for NSIDC to post daily value data as JAXA does (as you’ve promised to do) Your graph x and y axis is too coarse to make an accurate numerical determination. Mostly though I was referring to JAXA, which gives us a better handle on minimums due to JAXA providing such data and has a shorter year span than NSIDC.
– Anthony

Martin van Etten says:
September 13, 2011 at 5:32 am
It’s a small difference indeed, 2007 and 2011; however, it is not interesting which year will be ‘winning’, it is the downward trend that is important;
2007 was an extreme year whith an exceptional low sea ice extent, 2011 is catching up while changing the linearity of the downward trend of minimal sea ice extent into an exponential curve to a sea ice free summer within a few years; that is the real worrying thing;
===============================================================
lol, depends on how you graph it. I think what you’re seeing is the bottom of a sine wave. I’m waiting until the end of Sep. but if you graph Sep 2007 -Sep 2011, you won’t see anything worrying. But even if we’re exponentially curving downward, it isn’t particularly worrying. I’m just hopeful some companies in the U.S. are prepared to exploit the additional shipping lanes available, if it were to come to be. But, the MYI improvement over last year seems to indicate its not gonna happen. http://nsidc.org/images/arcticseaicenews/20110405_Figure5.png …… we’ll see after all of the hyperbole settles down.

Bill Illis

Three days of increase now according to Jaxa.
On average, today (day 255) is the last day of declining sea ice extent. From now on, the sea ice increases, on average. The earliest minimum was August 25 in 1980 and the latest was September 24 in 2007. There is no real trend over time of when the minimum happens (perhaps a few days later).
http://img651.imageshack.us/img651/8171/nhsiemindateline.png
This chart compares the change in sea ice by day in 2011 versus the average change since 1972, as noted, 3 days in a row of increase now. While 2011 started the year with less ice, it more-or-less followed the average daily melt rate very closely. (I think the beginning sea ice extent in late March is the real determinant of how much ice there will be throughout the year – the average seasonal melt rate from the March Max to the Sept Min is very consistent increasing at just 0.1% per year since 1972).
http://img703.imageshack.us/img703/7779/nhsiedmrsept1211.png

Jay Neumark

Again, a “thank you” to Walt Meier for interacting with the public. As society becomes more connected and open it is essential to have the experts explain and work with those that are interested in their work. Scientists who refuse to do so and work to keep their work secret only breed skepticism of their integrity and further conspiracy theories. I do enjoy a good conspiracy theory though. : )

Latitude

Deanster says:
September 13, 2011 at 7:17 am
Luther Wu … “icebreakers” …
Ya know .. I’ve always wondered what effect they have had on arctic ice
===============================================================
Dean, it’s not the slush part……it’s breaking a huge seam all the way through it.
Just like when a floating end of a glacier, or any other floating sheet of ice breaks off.
That crack separates it and lets it drift away………….

Latitude

a new record low has been met, declaring record minimum Arctic extent was reached on Sept 8 at 4.24 million km2
==========================================================
This whole “science” is based on “average” “normal” “records” etc
…and the very people that claim it’s not normal, are allowed to define what is normal.
Different time frames, different measurements………all picked and chosen by the very people claiming it’s not normal.
Take that away from them, and whole science falls apart.

The less ice there is at the autumnal equinox, the less insulation there is on the Arctic Ocean when the long polar night falls, and the more the black ocean heat radiates into space. That sets the stage for more ice and colder polar currents next year.

Dave

Why do they continue to use a 1979 to 2000 Average?
Should we not be using a 1979-2010 Average on the graphs?
I am sure a 30 year aveage is more accurate and relevant than a 10 year old , 20 year average.
Basically, this all means nothing in the end. So we have a good 30 year account, but in the scheme of things it is still not enough to make any solid conclusions.

trbixler

Thank you Walt Meier for commenting here and Thank you Anthony for a fine web site and forum.
Terry

An Inquirer

Thanks to Mr. Walt Meier for his post — calm and factual, without cherry picking.

Robert Austin

The scientific methods of the U. of Bremen in determining the “record” low extent may be perfectly legitimate. So why the compulsion to sully it with such an execrable and unscientific press release? Have they no shame?

Ray

Strange how the deviation has increased since 2007 in the Cryosphere anomaly plot. It looks like the instability has increase compared to previous years.

RR Kampen
Richard

Even if (a big if) this seasons extent minimum barely avoids breaking `07s minimum, it`s still been a disastrous melt season for the Arctic. And if there was any old ice left at the beginning of the melt, it`s surely gone by now,,,or very close to being gone. I dread what next summer will do to the ice cap.

Doug Proctor

The Cryosphere graphs is the most telling. Whatever was happening post 1996 stopped in 2008 and we have been vacillating or hovering, awaiting a renewal or reversal since then. The analysis of what is likely to happen depends on understanding the slow drop to 1996 and then the sudden and sustained drop of ’96 – 2008.
Was the sudden drop the result of a thinning prior to ’96, with the thin ice suddenly breaking up or disappearing ’96 to 2008? If so, then are we seeing a consistent thinning of additional ice 2008 to 2011 that will suddenly disappear/break up and disappear now? I suspect the first and don’t suspect the second.
We will probably see a thickening of the main ice before we see an increase in extent: the first new ice will be thin and breakup easily, while extensions from thicker, more stable ice will take a year or two to show up, during which time the remaining ice will become thicker.
Prediction: thickening noted first, increase extent, later. Thickness in established, remaining areas is the key to watch.

Werner Brozek

“It seems to be clear that this is a further consequence of the man-made global warming with global consequences.”
I am not following the logic here. According to Lubos:
http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/09/rss-amsu-jan-aug-2011-second-coldest-in.html
“According to RSS AMSU, the first 8 months were the 2nd coldest January-August period in this century so far (second among 11 candidate years).”
Then how can the lowest or second lowest ice extent this year be blamed on global warming? As others have pointed out, there are other things that are more important than global warming here.

Tim Clark

I’ll drink to that. Honey, are we out of ice for my scotch?