Sea Ice Page Upgrades, Observations and Questions

National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) – click to view at source

By WUWT regular “Just The Facts”

In making a couple upgrades to the Sea Ice Page, I made a few observations, and a few questions arose.

Firstly, several weeks ago the following exchange occurred on a Sea Ice News thread:

Rod Everson says: August 4, 2012 at 7:48 am

Just a suggestion for a site improvement, Anthony. Could you put a map of the Arctic on the Sea Ice Page that indicates the various seas that make up the Arctic Ocean? I think that would be useful given the volume of traffic you get and the many times that various seas are referred to by name in the comments. I just spent several minutes Googling the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas and never did get to a map that had the full layout of both seas. Thanks for considering this. (And if it’s already on the site somewhere, could someone will post its location?–If it is on the site already, moving it to the Sea Ice Page, or duplicating it there would seem logical, by the way.)

[REPLY: I find this one helpful, myself. -REP]

As many of you know, WUWT moderator Robert Phelan, aka REP, passed away less than a week later. It is with honor and appreciation that I’ve added the map Bob suggested to the WUWT Sea Ice Page at the head of the Northern Regional Sea Ice section and tagged it accordingly. Thank you for your many contributions REP.

Secondly, I’ve added the following Northern Hemisphere Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly map;

National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Marine Modeling and Analysis Branch (MMAB) – Click the pic to view at source

to the Sea Ice Page and noted that there are some quite large Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in the Arctic at present. They appear to centered in four primary areas, the coasts of the Beaufort, Laptev and Kara Seas, as well as the middle of Baffin Bay. There are a multitude of potential explanations these anomalies, let’s take them individually.

1. There’s Less Sea Ice in these areas at present. Both Arctic Sea Ice Extent:

National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) – click to view at source

and Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area;

Cryosphere Today – Arctic Climate Research at the University of Illinois – Click the pic to view at source

are currently at their lowest points on the 34 year satellite record. Any areas that were partially or completely were covered with sea ice in prior years, and have now become ice free, would be more likely to have positive Sea Surface Temperature anomalies. It is not clear from the NOAA/ National Weather Service National Centers for Environmental Prediction Sea Surface Temperature website what the base period for the Real-Time Global (RTG) Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies show above is. Bob Tisdale notes that, “NOAA uses the base period of 1971-2000 for sea surface temperature anomalies for its ERSST.v3b and Reynolds OI.v2 data.” If you know what base period is used for the Real-Time Global (RTG) temperature anomalies, please post a link to it in comments below. Base period aside, viewing this Arctic Sea Ice animation;

it appears that most of the areas with large anomalies, were reasonably ice free during this time-frame in the majority of years of the 34 year satellite record, however there are places like the Kara Sea;

National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) – Click the pic to view at source

which appears bereft of Sea Ice this year. Per the animation above, sea ice clearly encroached much more into many of these areas in prior years, and thus the decrease in Arctic Sea Ice is likely a factor in the current large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies.

2.An “Unusually Strong Storm” that;

“formed off the coast of Alaska on August 5 and tracked into the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it slowly dissipated over the next several days.”

“Arctic storms such as this one can have a large impact on the sea ice, causing it to melt rapidly through many mechanisms, such as tearing off large swaths of ice and pushing them to warmer sites, churning the ice and making it slushier, or lifting warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean.

“‘It seems that this storm has detached a large chunk of ice from the main sea ice pack. This could lead to a more serious decay of the summertime ice cover than would have been the case otherwise, even perhaps leading to a new Arctic sea ice minimum,” said Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist with NASA Goddard. “Decades ago, a storm of the same magnitude would have been less likely to have as large an impact on the sea ice, because at that time the ice cover was thicker and more expansive.'” NASA

Interestingly, Beaufort Sea Ice Extent;

National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) – Click the pic to view at source

appears to have dropped precipitously between August 14th and 19th, and Chukchi Sea Ice Extent;

National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) – Click the pic to view at source

appears to have dropped precipitously between August 25th and 28th, both drops being the steepest in the very brief 5 year record. This lends some support to the potential influence of the storm. However, Beaufort Sea Ice Area;

Arctic Climate Research at the University of Illinois’ Cryosphere Today – Click the pic to view at source

and Chukchi Sea Ice Area;

Arctic Climate Research at the University of Illinois’ Cryosphere Today – Click the pic to view at source

appear to have experienced a reasonably precipitous summer decline each year of the prior decade, casting doubt on the degree influence of the 2012 storm on the precipitous declines it the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Regardless an “unusually strong storm” that was “tearing off large swaths of ice and pushing them to warmer sites, churning the ice and making it slushier, or lifting warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean” is likely a factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies we currently see.

3. Albedo Feedback is another possible factor in the large Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in the Arctic:

“Viewed in its simplest sense, initial warming will melt some of the Arctic’s highly reflective (high albedo) snow and ice cover, exposing darker underlying surfaces that readily absorb solar energy, leading to further warming and further retreat of snow and ice cover. This feedback can work in reverse whereby initial cooling leads to expansion of the Arctic’s snow and ice cover, leading to further whereby the loss of high albedo/solar energy reflective sea ice exposes low albedo/solar energy absorbing sea water.”

“However, as developed below, Arctic amplification as is presently understood has a suite of causes, operating on different temporal and spatial scales. Prominent among these are expansion or retreat of the Arctic sea ice cover altering vertical heat fluxes between the Arctic Ocean and the overlying atmosphere (Serreze et al., 2009; Screen and Simmonds, 2010a,b), changes in atmospheric and oceanic heat flux convergence (Hurrell, 1996; Graversen et al., 2008; Chylek et al., 2009; Yang et al., 2010), and changes in cloud cover and water vapor content that affect the downward longwave radiation flux (Francis and Hunter, 2006) arising from processes either within the Arctic or in response to alterations in atmospheric energy flux

convergence (Abbot et al., 2009; Graversen and Wang, 2009). Other studies point to impacts of soot on snow (Hansen and Nazarenko, 2004) and of heat absorbing black carbon aerosols in the atmosphere (Shindell and Faluvegi, 2009). Different processes can work together. For example, a change in atmospheric heat flux convergence that leads to warming may result in reduced sea ice extent that furthers the warming.” Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: A research synthesis – Mark C. Serreze and Roger G. Barry

Regardless of the other factors involved in Arctic Amplification, Albedo Feedback is likely a factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in the Arctic.

4. Anthropogenically Warmed River Discharge is another potential factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in the Arctic. For example, a portion of the Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly in the Beaufort Sea;

National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Marine Modeling and Analysis Branch (MMAB) – Click the pic to view at source

appears to be coincident with the Mackenzie River delta. A satellite image from June 13th, 2012;

shows tendrils of runoff from the Mackenzie River reaching out into the Beaufort Sea. It is possible that River Discharge from the Mackenzie River has been warmed by anthropogenic influences, e.g.;

“As of 2001, approximately 397,000 people lived in the Mackenzie River basin”

“the heaviest use of the watershed is in resource extraction – oil and gas in central Alberta, lumber in the Peace River headwaters, uranium in Saskatchewan, gold in the Great Slave Lake area and tungsten in the Yukon.”

“Although the entire main stem of the Mackenzie River is undammed, many of its tributaries and headwaters have been developed for hydroelectricity production, flood control and agricultural purposes.”

“The river discharges more than 325 cubic kilometres (78 cu mi) of water each year, accounting for roughly 11% of the total river flow into the Arctic Ocean. The Mackenzie’s outflow holds a major role in the local climate above the Arctic Ocean with large amounts of warmer fresh water mixing with the cold seawater.” Wikipedia – Mackenzie River

“Oil and gas development is already extensive in the basin, primarily in the Alberta and BC portions, and much more is expected in the future. For example, a proposal to develop the vast natural gas reserves that are found in the Mackenzie Delta is currently being evaluated. This will require the development of a pipeline along the Mackenzie, which will also facilitate development of gas resources in NWT (GNWT 2007). Perhaps the most significant current fossil energy development at this time is the oil sands (also known as the “tar sands”) in Alberta, near the City of Fort McMurray (Figure 1). An estimated 300 billion barrels of recoverable fossil energy is found in these deposits (MRBB 2003). Development is proceeding rapidly. At the end of 2009, four mines were in operation, with three additional mines approved or under development. In 2008, these projects were producing 1.3 million barrels/day. Production of 3 million barrels/day is expected by 2018, with 2030 production levels reaching 5 million barrels/day by 2030 (Holroyd and Simieritsch 2009; Government of Alberta 2010).”TRANSBOUNDARY WATER GOVERNANCE IN THE MACKENZIE RIVER BASIN, CANADA – Rob C. de Loë

It is also of note that;

“The Beaufort Sea contains major gas and petroleum reserves beneath the seabed, a continuation of proven reserves in the nearby Mackenzie River and North Slope.[12] The Beaufort Sea was first explored for sub-shelf hydrocarbons in the 1950s and estimated to contain about 250 km3 (60 cu mi) of oil and 300,000 km3 (72,000 cu mi) of natural gas under its coastal shelf. Offshore drilling began in 1972; about 70 wells were set up by 1980s[28] and 200 wells by 2000.[29]” Wikipedia – Beaufort Sea

In terms of the Laptev Sea

“The mighty Lena River, with its great delta, is the biggest river flowing into the Laptev Sea, and is the second largest river in the Russian Arctic after Yenisei. Other important rivers include the Khatanga, the Anabar, the Olenyok or Olenek, the Omoloy and the Yana.”

“The Laptev Sea is a major source of arctic sea ice. With an average outflow of 483,000 km2 per year over the period 1979–1995, it contributes more sea ice than the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, East Siberian Sea and Chukchi Sea combined. Over this period, the annual outflow fluctuated between 251,000 km2 in 1984–85 and 732,000 km2 in 1988–89. The sea exports substantial amounts of sea ice in all months but July, August and September.”

“Most of the river runoff (about 70% or 515 km3/year) is contributed by the Lena River. Other major contributions are from Khatanga (more than 100 km3), Olenyok (35 km3), Yana (>30 km3) and Anabar (20 km3), with other rivers contributing about 20 km3. Owing to the ice melting seasoning, About 90% of the annual runoff occurs between June and September with 35–40% in August alone, whereas January contributes only 5%.”

“The sea is characterized by the low water temperatures, which ranges from −1.8 °C (28.8 °F) in the north to −0.8 °C (30.6 °F) in the south-eastern parts. The medium water layer is warmer, up to 1.5 °С because it is fed by the warm Atlantic waters. It takes them 2.5–3 years to reach the Laptev Sea from their formation near Spitsbergen.[3] The deeper layer is colder at about −0.8 °С. In summer, the surface layer in the ice-free zones warms up by the sun up to 8–10 °С in the bays and 2–3 °С in the open sea, and remains close to 0 °С under ice. The water salinity is significantly affected by the thawing of ice and river runoff. The latter amounts to about 730 km3 and would form a 135 cm freshwater layer over the entire sea; it is the second largest in the world after the Kara sea. The salinity values vary in winter from 20–25‰ (parts per thousand) in the south-east to 34‰ in the northern parts of the sea; it decreases in summer to 5–10‰ and 30–32‰ respectively.”

“Sea currents form a cyclone consisting of the southward stream near Severnaya Zemlya which reaches the continental coast and flows along it from west to east. It is then amplified by the Lena River flow and diverts to the north and north-west toward the Arctic Ocean. A small part of the cyclone leaks through the Sannikov Strait to the East Siberian Sea. The cyclone has a speed of 2 cm/s which is decreasing toward the center. The center of the cyclone drifts with time that slightly alters the flow character.” Wikipedia – Laptev Sea

“Ye et al. (2003) and Yang et al. (2004) recently studied the effect of reservoir regulations in the Lena and Yenisei basins. They found that, for instance, because of a large dam in the Lena River basin, summer peak discharge in the Vului valley (a tributary in the west Lena basin) has been reduced by 10%–80%, and winter low flow has been increased by 7–120 times during the cold months. They also reported that, because of influences of large reservoirs, discharge records collected at the Lena and Yenisei basin outlets do not always represent natural changes and variations; they tend to underestimate the natural runoff trends in summer and overestimate the trends in both winter and fall seasons. Operations of large reservoirs may also affect annual flow regime particularly during and immediately after the dam construction (Ye et al. 2003; Yang et al. 2004).Discharge Characteristics and Changes over the Ob River Watershed in Siberia

In terms of the Kara Sea;

“The Ob and Yenisei Rivers in north-central Russia are among the larger rivers that drain into the Arctic Ocean, though past research suggested that they do not necessarily carry as much organic matter and sediment as other rivers. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite acquired this image of the rivers as they dumped tan sediments and dark brown dissolved organic material (DOM) into the Kara Sea on June 29, 2012.” River Outflow to the Kara Sea

The Yenisei;

“is the largest river system flowing to the Arctic Ocean. It is the central of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean (the other two being the Ob River and the Lena River).”

“The upper reaches, subject to rapids and flooding, pass through sparsely populated areas. The middle section is controlled by a series of massive hydroelectric dams fueling significant Russian primary industry. Partly built by gulag labor in Soviet times, industrial contamination remains a serious problem in an area hard to police. Moving on through sparsely-populated taiga, the Yenisei swells with numerous tributaries and finally reaches the Kara Sea in desolate tundra where it is icebound for more than half the year.”

Wikipedia – Yenisei River

“The Sayano–Shushenskaya Dam is located on the Yenisei River, near Sayanogorsk in Khakassia, Russia. It is the largest power plant in Russia and the sixth-largest hydroelectric plant in the world, by average power generation.”

Wikipedia – Sayano–Shushenskaya Dam

Another tributary, the Tuul passes through the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator while the Egiin Gol drains Lake Khövsgöl (500 km) downstream, where the 124 m (407 ft) dam built in the 1960s produces 4500 MW. The resultant reservoir is nicknamed Dragon Lake because of its outline. The tributary Oka and Iya rivers, which rise on the north slopes of the Eastern Sayan Mountains, form the ‘jaws’ and 400 km (250 mi) of the Angara forms the ‘tail’. There are newer dams almost as large at Ust-Ilimsk 250 km (155 mi) downstream (also damming the tributary Ilim river) and Boguchany a further 400 km (250 mi) downstream (not operational). Further dams are planned but the environmental consequences of completely taming the Angara are leading to protests which may prevent funding.

Angarsk, the center of the expanding Eastern Siberian oil industry and site of a huge Yukos-owned refinery, lies 50 km (31 mi) downstream of Irkutsk. A major pipeline takes oil west, and a new one is being built to carry oil east for supply to Japan from the Sea of Japan port of Nakhodka. The exact potential of Eastern Siberia is unknown, but two new major fields are the Kovyktinskoye field near Zhigalovo 200 km (125 mi) north of Irkutsk and the extremely remote Verkhnechonskoye field 500 km (310 mi) north of Irkutsk on the Central Siberian Plateau.Wikipedia – Yenisei River

The Ob is used mostly for irrigation, drinking water, hydroelectric energy, and fishing (the river hosts more than 50 species of fish).

The navigable waters within the Ob basin reach a total length of 9,300 miles (15,000 km). The importance of the Ob basin navigation for transportation was particularly great before the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway, since, despite the general south-to-north direction of the flow of Ob and most of its tributaries, the width of the Ob basin provided for (somewhat indirect) transportation in the east-west direction as well. Until the early 20th century, a particularly important western river port was Tyumen, located on the Tura River, a tributary of the Tobol.”

“The Trans-Siberian Railway, once completed, provided for more direct, year-round transportation in the east-west direction. But the Ob river system still remained important for connecting the huge expanses of Tyumen Oblast and Tomsk Oblast with the major cities along the Trans-Siberian route, such as Novosibirsk or Omsk. In the second half of the 20th century, construction of rail links to Labytnangi, Tobolsk, and the oil and gas cities of Surgut, and Nizhnevartovsk provided more railheads, but did not diminish the importance of the waterways for reaching places still not served by the rail.

A dam was built near Novosibirsk in 1956, which created the then-largest artificial lake in Siberia, called Novosibirsk Reservoir.”Wikipedia – Ob River

Lastly, in terms of Baffin Bay , it is an;

“arm of the North Atlantic Ocean with an area of 266,000 square miles (689,000 square km), extending southward from the Arctic for 900 miles (1,450 km) between the Greenland coast (east) and Baffin Island (west). The bay has a width varying between 70 and 400 miles (110 and 650 km). Davis Strait (south) leads from the bay to the Atlantic, whereas Nares Strait (north) leads to the Arctic Ocean. A pit at the bay’s centre, the Baffin Hollow, plunges to a depth of 7,000 feet (2,100 m), and the bay, although little exploited by humans because of its hostile environment, is of considerable interest to geologists studying the evolution of the North American continent.” Wikipedia – Ob River

The lack of apparent River Discharge and human influence on Baffin Bay Sea Surface Temperature aside, Anthropogenically Warmed River Runoff is likely a factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies seen along the coasts of the Beaufort, Laptev and Kara Seas.

5. Northern Polar Lower Troposphere Temperature Anomalies;

Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) – Microwave Sounding Units (MSU) – Click the pic to view at source

have increased by .343K/C per decade, and Lower Troposphere Temperature Anomalies appear to have been more than a degree K/C warmer than average for much of this year’s melt season. However, heat exchange between cold dense ocean water and a warmer much less dense atmosphere, would occur at slow pace, and it is inconceivable that a degree C or so anomaly in Atmospheric Temperatures could result in 6, 7 and 8 degree C Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies. With this said, increased Lower Troposphere Temperature Anomalies are likely a factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies.

6. Tundra Vegetation Feedback. Bhatt et al. “Circumpolar Arctic Tundra Vegetation Change Is Linked to Sea Ice Decline (2010)”;

“show that pronounced warming has occurred along Arctic coasts between 1982 and 2008. The terrestrial warming, argued as a response to removing the regional chilling effect of sea ice and expressed in terms of a summer warmth index, has had an impact on tundra vegetation as demonstrated by increasing values of the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). NDVI represents the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation absorbed by the plant canopy. There has been a 10–15% increase in maximum NDVI along the Beaufort Sea coast of northern Alaska where sea ice concentrations have strongly declined during 1982– 2008 (Fig. 10). Note that altered vegetation may itself contribute to Arctic warming through impacts on surface albedo and the sensible heat flux (Foley et al., 1994; Levis et al., 2000). Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: A research synthesis – Mark C. Serreze and Roger G. Barry

Tundra Vegetation Feedback, is likely a minor factor, if one at all, in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies, though interesting to think about.


Beyond the conjectures above, can anyone offer further factors that might explain the large Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies currently seen in the Arctic, as well as the precipitous declines in Sea Ice Extent that occurred the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas during August? Also, if you can offer any evidence that supports or refutes the possible factors posed above, please present them in comments below, preferably with links/data in support.

For more information visit the WUWT Sea Ice Page and other WUWT Reference Pages. If you have have any suggested additions or improvements to any of the WUWT Reference Pages, please let us know in comments below.


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

As I am posting from a new tablet, I don’t have my other links.
I believe you will get the point 🙂

Julian Flood

OIl spill spreading out from rivers will lead to anomalous warming. Does Arctic drilling match the big red spots?

Ed Caryl
Ulric Lyons

1) Negative NAO and AO will allow more exchange of Arctic air with mid/upper latitude air.
2) Lower troposphere N. Pole Ocean temperatures go highest when the monthly mid/upper latitude land surface temperatures are much lower than normal:

Another two storms are on their way. rain and wind coming.
You realize there is a feedback between more open water and more intense storms leading to more open water and more intense storms, leading to… well the sun thankfully sets eventually.
And Goddard can talk about ‘recovery’.

Steven Mosher says:
September 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm
This summer rapid melt of the Arctic sea ice.
Arctic explorers have noticed long time ago that storms by breaking and churning the sea ice turn it into slush, and at same time lift warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean, the sea ice will melt rapidly.
Now we only need to know why there was so unusually strong Arctic storm in the first 10 days of August, one of only half a dozen or so in the last 30 summers.
I assume some could say it is sign of global warming, CO2 etc, etc, etc.
Arctic gets another kind of storms, namely geomagnetic storms.
Take a look at top graph here
it shows that in March-August period this year cumulative strength of geomagnetic storms was about 30-40% stronger than in 2011. Single storm of a medium strength packs as much energy as M6 earthquake, but that is not all.
Another look at the graph shows that in 2011 geomagnetic storms energy was dissipated in the gentle shift of the Earth’s magnetic field, but from the mid March 2012 shift was minimal despite the stronger gm storms. Only a conducting substance could absorb the energy in form of heat and for some reason I suspect it was absorbed by the Arctic most saline section. Notably in addition to it the SST of the Arctic inflow is at peak (higher than in the previous years). We can only speculate if and why the additional energy may cause the ‘energy eruption’ to the surface and in doing so power the August Arctic storm, or if it was just a proverbial ‘flap of butterfly wings’
You may find copy in the RealClimate ‘Bore Hole’

can anyone offer further factors that might explain the large Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies currently seen in the Arctic….
Yes but will be in part two of something in the pipeline, but here is a preview:
Scroll down to the ‘polar amplification, but initial impressions may be misleading.


Beyond the conjectures above, can anyone offer further factors that might explain the large Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies currently seen in the Arctic, as well as the precipitous declines in Sea Ice Extent that occurred the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas during August?

Well certainly. There’s the increased release of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, such as CO2.


Increased use of icebreakers and even tourist boats.

Simple question; does anyone here think we might be in for a repeat of winter 2008?


If you look at the Danish sea-temperature map on the “Sea Ice Page,”
You see what appears to be a lot more “ice” between the Pole and the Bering Straights. Whether it is truly ice or not I can’t say, but it is sea water at minus two. Is that not the freezing point?
Perhaps it is slush, that was made by the storm pounding the heck out of those ice floes. Slushy water might appear like open water to one sort of sensor, yet like ice to another.
In any case, with the Danish graph of temperatures above 80 north now taking a dive, below the freezing point of salt water, the record-setting ice melt will give way to a record-setting refreeze. It also will likely start earlier, because it is starting further north.
So here is the headline: “Record-setting refreeze starts earlier than ever before!” Pretty good, eh? I’ll just have to remember I wrote that headline, when I see it, so I don’t panic and rush out and buy three times too much firewood.

A moment’s thought about hydroelectric development on arctic rivers leads one to recognize that discharge has changed from a springtime torrent of frigid meltwater to a steady stream of water from reservoirs where summer can be hot.
With the exception of the Yukon, all major rivers that drain into the arctic have substantial hydroelectric development in their basins, mostly from the 1950s to 1990s. A cynic, however, would not expect government scientists to let go of the CO2 voodoo, since government tends to be the dominant sponsor of hydroelectric development.


Quoting > justthefactswuwt says:
September 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm
The speculation that is made with respect to any understanding of how underwater volcanic activity impacts the arctic is purely that and only that. We don’t know how that energy works on currents or the stratification, let alone the low level frequency of smaller less visible (or invisible) incidents of such.
Thanks for you well done and researched blog and hard work too 🙂


My two cents:
Watching the “Northern Hemisphere Sea Surface Temperature” picture from the Danish Meteorological Institute, as well as the “Arctic Sea Surface Temperature” as given by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) – HYCOM Consortium for Data-Assimilative Ocean Modeling – as shown on the actual “Sea Ice reference Page” – make me think that the severe arctic storm in mid-August may have crushed the sea-surface ice for sure – but that this crushing MAY HAVE NOT LED TO ADDITIONAL MELTING, as is suggested by the NSIDC and others, but only HAS DISPERSED the Ice below the “Arctic Sea Ice Extent – 15% or Greater”-threshold, which by definition is the lower limit to call the Arctic Sea covered with ice at all.
Therefore, I believe that once re-freezing will set in we will, in fact, witness an “unprecedented” rate of growth in sea ice extend, because the arctic waters are still covered with gazillions of little rocks of ice, which only don’t show up on any picture or scan taken, because actually they are too dispersed for showing up under the current definition (and, probably, for plain technical reasons, too, because these rocks of ice are simply too small to show up on any visual picture or radar scan taken).
But I am convinced that that will change soon – and very rapidly. too.

Socratic says:
“Well certainly. There’s the increased release of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, such as CO2.”
OK, you made a conjecture. Now, show a direct connection between Arctic ice melt and anthropogenic CO2, per the scientific method: testable, and using raw data.
Otherwise, you have just expressed an opinion, nothing more.


@ Caleb
September 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm
I didn’d mean to infringe your copyrights, friend.
Yet, I read your comment only after I finished mine (see above).
Great minds etc.
Cheers from Germany!


The last time I looked, an ice-free Arctic served as the prelude for the next Ice Age.
Perhaps we should be less afraid of what’s now and be more afraid of what’s next…


Anthony that map is a brlliant addition. I’ve always had the same problem as Bob did.
Even though the Arctic ocean and the ice that floats on it is the number one subject for those interested in climate change, I’ve never seen such an informative map of that Ocean before. Well done you and well done Bob for leaving us a great legacy,
I would wager that most people in the world do not realse that the Arctic is an Ocean and it’s opposite number the Antarctic is a continent.

Those trying to make a connection between CO2 and Arctic ice melt have failed. Looking at a chart like this, either there was more ice melt in the 1940’s, or the current ice decline is due to factors such as wind, storms, and ocean currents.


Well that’s a lot of possibilities. Have you considered a wild theory in which ice melts when the temperature rises? And this rise in temperature is caused by increased heat transport from the large area of the tropics into the small area of the arctic. And that increased heat comes from subtle changes in the rate of heat transfer to space.
Otherwise certain mischief makers will continue to make elf jokes.


Volcanoes can produce thermal plumes more than 10000m high in air, perhaps 1000m in water is not impossible. A thermal map would be interesting.


Steven Mosher: “You realize there is a feedback between more open water and more intense storms leading to more open water and more intense storms, leading to… well the sun thankfully sets eventually.”
Ceteris paribus, natch. Out of curiosity I punked some values through Stefan-Boltzmann on the back of an envelope. The values used were the latitude of the arctic circle, axial tilt of the earth, the two solstices and the equinox condition. The albedos were taken only for water and sea ice as given on . By closest eyeball for the average reflectivity of water at incident angle and the midpoint (0,6) for sea ice.
Everything works out generally as one would expect; save the winter solstice on the arctic circle. Where with open water one gets an SB temp of ~30K, while for sea ice one gets a temp of ~50K. The difference owing wholly to the angle of incidence to water. As the albedo for ice remains 0.6, but water goes to ~0.95 due the angle of incidence (solar effective latitude) going to 89.9622 degrees.
This reversal of fortune is, of course, completely absent at 80 degrees Earth latitude. So we can state that there is a band of latitudes in which a lack of sea ice should have a demonstrable cooling effect due albedo differences alone. (And, of course, at certain points in the year). I haven’t bothered chasing the range of latitudes that matter in this respect of the duration of the year that such issues would be in effect. Nonetheless it is an interesting and confounding consequence of the axial tilt of the Earth.

LazyTeenager says:
September 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm
Well that’s a lot of possibilities. Have you considered a wild theory in which ice melts when the temperature rises? And this rise in temperature is caused by increased heat transport from the large area of the tropics into the small area of the arctic. And that increased heat comes from subtle changes in the rate of heat transfer to space.
Otherwise certain mischief makers will continue to make elf jokes.

Wouldn’t that second possibility require there to be 1) warming in the tropics…
2) Something getting warmer or AKA some method which heat is getting transported. (HINT > I realize you probably are referencing “things that do not exist” such as a tropospheric hot spot and/or warming oceans, but remember that these things do not exist.)
As for the first “Ice melts when temperature rises”…well yes duh!! But you haven’t told us how AGW is causing the arctic to get warmer. You have to explain how its doing this “Through AGW” and not natural mechanisms. In other words, its up to YOU to prove that what is happening is not natural. And that is the scientific method for ya.

The tilt of the earth has changed slightly from major earthquakes (Japan, New Zealand, etc). Has that tilt changed the jet stream enough to bring this storm in August?

I guess effect can precede cause, as I see I have pre-debunked your post @4:00 pm with my chart above.☺
Also, here is another nice Arctic map. Click on the yellow dots for current weather reports.

Also. the Alarmosphere is alight with talk that man has changed the thickness of ice in the Arctic which made is possible for this storm to break up the ice. I wonder if they got that idea studied, put into a paper, and peer reviewed before they started spreading it on the internet?

Steven Mosher [September 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm] says:
And Goddard can talk about ‘recovery’.

Strange concept that word, ‘recovery’. Especially if we have already ‘recovered’.
The AGW hoaxsters seem to desire a ‘recovery’ to the climate of the 1970’s (and failing that we should throw a few trillion dollars their way to help them facilitate it). That is a comforting thought, unless you actually remember the climate of the 1970’s.
But what if the 1970’s were in fact the anomaly (with respect to the long term mild warming since the LIA, and with the even longer term warming since the Holocene began)? Specifically, what if the cooler period of the 1960’s to 1970’s was a temporary ‘setback’ in mother nature’s grand plan of a warming interglacial? This is a perfectly logical hypothesis given our current knowledge of our position in time. And it allows for another inevitable cyclic but temporary setback in the next few years. We might even call this natural variation.
Fleshing it out further, it would logically follow that by the 1990’s we had already ‘recovered’ from the 1970’s, back to the slight warming trajectory we were on all along.
Clearly this would entirely screw up the sea-ice agenda by reminding everyone that the satellites began taking continuous measurements at the peak of this cool anomaly, and talk of a ‘recovery’ to 1979 sea-ice levels is really a complete inversion of reality.
Of course this would also mean that all of the fears spread by AGW hoaxsters are inverted, and that sea-ice minimums in the 4 to 5 mkm^2 might be the perfectly normal extent for the periods between the cool-downs.
All this speculation would be un-necessary of course if Mosher, Julienne, Serreze and Joe Romm would just tell us whether we are supposed to still be in the LIA today? Or are we supposed to still be in the 1970’s today? Or are we supposed to be exiting the Holocene today? So how about y’all just stop making us guess, and please, just cut to the chase.
P.S. all of the above is not my particular theory, it is only a rational fit for the few available facts we have. It is only a quick, imperfect description of natural variation. The AGW fanatics have the burden of proof the disprove natural variation. Before they can do that however, they need to know what the limits of our natural variation are. Hence the final questions. Also note that CO2 did not need to be mentioned at all.


Amino Acids in Meteorites;
I wonder if they got that idea studied, put into a paper, and peer reviewed before they started spreading it on the internet?
I hope they try and get a paper published pronto. It ought to come out just in time for them to have to explain the record fast recovery that I am betting we are going to see. All that open water isn’t going to warm much from insolation. It is September already, and the angle of the sun will increasingly ensure that, as Maus alluded to upthread, an albedo change that will favour cooling, not warming. But more importantly in my view, snow and ice are very good insulators. All that water exposed to the air is now going to radiate considerably more energy to space than it otherwise would have. Given the dynamics of open salt water, which requires that it be at freezing point from top to bottom before ice begins to form, that’s an awful lot of heat to give up that otherwise would have remained trapped under the ice. Once that process is done, I would expect very quick recovery.

LazyTeenager has pretty well nailed it. The rest of you are clutching at straws, and walking on thin ice, and don’t have a snowflakes chance in hell of being right.
But strangely, only LazyTeenager and Socratic are put under any pressure to justify him/herself. All other theories, such as more ice breakers, and an extension of the urban heat island effect to include rivers flowing into the arctic etc are allowed to pass unquestioned.
Actually, I’m being unfair, aren’t I? Someone did knock the undersea volcano theory on the head. But it is ony stunned, and will rise again for another try…

Well Blade.
“The AGW fanatics have the burden of proof the disprove natural variation”
Well, actually not. There is of course “variation”. The scientific question is how do you explain the variation. You dont explain it by calling it “natural”. That just names what needs to be explained. In a warming world we expect there to be less sea ice at the north pole, not more.
The world is warming, and well go figure we see less sea ice at the north pole.
The loss of ice is not proof of AGW. That is proved by basic physics. The interesting questions are:
1. How much of the warming we see is due to GHS?
2. What gross predictions can we make for the future.
To repeat. AGW as a theory is not “proved” by any one piece of evidence. It’s simple physics. If you add more GHGS the temperature will trend upwards over time, not downwards.
WRT to ICE. take a look at the siberian side of the arctic that melts out. In fact the russians thought they could open this passage in the 1950s. here is the data back to earlier times
Here is the russian data


Seven Mosher: “It’s simple physics. If you add more GHGS the temperature will trend upwards over time, not downwards. ”
That depends largely on how simple your physics are. For example there exist industrial heat pipe applications that use CO2 as the working fluid. If we analyzed such a heat pipe too simply then we would state that it is utterly retarded to expect a 100% GHG fluid to have any manner of cooling characteristic involved. But if we acknowledge currents in the fluid then we find that GHGs makes quite the handy agent for cooling a surface.
I would like to expect that someone, somewhere, has done the basic work on such trivial matters. But if they have I am certainly unaware of it.

John Brookes says:
“…strangely, only LazyTeenager and Socratic are put under any pressure to justify him/herself.”
See, John, it’s called “the scientific method.” Your side has made a conjecture [CO2=CAGW]. Therefore, the onus is on you to defend it.
But you have failed to provide verifiable, testable scientific evidence showing any connection between human emitted CO2 and Arctic ice loss. That failure very likely means that your conjecture is wrong. That’s how it works, and all the opinions in the world make no difference. Without any scientific evidence, your opinion stops at the conjecture stage. That’s where you are at. That’s where you have always been at.
• • •
Steven Mosher,
AGW is not a “theory”. It is not even a hypothesis, which must be testable. AGW is a simple conjecture. It may be true, or maybe not. And if true, it may be something that concerns us, or it may be such a minuscule effect that it should be disregarded, and the money spent on real problems. But with no scientific evidence to support it, you’re just speculating.
The one thing that warmists always ignore is the need for a cost/benefit analysis. Bandying about amounts like $trillions is pointless, without showing the exact damage that is being remedied. Where, exactly, is the damage or harm from anthropogenic CO2? I don’t see any. None at all.

No Maus. You can’t just label something a GHG and expect all its behaviour to flow from that label. You actually do have to do the physics, including all the effects that are substantial (like radiative absorption, thermodynamics, convection etc). And people have done. And they get results like, “If we double CO2 in the atmosphere average temperatures will rise by 2 – 4.5 degrees”.
And, rather unsurprisingly, in a warming world ice that is not permantly well below 0C melts. What has surprised just about everyone is how fast the melt is happening.

Kari Konkola

Tuning a satellite radar in such a way that it accurately detects ice is notoriously difficult, because the signal difference caused by a small amount of ice floating between clouds, possible rain and seawater is so small that separating it from background noise inevitably gets closer to art than science. This raises possibly serious questions about the accuracy of the radar-based data. To highlight this potential problem, you might add to the ice page a link — or even possibly a picture — of the ice map provided by the National Weather Service’s Alaska office: The Alaskan coastal map is based on satellite pictures and for years it has consistently reported significantly more ice than the radar-based maps.


RE: mogamboguru says:
September 2, 2012 at 3:36 pm
Glad to see I’m not the only one who noticed that. The fact we thought the same thing at the same time may be an example of what Mark Twain called “mental telegraphy.” (The word “telepathy” hadn’t been invented.) (Off topic, but read his two works, “mental telegraphy” and “mental telegraphy revisited,” if you want to see a pragmatic mind dealing with baffling coincidences.)
To get back on topic, the observation by “Just The Facts” about the ice-melt off shore from the MacKenzie River Delta was excellent. That ice melt really baffled me when it happened last June. Now it suddenly makes sense, especially when you realize the headwaters of that river were tucked south of the odd jet stream which ruled Canada last winter, and temperatures there were above normal. If warmer-than-normal water from a warmer-than-normal winter are flooding down a river in the spring, one would expect faster-than-normal ice melt at the river’s mouth.
That jet stream was exotic, for it had a split personality. Usually the jetstream is either zonal, and forms a tight circle around the pole that locks the cold up there, or it is very loopy due to blocking, and allows arctic outbreaks to pour south. However last winter it was zonal across northern Canada, but blocking formed a big loop over Eurasia.
The zonal flow explains why the cold stayed up over Alaska and didn’t come south, but the blocking over Eurasia allowed cold to freeze Europe right down to the Mediterranean coast.
Asia was very cold as well, which resulted in extra heating and extra soot, but guess what that loopy jet stream was doing to the west of Asia? It was looping back up to the north, transporting the soot right up to the arctic. Any soot that wasn’t dropped over the pristine snows immediately was then transported across the far north of Canada. There was no southward loop to bring the soot south into southern Canada or the United States. It headed straight east to Greenland. It would be interesting to see if Greenland got more soot than usual, in its snowcover, (which might partially explain it’s four-day-midsummer-meltdown, which such a hoop-la was made of, last July.)
I thought it might be interesting to compare the Mackenzie River with some Eurasian river that had it headwaters colder than normal, due to the exotic jet stream. So I looked at the Ob River, which drains into a long, thin estuary on the arctic coast. Sure enough, that estuary now has ice even in places where it is usually ice free. (The entire estuary was ice free in 2007.) Check out the Siberian coast on this map:
You will notice there are other estuaries along the Siberian coast which have above normal ice, even as the rest of the Arctic has below normal ice.
I rest my case.
Now, or course, some will state the exotic jet stream (and exotic ice-melt and exotic midsummer arctic storm) are all due to Global Warming. However I will point out the most exotic thing of all is the behavior of our sun, which is quieter than it has ever been since cycle five, roughly three hundred years ago.
Hold onto your hats.


One must remember that “the ice” was once land and sea ice, no?
I wonder how many millions of square miles of such existed in the near past on this planet?
Pictures can be worth a couple hundred million square miles of ice/words sometimes 🙂


justthefactswuwt: “What about Mosher? He’s clearly receiving and applying pressure. And in terms, LazyTeenager and Socratic, they put forth unsupported assertions, so yes, they were put under pressure to justify him/herself. This is how logical debate progresses.”
Yes, well. If they choose to shore up their argument then they also increase their social status. This, in turn, causes an increase in their sexual temperature and increases access to willing partners. It may simply be the case that any if their Anthropogenic Sexual Temperature becomes any hotter that it may cause a disruption of their domestic ecology. The monetary damage that follows from such a disruption may be significant enough to justify taking preventive measures by sequestering argumentation for an indeterminate period of time. Though, if this is the case, perhaps they will advocate for a cap and trade mechanism instead.


For the life of me I can’t see how open water in the arctic can make the planet warmer. As mentioned by others above, when the sun gets low on the horizon, water reflects better than ice does. Especially sooty ice.
Imagine if you will that you are on a beach, up to your knees in water, as the sun goes down. When the sun was high (higher than it ever gets in the arctic) you could see those beautiful golden wavers of light on the sand by your feet, but as the sun sinks you see those wavers get dimmer and dimmer, until they vanish, and your feet are in shade, even as the part of you above your knees is in sunlight. Furthermore, as you look towards the glittering sea under the setting sun you can feel the extra heat being bounced from the water, as if the sea was a reflector oven. You can see and feel that, as the sun goes down, water increasingly is a bad “absorber” and increasingly is a good “reflector” of solar energy. It becomes a negative feedback.
Then, once the sun is down, open water is much better at radiating heat to outer space than ice-covered water. In fact, if you want Global Warming, you want an igloo of ice holding the heat on our planet. Think of your own body. Would you stay warmer under an igloo of ice, or sleeping out under the starry arctic night?
Also, if you want the world warmer, the last thing you want is warm water transported to the poles, where six months of darkness can rob that water of its heat. However that is exactly what thermohaline circulation does, and thermohaline circulation is partially fueled by open water freezing over.
Somewhere above someone stated the Arctic Ocean is stratified. Wrong. A lot of water sinks. If it didn’t sink, the thermohaline circulation would have no place to start.
The same person suggested fresh water always floats above saltier water. Wrong again. The Gulf Stream’s water is so warm that, even though it is saltier due to evaporation in hot tropics, it floats above fresher water, because that fresher water is so much colder.
The northernmost memories of the Gulf Stream have a huge effect in the arctic. Old reports from fishermen describe having to seek the fish, who have vanished from the old fishing grounds, (along with the seals,) and pursued a shift in the currents. These reports go clear back to the 1800’s. The end of the Gulf Stream meanders, and when it meanders north you can bet the ice will melt faster.
However when that warmer and saltier water is exposed to sub-zero winds it gets colder, and then even saltier. It gets even saltier because when salt water freezes it rejects salt. (It sounds very biggotted and politically incorrect to me,) but freezing excludes salt from the floating ice, creating a cold brine under the ice which, (perhaps due to hurt feelings,) sinks to the depths, and isn’t seen for around a thousand years, when the other end of the thermohaline circulations appears as an upwelling at some distant place on the planet.
Now, as this water sinks it must be replaced at the surface. Where do the replacements come from? Often they come from the very end of the Gulf Stream.
In other words, the more open water you have freezing, the more created brine you have sinking, and the more water is drawn north to replace the water that sunk.
Talk about a negative feedback! It must be stopped, or it might become a vicious cycle. Rather than staying south, where it could warm Europe and do some good, more and more of the Gulf Stream will be sucked north and wasted melting the icecap and then radiating our planet’s precious supply of warmth into outer space.
Fortunately I can stop this vicious cycle and save the planet. However it will require money. Small bills, in a brown paper bag, if you please.

Keith G

Much has been said in this thread, but I say this: I hold these truths to be self-evident, that science is our best hope for freeing us from dogma, that the final arbiter of truth is experiment, and that all men have an inalienable right to investigate matters for themselves. If this is an ideology, then I choose to be wrong with Socrates rather than to be right with Plato.