Hamster wheels and sea ice explained

From the University of Calgary Utoday:

Melting Arctic ice cap at record low – By Heath McCoy

Think of a poor hamster on a spinning wheel, caught up by momentum and unable to stop until it’s overwhelmed, sent tumbling, crashing out of control inside.

That’s the analogy John Yackel, head of the department of geography, makes when he considers the annual summer ice melt in the Arctic, which he’s been closely monitoring for the past 15 years – documenting the ice cover as it’s steadily shrunk in the wake of Arctic and global warming.

Thoughts of imminent crashes seem particularly ominous this year as last week marked the unofficial peak, or the end of the summer ice melt, with ice levels more dramatically diminished than at any time since satellite monitoring began 33 years ago.

The previous record low for Arctic sea ice extent, set on Sept. 18, 2007 with a 4.17-million sq.-km. ice cap, was already shattered by the end of August this year when it had melted to below 4-million sq. km.

“This is the smallest minimum ice extent we’ve ever had, and not just in the satellite record, but probably in the last million years,” says Yackel, a sea ice geophysicist and climatologist.

From the patterns he has observed, this year’s extreme melt could be the beginning of a frightening trend.

Yackel and the university-based Cryosphere Climate Research Group use satellite technology to research the physical properties of Arctic ice. As recently as the 1980s, most of the ice in the Arctic Ocean was “multi-year ice,” – thick ice that would remain throughout the summer. At that time, the split between multi-year ice and seasonal ice – ice that would melt away in the summer – was about 80 per cent multi-year and 20 per cent seasonal.

“In the last 20 years we’ve almost gotten to the point where we’ve reversed that ratio,” Yackel says, predicting the ice extent that covers the Arctic Ocean “is likely to be gone in the summers within the next 20 to 25 years, if not sooner.”

The depleting ice cover would have serious ramifications for the planet. Arctic ice acts as a reflector of sunlight, helping regulate the Earth’s temperature, cooling the climate.

“When there’s no longer that sea ice below the air mass and it’s just open ocean, that’s when more moisture off the ocean’s surface gets into the atmosphere and the water vapor in the atmosphere makes for more violent storms,” says Yackel.

“We can also expect to see an increase in storm frequency and storm intensity for most of the world’s populated places as the Arctic and Earth continues to warm.”

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Truthseeker

“From the University of Calgary Utoday:”
I am not when “Utoday” is …

Truthseeker

That is meant to be … “I am not sure when “Utoday” is …

screwypuppy

Uhm, increased storms? I remember after Katrina hit that the predictions were that the following year would be the worst and strongest hurricane season we had ever seen.
If I am not mistaken, the following year we had ZERO hurricanes make land fall in the US. And again, if I am not mistaken, the reason was the ocean was too cool to make a powerful storm.
So, if we have a lot of ice melt-off, might the oceans be cooler and we will end up with less violent storms? And with the cooler oceans the climate might cool and then we will have less melt-off next year?
Then again I am guessing. And then again, I think a lot of climatologists are too. ( Blog owner exempt from that comment )

Graphite

Do hamsters on spinning wheels get caught up by momentum, become unable to stop until they’re overwhelmed and are sent tumbling, crashing out of control inside?
I’d have thought they’d just run out of puff, slow down until they regain their breath then kick on again. Either that or die of a heart attack.
And maybe effort should be put into producing better wheels . . . some sort of braking system and paw rails would be a start.

“In the last million years.” A comment that is so wrong it removes all credibility. One million years includes three previous interglacials and the last 5,000 years of the Holocene Optimum all of which were markedly warmer than today.

pat

Sheesh. Another CAGW without the slightest evidence. I mean nothing. This guy is screaming for headlines, but has about as much news as the Penny Saver.

David Jones

From the UToday website;
“Yackel, a sea ice geophysicist and climatologist.”
Is that the climate equivalent of an “Astrologist.” i.e. One who studies Astrology?

P. Solar

“From the patterns he has observed, this year’s extreme melt could be the beginning of a frightening trend.”
Well if these outstanding acedemics would look at all the data and not just one day of the year they may find out what is REALLY happening in the Arctic:
http://i50.tinypic.com/24enw2c.png
They are willfully ignoring the fact that maximum ice cover has almost got back to 30y average. If you look at all year average it is undeniable that the “catastrophic” melting ended in 2007.
None so blind as those who will not see.

John Trigge (in Oz)

“When there’s no longer that sea ice below the air mass and it’s just open ocean, that’s when more moisture off the ocean’s surface gets into the atmosphere and the water vapor in the atmosphere makes for more violent storms,” says Yackel.
As the Earth’s surface is 70% water (around 361 sq Km), why is it so dramatic that the Arctic being ice free will make so much difference? The Arctic ice changes around 9M sq km so seems pretty small compared to the persistent, always evaporating, 350M sq Km remaining.

Günther

Excellent explanation. Losing the Arctic sea ice cover will most probably have consequences for weather patterns and the carbon cycle. Anyone who knows meteorology can see this.
The question is: will we see a turnaround? And where will it come from?
And if we don’t: what then?

Chris B

“This is the smallest minimum ice extent we’ve ever had, and not just in the satellite record, but probably in the last million years,”
Why not make it a couple hundred million while he’s at it? More than 33 years ago is a bit of a crap shoot anywho.

Graeme No.3

Truthseeker says:
It’s not when, it’s where Utoday is. From the claims that the Earth is still warming and that there is less Arctic ice than for the last million years, you can be sure it’s “somewhere over the rainbow” or in NeverNeverLand. Whichever one is inhabited by Algore, Mike, Lew the loony and assorted others.
P.S. Atlantis is another possibility.

The ‘melting’ Arctic Ice Scare must be one of the few remaining Catastrophes that can be viably pushed, so they can all be seen behind it, pushing hard. The fact that the reduction in area was due to severe wind and not temperature must never be mentioned.

Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme, Recite the meme……..Man, this is exhausting.

SasjaL

Think of a poor hamster on a spinning wheel, caught up by momentum and unable to stop until it’s overwhelmed, sent tumbling, crashing out of control inside.

A good descripton of the AGW hysteria …

Günther, what on earth are you on about? Are you wringing your hands with the glee of alarmism?

With professors like Yackel the University of Calgary has no chance of becoming one of Canada’s top five research Universities (their aim by 2016). It is hoped at some his students can see through his poor quality research and lack of understanding.

Richard111

Anyone notice how many submarines surfaced at the North Pole this summer? Just curious. Will any oil drilling rigs be left in situ for this winter?

Thomas U.

Again and again and again – the same scare, the same story: Further warming (“runaway, per chance?) because less ice around the north-pole ice reflects less sunlight. Has the good professor ever heard of the reflecting properties of water, particularly in respect of the angle at which the sunlight hits the north pole? Has he ever considered the insulating capabilities of ice, perhaps thought of designing one of these wonderful and ever so accurate climate models which includes the reduced insulation? I am really tired of this never ending doomesday propaganda.
“We can also expect this doomesday cult to linger on until the funding countries are finally bancrupt. There is a high probability that this event, bancrupcy, will occur before the “great global warming catastrophy” happens.
A very nice day to all of you. Autumn has begun in the northern hemisphere, temperatures are falling accordingly.

Mark and two Cats

“This is the smallest minimum ice extent we’ve ever had, and not just in the satellite record, but probably in the last million years,”…
———————————————————-
“Probably” – now there’s some hard science terminology.
“From the patterns he has observed, this year’s extreme melt could be the beginning of a frightening trend”.
———————————————————-
That’s what the Greens are hoping for. They WANT disaster.

He is not joking? A real McCoy?

Brian Johnson uk
Chris B

Tiny Tim’s Global Sea Ice prediction circa 1960’s.

The old seadog.

Almost 200 years ago , the UK Admiralty was saying much the same thing…..

EternalOptimist

Think of a healthy hamster on a spinning wheel, caught up by momentum but using negative feedback to slow it down and regain his balance, then positive feedbacks to speed up again.
That is a stable system, with feedbacks , that runs in a cycle.

Coldish

“This is the smallest minimum ice extent…probably in the last million years,” Why do Yackel and McCoy jettison credibility by making this bizarre and unfounded claim?

Thor

@Graphite: Brilliant!!!!
“And maybe effort should be put into producing better wheels . . . some sort of braking system and paw rails would be a start.”
You are absolutely right. Yackel’s article really highlights the fundamental importance of a properly designed hamster wheel. Like yourself, I too am deeply concerned about the safety and well being of hamsters.

Robert Wykoff

I’m not quite sure how to calculate this, but I’m sure it’s been done by somebody. My extreme gut feeling is that an ice free arctic will transfer orders of magnitude more heat from the ocean to space over the time it is ice free than it will receive in insolation.

Terry

“is likely to be gone in the summers within the next 20 to 25 years, if not sooner.” I seem to remember hearing this exact same statement about 20 years ago. Some one will confirm or correct me if Im wrong

P. Solar

I just sent the following email to Prof Yackel. I’ll post if he replies.
Dear Professor,
I read your comments reported in the Utoday article.
“In the last 20 years we’ve almost gotten to the point where we’ve reversed that ratio,” Yackel says, predicting the ice extent that covers the Arctic Ocean “is likely to be gone in the summers within the next 20 to 25 years, if not sooner.”
You would seem to base this opinion on study of the ice coverage minima. While this is interesting , it may be deceptive if taken to be representative of Arctic climate.
There has been a notable change in the behaviour of ice coverage since 2007 as can be seen in the anomaly graph provided by Cryosphere Today:
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.anomaly.arctic.png
Note that the maxima are near to the 30y average, the key feature of this period is the notably increased swing of the annual cycle. This is very likely a consequence of the prevalence of thin ice that you comment on. In such a context, considering only the minima will give a very misleading impression of the state of ice cover, no more representative than only considering the maxima and concluding ice coverage was back to “normal”.
I would draw your attention to the other 364 days of each year. Considering the daily ice extent and applying a 6m or 12m gaussian filter we see a better indication of what is happening:
data sourse:
http://nsidc.org/data/nsidc-0051.html
filtered daily ice extent:
http://i50.tinypic.com/24enw2c.png
It would appear that there has been a regime change since 2007. The alarming plunge, far from continuing “worse than we thought” , stopped in 2007.
The article states ” he considers the annual summer ice melt in the Arctic, which he’s been closely monitoring for the past 15 years – documenting the ice cover as it’s steadily shrunk in the wake of Arctic and global warming.”
Do you think your prediction that ice extent “is likely to be gone in the summers within the next 20 to 25 years, if not sooner” is consistent with the change in behaviour since 2007?
That would seem more consistent with the pre-2007 drop which you are suggesting will continue unabated. That would seem contrary to the evidence of the last 5 years.
Have you ever looked the whole years data as presented here?

Katherine

“This is the smallest minimum ice extent we’ve ever had, and not just in the satellite record, but probably in the last million years,” says Yackel, a sea ice geophysicist and climatologist.
Uh-huh. Yeah, right. That tells me how much credence to give his statements, which is none at all.

oldseadog

The old seadog:
Not to mention the Chinese fleet which is alleged to have sailed round the north of Canada in one summer when the Vikings were there.

Tez

Do you think someone should tell him that the antarctic sea ice is currently over 1 000 000km2 greater than the last 30 year average. And probably at its greatest extent for at least a thousand years, no I mean a million years. This could mark the start of a terrifying trend.
Its a Doctor Yakel and Mr Hyde phenomenon.

P. Solar

SasjaL says:
September 26, 2012 at 12:12 am
>>
Think of a poor hamster on a spinning wheel, caught up by momentum and unable to stop until it’s overwhelmed, sent tumbling, crashing out of control inside.
A good descripton of the AGW hysteria …
>>
Al Gore … hamster… ? Yeah, could explain the chubby cheeks he’s been developing.

Otter

We raise hamsters for local pet shops. And Yes, some of them do run in the wheels until they crash. And sometimes, while they are running, others jump in and hold for dear life, going around and around and around… we’ve even seen one or two running, and another one or two just tumbling head over tail, on the same wheel.
They do it constantly enough that we’re pretty sure they are just having fun.
Now, she can figure they would cheerfully destroy the planet to keep on running, or she can find a more intelligent analogy.

P. Solar

Who is Heath McCoy anyway ? From the University web site:
Heath McCoy
Communications Advisor
+1 (403) 220-5089
Craigie Hall Block D 113
hjmccoy@ucalgary.ca
McCoy, Heath
hjmccoy@ucalgary.ca
In: Arts
An arts student (to judge by the address) and “communications advisor” adding his own “frightening trend” to Yackel’s “million years” climate bullshit.

Ian W

This is not science – any scientist who writes a paper that includes the term ‘frightening’ is not a scientist. Then to cap it by being carried away with excitement saying perhaps that this was the smallest in a million years when the northern ice melt in Greenland is only just showing the remains of arable farms on Greenland from the medieval warm period.
The next question is why the lack of ice should be so disconcerting for them.We are at the cooler end of the Holocene. It would appear that when the Arctic was last melted the Sahara was a lush pasture with domesticated animals being kept. See http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/low-no-ice-arctic-5000-bc/ . Would the greening of the Sahara be seen as a bad thing?
These ‘scientists’ have seen an extremely brief snapshot of a process made up of multiple cycles and start panicking without even bothering to check history.

oldseadog

Thor and Graphite:
The backup power system at The Falkirk Wheel (look it up) is alleged to consist of a herd (flock? clutch? warren? I dunno..) of hamsters (794 at the last count ten minutes ago) which, when the main power fails, are put into the central tube. They have been highly trained and all run in the same direction to bring the gondolas back to the docking position.
They are all very well looked after, have the best veterinarian attention and have a state guaranteed pension available.
Well, it makes as much sense as the stuff from the geographer at the top of the story. Maybe he should talk to his history department.
(Sorry, Mods; delete if you like.)
[Reply: No site Policy issues, so no deletion. We moderate with a light touch here. — mod.]

Telboy

Are you sure it shouldn’t be Professor Yaffle? As UK readers are more likely to know Professor Yaffle was a wooden woodpecker in the children’s programme “Bagpuss” given to unlikely explanations for events; need I say more?

Coldish

Compare this example from Paul Homewood’s blog of a real scientist (Jørgen Steffensen from the Univ of Copenhagen) doing real science on Arctic paleoclimate: http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/we-live-in-the-coldest-period-of-the-last-10-000-years/

P. Solar

Otter says: They do it constantly enough that we’re pretty sure they are just having fun.
SasjaL says: A good descripton of the AGW hysteria …
evidence is mounting that AGW alarmists display the same behavioural patterns as hamsters.

Olsthro

It’s seems curious to me that ” global warming” has minimal effect on Antarctic ice cover. In fact nearly ninety percent of global ice is in the antarctic. Not sure about the last million years but it appears that during the more recent satellite era Antarctic ice has been increasing?

mwhite

“Giant ‘hamster wheel’ Irish Sea challenge”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-19543541
“A Wiltshire engineer is planning to walk non-stop across the Irish Sea in a giant hamster wheel.”

dave

myself i think it’s the opposite.. with less ice there is more chance of heat being able to leave the ocean .. no insulation .. plus how much sun does the artic get 6 months max ? then you have all the extra cloud cover from the melted ice reflecting more sun …
buy your thermals now while there cheap ..

Ulric Lyons

“As recently as the 1980s, most of the ice in the Arctic Ocean was “multi-year ice,” – thick ice that would remain throughout the summer. At that time, the split between multi-year ice and seasonal ice – ice that would melt away in the summer – was about 80 per cent multi-year and 20 per cent seasonal.”
It looks about 50/50 in the 1980’s: http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/seaice/extent/Sea_Ice_Extent_L.png

Garethman

IN the UK we have just had the heaviest 24 hours of rainfall for 30 years. This is in addition to a wet cold summer and cold winters, the 4th year in a row. It may be all coincidental, but it’s looking suspicious that the ice has dramatically declined in the same period.

Garethman

While Arctic ice has been more or less in place for millions of years, it is generally accepted that episodes of considerably reduced sea ice or even seasonally ice-free conditions occurred during warmer periods linked to orbital variations. The last low-ice event related to orbital forcing (high insolation) was in the early Holocene. For a detailed review on the history of Arctic ice this paper which is not paywalled is well worth reading
http://bprc.osu.edu/geo/publications/polyak_etal_seaice_QSR_10.pdf

beesaman

Taking this analogy further, eventually the hamster will get off the wheel as it will run out of energy. The open water could possibly allow for more of the Arctic halocline to be turned over and for it to lose energy. This in turn could allow for greater sea ice recovery, so more work for the hamster to do next year. The hamster only gets so much energy from the sun and ocean cycles, this year it got an extra push, just before it got off, via an Arctic cyclone. That last tasty treat may not come along next year…

Roy

The old seadog. says:
September 26, 2012 at 12:49 am
Almost 200 years ago , the UK Admiralty was saying much the same thing…..
Yes, but with one important difference. Although they seem to have thought that the warming trend they had observed would continue (it didn’t) they did not try to extrapolate too far into the future or the remote past. The people in the Royal Navy who speculated about trends in ice coverage of the Arctic Ocean did not overestimate their knowledge in the way that some climate scientists do today.

Kasuha

He got hamster wheels physics completely wrong. How can I trust him about Arctic?