Claim: NSIDC, NASA Say Arctic Melt Season Lengthening, Ocean Rapidly Warming

Video follows.

dark blue river of ocean between two pale blue shores of ice,

An image mosaic of sea ice in the Canadian Basin, taken by Operation IceBridge’s Digital Mapping System on Mar. 28, 2014.Image Credit: Digital Mapping System/NASA Ames

The length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, and an earlier start to the melt season is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation in some places to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness, according to a new study by National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA researchers.

Arctic sea ice has been in sharp decline during the last four decades. The sea ice cover is shrinking and thinning, making scientists think an ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer might be reached this century. The seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past seven years.

“The Arctic is warming and this is causing the melt season to last longer,” said Julienne Stroeve, a senior scientist at NSIDC, Boulder and lead author of the new study, which has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. “The lengthening of the melt season is allowing for more of the sun’s energy to get stored in the ocean and increase ice melt during the summer, overall weakening the sea ice cover.”

To study the evolution of sea ice melt onset and freeze-up dates from 1979 to the present day, Stroeve’s team used passive microwave data from NASA’s Nimbus-7 Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer, and the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager and the Special Sensor Microwave Imager and Sounder carried onboard Defense Meteorological Satellite Program spacecraft.

When ice and snow begin to melt, the presence of water causes spikes in the microwave radiation that the snow grains emit, which these sensors can detect. Once the melt season is in full force, the microwave emissivity of the ice and snow stabilizes, and it doesn’t change again until the onset of the freezing season causes another set of spikes. Scientists can measure the changes in the ice’s microwave emissivity using a formula developed by Thorsten Markus, co-author of the paper and chief of the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Results show that although the melt season is lengthening at both ends, with an earlier melt onset in the spring and a later freeze-up in the fall, the predominant phenomenon extending the melting is the later start of the freeze season. Some areas, such as the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, are freezing up between six and 11 days later per decade. But while melt onset variations are smaller, the timing of the beginning of the melt season has a larger impact on the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the ocean, because its timing coincides with when the sun is higher and brighter in the Arctic sky.

Despite large regional variations in the beginning and end of the melt season, the Arctic melt season has lengthened on average by five days per decade from 1979 to 2013.

Still, weather makes the timing of the autumn freeze-up vary a lot from year to year.

“There is a trend for later freeze-up, but we can’t tell whether a particular year is going to have an earlier or later freeze-up,” Stroeve said. “There remains a lot of variability from year to year as to the exact timing of when the ice will reform, making it difficult for industry to plan when to stop operations in the Arctic.”

To measure changes in the amount of solar energy absorbed by the ice and ocean, the researchers looked at the evolution of sea surface temperatures and studied monthly surface albedo data (the amount of solar energy reflected by the ice and the ocean) together with the incoming solar radiation for the months of May through October. The albedo and sea surface temperature data the researchers used comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s polar-orbiting satellites.

They found that the ice pack and ocean waters are absorbing more and more sunlight due both to an earlier opening of the waters and a darkening of the sea ice. The sea ice cover is becoming less reflective because it now mostly consists of thinner, younger ice, which is less reflective than the older ice that previously dominated the ice pack. Also, the young ice is flatter, allowing the dark melt ponds that form at the early stages of the melt season are able to spread more widely, further lowering its albedo.

The researchers calculated the increase in solar radiation absorbed by the ice and ocean for the period ranging from 2007 to 2011, which in some areas of the Arctic Ocean exceed 300 to 400 megajoules per square meter, or the amount of energy needed to thin the ice by an additional 3.1 to 4.2 feet (97 to 130 centimeters).

The increases in surface ocean temperatures, combined with a warming Arctic atmosphere due to climate change, explain the delayed freeze up in the fall.

“If air and ocean temperatures are similar, the ocean is not going to lose heat to the atmosphere as fast as it would when the differences are greater,” said Linette Boisvert, co-author of the paper and a cryospheric scientist at Goddard. “In the last years, the upper ocean heat content is much higher than it used to be, so it’s going to take a longer time to cool off and for freeze up to begin.”

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

I tend to take research done by Ms. Stroeve with a grain of skepticism, since she allows her work to be aided by political activists at Greenpeace.

This photo was taken on 09/11/2012:

Stroeve_greenpeace

Source: Greenpeace

But politics aside, more importantly, no evidence seems to be visible in common sea ice graphs like this one. In fact, the melt season started later than usual this year, according to NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice Extent Graph.

They did some CYA for that:

“There is a trend for later freeze-up, but we can’t tell whether a particular year is going to have an earlier or later freeze-up,”

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

Granted, the report mentions it to be mostly a regional effect, While there likely is some truth in the report, what isn’t explored is whether the cause of this change is part of a natural cycle, a natural cycle enhanced by some AGW effects, or purely an artifact of AGW.

Their claim…

The increases in surface ocean temperatures, combined with a warming Arctic atmosphere due to climate change, explain the delayed freeze up in the fall.

…reads like something Greenpeace would write, providing no other possibility. One thing I tend to notice about Earthly geological and atmospheric processes is that they tend to act on timespans than exceed human lifetimes, sometimes being orders of magnitudes longer. In the case of Arctic sea ice, a record going back to 1979 is shorter than that and only represent a fraction of what may be a natural cycle. Making claims that they know exactly what the cause is might very well bite them in a few years or few decades.

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bwanajohn

“Some areas, such as the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, are freezing up between six and 11 days later per decade.”
Really? 4 decades x 6-11 days= 24 to 44day delay. Is it really freezing up a month later than 1979? That should be easy to verify.

Bryan A

Looking at the Sea Ice reference page, http://wattsupwiththat.com/reference-pages/sea-ice-page/
a quick study of the graphs indicates what appears to be a progression of the Arctic Max and Arctic Min dates rather than an extended melt season. The 1980’s average had the Arctic Ice Max corner turning at the end of February while the 2000’s average has it in early March. Now it appears to be almost 3 weeks later. Similarly there appears to be a progression for the Arctic Ice Min date. Has the time between the Arctic Ice Max Corner and Arctic Ice Min Corner been extended or has the date of turning simply progressed to later in the year?

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley

Saying the world is warming, is one thing. Saying it is because of man is another. However, an extension to that is saying that the drop in Arctic ice extent IS because of global warming. If (when) ice extent recovers then they have no explanation. This is ‘the stupidity’. It’s extremely unwise of any scientist to go along with a theory when facts don’t support it. I remember 10 years ago when we were told that we would see evidence of AGW at the poles and in the tropical troposphere. It’s only the Arctic that’s playing ball – so if I were a scientist I’d keep my mouth shut.

Why would they summate 4 years of solar radiation and present it as a single product? Are there no more seasonal changes in the Arctic? Have the Arctic Ocean currents ceased to flow in and out of the region?

Latitude

This same ‘data’ could be used to predict a coming ice age…..

Les Johnson

Based on ice minimum and maximum dates, my charts show only a 0.5 day/CENTURY increase in the melt season.
Both maximum date and minimum date are arriving earlier. 0.0401/year for minimum, and 0.0453/year for maximum.
http://oi62.tinypic.com/20uae79.jpg

If Stroeve had any integrity at all she would emphasize that snow and ice albedo feedbacks are much stronger in the cooling direction (causing them to descent do latitudes that cover much more land area reflecting away much more direct solar radiation) than in the warming direction. As always, it is global cooling that is the only real danger, as the whole world will realize soon enough, but idealogues like Stroeve are doing their best to cover it up.

Anthony-there is a definition of knowledge prevalent now in initiatives connected to a desire for transformational change that says knowledge is whatever mental model causes a person to take action. That’s is what we are running up against in these stories where the hype or model does not reflect reality. It’s simply designed to alter popular perceptions to provoke action.
IHDP, which that center in Boulder is connected to, is the most zealous advocate for this view of knowledge. They would regard you, me, and this blog as “exemplifying bounded rationality in environmental issues.” Instead, minors in creative writing for persuasive purposes seem to go hand in hand with a major in Earth System Science.

“regional effect”??? Maybe her fridge is on the fritz. Moving the microwave away from it might help her ice.

Matthew R Marler

The sea ice cover is shrinking and thinning, making scientists think an ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer might be reached this century.
At least they have stopped predicting it will occur by 2013. Is it still predicted for 2017?

David Corcoran

” Making claims that they know exactly what the cause is might very well bite them in a few years or few decades.”
The activists (researchers or not) are very glib about making predictions and being proved wrong; then making new ones. They rely on the the public not having a long memory. Usually they’re right. Otherwise folks like Paul Ehrlich would never get ink, and Dr. John Holdren wouldn’t have his current gig.

Tom in Denver

A quick look at the Southern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area shows an increase in sea ice since 1979. The global net change in sea ice is pretty much a wash. It’s hard to call this global warming when one hemisphere is showing sea ice growth and one is showing a reduction. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it “Hemispherical warming”

Jimbo

2013 melt season was the second shortest on the record apparently.
http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/second-slowest-peak-arctic-melt-season-record/
http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/arctic-melt-season-about-over-climate-alarmism-suffers-a-nuclear-meltdown/
Arctic in death spiral amplification mode.

Melt season ending – 17 September 2013
…As a whole, air temperatures this summer have been below average over most of the central Arctic Ocean and Greenland, helping to slow down ice melting. Compared to the 1981 to 2010 average, air temperatures at the 925 hPa level have been -0.5 to -2.0 degrees Celsius (-0.9 to -3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) below average over central Greenland, north of Greenland and towards the pole, and over the Canadian Archipelago. Unusually low temperatures are also noted over the East Siberian Sea, where ice cover has remained near average throughout the summer….
http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2013/09/4292/

Box of Rocks

This is just wrong.
Can anybody at NCR/UCAR/NSIDC do a simple energy balance?
Hello thermo 101.
Did they ever stop to consider that just maybe warmer water is flowing into the arctic?
Did they ever check the water goesinskis and the goesoutskis to see the imbalance?
Cause -> effect chicken or egg or egg before the chicken?
What an embarrassment to science.
Time to defund these quacks.

John Greenfraud

NASA simply pencil-whips ocean temperatures to match their global warming theory. No kidding.
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/OceanCooling/

Rob Ricket

As a regular visitor to the WUWT Sea Ice page and the Cryosphere Today website, I have noticed an interesting positive trend in sea ice coverage for the Arctic Ocean proper. There is some shrinkage below the Arctic Circle, but the area within the circle shows a pronounced increase in coverage, as evidenced by the darker purple shading when comparing current day of the year conditions to equivalent dates in previous years.
This link compares 04/01/14 to 04/01/79:
http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=03&fd=01&fy=1980&sm=03&sd=01&sy=2014
Inputting any number of dates will yield the same result and many of the 80’s dates will have what I call a “starburst” pattern of sparser coverage above Greenland.

SAMURAI

The Arctic Vortex Anomaly this year created the coldest US winter in 100 years, however, when this Arctic cold spilled across the US, Arctic temps suddenly rose about 15C above normal.
Accordingly, the Arctic Ice sheet this year is much thinner than normal so it’s guaranteed this summer’s Arctic Ice extent will be low and the melting season will be much faster than normal.
The CAGW zealots will, of course, play this year’s low Arctic Ice extent to the hilt and blame it rising on CO2 and will conveniently “forget” that it was the unusual Arctic Vortex pattern that actually caused the record cold US winter and the thin Arctic Ice..
CAGW zealots are so predictable…

Jimbo

Matthew R Marler says:
April 1, 2014 at 10:33 am
……………
At least they have stopped predicting it will occur by 2013. Is it still predicted for 2017?

I don’t know about 2017 but I do know about 2015 and 2015. Here is your man and our next target for ridicule.

Guardian – 17 September 2012
Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years
“This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates”.
—————————–
Financial Times Magazine – 2 August 2013
“It could even be this year or next year but not later than 2015 there won’t be any ice in the Arctic in the summer,”

Marcos

Notice how they stop at 2011.

Jimbo

Correction
“I don’t know about 2017 but I do know about 2015 and 2016. “

Mr Green Genes

Les Johnson says:
April 1, 2014 at 10:26 am

Totally agree. My charts look just like yours! It would appear that Ms Stroeve is guilty of a terminological inexactitude ((c) Sir Winston Churchill).

Don Easterbrook

Let’s not forget that the satellite record only goes back to 1979 and took place entirely in the 1978-1998 warm period. We know from weather records in Greenland that the 1930s were warmer than the recent warming and we know that the Medieval Warm Period was about a degree warmer than present. That means that Arctic sea ice was undoubtedly less extensive during the ~1915 to 1945 warm period, recovered during the 1945 to 1977 cool period, and has receded during the 1978 to 1998 warm period. There is reasonable evidence that the Chinese crossed the Arctic during the Medieval Warm Period when Arctic sea ice was significantly lower. Global climate has cooled during the past decade and as it continues we may expect to see some recovery of Arctic ice.
The bothersome thing about articles like this is that they imply that we’re on a one-way track and that this has never happened before, when in fact, it’s happened over and over throughout geologic time. It’s not a one-way street!

Resourceguy

All of this science and policy travesty stems from the convenient dismissal of multi-decadal ocean temp cycles as, 1) not important or 2) recognized but with a constant factor for a variable and not well-understood macro cycle. Add in the same treatment for that fusion fireball in the sky and you get the picture. It’s really about money and power and the long way around to get there after defeat of the cap and trade redistribution of wealth law initiative. The proponents never really gave up, they just changed tactics to a long series of nags and distortions. The best places to facilitate that process are at detached universities and federal agencies with directives to concoct and distort.

Jim Cripwell

I think you have made good points, Anthony. Surely this is the time to have a good scientific discussion as to what the science really indicates. I know you have invited people like Walt Meirer in the past to post on WUWT. I hope we can all promise to give Julienne Stroeve a warm and polite welcome if she were to post here.
Could you invite her to respond to what I feel are your very reasonable comments on her paper?

DirkH

Jim Cripwell says:
April 1, 2014 at 10:50 am
“I hope we can all promise to give Julienne Stroeve a warm and polite welcome if she were to post here.”
I’ll ask her about her Greenpeace connection.

Chuck L
Ossqss

Yeah, nothing ever happened before the satellite era. Sheez.

ConfusedPhoton

If you listen carefully, you can hear the Arctic ice scream. Well, perhaps it is my stomach rumbling. Doesn’t make much difference to a climate “scientist” since we are all doomed and they need more money.

TheLastDemocrat

Laugh all you want. You won’t be laughing when I finally kayak to the North Pole this summer. The real North Pole. Then, we’ll see whose laughing.

JimS

I wonder what the Arctic sea ice extent was 125,000 years during the height of the Eemian interglacial period? Given that the global temperature at that time was about 3 C warmer than it is now, I wonder if the Arctic sea ice even existed.

off topic, this came up elsewhere, the claim that this site is funded by the heartland institute? it is true the startup funding came from them please? i stated before asking it was NOT was i correct?

Magma

I see SAMURAI is getting an early head start on moving the goalposts.
And remember to scream Recovery! in September 2015 if 2014 and 2015 don’t set consecutive record lows.

Magma

Oops. Missed a / inside a bracket. A clear sign I must be involved with the IPCC.

I’m not sure if they are interpreting those observed spikes correctly and how accurately they are able to time them. I observe an inflection in the rates of freeze/thaw cycles curve in 2007. The rates are faster after 2007 than before. It would be interesting to plot a time series of multy-year ice.

Magma

Here’s the link to the Stroeve paper, which is open access (you know, part of the cunning master plan).
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013GL058951/abstract

aaron

What type of energy is released when water vapor condenses? Deposates? Water freezes? Is it light? Are there specific wavelengths?

Ron Clutz

Just for comparison MASIE showed day 73 as this year’s maximum. They include satellite imagery and operational data along with microwave sensor results, so the amount of ice extent is different. Usually the numbers are close at the annual maximums, but MASIE will show much more ice than the others in the summer.
I can also observe that since the max on March 14, MASIE shows increases in ice extent in the Central Arctic and Barents Sea, offset by losses in Baffin-Gulf of St. Lawrence, Bering Sea and Baltic Sea.
For comparison for previous years, MASIE shows these NH ice extent Maxes:
2014 15.52 MKm2 March 14
2013 15.64 Feb. 28
2012 16.10 March 04
2011 15.38 March 18
2010 15.92 March 14
2009 15.91 March 08
2008 16.04 March 24
2007 15.81 March 15
Don’t see any trend toward earlier maxes.

Jimbo

Wasn’t there enough time to include 2013? Maybe 2013 would have messed up their nice, neat story line.

Latitude

What is amazing is they keep promoting their linear trends..
…and consistently making themselves look like fools

The increases in surface ocean temperatures…
Hadsst3 is flat since November 2000 or for 13 years and 4 months.
http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadsst3gl/from:2000.8/plot/hadsst3gl/from:2000.8/trend

Bill Illis

Are they using the real dates of Max and Min here or are they just repeating what they believe?

Craig C

The polar ice melts when the sun comes up, freezes when it goes down. How much remains depends on wind and currents. 35 years is not anywhere near enough time to discern climatic patterns, not even enough to predict weather.

DD More

The seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past seven years.
Got directed to this posting recently
Who Dares to Deny Arctic Warming? June 17th, 2013 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
His observations of warming in the Arctic, which he described as not localized, but universal, are taken from his book entitled Arctic Ice. I have excerpted several pertinent passages, which I’m sure will convince you that warming of the Arctic can scarcely be denied:
Goes on to list 8 findings about the warming, but be sure to read to the end and get the twist.
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2013/06/who-dares-to-deny-arctic-warming/

rogerknights

Bill Taylor says:
April 1, 2014 at 11:12 am
off topic, this came up elsewhere, the claim that this site is funded by the heartland institute? it is true the startup funding came from them please? i stated before asking it was NOT was i correct?

In order to get a response from Anthony, you must use his name in a comment. I’ve done so now for you. Here’s some background on the probable source of the claim:
Watts isn’t paid for his blogging. A Heartland document describes a request he made last year for funding for a different project:

James D wrote on WUWT: “Anthony Watts proposes to create a new Web site devoted to accessing the new temperature data from NOAA’s web site and converting them into easy-to-understand graphs that can be easily found and understood by weathermen and the general interested public. Watts has deep expertise in Web site design generally and is well-known and highly regarded by weathermen and meteorologists everywhere. The new site will be promoted heavily at WattsUpwithThat.com. Heartland has agreed to help Anthony raise $88,000 for the project in 2011. The Anonymous Donor has already pledged $44,000. We’ll seek to raise the balance.”

Watts later reported on the progress of this project:

“Using the funds provided with the help of Heartland’s private donor, I hired a specialist programmer familiar with NOAA systems to trap and convert the NOAA sat feed data to look like any other hourly station (like ASOS hourly stations at airports etc) so that we’d be able to start the visualization and comparison process. This is just one phase of the project before it is ready for public consumption. When finished, there will be a website free and open to the public that will allow tracking and visualization of temperatures from the CRN right alongside that of the regular surface network”

See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/07/an-update-on-my-climate-reference-network-visualization-project/

sunderlandsteve

Arctic sea ice has been in sharp decline during the last four decades. The sea ice cover is shrinking and thinning, making scientists think an ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer might be reached this century
Haven’t a few of these “ice free summers”date predictions already been and gone? They appear to have moved the goalposts by 85 years!

TY, for the response , i was certain that THIS site was not funded by them and that is CORRECT, again ty.

We reported on this issue in
http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/temporal-trends-in-arctic-and-antarctic-sea-ice-maximum-and-minimum-areal-extents/
Among our findings up to 2008 were
“The time of occurrence of the maximum and minimum sea ice coverage in the Arctic showed slight trends towards occurring earlier in the year, although not significant. In the Southern Hemisphere, the trends were smaller and also not significant, but the time of ice maximum was becoming later, contrary to the other three trends.”
It would be useful for this study to be extended to the present.

Veritas

Les Johnson says:
April 1, 2014 at 10:26 am
Based on ice minimum and maximum dates, my charts show only a 0.5 day/CENTURY increase in the melt season.
Both maximum date and minimum date are arriving earlier. 0.0401/year for minimum, and 0.0453/year for maximum.
http://oi62.tinypic.com/20uae79.jpg

There you go again, using FACTS instead of model results. That’s no way to become a climate scientist.

On the sea ice/lack of sea ice feedback, it is more complex than is commonly presented since a loss of sea ice in the summer actually results in less heat going into the atmosphere even though more is entering the climate system (the ocean). We discuss this in our article
Pielke, R.A., 2001: Earth system modeling — An integrated assessment tool for environmental studies. In: Present and Future of Modeling Global Environmental Change: Toward Integrated Modeling, T. Matsuno and H. Kida, Eds., Terra Scientific Publishing Company, Tokyo, Japan, 311-337.
http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/cb-35.pdf
where we wrote
“…complicated feedbacks between the sea ice and adjacent land masses … can occur….the RAMS model (Liston and Pielke, 2000) was integrated for the warm season of the year with assimilated observed sea ice and with the ice removed. ….the near surface air temperatures are actually warmer over the Arctic Ocean (by over 1°C in large areas) when the sea ice absorbs solar radiation and transfers some of this energy as sensible heat back into the atmosphere. Without the sea ice, while the Earth system gains heat through the reduction of reflected solar insolation, the atmosphere is cooler on this time scale. This difference in surface temperature is communicated into the troposphere and could result in a weaker arctic frontal region when sea ice is present, than if it were absent.”

TY Anthony, i defended the site without even asking because i know you are an HONEST person seeking the truth via this site.