Arctic sea ice in the Beaufort Gyre

From AGU: Beaufort Gyre sea ice thins in recent decades, impacts climate

The accumulation and melting of sea ice in the Arctic has an enormous impact on the local climate, which in turn can affect the global climate. As the climate warms and Arctic sea ice retreats, it has become crucial to understand the complex ice-atmosphere-ocean dynamics within the Arctic. One major component in this dynamic is the Beaufort Gyre (BG), a wind-driven sea ice circulation and freshwater reservoir in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea.

The BG is a notoriously dangerous area to observe because of its hostile conditions. Working around this, Krishfield et al. set out to investigate recent rapid sea ice decline in the BG, using data already collected between 2003 and 2012. The authors used data from moorings, ship-based surveys, and satellite radiometers to estimate ice thickness, which, when combined with satellite estimates of ice extent, can give an estimate of sea ice volume.

The authors find a net sea ice decline over the 9 years studied, with record minima of ice volume in 2007 and 2012. Freshwater export from this region during the last 3 years was also observed. These data indicate that an anticyclonic climate regime that has been persistent in the BG since the late 1990s may be weakening, which may lead to a relatively warmer and wetter climate locally, but could produce cooling in the North Atlantic.

The paper:

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, doi:10.1002/2013JC008999, 2014

Title: Deterioration of perennial sea ice in the Beaufort Gyre from 2003 to 2012 and its impact on the oceanic freshwater cycle

Authors: R. A. Krishfield and A. Proshutinsky: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA;

K. Tateyama: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Kitami Institute of Technology, Kitami, Hokkaido, Japan;

W. J. Williams, E. C. Carmack and F. A. McLaughlin: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Institute of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, British Columbia, Canada;

M.-L. Timmermans: Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

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Michael Wassil
May 7, 2014 12:12 am

Yeah, right. So what else is new?

May 7, 2014 12:22 am

Would “These data indicate that an anticyclonic climate regime that has been persistent in the BG since the late 1990s may be weakening” imply that the anticyclonic climate change regime may have been at least partially responsible for ice loss and that the weakening thereof may result in the re-accumulation of polar ice, especially given “but could produce cooling in the North Atlantic.”?

Charles Nelson
May 7, 2014 12:35 am

I only have two words to say on this subject.
Maurice Ewing.

Paul Martin
May 7, 2014 12:47 am

Nine years only? And they’re claiming record minima?

Joel O'Bryan
May 7, 2014 1:20 am

The 2013 and 2014 winter Arctic ice recovery makes the 2012 minimum less convincing that it is nothing but natural variation. The July 2013 ice levels were sharply up, comparable to 2009.
“The extent of multiyear ice within the Arctic Ocean is distinctly greater than it was at the beginning of last winter. During the summer of 2013, a larger fraction of first-year ice survived compared to recent years. This ice has now become second-year ice. Additionally, the predominant recirculation of the multiyear ice pack within the Beaufort Gyre this winter and a reduced transport of multiyear ice through Fram Strait maintained the multiyear ice extent throughout the winter.”
Turn off the alarms.

May 7, 2014 1:56 am

The data ends in 2012? How convenient.
Things have changed considerably. Gales in the summer of 2012 had a different effect from gales in the summer of 2013. In 2012 the churning caused considerable melting of ice, while in 2013 it did not. In 2012 one might conclude, “Storms create open water,” but after 2013 one has to conclude, “Storms SOMETIMES create open water.”
The weather and the climate have ways of forcing us to realize our conclusions have shortcomings. We are constantly challenged to become more aware of the amazing variety and subtlety of what governs changes.
In 2012 our friend Mr. Mosher might conclude something like this:
” Steven Mosher says:
September 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm
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’.”
Now, of course, because Mr. Mosher is a flexible thinker and not stiff-necked and stuck in his ways, he has likely has become humble and admitted his errors and apologized to Mr. Goddard…..(?)
In the same manner, the writers of the above study will modify their conclusions. However the problem with writing a paper is that, by the time the writers have dotted all their i’s and crossed all their t’s, the paper may be out of date. Even without political pressures to produce “policy papers,” people at universities need to poke their heads up from their rarefied mustiness, or they will be at risk of looking like they don’t know what they are talking about.

May 7, 2014 2:50 am

These Brave people worked around the danger.
Putting there very lives in danger for nine years.
To inform the world that if things do not change.
That they will remain the same as before.

Bloke down the pub
May 7, 2014 3:05 am

So the Arctic ice was being blown away, not melted away. Who knew?

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
May 7, 2014 3:06 am

Amazingly enough, the paper has an informative web page, for the “Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project” that spawned the paper, which has the links for the data and metadata, etc. Data was from September 2003 to August 2012.
It says four mooring locations were used, but as seen with the individual box plots at the bottom of the page, only location A had a continuous record for the period. For two significant chunks there was only two, A and one other. Pretty sparse data.
That they looked at sea ice volume was curious as that normally comes from the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center at the Applied Physics Laboratory (PSC, or APL/PSC), producers of the infamous PIOMAS Arctic Sea Ice Volume Anomaly model that is eternally set to predict the programmed inevitable disastrous disappearance of all the Arctic sea ice. And sure enough, the notation is made:

Data were processed and calibrated by R. Kirshfield., WHOI. Statistical summaries were computed from the 2-sec data by R. Lindsay, PSC

Seems strange that Ron Lindsay, of PIOMAS and PSC, didn’t make the author list. How much of a contribution guarantees a co-author credit, or is it all just politics and dealmaking?
But on the PIOMAS site, it says they’re now on ver 2.1. Release history dates it at Feb 7,2014.

We identified a programming error in a routine that interpolates ice concentration data prior to assimilation. The error only affected data from 2010-2013. These data have been reprocessed and are now available as version 2.1. Ice thickness is generally greater in the Beaufort Chukchi Sea area with the largest differences in thickness during May. Differences in ice volume are up to 11% greater in late spring.

With the lead time in writing and getting a paper approved before it’s published, if the paper uses PIOMAS data then it’s ver 2.0, not the latest. The paper studies the Beaufort Gyre, the Beaufort Chukchi Sea area data processing was erroneous in ver 2.0.
So is the paper using erroneous data generated by flawed programming?
I’m curious. To anyone who gets the full paper, is Lindsay and/or PSC mentioned in there at all?

May 7, 2014 3:28 am

It sounds like the paper would have been more accurate if the authors would have admitted they are studying local or regional weather. Nothing described in the abstract is ‘climate’: The time frame is too short, the are too small, the effects too lacking in context. But with Peter Gleick as ethics adviser, why should little things like accuracy be important?

Alan Robertson
May 7, 2014 4:51 am

kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
May 7, 2014 at 3:06 am

May 7, 2014 5:01 am

Canada looking ahead.
Canada funds 30-year plan to build icebreakers,

Bill Illis
May 7, 2014 5:48 am

I think this is the real story of the Arctic sea ice. It moves around and circulates much more than most people recognize. The multi-year ice has much more chance of surviving the melt season than any other ice. Where is the multi-year thicker ice being move around to.
The currents and winds are moving this ice around continuously. It just happens so slowly, we are not aware of it enough.
If it enters the Transpolar Drift and gets into the Fram Strait, it is doomed regardless of its age. The current here is continuously flushing sea ice out of the Arctic to melt on the eastern side of Greenland in the warmer north Atlantic. This current never ever stops.
But if the multi-year, thicker ice, instead gets moved into the Beaufort Gyre, it can survive here for another five years.
Depending on the general Arctic synoptics, the ice is either staying in the Gyre and the overall Arctic ice is building back up; or it is getting shifted into the Transpolar Drift and melting in the Fram Strait and the sea ice is slowly declining.
The circulation patterns are depicted here.
What’s happened in the last 8 years is that the Fram Strait export has become dominant. The Arctic has slowly lost more and more ice.
But last February, 2013, the Beaufort Gyre started back up again and it appears to becoming dominant once again. The ice is rebuilding. The current extent of multi-year ice, now far, far out into the Gyre.
Another image from Jaxa, where the thicker multi-year ice shows up as darker here. Its actually farther out into the Beaufort than the previous NSIDC image shows.
Watch this movie of the Beaufort Gyre starting back up last February 2013. It is still doing this.

Now watch this movie of the multi-year ice over the last 16 years. Clear enough that we have not been looking at the Arctic sea ice properly. Ice drift rather than temperatures. Building up or drawing down.

Mike Bromley the Kurd
May 7, 2014 7:26 am

“The BG is a notoriously dangerous area to observe because of its hostile conditions. ”
Well now, that makes you a big hero if you can go there and observe, I guess.

May 7, 2014 8:13 am

RE: Bill Illis says:
May 7, 2014 at 5:48 am
Thanks for the excellent summery, Bill.
I think the Beaufort Gyre ice-crack-up of February 2013 cooled the water a lot. If you look at the DMI graph you can see it was happening when air temperatures up there were at their coldest for the winter and below normal. Although the exposed water freezes over swiftly, a huge amount of heat is lost as it freezes, and also the stratification of water is disturbed during the brief time the water is exposed to gale-force winds.
To a lesser extent the cross-polar-flow of the past winter again led to lesser ice-crack-ups. You could see the “healed” cracks as areas of grey ice slicing across the white ice, in the satellite view as daylight returned.
Also, if you watch the ice on a daily basis you get the sense that the flow of the Beaufort Gyre and Transpolar Drift are generalities, and the ice is twisted and tormented as it is brought to a screaming halt and then shifted in an opposite direction. For example, the North Pole Camera crossed latitude 84 eleven times, last summer.
It seemed to me that a lot of ice which in past years was flushed south through Fram Strait was pushed towards Canada last summer, and this happened at times this past winter as well. My guess is that the fellows who really study this stuff will discover there is a change in winds and currents as the AMO shifts from warm to cold. We’ve never before had the instruments in place to see what actually occurs, and I think we are in for some neat surprises.

Climate Weenie
May 7, 2014 8:22 am

Clearly dynamics are important.
But I would think strengthening of the BG would promote multi-year ice
‘spinning around’ and so, accumulating instead of more readily being
flushed out the Fram Strait:

kent Blaker
May 7, 2014 8:33 am

Sea ice in the Arctic can only get so thick because of temperature. What gets it into the 4-5 meter thickness range is the wind and current.Compressing the ice actually reduces the Area, making it seem as though it has melted. This allows the con-artists of AGW to say that this reduction is proof of global warming. Because open water in the Arctic absorbs up to 90%of the sunlight falling on it the AGW proponents say the reduction of sea ice area is leading to more warming. Like any good con, it is what they leave out that is important. They give us the up to but leave out the average.They ignore what happens when the sun don’t shine. They leave out where this 90% is measured and when it is measured. (longest day at noon at the Arctic circle).

May 7, 2014 10:48 am

Before satellites the Soviets, US and Canada used ice islands the determine the movement. Ice islands are ice that broke off the northern tip of Ellesmere Island and would float around for years in the current. They set up research camps on the islands.

May 7, 2014 10:56 am

Let’s see what the AMO has to say about this… it plummets from multi-decade highs in a lengthy and irregular cycle. Oh I forgot, the AMO was supposed to be a constant assumption allowed for in the models.

May 7, 2014 10:58 am

‘Caleb says:
May 7, 2014 at 1:56 am
The data ends in 2012? How convenient.”
The paper was submitted in April 2013. So yes one would cut off data to the last full year.
Knock yourself out and update it.

May 7, 2014 11:02 am

“Now, of course, because Mr. Mosher is a flexible thinker and not stiff-necked and stuck in his ways, he has likely has become humble and admitted his errors and apologized to Mr. Goddard…..(?)”
Seeing as I was correct about the coming storm, seeing how WUWT folks denied there was a cyclone coming..
Seeing as Goddard is fraud and doesnt use his real name ( funny I have the mail from him
whining about hiding his real identity ).. I’d say you need to

May 7, 2014 12:11 pm

What idiot would use their real name with all the loons out there?
REPLY: are you suggesting I’m an idiot? Anthony

May 7, 2014 1:25 pm

ROTFL…no, just making fun of Mosh for trashing Steve…..
I forget, you’re watching!!!!

Lil Fella from OZ
May 7, 2014 1:43 pm

Now for a new survey to show the increase in polar bear numbers! Not! It is not a study of convenient numbers anymore, to support AGW!

May 7, 2014 4:37 pm

RE: Steven Mosher says:
May 7, 2014 at 11:02 am
I put that in to see if I could get a rise out of you, and it looks like you went for the bait.
First, I’ll say that I think that there is some truth in your 2012 assertion that “There is a feedback between more open water and more intense storms leading to more open water and more intense storms, leading to…” However like most of these meteorological cycles they are fueled by something of limited supply, and as the supply runs out they tend to run out of gas. In this particular example the “fuel” is warmer water underlying cooler water, so that a storm can churn up warmth that melts the ice. Once that underlying water is “used up,” the “fuel” for that cycle is used up.
Second, I’ll remind you the real ice-melting gale occurred in August, and the post of yours I quoted was dated September 2. The subsequent storms were much less dramatic, in terms of melting ice, partly because there wasn’t much ice left, but also because the water was churned and mixed and there wasn’t so much warmth available down below (and maybe even because the sun was getting so low the water was losing as much heat as it could gain.)
Third, your assertion “there is a feedback between more open water and more intense storms leading to more open water and more intense storms, leading to…” is not borne out by the effect of the gale that got cranking and moved up over the pole last August 5-9. (Dr. Ryan Maue saw it coming and here is his pre-storm map of the 66 hr low-level moisture feed; [please notice the moisture isn’t merely coming from open water]: )
Fourth, the simple fact that storm didn’t melt as much ice as expected forced everyone to sit up and take notice. I’ve read all sorts of explanations, however even if you take the simple view that the storm was merely “positioned wrong” you are amending your initial postulate, and allowing that a different feedback might exist, even if it is only a rare exception-to-the-rule.
I stand by my original statement, “The weather and the climate have ways of forcing us to realize our conclusions have shortcomings. We are constantly challenged to become more aware of the amazing variety and subtlety of what governs changes.”
By the way, while it is true polar lows like to suck up the moisture and relative mildness of open water, they also like to clash that air with the cold air over ice. I’ve often noticed polar lows like to run along the boundary between open water and ice-covered-water. Because the cold air is also a sort of “fuel” for such storms, you might want to consider altering your statement to read, “There is at times a feedback between more boundary-between-open-water-and-ice and longer-tracked-stronger-storms that smash up ice, which then may or may not melt.” Just a suggestion.

May 7, 2014 7:16 pm

Watch the geomagnetic field declination over the Arctic region evolve. Looks like the squeeze is on, compare 1910 to 2010. (use slider bar)
Also note the evolution of the “Line of zero declination (agonic lines)”

May 8, 2014 2:58 am

i found some pictures of the Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment (AIDJEX) base, established at 76º 20′ N 140º 50′ W on the Beaufort Sea north of Barrow, Alaska back in 1975. The first shows an Alaska International Airways C 130 Hercules and a USN R4-D (in civilian terms called DC-3) that have landed on solid spring ice, and the second shows the ice cracking up right under the feet of the scientists at the main base in September. (Amazingly, they just packed up and moved 40 miles away.)
The ice doesn’t seem all that different from how it is today.
I posted the pictures at the very bottom of my notes at

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