Introducing The WUWT Beaufort Sea Ice Reference Page – With Observations

Guest Post by WUWT Regular “Just The Facts”

With Arctic Sea Ice minimum rapidly approaching, we are pleased to introduce the WUWT Beaufort Sea Ice Page. Beaufort Sea Ice has been an important factor in the recent recovery in Arctic Sea Ice from the record low Arctic Sea Ice Area minimum that occurred in 2012. “In October 2013, CryoSat measured about 9000 cubic km of sea ice – a notable increase compared to 6000 cubic km in October 2012.” “The volume of ice measured” was “about 50% higher compared to” 2012 and “about 90% of the increase is due to growth of multiyear ice – which survives through more than one summer without melting”. “Thick, multiyear ice indicates healthy Arctic sea-ice cover.” ESA

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

In the graph above, you can see the large drop that occurred in Beaufort Sea Ice Extent during 2012 minimum, and in the graph below, you can see that thus far in 2014 Beaufort Sea Ice Area has experienced its smallest decline since 2005:

Cryosphere Today – University of Illinois – Polar Research Group – Click the pic to view at source

The reason that Beaufort Sea Ice is more resilient this year compared to 2012, is that the Sea Ice that remains in the Beaufort Sea is thicker this year:

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) – HYCOM Consortium for Data-Assimilative Ocean Modeling – Click the pic to view at source

2 – 3 meter thick multi-year sea ice is much more resilient to breakup and melting than meter thick first year ice. If you watch this 30 day Sea Ice Thickness Nowcast/Forecast animation;

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) – HYCOM Consortium for Data-Assimilative Ocean Modeling – Click the pic to view at source

you can see that while multi-year ice certainly isn’t impervious to break up and melting, e.g. from strong storms , it is certainly holding its own against the natural forces illustrated in this Lead Area Opening Rate Nowcast/Forecast animation:

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) – HYCOM Consortium for Data-Assimilative Ocean Modeling – Click the pic to view at source

So what does thicker sea ice imply for the putative Arctic Death Spiral? Well Neven, a recovering Sea Ice Melt Enthusiast, recently noted that:

“Last month I wrote:

If this keeps up until the minimum, the 2014 melting season will have been excellent for restoring some of the ice lost since the first big volume drop in 2007.

And it has kept up. The difference with the post-2010 years and 2007 has increased a little bit more, and sea ice volume levels according to PIOMAS are effectively at the same level they were in 2009. In short, an astounding rebound. It was always clear that the Arctic could be very volatile, but this swing is huge and shows what two consecutive melting seasons with conditions that are relatively good for ice retention (2013 was cold and cloudy, 2014 cold and cloudy at the start, followed by little movement) can mean for the ice pack.”

“Last year’s rebound had all but disappeard at the start of this year’s melting season, but with the minimum just around the corner, this year’s even larger rebound is bound to have consequences for at least the next melting season, as the current level is comparable to that of 2009. It took some very large volume drops after 2009 for the 2012 melting season to drop off the cliff so spectacularly.” Arctic Sea Ice Blog

Seems that we may be safe from death spirals for at least a few years… One other observation on Beaufort Sea Ice. Last year we discussed how Mackenzie River discharge into the Beaufort Sea can influence Sea Ice, and that it might have an anthropogenic component because:

“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

Earlier this year our understanding of the influence Mackenzie River discharge on Sea Ice was singifacantly improved by this paper, “Effects of Mackenzie River discharge and bathymetry on sea ice in the Beaufort Sea”, Nghiem, et al. 2014, i.e.:

Mackenzie River discharge and bathymetry effects on sea ice in the Beaufort Sea are examined in 2012 when Arctic sea ice extent hit a record low. Satellite-derived sea surface temperature revealed warmer waters closer to river mouths. By 5 July 2012, Mackenzie warm waters occupied most of an open water area about 316,000 km2. Surface temperature in a common open water area increased by 6.5°C between 14 June and 5 July 2012, before and after the river waters broke through a recurrent landfast ice barrier formed over the shallow seafloor offshore the Mackenzie Delta. In 2012, melting by warm river waters was especially effective when the strong Beaufort Gyre fragmented sea ice into unconsolidated floes. The Mackenzie and other large rivers can transport an enormous amount of heat across immense continental watersheds into the Arctic Ocean, constituting a stark contrast to the Antarctic that has no such rivers to affect sea ice.

This supported the findings of an earlier paper “The influence of river discharge on the thawing of sea ice, Mackenzie River Delta: albedo and temperature analyses” Dean et al. 1994; i.e.:

Multi-temporal satellite images, field observations and field measurements were used to investigate the mechanisms by which sea ice melts offshore from the Mackenzie River Delta. Satellite data recorded between April and August 1986 were corrected to a map projection and calibrated such that albedo and temperature values could be compared. Three stages in the melting of sea ice were identified: flooding (overflows), insolation and melting by warm river water. The albedo values of overflows were as much as 1/7 that of ice values while the albedo of ice decreased by 1/3 over the summer. Approximately two weeks after the overflows develop, sea surface temperatures rise as the river-discharge peaks and becomes the dominant source of energy. By this process, ice removal in the delta regime is initiated two months earlier than adjacent coasts with minimal runoff. However, the net result is only a two-week acceleration of ice removal in the delta region.

This NASA article about Nghiem, et al. 2014 summarized their findings as follows:

“The team analyzed data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite to examine sea ice patterns and sea surface temperatures in the Beaufort Sea. They observed that on June 14, 2012, a stretch of landfast sea ice (sea ice that is stuck to the coastline) formed a barrier that held the river discharge close to its delta. After the river water broke through the ice barrier, sometime between June 14 and July 5, the team saw that the average surface temperature of the area of open water increased by 11.7 degrees Fahrenheit (6.5 degrees Celsius).

“When the Mackenzie River’s water is held back behind the sea ice barrier, it accumulates and gets warmer later in the summer,” said Nghiem. “So when it breaks through the barrier, it’s like a strong surge, unleashing warmer waters into the Arctic Ocean that are very effective at melting sea ice. Without this ice barrier, the warm river waters would trickle out little by little, and there would be more time for the heat to dissipate to the atmosphere and to the cooler, deeper ocean.”

“If you have an ice cube and drop a few water droplets on it, you’re not going to see rapid melt,” said co-author Dorothy Hall of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “But if you pour a pitcher of warm water on the ice cube, it will appear to get smaller before your eyes. When warm river water surges onto sea ice, the ice melts rapidly.”

Nghiem’s team has linked this sea ice barrier, which forms recurrently and persistently in this area, to the physical characteristics of the shallow ocean continental shelf, and concludes the seafloor plays a role in delaying river discharge by holding the barrier in place along the shore of the Mackenzie delta.

The team estimated the heating power carried by the discharge of the 72 rivers in North America, Europe and Asia that flow into the Arctic Ocean. Based on published research of their average annual river discharge, and assuming an average summer river water temperature of around 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), they calculated that the rivers are carrying as much heat into the Arctic Ocean each year as all of the electric energy used by the state of California in 50 years at today’s consumption rate.”

In the Nowcast/Forecast animation below you can see the warm water emanating from the Mackenzie River delta here:

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) – HYCOM Consortium for Data-Assimilative Ocean Modeling – Click the pic to view at source

All of the graphs, graphics and animations above, along with an array of others, can be found on the new WUWT Beaufort Sea Ice Page. In addition to the WUWT Beaufort Sea Ice Page if you have not had the opportunity to review our other Reference Pages they are highly recommended:

Please note that WUWT cannot vouch for the accuracy of the data within the Reference Pages, as WUWT is simply an aggregator. All of the data is linked from third party sources. If you have doubts about the accuracy of any of the graphs on the WUWT Reference Pages, or have any suggested additions or improvements to any of the pages, please let us know in comments below.

43 thoughts on “Introducing The WUWT Beaufort Sea Ice Reference Page – With Observations

    • Neither. It is in the pull down menu under the header: Sea Ice Page >Beaufort Sea Ice Reference Page bookmark that page.

      • Anthony,
        A lot of clarity would be gained if it was explained to readers that the 2012 minimum was in fact a weather [Arctic cyclone] driven anomaly -something that has been acknowledged by all agencies that track developments in the Arctic – a statistical outlier not representative of the post 2007 upward trend in the Arctic ice minima.
        Remove 2012 from the stats/graph, and it becomes quite evident that 2007 was the actual turning point with more ice at the yearly minimum every year after.
        In terms of “boots on the ground” observations, a friend of mine is the master of one of Canada’s ice breakers up there right now, and he reports considerably more multi year ice.

  1. Uh oh, you used the “r” word right off the bat–recovery. That word is considered profanity by the faithful CAGWers, particularly at Neven’s blog. They still insist on refusing to call it a recovery. Speaking of Neven’s blog, it seems the only meltdown happening this year is over at his blog. He’s done a great job of holding it together, but it’s clear that several of his patrons are rather on edge.
    IIRC, back in 2010 the stated reason that there had been “no recovery” was that PIOMAS modeled volume was still lower than 2007 and we couldn’t have a recovery until then. Now that we’re above 2007 by that metric, it appears that the goalposts have changed. I wasn’t sure what the change was going to be to, but looking at a recent comment on Neven’s blog, it appears that area/extent/PIOMAS all have to reach pre-2000 levels before it’s a recovery. Good to know what it is now.

    • I’m not keen on the word “recovery” either. The reason is that, to the extent that warmer temperatures are associated with less sea ice, the word conveys the wrong feeling : undesirable increase in sea ice is given an emotionally positive name. I know that year-to-year variation is driven mainly by winds and currents, but temperatures do take effect over longer periods. The worst thing that Earth’s climate can do to us is to get colder, so we really do need a more appropriate word. Perhaps “encroachment”?

      • I see your point here, but I view this in a similar manner to our use of the “Pause”. “Recovery” does convey an erroneous positive inference about expanding sea ice coverage, but for our target audience, i.e. Arctic Sea Ice death spiral believers, the Arctic Sea Ice Recovery has the desired message and effect. Once we put a fork in death spiral meme, as the Pause seems to have successfully done with the rapid global warming meme, then we can have a more informed debate about what “normal” and ideal Arctic Sea Ice minimums might be.

    • Yes, quite intentionally. Neven is avoiding using “recovery” and rather referring to it as “an astounding rebound” and ” restoring some of the ice lost since the first big volume drop in 2007″. I wouldn’t say that Arctic Sea Ice has completely recovered yet, but it is a certainly recovering.

    • Is that ‘rapid ice loss’ a total of Just ice loss, or does it account for ice and snow accumulation in the interior?

  2. Will be monitoring this page daily many thanks WUWT.
    Coalface info for cooling scenario especially now that PDO has turned to cool phase giving possible multiplier effect to new Solar Minimum.
    I believe the warm Atmospheric River from the Pacific had an effect on Arctic Ice.

  3. The latest in a series of valuable contributions from “Just the Facts”. Thanks to all concerned for putting this stuff together.

    • +1
      extremely valuable data source.
      The way things are going, if the ‘pause’/’plateau’ conitnues for the next decade (as many predict, even some on the warmist’s side), it is likely that the Arctic will be the last battle of our times.

    • Yes, this is a very interesting graph:
      [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) – click to view at source[/caption]
      Taken in conjunction with Atmospheric Oscillations and Wind;
      these two factors would seem to explain a reasonable portion of the recent decline in Arctic Sea ice. Atmospheric Oscillations and Wind seem to be primarily responsible for the loss in multi-year sea ice, i.e.:
      This 2004 Science Daily article, ”Winds, Ice Motion Root Cause Of Decline In Sea Ice, Not Warmer Temperatures” states that,

      “extreme changes in the Arctic Oscillation in the early 1990s — and not warmer temperatures of recent years — are largely responsible for declines in how much sea ice covers the Arctic Ocean, with near record lows having been observed during the last three years, University of Washington researchers say.”

      In this 2007 NASA article “NASA Examines Arctic Sea Ice Changes Leading to Record Low in 2007“;

      “Son V. Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that “the rapid decline in winter perennial ice the past two years was caused by unusual winds. “Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic,” he said. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters.”
      “The winds causing this trend in ice reduction were set up by an unusual pattern of atmospheric pressure that began at the beginning of this century,” Nghiem said.”

      The associated 2007 paper “Rapid reduction of Arctic perennial sea ice” by Nghiem, Rigor, Perovich, Clemente-Colo, Weatherly and Neumann, found that;

      “Perennial-ice extent loss in March within the DM domain was noticeable after the 1960s, and the loss became more rapid in the 2000s when QSCAT observations were available to verify the model results. QSCAT data also revealed mechanisms contributing to the perennial-ice extent loss: ice compression toward the western Arctic, ice loading into the Transpolar Drift (TD) together with an acceleration of the TD carrying excessive ice out of Fram Strait, and ice export to Baffin Bay.”

      This 2011 paper “Recent wind driven high sea ice export in the Fram Strait contributes to Arctic sea ice decline”  by L. H. Smedsrud, et al.;

      “used “geostrophic winds derived from reanalysis data to calculate the Fram Strait ice area export back to 1957, finding that the sea ice area export recently is about 25% larger than during the 1960’s.”

      With less multi-year sea ice in the Arctic due to increased transport through the Fram Strait, the remaining first year sea ice would be more vulnerable to the effects of increased warm river discharge, storms, soot, ice breakers, and various other potential influences.

      • The focus on the Mackenzie River is a most fascinating part of a fascinating post. Thank you, Justthefacts.
        I recently became interested in what influences the Laptev Sea, which involved researching the Lena River. From my armchair I journeyed to Siberia, and learned some fascinating stuff. One thing was that for half the year the snows up in the headwaters don’t melt, and because of that the flow of the river is reduced. Of the yearly total only 3% comes downstream in January. Because the flow is reduced to a relative trickle, at times it stops, for the river can freeze right to its bottom, forming a temporary ice-dam.
        As summer comes on the situation is reversed, though at first the snow up at the headwaters merely softens without actually thawing. However temperatures in Siberia can vary from winter lows of minus-seventy to summer heat over a hundred. In July the melt gets going, at first to the south, and the water comes north in a flood. By August the flood is amazing. Of the yearly total 40% can come downstream in August. The level of the river can rise sixty feet in places.
        In other words, all that summer-warmed water gushes into the Laptev Sea all at once. This creates a freshwater “lens” atop the Sea that does not exist in January.
        This just creates another year-to-year variable to keep in mind, when contemplating chaos and wondering at the order that manifests amidst it all.
        (By the way, the Laptev Sea is a net “exporter” of ice. It may export more ice than any other arctic “sea.” One reason it was so ice-free this summer was because last winter it was very busy creating and exporting ice. Other years it exports far less. That is yet another variable. )

      • In 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

  4. On that first animated graphic, it’s interesting to watch the fracture waves move across the ice and reflect.

  5. The 30 day Sea Ice Thickness animation is fascinating, but the final 6 days’ worth are for next week. So I guess it’s a model-driven hindcast-forecast display, and not hard observation data. Suggest it be labelled accordingly.

    • Yes, the Nowcast/Forecast animation label appears on the reference page lables, but not on two of the animations in this article. As such, I’ve added “Nowcast/Forecast” in two locations within the article to avoid confusion. Thank you.

  6. Some areas that appear “ice-free” on the maps actually have scattered ice, but it is at levels below some cut-off point (15%?) that they use.
    When winds turn to the north this scattered ice is blown south, until it hits Alaska and can go no further. At that point it can build up to levels above 15%, and you suddenly have ice appearing on the coast of Alaska on the maps, even when temperatures are above freezing.
    The Barrow webcam often shows ice when the map makes the coast appear “ice-free.”

  7. What’s really happened in the last two years (since February 2013) is that the Beaufort Gyre has become dominant again in the Arctic after several years of the Transpolar Drift being dominant and exporting much of the multi-year, thicker ice out of the Fram Strait to melt in the warmer north Atlantic.
    Watch the Gyre and the multi-year ice getting flushed out the Fram by the Transpolar Drift over the period 1987-2013.

    And then see how the Beaufort Gyre restarted in February 2013. The ice melt enthusiasts made much of this circulation calling it “Crackopalypse” but it was really the Gyre starting up again. It has been dominant in the Arctic ever since and there has been very little export of sea ice out the Fram Strait this year. In the Beaufort, the multi-year ice can still melt-out in the summer, but it has a much greater chance of making it through the season.

    I imagine there can be several years at a time where the Beaufort Gyre is dominant and the Arctic sea ice then slowly builds up again (2013-2014). And there can be years when the Transpolar Drift is more dominant and the sea ice declines (2005-2012). It just depends on the prevailing weather synoptics rather than global warming.

  8. It is really weird how modern ‘climate scientists’ keep on ‘discovering’ things and processes that were perfectly well understood by the pioneer arctic researchers back in the nineteenth century. When Nansen planned for the drift of the Fram across the Arctic Ocean 1893-96, he decidet to start in the Laptev sea, just west of the New Siberian Islands because the warm water from the Lena River melted the ice in this area, making it possible to penetrate further north than elsewhere.
    Don’t they ever read the arctic literature classics? Or, perhaps they do, but know that the media and the grant agencies don’t.

  9. If those ice movement forecasts are correct those trying to get through the Northwest Passage westbound had better hurry since they have the ice down to less than 50 km north of Baillie Island by next weekend.

  10. I will add my thanks to Justthefacts for an excellent explanation. The more we really delve into the issues blamed on AGW, the more we find natural processes.

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