Study: Arctic Sea Ice Was Thinner In 1955 Than In years 2015-2017

From the “skating on thin ice” department.

According to a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the observed mean thickness of the sea ice in the region north of (Arctic) Svalbard was substantially thinner (0.94 m) in 1955 than it has been in recent years (~1.6 m, 2015/2017).

Graph Source: Rösel et al., 2018

In 1955, the atmospheric CO2 concentration hovered around 315 ppm, about 90 ppm lower than today’s CO2 values.

It is widely assumed that the steep and substantial rise in CO2 concentration since the 1950s is largely responsible for warming the Arctic, and consequently the decline in the Arctic’s sea ice volume and extent (IPCC, 2013).  This assumption is significantly predicated on the observation that sea ice has undergone precipitous losses since the 1970s, which is when the satellite era began.

More at No Tricks Zone


The paper, open access:

Thin Sea Ice, Thick Snow, and Widespread Negative Freeboard Observed During N‐ICE2015 North of Svalbard


In recent years, sea‐ice conditions in the Arctic Ocean changed substantially toward a younger and thinner sea‐ice cover. To capture the scope of these changes and identify the differences between individual regions, in situ observations from expeditions are a valuable data source. We present a continuous time series of in situ measurements from the N‐ICE2015 expedition from January to June 2015 in the Arctic Basin north of Svalbard, comprising snow buoy and ice mass balance buoy data and local and regional data gained from electromagnetic induction (EM) surveys and snow probe measurements from four distinct drifts. The observed mean snow depth of 0.53 m for April to early June is 73% above the average value of 0.30 m from historical and recent observations in this region, covering the years 1955–2017. The modal total ice and snow thicknesses, of 1.6 and 1.7 m measured with ground‐based EM and airborne EM measurements in April, May, and June 2015, respectively, lie below the values ranging from 1.8 to 2.7 m, reported in historical observations from the same region and time of year. The thick snow cover slows thermodynamic growth of the underlying sea ice. In combination with a thin sea‐ice cover this leads to an imbalance between snow and ice thickness, which causes widespread negative freeboard with subsequent flooding and a potential for snow‐ice formation. With certainty, 29% of randomly located drill holes on level ice had negative freeboard.

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June 18, 2018 9:45 pm

CO2 correlates with ice coverage the same way that it does with sea-level.

Guess what! It doesn’t!!!

Donald Kasper
Reply to  tomwys
June 18, 2018 11:31 pm

Sea level from the WUWT data posted a few weeks ago to say June CO2 each year is a precise linear correlation. The trend is y = 0.761x + 353.74. The correlation coefficient is 0.971, an exact match. The so-called change of trend with time is actually more noise in values less than 355 ppm. There is no change of slope in the correlation.

Reply to  Donald Kasper
June 18, 2018 11:55 pm

Which tide gauge(s) are you correlating to?

Reply to  tomwys
June 19, 2018 6:12 am

So now we have a new category: “Fake Equations,” as there is no tide gauge on the planet with a 100year+ record that correlates with CO2!

Reply to  Donald Kasper
June 19, 2018 6:24 am

Over what time period are you measuring?

Reply to  Donald Kasper
June 19, 2018 8:12 pm

Donald, what WUWT data are you referring to? I had a look and couldn’t see anything. There was a Willis Eschenbach article on May 22nd that concluded: “There is no simple relationship between CO2 levels and the rate of sea level rise …”

Steven Black
June 18, 2018 10:03 pm

Hello, has anyone ever looked at what the temperatures were prior to the above ground nuclear testing and the effect that might have had for aerosols and other debris in the atmosphere? I have to imagine that it reflects some sunlight and would affect the temperature. I am just a novice with a question.

Reply to  Steven Black
June 19, 2018 5:11 am

Not sure why someone would tag this question with a “-” on the like-o-meter. It is a reasonable question to ask.

There were several rather large thermo-nuclear events in the tropical Pacific that sent all kinds of stuff into the stratosphere.. as do volcanoes. I assume it had some effect on the makeup of stratosphere although how much I haven’t a clue. I’m guessing those set off over water may have a different effect than those over land.

Reply to  Steven Black
June 19, 2018 6:26 am

Really big volcanoes only impact climate for a few months.
Much smaller nuclear explosions would have less impact.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
June 19, 2018 8:46 am

More like a couple years for big volcanoes! And while nuclear explosions are individually smaller, during the period of time of atmospheric testing, there were frequent tests over many years. I don’t think that they can be discounted out of hand.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
June 19, 2018 9:44 am

If the debris didn’t make it to the stratosphere, then they can be discounted completely.

Reply to  Steven Black
June 19, 2018 7:14 am

Reasonable question – but as catastrophic as we think nuclear explosions are, they’re not much compared to a volcano popping off. (Or even the massive firestorms that were created in WW2 by bombing flammable targets with incendiaries.)

Steven Black
Reply to  JLawson
June 30, 2018 11:54 am

Thanks for the replies. I truly did not know and had not found any discussions.

J Mac
June 18, 2018 10:12 pm

Huh? After the recent string of ‘warmest evah’ years…. and the damn arctic ice still won’t melt?
Cool! Anyone else care to join me for a carbonated beverage??

Reply to  J Mac
June 18, 2018 10:30 pm

In fact, June ice melt rate is lowest ever recorded.
Two days until Solstice, and sea ice volume remains near peak values for the Winter.
I think this is the year we will cross back into above average ice, and then go thicker from there, mostly, for 30 years.
If not this year, then soon.
Been awhile since any major volcano erupting…overdue I would think.
Global cooling is upon us.

Let’s hope it is not too bad.

Andy in Epsom
Reply to  Menicholas
June 19, 2018 4:36 am

I think in the last week there have been a lot of volcanos “popping” and I think Hawaii could very easily be called major. Also I think the people who lost family members in pyroclastic flows would disagree with you.

Reply to  Andy in Epsom
June 19, 2018 6:27 am

None of the recent volcanoes can be considered major. Only one came close to being strong enough to put aerosols into the stratosphere.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Andy in Epsom
June 19, 2018 6:49 am

Not a big aerosol generator.

Reply to  Menicholas
June 19, 2018 4:50 am

I’m not sure what you mean by “major volcano erupting” but all volcanoes are “major” by their nature. There are quite a few currently erupting, showing restlessness, and/or bumping up their activity. has a complete list of them and where they are if you want to go visit.

Reply to  Sara
June 19, 2018 7:05 am

Sara, volcanoes are certainly classified by the frequency, type and extent of eruptions. The news/ lay media often uses the term major eruption or major volcano to describe either the extent of the eruption or the type of volcano erupting. Fifty to seventy volcanoes erupt each years, with between 60 to 80 eruptions. I don’t track volcanoes as closely as I did but that haven’t noticed any recent dramatic increase. We have had a couple of volcanoes in the Andes erupt after thousands of years being quite, again based on their estimate frequency nothing unusual. Most we don’t hear about, e.g., those erupting along the Aleutian chain. Since Kilauea has been erupting for decades most of the time it is classified as minor eruptions. Every now and then Pele decides to make a lot more land and we see the present “major” eruption taking place.

June 18, 2018 10:29 pm

I would have thought the Abstract says the snow and ice is distinctly thinner?
“The modal total ice and snow thicknesses, of 1.6 and 1.7 m measured with ground‐based EM and airborne EM measurements in April, May, and June 2015, respectively, lie below the values ranging from 1.8 to 2.7 m, reported in historical observations from the same region and time of year. “

Kenneth Richard
Reply to  johndo
June 18, 2018 10:55 pm

“…lie below the values ranging from 1.8 to 2.7 m, reported in historical observations from the same region and time of year.”

The 1.8 to 2.7 m ranges from historical observations refer to the values from the 1970s (as shown in the graph). The 1955 thickness value reported was 0.94 m.

Reply to  johndo
June 18, 2018 11:13 pm

Clever wording to maintain the narrative. They report that recent years are “below the range” while carefully ignoring that 1955 is “even further below the range”.

That said, it appears to be only that one year of data that is well below the range. The next data point isn’t until 1974. So 1955 could well be an outlier.

Bob Turner
Reply to  davidmhoffer
June 19, 2018 2:08 am

It’s fairly clear that it’s an outlier if you look at the data in the paper. The table shown above isn’t their original, it has been edited to remove the middle part of the data.

Reply to  johndo
June 19, 2018 4:52 am

Clever editing and sentence construction can distort simple facts. Not something new, but they should try harder.

Reply to  johndo
June 21, 2018 3:21 am

The sea-ice has always varied a lot. Currently there is much less sea-ice north of Svalbard than at the same time last year, but much more and thicker ice, north of the East Siberian coast.

WUWT had a post, years back, that showed an early Nimbus satellite shot that revealed a surprisingly large area of open water north of Alaska in September, 1969.

In the pre-satellite era Alarmists have a bad habit of “in-filling” areas where they have zero data with 100% sea-ice, when there is no real reason not to assume there were patches of open water back then, just as there are now. We have pictures from submarines which found open water to surface in back then. Also we have memoirs of servicemen who served on “Fletcher’s Ice Island” a large tabular iceberg that served as an airbase in the arctic for nearly a quarter century, 1950’s-1970’s, and those servicemen record venturing from the ice-island onto the sea-ice and being able to look down into melt-water pools “with no bottom” back in the 1950’s.

There was considerable melting of Fletcher’s Ice Island every summer. A DC-3 that crashed on it in the 1950’s initially was at the level of the snow, but as time passed the snow all around it melted but the snow under it didn’t, until it was way up on a pedestal. Pictures here:


Reply to  Caleb Shaw
June 21, 2018 4:13 am

Here is the old WUWT post with the Nimbus satellite picture from September, 1969.

Joel O’Bryan
June 18, 2018 10:54 pm

negative freeboard….

There’s a term I’ll have to look-up to even know what the hell they are saying.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
June 18, 2018 11:18 pm

Maybe this image will help:
Negative freeboard is basically floating ice that is underwater. Notice the pressure ridge towards which the men are walking. It has positive freeboard, as the ridge is totally above the water within which it floats. Everywhere you see pools of water, the ice below it has negative freeboard, as the water is above the ice and essentially level with the ocean underneath.

Reply to  tomwys
June 18, 2018 11:25 pm

Sorry, Bad link – try this one:
comment image?dl=0

Reply to  tomwys
June 18, 2018 11:33 pm

One more try:
comment image?dl=0

Reply to  tomwys
June 18, 2018 11:48 pm

OK, I give up: I’ve posted the image at the bottom of my media page on the colderside website:

Reply to  tomwys
June 18, 2018 11:51 pm

Rehosted for you

comment image

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
June 19, 2018 6:36 am

joel ==> freeboard is a nautical term:

free·board (noun)
the height of a ship’s side between the waterline and the deck.

So, for floating ice, it would be the distance from the waterline of an ice floe to the upper surface of the ice (the “deck”).

Negative freeboard, a very bad thing for a boat or ship, would mean that while still “floating” (as opposed to sinking altogether) the upper surface of the ice floe would be underwater.

This bit “negative freeboard with subsequent flooding and a potential for snow‐ice formation.” thus means that sea water would “flood” the snow layer atop the solid ice.

If you were in a boat, it would appear that the ice floe was a normal floating ice floe but you would be seeing the snow layer above the water while the true solid ice part of the floe was actually below the sea surface.

June 18, 2018 11:28 pm

Occasionally we see historical newspaper reports citing disappearing sea ice going back a century and a half. example

You can also find web sites where some scientist has reconstructed arctic ice extent going back to the mid 1800s. For the same years as the newspaper reports citing missing ice, the reconstructions show no missing ice. example

Who to trust …

The same as Dr. Mann disappeared the MWP and LIA, it seems that others may be disappearing historical examples of thin arctic ice.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  commieBob
June 19, 2018 1:48 am

The Carbon Brief site is outrageous. In another article (that they blog as if it was a scientific study) they tried to convince us that the climate models have been accurate all along. Of course they had to display fake graphs to hide any cooling and exaggerate the warming of real world observations. I noted that in the climate model article they did not use any satellite temperature data. I shudder to think how many sites are repeating the same nonsense as Carbon Brief.

Bruce Sanson
June 18, 2018 11:46 pm

The winter arctic temperature is rising for 2 reasons. Firstly, more latent heat of sea ice formation is being released into the atmosphere in the early winter because older packed sea ice is slowly melting and allowing a greater area for new sea ice to form– this is leading to a cooling of the deeper arctic waters and increased contribution to the THC. Secondly, this early warmer period breaks down the polar vortex which then allows a lot more warm air into the arctic and releases more cold air out. Summer temperatures are constrained by the latent heat of sea ice melt.
I do hope that TOA satellites can pick up this energy loss to space at the very top of the earth.
I also see the potential for an oscillation here where on a global heating phase old packed sea ice limits sea ice build, then eventually enough old ice melts to allow a bigger yearly sea ice build and consequently a phase of global cooling occurs due to increased THC and increased cloud formation. This is made possible because of the open water geography of the arctic.
As I see it-bruce

Reply to  Bruce Sanson
June 19, 2018 12:33 am

I don’t see how you can start here: “winter arctic temperature is rising”
and end here: “and consequently a phase of global cooling occurs”.

Bruce Sanson
Reply to  Bruce Sanson
June 19, 2018 1:11 am

Hi zazove. Global cooling will result when more deep water upwelling promotes phytoplankton blooming thus releasing more dimethylsulfoniopropionate into the atmosphere over the ocean increasing low cloud formation. I think the current increase in sea ice (since about 2008) production has led to a plateau in temperatures and any further increase will lead to cooling

Bruce Sanson
Reply to  Bruce Sanson
June 19, 2018 2:30 am

Actually zazove, I may have misinterpreted your question. Don’t forget sea ice forms much easier over open ocean than under thick pack ice due to pack ice insulating the underlying water.

Loren Wilson
Reply to  Bruce Sanson
June 19, 2018 7:12 am

Bruce, this mechanism would imply that the older, thicker sea ice would leave more surface area bare after melting than the thin new ice that would subsequently form. If the areas were equal, the greater mass of old sea ice melting would absorb more heat than the thin ice freezing would emit. Have you looked for data that would support this?

Bruce Sanson
Reply to  Loren Wilson
June 19, 2018 2:39 pm

Hi Loren, I’ve just got up!- nz time. Towards the end of a warming phase (now) a larger area of arctic ocean is exposed by the end of summer and we see a rapid refreeze as winter arrives, see here.
prior to this a much larger area of the arctic was insulted with thick pack ice. This meant incoming warmer water could not as easily radiate heat into the atmosphere and from there space, so slowly this latent heat of ice melt (this requires heat to melt ice) was used to cool incoming water. It will be different into the future, incoming warmer water can radiate heat into the atmosphere more easily and although warmer the air is still cold enough to generate a lot more new sea ice and cool the underlying deep water, see here
comment image

June 19, 2018 12:04 am

How about the entire 1940 to 1960 period? We need more than one year.

Steven Mosher
June 19, 2018 12:52 am

funny. cluebird says one location in the arctic is not the arctic,
unless you believe is spatial sampling and extrapolation

June 19, 2018 1:23 am

Same old , same old-

“Accounts from 19th-century
Canadian Arctic Explorers’ Logs
Reflect Present Climate Conditions”

Reply to  richard
June 19, 2018 6:15 am

Interesting link:
“And while no ship sailed through the(NW) passage in the 19th century,several
came within 150 km of doing so, without the aid of an engine,chart,or functioning compass. A similar outcome would be well within the bounds of probability today”

Reply to  Rick
June 19, 2018 6:41 am


Hardly surprising-

19th Century sailing ship- 3000hp

Modern Ice breaker- 75,000hp

Alan Tomalty
June 19, 2018 1:33 am

Until the takeover (by the global alarmists) of the geology, paleontology, and archaeology faculties of the world universities is complete; their world only started in approximately 1979. Data before that is either to be ignored, homogenized, or wiped out. Don’t forget that they have already taken over the atmospheric science faculties all over the world and of course they invented the climate science faculties. Usually they aren’t called that; so that it is easier to corrupt the related sciences like geo science, earth science, environmental science………………………ad infinitum. We could go on forever with bastardized faculty names around the world. I have noted that it is possible to get both a Master degree in Climate Science and a PhD in Climate Science.

The World Meteorology Organization was the 1st organization to be corrupted by climate science. However the skeptic meteorologists of the world have been fighting hit and run attacks against the establishment to varying poor degrees of success ( Anthony Watts being a notable exception).

Note that Penn State (where Michael Mann reigns supreme) has incorporated meteorology right into the Atmospheric Science faculty and called it the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science. To give you an idea of the size of Penn State it has an enrollment of ~ 100,000 students. It administers almost $4 Billion in endowment funds and other largesse.

Sure enough you will find Michael Mann’s pic and bio on the list of professors. Even more interesting is that this whole faculty is part of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Note the 2 prong attack here. Climatology itself is a minor within the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Mann’s idea is to work his way up the faculty tree and corrupt everything he touches with his CO2 nonsense. Of course Penn State has faculties of Astrobiology, and Biogeochemistry where you can get a PhD in either one, along with the common ones like GeoSciences, Materials Science and Engineering, Meteorology and Geography. All these fall under the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences which is only 1 college of the 18 that Penn State has.

Other interesting ( as far as climate science is concerned) colleges that fall under the Penn State umbrella are College of Agricultural Sciences, College of Engineering, and Eberly College of Science. Of course at the undergraduate level you can get any of the more than 1000 degrees that span the complete range of human knowledge. Things like Environmental Engineering ( a prime target for takeover by the alarmists like Mann) that conveniently don’t fall under one of the 18 colleges of Penn State, is only 1 graduate program out of 100’s. Thus the continual urge to expand and what better way than to create a new discipline?

The universities get away with this because universities fall under state law even though the federal government provides more funding than the states themselves even though most of the federal money goes directly to students. So when a university wants to start a new discipline, what it typically does is create a graduate program in the discipline. Of course new ones are being created all the time with the subdivision of exponential knowledge. As soon as a program like
Environmental Engineering becomes popular the university will then either create a special college for it or make it a faculty within one of the existing colleges. There seems to be no rules that the individual states have set out for the universities to go by. As long as the university can get endowment funds and or public funding they can get the go ahead. Of course it is easier to get the go ahead for a new program if other universities already have it. We all think of the federal and state and city bureaucracies of just how bloated and fat they are; but they dont hold a candle to the creeping bureaucracy of each university and college. When was the last time that you didn’t see any construction on a college or university campus?

June 19, 2018 2:26 am

Current thickness and volume of sea ice in the Arctic.
comment image
comment image

Steven Fraser
Reply to  ren
June 19, 2018 5:57 am

The daily DMI sea ice volume gap between 2018’and the next higher year, 2005, is continuing to narrow, as is the gap between 2014 and this year.

Neil Bailey
June 19, 2018 3:12 am

I have a photo showing two US submarines (Seadragon and Skate ?) taken at the North Pole in August 1962 in what is very clearly pretty much open water.

I would upload it if I knew how but presumably it’s still on the internet somewhere.

CD in Wisconsin
Reply to  Neil Bailey
June 19, 2018 6:50 am


Is this it?

richard verney
June 19, 2018 4:00 am

We know this from the Skate and the nautilus missions of the 1950s.

Also Hadcrut (for the arctic region) shows the 1920s to 1940s considerably warmer than today.

See also:


June 19, 2018 4:28 am

So passes yet another fundamental tenet of the religion of carbon dioxide. Cannot wait for the CO2 ‘splainin as to how thickening Arctic ice is caused by the devil gas.

Reply to  Cephus0
June 19, 2018 5:04 am

It’s very simple, CephusO: CO2 is a solid when it is frozen, as you know, but when the atmosphere reaches a certain temperature level, CO2 evaporates or sublimes from a solid state to a gaseous state. As it is obviously mixed in as a major part of the ice covering the northern polar region (Arctic) and helps the ice sheet thicken that way, when the proper temperature is reached, and CO2 vapes into vapor, the water ice remaining thins out.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And if you believe it, you’re sillier than whatshispudgyface. But he would likely seize on that and use it to ‘splain Arctic ice thickening and thinning.

J Mac
Reply to  Sara
June 19, 2018 9:52 am

A sublime theory, Sara!
You have real talent for ‘climate change’ creative writing!

Joseph Murphy
June 19, 2018 4:33 am

“According to a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research…”

Looks to me like they are citing Romanov (1996). I have not seen the paper.

June 19, 2018 5:04 am

Facts are irrelevant to global warming pushers. Rationalization is all.

tim maguire
June 19, 2018 6:46 am

There are plenty of pictures floating around the internet of navy ships at the geographic north pole in the 1950’s with nary an ice-floe in sight.

Edit: WUWT did a post in it a few years back.

Gary Pearse
June 19, 2018 6:47 am

By 1955 it was thickening from even thinner in the 1930s, the real modern warm period.

Clyde Spencer
June 19, 2018 8:41 am

The Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL; Hanover, NH) might be a possible source of historical information for the Arctic. I was stationed there while in the Army, and spent the month of April (1967) at Pt. Barrow, participating in a joint experiment with NASA, obtaining ground-truth of ice thickness and temperatures for a passive microwave imaging overflight of the ice. CRREL and its forerunner, SIPRE, was involved with lots of Arctic research for which field notes recorded environmental conditions.

June 19, 2018 11:22 am

According to a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the observed mean thickness of the sea ice in the region north of (Arctic) Svalbard was substantially thinner (0.94 m) in 1955 than it has been in recent years (~1.6 m, 2015/2017).

Good job they didn’t publish it this year as the thickness is zero this year.

comment image

Reply to  Phil.
June 19, 2018 2:59 pm

It wasn’t zero in April, when the 1955 reading was taken.

June 19, 2018 11:44 am

Oh yes, that was part of another AMO peak period along with or among an intense solar cycle group.

June 19, 2018 12:39 pm

No one lives or dies on how much Arctic sea ice there is. Or isn’t.

No one would know what the current level was if it weren’t for websites telling us. Some with “OH NOES!!!” Some with, “’bout the same as the last ten years.”

It’s esoterica.

richard verney
June 19, 2018 5:15 pm

An article from 1958 well worth a read:

comment image

In the late 1950s the ice was about 2 metres thick, that is about the same thickness as seen today. Of course, it was the 1920s to 1940s that was the warmest period as is recorded in HADCRUT.

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