Nares Strait Ice Arches


JANUARY 12, 2021

By Paul Homewood

Jonathan Amos hypes the latest “science”:


Look down on the Arctic from space and you can see some beautiful arch-like structures sculpted out of sea-ice.

They form in a narrow channel called Nares Strait, which divides the Canadian archipelago from Greenland.

As floes funnel southward down this restricted conduit, they ram up against the coastline to form a dam, and then everything comes to a standstill.

“They look just like the arches in a gothic cathedral,” observes Kent Moore from the University of Toronto.

“And it’s the same physics, even though it’s ice. The stress is being distributed all along the arch and that’s what makes it very stable,” he told BBC News.

But the UoT Mississauga professor is concerned that these “incredible” ice forms are actually being weakened in the warming Arctic climate. They’re thinning and losing their strength, and this bodes ill, he believes, for the long-term retention of all sea-ice in the region.

Directly to the north of Nares Strait is the Lincoln Sea. It’s where you’ll find some of the oldest, thickest floes in the Arctic Ocean.

It’s this ice that will be the “last to go” when, as the computer models predict, the Arctic becomes ice-free during summer months sometime this century.

There are essentially two ways this old ice can be lost.

It can be melted in place in the rising temperatures or it can be exported. And it’s this second mode that’s in play in Nares Strait.

The 40km-wide channel’s arches act as a kind of valve on the amount of sea-ice that can be pushed out of the Arctic by currents and winds.

When stuck solidly in place, typically from January onwards – the arches shut off all transport (sea-ice can still be exported from the Arctic via the Fram Strait, which is the passage between eastern Greenland and Svalbard).

But what Prof Moore’s and colleagues’ satellite research has shown is that these structures are becoming less reliable barriers.

Nares Strait

They are forming for shorter periods of time, and the amount of frozen material allowed to pass through the strait is therefore increasing as a consequence.

“We have about 20 years of data, and over that time the duration of these arches is definitely getting shorter,” Prof Moore explained.

“We show that the average duration of these arches is decreasing by about a week every year. They used to last for 250-200 days and now they last for 150-100 days. And then as far as the transport goes – in the late 1990s to early 2000s, we were losing about 42,000 sq km of ice every year through Nares Strait; and now it’s doubled: we’re losing 86,000 sq km.”

Prof Moore and colleagues have published their latest research in the journal Nature Communications.

So what is the basis for this latest Arctic scare?

This is the key chart from the paper:


Although they claim to have analysed 20 years of data, they only have three years of data since 2009: – from 2017 to 2019.

Both 2007 and 2019 were identical in having no arches formed. Whilst 2017 and 2018 were comparable to 2008. It is not statistically possible to draw significance from such a sparsity of data.

And, of course, we do know that temperatures in Greenland fell sharply between 1958 and 2001 – after all, Jonathan Amos told us himself in 2003!


It is therefore meaningless to compare current ice arch data with the 1990s.

The paper claims that ice loss through the Nares Strait could be leading to loss of thick, multi year ice to the north, in the Lincoln Sea.

However, DMI maps show nothing of the sort. If anything the thick ice has expanded there since 2009 (the area is circled). If ice loss was apparent, it should show up in May, because of the early break up of the arches:


As for what is “normal”, archaeologists have discovered plenty of evidence that the Vikings were hunting and trading in the area of the Nares Strait during the Middle Ages. As with the rest of Greenland, this is strong evidence of a warmer climate then.

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January 12, 2021 2:50 pm

Gahhh-leeee! Twenty whole years of observations!! That’s simply am-AAAAAAzing!

Reply to  jorgekafkazar
January 12, 2021 3:34 pm

Yes, it’s about 0.000000004 of the Earth’s age. And I am being conservative and assuming 5 billion years. Soon we will have 100% of the data.

Rory Forbes
January 12, 2021 2:51 pm

The prominent physicist Ernest Rutherford preferred decisive experiments that did not require sophisticated statistical analysis. Here are three embodiments of this viewpoint:

  • If you need statistics, you did the wrong experiment.
  • If you need statistics to do science, then it’s not science.
  • If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.

Perhaps a bit extreme considering he said that nearly 100 years ago and computers certainly have improved upon that. However looking at the figure from which this study was derived, using only 7 data points, it looks like Rutherford was 100% right.

It’s well past time to take all those “researchers” computers away, then bundle them up in warm clothes and send them outside to play (or at least get some data to work with). It wouldn’t hurt if they didn’t begin with preconceived ideas, either.

January 12, 2021 3:00 pm

There’s a big SSW (sudden stratospheric warming) in progress at the Arctic.

Judah Cohen’s AER blog predicts cold and snow for Northern Europe within a fortnight or so:

(With caution appropriate to long term forecasts of course.)

michael hart
January 12, 2021 3:32 pm

“Jonathan Amos hypes the latest “science””.


‘Ordinal variables only, please’ is the limit of the kind of thinking you should expect from people who are employed by the BBC. (Perhaps I should say “paid by the BBC”, not “employed by the BBC”).

If they could do something else with any measure of competence, then they might have become scientists, engineers, accountants, electricians, plumbers, etc, or anybody else potentially of actual value to the world.

Plenty of people in the UK know somebody who once went for a job interview at the BBC and met the attitude of “So what on earth makes you think you are good enough to ever work here at the BBC?” They really do live in a different world.
I too would dearly love to have paid employment where the sole job requirement was simply to hold an opinion on something about saving the planet, have a parent connected with the BBC or, latterly, hold a certain genetic phenotype. Maybe, someday…..

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  michael hart
January 12, 2021 8:12 pm

I thought they were plumbers. They certainly dredge up a lot of crap.

Rud Istvan
January 12, 2021 3:35 pm

The absurdity here is not the Nares Strait data time frame.It is the article’s own admission that the alternative export route, the Fram Strait (east of Greenland, west of Svalbard) is never blocked.

The article says the Nares width is ~40km. What it does NOT say is that the Fram is 450km. So the article is a speculation about the future of 9% of the Arctic sea ice export route. Absurdly disproportionately out of context.

Mike Dubrasich
January 12, 2021 4:13 pm

As with most of these OMG alarmist reports, my response is so what? I mean, so what if the ice dams in Nares Straight are no more? Would that be a major bummer? Is that the End of the World?

If you’re an exceedingly empained hand-wringer, what do you want me to about it? Will we save the ice dams by exterminating all the bovines? Would that work? Would it be “worth it”?

Are the ice dams in Nares Straight so gosh darn special that we need to Reset the Global Economy to end capitalism in favor of oligarchical crony Communism? Will that save the ice dams? What then exactly is your solution set, ice dam lovers? Please be specific as to why and how.

Ron Long
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
January 12, 2021 5:01 pm

Mike, so what if we lose all of the ice dams? You’re obviously not a penguin lover. The penguins are woke you know, and are a mixture of black and white to show it. I bet your twitter account gets cancelled over this. Jeez!

Reply to  Ron Long
January 13, 2021 8:48 pm

Ron – The penguins were so traumatised by the fallen arches that they moved en masse to the south pole.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
January 12, 2021 5:11 pm

I meant the Strait, not the Straight. Darn spell checker. Sorry about that. Sorry for everything. I’ll crawl back now into my mud hut and turn off the lights and heat, maybe eat an organic turnip for dinner, because Lord knows I don’t want the precious Ice Arches of the Nares Strate to disappear.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
January 12, 2021 5:49 pm

Whatever can be done SHOULD be done to save the magnificent Nares Strait ice arches. Why have they not already been deemed World Heritage Sites receiving funding and at least one UN agency (UNNSIA) to administer them?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
January 12, 2021 8:08 pm

maybe eat an organic turnip for dinner”

Yes. Because inorganic turnips will destroy your teeth, like eating rocks.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
January 12, 2021 8:36 pm

Excellent point, Mr. Alberts. All turnips are organic, because “organic” means made of carbon compounds, as in organic chemistry. And all those organic (carbon) compounds (like turnips and you, sir, and me) originated as atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Our very essence and the foundation of life is now considered to be a poison by no less than the Supreme Court (as well as various other institutions and their obedient clerics). It is humbling indeed to be so well-served by such intellectual colossi. I’m grateful for my turnip, too.

Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
January 13, 2021 5:23 pm

“Organic” as it applies to food has a different meaning than the chemical one. It means not using certain fertilizers and pest control substances. I remember growing up on the farm – competing with “organic” farmers. We sat in open cabins, while organic farmers sat in enclosed cabins wearing hazard suits. Their alternative chemicals were too dangerous for them to be exposed to. Their crops were small and diseased looking.

Things may have changed, but my family still won’t buy “organically” grown food. If it is dangerous to touch or inhale, imagine what it can do to you if you ingest it. That’s for the city slickers (aka “idiots”) to do. We think it explains the bizarre thinking of politicians, as they also know nothing of what happens outside city limits, other than mountain biking trails.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
January 13, 2021 2:09 am

Arches? What arches? They are supposed to be visible from space but I do not see anything remotely resembling an arch in the photos above. If these ice arches (ephemeral by their very nature) are so magnificent why didn’t anyone go out in the field and photograph them for our edification?

January 12, 2021 4:47 pm

If you do a web search for seasonally ice-free arctic, you get a bunch of alarmist articles. If you do a web search for seasonally ice-free arctic holocene, you get a bunch of articles that point out that the arctic may have been seasonally ice-free for most of the holocene. From the alarmist perspective that’s an inconvenient fact for sure.

If the researchers doing the alarmist papers aren’t aware of the seasonally ice-free nature of the arctic for most of the holocene, they should be. I would call it deliberate negligence. The institutions that granted them their PhDs should lose their accreditation to grant PhDs.

Reply to  commieBob
January 12, 2021 7:17 pm

…”deliberate negligence…lose their accreditation”

Lol. Do you actually think you’ve thought of this and they haven’t? C’mon Bob.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Loydo
January 12, 2021 8:09 pm

Loydo, then why do they seem to think anything unprecedented is going on now?

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
January 12, 2021 10:09 pm

Mmm, good question, I guess you and Bob are right after all.

Reply to  Loydo
January 12, 2021 11:48 pm

If they can’t use Google Scholar properly, they’re either incompetent researchers or something worse.

Reply to  Redge
January 13, 2021 2:42 am

Why are you saying they can’t use Google scholar properly?

Reply to  Loydo
January 13, 2021 3:00 am

because if they could they would have found the papers referred to by commieBob

Reply to  Loydo
January 13, 2021 4:49 am

It’s a wonderful question.

Some scholars seem to have an amazing lack of knowledge of things in their own field that are fairly common knowledge among other literate people.

The first time I was gobsmacked by the lack of breadth of a scholar’s knowledge was when I had a music prof who didn’t know who Kurt Weill was. Over the years I have encountered many other examples.

I am reminded of the dictum that: An expert knows more and more about less and less until eventually she knows everything about nothing. link

Reply to  commieBob
January 13, 2021 6:01 am

I guess Loydo actually is an expert.

John in Oz
January 12, 2021 5:10 pm

And then as far as the transport goes – in the late 1990s to early 2000s, we were losing about 42,000 sq km of ice every year through Nares Strait; and now it’s doubled: we’re losing 86,000 sq km.”

Isn’t science supposed to be impartial and impersonal?

Does it make pushing an agenda more likely, rather than look for alternative answers/interpretations?

Rory Forbes
Reply to  John in Oz
January 12, 2021 5:55 pm

I’m still trying to work out why thy say “we’re losing” whatever quantity of ice it happens to be. “Losing” it from where? In what sense “losing”. If I say that I lost X amount of money, that implies that I was in possession of that amount at one time … that I had some control over it and not having that money created some form of hardship.

I don’t get it. What the hell are they going on about?

John in Oz
Reply to  Rory Forbes
January 12, 2021 7:27 pm

I also do not understand using an area (42,000 sq km) ‘through’ the strait.

Should this be a volume figure?

Rory Forbes
Reply to  John in Oz
January 12, 2021 9:07 pm

In geological terms, these areas had no ice at all for nearly half the year. Can H2O really be lost? I think they’re trying to say what the amount is passing through the strait, but that amount has doubled. Of course the cause is “climate change”. We also know that climates never changed before humans began using fossil fuels. The whole planet had been static and benign c/w unicorns and sugarplum faeries.

Jeff Alberts
January 12, 2021 8:11 pm

And, what were the arches doing 900ad? 1ad? 5000bc?

January 12, 2021 11:28 pm

“when, as the computer models predict, the Arctic becomes ice-free during summer months sometime this century”

Actually scientists predicted that the Arctic would be ice freeby 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.

January 13, 2021 3:26 am

Ice conditions in the Nares Strait have always varied violently between years, as the Greely expedition found out to its cost.

January 13, 2021 11:08 am

Greenland has fallen arches? Needs some arch-support inserts…. 😉

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  beng135
January 14, 2021 9:23 pm

Then it would be Gellin’, instead of Greenland.

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