Arctic Report: primary productivity still high & sea ice flatline continues despite warmer temperatures

From Polar Bear Science

Dr. Susan Crockford

NOAAs annual Arctic Report Card is, for the most part, a valiant effort to turn good and ambiguous news into harbingers of climate change disaster. Primary productivity is up across most of the region (good news for wildlife) and despite Arctic temperatures being “twice as high” as the rest of the world in recent years, the summer sea ice ‘death spiral’ has failed to materialize.

Oddly, there is no bad news about polar bears (last mention was 2014). However, the media were told that the few hundred sea birds that died this year in the enormous Bering/Chukchi Sea region over the four months of summer in 2022 is a portend of climate change catastrophe–even though the authors of the NOAA report admit they have no conclusive evidence to explain the phenomenon. However, here are also some honest figures that are quite illuminating.

Sea ice

The graph at the bottom of this graphic, spread out rather than bunched up to make changes seem more dramatic, makes it much easier to see the lack of a declining trend in sea ice extent since 2007, and that winter (March) coverage has changed hardly at all.

Arctic temperatures

Compare the graph of overall Arctic temperature in this composite to the sea ice graph above: note the lack of correspondence between average temperature and sea ice extent since 2007.

Loss of multiyear ice

The essay by Meier and colleagues also includes an interesting graphic, showing changes in multiyear ice over time since 1984. Note that multiyear ice is unproductive habitat as far as marine organisms are conserved: first year (seasonal) ice over continental shelves are the the most productive and thus where the vast majority of polar bears, seals, fish, whales, and sea birds are found. I don’t see much reason to mourn the decline of extremely thick multiyear ice (>4 years old, red line in the graph below) as far as wildlife is concerned, especially since 2-3 year old ice that can be used as a resting/hunting platform for seals and polar bears in summer has not been declining since 2007.

Sea surface temperature

A graph of sea surface temperatures in August presented by authors Timmermans and Lab shows how cold it has been for the last two years in the Chukchi Sea (where Pacific walrus spend the summer), reflected the fact that sea ice in the region has not melted completely over the summer.

Primary productivity

The report by Frey and colleagues this year updates those from the last few reports and confirms that primary productivity–which means more food for seals, walrus, and polar bears–is still high in summer due to less sea ice coverage, especially in the Barents Sea, the Russian Arctic, the Bering/Chukchi Seas. The authors conclude:

All regions continue to exhibit positive trends in primary productivity over the 2003-22 period, with the strongest trends in the Eurasian Arctic and Barents Sea.

Broad regions of lower-than-average primary productivity during 2022, particularly for the Beaufort Sea, East Siberian Sea, Greenland Sea, and Baffin Bay (associated with higher-than-average sea ice cover in these regions)...

In the graphic from the report below, note the slow overall increase in primary productivity in Hudson Bay and the Greenland Sea compared to other regions. The report specifically mentions “higher-than-average sea ice cover” as the explanation for the Greenland Sea result but not for Hudson Bay (which is otherwise not mentioned in the report). I wonder why? The Beaufort Sea (data not shown) apparently also had lower than average productivity due to high sea ice cover. These are the two regions mentioned most often as showing strong signs of declines in polar bear health and survival due to lack of summer sea ice, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

Dying of sea birds

A report on 450 sea birds that died in the Bering and southern Chukchi Seas this year compared to previous years by Kaler and colleagues is a bit of a head-scratcher. They admit they don’t really know why large numbers of birds have died in recent years but that often, the ultimate cause appears to be starvation. They suggest this could be due to a decline in primary productivity caused by sea ice decline, in direct contradiction to the report by Frey and colleagues a few pages before:

Seabirds are sentinels of the status of marine ecosystems and these die-offs are concurrent with a massive ecological shift resulting from the loss of sea ice extent and duration in the Bering and Chukchi Seas.While the specific cause of why seabird die-offs have increased in frequency remains largely unknown, the decrease in sea ice extent and lipid-rich ice algae along with warmer ocean conditions are likely involved.

A short report by the US Fish & Wildlife Service on the phenomenon in 2016 noted that sea birds can starve to death if they haven’t eaten in four days, which makes them particularly vulnerable to any disruption of feeding, including by storms.

The graphic below, provided in the NOAA essay, shows that the huge die-off of common murres in 2015-2016 (event #7) overshadows all recent events. Only about 450 birds died this year, a relatively small amount compared to previous events.

Note that the common murre is perhaps on of the most common sea birds in the region and the Alaska population alone is estimated at 2.8 million birds in 230 colonies. It is not unexpected, therefore, that many common murres die when conditions are challenging, whenever that happens (e.g. details in graphic below for 1970).

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son of mulder
December 16, 2022 2:20 pm

The cold has moved to the UK where we have our 4th coldest mid December in the past 100 years.

Ireneusz Palmowski
Reply to  son of mulder
December 16, 2022 3:07 pm

A bit chilly in England.
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Last edited 3 months ago by Ireneusz Palmowski
Reply to  Ireneusz Palmowski
December 16, 2022 5:52 pm

I dont know how far the sea ice has moved yet but the fountains in Trafalgar Sq have frozen over.

Reply to  Ireneusz Palmowski
December 16, 2022 6:32 pm

If that man looks down, he’ll stab himself, twice.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Ireneusz Palmowski
December 16, 2022 7:35 pm

Thailand ?? dec 2020

Nice photo

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  son of mulder
December 17, 2022 3:32 am

obviously due to severe global warming! 🙂

Gary Pearse
December 16, 2022 2:45 pm

We gained 15,000 bears during the 30 yrs of Global Warming hype, so losing 450 birds of a population of 2.8 million (who starve if they miss food for four days) is now the canary in the coal mine for the Arctic for climateers. Sheesh! The desperation of climateer tovarishee is palpable. Just the other day they invented ‘ecological economists’ in Australia to publish a paper on stopping Africans from cultivating cash crops like cocoa and coffee because they should be growing subsistence foods organically like Sri Lanka.

Ireneusz Palmowski
December 16, 2022 3:00 pm

Hudson Bay is already almost completely frozen over.
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Reply to  Ireneusz Palmowski
December 16, 2022 6:44 pm

Looks like NOAA’s claims of double warmth in the Arctic come from NOAA adjusting temperatures.

Reply to  ATheoK
December 17, 2022 9:27 am

Instead of -60C it’s -30C?

Nice, warm and toasty!

The polar bears will need to be sheared of all that fur.

Rud Istvan
December 16, 2022 3:06 pm

It is increasingly delightful when Nature itself continues to refute the climate alarmist narratives:

  1. Polar bears done—nope thriving with Arctic NPP up!
  2. 400 seabirds out of 2.8 million found dead ashore—um, average bird life of that type is about 5 years, so real BAD math. Most seabirds die at sea (else not seabirds) so their deaths are never counted.
  3. Summer Arctic sea ice would disappear by 2014. Nope, but it’s thinning a bit did increase Arctic NPP benefiting the entire Arctic Ocean food chain.

One would think such repeated setbacks would dampen climate zealots, but NOPE—there is simply too much money involved.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 16, 2022 3:55 pm

It eventually warmed up to -17C today at Winter Park. The snow was nice but I don’t like having to wear so many layers of clothing. Any more warming and I’ll freeze to death.

December 16, 2022 3:56 pm

Isn’t it preposterous that the satellite record commencing in the late 1970s influences so much of the narrative. A classic case of fooling ourselves. Science run amok, critical thinking gone awry. On longer timescales, the notion that today is warmer than at any time in the Holocene – total malarkey. A complete dismissal of multiple lines of evidence. A complete sham.

December 16, 2022 4:28 pm

Dr. Crockford ==> Thank you for the positive synopsis from the Arctic Report Card.

We need more honesty and less advocacy from our government scientific agencies.

December 16, 2022 5:58 pm

And meanwhile in the Antarctic
“Long-term monitoring has revealed a 43% decline in a large Adélie penguin population off the East Antarctic coast, near Mawson research station, over the past decade.
….but but..

…is in stark contrast to other populations in East Antarctica, where there have been long-term increases or stable population trends ”

Guess which angle the headline goes for ?
And 10 years isnt a long term as they only cover one location for a decline and probably related to fish resources in that part of the ocean

Last edited 3 months ago by Duker
Reply to  Duker
December 17, 2022 2:09 am

Maybe the Adelies near Mawson have got fed up with being bothered by inquisitive humans and have just moved along the coast a bit for some peace, like some of the Emperors have done in other places.

Last edited 3 months ago by Oldseadog
Reply to  Duker
December 17, 2022 9:31 am

If it bleeds, it leads, as in the newspaper and media business.

John Hultquist
December 16, 2022 6:22 pm

 16 years ago when there was thick multi-year ice there were blockages called ice-arches that were busted by winds and waves. The broken ice streamed southward into warmer water and melted.

JPL: Missing ice in 2007 drained out the Nares strait – pushed south by wind where it melted far away from the Arctic – Watts Up With That?

Links to the animation generate a black screen, for me.
More info here:
Large sea ice outflow into the Nares Strait in 2007 – Kwok – 2010 – Geophysical Research Letters – Wiley Online Library

December 16, 2022 6:32 pm

A report on 450 sea birds that died in the Bering and southern Chukchi Seas this year compared to previous years by Kaler and colleagues is a bit of a head-scratcher.”

Millions of domesticated birds have been killed this past year because of Avian influenza. Most of which are killed to prevent further transmission.

In other years, various state wildlife departments have asked people finding dead birds to deliver them to officials for testing. Avian influenza, West Nile virus are just a couple that regularly kill many birds.

Trust NOAA to have kittens about dead birds in the Arctic and presume the birds starved..

Reply to  ATheoK
December 17, 2022 2:44 am

and presume the birds starved

Maybe it was the kittens

December 16, 2022 9:54 pm

Susan. A touch of Sanity in a mad world. Many thanks.

Rod Evans
December 16, 2022 11:01 pm

If the Climate alarmists are concerned about 450 sea birds dying and consider that significant evidence of an ongoing man made problem. I wonder what the same anxious souls make of the 1.17 million birds being wiped from the skies in the USA alone by wind turbine blades each year and increasing (Merriman).
Of more immediate concern is the ongoing early winter chill that has taken over our normally boringly mild UK weather. The media outlets are surprisingly quiet about the toll this is taking on elderly residents both in their pockets and in their health.
We are being told however, this year will be a severe Flu epidemic year. Many tens of thousands of souls will be lost to natures annual challenging visitor.
Thankfully no talk of any losses due to cold temperatures.
I guess that is because of global warming…….?

Ireneusz Palmowski
Reply to  Rod Evans
December 17, 2022 12:25 am

Today, a front from the northwest will bring snowfall to the UK.

Reply to  Rod Evans
December 17, 2022 2:45 am

I wonder what the same anxious souls make of the 1.17 million birds being wiped from the skies in the USA alone by wind turbine blades each year and increasing (Merriman).

That’s different, we’re saving the world from the extinction crises!

Last edited 3 months ago by Redge
Rich Davis
Reply to  Redge
December 17, 2022 7:26 am

Yes and besides, cats k!ll trillions of birds daily “they say”

Why just the other day, my tabby came home with three bald eagles and a condor, if I remember correctly (you know like Fauci).

December 17, 2022 1:36 am

“…despite warmer temperatures”There’s that pesky word ‘warming’. What is the effect exactly if the the average temp during winter is -25C instead of -30C? Looking at the DMI graphs it is only during the Arctic winter that any ‘warming’ is visible in the data. The summers don’t look any warmer except it looks like the summer is pushed to the right, which does give more room for the catastrophists to make up some story.

Joseph Zorzin
December 17, 2022 3:31 am

“A report on 450 sea birds that died in the Bering and southern Chukchi Seas”

As if in that vast region- that’s an accurate or even useful figure. The report that it came from says:

Tracking the duration, geographic extent, and magnitude of seabird bird die-offs across Alaska’s expansive and remote coastline is only possible through well-coordinated communication and a dedicated network of Tribal, State, Federal, and university academic partners.

That coastline must be thousands of miles including the islands. To find 450 dead birds is a problem? There are probably more people looking but— give me a break- that’s an essentially useless bit of information. Even if it were possible to get accurate numbers- and if the number was increasing- there are numerous possible causes- I certainly don’t know what they are and neither does anyone else. Of course the climatistas will try to track the problem back to the use of fossil fuels. Then, since they’ve discovered this suppossed problem, they’ll seek increased funding.

December 17, 2022 9:24 am

The last graphic from NOAA breathlessly points out 1M birds dying off in the last decade compared with a similar number in the previous 40 – but doesn’t even try to disclaim that even a bit, that there’s obviously going to be sampling bias in those figures given the huge improvement in monitoring technology and the huge increase in scientists visiting the area.

That makes me think – maybe the die-offs are due to the interference from scientists disrupting their ‘delicate balance ‘.

December 17, 2022 10:24 am

The first picture, cub calling out while momma nuzzles it with her eyes closed, is worth 5 stars on its own!

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