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Arctic sea ice update: 2008 poised to repeat — or beat — 2007

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"Arctic sea ice update: 2008 poised to repeat — or beat — 2007"

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For months the deniers have been extolling the fact that the Arctic sea saw record refreezing last fall. And they have been claiming that this somehow fits into the (absurd) claim that the planet is now in a major cooling trend.

But back in the real world the planet keeps warming, and the Arctic is taking the worst of it, which could lead to potentially catastrophic methane emissions from the tundra, as noted here. The National Snow and Ice Data Center just reported (here):

Arctic sea ice still on track for extreme melt

Arctic sea ice extent has declined through the month of May as summer approaches. Daily ice extents in May continued to be below the long-term average and approached the low levels seen at this time last year. As discussed in our last posting, the spring ice cover is thin. One sign of thin and fairly weak ice is the formation of several polynyas in the ice pack.

No surprise that a recent survey of leading experts with the international Arctic science community found they expect a “continuation of the recent trend of sea ice lossthis summer. How exactly does this year’s sea ice extent compare with last year and with the 1979-2000 average? NSIDC has a great figure (click to enlarge):

 

arctic-ice-6-08.png

Although ice extent is slightly greater than this time last year, the average decline rate through the month of May was 8 thousand square kilometers per day (3 thousand square miles per day) faster than last May. Ice extent as the month closed approached last May’s value.

Okay so the ice area is shrinking fast. What about thickness — an equally important determinant of how fast the ice will disappear?

Multi-year ice continues to be low

The relative lack of thick, resilient multi-year ice in the Arctic discussed in earlier postings finds further support in the latest analysis from the United States National Ice Center (NIC). NIC uses a variety of satellite imagery, expert analysis, and other information to provide information on the amount and quality of sea ice for ships operating in the Arctic. NIC scientist Todd Arbetter suggests that much of the first-year ice is likely to melt by the end of summer, saying that despite the total ice extent appearing normal, the relative amount of multi-year ice going into this summer is very low when compared to climatological averages. NIC has found that the relative fraction of multi-year ice in the central Arctic has plummeted since the mid-1990s, creating an Arctic prone to increased melt in summer. Arbetter said, “This may be a primary reason for record summertime minimums in recent years.”

How hot is it in the Arctic Ocean?

Average Arctic Ocean surface air temperatures in May were generally higher than normal. While anomalies were modest (+1 to 3 degrees Celsius, +2 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) over most of the region, temperatures over the Baffin Bay region were as much as 6 degrees C (11 degrees F) above normal. The atmospheric circulation in May was highly variable. The first half of the month saw strong winds blowing from east to west over the southern Beaufort Sea. This wind pattern probably contributed to polynya formation near Banks Island and along the northwestern coast of Alaska.

The Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) — [Note to self: Next time a good acronym is needed, talk to some Arctic scientists] — prepared its May Sea Ice Outlook report for the September 2008 sea ice extent “based on a synthesis of 19 individual outlooks from the international arctic science community.” They found:

Of the individual responses that included quantitative outlooks, three (3) suggest a return toward the long-term trend of summer sea ice loss; six (6) anticipate the 2008 extent to be close to the 2007 record minimum; five (5) respondents suggest additional ice loss compared to the 2007 minimum. None suggested a return to the historical average (mean 1979–2000 September values) of 7.0 million square kilometers.

I think it’s going to get harder and harder to find people to take my bet (see “Another big climate bet — Of Ice and Men“).

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33 Responses to Arctic sea ice update: 2008 poised to repeat — or beat — 2007

  1. Robert says:

    Curious that the antarctic trend is going the opposite way, with the ice extent anomaly rising by 2.5% per decade:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/2008/apr/sh-seaice-200804-pg.gif

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Robert — That’s thought to be the result of the so-called ozone hole.

    Which will close over the next several decades.

  3. Brute says:

    The Arctic Ice Level is higher this year than it was at the same time last year? Doesn’t the “we’re all doomed the earth is going to fry” theory state that the globe is supposed to be getting warmer? How can the Arctic ice levels be higher this year than last if the Earth is getting warmer?

  4. David B. Benson says:

    Brute wrongly wrote “The Arctic Ice Level is higher this year than it was at the same time last year?” NO. Look at the graph. It is now about the same in area (extent) and hence certainly less in volume.

  5. Brute says:

    Um, from the NSIDC Website:

    Overview of conditions
    Arctic sea ice extent for May stood at 13.18 million square kilometers (5.09 million square miles), which is 0.28 million square kilometers (0.11 million square miles) greater than May 2007, but is still 0.42 million square kilometers (0.16 million square miles) less than the 1979 to 2000 average for the month.

    The Arctic Ice extent is GREATER right now, than it was last May which DIRECTLY conflicts with the IPCC and the global warming theory.

    nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

  6. Amaranthus says:

    Joe, you should link your picture to the daily updated image:

    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png

    This shows that as of mid June, 2008 is now BELOW the record of 2007, and tracking down faster, as noted above. Brute, did you see that – below, not above. i.e. GREATER (as you wish in you naive or deliberate misunderstanding of stochasticity).

  7. Joe says:

    Amaranthus:

    Thanks for the link.

    Joe

  8. Tim says:

    Just how do you alarmists explain that over the past 100 years there are headlines consistently about every 25 years alternating from “global cooling” to “global warming”? Can the phenomenon simply be explained by changes in (get ready) THE SUN? You can look up statistics which I have done or look at headlines from the late nineties when Al Gore’s HOAX began to really take hold and find that the Sun was more active than it had been in what, twenty years or so. Let’s see, if we add five years or so to that we get to where the Sun is ready to take a break again… and here we are today. Recent articles indicate that the Sun’s activity has waned dramatically, so just a guess here…we’re entering a GLOBAL COOLING period! That may also explain the fact that average global temperatures in the northern hemisphere this past Winter were at or near record lows. The fact is, the more you try to explain your “theory”, the more foolish you look when God’s good earth proves you wrong…AGAIN!

  9. Finnjor says:

    The Arctic ice loss seems to become the writing on the wall. Even the stupidest of the antiscientists and the great mob would perhaps understand the meaning of the show “No ice in the Arctic sea”.

  10. Arne Marco says:

    Brute: IPCC has not said that every single year will be warmer than the year before. The global warming is a trend over time.

    Tim: Read this sentence: “The study most quoted by skeptics actually concluded the sun can’t be causing global warming” from this page: http://skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming.htm.

    Years ago it was clear that there is no connection between the sun and the global warming …

  11. Juanita says:

    I suppose it is wise to start and plan the best way to live in a warmer planet with higher sea levels as the trends seems too intense to be reversed or slowed significantly

  12. CoRev says:

    Arne marco said:

    Years ago it was clear that there is no connection between the sun and the global warming …

    if this statement is true, then please explain where all that heat is coming from. Earth’s core? Mars, Venus, any other solar entity other than our Sun?

    Please stop making such patently foolish statements. Yes, we probably all know what you meant, but when you make silly statements there is doubt raised.

    CoRev, editor
    http://globalwarmingclearinghouse.blogspot.com

  13. Arne Marco says:

    Sorry, I expressed it bad. I meant that the actual global warming is not a result of activities like sunspots. It is the increased amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that is causing the actual warming.

  14. hapa says:

    @juanita:

    I suppose it is wise to start and plan the best way to live in a warmer planet with higher sea levels as the trends seems too intense to be reversed or slowed significantly

    we can slow them. some trends are locked in — aka, thermal inertia — and some damage will take a long time to heal, or grow back some other way. our plans must include those changes, but: we can slow them.

  15. Beauchamp says:

    Now that the Earth seems to be cooling has there been any cooling on the other planets in our system ?

  16. Tom G says:

    Gee Beauchamp…if the earth is cooling…why is the ice melting??

  17. deon says:

    ‘…if the earth is cooling…why is the ice melting??’

    - to keep our drinks cooler …. on the hotter days!

  18. Lamont says:

    The myth about the global cooling consensus of the 1970s has been busted here and on realclimate.org awhile ago. Look in the archives.

  19. Juanita says:

    To what degree can we influence the rate of the global warming? Is there a way to increase the ice volume? And even if we slow the process what would be the difference in years?

  20. Garrett says:

    To me this is a bunch of Ozone Al’s BULL S***!

    I’m a climatologist with a PhD……I can honestly say that the IPCC pays me 20k to add to my paycheck (150k a year) just to promote the idea of global warming *cough* SCAMMING!

    [JR: If you were a climatologist with a PhD you wouldn't haven't written the above.]

  21. curious says:

    Who is paying the luddites around here who continue to refute clear science. Global warming exists, even the borderline insane president can grasp that simple fact.

    Do you really have no ethics at all? Are you really willing to risk your children’s futures just for a lousy paycheck from Exxon?

    Pathetic.

  22. Stats is your friend says:

    Funny, but I just checked your link today : and sure enough there is more ice now than there was last year by a growing amount over the last month. Thanks alarmists for showing the world what happens when you make long term projections based on short term data.

  23. Carl says:

    At the risk of being yelled at again (it happens every time I suggest to anyone that maybe AGW is overblown), lets take a step back and look at some history. The earth has been warmer before, the seas have been higher, weather is difficult to predict, carbon dioxide rises and falls with temperature, there are long and short term oceanic current oscillations that we don’t fully understand, Al Gore is not a scientist (you don’t really trust a politician, do you?), over 31,000 scientists and engineers have publicly stated that they are skeptics of AGW, etc. The point is, it is not settled science, so lets try to remain civil and consider all the facts, not just the ones that bolster your own beliefs. AGW is becoming a religion, which means it will soon be unethical to question it at all.

  24. Sean says:

    The graph above has been updated

    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png

    The text cited above has been replaced with this:

    Arctic sea ice extent on July 16 [2008] stood at 8.91 million square kilometers (3.44 square miles). While extent was below the 1979 to 2000 average of 9.91 square kilometers (3.83 million square miles), it was 1.05 million square kilometers (0.41 million square miles) above the value for July 16, 2007 (see Figures 1 and 2).

    Is the following still relevant?

    “No surprise that a recent survey of leading experts with the international Arctic science community found they expect a ‘continuation of the recent trend of sea ice loss’ this summer. ”

    We won’t know for a couple more months. But I have $100 riding on a prediction that “recent surveys of leading [climate] scientists” are not worth the websites they are posted to.

    One year alone won’t prove anything. But look at the postings above. It sure would have been taken as proof if there were less ice this year instead of a cool million square kilometers more.

  25. Sean says:

    “Curious”says “Are you really willing to risk your children’s futures just for a lousy paycheck from Exxon? Pathetic.”

    Why do you assume that everyone who disagrees with you is being paid to do so? I don’t get a paycheck from Exxon. I work at a bank that is very active in financing alternative energy and carbon trading. If you accept Al Gore’s predictions regarding the benefits of alternative energy for the US economy, I’d probably make more money if the US ratified Kyoto.

    Anyway, the current high price of oil is great for Exxon, but it’s hurting just about every other sector of the economy (especially the banks, which trade almost perfectly inverse to the oil stocks). So unless the “Luddites” you refer to actually do work for Exxon, then I suggest that their interests and Exxon’s interests are almost diametrically opposed.

  26. bobclive says:

    Hi brute,

    I see you are still keeping the skeptic end up.

    UK Sunday Times July 27th 2008, Sky weather man Francis Wilson states, at last the heat is on, shade temperatures hit 28c last three days and global warming should mean hotter summers. ( up to this event we in the UK have had the worst summer for years). He then goes on to say that ofcom ( UK regulator) last week found that that the documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle treated the IPCC unfairly ( bugger) and misrepresented the views of top scientists, He further states that because of this many people think scientists are arguing among themselves. It appears the Swindle certainly opened the minds of many, including myself, I can only thank Durkin for that.

  27. Pete says:

    Hi this link gives an annual comparison which is more helpful to get a better picture of recent trends versus the average:
    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_custom_timeseries.png.

    Climate change GW signals more energy on the Earth and more variability in weather; Many species of can’t adapt as quickly as humans, hence there is a problem (we also like to eat some of them!). My advice: start shipping through the arctic but still expect to use the Panama Canal when you get a cold summer – also make sure the ships are built strongly as they may get pummelled in extra bad storms along the way.

  28. Jake says:

    More recently, the extent of sea ice at end of July 2008 was much greater than same time last year. See the following:

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    People read the tea leaves in many different ways, but one thing is certain, the ice isn’t melting fast enough to satisfy the catastophists, who will be disappointed when disaster isn’t really imminent.

  29. Anton says:

    If you check the amounts of the sea ice now in September (http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png) you see that there are apparently a very little difference between the current and the previous year sea ice coverage. However, there are one major difference – the island of Severnaya Zemlia is surrounded by open water and the strait between Severnaya Zemlia and Taymir Peninsula is not blocked by ice anymore. Navigation from Northern Atlantic to the Bering Straight through the completely open waters is possible since 20 of August, i.e. 26 days. I think that no such situation was recorded since the beginning of the polar research.

    The conclusion is that the melting of the sea ice of the northern ocean is advancing very rapidly. When the northern ocean will be free of ice and it’s temperature will rise because of lower albedo, we will reach the threshold point after which the global warming and collapse of the Greenland ice sheets will become more rapid.

  30. Tyler says:

    Cited above: NIC scientist Todd Arbetter suggests that much of the first-year ice is likely to melt by the end of summer, saying that despite the total ice extent appearing normal, the relative amount of multi-year ice going into this summer is very low when compared to climatological averages.

    From the end-Sept NSIDC report: Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the 2008 melt season was the higher-than-average retention of first-year sea ice

    Above: But back in the real world the planet keeps warming, and the Arctic is taking the worst of it…

    NSIDC Sept: One cause of the high first-year ice survival rate was that this summer was cooler than in 2007.

    I’d honestly like to understand what is going on, but who can judge things next to a 21 year treand line for a 4.5 B year old planet? And even though the year to year fluctuations are miniscule data points in all that, when you ignore your own referenced sources and keep harping on the end of the world, who can take you seriously?

  31. Anton says:

    If we site NSIDC let’s do it precisely:

    The major feature that presented in their 2008 report (http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/), Figure 4, is the lowest amount of thick multi-year ice since the measurements began in 1979. In the last press release of NSIDC (http://nsidc.org/news/press/20081002_seaice_pressrelease.html) the NSIDC Research Scientist Walt Meier said: “…preliminary data indicates that 2008 probably represents the lowest volume of Arctic sea ice on record, partly because less multi-year ice is surviving now, and the remaining ice is so thin.”

    Mr Tyler, why are you not citing this data?

  32. Tyler says:

    That’s good to know, thanks.

    Maybe I didn’t cite it because it’s “preliminary.” He also was cited by ABC saying, “We’re pretty confident this is a record low…” I don’t know, “pretty confident,” “probably,” those sound almost “settled.”

    When ABC announced “Arctic’s First Ice-Free Summer Possible Even This Year (woohoo!)” it began with similar rock solid language such as, “The distinct possibility that this summer…” also citing, “Andy Mahoney, a center researcher, has pinpointed this year in particular as having the “greatest chance” of being ice-free.”

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=5265092

    Oh well, like Cubs fans, wait’ll next year!

  33. jared says:

    if warming is a trend over time, why do we use 29 years to measure the ‘appropriate’ amount/thickness of ice?

    is warming occuring, sure it did, does and will happen again, same as cooling. thats science..not some trumped up computer model put together by people who can’t predict the temperature or percipitation more than 3 days into the future….

    i’m not naive or stupid, but i think people are letting emotions get in the way…go figure with the media we have.