NSIDC: In June, Arctic sea ice saw lowest extent and fastest rate of decline in the satellite record

NSIDC 7-5-10 small

This year will almost certainly set the record for lowest Arctic ice volume ever recorded (see “When things were rotten“).  But whether it will set the less important — but more visible — record for sea ice extent is less certain.  You can see how close 2010 is to 2007 now.

On the one hand, the National Snow and Ice Data Center just issued their July report, which notes, “June saw the return of the Arctic dipole anomaly, an atmospheric pressure pattern that contributed to the record sea ice loss in 2007.”  On the other hand, they point out:

… it would not be surprising to see the rate of ice loss slow in coming weeks as the melt process starts to encounter thicker, second and third year ice in the central Arctic Ocean. Loss of ice has already slowed in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas due to the tongue of thicker, older ice in the region noted in our April update.

Here is more on the dipole:

The record low ice extent of September 2007 was influenced by a persistent atmospheric pressure pattern called the summer Arctic dipole anomaly (DA). The DA features unusually high pressure centered over the northern Beaufort Sea and unusually low pressure centered over the Kara Sea, along the Eurasian coast. In accord with Buys Ballot’s Law, this pattern causes winds to blow from the south along the Siberian coast, helping to push ice away from the coast and favoring strong melt. The DA pattern also promotes northerly winds in the Fram Strait region, helping to flush ice out of the Arctic Ocean into the North Atlantic. The DA pattern may also favor the import of warm ocean waters from the North Pacific that hastens ice melt.

June 2010 saw the return of the DA, but with the pressure centers shifted slightly compared to summer 2007. As a result, winds along the Siberian coastal sector are blowing more from the east rather than from the south. Whether or not the DA pattern persists through the rest of summer will bear strongly on whether a new record low in ice extent is set in September 2010.

figure 5: Nares strait imageHere’s an interesting tidbit that might be relevant for those concerned about the warming of Greenland:

Ron Kwok of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reports that Nares Strait, the narrow passageway between northwest Greenland and Ellesmere Island is clear of the ice “arch” that usually plugs southward transport of the old, thick ice in the Lincoln Sea. Typically the ice arch forms in winter and breaks up in early July. This year the arch formed around March 15th and lasted only 56 days, breaking up in May. In 2007 the ice arch did not form at all, allowing twice as much export through Nares Strait than the annual mean. Although the export of sea ice out of the Arctic Ocean through Nares Strait is very small in comparison to the export through Fram Strait, the Lincoln Sea contains some of the Arctic’s thickest ice.

So this provides more indication that we’re likely to see record low volume this year, which I discussed here at length.

The Polar Science Center has not updated their volume anomaly since mid-June, so it still looks like this:

Piomas 6-10

“Anomalies for each day are calculated relative to the average over the 1979 -2009 period for that day to remove the annual cycle.”

I’ll do another post when PSC updates their numbers.

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23 Responses to NSIDC: In June, Arctic sea ice saw lowest extent and fastest rate of decline in the satellite record

  1. Anne says:

    You know, all of these scientific graphs are all well and good, but, we’re friggin’ dyin’ here in DC of heat exhaustion! Can’t we suspend all of this sciency charts and other complicated numbers and stuff until we can find a way to cool things off? I mean, ya know?? It’s FRIGGIN’ HOT here!!!!

  2. Peter Mizla says:


    it was 102 here today in eastern Connecticut- its still 93 at 8:30PM

    We all empathize with you-

  3. Will Koroluk says:

    Anne: Cooling things off is simple. All we’ve got to do is cut greenhouse gas emissions back–away-a-a-ay back, and wait for two or three generations. That’s if we’re lucky, of course.

  4. Michael Y says:

    I’ve had enough….we are seeing just too much devastation with the warming. It’s time to push a parallel agenda–along with CO2 reduction–of terraforming measures like SO2 in high altitude jets….Obviously sad that we’re reliant on this, but we risk going over some drastic tipping points at which point even terraforming measures will be insufficient.

    Joe, I think it’s time to push this line as well…sorry to say….

  5. paulm says:

    We haven’t heard from them because they are probably double checking their figure as the volume fell off a cliff!

  6. fliptop says:

    pardon me, but new dutch review says next ipcc report should have two sections, one for negative impacts and another for positive impacts. anyone else see this as insane?

  7. Richard Brenne says:

    Anne –

    I feel your pain! I dislike heat as much as anyone I know, with Norwegian ancestry and growing up in Portland, Oregon and just returning here recently.

    I’ve backpacked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out in 110 degree heat (mostly at night, never hiked a step in the sun, cooled my cotton t-shirt in every drop of water we encountered) have never lived in a house with air conditioning and never owned a car with air conditioning. I’ve also biked 1500 vertical feet up into the mountains above Boulder to work on 90-degree days, etc. I’d swim in Boulder creek on the way up, keep my long-sleeve t-shirt sopping wet the entire ride and a bandana also sopping wet under my helmet, and I’d arrive in more comfort than on a 70-degree day when I didn’t do those things.

    The long sleeves keep the cool cotton (which keeps moisture next to your skin, meaning you never want to wear a stitch of cotton mountain climbing, skiing or in any other cold weather outing) next to the blood vessels on your wrists. There and next to your temples are the key places. I worked with an entrepreneur who developed a headband to keep world-class endurance athletes cool by cooling their temples. I think we’ll use energy in ways like this, not heating or cooling entire 4000 square foot homes, which is insane.

    Wear a long-sleeve 100% cotton t-shirt and wear it into a swimming pool, fountain, bathtub or shower (wearing something under at your discretion), then keep it on until it dries, then repeat.

    The same with a cotton bandana which you can put over your head. Have a wet, cool washcloth with you at all times. Combining this with a fan works wonders, at least in a drier climate – I don’t have as much experience in your humidity.

    Then drink as many iced drinks and have as many sno-cones and popsicles as you can, chomp on the ice, keep it in your mouth, etc.

    Having a bowl of ice in front of a fan blowing on you also works well.

    If your house doesn’t have air conditioning (or even if it does), find out when the outside temperature and hopefully a breeze is cooler than your house or apartment, and open all windows and doors as wide as possible. Also putting large, heavy-duty box fans in windows when it’s cooler than the inside of your home helps. Start by blowing the hot air hot, then turn the fan around to blow cool air (when you finally get some) in. Get all the cross-ventilation you can.

    Then during the daytime when it’s warmer outside than the inside of your home, close all windows, blinds and curtains – improvise by adding addition things on south facing windows, ideally opaque blankets or sheets right up against the window.

    Some good movies: “Touching the Void”, great docu-drama about mountain climbing, almost every shot on snow or ice.

    “Alive” and the wonderful documentary “I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains” about Uruguayan rugby players who crash-land on a glacier high in the Andes. Might not be such a good choice if you’re eating rare roast beef.

    “It’s a Wonderful Life” – greatest movie ever, with lots of snow and Christmas scenes.

    “Whale Rider” – no snow scenes, but riding whales is cool (and this film started an epidemic of teenage whale riding).

    Try to walk, bike in the shade, or take air conditioned public transit.

    If you have to drive and it’s safe, park as far underground in the deepest parking garage possible. These parking garages act like caves, which have a constant temperature equal to their locations average annual temperature, so in Washington maybe around 60 degrees. Always try to park in the shade, get a silver auto shade that you put in your windshield, if you have the auto shade in then park facing the sun if possible. Then look at where the sun’s going to go throughout your time spent parking there and crack all four windows as much as is safe.

    Of course never leave anyone or anything in a parked car except the most obstinate global warming denier. In that case leave the windows up and you can demonstrate to them the greenhouse effect.

    Go to the movies and museums and restaurants you’ve always wanted to go to, especially the most modern ones that have the biggest reputation for cranking the A/C. Ask family and friends the coolest places they know about.

    Spend time as far underground as possible, like family or friends’ basements, etc. After dark, hang out in the breeziest possible places, like the tip of the Washington Monument (maybe with a harness).

    Dogs have higher body temperatures than we do (thus aboriginal Australians talked about a very cold night being a “Three Dog Night,” also they liked the 60s band of the same name) so use all these tricks with them and give them a voucher telling them you’ll pet them again as soon as it drops below 90.

    Avoid sciency graphs, except for the one charting heat-related brain addling dropping to acceptable levels.

  8. MapleLeaf says:

    This is going to be a particularly interesting year to watch the Arctic sea ice retreat. Signs of rate of loss slowing the last few days or so, but then again it has been very warm along the Russian coastline the last while.

    I’ll leave this one to the professionals (e.g., NSIDC) to figure out. All I will venture to say is that I’ll be very surprised if the min extent in 2010 is greater than what it was in 2006 or 2005.

  9. jyyh says:

    #5 fliptop: what?!? if some Dutch wants to read a report on positive impacts of AGW, even I could summarize the complete report on those, as some 95% of the material would get tossed away in the beginning. The fact that the rest would need heavy referencing on why they might not be as positive as they seem, is another matter and that I’m not willing to do, as clearly this kind of demand is accompanied with an unrealistic world wiew (over-optimism, narcicism (call it what you will)), and the person saying that is likely to blame other people or God for the inevitable (western world (cf. developing world)) misfortunes the person saying that may encounter in his life.

    Hmm. Maybe I should tone that down a bit… No.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Observed event –

    Over the weekend I caught 6.5 inches of rain at my greenhouse at the southern end of the high plains of North America. Just south of here 15 inches fell near Tahoka, Texas. That rain did this :

    Heavy rains burst oil line upstream of future Lubbock water supply

    ” The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality closed Lake Alan Henry indefinitely as crews continued oil cleanup efforts along the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River that flows into the reservoir. ”

    ” Record rainfall appeared to push Brazos River over its banks and washed out the foundations of several nearby oil lines, Ramona Nye, spokeswoman for the Texas Railroad Commission, said in an e-mailed response to questions. ”
    5 bucks sez, ” everything is OK.”

  11. Deborah Stark says:

    Post Number 4: Michael Y wrote:
    …..I’ve had enough… we are seeing just too much devastation with the warming. It’s time to push a parallel agenda – along with CO2 reduction – of terraforming measures like SO2 in high altitude jets… Obviously sad that we’re reliant on this, but we risk going over some drastic tipping points at which point even terraforming measures will be insufficient.

    Joe, I think it’s time to push this line as well… sorry to say…..


    It’s too bad things had to get this far out of control, isn’t it? It didn’t have to be this way.

    I’ve been re-reading some Kurt Vonnegut lately (Hocus Pocus, Fates Worse Than Death, Man Without a Country.) The last twenty years of Vonnegut’s life were consumed with anguish over what he called “our destruction of the planet as a life-supporting apparatus of delicate and beautiful complexity.” He suggested the following as an epitaph for the whole planet:

    “We could have saved it but we were too darn cheap and lazy.”

    While it depresses me greatly (understatement) to of late be seeing and hearing increasing reference to the idea of loading the lower stratosphere with SO2 I do understand where you’re coming from.

    The thing is, we do not know, really, what the side effects (short- and long-term) of such a project might be.

    I am extremely angry, quite frankly (although I’ve learned to live with that out of practical necessity.) We’ve had easily 30 years, knowing what we know, to transition to a cleaner energy infrastructure and we’ve essentially done NOTHING.

    I am angry because our failure to rise to this challenge is going to leave my small granddaughters and their peers with a very changed and, I am afraid, very unpleasant world if currently developing (and thus far pretty accurately predicted) trends are any indication.

  12. I’ve been reading Vonnegut lately, too. Have you read his novel “Galapagos,” about the evolutionary future of the former human race? It’s a vision I think of often.

    At the end of his visionary book, “Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse,” David W. Orr gently refers to something hardly anyone else will mention: the growing difficulties of thinking clearly, keeping a “cool head,” and of acting with energy, in periods of high heat. Not to mention all the machinery and infrastructure that gets fried. He notes that it was this visceral experience, not some intellectual challenge, that focused his interest on climate change. It was a similar summer in the late 1980s that motivated me.

    My sympathies to those of you in the East and Middle Atlantic now. Please keep as cool as you can, and look out for the most vulnerable, particularly the old. We are not yet attuned to the realities of sickness and death from heat, especially since so far it has affected the invisible poor and elderly. But it’s happening where you are now, and it will happen more and more.

  13. BBHY says:

    Michael Y, we haven’t even tried reducing our output of CO2 yet. Maybe we should give that a try!

  14. Prokaryotes says:

    “Heavy rains burst oil line upstream of future Lubbock water supply”

    I predict that wells, mines etc become more unstable – because of uptake in seismic activities – ice melt, precipitation, pressure anomaly etc. Stronger weather will also cause an increase in all areas of transportation accidents – pipelines, ships, trucks etc.

    Renewable energy generation has the profound difference of stationary sustainability to overcome most of the transportation challenges in a world twisted with catastrophic climate change – Energy Security.

  15. Brooks Bridges says:

    Four private yachts/boats made the complete Northwest Passage over the summer season of 2007, 11 in 2009 including a 40 ft fiberglass sailboat.

    Before 2007 it was only the odd vessel prepared to spend the winter iced in that attempted it and few made it in a single season.

    I’ll bet the 2010 number will be much higher.

    This is my personal metric on sea ice loss.

  16. Mike #22 says:

    Phil Jones exonerated, yet again–

    [JR: Working on it!]

  17. Fire Mountain says:

    I want to see James Imhofe put up his igloo on Capitol Hill now.

  18. Esop says:

    Has Inhofe been reached for a comment on the record setting temperatures? He was quite vocal when it snowed in February.

  19. Mike says:

    fliptop: I don’t think having separate sections on positive and negative effects makes sense either. What is positive to one interest group may be negative to another.

    Here is a crazy thought: Is it at all feasible block the ice flow through the Naser Strait? Could we build some sort of “ice dame”?

  20. Allan says:

    People are complaining of heat now. Wait till the arctic is ice free and the albedo of the planet changes. I see things get worst, faster.

  21. Dave says:

    This is not the hottest time in earth’s history. Weather is not climate. Y’all have your shorts in a knot. It’s been a cold spring where i live. Ski resorts opened again in June – 1st time ever.

  22. Dave says:

    One more thing – did’nt y’all have one of the worst winters ever for cold and snow? Weather is not climate.

  23. Vladimir says:

    Hi, name is Vladimir, im writing from St-Petersburg, Russia. We have an extreme heat wave here in our northern city.+33 C was today which broke a 70 year record. It’s hot for two weeks now and getting hotter. I usually dont leave comments on any blogs or forums as i think its very pointless unless you like to type. But iwant to know from real people cite that the warming is very unusual in many places across the globe.
    Thank you.