Arctic sea ice area and volume drop near record lows

WattsUpWithThat breaks its own record for fastest overturning of a prediction by reality

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, click to enlarge) has a widely used plot of sea ice area.

The notion that the Arctic sea ice was somehow on a long-term recovery trend based on a short-term two-dimensional analysis (i.e. sea ice area or extent just over the last 2 years) — had no basis in fact. That goes double (triple?) when you look at three dimensions (i.e. volume) over a multi-year period, as I’ll discuss below.

But first, Anthony Watts and Steven Goddard have published some two dozen posts this year trying to pull a Groucho Marx with their shrinking readership: “Who are you going to believe — me or your own lying eyes.” In a June post, “The undeath spiral,” Watts and Goddard predict “Should we expect a nice recovery this summer due to the thicker ice? You bet ya.”

Amazingly, they repeated that exact dead-wrong prediction in an August 9 (!) post (click here, if you want a good laugh, emphasis most definitely in the original):

Steve Goddard writes that so far, “steady as a rock” and offers some interesting analysis:

At the beginning of June, I observed that the PIPS ice distribution in 2010 was very similar to 2006. The distributions were nearly identical, with 2010 average thickness a little lower than 2006.

Can we find another year with similar ice distribution as 2010? I can see Russian ice in my Windows. Note in the graph below that 2010 is very similar to 2006. 2006 had the highest minimum (and smallest maximum) in the DMI record. Like 2010, the ice was compressed and thick in 2006. Conclusion : Should we expect a nice recovery this summer due to the thicker ice? You bet ya.

Since then we have read seemingly endless hysterics by Joe Romm and government sources about record melt rates, and how clueless and ignorant my analysis has been.

Hysterics. Seriously.

To be clear, on August 9, Goddard and Watts reassert their prediction that the ice will recover this year. Yes, they were predicting “ a record high minimum in the DMI charts.” Not even close.


But as if that wrong prediction was not undone by reality fast enough, on August 22, Goddard and Watts try to break their own record with this restated prediction:

My forecast remains unchanged. 5.5 million, finishing above 2009 and below 2006. Same as it has been since May.

We’re now at about 5.3 million km2. We blew past 5.5 within days of that post. And they say even a stopped clock is right twice a day — but how about a clock that is broken in a way so that it always shows the wrong time?

Why does Watts still let Goddard post (see Fastest disinformer retraction: Watts says Goddard’s “Arctic ice increasing by 50000 km2 per year” post is “an example of what not to do when graphing trends”)?

Back to actual science. More significant than sea ice area or extemt, we are almost certainly at or near record low volume.


Back in July 2009, some of the leading cryoscientists at JPL, the Polar Science Center [PSC] at the University of Washington, and NASA published a major peer-reviewed article, “Thinning and volume loss of the Arctic Ocean sea ice cover: 2003–2008” (subs. req’d).

You can find a basic discussion of their findings here on NASA’s website, which points out, “Arctic sea ice thinned dramatically between the winters of 2004 and 2008, with thin seasonal ice replacing thick older ice as the dominant type for the first time on record.” That link has some excellent figures, like this one:

“ICESat measurements of winter multi-year ice cover in the Arctic Ocean between 2004 and 2008, along with the corresponding downward trend in overall winter sea ice volume, and switch in dominant ice type from multi-year ice to first-year ice.”

Between 2007 “” the record low ice extent “” and 2008, some 2000 cubic kilometers of Arctic sea ice were lost. Volume simply never recovered, even when extent and area did in 2008. We also know that the Arctic ice did not “recover” in 2008 (see “Arctic poised to see record low sea ice volume this year”):

Even when the news stories were about the Arctic ice supposedly “recovering” (in area) in 2008 and 2009, it was still sharply shedding the thickest ice “” ice older than 2 years.

And now we can see it hasn’t recovered in 2010, which is precisely what the PSC’s PIOMAS ice volume model shows:

And so we would still appear to be on track toward the prediction of Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School

*This projection is based on a combined model and data trendline focusing on ice volume. By “ice-free,” Maslowski tells me he means more than an 80% drop from the 1979–2000 summer volume baseline of ~200,00 km^3 [see Arctic death spiral: Naval Postgrad School’s Maslowski “projects ice-free* fall by 2016 (+/- 3 yrs)”: But in the land of make-believe, Watts and Goddard say: “Arctic ice extent and thickness nearly identical to what it was 10 years ago.”].


Some sea ice above Greenland and Eastern Canada may survive into the 2020s (as the inset in his figure shows), but the Arctic as it has been for apparently a million years will be gone.

My big $1000 bet with James Annan, William Connolley, and Brian Schmidt still looks pretty good, which is to say I would definitely not switch sides (see “Another big climate bet “” Of Ice and Men”).

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