The Melting Of The Arctic Ice Continues Apace
Some thoughts of my own on the melting sea ice in the Arctic and on recent headlines.
Sam Carana has given an update on the Arctic ice in his latest article, Arctic Sea Ice Getting Terribly Thin
Now I would like to give my own perspective as a relatively-informed lay person.
This is how I see it.
Mostly what we get through media reports is the sea ice area. If we look at the graph below we are due to beat the record for sea ice extent set in 2012.
This makes the situation look pretty pretty bad, but not dire.
However that only gives us a very partial picture.
We also need to look at ice volume and in particular ice thickness.
We know that that all the old ice in the Arctic has disppeared and is mostly new ice created by seasonal condiitions in the winter.
Whereas the ice used to be dozens of meters thick in times gone by now the thickest ice is up to 3 meters thick.
Look at this latest chart. It shows areas of the Arctic very close to the North Pole that are between 0.5 and 1 meter thick (1-3 feet)!
As an aside I have found this 2015 article which is able to show the loss of sea ice thickness over the past 40 years based on information that has been retrieved data from submarine records.
“It’s no surprise that Arctic sea ice is thinning. What is new is just how long, how steadily, and how much it has declined. University of Washington researchers compiled modern and historic measurements to get a full picture of how Arctic sea ice thickness has changed.
The results, published in The Cryosphere, show a thinning in the central Arctic Ocean of 65 percent between 1975 and 2012. September ice thickness, when the ice cover is at a minimum, is 85 percent thinner for the same 37-year stretch.”
One has to ask the question about the density of the ice. Does slush qualify as ice?
Remember the case of the experienced researcher who drowned after falling through thin ice in 2015
I read a comment by a friend on Facebook that said he did not believe we would have a blue ocean event this September.
That seemed an extraordinary statement because there is no way that we can know ahead of time. There are simply too many variables.
We shall just have to wait and see.
But we can continue to monitor the indications.
When I look at conditions in the Arctic it all looks incredibly vulnerable. All it would take with the ice being so incredibly thin would be a large storm in the Arctic to help break up the ice and send it out into the North Sea via the Fram Strait.
Look at conditions yesterday in the Arctic.
They are not perfectly still. There are winds of 25-35 km/hr (15-20 mph)
Perhaps the question to ask is what would it take for a melting of the ice NOT to take place?
It seems to me that the answer is that we would need an early end to the very warm conditions that we are seeing and an early start to the freeze and a total absence of storms to churn things up and allow for further melting.
This next map showing sea temperature anomalies shows the current situation clearly.
Perhaps even more clearly than conditions on land although there have been unprecedently hot conditions in both Alaska and Siberia
Regarding Alaska, "using the 25-city temperature index developed by Rick Thoman, Alaska has now been above normal for 223 of the last 224 days. Not only has it been above normal, it's been way above normal. In fact, 2016 is close to exceeding 2014 and 2015, the two warmest years on record, for the number of days in the much warmer than normal category "
As pointed out by Sam Carana, "sea surface temperatures off the coast of North America are high and much of this heat will be carried by the Gulf Stream to the Arctic Ocean over the coming months"
As he points out, "sea surface temperature was as high as 18.1°C or 64.6°F close to Svalbard (green circle) on August 6, 2016, 13.1°C or 23.6°F warmer than in 1981-2011"
Then we have the wildfires around the world. Wildfires in Canada and Siberia have, and are adding large amounts of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere providing yet another positive feedback.
In addition the lungs of the planet, the Amazon, are starting the be a source of greenhouse gasses.
Here are the carbon monoxide levels over the Arctic region – 2 August, 2016
And there is the measurable methane emissions from the Arctic.
Excessive methane burst North and East of Greenland. 07 31 2016
(Thanks Harold Hansell)
And from Robertscribbler
Methane spikes over Siberia, Africa and the Amazon correlate with wildfires and extreme drought conditions associated with human-forced climate change. Add in carbon dioxide spikes over the same regions of Africa and the Amazon and it begins to look like a visible amplifying feedback signal. Image source: The Copernicus Observatory.)
Methane levels 200 times the average were measured from "bubbling ground" discovered in Siberia
Measurements taken by researchers on expeditions to the island found that after removing grass and soil from the 'bubbling' ground, the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration released was 20 times above the norm, while the methane(CH4) level was 200 times higher.
And we have the anthrax released from the long-frozen carcass of a reindeer, the best explanation so far of a recent outbreak of anthrax in Siberia that has now been replicated elsewhere.
Finally I will leave you with comments from Roger Caldwell on the unprecedented CO2 levels in the atmosphere
"Last year, 2015, saw the largest rise in global CO2 concentration since records began. The rise was 2.99ppm. This year, that record will again get smashed, as were already 3.58ppm higher than 2015.
This is happening even though mankind emissions have stayed flat for the last 3 years (according to the IEA) due largely to phenomenal growth of RE (wind and solar).
This is really bad news because it means that nature, not man, is now in control of the extinction event that we started.
The record El Niño can be credited for part of the rise, for example, the combined years of '97/'98 saw an increase of 4.78ppm. But it doesn't compare to the 6.57ppm were seeing thus far in '15/'16.
We've crossed the tipping point. CO2 is now rising faster due to climate feedback than it is to mans emissions. In other words, we're fucked."