Category Archives: Sea ice

2013 Arctic ice maximum: 10 straight years of declining sea ice peak

NASA providing the video: the above is an interesting fact. The maximum extent of the Arctic sea ice was the “sixth smallest” recorded in 35 years of satellite observation.

As you watch the video you can see some amazing images:

  • An August 2012 cyclone helped break up the sea ice, sending a large pack into warmer southern waters
  • Ice north of Alaska was subject to fracturing, with cracks in the ice “hundreds of miles long” – most likely due to thinner sea ice

Each year, the sea ice maximum gets smaller, this year it reached its maximum of 15.13 square kilometers on March 15. As the National Snow and Ice Data Centre notes, the ten lowest maximums have occurred in the last ten years:

Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent for the year on March 15 at 15.13 million square kilometers (5.84 million square miles). This year’s maximum ice extent was the sixth lowest in the satellite record (the lowest maximum extent occurred in 2011). The ten lowest maximums in the satellite record have occurred in the last ten years (2004 to 2013).

Such data puts to rest the “temperatures have plateaued” nonsense. You can see the 2013 maximum against the 1979-2000 median:

Such data puts to rest the “temperatures have plateaued” nonsense.

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Of sea ice & Andrew Bolt: freedom of speech under attack?

Pity Andrew Bolt who seems to be under some form of “investigation’ by the dark forces of censorship.

In a November 20 blog post titled Record ice around Antarctica Blot hints that he – and indeed the very notion of freedom of speech – is under attack:  

I am in a dispute with a free-speech regulator which fancies putting out a statement declaring this freezing essentially patchy, small and recent and proposes to find fault in me not quoting warmists who make irrelevant arguments…

All very sinister by the sounds of it. One wonders if Andrew was dragged out of the Herald Sun’s South Bank tower in the middle of the night, and like Galileo shown the instruments of torture. What has our fearless commentator now said that has sent the forces of darkness against him?

Bolt has been pushing the old denier canard that the growth of sea ice in Antarctica somehow disproves climate change. Bolt references an article from that august scientific publication from the UK The Daily Mail. Titled Now there’s more ice at South Pole than ever (So much for global warming thawing Antarctica!):

Ice around the South Pole has expanded to cover a record area, scientists revealed yesterday – a month after saying that the North Pole had lost an unprecedented amount of its ice.

Researchers say – rather confusingly – that both occurrences are down to the ‘complex and surprising’ effects of global warming.

The record Antarctic sea ice cover was revealed in satellite images from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado….

At the end of the southern winter in September, ice covered 7.51million square miles of sea – more than at any time since records began in 1979. For the last 30 years the amount of Antarctic sea ice has been increasing by 1 per cent each decade.

One assumes a complaint was made to Australian Press Council (APC) about of one of Andrew’s many lies misrepresentations concerning climate change.

And no, it wasn’t me – but I’ve often thought about it. Still I have little doubt what conclusions such an investigation would find: Andrew got his facts wrong. Again.

But let’s be clear about one thing: freedom of speech is not under attack.

Andrew Bolt is a privileged member of the media elite; he commands a large audience, gets paid handsomely and seeks to influence the political debate within Australia. Bolt is not an outlier – despite posing as a gadfly or intellectual rebel. He is simply one of the more prominent members of News Limited’s stable of conservative journalists.

Unlike Mr Bolt, most ordinary individuals lack the backing of a global media giant that generates billions in revenue and armies of lawyers to represent you in court when you get basic facts wrong.

Regulators such as the APC and ACMA help provide a level playing field. Checks and balances are essential to limit abuses of power. The APC and ACMA are merely part of a system of checks and balances.

Let’s be honest these aren’t vast, monolithic agents of totalitarian repression. They’re rather toothless really: they’re primary role is help foster standards.

Standards such as getting the facts right.

What Andrew Bolt and many of the other hyper-sensitive climate change sceptics frequently overlook is that criticism and having you claims critically examined by a neutral third-party is not censorship.

It rather simple really: when you fail to play by the rules of evidence, you’re going to get caught out.

And if you’re wrong – as Andrew is so very often on climate change – then it is only reasonable to expect repercussions. If you’re wrong, you are going to be called on it. Indeed, this debate and validation of claims are an essential part this whole “freedom of speech” thing Andrew wishes to make himself the poster boy for.

Freedom of speech is not just shouting at the world your own point of view, which is what Andrew seems to believe. There is the freedom for others to answer back and challenge claims.

Andrew Bolt is free to lie, misrepresent and distort the facts about climate change.

But no amount of chest-pounding and hyperbole is going to change the fact that he is consistently wrong about the science of climate change.

However in a rather grandiose fashion, Bolt conflates criticism of his many factual errors with an attack on free speech, liberty and democracy.

He simply can’t admit error; therefore he turns these episodes into little mini-dramas in which he is the victim of a vast conspiracy of leftists, warmists, socialists and nasty environmentalists.

How else can he explain to both himself and the diminishing ranks of climate sceptics these “attacks”?

Surely HE can’t be wrong… surely it’s the fault of those scheming “warmists” making “irrelevant arguments”.

And the sea ice?

Yes it is true the sea ice has been growing 1 per cent each decade. But Bolt and the denial cheer squad exclude some key facts.

Overall, Antarctica is losing ice: sea ice may be increasing due to the complex interplay of winds, a declining Ozone hole and natural variation.

But Bolt and the deniers overlook – deliberately – the fact that land ice is declining.

As this National Geographic article points out, Antarctica is warming but at a slower pace than the Arctic:

Q. While Arctic sea ice is decreasing, the Antarctic is now slightly increasing. Why is there so much variation between Arctic and Antarctic ice?

Well we have a continent on the South Pole. On the North Pole we have nothing but ocean. In the Arctic you see full-fledged warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, plus increased ice transport [out of the region, which removes cold air and water]. So all of these effects contribute to reduce the sea ice cover in the Arctic.

In the Antarctic, you have to think of it as its own climate system. It’s a big continent isolated from the rest of the world. It has ocean all around it. It has wind regimes that blow clockwise around it and isolate it. It acts differently from the Arctic, which is completely connected to the rest of the North Hemisphere.

Q. Considering we regularly hear about the planet’s stressed climate system, is this good news?

Really, it’s consistent with our understanding of a warming world. Some of the regional details are not something we can easily predict. But the general trends of decay of the sea ice cover and decay of the Greenland ice sheets and ice caps is in line with what we expect.

The Antarctic has not been warming up as fast as the models thought. It’s warming up, but slower. So it’s all consistent with a warming planet.

What I suspect happened is this: Bolt, like most deniers, cherry picked some facts about Antarctica’s sea ice growing, alluding that climate change wasn’t real. Bolt has been called on this, and deeply resents the fact he has been made accountable.

The “irrelevant arguments” by warmists Andrew is desperate to dismiss are no doubt facts that challenge his world view.

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Rock bottom: Arctic sea ice reaches lowest extent on record

Will we be seeing this image on the front page of a major paper? Nah… didn’t think so.


On September 16, Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its minimum extent for the year of 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles). This is the lowest seasonal minimum extent in the satellite record since 1979 and reinforces the long-term downward trend in Arctic ice extent. The sea ice extent will now begin its seasonal increase through autumn and winter.

Please note that this is a preliminary announcement. Changing winds could still push ice floes together, reducing ice extent further. NSIDC scientists will release a full analysis of the melt season in early October, once monthly data are available for September.

Yep: now I truly know what a death spiral looks like.

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The Northwest Passage and Arctic: open for business?

Reprint of an artucle by Peter C. Doherty, University of Melbourne, on The Conversation 18 September 2012.

A combination of 33-year satellite records, measurements made over the past century, and long-term proxy analysis suggests Arctic sea ice may be at its lowest level for more than 1,000 years.

According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) figures for August 26 2012, Arctic sea ice cover dropped to less than 4 million square kilometres, tracking below the previous minimum in 2007 and 45% down on the levels recorded in the 1980s and 1990s.

The rate of decline has averaged out at 10.4% per decade.

This massive increase in the amount of ice-free ocean allowed three courageous adventurers to take the flimsy 9.3m fiberglass sloop Belzebub II on a three-month west/east transit of the fabled Northwest Passage, which they completed a short time ago.

Sailing via the M’Clure Strait (first traversed by icebreakers in the 1990s) to the Beaufort Sea, their voyage was not without risk. But they endured nothing like the hardships experienced by Roald Amundsen and his crew of six when they made the very first the east/west NW Passage crossing in 1903-6.

The Gjøa, Amundsen’s 21m, shallow-draft wooden herring boat, was frozen in for two years causing fears that, like the ice-fortified bomb-ships Erebus and Terror and the 129 men of the 1850s Franklin Expedition, they had all been lost.

With iron reinforcement fore and aft, a retractable rudder, and clad in Douglas fir covered by Australian ironwood, the 32m Royal Canadian Mounted Police Schooner St Roch (St Rock) reversed Amundsen’s route to complete a difficult 28-month west/east passage in 1942.

The crew used explosives to break up ice floes and, protected by the rounded hull that allowed the ship to be forced up by encroaching ice, they were frozen in for ten months. That technology was used earlier in Fridtjof Nansen’s Fram, the ship that took Roald Amundsen to Antarctica for his successful 1912 conquest of the South Pole.

Many will have seen Australian Frank Hurleys’ dramatic movie and still photographs of Ernest Shackleton’s 1915 Anatarctic expedition ship, the Endurance, being crushed to matchwood in an ice-vice. Though immensely strong, the Endurance was designed to force through floe ice and had a conventional, deep hull.

After the installation of a much more powerful engine, the St Roch made a much faster east/west transit using a more northerly route, though again with great difficulty due to encountering very heavy ice conditions.

Still, she was the first ship to traverse the Northwest Passage both ways, and the first to make the crossing in one season. The St Roch can be seen at the Vancouver Maritime Museum while, after being displayed for many years in San Francisco (where she was left by Amundsen) and then in Norway, a new home is being built for the Gjøa at the Fram Museum in Oslo. The watery graves of her Victorian majesty’s ships Erebus and Terror are yet to be located.

Though they were not icebreakers in the modern sense, these tough, wooden polar vessels endured conditions that would have crushed the deep-keeled Belzebub II like an eggshell.

Much of Amundsen’s transit was only possible because of the Gjøa’s shallow draft while, even in wartime, there was no suggestion that the St Roch had discovered a route that could be used by naval or supply ships.

With decreasing Arctic sea ice, many ships and smaller boats have made the transit over the past two decades. Now, it seems that the Northwest Passage will soon be officially open for summer business.

Maybe we should consider 2012 as a banner year for the Arctic, just as 1912 marked both triumph (Amundsen) and tragedy (Scott) in the annals of Antarctic exploration.

If though, we accept the majority scientific view that what is happening now with Arctic sea ice may be a bellwether of anthropogenic warming, will we ultimately see 2012 as triumphant, or as just one step in an emerging global tragedy?

Peter Doherty is a professor at the University of Melbourne and is a member of the Board of The Conversation. He also serves in a voluntary, unremunerated capacity as Chair of the Board that provides strategic oversight to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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Image of the day: sea ice retreat, Beaufort Sea

From NASA:


“…The rapid melt north of Alaska was part of a larger phenomenon. Sea ice across the entire Arctic reached record-low levels for this time of year, NSIDC stated, slightly below the previous record set in June 2010. It was also lower than the extent in June 2007; Arctic sea ice reached its lowest extent ever recorded by satellite in September 2007.

In the first half of June 2012, the Beaufort Sea was a “hotspot” of rapid retreat, driven by a high-pressure pattern over the region that kept skies clear at the very time of year when sunlight lasts the longest. In addition, larger-scale climate patterns in early June 2012 favored ice retreat along the coastlines of Alaska and Siberia. As of June 18, temperatures were above freezing over much of the sea ice in the Arctic, and snow had melted earlier than normal, leading to warming on land.”

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