During the melting season I'm regularly writing updates on the current sea ice extent (SIE) as reported by IJIS (a joint effort of the International Arctic Research Center and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and compare it to the sea ice extents in the period 2005-2010. NSIDC has a good explanation of what sea ice extent is in their FAQ. I also look at other things like sea ice area, concentration, volume, temperature and weather forecasts, anything that can be of particular interest. Check out the Arctic sea ice graph webpage for daily updated graphs, maps and live webcam images.
June 17th 2011
I'm never going on a holiday during the melting season again. It's amazing how much everything can change in just two weeks.I've been so busy catching up that I need another holiday.
In the last SIE update 3 weeks ago I was wondering if the 11 million mark would be passed before the end of the month for the first time (it didn't), and now the 10 million mark has been passed on the earliest date in the IJIS dataset.
Having a look at my spreadsheet helps a lot to see what has happened (first century breaks have been rolling in, more on that in a separate blog post in a couple of days), but I really miss the PIPS ice displacement forecast maps to see how the ice has moved these past couple of weeks. Luckily (and gratefully) I was able to glean a lot of info from the many comments that were posted during my absence.
Apparently weather conditions shifted yet again, slowing things down on the Canadian side - notably the Beaufort Sea where sea ice is no longer churned away towards Russia under the influence of the Beaufort Gyre - but wreaking havoc on the Siberian coast. This is resulting in serious drops in SIE and SIA.
Sea ice extent (SIE)
Here's the IJIS SIE graph:
If you click for the larger version you can actually see a pinch of white between this year's trend and the one from 2010, which was doing some pretty awesome stuff last year. This year could be awesomer, at least during June.
The current difference between 2011 and the other years is as follows:
- 2005: -530K (-57,531)
- 2006: -381K (-59,609)
- 2007: -618K (-63,328)
- 2008: -707K (-57,526)
- 2009: -790K (-55,938)
- 2010: -143K (-74,120)
Between brackets is the average daily extent rate for the month of June. 2011's average daily extent rate for June is currently -73,184 square kilometers, just below the incredible June 2010 average. 2006's role has been played out for the rest of the season, the other trend lines are too far away to merit any attention until the end of the month.
It's between 2010 and 2011 now. The former has a very strong finish from now to the end of June, but the latter has built up a lead of 143K and isn't showing any signs of slowing down in this clash of the titans. This is also obvious on the Uni Bremen extent rate graph:
As SIA is also dropping (obviously), the trend line on the Cryosphere Today SIA anomaly graph has become a tad less boring and is again moving away from the minus minus 1 million square km mark:
Now that all the action has returned to the Siberian side of the Arctic the Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and even the East Siberian Sea are showing heavy drops. But as always this is compensated on the other side, where the Beaufort Sea has shown a radical upturn. SIA decrease in the Greenland Sea and Baffin/Newfoundland Bay has also slowed down a bit, but Hudson Bay is going down fast.
CryosphereToday area per IJIS extent (CAPIE)
As expected in the last update SIE caught up with SIA, meaning CAPIE has gone up a bit and looks normal now for the time of year:
But soon melt ponds are going to play a big role in how the CAPIE percentage drops. We'll discuss that when it happens.
Sea level pressure
My life has just become more difficult with the PIPS ice displacement forecast maps no longer being updated. I have mailed the Naval Research Laboratory to ask if PIPS will come online again, and hopefully they'll answer soon. I can't remember if the same thing happened last year, as I started using the ice displacement maps towards the end of the melting season.
DMI has a similar product, but it "will not be updated between May and September (both month inclusive), due to dubious quality during ice surface melt". There's another one from Mercator or some such. I have to see if it's still being updated. Let me know in the comments if you know of a thing with arrows on it.
All I can do for now is make an animation of the ECMWF SLP forecast for the coming week:
These forecasts aren't very trustworthy the further out they go, but it will be interesting to see if indeed those high pressure systems start dominating the North American side of the Arctic, meaning the Beaufort Gyre starts kicking into gear again. We'll know it is if SIA in the Beaufort Sea starts dropping again and ice floes start drifting into some of those huge polynya's on the other side.
The Arctic Oscillation Index is pretty negative (and projected to stay more or less negative the coming 10-14 days), so plenty of high pressure areas to be expected, meaning clear skies as we approach Summer Solstice:
2011 is in the process of taking the lead in all graphs as we speak. The big question is: can the melting keep up with awesome 2010, or be even awesomer? What will the weather do? Or is the thin ice so thin it doesn't matter?
I'm sure we'll discuss this on a daily basis now. In the meantime I suggest we seriously start watching the MODIS images, what with Nares Strait possibly breaking up, and the Passages starting to open up, and strange little holes around the North Pole, and fast ice turning blue, and the ice pack soon turning grey, and the temperatures shooting up on land and sea around the Arctic, and the century breaks, and... and... and...
The Arctic: so slow, yet so fast. No more holidays.
TIPS - Other blog posts and news articles concerning the Arctic and its ice:
Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson has shot some beautiful pictures while visiting the 2011 Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station.
One of the best pieces I have read on coastal erosion in the Arctic on Yale Environment 360.