Talking about cool, yet depressing vids: Peter Sinclair from the Climate Denial Crock of the Week blog has produced a new video for The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media (link) that covers this melting season and shows the reactions from several experts:
During the melting season I'm writing (bi-)weekly updates on the
current situation with regards to Arctic sea ice (ASI). Central to
these updates are the daily IJIS sea ice extent (SIE) and Cryosphere Today sea ice area (SIA) numbers, which I compare to data from the 2005-2011 period (NSIDC has a good explanation
of sea ice extent and area in their FAQ). I also look at other things
like regional sea ice area, compactness,
temperature and weather forecasts,
anything that can be of particular interest.
I left for a vacation after all the records had been broken and have returned just in time to see all the minimums get hit on the various graphs. In the past couple of years the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado, has built up a well-deserved reputation of being the number one source of information when it comes to Arctic sea ice. When they called the minimum three days ago, it was picked up far and wide by news agencies around the world, an even better response than when all the records started to break one by one a little over a month ago.
I remember well the excitement I felt around this time in 2010 and 2011, checking all the graphs and satellite images every hour, trying to predict when the melting season would end. But none of that this year. Maybe it's because I still feel overworked, despite my vacation. Maybe it's because the records were broken so early in the season, preceded by several spectacular events. Maybe it's because this melting season was so freakish that it was practically impossible to pinpoint the minimum a few days in advance.
All those factors play a role, but what I think is going on, is that this stunning melting season has made me even more acutely aware of the gravity of what is taking place. This melting season has provided the final and definite confirmation that the ice is thin, PIOMAS has it largely right, and I have a very hard time finding indications that this is going to turn around real soon. To be able to watch and write about the Arctic sea ice, I used to block out the realisation of risks, so that I could make a joke here and there and be scientifically reticent in my own amateur way, keeping up appearances, acting objective.
But my bubble has burst. I'm already watching past the minimum. As the melting season ends, it feels as if things are only beginning. The age of consequences.
Sea ice extent (SIE)
Now that AMSR2 is operational, IJIS doesn't seem to revise the last data point, so I'm including it for this latest graph:
On September 16th the trend line shortly dipped below 3.5 million km2, reaching a minimum extent of 3.489.063 square kilometres. That's more than three quarters of a million below the 2007 record, and more than a million below 2011. I knew that there was a good chance the record would be broken this year, but never imagined it would be by such a large margin. Especially not with circumstances that in many ways were the opposite of those in 2007.
The current difference between 2012 and other years is as follows:
Skeptical Science's John Mason has written a wonderful article, debunking some of the nonsense that is being spouted by fake skeptics to trivialize the stunning 2012 melting season (Tamino also re-whacks one of those moles):
Record Arctic Sea-ice minimum 2012 declared - it's the Silly Season!
Posted on 22 September 2012 by John Mason
The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is. Winston Churchill, 1916.
has long been known in media circles as the Silly Season, when any old
story, embellished a bit here and a bit there, is trundled out to fill
column space normally occupied by the graver matters of politics and
In the world
of climate science, late summer is of course rather more important,
marking the peak of the annual sea-ice melting season of the Northern
Hemisphere, and this year has been extraordinary, with the canary in the
coal mine tweeting louder than ever that something is seriously amiss
with the climate.
With Arctic sea-ice having reached a record low extent, area and
volume, several weeks ahead of the usual end-of-melt date, the
Blogosphere has been ablaze with lengthy discussions of this event and
its potential and worrisome ramifications. There have also been
mass-outbreaks of denial accompanied by varying degrees of silliness, as
one might expect when faced with an event like a record Arctic
melt-out. Many commentators could see the meltdown approaching, both in
the Arctic and around parts of the Blogosphere, with Gareth Renowden
over at Hot Topic speculating in early August as follows:
The melting season has come to an end (more on that tomorrow in a new ASI update) and so all kinds of cool graphs, images and videos make the rounds. Unfortunately what is going on in the Arctic isn't so cool, otherwise it'd be more fun. The awe-inspiring shattering of records and the seriousness of the whole thing is starting to hit home, surpassing my denial mechanisms.
It's been very cloudy in the Arctic this year. Luckily commenter dabize kept on sending me his 'declouded' version of the False-Colour Composite images Environment Canada makes of the LANCE-MODIS satellite images. These give us a good indication of what's going on. Hopefully he'll have the time for a couple more now that the freezing season is starting. Thanks for the great work so far, dabize!
All models are wrong, but some are useful, as the saying goes. However, when looking at how Arctic sea ice decline is modeled, one might be tempted to say that all sayings are useful, but some are wrong. To be fair, I should be the last person taking a piss at climate models. Hundreds of brilliant scientists, engineers and IT specialists are giving their best every day to make supercomputers come up with scenarios that project future changes. Unfortunately, there is no Planet B to experiment on.
But we have come to a point where fake skeptics show up in television programmes (such as last week's BBC Newsnight) and use modeled predictions for Arctic sea ice in the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report as an argument not to be worried about the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, because "none
of them shows it melting before the year 2070 on a regular basis in
the summer" (quote from UK Conservative MP Peter Lilley).
As always, they're not telling the whole story:
This image (taken from the Climate Crocks blog) comes from a GRL research paper by Stroeve et al. that was published in 2007, detailing how models that participated in the World Climate Research Programme Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase
3 (CMIP3) were doing compared to observations (red line). The 2011 dot was drawn in, based on NSIDC data on September 7th of last year. Commenter Tim took the liberty of drawing in the new 2012 record. This picture saves us the 1000 words needed to explain how off models are when it comes to matching observations, which essentially makes their projections worthless.
But as the Arctic sea ice cover has changed radically in just 6 years, so have new and improved models started a new round of simulations and projections for the Phase 5 project (CMIP5) for the next IPCC assessment report. And again, Dr. Julienne Stroeve and her colleagues from the NSIDC, NCAR and the Voeikov Main Geophysical Observatory in Russia, have taken a look at how these models are faring in a new GRL paper that was published three weeks ago in Geophysical research Letters: Trends in Arctic sea ice extent from CMIP5, CMIP3 and observations.
Now that fake skeptics have dropped the IMS sea ice extent chart to call the results of this stunning melting season into question, Joe Bastardi comes up with another try (hat-tip to Chris Biscan) to imply that the melting season is over, something that is wanted so desperately by fake skeptics that Steven Goddard a month ago said it would soon end after the Great Arctic Cyclone. Any update on that?
Look at this tweet from Bastardi:
Now, Joe Bastardi is known for not knowing much about Arctic sea ice, as we saw last year when his prediction for the 2011 minimum failed miserably. This time he uses sea surface temperature maps - from the Danish Meteorological Institute (thanks for the link, Joe!) - to say something about the shape of the ice cover. I don't know why the DMI uses such an unrealistically large ice cover for its SST map, or why if differs so much even from the one on their SST anomaly map (select parameter on the left in the link above), but I would guess that if you want to know or say something about the shape of the Arctic sea ice cover, you go and have a look at sea ice concentration maps, such as the one produced by the University of Bremen (archive for this year here).
I had a look and compared yesterday's map to that of August 26th:
A lot of good stuff coming out lately. First of all this one hour programme on Radio Ecoshock with Jennifer Francis, Mark Serreze and Cecilia Bitz, which I highly recommend, especially the first interview with Dr. Jennifer Francis: Arctic Meltdown, Scientists Speak Out
For the people who weren't able to watch last week's report on Arctic sea ice on BBC Newsnight, there's a transcript on The Carbon Brief blog.
Stefan Rahmstorf from Potsdam University wrote a piece on consequences of disappearing sea ice for Project Syndicate: Melting on Top of The World
And last, but most definitely not least, there's a new article out, written by ASI Blog guest author Kevin McKinney, aka Doc Snow on Hubpages:
Sea Ice Loss 2012: What Do The Records Mean?
Day 2012 was celebrated—if that is the word—with new record lows for
the Arctic sea ice in virtually every sea ice dataset, be it ice extent,
area, or volume; be it satellite or re-analysis-based; be it Danish,
American, or Japanese. And those lows have kept getting lower.
Actually, the new record lows had begun to appear on August 17th, when the University of Bremen sea ice extent chart dipped below its previous all-time low. August 17th
is shockingly early; the annual minimum typically falls somewhere in
mid-September, and that is naturally when records are set. To see
records fall a month earlier than that gave many observers serious
The shock has generated some headlines—probably less than merited,
but still more than enough to puzzle many folks. After all, the Arctic
Ocean is very far away from most of us; how can the exact amount of ice
covering it matter?
Put another way, do the new records really mean anything?
The reports of my return are greatly exaggerated. I'm still at my holiday address, on the wretched 56K modem. As I'm going to be realy offline now for 2-3 days to visit my 97 year old grandfather and his 400 litre wine cask, I thought an open thread would be a good idea.
Can we start speculating about the minimum yet? I know trend lines are still dropping, and after this crazy melting season, I don't feel able or willing to make any pronouncement on when it will stop. In 2010 and 2011 the weather forecast maps helped me to announce the minimum a few days in advance, but those maps aren't any help to me this year. All I'm seeing for the coming five days is a persistent high over the Siberian coast and a huge low developing near Iceland, reaching all the way to Scandinavia and the UK. Normally this would mean slowdown for ice decline or even minimum, but this melting season isn't normal.
From one M to another M: Methane. R. Gates posted some graphs of the latest CH4 readings in Barrow, like this one of readings since 2000:Those little red dots on the right are pretty far out. Here's a close-up for recent months:
Now, these outliers could be due to some measurement mistake (happens frequently). In fact, it's the most probable explanation. But after a record melting season, both in the Arctic Ocean and on the Greenland Ice Sheet, this would be yet another stunner. If I've understood correctly, it will take a while for these readings to be corrected or confirmed.
More on methane: Additional to his sea ice thickness web page, Apocalypse4Real has started a methane web page, where he compares IASI data to AIRS/Giovanni methane data. Read his comments below for further explanations.
And when I say 'Arctic', I of course automatically imply 'Northern Hemisphere'. You know, the place where most of the world's agriculture is based.
One thing I have noticed this melting season, is how high pressure areas persistently remained over Greenland (causing, for instance, the decrease in reflectivity all over the ice sheet):
But what I didn't know, is that this is something that apparently started in 2007, having all kinds of consequences for Northern Hemisphere weather patterns. This is again from the Dosbat blog, where Chris Reynolds is on a roll: