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Ghoti Of Lod

Who needs melt ponds when you've got a million sq km of extra open water?


The melt ponds are in the middle, the million km2 are on the fringes, where ice will melt out anyway. It melts out sooner, but if stronger ice is then encountered because there weren't many melt ponds, things slow down.

So, no melt ponds = no record low minimum.

But 1 million km2 head start, and then lots of melt ponds in May = hold on to your seats.

I believe we've discussed the chronology of a perfect storm last year, describing what it would take - in chronological order - for a new record low minimum to occur. Or if the perfect conditions take place when volume is low enough (which possibly already is the case), an ice-free Arctic for all practical purposes may be the result.

These perfect conditions don't occur very often, I don't think. 2007 was close. But as volume goes down, perfect conditions don't have to be as perfect.

Maybe I should do a blog post on that some time.

Espen Olsen

Just added some more info:



I forgot to add one more forecast. The Arctic Oscillation has been very high in the past two weeks, meaning that low pressure areas dominated the Arctic, and in winter that means more heat retention due to clouds, and more heat pulled in from lower latitudes (please correct me if I'm putting it the wrong way), etc. Here's the forecast:

AO is going to drop very fast, which may be another sign of a late surge putting the mad max in second place.

I have to say, this is the most exciting ending of a freezing season I have seen so far (it's my fifth). ;-)

Espen Olsen


I am surprised you wouldnt call it a max yet?

(I know I am in deep water now, but luckily I am a reasonable swimmer)

I am surprised you wouldnt call it a max yet?

I would if it weren't for that combination of cold and northerlies in the Bering Sea region where there is so much open water that can still refreeze, albeit with a very thin layer.

Besides, I try not to call the max anymore as a matter of principle. I'm not a fan of eating crow. ;-)

But this max is potentially so mad, that I had to write something about it.


2014 saw a 435K rise in extent later in the month and a couple of other recent years have seen rises above 200K.

The 2014 rise is the only one that will take us above the current max for this year and even that wont get us above the 2011 record low.

I agree with Neven that there is considerable scope for extra ice to form in the North Pacific based on the current weather predictions. The fact that there is so little ice there now however will make formation harder and I doubt very much that the current max will be threatened.


It may be unlikely the max will be passed, but we've been surprised before.

Neven, you write:
"Quite a few storms have been funnelled into the Arctic via this route this winter, but this is a really big one, potentially bombing out at 950 hPa. It's difficult to tell what its influence will be on extent numbers at this final stage of the melting season."

This "melting season" should be "freezing season", right?


Indeed, Lennart! Fixed now, thanks.

Nightvid Cole

If that low going into Alaska pulls the ice in the Bering southwards, I think there is enough cold air to cause the open water space that would be formed to freeze back over. This will increase extent considerably.


Nightvid, Neven, regarding possible expansion in the Bering et al, I'd agree, EXCEPT... I think the SSTs are too high over too wide an area. Add returning sunlight, and I think the northerlies will have too steep a climb.

Melt ponds are more problematic to factor as compared to leads. I'm not sure how to quantify it, but I'm not sure a cool season and small melt pond fraction can save the ice. The "Laptev Bite" of last year and resulting thin ice there and in the ESS loom large in my fears.


In the meantime, JAXA reports another 4589 km2 drop. It's small, but another day has gone by, and time is of the essence.

And time, that takes survey of all the world, must have a stop. ;-)


Neven, you may be wrong, but I think you've nailed it this time. I've noted some comments on the forum, especially from Jim Pettit, who is always is careful not to speculate, that we have seen the max and the future will be interesting. This is just so unpredictable and the effects on the climate may be surprising.


Melt ponds seem to be a very important factor in melt. You can see that in Greenland and the Antarctic ice shelves as well. I problem with the Arctic that I see, is that the ice , even the thickest, is in such poor condition that melt ponds can not form, because and water gets drained out immediately. If that is the case, we may see a situation that we could get a slowdown in minimums then the curves would expect, but what is really happening is that the ice is getting weaker and weaker. In this scenario you would then get a tipping point where in 1-2 years you would go from OK ice (by todays standards) to nothing as if falling off a giant cliff. I think you may be seeing an indication of this this winter. Granted the air and water going into the Arctic is warm, but is it really warm enough to cause the 'melt' that we are seeing? IMO I believe what is happening is that the ice has gotten so weak that the storms moving into the Arctic are changing the ice into slush and with the export movement the ice is then vanishing.


The latest maximum in the Arctic, according to NSIDC numbers, is April 2 (in 2010), so still a long ways to go before we can be sure. There has been a trend toward later maximums over the satellite record and recent years in particular have tended to be later than normal. I think this is because the ice extent is lower - i.e., farther north in the colder, darker regions. Ultimately, the maximum is sun-limited, so with the edge farther north there is actually more potential for late growth. As long as the sun hasn't made things too warm, the ice edge can shift around quickly due to thin ice growth and/or winds. So still a lot of potential to grow ice, especially if cold weather is coming to the Bering.

Walt Meier
NASA Goddard

Bill Fothergill


I've just spent too long on SkS prattling on about ENSO and el Nino declarations, and missed the chance to sound prescient ahead of Walt Meier's sage words.

There was some discussion yesterday about the 108k drop in the NSIDC daily numbers for 5th March. I was going to say I expected it to rise by about the same amount today. However, the NSIDC numbers for the 6th Mar have just appeared, and it went up 90k.

Of course, no bugger will believe me now.

Bloody ENSO


Thanks, Walt. Nicely put, as always. :-)

Wade Smith

Yay. Another rebound year for Arctic Sea Ice Volume.

I wouldn't mind I guess if it keeps right on rebounding.

Getting tired of this discussion which consumes entire lifetimes.


I agree, Wade. Let's get to work.


March MAX Madness

I can appreciate Neven's reticence in calling the IJIS Extent maximum for 2015. Although many of us, me included, have gotten excited over being 1M Km2 below 2012 at this time, the big question remains as to whether that lead can be maintained until the end of April when insolation becomes a serious player.

While developing my homemade model of sea ice extent decline I've had a chance to seriously look at the detailed IJIS/JAXA data in past years performance. March is one month filled with surprises, with significant up/down fluctuations. This makes predicting the ice extent at the end of April about as foolish as predicting where a hurricane will strike the Atlantic coast the minute a tropical system leave the coast of Africa. Three recent years, 2010, 2012 and 2014 all had extent gains greater than 300K Km2 during the first half of March. In the the last half of March only 2010 had a net gain (139K Km2).

The next week or so will be very interesting to watch!!!

The one nice thing about being retired is that if at any point I am forced to eat crow stew, it won't affect my paycheck. I'll still dabble with projections and occasional prognostication, but I'll save that for the Forum discussions.


Arctic sea ice extent increases in late March are due to breakup of the ice edge so that the broken ice floats outwards. A simultaneous Arctic sea ice AREA chart, if done right, would show no late March increase. Remember that charts carry artifacts of the measuring system used. An important artifact of our sea ice measurements is that there is a 20% width to each class of sea ice, e.g., 10%-30% which is counted as 10% when doing summations where you or I would have called it 20%. Consider this an introduction to that topic -- it will be important later.

Gail Zawacki


Edit: Very funny, Gail. :-) I added the html tags so it shows up right away. Can't have such a funny image hidden behind a link.

Kevin O'Neill

Cincinnatus writes: "Consider this an introduction to that topic -- it will be important later."


NSIDC: "The monthly extent images show the expanse covered by ice at greater than 15 percent monthly mean concentration..."

Hmm .... no mention of any 10%/30% band ...

IARC-JAXA? Uni-Bremen? Cryosphere Today? arctic-roos?

I don't think Cincinnatus has ever read any of the papers that detail how satellite measurements are translated into extent or area data.

Jai Mitchell

It will be very interesting to see what effect, if any, the recent global economic slowdown and china aerosol reduction measures will have on the global climate this coming summer.

If south east Asian aerosols were a primary contributor to the recent 3-year negative phase of the Pacific North American index, then they contributed heavily to the increased winter warming and summer cloudiness that Neven spoke about at the end of this excellent article.

for more on the Pacific North American index see: http://www.nc-climate.ncsu.edu/climate/patterns/PNA.html


The Arctic Atlantic front is lost to the real warmists, the onslaught of southern in origin cyclones, ongoing since at least December. I agree the place to watch is the North Pacific, there are a couple of factors missing for a late freeze up blitz, the entire state of Alaska,
quite amazingly warmer, the sun 20 degrees high in the sky with the circulation flow almost always from the South. So it dont look good
there as well. Mad as it seems the maxima looks done.


The Climate prediction Center also suggests that after a week of relatively cool temps in western Alaska during the coming week the warmth returneth:


Bill Fothergill

Dear all,

I have several times seen the expression "eating crow pie" used on these pages. It is an idiom with which I am unfamiliar, but, judging from the context, it could mean the same as "eating humble pie".

Am I guessing correctly, or missing by a mile?

cheers bill f (the idiomatically challenged)

Kevin O'Neill

Yes, Bill, the American idiom 'eating crow' and the British idiom 'eating humble pie' are equivalent.

Wiki has a decent write-up on it.


'Crow pie' might be a linguistic contamination, but it sounds much more appealing!

And I don't know what the recipe is, but it often starts with 'boldly announce the maximum'.



Will you just look at this monster:

And then look at what it does to the AO Index:


Wow, Neven, yah, that is most certainly a monster storm - looks like central pressures *UNDER* 950.

That and the very positive AO do not bode well for any sort of extent rebound.

Jai Mitchell

is Beckham playing on team jet stream?

I mean LOOK at that BEND!



The average anomaly, across the arctic,in sea surface temperatures and air temperatures has not rated in the top 10 in either January or February according to NOAA.
On the other hand the Bering has been hotter than any of the past 14 years in both January and February.
This suggests that the current low extents are occurring where we would expect them.

It is the lack of thickness in the main body of the ice that looks most concerning. If this ice had been consolidating over the past couple of months a record low extent in August would seem unlikely. However the images being posted seem to be indicating that there has been little consolidation. If this is true then a record melt seems likely. However as it is the summer heat that is the main driver of the final melt almost anything could happen.


Another day gone by, another minimal JAXA SIE drop of 792 km2. Tempus fugit.

Either the max is and remains mad, or we get this spectacular late ice growth snap which covers over 300k km2 of Bering Sea. It seems Arctic aficionados can't lose. :-)


The storm is bottoming out at 952 hPa, it seems.

I adapted this Canada Weather Office image, posted by Michael Hauber over at the ASIF:

Bill Fothergill

@ Jai M

It took a while, but I finally got the reference. Getting on in years is a bugger. Not sure what's falling apart fastest, the body or the brain.

Meanwhile, I wonder what effect all that excess near-surface heat in the Pacific is eventually going to have over the forthcoming (or should that be present?) melt season. NOAA's Oceanic Nino Index temperatures for the last few months have been running more than a degree C higher than the equivalent period 12 months earlier.


Quoting Neven

"Either the max is and remains mad, or we get this spectacular late ice growth snap which covers over 300k km2 of Bering Sea. It seems Arctic aficionados can't lose. :-)"

Barring the massive Burp of IJIS Extent of more than 432K Km2 that occurred last year between March 9th and March 20th, the current Max is probably safe. But then again, this is the Arctic.


Jim Hunt

Both versions of DMI extent (plus CT area later today!) make a full house of Arctic sea ice metrics at the lowest ever level for the date:

Arctic Sea Ice Area Lowest Ever (For the Date!)

In all the circumstances please excuse this morning's somewhat sensationalist headline!

Bill Fothergill

CT Area update (and warning?)

As at Day 65 (2015.1781) the CT Area number of 13.008 million sq kms has marginally dropped below 2011(13.031), 2006(13.034) and 2014(13.058)

However, as the error margin is in the order of 50 thousand sq kms, these 4 values are virtually indistinguishable, and one should most assuredly not get one's knickers in a twist at this juncture.

Something definitely worthy of note, is that, from Day 68 to Day 80 last year, the CT Area went up by a far from inconsiderable 600k sq kms.

que sera, sera

Bill Fothergill

As I was too busy watching Scotland play the USA in the Davis Cup, Jim's post slipped in ahead of mine.

@Jim, I don't know if you saw my comment on another thread about the parliamentary candidates meeting in Christow.
Date & Time duly noted.
If there is a pub in Christow called the Artichoke, then I've actually been there once before.


Another drop (9547 km2), another day gone by.

God, I'm so excited! ;-P

The storm bottomed out some more, it seemed: 950 hPa.


Going to try not to get too exciting about this myself, as we're still in the lower-insolation half of the year.

(But I know I'll be checking back come the equinox in 11 days time to see if we're still at record-breakingly low levels :) )


Relax, Neven. Remember:
(1) The low maximum is entirely due to low ice in the Sea of Okhotsk which has nothing to do with the Arctic.
(2) The Arctic ice north of Wrangel Island is very thick this year and is unlikely to melt out this summer, and
(3) The ice in Hudson Bay is very thick this year and there's a good chance that some of it will survive the summer, for the first time in many a year.

Now, doesn't that feel better? cheers


Thanks, Cincinnatus. I had been shaking uncontrollably all day. ;-P


Regarding Hudson's Bay. How good a chance, 2-1, 10-1, 100-1 ?
You pick the odds and I'll happily give you a wager. And I'll offer to split my winnings -- if I win -- with Neven to defray his costs of the blog.


I do my wagering at the horse track -- an avocation I recommend to all. What's good about it is that you evaluate all your hypotheses, bet your degree of certainty, and then comes the result which delivers the unconditional edict on the quality of your thinking. Much more compelling than watching ice melt or fingernails grow.

If I did wager on melting ice, I'd wager that this summer we'll see an unmelted ice link from the NW passage to Siberia, that's how cold the "Siberian express" has kept the ice there. But I'll stick to the ponies.

PIOMAS, which is model-driven, is quite disappointing in its failure to apply local temperatures to local ice thickness -- basic, really.


I didn't call the Arctic melting season 'the slowest horse race in the world' for nothing at the very start of this blog. :-)


Well said.
Your unwillingness to "bet your degree of certainty" is "the unconditional edict on the quality of your thinking."
And, "stick to the ponies"


No reflection on the quality of your site, Neven, but I really didn't think I'd start following it closely until April or May. But it looks like it may be shaping up to be another 'interesting' year, with all the mixed baggage that that word brings.


Some Horse Race!!

The horse is the declining sea ice.
Humankind is the jockey.
CO2 is the drug being injected to cause the horse to run/decline faster.

Current odds are as follows for September of 2015:

400:1 Continuous ice from NW Passage to Siberia
200:1 Ice remaining in Hudson Bay
12:1 2015 Extent lowest year on record
8:1 2015 Extent within lowest 2 years on record
5:1 2015 Extent within lowest 3 years on record
3:1 2015 Extent within lowest 4 years on record
2:1 2015 Extent within lowest 5 years on record

NOTE: Race will be cancelled if Krakatoa, Pinatubo and the Yellowstone Caldera all erupt within the next few weeks!


OLN, I like your post generally, but think you are a bit high on some of the odds.

I'd cut your "2015 lowest extent" odds in half, possibly by 2/3rds.

L. Hamilton

The low maximum is entirely due to low ice in the Sea of Okhotsk which has nothing to do with the Arctic.

Ice area looks below normal now not only in Okhotsk (~400k) but in Bering (~250k), Barents (~300k) and Greenland (~100k) as well, adding up to that minus 1.05m.



My intuitive side agrees with you as I can see a plausible path for that to happen. However, the engineering side of my aging grey matter is still embedded with caution when asked to prognosticate publicly.

On a side note, if Cincinnatus reads the Racing Form with the same acuity he reads the climate charts here on the ASIB, he'd probably bet on an aging brood mare in a race against Secretariat.


JAXA SIE has dropped yet another 20K, that's an unprecedentedly early 8-day drop so far this month.

It is now 292K below the (preliminary) max reached on Feb 15th. It will take some very big gains real soon now to top that 13,942 million, and even more to go beyond 14 million. It's almost dead certain that a new record low max has been reached.

Bering Sea, do your thing:

Follow here.

Andy Lee Robinson

Not many crows in the Arctic, so I propose yellow snow as a suitable substitute.
Demand may exceed supply if this carries on!


Old Leatherneck,
Those are damn fine odds you're offering there.

If you were a bookmaker I reckon you'd be bust by the end of this year.
12:1 on an extent record. We've had two in the last 8 years and none of them started off with anything like the head start this year has.
4:1 and I still reckon you wouldn't be making money.

Bill Fothergill

Neven (et al)

During a recent el Nino discussion on SkS, John Hartz posted a link to a NOAA graphic (dated 5th March) which has significance for at least two of the strands developing on this thread...

(Sorry I don't yet know how to embed this into the comment.)

Top centre of the graphic shows some interesting anomalies around the Bering and Okhotsk Seas. There is nothing there to suggest that a speedy return to average sea ice extent levels in either of these Seas is on the cards.

Top right of the graphic - and somewhat distorted because we don't live on Flatland - there is another red spludge sitting between Greenland and Norway. This could just possibly be related to the 950hPa "monster" to which Neven referred on the 7th/8th March.

cheers billf

Dan Carter

Judging from how Old Leatherneck ordered the various odds, I think it isn't that the intended prediction is extreme, it's that the 1's are transposed with the other numbers. I think the intent is that the odds for ice from the Northwest Passage to Siberia are 1:400 rather than 400:1. And so on for the rest.


Indeed, Bill. The PDO reaching such high values might have something to do with the lack of ice on the Pacific side of the Arctic.

Given the current temperature anomaly and wind speed/direction forecast, it increasingly looks like the Bering and Okhotks Seas won't be able to bridge the almost 300K difference needed to top the preliminary max.

My hands are itching to call it... :-B

Bill Fothergill

@ Neven
Could you please add the appropriate html tags (as you did for Gail) to the NOAA graphic I linked to at 11:42? Thanks

I thought you had made a typo when you said the JAXA figures had hit a max (thus far?????) on Feb 15th, as I had thought it was 13.93 million sq kms on the 25th. I failed to notice it had sneaked all the way up to 13.94 ten days earlier!

NSIDC's 5-day running figure for sea ice extent dropped 45k on the 8th March, and is now 228k lower than 2006 - the current holder of the lowest March average. It has been dropping almost monotonically since Feb 25, and is virtually guaranteed to drop further when the daily value for 9th March turns up in about an hour. (Although it could start to rise again from the 10th.)

The 5-day value for 2006 does not get to within 100k of the current 2015 value until the 18th of March, and does not drop below the current value until the 25th March.

However, as you, and many others, well realise, we are just about to enter the time-frame when last year, every single metric suddenly lurched upwards.

que sera, sera

@ Old Leatherneck
NOTE: Race will be cancelled if Krakatoa, Pinatubo and the Yellowstone Caldera all erupt within the next few weeks!

Are you in possession of some insider information? Holidays plans may need to be modified if so.


OLN Saw a couple of Docs about Yellowstone Caldera. I would basically wipe out most of life in the US from the ash cloud itself. *Canada and Mexico may have parts saved depending on jet stream location. The temps would plummet very fast and likely stop the melt season cold. Adding Krakatoa and Pinatubo to the mix would be like adding a beebee gun to a machine gun fight. It would not be noticed,
Do get your point though, and agree with your sentiments. This could be a year where we see a freefall.

Could you please add the appropriate html tags (as you did for Gail) to the NOAA graphic I linked to at 11:42? Thanks

Done, Bill.

If anyone wants to add images to his or her comment, use this tag [img src="URL image"] (with html tags instead of the brackets). However, the comment section only allows images with a width of 400 pixels or smaller. If the image you want to post, is too wide, you have to download it to your PC, reduce its size, upload it somewhere (like Picasa or Imageshack), and then post with the img html.

Susan Anderson

It appears to me that some rather too exiting weather in the US was part of the circulatory system that went on up to the Arctic.

I agree with those who think it's not unlikely we will exceed 2012 this summer, but have been wrong before. It's so easy to get trapped in oversimplification of a complex system and look through the wrong end of the telescope of time.

However, as I shuttle between my parents in New Jersey and my home in Boston, I've been trapped in the continuing Arctic incursion and watched the Arctic heat throughout the season. This all seems quite logical to me.

Also, we've had the more or less normal "rebound" in the last couple of years so without looking at the data closely one might think it's about time for the trend to come into overt evidence.

Of course, the absence of thcik multi-year ice seems a predictor of more to come.

L. Hamilton

Thought this was interesting -- a note originally posted on another site,
and reposted here with permission -- a Dartmouth undergrad describes her impressions while helping sea ice research near Barrow.

Basically there's a ton of open sea out here even though in the photos it looks like it's all frozen solid. Sea ice isn't like lake water since it's salty (obvious I know, but some people forget that salty water takes longer and colder temperatures to freeze than freshwater). The polar bears are out in full force this year because they're not getting enough to eat. So they can't be out on the pack ice since....there's not much ice out there for them to hunt on. So they're starting to be closer to the landmass, where since the sea is not as deep here, the water freezes over. So in summary, if you look from the 'beach' outside my hut, you'll see ice for miles, but if you get more than a mile out from the land, you start coming upon huge stretches of unfrozen sea ice. Just observations.


As he Max seems obvious, I watch with interest Being Srait sea ice because it is now largely a duel between colder very clear air (for a change, may be temporary) and the noon sun more than 20 degrees above the horizon. Its a litmus test for the coming melt season.

If Bering is at maximum this means that SST's there will cause an early blitz melt by the extra warming of a very large area usually covered by sea ice. The sun at 20 degrees does not allow easy freezing over a wide area but near shore, probably? However the required SST of -1.8 C is not observed, even with surface air temperatures are about -20 C new ice will not happen. Open water is easily maintained with the sun so high above the sky. I cant't recall any big freeze of wide open sea water when sunray's are so strong at noon (this includes the whole of Hudson Bay in November/December). To finish this off is the North Pacific sea current, if it is from the South . the maximum is double done.


>"Current odds are as follows for September of 2015:

400:1 Continuous ice from NW Passage to Siberia
200:1 Ice remaining in Hudson Bay
12:1 2015 Extent lowest year on record
8:1 2015 Extent within lowest 2 years on record
5:1 2015 Extent within lowest 3 years on record
3:1 2015 Extent within lowest 4 years on record
2:1 2015 Extent within lowest 5 years on record

NOTE: Race will be cancelled if Krakatoa, Pinatubo and the Yellowstone Caldera all erupt within the next few weeks!"

Serious or in jest?

What does "Continuous ice from NW Passage to Siberia" mean?

At those rates, I think I would like to place a few hundred pounds on Extent within lowest 5 years and some more on some of the others. Which extent data is involved?


I think you are right, Wayne. The water is too warm and the sun is too high. Warm water from the huge Kelvin wave along the equator last spring has worked its way up to Alaska. Southerly winds blew that water north of the Aleutians. It's the ridiculously warm water that has kept down the ice levels on the Pacific side, not the weather. The only way left to get a higher max that I can see is to blow ice out of the Arctic ocean and count the diffuse ice as part of the sea ice extent. That kind of event happened in 2012 on the Atlantic side.

I just don't see that happening when I look at the short to medium range weather models.

-FishOutofWater, aka George



re : What does "Continuous ice from NW Passage to Siberia" mean?

That was a bet that Cincinnatus wanted to make.

re: At those rates, I think I would like to place a few hundred pounds on Extent within lowest 5 years and some more on some of the others. Which extent data is involved?

Unfortunately for us OLN is not actually accepting bets: 2:1 on making the top 5 looks like an easy way to cover your other bets.

I'd go something like
3:1 New record extent
3:1 Second lowest extent
10:1 Not in top 5 extent
10:1 New maximum extent this season

Any of those you'd like to bet on?

Kevin McKinney

Fascinating discussion! Thanks to all.

I'd dearly love to know what's driving this surprising twist to… whatever season this is.

And I'd suggest that if we need a substitute for crow, then its larger cousin, the raven, has pretty good Arctic credentials. (And is probably even harder to choke down.) After all, as was said earlier, "...we've been surprised before."


First, second and fourth look much more sensible odds to me. Third looks a bit mean, I might offer 25:1 unless 'top 5' extent means lowest 5 extent when betting at 10:1 would look like good value.

I might be interested in
10:1 Not in top 5 extent
but probably only a small amount for a bit of fun and only if 'top 5' means lowest 5. If it means highest 5 then odds look a little low

but again what record is to be used?
By NSIDC, I get the following years to result in a pay off

Bill Fothergill

On the 10th March, at about 15:30 (system time), you wrote...

"... I would basically wipe out most of life in the US ..." [sic]

Hopefully this was merely an unfortunate typo - otherwise you may be in for a sudden, unexpected visit from some large gentleman claiming to represent Homeland Security.

@ DavidR (11th March 07:36)

re : What does "Continuous ice from NW Passage to Siberia" mean?

It could be Mother Nature's attempt to provide another of those temporary "land bridges". This latest in the sequence of migratory surges across Beringia would enable those souls suffering depredation and victimisation under Vladimir P___n to flee into the warm welcoming embrace of Sarah P___n.


Let's have an alternative, shorter term betting game: is this downwards pre-melt season trend in declining sea ice cover going to carry on, flatten out, or bounce back a little?

Please make your predictions between now and the 15th of March as to the sea ice extent (NSIDC) on 01.04.2015. Whoever guesses closest to the actual amount wins the prize of one virtual cookie.

I'm going to start the guessing game at a nice, round, 14.00 million square km. (A bit of a drop further from where it is now, but not much).

Glenn Doty

Serious question here.

I've lurked this site for some time, but as the subject is far enough outside of my expertise I haven't commented due to... well... having nothing to add. I come here to learn, and have little to share.

But since the comment stream went off on a tangent on odds-making, the one set of odds that the entire world is most interested in didn't come up.

What do you think would be the odds of a few hours of ice-free arctic in September?

While I know the discussion is all in good fun, people are talking about the odds of a new maximum, and it certainly seems that a melt-off has a greater likelihood than a new maximum.

What conditions would be necessary - or is it even possible - that the new record minimum extent might be 0 km2?

(Note, I had not expected an hour of total melt-off until sometime between 2017-2022... but I had not expected a mid-Feb maximum this year either).

I only ask because I was telling my wife about the early arctic maximum, and she asked "what does that mean for the rest of us?

That got into a discussion of the acceleration of calving of the Greenland ice sheet and an acceleration in ocean level rise... and the question of "when will we see an ice free arctic" arose...

And suddenly my 5-year range between 2017 and 2022 seemed far less certain.


What conditions would be necessary - or is it even possible - that the new record minimum extent might be 0 km2?

It will take a long time for the Arctic sea ice to completely vanish. There will always be nooks and crannies where some sea ice lingers until winter comes. Or some icebergs floating around somewhere.

That's why we talk about ice-free for all practical purposes, ie less than 1 million km2 of extent or area. Practical purposes being shipping across the North Pole, which some already call the Central Arctic Shipping Route:

What is important to remember, is that an ice-free Arctic only has meaning as an iconic image. But it's not like some magical button is pushed when the Arctic reaches this ice-free state, after which the consequences start to come into play. This process has already started, is ongoing as we speak, and will only proceed further and faster as long as heat is added to our coupled system of atmosphere and oceans. A lot of this excess heat ends up at the Poles. That's your necessary condition for an ice-free Arctic.

I only ask because I was telling my wife about the early arctic maximum, and she asked "what does that mean for the rest of us?

Two years ago Kevin McKinney and I wrote a short article on what it all means - or could mean - for us and our societies. You could show it to your wife as a quick overview of all the changes in the Arctic that will probably affect all of us if things continue as they are: Why Arctic sea ice shouldn't leave anyone cold

Never say never, but I don't expect either extent or area to go below 1 million km2 this year.

L. Hamilton

In case others haven't seen it, the following notification came yesterday from NSIDC:

Dear colleague,

The National Snow and Ice Data Center is pleased to announce that the "Sea Ice Index" data set has been updated with a reduced pole hole and improved Northern Hemisphere masks for removing residual weather effects.

Beginning 01 January 2008, the data will include a pole hole that covers 0.029 million sq km rather than the previous pole hole of 1.19 million square kilometers. In addition, an error in the pole hole used for data from 01 July 1987 to 31 December 2007 was corrected. These data now uses a pole hole of 0.31 million sq km rather than 1.19 million sq km. The varying pole hole sizes correspond to the orbit inclination of the satellite used to collect the input data.

The new masks for removing residual weather effects are derived from the National Ice Center ice chart monthly climatologies which define more realistic boundaries for ice presence based on recent trends. These new masks have been applied to all historical data.

The combination of these updates may cause slight differences in historical monthly and daily extent values ranging from -70,000 km2 to 60,000 km2.

Lastly, the extent values in the daily extent .csv file have been rounded to three decimal places instead of six because anything further than three digits is outside the precision of these data.

Access to the data and documentation is provided on the data set Web page at:

If you have questions, please contact NSIDC's User Services Office at nsidc@nsidc.org

Data Acknowledgements
Data authors: Fetterer, F., K. Knowles, W. Meier, and M. Savoie
Data set DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7265/N5QJ7F7W
Data center: NOAA@NSIDC (http://nsidc.org/noaa/)
Sponsor: NOAA/NESDIS/NGDC and the NOAA Arctic Research Program

Best regards,
NSIDC User Services

Glenn Doty


When you say "It will take a long time for the Arctic sea ice to completely vanish. There will always be nooks and crannies where some sea ice lingers until winter comes. Or some icebergs floating around somewhere.",

I recognize that there will continue to be icebergs - when a mass of ice that is calved off of the Greenland Ice Sheet can be dozens or even hundreds of meters thick it's going to take a VERY long time to melt off in cold water. But in terms of actual lingering ice, there should be a non-linear acceleration in melt-off rates as more ocean water gets exposed. As such, the "nooks and crannies" that are not in shallows that are far removed from main currents should indeed melt off quickly so long as the main body of ice is melted off before the autumnal equinox.

From my standpoint: every million km2 of open water is receiving roughly ~12 EWh (exoWatt hours) of insolation/day. Ice has an albedo of ~85, while open water has an albedo of ~15. That's a difference in absorbed insolation of ~8.4 EWh/d for every million km2 of ice lost before high summer.

The enthalpy of fusion for ice is ~89 TWh/km3. So if there's a million km2 of additional open water for one additional day of high summer with clear skies, then the water will absorb the energy required to melt off an additional 100 km3 of ice. While the energy distribution isn't nearly that efficient, it seems that those nooks and crannies wouldn't last long under those circumstances (earlier melt-off of a large portion of the icepack).

What do I not see?


Glenn, what does it matter if say 100K of sea ice extent lingers on for a long time, hidden somewhere in the Canadian Archipelago?

Glenn Doty


Fair reply.

That does make sense after considering it. You're saying that in regions far removed from ocean currents the additional energy won't be carried to the isolated ice before sunset occurs and the remaining heat is radiated away again.

It's logical, I just didn't think about the map before my last reply.

Andy Lee Robinson

Don't forget that as Greenland continues to deflate, an awesome amount of runoff at 0°C will clamp coastline sea temperatures for a long while yet and provide some kind of refuge for fast sea ice, as long as it doesn't break off and get flushed down the Fram...

Glenn Doty


I hadn't forgotten. My concern with the disappearing arctic ice is the increase in the rate of the Greenland Ice Sheet melt-off.

I have no illusions that every year the ice pack will reform anew as soon as the sun sets, and will serve to reduce the added energy to the ocean throughout the summer as it melts again.

In fact, once we have an ice-free arctic, we'll then probably be comparing year after year how many hours the arctic is ice free.

But 100 km3 of ice loss equals ~0.25 mm of ocean-level rise. So... if the arctic loses a total of 4 million km2 of of sea ice (lower minimum than the 30-year average) over 1 day in the summertime, and there's no sea-bound ice to absorb the extra insolation, that's an additional mm of ocean-level rise/year from the Greenland ice sheet.

The 2007 IPCC report estimated the arctic wouldn't have an ice-free day until ~2040. If they were off by 20+ years, then their estimates on sea level rise could be off DRAMATICALLY (as 20 years' span could easily work out to an increase in hundreds of hours of ice-free arctic expanse).

Hence my concern over the whole issue, which is why I started lurking here years ago.


Open water does absorb more heat from insolation, but also radiates more heat back. This reradiation continues day and night. What is the net heat budget for open water?

Glenn Doty


The major loss of heat from open water is via evaporation. But water vapor pressure at 0 C is only ~4.6 torr (~0.006 atm). So very little evaporation would occur in the arctic.

The energy released via radiation is based on temperature and is constantly occurring. We think of it in terms of blackbody radiation at night vs absorption of insolation during the day because during the day more energy is absorbed than is re-radiated, while during the night very little energy is absorbed and the radiation results in rapid energy losses. But in all cases the rate that the energy is radiated away is entirely determined by the temperature.

The blackbody emissions is dependent on the material properties, but for all materials the total magnitude of energy emissions is based on the temperature to the 4th power (K^4). So water will have far more emissions than ice just because water is warmer than ice.

The net heat budget can most easily be determined by looking at the stable temperature. Since the energy radiated is so strongly temperature dependent, the only way that balance can be re-achieved once more energy begins to be absorbed by the system is for the temperature to increase. But icewater is incredibly difficult to change it's temperature, because the phase change of the water will either absorb or release additional energy while maintaining the same temperature. Ergo, while there's sufficient circulation and sufficient ice mass, it's a reasonable assumption that the increased energy absorption will resolved by melting the ice rather than re-radiating (since radiation levels will be fixed as long as the temperature remains the same)...

I hope this makes sense. It's complicated, and I'm trying to be brief.


JAXA has reported yet another small SIE drop of 5429 m2. It's March 11th. That surge of thin sea ice really has to start soon and be an exact copy of what we saw last year, if the preliminary max is to be topped.

This surge obviously has to take place in the Bering Sea, but nothing has really happened so far. And looking at the temperature and wind speed/direction forecasts I'm guessing nothing much will. The extreme cold over Alaska is going to dissipate soon, and northerlies don't stick around long enough to push ice outwards.

I won't be posting all the forecast maps, but here are some regional graphs made by Wipneus that can be viewed here (bottom of the page).

Here's the legend:

The purple line is based on JAXA, the black one on the even higher resolution Uni Hamburg.

First the two regions needed for a snap, on either side of the Arctic. We can see the effect of all that stormy heat in the Barentsz Sea:

Plenty of snap potential, but first all of this 'heat' (it's temperature anomaly, so still plenty cold, just not megacold) needs to get out of the way, and by the time it does, it'll probably be too late for a snap:

So, it all comes down to the Bering:

Things seem to be going up, but like I said the forecast is far from perfect, and we don't see anything reflected in the total numbers yet (with Barentsz going down so much).

Okhotsk is low too, but I don't expect much to happen there, given the forecast for the coming week (relatively warm):

At the same time, Baffin/Newfoundland Bay and St. Lawrence have been rather high this year, and all that ice there is poised to go:

I don't know if that is enough to compensate any eventual snap, but it's another argument against a late max.

So, long story short, if I hadn't vowed to no longer call the max back in 2012, I would probably call it now. ;-)


OT: @Bill Fothergill | March 11, 2015 at 13:36
Slight exaggeration other then if you did survive in continental USA even on the east coast the live you live would be very unpleasant.
Comparing sizes of volcano explosions:https://ktwop.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/vei-eruption-balls-image-geology-com.png
Now Toba. That was a VOLCANO!!!
Ash deposit coverage: http://www.mmdtkw.org/ALRIVes0909LavaCreek.jpg
That is just the ash deposit and does not get into secondary effects
and video: https://youtu.be/-iGJlYgp43s
Can not find video of it now, but for Toba, no one knew about it until very recently. Took 4 different groups of scientists only one group was common to the other 3 a team that studies volcanic ash in Canada that proved it happened.


"What is the net heat budget for open water?"

There are many factors, especially the temperature profile of the water column. But basically it goes like this, there is a threshold
when sea water freezes , if top of the water column is very warm the necessary surface temperature to freeze the sea surface must be conversely very low. I am sure there are models out there, but they are hard to find. Essentially a sun less tan 1 degrees elevation at noon marks where ice freezes massively fast, it may be lower much lower than 10.

I have dealt with the basic difference between 2013-14 and 2014-15 freeze-up , in part on my blog, there was a by-continental Cyclonic feedback loop which didn't happen as much in 13-14. There has been a uninterrupted stream of cyclones from Florida to Novoya Zemlaya by way of the UK. They morphed and formed a vortex centered about over Greenland forming a continuous corridor of cold air from central Russia all the way past Ohio. This circulation stream was very stable. This feedback vortex was and is like a mega heat engine. 13-14 had no such corridors or vortex even though the term "Polar Vortex " was made popular then. During the same time periods leading up to this all time low sea ice extent, 13-14 had frequent High pressure anticyclones positioned either by sea of Barents and also over the Canadian Archipelago. They in effect blocked any mega-vortex from forming like in 14-15, they cut off the possibility of a mega Vortex feedback loop, in other words no steady heat engine flowing warm moist Air to the Arctic Atlantic. The weather systems were heavily influenced
by this years mega Vortex circulation pattern. But it is and was remarkably steady. Cloud covering much of the Arctic Ocean
thus weakening ice accretion which was stronger in 13-14 because the sea ice melted in place by minima of 2013. The anticyclones
covering the Arctic Ocean more often in 13-14 were caused by such a melt.


"What is the net heat budget for open water?"

In particular, net heat budget for open water with the Sun at a low (near-horizon) angle. Ever been blinded by sunshine reflecting off the ocean surface? Such light (and heat) can be modelled as never having struck the water at all, as it is reflected straight off. Call it "glint" -- it is a poorly modeled aspect of albedo, and is always a factor in open water insolation in the Arctic in that it reduces heat retention. Look for "glint" in your heat budgets, guys -- hint: you won't find it. Gosh, guess those blinding reflections were just our imaginations.


Cheap shot, Cincinnatus; you want to back that assertion up? (regarding lack of skill by modellers working with Albedo).

I'd also point out, that your "low incidence angle" issue requires a rather impossibly placid ocean to play out; even very minimal disturbance on the surface completely changes the mechanics of transmission across surfaces. Your assertion also suggests your understanding of forces in play determining the albedo of ocean surfaces is a bit limited.

Your comments are both anecdotal, and ad hominem denigration of the rather smart and capable people who are studying the system and attempting to model it.

You offer your criticisms without supporting evidence, which only makes things worse. I'd say you owe some people an apology.


Quite wrong, "jdallen_wa", a "placid ocean" is totally unrequired. It isn't large surfaces which reflect gleaming light, it is tiny surfaces. If the surface is turbulent, then the glint is reduced in the expected places, but is increased in the more distant places, because the turbulent surfaces in those more distant places display a higher ratio of surfaces at the right angle. So turbulence only spreads the effect over a larger area while reducing the intensity at the center -- the overall outcome: it's a wash, i.e. your point is nill.

As for your comment on "smart and capable people", that's called an "appeal to authority" -- tell it to Galileo.


Try checking for reflection instead of "glint".
Also check for polarisation and Brewster's law which is related to this.
Both effects are included in the models.


Oh you may also want to check the data regarding the effects of surface disturbance on light absorption. Try http://www.mpl.ucsd.edu/people/dstramski/index.htm

Or if you just want the scientific papers http://www.mpl.ucsd.edu/people/dstramski/articles.htm

As you will see the scientists have this quite well covered.


Great references, Bambara, especially the second one. My point is that reflection ("glint") especially pertains to Arctic waters because they are always at low angles to sunlight. I haven't seen that modeled in any Arctic heat budgets, and it significantly compromises the insolation ratio of Arctic open water compared with ice.


There it is: JAXA going up by 25K. 294K left to go.


In 4 days time New England is going to be crying foul again as parts of Hudson Bay will be warmer then they are.
The seas off Eastern Greenland are continuing to be torn apart by 2-3 cyclones at a time.
A quote I saw from Mr. Jeff Master's blog on wunderground :Why are we not paying attention to those major storms developing off Greenland were it were in the GoM we would be all over it? reply Maybe because it is not in the GoM.


BTW neven we are in trouble at this rate in 10 days time we are going to have a new max. ;D

Kevin McKinney

"If the surface is turbulent, then the glint is reduced in the expected places, but is increased in the more distant places…"

If that makes any sense at all, I am unable to parse it. "Expected" places? Whose expectations, based upon what? "Distant" places? Distant from what, exactly?


low angle sun reflection. To try and claim the scientists are not taking into account reflection of solar energy at low angles is telling them that they can not pass high school physics. Lower the angle the higher reflectivity. basic physics. Although trying to bring in turbulence is baffling to say the least as the more turbulence you have the greater absorptions you will get as you will switch low angle to high angle (low angle can get only so low before the angle starts getting higher. Basic geometry.).
High angles mean greater absorption and less reflection. They do have it in their models. The difficulty is that the statistic needed to explain it will require far more then high school math. And as to why they do not bring it up other then explaining it just simply as lower angle greater surface area being hit for the same energy levels? a) could be not statistically relevant to bring up or b) already built into the equation in a simplified form so that anyone how has studied the science understands it is already there and for those who haven't they would not understand any of the math in the first place so why bother.

Glenn Doty


The albedo of the ocean surface does increase with lower incident angle. That's why I didn't use an albedo of 5-7 - which is the albedo of ocean surface at or near 90 degrees.

At 30 degrees, the ocean has an albedo of ~.14-15, and at 80 degrees, the ocean has an albedo of ~.18-.19.

FWIW, the albedo of anything at low incident angles is altered - not just water. Ice works that way too (for that matter, so does asphalt, sand, cement, glass, whatever). Sea ice at 60 degrees only has an albedo of ~.60. No-one assumes that the ice-covered arctic is absorbing 40% of the summertime insolation.

Glenn Doty


I had meant to say "at 30 degrees the ocean has an albedo of .14-.15, and at 10 degrees the ocean has an albedo of .18-.19.

Sorry about the typo/brain-fart.


@ Andy. In reference to fast ice. In the area that Canada Ice Service covers On their regional maps, other than 2 possible small spots no fast ice exists. One what little they have filled in for local maps there are a few shores that show a max of 1-2 miles off shore with most of it very near shore. Total area does not amount to very much though.
My reading of those charts tell me once the open Arctic Ocean is ice free all you will have left are the bergs and ice shelves around Greenland. The Canadian last stand Archipelago has very little to offer you


Ocean albedo indeed increases with wavier surface due to glint and foam from breaking waves. However, I seriously doubt this effect is not included in models (if significant).

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