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Mark, blink comparisons are fun, and when you've practiced a bit, you get quite good at spotting tiny differences:
Try this one:
Novaya Zemlya / Kara Sea
Difficulty level: Purple.

2010: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/subsets/?subset=Arctic_r03c05.2010054.terra and
2011: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/subsets/?subset=Arctic_r03c05.2011054.terra

Bit of a toughy, did you spot the difference?



It looks like there is is lot of advection around Novaya Zemlya . Even part of the East Coast appears to be ice free! Has this happened at this time of year before?

Daniel Bailey

FYI, Patrick Lockerby is back online.

The Yooper


Thanks for that, Yooper! What a relief!


The Northwest Passage is becoming interesting. In the blurb below, "cracking" refers to the appearance of a few large leads or cracks (usually between sea ice and island shores) creating very large blocks, while "fracturing" refers to the break of these very large blocks into smaller, mobile chunks.

At the Beaufort Sea end of the NWP, the ice is in slightly better shape than last year, although in the last day or two some major cracking has occurred, perhaps heralding some movement in the next few days.

At the Baffin Bay end, as might be expected, the NWP ice is in distinctly worse shape than last year. The ice fracturing has penetrated through Lancaster Sound and Barrow Strait, and the leading edge is now at the mouth of Viscount Melville Sound, having reached the NE corner of Prince of Wales Island. That is more 400 kilometres further in that at this time in 2010, when the leading edge had only reached Admiralty Inlet, at the NW corner of Baffin Island.

Put another way, the entire passage is 1600 km from Cape Liverpool on Bylot Island to Cape Wrotteley on Banks Island. At this point in 2010, fracturing can be seen over ~210 km at the east end and ~110 km at the west end. 320 out of 1600 km (20%). In 2011 we see fracturing over 575 km at the east end, and 0 at the west end (although the first 100 km is just now beinging to break up). 575 out of 1600 kms (36%).

Assuming that cracking in McClure Strait matures into fracture mobile ice in the next few days, its probably reasonable to say that we are about 6 days ahead of the equivalent state from 2010, which was in itself a landmark year.

The rate of advection is also impressive. between 24th and 25th February, movement past Devon Island was tracking at 13 kilometres per day. At the equivalent point of the breakup last year (around 2nd March), movement was about 5 km per day 9At the equivalent point in *time*, movement past Devon Island was zero.

I'm warming some popcorn.

Greg Wellman

It's a little early to call a "top" to the winter season in the arctic, but the IJIS extent number has just taken a non-trivial drop, down to where it was 2/15. Of course I've just remembered that the latest IJIS number at this time of day gets revised at least once more, so the drop may not turn out quite as large. And a glance at other years shows there have been drops this large or larger before the real top. Nonetheless, this year's line just doesn't look like it has much upward trend left.

Lord Soth

With a drop of 81.4K, and still waiting for the revision, I guess there is always a slim chance of getting our first century break, in February!


advection around Novaya Zemlya .
Even part of the East Coast appears to be ice free!
Has this happened at this time of year before?
Phil263 | February 25, 2011 at 00:18

YES - MAYBE, similar in 2006.
A "blink comparsion" use the STOP then FWD & REV to compare 2006 and 2011.

On the Western End of the Arctic, at the Pacific entrance to the Bering Strait notice the open water North of St. Lawrence Island, when will it move through the strait into the Chukchi Sea?

Greg Wellman

Well, the revision was upwards, making the drop not even remarkable. But if we're following a 2006/2007 pattern for the winter max, there's not much "up" left. Dang, I am really jonesing for a Piomas update, presumably the first one to be Cryosat-validated.


Hi everybody,

Neven, wow, your blog is coming up as No 2 on a Google search for "arctic sea ice", overtaking Cryosphere Today.

@Phil263, you'd probably be best off assessing this over at Cryosphere Today (if only to foil Neven's plan of cyberworld domination;)

They have a link that allows you to compare the ice extent on this day with any previous day since 1979. (I suspect that the chromatic scale is a bit questionable, but the edges should be clearly visible)

The general tendency over the decades at this time of year is for the whole area of ice-free North Atlantic/Arctic to have expanded greatly. This coincides with a rise in Sea Surface Temperature here.

Actually, this year, the ice-free area in the Barents Sea has been quite low compared to recent years. The ice decline has been more in the Greenland Sea and Baffin Bay. This is clearest in the MASIE time plot data sets. But the amount of ice in Greenland Sea and Barents see-saws with wind direction.

But over the decades, the big picture is that there is now a much greater area of ice-free open sea in the Far North.

This must necessarily contribute a much greater amount of moist warmth to the air, and therefore warm the Arctic atmosphere. Overall though, this serves to cool the planet. Think of a feverish patient throwing aside a sheet...

It may well also be contributing to another strong cooling mechanism - WACCY weather; Warm Arctic, Cool Continents.

As the warm air can more easily escape from the Arctic, and it is now moister, it is more likely to produce snowfall over land further South. This snow cover should then increase the Earth's albedo, another strong cooling influence; I believe they've just been redecorating San Fancisco roofs white, for example.

This seems to me to be a very classic example of the Daisyworld hypothesis. Under the wax and wane of natural forcings, the Earth is fairly thermostatic.

So, to summarise my opinion on a debate that is raging wildly elsewhere, yes, snow in San Francisco is a very clear sign that the world is warming...

97 per cent of that warmth is stored in the oceans, and sweating it out may take a while.


Idunno, thanks for the compliment, but this is everybody's blog. Everybody who comments, owns a part of the place. :-)

With regards to that comparison page on CT (it's comparing sea ice concentration BTW, although it is handy to compare total extent from year to year as well): I've written a blog post on that comparison page in June last year called 'Inner Conflict'. The sea ice concentration images of the comparison page don't correspond that well to the sea ice concentration images on CT's front page. Which is one of the reasons pseudo-skeptics like to use it so much for their sea ice analyses (as well as the PIPS ice thickness maps and the ArcticROOS extent and area graphs).

Artful Dodger

Fair sized calving event today from Ilulissat glacier into Disko Bay, Greenland.

Compare MODIS images from Feb 26, 2011 to Feb 21, 2011.

I estimate the surface area of the new iceberg to be approx. 29.5 km^2


HI Neven,

Yes, and WUWT sea ice reference page compounds the bias by using 2007 as a baseline. Maybe we could have a reference page? I know you're busy, and hibernating...

Incidentally, the new Icelights section at Arctic Sea Ice News has a good reference section under "Reading Lists". I realise you're probably sore that they're still Number 1, )

@Dodger - also the biggest break up on Ross Ice Shelf in 15 years reported in the press; McMurdo base evacuated. Any pics available?

Expecting a sudden upturn in Antarctic Sea Ice area as Ross Ice Shelf disintegrates and turns into sea ice. Ho hum.

Steve Bloom

idunno, IIRC Caribbean SSTs were at record levels last year, so if Stone's method holds up (although these sorts of statistical analyses have a habit of working for a while and then failing) we should see a record Beaufort retreat this year. Among other consequences, that will make for some unhappy bears.


Hi Steve,

I seemed to get the impression that Stone's method was getting less reliable as you get towards the present day. It may have been more reliable for hindcasting under the "old normal" conditions than for forecasting in the "new normal".

Reading it changed my ideas a lot tough, and I thought others here would also be interested.

Two further caveats; it's a graduate paper and they didn't classify it.


Well spotted, Lodger. Coincidentally I was trying to have a look at Jakobshavn Isbrae (that's the glacier you're referring to, right, or is Ilulissat a glacier of its own?), but thought: 'too cloudy, nevermind'. :-)

Artful Dodger

Yup, good MODIS and MEDIA coverage of the Ross Island Ice shelf breakup.


Lodger – Indeed, a large portion of ice left the mouth of Ilulissat fjord. It is change, yes, but I doubt wether that is a significant one. As I have learnt last year, the calved icebergs originating from the glacier front, some 50 km upstreams, stay grounded on a bay-formed underseas ridge in front of the fjord mouth. My guess is eastern winds and tide combined forces the last couple of days to give the lot a fair push out. I watched the calving front several times lately, when fine weather conditions provided a chance to do so. The low sun gave striking depth to these images, confirming a dynamic state. The deep water in the Disko Bay remains anomalously warm, so a calving in winter time cannot be ruled out. But at the end of winter, the whole fjord remains frozen up for the time being, given quite low temps in these parts for february.
That accounts, on my behalf, for a large part of the Arctic at the moment. Yes, the pack moves around, cracks and leads form easily. But these refreeze, while f.i. the Archipelago shows night-time temps around -40 celsius. Look at the eastern side of Novaya Zemlja and you’ll see the 50 km wide windblown polynia yet again being covered with grey ice. For now, the volume remains stable (what about Piomass as Greg wonders above too) , the stage is certainly set, but things will unfold only when spring takes over (four weeks?).
The Antarctic: that is where we may see some consequences in the next two weeks. Remember, the fate of Larsen B was set 5 march 2002. In front of Evans and Hektoria Glacier a lot of blue ice shows up. Small break-up also on the east side of Amery Iceshelf. Ross IS, that I missed, watching only the east side… let’s have a look.

Artful Dodger

Hi Werthe. Yeah the area of the Ross ice shelf where the runways normally are has broken up. You could sail a ship right to the dock at McMurdo Station right now.

I think they're going to try to fly in two Globemasters tomorrow to evacuate 200 U.S. personnel. I wish them luck landing with the extra 14,000 lbs of Jet A they'll be carrying for the return flight to Christchurch... which Airport is operating with Earthquake damage. It's a 'crisis-cocktail' for sure.


I've also read that 3 out of 5 of the Vikings Christoffer Ladstein mentioned a few days back aboard the Berserk have probably succumbed to the Antarctic fury. It looks like they didn't prepare adequately. May they rest in peace.

Artful Dodger

Berserk disappeared 33km north of Scott Base.

After Berserk's emergency beacon sent a Mayday signal, ice-strengthened patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington, commissioned last year and in McMurdo Sound, was dispatched.

"As we responded, we were stuck in the most intense storm I have ever encountered in 19 years in the navy," skipper Lieutenant Commander Simon Griffith told the Sunday Star-Times yesterday from inside the Antarctic Circle, enroute for Dunedin and a Thursday docking.

Hurricane force winds up to 182km/h "exploded off the Ross Ice Shelf" and sharp swells of 8m slammed into HMNZS Wellington.

Spray turned to thick ice on the decks. Aerials, lighting and speakers were swept away. Griffith ruefully noted they even lost their stern light.

Liferafts were ripped off. "We still have enough on board to keep us safe," he says. In the midst of it, Griffith got word of the Christchurch earthquake; he kept it to himself for 12 hours.

A brutal end in the harshest environment imaginable, an Ice Hurricane.


From our news re. the Vikings & break out of Ice at McMurdo, I haven't read how those flights went, note ice used to break out here each season, just not recently. Also it is not an total evacuation of McMurdo, just the last of the summer people there.

& an earlier story

Pics of ice break out, Capt Scott sailed into here in 1901? on Discovery & they set up the first hut:


Artful Dodger

Here is the McMurdo Station area on Hut Point Peninsula, Ross Island, Antarctica from Feb 26, 2011 (credit: NASA/MODIS):

McMurdo Station Feb 26, 2011

The Ross Ice Shelf breakup has opened sea-lanes to McMurdo Station for the first time since 1998. This image has been rotated so North is at the top. A distance scale shows the size of the new icebergs.


32 km... Wow.

IJIS has reported another extent decrease (32K) which will probably be revised upwards later today. If I remember correctly last year's growth spurt that extended the growing season by a few weeks was mainly caused by an extremely negative AO. For now the AO is peaking in positive territory. I wonder what happens if it stays that way. Right now IJIS extent is 100K below the preliminary maximum of a few days back.

Gas Glo

5 of 8 years movements suggest IJIS will have a new minimum maximum this year. Note however that upwards revisions could push this down to 3 of 8.

If tomorrows revised figure is lower than 13561250 (a fall of only 7500 from todays preliminary figure) then 7 of 8 years will suggest a new minimum maximum.

Only 1 of 8 years suggest that 23 Feb will be the maximum for this year. (Perhaps 0 to 3 depending on revision.) Previous earliest maximum is 5th March so if that does happen it is quite considerably earlier than previous dates. 3 days of small falls would however appear to considerably improve the odds to 5 or even 6 of 8 years.


Gas Glo,

While you're working the numbers, here's a stat to consider: If you just take the average daily extent for the 8-9 years of the IJIS record, the highest daily average is 14,214,313 on 9 March. Average for 26 Feb is 14,079,746, so average growth from here to the peak average is 135,566 sq kms. So, if we get average growth for the next 11 days we will peak on 9 March at 13,704,316 - a record low maximum by about 78,000 sq kms. I'm sure the provisional number will be revised down, probably by ~25,000, but that still puts 2011 on track for a record low maximum given merely average results over the next two weeks.

Personally, I don't put much faith in such exercises, just hanging it out there for the number-crunchers to muse on...

Artful Dodger

Patrick Lockerby continues his tradition of insightful historic articles related to the Arctic with his new post: "George Best - An Elizabethan Climate Scientist". Well done, Patrick!

Gas Glo

Personally, I prefer my x/eighths approach to the simpler looks like it will or won't occur, but some care needs to be taken either way. Neven's comment about AO or similar such considerations could change the odds considerably.

Suppose my x/eighths approach suggested a very different probability to Franks simpler 'on track for a record low maximum' (or not on track). I would suggest that I prefer my x/eighths approach because it considers probabilities at dates other than the expected maximum date. However I am certainly willing to consider other views on this.


IJIS revised yesterday's extent number by a massive +70K. You guys obviously jinxed it. ;-)

But huge PIPS ice displacement arrows forecast for tomorrow (for today were big too):

At the end of the melting season this means extent decrease, but I don't know if the same applies to the end of the growing season. I have a hunch it does, but I'm not sure.


Neven, hallo – After watching the latest MODIS around Novaya Zemlja, I think my earlier remarks on new ice formation do not completely apply. The gap is now 100 km wide on the south side. Only way up you’ll see new grey ice forming.
I guess it fits your interpretation of PIPS today. There is compaction going on, and a lot of ‘crunching’. That won’t change volume for the time being. But it will make the ice vulnerable when spring arrives.
Over Novaya Zemlya a strong SW wind brings in less cold air (Malye Karmakuly night minimum -5 celsius) and maybe a sort of fohn-effect on the east side.
Crossing the Kara Sea, the atmospheric flow heads out to the pole; driven by a reversed dipole with a strong low over Fram Strait and a high over north Siberia.
DMI shows a renewed spike in temps over 80 degrees north.
Over all, the Kara Sea lost some 80K in extent . OTAH the Baffin Bay is experiencing a late winter freeze. But then, that seems to be compensated by losses in the Bering Strait area.
It's worrying to see (almost) the lowest maximum extent combined with a probably very low volume!

Artful Dodger

Two High-priority Climate Missions Dropped from NASA’s Budget Plans.

"The other two top-tier Earth science missions — Soil Moisture Active-Passive and ICESat-2 — remain budgeted for launch in 2014 and 2016, respectively."


Happy icemas, everyone!




Werther, thanks for passing on all that information. I've just started to peek a bit here and there at MODIS images, but the clouds and that big white ball in the middle are still putting me off. ;-)

IJIS reported a big dive again (-47K) but this will probably be revised upwards later today. 2011 is neck and neck with 2006 for lowest daily average for February. 2011 = 11563 square km a day; 2006 = 11574 square km a day.


About the PIPS ice chart : it's astounding to see the ice so mobile in the season, when the ice is supposed to be the thickest...

The Arctic Threadmill will start early for Arctic Explorers this year, Michele Pontrandolfo and the Catlin were supposed to start these days but are stuck in Resolute by a big storm.


IJIS reported a big dive again (-47K) but this will probably be revised upwards later today.

How come do we have such big revisions every day ?
I also note that SIA ( as reported by CT) has also gone down quite a bit in the last few days -130 k. So it looks like it is not just about ice movement. or is it ?

Gas Glo

Just experimenting:

height="225" width="460"
alt="Price for Minimum Arctic ice extent for 2011 to be greater than 2007 at intrade.com"
title="Price for Minimum Arctic ice extent for 2011 to be greater than 2007 at intrade.com" border="0">


I think it's a bit of a chaos out there, Phil. Loads of cyclones, cloudy weather, lots of movement, transition period from growing to melting. Must make it difficult to accurately assess extent and area. Hence the big revisions. But that's just a guess on my part.

Greg Wellman

I think Neven is right - bad weather -> greater uncertainty/difficulty -> bigger revisions.

Gas Glo

William Connolley prefers extent/area to volume and "still expect there to be summer ice n 2050".


Christoffer Ladstein

Agree, Neven, rest in peace the crew onboard Berserk! Reading about the very rare circumstances they happened to witness, as Artful fully quoted above, they needed more than a miracle (or at least a bigger boat!) to make it through, which they apparantly didn't. So it's hard to blame them for not being prepared, lets just say they ran out of luck this time:-(

Though I find it kind of a thrill possibly setting a new minimimum maximum record,I don't think we are to put too much into this yet. Last year proved a very late date for maximum, but as Neven expressed: The NAO might just be the key-factor for changing the rules of the game this spring. the NAO have been persistently negative for such a long time now, bringing 2 pretty harsh winters on a row for Northern Europe, which also has led to too less rain/snow during wintertime, leading to record low levels of water in the watermagazines in the mostly mountainous areas, causing the normally hydroelectric norwegians to rely on nuclear and coal based electricity-import in a scale never witnessed before. Not to speak of the the deficit for the glaciers.....
So many factors are thightly woven together, and one thing is for sure: We don`t really understand the pattern yet and the outcome, and again that's why it's so exciting to pay attention!!!


I've looked back at Comments on Open Thread 5 and 6 concerning Arctic ice-free summers - they are spread out, and some are quite long, but I think the topic of whether Maslowski's declaration that the sea ice will "essentially" disappear quite soon (in the next 3 to 4 years) is very interesting.
Perhaps worthy of a standing Thread as the year progresses, Neven ;-)

I think the notion that the Central Arctic Basin trendlines, whether extent, area or volume, are fairly steady and thus argue against impending meltout, is quite wrong. If you had a 20 oz. box of cereal (say Cheerios), and plotted the number of Cheerios in TopBox (the top half of the amount of cereal) and BottomBox (bottom half), the TopBox would show roughly linear decrease (every morning, you have a 1 oz. bowl of cereal), while the BottomBox section of the cereal box would mysteriously show number holding fairly steady (settling and shaking would vary the number a bit) in the face of this voracious onslaught. Trendline analysis would show TopBox disappearing in about 10 days, while BottomBox would appear to be stable indefinitely.

So it is with the Arctic sea ice - the Central Basin is like BottomBox, because it is essentially the last ice eaten. Trendline analysis is no substitute for physical insight, which is 95% of the work of being a scientist (learning the field, reading thousands of papers, conferences, pondering data, etc - those little charts that blogs argue over are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak).

The crucial fact of Arctic sea ice is that the volume is getting lower and lower, with occasional summer slight recoveries:
The volume has dropped from about 18,000 km^3 in 1979 to about 4,000 km^3 in 2010 - the question is, will the heat imbalance which is causing this overall melt of Arctic sea ice not be able to affect the Arctic Central Basin ?

"First year ice", "multi-year ice" means nothing to heat (sure, slightly different amounts of heat are needed to melt different types of ice...) - if heat reaches the ice in a grid cell of the Arctic (a conceptual grid cell - say, 1m^2 by 60 meters deep), it will melt until it is all gone, after which the heat flux into that cell will warm the cell water, which will then start to warm adjacent cells. Will this inexorable heat imbalance keep on eating away at remaining summer sea ice until it is essentially gone in a few years ?


See for example:
Mechanisms of summertime upper Arctic Ocean warming and the effect on sea ice melt
Notice that the Marginal Ice Zone is crucial to summer melt:
bottom melting from ocean dynamics ∆h botO (ocean currents, diffusion from the warmth under the halocline, etc)
bottom melting from local atmospheric heating of the ocean ∆h botA (ice albedo feedback - the more open water, the more heat is absorbed that summer, subject to cloudiness, etc)
top melting ∆h top (sunshine)

The marginal ice zone (MIZ) is defined as the area where open ocean processes, including specifically ocean waves, alter significantly the dynamical properties of the sea ice cover. This is the attack zone on the remaining Arctic sea ice - as more and more open water appears, the exposed water is vulnerable to winds and waves, which speeds up the flow of heat from 100m-200m down (previously kept in place by a tranquil halocline layer). As the ice volume goes down, the ice available to soak up heat in this MIZ goes down, and the MIZ marches northward faster. It might have a countervailing slowing forcing because of the higher latitudes (less sunshine, different currents), but much of the bottom melt will not be affected by the last 10° latitude of the Central Arctic Basin. The heat is there under the halocline - open water will churn it up. The MIZ is hundreds of kilometers wide.

The key question -- is the heat imbalance which has eaten away the summer Arctic sea ice down to 4000 km^3 going to encounter major obstacles in melting the surviving Arctic Central Basin summertime ice ?

Trendlines for previously-protected regions mean nothing - the MIZ will continue to move farther north each summer and eat away at the sea ice edge until it meets in the center and all the ice is gone.


20 days to equinox.

Interesting to see how it all pans out, perhaps the real test is how much will be ice free come 1 June and experiance 24 hour a day sun for 2 months. Hudson bay is looking like some of it may end up doing just that.

Andrew Xnn

It is important to remember, that there is a lot more to the Northern Hemisphere than sea ice. Snow fall extent is also important and has was above normal for January 2011 and may be for February as well.


This is primarily due to increased storminess and precipitation.
It's not until March and April that the negative anomilies in snow extent become most pronounced.

Click thru the above link to see what's has been happening.


Hi Anu,

First thanks for the link to a very interesting article. I broadly agree with all that you deduce from it.

The article itself though, contains a massive erroneous assumption, which is that all the action is going on in areas of high extent/area variability.

An analogy; I can draw you two maps of the frontlines in WW1 in December 1914 and in September 1918. From this I can "prove" that nothing much at all happened on the Western Front. WW1 was fought in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Palestine.

I am fairly convinced that, under current conditions, the war of attrition between ice and ocean is being fought mainly in the Fram Strait.

Currently, the ice seems to have very few reinforcements to throw in to resist the next "Big Push".

I feel that the authors of your paper have, by concentrating on Pacific water, which is not anomalously warm over the last decade, and whose entry to the Arctic is restricted by the shallow, narrow Bering Strait, greatly underestimated something or other. I'm really not sure what.

Finally, I have now reached the position where I HOPE that "this inexorable heat balance keeps on eating away at remaining sea ice until it is all gone in the next in the next few years."

Otherwise it starts to nibble away at the submerged methane clathrates, which is a whole new ballgame. This is the nightmare scenario proposed by Hansen and some of the rest of the rocket scientists.

I do so hope that it turns out that these people aren't nearly as smart as Dubya and WUWT. But...


BTW, I don't think anybody mentioned that NOAA has a new five year strategy plan up at:


Sorry if this is a repost


Hi all – It’s getting more interesting by the day. Today it looks like the Kara Strait is open. If so, it has never before this early. The Kara Strait connects the Barents and the Kara sea, just between Novaya Zemlya and Vaygach Island. I checked CT 1 march situations back to 1995 to compare.
I think Frank D noticed the large polynia north of St. Lawrence Island south of Bering Strait. Following that on MODIS the situation out there looks pretty anomalous, too. CT gave a drop in extent anomaly for the Bering Sea as large as 250K. Likewise, it is hard to find any year in the CT history maps comparing to 1 march this year.
BTW Amery Iceshelf on the south side shows some interesting feats. A Harry Potter-like scar at the east side and a flashy split in the middle. Both have been there for some years, but the contours get sharp now, with a large bay forming on the east side and a chunk about 3 x 80 km chipping off right now.
Should we hold on tight or can anyone provide some relaxation?


Well, Werther, my motto is 'nothing in the Arctic is a dead certainty'. For some people that's relaxing. Others panic. :-)


There's more in the Northern Hemisphere than just sea ice? Never!

The Baltic Sea has mostly iced over. It's apparently the greatest extent since 1987.


Gas Glo

>"There's more in the Northern Hemisphere than just sea ice? Never!"

I am certain that there is more in the Northern Hemisphere than just sea ice, so I am wondering if that should be:

'There is never going to be no more sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere.'

The occurance of greatest extent of Baltic sea ice since 1987 does not seem a convincing piece of data to support that. Of course, there will be sea ice in winter for a very long time to come. To me such a high Baltic sea ice extent seems like it is either evidence of a lot of natural variability in the Baltic or possibly of potential major weather effects caused by low arctic sea ice levels. But I am certainly no expert.

Sorry if I am struggling with your English - I am certain that it is a lot better than my ability in any oth language.

Patrice Monroe Pustavrh

Well. Rlkittiwake: Adriatic sea has frozen this winter for a brief moment in some areas (yes, it took only two days for some shallow bays to freeze over in cold event. After a week or two, the temperature in same area was way over 10 deg C). Oh, dear, what a global cooling - oh yeah ? Cold/hot difference can be as big as 30 deg C if you look for minimal/maximal temps for many, many cities/points in this world for that given point. So you can find great variabilities in some relatively small areas of world - but, when you average larger areas, you will find a little (or not so little) bit different picture.


Hi idunno -

Well, there is "action" going on over the entire Arctic sea ice cover, for example
(c) shows that top melt (sunshine, air temperature) in July for 2007 was 25 cm to 50 cm over most of the Arctic, and
(a) shows that heat flux from slow ocean currents and diffusion from the warm waters below the halocline accounted for about 5cm to 25 cm of melt over most of the Arctic (notice the beige areas, as in north of Greenland, where this process melted less than 5 cm of sea ice)
(d) but the largest melt rates ∆h occur over the areas where the Marginal Ice Zone marches north - mainly because as new open water is exposed, this albedo change causes much heat to be absorbed into the open water, which can then be delivered to the bottom of the sea ice up to a hundred or two hundred kilometers under the sea ice edge. Also, I've seen papers showing the wind/waves which are then able to churn up the previously tranquil-under-ice water increases the heat diffusion from the deeper warm waters (50 m to 200m below the surface - a stable halocline usually keeps this warm water from affecting the sea ice much, far from the sea ice edge).

As for concentrating on the Pacific waters, in 2007 these brought an unusual amount of heat into the Arctic, resulting in the record low sea ice extent. But the paper shows how important the ice albedo feedback is - once open water is formed, this allows much more heating of the exposed water, which is then delivered under the sea ice edge to cause more basal ice melting, causing more open water, etc...

Even thought the paper concentrated on the Pacific side of the Arctic in 2007, it was a good explanation of the processes and concepts needed to understand the Arctic Death Spiral.

Here's an interesting Maslowski paper from 2008:

Here's the Naval Postgraduate School Arctic Modeling Effort

If someone cares to challenge the idea of an imminent ice free summer Arctic, I can show why this high resolution regional Arctic model is much better for sea ice understanding than the low resolution, no Arctic Ocean topography global GCM's used in the "mainstream" predictions of ice free by 2030, or 2050, or 2100.


Anu, if you feel like it, you could go over here and spar a bit with the Stoat. ;-)

Artful Dodger

Here is a table ranking February Arctic SIE over the IJIS era (2003-2011):

Year   Feb-Avg   Feb-Inc   Inc-%
2006 13,438,041 566,250 4.21%
2011 13,518,231 382,188 2.83%
2005 13,528,214 706,250 5.22%
2007 13,698,203 324,063 2.37%
2010 13,712,835 678,750 4.95%
2009 13,998,120 627,969 4.49%
2004 14,061,049 820,312 5.83%
2008 14,105,290 771,407 5.47%
2003 14,362,322 685,000 4.77%

And here is the data sorted by Monthly percent increase in SIE:

Year Mthly%
2007 2.37%
2011 2.83%
2006 4.21%
2009 4.49%
2003 4.77%
2010 4.95%
2005 5.22%
2008 5.47%
2004 5.83%

As you can see above, 2011 is a close 2nd for both average SIE and Monthly percentage Increase in SIE.

2006 has the lowest avg SIE, but is ranked 3rd by monthly %Inc.

2007 has the lowest monthly %Inc, but is ranked 4th by avg SIE.


Thanks Neven, I'll give it a look. Nothing sharpens your thinking like a good argument :-)

I missed plenty of interesting comments on this subject by William Crump, Peter Ellis, FrankD, Daniel Bailey, Artful Dodger, Gas Glo, etc. while I was hibernating. The more closely I look back on the Open Threads, the more I appreciate the much deeper understanding of Arctic sea ice from your commenters than is found at places like WUWT or The Telegraph (they love to argue with "alarmists", but a large majority of their commenters are clueless).

2013 vs 2030
Even if summer 2013 ended up with 2 million km^2 sea ice at 40 cm thick, I think this would be a huge alarm for world leaders and opinion makers. And I'm sure the contrarians/denialists would find some way to amuse me with their responses.



We're obviously tracking some of the same data in the same way (great minds, and all that!) I think there's an inconsequential error in your data - I make the Feb average 13,518,337. It's only a difference of 2969 sq km's for the whole month, so no big. I've re-checked my data though and can't see a problem, so perhaps you've retained a preliminary figure in there?

It makes no difference to the percentage (2.83%), just adding some QA.

We differ on 2004 & 2008 as well, but I assume you just used the first 28 days for comparative purposes, where I used 29.


Allow me to clarify: there may be things in the Northern Hemisphere other than sea ice, but sea ice is what's important here. ;)

I mentioned the Baltic freezing over not in an effort to try to refute climate change, but as an observational curiosity. I know that in North America, the cold has been "pushed out" of the arctic this winter, creating warmer temperatures in parts of Northern Canada than were recorded hundreds of miles to the south. I'm not familiar enough with European weather patterns to hazard a guess if something similar has gone on there, but it's interesting to see open water all the way to Novaya Zemlya while the sea on the other side of Fennoscandia is unusually solid.


Has anybody looked recently at the uni-bremen arctic extent rate of change graph?
I am sure this is just weather but the deviation from other years is pretty striking.


Thanks for the tip, RunInCircles. The graph is here.

Greg Wellman

Rlkittiwake, I believe your guess about the "polar breakouts" earlier this winter is a reasonably well accepted explanation for the greater-than-normal Baltic ice. Something similar happened with *one* of the Great Lakes in North America, if I recall correctly. While the deeper lakes had less ice than normal because they'd stored more heat than normal during the warm months, the shallowest of the lakes froze faster than normal during a cold snap.

Artful Dodger

Hi Frank. Yes, IJIS did a 2nd revision of +2,968 km^2 on Feb 21, 2011. I agree with your new avg SIE number: 13,518,337 km^2. As you say, neither Rank Order for Extent or % Increase changes with the revision. Good catch.


NSIDC February analysis is out: February Arctic ice extent ties 2005 for record low; extensive snow cover persists


Hi Everyone, I hadn't noticed the graph http://iup.physik.uni-bremen.de:8084/amsr/ext_rates_n.png , that RunInCircles referred to. . It look to me like the graph will cross the axis in the next week and then the melt is on!

michael sweet

Cryosphere Today's Sea Ice Area Graph has shown a loss of about 150,000 km2 in the past week. It is the start of the melt season already according to area! It has declined enough that it seems unlikely that it will increase again to higher than what it was at the peak. The peak was only just over 13,000,000 km2, a record low. It was only that high for a day or so.


I've put that Uni Bremen extent rate graph on the Arctic sea ice graphs page, together with IJIS area and Arctic ROOS area.

Gas Glo

Neven, with you saying you want to bet on "2011 minimum sea ice extent [being] below that of 2010", what odds do you expect?

If you believe 2011 minimum sea ice extent will be below that of 2007 then intrade prices suggest you shouldn't be able to get even odds. So to expect to get a bet 2011<2010 you are going to have to offer odds substantially against you.

If you want to risk your £100 against my £5 then maybe we could agree a bet. I doubt many people would want to risk so much for so little reward but maybe someone else will offer better odds.

If you want to keep it simple with even odds then I suggest you are going to have to offer to bet on something like IJIS extent going under 4m km^2.

You may have realised William likes bets that heavily favour him winning, but doesn't everybody?


Right now I would say that there's a 60% chance 2011 September sea ice extent (as called by NSIDC) will be below that of 2010. Unfortunately nothing in the Arctic is a dead certainty. ;-)

Matthew Opitz

What has been going on in the Bering Strait this past week? Has anybody else been noticing this?
It's as if the Bering Strait ice is on the verge of disintegrating.

The Kara Sea is also not looking particularly healthy:

We're beginning to get a bit more ice growth on the north coast of Labrador:
But it is far from being remotely consolidated, and time is running out. It will not take long for this ice to melt away.

The arctic ice is already at battle stations on three fronts, and the melt season shouldn't have even started yet.

Gas Glo

>"Right now I would say that there's a 60% chance 2011 September sea ice extent (as called by NSIDC) will be below that of 2010."

So a 40% chance of 2011>2010 and therefore much greater chance of 2011>2007. Sounds like you want to bet the same way as William on 2011>2007. In that case I don't see much point in you trying to arrange a bet with him.

So why not join intrade and bet that 2011 IJIS September sea ice extent is greater than 2007 is more than a 42% chance? Or perhaps you meant to say at least a 60% of 2011<2010?


In that case I don't see much point in you trying to arrange a bet with him.

Indeed, there isn't.

So why not join intrade and bet that 2011 IJIS September sea ice extent is greater than 2007 is more than a 42% chance?

I think I might, but I want to see what happens the coming few weeks.


I read about all these predictions about the 2011 SIE with some ineterest, but honestly is there any way we can tell?Just as is there any way we can tell whether Summer 2011 will be hot in LA ?
I have been following the whole 2010 melting season and my lesson is this: Sea ice is as unpredictable as the weather. Remember:
- The maximum was very late and relatively high compared to previous years
- In May and June we had a fast melting rate, and some thought that we might break the 2007 minimum
- Then in July the melt slowed down considerably so much so that we even thought that the minimum might end up higher than in 2009
-Then suddenly in late August and early September we had an unexpected spurt of melting.
Conclusion: We may have a fairly good idea about the long term trend being down, but there is even dispute about the rate of this trend as illustrated by the recent discussions on this blog. I believe we can safely predict that the minimum will be between 4.5 and 5.5 million K. However, there is still a good (unknown) probability that we might get a figure slightly outside this range. Even so, we shouldn't put too much into it as it might be the result of normal fluctuations. Now I concede that if we got a minimum above 6 million K, history would have to be rewritten!


Does anybody have some insight into the current arctic sea ice volume? PIOMAS has apparently decided that they have better things to do than run their model. Topaz and PIPS are both providing maps of sea ice thickness but their scales are very different. PIPS is showing 5 meters of ice above Canada where Topaz is showing 3 meters of ice. This difference is too large for me to reconcile. I would like to know what this group of experts think.

Gas Glo

>"I read about all these predictions about the 2011 SIE with some ineterest, but honestly is there any way we can tell?Just as is there any way we can tell whether Summer 2011 will be hot in LA ?"

Any way we can tell *with certainty*? No. But does that mean give up, don't try to predict? No I don't think so:

If in the last 30 years x% of years are higher than y degrees C. If most people's answer is 'no change, x%' then those answers are not interesting. If some people answer (x+1)% and some people answer (x+0.2) then the disagreement is small and it will take a very long time to see who is correct. Again uninteresting. If some say (x+30)% and some say (x-30)% then you have an interesting disagreement. If x is between 40 and 60, then one year's information won't be enough to decide who is right with certainty as the correct group could be unlucky. However it won't take many years to see who is right (unless the answer happens to be close to the average).

Stoat's there will be summer sea ice in 2050 is clearly different to Maslowski ice free periods by 2016+3 years. This puts the sea ice into the interesting disagreement category.

I agree that over short periods sea ice is as unpredictable as the weather.
>"but there is even dispute about the rate of this trend" and that is why it is interesting.

Science is all about predicting and verifying forecasting things that aren't known. Betting adds a little extra edge and also tests strengths of belief.

"The SEARCH Sea Ice Outlook is an international effort to provide a community-wide summary of the expected September arctic sea ice minimum. Monthly reports released throughout the summer synthesize community estimates of the current state and expected minimum of sea ice—at both a pan-arctic and regional scale."

Would it do a better job of 'synthesizing community estimates' if betting was encouraged in a transparent manner so that strengths of beliefs could be assessed?

If so, should participants be encouraged to bet? Perhaps encouraging what might be illegal for some participants might be unacceptable. Also don't want to encourage people to keep what they know to themself for profit. Perhaps runs an ideosphere like play money betting market?

So would it be beneficial to encourage SEARCH participants to join. If so, how? Perhaps a prize for biggest play money winner is needed to encourage such involvement?


Neven, are you still updating your spreadsheet of global total ice cover? Because its getting interesting again. The anomalies for both poles have been sliding over the last week and some, and at last count we are a bit over 14.5 M sq kms - I'd say we're < 150,000 above the record minimum at this point.

Now that I've mentioned it I'm sure it will tick upwards again (because my actions determine ice area!), but since SST's in the Greenland and Barents Seas rising again, it could be time to drag out Lenny Kravitz again - you know, "It ain't over till its over..."


I'm keeping an eye on it, Frank! I've got Lenny sitting in the spare room, strumming his guitar, just in case. Just like his mama said. ;-)

Exciting times. Will we see a late uptick? Or has the melting season more or less started?

Checking the ECMWF and PIPS maps it looks like we have a little Dipole setting up. I wonder what the effect will be, advection through Fram --> artificial extent/area increase?

Artful Dodger

Neven, would you consider replacing the long-dead NOAA2 Webcam with the Barrow Sea Ice Webcam on the Arctic sea ice graphs page? Cheers!


Sure thing, Lodger! Give me two minutes, and thanks!

Artful Dodger

Nice sunny day in Barrow!


Hi, friends!

I have been following most of the discussions on this blog even though I have not had the energy to contribute lately. I have found the discussion very stimulating and would like to take this opportunity to thank all contributors.

I have just posted my first monthly ice report for 2011 and look forward to comments, criticisms, general discussion, tar and feathering etc.



Daniel Bailey

Thanks, Patrick; good to have you back!

The Yooper

Daniel Bailey

A teaser quote from Patrick's post:

"why I expect the central Arctic to be essentially ice-free by the end of this Arctic summer 2011"

The melt season may already be underway...

The Yooper

Greg Wellman

That's a great review by Patrick, but I think he's jumping the gun on an ice-free arctic. In the absence of a Cryosat-validated PIOMAS update, we're all flying a little blind here ... I'm thinking a 50% chance of going below 2007. Should that come to pass it should still shock people.

Speaking of PIOMAS, who is the person I should thank for posting the "reverse engineered" PIOMAS volume numbers? Specifically http://snipt.org/wkyg ... are those monthly averages, or monthly midpoint values?

Anyway, I did some correlation of monthly values and the year that the June volume is 10,000 (last year was 15,000, lowest ever) is likely the year that Sept volume goes effectively to zero.

Steve Bloom

"I'm thinking a 50% chance of going below 2007. Should that come to pass it should still shock people."

Greg, I wish I could agree on the shock part. Even an ice-free period would have only tempoary shock value, bearing in mind the lack of any obvious knock-on effects, that the ice would almost certainly start reforming within a matter of days, that "ice-free" will still involve some remnant ice, and the inevitable tsunami of excited speculation about enhanced resource exploitation and improved shipping transit times. I truly wish it were otherwise. If you want some proof, look at how much media/public attention was given to the preliminary (and quite shocking) results for 21st century permafrost loss that came out just the other day. That such news wasn't above the fold on the front page of every newspaper on the planet tells us a lot.

Gas Glo

Thank for pointing out http://snipt.org/wkyg and to whoever made it available.

If it is reliable in reporting PIOMAS3 volumes for Sept 2009 and 2010 as 5694 and 3915: A similar reduction of 1779 would bring 2011 volume down to 2136 km^3 which is only 54.6% of the 2010 volume. That could still leave extent at ~4m km^2 with the rest of the volume reduction in thickness rather than extent or area. Thickness would be down to ~.83 meters (dividing by area of ~2.6m km^2).

That is just applying same as last year which probably won't be appropriate in several ways. It appears rare for volume to drop by as much as 1779 km^3. Maybe there is a significant ~decadal oscillation with 2007 to 2010 showing unusually large reductions... Or maybe Patrick could be right and there are factors from which we should expect further acceleration.

Extent of 3.5 to 4.3 m km^2 seems to me to be a more plausible range than under 3.5m km^2 or over 4.3m km^2. Perhaps I would give those three ranges something like 50%, 25% and 25% probabilities.

Andrew Xnn

1779km^3 reduction for Sept 2010 vs 2009
562km^3 reduction for Sept 2009 vs 2008
184km^3 increase for Sept 2008 vs 2007
3635km^3 reduction for Sept 2007 vs 2006
291km^3 reduction for Sept 2006 vs 2005
198km^3 reduction for Sept 2005 vs 2004

So, the average reduction is about 1000km^3.
That works out to 4 more years or 2014.
Of course, your actual mileage may vary.

Artful Dodger

2011 YTD daily mean temperature North of 80N has been 7.5 C above the daily mean for the 1958 to 2002 base period. 2011 temps have not in fact decrease to the mean. We have now entered the time of year when mean temps begin their annual climb to the Summer plateau.

Note that temperatures hover just over the freezing mark throughout the Summer melt, as heat energy goes into the phase change between ice and water, rather than increasing the air temp.


Greg Wellman:

Speaking of PIOMAS, who is the person I should thank for posting the "reverse engineered" PIOMAS volume numbers? Specifically http://snipt.org/wkyg ... are those monthly averages, or monthly midpoint values?

That would be me. What I did in short:

1) loaded the published graph at http://psc.apl.washington.edu/ArcticSeaiceVolume/images/BPIOMASIceVolumeAnomalyCurrent.png into a vector based graphic editor (open source application InkScape)
2) converted the bitmap graphic to vectors;
3) Took the data as XML to a spreadsheet (open source gnumeric);
4) At the 15th of each month I calculated a value by interpolation from the two nearest data points before and after that date;
5) With a similar procedure I calculated the monthly averages from http://psc.apl.washington.edu/ArcticSeaiceVolume/images/PIOMAS_daily_mean.png
6) Calculations from anomalies+averages to absolute values is straight forward;

Note that the idea was from FrankD He presented some graphs that I thought worth to be reproduced.

Greg Wellman

Thanks Wipneus!


Greg, have a read of Open Thread 3, where Wipneus and I ran though this. I used a slightly different approach and got slightly different numbers: http://snipt.org/wkuj

Briefly, I think the way I smoothed the data for the month gives slightly better results, but Wipneus' approach to calculating the mean for the 15th was a lot better than mine. As it was Wipneus and I came to very similar conclusions, with his being the slightly scarier. Both are in the timeframes advanced by Maslowski.

I meant to tweak it further but never got around to it, and now it seems the new melt season is imminent, so I probably won't now. I wish PIOMAS would update their graph though... :- (


I forgot to draw a conclusion:
The PIOMAS graph of averages includes a legend "Dots represent monthly averages plotted at mid month".
So the re-engineered values should be regarded as monthly averages as well, in case it matters.

Gas Glo

Thanks Wipneus

A quadratic fit:

suggests about 2015 or 2016 plus or minus a year or two.

Gas Glo

Doh! must use preview more.


Gas Glo

D'oh again. I used Jun to Nov average as indicated on Y axis title. i.e. it is the legend on right that is incorrect in saying Jul-Nov.


Great stuff, guys! I might turn it into a blog post once my brain starts functioning again.

Gas Glo

>" at last count we are a bit over 14.5 M sq kms - I'd say we're < 150,000 above the record minimum at this point.

Now that I've mentioned it I'm sure it will tick upwards again (because my actions determine ice area!), but since SST's in the Greenland and Barents Seas rising again, it could be time to drag out Lenny Kravitz again - you know, "It ain't over till its over..." "

Yep late dash seems to have been keeping record tantalisingly close. Now 14.537m Km^2 before the lastest 39k uptick in Arctic area.

Antarctic minimum so far is for 27th Feb is 1.692 m Km^2. While we have only had two further days data with a total rise of only 44k km^2, I think we are sufficiently late in the season for me to call the 27th as the Antarctic minimum area. (Only 2 in 32 years movements would say I am wrong about this.)

It seems near 50:50 as to whether 21st Feb will be Arctic maximum.

So it doesn't seem likely we we get back down to 14.411 of 24 Jan 201 this year, but never say never.


Apologies if this has already been mentioned (I haven't read the entire "hibernating time" comments yet), but the TOPAZ home page has a nice animated gif of the drift/melt/growth of Arctic sea ice for most of 2010:

(Jan 1, 2010 --> Nov 18, 2010)
There are occasional "hiccups" in the animation, because as they say, the images "may switch suddenly from 1-member forecast (rough) to 100-members averages (smooth)".

I like the idea of watching an entire years evolution of Arctic sea ice, and I hope some organization releases Cryosat-2 data in this form on the Web, in 2012 :-)

Note how the very thick ice just north of Canada drifted into the Beaufort, Chukchi and East Siberian seas in early 2010, slowing down the advance of the Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ) towards the Central Arctic region because first the massive defense of thick ice had to be conquered by the Summer Melt (warning - war metaphor).

For 2011, there is much less thick ice available to drift to the West Arctic and slow down the advancing MIZ:

Dr. Maslowski calls this "critical preconditioning to sea ice melt in the Western Arctic". The reason that one season's volume loss leads to the next season's volume loss is that the less ice that needs to be melted before the ocean is ice free and low albedo, the sooner the MIZ can move northward the next season (absorbing even more solar energy because of the albedo feedback effect) and thin out even more ice, preconditioning it for the following year.

Of course, weather varies each summer, but for an "average" summer melt season, preconditioned, thinner ice will melt faster than the ice of last season, opening the ocean to more heat absorption earlier than the year before. Hence the steady march of less and less volume at the end of each summer (with some variability thrown in, due to the unpredictable, sloshing heat of oceans and atmospheres).


More bad news for the "Maslowski is too pessimistic, and outside of the mainstream" crowd:

1) The quickly growing percentage of FYI (First Year Ice) in the Arctic is not only thinner than MYI (Multi Year Ice), but also darker:
According to Tschudi, Maslanik, Fowler, Stroeve and Kwok, FYI will melt 56 cm more than MYI over the course of a summer melt season, just because of its lower albedo:
They admit that this figure doesn't even include the increased basal melting, because as FYI melts away faster, it will expose more open ocean water than MYI would have under identical circumstances, thus increasing the heat absorbed by open vs. sea-ice covered ocean. The extra heat in the ocean will then cause more basal melting along the sea ice coast.

2) Those 14 coupled GCM's (Global Climate Models) which the IPCC used to predict an ice free summer Arctic in 2100, or 2050, or maybe 2035 (but certainly not 2013) - didn't really know how to take into account ocean heat transport, and ice-ocean exchange was hard to model - the exact ice melting influences that Dr. Maslowski, an oceanographer, believes is the dominant effect in Arctic sea ice melt off (NSIDC and most places concentrate on the atmosphere and surface influences on sea ice melt - things like the Arctic Oscillation, and ice floe drift out the Fram Strait, because these are the things easy to measure):

However, rates of loss vary greatly between different models, yielding large uncertainty as to when a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean may be realized. This work represents a step towards understanding and reducing the large scatter in projections between different models. It also offers insight into the mechanisms and feedbacks at work in the Arctic and their importance in shaping the future state of the system.

...the Arctic Ocean mean and spatial distribution of ice thickness varies considerably among the models. Available observations (e.g., Bourke and Garrett 1987) show that the thickest ice lies north of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (exceeding 4 m) with thinner ice along the Eurasian side of the Arctic Ocean (2 m or less). Many models show only small spatial gradients in ice thickness. Others exhibit regions of thinner and thicker ice cover, but not in the right locations compared to observations. Several (notably CCSM3 and UKMO-HadGEM1) show a reasonable thickness pattern.

... the changes in ice melt and growth are ultimately driven by changing atmosphere and ocean heat fluxes. Here we assess changes in the surface heat exchange and the role they play in the across-model scatter in the evolving sea ice mass budgets. Because of limited ocean heat flux information, analysis focuses on changes in the atmosphere–surface heat exchange.

Conclusion section:
While issues of ocean heat transport and ice–ocean exchange also appear important, direct observations for evaluation are especially scanty.

So, the GCM's don't really know the ice thickness now, they don't agree on how to model ice-ocean heat exchanges, there is a large ensemble scatter among the 14 approaches on when the Arctic will be ice free, and it's hard to evaluate the GCM's on how well they model the warming global ocean's influence on Arctic sea ice melt because there's not much data on this stuff, but, averaging over 14 GCM's that don't model the Arctic in high resolution, or even take into account the Arctic ocean floor topography, we estimate the Arctic perennial sea ice will last till about 2100, or 2050. Maybe 2030, seeing as how 2007 caught us all completely by surprise...

I say a huge wakeup call by 2013, and ice-free summer Arctic by 2016.
2050 is just wishful thinking, and 2030 is just herd mentality.
2100 is off the charts, Inhofe-crazy.


I just heard about a satellite crash. Here's a copy of the article I read today at Environment and Energy News (www.eenews.net):

A NASA satellite designed to study aerosols' influence on climate and measure solar energy failed to reach orbit this morning. The crash marks the second time in two years that a NASA climate satellite has failed to launch.

The cause appeared to be a problem with the Taurus XL rocket the space agency was using as the vehicle to launch the $424 million satellite, known as Glory, into orbit.

The rocket lifted off from Southern California's Vandenberg Air Force Base just after 5 a.m. Eastern time. Three minutes into the launch, something went wrong, NASA officials said.

"We failed to make orbit," said a visibly upset Omar Baez, the NASA launch director for the Glory mission. "All indications are that the satellite and the rocket are in the southern Pacific Ocean somewhere."

Baez and other officials from NASA and Orbital Sciences Corp., the makers of the Taurus XL rocket, briefed reporters on the failed launch this morning. The space agency has already started putting together a review panel, known as a "mishap board," to review what went wrong.

Much of the discussion focused on the Taurus XL rocket's fairing, a nose cone designed to shield the Glory satellite as it traveled through Earth's atmosphere. NASA officials said it appears the fairing did not detach from the rocket the way it was supposed to.

A similar problem with the Taurus XL rocket's fairing caused the launch failure of another satellite, the $273 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory, in February 2009. That was the last time NASA used the Taurus XL as a launch vehicle (ClimateWire, Feb. 25, 2009).

Orbital Sciences Corp. subsequently modified the fairing design, based on analyses by a NASA panel that reviewed the OCO launch failure.

The original version of the Taurus rocket used hot, pressurized gas to break frangible joints that hold the fairing in place, beginning a process that ends when pistons push the fairing pieces away and the satellite moves into orbit.

The revised version used in today's Glory launch used cold, compressed nitrogen gas to break those frangible joints. Orbital Sciences Corp. uses the same system in its Minotaur rocket, which has launched successfully three times in the last year.

"I think it's not an understatement to say tonight, we're all pretty devastated," said Rob Crabe, general manager of the rocket maker's Launch Systems Group. "We really went into this flight confident that we had solved the fairing issue, and then we came up with the result that Omar described this evening."

Mike Luther, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, spoke bluntly.

"We believed, going in, we had an acceptable level of risk," he said. "Clearly, we missed something. Now we have to go find out what that is and fix it."

Officials said that, after the OCO satellite failure two years ago, they added more instruments to monitor Glory's launch. Those additional data should give a clearer picture of what went wrong, they said.

The failure of the Glory launch may have broader implications, both for NASA's plans to launch a copy of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory and for its overall budget.

The satellite, known as OCO-2, is being prepared for launch in February 2013 aboard the same type of Taurus XL rocket used with Glory. Today's launch failure suggests the space agency may have to revisit those plans, a move likely to add to OCO-2's total cost.

Meanwhile, larger budget questions loom.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory crashed two years ago when NASA was flush with money from economic stimulus legislation. But the failure to launch Glory comes days after Congress and the White House agreed to a stopgap spending bill that narrowly averted a government shutdown.

House Republicans are pushing for broad cuts to federal science agencies, including NASA, and some lawmakers have suggested it's time for the space agency to abandon climate change research altogether (ClimateWire, Feb. 14).

President Obama's fiscal 2012 budget request for NASA was more generous. The White House proposal would shore up NASA's climate change research and monitoring, increasing the budget of the space agency's Earth science office by $213 million compared to the funding level in 2010, the last time Congress approved a yearlong federal budget.


That sucks.
(A launch failure in 2005 almost killed the Cryosat program, but Europe came up with the money to relaunch a new one last year.)

Did the Koch brothers buy Orbital Sciences Corp. through shell companies (NYSE: ORB) in 2008 right before their Taurus XL rockets killed the $273 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory and this $424 million Glory (aerosols' influence on climate and solar energy measurement) mission ?

I'm just saying - that's what I'd do with a key $930 million company, if my brother and I had $43 billion and we wanted to kill climate science... :-)



Jeff Masters has a bit on greenland.


Interesting link, dorlomin. However -

"... as the ice island made its turn to get from the narrow Petermann Fjord to enter Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada, the mighty iceberg split into thousands of small icebergs ..."

Huh? Jeff Masters doesn't read Neven's or my blogs, then. :)

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