« There's an Ice Floe in my Garden | Main | Animation Bering Sea »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

michael sweet

It will be interesting to see when the melt really starts and how it goes this year. I find your summaries of data very interesting. The ice seems to be thinner this year whch implies a bigger melt. When you find a scientific report that gives the ice thickness around the Arctic that will be interesting. Canada Ice service seasonal forecast (issued around June 1) gives the data for their part of the arctic. When will the satalite data start to be released? I imagine the scientists are being very careful. If they release preliminary data and then have to revise to thicker ice the deniers would have a field day.

Minor typo:after you list the yearly rate changes it says "2010's average daily extent"... you seem to mean 2011.


Thanks for spotting the typo, Michael!

Let's wait and see where this year's data leads us. I'm sure a lot of interesting things will pop up, like they did last year.


Hi Neven,

Your graphs page is fantastic. Thank you.

I also find useful information from


Of particular interest to me is the DMI link, which takes you through to their sea ice drift, and SST anomaly maps for both the Arctic in detail and the North Atlantic.

I also take a lot of interest in the TOPAZ maps from


A quick update on these sources of info:

The massive anomaly in SST West of Greenland has slackened down a bit over the last month or so. It is still by far the most prominent feature in the whole North Atlantic/Arctic area, but slightly less so.

TOPAZ has stopped updating for a week or two, and the latest available maps date from 24 February.

I recommend a comparison between the ice maps on this date in 2011, 2010 and 2009.
If people want to follow the link above, then on the following page, you need to ask for a plot of the variable "hice" for the Arctic region. The latest date available is "20110224".

There is very little thick ice up there at all.

And, incidentally, some of this thick ice has been visibly thinning during the winter, with no sunlight at all, and in regions with a surface air temperature of ~ minus 30 Centigrade.

The Norwegian blue canary is not looking at all stable on its perch...


Idunno, thanks for the link to the DMI ice drift map. Just the thing I needed to finish the row with ice movement graphs. It's too bad TOPAZ doesn't put out a daily updated ice thickness map.

Speaking of which: I was planning on doing a short post comparing PIPS and TOPAZ to previous years. I think I'll post it tomorrow.


What the heck, I also posted DMI's SST anomaly map. It looks perfect now.


Neven: a good kick-off to the season.

The graphs page is great - is there a way you can put a permanent link at top left of the home page? That would help a lot of people, I'm sure.

Two more links for you:
the one I gave you last year:
and the cryosphere atlas:

I shouldn't really be helping you. I saw a comment that rated your Arctic Ice blog as the web's #1 resource, with the Chatter Box as #2. I'm gonna cry!


Oops! Hit 'enter' too soon. Don't get too cocky. I meant #1 Arctic blog not #1 unqualified. #1 would be wackypedia.



Patrick, thanks for the Athropolis link (forgot about that one). I've inserted it along with another DMI surface temperature map, and one from Uni Koeln, to fill things up. I've also added a link to the ECMWF weather forecast maps from Wetterzentrale on top of the Arctic Sea Ice graphs page.

Speaking of which: If things keep up as forecasted we'll have a bit of a Dipole within a few days. Big Tiefs on the Siberian coast and a big Hoch developing on the Canadian side of the Arctic.

I shouldn't really be helping you. I saw a comment that rated your Arctic Ice blog as the web's #1 resource, with the Chatter Box as #2. I'm gonna cry!

Well, for me you are #1, Patrick, so there you go. Besides, I'm starting to feel less and less that this is my blog. It belongs to everyone contributing to it (yes, I know, I'm a commie). It belongs to you too, if only for the fact that it wouldn't be here without you. :-)

BTW, I'm going to try and upgrade the blog today (my virtual credit card is finally cleared). I hope I don't screw things up. Wish me luck.

Gas Glo

My minor wish for the graphs page would be to include with the IJIS extent graph the latest value box and the download button/link. I know you can click the graph to get them but why have that extra stage?

michael sweet

Can you get the TOPAZ map on your graph site? Is it updated weekly? I like their ice thicknesses.


I think the Russian maps are missing - http://www.aari.ru/odata/_d0015.php?lang=1&mod=0&yy=2011 displays the latest map (from observations and satellites, not from a model)

And you should provide legends and links to the original pages... they usually contain tools to see more images, get data, and explain how data and images are computed (15% or 30% thresholds...)

Christoffer Ladstein

I'm thrilled by the new maps included, Neven. You're The Man:-))))
And to senior-consultant Patrick I have to say that we're all working in the same direction and are not into this because of a competition.......
So the more we're collaborating and sharing links the more updated we'll get, and furthermore we might rise the interest of this fascinating topic among our friends?!

Again, Neven, you're a brilliant "editor" and stimulator, and that is also a mission not to be overlooked!! (Personally I feel more like a fly on the wall...)


"we're all working in the same direction and are not into this because of a competition...."

But of course, Christoffer. It's a bit of a standing joke between me and Neven when I complain about this or that. In reality, we collaborate a lot.

fredt34: that Russian map site is great! I hadn't seen it before, so thanks a lot. I'll give you a credit when I use one of those maps in my blog.


Hey folks,

Cryosphere area just updated: a drop of ~100k to 12.99 million km^2. And the average 1979-2008 has reached its maximum of 14.136 million km^2. It might flatline for the next few weeks, but things are getting interesting.



Hi Patrick,

Don't cry, your blog is really good, apart from some rubbish you put up from some guest recently about cocktail-mixing, or some such;)

Hi Neven and everybody else, especially Bfraser,

I'd also wondered about whether we could have a semi-permanent home for the information that Bill has managed to extract out of TOPAZ. To my mind, this is one of the most informative sets of data out in cyberspace, and it would be a real shame to see it buried under the accumulated weight of ongoing discussions here.

Ideally, and I may be asking the impossible, and please forgive my ignorance, would it be possible to generate graphs that would semi-automatically update themselves as the melt season progresses?

Also, Bill in his posting asked if anybody would be interested in any further breakdown in the figures...

Well, I would suggest that there is what looks to me like two critical areas for the ice of greatest volume, both within the Arctic Basin:

1. a triangle defined by the pole, the North of Greenland and Svarlsbard; ie the approximate ante-room for the ice flowing to meet its fate the Fram Strait.

2.a triangle defined by the pole, the North of Greenland and the far West of the Canadian Archipelago; i.e the ice that's being exported either through the Nares Strait, through the Archipelago, or out and round into the Beaufort.

Also, Bill says in his exposition that there is also TOPAZ temperature data for depths other than surface. IMO this could be very interesting, particularly in light of concerns about the submerged methane hydrates.

Can we use this data to construct a hydrate stability monitor? A sort of smoke alarm thingy that will go off if the temperature really starts to spike in any place that looks particularly dangerous.

Probably not, but I thought I'd ask...


AARI had a great map last year showing a forecast of ice movement. Unfortunately it has been down since then. I've mailed them about it, but never received an answer.

Lord Soth

AARI has been down since last July. I also emailed but got no response.

Does anybody here speak Russian. Maybe the researchers are not up on English, and the email is going into the spam folder.

I response on AARI would really be nice.

Also, with Cryosphere already going down, Im declaring March 8 as the minimun, and the second lowest minimun (by a whisker) on March 8.

With thin first year ice failing to form off the labador coast (mostly grey and grey white), I expect 2011 to soon take the lead, even beating out 2010 in early ice loss.


Another great site to check out is GFS ensemble model forecast for anomalous pressures and temperatures in the arctic in the range of hours-10 days. I used to follow it in 2009 but then I forgot about it. Now I have discovered it again! :)

To see a bird's eye view of the arctic, click the NH anomalies.


I wonder if we'll be seeing IJIS sea ice extent data getting reported any time soon. Could the earthquake in Japan have an influence on that? Read this for instance:

The deadly 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan Friday ravaged the country's International Space Station control center in Tsukuba and forced NASA to take over the lab's Japanese systems, according to an agency spokesperson.

Lord Soth

I forgot that IJIS was in Japan. We may not see IJIS results for sometime. I assume that the data is still being collected by NASA, so we eventually will get the data someday down the road.


► @Lord Soth
I'm sorry for the widespread damage in Japan, but they'll get it sorted out soon enough. In the meantime, Uni Bremen has pretty much the same data (for extent), and I prefer their "Average 1972-2008" perspective - it's easy to forget that there were satellites measuring Arctic sea ice extent before 1979.
Once again, 2011 is the lowest extent for this date (in the known data).
And according to PIOMAS, the lowest volume for this date.
Tantalizing position for the beginning of the 2011 melt season.

► Which brings me to this interesting paper:
History of sea ice in the Arctic
Quaternary Science Reviews
Volume 29, Issues 15-16, Pages 1673-1956 (July 2010)

Recent modeling studies have discussed the possibility of rapid
change in future Arctic summer ice conditions. Simulations based
on the Community Climate System Model,version3 (CCSM3)
(Holland etal.,2006a) indicate that the end-of-summer ice extent
is sensitive to ice thickness in spring. If the ice thins to a more
vulnerable state,a‘‘kick’’associated with natural climate variability
can result in rapid summer ice loss enhanced by the ice-albedo
feedback. In the CCSM3 events, anomalous ocean heat transport
acts as this trigger. In one ensemble member, the area of September
ice decreases from about 6x10^6 km² to 2x10^6 km² in 10 years...

► Note: 6 x 10^6 km² was reached in 2002.

This result is not just an artifact of CCSM3, as a number of other
climate models show similar rapid ice loss. Additionally, the broad
similarities of these model results to the large ice loss event of 2007
provide further support that instances of rapid summer ice loss may
well occur in a near-future Arctic system.


A webcam map of Alaska - many webcams looking into the Arctic ocean.
Zoom on a dot, then click name to see webcam image.

See also:

Anu: thanks - I'll read that tomorrow. Looks very interesting, to say the least. :)

Artful Dodger

Note that IJIS is not in Japan. IJIS is a geoinformatics facility hosted at the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) in Fairbanks, Alaska. See their address on the footer of their webpage.


"See their address on the footer of their webpage."

- and their Akasofu building webcam which is updating nicely with images of nothing in particular. ;-)


The Greenland webcams link has changed from the one shown on the uaf.edu site - it is now

There you go, friends: lots of lovely ice to look at while we wait for a new north pole cam to be installed for 2011.



I know IJIS is sited in Fairbanks. I was just wondering if the earthquake has an indirect influence on the data gathering of the AMSR-E sensor, what with sea ice extent data not having been updated for 4 days now.

Nice webcam spree, Patrick. :-)


The Wales (AK) webcam is on the graph page (bottom right). Thanks again. :-)


JAXA site is down.

Last Google cache was March 10 21:20:39 -
about 7 or 8 hours before the quake?

♦ Server Maintenance Checks

We are sorry but our service is not available due to maintenance.
We appreciate your cooperation and understanding. Sorry for the inconvenience.

JAXA Imagery Service (Japan Space Forum)
Shin-Ohtemachi Building 7F, 2-2-1 Ohtemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
100-0004 Japan
TEL: +81-3-5200-1309 FAX: +81-3-5200-1420


Information about JAXA!


L. Hamilton

Best wishes to the good folks of JAXA, their families and all the people pulling together to get through this great crisis.

Uni Bremen daily extent has been nearly flat for a month, and currently about 30,000 below its high point of 14.6 on March 7 (which is lower than any maximum in their data going back to 1972).


It looks like folks at Uni of Bremen are also experiencing problems with their updating. The maps are stuck on March 13th (the date the map was published, not the date of the update) and there is a lot of grey areas. I am not sure whether the graphs are updated. Artctic Roos graphs indicate a decrease in the last few days...


Every year I follow the progress of the crazy explorers on the Arctic Sea Ice, their (b)logs are really interesting about real, on-site conditions. I felt things started going bad when the Arctic Arc expedition, skiing from Cape Arktichewski from 1st of March 2007 to Greenland, on June 14th ( http://www.explorapoles.org/news/detail/they_have_done_it_ ) : they had to race against the ice breaking up, that event was a shock, and I commented on some blog "They're probably the last ones to have a chance to cross the Arctic".

Next expeditions went with swimming equipment... and this year, 2011, 3 expeditions didn't even start because it was already too late, the last date to be picked up is now April 15 (IF the Barneo ice camp team finds a suitable floe, last year it got cut into 2 pieces... to be followed on http://www.barneo.ru/2011.htm ).

So, the only two expeditions this year are the Catlin Arctic, but I'm not sure they try to reach the Pole, and the craziest, Ben Saunders, who starts on Thursday to race to the Pole, solo and unassisted, after two equipment failures. He has amazing pictures on http://www.bensaunders.com/standard-post/steak-night/ ; I for sure will watch his blog, I hope he'll go far, but the ice conditions will be ugly, and he'll be more lonely than ever. And I'm pretty sure he'll send some of the last Arctic pictures, less and less people will be able to go there.


I forgot : about Braser's huge work: I'm working right now to host these data and the program, plus a surprise... I'll probably have something to announce later this month.

Artful Dodger

Feb 14, 2011: New elevation maps are available for all 18 ICESat/GLAS laser operation periods. Each map shows all ICESat tracks for a given laser period and elevations from the GLA06 elevation data product. Maps are available in World and Polar-pair views and are available in high resolution and moderate resolution versions. Also included are Powerpoint files containing all of the maps in sequence. For more information and to download the elevation maps, please see the NSIDC ICESat/GLAS Laser Operational Periods Web page.


Hi all,,

The Catlin Ice Survey is go:


...may or may not get you to an overview of the story, plus an interesting video on the THC.

Rob Dekker

Quick report on my progress to use Cryosat data to obtain Arctic ice volume.
I analysed a few samples (orbits) from Cryosat. Used a few orbit data sets from July 2010.

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that Cryosat L2 data sets indeed include "freeboard" data (the elevation of ice above the sea surface).
The bad news is that this data is only calculated for the sea ice boundaries, where radar altimetry detects both the ice boundary and the sea surface in one burst.
The worse thing is that this "freeboard" data is useless even when it is valid. It gives freeboard numbers of -8 meter for example. Now what does that mean ?
Even worse, there does not seem to be any regular range data available, and pretty much all other fields that I investigated seem to contain garble and completely inaccurate numbers (for example, sea-surf is estimated as some 200 meters in most places. In general, I cannot get any decent numbers out of Cryosat right now, let alone be able to estimate ice volume.

If anyone can get data out of Cryosat that makes sense, please let me know how you did it. I can't find heads or tail in the data.

On a positive note, I did get reasonable numbers out of Envisat, including a beautiful profile of the Greenland ice sheet and at some orbits, I found some not completely unreasonable "freeboard" numbers for Arctic sea ice...

Artful Dodger

NASA ICESat/GLAS Laser 2E Polar Elevations:
March 9 - April 11, 2009

ICESat/GLAS Spring 2009 Arctic
Elevation Key
ICESat/GLAS Spring 2009 Antarctic

Image Credit: C.A Suhman (UMBC GEST)
and V.P. Suchdeo (Sigma Space)
Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory, Code 698


Update on the upgrade:

I've upgraded to a paid version a few days back. I was expecting a bit more, but it looks like I'll have to tinker a bit to get what I want, as none of the templates are appropriate. Luckily, I can do it in the background without screwing up. It could take a few weeks before I'm done (busy personally as well with work etc), you'll see it when it's done. Unfortunately it doesn't look like I can change comment functionality (edit button etc), which is a bit of a disappointment.

In the meantime I'll be giving a few commentators the possibility to write guest blogs; anyone can apply for that BTW if he/she wants to share his knowledge on some aspect of the Arctic.


Here's my wishlist for the blog:
- display more comments in the left column, say, 10. It's difficult to guess if people left a comment in the non-current post, if more than 3 new comments were added to the current topic.
- display a Links section - the first of them being your Graphs page, of course.


There will be more comments in the left column, fred. I'm working on a Links section as well. The graphs page gets a link in the menu bar. I have tried to copy it to the blog, now that I can add pages, but the template I'm using has three columns (sidebar - main column - sidebar) and I can't get rid of that for the moment.


Hi Neven,

You might want to add this graph to your arctic ice page:

Artful Dodger

Earlier, snow cover on sea ice was discussed as an unknown affecting albedo. This is an important variable in the Energy Budget during the Spring melt season.

JAXA's AMSR-E instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite collects this data. Here is an image generated from NASA's Level 3 data product: "NH Snow Depth over Ice - 5 day"

Artful Dodger

Here is the AMSR-E "Snow Depth over Ice" map for the same period in 2007:

Compared to 2011, there was far less snow cover in the Beaufort Sea in 2007. This may lead to an accelerated melt rate in 2011 vs 2007.

Artful Dodger

bah, strike that please Neven. Less Beaufort Sea snow in 2011 than in 2007 :^) Thanks!

Peter Ellis

From the shape/location of the black areas, I'm guessing they can only measure snow depth overlying first year ice - presumably second year ice (and older) has surface characteristics that stop them working out the snow depth?

Artful Dodger

Hi, Peter. That's certainly one possible explanation. An alternative explanation might be that snow-covered first year sea ice has the same albedo as multiyear ice, so that it's albedo doesn't change as it looses it's snow cover.

You might want to contact the AMSR-E science team.

Gas Glo

Nice resource Lodger.

Got a link or can you post same for 2008 and 2009?

Can the ice east of Svalbard really support snow 20 to 25cm thick? It looks like the ice is breaking up?

East Siberian and Laptev Seas seem to be the major areas where there is big reduction in snow depth rather than Beauford Sea.

Peter Ellis

Eh, that's not an alternative explanation, it's the same one. Albedo *is* a surface characteristic! :-p

Artful Dodger

Divide by Zero.


Links to the interesting "snow depth over ice" maps: https://wist.echo.nasa.gov/wist-bin/api/ims.cgi?endform=1&u=319749&sid=1300319084-28051&mode=MAINSRCH (AMSR-E)

http://neptune.gsfc.nasa.gov/csb/index.php?section=53 (SMMR-SSMI)


IJIS has updated.

Kevin McKinney

Yes, it's good to see IJIS back. The value for 3/16 is still sub-(presumptive)-max, though on the rise. I'm guessing the max will hold up, FWIW.

It's notable, and a little sinister given what we know about this horrible earthquake/tsunami tragedy, that there's no data for the 10th and 11th. It's been a quite a while since we've seen a gap in the IJIS data.

Gas Glo

Huh what missing data for 10th & 11th?
3 10 2011 13802344
3 11 2011 13743281

A rise from 13849063 to 13887188 wouldn't need much spreading out but we will see.


The IJIS gap is now gone.

L. Hamilton

Uni Bremen for 3/15 is 14.3, still .3 below the max (14.6) reached on 3/7.


Larry, do you have a link to the Uni Bremen data (for the graph page)?

L. Hamilton

Neven, they are working to improve long-term calibration before making the time series public. At present, the day-to-day variations are considered reliable, but the absolute values less so.


From an article about Cryosat-2 ice mission:

Scientists know also that there is now a lot of warm water at depth in the Arctic.

At present, this deep water's energy is not allowed to influence the sea-ice because of a buffer of colder, less dense water lying between it and the floes above.

But if this warm water were made to well up because of wind-driven changes at the surface, it could have a catastrophic impact on the formation and retention of the ice cover.

Cryosat is intended to provide the information to test all these ideas, and to help improve the performance of computer models that are used to try to forecast future climate behaviour.

Here's how close that warm water is to "catastrophically impacting" the Arctic summer sea ice:
In April, that vast reservoir of warm water is just 50 meters down - in September, there's a layer about 10 meters down. Shrinking ice "extent" doesn't just cause an albedo affect, allowing the water to better absorb the suns rays - it also causes a wind/wave effect on the upper meters of exposed ocean, putting at risk the thin halocline layer that protects the remaining sea ice from total melting by the warm waters below.
This figure is from http://earth.geology.yale.edu/~mt477/publications/Toole-etal2010.pdf (Influences of the ocean surface mixed layer and thermohaline
stratification on Arctic Sea ice in the central Canada Basin)

The data is from ITP's (Ice‐Tethered Profilers - just deployed in the last four years). Similar in concept to open-ocean moorings and buoys, though the instruments and wire are anchored to the ice instead of the seafloor. The key component is a sensor (profiler) that climbs up and down the mooring wire each day, detecting the temperature, salinity, and oxygen content at various points in the water column. The ice tethered profiler sends data through the mooring wire to the surface buoy on the ice, which relays the data by satellite phone back to researchers in Woods Hole. That data is made available to the science community and public within hours via the Internet.

Arctic summer sea ice - enjoy it while it lasts.

Gas Glo

Kevin, good call on the maximum staying at 13,887,188.

Artful Dodger

Anu, thanks for that... Also kudos to FrankD, for the analysis of TOPAZ vs. PIOMAS curves over in Open Thread 7... Lucky Sevens!

In other news: NASA begins 10 weeks of Arctic flights measuring melting ice for effects on sea level, warming.

The IceBridge campaign also plans to fly for the first time over the European Space Agency's ground-based calibration sites for their ice-observing satellite, CryoSat-2. The flights and the data they collect could help evaluate the satellite's remote-sensing measurements.

Scientists made their first flight Wednesday. They flew northwest of Greenland at 1,500 feet above sea ice and returned at 17,500 feet, collecting surface elevation measurements.

So I'd like to hang around and chat, but a Libyan fighter plane was shot down near Benghazi 30 minutes ago...

Artful Dodger

Polar Bear Knut has died suddenly in Berlin Zoo:


Kevin, good call on the maximum staying at 13,887,188.

Gas Glo, SIE maximum looks relatively " safe" for now ( 13,762,656 IJIS 18/3) , but the CT SIA ( 13.097 K on Day 76) is now very close to the maximum ( 13.144 K on day 67) and still growing. So we will have to wait and see !

Gas Glo

CT area has just done a 147k break. That makes the 13.144m record low maximum a lot safer.

2011.2109 -0.9438765 13.0688229 14.0126991
2011.2137 -1.0754229 12.9216871 13.9971104

L. Hamilton

Uni Bremen northern extent as of 3/19 still about 30,000 below the max reached on 3/7, which would be lowest max in their 1972-to-present series.

Given the incomplete calibration I read that as "quite low" (only 2006 and 2007 come close), although not a definitive "record."

Southern SIE min (same caveats) on 2/19 was nominally the lowest since 1997, and in the bottom 5 since 1973.

L. Hamilton

To correct my arithmetic, UB northern extent is now almost 300,000 (not 30,000) below the level reached on 3/7.

If that holds up, this year's max was more than half a million below even the early-March (false) peak of last year.

Kevin McKinney

Interesting times, to be sure. I'd dearly like to update my "Equinox Reflections" from the fall, but at this point, I'm not quite sure what I'd say. This is quite the set-up; ice looking poor (though in a different way from last year) and we've got still-elevated Arctic SSTs. The Nina is predicted to fade away by the height of the melt season, too.

The energy front is interesting, too; US gas prices look like a lock for $4 by the end of the summer, and I saw a prediction for $5 for next year. And if oil is expensive, nuclear suddenly looks a lot less like 'the answer' for a lot of folks. The Republicans will undoubtedly be singing another chorus of "Drill, baby, drill!" but it's less clear what the average Joe in the street is going to decide about all of this.

The comments to this entry are closed.