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Espen Olsen


A great summary of the recent events up north, like I wrote before. It is the scariest "movie" I have seen for many years, and it is definitely not over yet.

Seke Rob

Only the 're-freeze' 2007 period is left to exceed to present 2012 anomaly > 3 sigma [3.35], and we're still in thaw. http://bit.ly/CTAR02

The last Scary Movie franchise sequel will be subtitled "Too late to be afraid"

The net effect from the storm... heat was transported into the higher troposhere by GAC and new was transported in from outside or from the ocean depths.

Fairfax Climate Watch

first time posting, thanks for the great forum here. Can anyone shed some light on the high surface temperature anomoly in the Antarctic (which has been showing for at least several days now)?

Mike Thefordprefect

Remember, a record low will more than likely enable wuwt to use the headline "Fastest refreeze evah"


M. Owens, I don't know much about the Antarctic, but it's red a lot of the time down there. Of course, that can just mean that it's -30 °C instead of -40. But the global warming trend is most pronounced at the poles, and thus the high anomalies.

Paul Klemencic

Nevin, great write-up. However, you might want to take a look at those ECMWF maps again. The high shown over Greenland build to a 1030 level on Monday and Tuesday, back down a bit Wednesday, and hit 1040 on Thursday and 1035 on Friday. These are the highest pressures I can see anywhere on the map.

Won't the high over Greenland dominate Arctic weather patterns this week?


Paul, you might be right, but I just think the Beaufort is a better position for big highs if you want a steady decline in this phase of the melting season.

Not that what I think means much, as everything I've learned in the last two years seems to be turning more obsolete by the day. Although nothing is ever for nothing, of course. At least I know that I don't know. I think.

Alan Clark

M Owens,
The Arctic shows a similar anomaly in the Northern winter - see here:


I presume it is due to the increased greenhouse effect.


Alan Clark is right. It shows more in winter. Look for instance at the Arctic this year in March.

R. Gates

M Owens & Neven,

Antarctica did experience a moderate sudden stratospheric warming event (SSW) back in mid to late July where temperatures in the stratosphere over Antarctica jumped up in just a few days by over 20C. See:


These events are more common over the Arctic and more severe over the Arctic as well, where temperatures have jumped by 70C in the stratosphere in just a few days. Here's a chart showing one that happened this past winter over the Arctic (look at the sudden rise in temperature in the stratosphere around mid-January):


These events happen in the winter over each region and seem to caused by vertically directed Rossby wave breaking from the troposphere to the stratosphere, though they are the subject of much research now as there is some indication they may be increasing in frequency. Here a nice video of one that happened over the Arctic in 2009:


A few more tidbits about these SSW events:

1) They often cause cold outbreaks at lower latitudes away from the poles, as the polar vortex is often broken and stratospheric and tropospheric winds suddenly reverse, allowing cold air to spill down to lower latitudes. The SSW events in 2009 and 2012 preceded a very cold outbreak in Europe.

2) They release enormous amounts of energy to space, and may be one more way the planet tries to cool itself (i.e. they are negative feedbacks events). Thus, as the planet continues to warm, we would expect more of them.

3) The amount of energy released to space through SSW events is currently not accounted for (though it certainly is large) in any climate models when looking at Earth's overall energy balance. Again, this is the subject of ongoing research and could even represent some fraction of Trenberth's so-called "missing heat". Quite simply, large amounts of it is released to space as measured through the rapid stratospheric temperature rise in SSW events.



I've been following your blog for a couple of weeks, and find it quite interesting. The image I get reminds me of the Flash Gordon serials that used to play in the movies when I was growing up in WWII. There was an evil villain called Ming (I believe) who used these death rays to destroy buildings and cities, and we would watch as these buildings crumbled/melted in slow motion right before our eyes. That's the image I am getting of the Arctic.

But, what is the larger impact from all these postings? What you're doing is analogous to taking a lung cancer patient who is still smoking, instrumenting his lungs, and watching the cancerous regions as they expand on a daily basis. Sometimes they expand more, sometimes less. Understanding the mechanisms of the cell growth is certainly informative but, as long as he continues to smoke, we know what the final answer will be.

The same holds true for the Arctic specifically, and the planet more generally. What's the relationship between your postings, exciting though they may be, and getting this 'lung cancer patient' back to health, assuming he can be saved at this late date?


Thanks, Neven. I've been reading your blog for about 18 months now, but this is the first time I've commented. This is a great service that you have performed for all of us, covering one of the most important stories around-a story totally ignored by most of the MSM and a story vehemently denied by those whose financial and ideological oxen would be gored by facing the truth.

Now it looks as though the chickens are coming home to roost. I expect to see dire climate ramifications from what I regard as a catastrophe, and a completely avoidable one at that.

As a child, I was sent to a small state-run boarding school for partially sighted children on the Sussex coast of England. The education was fairly rudimentary, but there was one notable exception, the science teacher. Mr. Hemingway told us about CO2 and global warming in 1961, including the possibility that it would melt the ice caps. Fifty-one years later, he has been proved right. But I cannot help reflecting that, if he knew then, others should have known too, and this disaster, ultimately driven by greed, could have been averted.

Keep up the great work. Some will deny GW as Manhattan floods, but I hope there are enough reasonable people to at least keep the damage to the minimum now possible.


Syd Bridges

Espen Olsen

Pretty good analogy what is happening, but we are heading into to a Cul-de-sac and no one got the answer, what is next, unfortunately!

Alais Elena

R. Gates has beaten me to the punch while I was preparing a blog post (I almost never write my own, as everyone knows, but instead steal the excellent work of others) on the topic of what happens to the heat given off by the freezing during winter.

NASA's Earth Observatory has a very good global animation of the water vapor cycle that shows how water vapor accumulates over the poles during their respective winters. (Animation posted at link below.) However, this WV disappears fairly abruptly possibly by means of the mechanism shown in the NASA animation of the splitting of the polar vortex (which always awes the hell outta me when I watch it).

In January this year, I was able to download a satellite photo from the Canadian Weather Office of what may be this process in action.

Anyway, I posted all these items here:


Posted by Tenney Naumer

Paul Klemencic

Superman, I think you are asking a lot from one blog, but I will address it. Your question is similar to this question by Kurt (from Switzerland) on the Dot Earth post (not meaning to compare you to this fatalist):


Earlier, I asked the following BIG PICTURE questions. I think they're worth repeating.

Can we do anything about the continued decline in arctic ice coverage? more specifically: Are our collective efforts to reduce anthropogenic GHGs (which can be calculated to reasonable accuracy) truly having a measurable effect on atmospheric GHGs (or indeed on the earth's climate)?

My response is not published on the thread yet but should show up soon (apologies for those who don't trust Revkin);


Almost five years I read a comment by Elizabeth Tjader on this very blog, lamenting the future in a world damaged by global warming.

I commented back, that we could do it. That there are engineers and business people and scientists and organizers and farmers and people all around the world, that wanted to get on with it, and help work on this issue.

Since then I have become expert in analyzing the economics of green energy sources, added this to my prior background in oil, natural gas, refining, and coal industry and studied proposed energy policies closely.

I have talked to people leading geothermal development efforts, walked through concentrating solar power facilities and talked to the engineers, overviewed biofuels and PHEVs, examined the economics and technology behind thin film solar cells, and have developed an understand of wind power cost and issues pertaining to electric power transmission grids. I have talked to politicians who want to move us toward the future.

And I can tell you, that you are wrong. I know that we can deploy systems and practices that meet energy customer needs much better than currently, and soon.

I have studied the climate science, and identified key triggering events that will precipitate action. The Arctic ice melt and current drought are two of these events, and I believe they are linked.

I have rearranged my life, and I blame Andy Revkin for causing the change.

So stop complaining, and help. Just do it.

Paul Klemencic

(I worked for over 15 years for a major oil, and my family were coal miners and mill workers, and I grew up in a coal company town.)

Paul Klemencic

Add-on to Superman: If we begin the energy transformation I expect to see, then the carbon sinks help out a lot. It will be tough to counteract the positive feedback loops, but so far the oceans have saved us. We just need to break the carbon emission trajectory.

I believe that James Hansen made a mistake targeting mostly the coal companies. He should have put more effort targeting the oil industry immediately. The oil industry investments need to be shifted elsewhere.

I spend most of my time analyzing energy policies in the three key energy sectors, vehicle fuels (oil), electricity, and natural gas. I am putting the finishing touches on sector specific polices that would work better (much, much better) than a carbon tax. My analysis shows some clear cut, easy to understand, and very effective energy policies.

Now to return this blog to its intended purpose...


Thanks, Syd Bridges!

Paul, if you ever have links to those policy proposals, let me know...

What's the relationship between your postings, exciting though they may be, and getting this 'lung cancer patient' back to health, assuming he can be saved at this late date?

Superman, if you go to my Climate Disclaimer (sort of an About me), you can read about my views, AND see a picture of yourself and some colleagues.

We need the patient to understand his predicament, as he has to be actively involved in his convalescence. Problems need to be acknowledged and then understood before they can be solved. It won't be easy, but we must try regardless of the outcome.

More on that later. First the ice.

Lynn Shwadchuck

(I'm a longtime follower of Climate Change Psychology and often jump to this excellent blog – thanks for all your work, Neven.)

Paul, I actually wrote to James Hansen after reading Storms of My Grandchildren. I was concerned that focusing on the immediate health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining distracts the reader from the pressing general global concern of too much CO2.

Where are you writing about your policy ideas?

Richard Scott

We need to get the story mainstream ASAP. My experience is that places like Al Gore's Current TV, DemocracyNow, TheRealNews, TruthOut etc. are a good first step. Then NPR, MSNBC etc.

Any regulars here willing to take the Storms of my Grandchildren (if you know what I mean) step?


Big Media hasn't really picked up the importance of the Arctic yet. Fukushima gave them some nice disaster pictures, so they reported, and in the case of the Ozone Hole, you could argue there are Death Rays involved - UV ones, of course. Some of them did bring the news of the Greenland Summit melting event, because if Greenland would melt down, it would clearly be a disaster.

But Arctic sea ice? If it melts, it won't lift the sea level, and it was blocking shipping lines anyway, so why would melting be bad? The numerous dominoes in danger if the sea ice is gone haven't entered their minds yet. I guess they really need some powerful visuals to drive the points home.

Until then, they'll ask you to focus on
Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man! look at those cavemen go
It's the freakiest show

Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know
He's in the best selling show

Is there life on Mars?


Uni Bremen extent has taken a nosedive as well.

Paul Klemencic

Neven, yes, Bremen extent has really tanked. But the comment describing a million sq km (megaweek?) loss in the NSIDC points to the full impact of the storm on the weakened ice pack.

From the Bremen map last night, I think the extent losses should moderate for a few days. I suspect today's drop will be revised to less than 100k.

It would be nice if we could see the declines in the regional MASIE graphs, so that we could see better the regional impact of the storm damage. Unfortunately, declines there are only now starting to show up. The NSIDC project lead for MASIE replied to my email regarding this…

Paul, thanks for contacting me again. I wondered about yesterday myself, in that the daily passive microwave extent was so different that the MASIE picture, but given how PM can underestimate ice concentration I thought it explainable.

She promised to call me, so maybe we can make some progress on this issue.

Chris Biscan

It's all over guys.

Any dreams of stopping it now are delusions.

The United States is going to take 20-50 years to drop GHG emissions enough to stop the damage.

We are certainly going to hit 450ppm of Co2, and almost certain to hit 500ppm.

I have read so many places where guys think 430-450 might be the max.

Like the world is going to stop the increase.

Even if we flat-line for 20 years that is another 45-50ppm.

We are likely stopping at 550-600ppm which is game over.

Aaron Lewis

As I noted earlier in the season - all melt records will be obliterated this year.

This will put us in position so that a similar low next year will give us a sea ice free Arctic next year.

However, I still do not see climate guys standing up and saying, "The drought in Corn Country and the drought in Soybean Country are a result of changes in the atmospheric circulation that are in part due to loss of sea ice."

What do they think drives atmospheric circulation? Do they think they can lose that much sea ice and not have a large change in atmospheric circulation? Do they think that changes in atmospheric circulation will not affect precipitation? Have they forgotten the most basic rule of civilzation; "rain = grain"?

Paul Klemencic

Chris Biscan: I know it look very grim, based on where we are now, but the ocean still takes up approximately 50% of emissions.

If we can cut emissions 50% in ten years (in an all out emergency action), does the carbon sink uptake slow immediately?
If the carbon sink uptake is due to partial pressure of CO2, and the overturning of deep water, then the uptake would continue at the current rate until CO2 partial pressure drops considerably.

In this case the atmospheric CO2 would begin dropping within several years of the start of a ramped reduction of carbon emissions building to a 50% reduction in ten years.

We can do this; it would require all out action, and won't be easy, but it can be done.

It ain't over 'til its over. Casey Stengel, if I recall

Timothy Chase

Not much of one but there has been an update to DMI Extent today (2012-08-11):


Chris Biscan

Paul, of course than can be done.

But it won't be. What we can do vs What we will do is the issue and what we will do is let it run a mock until it's killing people left and right, it's our nature to avoid threats that do not immediately threaten us.

Most humans do not see this as an immediate threat.


Chris Biscan,

You have crystallized the problem, although I think your numbers are far too low. I have appended below an email I sent this morning on the broader topic. I see myself neither as an alarmist or pessimist, but as a realist. What I present below is in fact a conservative assessment. We have a number of positive feedback loops operating, the synergy of these loops tends to go in one direction, the operable equations are nonlinear dynamical, yet the models don't include all the terms. Given the nature of nonlinear dynamical systems, where we know the directions of the results, that means to me the models are underestimating the results. Observations tend to be on the very low end of model predictions, sometimes well beyond. Thus, the assumptions below of when (temperature increases above pre-industrial levels) the runaway effects kick in may be far too optimistic. My concern is that we are seeing the precursors of runaway effects already.

I came across some interesting papers that do an excellent job of combining the science and necessary policy for climate change. Anyone interested in a realistic assessment of the probability of serious climate change would do well to read the author's papers or see his presentations. Kevin Anderson, ex-Director of the Tyndall Centre, Britain's leading climate research institute, and presently a Professor at University of Manchester, wrote some recent papers and gave the following presentation


laying out what needs to be done to possibly dodge the climate change bullet. David Roberts wrote a more readable two part series to summarize Anderson's main points



The main thrust of the analysis is to identify the allowable temperature increases over pre-industrial values for life on Earth to survive with some sembance of where it is today, and then identify CO2 emission reductions required to maintain the temperature limits. A few years ago, a temperature increase of four degrees C was considered a reasonable target to dodge the major climate change bullet. In the first decade of this century, two degrees was considered a more reasonable target, as four degrees almost guaranteed runaway temperature increases from positive feedback loops. Science in the last few years has shown that one degree is perhaps a better target to avoid serious consequences. We are now approaching one degree, and are already seeing some ominous consequences, especially in the Arctic where increasing methane releases may signify the start of a positive feedback loop.

Because international agreements are still fixated on the two degree target, Anderson looked at carbon emissions reductions required to limit the temperature increase to two degrees. He looked at emission reduction rates as a function of emission peak years; we stay on our present trajectory of emissions to year x, then reduce emissions thereafter. For example, if the peak year is 2020, then the world would have to reduce carbon emissions on the order of ten percent per year for decades.

Roberts places this level of emissions reduction in context, as follows:

"Just to give you a sense of scale: The only thing that’s ever pushed emissions reductions above 1 percent a year is, in the words of the Stern Report, “recession or upheaval.” The total collapse of the USSR knocked 5 percent off its emissions. So 10 percent a year is like … well, it’s not like anything in the history of human civilization.

This, then, is the brutal logic of climate change: With immediate, concerted action at global scale, we have a slim chance to halt climate change at the extremely dangerous level of 2 degrees C. If we delay even a decade — waiting for better technology or a more amenable political situation or whatever — we will have no chance."

Given that most of the economies in the world today are in trouble, and the remedy they all seek is growth, how consistent is that with the level of carbon emissions required to maintain two degree temperature increase? To paraphrase Anderson, 'the developed nations need to exchange economic growth for planned austerity'.

I see absolutely no way the politicians would recommend reducing growth in the time frame of interest and adopting austerity, and I see no way that most of the electorate would support that. It completely goes against historical trends; we have been increasing CO2 emissions for many decades, and presently are hovering about 5% annual increase. Anderson's realistic assessment implies there is no credible way out of a climate catastrophe, other than the emergence of a miracle.

Paul Klemencic

More on AGW impact:
Even if we use emergency action to stabilize CO2, we won't be able to save the ice pack. And if the clathrates go, augmented by more summer cyclones; and we add in polar amplification heating; and methane emissions from the permafrost; then well…. its going to be very very tough.

And the NH will suffer badly. I always disliked the analogy of the Arctic ice being the canary in a the coal mine. If the canary dies, its sad, but the miners don't die if they don't go in the mine.

And I am not sure we stop this dragon from getting out.

A better analogy: We have a giant dragon king caged at the top of the world. The ice cage is melting, and he can stick his neck out and huff and puff and breathe fire onto the NH. When he huffs, the NH gets colder; when he puffs it gets a lot warmer; But when he breathes fire, the NH gets scorched (Chris Biscan's favorite word).

Paul Klemencic

oops… the last line of the comment should read:

And I am not sure we can stop this dragon from getting out.

peter prewett

None of the links by superman work.

Is there a graph to show the ratio between the max to min in a year.

This may indicate the energy that is in the system to produce a melt.

Then again it may have no importance at all.


Not scorched, torched!



Just as the world's climate is a system, so is capitalism. Capitalism is an exponential growth system with many positive feedback loops. The inherent logic of the system reinforces the behavior of its many components. Capitalism is, however, a growth system constrained by a finite resource (earth). Such systems will find a way to grow even in the face of such constraints. The ultimate fate of such a system is collapse.


So what do we do? Do we try to prepare for collapse, or do we try to prevent it? Or do we try to do something that makes us flexible enough to do both?


Neven wrote:

Uni Bremen extent has taken a nosedive as well.

You were linking to the annual Arctic SIE mean for the last 7 years.

But the Bremen 2012 SIE is here.

The 7 years mean taking such a nosedive as well is of course all the more preoccupying too...

Bob Wallace

We work to prevent. We have to assume that we can prevent.

We've got a decade or two to learn that we didn't and we can deal with the "now what?" question then.

We shut down coal very, very soon. We increase the rate of solar/wind/tidal/geothermal/hydro installation. As soon as we have adequate batteries (likely in the next very few years) we start cutting back on natural gas generation as our fill-in for variable renewable sources.

We push people into PHEVs and EVs. We buy the most inefficient vehicles off the road (more cash for clunkers) and subsidize PHEVs and EVs until they reach manufacturing volumes that makes them affordable.

We build electric ground public transportation. Move moderate length plane travel to electrified high speed rail.

We pour significant money into micro solar systems for people who live far from the grid. Get them off kerosene and onto sunlight. What they don't spend on kero will pay for solar in a couple of years. And get them efficient stoves for their biofuel. We cut both CO2 and soot.

We greatly push efficiency. Just moving from incandescents to CFLs/LEDs will cut residential and commercial electricity usage in the US by roughly 10%. More efficient AC, refrigerators, water heaters, everything. It's much easier to use less than to replace with renewables.


Well, reading all of today’s posts on human response to what’s going on sure hooks on nice to my holiday’s last day. So here’s what I’m planning to do through all of this AGW mess. I’ll stand by my wife, who doesn’t like negative approaches. I’ll do what I can within my span of control. I’m a gardener. I’ll garden, biologically, durably, with anyone who will join.
And I’ll stand by through whatever this sad reel down will present.
For the Arctic, I’m in line with Chris Biscan. All over. I’ve been thinking about sabotage on oil facilities, BAU projects. But I believe in non violence. So be it. Rather down while doing what I can than losing self in the wrong way.
It looks like the general providence in this world of will and imagination is set. That doesn’t imply that personal providence is meaningless.

Peter Ellis

Tenney, you're flat-out wrong about the so-called water "belches". The grey areas showing over the North Pole in (NH) winter and the South pole in (SH) winter are areas with no data coverage. Presumably the satellite used (MODIS) can't get adequate data in the dark.

You can tell it's missing data because it's pure grey rather than a shade of yellow.

Paul Klemencic

All I can say about all that policy analyses, is that they are way off the mark. And the comments about capitalism, although closer, are also off the mark. To understand why, would take us too far from the blog subject.

I will say this. I agree with Aaron Lewis about the importance of the teachings of W. Edwards Deming. Unfortunately his writings don't always convey the complexity and depth of his thinking. And the thinking in these policy reports don't come anywhere close to Deming's views on subjects like economics.

If you really want to improve things, you must understand the aim of the system (Aaron Lewis will know the aim of the system as taught by Deming).

And none of the proposed policies dealing with AGW seems to understand that, and address that. Neither do the critiques of capitalism. And the fatalistic view that nothing can be done, is also wrong… especially if this view is based on an assumption that we can't afford to do it.

If you want to improve the system, you must start by understanding the system. And part of that, is why this blog is so critically important.

And Neven, I apologize for taking this so far off the thread...

Alan Clark

To get the links by superman to work you have to delete the bracket from the end.


No problem, Paul. These are things that need to be discussed all the time, everywhere, by everyone.

So here’s what I’m planning to do through all of this AGW mess. I’ll stand by my wife, who doesn’t like negative approaches. I’ll do what I can within my span of control. I’m a gardener. I’ll garden, biologically, durably, with anyone who will join.

Now this is something that is good if you want to try and prevent collapse, and it's good in the eventuality that collapse in your area comes about. Gardening is always good. I really believe this. That's the 'small' individual-scale part of the solution.

I don't know that W. Edwards Deming, but if his ideas have anything to with replacing the neoclassical economic theory of infinite growth with something more sane and rational, then we've got the 'big' society-scale part of the solution covered as well.

Let's try and save this conversation for when the melting season is over, or the records are broken.

But in the meantime, give the pros and cons of gardening, ie producing some of your own food, some serious thought.


Chris and Paul: The simplest actuarial way to change energy use is to price early retirement of existing energy delivery systems and capitalize more effective and efficient delivery systems into future contracts. The most impossible task is to actual build new energy delivery systems in a built up environment. There is just too much inertia in the system. Heck, it took a massive ice storm and a blizzard of public outcry just to get my local power company to spend the resources to cut down tree limbs overhanging power lines in my community. Minimum permitting time and environmental consideration reports for an energy delivery upgrade would take longer than a new refinery or nuclear plant. You are probably looking at 40-60 years to have a significant change in U.S. energy consumption and CO2 production. Another way to think about it is inertia in a system that when pushed just pushes back. The cost is in the trillions of dollars.


To get solutions we need a good dose of market economics with a very high carbon price - several hundred dollars per tonne of CO2e. (Let's not talk carbon taxes but carbon pollution fines).

The revenues would be so large that if applied to job creation, unemployment would disappear. See Tax carbon subsidise jobs: http://bkuk.com. This approach belies the political assumption that growth is needed to create jobs.

I have had some correspondence with Jim Hansen on this - as you know he prefers a carbon fee with 100% paid back to citizens. This might not suit Europe but any high carbon price would be great.

A high enough price would work wonders and could pay for carbon dioxide extraction.

Politically, I think a high carbon tax could be possible politically: See Carbon tax in the mainstream? http://www.brusselsblog.co.uk/carbon-tax-in-the-mainstream/

A media which understood the issues and had a sense of responsibility would help. Sadly I think even our BBC is lacking.


And what about the other stuff?

Mining, biodiversity, mass extinction, pollution, waste, pesticides, nitrogen fertilizers (kept those carbon sinks up nicely), over exploitation of resources, population, migrations, food insecurity, water issues, and so on.

Maybe it is time to consider using lots and lots less power?

350ppm isn't that safe and that means there is no carbon budget, and all electricity production at present needs CO2 emissions to make it, even renewables, and therefore the question I ask is how much more upfront CO2 can be risked to provide power?

To get to 350ppm means a peak of 400ppm with optimistic CO2 cycle models, so that is ~3years of current emissions as the latest CO2 is 395ppm.

Ah well, what do we do?

Rise to the challenge and learn how to adapt to climate and to transform everything else to being fossil fuel free, sustainable, equitable and eco-system enhancing?


"If you want to improve the system, you must start by understanding the system. And part of that, is why this blog is so critically important."


I believe the problem needs to be worked backwards in order to see whether there is a way out. Of all the species that are on this Earth, only one is presently living very differently from how it lived when it first appeared. The difference can be described in many ways: vastly increased comfort, convenience, mobility, etc. One common denominator among these descriptors is intensive use of energy, supplied mainly by fossil fuels. We have become addicted to the new way that we live, and thereby addicted to the use of fossil fuels. Breaking any addiction is difficult, much less the addiction to fossil fuels and all the 'benefits' this addiction provides.

As long as we remain addicted, we will generate politicians who will cater to our addiction; look at the present American electoral process, and the positions politicians are taking on fossil fuel use and climate change. Drill, baby, drill. As long as we remain addicted, there will be no lack of fossil fuel energy resource owners and energy companies eager to exploit our addiction, and there will be no lack of fossil fuel energy workers who will clamor to maintain their well-paid positions. Overcoming this addiction is the central problem we have to solve if there is any hope of containing the climate change problem.

Now, what is the contribution of this blog to that central problem? This blog generates information and understanding of Arctic processes. There is a belief shared by the creator of this blog, contributors to this blog, and readers of this blog that the knowledge and insights generated here will make a difference in overcoming the addiction and convincing people to move in new climate-protecting directions. How realistic is this belief?

As you can see from my previous posts, I am a great believer in analogies and metaphors, and my technical publications are flooded with them. So, let's look at smoking, and how the tobacco addiction has been overcome. I heard a radio presentation by the NYT reporter whose 'beat' is tobacco (about two years ago). He stated that about 42% of the adults were smoking when the Surgeon General's Report on smoking was issued in 1964, outlining the harmful effects of smoking. He stated that by 2010, the number of smoking adults was about 21%. While he thought it was great progress, it seemed to me that half the percentage of smoking adults of 1964 were still smoking.

What was more interesting were his insights on what led to the 50% reduction. He stated that the dissemination of knowledge about the effects of smoking in the Report had essentially no impact on behavior. What made the difference was the economic penalties imposed due to higher costs and taxes, and the mandates imposed, including the imposition of no-smoking rules in many buildings. There was a third factor he mentioned that I forgot, but it may have had to do with the impositions placed on the cigarette manufacturers, especially on advertising, and the anti-smoking ads the government produced.

So, with fairly hard linkages between smoking and illnesses, the presence of visible precursors like sore throats and smoker's cough, and with the necessity for economic penalties and mandates, we were able to only reduce smoking by half in a period of 46 years. Compare that with the softer technical linkages between fossil fuel use and the severities of climate change, and the perceived lack of strong precursors among the electorate. Based on the smoking experience, and other types of Wars on Drugs that have failed, how can we believe that added knowledge alone, such as that supplied by this blog, would have impact on overcoming the addiction to fossil fuel use?

That by no means decreases the importance and utility of this blog. It only means that, with my limited vision and foresight, I am having trouble linking the insights gained from this blog to reduction of the fossil fuel addiction of the public.

In case people think behaviors will change when the climate change precursors become more severe, I offer the following anecdote. I knew two people in their forties who had developed lung cancer. Both were chain smokers. Both had a lobe of their lung resected. Within weeks of the surgery, both were back to smoking, and within five years of resumption of smoking, both had died. One case happened in the early 1980s and the other case in the late 1980s, well after the Surgeon General's Report. Those two examples made me realize the pervasiveness of addiction in spite of the overwhelming knowledge of the consequences, and makes me question whether any progress is possible toward reducing fossil fuel energy addiction based on knowledge of the consequences alone.


"The End of Growth" by Richard Heinberg

Since this thread has delved into the future, include societal, economic and environmental, I thought I'd recommend a book that touches on how global indebtedness, finite resources and climate change are taking us to the brink.

My wife, being the retired academic with a background in business/finance was doing some research in preparation for a lecture she was asked to give regarding the "New Normal". During that search she came across some of the writings of Richard Heinberg, who is a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute. At the same time, I was following the Peak Oil debate in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the gulf, which led me to learn more about how dependent the global economy is on the availability of inexpensive energy and how this finite resource like all natural resources is limited.

Last year, as soon we saw that Richard Heinberg had released "The End of Growth," we bought advance copies. In our estimation, it is a very thouroughly researched and well documented treatise.

The premise of this book is that exponential economic growth is impossible to maintain and that collapse is threatened by three factors; Unsustainable Debt, Finite Resources and Climate Change.

It kind of looks like the revolver pointed at our heads only has three chambers .....and they're all loaded.



"It ain't over 'til its over. Casey Stengel, if I recall"

Yogi Berra, I believe.


Even if we somehow miraculously held GHG at todays levels, ocean warming would continue for at least another 30 years to add in the region of 0.5C to global average temperatures. There is no way Aug-Oct Arctic sea ice is going to survive that let alone the increased GHG levels we will see.

It is too late for the Arctic summer sea ice and to suggest otherwise is simply nonsense. However, that doesn't mean give up and do nothing. Mitigation and adaptation can reduce the much worse effects to come.


I am having trouble linking the insights gained from this blog to reduction of the fossil fuel addiction of the public.

Well like I said. First the problem has to be acknowledged. The Arctic being just one aspect of AGW, and AGW just one aspect of the consequences of the infinite growth-model.

I agree with your assessment, but I refuse to stop acting, just because everything looks hopeless. Besides, I have nothing better than do. It's either this or living the lie, but that has stopped working for me.


Yes, Richard Heinberg is one of those people who gets it and knows how to convey it.


This may explain the increase in off-shore aerosol spraying...some sat images showing from alaska to the equator. This and that are not in the news because either will cause a collapse in the confidence world populations have with their governments.

Its time to stop aerosol spraing (geoengineering) and let the world in on the truth...our ship is sinking.

R. Gates


I tend to agree with your assessment. Current civilization is addicted to oil and won't easily give it, and all the comforts that come with it up. But nature is the final true "decider", and to the extent that civilization is out of balance with the longer-term natural order of the living planet Earth, that imbalance with be corrected. This not a "revenge of Gaia" type of scenario at all, but rather, natural processes that have developed over hundreds of millions of years to keep things in balance and the planet habitable for all life. Now, we can consciously attempt to work with the restoration of balance (by ridding ourselves of our addiction to fossil fuels, for example), or we can allow nature to chose the methods for restoring that balance. For example, during the recent mega-floods that have happened in various places around the planet, one of the most common things I've noted is cars washed away, floating, or buried in mud, upside down, etc. I find it more that a little curious that increased flooding and rainfall is one of the ways that nature reduces CO2 through increased rock weathering and the taking up of CO2 from the atmosphere. All this through the acceleration of the hydrological cycle. Of course, removing cars through floods also removes a source of CO2. There is no "Gaia" intentionality here, so please don't read more into it than I propose, but the result-- i.e. the reduction of CO2 and sources of CO2 is accomplished none the less. In short, we can do it the easier way (i.e. voluntarily change our lifestyles) or we can do it the hard way, but at some level, either consciously or through severe climate effects, our civilization will either drastically change its mode of operation in terms of energy usage, or perish.



"I agree with your assessment, but I refuse to stop acting, just because everything looks hopeless. Besides, I have nothing better than do. It's either this or living the lie, but that has stopped working for me."

This is an excellent philosophy, especially in light of all the uncertainties related to climate change that remain. I think we can state categorically that without the credible technical arguments linking fossil fuel use to myriad aspects of climate change, there is no hope of swaying the energy addicts. Even with the technical arguments, much more would need to be done, but there is the glimmer of hope. So, to the degree that the insights from your blog can contribute to the desired linkages, the greater its value.

In the postings above, I made the assertion that because the nonlinear dynamical models don't include all the coupled phenomena and terms, they are probably underestimating the climate impacts. I think if your blog, which has strong focus on daily data and longer-term data, could somehow relate actual trends to model estimates, it could provide some indication of model underestimates. Maybe you are doing this already; I haven't followed your blog long enough to know. This is important for communicating the seriousness and time urgency of the problem to the public, and the requirement for action sooner rather than later.


In reading all of this, I am reminded of Candide's signoff...

"Il faut cultiver notre jardin"


Hi all,

I've been offline for a few days. Has anything happened?

(Still catching up with all of the storm news, but I'd just like to note that I don't think that this blog is a good forum for a discussion of energy policy or economic models.)

More on Greenland temps:


While Anglo-centric, this is an interesting article on the weather effects of declining sea ice cover:


Bob Wallace

"Current civilization is addicted to oil and won't easily give it, and all the comforts that come with it up"

Current civilization will give up oil in a heartbeat if given an option that maintains advantages but costs less.



"To get to 350ppm means a peak of 400ppm with optimistic CO2 cycle models, so that is ~3years of current emissions as the latest CO2 is 395ppm."

The CO2 peak levels vary by location and month.

February, 2012: Ny-Alesund: 402 ppm
April, 2012: Alert: 400 ppm
May, 2012: Mauna Loa: 398 ppm
May, 2012: Barrow: 402 ppm
May, 2012: Summit: 400 ppm

The point is, our CO2 peaks are already past 395, and the ideas discussed here to slow the annual increase of 2-3 ppm CO2 requires a concerted global effort to reduce emissions. The issue of inertia is real, however, to borrow from another industry, when phone systems were introduced in the last 20 years in developing nations, they did not install land lines - for the most part, they installed cell phones.

The application is that new technology to deal with reducing carbon emissions, can replace the existing system - which will be removed from the market over time.

Another way of thinking about it - we still use computers - when was the last time you used a 5.25 floppy drive?

The data source is http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/dv/iadv/



"The premise of this book is that exponential economic growth is impossible to maintain and that collapse is threatened by three factors; Unsustainable Debt, Finite Resources and Climate Change."

What about the fourth factor that McKibbon recently highlighted. The fossil energy companies presently own perhaps 20-30 trillion dollars worth of proven fossil reserves, and they are listed on the books as part of their assets. If the companies were either forced to write these off and leave them in the ground, or somehow were overcome by altruism and unilaterally wrote them off, the companies' values would collapse, taking down the markets and the economy with it. In some sense, unless a radically new economic system were instituted, and sooner rather than later, present economics dictates the rapid exploitation of these resources along with the overwhelmingly adverse consequences.

In the present American election cycle, both parties are screaming about how much they will do to increase 'growth', and both parties are screaming about how much they have done and will do to increase domestic fossil fuel production. Obama, who is viewed as the more conservation-minded of the two candidates by far, is constantly expounding on the number of oil et al leases he has granted since his election. I see zero evidence of any movement toward any reduction of CO2 emissions growth, much less the emissions reductions rate percentages that Kevin Anderson says are required. We're in this surreal world where numbers are thrown about quantifying the fossil fuel reductions required, yet actions and their trends, at least in the USA, continue along their trajectories without missing a stride.

Bob Wallace

"Since 2006, the U.S. has seen the largest reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of any country or region, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The report states that, during this time, U.S. CO2 emissions have fallen by 7.7 percent or 430 million metric tons, primarily due to a decrease in coal use."



I fear that recent reductions in US emissions/coal use have more to do with a crummy economy and cheap natural gas than they do with Obama, more's the pity.

The only restraints I see coming for AGW in the US will be negative feedbacks; i.e. indirect consequences of unsustainable economics.

Granted, these may be significant, even in the short term, but they're not going to fix the problem.

Bob Wallace

" due to a decrease in coal use"

"Today was a big milestone for people who care about public health and a livable climate. Two utilities announced the planned closure of nine coal plants in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, bringing total retirements (executed and planned) since January 2010 past the 100 mark to 106."


"In 2009, the Energy Information Administration listed 594 coal-fired power plants in the U.S., down from 645 coal-fired power plants in 2001.

Of these 594 plants, 341 were owned by electric utilities, 100 by independent power producers, and the remainder by industrial and commercial producers of combined heat and power.[1] In 2009, the 594 U.S. coal plants included a total of 1,436 generating units (many plants have multiple units), and a total of 338,723 MW (megawatts) of nameplate production capacity, or 314,294 MW of net summer capacity.[2]


Coal's share in power production has fallen due to major increases in production from natural gas and smaller increases from nuclear and renewables."


Bob Wallace

What's unsaid in the above post is that pressure on utilities to cut emissions from President Obama's EPA put a heavy thumb on the scale which has caused the move from coal to less CO2/pollution emitting natural gas.

Natural gas is not what we want long term, but it is highly dispatchable. Being dispatchable and having a fuel cost, NG turbines will stop spinning when the sunshine, wind and tides are providing the power we need.

We can't get smoothly from fossil fuels to renewables as long as the general public is unwilling to suffer, and the general public is not ready to suffer. Our best hope is to get there thorough a painless set of steps.

For now, less coal and more natural gas. At the same time install renewables to replace as much NG as feasible and improve large scale storage so that we can make NG disappear from the grid without anyone noticing.

And cut demand via efficiency. Who suffers if their 25 cuft side-by-side delivers the same amount of cold storage while using 30% less electricity? If their 55" big screen uses 50% less electricity than did their old 40"?

For now, increase fleet mileage requirements.

Doubling the mpg requirement (which PBO did) and including light trucks/SUVs in the requirement more than halves our oil use.

Moving to PHEVs/EVs should cut our oil use to less than 25% of what it has been. When batteries get good enough we can cut our oil usage to well under 10%.


If you are interested on climate impacts on the future through 2030 as envisioned by the US intel community, here is the link:


It is very sobering reading, and I am considering it more realistic as we observe climate change this year.


Bob, I'll be happy to be wrong about the man, but his apparent attitude toward the Keystone pipeline and such makes me doubt whether he understands the importance and urgency of fixing the CO2 problem. True, he has the only competition beat by a mile, but that's faint praise indeed.

Artful Dodger

Hi folks, and especially welcome to our newcomers!

Traditionally, this has been a science-based blog, rather than a policy forum, which today's discussion has become. It unfortunately has departed far from the topic "Stormy Weather".

I have suggested to Neven in the past that he may wish to create a separate 'Policy & Solutions' thread. To this point, Neven has chosen to keep this blog about the Science, and has published his political and economic works elsewhere. This has worked well to maintain the 'signal to noise ratio' here, and promotes an atmosphere of mutual respect and collegiality.

I have no problem with a policy thread on this blog, and welcome the ideas of our many fine commentators. Still, the success of this blog is base in it's adherence to science, observation, and analysis. I think it is a step wrongly placed to depart from that path.

So let's get back to the ice, shall we?



Off topic, but fun:

Check out the last 5 frames or so of the thickness animation at:


Watch Fram Strait.

A little blob of thick ice gets ejected into the strait from north of Greenland. This happens at the same time, or just after the western boundary of the thickest ice gets hammered from strong westerly winds. Whether this is an illusion, or not, I don't know. But it looks like the momentum from that western wind impact is being transferred through the thick pack ice and causing that little thick blob to be ejected from the main pack.

Like someone pounding on the bottom of the ketchup bottle....


Sure thing It's less depressing, anyway.

Sorry for going OT.

Bob Wallace

" his apparent attitude toward the Keystone pipeline and such makes me doubt whether he understands the importance and urgency of fixing the CO2 problem."

The American people will not give up their cars without an acceptable alternative.

If PBO prevented oil from being sold he would be impeached on some sort of charge, he would be convicted, and he would be removed from office.

If PBO looks like he's going to cut people's access to oil he will not receive a second term.

That's the reality in which he has to work. President Obama cannot be Super-Green-Man and be president. If he tries that he will be Past-President Obama and there will be a pro-fossil fuel Republican in the White House.

So what can PBO do?

He can increase fleet mileage. (Done.)

He can use some of the stimulus money to get the most efficient cars/trucks off the road. (Done.)

He can use some of the stimulus money to build new EV battery plants. (Done.)

He can establish subsidies for EVs and PHEVs. (Done.)

He can get his EPA to tighten down on utilities to cut their pollution in a way that also cuts CO2 emissions. (Done.)

He can push the military to start moving away from fossil fuels and to renewables. (Done.)

He could have signed a climate change bill.

The House under Speaker Pelosi passed one but Republicans in the Senate blocked it from becoming law, so there was nothing to sign.

I can dig up more stuff if you need it. There are efficiency programs, solar panels on military housing programs, visiting wind and solar plants/installations to help publicize them and other things.

All that said, how about we put blame where blame is due?

One group of legislators, almost all Republicans, have stopped us from moving rapidly on cutting CO2.

The President of the United States is not the Dictator of the United States. He/she can only work within the limits set by Congress.

Bob Wallace

OK, posted that before I saw Dodger's post.

I'll real it in, but won't say I'm sorry. ;o)

Artful Dodger

I really do like hearing your ideas Bob, and our other brilliant contributors. I'd love to see a semi-permanent series of open-thread-like discussions. The archive would be amazing, given the talents and depth of our group.



I will pay penance for the vagaries of some of my my earlier posts by asking the following:

Does the prospect of an ice free Arctic in the summer brings with it the possibility that SSTs might become warm enough to make a warm core storm - a real Hurricane Haruhi/Gaagii - in some shallow areas away from the GIS, such as the Russian seas and the Beaufort.

Seems to me it's not inconceivable - given:
1) that the high Arctic gets more insolation between late May and the end of July than the Sahara does (I learned that here)
2) that the heated water wouldn't be giving up its heat to melt nearby ice
3) the relatively small volume of the Arctic Basin
4) the absence of an obvious thermohaline overturning driver to get rid of the heat

See? Economics isn't the only dismal science!

Artful Dodger

Sure does, dabize. Paleoclimate data shows a mean annual temp in the Central Arctic Basin of 18C. Summer SSTs of 27C from isotope records. And crocodile fossils have been found buried on Ellesmere Island, so never got cold enough during the annual cycle to kill a reptile.

With 24 hrs a day of insolation, the Arctic Ocean will absorb more heat in the Summer than the Sahara. The Arctic basin volume is not small (it's over 5,000' deep) but then neither is the Atlantic.

Physics shows us that with uniform salinity, warmer surface water expands and floats. The warm layer only needs to be about 10' deep to fuel a hurricane, just so wave action doesn't tap into the colder sub-surface water.

So, no reason it should not be expected.

Wayne Kernochan

M Owens - a while back I was particularly interested in what seemed an endless succession of reds in winter (i.e., for them, June-Aug.). That is, most of Antarctica was persistently 15-20 degrees Celsius above normal. Unfortunately, "normal" remained well below freezing; so there was no obvious effect on winter land ice (or sea ice) freezing or melting).

What was startling last year was that the South Pole actually warmed above 0 Fahrenheit on Christmas during their "summer" -- a record for there, and one of the few times you could touch metal there without getting your hand frozen to it.

Nevertheless, it's clear that summer temperatures in Antarctica are warming up as well -- just nowhere near the rise in winter.


Quite, Dodger

I tried suggesting this (with malice aforethought, I admit) at AWx, and you should have seen the response (in fact, you can).


Serious people both there (well, some) and here, but the "climate" is a wee bit different

Alberto Silva

Looking at the last SSMIS Sea Ice Maps from University of Bremen:


Doesn't remain in the Chuckchi Sea/East Siberian Sea zone a vestige of the ice that once formed the here so-called "stronghold" ?

Artful Dodger

dabize, you don't need to convince then. Instead, let them knock heads with the Supercomputers. Let us know when they get past the Great Arctic Hurricane of 2059 on page 5...

"Simulation of Extreme Arctic Cyclones in IPCC AR5 Experiments", Steve Vavrus, Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin


Fairfax Climate Watch

On a previous thread someone posted about evidence of a possible recent turnover in the upper 500 meters - and this was based on bouy data (from 2? bouys) that showed the elimination of the thermocline and halocline at about 500m or so. I have many thoughts on this, but I'll try to limit them now:

1)What about wind-driven mixing in the upper 500m layer where the ice is missing?

2) What about erosion of permafrost from coastlines in addition to increased dissolved and particulate matter in the river input to the Arctic...all contributing to increased surface water density?

3) And what about coastal upwelling, do we have any idea of where to look for it...or are we seeing it already?

Basically, why couldn't extended mixing occur in the top 500m - and melting along with it, perhaps beyond October even?


Another near century break for IJIS SIE, but judging from the preliminary number for tomorrow this might be the end of the storm's effect.

Although I'm still seeing big day to day changes on the UB SIC maps.

Anyway, 2012 now 162K below 2007.

Al Rodger

CT area another 0.055 Mkm^2 towards the 2011 record. Last 2012 3.0996 Mkm^2. Lowest 2011 2.905 Mkm^2 (or 3.5 days away at this rate of melt.)


Re our bets with Dr Connolley, IJIS isn't the record we were talking about when the bets were made. I have suggested what to do about this at

Don't know if you want to comment on this suggestion over there.


CT SIA is now just 195k km2 from setting a new record, and that with around four weeks of melt to go. By comparison, the smallest post XXXX.6083 finale in the record was 1997's 377k, which if repeated this year would still result in a minimum of 2.723 million km2. And the largest finale, 1984's 1.318 million km2, would give 2012 a minimum of just 1.79 million km2. We'll surely end up somewhere in between this year. But where? (http://iwantsomeproof.com/extimg/sia_7.png)

The current CT SIA anomaly of -2.318 million km2 is the 20th largest in the record, and the largest since October of 2007 (a month which, by the way, saw all of the 19 largest anomalies).

It's been an incredible week, and an incredible year.

Alan Clark

I found this article interesting: (Off topic but climate-related)


Jim Williams

Jim, what's the failure mode for "Cryosphere Today Arctic Sea Ice Area Annual Decrease from Current Day Through Minimum" after red line crosses 0.0?

(Also, what's to say the finale will be less than 1984? Lot's of evidence that the system is no longer stable; which means new records would be normal, not exceptional.)


Don't know if you want to comment on this suggestion over there.

Nah, I don't want to jinx it. If I remember correctly my bet with Connolley was a new NSIDC monthly AND IJIS daily minimum in 2011, 2012 or 2013.

What I would suggest is go with the AMSR2 reanalysis, but have a pre-final with WindSat. Just for the fun of it. Still some ways off, BTW. The speed of CT SIA is insane.


One of the posts on the storm, if memory serves me correctly, stated that more open water allows more energy input to drive a stronger storm/cyclone. Another post related a stronger storm to increased fragmentation of already fragile thin ice, and the subsequent faster melting. Are we seeing yet another feedback loop here, and is this accounted for in the models? I would assume the more complete ice melt would have repercussions on next year's ice cover, and perhaps lead to earlier melting of the ice. This, in turn, would lead to increased heating due to absorption of the higher solar flux earlier in the season, which would increase melting further, allowing for even stronger cyclones, and so on.

Now, little if any mention was made in the posts of enhanced methane emissions during the cyclone, but I would expect some increase due to mixing. This would be superimposed on the methane releases from the water and the permafrost due to warming.

So, we have either one large positive feedback loop, or multiple smaller feedback loops acting in concert and going in the same direction, depending on one's perspective. If the two degree temperature increase beyond pre-industrial doesn't take these feedback loops into account, isn't the real threshold for runaway somewhat lower, if not much lower? Are we in fact seeing the precursors to runaway today?

Paul Klemencic

The forecasts continue to show the high pressure building over Greenland, and holding up until Friday. One day this week, the peak of the high pressure could shift temporarily over the Archipelago. The drift maps show the pack moving toward the Barentsz, especially on the east side of the pack. There is plenty of open water toward the Barentsz, so even the moderate winds could move the pack quite a distance in that direction over the next five days. The broken ice pack could extend down to Franz Josef Land before the week is out.

The interesting movement, will be the broken blocks and floes just to the longitudinal NE of the NP. As the ice moves, will increased shearing begin stripping fractured blocks off the remaining pack near the pole?

If this plays out the way I described above, then within five days we may be able to predict that open water will cover the NP. This would be a newsworthy event.

Alan Clark

I have been looking at the IJIS figures for SIE, which seem to show that the effects of the storm have mainly passed.

From August 4 to 11 the extent went down by about 900K. The average decrease between these dates from the start of the century is about 400K, so the storm has reduced the area by an additional 500K.



"If this plays out the way I described above, then within five days we may be able to predict that open water will cover the NP. This would be a newsworthy event."

To place your comment in perspective, here is a recounting of the USS Nautilus making the first trip under the North Pole in early August, 1958.

"The submarine traveled at a depth of about 500 feet, and the ice cap above varied in thickness from 10 to 50 feet, with the midnight sun of the Arctic shining in varying degrees through the blue ice. At 11:15 p.m. EDT on August 3, 1958, Commander Anderson announced to his crew: "For the world, our country, and the Navy--the North Pole." The Nautilus passed under the geographic North Pole without pausing."

I remember that day like it was yesterday, and to think of what we have done to that icecap in five decades is mind-boggling.


I hope this forum keeps focused on following the Arctic development although it might develop like theoildrum who has changed mote to be about adaptions as the peak oil probably is in the past.


Artful Dodger,

"I have no problem with a policy thread on this blog, and welcome the ideas of our many fine commentators. Still, the success of this blog is base in it's adherence to science, observation, and analysis. I think it is a step wrongly placed to depart from that path.

So let's get back to the ice, shall we?"

I agree with your comments, in principle. However, remember this about 'science'. There are many variables operable in a system as complex as the Arctic. There are almost infinite combinations of variables that are possible, or 'signatures', in the more common usage. There are almost an infinite number of technical aspects that could be addressed under the rubric of 'science'. In order for the 'science' to be useful, it needs to be focused and placed in context. How do we extract the 'signatures' of maximal use to science and eventually to the applications and policy-making community?

What is it you want the 'science' to tell you from this blog? If you run a shipping company, or a fleet of oil tankers, you might be most interested in ice-free days, or at least thin-ice days. If your focus is on species survivability, other variables might be of interest. If your interest is in climate change, then evidence of the emergence of positive feedback loops or changing currents at the macro level may be of importance. Every once in a while, a little dose of context may help to focus the 'science' addressed towards the objectives of interest.

I review for a number of technical journals. I see so many papers that contain reams of charts, tables, and graphs, with each figure chock full of data to become unintelligible to anyone but the author. Far better to have 1/10 the number of figures, with 1/10 the data on each figure, accompanied by strong analysis and insights. Again, appropriate context can help frame and focus the research/science, and increase the value of these results.

Jim Williams

Looking at the DMI SST (and Anomaly) I notice that the water north of the detached ice flow went from "ice" to 3-4 degrees between yesterday and today. There might be a whole lot of heat still hidden under the slush up there.



Superman wrote " I would assume the more complete ice melt would have repercussions on next year's ice cover, and perhaps lead to earlier melting of the ice."

'Perhaps' yes. However, it may not necessarily work like that:

Less ice in winter allows more heat to be lost to space (both directly and via atmosphere). Unusually low ice cover one year tends to cause higher ice cover the next year. This one year negative correlation has been noticed and calculated in a few papers.

Over longer timescales, yes lower ice means more albedo feedback. But the storm might be viewed as one off event making ice cover lower than usual. If stratisfication has been disturbed, perhaps area will stay low longer meaning much more heat will be lost to space than normal. So the storm could turn out to be a one-off delay before summer ice free conditions are reached.

Excluding the storm creating exceptional conditions then yes there are several positive feedbacks. But why should anyone assume these are not already built into models? It seems like things are progressing faster than models suggest but AFAICS that could easily be a small mis-estimation of the heat budget rather than omission of important feedbacks which seems to me to be unlikely.

Exceptional storm causing methane effect - interesting but is it significant? Isn't there lots of time in winter for the ice to approach its equilibrium volume even if there is a bit more of a delay at the start due to more heat and more methane?

Espen Olsen

Petermann Ice Island (PII),

I looks like PII-2012 is taking a turn to the right or north, very unusual, but Russian Ice Drift maps also indicates currents in that northerly direction!

Artful Dodger

On August 12, 2012 at 13:52 Superman wrote:

"Now, little if any mention was made in the posts of enhanced methane emissions during the cyclone, but I would expect some increase due to mixing."

Perhaps you missed the extensive discussion of methane in the "Further Detachment" post? It begins August 09, 2012 at 15:44

As you can see, within the limitations of the Typepad environment, it becomes difficult to follow a particular topic. This is why it's so important to keep the 'signal-to-noise' ratio as high as possible.

I agree with you that the "So now what?" questions are important, and deserve time and space. Perhaps Neven would consider making you a Contributing Author here at the ASI blog (like Larry Hamilton and Chris Randles et.al). You could host and moderate a grand series of discussions, focused like a laser beam on the best topics of choice.

What do others think?




There is a cyclonic gyre in Hall Basin that operates year round (there is also a northern flowing current on the east side of Nares Strait.)

The Henry Larsen, with Dr Muenchow aboard was behind PII-2012 in Petermann Fjord yesterday, and may be heading north in Nares today.

What a trip!



What do others think?

I think it's fine and necessary too to blow off some steam after everything we have witnessed so far this melting season. It's only natural to worry if you take an in-depth view of the situation in the Arctic.

I will also open one or two thread after the minimum to discuss these things, as move from the realm of causes to the realm of consequences.

But a fixed policy section on the ASI blog is not an option for me. That would be an overreach.



"Less ice in winter allows more heat to be lost to space (both directly and via atmosphere). Unusually low ice cover one year tends to cause higher ice cover the next year. This one year negative correlation has been noticed and calculated in a few papers."

Agreed. That was one of the concerns in raising the question. The ice tends to reduce the heat input to the sea in Summer, and tends to reduce the heat escape in Winter. It serves as a moderating influence. The question is the net effect of substantial removal of the ice cap in Summer. Would the increase in heat input in Summer outweigh the increase of heat loss the rest of the time, or do they balance out?

Espen Olsen


Soon this site will have century, only 3 to go, followers that is!



>"Would the increase in heat input in Summer outweigh the increase of heat loss the rest of the time, or do they balance out?"

My simple answer is 'it is unlikely to balance out in all years'. Ice loss seems to me to be accelerating so that so far albedo feedback seems to be winning out.

Both increase their effect - albedo as ice retreats earlier, insulation reduction as ice gets thinner. Those aren't going to change in the same proportions each year - as ice gets very thin there can be large proportional changes in thickness.

If we had had a one off increase in GHG then being held steady (and ignoring ocean thermal inertia) then you could imagine the wintertime maximum volume falling until it reaches an equilibrium volume for the new GHG level. Summer minimum volume might fall for another two or three years after that as the MYI continues to fall to a new equilibrium allowing further albedo feedback which wouldn't significantly affect winter max volume.

With a steadily rising GHG level and increasing atlantic water temperatures, max volume is going to continue downwards but perhaps hopefully it might start falling at a lower rate than in recent years as the ice is getting thinner. (i.e. in response to forcing only instead of both that and reductions in ice volume where MYI thickness was more than new equilibrium thickness levels.)

I hope that makes some sort of sense though it is likely too simplistic.

Andre Koelewijn

Crandles, Superman,

I agree that more open area after the melt season means that more heat loss will occur. But isn't that only until an ice sheet has formed, from than on, it will be the same, or not?
In other words: suppose (A) you start with a very thin sheet of ice. An x amount of heat loss per unit of time, gradually decreasing as the ice thickness increases. And (B) you start with open water, which has to cool down first and freeze. That will take some time, time during which not an x amount, but an X amount (X>x) of heat loss will occur. Next, you'll get at situation (A), only later during the freeze season. Or not? Where do I get it wrong?
Those 'few papers' are probably based on variations from year to year, which could be larger?


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