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Wayne Kernochan

I'm assuming this is the right "methane discussion" area. So I thought I'd put together a few thoughts based on discussions back in late 2011.

Methane is CH4 - which matters. As methane, it is about 10-50 times more powerful a GHG than carbon in dioxide form, but it typically stays in the atmosphere as methane right now only for about 9 years (10-20 times shorter than CO2). However, part of the reason for that is that much of the methane recombines, either as CO2 or other things, in the atmosphere. So if you get about 10 times the rate of present methane emissions, recombination reaches a saturation point, and the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere starts shooting up sharply.

Basically, there are therefore two things to worry about (the extremes): all that methane gets converted to CO2, and adds to the carbon GHG (at 10 times present emissions, that might be the equivalent of raising the carbon level from 1100 to 1650, or an additional 1 degree centigrade at the equator, 10 degrees at the poles); or it doesn't and hangs around for 20-30 years while emissions stay at that high level (maybe 100 years) -- which is a short-term boost of maybe 5-9 degrees C.

There's two sets of sources of emissions -- man-made and "natural". Natural includes the methane now locked up mostly in clathrates and mostly in the Arctic sea; permafrost; and swamps all over the world. Because 1 and 2 have been accumulating for perhaps 25 million years, there probably is enough there to drive methane levels to 10 times their present levels if release is done fast enough. Recent data suggests very high levels of methane during "Hell and High Water" about 55 million years ago.

Until recently, we apparently thought that clathrates could not release their methane during melting unless they were in the 200-1000 foot (meter?) depth range -- and in those ranges, methane bubbles would "pop" before they reached the surface, so the immediate effects of clathrate melting would be minimal. However, it is now apparent that clathrate melt can occur also 200 feet or less from the surface -- hence the plumes or "bubbles". In other words, there's a huge section offshore of Russia where methane can be released directly to the atmosphere.

Present scientific assurances that methane from 1 and 2 won't be released into the atmosphere that fast are primarily based on the assumption that (a) Arctic sea ice (especially off Siberia) won't start "uncovering" 1 for significant parts of the year until 2030 or later, and (b) a related point, permafrost will continue to melt at about its rate 2000-2009. Both seem now to be clearly wrong. Therefore, methane is probably going to shoot up faster to higher levels than present scientific estimates. Now we're talking 30-40 years from now rather than in 2100. And given the scale involved, curbing man-made methane probably won't avoid this. That's what has me scared, not the very unlikely possibility that methane levels will shoot up that dramatically in the next 5 years.

Also, I view all that methane converting to CO2 as worse than it just staying there as methane. On the one hand, you're talking about maybe a 100-year higher "heat bump"; on the other, a lower but far longer effect. We'll just have to wait and see -- but although in either case the long-term effects are less than that of our carbon emissions, they add really substantially to those effects in the case where it all goes to CO2.

Please feel free to correct me on some of this; my last post on this late last year still had some errors in it I never bothered to correct.

Espen Olsen

Summer ice situation in the future:

The situation when the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has disappeared in the summer, is IMHO an equation with more than 1000 unknowns, and I believe no one on this planet have a clue or knows the consequences!

Bob Wallace

"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."

What do we know about the quality of that higher ice cover? Is it thick or thin ice?

Does enough heat get lost to allow thick ice to form or just enough lost to create a thin skin of ice which then blocks/slows further heat loss?

Artful Dodger

Previously, on the ASI blog... ;^)

"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.

This topic has been well investigated, and the consensus value for the globe seems to be a net heat absorption of about 0.9 watts per square meter (click the image to read more).

Alan Clark

Wayne Kernochan
"So if you get about 10 times the rate of present methane emissions, recombination reaches a saturation point, and the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere starts shooting up sharply."

Why would there be an saturation point? I would have thought that a molecule of methane would have the same half-life in the atmosphere regardless of how many other molecules there are.

Wayne Kernochan

@Alan Clark - sorry I wasn't clear about this; in fact, I'm not sure I'm representing correctly what I read. The "half-life" of methane is how long it takes for methane either to descend again to the Earth or split apart -- e.g., the C goes to CO2, The Hs go to H2O. The saturation point applies to whether there's enough O and H around in the atmosphere around the methane so that methane can be split apart that way. At any rate, that's my best guess as to why scientists say that if methane reaches a big enough level in the atmosphere, its average time aloft starts going up -- and I think what I read did use the phrase saturation point. - w

Artful Dodger

Alan Clark asked "Why would there be an saturation point?" The breakdown of CH4 in the atmosphere consumes hydroxyl ions. As the proportion of ions decreases, CH4 lifetime increases.

BTW, CH4 is about 118x more potent as a greenhouse gas over a 1 year time horizon. As long a measured atmospheric CH4 concentrations are stable or continue to rise, this is the appropriate metric to quote, rather than a theoretical 100 year horizon. AGW will not wait, the important effects will occur in < 15 years.

Wayne Kernochan

@AD Again, sorry for not being clear. I'm trying to get at how long methane stays at a very high level in the atmosphere, which would happen if constant releases from accumulated clathrate and permafrost methane take place over, say, a 100-year rather than a 200-year period. The fact that "hydroxyl ions" are depleted, extending methane's half-life, increases the amount of methane in the atmosphere at any point in that period, and extends the period slightly. Eventually (after 100-plus years, I'm guessing), though, the accumulated methane from those sources runs out and the methane begins decreasing below the danger point. Afaik.

My mental image is of a ball being kept aloft by blown air from beneath (release of clathrate and permafrost methane). Slow the blowing way down (no more methane from those sources), and the ball comes back to Earth (methane levels come back down). - w

Alan Clark

@Wayne Kernochan

Thank you for that, I didn't know it depended on hydroxyl ions.

Timothy Chase

Wayne Kernochan wrote regarding the saturation of the atmosphere by methane:

The saturation point applies to whether there's enough O and H around in the atmosphere around the methane so that methane can be split apart that way. At any rate, that's my best guess as to why scientists say that if methane reaches a big enough level in the atmosphere, its average time aloft starts going up -- and I think what I read did use the phrase saturation point.
The main pathway for the destruction of methane is by the hydroxyl radical. Eli goes into it a bit here:

Passing Gas
Eli Rabett, Thursday, 2010-02-04

However, at a somewhat more technical level, there was a paper a while back that suggested that during the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum methane may have had an oversized effect due to it largely depleting hydroxyl radical in the atmosphere. Specifically, increasing levels of methane from 1X to 200X industrial levels increases the half-life of methane from 8.4 years to 42.5.

Please see table 1 on page 4-4 of:

Schmidt, G.A., and D.T. Shindell, 2003: Atmospheric composition, radiative forcing, and climate change as a consequence of a massive methane release from gas hydrates. Paleoceanography, 18, no. 1, 1004, doi:10.1029/2002PA000757.

There is a link to the open access pdf on the other side.

In any case, the hydroxyl radical is highly reactive, and it has sometimes been referred to as "scrubbing" the atmosphere of various pollutants. One of the products of this scrubbing includes reflective sulfate aerosols, thus increasing the amount of methane in the atmosphere can decrease the "masking" of warming by greenhouse gases, resulting in more global warming.

For something nontechnical along these lines, please see the press release:

Interactions with Aerosols Boost Warming Potential of Some Gases (2009-10-29)

The technical article it refers to is:

Shindell, D.T., G. Faluvegi, D.M. Koch, G.A. Schmidt, N. Unger, and S.E. Bauer, 2009: Improved attribution of climate forcing to emissions. Science, 326, 716-718, doi:10.1126/science.1174760.

Jeffrey Davis

re: science vs policy

I don't know why one should crowd out the other.


Jim Willians:

"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."

Jim, what you brought to my attention has real significance. The Laptev Sea jump in warmth has implications for potential methane release.

Al Rodger

I'm none too keen on stiring the CH4 passions so close to the height of the melt season, but...
Wayne Kernochan,
You say of methane "...it typically stays in the atmosphere as methane right now only for about 9 years (10-20 times shorter than CO2)"
Either my maths is all to pot or your CO2 isn't the same one that Archer et al are reviewing.
And I've never hear talk of a 'saturation' of the various routes that remove CH4: the big one (OH)is a complex multi-process affair much boosted by our other pollution. As I post this, I see Timothy Chase provides some technical references. One thing is sure w.r.t. CH4 lifetimes - it is technical!

Wayne Kernochan

@AR: Fascinating Archer stuff, but not sure it does contradict what I said. Basically, I read it as: Hansen etc. say the half-life of carbon in the atmosphere (typically as CO2) is 100-200 years. The primary way it comes out of the atmosphere now is that the ocean takes it. However, we looked closely at that uptake -- there's still 30% left in the atmosphere after 200 (to 2000) years. Luckily,another molecule in the atmosphere takes away much of that - 3000 to 7000 years from now.

So my read of Archer is that while the "half-life" of carbon in the atmosphere may be somewhere around 135 years (50/70 times 200 years), the majority of the rest stays around so long that "on average" the carbon stays around much longer than 135 years. I'm less concerned with "on average", and more with the next 200 years. And yes, my math is very approximate :) - w


@AR.WK: CO2 remains in the atmosphere a much shorter time if we extract it. That needs a decent carbon price.


With regard to a lower ice extent allowing greater heat loss in the fall, I wonder whether this will matter in the next melt season still. With a huge new source of heat through advection into the Arctic-as discussed here a few weeks ago-that may well overwhelm any extra heat loss in the fall. If that is much greater than the residual heat, then the pattern of low ice followed by a slower melt would no longer hold.

Jim Williams

Apocalypse4Real: "The Laptev Sea jump in warmth has implications for potential methane release."

I'm sure it does, though I'm rather vague on the details. However, that is at least a week or two in the future. The anomaly would be melting the ice from the bottom without regard to the angle of the Sun today.

The bubbling up of methane isn't likely to be really noticed until next Spring when there's not much of an ice cap to melt.

R. Gates

A few questions for points of discussion:

1) As we discuss heat exchange between an open Arctic ocean water surface and the atmosphere, what are all the parameters that determine this heat flux?

2) How is the heat flux from Arctic ocean to atmosphere in the Arctic winter different than say from tropical waters to atmosphere at night? (discussion here about the different ways heat leaves the ocean such as evaporation, radiation, conduction, etc. and contrasting tropical water at night versus Arctic water in the polar night)

3) What potential weather events in the Arctic might slow the rate of heat flux from ocean to atmosphere during the polar winter? (In addition to a layer of ice forming over the water)

Al Rodger

Hi Wayne Kernochan,
Perhaps I should point at papers available in their entirety rather than just abstracts. Here is an earlier Archer paper which is referenced by Jim H. et al so it has some sort of pedigree.
Archer is quite emphatic, saying:-
A mean atmospheric lifetime of order 10^4 years is in start contrast with the ‘‘popular’’ perception of several hundred year lifetime for atmospheric CO2. In fairness, if the fate of anthropogenic carbon must be boiled down into a single number for popular discussion, then 300 years is a sensible number to choose, because it captures the behavior of the majority of the carbon. A single exponential decay of 300 years is arguably a better approximation than a single exponential decay of 30,000 years, if one is forced to choose. However, the 300 year simplification misses the immense longevity of the tail on the CO2 lifetime, and hence its interaction with major ice sheets, ocean methane clathrate deposits, and future lacial/interglacial cycles. One could sensibly argue that public discussion should focus on a time frame within which we live our lives, rather than concern ourselves with climate impacts tens of thousands of years in the future. On the other hand, the 10 kyr lifetime of nuclear waste seems quite relevant to public perception of nuclear energy decisions today. A better approximation of the lifetime of fossil fuel CO2 for public discussion might be "300 years, plus 25% that lasts forever." (My emphasis)

Absolutely. Altering future levels of CO2 is not beyond mankind's present technologies. I favour the sequestration method I call LTBSITBG, a technology that directly tackles the paradox illustrated here.



One of the generic characteristics of climate change that seems to be emerging is volatility. Thus, while the temperature means in a region may change slightly, the extremes seem to be increasing, with predominance in the warmer direction. The ice appears to serve as a moderating influence, much like the control rods in a fission reactor. Removal of the ice in Summer, and deposition of a thinning layer in Winter negates the moderating influence, and leads to increased extremes. Like stock market volatility, the climate volatility signifies decreased stability. One danger in any system is that extremes can bring in nonlinearities, and the system may not exhibit hysteresis. I would suspect this would increase the likelihood of 'runaway' situations. Sort of like Fukishima. Is this what we're starting to see in the Arctic?


Al Rodger - LTBSITBG? Joke or real?
Doesn't Google.Can't see the joke.

Peter Ellis

Geoff: "Leave The Bloody Stuff In The Bloody Ground", I suspect.


Al Roger. OK, let's not argue this here - but "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"


@Peter Ellis. I absolutely hate continuing this but ... It's too late for that.

Bob Wallace

Some help understanding Dr.Tskoul's 2012 Regional MASIE Extent graph, please.


He shows a 4% extent drop for the Central Basin. Area based on the CT regional graph has dropped from around 4.2 to 2.4 million km2. That's a 42% drop.

Some other numbers I don't understand.

East Siberian - Dr.T (31%) - CT area 0.9 to 0.1 or 89%

Chukchi - Dr. T (29.7) - CT area 0.6 to 0.05 or 92%

Beaufort - Dr. T (31.6%) - CT area 0.5 to 0 or 100%

On the MASIE site I can find data only from days 195 to 224. I don't see how to get back to day 83. Checking Beaufort from 195 to 224 I get about a 5% loss.

Any chance he's lost the 83 day number reference in his calculation and is now using something later in the year? Or am I having yet another senior moment?


The MASIE regions are rather different. Compare
to CT region map

I keep a longer data set of masie at

2012 day 83 central arctic 3198877.56
day 217 3126697.43


michael sweet

What do you guys think about the sea surface temperature anomalies shown by NOAA here? They have been over 0.5C for weeks and now they show most of the Arctic, including the North Pole, as being 1C+ higher than normal. The ice will keep melting fast if the water is all warmer.

Al Rodger

You will have noted in my comment 2-above, I hope, a certain reluctance on my part with taking too much time here discussing GHGs on an Arctic Ice thread. I think our respective trenchlines are now made plain for all to see. (For total clarity, the achronym was as Peter Ellis suggested & inspired by a SkepticalScience post.)
I could hazard a guess at the answer to S. Holmes Esq's question but given that even Holmes was not bothered to establish the answer to it, I too will leave it unanswered, or perhaps just "left on ice."

Artful Dodger

Bob: MASIE reports sea ice extent. CT reports sea ice area. Do you require a primer on the operational definitions? See the section labeled "Definition of sea-ice cover (extent and area) " on the page:


David Einstein

MASIE is also counting a lot of ice that the others are ignoring. Paul Klemenik thinks that this is atributable to a delay in reporting so that MASIE is five days or so behind the day that it claims to be reporting. This may be so, byt MaASIE also seems to be reporting a lot of "slush" that the others miss.

The difference between MASIE and the others is probably easiest seen in the East Siberian Sea.

Compare the MASIE data


with today's Modis Lance Terra snapshot of the same region


(a beautiful image IMO) and you will see that MASIE is counting regions of swirling slush that CT, Bremen, or NSIDC are not counting.

Bob Wallace

Thanks crandles. His numbers check.


Andre Koelewijn wrote "But isn't that only until an ice sheet has formed, from than on, it will be the same, or not?"

A thin ice sheet will provide less insulation than a thick one. That is why there is a maximum thickness during winter from pure freezing. (Thicker ice can be formed by slabbing, ridging, mechanical sideways pressure crushing ice into smaller area etc.)

Once you have got to the maximum/equilibrium thickness from freezing, then yes things are the same is exactly what I am arguing. You can debate whether it actually reaches the maximum/equilibrium thickness or only approaches it in which case the later start could be said to matter but I don't think that is going to be hugely significant.

Andre Koelewijn


so what you say can be rephrased as:
'The freezing season is so long and so severe that reaching an ice thickness of, say, 20cm one or two months later does not really matter'?

Seke Rob

IJIS/JAXA is out and down to a firm 5261250 (up ~41k from estim) and a new prelim of 5152969 which is -66719 lower than previous prelim of 5219688. The http://bit.ly/IJISMD step chart was updated with a little additional cosmetics. It shows the end-day number of the minimum, right of the last bar segment plus current day (now 225). The last five years final days lead the mind to reason how far still to go. Presently 8 days into the 6 to 5 day segment, and still over 100K daily extent decline.


>"The freezing season is so long and so severe that reaching an ice thickness of, say, 20cm one or two months later does not really matter"

Yes I think that it is reasonable to hope this is very close to true at least for the centre of the arctic basin.

Unfortunately there are of course other issues like the equilibrium thickness declining as a result of higher GHG and higher air temperatures from higher temperatures at lower latitudes. There is also warmer atlantic water temperatures.

Nearer the edge of the winter maximum ice pack, there may only be a couple of months of freezing in which case the ice isn't reaching the maximum/equilibrium freeze thickness and starting to freeze just a week later may have more significant effect on maximum thickness. So I suspect the insulation negative feedback is less powerful at lower latitudes.

Seke Rob

CT was slightly up, some of this storm dived ice resurfacing:

2012.6083 -2.3179188 3.0995820 5.4175010
2012.6110 -2.2749753 3.1128488 5.3878241

The anomaly still well over 2M.


Seke Rob,

Just a note of THANKS for the effort & time you use in the "Step Chart" http://bit.ly/IJISMD I for like and appreciate.


@JIm Williams,

Jim, there is considerable CH4 release observed in the fall from August-October, well documented by Semelitov and Shakhova on Arctic site surveys and also by satellite by Yurganov, see the Dosbat website for a summation of Yurganov's findings.

The satellite observation reveals the increase in release especially in comparison of 2008-2011.

Look at the Giovannni AIRS/Aqua imagery for a mid-altitiude view of CH4 in the atmosphere.


Seke Rob

Watch this http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/ and http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/odgi/ for Annual Greenhouse Gas and Ozone Depleting Gas indices. Due out in August or September on how 2011 figures in.


Arctic-ROOS has finally updated.


Crandles, Andre,

Regarding the ice thickness issue, let's examine the extremes for insight. If the ice thickness in the Summer were on the order of 100 feet, and in the Winter on the order of 200 feet, the ice would serve as a very effective insulator. Temperature swings in the water from direct solar input would be minimal, and the effects of open water on increased cyclone strength would be effectively zero. This is the true moderator role of ice.

At the other extreme, assume the Arctic sea were ice-free year round. Water temperature would increase significantly (on a relative basis) in Summer, and cool significantly in Winter. I suspect there would be a net heat flux and temperature increase until a new equilibrium is reached, but I could be convinced otherwise. The point is, there would be substantial temperature swings in both directions, compared to the minimal temperature swings of the thick ice case.

While the annual mean water temperature might not change a whole lot, the swings would be significant. Now, to take an exercise analogy, one may cover a given distance in the same time by steady running, or by walking and sprinting, but the effects on the runner are not the same. In the high Arctic water temperature swing case, large increases in temperature could cause e.g. large nonlinear releases of methane or could e.g. trigger an abrupt methane release if a temperature threshold is exceeded.

So, the closer we approximate the former thick ice assumption, the closer we approximate ice as a moderator, and the closer we approximate the zero ice assumption, the closer we approximate the triggering of nonlinear and perhaps irreversible runaway processes.

This blog has already shown one interesting positive feedback loop of more open water, higher strength cyclones, increased melting efficiency, more open water, etc. This would couple with increased methane release, and for all we know, we may be seeing the early stages of runaway methane release.

In the early 50s, I saw a movie by Howard Hawks about one of the Pharohs. After he died, he was buried in a pyramid, along with many of his valuables. His wife, who was very greedy, went into the tomb while it was still open, and attempted to pilfer some of the more valuable jewels. Unbeknownst to her, the tomb was self-sealing. Sand started to pour, and pins started to form to seal the pyramid. When his wife realized what was happening, the tomb had sealed sufficiently that there was no room for her to escape. That's where the picture ended. When I think of what is happening in the Arctic, I see this image of the sand falling, and the pins forming. I'm not sure we can unseal the tomb.

Bob Wallace

Dodger - no I don't need help understanding the difference between area and extent. You should have picked that up from my post, I was clear that I was looking at the difference between area and extent graphs.

"He (Dr.T) shows a 4% extent drop for the Central Basin. Area based on the CT regional graph has dropped from around 4.2 to 2.4 million km2. That's a 42% drop."

I was trying to understand how area could drop 42% and extent only 4%. Obviously one reason is that the ice in the CB is shot full of holes. One is that there might be a data error in the graph. Another, as pointed out, is that the area/extent geographical areas are different.

Some of the reported differences are extreme.

"East Siberian - Dr.T (31%) - CT area 0.9 to 0.1 or 89%

Chukchi - Dr.T (29.7) - CT area 0.6 to 0.05 or 92%

Beaufort - Dr.T (31.6%) - CT area 0.5 to 0 or 100%"

70% extent remaining in an region in which area has fallen to (or almost to) 0%. That, to me, suggests that we've got a lot of real estate with some odd bits of ice floating around in them and someone has stretched a string around the outside to get an extent measurement. Extent becomes possibly a very meaningless measurement.

Chris Reynolds

R Gates,

Qn are your questions, A are my answers, not necessarily THE answer!

Q1) As we discuss heat exchange between an open Arctic ocean water surface and the atmosphere, what are all the parameters that determine this heat flux?

A The primary parameter is temperature difference between ocean and atmosphere plus basic thermodynamics. The heat flux is proportional to the temperature difference. In mid winter in the Arctic when temperatures are as low as 40degC but the ocean is around zero (beneath the ice), heat flux from Polnyas and leads can be as high as 1kW/m^2. Comparable to a kettle.

2) How is the heat flux from Arctic ocean to atmosphere in the Arctic winter different than say from tropical waters to atmosphere at night? (discussion here about the different ways heat leaves the ocean such as evaporation, radiation, conduction, etc. and contrasting tropical water at night versus Arctic water in the polar night)

A Conduction is negligible. In the tropics most heat energy is transported by evaporation, latent heat fluxes. The tropics haven't warmed as much as higher lattitdes precisely because in place of heating evapotranspiration has increased. In the Arctic most of the polar amplification of GW is precisely because of open water in the Autumn and heat fluxes from it (Screen & Simmonds).

During the polar night a semi-permanent inversion occurs, promoting IR emission from the surface. During the tropical night clouds and WV back radiate IR keeping the surface warm.

3) What potential weather events in the Arctic might slow the rate of heat flux from ocean to atmosphere during the polar winter? (In addition to a layer of ice forming over the water

Increased clouds. Ray Pierrehumbert hs joined up with Dorian Abbot to examine this. Theyb build on an earlier paper by Dorian Abbot and Eli Tzipperman that examines the equable climates problem. That problem is that in the past there have been deciduous forests on the Arctic Ocean shores and animals such as crocodiles have lived around the Arctic ocean. Yet this hapened when CO2 levels were orders of magnitude less than the levels required to directly force above zero temperatures over the Arctic winter.

The proposal is that enhanced transport of mid lattiude air into the Arctic, combined with thick cloud cover acted as a blanket back radiating IR to the surface and keep the ocean and shores above zero.

This is called Cloud Radiative Feedback (CRF) because the more the ocean is ice free the more the clouds form.

As an aside this has been one of the issues I've had with Wipeneus' extrapolations, or perhaps I should say the conclusions I've seen drawn from them. Conclusions which I suspect Wipneus would disagree with. The issue is that they show ice free winter by around 2030. Yet GHG levels are nowehere near enough to facilitate that. And one cannot call on Autumn warming as a mechanism because that is due to the Arctic losing heat as it cools in the Arctic night. Abbot & Tzipperman's CRF could provide a mechanism in principle that could enable a year round ice free Arctic by as early as the 2030s. But for that to explain the winter trends Wipneus finds and to play a role in the extrapolated trends, the CRF would have to be happening now.

I'm really casting about in the dark here but... Screen & Simmonds figure 3a shows that cloud cover changes from 1989 to 2008 has had a net warming effect at the surface. Could this be the start of a CRF effect? If so then would NCEP/NCAR which drives PIOMAS pick up this change and would it be reflected in increased downwelling IR so as to have an impact on the trends in Wipneus's extrapolation of trends in PIOMAS data.

I don't know how to answer this at present.

Screen & Simmonds. 2010
The central role of diminishing sea ice in recent Arctic temperature amplification

PS CT's area has gone up today, I'm not sure why. But this is not unusual.

Paul Klemencic

Bob Wallace: I think some of the comments were a bit snippy because this issue has been addressed multiple times on this blog. What you trying to do clearly would be informing, so many people have tried to do some variation of it in the past (including myself). And we learned about the limitations of each reporting system.

The CT areas are for the traditional sea boundaries, so for example, the area for the Beaufort sea is shown is only for the Beaufort sea proper. And the information is interesting, as long as the pack edge was in the seas, and hadn't receded into the higher latitudes.

The MASIE group used the term "regions" instead of seas. It turns out regional information is much more useful. The MASIE group shows the boundaries of each region on their web page, but in general the northern boundaries of the key regions (Beaufort, Chukchi, E. Siberian, Laptev, Kara, and Barentsz) are around 80N to 81N. This latitude is much higher than the traditional sea boundaries used in the CT reported area.

But the regions are really useful when talking about the sea ice. If you notice in my comments, and most comments here, we either say "in the Beaufort region", although many of us simply shorten this to "in the Beaufort", but we're almost always talking about regions, and not seas.

Since the regions are larger, then the remaining Arctic Basin is called "Central Arctic Basin" , often abbreviated CAB on this blog. And CT calls it the "Arctic Basin", because CT is using the accepted Arctic Basin boundary. If you look at the CAB versus the CT Arctic Basin, you are looking at two very different geographical areas.

You should be able to figure the rest out from here.

Paul Klemencic

Bob Wallace: One more important distinction and issue with using MASIE regional extent data. I believe that the data is being mis-dated. This is an issue I raised last year with the NSIDC rep lead for the MASIE project, and raised it with her again this year. Hopefully the issue will be addressed and fixed.

Right now you can huge differences between total extent, and regional extents versus the map etc. But give MASIE about a week, and their maps and reports will "catch up".

Paul Klemencic

I should have said, "catch up to today's report". The MASIE reported extents don't really catch up.

Peter Ellis

Paul: About the MASIE issue - I've argued this out with you before, and I'm sure you're wrong. Moreover, if you are really approaching the scientific team with a simple "You're getting your dates wrong, fix it", they'll just laugh and ignore you. They are not that stupid, and it's insulting of you to suggest they are.

To understand the difference between MASIE/IMS and the microwave data, you have to look at how they are produced. Here's the documentation.

Key section: "This is a manually created product which uses multiple images to map the snow/ice regions. Surface data is also made available to the analysts to aid with real-time quality control. Regions covered by cloud during the 24-hour analysis period are generally mapped as persistence, taking lower resolution passive microwave data and surface observations into account where possible."

What this means is that MASIE/IMS is primarily based on visible wavelengths. This has two major implications:

i) It's much more sensitive to low concentration thin ice - you can verify this yourself: just look at MODIS images in regions near the ice edge where the passive microwave sensors show nothing. The milky swirls of thin ice are more or less invisible to microwaves, but still show up in the visible spectrum. In general, this has the effect that MASIE/IMS will appear (important word) to lag behind the microwave imagery during melt season since it continues "seeing" the ice for longer. Conversely, it will appear lead it during the re-freeze, since it "sees" the new thin ice before the microwave sensors do.

ii) It's also much more susceptible to cloud interference. Although there is cross-checking with the microwave data, cloud covered areas are in the main only updated when the clouds clear - i.e. the previous state is carried forward by "persistence". This means that the IMS product will lag reality slightly when there's a lot of cloud around, and then catch up instantly when the clouds clear.

The combination of these two factors is why MASIE/IMS tends to read higher during the melt season, and also shows a few days' lag in responding to specific events such as the recent storm.

To gauge the relative importance of the two factors, we can look at the re-freeze. If I remember from last year, MASIE/IMS was clearly ahead of the microwave products (not behind) during the re-freeze. This indicates that (i) is more of a factor than (ii) - i.e. it's real ice that the microwaves aren't seeing.

TLDR version: IMS is probably a better indication of reality most of the time, but can be misled when it's cloudy. Also, much of the ice cover in the IMS product is incredibly thin.

P.S. the differential sensitivity to thin ice applies to the microwave products as well, since they use different sensors and algorithms. Eyeballing the recent maps (particularly around the detached "island" and Point Barrow), I would say Bremen is less sensitive than IJIS, which in turn is less sensitive than NSIDC.

Espen Olsen

Disraeli Fjord / Ward Hunt:

Have you noticed the open water true Ward Hunt from Disraeli Fjord, it was not completely open last year?

Espen Olsen

Disraeli Fjord / Ward Hunt:

I forgot the link:


Artful Dodger

Espen, this may be the glacier that calved the huge iceberg currently grounded off Barrow, AK

Tor Bejnar

The 2012 Petermann Glacier Ice Island is functionally out of the fjord and into Nares Strait. How close would ships dare come to it? 1 km? 10 km? Or is the issue all the much smaller icebergs that are so much thicker and more dangerous than floes' ice?

I recall Matt, the fellow who circumnavigated the Americas last year, had a close call with a giant hunk of ice. I had the sense he was only meters from the behemoth when he woke up.

Artful Dodger

Look at the smakin' foke in Siberia today...


Steve Bloom

Careful with that language, Lodger, this is a bamily flog! :)

r w Langford

Russia etc. NASA Fire map. Enough to melt the arctic and antarctic.

Artful Dodger

Wow, gobsmachio.



A page back on this thread I mentioned that Dr Muenchow (who drops by from time to time) was behind PII-2012 in Petermann Fjord two days ago on the Henry Larsen, His blog makes fascinating reading.




Espen - Lodger

The Ward-Hunt "bridge" that connected the two halves broke last September, I posted it here - and it was picked up two days later by the University of Guelph.

Both halves were still in place until after the storm, when the eastern half appeared to have collapsed into Disraeli Fjord. Clearly visible on this image from day 224, and posted here on that date.


The eastern half still appears grounded, so it can't be the berg found off Alaska, but with the halves now widely separated one or the other could still drift off this season.

I had wondered if the Alaskan berg might be connected in some way to Mike C's chunk of Ayles shelf.


Artful Dodger

Cool, Terry. Glad to hear one of us is following this. I'd hate to meet that berg in a dark alley...


More news from Dr. Andreas Münchow in Nares Strait:

We just finished our last CTD cast at 1:30 am local time to measure temperatures and salinities within one nautical mile off Greenland near 78.5 North and 72.5 West. Rain turned to snow … winter is upon us at 2am on Aug.-14 already.


With that belt of super warm water slicing across from Russia to Alaska it'll need more than a frosty morning to get things going.

Artful Dodger

Steve, I think I need a BAMBULANCE! (h/t BBC Three - "World's Craziest Fools")


The mesh pattern area in the Central Arctic Basin has declined from 1,8 to 1,45 MKm2 in the last five days. While I supposed actual volume already below last year five days ago, I think it is close to 3000 MKm2 now.

The side effect of the declining mesh structure is that CT area is clinging to 3,1 MKm2 through the last 2 days. The mesh dissolves, temporarily enhancing the amount of +30% grid blocks that are counted for area. It is not (yet) refreeze nor compaction. The main reel down now is bottom melt; latent heat is driving the pack over the threshold.

I think 3000 km3 is just a little bit too much to completely melt out in the last four weeks. But bottom melt probably will continue, even after freezing conditions take over around the second week of September. It may all settle on 2000 km3 left for 2012.
The most striking visual effect of this could well be the complete loss of the mesh pattern through all of the Basin.
Refreeze will start then with a spread out patternless ocean of floes, bits and pieces, at an extent of 4,1 MKm2 and an area of about 2,4 MKm2.

Given high ocean heat content and El Nino driven cloud cover, refreeze may not be as pronounced as last year. It will take time well into December for the peripheral seas to release their heat to the atmosphere. While that effect was regional in ’10 (Hudson/Baffin region) and ’11 (Kara region), it could now happen circumpolar.

I wonder what that could mean for NH circulation and the functioning of the Polar Cell?

Tor Bejnar

Thanks, Terry. I saw your earlier post, but I didn't notice the later-than-June entries at that time. From your response to me, I was sure there had to me something more recent, and finally "found" the very interesting posts listed on the right. Thanks again!

Paul Klemencic

Comments on Tuesday August 14 Bremen map:

Over the last several days, the remaining contiguous ice pack has been pushed toward the Barentsz and Kara, except in the vicinity of Severnaya Zemlya. A LP system there has rotated ice from the Laptev edge, opening up the Laptev bite, and pushing ice towards Franz Josef Land.

But as the ice has approached F.J. Land, the concentration on the leading edge has dropped. These last five days since the end of the Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012, have demonstrated one way that sea ice disappears,
- First the pack is pushed one direction, toward the Laptev and away from the CAB pushing ice and dispersing it over warmer water, while between F.J. Land and the Fram the ice was compacted into the CAB.
- Then the wind changes and the ice is compacted from the Laptev edge into the CAB, while the ice pack is now pushed over warmer seas in the Barentsz.
On time lapse views of the ice cap, this back and forth dance can be seen easily over a melt season.

Meanwhile the Greenland sea ice is disappearing quickly.

If there is an Arctic Dipole Anomaly in place, its a fairly weak one, and the ice isn't headed for the Fram as much as toward the Barentsz. For the rest of this week, there should be a relative mild push of ice toward the Barentsz. But tomorrow's map should show the full impact on extent of this low over S.Z. , and the Laptev Bite should open up significantly.


Paul wrote:

and pushing ice towards Franz Josef Land.

Yes indeed, you had it amazinly right.

Paul wrote too:

Meanwhile the Greenland sea ice is disappearing quickly.

Since the last week of July, even before, the Northern coast of Greenland has had temperatures between 2 °C and 12 °C. From Alert to Station Nord. Mean temperature nearly every day 10 °C above average. At this moment at 7.00 in the morning already 4 °C.

No wonder the ice is detaching itself from the coast.

Do allow me to attract you attention to todays Bremen chart.

According to this chart the Arctic SIE should be already at 4,6 km², at the same minimum record level as 2007 and 2011 - to Uni-Bremen Standards of course.

OTOH, Arctic SIE according to IARC-JAXA
should be 5,020,313 km2 on 15th of August.

Even taken into consideration the 15th of August Tokyo time might be midday 14th in Europe, 400.000 km² of difference comes a bit over as disturbing.

Well, what's in a record?

Any comments?

Paul Klemencic

L. Hamilton has more info on the Bremen extent measurement than I do, but if I remember the discussion from last year, the Bremen extent uses the tightest grid processing and picks up a lot of open water the others miss (this is from memory, I may have this wrong).

Last year Bremen showed a new SIE low (barely) while the others did not. From my day-to-day observations from what little info we could glean on the Bremen extent readings, they seemed to match the Bremen extent map changes much better than IJIS. No surprise there, since the IJIS uses a funky (but justifiable from one POV) averaging system that uses 2-3 days worth of data. We have never been able to match the daily reported IJIS extent changes closely to the observed Bremen map daily changes.

We have been losing about 68K per day over the last three days of solid readings ending August 14 on the IJIS, and would need to lose about 850K on the IJIS to set a new low extent. I think the melt rate could pick back up a bit, so the new low extent record on the IJIS should be hit by August 25, to August 27. And by August 31 data, the extent should fall below 4.0M.

Artful Dodger

There is a new "On the Green Front" podcast out Aug 15, 2012 featuring Dr. Joseph Romm and Dr. Michael Mann.

The podcast begins with a "Green News" segment, then the Interview with Joe Romm starts at 6:00 minutes.

Dr. Michael Mann is featured in the second interview *after* 30:00 minutes.



For those interested in the remnants of Hunt-Ward MODIS r03c03 has a very clear image today.

The larger western half could be cracking near the island, and there is definitely open water next to the shore. The western half also appears to show a crack where it connects to the shore.

Disraeli Fjord is wide open and the next spring tide may cause either half to set sail.



the latest Bremen sea ice maps seem to show a couple more big chunks near Severnaya Zemlya that may become separated from the main ice pack.

Espen Olsen


Yes I believe we are watching the end of what was called Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, today it is only a small pocket of what is becoming rare fast ice in both CA and Greenland, so Ice Shelf is a bit exaggerating in my opinion?
But when will the next spring tide be?


Thanks and welcome, Sheridanmayo. And thanks Terry for the updates on Ward. I'll have a look at the post I did last year to see how things have changed from then.

Account Deleted

ward this time last year. a clear difference!


Hi all,

CT area has fallen 111k overnight...

Area 2.986 Anomaly -2.2705

One more day like that and we have a new record low.

Al Rodger

So the CT record is 82,400 sq km to go. That is close. It could be one day to go. Two days. Three days for sure? Then I said last weekend that at the then rate of melt, we would reach the record by yesterday & the melt promptly went on holiday for 3 days which is why I now add the "?"


Extraordinary changes in the SST anomaly maps over the last week or so...


Flicking through the images it looks as if the warm waters in the Laptev Sea have been blown straight across the area North of the Chukchi Sea towards the Beaufort.

I suspect that the distances involved make this impossible. It may well be more likely that the storm has churned up warmer water form below, with much less lateral movement.

Either way, we now have a large area of warmer water adjacent to the ice pack on the Pacific side.


>"Flicking through the images it looks as if the warm waters in the Laptev Sea have been blown straight across the area North of the Chukchi Sea towards the Beaufort."

I'd say it is amazing how much more water they are reporting temperatures for on 15th compared to 14th and previous few days. The temperatures reported don't seem much above freezing, just there is so much area that suddenly now (after storm) has sufficiently little ice to allow water temperatures to be reported.


Anyone know how those dmi water temp anomalies are calculated if the only years they have water temperatures for these areas at this time of year are 2007 and 2012? Shouldn't water just appearing now in 2012 be cooler than water temp in 2007 which had been ice free in these areas for longer?

Peter Ellis

I suspect it's simply "if pixel is currently water, calculate the surface temperature anomaly across the historical record". That's why the anomaly immediately jumps up a few degrees, it's going from zero (historical average because historically ice covered) to a few degrees above.


If you compare the temperature map with the anomaly map you'll see that the "always zero in the past" is probably the main reason for the anomaly. Note there's now a little area next to the N pole hole on the temp map that doesn't show up at all on the anomaly map.

So, obviously, there's an area of open-ish water near the pole completely surrounded by ice. And that's not going to show up at all on the anomaly map unless it opens up far enough to absorb heat enough to raise its temp above zero.


Sorry - omitted SST from first sentence.

Seke Rob

NSIDC has taken over the lead in the SIE segment of ice tracking:

2012 8 11 5092220
2012 8 12 5005110
2012 8 13 4897980
2012 8 14 4818840
2012 8 15 4808380

JAXA adjusted the 15th prelim a little to 5.042M, not 16th seen yet. The 5M to 4M step I've designated code orange, in case they do fly through this hurdle. http://bit.ly/IJISMD with 6 days left for the 5M step to complete before the record holder, 2007. It's pretty imminent upon us to send that mark to the round archive [hope I jinx the weather and climate gods]

Seke Rob

And to go with NSIDC, 4 way street (CSN&Y), the JAXA/MASIE/DMI & NSIDC in blinking overlay form, few hundred K ahead of JAXA for same date: http://bit.ly/MASDMI

Artful Dodger

Barrow, Alaska Weather Forecast:
3 days of strong SW winds and temps over 50F. With a synoptic low moving through the Chukchi sea, should be hell on ice.

Artful Dodger

Dipolio! -- High remains anchored over N Greenland, as a low deepens over Svalbard over the next 5-10 days. Those isobars look to be mighty tightly packed, I wouldn't want to be an ice-tethered Profiler next week!


Yes, I saw that too, Lodger.

The fact that the forecast has it strengthening from Monday onwards, might mean it has a chance of coming about. But 5 days is still a long way...


Posted by: idunno | August 16, 2012 at 13:43

"Flicking through the images it looks as if the warm waters in the Laptev Sea have been blown straight across the area North of the Chukchi Sea towards the Beaufort."
I don't know where it is - can't find it now, but last year ( 2011) there was an article about the warm-fresh waters from the rivers of Russian Siberia flowing as a stream across the Arctic to the Beaufort Sea. May becoming more visible.

Craig Dillon

nice blog. Great to see one not hijacked by the denier idiots. Have you guys talked about methane yet? Simelitov reported kilometer wide plumes coming from the ocean floor 8 months ago. Methane is 100 times more powerful GHG than methane. etc. I think things are going to get much worse much faster than has been predicted.


Hi Craig,

Yeah, I had a fit about methane sometime back around March 2011.

There is a thread here:


I think we were waiting for Semiletov's 2011 fieldwork report, and that seems to have never surfaced.


...and further to the above, you would find methane covered in more depth by the Arctic methane emergency group website...

...where they are predicting another cyclone...


(I don't pretend to know much about weather forecasting, but for those who do, I'd be interested to know what you think.)


Enviro Canada has a nice animation of the new storm.


This is probably not what we need at this juncture.


Steve Bloom

It's surfaced, idunno. Check the AGU fall meeting abstracts.


Clearly a spectacular drop on IJIS. Things are getting grim…

Artful Dodger

Yes, it's "Dividere et vincere in imperium mare ursus".

IJIS Aug 16: 4,939,688 km^2, -101,250 SIE
IJIS Aug 17: 4,801,250 (no prelim on 16 Aug)

No CT update just yet... "Adiuta, Deus."


On MODIS r04c03 the mesh structure is rapidly loosening up into floes without pattern. Almost nothing left of mesh structure in the poleward part of tile r04c04, same for r03c04. Waiting for the North Greenland tile r03c03…

Artful Dodger

Indeed, Werther. Have you seen how the area around 170-130 W, 82 N thinned out during GAC-2012A? According to this U.S. Navy animation, at any rate. Quite shocking.

Artful Dodger

Oops, almost forgot! Hat tip to the Arctic-News blog for the animation above, and their coverage of GAC-2012A.



Posted by: idunno | August 16, 2012 at 13:43

>"Flicking through the images it looks as if the warm waters in the Laptev Sea have been blown straight across the area North of the Chukchi Sea towards the Beaufort."
Found one of the articles about Siberian River flow toward the Beaufort Sea. It has a nice picture, in FLASH, so click on the numbers, especially # 3.

Probably should be in a separate post about Arctic Ocean Circulation - will check to see what we've posted & discussed before starting one.


whup's I forgot the LINK

Woods Hole Institute:


Seke Rob

Can this become more explicit? http://bit.ly/IJISMD . Where 4 in the previous years having had a 5M > 4M step took 17 days or more, this one took 9 days [a 2nd prelim that actual got reduced at final]... almost 50% faster.


Hi all,

New academic research on the August Cyclone is covered here:


(If anybody prefers to read a shorter version, with all references to the sea ice being thinner, more dispersed and the weather this year being otherwise less conducive to ice-loss, then WUWT has an edited version up, with all of these inconvenient truths edited out.)

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