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The first comment on this article on Climate Central is unusually eloquent. Copied in full here:

By Arthur C. Smith III (Kaktovik, Alaska, 99747)
on November 20th, 2012
I’m glad to see in print, the report of what we have experienced up here and how significantly these details relate to a changing climate.

I live in Kaktovik, Alaska, which is on a small island in the Beaufort Sea, approximately 350 miles to the east of Barrow.

I believe for the first time in human history, the entire north coast of Alaska was ice free on November 1st; the Arctic Ocean was open and had reached a new record minimum for that date.

The world cannot underestimate the impact upon climate presented by such a large, newly opened body of water. Personally, I believe that the 2012 record Arctic sea ice minimum has crossed a threshold: the “tipping point” has been reached. The change in weather speaks to it, the change in animal behavior speaks to it, life in the arctic screams it… but will we listen?

Here in the Arctic, there is no choice but to listen, to see that daily life is changing in real time. I have lived here only nine years but in that short period of time, the change that I’ve witnessed is profound, to put it mildly.

Speaking of mildly, just to clarify the relative nature of the reader’s interpretation of the word “mild” being used to describe the start of the Alaskan Arctic winter. It is true that we’ve had a record warm September, warmer than normal temperatures in October and November, but the mitigation of temperature by open water has paled in the face of raging blizzards, one after another, week upon week, winds blowing in the 50’s mph for days upon days, gusts in the 70’s, record snowfall, aviation grounded, life at a standstill. Only here, can this scenario pass as quasi normal and equally pass unnoticed by the outside world. Anywhere in the lower 48, these conditions would merit national news coverage and likely some emergency relief.

But… the water is warmer, it is open. The air temperatures are warmer and the resultant increase in atmospheric energy has defined a fall, here in this part of the world, that no man living has ever seen; that no recorded history has ever documented. If not already on notice due the course of world climate events, be assured that the current exception of the Arctic experiencing “what no man has ever seen” will soon be shared by all man.

Arthur C. Smith III

James Benison

We're starting to see the end of the "beer cooler effect".

As long as the cooler still has ice in it, the beer stays cold. Once the last of the ice melts, the beer gets really warm really fast.


A late night reaction...

Thanks for this post, Neven and Idunno for posting that impressive first hand report. That's the weirdness we've been expecting.
For Europe, I recall announcing a whack cold snap very soon after 2 November, comparable to december '09 and November '10.
But, for two decades, stronger Icelandic lows forced positive AO.
Now, GFS and ECMWF announce a flip back to negative. The setup should be there mid next week.
What will be the role of the vast open seas in the North?

Dave Leaton

James, I believe it's spelled with an "a": "bear".

PS: all should spare a few milliseconds of lament for 2009, who just lost its only daily CT SIA record anomaly. 2012 now owns 158 daily record area anomalies -- 43.3%.

Patrick Randall

The first sign was seen by half a million people before it came down:


The others were seen by a few hundred thousand more. They cost me almost nothing.

I've put up close to a thousand signs on west coast freeways since January 1st.


The change in global climate in the Northern hemisphere seems obvious in the continued formation of strong lows in the Northern Pacific which bang into Alaska and BC and occastionally impact the US Northwest. Some points in the Northwest US high elevations had wind gusts over 100 mph yesterday.

The continued formation of powerful lows over the warmer Atlantic waters off Greenland keep pounding Greenland's south coast and Iceland, and dumping rain into England and Ireland.

Add the procession of lows into the Kara Sea that impact Russia and the Arctic and we have a system that impacts Arctic ice formation and disrupts Europe.

The LaNina-like ENSO neutral has the central US remaining in drought, a foreboding note for next summer's crop production, including winter wheat.

What has happened in the Arctic last summer and fall continues to have sobering hemispheric impacts.

As noted in the recent World Bank report, global leadership has to make a choice for future generations, on the survival of civilization as we know it. The problem is, the change is coming faster that modeled or anticipated.

The World Bank Report: http://climatechange.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/Turn_Down_the_heat_Why_a_4_degree_centrigrade_warmer_world_must_be_avoided.pdf


Actually the lows over the UK traditionally and I think (still) currently come from the South West, i.e. the Atlantic, not from the north i.e. Greenland.
Traditional UK autumn weather is gales and rain.

As an aside; Is this years Greenland mass loss published? I haven't seen it yet.


Hi Google friend,

I agree that last day's origins have been anomalous; Grand Banks/Labrador Sea instead of the Azores. I guess 70 mm in devon in two days is in itself not unusual. But the soil being 'filled to the max' all summer is the anomaly.

GIS mass loss: I've regularly watched FI Jason Box's site, asked here and there (AWI), but nothing has officially come out yet. I have the suspicious feel that the results are being 'digested' first.

Ghoti Of Lod

On Nov 15th Jason Box tweeted:

"1h CNN Intl. special on Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute mapping Greenland ice changes Nov 24 11h & 20h, Nov 25 at 02h & 11h, all GMT"

Maybe that'll say something about the GIS mass loss.


Speaking of sea ice, the Arctic sea ice concentration and thickness imagery is updated for 111512 and 112012. One thing interesting is how thin the new ice is in the Arctic Ocean north of the Franz Joseph Islands.



Is it odd in late November that a portion of the strait between Ellesmere Island and Greenland is still open water?


....how thin the new ice is in the Arctic Ocean north of the Franz Joseph Islands.

It's also thin over the pole.


With Greenland becoming the center of the polar ice cap for the better part of 6 months, are we going to see a semi-permanent blocking high form over Greenland for much of the summer and fall? What effect would this have over weather patterns in the northern hemisphere?



Those are the 1-2% of global GDP questions, aren't they? What will the new normal be? How long will the new normal be the new normal? Now that we have to move all the cities and farms, where do we move them?

We had a beautiful summer here in Newfoundland due to the blocking high. Water 4-5 degrees warming than normal all summer - best summer in living memory. Of course, 2011 was the worst June-July in living memory. Are either of them the new normal?

Here's hoping Obama has his Lincoln moment on climate change, taxes carbon, and starts righting the ship.


A 9 Oct 2012 PNAS article by Harig and Simons reviews the history of Greenland mass flux estimation and makes a seemingly better one having spatial and temporal resolution using Slepian functions on GRACE satellite gravity data with the Paulson glacial rebound model (Geophys J Int 171:497–508). Greenland has been losing about 200 gigtons/year on the edges, even as mass accumulates in the center. The rate of loss has been quite steady over the last decade but is accelerating only slightly (by −8.7 ± 4 Gt/y2).

Rate of Greenland Ice Loss

Slepian functions -- a regionalized version of spherical harmonics -- could use a wikipedia article (any volunteers?*). GRACE does not measure a swath below it on the ground but rather sums the gravitational tugs on it from a region several hundred km in diameter. It circles the globe, not particularly concerned with Greenland.

While spherical harmonics provide an appropriate globally orthogonal set of basis functions in which GRACE data (or any vector field on a sphere) can be expanded, they are not suitable when restricted to a region such as Greenland.

That's where a related orthogonal basis of spatiospectrally concentrated Slepian functions comes in. The bottom line is that it does a much better job on space and time resolution because of better error handling.

* SIAM Rev Soc Ind Appl Math 48:504–536
* Geophys J Int 166:1039–1061. 25
* Geophys J Int 174:774–807
* SIAM Rev Soc Ind Appl Math 25:379–393.

Aaron Lewis

Thanks for that plot.

My eyeball says that the amplitude of the curve changed circa 2008. If this was one of my industrial processes, I would shut it down, and go look for a problem. It is out of control.

Trend data from prior to 2008 on the H&S PNAS 2012 plot is not likely to be useful in predicting system behavior after 2008. There was a physical change to the system, so that system data from prior to 2008 is not relevant to system behavior after 2008. (My guess is that the system change is related to the 2007 Arctic sea ice melt.)

Weather, including GIS melt is a non-linear feedback system. Anytime such a system shows a sustained trend, it moving away from its equilibrium, and is likely to go out of control. Likely, the first sign that the system is out control is increased amplitude of oscillation of some parameter, e.g., Arctic sea ice extent circa 2002. Then, the amplitude of the curve increases until it becomes visible to the untrained eye, e.g., loss of Arctic sea ice circa 2007.

When you look at GIS mass loss in 2012, you will see that it falls off the H&S Fig 1-2. The amplitude of oscillation of the GIS ice mass loss is increasing faster than could be predicted by the data in H&S PNAS 2012, and the ink on the paper is not even dry yet.

Non-linear feedback systems require different statistical methods. Any sustained trend in a non-linear feedback system means that system is moving away from equilibrium and out of control. Out of control feedback systems tend to have discontinuous (read as unpredictable) violent behavior.


Here is an earlier version presumably without the Slepian improvement.


In that, the 2009 amplitude of the oscillation looks smaller than in 2007 and 2005 so nothing unusual and it is only in 2010 that a bigger amplitude is seen.

Is the improvement in the measure likely to give us more warning? Could the bigger amplitude just be chance and the system continue to drift further from equilibrium for some time before it goes wild?


Waaaay off topic, but
Neven might like to look for his mention in




Not off-topic at all. Thanks, crandles. I'm trying to pull WC's leg now.

But that's 50 euros for Darfur. Thank you, sea ice. :-)


I do not have the studies on hand, this is all things I have heard from interviews on the radio and TV. What we do need to do is get away from the group think that the industrial complex can get us out of the mess they have put us into in the 1st place (with our blessing of course).
Let us 1st separate the 2 major sources of CO2. Cities and agriculture.
For cities: 1) Force every building over 4 stories high and also every one that covers an area of 3000 sq ft (town house developments get included) must cover 90% of their roof tops (slants included) with either energy creating devises (such as wind turbines, solar cells, solar heaters etc) or vegetation that meets targeted standards of cooling and water runoff control. In one interview a scientist studying the vegetation side said that if all building in a city covered their roofs with vegetation, the temps in the city would be lowered by over 2c and most runoff in a rain storm would be stopped by that vegetation.
An example of what could be done is this http://www.greencareersguide.com/Toronto-Hotel-Embraces-Green-Energy-Sources.html and they really have not gone as far as one really could if forced to.
Agriculture: Legislate reductions in pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals by targeted amounts. Stop growing cotton (most inefficient plant fiber compared to costs in growing it around). Grow corn only for feeding animals or humans as all other uses it is used for (pharmaceuticals, chemical food processes etc is pure waste compared to other sources). Force return of rotation practices. Allow Growing of non THC hemp plants (one of the most versatile plants out there. Used for sails, rope, plastic (Ford made a plastic car with it), WW2 parachutes, floor, oil, building material, original jeans, paper for centuries, etc (a chemist claims he could find over 1200 uses from it). Force planting of trees along all waterways. All these would not increase costs that much but greatly reduce CO2 costs and possibly would start putting carbon back into the soil. Force all large farms to produce 100% of their energy on their land.
These things could be done starting tomorrow and take less then a year to get completely in action all it needs is government action.
Costs would be a fraction of any questionable geo-engineering solution and far more sustainable.
What I am trying to point out is that to make real inroads into the CO2 problem you must let nature take the lead. It is best at doing it and if you give it half a chance will yield very surprising results.
BTW I may sound hippyish, but if you knew my life style am far from it.


OOPs sorry about that meant to post in the other one that had this as a topic, but forgot I had changed from where I was.


Oops I have forgotten to update my masie shared spreadsheet. Has anyone got data for 2012 days 270 to 297 ?

Current version has days 298 onwards and loading that might clear any cached data you have.

Thanks for any help.


Dept of silly stats says NH sea ice area anomaly has exceeded -1 for 167 days so far this year which is a record.

Previous years:
2011 157
2010 161
2009 114
2008 83
2007 161

With the anomaly down to -1.08, the streak may not last much longer.


Aaron, I find your analysis quite insightful. It is a testable proposition as well because the GRACE analysis only went to Jan 2011. I may write Simons to see if he can bring us up to date. There may be various data processing bottlenecks out of their control.

There is now a GPS system anchored in Greenland bedrock giving near real-time measurements of isostatic rebound (and using its acceleration to measure mass loss). I'll ask if improvements there affect the accuracy to any extent.

I suspect you are right based on the superb Greenland albedo resources for 2012 placed on the Byrd Polar research wiki by Jason Box. Between the melt, the soot and the clear skies, the mass loss acceleration seen by Harig and Simons could already be significantly enhanced.

Real-time data is very cool -- not just a train wreck but one we get to see coming from the front of the locomotive. Sea ice collapse, early June tundra snow loss, Greenland melting ... albedo loss is displacing atmospheric gases as primary forcing agent.



I am unable to see the right half of the chart A-Team posted just above, probably due to some curiosity of Typepad. I have tried using Chrome, Firefox and IE. Is there some trick that I should know to widen the frame?

Failing that, is there a link to the original chart? Googling "nasa mod10a1 Byrd" led to lots of interesting things, but not this particular chart.



if you right hand click on the diagram, you can copy and paste the diagram into any document you like (I use an unsent E-mail to keep track of a sequence of diagrams, which is available to me on all platforms).

It is not elegant, but it works in practice.




P, Duh!



Donald, for anyone using a Mac just cntrl click on the fig and select 'Open Image in new window'.

Ethan O'Connor

There's a no-paywall copy of the 9 Oct 2012 PNAS article by Harig and Simons at Simons' princeton.edu site:



I always do right click and 'view image'.


Thanks for the feedback. Linked text to the relevant page (click) of Jason Box's wiki was provided in my post. He places updated chart thumbnails here (click).

I started with his larger version because of the complexity -- 12 years of data plus mean and standard deviation bands. Since the interest here is not in reflectance (albedo) but in absorbance, I flipped the graph and re-did the scale (ie 1 - % albedo = % absorbance).

The yellow area with the joule arrows is where I converted non-reflected sunlight into the extra solar energy deposited onto Greenland ice during the peak months June and July, above and beyond the multi-year mean.

Easy-to-measure albedo is inversely proportional in a complex way to energy absorbed. In theory, this would be a day-by-day integral involving solar angle, latitude, top of atmosphere spectral budget adjusted to ground, daily cloud cover, snow and ice attributes as modulated by melt and soot, and so forth.

In practice, there are fixed radiometers on the ground that actually measure light energy coming down and going up. Even better, Dr. Box already provided the numbers that I needed buried in the text, which I can also recommend for its explanations of latent heat of melting vs raising ice temperature and what these extra exajoules mean in practical terms (eg Greenland got 3x the entire energy budget of the US in two months of 2012).

I wasn't actually posting about Greenland here. I was trying to communicate a larger concern about the cumulative impacts on the earth's heat budget from the Triple Whammy: collapse of albedo in Arctic sea ice + Arctic land snow + Greenland (which reinforce each other). I just didn't have the other two graphs ready yet. Nor the knock-on effects to methane release from permafrost and clathrate.

Back at Typepad, its 'preview' shows graphics full size, spilling over into the right column as needed. However posting then truncates them to about 450 pixels width. Oddly, viewers have no way of adjusting column widths. Their total is rigidly fixed at about 982 pixels.

Nevin can adjust the Typepad central column width but probably has decided that the current width is the best compromise given the variety of viewing devices. One-size-fits-all design is not so easy if iPads and cell phones are to be accommodated along with laptops and workplace 21" monitors.

The research wiki freeware used at Byrd Polar has one rigid left column and a user-determined width on the second, which then flows around graphics of whatever size. The wiki design could be adapted for a blog if organized around article themes. Its markup language is rather different from html.

Byrd is using it as a holding area and collaborative venue for developing their journal articles. As a byproduct, open sourcing does a fantastic job of public outreach and facilitating other peoples' climate research. You could spend a week absorbing all the material they offer up.

Other scientists claim this prejudices later publication -- a flat-out lie, they just like to keep competitors in the dark as long as possible. Then publish behind a $35 USD paywall for good measure. Climate change is too serious a topic for this mickey-mouse.


Here it is at 440 maximal pixel width, a few typos corrected. I guess it still has sufficient detail. It is still spilling over a little in preview mode however. As noted at the bottom, this is adapted from original work of J Box and D Decker posted as open source at the Byrd Polar Research Center wiki.



Looking at CT images of Antarctic. Can someone explain why there is open water adjacent to ice shelves even as sea ice still exists further away from land. The most notable is the Ross shelf but there are two others adjacent to the Amery and Shackleton ice shelves. Is this ice shelf melt that is freshening the water?



Djprice, I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's caused by the fierce Antarctic katabatic.


Thanks Nevin.


talking about Greenland, there is a recent article simulating GIS melting in an Eamian warming maximum (circa 126 k years ago)


"The main finding is that the most vulnerable region in a warm climate, such as the last interglaciation, is northeastern
Greenland because its dry climate with low accumulation can 5 not compensate increased
melting. This general finding is applicable to modern climate change. A second contributor to a negative mass balance for the northerm GrIS during the Eemian is the pronounced warming at high latitudes due to a meridional gradient in anomalous summer insolation."

However there seem to be some limitations in the ice sheet model used, i am not able to judge what is the impact of these limitations, may I ask if someone could tell me if these approximations would be valid within our foreseeable AGW??:

"We use a three-dimensional, thermomechanical ice sheet model, SICOPOLIS 2.9 (Greve, 1997), forced with monthly temperature and total precipitation from the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace Coupled Model 4 (IPSL CM4) (Marti et al., 2005). The horizontal resolution of the ice sheet
model is 10 km with 90 vertical layers. The lower 10 layers simulate 5 ice at the pressure melting point. Ice dynamics are represented with the shallow-ice approximation, neglecting longitudinal
stresses. This simplification is valid for ice masses that are thin compared to their lateral extent, flowing slowly over a horizontal bed. Ice shelves can not be simulated, nor can valley glaciers.
This is a widely used approximation that yields satisfactory results for the predominantly cold based Greenland ice sheet on a flat topography."


In a completely different subject (apologies to be off topic), I am in contact with some MEPs in my constituency, one of them is ready to ask a parliamentary question to the European Commssion in relation to the gap between the EU climate policy and the science and state of climate change. I would be interested if someone would have a good idea of what important recent researches might not be involved in IPCC 2014, due to timeline constraints (e.g., will researches papers from Francis and Vavrus on the impact of extreme event on mid latitude, recent Overland et al paper, or papers on recent sharp decrease of snow cover, which can't be modelled by the IPCC models, be taken into account or commented in IPCC 2014??)

Also, I would be interested if someone has heard about other researches in relation to impact of SIA or SIE retreat on our poor wet summers in the UK, apart from the one from ECMWF?

Many thanks to all, and again many thanks to Neven for this fantastic blog


Natalia Shakova kindly sent me a preprint of an impending paper, "Modeling sub-sea permafrost in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf: The Laptev Sea region". The news has not reached the other climate blogs so I review it here as the Laptev is on our (submerged) turf and its future is impacted by recent sea ice loss.

The authors ask whether Laptev Sea subsea permafrost still forms an impermeable cap to any gaseous hydrocarbons that might lie underneath. It might not -- the sea level was 125 meters lower at the last glacial maximum 22 kyr ago and subsequent flooding of the vast tundra replaced -21ºC air with much warmer sea water, a vastly better heat conductor and freezing point depressant.

Sandwiched for ten thousand years between an impressive geothermal gradient from below (25K per km) and this new warming from above, one just has to wonder how much of a barrier could be left, given the land submerged had various weak points to begin with: taliks from thermokarst lakes, Cretaceous faulting, and horst and grabens from Gakkel Ridge extensional tectonics, siberian brine lenses from the last marine regression (cryopegs formed from freezing front exclusion, still liquid at -10ºC), advective erosion, and edge effects at the continental slope.

Yet people ask 'why now' as cap thawing a thousand years earlier (or later) seem equally plausible a priori. Or they will argue, wrongly, that ice core records rule out methane release from similar earlier interstadials, notably the Eemian. In fact, a century-long methane pulse can hardly be detected because its atmospheric turnover is shorter than firn air bubble closure in ice cores. (Not to mention sub-sea methane release from the ESAS, Laptev, Beauford, Svalbard, and Cape Fear.)

The remoteness of the Laptev and the difficulty of research there translates to a lack of off-shore boreholes, so no first-hand experimental data exists on depth of permafrost, heat conductivities and pore salinities of sediment layers below it, or local geothermal gradient.

While this situation is still governed by the heat equation (a non-linear version incorporating phase change, pg 20), great care must be taken with its internal parameters and Holocene boundary conditions (Dirichlet and Neumann). Thus the 22 pages of their discussion are entirely appropriate. We are not talking here about 19th century math (separation of variables) -- the uniform slab with lower end held hot and the other cold -- but rather model-building followed by numerical solution.

Beginning on page 16, robustness of the results is weighed relative to choices of benthic temperature, salinity, sediment layering, porosity, transgressive bathymetry dynamics, and geothermal gradient. Salinity proves important because of freezing point depression; bottom topography because surface grabens (not horsts) had non-draining melt lakes; geothermal heat flow because that can melt more from below; and bottom water temperature because a few degrees difference matters over kyr time frames.

While they make the theoretical case for permafrost barrier-breaking taliks -- and explain away earlier discrepant results (with salinity etc.) -- ultimately experimental boreholes are needed off-shore. Ironically, that might be more feasible today with summer sea ice disappearing so rapidly.

Further warming of Arctic waters is not relevant to matters discussed here, as an extra heat impulse takes too long to propagate through sediments. However on the continental slope, it could matter to exposed clathrate. Open water due to shrinking summer ice extent means stronger winds (longer reach) and bottom-churning waves. These allow hydrocarbons to equilibrate with the atmosphere faster than they are oxidized by microorganisms now. Shore waves exasperate erosion of thousands of kilometers of exposed permafrost.

This paper is about buried permafrost caps, not clathrates. Still, having just calculated about everything needed to determine the methane clathrate stability zone, they didn't. Marine transgression raises the pressure, every 9.8 meters of sea water adding an atmosphere; this raises the roof of the MCSZ but not by much -- the phase diagram is much more responsive to temperature.

The paper also does not make use of existing Laptev Sea seismic transects, mapped permafrost and trapped gas, water and air hydrocarbon transects and their isotopic analysis, gravity cores of upper sediment, bouguer gravity anomaly maps nor deeper geologic history; for that, see BGR research by Franke et al. These support geothermal shale maturation leading to hydrocarbon seepage through fractures and graben, rather than archaeal hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis. However looking at the size of the Lena delta, one has to wonder about what will become of the organic material it has deposited.

Laptev Taliks

Laptev Geology

Aaron Lewis

Something else is going on there.

Air temps along the SW coast have been warm all "fall", (47F today) with significant winds out of the east (off the ice????) and warm water shows along the coast.

A day or two of this in September would be weird, but this surpasses. Lets just assume that the water temp is from warmer deep water brought up by off-shore wind. still that is weirdly warm deep water, and it is right there in Disko Bay.

So, that leaves one little question, "Where did those warm winds come from?"

Thanks for the Natalia Shakova preprint.
Which raises one question. Can moulins form in permafrost? Why not? It is a molecular equilibrium process that should be dependent on local temperature and pressure. However, it is of interest because if water can go down, gas can come up.

Steve Bloom

A-Team, have you looked at the relevant AGU fm presentations (inc. 3 with Shakhova as co-author)? They appear to fill in some of the details you're wondering about.

Thanks so much for the great info, BTW. Out of curiosity, what's your field?

Steve Bloom

Aaron, they're not moulins as such, but ponds do form on top of permafrost and then drain away suddenly when the underlying permafrost layer melts through. This has been happening a lot lately. There's not much vertical movement of water involved, though, so none of those spectacular waterfalls.

As for gas coming up, I suppose any free gas that was trapped under the permafrost in the vicinity of one of those holes would do so easily. Possibly that's part of what the current observing campaign (CARVE) discussed here is teasing us with. Also see this new Skeptical Science article. Finally, compare and contrast all of the above with the new UNEP permafrost report.


There's not much vertical movement of water involved, though

If these melt ponds drain, there should be a lot of vertical movement as the added water now seeks to reach an equilibrium with the surrounding soil under the permafrost. If this water is warm enough, I would think that it would tend to melt the permafrost on the margins of the original pond. This should cause these areas of open water or wetlands to expand.....another feedback...just on land.

I recall reading an article about these forming in Siberia and that once formed they do expand.

Lynn Shwadchuck

Thanks, Steve, for pointing out the article on CARVE. My concerns are confirmed where the author notes that any results on methane release from permafrost won't make it into the 2013 IPCC projections, so things will look significantly less dire than they in fact are to policy makers. I should say policy foot-draggers.


Thank you Steve and A-Team for the information on permafrost melting, unfortunately, it seems that it will not be taken into account in IPCC 5 2014:


Schaefer, a researcher at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado: "thawing permafrost could account for 39 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions by 2100. Because emissions from permafrost aren’t included in current projections of future emissions, the world risks overshooting its 2-degree warming target"... although it seems that other scientists think that the 2-degree is already in the pipe line in any case...

If somebody knows about other Arctic climate change research that might not be taken into account by IPCC 2014 (apart from the modelling of the Arctic Sea Ice decrease already in the Stroeve et al research paper...), i would be very grateful to hear about it, as i am dicussing with Members of European Parliament, to flag out the discrepancy between EU climate policy and the state of climate change...and the potential discrepancy of future IPCC 2014 with actual climate change

Aaron Lewis

With increasing amounts of melt water and precipitation collecting on the surface of permafrost, the earlier calculations of permafrost melting from the bottom up would seem to be in doubt?

As water drains, it converts potential energy into heat. Depending on the amount of water draining, such heat could exceed geothermal heat flows?

This was not an issue, when the Arctic was dry, but now that it is wetter, it may need to be revisited. My expectation is that could see wide spread perforation of permafrost caps. Such loss of competence would be much faster than projected by trends in permafrost melt rates.


People don't get what global warming means.

The face of global warming....



Steve Bloom

bluesky, it will be taken into account in the sense of getting some discussion, but not as part of the model projections. The modelers would have needed the information at least two years ago to be able to include it.

Pekka Kostamo

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) has recently published a review document targeting the general public and decision makers on the permafrost issue.


Steve, that is my thinking exactly.

I've been stripping out the scientific program of the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (3-7 Dec 2012 in San Francisco). This is a real treasure trove of information -- abstracts, posters, videos, email contacts -- that tells us what will dribble out as publications during the coming year.

There are 1820 sessions, each with 8-10 talks, so an impossible amount to assimilate. Not all of the sessions are about climate change per se, much less Arctic sea ice but some 77 sessions (or 700 talks) are directly relevant.

You have drill down to find the scientific program at http://agu-fm12.abstractcentral.com. Their search tool is quite good and works better than coming in from advanced google search. I tried 'sea ice' and found 123 talks, almost all on target. Searching by author Stroeve gave 3 talks, Semilov 1, Perovich 6 and so forth. After calling up the talks you want, you can drill in further to get at the abstract and sometimes a poster.

I've had excellent outcomes contacting authors by email but it is not necessary to be an academic scientist. It works best if you can display some knowledge of their topic, ask 1-2 answerable questions, indicate that you are reviewing their work for a scientific climate change blog (ie, their work will get some exposure), make it clear from subtle choices of words like 'alarmed' that you are not a denier.

Keep it short, crisp, grammatical, on-topic -- do not launch into a long-winded nutter rant about your organic garden. These are busy folks (especially next week) who generally do feel a responsibility for educational outreach. Realistically, they cannot do endless rounds of email with random individuals; there has to be something in it for them careerwise, so be thinking of angles of use to them if you want the communication channel to remain open. (Like App4Real has done with Yurganov.)

Here is just a small sampler of 20 interesting sessions:

A31D Impacts of Arctic Sea Ice Reduction on the Arctic Environment II Posters
GC33B Links Between Rapid Arctic Change and Midlatitude Weather Patterns I Posters
OS31G Marine and Permafrost Gas Hydrate Systems I
C21D Modeling of the Cryosphere II
C21B Monitoring Changes in Polar Ice Sheets and Sea Ice Using Airborne and Satellite Remote Sensing III
A11K Radiative Processes over Sea Ice Posters
B21D Vulnerability of Permafrost Carbon to Climate Change III Posters
C43A Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice Processes and Properties III Posters
C53A Climate Change and Cryospheric Systems III Posters
GC23A Communicating Climate Science? Seeking the Best of Old and New Paradigms II Posters
PA21A Countering Denial and Manufactured Doubt of 21st Century Science II Posters
C51A CryoSat-2: Science and Validation I Posters
C43F Cryospheric Contribution to Sea Level Rise: Current Estimates and Projections I (Video On-Demand)
C53C Dust and Black Carbon in the Cryosphere II Posters
A51J Remote Sensing of CO2, CO, and CH4: Future Missions VI
C21C Remote Sensing of the Cryosphere III Posters
TH15G Scientific Drilling in the Polar Regions
C34B The Changing Cryosphere III
PP23B Evolution of the Greenland Ice Sheet Over the Cenozoic II Posters

Ac A

So as the Arctic ice goes, so is permafrost... here is one reaction to the recent UNEP report on permaforst, mentioned above:

At The Edge Of Disaster with a nice video in the link...



Thank you Steve for the distinction between the nodellers and the discussion within the IPCC AR5 2014, does it mean that in fact the potential impact of additional warming, sea level rise and other aspects from permafrost melting will not be modelled, and that we may be in the situation that we faced in 2007 comparatively with GIS and WAIS which were more or less left out in the estimation of 18-56cm SLR, now of course completely out of date. My fear is that, considering the way the data is dealt with by economists and policymakers, if SLR and warming modelling do not include permafrost impacts, they might be completely forgotten in the process of designing the policy and within the negociation. We will be back to another milder or fake version of the true story of climate change, as it has so well been flagged out by K. Anderson, Tyndall Deputy Director...

More generally, talking with the 8 MEPs of the european constituency where I vote, there is generally a real knowledge gap between the actual state of climate change (and of course the science) and what our elected representatives know. However on the positive side, a number of then seem to be willing to hear, learn, and potentially act...
We are 152 followers on this blogg probably from both sides of the Atlantic, with a considerable amount of knowledge shared thanks to Neven and some very informed and talented bloggers, if each of us start informing outside, the citizens, but also and above all our elected representatives (they obviously are going to do something only if their constituents push them to do so, and if they feel they may have a liability to do so, which is a moral responsability for the moment...), may be something will happen... although it would be useful to find a way to get in touch with Chinese and Indian bloggers...

Darren Wood


Not sure if this has been listed yet.

Sea-level rise from polar ice melt finally quantified


Interesting that SLR of 11mm in 2 decades. Given the acceleration of the loss of the sea ice up and the record warming of the GIS we could be in for some shitty winters in coastal regions everywhere in the next 30 years.

"We can now say for sure that Antarctica is losing ice and we can see how the rate of loss from Greenland is going up over the same period as well," he added.


Bluesky, yes it is important to help educate others about the dire consequences of climate change. I too find that there is a wide disparity between many other peoples' reality on this subject and what is actually likely to happen in the near future. Since the consequences of climate change seem mostly unknown or minimized in the minds of many people I know, it is important to help educate these people. I have sent a number of people to this blog to read and learn as I have done before them.
Quite frankly, my beliefs about this particular problem parallel the beliefs and opinions of those here who are closest to the idea that this problem will be catastrophic in the not to distant future. It is important that this blog continues to help educate all of us already here and to help others get the best information available so they can educate themselves.
Thanks, Neven and the others who contribute so much!

Steve Bloom

bluesky, the difficulty is the long lead time for the ARs, which is in turn a function of the time needed to coordinate a complete new cycle of all the models. As I understand it it there is now a wide recognition that this schedule has become more and more problematic, especially as the observed rate of climate change increases, so I think we can expect things to change after next year. The 2009 Copenhagen Diagnosis looks to me to be a suitable model for the future.

BTW, I think a very large number of people read this blog in addition to the official followers.

Steve Bloom

Thanks, A-Team. FYI while IANAS I've been following this stuff closely for about 10 years and so pretty much know the drill. (For example I was in touch with Mark Serreze and Julienne Stroeve in July 07 wondering when they were going to go public.) I didn't mean to imply that you might not, as you had mentioned that you're a scientist, but wanted to point to those Shakhova abstracts since they seemed to cover material that you were wondering about. My question about your specialty was just to get an idea of what expertise you might have of relevance to the discussions here.

Harvey Puca

Record number of ships traveled the northern sea route:



I would be interested in a discussion of the 2012 record Antarctic extent compared to the analysis released today and referred to above which shows a volume reduction over time. How are these explained given our current warming overall? I have seen some of the info explaining the increase in Antarctic extent (increased winds, ozone hole, etc.), but I still don’t really have a clear understanding of the extent increase in 2012. Is the ice flattening and spreading?


Hi island raider,

You presumably know the volume reduction analysis released today relates almost entirely to ice on land because sea ice volume is negligible compared to that and displaces its own weight of water.

I would also like to know if thinning of sea ice is occurring. Does being blown by stronger winds give the ice less time to thicken up? I tend to think so but I am not sure where data to back this up would come from. Icesat2 has only been launched recently and any changes observed are likely variability rather than trend.

IIUC stronger winds push sea ice away from land leaving polynas which form more sea ice rapidly because there is plenty of cold there. Further north temperatures increase reducing the ability to thicken ice and eventually starting to melt it.

Sea ice doesn't come off the land unless you are talking glaciers rather than sea ice.

Land ice and glaciers are a matter of increased movement into sea but also increased snowfall. Certainly some sea terminating glaciers are thinning by being undercut by warmer water.

I am probably just stating the obvious, what did you want to discuss?


Hi all

two things of potential interest for all, through not narrowly related to the ice per se:

another article (media, not science) suggesting a cold European winter based on an anticorrelation with hot Greenland SST, but not a serious prediction:


And, a very fresh youtube movie on a related theme, the possible fate of the thermohaline circulation (AMOC) - summary of a just concluded EU project, THOR:


groeten to all


Hi Crandles,
Thanks for the comments. I was particularly interested in the recent Antarctic (& Greenland) study b/c of the recent excitement in 'camp denial' after the record high Antarctic ice extent was announced. Is that extent record based on a combination of sea ice and land ice then? With the sea ice portion expanding/contracting and leading to the yearly change? From the recent study, though, if volume is decreasing and a significant portion of that loss is from land ice, then that would have more serious consequences for sea level rise, yes?

With some of the sea temp anomalies we have seen up in the northern hemisphere, it will be interesting to see what the melting season looks like down south. I assume there is more energy in the system down there, too?

Thanks again. & thanks also to Nevin and all the contributors to this blog. I am learning a lot and I appreciate your contributions.


Darren Wood mentions

Sea-level rise from polar ice melt finally quantified


This says

The findings are in line with the broad range of forecasts in the 2007 assessment by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Is this correct?

Steve Bloom

Sure, Geoff, although it's not saying much given the error bars and that the period under consideration is just a few years (AR4 to ~now).


Northern Alaska climate change has not been friendly to glaciers in northern Alaska either, Fork Glacier


A new article and paper have just been published documenting a 1000 year and 1500 year cycle in Arctic Oscilation and Sea Ice behavior based upon Arctic Ocean sediment core records.


Artful Dodger

A drilling rig operated by Royal Dutch Shell that had been adrift off and on in rough seas since Thursday ran aground near Kodiak Island in Alaska on Monday night, raising concerns about a possible fuel spill.



The IARC-JAXA Arctic Sea Ice Extent dipped below 12 million km2 on the last day of the year.

Looking at the published data, and making minor corrections for missing dates, here are the year by year averages:

1980s ... 11.524
1990s ... 11.147
2000s ... 10.547
2007 ... 9.977
2008 ... 10.461
2009 ... 10.442
2010 ... 10.097
2011 ... 9.994
2012 ... 9.939 million km2

Happy New Year, friends.

Artful Dodger

The Shell oil drilling rig "Kulluk" holding more than 160,000 gallons of diesel, oil, and hydraulic fluid ran aground near Kodiak Island, after breaking away while being towed during a storm, with waves up to 35 feet and wind to 70 miles per hour.



Thanks a lot, Lodger! Post is up: Shell drill spill?

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