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We have new fracturing north of Ellesmere first visible in the 0743 Ellesmere image. I will post the latest (11:05) on the Forum:


Espen Olsen

The Cracking event, as earlier reported continues from north of Ellesmere Island both in western (left) and "southern" (down) direction, soon very little fast sea ice will be left north of the CAA, and we are only into the first week of March!?!?

Chris Reynolds


"Knowledge for its own sake is sufficient."

Oh yes, it is an enjoyable challenge to put forward hypotheses for testing. But expecting these hypotheses to shift policy when experts hold alternate views is really a bit much.

Look at the difficulty with the idea of AGW itself, the human causation and attendant risks are far more strongly supported.

As for your list of actions. We're already living in the wake of a shift in atmospheric circulation post 2007, and a jump in blocking highs, with likely 'global weirding'. The world hasn't fallen apart. I seriously doubt the Arctic transitioning to a seasonally sea ice free state will require the sort of measures you outline.


At this point, would it be correct to say that all of the Arctic Sea Ice is fractured/broken up except the small area of thickest ice bordering Canada (i.e., the Navy “black” ice)?

Espen Olsen


The cracks are entering the old ice area, since on of the cracks is hitting straight into what remains of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf.

Espen Olsen


Good old Petermann will probably show up on Modis Terra tomorrow, part of it,is already seen today, it is now time to declare the winter over!


If my guess above has anything to do with reality i expect the Alaskan bays to begin melting from close to the shore outwards, same in Mackenzie bay and adjoining areas, Banks island too. Also if it makes it to Morris Jessup it will turn south hug the coast and separate the ice from the coast. Not too sure of the last might break through the archipelago instead, but give it 3-4 days.

Nightvid Cole

I still don't expect to see the ice start melting until late May in this region.

Espen Olsen

Cracks are still developing and the only parts left of open fast sea ice is just above Isachsen Island (CAA) and a small section north of Nares Strait (CAA/Greenland).
The remaining "Ice Shelfs" north of Ellesmere will soon be history, at least the names Ice Shelfs will be inappropriate, I am afraid!

Espen Olsen

Nightvid Cole,

I don't agree, the fractures and cracks are part of the melting process, since the potential melt surface increases by many times, that said, we are in the melt process already.

Conrad Schmidt

Off topic:
When does Mauna Loa release Feb. data on CO2?
When does PIOMAS release Feb. date on ice volume?
If these are out now, where are they found?

Conrad Schmidt

Off Topic:
When are Feb. CO2 data released from Mauna Loa?
When are Feb. ice volume data released from PIOMAS?
If these are already released, where can they be found?

Nightvid Cole


'melting' would mean the ice is turning into water. This is distinct from breaking into smaller pieces of ice.


I went to the meeting with Julia Slingo (Chief Scientist, Met Office) and others speaking - including a civil servant from DECC,the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. He thought that that sustainable oil and gas exploration in the Arctic was OK. He also that "climate change was the front an centre of what DECC does", "gas demand will rise", and stuff about keeping our emissions below the 2 degrees Celsius rise. His platitudes were so blatant I was laughing.

I felt much sympathy with Julia Slingo she is put in the position of defending the climate models which we all know aren't performing well in the Arctic: One speaker had actually shown that graph of the CMIP4 models Neven posted in Models are improving, but can they catch up?. I (and others)asked about this and what the Met Office thought of the extreme weather events and the Jennifer Francis view that "it's the Arctic what's done it".

She answered that the CMIP4 models were out of date to which I responded "The CMIP5 models aren't any better". (Actually they may be a bit better.) She said they had some new models that gave better results.

She painted a picture of the climate being a very complex system, hard to model. I think she said that using simple trends wasn't the right thing to do.

I'm fairly sure she said that there was no evidence that the Arctic was driving extreme weather events like the 2010 Russian fires or the Texas drought of 2011 or the high plains drought last year. At the Met Office they had related this to exceptional La Nina years in the Pacific. (She did mention a paper which suggested climate change was making the effects of La Nina worse.)

So down in Exeter at the Met Office's Hadley Centre they are not convinced by Jennifer Francis. I think that may be true in the University as well.

What really worried me is the seeming complacency of everybody that appears to be "doing their jobs" especially the DECC man and another speaker from the Foreign Office. They seemed nice people and not part of A-team's Hindenburg blimp safety committee - these people must know - but are just not getting the enormity of it all.

I spoke to two people there with military connections they seemed to get the humanitarian impacts rather better. e.g. water will get scarce, the fertile river deltas will shrink and be inundated by rising seas and people will starve. The populated area of the Nile delta has already shrunk. European navies can cope with 1000 people coming across the Mediterranean, 10,000 is difficult. 100,000 is a very big problem. Also it's not pleasant picking dead bodies out of boats filled with fleeing refugees.

Lack of water in Italy and Greece will be a problem in Europe but the really big worry is the USA. Failing empires have a tendency to seek war as a diversion so when the population of many of the states in the USA have little water ....

I must admit I'm not sure if I understood what I was told or whether I was being strung along - and I suppose this has got off topic ...

R. Gates

Uh oh, looks like a late season SSW setting up, based on a wave heading north at 10 hPa from Asia:


This will likely break up the Arctic vortex early for the season, leading to a nasty round of weather at some lower latitudes, and insure some higher pressure stays over the Arctic generally well into mid-April. Very strange times...

Chris Reynolds

Conrad Schmidt,

PIOMAS - shortly. See bottom of this page

Mauna Loa - don't know.


This breakup off the north-northeast Greenland coast can't be typical, can it?

Jim Hunt

@Geoff - I've been trying to reach you on your travels around the UK, since I'm from Exeter. Your office has my contact details and/or see your Twitter.

@Killian - Welcome!

Espen Olsen

Nightvid Cole,

Yes I know the meaning of the word melt, but since I have lived from childhood in the part the world where ice is a natural thing, I also learned that when ice break up, a melting process starts, even in the Death of Winter.
So yes I will still claim melting already started locally in the Arctic Sea


and the Jennifer Francis view that "it's the Arctic what's done it".

Speaking of which: Dr. Francis has a new paper out that discusses the Arctic's role in the 'super' part of superstorm Sandy and its path.


R. Gates, please keep us/me up-to-date wrt this SSW event. I will try and write about it this time.

John Christensen


I would need to agree with Nightvid Cole that melting implies ice turning into water, which cannot be taking place (at least at the surface) with temperatures of -25 to -35 in the area - and even colder a few days ago.

The ice is therefore being destabilized, rather than melting.

And yes, this will make melting so much easier with ice surface increasing by the cracking - also allowing the ice to flow to less safe areas during summer.

I raised the question recently if volume buildup would somehow neutralize the impact of the cracking, but it is getting too late for significant volume increase, and we could have a summer of '13 with ice cubes floating around between tourist boats and geological survey vessels..


Conrad, here's a source for the latest Mauna Loa weekly data:


As of late February, it was at 396.81, about 3 ppm above the same time last year. Presumably it will go above 397 at the next weekly reading. Levels don't hit maximum till May, so we have a good chance of hitting 400 in a couple months.


Back to sea ice--the vast network of leads and cracks we see this year is added evidence that the ice this year is not only thin but structurally weak, more or less slush.

It strikes me that slush is much more likely than structurally intact ice to spread out as widely and thinly across the surface of the water as it can--essentially like an oil slick.

Is that at least part of the reason that this year, even as total ice volume is crashing toward zero, we have one of the highest sea ice area readings in a decade?

(Apologies if this has already been covered, or is either too obvious or to bone-headed to discuss.)

Artful Dodger

I recall reading the chilling words of this poem when I was a boy:

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

William Butler Yeats, 1919
from The Second Coming.

Now many years later, I know that Yeats was not a Climate Scientist. Yet still, his poem from nearly a Century ago captures our current predicament, from the Beaufort gyre to climate denial.

Perhaps in Art there will be some small salvation for Mankind.


Typepad is making me do this in pieces ...

Below I animated the surface wind vector field over the Arctic Ocean from 01 Feb - 04 Mar 13. As Crandles observed, JAXA provides some fine overlay options for their color radar image of the day. A very good effort but for me, the resulting images are cluttered -- too much information competing for the same small space.

Since Jaxa provides better satellite resolution elsewhere (a million pixels per scene vs 490,000 at the public interface), I set out to animate rescaled wind and pressure for the month of the cracking event, despite knowing that correlation does not prove causation.

Jaxa is a ftp-friendly site, allowing downloads by the month of both images and overlays. The overlays are provided as separate alpha channels (specifying transparency) in png offset format (vertical,133 pixels). I used their excellent topography mask to simplify the underlying satellite image so as to highlight winds over the ice pack. In retrospect, the mask could better have shown 2-3 color classes of sea ice thickness without distracting from the wind vectors.


Graphical display of vector fields (eg ice motion, horizontal component of surface winds) has seen incredible advances in the last years. The latest and greatest are from Wolfram's Mathematica 7.0, examples at the link below. The main innovations are magnitude-colored streamlines replacing all those little arrows and vector field divergence or curl as underlying coloration.

The Swedish SMHI has taken this to the nth degree for the Baltic Sea -- ice concentration, level ice thickness, ridged ice thickness, ridge density, ridge sail height, ice drift, ice divergence, wind. If only they would extent their coverage to the entire Arctic Ocean! (And provide larger-than-iPhone image sizes.)

The idea here is not pretty pictures but rather layer stacks that are geospatial spreadsheet engines. For example, pressure difference -> wind -> push on ridge sails -> momentum transfer to ice pack, so your imagery should compute that directly, as a resultant image layer (ice pack motion streamlines).

Just as the symphony conductor does not play the oboe or drums, the expert human interpreter only comes in at the end when all the necessary displays have been created.




The image below shows the situation above Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere on March 6th. No region of thick ice appears immune from this fracturing event. Some of the new cracks are continuing the arc-fracturing pattern from the Beaufort but off Yelverton Bay on Ellesmere, a new system at cross-purposes with the older fracture systems, seems to be emerging.

Inspired by the fancy Piomass artwork of Anderson, I reflected an enhanced infrared ice image off an imaginary marble tabletop. While this adds no scientific value, in communicating with non-specialists or the press, we need concepts beyond the grainy monotone infrared. I also made a short mirrored blue-ice animated version but that is overwhelming visually and more problematic to disseminate.

This was feasible only because of a remarkable French web site by Pierre Rambaugh that provides free image manipulation online -- 229 operations, each with adjustable parameters. No Gimp installation, no $59 monthly Photoshop bill, no learning curve, no excuses.


 photo reflections2_zps0e90d929.jpg


P-Maker wonders if my posts come from a team!?!

Yes. At first, I used a dozen imaginary subordinates to do the grunt work. At the end of the day, they would present me with a blog post ready for my signature. I modelled this on the German university system.

Now I outsource the sea ice research itself to China, the artwork to Italy, text to England, with copy-editing and archiving in India. Russian hackers get the posts past the Typepad censor from a computer in the Phillipines. It's all very affordable.

But future posts will be entirely robotic -- the blog thread scanned to determine what is on-topic, followed by google searches of published abstracts and wikipedia treatment of keywords.

It's springtime here in Tucson -- I haven't looked at the blog in several weeks, in fact the computer sits in storage.

Chris Reynolds

Hi Geoff,

Well it went about as well as I was expecting. The Met Office use ENSO as a standard fall back when anything happens, so that's no surprise. It's worth bearing in mind that Cohen has been banging on about Eurasian snowcover for ages, it's taken a lot of papers before the Met Office recently took on board what Cohen was saying. Indeed IIRC I remember BBC Weather presenters during the 2009/10 winter blaming El Nino...

When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

Eventually they'll realise why the UK keeps having cool wet summers, then maybe they'll stop obsessing about the ENSO and realise there's a new player in town. Until then, I say leave them to their own devices.

Aaron Lewis

"Melt" is a process where the ice absorbs 333.55 kJ/kg and re-arranges it chemical bonds.

The energy can come from mechanical processes, radiation, conduction, or latent heat.

Right now it is cold and dark, but there is mechanical energy, so that is what ice is absorbing. Every fracture breaks chemical bonds and starts a cascade of changes in bond structure.

We have arrived at point where even when the Arctic is cold and dark, there is enough energy around to melt ice. This is the basis for a year-round, ice free Arctic.

We will not have year-round, sea ice free Arctic within the next 5 years, but soon.

Espen Olsen

First Modis image of Petermann this season:


Klon Jay

It looks as though cracks are a little more visible now above Ellesmere I.
from here: http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/lincoln.uk.php


Not all the cracks are caused by the same mechanisms, those which follow the cotidal lines in direction http://eh2r.blogspot.ca/ are most likely caused by EKE and opened due to bottom melt, they are fed by an ongoing supply of energy and thus stay open and widen. Others that get the same energetic input are where a change in ice thickness occur, plus any incidental cracks that open and coincidently appear to follow [more or less] the cotidal contours, having thus created their own impedance. I expect those cracks closer to perpendicular to the above to be short lived given the conditions above the ice.
The melt I anticipate is also going to arrive from below [if my guess is correct]but must first force the water in situ out , in the case of Mackenzie bay that means sqeezing it out laterally to either side of banks island before the process can properly get underway. So I expect Banks island to show melt first.
If prevailing conditions change a rapid freeze over will, of course, occur.


"Turning and turning in the widening gyre"

Thanks, Lodger, for posting that very appropriate Yeats Poem. You write that Yeats was not a climate scientist and end expressing a little hope for salvation through the arts.

Couldn't agree more. You know, I thought about posting a reply on 'monkey wrenching', mentioning John Ruskin (the Victorian art-critic and writer). Ruskin inspired Yeats and in his work one can read an early warning against pollution and climate change.
Re-integrating art and science could also spur concern in broader public for the State of our Planet.

Thanks for encouraging me to post on the Forum. I'll try to be 'to-the-point'...


Typepad break coming:

I took a close look at the Bering Strait area today. It is inconveniently located on the extreme edge of the infrared imagery and often shrouded in 'black' clouds over 'black' (warm) ice, to the point that only a few floes are visible beyond Cape Barrow (see beaufort.130306.1906.4.png at the Canadian site). What on earth is going on down there -- could melt season already have started?

Ascat grayscale radar can see through the clouds without edge distortion but has only slightly better linear resolution than Jaxa color (114%) -- the measured pixel ratios for Jaxa:Ascat:Arctic_Composite:Beaufort/Ellesmere are 1 to 1.14 to 2.99 to 8.09 (explaining why cracks show up so much better in Beaufort/Ellesmere imagery).

Going by the histograms, Ascat makes better intrinsic use of its color space than the color radar. However grayscale is merely the diagonal in the 255x255x255 color cube of Jaxa. So Jaxa is more promising for the Bering Strait even though the ice pack exhibits only slight contrast variations in its blueish white upon download.

In ordinary land color photographs, the blue and green channels are so tightly correlated that the blue can be tossed with little effect on image quality. In instruments with dozens of channels like Modis, principle component analyis is typically used to find the three best recombinant axes in color space to minimize correlation (aka maximize information).

I have no idea yet on channel cross-correlation in Jaxa nor what other channels (after rotation and rescaling) should be added to for optimum 3-channel PCA output. I would start here by adding Ascat and the 89 Ghz polarization ratio channels, plus (later in the season) visible red and near-infrared from Modis. This could hugely improve our structural understanding of Arctic sea ice at no expense or delay...


For now, I masked Jaxa to the Bering Strait region and inflated its color sub-space utilization out to the walls of the color cube. Supposing the initial occupancy were described by some off-axis ellipsoid, that could be made center-spherical by a rational process starting from something very like a moment of inertia. However because of monitor display properties and peak green sensitivity of the human eye, Gimp will find empirically a more effective bottom line.

It turns out that Jaxa color radar -- despite the washed-out initial ice pack -- carries tremendous detail on ice pack sub-structure. While we have no idea what this amounts to physically, it doesn't matter -- the imagery below is self-explanatory.

 photo BeringStraits_zpsfe5c8cc4.jpg


The date on that Jaxa-ISIJ imagery above is 06 March 2013, 36H 36V 18H for the red-blue-green channels. Below is the unretouched starting image (415 pixel width vs 1000 in original):

 photo jaxaStart2_zpsbea02dc5.png


All time sea level pressure was 1083 mb, top of Greenland reached 1073 mb , less than 1% short. There something we are missing, in particular, open water gives adiabatic profiles, theoretically encouraging the formation or maintenance of Cyclones. Current unusual circumstances of very strong Anticyclones in the Arctic gives ponder, for sure they are made more intense by the adjoining constantly renewed presence of Cyclones. But I think there is something else at play, just what evades.

The winds at the North Pole show just how fragile the sea ice is in the Spitsbergen quadrant. http://eh2r.blogspot.ca/

Chris Reynolds

ASCAT, blink test between 5 and 6 March shows that the bulk movement of the pack is continuing.


ECMWF has 4 more days of this, but less intense at a max of 1040 hPa.

What I would like to see, is a high in the vicinity of Novaya Zemlya, just to test how retreatable the ice is over there.


One aspect, which has so far been missing in this thread, is the phenomenon called “frost cracking”.

According to my old textbook on the subject (AL Washburn, 1979; Geocryology): “Pure ice has a coefficient of linear contraction of about 45x10E-6 per degree C at -40 degree C, increasing somewhat towards 0 degree C , … If the ice has a salt content, the coefficient also varies with the salinity.” It is also stated, that “… frost cracking is more dependent on the rate of temperature drop than on the actual subfreezing temperature at time of cracking.”

Just to recap some of the key points stated about this year’s cracking event: I notice extensive cover of first year sea ice with a high salt content, high air pressure build up over the Arctic, clear skies, calm winds and temperatures dropping to – 50 degrees C in some places. All these factors may have facilitated frost cracking on a scale rarely seen anywhere on this Earth before.


A-Team, your animation and by extension the Arctic Sea Ice Blog got a mention in the latest NSIDC monthly report. That's a first, I believe. :-)


I took in all this info on the cracks. Impressive as it is to see so much on sea ice quality during winter, I don't think it is decisive in itself. In my opinion, the anomalous cracking is a consequence of weak ice and changing weather patterns (not just over the Arctic, but global).

Following R.Gates' post on a new SSW event, look at the ECMWF 500Mb prognosis below.

 photo ECMWFprogfor140307032013klein_zps16f67bc9.jpg

The vortex early 'annihilated', cold pressed out once more over FI Europe.

The end of the freeze season in the Arctic is nearing fast. First stages, looking at the prognosis: Labrador Sea, Baffin Bay, Chukchi Sea.


BTW, this somehow looks like an interesting detail on MODIS today.
 photo MODISOstrovBennetta06032013klein_zps58fc0737.jpg
It is Ostrov Bennetta, 130 km north of the New Siberian Islands, in the dipole stream and crack-web.
There's a lot of humidity, illustrated by the leeward condensation, and a wave-like repetition to the west.


Geoff & Chris

Julia seems to be on a steep learning curve these days and all your hammering must have made her crack and formulate this:

"Changes in sea surface temperatures due to natural cycles and reducing amounts of Arctic sea-ice could be influencing the increase in rainfall, but more research needs to be done before anyone can establish how big a role they play."

c.f. News mail from the Met Office today


NSIDC has the February post out. All the good work on the blog doesn't go unnoticed!
ASI is mentioned under their 'crack' - alinea.


Wet ther that looks like a beautiful example of a Von Karmann vortex street, well spotted!



Very nice image, Werther. Beautiful.

Jim Hunt

According to The New Scientist "Anger is constructive"




"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

Ac A

Recent climate central blog states:

However, other scientists working in this field say there have not been statistically significant increases in blocking patterns detected, and it's an area of active research.

I have commented there with a link to Chris Reynolds work on this subject...


Jim Hunt

New Scientist have finally got back to me:

"We are passionate about our excellent, continuing coverage of climate change. We frequently cover the state of the arctic sea ice and we will no doubt continue to do so."

"I’m sorry, but it’s not possible to discuss the editorial with the senior editorial team that act as authors. You are very welcome to open discussions via the comments section on the article, which I see you have done, or write to the magazine if you wish your letter to be considered for publication. However, the senior editors are not available to discuss editorials with readers. I’m sorry if this isn’t the response you seek."

R. Gates

Following up on Werther's comment's and my my analysis of a new SSW event coming in the next week or so, the latest 10 hPa temperature map shows the thermal wave coming north from Asia has reached about 80N:


We don't really start seeing the temperature, pressure, and wind effects in the stratosphere right over the pole (which are obviously what breaks up the vortex) until the wave reaches 90N. Sometimes these waves merely offset the vortex, but this late in the winter, and with the vortex already so weakened by the earlier SSW, the vortex looks to be toast by the middle of next weak. For all practical purposes, spring will have arrived to the Arctic.

Jim Hunt

R. Gates - Thanks for the SSW update. I hope you don't mind, but I've updated the New Scientist on the situation.

I'm not sure that they're listening however.

Kevin McKinney

R. Gates, that's a stunning loop.

R. Gates

Kevin McKinney,

You're right, these thermal waves travelling at mid to high stratospheric levels, precursors to SSW's, are among the most amazing (and not well known) phenomenon out there. What is even more remarkable is of the course the effect once the wave reaches the N. Pole and begins its downwelling phase, causing temperatures and pressures to rise in the statosphere rapidly, and winds to shift, thereby either greatly displacing or completely shattering the Arctic vortex. These late season SSW's of course have implications for the progress of the melt season ahead.


A-Team, congrats on inclusion in the NSIDC report, you hsve added much to our understanding of the events.

ASI Blog and Forum and Neven, the whole blog deserves honorable mention by what is produced here.

To document the Arctic ice fragmentation in the last month, I posted on the forum, two images approximately a month apart to demonstrate the change.


John Christensen

Frost cracking:

I noticed the comment from P-maker on frost cracking and agree that in principle the persistent strong freeze should cause a stress to the surface of the ice, potentially causing cracks to develop as the surface contracts.

The question: Is the current cold that unusual, or is it the combination of thin ice and strong freeze that is creating unusual cracking of the ice (combined with other factors as wind and current)?



if you take a look at this diagram:


you will notice an Arctic-wide temperature drop of about 10 K from day 40 to day 50.

More refined time series from actual stations in the Arctic may add some more detail, but I think the overall picture is quite clear.


Still plugging along here trying to get the basics under control ...

To make the animations below comparable -- which show the last 30 days of ice condition and movement in and out the Bering Strait according to Jaxa-IJIS color radar and Ascat scatterometer -- I needed to fix file format errors, watch out for png offsets, verify that the north pole was at the exact center, rotate all the source imagery to the same orientation and rescale to the same size.

For most purposes, it is best to take 45W as central meridian because this orients Greenland favorably and most imagery comes this way already or only needs a rotation of a 90 degree multiple -- which has does not degrade image quality like an arbitrary rotation.

Here however I took Ascat radar as reference image because it was the higher resolution. The archive mistakenly stores this as gif (indexed color) when it is inherently grayscale but better stored as RGB png. Pixel-perfect alignment with Jaxa-IJIS color radar requires a 135 degree clockwise rotation, followed by a 117.87% size increase.

On how best to rescale ice satellite imagery, we could have a separate forum on the interpolation merits of bicubic splines vs sinc (aka Lanczos3, pronounced “lanzosh”), whether the optimal procedure varies with upscaling vs downscaling, the source image type (eg visible vs infrared vs radar), or number and covariance of its channels.

On snooze control, most people go with bicubic for downscaling, sinc for upscaling. Note the sinc function, sinc(x)= sin(πx)/πx in 1D, has much deeper roots in digital signal processing and information theory, being the fourier transform of the rectangular step function and so closely related to the dirac delta distribution. Myself, I want to see not pleasing output but something that actually ground-truths out better vis-a-vis higher resolution data.


Re: Nevin and scientists.

Nevin is not subject to the sensitivities of the people he works with, he is free to say it how he sees it. Nevin does not have a reputation to protect (probably not true anymore) again freeing him to say it how he sees it.

To those actual scientists who comment here thank you too. Correcting our misunderstandings is valuable. Proviing those details is valuable.

The combination of very knowledgeable amatures and scientists makes this a come to site for up to the minute information on the ice. Thank you Nevin, thank you all.

Shared Humanity

Het what about amateurs who don't have a clue? I'm a proud member.

R Gates...What causes these thermal waves? It's as if the Hadley Cell is punching through (or over) the Ferrel Cell, flowing into the Polar Cell.


Some observations comparing ASCAT 16 Feb to 7 Mar 2013 (in CAD).

The gyre has rotated ice on the rim of September ’12 remaining consistent pack 10 km a day in the last 18 days. FI the goats’ horn ( a remnant of the Laptev Bite incursion) just south of the Pole moved 180 km to Fram Strait.

The area of this consistent pack is still getting smaller, even in winter time (it is now less than 1,8 Mkm2). Part of it has moved about 60 km into the Beaufort Sea, in line with the broad rifts near Pr.Patrick Island. This part, which looked solid in ’12, has joined the Beaufort FYI in cracking. As the area involved is about 0,6Mkm2, it looks like what is left of last years safe-haven will enter the new melt season with just 1,2 Mkm2 pressed against Ellesmere.
Another peculiar feature can be traced in the north central part of Greenland. Whereas ’12 showed 750K of darker area (probably polar desert; ASCAT senses reflection/humidity), it is now less dark and covers only 420K. Could it reveal more fresh snow over there?

Artful Dodger

Hi A-Team,

Appreciate you efforts to tease information out of the available, published imagery. But wouldn't it be better to work with L2 data from AMSR-2 or other sat srcs? Wouldn't this let you avoid some of the limits you're bumping right now?

There is an FTP site for this data...


Forgot to mention this 'safe-haven', according to ASCAT greyscale, was about 3Mkm2 this time last year. It had a broad arm running to Wrangel Island and a smaller one parallel to the North Slope passing Barrow.
The section from the Pole into Fram was about 200 km wider.
Could mean what's leaving through Fram now is half FYI.


To top off before some rest...MODIS is coming in fine now, showing the cracks on r04c03 northwest of Pr.Patrick Island. Impressive, a grand scale puzzle within leads up to 15 km wide. It seems to halt with the largest lead right where last years' consistent mesh-pattern pack remains.
I got back to same date 2010 and saw an intricate, but much more delicate crack-pattern. This year, it looks like a brutally broken mirror...

R. Gates

Shared Humanity wrote:

What causes these thermal waves? It's as if the Hadley Cell is punching through (or over) the Ferrel Cell, flowing into the Polar Cell.

That not a bad general visual, but the origin of these thermal waves is very longitudinal specific within a range, whereas Hadley cells are latitudinal specific within a range, so it is best to think of them as vertically directed Rossby waves, or, as one researcher recently put it, "jetstream gone vertical". Not to get too technical, but there is a huge amount of what is called Omega (Vertical Velocity) going on in certain regions of Asia. It is literally almost like the jet stream going vertical. Under the right conditions, when this vertical flow spans across the entire troposphere in a very narrow region, this "stream" of warm air punches right up into the stratosphere where it spreads out and becomes a bubble. See this video again and you can watch the bubble of warm air form:


So from the point of origin, the expanding warm air mass it is carried at elevations of 10 hPa and higher to the north and east as it spreads out even more from the point of origin. Of course, what goes up, must come down, and that bubble of warm air then descends high in the stratosphere over the Arctic, where temperatures shoot up rapidly, presures rise, and often, as will likely be the case in the coming days, the Arctic vortex is shattered. This shattering of the vortex allows cold air to spill out of the Arctic to lower latitudes.

So amaziingly, what started as this verticaly directed large stream of warm air beginning in south central Asia leads to SSW events over the Arctic and weather havoc over other points further south.


Might it be said that an SSW is analogous to the knight jumping over the pawn chain (troposphere front) in chess? It's normal on some occasions and on some occasions it's undermining the structure itself. Isn't there an SSW every spring anyway?

Robert Fanney

In response to some of the comments up-thread regarding the inaccuracy of climate models...

1. A model is only as good as the assumptions that get plugged into the model.
2. Models generally do better with linear mechanisms. If there are multiple amplifying mechanisms, models tend to become very complex.
3. No-one seems to want to deal rationally with the over-all risk posed by climate change. The problem is large, fast approaching, and denial inducing even to those who are well aware of the problem.

I think all these factors combine to make the models conservative, to make scientific prediction conservative, and to create a dialogue intended to reduce alarmism.

There is a big problem with this approach. In understating the problem in order not to cause conflict and disruption, we beg far worse consequences down the road.

For my part, I believe that Wadhams is far more accurate than any model. I believe that trends analysis will end up being far more accurate than any model. The exponential curve you throw up now and then will likely be a better predictor than the current models.

The reason? Human psychology is driving those models more than observation. If this wasn't the case, the very basis for these models would have included paleo climate facts like 400 ppm CO2 eventually melts all of Greenland and West Antarctica. And that same amount ends up resulting in 3-4 degrees C of warming long-term. They would take into account the amplifying feedbacks in the environment and look at an end state once those feedbacks come into play. Keeping those feedbacks and the basis of facts provided to us by paleoclimate out of the models is begging for an inaccurate result. Period. And until they can model these variables, then we aren't going to see any near allegory of reality in the models.

Lastly, my background is emerging threats. I'm not a scientist or a modeler or any such researcher. But I can do a pretty good threat analysis. Threat analysis is not about what you can prove. Instead, it is a forecast. Something that gives a decent probability of a risk becoming a reality. And from an emerging threats perspective, we are in a period of very high risk that all summer sea ice is gone by 2020. You could have made the same statement about the risk of a market collapse in 2005 and the risk of a major terrorist attack in 2000.

I would say my confidence for a complete melt by end of 2013 is low (10%). However, if this melt season begins with a vengeance and continued fragility is apparent, that risk confidence may well rise.

Risk, in my view, then follows a rising scale from 2014 (25-30%), to 2015 (40%), to 2016 (60%) all ramping up to a very high risk for no summer sea ice by 2020.

Again, this is a risk assessment based on trends analysis. A set of trends all the experts here are very well aware of. Unfortunately, the onus for scientists is that they be absolutely certain. And it is for this reason that they do not want to make extraordinary claims about the potential for extraordinary events. In this case, the rigorous process of hypothesis will likely be proven after the fact.

Meanwhile, we enter a high-risk period for total melt and the world seems to be leaning on the conservatism of such models for comfort. And, for me, this is not at all comforting.




Shared Humanity

My contribution to models.....

All models are wrong. Some models are useful.

Susan Anderson

Thank you all for your superb work. I mostly don't say much because I don't know enough to contribute, but cannot help noticing a correspondence between this and atmospheric circulation as represented by water vapor animations. We've had a whole lot of verticals going almost directly from the equator to the pole this winter, and there's a huge one right now. In addition, there have been a lot of stuck storms in the North Atlantic that affect Greenland etc. After five years of viewing this almost daily (h/t Tenney Naumer) I would remark that this south to north used to be unusual and is now normal, and our experienced meteorologist friend confirms this.


(my html not up to posting this but it's rather spectacular at the moment; usually I used the Rutgers one with the hole in the North Pole)

Also, in my amateur commentary at DotEarth where I am a fixture, I've had occasion to reference this site, and apologize in advance for any trolls that may try to move in. Please don't hesitate to keep the discussion on topic, which is what we all admire and want so much, we lurkers.l

Kevin McKinney

A couple of questions come to mind about the described SSWs and associated near-polar downwellings.

1) Is catabatic warming of the downwelling air mass a significant part of the process?

2) Can some similar or analogous process operate 'in reverse,' cooling high latitudes? I'm wondering about the rapid cooling north of 80 seen in recent DMI reanalysis temperature reconstructions, and mentioned above. If not, then do we know what can drive such downward 'spikes?'

Chris Reynolds

Indications that a new poleward fissure may be opening in the MYI off the CAA.



Off topic - Neven can we have an open thread for March?

Hot earth article

Australian weather records an incredible find


Hi Kate,

There's a big and permanent Open Thread called the Arctic Sea Ice Forum (ignore the security warning, it's actually safer because of the https instead of the regular, most hackable http).

R. Gates

Kevin M.,

The warming over the Arctic stratosphere in an SSW is similar to a compressive, downwelling leg of a Hadley cell, except in this case the "cell" spans many thousands of miles, and (as described in a previous post) is more like a vertical stream flowing into the stratosphere from lower latitudes, up and over the troposphere and than back down at the pole from gravity. The extreme temperature increase in the stratosphere over the pole is due not just due to the compression, but due to the fact that the air starts out so warm to begin with.

Following a SSW warming spike in the stratosphere, there is always a more broad "recoil" event where there is a period of cooling in the stratosphere, as seen quite clearly immediately after this year's early Janauary event:


And incidentally, at the very right corner of this chart, you can now just start to see the beginnings of the next SSW event in the upper stratosphere, set to blossom in full in the next few days as the winter vortex looks to be shattered for good and spring circulation patterns begin to set in over the Arctic.

R. Gates

Sorry, upper right corner of this chart:


You can just start to see the beginnings of the next SSW event begin to show up in the upper stratosphere. The thermal wave that has been moving north from Asia for the past week or so is getting very close to begin it's compressive descent over the pole:


Which will lead to higher pressures and interesting effects on the sea ice cracking, the vortex, winds, and so forth.


This may be premature for the reasons already noted in the blog, but across all of the measures of ice extent and area, it appears that we may have passed maximum and entered the melt season.

Woo hoo. Here we go.


@ Neil T, re Gavin's remark on CMIP5 models.

According to the papers on CMIP5 models that came out last year, CMIP5 models were only very marginally better than CMIP3 models wrt to sea ice projections.

That is to say, they were no good.


Concerning what has more influence on the sea ice breaking up, it seems that the ice is now so thin that tides, winds, currents, etc., will all have large effects.

Recall that the 2011 tsunami was able to crack off immensely-thick, floating ice tongues at Antarctica.

Vast expanses of the Arctic sea ice were displaying concentric waves in their structure -- I'll try to post up some examples.

Note also that there was the type of breakup along northern Alaska that reached to the end of the eastern Beaufort (usually seen in March), back in mid December!

Recall also that the water under the sea ice is warmer than ever before, and that the eastern portion of the Northwest Passage has not frozen up properly even now.

About the only place where the ice has seen real growth in thickness is north of Greenland.

But even though temperatures have seen -50 F, this ice can work as insulation while the warmer sea water beneath continues to eat away at the multi-year ice (the bits that are left).


Spouse returning from a week in Georgia visiting relatives ... my productivity is about to plummet. Several days behind in reading fellow bloggers. Unseasonal lightening strikes took out our rural electric as well as satellite connection to the internet this morning. Not so bad really -- if this is the end of civilization, bring it on.

I did manage to set a couple more bricks in the wall ... the animation below shows an application of the Jaxa mask to Ascat imagery. Fitting the mask to scatterometer imagery takes a 135 degree CW rotation and a 111.53% scale bump.

The mask is set up so only waters connected to the Arctic Ocean show satellite imagery. This brings out the Fram, Nares and Bering straits from potentially distracting background changes in adjacent land.

A secondary mask, the Great Spirit Bear gazing out at the changing Arctic as the Brooks Range image flickers underneath the transparency she determines, was supposed to be a marriage of art and science. But it soon ended in a divorce as the bear looked down at Prudhoe Bay instead of the ice and the Ascat images shining through were not variable enough to make the point.

Watching the latest bulk movement of the ice and considering angular momentum (wind or no wind), it might have been feasible to predict the continuing eastward arc-fracturing we see resumed today. 2.5º of longitude is a big deal after the multi-day stall at 120º W... see continuation


I am pursuing another angle however, namely the rigidity of the goat's head thick-ice feature in the central Arctic. That formation is easily recognizable back to mid-Sept 2012. We see the CAA ice sloshing back and forth, it must be rubber-sheeting when not worked up to outright fracturing.

Yet the goat's head area is not -- it is in a rigid, non-deforming area of the ice in the central Arctic Ocean. So where is the boundary between rubber and rigid sheet, is that due to ice strength or just location, what will be the effect of the current rupturing event, will the goat's head region become isolated and then melt as it becomes surrounded by less ice-friendly waters?

Chris Reynolds

A Team,

Can't recall if I've posted this image here...

Over at the forum I posted this images:

Which is based on the difference between 19 February and 5 March. The dotted areas are regions with no movement over that period, the arrows connect common features that have moved between 19/2 and 5/3.

Espen has said he thinks the most poleward fracture off Prince Patrick Island will be followed by other fractures poleward of that eating into the MYI that hasn't moved between 19/2 and 5/3. There is some light fracturing now running parallel to that fracture.

PS your land mask seems to have a problem in Fram around Svalbard.

Steve Bloom

After a moment of cognitive dissonance, I resolved things by deciding it must be Atlantis. A bit far north, yes, but nothing continental drift couldn't have handled. Notice how that also accounts for all the CO2 that we know could only have come from the ocean. Epistemology is now closed, thank you.

Steve Bloom

Fantastic work, A-Team, thanks so much.

Various questions and thoughts:

What's the period of that animation?

Has any previous season exhibited similar behavior this time of year?

To my inexpert eyes that stall was related to wind direction.

Re the goat's head (again inexpert eyes), it looks to me like its apparent lack of deformation is mainly due to it being near the center of rotation. Notice that there's a little bit of deformation in the first part of the animation when it's nearer Siberia. In any case, it doesn't seem likely to be long for the world.

Also, does anyone know what the actual rotation period of the gyre is? Assuming it's significantly faster than the current ice rotation and the MYI mass acts as a blockage, could we see an acceleration of ice speed as the pack breaks up further? Has anyone heard of that being measured in previous melt seasons?

And now for the fun part:

Some Christians would no doubt interpret that shape within a Satanic frame. Should we tell them? (Only half-kidding, any publicity being good publicity in this context.)

Oh wait! Even better, Colbert! He actually has a devil shtick, and of course does cover global warming frequently. Thoughts on that? (Completely not kidding this time.) Could the site handle the traffic if it got plugged?



While personally having deep respect for the apocalyptic, I would strongly urge you not to call attention to the "goat's head."

Some-numerous individuals would end up commenting here and that would dilute the scientific nature of the board -- adding an element of theological speculation, which I appreciate, but not at this venue.

Thanks for resisting the urge!


A-team, Chris, and R Gates,

Thanks for the terrific posting of trends and global/Arctic impacts.

We are indebted to you for your work!

Steven Callaghan

First post from constant lurker,I have to add my thanks,to you all(esp A-Team for the robot post comment,beautiful it was!)for excellent posts,the coming climate chaos reminds me of the music to a certain movie-its a Shark playing a cello and its getting closer and closer,regards and humble thanks from ecosse


Steve Bloom:

"Some Christians would no doubt interpret that shape within a Satanic frame. Should we tell them? (Only half-kidding, any publicity being good publicity in this context.)"

lol Steve!


"Some-numerous individuals would end up commenting here and that would dilute the scientific nature of the board"

Come now Apocalypse, just a little bit of fun. ;-)

Espen Olsen

Music wise the melting season used to be like Ravel´s Bolero, but now a days it is more rock like Guns N' Roses - Paradise City.

Espen Olsen

Watching the latest images from the Crime scene: N
New cracks are now developing north of Nares and Ellesmere Island, and east bound we see new cracks from the "Beaufort Fast Ice Edge", we may soon have reduced the red dotted pyramid by half in height.

Ghoti Of Lod

The buoy movement in the last 10 days along the Alaska coast has been nothing short of spectacular!


Jim Hunt

Hi Espen,

Are you by any chance located anywhere near Oslo? I've been trying to make sense of the ID in your profile, but failed miserably thus far!

I'm heading to Norway tomorrow, and if there's any chance we might meet up please let me know via the contact form accessible through my own profile.



Espen Olsen

Hi Jim,

Oslo is only my place of birth, but nowadays I am located in Copenhagen. Anytime you head for CPH you are welcome to contact me.



R. Gates

SSW progress update. The graph below shows the 10hPa region over Asia from Dec. 2012 to Mar. 7, 2013.


A couple of things of interest: We clearly see the thermal wave that headed north in late December and caused the SSW event around Jan. 6th. Then we see the latest wave headed north beginning in about mid-February but then it stalled out in the last few days. This mass of warmer air is still sitting at 10 hPa over Asia, but it is not progressing any further north.

Kevin McKinney

R. Gates, thanks for the response. FWIW, I wasn't thinking the catabatic bit was the main driver of the warmth, just that it contributed some heat. Sounds from your response that that was about right.


Jim Hunt

Hi Espen,

As luck would have it I'll be in CPH tomorrow, changing flights on my way to OSL! The changeover on the way back to the UK is a bit tight however. At the risk of sounding impertinent, might I perhaps give you a call if I miss my connection on Wedenesday evening?



Espen Olsen

Hi Jim,

You can reach ecovery at hotmail.com, you are always welcome!

Chris Reynolds


Looks like you may be correct about further cracking into the MYI region, although it's too early to say how it will turn out. So I'm not saying I'm wrong yet. ;)

Here's an animated gif of Environment Canada IR images, 3 to 9 March.


Predicting the end stages of multi-year ice requires understanding constraints on its seasonal net movement (if any) away from sources into sinks. The discussion so far -- pressure, wind, tides, buoyancy, currents, eddies, turbulent mixing, salinity, temperature, inflows, outflows, equipotential geoid, Coriolis, Ekmann etc -- is the gravitational force acting in the context of a non-inertial frame, incompressible fluids, rigid bodies, ideal gases and phase change thermodynamics within the bathymetric constraints of the Arctic.

A fine start but it does not address brittle fracture or distinguish rigid from plastic deformations. These are ultimately issues in the chemistry and materials science -- and unfortunately major determinatives for multi-year ice movement.

The goat's head feature qualifies as a fairly rigid plate (top figure below). It differs from a frozen-in buoy in that translations can be disentangled from rotations. Thus it's a favorable place to start, even though it's long been attached to rapidly deforming and fracturing ice.

With the Gimp/PS measure tool, it's easy to get accurate distances to the pole (in pixels) from a recognizable internal fixed point, as well as the angle of that geodesic (ie, a lat/long grid need not be served on top of imagery.) The goat's head feature also has enough well-separated fixed points to define a body axis (inclination when parallel-transported to the north pole).

As the goat's head moves over the seasons, this 3-tuple plots as a squiggle track on polar graph paper but with a block rotation too. Since the ice is confined to the surface of the sea, we can describe its motion (the wheres, not the whys) with the inhomogeneous rotation group ISO(3). The whys follow from the second time derivative (not gonna accelerate without an applied force, rotate without an applied torque) ... Typepad break ...

Below I animated its motion (local and across-ocean) in the central Arctic from 15 Aug 12 to 07 Mar 13 (204 days) using color radar since the Jaxa-IJIS instrument provides the best internal probe of multi-year ice structure.

As you can see, the goat's head survived a near-death experience this summer (August adjacency to open water), and retained its shape despite astonishing ice sheet fluidity, only to reach an extreme polar position today after an earlier 45 CW rotation, (the former related to the eastern CAA being squeezed out the Fram while the western part is pivoting clockwise). A teeny white pixel in the variable satellite dark zone provides the pole.

 photo 135DayComps396_zps5c4eef65.gif

Espen Olsen


It is not a question who is right or wrong, we are just plain observers. And I am happy that I do not have to transfer that information into some official report!

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