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First thing they need to do is define what they mean -- and don't mean -- by Arctic.

For the Arctic Ocean proper, I would say it is grossly under-instrumented right now, especially relative to its role as first domino to fall in climate change.

So we see statements like this (from EUMETSAT OSI SAF):

"Due to high atmospheric Liquid Water Content and to ice surface melting, it is not possible to track ice motion during Arctic summer, from the channels we are processing. Accordingly, the NH product files distributed between May, 1st and September 30th do not contain any valid [motion] vector."

IceBridge provides a few 1D tracks whereas IceSatII will be coming too late if at all. Meanwhile the current satellite sensors cannot see down to the ice during melt season and when they do, the resolution is too low and usually have nothing by way of contemporaneous ground truthing. There's no easy answer here.

The buoy program is a joke -- 3 orders of magnitude too few, can't be sure of them to reporting reliably, no within-buoy instrumental redundancy, they aren't getting all the properties of ice we need, coupled with poor documentation of online raw data that shuts out the broader community.

We haven't done anything serious on this site with changing upwelling and downwelling radiative energy fluxes (Calypso radiometer) or Arctic cloud data -- yet those and currents are the main drivers downstream.

While daily and archival data is laudably available online, a lot of unnecessary barriers still exist to its use. Those could be quickly and cheaply addressed by listening better to the broader user community.

On a positive note, Goddard GISS has made a really excellent effort to level the playing field on these clunky closed file formats, thanks especially to Robert Schmunk there.

I installed their Panoply 3 software the other day to work with netCDF, HDF and GRIB (.nc, .nc4, .hdf, .hdf4, and .hdf5) for a regular Mac desktop. They provide Windows as well.

Panoply not only opens the files but resolves a great many issues such display image jpg degradation, map projection changes, crummy palettes, masks, kmz and video output and the like.

Wolfram's Mathematica from v6 on can also extract the array goodies and do about anything to them, but that costs something and has a substantial learning curve.

Meanwhile Gimp is going all-GEGL and to higher bit depths, which will help us immensely on data degradation, poor contrast (white on white) situations and on massive processing tasks.

Gimp 2.6.8 has a really sweet implementation of wavelet decomposition; I'll give a couple of examples shortly of how that illuminates the satellite resolution issue above.

Jai Mitchell


Laboratory investigation of a passive acoustic method for measurement of underwater gas seep ebullition

Chad A. Greenea and Preston S. Wilsona
Applied Research Laboratories, The University of Texas at Austin, P.O. Box 8029, Austin, Texas 78713-8029

Passive acoustic methods have been used in industrial applications to monitor gas production during chemical reactions and to measure sizes and spatial distributions of bubbles throughout processes such as fermentation.1,2,3 Similar methods show promise in environmental monitoring applications, such as the measurement of gas flow from underwater seeps, where the low power requirements and accurate nature of passive acoustic bubble size measurement may be used to conduct long-term monitoring of gas release.

I envision in situ probe network on the Laptev and ESAS shelfs performing continuous monitoring of sediment emissions.


Thanks a lot for that overview of suggestions, A-Team. One of the reasons I'm posting this, is because I thought you might go and make some good suggestions on that questionnaire.

I felt a bit stupid for only suggesting that we need more research on the questions how Arctic sea ice (and NH snow cover) loss are affecting the jet stream and weather patterns, how much methane venting there is now and in the future from ESAS, and when the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free for a substantial time into Fall.

I knew that technology-wise we need more buoys and other ways of monitoring ocean heat flux, and improvements in handling satellite data, but didn't have a clue as to how to describe the exact needs.


Based on the Uni Hamburgs ASIv6 AMSR2 sea ice concentration data the NW passage (southern branch) is now open.


Neven, you are so right.

The Arctic needs more remote sensing, more on-site resources.

What it needs is a billionaire! Forget politics, the arctic needs a benefactor.

Forget trying to change world opinion; all this needs is someone with the right connections to get science done.

Musk, Gates, Buffett whoever...

Your blog is going global, use this new influence...what do you think?


I'll give 'em a call, Kate. See what they say. Maybe if I can convince them that Arctic sea ice can be patented........ ;-)

Gerhard Trausner

Lithosphere beneath the ice sheet Gronland
significantly thinner than expected.



I'm heading up to Alaska next week for a look-see and thus offline ... with a month to go in melt season.

Jai, great idea to monitor the bubbles better; we need to double down on methane across the board, get ahead of the curve for once.

Opening of s nw passage can be seen on 6 Ghz too -- but look at the odd spot that's been opening up between the Pole and Nord. The melt pattern has been quite odd this year for sure.

 photo 6v15Aug_zps52bf7403.png

Gerhard Trausner

To change something, you need different people.
1) People with feeling, see what happens.
2) People with mental abilities that calculate
can, where we are heading.
3) People like Neven, the people who say that
something must be done.
4) People with ideas that say what you can do.
5) People with money who fund these ideas.

I myself am not a scientist.
I am a carpenter. I think practically.
If you want to regulate something, you should
5000 buoys and a long steel cable arrange,
shut off and the Fram Strait. That would not be as expensive as other absurd ideas. I think if you hold the ice back to the Fram Strait,
the Arctic will recover.

Gerhard Trausner


Some ideas are pretty crazy.


Kevin McKinney

"...5000 buoys and a long steel cable arrange, shut off and the Fram Strait."

Audacious--and it should help:

"The simulated southward export of sea ice in the Fram Strait constitutes a major fraction of the Arctic sea ice in these five models; 10–18% of the sea ice covered Arctic Basin is annually exported. For the same models the year-to-year variability in Fram Strait ice volume export carries 35% of the year-to-year variability in the Arctic Basin sea ice volume."


But I doubt that steel is nearly strong enough; the circulation patterns pushing ice through the Fram Strait are powerful enough to accelerate thousands of cubic kilometers of ice. My intuition thinks any conceivable steel cable would behave much like a cobweb in the face of that. (Engineering types can no doubt put numerical flesh on such conceptual bones, and confirm or disconfirm.)

And if you did come up with a suitably Herculean cable--maybe made of nanotube-based materials, such as are suggested for the still-visionary 'skyhook' or 'beanstalk' space elevator--you'd still need to find a secure way to anchor the thing to shore--though that may be a lesser challenge.

Gerhard Trausner


Of North-East Greenland to Spitzbergen

Ned Ward

Neven writes: " felt a bit stupid for only suggesting that we need more research on the questions how Arctic sea ice (and NH snow cover) loss are affecting the jet stream and weather patterns, how much methane venting there is now and in the future from ESAS, and when the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free for a substantial time into Fall. I knew that technology-wise we need more buoys and other ways of monitoring ocean heat flux, and improvements in handling satellite data, but didn't have a clue as to how to describe the exact needs."

Actually, Neven, I think your response was spot-on.

Although they do ask about technology/instrumentation/methods, the focus should be on research questions, like your first three examples. Ideally, research questions should come first, and drive decisionmaking about the infrastructure, rather than vice versa.

That's the way the funding agencies in the US want to work. If you go to NASA or NSF with a proposal to collect a lot of data and the science questions aren't the focus, it typically will get shot down by review panels. Something is more likely to get funded if the science questions are in the driver's seat.

As someone who is very much on the "observational" side of science, rather than the "modeling" side, I have seen this firsthand from both sides (the proposer, and the review panelist)...

Gerhard Trausner

A steel cable with 100 km can be very elastic. It throws back the ice.
I think 150 mm diameter should be enough. Maybe even twice. Buoys as you can
Take mesh box container. The waste industry and are stored as waste in different
Companies and farmers. They are UV-resistant


If this thread develops, perhaps one person could take it upon themselves to fill out the form with our better ideas on the 23rd August deadline.

Open journal access is a real imperative -- retention of copyright and free online provision required by funder (as is required in so many scientific fields). Climate change especially needs expedited distribution of information.

That geothermal heat flux article was submitted on 20 Dec 2012 and is just appearing now. Behind a $32 paywall. Too bad, it is quite an interesting article. Open review at Cryosphere Today is a far better paradigm.

Peer review has deteriorated over the years -- scientists are expected to publish a kazillion articles per year, so it's not in your self-interest to volunteer for thankless energy-sapping tasks. Reviewers on my last three papers were clueless ... people not qualified to edit wikipedia articles. Talking about top-ten impact journals here, backwater would be worse.

The Fram has been a mix lately of nothing being exported or stuff melting before it gets anywhere. Here is higher resolution view of that odd melt development (shown above by the purple arrow for the 6V microwave) and some other peculiar nearby features (that require 2-3 days of consecutive appearance to validate).

 photo 16AugPR89_zps5c32c9cf.png

Kevin McKinney

My most recent article colors my thinking on the research questions. I'm zeroed in on Neven's third one, the timeframe for a substantial ice-free period in the Arctic. (Though I think I might broaden it a bit, to something like, "future evolution and spatial structure of Arctic SI loss.")

Of course, the other questions are very good, as are A-team's more methodologically suggestions. A specific issue A-team mentioned that seems pretty crucial would be investigation of Arctic cloud. For instance, how much was this summer's relatively low melt conditioned by cloudiness? I suspect we're a long way from being able to really address that question thoroughly, but research has to start somewhere.

Oh, and the (mostly OT*, working from this context) article:


*(I did work in a small photo of the Kulluk rescue...)

Andy Lee Robinson

Forget about making a continuous boom across the Fram to hold in the exiting ice - the forces involved are astronomical.

After a bit more thought, hundreds of ship-sized floats with spikes to snag the ice, anchored to the sea bed with their own chains that could withstand a few thousand tonnes of strain, might be able to hold some back some of the ice for a while, until the combined force of thousands of square kilometers drifting together on the ocean overpowers them.

The alternative would be to build the longest, highest and most massive dam in history, which would dwarf a proposed project to dam the Strait of Gibraltar.

I don't have any illusions about having any success in beating nature at this particular game.

Raul Marchand

Gee, not proficient, yet it adds up to putting temp monitors on the sea floor of summer time methane plume sites. At what temps do the plumes start in the summer... The winter seems the safest time to deploy instruments. Already being done? New sites?

michael sweet

Re: opening of the North West passage.

The data from the Canadian Ice Service is the determining data used to decide if the North West passage has opened. The Queen Maude area is always the last to melt. If you go to the linked page and scroll down to see Queen Maude there is still a fair amount of ice blocking shipping. It may melt this year, but there is a lot more ice than there has been the past few years. Any small boats attempting passage are worried right now that they will have to turn back, proceed through thick ice or get frozen in. The satellite photos do not show enough detail to claim ice free NW passage.

Kevin McKinney

Opening of the NWP suffers from definitional issues, since there are multiple routes through the archipelago. The CIS--not to be confused with CSIS, the Canadian security service!--offers a solution. Their site maps it, revealing that they refer to a southern route, not the northern route, which is more direct and a deep-water route besides.


Allen W. McDonnell

If it were up to me funding would be put forward to intensively study the switch from three cell climate systems to one cell system to try and determine just how near the tipping point we really are right now.

Robert S

I agree that the major research focus should probably be on the methane emissions from both ocean and terrestrial sources in the arctic. The potential of a major positive feedback methane emission is probably the elephant in the room for now - albedo changes are big too, but we already have much better ability to monitor and model that element.


It may be difficult with shelf methane to improve on satellites + more frequent field campaigns. It is far easier to measure methane in the air column than local methane supersaturation in water.

I was going to suggest building additional icebreakers to augment interpretation of satellites -- notably our best instrument AMSR2 -- beyond what more buoys could do until I came across the USCGC Healy web site and found it takes a whole lot of resources to get very little done.

The Healy has not ventured out into the ice in 2013 and have no plans to do so.

First, BOEM engaged them to carry out fatuous oil spill containment exercises -- Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) and Government-Off-The-Shelf (GOTS) technologies -- apparently to prop up justification of the oil drillng program.

The logistics of containment based out of the nearest Coast Guard station (Kodiak, a thousand miles away) is completely unworkable ten months of the year.

Next, acoustic releases to service 5 moored buoys and installed 9 new ones, making some near-shore current and salinity measurements in the vicinity of Barrow Canyon, Admundsen Gulf and Hanna Shoal. Ok.

The final cruise towed CHIRP sonar and made shallow cores with occasional CTD stations and thermister drops, with the major cruise objective finding "geological evidence of a massive flood that came north to the Arctic via the Mackenzie River about 13,000 years ago." Fine.

We're not learning anything about the new ice situation though. Here they are -- circling over a lease within rowboat distance of Barrow, being serviced at Vigor Marine in Seattle:

 photo healy_zps5715d3ec.jpg

Eli Rabett

Be cautious about "methane" bubbles from clatherates. First of all they may only be partially methane, second considerable methane will be solvated on the way to the surface and thus turn into oceanic plant food. There are studies which show that methane and petroleum leaks in the ocean increase plant production (for example near the Deepwater Horizon blowout)


OMG SMH I can't believe it! THE most significant thing to have happened to this planet since the moon, and privatization insanity has driven people to looking for billionaire benefactors to provide the equipment to confirm indications of an Arctic Methane Pulse Runaway Feedback Tipping Point Trigger. Are we that crazy lost in our sleep walking denial trance that we've grown to fear the alarm even more then the alarming itself? Is anybody there? WAKE UP? PLEEEEZ WAKEUP !!!!!!!

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