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Neven, thanks!

Again you have done a splendid job summarizing this precarious situation.

This morning on the train to work, I couldn't help write a little poem about it (in Danish unfortunately):

Et lille lavtryk Beaufort
fik al opmærksomhed i år
fordi der blæst’ en vældig vind
og dønninger på kysten ind.

På vejen knak de sidste flager
som var de sprøde kager.
Nu Banker Barrow blot i brændingen,
Mens jeg tydeligt mærker spændingen.


Thanks, P-maker. My Danish isn't up to par, but the poem seems to rhyme well. :-)


Neven, we are never too old to learn. Here is a quick and dirty translation (no attempt at rhyming):

A small low in Beaufort
got all attention this year,
’cause strong winds blew
swells towards the coast.

On their way, they broke remaining floes,
as if they were just fragile cakes.
Now Barrow is battered,
and I’m anxious/excited.


@P-maker, I hope you won't mind me taking the liberty of building on your poem. :-)


A smallish low in the sea of Beaufort
Created strong winds and sent an onslaught
Of swells towards a township in fear.

It got all our attention this year.

On their way, the swells broke multi-year floes,
as if they were icicle fingers and toes,
Then battered the coastline of Barrow-IN-Sea.

We are excited yet anxious at how they will be.

Q. The people or the floes?
A. Both! :-D

John Christensen

Great entry on the storm and obliteration of the MYI arm Neven!

Just one note on your conclusion:

"The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas proved to be yet again the multi-year ice graveyard instead of the transit they used to be when older ice would make a round-trip around the Arctic.."

Cryosphere SIA data for Chuckchi shows that the SIA at minimum was less than 50kkm2 in:
1979, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1993, and then pretty much since 1996.

Beaufort was around or less than 100kkm2 in:
1979, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1989, 1993, 1995, and then largely since 1997.

It would therefore seem reasonable to conclude that these seas have melted out lots of MYI also back in the 1980s and 1990s, just that the chance of the MYI melting out in summer if present in the Beaufort or Chuckchi has increased to nearly full certainty from what was previously quite likely.

Pete Williamson

"where the flash melting during the past 2 days on the Pacific side of the Arctic is apparent"

Your animation seems to show compaction of the ice as the concentration seems to go up. Labelling it as only melting seems a bit off.

Jim Hunt

Here's my own take on this story, with added information on wave/swell height/period and water temperatures:

Barrow Battered By Big Waves

I'm an alliteration addict!

The temperature of the sea water on August 26th 2015 at 77.56 N, 163.86 W was somewhere in the vicinity of -0.7 °C.


It would therefore seem reasonable to conclude that these seas have melted out lots of MYI also back in the 1980s and 1990s, just that the chance of the MYI melting out in summer if present in the Beaufort or Chuckchi has increased to nearly full certainty from what was previously quite likely.

Maybe I should've said the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and part of the Central Arctic Basin adjacent to them, to not confine myself to regional borders.

What I was trying to get at, is this (the video is a great visual explanation):

As the animation shows, Arctic sea ice doesn't hold still; it moves continually. East of Greenland, the Fram Strait is an exit ramp for ice out of the Arctic Ocean. Ice loss through the Fram Strait used to be offset by ice growth in the Beaufort Gyre, northeast of Alaska. There, perennial ice could persist for years, drifting around and around the basin’s large, looping current.

Around the start of the 21st century, however, the Beaufort Gyre became less friendly to perennial ice. Warmer waters made it less likely that ice would survive its passage through the southernmost part of the gyre. Starting around 2008, the very oldest ice shrank to a narrow band along the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

The zone that used to be a transit for thick, old ice that would return back to its starting point (north of Greenland/CAA) is now a graveyard. This year is no exception. On the contrary.

Colorado Bob

Disappearing sea ice forces thousands of walruses to haul out on the coast of Alaska

With the sea ice they depend on for hunting and habitat disappearing at the end of the Arctic melt season, thousands of walruses have once again hauled out onto the northwestern Alaskan shoreline near Point Lay, Alaska. The haul out was revealed by photographer Gary Braasch in photographs dated Aug. 23 and confirmed to Mashable by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Such haul out events, which can be dangerous for walruses since they can be trampled to death when gathered so tightly together and scarce amounts of food on land, have become another symbol of global warming’s growing footprint in the Arctic.



@Jim Hunt: exchange Waves for Breakers
Barrow Battered By Big Breakers (try saying that 3 times fast).


Your animation seems to show compaction of the ice as the concentration seems to go up. Labelling it as only melting seems a bit off.

It never really is melting only, is it? There's also things like compaction and transport that define the shape of the ice pack. Still, we call it all a 'melting season' and not a 'melting, compaction, transport and everything that is smaller than the satellite sensor's resolution season'. Melting is a collective term for everything that decreases sea ice extent and area measures.

As I wrote back in 2011:

I introduced the term 'flash melting' in a recent SIE update. It was a pun on the term 'flash flooding' where lots of rain falls out of the sky in a short amount of time, causing creeks and rivers to flood very fast.

In my view the term refers to large amounts of ice disappearing from the (Uni Bremen) sea ice concentration maps from one day to the next, almost invariably caused by a storm.

In 2012, when announcing the coming of GAC-2012 (which caused massive amounts of flash melting), I described all the elements of 'flash melting':

1) Diverge the ice pack through wind force (gales), creating open water between ice floes and pushing ice floes towards warmer waters.

2) Churn the ice, fragmenting it into smaller pieces which are easier to melt out, turning floes upside down even, with their darker bottoms (due to algae etc) showing up.

3) Increase wave action, especially when there's no thick ice to dampen the waves, flooding floes with saltier water that melts the ice, but can also temporarily fool satellite sensors into thinking there's open water. Therefore some of the flash melting 'unflashes' the next day, and then flashes again, and unflashes, until it's really gone.

4) Increase vertical mixing of the waters below the ice.

As for compaction, I think your conclusion is premature, simply because the winds haven't been blowing towards the pack, especially not since the storm arrived. If you look at this animation on the ASIF you can see individual floes moving away (at high speed, no less) from the pack. And look at how garbled the ice pack is in the last image.

The storm is also accompanied by lots of clouds, of course. And just like things on the ground, or water I should say, can 'confuse' the satellite sensor, so can things higher up in the sky. What looks like compaction, may very well be clouds filling up the holes within the pack, creating the illusion of higher concentration.

But just like some of the 'flash melted' ice flashes back into existence the next day (someone on the ASIF referred to it as 'peek-a-boo ice' :^D), some of that high concentration will deconcentrate again as soon as cloudiness decreases.

However, there is compaction going on on the Siberian/Atlantic side of the Arctic, which is on the other side of that reasonably strong high pressure area, also visible on the UB SIC animations.

There are hints in the forecast right now that all this disturbance on the Pacific side of the Arctic will be followed by a classic Arctic Dipole set-up, and that means we could indeed be seeing compaction of all that loose ice in and adjacent to the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. If a Dipole comes about and stays put for a while, a second place behind the 2012 record melting season might still be a possibility. But it's too early to tell.

Either way, after a slow start this melting season is ending in spectacular fashion.


Well done Neven,

Late in season biggest most important factors for further melting until minima are ice thickness and sea water temperatures (closely tied to sea ice temperatures). SST's are very warm in the Pacific sector from the Pole, very warmest as usual on the Atlantic side.
The core ice pack is likely very loosely consolidated, august 22 2015 EOSDIS gave a glimpse in the Russian sector from North Pole:


So any extensive compaction, i.e. Arctic Dipole, would further and dramatically reduce Extent surprisingly rapidly. There is also
El-Nino twinned with North Pacific warm sst's. Which will likely delay the minima date by a week or more.

I have patiently waited to see anything which would make 2015 exceed 2012 minima, and announce it daringly. But the new melt season circulation pattern, warmer Arctic Ocean more cyclonic activity. Especially revealed during 2013 melt season, this counter Arctic Ocean Gyre circulation has persisted again this season, and will make me wait further. However, 2015 will easily be in 2nd place, with a good possibility to surpass 2012 even from this late date.


I don't know about surpassing 2012, Wayne, but I agree that this year saw less Fram Strait export and compaction than 2011, 2012 and especially 2007. Unfortunately these things are difficult to quantify (at least for me), so I'm claiming this based on my subjective categorisation of those top 3 record years.

Except for June this year there wasn't much of a Dipole, and the huge high pressure area during July was so big and central that it didn't cause as much transport as an intense high over the Beaufort Sea coupled with a low on the Siberian side would have.

If you then add that there was more MYI and volume at the start of the melting season (albeit not spread out evenly over the ice pack, but mostly concentrated north of Greenland and the CAA), and that it took a long time for melt ponds to form and melting momentum to get going, it's actually very surprising that the current ranking situation is as it is.

Sure, July was massive, and the MYI in the Beaufort and Chukchi (the subject of this blog post) took a very early hit on the chin from a sunny heatwave, but I'm still surprised. I expected something like 2013/2014, but slightly lower.

This could still happen, of course, if cyclones keep things moving counter-clockwise and prevent compaction, but 2015 ending up close to 2013 and 2014 is as unlikely as ending up close to 2012.


The arm: http://www.polarview.aq/images/106_S1jpgsmall/S1A_EW_GRDM_1SDH_20150828T171417_EC00_N_1.jpg


Reduced compaction seems the new summer normal Neven. It is a lot to do with a warmer Arctic, where there is a lack of temperature contrasts and apparently steadier persistent cyclonic activity. This is why I would like to see long term model animations. Because I can't fathom a summer dipole like 2007 or 2012 to reoccur often. But as warm and cold temperatures are now clashing, a dipole is more likely. And this is where their might be a surprise steep compaction if the dipole develops strongly.

If I think correctly sea ice will eventually vanish completely during summer more without motion, melting in place, rather than pushed around and compressed.

Jim Hunt

@LRC - Thanks for your awsome alliteration advice, but I have an ulterior motive for including the term "Big Waves" in my title:


When do you suppose a 15-20 second swell will break on the beach at Barrow? Will there be an offshore breeze at the same time?

For more technical background on Barrow surf forecasting see in particular:

Sea Ice and Swells in the Beaufort Sea in the Summer of 2014


Reduced compaction seems the new summer normal Neven. It is a lot to do with a warmer Arctic, where there is a lack of temperature contrasts and apparently steadier persistent cyclonic activity.

If I think correctly sea ice will eventually vanish completely during summer more without motion, melting in place, rather than pushed around and compressed.

Thanks for a stimulating thought, Wayne. I think you may very well be right.

And as for that dipole, the forecast is more and more tending towards its formation a couple of days from now (see this overview).

As for the 'unflashing' and 'deconcentrating', there's an animation on the ASIF showing the changes between August 27th and 28th that perfectly shows the phenomenon, if one focuses on the Pacific side of the Arctic.

As for compaction on the Siberian/Atlantic side, Wipneus put up this animation on the ASIF showing what happened in the last 10 days.

Chris Korda

For weeks now there I have been observing a persistent SSTA with peaks near or above +12°C (!) southeast of Svalbard, via the Earth map (http://earth.nullschool.net/). Have such severe anomalies been observed previously in this location or is it unprecedented? Can anyone comment or provide context?

A side note: this anomaly prompted me to contact Cameron Baccario (developer of the Earth map) and suggest that it might be time to consider extending the SSTA gradient. Currently it's impossible to visually distinguish between a (mere!) +6°C anomaly and a +12°C anomaly. It's not obvious what color could come after white (violet? green?), but recalibrating the existing scale seems even more problematic. I vaguely recall that other climate maps have encountered similar problems lately. Is there an accepted methodology for dealing with "gradient creep"?

Jenny E. Ross

Thanks to Colorado Bob for posting the link to Andrew Freeman's article about walruses, and reminding everyone there are immediate, significant consequences that are resulting from the major loss of sea ice that's occurring.

It's a good article that covers many important issues. But, with Neven's indulgence for an additional OT comment, I do want to point out one thing: The phrase "scarce amounts of food on land" is not correct. There is NO food on land for those walruses (except, of course, for calves that are still nursing). Walruses feed on the seafloor, primarily on clams and other invertebrates. Thousands of walruses forced ashore in one small location may exhaust all available food in that area of the ocean. Then they will be obliged to swim increasingly long distances to find food in other areas and return to land for resting (since there is no sea ice they can use to rest in the vicinity of more distant feeding areas). They risk expending more calories than they're able to consume. (And, as the article explains, there is also serious risk of some walruses, especially calves and juveniles, being trampled, crushed and suffocated if the herd is disturbed on land.) The whole situation is particularly problematic for females with calves they must nurse often. Do they remain ashore to nurse their young, or do they swim away in search of food, possibly needing to travel farther than their offspring are able? All of the problems are attributable to a lack of sea ice.

Susan Anderson

I am wondering how these three big typhoons in the central Pacific will impact the north and whether any or all of them will push north. Regardless, It's quite a picture (currently 2 at 140 mph, and 1 at 125 mph).


Susan Anderson

wrt my previous, I checked in here a couple days back to see about that typhoon now active and you were already discussing it; these three are further candidates, so I'm not completely OT.

Susan Anderson

one more afterthought, Kilo is tracking north:


I don't think Kilo is going to be a problem - specifically.

Eventually, the remnants of the storm may provide a pulse of heat an moisture to the arctic, but not in any sort of organized form.

The storms which *may* do that are part of what I'm calling the "Cyclone Cannon", which runs along the coast of East Asia through the Bering. Any storm which passes Korea and Japan and remains organized north of Japan is a "round" in this mechanism. When it hits the "RRR" in the NE Pacific, it will get shunted straight into the Arctic, bringing heat and moisture with it.

That won't translate (at this time) into reduced ice. However, as these storms and associated energy get shifted north this fall and winter will have a direct and negative impact on the formation and thickening of ice in the Arctic.

After a very difficult melt season (IJIS now close to if not below 2007...), this does not bode well for either our next Maxima or the 2016 melt season.

Jim Hunt

Susan - Here's a supplement to my article on the breakers that battered Barrow:


There is now a large potential fetch across the East Siberian, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas should any further cyclones occur in the area over the next few weeks. Hence the conditions now exist for an even more damaging swell to be generated before the 2015 minimum Arctic sea ice extent is reached.

Colorado Bob

Jenny E. Ross

Thanks for fine comments about the walrus. I've been watching this for several years.

The Russia walrus herd is hauling out as well –

Photos taken in Ryrkaypiy in Chukotka, Russia show an estimated 5,000 walruses hauled out in that spot, while across the strait in the United States, thousands more are hauled out near the village of Point Lay, Alaska.


Note the big melt years -

Prior to 2007, Pacific walruses preferred a summer resting area known as the Hanna Shoal region. Here, the ice of the Chukchi Sea, between Russia and Alaska, remained solid year-round — even in summer when sea ice elsewhere had melted


Baby Walruses Stranded by Melting Arctic Ice, Experts Say
Adrianne Appel
for National Geographic News
March 27, 2006

A team of scientists working in the Arctic Ocean in 2004 says it encountered nine Pacific walrus pups struggling alone in the water far from shore.

Typically walrus pups live on ice close to shore and are inseparable from their mothers.

“I’m not a walrus expert, but we thought it was unusual,” said Lee Cooper, a marine ecologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, who led the team.

“The baby walruses would swim up to the boat. It was heartbreaking,” he said.


John Christensen

On the MYI arm in Beaufort:

The latest forecast (thickness or concentration, 8/31 - 9/4) seems to indicate little change for what remains of the MYI arm, now that the storm has lost most of its power:


It just may linger on and remain, until temps get low enough for freezing to resume, unless another storm should appear in the next 7-10 days.


John Christensen wrote:

... unless another storm should appear in the next 7-10 days

Reorganizer.org doesn't foresee cyclons, on the other hand predicts temperatures above average for the entire Arctic, for that period. So, it well me be things will be worse as it looked like half of August, and that 2015 would become the second worst year ever. And even in some other respects the worst [multi-year ice loss].

Not above average, but far above average are the predictions for Greenland, starting already yesterday, and for more than a week.

Look at these unbelievable max highs at Nasa-Se.

At an altitude of 2405 m!! Appena da credere...


John C,
SSTs 2 to 3 deg F above average, bottom ice melting and lateral floe melting will last for one more month, but true some floes might survive, long enough to see surface refreezing around them.

John Christensen

Hi Kris,

Yes, Greenland has been traversed by low pressures in the past couple of days, and it seems like also for the next few days. A low pressure with warm, humid air certainly will cause high temperatures on the edges of the ice sheet, and will then typically provide precipitation in the form of snow on the central ice sheet.

There is really nothing alarming with that, since this is how Greenland accumulates snow and ice, as you can clearly see here:


August 30, 31, and Sept. 1 all saw above normal snow/ice accumulation in Greenland overall.


So, the first animation seems to show the 4 year ice in yellow as not diminishing too much.

Doesn't this mean that 5+ year ice next year won't be too diminished?


AbbottisGone, this depends on how much of the red disappears. We'll have to wait for the final numbers, but I'm expecting 5+ year ice to go down.


Of course, lol! It does appear some of the red disappeared (..more than yellow it would seem!)

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