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Welcome back, Neven. You've been missed.

Interesting times up north, indeed. Jim Pettit's graphs also just updated, with the Sea Ice Area maximum/minimum bar chart a fascinating read, as well as the line graph that overlays past years' melt as if they started at today's extent.
If this year continues as 2012 did, we set a huge record, but nowhere near ice free...about 2MM square kms remain. If melting proceeds from here at the pace it did in 2007, we also set a new record, but not by much. No other year generates a record.

That said, there's a lot of warmth projected over the next week, and a lot of dark water (more than ever before at this early date) absorbing the now prevalent sunlight.

Thank you again for providing us with this amazing set of resources.


In the past it appears that the ice temperature and the dew point in the Arctic Basin were mostly at or below freezing during stormy weather even during the summer. If the temperature becomes warm enough with a dew point above freezing(which appears to be more likely), won't the liquid water condensing on the ice eventually cause as great a melt or even greater melt than sunny conditions do now? (There have been previous discussions about above freezing dew points and the rate of snow melt.)

How high would the dew point need to be under cloudy conditions to melt as much ice as say sunny weather at 2 degrees C with a dew point of say -3 degrees C? Assume similar wind conditions. As I write this I think this question is rather complex, but considering this possibility my help us get a better handle on melt.

Colorado Bob

"The first is that there is almost no snow left on the Canadian and Alaskan mainland."

Or at the top Of Norway and Finland.


Colorado Bob

Sorry but the Daily Mail put this up first -

Why sea ice in Antarctica has INCREASED while the Arctic melts: Nasa study reveals how climate change has affected the poles

Nasa combined data on sea temperature, land form and ocean depth
Found geology and Southern Ocean are responsible for the difference
These influence the strength and direction of winds and ocean currents
Winds drive formation of Antarctica's sea ice cover and help sustain it

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3601710/Why-sea-ice-Antarctica-INCREASED-Arctic-melts-Nasa-study-reveals-climate-change-affected-poles.html#ixzz49L98dxCe

Rob Dekker

I'm getting concerned now.

There is now some 200,000 km^2 of open water in the Beaufort (150,000 wide-open, and 50,000 in large polynia).

Average insolation is some 250 W/m^2, which means that even on an average day open that water absorbs a whopping 50 TW. That is twice the amount of heat that the Bering Strait current moves into the Arctic.
On a clear day, like what was the case over the past week and what is predicted for the next, insolation goes up to 450 W/m^2, which means absorption goes up to 90 TW.
And since that heat has nowhere else to go but to melt ice on the boundary, the Beaufort is in trouble :

90 TW is enough power to melt 23 Gton of ice per day.
Which means 15,700 km^2 / day of 1.5 meter thick ice.

And that is not even counting the small polynia that do not show up on ice 'extent', nor influence of any melting ponds.

So unless the weather turns bad very quickly, I don't see the rate of ice loss in the Beaufort slow down. If at all, it will increase.


The extent on espens forum page for the 21st only went down 40 K... I'm thinking that's as good as up because from what I'm hearing I think it's close to shut our eyes time!!


"...There is now some 200,000 km^2 of open water in the Beaufort (150,000 wide-open, and 50,000 in large polynia)..."

And here you succinctly summarize the fear I've had since I first saw that water starting to open up almost a month ago.

While a lot of the heat isn't getting dumped directly into the ice as it would with melt ponds, it is completely changing the seasonal balance, and creating a killing ground for ice which gets swept into it.

The high pressure system reenergizing the gyre will do exactly that, and appears to be primed to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, all the while clear skies are dumping that 450W/M/Second into the water, and off-shore air flow draws more heat in from the land.

And now, with hundreds of KM of fetch, we will start seeing more wave action and Ekman pumping as well. It's hard to imagine how the melt season could have gotten off to a worse start. So much heat, so early....


Thanks, Neven,

Your 'hands-on' approach on the blog fixes attention on the most eyecatching events in the Arctic.
Whereas the Forum is much more opaque, specially for guests.

Rob, you are right, the 215K open water is close to the 250K late July 2012. The main difference is that '12 had 3,5 Mkm2 broken floes right up into the CAB by that time.
'16 has two months to fix that gap.

Doesn't seem hard to do...


Although I take Rob's numbers seriously, I disagree with his conclusion. First, some fraction of the insolation heat will go into the atmosphere and be carried over the Chukchi and beypnd. Second, with area/extent in the Beaufort already far below normal, the graph is likely to flatten soon as the gyre moderates and temperature anomalies become less extreme.
So the coastal ice that Neven highlights, as precarious as it looks for the next few days, is more likely to hang on through most of June.

Jim Williams

You might want to look at this toy:


It's not obvious at first, but you click on the word "earth" for the menu, left-drag on the globe to turn it, and scroll-wheel to zoom.

Animating current with a sea surface temperature anomaly overlay is interesting while looking down on the north.


The open water is becoming a heat reservoir indeed. It anomalously alters the temperature and humidity of the blowing air mass on top.
Rob, the only thing that might avoid this heat being trasferred to millions of km2 of ice surface is boring weather. In that case heat transfer would be more limited.

A ticking bomb.


@ iceman,
extent according to JAXA only went down 40 K so I'm assuming that is as close to up as we're going to get...

Chris Reynolds


Beaufort has had a significant export of MYI over winter.
This has delayed and even stopped melt in Beaufort in past years. However now the state of Beaufort looks too poor for that MYI to totally stall losses.

However the fall of Beaufort extent is precipitous, I can't post a graph as Flickr isn't working, but as of the latest data (21 May) AMSR2 extent is down to 2/3 of the flat winter average maximum extent. In other words, Beaufort is 1/3 ice free in terms of extent. What is interesting is that compactness is not showing unusual behaviour at present.

This is happening a month before peak insolation.

Looking at the progression of images from Bremen AMSR2 I more tend to Neven's opinion that it will go within the next two weeks.


Must keep in mind Beaufort sea ice had a lot of the thickest ice, some gone before June.

Looking near Barrow Alaska:


At a much improved Buoy temperature profile. The snow/air top thermistors temps at daily maximum have very close to top of sea ice temperatures. That is more like reality. From shore this would be seen as a diurnal lowering at noon rising at night horizon.

I must point out, it is very difficult to measure temperature accurately at different heights, not an easy task especially with different physical mediums, air-snow-ice-sea water, throw in sun radiation and thermistor precision compared to surface ventilated temperatures.

Note that the entire thermistor column in Barrow is near -2 C.
Ice ready for rapid melt.


"Once this ice is gone, there will be open water all along the American coast of the Arctic Ocean. My guess is this could happen within two weeks or maybe even faster..."

Neven, looks like faster is closer to the truth, that high pressure above Beaufort is tearing the remaining ice away from the Alaskan coast and it will open any day now.


Also wonder, once the cost is opened, will it make it easier for the central mass of thicker ice to rotate and fracture?


Apologies, tried to embed the gif. and instead mucked up the link:

Colorado Bob

Permafrost thaw dumps climate-warming soil into Arctic Ocean: study

That’s according to a new study from the University of Alberta which uncovered a 39 per cent increase in dissolved soil flowing from the Mackenzie River into the Arctic Ocean………. “We know that that thaw depth is deepening at many places throughout the Arctic, and we also know that the prevalence of these slumps is increasing in magnitude as well,” said the study’s lead author Suzanne Tank from the University of Alberta in a May 13 news release.

Tank said “we have good evidence here to say that changes in climate and permafrost degradation” are responsible for the increased flow of carbon found in the topmost layer of soil, which is rich in organic matter thanks to plant growth.

Usually this carbon is locked up in permafrost, but with permafrost thaw accelerating, more of this carbon getting unearthed.


Colorado Bob

The Climate Feedback site is up a running -

A Scientific Reference to Reliable Information on Climate Change

What if online coverage could be peer-reviewed?

Using the Hypothesis annotation platform, our community of scientists go through a variety of online media articles and provide ‘feedback’ on the scientific accuracy of the information presented. Readers can view these annotations directly alongside the original texts and see exactly where the article’s information is consistent — or inconsistent — with scientific thinking and state-of-the-art knowledge in the field.



Yes. the Navy thickness graphics are rather scary, especially with the current and projected warm temperatures.

Comparing the 2012 and 2016 graphics is even more worrisome. The Kara sea looks a little better than 2012, perhaps, but the rest of the ice looks worse, especially the Beaufort and the ice in Canadian Archipelago.


I was also wondering if a big chunk of the ice rotating in the Beaufort will end up rotating isolated near the middle of the Arctic basin.

It is both exciting and sickening to watch, but I can't look away.

Also wonder, once the cost is opened, will it make it easier for the central mass of thicker ice to rotate and fracture?

Taras, every year the entire ice pack completely fractures. Not even at the height of winter is it a homogeneous monolith or huge slab of ice. It's always moving and breaking, consisting of thousands of individual floes.

In that sense the coast doesn't prevent floes to move in a certain direction (well, except for straight onto the land, of course).

It's difficult to determine when the ice pack fractures completely, leads don't freeze over and the Arctic Ocean looks like an icy soup from above. And that makes if difficult to compare to previous years.

But though it looks spectacular, it is 'normal'. Not to say that this year is 'normal', of course. So far it has been anything but.



Thank you, I do understand that the ice is no where near monolithic, this year especially.

I was thinking about the interactions of fractured ice floes and the shore creating some resistance to the movement: spin up ice slushy in a cup, it will rotate freely as long as there is no connection to the sides and the vortex is strong, but once the current slows down if part of the ice drifts to the side and touches it will provide extra resistance and slow/stop the rotation of the entire mass.

However with your response and looking at ice concentration data I'm now understanding that the floes on the edges maybe too far part to actually interact much with each other and do not provide significant resistance to the titanic forces moving the gyre.


I was thinking about the interactions of fractured ice floes and the shore creating some resistance to the movement: spin up ice slushy in a cup, it will rotate freely as long as there is no connection to the sides and the vortex is strong, but once the current slows down if part of the ice drifts to the side and touches it will provide extra resistance and slow/stop the rotation of the entire mass.

It's a good question, Taras. Ice floes do bump into each other, but like you say, the effect becomes less pronounced as open water between floes increases. Besides, not all resistance will result in slowdown, but also in break-up (which intuitively should increase speed again). And we're talking about a huge area.

Speaking of open water, I've looked at changes in that ice separating the two polynyas on the American side of the Arctic, after just three days of weak winds:

The change is considerable.

There won't be much southerly wind in the coming week along the N-American coast, but some more (quite high) high pressure is forecast for the coming week. Could clear skies cause it to just melt instead of move?

Either way, unless the wind starts blowing very strongly from the North (due to a big, persistent cyclone), the coast will be largely ice-free before June 10th, which is one month earlier than any other year in the 2005-2016 timeframe.

Rob Dekker

The losses in the Beaufort are almost certainly due to melting due to warm (relatively speaking) water.

As I reported earlier in this thread, the wide open water area in the Beaufort is absorbing some 50-90 TW. That is enough power to melt out 10,000 - 16,000 km^2 of FYI per day.

Now that the winds are blowing a bit, it "stirs the pot" and all that heat is blow into the ice, which then, yes, simply melts.

Also note on your animation that the floes that move along the edge of that open water are also disintegrating and melting away, so it is not just that tongue towards the chukchi.

All in all, this melting causes the Beaufort to loose some 15,000 km^2 per day over the past couple of days (according to Wipneus' assessment), which is in line with the rate of loss expected given the heat absorbed.

Since the Beaufort's open water is now so large, and still growing, the absorbed heat may be enough to melt out the Beaufort entirely under its "own power" so to say. The awesome power of albedo feedback.

Rob Dekker

Let me add that luckily there are some clouds appearing over the Beaufort over the past couple of days.
Hopefully that will slow down things a little bit.



These clouds are key, but they are definitely not as a pervasive as during normal spring Arctic weather. From my observations, low clouds slow melting substantially, in fact reconsolidates the ice to stand against another sunny onslaught. There is no reason to believe more of them than normal this spring, rather the only thing left is cyclones. They should circulate as normal but stagnate over warmer open sea water.


>there will be open water all along the American coast of the Arctic Ocean. My guess is this could happen within two weeks or maybe even faster, which would be extremely early, given that the earliest time this has happened in the past decade (and probably much, much beyond that), was between July 1st and 7th in both 2009 and 2011."

Think we can call this to have happened now. ;)


Indeed, crandles, it's just barely open on the Uni Bremen SIC map. It's amazing, as I thought I was being conservative back when this blog post was written. Just a few more days of wind blowing away from the coast, or after that just some heat to melt it in place. But none of that happened, winds started blowing the other way, and here we are, six weeks later.

What can I say? It's the Arctic. :-)

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