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Jim Hunt

Thanks for the mention Neven.

Here's the latest post cyclone AMSR2 sea ice concentration map:

plus a sea ice drift animation:




The January graph for Arctic Sea Ice Extent is very dynamic. I pose the thought that that is one to watch very carefully for trends...


Nevertheless, these short-term effects may be just enough to nudge Global Sea Ice Extent to yet another record low minimum (although Antarctic sea ice also has a say in this, of course):

I'm going to check the numbers tomorrow, but it looks like the record for lowest Global SIE minimum has been broken (yet again):



Is it just me or do others not understand figure 4 from the latest NSIDC update?

Jim Hunt

AMSR2 derived Arctic sea ice extent is still decreasing following the recent cyclone:

However Arctic sea ice area has started to increase once again:


Meanwhile global sea ice extent is most certainly in "lowest in the satellite era" territory:


So, Jim, being conservative I could think about comparing the 16 million square km figure to, say, an 18 million square km figure and be able to say that over 30 years the global sea ice extent has 'definitely' gone down 10%?

Al Rodger

Jim Hunt,
It's interesting that JAXA plot their data with 2018 a lot less icy than 2017 (only six days that are not a new record level in Jan & one day in February. Bar those seven days this freeze season has been record-breaking since 27 Dec. Yet Hamburg are showing it far more of a dance between the two. That the two sources of SIE should differ by that margin isn't such a surprise except you label the Hamburg data JAXA/Hamburg.

Jim Hunt

Al - The raw AMSR2 data comes from JAXA, but the University of Hamburg process it differently to the Japanese National Institute of Polar Research when calculating sea ice concentration. The former uses the "ARTIST sea ice" algorithm (ASI for short). The latter is commonly referred to as "JAXA extent", and uses the NASA "bootstrap" algorithm.

Al Rodger

So the difference between the Hamburg record & the JAXA record shows algorithm choice can have quite substantial effects. Hamburg plot 2018 far closer to 2017 than that seem at NOAA ChArctic which in turn are just a little closer to Hamburg than the two years plotted by JAXA. Yet JAXA & Hamburg differ only in the algorithm. And there is also a difference in the absolute values although the big difference we cannot lay at the door of the algorithm choice. (Consider Feb 5th - NOAA 13.9, JAXA 13.3, Hamburg 13.0)

However, the different records would thus give different answers if you use the SIE at the start of the year to predict the daily maximum of the year.

As I follow JAXA I see today the daily SIE for 2018 running 600k below the daily maximum of 2017 but as a predictor the average daily SIE through 2018 (Jan1-Feb12) is 120k sq km below the equivalent 2017 value. This Jan1-Feb12 data appears a reasonable predictor for the maximum daily value of the year. Over the last 15 years this measure has only twice underestimated the maximum but more than 100k sq km (although substantially so - 280k & 180k) and has far more often overestimated it.

So, always game for a laugh, a projection of a 2018 record maximum daily JAXA SIE of 13,755,000(+/-100,000) sq km.

Al Rodger

I was going to link to my graphic of JAXA SIE anomalies (usually 2 clicks to 'download your attachment')

Robert S

At a purely anecdotal level, over the past couple of years I'm noticing what looks like a move of the pole of cold from the Siberian side of the AO to the CAA/Greenland. This may be related to some of the other patterns we're seeing that are impacting the ice. I'll have to do some data analysis once spring is really here...

Susan Anderson

Robert S, I think I first heard that idea some years ago, and it certainly seems to be evident in reality.


Susan and Robert,

It has been plainly evident since about 2000 or perhaps the mid-90s that the impacts of warming gases would lead to the arctic melt which in turn would ultimately lead to the loss of all ice in the arctic and subarctic. The failure of the cold pole (the loss of the ice) inevitably leads to the failure of the heat engine that drives climate.

Greenland with its immensely thick ice sheet is of course a special case. It inevitably will be the last of the northern ice to melt. That logical sequence then presents us with several interesting time periods.

1) the Holocene
2) the period of rapid global warming up to the first ice free arctic summer
3) the period from then to the first/last ice in the Arctic Ocean in winter
4) the period of Greenland ice melt with no arctic ice
5) the rapid transition following the loss of the Greenland ice
6) stabilization in a post Holocene period with no heat engine in the northern hemisphere, even as the heat engine continues in the Southern Hemisphere driven by the Antarctic ice
7) possibly the long slow transition from full Antarctic ice to no Antarctic ice
8) possibly the full ice free Earth

I doubt that we will push the Earths systems hard enough to reach 7, let alone 8. However, the release of the methane and carbon from the northern tundra combined with large clathrate seabed releases, particularly from the Arctic might push things over the edge. The timeframes are so long though, that I suspect that the human perturbation of the system isn't enough to overcome the orbital parameters that have put the Earth in the mixed ice quasi-steady state of the last 3-10 million years.

Whatever the case, we will all be long dead before then.

It is the end of 2) that we have to concern ourselves with now, 3) which we will soon enter, and 4) that we must be mindful of as it will be here along about 2035-2050. 4) will be devastating far beyond even 2) and 3). Most of us will have passed on before then. Young folks alive today will get to feel the brunt of that provided they survive the chaotic era getting there.

The bigger problem is that as the weather and climate destabilizes in 2) and 3) things will get weird and rugged. We are getting our first minor tastes of that already. It is about to get really exciting. That terrible weirdness probably begins in earnest in about 5 years as we shift from 2) to 3).

Stepping forward to 6), the post Greenland ice era, we at least have some ideas what the climate results might be like. That era will likely look a lot like 35 million years ago with an equable climate. The arctic will be heavily cloud covered, at least in the winter, and very warm. The storm systems from the equator will be much bigger. And the atmospheric circulation will be entirely different. The rain bands humanity knew, grew up with, and developed agriculture and civilization with will be gone.

A new stability will arrive, though it will look little like what we know today or experienced historically. The impacts on whole biomes (including humans) will be catastrophic (from our perspective). However, the devastation of whole ecosystems will create new niches for evolution to explode into.

The downsides are obvious in some aspects and not in others. The unexpected may include huge oceanic dead zones, the proliferation of purple Cyanobacteria, falling Oxygen levels (perhaps as low as 14%) combined with rising sulfur levels (H2S and SO2) making it hard for life on land everywhere and in the oceans.

As little as we understand about that regime (and hence we cannot model it as we have no models), we know even less about the transitional regimes in 2), 3) and 4). 2) starts as we are now with chaos beginning in the atmospheric circulation. 3) is worse until it stabilizes somewhat in 4).

4) will be decidedly strange with a lopsided cold pole. For however long it takes Greenland to melt some variation on things we know about weather may persist, with huge oceanic changes occurring throughout. Agriculture at least may remain possible, though distributed in very different ways from what we know now.

The unfortunate thing is that we now appear entirely unable to avoid 2) and 3). The most unfortunate thing is that those will likely be enough to trigger the release of the tundra and clathrate carbon stored rendering any human response meaningless, other than for changing our trajectory somewhat and adjusting/delaying the timing for when these transitions occur, and perhaps how severe they are

And if the tundra and clathrate releases do occur, I can see no way that the Greenland ice doesn't completely melt over the next several centuries. With methane fizzing out of the arctic, and bursting out of the Yama region, massive tundra fires and tundra collapse occurring across Siberia and Alaska, I cannot see those releases not occurring. It is likely even that we're we to cease all carbon emissions magically overnight, that the residual warming from the loss of the sulfate aerosols and particulates alone are enough to push us over the edge with no additional carbon emissions.

Far from having time to wind down our emissions, it appears likely that we have run out the clock.

If there is any possibility of avoiding this, it is now. And even with everyone cooperating and doing everything possible, success at avoiding 4) or even 5) appears highly unlikely.



Well this winters coldest zone took shape by mid November 2017:


The CAA CTNP (Cold Temperature North Pole) was indeed dominating for most of winter 2017-2018, with occasional oscillations with rival Northeast Siberia;


Todays article explains the consequence of this recent pattern really taking shape during the last 5 years:


Once upon a time, 30 years ago, there was very thick wide spanning Arctic Ocean sea ice, which shaped a radically different but long lasting global circulation system. Now this Ocean may be considered a heat source in an amplification feedback death spiral for Arctic ice.


Washington Post has probably one of the best weather climate team in the media world:


Spot on article, highlighting coming weekend above 0 C weather at the North Pole.

There is no doubt that winter time represents more clearly Arctic trends with respect to the future of sea ice. The summer greater melts have been marred by persistent static cyclones hovering over the gyre area spanning weeks, expansive clouds from these saved a vaster yearly onslaught ever since 2012. It is a last ditch natural balancing act because broken sea ice and open water usually is foggy, not exactly inviting for anticyclones. However, current Arctic long night less accretion is exactly like a record breaking September minima. There is lesser sea ice to melt from maxima onwards. The Maxima matters more these days.

Robert S

Sam: That's a great summary. I do wonder, though, what other inputs beyond raw temperature change might influence the outcome. For instance, do warmer temperatures on top of the greenland ice cap and changed circulation patterns mean more snow there, as seems to be happening in some parts of antarctica, thereby delaying or denying completely movement to phase 5. I can imagine effects like this stalling the progression around 3.5, with some Arctic ice appearing each winter and disappearing in the summer, driven by your lopsided, Greenland driven system.



Effects such as those you describe are I think likely to occur. The problem remains that we have very little understanding of the system behavior when it diverts very far from our recent historical range. As a direct result, the models we have, excellent as they are, have serious limitations in predicting the behavior as we move farther from the norm we have known.

Up to know, we have been repeatedly surprised by feedbacks no one considered. The vast majority of those have served to make things worse, not better.

We can hope for feedbacks that slow the transition from 3) to 4). Relying on that hope is I believe extremely dangerous. We are already seeing massive changes in the atmosphere, as you have so effectively and patiently reported on. Thank you for that frightening as it is, it is essential information for us all. Thank you too to the incredible scientists and researchers both professional and amateur that have worked so hard in the several dozen fields needed to make sense of it all. Especially thank you to Neven for his tireless work, and for creating and maintaining the Arctic Sea Ice Blog and forum. The consequences we face have become ever more apparent to everyone working in this field, with serious impacts to all of our psyches.

Some of the more immediate and terrifying aspects coming fast upon us include the immense changes in the jet streams and oceans, and the consequential changes to precipitation and temperature, and the impacts of those on availability of water (drought and deluge), fire, crop failure, species migration, pollination, biome health (disease and collapse) and more.

These are already wreaking havoc. I can foresee no possibility of these not getting worse ever more rapidly, leading to more population migrations (exodus from drought zones), and resulting conflicts. Syria is one such impact. Areas in Africa and South Asia appear to be close or worse. Well, that is depressing enough. But there is so much more.

The question remains, what will it take for humanity to globally understand the threat and to react to try to respond in a truly meaningful way?

Back to the ice and the current condition. It seems quite apparent from this most recent update and even more recent data that we are headed for a new record low Arctic ice maximum, a vastly softer and warmer arctic at the start of the melt season, and a vastly more disturbed atmosphere shepherding ever more warmth into the arctic.

It also seems inevitable that this year we will see a record low minimum ice area and volume. The vagueries of random processes are such that we cannot guarantee this to be true, and we will all have to wait to see. Whatever this years results, the trend year on year is clear. The ice is going - rapidly. And we will soon enter step 3), the era of an at least partially ice free Arctic.

Robert S

Sam: You've given a very thoughtful analysis of the issues. As someone with a strong background in adaptation/restoration/economics, my focus turns toward the relevant adaptive opportunities under the scenarios you have outlined. I tend to think that we can adapt significantly, albeit at pretty great human cost.

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