The “Ice-Free Arctic” Has Reached Its Deadline

The Arctic Ocean could be free of ice in the summer as soon as 2010 or 2015 – something that hasn’t happened for more than a million years, according to a leading polar researcher.

Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet, a Canadian research network, said the sea ice is melting faster than predicted by models created by international teams of scientists, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Over the past week, the ice has compacted some and rotated clockwise. Red is where the ice edge used to be used to be, green is where it is now.

Temperatures are very cold over most of the Arctic and lots of new ice is forming.

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

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14 Responses to The “Ice-Free Arctic” Has Reached Its Deadline

  1. barry says:

    I don’t see the point in choosing outliers. Most predictions for an ice-free arctic in summer now centre around 2040 – 2060. A recent study [PDF] from the US Navy puts it at 2016, but that’s an outlier, too. We didn’t see an ice-free North Pole in 2008, and we haven’t seen one this year. The ‘deadline’ for the prediction above is 2015 anyway, not 2010. The latest IPCC report posited no summer ice toward the end of this century, and so far their projections look to be too conservative.

    For this year, JAXA is currently around 4.8 million sq/km, with a likely minimum of ~5 million sq/km for the month of September. There will be no ‘recovery’ from last year, as you predicted in June. Projections will continue to be updated as data comes in, and people will still get it wrong. C’est la vie. What is clear is that Arctic sea ice continues to trend downward over the long-term, and appears to have accelerated over the 31 year satellite record.

    • I don’t see how wind piling the ice up against Canada and Greenland for a few weeks in the summer leads to an ice-free Arctic.

      Compacting the ice at higher latitudes makes it more difficult for it to completely melt out. The southerly winds have the effect of a strong negative feedback.

      • Amino says:

        stevengoddard says:
        September 20, 2010 at 3:27 am

        I don’t see how wind piling the ice up against Canada and Greenland for a few weeks in the summer leads to an ice-free Arctic.

        Oh come on, Phil showed us a picture of low concentration ice in the Barents Sea. Were all done with!

      • wayne says:

        I agree Steve. Seems it’s the compacting that’s so important for expanding sea ice year to year in a recovery. As ice rides up over ice 90% is pressed down underwater but this decrease in extent just leaves more open ocean to freeze in winter, as first year ice, to be compacted even more the following season. Without any compaction only a limited amount of ice could form on the arctic ocean each year, there is only a limited depth that cold air from above can freeze water in one season. Compaction is the multiplying factor.

        Also without a fairly accurate measure of total volume, all of these graphs can quite misleading and worthless.

        Have you carried on with PIPS to maintain such a measurement at the minimums, however rough?

  2. barry says:

    I don’t see how wind piling the ice up against Canada and Greenland for a few weeks in the summer leads to an ice-free Arctic./blockquote>

    I’m not sure what relevance this has to what we’re saying. The ‘deadline’ is 2015, according to the article you cited. And the projection is an outlier. It’s almost certainly going to be wrong. Why is this interesting?

    If in the future all that remained of summer Arctic ice was piled up against coast lines (with say, an extent of 150 000 sq/km), I think it’d be a semantic quibble over whether that amounted to an ‘ice-free’ Arctic. As there are high elevations in the Arctic (interior Greenland), there would be ice somewhere in the region long after the North Pole is empty of ice and ships can cross the Arctic ocean without sighting any barring along the coasts.

    BTW, are you planning to do an update on September extent? I had assumed the melt was over a few days ago, but my opinion seems to have been premature. NSIDC also cautiously announced the end of the melt on September 15, but their extent data shows decrease since then, as does JAXA and Uni of Bremen. ROSS is bucking the trend, but their data is a couple of days behind.

    I’d thought that the melt was over because Cryosphere today and ROOS show increase for sea ice area the past few days, but JAXA is showing further melt WRT area. It sure has been an interesting and unpredictable melt season.

  3. barry says:

    Sorry about the formatting. The first para is your quote, the rest is mine.

  4. Amino says:

    Hop in a kayak and paddle to the ice free North Pole to raise awareness of Global Warming. Because after all, that’s what we need, more awareness of Global Warming. Oh ya, that’s right, Global Warming is real and if you don’t think it is you also don’t think nicotine is addictive. So get in your kayaks and paddle folks!

    And 2010 is going to be the hottest year on record. GISS tells us so. So it must be true. Our grandchildren are going to die in storms as dead, emaciated polar bears float by on 20 foot sea level risen waters.

  5. barry says:

    My take is that it will be difficult to get much lower than 2007. The melt season is just too short.

    Completely agree. It’s possible 2008 could be beaten for absolute minimum extent, but almost certainly not for the monthly average.

    • baffled24 says:

      barry says:
      September 20, 2010 at 5:08 am

      “My take is that it will be difficult to get much lower than 2007. The melt season is just too short.”
      —-
      The melt season is lengthening at the expense of the freezing season like a self-fulfilling prophesy. Ice volume is awaiting its rightful place.

  6. baffled24 says:

    wayne says:
    September 20, 2010 at 5:27 am
    “As ice rides up over ice 90% is pressed down underwater but this decrease in extent just leaves more open ocean to freeze in winter,…”
    —-
    Add,… and more open ocean to warm in summer.
    —-
    “…there is only a limited depth that cold air from above can freeze water in one season. Compaction is the multiplying factor.”
    —-
    That’ll depend on SST’s, warmer water can melt ice from below, while low air temperatures cause freezing from above simultaneously. That is, until it snows, because a layer of snow on ice, no matter how thick (or thin) will act as a thermal blanket reducing ice growth from above. Compaction is not a multiplying factor; when more ice melts in summer than is added in winter. The thinner ice is subject to wave action breaking up the ice melting it faster in summer. As multi year ice disappears it will be replaced by 1 year ice (consisting of 6-5-4-3-2-1 month ice, ending with 1 day), which is likely to all melt the following summer.
    The 2010 ice extent is almost down to 2008, meaning that 1 million sq/km of the recovered ice from 2007 to 2009 has now become unrecovered. The writing is on the ice.

  7. toby says:

    Ice volume is the name of the game, lads. Ice extent is a crude metric because the ice can spread out or be compactified and fool the extent metric.

    I am satisfied that the thin concentrations of ice we have seen this year (compared to previous years) confirm the PIOMAS model.

    I am also sure that CRYOSAT-2 data will do the same later this year or early next year.

  8. barry says:

    Ice extent may be a crude metric, but it is important for albedo, polar bears and shipping. It is also the best observed metric over the satellite record, which is why it has been front and centre. CRYOSAT 2 data won’t be deterministic for quite a while.

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