“Sea ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the northern Alaska coast was slow to break up this year”

Shell Races the Ice in Alaska
Delays Put $4.5 Billion Arctic Drilling Plan in Danger of Missing Window Before Next Freeze

Royal Dutch Shell RDSB.LN -0.55% is spending billions of dollars to drill the first oil wells in U.S. Arctic waters in 20 years, backed by an Obama administration eager to show it wasn’t opposed to offshore exploration.

But the closely watched project isn’t going the way the company or the government hoped—illustrating the continuing challenge of plumbing for natural riches in one of the world’s most unforgiving locations.

Sea ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the northern Alaska coast was slow to break up this year, leaving the drilling areas inaccessible much later than anticipated.

Shell’s Plan to Drill in U.S. Arctic Risks Delay – WSJ.com

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77 Responses to “Sea ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the northern Alaska coast was slow to break up this year”

  1. Karl says:

    from http://www.petroleumnews.com/pntruncate/716117739.shtml :

    During an Aug. 13 press conference Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who had just returned from a visit to the North Slope, said that the waters in the area of Shell’s planned Chukchi Sea drilling are now clear of ice. At this point it is the need to complete work on the containment barge, and not sea ice, that is delaying the drilling, Salazar said.

    “It’s not the ice conditions that have held up the effort in terms of moving forward,” Salazar said. “It’s the necessity for Shell to be able to demonstrate that they have met the regulatory requirements we have put into place, and those regulatory requirements must be met. If they are not met there will not be a Shell exploration effort that will occur this year.”

  2. Karl says:

    and for fairness: (from july)

    Shell unlucky with Chukchi ice; exceptionally low cover elsewhere

    With the Arctic sea ice cover steadily retreating in recent years, Shell really seems to be out of luck in having to delay the start of its planned Chukchi Sea drilling because of an exceptionally heavy ice cover in the area when it wants to site its drilling rig.

  3. jak says:

    Hey Steve,

    Cryosphere Today sea ice area has fallen to lowest level in the satellite era:


  4. Julienne Stroeve says:

    Eric, how do you explain the fact that the trend in September ice extent is negative from 1953 to 1990 at -18,700 sq-km per year?

    • suyts says:

      Hi Julienne,

      How confident are in in the measurements?

      • Julienne Stroeve says:

        James, I based this on a revised version of the Had1SST data set that we ended up adjusting downwards from 1953-1978 (so less sea ice than the original Had1SST data set had). The paper is under discussion in The Cryosphere so you can see there how Walt made this revised data set. As you know, we don’t have a consistent data set prior to October 1978, so there are data gaps in the satellite observations, that are filled in with other observations. Right now we can really only go back from some confidence until 1953, but I know John Walsh and Bill Chapman are working on analyzing more of the past sea ice observations to extend the confidence in the data record further back in time.

      • suyts says:

        Thanks Julienne, I’ll check it out. I’m like the rest of the world, I don’t really pay attention to sea ice until towards the end of the melt season.

  5. Julienne Stroeve says:

    I quickly looked at the correlation of September ice extent with the annual AMO index from 1953-2011. It’s -0.45. The correlation with the annual PDO is only 0.01.
    There’s a lot of unexplained variance. Care to comment?

    Another site you may enjoy is the NOAA site where you can plot variables and how they correlate to various indices such as the AMO (http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/correlation/corr.test1.pl). So I looked at 925 mbar air temperature for JJA versus the AMO for the area from 60 to 90N. Correlations tend to mostly be around 0.4. Again, quite a bit of unexplained variance. While the AMO certainly plays a role, it is not the dominant factor.

    • Dave N says:

      Which satellites were measuring sea ice in 1953?

      • Julienne Stroeve says:

        Dave, we don’t have satellites that far back, the 1950s data is based on aircraft, ships, and other observations. Satellite data does exist in the 1960s though, and NSIDC is working on reprocessing some of that earlier satellite data into ice extent maps.

    • Julienne

      I tried to catch you the other day with regard to some comments you made about melting of Greenland ice when you said ” Everything that I have seen at scientific conferences over the last couple of decades shows that the overall mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet is negative.”

      My question was
      “What period are you talking about for this melt?

      Do you agree that the Greenland ice cover was unusually high at the end of the LIA, and has been much smaller than now for most of the recent past prior to that?”



      • Julienne Stroeve says:

        Hi Paul, sorry I missed your earlier comment on Greenland melt, I don’t always check to see if new responses have come in….

        I have seen various time-periods in presentations, some based on the more recent satellites (such as GRACE and ICESat), some based on a longer satellite record that examines changes in ice velocity and ice discharge in relationship to snow accumulation, some based on repeat aircraft observations, and also others based on a combination of modeling and observations (that give estimates back to 1870 – see Hanna et al., 2011 for more on that one).

      • Julienne Stroeve says:

        Oh and yes I do believe there have been large fluctuations in the mass balance of Greenland, but I don’t know if it has been much smaller than now for most of the recent past prior to the LIA. Is that published someplace so that I can read it?

      • Thanks for that, Julienne.

        There are some references below which suggest smaller a ice cap:-

        1) Kelly & Long find that it has been suggested that the Greenland Ice Sheet receded tens of kilometers within its present day margins during the early and mid Holocene and In many locations the ice sheet and mountain glaciers reached their maximum extents since the early Holocene during the Little Ice Age

        Click to access Kelly+Long_2009-2%2860-61%29.pdf

        2) Caseldine talks about glaciers in Iceland Lichenometric studies from four glaciers in Northern Iceland are used to determine the dates of their Little Ice Age maxima. In all cases these date to the last half of the 19th C and probably marked the maximum Neoglacial extent of the glaciers.


        3) Vinther tells us our new temperature history reveals a pronounced Holocene climatic optimum in Greenland


        4) While not directly related to the Greenland icecap, Levac finds that in Baffin Bay From ca. 6400 to ca. 3600 14C yr BP, transfer functions indicate warmer conditions than at present, with SST in August fluctuating up to 5.5°C. After 3600 14C yr BP, the dinocyst record suggests a trend of decreasing temperature toward modern values, marked by recurrent cooling events.


        5) Steffensen discussing Greenland temperatures concludes
        a)Temperatures in Greenland were about 1.5 C warmer 1000 years ago than now.
        b) It was perhaps 2.5 C warmer 4000 years ago.
        c) The period around 1875, at the lowest point of the Little Ice Age, marked the coldest point in the last 10,000 years.

        6) Ribeiro, discussing climate variability in West Greenland suggests Presently, the Baffin Bay southern sea-ice boundary extends from Disko Island to the southwest, towards Canada. This would imply that prior to AD 1250 this boundary was more northerly and gradually moved towards the vicinity of the core site until after AD 1500 (Little Ice Age), when it was positioned south of the core site

        I appreciate some of the studies do not talk of the icecap specifically, but the picture built up is that Greenland has been warmer for much of the recent past, upto the LIA and that there has been a gradual Neoglacial Advance during the last 4000 years, culminating in the 19thC.

      • Thanks Julienne.

        This is one of the references :-

        ) Kelly & Long find that it has been suggested that the Greenland Ice Sheet receded tens of kilometers within its present day margins during the early and mid Holocene and In many locations the ice sheet and mountain glaciers reached their maximum extents since the early Holocene during the Little Ice Age

        Click to access Kelly+Long_2009-2%2860-61%29.pdf

        I have posted some more but they seem stuck in the moderator queue at the moment!

    • Don Sutherland says:

      Very informative stats, Dr. Stroeve.

      • Do they prove manmade global warming Don?

      • Don Sutherland says:

        They don’t “prove” AGW. However, they do indicate that some other factor or combination of factors is playing the leading role with regard to declining Arctic sea ice extent minima. When one incorporates anthropogenic forcing, more of the trend in declining minima is explained, particularly in recent years. Both natural variability and anthropogenic forcing are likely driving the trend, with the latter becoming or having dominant in recent years. One recent study can be found at: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/3/034011/article

        • In the past they said exactly the same thing about witches. Bad things increased after the witch showed up. You have no idea what you are talking about.

      • Don

        More of your cult religion of anthropogenic forcing. Big money is always involved with fake religions. The big money in “manmade” global warming has created a cult following just as deceived as Dianetics, but far larger. It’s the sophistry that gets them every time.

        You need a deprogrammer. There actually are people paid to help people like you in their journey back to reality.

      • Don

        “Both natural variability and anthropogenic forcing are likely driving the trend,”

        Since what is happening in Arctic Ice is within the range of natural variability, and since there still is no evidence that manmde co2 has the power you think it has, there is no reason to even begin to think anything wrong is happening. It’s all just normal.

        Do you think it’s possible that what is happening in Arctic Ice right now is normal?

  6. @ Steven Goddard, had I known you wanted to bet (on the arctic sea ice minimum extent), I’d have told you that back on July 17th, when you made your offer, you could have gotten better than even money at Intrade.com. In the future, if you want to make these kinds of bets, like the global temperature anomalies (monthly and annually) , or the ice extent minimum, please go to Intrade and put your money where your mouth is. Seems I have a real problem scaring up sellers.

  7. Julienne Stroeve says:

    Hi Paul, a little more information that may be of interest to you…between 1961 and 1990, Greenland was thought to be in relative balance, with an annual accumulation of about 700 Gt per year, balanced by roughly 220 Gt per year lost through runoff (Ettema et al 2009) and another 480 Gt per year through solid ice discharge (Rignot et al, 2008). Since that time, the mass loss has accelerated (Rignot et al., 2011; Chen et al. 2011). The increase in mass loss over the recent years is a result of a combination of enhanced surface melting (e.g., Mote, 2007; Box et al. 2006; Tedesco et al., 2008; Fettweis et al., 2011; Tedesco et al., 2011), dynamic thinning along the ice sheet margins (Krabill et al., 2004; Pritchard et al. 2009) and increased ice discharge rates of outlet glaciers (Rignot and Kanagaratnam, 2006; Luckman et al., 2006; Stearns and Hamilton, 2007; Howat et al., 2008). Today the current mass loss appears to be nearly equally split between ice discharge across calving fronts and surface ablation and subsequent runoff (Shepherd and Wingham, 2007; van den Broeke et al., 2009).

  8. There is more ice now in the Arctic than there has been for almost all of the last 9000 years. What is happening now has been turned into a tempest in a tea cup, and a sure sign of “manmade” global warming. But it is neither. What is happening now in Arctic ice is normal. It is completely within the range of normal variability.

    But those who only want to use a very short time frame of 1979 to 2012 could think something unusual and alarming is happening and use it to scare people. One could call that opportunism.

    And I see all the usual suspects of that opportunism are here today.

    Where were all of you when ClimateGate and ClimateGate 2.0 broke? And where is your sense of ethicality, your indignation over the violation of purity in science shown in those emails?


    Peer reviewed study says current Arctic sea ice is more extensive than most of the past 9000 years


    • I find this ClimateGate email pointed out by Steve McIntyre in this video to be particularly important. It shows that there are global warming scientists who privately have doubts about manmade global warming but will never speak publicly about those doubts.

      I point this out because Don Sutherland in this comment thread has no doubts about manmade global warming. He has gone over the line of rational misgiving that even some of the scientists he has decided to believe have not crossed.

      4 minute video

    • Don Sutherland says:

      The study is more nuanced. It talks about possible regional effects. It was focused on the Western Arctic Ocean, not all of the Arctic Ocean. It states, in part:

      “If both the observed and reconstructed time series are correct, then the last part of the 20th century must have been particularly cold compared with the mid- to late Holocene in the Chukchi Sea, which is opposite to what is seen in the eastern Arctic and northern Baffin Bay (e.g., de Vernal et al. 2008). This hypothesis implies a strong regionalism in climate changes over the Arctic and deserves to be further explored because it has some important implications with regard to the significance of the ‘modern’ climatology in the Arctic.”

      Click to access mckay_etal_CJES_08.pdf

      If, in fact, a regional divergence was the norm in the Arctic, the possible basinwide decline in sea ice extent currently underway could further reinforce the idea that the present decline is not due to natural variability, alone.

  9. Julienne Stroeve says:

    Amino, did you actually read the abstract of the paper?

    Abstract: Cores from site HLY0501-05 on the Alaskan margin in the eastern Chukchi Sea were analyzed for their geochemical
    (organic carbon, d13Corg, Corg/N, and CaCO3) and palynological (dinocyst, pollen, and spores) content to document
    oceanographic changes during the Holocene. The chronology of the cores was established from 210Pb dating of nearsurface
    sediments and 14C dating of bivalve shells. The sediments span the last 9000 years, possibly more, but with a gap
    between the base of the trigger core and top of the piston core. Sedimentation rates are very high (*156 cm/ka), allowing
    analyses with a decadal to centennial resolution. The data suggest a shift from a dominantly terrigenous to marine input
    from the early to late Holocene. Dinocyst assemblages are characterized by relatively high concentrations (600–
    7200 cysts/cm3) and high species diversity, allowing the use of the modern analogue technique for the reconstruction of
    sea-ice cover, summer temperature, and salinity. Results indicate a decrease in sea-ice cover and a corresponding, albeit
    much smaller, increase in summer sea-surface temperature over the past 9000 years. Superimposed on these long-term
    trends are millennial-scale fluctuations characterized by periods of low sea-ice and high sea-surface temperature and salinity
    that appear quasi-cyclic with a frequency of about one every 2500–3000 years. The results of this study clearly show
    that sea-ice cover in the western Arctic Ocean has varied throughout the Holocene. More importantly, there have been
    times when sea-ice cover was less extensive than at the end of the 20th century.

    • You are saying that there has been no time in the past 9000 years that Arctic Ice has been less extensive than it is now?

      • Julienne Stroeve says:

        I’m not saying that it’s not possible that the Arctic had less sea ice 9000 years ago than today, but the WUWT title of the post is misleading since this is a regional study, and the conclusions further state:
        The Holocene record from site HLY0501-05 illustrates
        the sensitivity of hydrographical conditions in the western
        Arctic Ocean. The data show a long-term warming that is
        opposite to what is reconstructed for the eastern Arctic and
        point to a bipolar behavior of the Arctic Ocean at the timescale
        of the Holocene. The millennial-scale variability in the
        eastern Chukchi Sea is characterized by quasi-cyclic periods
        of high SSS, high SST, and reduced sea-ice cover, which
        most probably reflects variations in the stratification of the
        upper water column. Such changes maybe related to tidal
        forcing and (or) large-scale mechanisms, such as AO/NAOlike
        oscillations. It is important to note that the amplitude of
        these millennial-scale changes in sea-surface conditions far
        exceed those observed at the end of the 20th century.

      • Then since you are saying it is possible there has been less ice in the Arctic in recent millennia then you could also conclude that what is happening in Arctic ice right now is normal?

      • Don Sutherland says:

        The key language is: “The results of this study clearly show that sea-ice cover in the western Arctic Ocean…” In any case, earlier I posted a link to the entire article.

      • It didn’t pass me by Don. But your conclusions about the link you posted is based on your preferences not on what the study states.

    • And yes I did the first day I saw it.

    • You did see the graph after the abstract?

  10. Julienne Stroeve says:

    Do you mean the graph that shows the # of months with sea ice greater than 50%? Yes, I saw that. There is another more recent paper by Max et al. (2012) that concludes:
    [41] Our conclusions can be summarized into four main points.

    [42] 1. Alkenone-temperatures derived from high-resolution sediment records in the subarctic NW-Pacific, the Sea of Okhotsk and the western Bering Sea show a deglacial temperature evolution similar to the NE-Pacific and even to the N-Atlantic and Greenland temperature variability. From this we suggest a close linkage to deglacial variations in AMOC associated with rapid atmospheric teleconnections, which resulted in a quasi-synchronous SST development between the N-Atlantic and the N-Pacific during the last glacial termination. Although the SST variability between the N-Atlantic and N-Pacific show striking temporal similarities, uncertainties in age control related to a lack of knowledge in 14C reservoir ages may bias the timing of SST changes by up to several hundred years.

    [43] 2. During the middle to late Holocene, the subarctic N-Pacific reveals complex SST trends, suggesting strong regional overprints. The compilation of alkenone-derived SST records from the NW-Pacific, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk does not support the hypothesis of a long-term Holocene temperature seesaw between the N-Atlantic and N-Pacific associated with a basin-scale warming trend in the N-Pacific during the last 7 kyr. Only the Bering Sea records reveal a tendency toward warmer temperatures compared to a slight cooling in the NW-Pacific. The records from the Sea of Okhotsk exhibit both cooling and warming trends as well as large fluctuations during the middle to late Holocene.

    [44] 3. Past sea-ice expansion were reconstructed from a set of six sediment records by qualitative assessment of the IP25 biomarker for cold (H1 and YD) and warm (B/A and early Holocene) stages and compared to diatom studies during the last glacial termination in the NW-Pacific. Our results suggest a strong variability of sea-ice extent and a close coupling to SST fluctuations in the N-Pacific. The sea-ice advanced at least by several hundred miles during phases of H1 and YD. During the phases of B/A and the early Holocene the maximum in sea-ice cover seems to have been even more reduced compared to today.

    [45] 4. Our SST records in combination with the sea-ice reconstructions provide no evidence of surface warming during the YD and H1, which has been suggested by several climate models to occur in response of enhanced deep water formation in the N-Pacific.

  11. Julienne Stroeve says:

    Amino, I have never taken the position that just because the Arctic may have had less sea ice in the past that it doesn’t mean that human activities are not in pushing the climate system in a way that we’ll have less sea ice in the future. I cannot follow the logic that supports that type of thinking. The thing that matters is what are the forcing mechanisms responsible for less sea ice now and in the past. It’s a challenge of course when trying to reconstruct what the past climate was and to reduce the error bars in those estimates. I very much appreciate those scientists trying to take “clues” left over to reconstruct past climate variables. The more we can reconstruct the past, the better we can understand the factors responsible for climate change in the past and in the future.

  12. kirkmyers says:

    The AGW hypothesis has been falsified over and over. Yet its proponents continue to trot out alarmist warmings about melting arctic sea ice, the only “evidence” they can hang their alarmist hat on. Despite repeated earlier predictions, the sea ice still hasn’t disappeared. And it certainly will not as the AMO gradually shifts to its negative mode and land-based temperatures begin to cool in response to the weakest solar cycle since Solar Cycle 5, which preceded the cool-down known as the Dalton Minimum.

    Recognizing the fact that the earth hasn’t warmed in 15 years (see HADcrut3 unadjusted raw data and Dr. Phil Jones’ comments to the BBC), despite increasing levels of CO2, the warmists have been forced to adopt “climate change” as their new climate bogeyman, blaming every severe weather event under the sun on the evils of man-made CO2. It truly is balderdash, but it appeals to cluelessly ignorant reporters and their establishment media bosses who see it as a way to fatten their corporate bottom lines by peddling an endless litany of “the world is overheating” scare stories.

    • johnmcguire says:

      kirkmyers , It appears to be supported by Julienne Stroeve , a supposedly serious scientist . My question to Dr. Stoeve is how much money are you raking in on the agw scam . Has your warmist stance enhanced your standing in any way ? And are you another one of those wackjobs that thinks 5% of 0.04 of the atmosphere is driving the climate of the world ? The man made percentage of co2 is so very miniscule that it defies rational thought to believe it could have any measureable effect on the climate . It has never been proven , falsified , established in any manner other than hype and deception and anyone touting it as science is a liar.

      • Don Sutherland says:

        Three quick points:

        1. Dr. Stroeve is a serious scientist with numerous publications to her credit.
        2. The better question is why credible scientists who have examined the data in a rigorous fashion have reached the conclusions they have based on that data.
        3. Citing the small human share of overall CO2 emissions is the wrong way to analyze the issue. Marginal analysis is the correct way to analyze the problem.What matters is actually the Marginal contribution being made by human activities, because it’s that contribution that created an imbalance between annual emissions and annual absorption of CO2 leading to a rise in the atmospheric concentration of CO2.

  13. Richard Todd says:

    I for one would find INCREASING ice very alarming. But that’s just me.

  14. FundMe says:

    If the Arctic sea ice did not melt out every now and again it would be hundreds of meters thick by now. There seems to be an equilibrium that is maintained between no ice and ice that is a few meters thick. Understanding what maintains this equilibrium is essential to understanding the Arctic. I dont think we have the answers yet. I am curious to know whether the equilibrium is maintained by sudden melt or a long slow thaw however the melting is not where we will find the answer IMHO we will find the answer in, what causes the build up of Arctic sea ice, in other words the answer lies in the making not the breaking of the ice.

  15. Julienne Stroeve says:

    John, it appears you don’t have a very good understanding of scientists. How on earth could I rake $ in? If you know, please let me know, because I could use some $. I talked to a student today who just completed his PhD. He was offered a job by Exxon to do Arctic research for them. Their starting pay with his recent PhD is 110K. If he were to go a University as a postdoc it would be around 40K. I still don’t even make 90K and I’ve been doing this over 15 years.

    Secondly, like most scientists I know, I don’t believe all the ice melt is because of CO2 increases. There is natural climate variability and there is external forcing on the climate system. Both are responsible for the changes we’re seeing in the ice cover. Certainly adding more gases to the atmosphere that case the temperatures to rise isn’t going to help the situation, but it’s not the only player. I don’t even care so much if you or anyone else believes that CO2 is helping to push the ice cover towards an ice-free state in the future. To me, reducing our fossil fuel consumption is about having cleaner air to breathe and clean water to drink, and I personally can’t see why anyone wouldn’t also want that – it keeps us, our families and our communities healthy. If we have the ability to have cleaner ways to power our homes and our cars, I’m all for that and I honestly find it hard to believe that others wouldn’t also want that (except of course those that stand to profit off of continuing business as usual). And if by doing so we additionally benefit the environment, that’s an extra bonus.

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