Facts About the Arctic in August 2020

A new month begins today, and at the moment it looks as though it’s going to be the most interesting one since August 2012. Here once again is the satellite image of the enormous cyclone that was spinning over the Beaufort/Chukchi Seas just a few days ago:

Here too is the effect of the cyclone on the trajectory of the JAXA Arctic sea ice extent graph:

Here too is the current prognosis of the late Andrew Slater’s “Slater Probabilistic Ice Extent” 50 day forecast:

The cyclone has obviously resulted in a reduction in the rate of extent decline, but take a look at the high resolution AMSR2 “compaction” graph:

The gaps between the remaining sea ice floes have evidently increased, and hence the ice area is declining more rapidly than its extent.

[Edit – August 2nd]

Here’s an animation, based on the University of Hamburg’s AMSR2 concentration maps, which reveals the motion of the sea ice across the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas for the last two months:

Note in particular the side effects of the recent cyclone, visible at the end of the video.

Here too is a close up of the current state of the remaining ice in the Chukchi Sea, snapped by the Suomi NPP satellite through a gap in the clouds:

Plus the current open water north of Greenland. Perhaps once Polarstern has been flushed out into the open water of the Fram Strait at the end of the MOSAiC expedition she could take another look at this almost completely unexplored area of the Arctic Ocean?

[Edit – August 6th]

The latest gridded thickness data has been released by the PIOMAS team, and here are Wipneus’s visualisations:

According to the Polar Science Center:

Average Arctic sea ice volume in July 2020 was 9,300 km3. This value is  only 400 km3 above the  record minimum  value of 8,900 km3 set in 2019. This makes 2020 the fourth lowest on record for July with 2012, 2017,2019 falling just below 2020.

JAXA extent is still lowest for the date, but following the recent cyclone it looks as though it will not maintain that position for much longer:

Now we’re in the month of August it’s possible to do a direct comparison with AMSR2 data for 2012. Here’s sea ice area for the Central Arctic Basin:

[Edit – August 8th]

All of a sudden JAXA extent is in 3rd place in the race to the minimum:

However let’s also take a close look at the state of the sea ice in the Beaufort and Wandel Seas shall we?

At this juncture I reckon that come mid September second place is now more likely than first. However as always, it still all depends on the weather.

[Edit – August 9th]

Surprising as it may seem, high resolution AMSR2 Central Arctic Basin sea ice area has so far managed to keep up with the precipitous drop in 2012:

North of Greenland the clouds have cleared closer to the North Pole, to reveal this:

Fresh this morning from Terra, a rather cloudy view of the devastation near 80N, 150W:

[Edit – August 10th]

In a not entirely unexpected development one of ex Prof. Judy’s denizens is quibbling about the current condition of sea ice in the Arctic. Hence here is a close up of some “gaping holes in the sea ice cover” at 88N between Greenland and the North Pole:

Watch this space very closely for the next few weeks!

The Northwest Passage in 2020

Whilst the Northern Sea Route has opened up early this year, it will be be quite some time before the Northwest Passage follows suit. Nevertheless our old friend Northabout is currently sailing in the direction of Baffin Bay, so now seems as good a time as any to start speculating about the prospects for the Summer of 2020. The passage through Lancaster Sound is already navigable:

However as the Canadian Ice Service chart also shows, there are still some areas of 7-8/10 concentration along the Beaufort Sea coast en route to the Bering Strait. The central Canadian Arctic Archipelago is solid 9-10/10 at present, but what’s the prognosis? Here’s the final CryoSat-2/SMOS merged thickness map of the winter, from April 15th:

This suggests that the thickest ice on the usual route through the Northwest Passage for small vessels was around 1.2 meters in Larsen Sound. This seemed suspiciously thin to me, so next I tried the underlying Cryosat-2 data from AWI, which revealed this:

Suspicions confirmed. It looks like AWI are ignoring CS2 data in the CAA for 2020! Here’s how the CPOM Cryosat-2 numbers look for a similar date, which is hopefully nearer the reality:

The CAA was fairly cloud free on June 23rd, and this satellite image shows that surface melt had started across the entire central section of the Northwest Passage:

NASA Worldview “false-color”image of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on June 23rd 2020, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

All in all it looks to me as though “small vessels” will be able to successfully make it through the Northwest Passage later in the summer of 2020, with thicker ice drifting south into Larsen Sound from the McClintock Channel being a potential bottleneck.

[Edit – August 1st]

Whilst there are certainly some cruise ships planning on voyaging through the Northwest Passage this summer it looks as though there will be very few yachts or other small vessels. According to Transport Canada:

To better protect Arctic communities, pleasure craft are prohibited from operating in Canada’s Arctic coastal waters north of the 60th parallel until October 31, 2020, at the earliest:

  • to limit any potential interaction with remote and vulnerable coastal communities in consideration of minimal health care infrastructure in these waterways that notably comprise the Northwest Passage as well as the territorial sea of Canada surrounding Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast).
  • to allow the Canadian Coast Guard to focus efforts on essential operations including community resupply ice-breaking, environmental response, and search and rescue.

With this proviso:

In the Canadian Arctic coastal waters, the following measures will not apply to:

Foreign pleasure craft exercising their right of innocent passage within the territorial sea. However, any such transits will be subject to receipt of a 60-day written notice in advance of arrival in Canadian Arctic coastal waters to Transport Canada, and be subject to any conditions the Minister determines necessary to ensure the protection of marine personnel and of local communities (for example, additional insurance, rescue strategy).

[Edit – August 6th]

The skies were clear over the Northwest Passage yesterday, and this is what could be seen from the Aqua satellite:

I don’t know about you, but based on that image I reckon a plucky little yacht like Northabout could just about squeeze past the remaining sea ice along the coast of the Boothia Peninsula?

However let’s also take a look at the charts of the Canadian Ice Service shall we? The daily regional maps don’t cover the “squeeze point” yet, but the weekly map dated August 3rd reveals this:

We’re forced to conclude that officially the Northwest Passage isn’t quite “open” yet!

[Edit – August 7th]

The Canadian Ice Service have extended their daily coverage to the “choke point” we looked at above:

The Northwest Passage is still not “officially” open!

[Edit – August 8th]

The southern “choke point” is still blocking the way, and winds are currently pushing ice into the north of Peel Sound:

This Sentinel 2 image from August 6th shows the Bellot Strait to be completely clear of ice, so despite that route 6 through the Northwest Passage may well be very open soon.

Watch this space!

Northabout Heads North Again

Regular readers may recall our coverage of the plucky little yacht Northabout’s circumnavigation of the Arctic in 2016? We are delighted to be able to inform you that (s)he is intent on heading back to the Northwest Passage once again next year, intending to travel from east to west this time around.

Meanwhile this year the plan is to visit the west coast of Greenland before returning to Jersey for the winter. Here’s how the news was announced on the local television channel here in South West England:

Northabout is the means of transport employed by Tobias Carter and Sophie Simonin of the Unu Mondo expedition as they attempt to “Enrich the Knowledge of the Arctic World with Scientific Projects” amongst other things:

Unu Mondo is a 4 months sailing expedition into the Arctic aimed to gather scientific data and testimonies from local communities to better anticipate climate change and promote concrete actions.

Leaving from Saint-Malo, France it will reach Greenland (2020) then Alaska through the famous Northwest Passage (2021), stopping on the road in the villages of the West coast of Greenland and will culminate in a documentary.

Unu Mondo team is composed of 2 skippers, a handful of scientists and a pinch of audiovisual professionals.

According to the timeline on the expedition web site Tobias and Sophie originally intended to set sail from France at the end of May. However plans seem to have changed, in part because Sophie recently tested positive for Covid-19. According to the Unu Mondo Facebook page Northabout actually set off for the Arctic from Roscoff on July 7th. Here’s the Unu Mondo Expedition’s latest bilingual video update, which amongst other things reveals Northabout’s somewhat cramped interior:

[Edit – July 14th]

Currently Northabout has reached the middle of the North Atlantic, as revealed by the Unu Mondo live tracking map:

[Edit – July 21st]

The Unu Mondo Expedition team have reached Prince Christian Sound, just north of Cape Farewell in Southern Greenland:

Northabout was last there in October 2016. Here’s what the scenery looks like:

When Northabout was still 400 nautical miles from Greenland the team released a Météo France drifting weather buoy into the North Atlantic:

Watch this space!

Facts About the Arctic in July 2020

The new month starts with JAXA extent “lowest for the date in the satellite record” by a whisker:

The high resolution Arctic sea ice area and extent graphs based on the University of Hamburg’s AMSR2 concentration data are also in “statistical ties” for that honour, in records going back to 2013:

The 2020 melting season currently seems to be a game of two (geographical) halves. The sea ice on the Siberian side of the Arctic is currently at record lows:

Whereas the Beaufort Sea is near a record high:

Currently the tell tale signs of surface melt are visible across most of the central Arctic, as are the large number of wildfires across Arctic Siberia:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Arctic on July 1st 2020, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

[Edit – July 4th]

The June 30th PIOMAS gridded thickness numbers have been released, and here are the results of Wipneus’s number crunching:

This month including a visualisation of the increasing negative anomaly:

[Edit – July 6th]

A break in the clouds over the North Pole reveals the onset of surface melt:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the North Pole on July 6th 2020, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the North Pole on July 6th 2020, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

[Edit – July 8th]

After a brief hiatus there are once again some ice mass balance buoys installed at assorted locations across the Arctic. Some have ceased to function, but one of the buoys installed as part of the MOSAiC expedition is still sending back data as it heads towards the Fram Strait. Buoy 387850 is currently located at 81.66 N, 4.19 E. Here’s its ice mass balance plot:

As you can see, both surface and bottom melt are well under way, with just over a meter of ice still remaining.

Now let’s take a look at buoy 386840, currently located at 74.30 N, 132.60 W in the Beaufort Sea:

It looks as though the ice thickness has increased, but surely that can’t be right at this time of year? To try and find out I downloaded the raw data and plotted the temperature readings from the buoy’s thermistor string:

It looks to me as though the ice floe carrying the buoy is currently floating on some warm fresh water from a recently drained melt pond, which is confusing the sensor designed to measure the position of the bottom of the ice. There certainly seems to be far less than the claimed “1.653 m snow and ice thickness” still remaining to be melted!

[Edit – July 15th]

A very unusual image. Hardly a cloud in the sky over the North Pole yesterday:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the North Pole on July 14th 2020, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

The July 2020 extent “plummet” shows no signs of ending just yet. Here’s the JAXA/ViSHOP version:

[Edit – July 17th]

JAXA AMSR2 extent is now below 7 million km², and the high resolution version is lower still:

As the “Laptev Bite” and the Atlantic periphery of open water extends further towards the North Pole, Central Arctic Basin extent is now also at record lows for the date in the AMSR2 record:

[Edit – July 19th]

Wipneus has crunched the mid month PIOMAS gridded thickness numbers, and here are the results:

Extent is currently lowest in the satellite era by a long way, but modelled volume is only fourth lowest!

Watch this space!

[Edit – July 21th]

At long last there’s a sub 1000 hPa MSLP low pressure area slowly wending its way across the central Arctic:

It seems to have bottomed out at 997 hPa. Perhaps this will inhibit the ongoing “plummet” in extent? JAXA extent fell by 114,342 km2 yesterday.

[Edit – July 23rd]

The Northern Sea Route has opened unusually early this year:

Based on the AMSR2 concentration maps from the University of Hamburg that happened on July 13th. The final choke point, as is so often the case, was the Vilkitsky Strait. According to the charts from the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, by the 14th there was a narrow way through occupied by no more than 3/10 concentration ice:

[Edit – July 25th]

A mere three days away, and the GFS and ECMWF forecasts are in agreement, so there is a decent chance this setup will materialise in the real world:

Graphics via Tropical Tidbits

A 972(ish) hPa MSLP cyclone sitting over the ice Beaufort Sea by 12Z on Tuesday.

[Edit – July 27th]

The Sea Ice Prediction Network July forecast for this year’s September minimum extent have been released. Here’s the graphical overview:

This year’s median projected value from the July forecasts of 4.3 million square kilometers is essentially identical to the median from the June forecasts. Quartiles are 4.1 and 4.6 million square kilometers. As was also the case for June, only two projections, both by dynamic models, are for a new record low, below the mark of 3.57 million square kilometers set in 2012. One dynamical model predicts the September sea-ice extent above 5.0 million square kilometers, compared to two in the June report.

Note that the numbers quoted are for the average NSIDC extent across the month of September, not the lowest daily JAXA extent, which I suggested earlier would be “below 4 million km²” this year.

Meanwhile over on Twitter this evening (UTC):

[Edit – July 28th]

The MSLP of the (Great?) Arctic cyclone sank below 970 hPa overnight:

Here’s an early false colour snapshot of how (s)he looks from on high this afternoon (UTC), courtesy of the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite:

[Edit – July 29th]

First up today we have a more complete “true colour” image of the cyclone doing its worst yesterday, including a fairly clear view in the bottom left corner of the initial damage to the sea ice covering the eastern Beaufort Sea. This one is from the Aqua satellite:

Watch this space!

Facts About the Arctic in June 2020

As is our current habit this month’s report begins with the high resolution Arctic sea ice area and extent graphs based on the University of Hamburg’s AMSR2 concentration maps:

Area and extent are currently vying for second place with 2019 on the “lowest for the date” leader board, a little behind 2016 at this point in the 2020 melting season.

However following the extremely warm spring in Siberia, the sea ice area along the assorted sea that comprise the Northern Sea Route is well below all previous years in the AMSR2 record:

Another effect of the sweltering Siberian spring is evident in the melt ponds visible below the clouds across the southernmost parts of the Laptev Sea:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Laptev Sea on June 1st 2020, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Laptev Sea on June 1st 2020, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite

plus the East Siberian Sea and Chaunskaya Bay:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the East Siberian Sea on June 1st 2020, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the East Siberian Sea on June 1st 2020, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

[Edit – June 4th]

The May 31st PIOMAS gridded thickness numbers have been released, and Wipneus has crunched the numbers:

Here too is the latest volume graph:

According to the Polar Science Center’s May 2020 update:

Average Arctic sea ice volume in May 2020 was 21,500 km3. This value is 1700 km3 above the record minimum value of 19,800 km3 set in 2017, making it the sixth lowest on record. Monthly ice volume was 39% below the maximum in 1979 and 25% below the mean value for 1979-2019. May 2020 ice volume falls 0.8 standard deviations above the trend line. Daily volume anomalies for May progressed at a fairly normal pace for recent years. Average ice thickness is in the middle of the pack for the more recent years. Ice thickness anomalies for May 2020 relative to 2011-2018 continue the April pattern and show relatively thin ice along the Russian Coast and thicker than normal sea ice in the Barents sea. There are some fairly strong positive anomalies in the eastern Beaufort and north of Greenland. This anomaly pattern is likely due to the very strong positive Arctic-Oscillation index pattern that occurred during the Winter of 2020.

There looks to be a lot of anomalously thick ice waiting to melt out on the Atlantic periphery, and it will be interesting to see how the thicker ice in the eastern Beaufort Sea fares as the melting season progresses.

As also suggested by the area graph above, the Northern Sea Route is going to be open early in 2020. In fact a ice hardened tanker has already begun its journey through, unsupported by an icebreaker:

It was the “Christophe de Margerie” that on the 19th May kickstarted this year’s shipping season across the eastern part of the Northern Sea Route. The vessel owned and operated by Russian shipping company Sovcomflot loaded up liquefied natural gas in Sabetta and is due to arrive in the Chinese port of Jingtang on the 11th June. It was the earliest east-bound shipment on the route ever for this kind of vessel.

Shipments in the Northern Sea Route 27th May 2020. Map by MarineTraffic
Shipments in the Northern Sea Route 27th May 2020. Map by MarineTraffic

By 27th May, the ship had made it almost to Wrangel Island, information from ship tracker service MarineTraffic shows. The “Christophe de Margerie” is accompanied by nuclear powered icebreaker “Yamal”.

In the wake of the almost 300 meter long vessel now follows the “Vladimir Voronin”, a vessel that is operated by company Teekay. The “Vladimir Voronin” on the 25th May left Sabetta and was on May 27th located in the Vilkitsky Strait north of the Taymyr Peninsula.

The ”Vladimir Voronin” is not accompanied by icebreaker. The “50 Let Pobedy” that escorted the ship out of Sabetta and eastwards towards the Vilkitsky Strait has now returned and appears to be on its way back to Sabetta.

[Edit – June 17th]

The mid month PIOMAS gridded thickness numbers have just been released. Here’s the thickness map:

and the volume graph:

In addition JAXA extent is now in a “statistical tie” with 2019 in the “lowest for the date” competition:

Watch this space!

Facts About the Arctic in May 2020

Let us begin this month’s report from the far north with the high resolution Arctic sea ice area and extent graphs based on the University of Hamburg’s AMSR2 concentration maps:

Area is currently lowest for the date in the AMSR2 record. After briefly occupying that position extent has increased over the last few days of April due to winds causing sea ice to move in the direction of the far North Atlantic:

The Alfred Wegener Institute has now finished reanalysing their CryoSat-2/SMOS thickness data, and the resulting volume graph looks like this:

“Measured” Arctic sea ice volume is the lowest in the CryoSat-2 era as we head towards the main 2020 melting season, which in my calendar at least begins on June 1st. The PIOMAS modelled volume numbers should be released shortly.

[Edit – May 5th]

The April 30th PIOMAS gridded thickness numbers have been released, and Wipneus has worked his usual magic. By way of comparison with the AWI metric:

Obviously differing from CryoSat-2/SMOS, PIOMAS has 2020 volume a long way above 2017, in amongst a gaggle of other years.

[Edit – May 13th]

The middle of May is rapidly approaching, so let’s start to set the scene for the forthcoming melting season. First off here are the hi res AMSR2 area and extent graphs:

Extent is currently significantly above 2016 due to the recent “dispersion” mentioned above, but area is very close to an all time low for the date.

Next take a look at the current northern hemisphere snow cover anomalies from the Rutgers University Snow Lab:

Whilst there is a positive anomaly near Hudson Bay, there are significant negative anomalies across Siberia and Alaska. This does not augur well for sea ice retention along both the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage by September 2020.

Watch this space!

China’s big Covid-19 business?

We’ve already come across Glen Owen and Harry Cole, broadcasting batty bunkum about the novel coronavirus pandemic from the platform of the Mail on Sunday. Glen and Harry are now turning their searchlight away from science, and submitting business and economics to its cold, hard glare. In an article under one of the Mail’s trademark lengthy headlines they tell to us today the tall tale of the:

“‘Suited svengalis’ who help the Chinese government decide which British businesses to buy will be investigated by MPs amid fears Beijing is using coronavirus pandemic to advance its commercial interests”

Political figures and advisers who profit by helping the Chinese regime to target British businesses are to be investigated by MPs amid growing fears that Beijing is using the cover of Covid-19 to advance its commercial interests. 

The move comes after a China backed company mounted an attempted coup at Imagination Technologies, a UK firm which designs graphic chips for apple. 

The company was sold to private equity business Canyon Bridge Capital Partners in 2017 for £550million in a deal approved by Theresa May’s Government on the basis that the company would remain subject to US laws. 

However, the organisation later moved its head office to the Cayman Islands – outside US jurisdiction. Last week, senior MPs sounded the alarm after China Reform Holdings, the Beijing-backed lead investor in Canyon Bridge, tried to take control of the firm – amid fears it planned to transfer the ownership of intellectual property to China.  

I’m afraid I’m a bear of very little brain, and it’s unclear to me what Covid-19 has got to do with the alleged “attempted coup”. Perhaps the terrible twins can elucidate?

Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chairman of the Foreign affairs Committee, warns ‘suited svengalis’ who profit from the skills they’ve acquired over years of training would face scrutiny. 

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he says: ‘too frequently, we’ve seen those who once wrote the rules and negotiated agreements to protect us, and some who still sit in our Parliament, selling the tricks they learned in Government.’ 

This newspaper has seen correspondence linking Global Counsel, the public affairs company chaired by Peter Mandelson, to Canyon Bridge. Global Counsel’s staff includes Alex Dawson, who was working for Mrs May in Downing street when the 2017 deal was agreed.

In the correspondence, Ben Wegg-Prosser, the company’s managing director, advises Canyon Bridge over how to respond to MPs demanding reassurances over the British company’s future.

Or perhaps not. Please excuse my French, but WTF has any of that got to do with Covid-19 pandemic? Please feel free scan the rest of the article if you have a well developed sense of the ridiculous. Then you’ll no doubt be able to point out to me the Covid-19 reference(s) that I must have inadvertently blinked and missed.

I still haven’t received any answer from anyone at the Mail on Sunday following my last such enquiry, but I’m a glutton for punishment, so here we go again:

Watch this space!

(But please don’t hold your breath)

David Rose’s Great Covid-19 Con?

Recent readers may well have arrived here because I have started commenting on the Great Covid-19 crisis? Regular readers may recall my previous Arctic sea ice altercations with David Rose? He “writes for the Mail on Sunday” according to his byline in Andrew Neil’s Spectator magazine. One or two people of a certain age may even recall the initial raison d’être of my Arctic alter ego’s blog?

David has now also turned his attention to Covid-19 in an article in the aforementioned journal, entitled “Revealed: Extinction Rebellion’s plan to exploit the Covid crisis. The group sees ‘silver linings’ in the pandemic”. Perhaps given our long familiarity with David’s “skeptical” oeuvre we might be able to reveal Andrew Neil’s “plan to exploit the Covid crisis”? That being the case, let’s dive into David’s “silver linings playbook” shall we?

As we contemplate the havoc being wrought by coronavirus, most of us see mainly sickness, death and economic ruin. Dr Rupert Read, spokesman for the climate protest group Extinction Rebellion — plus sometime Green party candidate, and associate professor of philosophy at the University of East Anglia — has rather a different view. In this pandemic, he writes, ‘there is a huge opportunity for XR… It is essential that we do not let this crisis go to waste.’

Read’s thoughts are set out in a paper entitled ‘Some strategic scenario-scoping of the coronavirus-XR nexus.’ The paper is not meant to be widely read. ‘NB, this is a confidential document for internal XR use, NOT for publication!’ he writes at the head.

Now this is of course the point in the ClimateBall™ playbook where one always poses the question “Gotta link to evidence justifying your assertions David?”

David doesn’t provide one so perhaps one might enquire instead:

[Edit – April 11th]

Perhaps you won’t be surprised to discover that neither Andrew Neil or David Rose have provided me with a link as yet? In which case perhaps one should try another tack?

Facts About the Arctic in April 2020

This comes to you a couple of days early, but the clocks have just changed to British Summer Time in the once United Kingdom and there is news to impart.

JAXA Arctic sea ice extent has fallen to the lowest level for the date in their satellite era records going back to 1979. This graph shows every year since 2000:

The high resolution AMSR2 regional graphs make clear that the precipitous drop on the Pacific periphery has continued:

The current combined SMOS/SMAP Arctic sea ice “thinness” map makes clear that there is plenty more thin ice ready for melting in the Sea of Okhotsk and Baffin Bay:

There is also a large area of thin ice in the Laptev Sea, which will be interesting to watch once the 2020 melting season gets underway in earnest.

[Edit – April 1st]

Today is All Fools’ Day, but this is no joke. Thanks to the consistent polar vortex over the Northern Hemisphere winter there is currently an anomalous “ozone hole” over the North Pole. As recently described in Nature:

A vast ozone hole — probably the biggest on record in the north — has opened in the skies above the Arctic. It rivals the better-known Antarctic ozone hole that forms in the southern hemisphere each year.

Record-low ozone levels currently stretch across much of the central Arctic, covering an area about three times the size of Greenland. The hole doesn’t threaten people’s health, and will probably break apart in the coming weeks. But it is an extraordinary atmospheric phenomenon that will go down in the record books.

“From my point of view, this is the first time you can speak about a real ozone hole in the Arctic,” says Martin Dameris, an atmospheric scientist at the German Aerospace Center in Oberpfaffenhofen.

Here are the latest graphics from the “Arctic Ozone Watch” section of the NASA web site:

Observations made during the still ongoing MOSAiC expedition, have confirmed the satellite derived measurements:

This year, powerful westerly winds flowed around the North Pole and trapped cold air within a ‘polar vortex’. There was more cold air above the Arctic than in any winter recorded since 1979, says Markus Rex, an atmospheric scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, Germany. In the chilly temperatures, the high-altitude clouds formed, and the ozone-destroying reactions began.

Researchers measure ozone levels by releasing weather balloons from observing stations around the Arctic (including the Polarstern icebreaker, which is frozen in sea ice for a year-long expedition). By late March, these balloons measured a 90% drop in ozone at an altitude of 18 kilometres, which is right in the heart of the ozone layer. Where the balloons would normally measure around 3.5 parts per million of ozone, they recorded only around 0.3 parts per million, says Rex. “That beats any ozone loss we have seen in the past,” he notes.

I’ve previously conjectured about the potential effect of the strong polar vortex on Northern Hemisphere snow cover this Spring, and here’s NOAA’s current snow extent graph:

JAXA extent’s precipitous recent decline has abated, and it’s now 5th lowest for the date in the satellite era:

[Edit – April 4th]

Here’s the March 31st PIOMAS Arctic sea ice gridded thickness map:

together with the traditional volume graph:

Wipneus comments on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum that:

Ice is thickening impressively against the Canadian Archipelago and North Greenland.

That is indeed the case with the PIOMAS “modelled” numbers, but is much less obvious in the latest CryoSat-2/SMOS “measured” thickness map where ice over 4 metres thick is still conspicuous by its absence North of Greenland:

Plus a bonus graph for “Turbulent Eddie”, who suggests that:

[There’s] not much thick ice on the East Coast of Greenland, indicating the increase was from reduced loss through the Fram Strait?

together with the latest AARI ice age map:

[Edit – April 6th]

Here’s the latest update of our novel NRT volume metric:

I’ve applied a crude correction to the still problematic NRT data so that it at least coincides with the reanalysed data on March 14th. Whilst we await the reanalysed numbers for the rest of March and early April it looks as though Arctic sea ice volume reached at least a temporary peak on March 20th 2020.

[Edit – April 19th]

Here’s another update of our novel NRT volume metric, still incorporating my “fudge factor”:

Note also this handy hint from Stefan Hendricks on Twitter:

[Edit – April 21st]

Wipneus has crunched the mid month PIOMAS gridded thickness numbers. Here’s the result:

The discrepancy between the PIOMAS model and the CryoSat-2 “reality” is still very evident.

[Edit – April 25th]

With another week’s worth of reanalysed data now processed, it now seems certain that the CS2/SMOS Arctic sea ice volume maximum was 18469 km³ on April 6th:

[Edit – April 28th]

The high resolution AMSR2 area and extent metrics are now both “lowest for the date” in the AMSR2 record:

JAXA/ViSHOP AMSR2 extent isn’t quite there yet:

The 2020 Maximum Arctic Sea Ice Extent

As Zack Labe has recently pointed out, in 2015 the Arctic sea ice maximum extent based on the JAXA numbers had already occurred on February 15th:

Perhaps it’s time we started paying attention this year! However the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported a significantly later date in 2015:

On February 25, 2015, Arctic sea ice extent appeared to have reached its annual maximum extent, marking the beginning of the sea ice melt season. This year’s maximum extent not only occurred early; it is also the lowest in the satellite record. However, a late season surge in ice growth is still possible.

Each year we keep track of the assorted Arctic sea ice metrics over the next month or so, and they rarely agree on the date of maximum extent, and never agree on the sea ice extent on that date! The reason for that is explained in a 2017 paper entitled “Variability and trends in the Arctic Sea ice cover: Results from different techniques“:

Reports on the sea ice cover have been provided by different institutions using basically the same set of satellite data but different techniques for estimating key parameters such as ice concentration, ice extent, and ice area. In this study, a comparison of results from four different techniques that are frequently used shows significant disagreements in the characterization of the distribution of the sea ice cover primarily in areas that have a large fraction of new ice cover or significant amount of surface melt.

In due course we’ll look at the metrics from a variety of different institutions, but let’s start with JAXA, comparing 2020 with 2015 and the 2010s average:

Extent is clearly increasing just at the moment! Will the next peak prove to be the maximum for the year or will we have to wait another month or more to find out that value, as suggested by the average?

Compare and contrast JAXA extent with Wipneus’ high resolution AMSR2 extent and area:

Perhaps the 2020 maximum area has already been reached?

[Edit – February 25th]

Or perhaps not! We’re playing mix and match this morning, since Wipneus’s new numbers haven’t been released yet. Here UH AMSR2 high resolution Arctic sea ice area from February 23rd:

Plus JAXA extent for the 24th:

[Edit – February 27th]

Tony Heller’s latest sea ice themed article claims “Normal Sea Ice Extent At Both Poles”. Hence today’s JAXA extent graph includes the averages for previous decades:

Extent is evidently increasing once again, and is even more evidently well below what passed for “normal” in the twentieth century!

Let’s also compare the Pacific periphery:

with the Atlantic side of the Arctic Ocean:

The Bering and Okhotsk Seas will be sea ice free by the time September 2020 arrives. How about the Kara, Barents and particularly Greenland Seas though?

[Edit – February 29th]

Arctic sea ice maximum volume usually occurs in April, but nonetheless let’s keep an eye on the metric that most nearly measure the “amount” of sea ice left in the Arctic in 2020. Here’s our “measured” CryoSat-2/SMOS volume metric, using reanalysed data up to February 12th:

PIOMAS “modelled” volume for February should be released soon, but getting back to extent the JAXA flavour has been setting new highs over recent days:

whereas the NSIDC’s Charctic 5 day averaged extent has not!

[Edit – March 6th]

Here’s the February PIOMAS gridded Arctic sea ice thickness map, courtesy of Wipneus on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum:

plus the traditional modelled volume graph:

As angech has pointed out elsewhere, according to the PIOMAS team:

CryoSat-2 data show total volume for February 2020 substantially lower than PIOMAS with 2020 Febuary near record low levels over the 2011-2020 period

[Edit – March 19th]

The March mid month PIOMAS numbers have been crunched by Wipneus. Here’s how things look at the moment:

For comparison purposes here’s the current CryoSat-2/SMOS Arctic sea ice thickness map:

[Edit – March 20th]

After flatlining for a long time JAXA extent has posted significant declines for two days running. There’s been no official announcement from the NSIDC as yet, but it now seems safe to conclude that there won’t be a late surge in extent similar to 2010. Here’s the current JAXA graph:

plus NSIDC’s 5 day averaged extent:

Hence the (still provisional!) maximum numbers for 2020 are:

JAXA/VISHOP AMSR2 – 14.45 million square kilometres on March 3rd
NSIDC 5 day SSMIS – 15.05 million square kilometres on March 5th

The University of Hamburg’s JAXA AMSR2 concentration data seems to have suffered an outage over the crucial period. Hopefully the gaps will be filled in due course. However more recent regional graphs  reveal the following:

The recent declines in overall extent are evidently driven by declines on the Pacific periphery.