An Inconvenient Truth About Polar Ice Melt

The celebrated web site of our old friend Anthony Watts published an article yesterday entitled “The polar ice melt myth“. As a self styled expert on that particular topic I popped over there expectantly, only to discover that it is an actual fact a cut ‘n’ paste of an April 30th article by Dr. Jay Lehr at CFACT. Part of that article reads as follows:

Al Gore predicted in 2007 that by 2013 the Arctic Ocean would be completely ice free. In the summer of 2012 ice levels did reach all time lows in the Arctic. Emboldened by this report Australian Professor Chris Turney launched an expedition in December of 2013 to prove that the Antarctic Sea Ice was also undergoing catastrophic melting only to have his ship trapped in sea ice such that it could not even be rescued by modern ice-breakers.

The Professor should have known that a more accurate estimate of sea ice can be had from satellite images taken every day at the Poles since 1981. These images show that between summer and winter, regardless of the degree of summer melting, the sea ice completely recovers to its original size the winter before for almost every year since the pictures were taken. The sea ice has been stubbornly resistant to Al Gore’s predictions. In fact the average annual coverage of sea ice has been essentially the same since satellite observations began in 1981. However that has not stopped global warming advocates and even government agencies from cherry picking the data to mislead the public.

I also like to think that I’m something of an expert on the way “skeptical” folks cherry pick the data to mislead the public. For example I once wrote a post about David Rose‘s Mail on Sunday article concerning  Al Gore’s interpretation of Prof. Wieslaw Maslowski’s research into Arctic sea ice decline. Hence I felt compelled to comment on this most recent of misleadling WUWT articles about polar ice!

As luck would have it Guy McPherson recently interviewed Wieslaw about events back in 2007 and his more recent research on Arctic sea ice melt. Here is a video recording of their conversation:

I endeavoured to bring this most relevant piece of information to the attention of Anthony’s loyal readership last night (UTC) as follows:

This morning my pertinent comment is still “awaiting moderation”.


Melt Pond May 2019

A couple of years ago I was asked to provide “a handful of things [you] will be keeping an eye on over the next few months to judge how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ the melt is going?”

My answer was, and remains:

5 fingers worth to start with? Not necessarily in order of time or importance!

1. How soon melt ponds and/or open water hang around in the Beaufort Sea this year. Things started very early [in 2016]:

2. Ditto the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea

3. Ditto the Laptev and East Siberian Seas

4. How many (and how deep, warm, wet) spring cyclones spin around the Arctic Ocean

5. How the snow melt progresses across Canada, Alaska and Siberia

Applying the same criteria this year, open water is already hanging around in the Beaufort Sea, as well as the Amundsen Gulf:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Beaufort Sea on May 21st 2019, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Beaufort Sea on May 21st 2019, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

What’s more a cyclone is currently spinning in the area too:

With those prerequisites in place, how about my other criteria? Here’s the current northern hemisphere snow cover graph:

That suggests snow cover over land is close to recent lows, which is confirmed by the Rutgers University snow cover anomaly graph for April:

This year is anomalously low, but not by as much as 2012 and 2016. For completeness, here also is the current US National Ice Center snow cover map:

Moving on to melt ponds, there are plenty to be seen on the fast ice around the Mackenzie river delta:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Mackenzie Delta on May 24th 2019, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Mackenzie Delta on May 24th 2019, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

There also seem to be signs of some at a higher latitude off Ostrov Kotelny in the New Siberian Islands:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Laptev Sea on May 23rd 2019, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Laptev Sea on May 23rd 2019, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

This year there is also a lot of open water in the Chukchi Sea, and almost no sea ice left in the Bering Sea:

Compared with 2016 at the same time of year I am compelled to say that with June 1st just around the corner the 2019 summer melting season is primed to progress more quickly.

The next obvious comparison to make is with the (in)famous year of 2012, which resulted in the lowest ever minimum extent in the satellite record. Firstly let’s look at the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s graph of Arctic sea ice extent:

Currently extent is significantly below 2012, albeit somewhat above 2016 at the same time of year. And what of melt ponds? In 2012 there was evidence of less snow cover over land and more surface water on the ice on the Siberian side of the Arctic:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Eastern Arctic on May 25th 2012, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Eastern Arctic on May 25th 2012, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

Other than that Arctic sea ice in 2019 looks to be in worse shape than in 2012.

[Edit – May 27th]

We’ve established that the extent of Arctic sea ice at the end of May 2019 is less than in 2012, but something else to consider is whether that ice is currently thicker than in 2012, or not. Satellites can have a reasonable stab at measuring the area of sea ice, but the third dimension is much trickier. The European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite has been attempting to measure sea ice thickness since 2010, so let’s take at the conclusions it has reached:

Don’t forget to take a good long look at the associated uncertainties too:

Watch this space!

The Northwest Passage in 2019

It is perhaps rather early to start speculating about if, and when, the Northwest Passage will become navigable for the host of small vessels eager to traverse it this summer.

However one such vessel is already en route to the Arctic Circle, so why don’t we take a look at its live tracking map?

Moli (Mo for short) is being piloted singlehandedly by Randall Reeves, who has already circumnavigated Antarctica and is hell bent on circumnavigating America too!

According to Randall’s last but one update he’ll be stopping in St. Johns before heading for the Arctic Circle:

“Have you explained why your first stop is St John’s?” asked a friend recently, “Not New York, Boston, Camden, Lunenberg, Halifax, to name just, well, five?”

It is a good question, and the answer is simple: I never considered going anywhere else because a) St John’s is decidedly on the Figure 8 route and b) it has the required marine facilities and big grocery stores. And did I mention, it’s right on the route?

Actually, I did flirt briefly with the idea of Boston, thinking that goods there would be cheaper and marine facilities, more diverse. And though it does save some 500 miles of sailing on this inbound leg, Boston is so far west that it adds 1,000 miles to the leg up to the Arctic. So, I’ve decided to stick to the most logical stop.

St. John’s is less than a thousand miles north now. In any worthy wind, we’d be there before the end of the month. But when your average speed is 3.9 knots…you don’t do the when-do-we-make-port math.

Interestingly the background to Moli’s live tracking map is from

[Edit – June 10th]

It’s very early in the melting season to be reporting on this event, but any early bird traversing the Northwest Passage from west to east could now sail through open water around Point Barrow, along the Alaskan and Canadian coast and into the Amundsen Gulf. Here’s the latest sea ice concentration chart for Alaskan waters from the US National Weather Service:

Whilst we’re here why don’t we take a look at how Randall is getting along in Moli. According to his latest blog post he is now in Halifax scraping barnacles off Moli’s bottom!

On Friday, June 8, day 245 of the Figure 8 Voyage, I hauled Mo here at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. My expectations were that the bum would be nearly spotless. Instead, we had a new crop of hitchhikers coming in at the base of those older barnacles that remained.

Lessons Learned:
“There is no good bottom paint for aluminum boats,” says my friend, fellow cruiser, and aluminum boat builder, Gerd Marggraff. Prior to departure, I had applied three generous coats of a bottom paint known specifically to ward off hard growth, but barnacles are superior beings, able to penetrate even the best defenses.

An early jump. I might have had an easier time of it if I’d dived the hull before the first Cape Horn rounding, when the barnacles were young and few.

In hindsight, I think I could have dived the hull with some success, even when the barnacles had matured into a reef. I found here in the yard that the “hold fast” (the glue that holds the barnacle fast to the hull) was easier to remove with a sharpened spatula than I had thought. It would have been a big job, taking a full day or more–but not impossible.

[Edit – June 15th]

Delving deeper into the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the clouds have cleared over “Amundsen’s Route” through the Northwest Passage to reveal extensive melt ponding:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Northwest Passage on June 14th 2019, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

Bellot Strait appears to be largely free of sea ice already:

[Edit – August 16th]

After a tense wait Bellot Strait has recently become blocked by 9/10 concentration sea ice but the southern route through the Northwest Passage via Peel Sound is now open to any vessel willing to cope with 6/10 concentration or less:

Facts About the Arctic in April 2019

At the beginning of April 2019 all the assorted Arctic sea ice extent metrics are at their respective lowest levels for the date in the satellite record. Just for a change let’s start with the JAXA/ViSHOP graph for April 1st, based on AMSR2 data:

That shows extent apparently on an inexorable decline. However the higher resolution graphs derived by Wipneus from University of Hamburg AMSR2 concentration data reveal that Arctic sea ice extent has changed little over the last couple of days, and area has even increased somewhat:

Whilst we wait for Wipneus’ latest PIOMAS thickness and volume update, here’s the gridded merged CryoSat-2/SMOS thickness data from the Finnish Meteorological Institute:

Watch this space for some other extent graphs once they’ve updated to April 1st. In particular the DMI’s version of events will be of great interest, since by way of a little All Fools Day fun I passed on the latest Arctic sea ice news to Tony Heller and the denizens of his “Deplorable Climate Science Blog” yesterday. They were not amused! By way of example, Rah solemnly informed me that:

Tony consistently has used the DMI data as his primary source on the conditions in the Arctic, while you jump to whatever source you think justifies your bias. Get a life. Arctic air temps this year so far have been running below what they were at this time last year.

This is the graph that Steve/Tony used in an attempt to make his point:

Accompanied by his sage thoughts on the matter:

That has to be your lamest cherry-pick on record.

Here too is the latest graph of Rah and Tony’s beloved DMI “Arctic air temps”:

P.S. Here are the April 1st numbers from Steve/Tony’s current metric du jour:

and from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Plus the April 2nd DMI “Arctic temperature” graph:


[Edit – April 3rd]

Snow White asked Axel Schweiger nicely on Twitter, and as if by magic the PIOMAS numbers for March have been released, including gridded thickness. Wipneus has crunched them to reveal the following end of March sea ice thickness map:

plus a rather unusual volume graph:

Here’s a closeup view:

According to the PIOMAS model Arctic sea ice volume has been flatlining for the last couple of weeks, and may even have peaked already!

Meanwhile returning to 2 dimensions the decline in area has resumed:


[Edit – April 7th]

Wipneus’ UH high resolution extent fell another 129k yesterday:

Plus a close up look at the FMI merged Cryosat-2/SMOS thickness for both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Arctic:

Apart from the usual thick ice queueing for the Fram Strait exit there’s not a lot to prevent the comparatively swift early melt from continuing apace.

Facts About the Arctic in March 2019

Wipneus has recently updated the mid month PIOMAS gridded thickness map, which looks like this:

The accompanying PIOMAS volume graph currently shows 2019 in seventh place:

We now have a new thickness metric to peruse each month. Here’s the gridded merged CryoSat-2/SMOS thickness data from the Finnish Meteorological Institute:

Since the FMI make the gridded data available as well as that visualisation, here’s a closer look at the Bering/Chukchi area:

There’s an awful lot of thin ice in the region ripe for rapid melting now that the sun is shining down for a rapidly increasing number of hours per day. Over on the other side of the North Pole there’s also some significant swell forecast to hit the Atlantic edge of the Arctic ice pack. Here’s the current WaveWatch III forecast for 09:00 UTC tomorrow morning:

Finally, for the moment at least, here are the current Arctic wide high resolution AMSR2 sea ice area and extent graphs:


[Edit – March 22nd]

This Sentinel 1 SAR image of the Lincoln Sea from PolarView suggests that the northern arch of the Nares Strait is breaking up once again:

It is therefore conceivable that sea ice in the Lincoln Sea will continue to break up and flow south through the Nares Strait for the entire 2018/2019 winter.


[Edit – March 23rd]

Bering Sea ice area has “rebounded” over the last few days:

and taken the Arctic wide metrics with it:

Here’s the latest Sentinel 1 SAR image of the Lincoln Sea and northern Nares Strait:


[Edit – March 24th]

The “rebound” has reversed:

With temperatures above freezing point across the Bering and Chukchi Sea forecast for tomorrow morning expect the decline in Arctic sea ice extent to accelerate:


[Edit – March 25th]

There was a 162k decline in high resolution extent yesterday:

Here also is the current state of the thick sea ice exiting the Lincoln Sea via the Nares Strait:


[Edit – March 27th]

Here’s another week’s merged CryoSat-2/SMOS thickness data from the Finnish Meteorological Institute:


[Edit – March 30th]

We’re still waiting for Wipneus’ Raspberry Pi to crunch the high resolution AMSR2 numbers, but here’s the latest from JAXA:

2019 currently in 3rd place by a whisker.

P.S. The high resolution AMSR2 numbers are out:

Area is certainly lowest for the date in the AMSR2 era. Extent will almost certainly achieve that status tomorrow. Excluding the two most peripheral seas reveals perhaps an even more worrying picture?


[Edit – March 31th]

Arctic sea ice coverage is now firmly in the “lowest extent for the date in the satellite record” category, whichever metric you care to choose:

The NSIDC 5 day average is in a “statistical tie” for first place with 2017:

Arctic Basin Big Wave Surfing Contest Equipment Evaluation 3

It’s been a long wait for the first ever Great White Con Arctic Basin Big Wave (Fantasy?) Surfing Contest to remove the ‘F’ from the overlong acronym. However currently the omens are bad for the sea ice in the Arctic Basin, which is sadly good for the GWCABBWSC. As we announced yesterday, there is already plenty of open water in the Chukchi Sea north of the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska:

Sentinel 3's view of the Bering Strait on February 28th 2019
Sentinel 3’s view of the Bering Strait on February 28th 2019

All of which means that today we are extremely unhappy to be able to announce that the waiting period for the Great White Con Arctic Basin Big Wave Surfing Contest 2019 began on March 1st.

Earlier this week I posed a little conundrum over on Twitter. Here it is:

Nobody has called the Great White Con Ivory Towers hotline with the correct answer as yet, so today we can also reveal that the third in our series of Arctic Basin equipment evaluations took place last Wednesday on the outskirts of Newquay in North Cornwall. Here’s a slightly less obscure clue for the pub quiz fanatics amongst you:

As you can see from my neoprene encased image on Twitter, I was perhaps slightly over dressed for the weather conditions last week. I was wearing a C-Skins thermal rash vest with integrated hood inside my ancient Gul 5/4/3 winter wetsuit plus Tiki 6 mm socks and 2 mm webbed gloves. Even my fingers were more than warm enough on the day, although it’s fair to say that conditions weren’t typical for late summer in the Arctic Basin! What’s more they weren’t even typical for Newquay, since the weather on Wednesday was the tail end of a “heat wave” involving the highest February temperatures in England since the Met Office’s records began:

What with one thing and another warming wise we’re confidently(ish) anticipating that the Great White Con big wave surf team will be searching the shores of the Arctic Basin on their electric powered jetskis for potential big wave spots by early September 2019. Unfortunately the opposing “Great Green Con” team haven’t worked out how to drive a jetski yet, but hopefully we can resolve that minor problem before the Arctic refreeze begins once again?

Regular readers who also follow the surfing news may recall that Great White Con team leader Andrew Cotton broke his back during his award winning wipeout at Nazaré in Portugal back in November 2017?

I spoke to Cotty yesterday and he assured me that his back was already healed sufficiently to take on the biggest waves the Arctic might care to offer over the coming months. However the same doesn’t yet apply to his more recent knee injury:

He expects to be fully fit by the end of the Northern Hemisphere summer, but failing that Cotty’s team partner Garrett McNamara has also successfully returned from injury recently, and hasn’t yet hurt anything else!

By the end of the long contest waiting period we will also have selected the lucky winner of our 2019 “New Einstein” competition who will be able to enjoy being fitted with one of our custom polar bear suits before partnering with “Great Green Con” team leader David Rose. Here’s our artist’s impression of a forthcoming GGC team equipment evaluation session on the next big swell to hit Nazaré:

With apologies to Pedro Miranda, Andrew Cotton and polar bears worldwide.

Watch this space!

The Great White Con 2019 “New Einstein” Award

The omens are good that 2019 is destined to be a year of firsts in the Arctic. Our regular reader(s) will no doubt fondly recall previous editions of our annual Great White Con “New Einstein” Award? 2019’s competition breaks all the moulds by opening the running with a quote from Snow White’s home from home at the Arctic Sea Ice Forum rather than one of the usual “skeptical” venue!

Here for your delectation is the very first “New Einstein” contestant of the 2019 melting season:

1) Lurk at the ASIF, with:

Your unnecessary over the top haughtiness and implicit threats is not helping your communication style one bit Jim. I am far from impressed atm with your version of the Ivory Tower you seem to inhabit. By all means ‘sharpen your sword’ if that is what you imagine you are dealing with because someone says they do not quite understand what you thread is all about.

You can either answer such reasonable questions with a modicum of sincerity and genuineness or continue in the direction you are heading.

2) Spike55 at unRealScience, with:

You’re an idiot.


A child-minded troll

And a slimebag con-man.

That’s all.

3) Freegrass at the ASIF, with:

What I found out these last 3 months as a Newbie on this forum is that some people here don’t like it when new members take away the spotlight from the oldtimers. All they do is moan and bitch over file sizes, but they fail to reply to any other message I post. So what we have here my dear friend is a textbook example of bigotry. We are excluded from the group… They rather have we left, so they get all the attention again… But who cares? Leave those idiots be. Do what you know to be right, and work together for the benefit of all mankind!

in conjunction with:

Your only contributions to this thread have been complaints and promotions for your own website.

Please refrain from doing so! If you have some Nullschool animation to contribute or comments on the work that is posted here, feel free to do so! If you only come here to complain and tell people what to do, please go away!

and not forgetting:

May I remind everyone that this is the Nullschool Animations thread. I made this thread because you bastards complaint about my graphics on the melting season thread, and now you come here to bitch AGAIN? GO FUCK YOURSELVES!!!!!!!!

The 2019 Maximum Arctic Sea Ice Extent

March 2019 has arrived, which in recent years has proved to be by far the likeliest month to contain the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice for the year. To begin with, here’s our favourite high resolution extent graph calculated by “Wipneus” from University of Hamburg/JAXA AMSR2 data:

Hopefully you can plainly see the pronounced sharp peak towards the end of February 2019? The current maximum Arctic sea ice extent for 2019 is 13.83 million square kilometers on February 22nd. Here’s Arctic sea ice area for good measure:

The current maximum area for 2019 is 13.10 million square kilometers, also on February 22nd. Here too is the NSIDC’s 5 day averaged extent:


This reveals a current maximum extent for 2019 of 14.705 million square kilometers on February 24th.

At this juncture you may well be wondering what the cause of that sudden sharp peak might be? Here’s your starter for ten:

Whilst overall Arctic sea ice area is unremarkable for the current decade, sea ice area in the Bering Sea is remarkable low for the time of year! What’s more much like last year the Chukchi Sea is not currently full to overflowing with sea ice, and is also lowest for the date in the AMSR2 satellite records:

I’ve also been experimenting with the new gridded CryoSat-2/SMOS thickness data from the Finnish Meteorological Institute, which reveals this:

That’s a weekly overview dated February 24th, but it does perhaps explain how such a large area of sea ice could melt so swiftly?

As luck would have it the skies are reasonably clear over the Bering Strait this morning (UTC). Here’s Terra’s view from on high of the current situation:

Terra's view of the Bering Strait on March 1st 2019
Terra’s view of the Bering Strait on March 1st 2019

[Edit – March 1st PM]

The “low resolution” version of JAXA extent has fallen once again today:

Do you suppose that the current maximum of 14.19 million square kilometers on February 22nd will hold until All Fools’ Day and beyond?

[Edit – March 2nd]

An animation of recent movements of sea ice in the Bering and Chukchi Seas:


Note the recent spread of open water across the southern Chukchi Sea.

[Edit – March 3rd]

Another angle on the Chukchi Sea, plus significant areas of open water now becoming evident in the Beaufort Sea:


[Edit – March 5th]

Some alternative views on Arctic sea ice thickness:

PIOMAS via Wipneus:

Blended CryoSat-2/SMOS:

plus close ups of the Bering/Chukchi area:

and the Atlantic periphery:

Please note the change of scale.


[Edit – March 6th]

Arctic sea ice extent is currently rebounding:

although not in all the peripheral seas:


[Edit – March 7th]

High resolution AMSR2 area and extent both declined today:

Long distance swells are already reaching the Bering Sea, with much more to come:


[Edit – March 9th]

Wipneus’ trusty Raspberry Pi hasn’t crunched the high res AMSR2 numbers yet, so let’s take a look at some other extent metrics.

Here’s JAXA’s “low res” AMSR2 numbers:

Here too is the NSIDC’s 5 day average:

By special request from Michael Ohere for the first time is the DMI’s take on Arctic sea ice extent:

In addition, here is the underlying sea ice concentration data from the OSI-SAF:

Since Michael is also asserting that there currently exists “the greatest February Arctic sea ice extent (according to DMI) in your blog’s history”, here’s Arctic sea ice area excluding the extremely peripheral Okhotsk and St. Lawrence regions:

P.S. Wipneus’ Pi has processed the AMSR2 data now, and area shows another, more modest, decline today:

In addition, here is the underlying sea ice concentration data from the University of Hamburg:


[Edit – March 10th]

Both area and extent increased today:

including increases on both the Atlantic:

and Pacific sides of the Arctic:


[Edit – March 11th]

Both area and extent are still moving inexorably upwards:

The late February maximum still holds, on the high resolution numbers at least. The JAXA/VISHOP web site is down at the moment, so we’ll have to wait for an update to that particular metric, as well as a post weekend update to the NSIDC’s Charctic chart.

P.S. Jaxa is still down this afternoon, but here’s the latest from the NSIDC:


[Edit – March 13th]

Arctic wide area and extent have blasted past their respective late February maxima:

However Arctic sea ice area excluding the Okhotsk and St. Lawrence peripheral regions has still not exceeded the maximum formed on January 25th:


[Edit – March 14th]

This morning’s data reveal the first decline in extent for several days:

The (extremely!) tentative new maximum Arctic sea ice extent for 2019 is 13.89 million square kilometers on March 12th.


[Edit – March 15th]

JAXA is back!

UH AMSR2 confirms that extent is still declining:


[Edit – March 16th]

Arctic sea ice extent continues to decline, whilst area is still flatlining:

Meanwhile a look at freezing degree days based on the DMI’s dubiously weighted data for north of 80 degrees reveals the story of the freezing season. A historically warm start, but now back in amongst the pack of the 2010s:


[Edit – March 17th]

It looks as though there’ll be no going back from this. Arctic sea ice area is finally following extent’s decline in no uncertain terms:

Barring exceedingly unforeseen circumstances after this year’s “double top” that leaves the 2019 Arctic sea ice maximum extent numbers as follows:

UH/Wipneus AMSR2 – 13.89 million square kilometers on March 12th
JAXA/VISHOP AMSR2 – 14.27 million square kilometers on March 12th
NSIDC 5 day SSMIS – 14.78 million square kilometers on March 13th


[Edit – March 19th]

Arctic sea ice area has fallen off the proverbial cliff over the last few days. There can now be no doubt that the 2019 maximum extent has been reached:

That being the case, all other Arctic sea ice discussion for the month of March can now take place over at:

Facts About the Arctic in March 2019


[Edit – March 21st]

The NSIDC have provisionally confirmed this year’s maximum extent:

On March 13, 2019, Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.78 million square kilometers (5.71 million square miles), the seventh lowest in the 40-year satellite record, tying with 2007. This year’s maximum extent is 860,000 square kilometers (332,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average maximum of 15.64 million square kilometers (6.04 million square miles) and 370,000 square kilometers (143,000 square miles) above the lowest maximum of 14.41 million square kilometers (5.56 million square miles) set on March 7, 2017. Prior to 2019, the four lowest maximum extents occurred from 2015 to 2018.

The date of the maximum this year, March 13, was very close to the 1981 to 2010 median date of March 12.

Please note this is a preliminary announcement of the sea ice maximum. At the beginning of April, NSIDC scientists will release a full analysis of winter conditions in the Arctic, along with monthly data for March.

Facts About the Arctic in January 2019

We generally write our periodic reports on the state of Arctic sea ice around the time the PIOMAS volume numbers are published. It seems as though we’ll have a long wait for that to happen at the moment though. According to The Economist today:

America’s government shutdown has become the longest in history. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers remain either stuck at home or forced to work without pay. To reopen the government President Donald Trump is demanding $5.7bn for his border wall. Nancy Pelosi, who presides over the most polarised House of Representatives in recent memory, does not want to give it to him.

and according to the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington:

Due to the US Government Shutdown, PIOMAS ice volume and thickness data which depend on federal government generated reanalysis products, are currently not updated.

Instead of PIOMAS, let’s start instead with the January 2019 edition of the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s Arctic Sea Ice News:

As 2018 came to a close, Arctic sea ice extent was tracking at its third lowest level in the satellite record, while sea ice in the Antarctic remained at historic lows. Slightly faster growth in the first few days of the new year, mostly in the Pacific sea ice areas, has the daily sea ice extent at fifth lowest as of this post.

Now let’s take a look at our favourite high resolution AMSR2 area and extent metrics:

You can see that towards the end of December Arctic sea ice extent was verging on lowest for the date, since when it has risen quickly to reach highest for the date in the brief AMSR2 records a few days ago.

The NSIDC also mention the US Government shutdown:

Unfortunately, as a result of the partial government shutdown, we are unable to access the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pages to retrieve information on atmospheric air temperatures and sea level pressure patterns. Instead, we turn to daily (2 meters above the surface) mean air temperatures north of 80 degrees North from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) operational model. This analysis shows that air temperatures remained above the 1958 to 2002 average for all of December.

Graph by Zack Labe
Graph by Zack Labe

That brings us on to our Arctic freezing degree days graph, based on DMI data:

After a very slow start to the freezing season the FDD numbers are now vying for second place with last year, behind the astonishingly warm winter of 2016/17. In the absence of the PIOMAS volume numbers we can at least take a look at sea ice thickness. Here’s CryoSat-2:

followed by SMOS:

and since a change is as good as a rest here’s the latest map from the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute for good measure:

All those sources seem to be agreed that large areas of both the Barents and Kara Seas are currently covered by young thin ice. Finally, for the moment at least, let’s take a look at some extracts from the NSIDC’s review of 2018:

January 2018 began the year with record low sea ice extents for the Arctic as a whole.

The seasonal maximum, reached on March 17, 2018, was the second lowest in the satellite record. While low extent persisted through April and May, sea ice loss during early summer was unremarkable despite above average 925 hPa air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean and Eurasia.

Air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean in July were below average, followed by above average temperatures in August. In fact, on average, August temperatures were higher than July temperatures in 2018. This is highly unusual in the Arctic and something not seen in at least 40 years.

The September 2018 seasonal minimum extent ended up slightly above the long-term linear trend line, tying with 2008 for the sixth lowest in the satellite record. After the minimum, the ocean was slow to freeze up, and October sea ice extent ended up as the third lowest. However, ice growth was very rapid in November, such that November 2018 extent approached the interquartile range of the 1981 to 2010 median. Nevertheless, large amounts of open water remained in the Barents and Chukchi Seas. By the end of December, ice conditions in the Chukchi Sea were back to average, while extent remained unusually low in the Barents Sea.

Coverage of old ice (greater than 4 years old) over the Arctic continued to decline. Such old ice covers only 5 percent of the area it used to in 1980s.


[Edit – January 13th]

Arctic sea ice area and extent have both been falling over the last few days, possibly as a result of the recent cyclone which created strong northerly winds in the Fram Strait. This is from Earth at 09:00 UTC on January 10th, showing a MSLP of 946 hPa:

Here’s what used to be referred to as JAXA extent:

Meanwhile up in the stratosphere at 10 hPa the polar vortex has gone into reverse:

Or to be more precise:

Facts About the Arctic in October 2018

A somewhat belated start to our October 2018 coverage, but firstly please take a look at this graph:


Following a remarkably sluggish refreeze this year JAXA extent is currently the lowest for the date since their records began. Meanwhile Wipneus has just released his mid month PIOMAS volume update on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum:


That graph reveals that Arctic sea ice volume has been increasing much more slowly than usual during October. The fact that the DMI freezing degree days graph is currently below all previous years in their records no doubt has something to do with that:


Wipneus has also updated the mid month PIOMAS gridded thickness map:


That’s the output of a model of course, but here too is the CPOM version of CryoSat-2 “measured” thickness:

Both sources agree that there’s a remarkable lack of thick ice in the Wandel Sea off north east Greenland this Autumn.

For a handle on the areas of thinner ice where refreezing is taking place around the periphery of the pack, here’s the latest SMOS map:

Finally, for the moment at least, here’s our favourite high resolution AMSR2 area and extent metrics based on JAXA data processed by the University of Hamburg to produced gridded concentration which is then used to derive area and extent by the inimitable Wipneus once again:




[Edit – October 28th]

Here’s the latest thickness maps from SMOS:

and CryoSat-2:

There’s been a recent rapid refreeze, leaving large areas of thin ice around the edges of the central pack: