Drilling in the Arctic Ocean - December 2011 Update

This is Shell’s vision of drilling in paradise: The ocean is calm, no ice in sight, whales keep distance, the sun is shining, all vessels operate as planned, blow out preventer functions well, contractors are experienced and all damage will be cleansed before winter darkness. The Concerned namely Scott Woodham writing for AlaskaDispatch is not convinced.

BOEM just approved Shells Chuckhi Sea drilling plan, but with strings attached. Most importantly any drilling must stop 38 days before the ice season starts. Based on a 5-year analysis of historic weather patterns, BOEM anticipates November 1 as the earliest anticipated date of ice encroachment.

Just to compare above are the ice conditions as of 2001-11-01. BOEM seems to rule out any possible recovery.

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TV AD: Are We Ready to Drill in the Arctic Ocean?

This TV advertisement aired in the D.C. market on This Week, Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and State of the Union on December 4. It also will air during the week of December 5-9 on Morning Joe, The Daily Show, and Rachel Maddow.

PewEnvironment.org: Are We Really Ready to Drill in America's Arctic Ocean?

Sea Ice Decline in Canada's Regions

Statistics Canada just released the Winter report 2011 including detailed information about sea ice shrinkage over a 43 year period. The largest declines occurred in five southern and eastern sea ice regions:

  • Northern Labrador Sea, where sea ice decreased at a rate of 1,536 square kilometres, or 17 per cent, per decade,
  • Hudson Strait (down 4,947 square kilometres, or 16 per cent, per decade)
  • Davis Strait (down 6,581 square kilometres, or 14 per cent, per decade)
  • Hudson Bay (down 16,605 square kilometres, or 11 per cent, per decade)
  • Baffin Bay (down 18,658 square kilometres, or ...
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Dear Icebergs

More letters from Unicorns, Grammar, Spoon and other at demilked.com

Natural Variations?

A very popular point puts changes of the Arctic sea ice into a historic perspective and claims 'there always have been natural variations'. Just like ebb and flow sea ice will come and go - nothing special.

The opposite states the abstract of the 'History of sea ice in the Arctic':

The current reduction in Arctic ice cover started in the late 19th century, consistent with the rapidly warming climate, and became very pronounced over the last three decades. This ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities.

The question is how does the signal of recent decline compares to known variations and a new papers by Christophe Kinnard and colleagues nicely visualizes this aspect. 'Reconstructed changes in Arctic sea ice over the past 1,450 years' describes the use of a network of high-resolution terrestrial proxies from the circum-Arctic region to reconstruct past extents of summer sea ice.

Check out the course of the top curve and then try to accept the Deluge as a matter of ebb and flow.

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New Visualizations of Sea Ice Decline

New ways to depict the ongoing sea ice retreat happening at the North Pole are always appreciated. Both of these info-graphics - designed by Rupert Burton and published at the BBC Earth Life Is blog - nicely contain the Arctic Circle as thematic motif. Enjoy and absorb.

Highres files: 1, 2

Manually Drawn Antidepressants, Episode 2

Seen on the walls of New York.

Via: Reno Rambler

Lost in Translation

Scientific TermGeneral Meaning/PerceptionBetter Choice
abstractvague, intangiblesummary
acceleratespeed upspeed up or slow down, a change in speed or direction
accommodationplace to sleep/change to make someone more comfortablefocusing of the eye's lens
aerosolspray cantiny airborne particle
alcoholbeerpreservative, rubbing alcohol, drinking alcohol, etc.
amplificationsomething that makes music louderincreasing
anomalyabnormal occurencechange from long-term average
anti-bioticsoap, hand sanitizer, kitchen cleanersterilizer, agent to kill microbes
assayjudge, essayanalyze, a method used to test
attractionliking someone a lotbeing pulled towards each other
bacteriadirty, unhealthy, infectious agentsmicroscopic organisms, microbes
basicsimple, easy[of research] not applied, fundamental, alkaline
biasdistortion, political move, prejudiceoffset of an observation

It is naive to think language just works. Depending on the audience a word, a sentence or a paragraph may have multiple and even different meanings. Everybody has his/her own personal history and interpretation is a matter of experience.

The highly specific language used in scientific publication is no exception. In fact in some subject areas (reads quantum mechanics) you have no chance to understand a bit, although your mother’s language was used.

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Ice + Seals = Polar Bears

Via: Simple Equation Predicts Doom for Polar Bears

Sea Ice Thickness Forecast

Just out of curiosity I wanted to know what the average sea ice thickness in the Arctic actually is. So I took the available GSFC Dataset, filled the holes and used the overlapping time range with the IJIS/JAXA data set to perform a least error approach and gained a table starting 1979-01-01 and ending 2010-12-31. This range is also covered by the PIOMAS sea ice volume data set and calculating daily thickness was easy then.

But average thickness is a value which works only within a certain range. Having an average of zero, does no way mean there are any floes with negative thickness. Also, it turns out yearly thickness minimum is not in September, but rather in December when the Arctic is covered with a lot of fresh and thin ice.

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Earliest and Latest Sea Ice Melting Onset Dates

Paper published in the Indian Journal of Geo-Marine Sciences by S R Oza*, R K K Singh, N K Vyas & Abhijit Sarkar. The authors performed a "Spatio-temporal analysis of melting onset dates of sea-ice in the Arctic" and came to the conclusion:

Present study demonstrates that the historical onset-date image derived from the remote sensing data can be useful in the identification of areas that are having anomaly in the sea-ice seasonality.

It is found that the anomalies observed in the onset dates can be used as an indicator of the summer ice-free conditions in the Arctic Ocean which has ...

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24 Years with Montreal Protocol - Why there are two Ozone Holes?

There is not much ozone in the atmosphere, all molecules at eye level would build a layer of a few millimeters. There is also not much usable atmosphere around our planet, oxygen is down to half at 5km and beyond 30km you’ll see stars on pure black above a blue planet.

Technically the atmosphere ends with exosphere phasing out at 100km. SpaceShipOne pilot Brian Binnie returned in good shape from 112km, but consult your doc before planning an altitude of 6,000m without life support.

Most triatomic oxygen exists in the stratosphere between 15 and 25 kilometers and filters out DNA damaging solar UV-B radiation. It is estimated that 1% less ozone increases some forms of non-melanoma skin cancer by 3%.

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Timelapse Ice Video from Murmansk to Dudinka Port

2 years old - still awesome. Enjoy this day and night trip from Murmansk to Dudinka Port via Barents Sea, White Sea, Pechora Sea, Kara Strait, Kara Sea, Yenisei Gulf, Yenisei River. All timelapses were photographed at temperatures from -30C to -50C, you can notice "boiling" water when icebreaker unseals ice armor.

Music -"Circle" from "Contact Note" by Jon Hopkins, 2004

More timelapse videos here.

Russian Oil and Gas field in Barents and Kara Sea


Oil and gas fields infographic just blogged for future reference. Also Wikipedia has an entry covering the East-Prinovozemelsky field, Kara sea. And the Barents Sea resources, shared between Norway and Russia as seen by the UNEP's 'The Environment Times'.

See Thick Ice vanishing in the Beaufort Gyre

credit: NOAA

NOAA climate service animation based on the work of James Maslanik, Colorado, showing ice age distribution beginning January 1987 through mid-summer 2011. The Beaufort Gyre no longer fosters multiyear ice, instead it is now a dangerous place for old and thick ice.

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Sea Ice is not flat - Let's discuss Thickness

The season 2011 again revealed sea ice extent is the less informative the lower sea ice concentration is in the Arctic. Actually you may call it a red herring hiding the true nature of sea ice decline. It is time to put on 3D glasses and talk about volume and thickness.

To the end of this season the discussion focused on whether the ocean surface covered by sea ice was less or more this September or in 2007’s. That’s like comparing the buying power of different currencies by measuring the size of the banknotes.

These rose-colored spectacles called extent and area do not tell us winter sea ice currently looses thickness at an averaged rate of 10 centimeters and more per year. They filter out bottom melting during summer easily sums up to a meter during a month with a maximum rate of 10cm per day.

Finally both parameter prevent us from realizing that if melting trends continue or accelerate we’ll witness in a few years how millions of square miles of first year ice a few centimetres thick surprisingly turn into sea water just within a few days leaving only scattered floes of older ice.

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50 Days with CGC HEALY in the Ice

Having a sailing webcam in the Arctic fascinated me from the first day I’ve found the link. Although it is only one image per hour the insight is incomparable, well despite spending some time in the Arctic for yourself on an icebreaker.

But the tremendous amount of photos leads to perception stress and some kind of overview was needed to grasp to whole picture and not to get lost in details. I hope the above result of a few hours number crunching serves this purpose (click the image).

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There is Ice on Mars

This is so off-topic it is again on-topic. At the end of Martian summer warmer weather let solid frozen carbon dioxide evaporate into the atmosphere. Next cold season the gas will refreeze again to dry-ice at the South Pole of Mars.

Info: Astronomy Picture of the Day

Manually Drawn Antidepressants, Episode 1

xkcd.com always has an excellent point of view on science meets public understanding meets economy. Make sure to detect the hidden comment.

Is this the Arctic's Polar Ice Pack July 202X?