Q&A with Peter Wadhams

Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physic at the University of Cambridge, looks at sea ice models, how to improve them, and how to improve the quality of the IPCC’s assessment reports.

NH Cryosphere 2013 reviewed by Polarportal, DK

The most important Arctic monitoring results in 2013:

  • The Greenland Ice Sheet contributed net 1.2 mm freshwater to global sea level.
  • The surface mass balance was lower than normal with a gain of 166 Gt vs. an average since 1990 of 368 Gt.
  • The sea ice extent was 21 % lower than normal (5.9 million km2 vs. the 1981-2009 average of 7.5 million km2).
  • Record warmth in late July promoted strong ice sheet surface melting.
  • The wind helped to maintain both ice sheet and sea ice.
  • The glacier front positions had no strong deviations.
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New Map Interface

I'm using these relative silent weeks of the winter season to update a few parts of arctic.io, especially the map interface will see major changes. So, this a first step to see what works and what not.

In case your curious check it out, I'll covering everything in detail once it works. The 'Satellite' entry from the top menu is now called 'Explorer' and links to the map interface. Available are now daily data from four satellites (AMSR2 w/ concentration, SMOS w/ thickness, Terra, Aqua) and the northern hemisphere true color images cover a larger region, even parts of Europe are included.

A completely new feature are forecasts from the Global Forecast System (GFS) with 4 steps per day - try using your mouse wheel with the fly-out calendar.

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Inuk - Feature Film by Mike Magidson

Actually filmed in 2010 this 90 minutes movie took a long road to the festivals. I'm not going to repeat this exciting story, because all of it was captured already here: The Evening Class Interview With Mike Magidson. Instead here is an excerpt of an IMDB critic written by Cameron McAllister:

Greenland's icy landscape is both chilling and mesmerizing. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult filming must have been for any crew members that were not from the area. Nonetheless, the film is shot and edited exceptionally; a fact that enough people agreed on to award it Best Narrative Feature, Best Director and Best Editing at the 2011 Savannah Film Festival.

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UK Arctic Policy

As the northernmost country not listed as a member of the Arctic Council the UK nevertheless could feel the impact of climate change happening in the Arctic faster than everywhere else. This new policy (PDF) expands on quite an amount of polar activities supported by the UK, science being a major one among them.

South Korea pilots Northern Sea Route

credit: Stena Bulk

Yesterday the Stena Polaris, a 183m long P-MAX tanker with ice class 1A arrived in Yeosu, South Korea, with a cargo of 44,000 tons of naphtha. The journey started in Ust Luga, Russia in the Gulf of Finland mid September.

Erik Hånell, President & CEO of Stena Bulk sees "the voyage with the Stena Polaris as the beginning of a long and far-­reaching collaboration with Hyundai Glovis".

Also in the news:
foreignpolicy.com: High North or High Tension?

Phailin Nari Wipha (2013-10-13)

Since when do tropical storms sync with satellites in polar orbit?

Always read Weather Reports twice

Destinations: The North Pool

Drill Rig on Fire

credit: U.S. Coast Guard

The gas rig partially collapsed earlier this day, so far no human losses and no related sheen have been reported. The incident - close to the coast of Louisiana - is visible from space.

latimes.com: Natural gas rig blows out...

New Polar Portal with Sea Ice Temperatures

Just launched this web site of Danish research institutions displays the results of their monitoring efforts in the Arctic. New to me is the above composite of sliding mean temperatures captured by the Metop-A satellite.

Sea Ice Melting Season started late, but not slow

It looks like someone pulled the trigger. While extent and area are still hundreds of thousands square kilometers behind 2012, Siberia and Alaska enjoy already sunny temperatures above 30°C. Also sea ice concentration on the Asian side is significantly lower from pole to coast than along the western part of the Arctic Basin.

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What if ...

... we never run out of oil, asks Charles C.Mann and 11,000 words later my impression is he avoids the answer on purpose. Instead he explores how the demand for cheap energy soaks like a parasitic disease all aspects of daily live on each scale. In case 'peak oil' comes to your mind - forget about - Mann argues after oil there is still enough methane-hydrate. Actually we have to leave carbon not because it runs out, it is because of its sheer abundance on this planet.

TheAtlantic.com: What if we never run out of oil?

Launches: ArcticTruth, Meereisportal

Two ambitious website launches appeared on my screen last week, both proving the Arctic moved again a step further into the center of public attention.

arctictruth.org, launched by Greenpeace, encourages whistleblowers to uncover more detailed information of important public interest relating to the safety of oil drilling in the Arctic, by any company.


The 'sea ice portal', launched by AWI, gives several German scientific activities a home and presents knowledge, observations, modelling and data regarding sea ice - currently only in German. The data section promises periodic sea ice thickness maps based on CryoSat and SMOS results.

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Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of climate change. Using time-lapse cameras, his videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate.

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Google Outage

As parts of arctic.io rely on Google services there are currently some interruptions. This includes the split zoom feature and in part the near real time satellite maps. I'm sorry for that. This status page shows when things are back normal: google.com/appsstatus

Fund Me, Maybe?

Hilarious video made by scientists at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, CA as part of #hackAAS. Hopefully the US budget sequestration bypasses Arctic science, although additional creative communication is welcome.

Three Oil Spills per Week - Check!

Brinicles and the Origin of Life

Brinicles are the most bizarre phenomena below sea ice. They grow like stalactites, but much faster and in absent of other forces eventually touch the sea floor freezing all creatures to death in their path. In 2011 the BBC team filming for 'Frozen Planet' captured these 'icy fingers of death' for the first time.

In a recent paper Julyan Cartwright at the University of Granada in Spain and colleagues describe in detail the chemistry of brinicles, and their most interesting observation is that brinicles also create chemical gradients, electric potentials and membranes - all the conditions necessary for the formation of life.

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DOI Report: Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic

A written manifestation nature can change faster than anyone can adapt. These three selected paragraphs describe at best the starting point and where to go. Reuters collected a few more voices.

The U.S. Arctic is a vast area that is changing rapidly while economic and social expectations are growing. This combination of factors is adding stress to a largely balkanized management system already straining to address many competing issues and priorities.

The sheer number of federal agencies alone presents challenges and underscores the need for a more coordinated approach. That said, however, there are many efforts at the local, regional, state, federal, and international levels that endeavor to improve coordination among the region’s stakeholders. These promising approaches can provide a foundation for a more holistic, integrated approach to management in the region.

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