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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Colors of a Melting Cryosphere

The Polar Science Center just updated the monthly PIOMAS sea ice volume table and instead of presenting a line chart I thought of a different approach. In the image above every single day is color coded, consult the color bar to translate into volume.

Some years stand out, in 1995 melting started earlier and it took a whole year to reach usual volume. Also 2007, which already started with a below average winter volume. Green indicates roughly the middle of the distribution, note how winter volume on the right side approaches summer volume on the left side.

With 2010 a new era started, interestingly with no trend between years in winter and much higher losses in summer. Given the strong decrease of thick multi year ice, PIOMAS seems to approach the maximum winter volume for an ice pack consisting mainly of first year ice.

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Russia in the News

Reuters disseminates a note from Kremlin saying Gazprom Neft and Royal Dutch Shell prepare to join forces to exploit on- and offshore resources in the Arctic. Putin visits The Netherlands next week.

As a follow up of Putin's inspection of the Franz Josef Land in 2010, reports a team of 30 students will start cleansing the archipelago as of 1st of June. 400,000 barrels as well as 700 containers of varying size that hold 10-50 metric tons of oil and lubricants were found in 2010.

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Something is missing here...

... in the pseudo science group. Also, The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense, same author.

Beaufort Sea Cracks captured by Suomi NPP Satellite

Make sure to watch the HD version. One image per day is not especially smooth for an animation, but the accelerated drift speed of the floes is nicely visualized. If I only find out how to make use of NOAA's Class site and get direct access on the true color images.

The Deep Ocean Immersion Heater

Only partially related to the Arctic, but the global warming hiatus discussion may have finally found an end. I always thought that discourse was dead on arrival and not worth the efforts. Now Balmaseda et al. found the deeper ocean is heating up and present the graph and explanation below. You'll find the message by examining the trend after 2000.

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Abrupt Climate Change in the Arctic - A Lecture by Prof. Carlos Duarte

This Inquiring Minds Lecture by Professor Carlos M. Duarte serves as an excellent opener to a new melting season. It reminds you there is more than sea ice in the Arctic. During one hour he covers almost all hot topics, provides information about new developments, drops surprising details, presents scientific insights from papers published just weeks before and he connects the dots.

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If you don't mend up a small crack on the wall you end up building the entire wall.

It was never so easy to detect the Beaufort Gyre and its clockwise rotation on satellite images. Whether winter ice is now that thin it can't stand usual weather forces or the weather changed remains to be determined.

Cracks with an irregular stress pattern are common in the Arctic - the floes are constantly moving, but this distinct pattern is visible up to North Pole. Fore sure, weeks after melting starts, we'll see an even more unknown pattern of floes. I expect unusual noisy extent charts, too.

Click the image to zoom into a mostly cloud free and spectacular ...

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The Wheelchair and the Hockeystick

Two reconstructions, an instrument record and the A1B scenario combined. Can you distinguish natural variations and anthropogenic impact?

Continue reading the details at, also in Dutch.

Good Question

Recently accepted paper by James Overland and Muyin Wang poses a challenging question: When will the Summer Arctic be Nearly Sea Ice Free?

The abstract says, it depends: Three recent approaches to predictions in the scientific literature are: 1) extrapolation of sea ice volume data, 2) assuming several more rapid loss events such as 2007 and 2012, and 3) climate model projections. Time horizons for a nearly sea ice free summer for these three approaches are roughly 2020 or earlier, 2030 +/-10 , and 2040 or later.

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Video: Arctic Infrared

Just an attempt to follow sea ice dynamics and escape Arctic winter darkness. Source video should be available from the Vimeo page in case you miss frame by frame playback. First frame is dated 2013-01-15. I'll try to update it once per week or so.

SMOS - Brightness Temperature

A very promising data set targeting daily sea ice thickness. Especially during Winter freeze-up thickness retrieval up to 0.5m appears possible. Once the science is settled and ice temperature, salinity, snow load, etc. fit into the equation every ice breaker's navigator will welcome this product.

The images below map only values between 105°K and 260°K, missing values are transparent. Files (netCDF) and further info are available at

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Sea Ice Volume, S1E3, Monthly PIOMAS Thickness Maps 2012

This time the Sea Ice Volume Series offers an interactive feature to explore sea ice reduction in 2012. Just hover your mouse over the months below to load the indicated map.

PIOMAS shows significant reduction in thickest ice category North of Greenland and the Archipelago in December. An overall thinning compared to December 2011 is also observable, but less surprising, because that's the trend.

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Jennifer Francis and The Arctic Paradox

Jennifer Francis makes a great job drawing a line from sea ice retreat to slower moving weather patterns on the northern hemisphere. Probably it is strongly against common sense to accept colder winter and more snow as an aspect of global warming, but eventually even a room full of meteorologists absorbs the message - if properly presented.

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Yes, You Can Climate! Obama vows climate change action in inaugural speech

Updates: How serious is Barack Obama about climate change? Dear Mr. President: Time to Deal with Climate Change ExxonMobil will give $250K to inauguration

Sea Ice Volume, S1E2, IPCC Ice Thickness from Submarine Sonar

A new installment of the sea ice volume/thickness series, this time it's from latest the 2007 IPCC AR4 Report, Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis, chapter Evidence of Changes in Arctic Pack Ice Thickness from Submarine Sonar:

Estimates of thickness change over limited regions are possible when submarine transects are repeated (e.g., Wadhams, 1992). The North Pole is a common waypoint in many submarine cruises and this allowed McLaren et al. (1994) to analyse data from 12 submarine cruises near the pole between 1958 and 1992. They found considerable interannual variability, but no significant trend. Shy and Walsh (1996) examined the same data in relation to ice drift and found that much of the thickness variability was due to the source location and path followed by the ice prior to arrival at the pole.

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Sea Ice Volume Series, Episode 1 (Atlantic Waters)

Since the draft of latest +1000 pages US Climate Assessment completely ignores volume as a dimension of Arctic sea ice - probably assuming constant thickness during satellite era - I'll start here a series of findings to give evidence sea ice volume is not an unknown thing to science.

To be fair, the search term 'sea ice thickness' appears once in Chapter 12, Tribal, Indigenous, and Native Lands and Resources

Scientists across the Arctic have documented regional warming over the past few decades at twice the global rate, and indigenous Arctic communities have been observing the changes in their daily lives. This warming is accompanied by significant reductions in sea ice thickness and extent, increased permafrost thaw, more extreme weather and severe storms, changes in seasonal ice melt/freeze of lakes and rivers, water temperature, flooding patterns, erosion, and snowfall timing and type

Later this spring the series will result in a comment to the draft and hopefully the key message with a projection of an ice free Arctic earliest in the middle of the century got revised.

Here is the first part of the series, a paper presented for discussion earlier this week, written by V. A. Alexeev, V. V. Ivanov, R. Kwok and L. H. Smedsrud and titled: North Atlantic warming and declining volume of arctic sea ice, [full text] The article tries to estimate the effect of the recent North Atlantic warming on the ice melting processes happening at the outlet of the Arctic Ocean near Fram Strait, Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land.

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RIP Seymour Laxon