Double dipping: It’s grim up north #3


Earlier this week, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced that the Arctic sea ice had reached its summer minimum extent, based on a four day run of extent increases. And then, like the fat lady in an overwrought opera refusing to die, trilling her agony and ecstasy to an appreciative audience, ice extent started dropping again. It was, as I suggested it might be at Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice blog, a double dip minimum — and as of this morning the extent (IJIS-JAXA graph above, but the NSIDC’s shows the same thing) is still dropping down towards 2008 — which holds second place in the record behind 2007. I still think it’s unlikely that the 2010 melt will do enough to pass 2008, but there’s a lot of thin ice and warm water up there, as I noted last Monday, and it will be interesting to see how the PIOMAS numbers for ice volume turn out — a new record low is definitely on the cards.

Attention will now turn to the autumn freeze-up, and the potential for the heat released by ice formation to impact northern hemisphere weather patterns. I’ve been reading a few papers on that subject, and will post a discussion as autumn up North progresses.

On a different tack, the future of the Arctic is becoming a popular subject for books. Robin McKie reviewed a selection for the Observer earlier this year (and from that selection I plan to read Charles Emmerson’s Future History of the Arctic, mainly because it seems to have arrived in southern hemisphere bookshops recently), but the book getting the most attention at the moment is Laurence C Smith’s The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future, due out this week (Science Daily). Smith summarises his vision in an article for the Wall Street Journal:

I imagine the high Arctic, in particular, will be rather like Nevada—a landscape nearly empty but with fast-growing towns. Its prime socioeconomic role in the 21st century will not be homestead haven but economic engine, shoveling gas, oil, minerals and fish into the gaping global maw.

That assumes, of course, that the “gaping maw” still exists…

44 thoughts on “Double dipping: It’s grim up north #3”

  1. If Smith is referring to chocolate fish he may have a point, but with the ongoing acidification of Arctic waters, expected to be corrosive to shellfish exoskeletons by 2017 & the current pillaging of global fish stocks, it all seems a tad fanciful to me.

  2. I wonder why so much focus is on Arctic sea ice *extent* (defined as the area with at least 15% sea ice coverage), and not on Arctic sea ice area itself. The *area* dipped at just over 3 million km2, and is now on the rise again ( Extent can be reduced by winds blowing the remaining bits of sea ice together, even when the total sea ice area has already started to grow again. Just to be clear: sea ice area was extremely low this year, just as extent!

    1. Extent is used most often because firstly it’s the easiest and quickest to get from the satellite data. Secondly, and this is my personal speculation, until recently it was a pretty good indicator of what was going on.

      Area has to be done as a secondary calculation looking at the individual segments of the satellite pictures.

      Of course when the data from the most important satellite is available, we’ll have some real figures on volume to work with rather than the best estimates that are being used at the moment.

  3. Area is also subject to blowing, and extent can be measured more accurately. What we really want to know about is volume, accurate measurements of which fortunately will be availble next melt season courtesy of Cryosat 2. Right now, since the new ice being formed has almost no volume, it’s very likely that volume is still dropping (to a new record low) due to melting by warm water.

      1. Thomas – I take it you meant Arctic, the Antarctic is virtually free of sea ice in the summer. The rapid loss of volume, together with the rotten multi year ice suggests (to me at least) that one season soon the Arctic sea ice is going to have an incredible melt, and disappear altogether.

        See Prof Barber’s talk about the rotten multi year ice here – Don’t watch that, watch this

  4. Having followed this year’s melt – and learning lots of arcane stuff along the way – my feeling is to watch the next el Nino. A big el Nino plus 12-18 months for some ocean circulation and the resulting warm water will surge in from the Pacific. The summer ice pack will reduce to a fringe along the tops of Greenland and the Canadian archipelago.

    The only thing that will slow or stop that outcome will be the warm water itself altering the wind and weather patterns in an unexpected way.

  5. off-topic, i know, but where are all the crank cries of global temperature dropping? Wasn’t this their mantra up until the end of last year – that the last decade has seen a dropping off of temperatures, therefore global warming isn’t happening?

    They seem to have clammed up recently. Wonder why.

    Must go and find all those claims and put them under scrutiny in light of this year’s record temps.

      1. indeed, perhaps not.

        but aside from the usual GPC stuff, I’ve not seen many recent bleatings about the last decade’s records showing that the earth is cooling.

    1. Cindy,

      No the nutters are out there doing their thing, as rust never sleeps. If you check this link out you will see that the latest GPC poll shows New Zealanders support for climate change waning:

      Note that all the red neck comments are out in force with the same old uninformed rhetoric. Their case seems to be based on what certain nutters think rather than what data shows. If you say things loud enough and often enough people will eventually start to believe it.

      1. ah yes I saw that poll – nice to see it’s been roundly rebutted… would like to see all the questions. For example: “18.1 percent agreed New Zealand should cut emissions even if it costs jobs” – so the [somewhat loaded?] question would have been “would you agree that we should cut emissions even if it costs jobs”?

        1. How is that loaded??

          If you ask the question, would you like to see more money spent on health care? People will respond yes. If you ask “Should taxes be raised?” people will respond no.

          If you ask, “Should taxes be raised to increase spending on healthcare?” People will respond with what they personally believe.

          I don’t see how the question, “would you agree that we should cut emissions even if it costs jobs”? is loaded, unless you think we can reduce emissions without losing jobs (aggregate reductions rather than BAU).

          1. R2D2: The thing is that it is entirely wrong to assume that emissions reductions cost jobs. This is a rather dull view.
            In Germany the emissions reduction work has created a large number of jobs in the alternative energy industry.

            Doing things with reduced emissions means doing things smarter. In the end a reduction in expenses on imported fuels must surely be a good thing! The money saved this way can be spend by our economy on the development of local sustainable resources.

            See this mantra that “Green” is bad for business is so totally yesterday! Just look at where the USA is at today and compare this to say Sweden.

            The USA had a liberal capitalist system that through the Reagan and Bush dynasties has refused time and again to modernize and switch to a smarter way of doing things. Now they are dependent on massive fuel imports, massive financial assistance from the outside (loans) and technically broke. Its car industry has been bough up by Asian companies and their unemployment is sky high.
            This is not because of the “evil greens” no its because of stupid liberal capitalist “conservative” mismanagement through decades.

            Emissions reductions = smarting up = replacing imported oil with brains, local resources and local labor!

          2. I agree it is important to scare people that they will lose their jobs in order to combat climate change.Its either their jobs or climate change pure and simple. Just like all those who lost their jobs when whaling was banned, the whalers remained permanently unemployed and the world economy was never able to fully recover.

            1. Ignoring all the idiot things said above about capitalsim etc, lets get back to the topic at hand.

              Do you have any empirical examples of this wealth creation?

              A study on the Spanish experience with green stimulus found that for every ‘green’ job created 2.2 jobs were lost elsewhere in the economy. Each ‘job’ cost the economy US$774,000. So the theory so far doesn’t fit the fact.


            2. Sorry R2D2.

              Gabriel Calzada has been discredited and his study is not worth the paper it was printed on.

              From this link:
              A Spanish paper that claimed support for green jobs “may destroy two jobs for every one created” has been debunked by an official publication of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The paper’s conclusions — led by Exxon-funded libertarian Gabriel Calzada — have been cited by GOP leaders, Fox News, right-wing columnists, conservative think tanks, and Big Oil front groups to attack President Obama’s green economic agenda. However, the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) finds that the Spanish authors’ claim that renewable support kills jobs “is not supported by their work“.
              NREL reveals that what Republicans have called a “50-page empirical study” could have been written by ten-year-olds.

              Here is the review by the U.S. Department of Energy

    1. R2 – See my comment @ 7 – clearly you don’t understand the implications, so I will illuminate:

      The Antarctic summer sea ice is minimal, the ice builds up in winter and melts away almost completely in summer. Therefore it is present when there is little, and for many months no, solar radiation falling on that region – consequently it’s effect on the earth’s albedo (reflectivity) is negligible.

      The Arctic sea ice that we are concerned about is a summer phenomenon, a time when there is a lot of solar radiation falling on the Arctic region. Ice is a highly reflective substance, whereas water is not. As the summer sea ice decreases in area and in volume, it allows the darker ocean to absorb more of the sun’s incoming radiation causing it to warm up. Furthermore the volume is important because the less volume, the less energy required to melt the ice & consequently that excess energy too goes into heating the ocean.

      Here’s a graphic from NSIDC showing the difference between the
      Arctic & Antarctic sea ice

      And lastly, it probably surprises you, but the increase in Antarctic sea ice was a prediction of climate models two decades ago, the result of increased snowfall caused by the warming Southern Ocean.

  6. For those seeking loaded answers.. HERE is one example, but a UK-based associate tells all how it is doing this sort of thing everywhere in one form or another.. east.. west.. south.. north.. aka truly global.

  7. I want the survey that asks:

    If your government had compelling scientific information that, unless urgent action were taken, a major environmental disaster would occur that imperiled lives and incomes of NZlanders in the near future (ie next 10 years):

    Do you think the government should:

    – Take all lawful steps it felt necessary now to save lives and incomes;
    – Launch a large scale information campaign to make people aware of the problem;
    – Wait till public opinion provided a more than 50% majority in favour of such steps before acting;
    – Wait till industry groups such as greenhouse policy coalition agree steps should be taken.

    1. People are smart and understand that the issue is bigger than New Zealand. There is no point NZ martyring ourselves for climate change if the rest of the world does nothing.

      1. Oh boy! You need to go back to Robot School R2D2!!
        Din’t they tell you in Kindergarten that its not OK to pee into the paddle pool even though your volume of pee is a small fraction of the amount of water in the pool?
        Translated – for you R2D2 – if NZ takes itself out of global action on climate change then we will be served the consequences for it in form of trade tariffs or fines according to international treaties. Plus, as our industry will have no incentive to modernize and to develop clean technology we will in a couple of decades be exactly there where the USA is today in terms of its Auto Industry. Take a ride through Detroit or any other of the grand old US Auto towns and see for yourself what your policy of backwardism and stagnation in the ways of the old will bring you and your children and grandchildren….
        What would have changed for the US Auto Makers if in 1980 they had decided that they would become the producers of the most modern and least polluting cars in the world instead of listening to their grandmasters from the Oil Industry and build gaz guzzlers?
        Please answer this question!

        1. Thats not what I said.

          A better analogy would be, if everyone else is peeing in the pool, not doing it yourself isnt going to make the water clean.

          All I am saying is that action should have consideration for maintaining economic activity until other nations also take simular action. I never said we should pull out of global negotiations. That would be martyring ourselves for a different cause.

      2. R2D2 a classic zombie argument. Don’t deniers have any new material?
        I’ve been hearing that martyr argument for at least a decade, but I’ve been hearing it here in the UK, and on message boards and blogs, from the French, the Yanks, from the Aussies, etc. So if everybody is saying it, which one country is the martyr?
        And as for going it alone have you ever bothered to look at the legislation being enacted in other countries, or the sheer volume of renewables being installed globally every year?

          1. Iceland.
            Both Iceland and New Zealand are much better than other countries. But as the use of power increases, the renewable share in New Zealand is dropping I believe.
            Which totally misses the point. New Zealand may be ahead of others, but you are not the only country taking action. And I fail to see how using renewable energy makes you martyrs.

      3. C’mon. All the time we hear about Catastrophic AGW and keep on reciting the mantra that no-one’s predicted CAGW so there’s no need to argue about it.

        But when it comes to Catastrophic Global Financial Meltdown, you believe it without a qualm. Which is especially galling when you’re sure that ‘free markets’ can do everything humanity needs.

        (Of course they don’t. Fossil fuels soak up $US500+ billion dollars each and every year in government subsidies and seem to think they can’t do without it. Super brave, free-wheeling, risk-taking entrepreneurs. Huh! And what sort of concessions and subsidised power prices do the really greedy power users get. I don’t know about NZ, but here in Oz the aluminium smelters get a very sweet deal on power costs.)

    2. Tom,

      I have always said that the best solution to climate change is to partition the planet earth so that polluters can be employed on one side, and non-polluters can be employed doing something else on the other side. Given that is an impossibility, I have been wondering how the legal system should be responding to climate change.

      For example, with regard to passive smoking the passive smoker is not forced to stay in the same room as a smoker. But what if the passive smoker has no choice and is compelled by the smoker to stay in the same room. How would the legal system respond with regard a lawsuit by a hypothetical plaintiff passive smoker?

      Alternatively, if a person who is sinking in quick sand firmly grasps a passer by and refuses to let go, what actions by the latter in an effort to free themselves, would be deemed permissible by the courts?

  8. Does it help if I do this ?

    “Attention will now turn to the autumn freeze-up, and the potential for the heat released by ice formation to impact northern hemisphere weather patterns. I’ve been reading a few papers on that subject, and will post a discussion as autumn up North progresses.”

    I can’t wait Gareth! Will you be mentioning lake snow effect?

    1. A small primer on the physics of water freezing is here:

      What Gareth is pointing to is this: As the ice extent has shrunk considerably during summer month over the past decades in the arctic each winter the sea area freezes over with new thin annual ice. In this process of freezing over again the water releases stored energy – the latent heat – when freezing. A similar but bigger effect happens when water condenses and releases the latent heat of boiling at the surface or place of condensation. This is the defining effect of thermodynamics in clouds btw.
      Now in the case of the freezing over of large areas of the arctic these areas see an injection of thermal energy from the phase transition of billions of tons of water from liquid to solid. This keeps the temperature of the ice at about zero deg until the process has completed. A bit like installing a thermostatic heater in the arctic that maintain zero degrees (instead of minus 40) at the point of freezing.
      When the arctic kept a frozen surface over summer – back a couple of decades – this effect was not there.
      Today this effect increases effectively the heat transport to the area each year on top of the GW induced warming, especially the warming due to open sea water as opposed to reflective ice in summer.
      Its just another issue that is compounding the warming in the arctic and a positive feedback.

    2. Hi Neven, more like the “ocean snow effect”.. 😉

      Thomas covers the basics quite well. As the ice reforms, it loses heat to the atmosphere. Weather systems move that heat around, warming the land around the Arctic shores. At the same time, the open ocean contributes a lot of water vapour, and this leads to increased precipitation. That much is reasonably well-established (I’ll provide the references when I write the piece) but what’s really interesting is the suggestion that the “pulse” of heat released to the atmosphere has an impact on the pattern of northern hemisphere weather, creating a persistent flow that in itself leads to changes in climate.

      1. Just to add another bit to this: The warmer air over the arctic (its gotten significantly warmer there as we know) can carry more moisture. The amount of moisture air carries depends on the temperature see here:
        Now the added moisture results in more precipitation as snow over the arctic ice. Snow is a good insulator. So a snow cover over the ice insulates the ice from the very cold temperatures above. This in turn slows the further freezing of the water and prevents the thickening of the ice.
        This is another positive feedback. More warming -> more snow cover -> less freezing and sea ice -> bigger ice loss next season -> more solar absorption -> more warming…. etc…

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