Sea Ice North: The new field of ice-free Arctic Ocean science

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 10:43 PM GMT on April 28, 2011

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Sea Ice North: The new field of ice-free Arctic Ocean science

I recently read a paper in Physics Today entitled The Thinning of Arctic Sea Ice by R. Kwok and N. Untersteiner. (Nice essay by Untersteiner) This paper was written for a general scientist audience, and provides a good summary of the state of the science. The primary focus of the article is on understanding the small change to the surface energy balance required to explain the increased rate of sea ice melt in the summer. Some time ago I wrote a few blogs on Arctic sea ice; they can be found here and this one is most relevant: Sea Ice Arctic.

When the IPCC Assessment Report was published in 2007 the Arctic sea ice was in visible decline. In the summer of 2007 there was a record decline that caught the attention of both climate scientists and the broader public. As suggested in Kwok and Untersteiner immediately following the release of the 2007 IPCC report papers started to appear about how the IPCC synthesis had underestimated the melting of both sea ice and ice sheets. Much of this underestimate could be summed up as simplistic representation of the dynamics of ice melting. For example, brine-laden sea ice floating in salty sea water turns over. Snow gets on the top. It melts, then there are puddles and ponds that can flow down into ice. Simplistically, and I am a simpleton, it’s like a pile of ice cubes sitting in a glass versus stirring those ice cubes, or blowing air over the ice, heat gets carried around and ice melts faster.

The presence of large areas of open ocean in the Arctic is new to us. It motivates new research; it motivates claims to newly accessible oil, gas, and minerals; it motivates new shipping routes; it suggests changes in the relationships of nations; it motivates the development of a military presence. (All things Arctic from the Arctic Council) The natural progression of scientific investigation starts to explore, describe, and organize what is to us modern-day humans: a new environment, new ecosystems, and new physical systems. For example, the Mackenzie River now delivers a massive pool of fresh water into the ocean. Fresh and salt – big differences to flow in the ocean because the density is different; big difference to the formation of ice because the freezing temperature is different; and big differences in the plants and animals in the water.

Compared with trying to attribute the contribution of global warming to a particular weather event, it is easier to link the recent, rapid decrease of sea ice to a warming planet. The freezing, melting and accumulation of ice require persistent heating or cooling. It takes a lot of heat for a sustained period to melt continental-size masses of ice. Historically, the sea ice that was formed in the winter did not melt in the summer and there was a buildup of ice over many years – it accumulated; it stored cold. Around the edges of this multi-year ice are areas where the sea froze and melted each year. The melting of multi-year ice, therefore, represents the accumulation of enough heat to counter years of cold. The movement, poleward, of the area where ice freezes and thaws each year is the accumulation of spring coming earlier. The requirement for energy to persist and accumulate to affect changes in sea ice reduces the uncertainty that is inherent in the attribution of how much global warming has impacted a particular event.

Understanding the detailed mechanisms that provided the heat to melt the ice remains a challenge. (This is the real point of in Kwok and Untersteiner) We know it takes about 1 watt per square meter of energy to melt that much ice that fast. This could be delivered by the Sun, transported by the air, by the ocean, by warm water from the rivers of Canada and Siberia, by snow – yes, snow is energy. Once the ice is gone in the summer, then the ocean can absorb heat from the Sun. If there is growth of phytoplankton or zooplankton, then they might enhance the absorption of energy – yes, life is energy. Ocean acidification might change. The natural question that arises – do these processes that are active in this new environment work to accelerate sea ice melting or might they contribute to freezing of water. What are the local feedbacks? (This is above – see below.)

Another study that is of interest is the paper in Geophysical Research Letters, Recovery mechanisms of Arctic summer sea ice, by S. Tietsche and colleagues. This is a model study. With a model the scientist owns the world and can prescribe what it looks like. In these numerical experiments, the Arctic is prescribed with no ice. Then whether or not the ice recovers is explored. In these studies the ice does recover. The ocean does indeed take up extra heat in the summer, but it gives it up quickly in the fall. This is followed by the formation of first year ice in the winter. The ice-albedo feedback that might let the ice melt runaway is limited. Tietsche et al. conclude that it is not likely that Arctic sea ice will reach a tipping point this century.

This does not mean that summer ice loss will decrease. This does not mean that there will not be huge changes in the Arctic. This only says that it still gets cold in the winter.

Models: One of the things I like about the Kwok and Untersteiner paper is their brief discussion of models. They point out that none of the models available for the 2007 IPCC assessment were able to predict the rate of sea ice decrease. Looking forward, they state that the model projections for 2060 range from no sea ice in September to more sea ice than is observed today. The Tietsche et al. paper is a focused model experiment – not a climate projection. It is also a model result that, perhaps, helps to understand the differences in the 2060 projections. That is, how is the recovery of sea ice in the autumn represented in the projection models?

A couple of other points: First, the amount of energy needed to cause the observed melting in sea ice is 1 watt per square meter. If you calculate the amount of energy in the different factors at play in melting of sea ice, then the numbers are 10s of watts per square meter. As suggested above, there are many reservoirs of energy – the Sun, rivers, etc. So when we look at the different ways 1 watt per square meter can be delivered to the sea ice, then there are several paths. The existing models tell us that with the increased heat due to greenhouse gases, energy gets delivered to the Arctic and sea ice melts. The existing models say that there might be several different paths; it is likely, that several of them operate at different times. The second point: Of course the Tietsche et al. paper will enter as an isolated contribution to the political argument, Arctic “death spiral” – as will those of accelerated melt, New warning on ice melt.

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Figure 1: Simplistic summary of Arctic sea ice

Useful links
Recent sea ice trends
Sea ice data
Rood’s Blogs on Ice

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co2 warming did not drive the past climate, it will not drive this current climate. Take a look at the paleoclimatological data.



Note that while co2 was 10 times as much as it is now, the Earth was in an Ice Age.

This means that the climatic feedbacks could overthrow any co2 warming, and the natural factors brought us into an ice age.

Here are some examples of the natural cycles' dominating impact on the climate.

http://fossil.earthsci.carleton.ca/~tpatters/pubs 2/talks/2007FOS.ppt

Dr. Tim Patterson in his spectral analysis shows that changes in the laminations of the Earth's Core are strongly linked to an 11 year solar cycle.





http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/GW_Part6_So larEvidence.htm

Cosmic Rays may have also played a role in the little ice age that occured while co2 was very high, however we don't know for sure.



But this all shows that co2 induced warming can be overthrown by natural cycles, and it's own climatic feedbacks.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
A bit off topic, but has anyone been able to get onto AMSU? It seems to be down for me.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting GiorgioKing:
Neapolitan and Cyclonebuster, you guys sound like broken records, always posting the same nonsense about PGW.

You are obviously members of the Al Gore fan club and you must without any doubt be good friends with Michael Mann and James Hansen.

Birds of a feather flock together !!!!


I would like to see some NOAA graphs that contradict the NOAA graphs I posted. You have any? Then maybe Al,James and Michael might be incorrect. Have fun searching.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting GiorgioKing:
Neapolitan and Cyclonebuster, you guys sound like broken records, always posting the same nonsense about PGW.

You are obviously members of the Al Gore fan club and you must without any doubt be good friends with Michael Mann and James Hansen.

Birds of a feather flock together !!!!

Well, that's as solid and well thought-out a rebuttal of the theory of AGW as I've ever seen. I know I'm convinced! ;-) (Seriously, though, do you have anything scientifically substantive to add, or were you just driving by to hurl a few ad hominems?)

BTW: I proudly stand beside Gore, Mann, & Hansen, three men--among many others--who have long fought valiantly against the anti-science, pro-pollution forces trying mightily to silence the truth. So, you know, thanks for the compliment!
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13509
Neapolitan and Cyclonebuster, you guys sound like broken records, always posting the same nonsense about PGW.

You are obviously members of the Al Gore fan club and you must without any doubt be good friends with Michael Mann and James Hansen.

Birds of a feather flock together !!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:


Correct and are we going to have new Arctic Ice extent low this year?


I don't think so. I expect that over the coming week, the Arctic should melt more rapidly, since the +AO is transitioning over to a -AO according to the GFS ENS MEANS.



A La Nina usually increases the ice extent in the Arctic slightly from the prior year (Ex: 2008 from 2007). I predict the ice should land somewhere near 2005 during this minimum.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting cyclonebuster:


The very fact that they work is proof enough for me.That is why it took me five years to figure them out for this very reason.


Can you back up how they work with credible scientific evidence?
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting Snowlover123:


You didn't answer my question. Has it been proved that your model can do what you claim your tunnels could do if they were implemented?


Correct and are we going to have new Arctic Ice extent low this year?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting Snowlover123:


You didn't answer my question. Has it been proved that your model can do what you claim your tunnels could do if they were implemented?


The very fact that they work is proof enough for me.That is why it took me five years to figure them out for this very reason.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting Neapolitan:

Yeah, this has been brought up several times.


Wow... already? It's only been out for nine days, you know.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting Snowlover123:
I found this interesting paper on Nature... but it is not a surprise at all.

QUOTE

Environmental groups matched opponents' spending power during arguments over cap-and-trade legislation, report claims.


In the fight over cap and trade, environmental groups were not quite the financial underdogs they are often assumed to be.

Environmental groups and their supporters spend more money on climate-change and clean-energy activities and campaigns than sceptical right-wing groups and their industry supporters, according to a report by a US social scientist, who questions some of the most common reasons given for US political inaction on global warming.

But the report has stirred controversy, with critics claiming that its conclusions are not backed up by the data it presents, and that it ignores studies offering contradictory evidence.

According to the report, conservative think-tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations raised some US$907 million during 2009, and spent a total of $787 million on their activities, with $259 million of that devoted specifically to climate and energy policy issues. Over the same period, national environmental groups had revenues of $1.7 billion and spent $1.4 billion on their programmes, which included $394 million devoted to climate and energy issues.

"Propelled by an ultra wealthy donor base and key alliances with corporations and other organizations, the environmental movement appears to have closed the financial gap with its opponents," says Matthew Nisbet, associate professor of communication at American University in Washington DC, who wrote the report.

/QUOTE

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110419/full/news. 2011.248.html

Yeah, this has been brought up several times. The salient sentence:

"...the report has stirred controversy, with critics claiming that its conclusions are not backed up by the data it presents, and that it ignores studies offering contradictory evidence."

The report has been thoroughly and widely debunked, and proven absolutely false by numerous independent researchers--though I can certainly see why desperate denialists would latch onto it.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13509
Quoting cyclonebuster:


The model is a scale representation of the tunnel.


You didn't answer my question. Has it been proved that your model can do what you claim your tunnels could do if they were implemented?
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting cyclonebuster:
OUCH! The great melt off has begun. Will we reach a new low extent this year?


Um... what? It's the seasonal Arctic Sea Ice melt... LOL
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting Snowlover123:


A model can take days to develop... the real thing, perhaps years. Does your model actually do what you claim your tunnels can do...?


The model is a scale representation of the tunnel.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
I found this interesting paper on Nature... but it is not a surprise at all.

QUOTE

Environmental groups matched opponents' spending power during arguments over cap-and-trade legislation, report claims.


In the fight over cap and trade, environmental groups were not quite the financial underdogs they are often assumed to be.

Environmental groups and their supporters spend more money on climate-change and clean-energy activities and campaigns than sceptical right-wing groups and their industry supporters, according to a report by a US social scientist, who questions some of the most common reasons given for US political inaction on global warming.

But the report has stirred controversy, with critics claiming that its conclusions are not backed up by the data it presents, and that it ignores studies offering contradictory evidence.

According to the report, conservative think-tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations raised some US$907 million during 2009, and spent a total of $787 million on their activities, with $259 million of that devoted specifically to climate and energy policy issues. Over the same period, national environmental groups had revenues of $1.7 billion and spent $1.4 billion on their programmes, which included $394 million devoted to climate and energy issues.

"Propelled by an ultra wealthy donor base and key alliances with corporations and other organizations, the environmental movement appears to have closed the financial gap with its opponents," says Matthew Nisbet, associate professor of communication at American University in Washington DC, who wrote the report.

/QUOTE

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110419/full/news. 2011.248.html
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting McBill:

Well, I do believe that "refuting" involves presenting credible evidence that contradicts that which is to be refuted.

All we see you doing is running your mouth. I doubt that anyone is particularly impressed. I'm certainly not.



It also looks like NOAA disagrees with everything he has to say.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting cyclonebuster:


Mythical? LOL! I built a scale model that works. No longer a myth is it?


A model can take days to develop... the real thing, perhaps years. Does your model actually do what you claim your tunnels can do...?
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting RMuller:
If you read this article, you really understand how desperate these alarmists are to change public opinion. It's difficult when half the nation is getting snow into May. But, then again, I forgot that warming causes cold.

Link


Really NOAA thinks otherwise.





Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting RMuller:


Funny that you cut off the graph of "National Contiguous Temperature at 2009, because it's been dumping ever since. Figures lie and liars figure. Isn't that something.


I left it off because it really doesn't show an upward trend,just basically straight across. Also it isn't a global graph it is just a regional trend of the US.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Here are few Non-Watts Up With That graphics from NOAA that tell us we are warming the planet.




















Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
OUCH! The great melt off has begun. Will we reach a new low extent this year?








Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting mrnicktoutoo:
It does, but the question is what's causing the current warming of the planet?



Nice name Mike,

You going to get banned again so soon?

BYE.

Oh and *poof*
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MichaelSTL:Indeed, I am totally, utterly SICK of reading cyclonebuster's comments claiming that every single event is entirely due to global warming (and thus his mythical tunnels could prevent it)!
LOL

no kidding
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Quoting mrnicktoutoo:
It does, but the question is what's causing the current warming of the planet?


Precisely. And this: why is that warming happening so quickly?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13509
LOL!

Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
What's wrong cat got your tongues again?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting Snowlover123:


LOL Well said Mike.


Mythical? LOL! I built a scale model that works. No longer a myth is it?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting MichaelSTL:

I am totally, utterly SICK of reading cyclonebuster's comments claiming that every single event is entirely due to global warming (and thus his mythical tunnels could prevent it)!



LOL Well said Mike.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting sirmaelstrom:


You don't think observation methods have improved dramatically over the time period represented in that graph?


Since the late 1960s yes.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting cyclonebuster:


It is not in opposition to this is it?



You don't think observation methods have improved dramatically over the time period represented in that graph?
Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 580
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Baseless statements like that are also why I ignored him.

Indeed, I am totally, utterly SICK of reading cyclonebuster's comments claiming that every single event is entirely due to global warming (and thus his mythical tunnels could prevent it)!

Of course, maybe Halo was referring to those magical natural cycles that are not known to exist, or existing cycles that supposedly have effects beyond what is known.

By the way, Halo will get a kick out of comment 297 in the previous blog, since it directly contradicts some of the denier claims made recently; e.g. by atmoaggie (quoted in comment 79, not sure if that was the entire content since I can't see his posts otherwise)!


Really the Earth doesn't go through cycles?

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Quoting sirmaelstrom:
I think that this is a good example of what atmoaggie was referring to at the end of № 70.


It is not in opposition to this is it?

Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
If you are against fossil fuel then you should be for Gulfstream Kinetic Energy!
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Baseless statements like that are also why I ignored him.

Indeed, I am totally, utterly SICK of reading cyclonebuster's comments claiming that every single event is entirely due to global warming (and thus his mythical tunnels could prevent it)!

Of course, maybe Halo was referring to those magical natural cycles that are not known to exist, or existing cycles that supposedly have effects beyond what is known.

By the way, Halo will get a kick out of comment 297 in the previous blog, since it directly contradicts some of the denier claims made recently; e.g. by atmoaggie (quoted in comment 79, not sure if that was the entire content since I can't see his posts otherwise)!


Oh! Come on MichaelSTL. Don't underestimate the transfer of energy in the Gulfstreams kinetic energy to restore our climate back to pre-industrial revolution temperatures. It is what our planet so desperately needs right now to remove fossil fuel.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
STL's way to feel like he won a debate:
(And he and I actually agree on something, to a degree.)
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Quoting TomTaylor:
You should try reading his posts.

He made a post on the last blog on how la nina increases the likelihood of severe weather over the us.



It is also bad for hurricanes strikes on the US. Correct?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting HaloReachFan:
MichaelSTL would love that last sentence. He doesn't believe their should be natural fluctuations.
You should try reading his posts.

He made a post on the last blog on how la nina increases the likelihood of severe weather over the us.

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
Quoting cyclonebuster:
Do we also have a similar graph for severe weather events other than tornadoes?


Tornadoes whipped up by wind, not climate: officials

In the aftermath of a severe tornado, owner Frank Evans stands on the rubble that was the Quik Pawn Shop in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. US meteorologists warned Thursday it would be a mistake to blame climate change for a seeming increase in tornadoes in the wake of deadly storms that have ripped through the US south.
AFP - US meteorologists warned Thursday it would be a mistake to blame climate change for a seeming increase in tornadoes in the wake of deadly storms that have ripped through the US south.

"If you look at the past 60 years of data, the number of tornadoes is increasing significantly, but it's agreed upon by the tornado community that it's not a real increase," said Grady Dixon, assistant professor of meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University.

"It's having to do with better (weather tracking) technology, more population, the fact that the population is better educated and more aware. So we're seeing them more often," Dixon said.

But he said it would be "a terrible mistake" to relate the up-tick to climate change.

The tornadoes that ripped through the US south this week killed over 250 people, in the worst US weather disaster in years, with residents and emergency workers sifting through the rubble on Thursday.

Violent twisters that famously rip through the US south's "Tornado Alley" are formed when strong jet winds bringing upper-level storms from the north interact with very warm, humid air mass from the Gulf of Mexico, said David Imy from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

On Wednesday, a particularly potent storm was whipping up around the heart of that tornado-prone corridor where the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, eastern Texas and northwest Louisiana meet, noted Kristina Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist at the AccuWeather.com website.

Sparking the severe thunderstorms from that point was the much warmer air arriving from the south, over the tropical Gulf. The combining winds at differing altitudes, said Pydynowski, created "significant twisting motion in the atmosphere, allowing the strongest thunderstorms to spawn tornadoes."

Such a mixture would not be prevalent along the US eastern seaboard, so rough weather in that region Thursday would not also spawn tornadoes, at least on the same scale, she said.

Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), also dismissed Thursday climate change as a factor in the deadly tornadoes: "Actually what we're seeing is springtime," he said.

"Many people think of Oklahoma as 'Tornado Alley' and forget that the southeast United States actually has a history of longer and more powerful tornadoes that stay on the ground longer."

Wednesday's deadly tornadoes, according to Imy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, were unusual for being "long track," meaning they were on the ground for a longer period of time than usual -- in this case, roiling across the land for 30 miles (48 kilometers) or more.

An average track would be less than five miles, said Imy.

However, the stronger-than-usual tornadoes affecting the southern states were actually predicted from examining the planet's climatological patterns, specifically those related to the La Nina phenomenon.

"We knew it was going to be a big tornado year," he said. But the key to that tip-off was unrelated to climate change: "It is related to the natural fluctuations of the planet."


----
MichaelSTL would love that last sentence. He doesn't believe their should be natural fluctuations.
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Reason to avoid climate change #2,528:

Brown Recluse Spiders May Invade Northern U.S. as Planet Warms

Climate change may give America's venomous brown recluse spiders a choice: Move to a more northern state or face dramatic losses in range and possible extinction, a new theoretical study suggests.

Currently, brown recluse spiders are found in the interior of roughly the southeastern quarter of the continental United States. Researcher Erin Saupe used two ecological computer models to predict the extent of the spider's range in 2020, 2050 and 2080 given the effects of global warming.

"The actual amount of suitable habitat of the brown recluse doesn't change dramatically in the future time slices, but what is changing is where that area is located," said Saupe, who was pursuing a master's degree at the University of Kansas when she did the work. She is now a doctoral student there.

Both of the emissions scenarios indicated new states could be invaded as far north as parts of Minnesota, Michigan and South Dakota. Both scenarios were run using the two ecological models, resulting in divergent trends. One model showed that the spiders' habitable area would decrease with time, while the other showed an increase in habitable area.

Live Science Article...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13509
Quoting TomTaylor:
true.


How tornado numbers relate to a warmer world is not understood well at all. Dr masters has a blog post on it from a while back basically saying that under a warmer world there would be less sheer (due to the decrease in difference in temps from the equator to the poles) but greater CAPE values (due to more available moisture from greater evaporation in a warmer world).


Is that over oceans and land?
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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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