Saturday, May 21, 2011

Arctic ice update...

Basically, it's slip-sliding away.


I realize the disappearance of the all Arctic ice would not phase the economic and political objections to the concept of global warming for many in the US, but you have to admit, an open ocean north of us would be hard to ignore.

This graph shows Arctic sea ice volume (not area, not extent) by month, over the course of the satellite record, with the vertical axis units being km3. (See the link above for more detail on the source of data used in the graph. I also recommend Neven’s post Trends in Arctic Sea Ice Volume.)Notice that not only is there, shall we say, a distinctly noticeable downward trend, but that the decline for any given month is actually accelerating. Also notice that the vertical axis begins at 0, so there’s no funny business happening here to make the image look even scarier.The month with the lowest volume, September, has declined from roughly 18,000 km3 to around 4,000 km3. I’ll leave it up to you, dear readers, to conjure up your own way to visualize the volume or weight of that missing 14,000 km3 of ice. (Remember that 1 km3 of ice weighs 1 billion metric tons.) Presumably there are two main factors at work here: Increasing warming due to our continued, non-stop efforts to aerosolize every last gram of carbon we can rip or pump out of the ground, plus Arctic amplification, a.k.a. albedo flip, in which open sea water absorbs much more heat from the sun than would snow and ice.Of course, the thing that many of you immediately looked for is none of the above details, but when the September line is projected to hit 0, roughly 2015.This is the part where we all try to resist the urge to say, “that can’t possibly be right”. [Not much more, because I couldn't stop extracting]
More important, perhaps, is my discovery of a blog dedicated solely to Arctic ice. This is what the Internet is doing for us, folks. And then Google helps us find it.
For all our troubles, we live in a magical time.


chris vogler said...

For a contraasting view you should read up on Roy W. Spencer's take on Artic Ice. He works for NASA as the leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA's aqua satellite. He concludes that we have been building ice in the Artic since 2008.

John Phipps said...


As far as I can tell, Spencer's work centers on area, not volume, and even then there is controversy.

Regardless, unlike many aspects of climate change this one will unveil pretty rapidly.

Besides, tell that to the Canadians.