Arctic Sea Ice

Click on the graphs!


45 responses to “Arctic Sea Ice

  1. Philippe Chantreau

    I posted on an older thread before seeing this new one. I was just looking at CT’s last image, it is very reminiscent of the 2007 situation, except worse. The island of solid, multiyear ice is shrunk even smaller, hanging to Northern Canada. On the 08/02 image, the Northwest passage looks open.

  2. rockenergy (@rockenergy)

    Well done! Scary!

  3. Nice animations. Just remind me on AC/DC’s: We are going down… Hiiiighhhwwaaayyy !!!

  4. I do wish the scale went down to zero; I don’t think you’d lose significant detail, and you would get a sense of how the change compares with what’s left

    • arch stanton

      Yes, and the denialist’s potential criticism of “The scale is rigged to make it look more dramatic than it is” would be negated.

      But that is only a nit. Good work Tamino. The animations make it tough to overlook the trends.

    • Susan Anderson

      Yes. And it looks like by the end of the melt season (whenever that is, and I’m betting it’s later than usual, more towards October) the scale for volume will have to be lowered.

    • Because the absolute error is very very large, the zero point isn’t really all that meaningful.

    • Especially with PIOMAS volume.

  5. Daniel J. Andrews

    Thank you. It makes for a good rebuttal of the various ice-cap zombie arguments. The volume one was especially worrying.

  6. These are powerful, beautiful and scary at the same time

  7. Very nice – but I do think Tom has a point.
    Is extent becoming less relevant as thin ice spreads out?


  8. Horatio Algeranon

    Nice animation.

    Reminds Horatio of a glacier moving down the valley toward the open water.

  9. Good animations, more useful than the usual charts.

    One minor suggestion: you might think about holding the last image a few seconds longer before looping, if you can do that, to give the current curve in context a little while longer to sink in.

  10. Perhaps there is a trend here?

  11. Yeah, but at least half of that sea ice loss is due to the urban heat island effect. Or is it black carbon… Anything but greenhouse gases!

  12. The Wonderer

    Excellent! Fun to watch and disturbing at the same time.

  13. Neven has PIOMAS volume / CT Area here: When the 30-year run for that calculation is graphed all at once, it’s more depressing than even these three. The mountain just wilts like cooked-down spinach. It crumples.

    • DSL said:

      “The mountain just wilts like cooked-down spinach.”
      Nice image, or not so nice when it come to what is happening to the Arctic.

      For some of you (probably only a few on this blog) who might still wonder what the withering Arctic ice cap might mean for our future weather here at mid-latitudes, I highly recommend watching this video featuring Dr. Francis from Rutgers. Get some popcorn, it’s a bit long, but well worth it:

      This very informative video only has a little over a thousand hits, it should have tens of thousands…pass it around, especially to those who wonder why we should care about the diminished Arctic Ice.

  14. Very cool. People are visual, so this might be the right approach to get messages across. Much more meaningful than “X% of ___ warming is anthropogenic”. I’ve been thinking of a non-visual heuristic, and I wonder if it is of any use. I didn’t use any analyses — I just kind of looked at some graphs:

    Would it be informative/helpful for people to think of variance and record setting in a single metric like, say, the number of years in which a record at present might be expected to be the average in the future? For Arctic sea ice, it kind of looks like the record in one decade could be less extreme than the average in the next. Or less — maybe the time series would suggest 8 years overall (if we can avoid assuming constant rates)? For global average surface temperature, perhaps it would be 20 years? For sea level, maybe it’s just a few years. For CO2 concentration perhaps it’s less.

    Anyway, the average Joe doesn’t understand standard deviations or coefficients of variance, and ‘Joe the Plumber’ probably understands less — is it possible to find a way to relate trend to variance in a way that would be meaningful to them?

    [I blame this comment on beer]

  15. It is the volume plot that makes it clear the the process is going faster and faster.

    • Of t three graphs, the PIOMAS volume data is the least certain being the output of a model, not satellite data. The PIOMASv2 (which I assume is being graphed coz v1 stopped before 2012) is supposed to provide a more ‘conservative’ value. Certainly the thickness measurements that exist suggest a greater average thickness decline that PIOMASv2. Which leads to the question “how long can that ice keep getting thinner without a collapse in area/extent?” Well in a month’s time we’ll have more understanding of that.
      My personal view is that this is a system that is far more massive than we humans normally observe so we aren’t used to the underlying inexorable momentum that takes its own time and will not be rushed.

  16. A bit like a horror movie, but not.

  17. Those animations are very effective!

    Here’s a non-animated perspective on the anomaly, updated this morning:

  18. Measuring things is junk science!! ;)

  19. This week we could see the storm that breaks the Arctic ice cap. A large low-pressure system centered in the Beaufort side of the central Arctic basin should drive the fractured edges of the ice pack away from the main pack. The circulating wind associated with the low will push ice down into the Laptev Sea, push ice in the East Siberian region into the Chukchi region, push ice in the Chukchi region into the Beaufort region, and cause massive wave fronts to hit the ice pack edge in the Beaufort region. The fractured ice floes in all of these regions will be subjected to the wind and wave action that will speed up heat transfer and increase ice melt. The resulting melt of large spatial areas of ice extent should further reduce ice area to much lower levels than ever recorded at this time of the year.

    The remaining ice pack will be substantially reorganized by the end of the week. A significant portion of the currently remaining relatively continuous ice pack of the central Arctic basin should be fractured. This will leave the ice pack extremely vulnerable to further unfavorable weather patterns. An Arctic dipole pattern anytime over the remainder of August, would cause extensive damage to the remnant pack. Much of the remnant pack should resemble cottage cheese with fractured connected polynyas, as contrasted to Swiss cheese, with isolated polynyas.

    Within ten days, all of the existing graphs showing ice cap extent, area, and volume, should show 2012 breaking well below previous trends. This result could be disastrous for Northern Hemisphere weather over the next 12 months, as Arctic amplification caused loss of ice pack leads to mid-latitude extreme weather events (yet even more heat waves, droughts, floods, Snowmaggedons, and unusual frosts).

  20. Fantastic animation – really shows what is happening.

    What will happen to the northern hemisphere weather when there is no more summer ice?

  21. NASA/GSFC have some animations of the Arctic Sea Ice Yearly Minimum 1979-2010 here
    [video src="" /]

    If you have an iPad, the NASA Visualization Explorer app also includes these visualizations + many more based on the satellite data including seasonal CO2 , Antarctic and Greenland melt …

  22. Some may want to head over Neven’s sea ice blog for an interesting discussion of a potential “flash melting” event coming up over the next few days. See the post on Cyclone Warning.

    In years past, when the ice was thicker and more concentrated, this kind of storm would have less of an impact on the ice. Expect the ice to go through a “blender” over the few days, with warmer water be churned up from deeper levels and lots of divergence into warmer lower latitudes where it will melt very rapidly. Flash melting is an appropriate term.

  23. Horatio Algeranon

    Ice falls to Pieces
    — Horatio’s diversification of Pattsy Cline

    Ice falls to pieces,
    Each time it sees spring again.
    Ice falls to pieces.
    How can it not mean the end?

    You want me to act like it’s never melted?
    You want me to forget, pretend it’s never wet?
    And I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I haven’t yet.
    Summer passes by and ice falls to pieces.

    Ice falls to pieces,
    Each time warm currents hit the Ross.
    Ice falls to pieces.
    Time only adds to the loss.

    You tell me to find something else to graph,
    Something that’ll increase too, the way ice used to do.
    But each time I graph something new,
    Summer passes by and ice falls to pieces.
    Summer passes by and ice falls to pieces.

  24. The animation looks like how a glacial cirque develops. Oddly enough.

  25. Tamino, there’s been a big hoo-haa on Twitter about the ice volume chart (linked on realclimate), that the x axis is not at y=zero and could be misconstrued. For the sake of peace, could you drop it down a tad when you get a chance?

    (Love the animated gifs.)

    [Response: The y-axis is quite clearly marked. Those who wish to misconstrue will do so regardless.

    Extending it to zero will not bring peace — fake skeptics will just find a different excuse to “hoo-haa.”]

  26. Hi,

    It wasn’t exactly a “big hoo-haa”, just a conversation between myself (@richardabetts), @350, @michaelemann and others. I started it because @350 had said “Here’s how close we are to having all arctic sea ice disappear”, linking to your animation. It was the combination of the offset x-axis and the “here’s how close” remark that led me to comment. It’s a common problem for figures to be produces by one person to make one point, and then get used by someone else to make another point. If someone is going to use a figure to show how close something is approaching zero, they really should use a figure that shows where zero actually is, that’s all.

    But at the end of the day it was only a tweet :-)


    Richard Betts
    (Met Office Hadley Centre)

  27. Acknowledging Tamino and Richard, here’s my pixel-bashed zero-crossing gif version for the sake of completeness: half-sized
    (avi, mp4, m4v also available – just change extension)

    Here is a pretty version (divx) I made just today from the same gz source data scripted with perl and povray on a linux machine: