Arctic sea ice extent minimum for 2013

The summer melt of the Arctic appears to have reached it’s limit with the sea ice extent at 5.1 million km2 (cf. the 3.41 million km2 record in 2012) as shown on this graph from the NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis site:


The black line is the 1981-2010 average, plus and minus two standard deviations. The blue is 2007 and the dotted line represents the 2012 record. This year is the sixth lowest on record as this graph from Skeptical Science shows:

2013 sea ice_cropped

Skeptical Science also has graphs for 1870 plus and a reconstruction going back 1450 years. The loss since 1980 is about 40%.

Neven at Arctic Sea Ice Blog explains how weather conditions and the disposition of atmospheric pressure systems influence the loss of ice cover late in the season. For example, under certain conditions more ice is spun out through Fram Strait into the North Atlantic.

This image shows the progressive decadal deterioration in sea ice cover and where the action is now:


Neven shows the PIOMAS figures for August, with volume a little above that of 2010, 2011 and 2012. Nevertheless Dana at Skeptical Science finds volume has reduced by about 75% since 1980. Neven finds the average thickness of 1.34m at 31 August compares with 1.39m in 2102 and 2.33m in 2005.

Last year there were a lot of images around. This one shows before and after between 1984 and 2012. Perhaps my favourite was the third video in this collection.

That video gives a real feel of the dynamic nature of what is happening in the Arctic and the alarming decline of ice cover. David Spratt at Climate Code Red looks at the Arctic in the second of his series on dangerous climate change.

Warming in the Arctic is three times the global average. Many experts think a tipping point in the Arctic ice sheet disintegration has been reached with a largely ice free late summer not too far away.

9 thoughts on “Arctic sea ice extent minimum for 2013”

  1. Thanks Brian. Why is it that everyone talks about the extent of pack ice and few talk about its thickness? Business may think that opening the North West Passage is great; however, I wonder what effect, if any, all the anticipated shipping will have on the weather and climate around the southern part of the Arctic Ocean?

  2. Graham, David Spratt goes into some of the possible implications (not limited to weather and climate. Seems there is a great deal of uncertainty, However:

    we do know that the Arctic is warming quicker than the global average. Duarte, Lenton et al. find that: “Warming of the Arctic region is proceeding at three times the global average, and a new ‘Arctic rapid change’ climate pattern has been observed in the past decade.” Reductions in the sea-ice cover are believed to be the largest contributor toward Arctic amplification. Maslowski, Kinney et al. note that: “a warming Arctic climate appears to affect the rate of melt of the Greenland ice sheet, Northern Hemisphere permafrost sea-level rise, and global climate change”.

    The sea-ice cover in June is about two per cent of the earth’s surface. Replacing that during summer in the Arctic with darker, more heat-absorbing ocean waters is equivalent to about 20 years of human greenhouse emissions, or about +0.5ºC of warming, according to Peter Wadhams. This is consistent with a study by Stephen Hudson, which found that, if the Arctic were ice-free for one month a year plus associated ice-extent decreases in other months, then, without taking cloud changes into account, the global impact would be about +0.2ºC of warming. If there were no ice at all during the main three months of sunlight, the increase would be +0.5ºC.

    The consequences of the Arctic big melt and the subsequent regional amplification and global temperature increase will include:

    Accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet, very likely pushing it past its tipping point;

    Pushing Arctic temperatures into a range that will trigger large-scale Arctic carbon store releases of methane and CO2, a positive feedback which will drive further warming;

    Further destabilisation of the Jet Stream and hence more northern hemisphere extreme weather; and

    The destruction of the Arctic ecosystem, which is already well under way. This has been chronicled by many researchers and organisations, including the Center for Biological Diversity and Care for the Wild International. In the Arctic, the rate of climate change is now faster than ecosystems can adapt to naturally, and the fate of many Arctic marine ecosystems is clearly connected to that of the sea ice (Duarte, Lenton et al.). I remember well attending an Academy of Science conference in Canberra in May 2008 where the international guest speaker was Dr Neil Hamilton, then head of the WWF Arctic Programme. He told a somewhat stunned audience that the WWF was not trying to preserve the Arctic ecosystem because “it was no longer possible to do so”. Whilst the campaign to stop the development of an oil and gas industry in the Arctic is necessary (if only to prevent more global warming emissions), the claim that in so doing we can thereby “save the Arctic” seems wide of the mark.

  3. I participated in the SEARCH contest this year and predicted mean extent at 4.7 million km^2. Given mean and minimum are usually quite close and my 95% CI extended up to 5.35, I think the mean september sea ice extent will be within prediction accuracy. I think if I had used July temperature data I would have been even closer. Next year I should try for an ensemble model.

  4. Thanks for that link, Brian. Glad to see that ice thickness is not neglected. Was wondering, too, whether there were likely to be any significant effects on Arctic Ocean currents.
    Initially, I did wonder if there might be changes in the directions and velocity of these currents …. which would probably have some interesting effects.

  5. Brian:
    Good old serendipity. Went searching the internet for layman stuff on Arctic Ocean currents and came back with a swag of interesting historical stuff on the fabulous North West Passage(s). It will keep me amused for hours.

  6. Thank you, Brian, for reviving this forum where intelligent discussion, sharing and evaluation of information can take place. Your efforts and energies are appreciated by many.

    There is so much happening in the technical field all with significant scope to enable individuals to participate in Climate Change action by reducing their CO2 emissions.

    I used to talk about a system that I dubbed GenIIPV. This was a concept developed between myself and a now departed dodgy business partner, now replaced with an EE with impeccable credentials, and some largely developed product intended for the solar PV industry. Regardless of the players the initiative continues. I have decided to break the project into smaller more achievable parts and test them locally. The primary exercise is to design an efficient Solar PV/Thermal collector along with its ancillary elements. I will endeavor to present the progress of the system as it proceeds here.

    What you can look forward to is

    The Solar PV/Thermal panel system based of 22% efficient panels

    The thermal energy transfer system

    The WiFi Smart Meter (from my partner)

    fallen off the edge for the time being is a micro inverter

    A modular Battery Storage system (possibly 3 kwhr expansion modules) and their energy management system.

    A solar thermal ammonia based absorptive air conditioning chiller.

    What I am projecting that will come from other areas are

    Micro grids. this is where a block of houses, block of units, or even a small locality become a separate local predominately solar grid with a single broad grid connection point, where energy within the local grid is managed by a commonly owned brokerage and external power is bought at bulk rates.

    The new generation of Hybride vehicles starting with the Misubishi, VW, and Audi which offer a high degree of all electric functionality along with long range from their petrol or diesel engines.

    Very rapid but staged introduction of autonomous vehicle vehicle technologies. (see Subaru Viziv concept vehicle for example).

    A new flexibility in building design to allow the building of dwellings capable of withstanding the ravages of climate change. Most council regulations make it impossible to build such dwellings.

    Climate jackets and suits designed to provide body cooling sufficient to make working outdoors in the extreme heat of destructive climate possible. This might seem extreme but I think that even this last summer was a warning for what we will see in the next ten years.

    Electrification of aviation (see CafeFoundationBlog) for the best forum on this.

    Automation integration within our work and living spaces with internet connectivity. (see Samsung’s recent announcement).

    A massive reduction in resource dependence.


    My biggest fear other than accelerated Global Warming and Climate Change?

    A Europe and Northern Hemisphere wide resource and territory war between Russia and Western Europe, Russia and China (over Siberia), China and Japan, China and Taiwan, North Korea and South Korea, and the Middle East fighting amongst itself for ultimate Islamic domination resolution. Triggered by some sequence of events.

  7. BilB, if you like we can look at a series of guest posts. If that meets your fancy, do something up in Word and send it to me at climateplus[at]bigpond[dot]com and we’ll see how we go.

  8. That is very generous, Brian. As you say, we’ll see how we go. I still have several financial recovery hurdles to cross.

    If you happen to be communicating with Julia Gillard you might mention that it seems that their blog comment submission software is broken. I was trying to introduce the organisation to the work of

    Alan Roy is a guy I knew in the seventies when he was studying architecture at UNSW. After returning to Canada he worked for years in Alberta before breaking out and doing a contract for Habitat working beside Jimmy Carter. He later designed the swimming pool for the Vancouver Olympic Games. The above is his latest enterprise and a wonderful one at that.

Comments are closed.