NSIDC: Arctic Ice Tracking at Record Low Levels

June 20, 2012

Again – too early to make predictions, but here’s what the National Snow and Ice Data Center is telling us this week.

After a period of rapid ice loss through the first half of June, sea ice extent is now slightly below 2010 levels, the previous record low at this time of year. Sea level pressure patterns have been favorable for the retreat of sea ice for much of the past month.

Overview of conditions

On June 18, the five-day average sea ice extent was 10.62 million square kilometers (4.10 million square miles). This was 31,000 square kilometers (12,000 square miles) below the same day in 2010, the record low for the day and 824,000 square kilometers (318,000 square miles) below the same day in 2007, the year of record low September extent.

Conditions in context

The main contributors to the unusually rapid ice loss to this point in June are the disappearance of most of the winter sea ice in the Bering Sea, rapid ice loss in the Barents and Kara Seas, and early development of open water areas in the Beaufort and Laptev Seas north of Alaska and Siberia. Recent ice loss rates have been 100,000 to 150,000 square kilometers (38,600 to 57,900 square miles) per day, which is more than double the climatological rate.

Sea level pressure favors the advection of ice

A pattern of high pressure over the Beaufort Sea and low pressure over the Laptev Sea has been present for the past few weeks. This pattern is favorable for summer ice loss, by advecting warm winds from the south (in eastern Asia) to melt the ice and transport it away from the coastlines in Siberia and Alaska. The high pressure over the Beaufort leads to generally clear skies, and temperatures are now above freezing over much of the Arctic pack. Snow cover in the far north is nearly gone, earlier than normal, allowing the coastal land to warm faster.

Early melt onset, and clear skies near the solstice are favorable conditions for more rapid melting, and warming of the ocean in open-water areas. The persistence of this type of pressure pattern throughout summer 2007 was a major factor toward causing the record low September extent that year. Conversely, in 2010, the patterns were not as favorable for loss of ice and the seasonal decline slowed later in the summer, and the extent did not approach the record low levels of 2007.

While these patterns and conditions have looked similar to 2007, over the last couple days the high pressure pattern over the Beaufort Sea has broken down. And while the extent is at a record low for the date, it is still early in the melt season. Changing weather patterns throughout the summer will affect the exact trajectory of the sea ice extent through the rest of the melt season.


32 Responses to “NSIDC: Arctic Ice Tracking at Record Low Levels”

  1. NevenA Says:

    Here is the NSIDC extent graph with other years as well. As you can see, 2012 is right down there with 2010 and 2011.

  2. Martin Lack Says:

    In the topsy-turvy world of climate change denial, it will probably be asserted that what the Arctic needs is less cloud cover so that more heat can be lost to space, cool the ocean and help the sea freeze. They won’t allow low albedo, heat capacity and latent heat get in the way of a fine-sounding argument… It’s the oceanic equivalent of the terrestrial canard “plants need more CO2”.

    On the other hand, the more lucid members of the contrarian movement might well point out that we need to wait and see what the situation is in September… Just one little problem with that line of argument: Wait and see was not a valid argument 60 years ago, so how on Earth can it be one today! Wait and see is not a rational response to being told that there is an asteroid on collision course with Earth; because the later we send up a rocket to blow it off course – or into pieces – the greater the risk of collateral damage.

    We have known of the “approaching asteroid” that is anthropogenic climate disruption for 60 years and every single time we check the mathematics its trajectory is confirmed – at least 2 Celsius equilibrium temperature rise for a doubling of CO2. “Wait and see” is now insane; it will just guarantee that the worst-case scenario becomes a reality.

    • jdouglashuahin Says:

      The USS Skate (SSN-578) made submarine history on 11 August 1958 when it became the first submarine to surface at the North Pole.
      The officer who had climbed to the bridge with Calvert called the skipper’s attention to the port side of the ship. There a full grown polar bear was climbing slowly out of the water and up onto the ice.

      The date was 11 August 1958 and the Skate had just become the first submarine to surface at the North Pole.

      1969: the SS Manhattan, a reinforced supertanker sent to test the viability of the passage for the transport of oil, made the passage. The route was deemed not to be cost effective.

      Cache of historical Arctic sea ice maps discovered
      Arctic Sea ice data collected by DMI 1893-1961

      I do believe that what Winston said could be applied to the Economist Report:
      “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Winston Churchill

      • Martin Lack Says:

        I do believe it could be better applied to you, JDS. Are you not sick of eating cherries yet? None of your well chosen fruit alter the reality that you are running so fast down the up escalator that when it stops you are going to look very foolish. http://sks.to/escalator

        It was in the late 1950s that scientists first started warning that the greenhouse effect was becoming obvious; by 1965, LBJ admitted in in public. Unfortunately, by the late 1970s, ideologically-prejudiced scientists were trying to bury the truth as fast as they can and, after the collapse of the USSR, they needed a new enemy and so chose the Green movement.

        • jdouglashuahin Says:

          “I do believe it could be better applied to you, JDS.” in obvious reference to the Churchill quote.
          Martin, why do you persist with your assertions and then to imply that I have stated to you false information is ludicrous. Prove it.
          “I blew my chance to ask a question”

          Martin Lack: “There are many questions that I’d like to ask you but I’ll just .. in order to stick to .. I’ll stick to one.”

          • Martin Lack Says:

            This is pathetic trolling behaviour, Doug. Any objective reader of my blog, Mike’s or Barry Bickmore’s where BB himself intervened to ask you to stop it can see that I am not a liar; and I do not write things I know to be false or that have been rebutted, because I am not a troll… I will quote BB from the above-linked page:
            I watched the video you posted, and although Martin said he was going to ask a question, he clearly never got around to it. He made a statement, and he was going to go on, but Lindzen jumped in and responded to the statement.” By going on about this, you are just admitting you cannot refute the fact that Lindzen misrepresented the science (as indeed you do yourself)… The only thing that is unclear (with regard to both you and Lindzen) is whether this is due to incompetence or ideological prejudice or both.

      • Jdouglashuahin you are just full of it . This fiction of the Skate is getting so old.

        Please check out “Surface at the north pole” The story of USS Skate by Commander James Calvert, USN. Hutchinson & Co -1961

        Fact check!
        On page 182 -183 of his book

        Slowly we blew the tanks and the Skate moved reluctantly upward. It was apparent we were under heavier ice here than any we had experienced before. After that seemed an eternity of delay, the upper hatch was far enough above the ice to be opened. Our tenuous foothold was more firm.

        “Open the hatch! “I shouted, and raced up the ladder. The ice we had broken was so heavy that it had not fallen into the bridge but had split and fallen outside. I leaped to the bridge and was stuck by the first heavy wind I had ever experienced in the Arctic. It howled and swirled across the open bridge, carrying stinging snow particles which cut like flying sand. Heavy gray clods hung in the sky; the impression was of a dark and stormy twilight about to fade into night. ….

        Finally the Skate lay on the surface – the first ship in history to sit at the very top of the world. …. [March 17 1959] ……

        The Skate had arrived at her goal. Last summer’s attainment of the Pole had brought little satisfaction because we had been forced to remain submerged where, for all the difference it made to us, we could have been anywhere else in the oceans of the world.

        If you cannot find it in a library you can get it at Amazon. My copy was given to me by my mother when I as a boy.

        • jdouglashuahin Says:

          “Jdouglashuahin you are just full of it . This fiction of the Skate is getting so old.” You are the one that is rapidly getting very, very old passenger. You ignorantly want to disparage me for what I posted but you also disparaged the source of that presentation, The U.S. Naval Institute. Why don’t you wake up some day and please do so soon?

          “About the U.S. Naval Institute
          Wednesday, March 24, 2010 10:43 AM
          The U.S. Naval Institute has been a fixture at the U.S. Naval Academy since its founding in 1873 by a group of 15 naval officers who began meeting to discuss the serious implications of a smaller, post-Civil War Navy and other matters of professional interest.”

          • Let see we can believe Vice Admiral James F. Calvert commanding officer of the Skate (SSN-578) from December 1957 to September 1959 own book he published in 1961 or a blog post with zero references.

            Unless you have the logbook of the Skate (SSN-578) for 58 and 59 and it says Calvert is lying well the you are just wrong,

            How about the US Navy two sourse:

            WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060


            In the following months, Skate, as the first ship of her class, conducted various tests in the vicinity of her homeport. In early March 1959, she again headed for the Arctic to pioneer operations during the period of extreme cold and maximum ice thickness. The submarine steamed 3,900 miles under pack ice while surfacing through it 10 times. On 17 March, she surfaced at the North Pole to commit the ashes of the famed explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins to the Arctic waste. When the submarine returned to port, she was awarded a bronze star in lieu of a second Navy Unit Commendation for demonstrating “… for the first time the ability of submarines to operate in and under the Arctic ice in the dead of winter . . .” In the fall of 1959 and in 1960, Skate participated in exercises that were designed to strengthen American antisubmarine defenses.


            Submarines have conducted under-ice operations in the Arctic regions in support of inter-fleet transit, training, cooperative allied engagements and operations for more than 50 years. USS Nautilus (SSN 571) made the first transit in 1958. USS Skate (SSN 578) was the first U.S. submarine to surface through arctic ice at the North Pole in March, 1959. Since those events, the U.S. Submarine Force has completed more than 25 Arctic exercises at a pace of one Ice Camp every two years. Three of these have been done in conjunction with Allied submarines.

            And for the fun of it
            Commemorative postal cover issued on the occasion of the Skate (SSN-578), as the first Submarine to surface at the North Pole, 17 March 1959.

      • It looks like you need to check and see if you pants are on before posting (From you end quote)

        SS manhattan was an icebreaking tanker not a reinforced supertanker. Even then it got stuck and need Canadian icebreaker, “John A. McDonald “and U.S. Coast Guard ship “Staten Island”

        Checked sources are:

        You think nothing is wrong in the Artic but consider an icebreaking tanker failed to do it without an icebreaker, but in 2010 for the first time, two yachts were able to make the circumnavigation in one season without being or needing an icebreaker. (yachts names are “Peter 1 “and “Northern Passage”)

        The Russian “Peter 1” http://new.rusarc.ru/ and The “Northern Passage” was the first boat to make a successful Arctic circumnavigation in one season. We crossed our wake north of Bergen, Norway, on the morning of 14 October. It is now clear that the “Northern Passage” was also the first boat to sail through both the Northeast and Northwest Passages during one and the same season.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          thanks for researching that. No surprise that was a dodgey source.
          But this is the ploy of gish galloping creationists, climate deniers, and anti science types everywhere,
          they just throw up as much confusion as they can, in the hope that others will not have
          time or inclination to track down sources. Fortunately we have a sharp crew here.

    • astrostevo Says:

      Great analogy there, Martin Lack. I may have to adopt that one myself. Great comment.

      I see the loss of Arctic sea ice here as very much the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” and its looking really worryingly sick right now.

      In case its of any interest / use there was a good special feature report in, of all things, ‘The Economist’ magazine recently – June 16th 2012 edition.

  3. Why look only at extent, which only needs a grid cell o have 15% ice cover?

    What about area, which is much more shocking?

    or the PIOMAS data on ice volume, more shocking still !

    • greenman3610 Says:

      the piomas image is striking. One has to ask if there is any chance of that
      leveling off – if not, we should see open water by mid decade.

    • NevenA Says:

      Aaron, because of melt ponds area is not so useful as a metric right now. Sure, we watch it, it’s interesting, but it doesn’t tell us anything definite right now. We have to look at all the graphs.

      And extrapolating an exponential trend is probably not how things are going to play out in reality. I think that there will be some multi-year ice within and north of the Canadian Archipelago that will be harder to melt out, which will make the graph level off as it approaches zero. Of course, with less than 1 million km2 the Arctic can basically be pronounced ice-free (the perpetual goalpost shifters will disagree, of course), and it will become more interesting to see what happens in autumn and spring. Because this will most probably have effects that impact the entire Northern Hemisphere.

      On this graph at the same site made by Wipneus you see all kinds of statistical fits. I believe the Gompertz fit comes closest to what we can expect to happen (although no one knows for sure). Dr Larry Hamilton explains in this blog post from last year.

    • Martin Lack Says:

      Please forgive me if I am repeating myself (like history does because no-one is listening) but, this is why I got so annoyed with The Economist magazine for suggesting that sea ice might be gone by the end of the century (i.e. I think that should be “decade” guys).

      • jdouglashuahin Says:

        Martin Lack; Do you think that there will be as much decline in arctic ice as in 1922? It appears that your Economist report forgot about the Vikings having settlements on Greenland as attested to by the remains of their buildings there. Just give me your true opinion on this and I’ll go from there.
        Climate change killed off Viking settlement on Greenland
        Norse ruins at Brattahlid.

        “The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consul Ifft, at Bergen, Norway. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.”

        who reported this ? the IPCC, the Meteorological Office…. No, that was the US Weather Bureau in 1922.

        “The source report of the Washington Post article on changes in the arctic has been found in the Monthly Weather Review for November 1922. It is much more detailed than the Washington Post (Associated Press) article. It seems the AP heaviliy relied on the report from Norway Consulate George Ifft, which is shown below. See the original MWR article below and click the newsprint copy for a complete artice or see the link to the original PDF below:”


        • Martin Lack Says:

          Unlike you, JDS, I do not deny facts merely because they are inconvenient. The MWP and LIA really did happen; nobody I know disputes that. Indeed, I do not dispute that, for 10 to 12 thousand years prior to the Industrial Revolution, the Earth’s temperature had fluctuated in response to solar cycles and volcanic eruptions. However, I also do not dispute that what has happened in the last 200 years is unprecedented in millions of years. And, please tell me you don’t think Greenland was so named by the Vikings because it was not covered in an Ice Cap, you really will do your credibility no good going down that route…

          Are you really trying to tell me you think that, if it could have been accurately determined, the average global ocean temperature would have been warmer 90 years ago than it is today? Please take the hint from Mike; and accept that your ignorance of science means that with every piece of contrarian crap you cut-and-paste here you discredit yourself further…

          • jdouglashuahin Says:

            “The interaction between water temperature and salinity effects density and density determines thermohaline circulation, or the global conveyor belt. The global conveyor belt is a global-scale circulation process that occurs over a century-long time scale. Water sinks in the North Atlantic, traveling south around Africa, rising in the Indian Ocean or further on in the Pacific, then returning toward the Atlantic on the surface only to sink again in the North Atlantic starting the cycle again.” (Again, your narrow time span makes your worries groundless if you are looking at 90 years) Also NASA seems to want to compress this circulation time span into centuries when most believe it is at least a thousand year cycle)
            “As water travels through the water cycle, some water will become part of The Global Conveyer Belt and can take up to 1,000 years to complete this global circuit. It represents in a simple way how ocean currents carry warm surface waters from the equator toward the poles and moderate global climate.” [The Global Conveyer Belt has suddenly stopped for several speculated reason in the past and caused dramatic and rapid climate changes always to the cold side; therefore, warm is preferable to cold any day]

            Eric the Red was trying to entice people to come to his settlement and there was still ice on Greenland, but you seem to have missed that point, among many.

          • Martin Lack Says:

            Please do not lecture me on subjects upon which you clearly have such a skewed and slender grasp.

        • The two sources you gave you did not read.


          “The trade between Norway and Greenland gradually declines. The vital trade reaches a critical minimum by the loss of the Greenland-Knarr, the trade vessel used for Greenland, in approximately 1380.”


          “William D’Andrea says that it wasn’t just climate that killed off the Viking settlement. They were also over-reliant on farming and trade with their home territories in Scandinavia and never made peace with the Inuit inhabitants of Greenland.”

          Greenlandic Inuit are still there so why did the Viking leave and the Inuit continued?

          • jdouglashuahin Says:

            Passenger; One would have thought that even you could have figured out on your own why “Greenlandic Inuit are still there so why did the Viking leave and the Inuit continued?” It is obviously because the climate had changed for a period of over 500 years that supported the agricultural type existence of the European Vikings until the climate again changed to a cold climate and none of this affected the Inuit because they had never changed their reliance on what had always provided for their existence and that came from the ocean and not from the land. The quote that you provided should have answered this question for you.

  4. MorinMoss Says:

    I rarely see much talk about area and even less on volume at the cooligans’ favorite web hangout.
    But I’m sure that Tisdale or Eschenbach will contrive some clever graph to show that it’s not really happening and it was worse back in the ’30s or some such.

    • otter17 Says:

      They also bury their graphs in deluge of other graphs that are loosely related to the point of the article. Comments agree with what is stated, despite the conflict with established scientific literature.

      Repeat on a daily basis.

  5. If the PIOMASS average ice volume exponential trend line is correct, we achieve zero ice volume by August, 2016. That is a little earlier than I had imagined. What precisely is meant by average ice volume is not exactly clear, but the trend line indicates some major changes ahead.

  6. mrsircharles Says:

    Wanna see “Steven Goddard” making a sea ice “recovery” out of that 🙂

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Is he already betting on another recovery? I guess it doesn’t matter as some cooligans have shifted to saying this is just part of a natural 1000, 1100, or 1500 year trend – pick your favorite number

  7. […] has no new analysis since this one last week. They update this image every day or so, will post the latest one here when available. This is from […]

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