2013 Melt Season – Arctic Ice in Free Fall Again?

July 21, 2013

The most amazing thing about 2012 in the arctic was how un-amazing it was in terms of weather and warming – yet ice last year plunged to a stunning new low, most likely because the ice has become so thin and fragile that even the wear and tear of a normal year are enough to devastate the ice pack.

This year’s melt season has trended only a little below the 1981 – 2010 average up until about mid-june, then taken a dramatic downward turn.  If it does not level off, ice loss will soon match the 2012 pace.


Washington Post:

It’s not clear if 2013 levels will match 2012′s astonishing record low, but – with temperatures over the Arctic Ocean 1-3 degrees above average – the 2013 melt season has picked up in earnest during July.

“During the first two weeks of July, ice extent declined at a rate of 132,000 square kilometers (51,000 square miles) per day. This was 61% faster than the average rate of decline over the period 1981 to 2010 of 82,000 square kilometers (32,000 square miles) per day,” the National Snow and Ice Data Center writes on its website.

Despite this rapid ice loss, the current mid-July 2013 sea ice extent is greater than 2012 at the same time by about 208,000 square miles NSIDC says.

Financial Times  (registration required):

Arctic shipping is set for a record year, underlining how melting sea ice is raising the prospect of an important new route for trade between Asia and Europe that shaves thousands of kilometres off the trip.

As of Friday, the administrators of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) – which follows the north coast of Russia – had granted permission to 204 ships to sail this year. In 2012, only 46 ships sailed the entire length from Europe to Asia, up from four vessels just two years earlier.

Arctic Sea Ice Blog:

Commenter Danp opened a thread on the ASIF a couple of days ago, showing a cleaned up compilation he made of LANCE-MODIS satellite images (like commenter dabize did last year). The result looks very nice indeed, giving us a clear view of the holes on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, near the North Pole:


Ice experts weigh in – but those swiss-cheese like holes near the pole appear to be signs that we could see a dramatic disintegration later in the summer.

Arctic Sea Ice Blogger Neven adds the animation shown at the top of this post with this note:

At the same time Dutch blogger Lars Boelen has combined images from the all-new high-resolution sea ice concentration maps that are put out by the University of Hamburg (discussed a couple of weeks ago in this blog post)
To see the most recently updated video, check out Lars’ YouTube channel. He tries to update the video on a daily basis.

Below, last year’s Sea Ice Minimum video:


19 Responses to “2013 Melt Season – Arctic Ice in Free Fall Again?”

  1. The models are forecasting a cyclone in the Arctic by midweek. Could this be a repeat of GAC2012?

  2. NevenA Says:

    I have just published a new Arctic Sea Ice update: cyclone time again. Wrt the cyclone:

    Now that’s a big cyclone, very, very similar to last year’s Great Arctic Cyclone. Except that it comes out of nowhere, and quickly de-intensifies after Wednesday. It will do some damage to the ice pack, but not as much as last year. Note also the high-pressure area over Greenland.

    Of course, the forecast can change.



    As expected, the decrease has been higher than it has been during any July in the 2005-2013 period. 2013 would probably come even closer to the record years, if the conditions conducive to MCT would have stayed in place. But as the weather is switching again, things will probably slow down.

    Two caveats though:

    1) Switching weather patterns didn’t slow down 2012 like they did in previous years.

    2) If the cyclone that is forecasted to intensify in the coming three days and stays intense for a couple of days, we could be seeing another bout of flash melting.

    I still think it’s going to be difficult to surpass last year’s records, which would be only logical after the incredibly slow start to the melting season, but 2007 and 2011 aren’t out of reach. Mind you, it’s still too early to be ruling out new records. Anything is possible, as large parts of the ice pack are in a really bad shape.

  3. If we do get close to the record low of 2012, or even surpass it, I’m really curious what the response will be from for example WUWT. They had some ‘interesting’ responses to the event last year.

  4. Bruce Miller Says:

    Can Canada ship her Western oil, and her Tar Sands oil and natural gas, her iron ores, this way ie: from a port on Hudson’s Bay to Eurasian marketplaces, any time soon? Can Russian Nuclear Ice Breakers help? Will Arctic oil become a practical reality?

  5. MorinMoss Says:

    After last year’s dramatic decline, I expected a partial recovery. It’s still too early to predict another low or something close to it but if the extent & area for this year is below 2008 or 2009, that’ll be something.

    We still need a reliable way to track ice thickness – PIOMAS is not enough.

  6. MorinMoss Says:

    The images of melting at the North Pole are going viral all over the social media sites

  7. In hindsight, and record ice growth, this article and comments seems needlessly alarming. Does anyone deny this?

    • greenman3610 Says:

      “record ice growth” is not descriptive of what is happening in the arctic. If you are not alarmed, you do
      not understand the situation.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Unless you have accurate numbers for AREA and VOLUME, you can’t claim record ice growth. Those numbers take more time to determine than extent which only looks at 15% or greater ice coverage.

      Here’s how extent misleads:
      Let’s say that at some point you had 3/4ths of the Arctic area with 90% coverage of 3-foot thick ice.
      Then you have a freakish melt that causes a drastic reduction in % coverage and thickness, followed by one of those famous polar storms that scatters the thinner, more fragile ice over a wider area.
      Now you have an Arctic area that is 40% covered over its maximum area with ice that’s 1 foot thick.

      Guess what – you now have 100% according to the standard of measurement of extent.
      Oh look – RECOVERY – Woot!!!

      Now calculate this – what’s the change in actual area of the Arctic Ocean that’s covered by ice?
      What’s the change in volume?

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