Newest NOAA Arctic Sea Ice Visualization: Navy Readies for Ice Free Arctic

March 3, 2014


The winter ice pack in the Arctic was once dominated by multi-year*, thick ice. Today, very little old ice remains. This animation shows maps of sea ice age from 1987 through the end of October 2013. Age class 1 means “first-year ice,” which is ice that formed in the most recent winter. The oldest ice (9+) is ice that is more than 9 years old. Animation by NOAA, based on research data provided by Mark Tschudi, CCAR, University of Colorado.

While arctic sea ice extent has declined some 40 percent since the Satellite record began in 1979, even more dramatic has been the loss of ice thickness, or mass. Some 75 percent of ice mass has disappeared in just a few decades.

The animation above is the latest update, showing how dramatically the thick “perrennial ice”, colored lighter in this display, has been disappearing over recent decades.

Now, the US Navy has released an updated plan for arctic operations based on the accelerated disappearance of Arctic sea ice.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Navy is mapping out how to expand its presence in the Arctic beginning about 2020, given signs that the region’s once permanent ice cover is melting faster than expected, which is likely to trigger more traffic, fishing and resource mining.

“The Arctic is all about operating forward and being ready. We don’t think we’re going to have to do war-fighting up there, but we have to be ready,” said Rear Admiral Jonathan White, the Navy’s top oceanographer and navigator, and director of the Navy’s climate change task force.

“We don’t want to have a demand for the Navy to operate up there, and have to say, ‘Sorry, we can’t go,’” he said.

The Navy this week released an “aggressive” update to its 2009 Arctic plan after a detailed analysis of data from a variety of sources showed that seasonal ice is disappearing faster than had been expected even three years ago. The document said the Bering Strait was expected to see open water conditions about 160 days a year by 2020, with the deep ocean routes of the Transpolar transit route forecast to be open for up to 45 days annually by 2025.

The document includes dozens of specific tasks and deadlines for Navy offices, including calling for better research on rising sea levels and the ability to predict sea ice thickness, assessment of satellite communications and surveillance needs, and evaluation of existing ports, airfields and hangars. It also puts a big focus on cooperation with other Arctic nations and with the U.S. Coast Guard, which is grappling with the need to build a new $1 billion ice-breaking ship.

The Navy is conducting a submarine exercise in the Arctic next month, and plans to participate in a joint training exercise with the Norwegian and Russian military this summer.

White said the Navy’s new projection was aimed at answering “the billion dollar question” of how much it would cost to prepare for an increased naval presence in the Arctic, and trying to determine what investments were needed when.

“We’re trying to use this road map to really be able to answer that question,” White said, noting that early smaller-scale investments could help avert bigger bills in the future.

57 Responses to “Newest NOAA Arctic Sea Ice Visualization: Navy Readies for Ice Free Arctic”

  1. Chris O'Neill Says:

    It looks like big chunks are taken out of multi-year sea ice in the vicinity of Siberia in the melt season. I guess this means that Siberia could be the leading source of heat in melt events.

  2. ClimateState Says:

    The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review

    There are some review videos on YouTube on this report, though no excerpt compilation on CC yet.

  3. chasingice Says:

    Confessions of a “luke-warmist”:

    I’m not a political guy.

    I don’t see how voting for a Democrat or a Republican helps my nation, so if I seem a bit odd, then its by choice.

    If you have a particularly heavy slant between either of those 2 factions, then I’ll say a prayer for you and our Nation, as I don’t think either of those 2 parties are going to save our planet, our economy, or our futures.

    With that aside, let move to climate: There is a whole spectrum of people that profess a whole spectrum of beliefs, and most of them once you remove the politics of it all seems fairly reasonable to me. I guess I fall somewhat in the middle of the 2 climate camps of record, and just like politics, I think both are wrong.

    That’s why I call myself a luke-warmist. There is not much that I truly deny, except for the whole “IF WE DON’T CREATE A NEW TAX RIGHT NOW, WE’RE ALL DEAD”. That sort of leads back to my political stance. As someone that lives in California, I can attest to the fact that taxation doesn’t solve environmental problems.

    I don’t know what CO2 is doing to the planet and I don’t think you do either (whoever you are). If that is denial than so be it. I do know that this is a planet that is 70% water, and it functions in a certain way, and that the laws of thermodynamics (as far as I understand them) are the primary function of how this big blue planet cools itself.

    If the Arctic ice were to truly melt, I would be scared. Frankly, I’m scared now, as we have very little “coolant” in the system to work with (that being sea ice”). Some people make a big deal of land-ice, but that isn’t even on my radar. Its only sea-ice that I worry about. Without sea ice, the heat transfer of the oceans stop working, and there is therefore no transfer of energy to the atmosphere, and there is no cooling system in place; we would be a care with a leak in its radiator.

    I fished in Alaska in my youth, and had quite a number of opportunities to experience arctic ice in the 80’s. I would hope to make that trip again, this time on a luxury cruise ship, but if I can’t see my ice, it would sadden me.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      And if you keep following the progression, warming causes more loss of sea ice causes more warming which eventually causes the loss of LAND ice in Greenland and Antarctica, which causes catastrophic sea level rise. You need to worry about land ice too.

  4. […] Description: The winter ice pack in the Arctic was once dominated by multi-year*, thick ice. Today, very little old ice remains. This animation shows maps of sea ice age from 1987 through the end of October 2013.  […]

  5. adelady Says:

    “if I can’t see my ice, it would sadden me.”

    Other people with different histories, but also from the US, would feel the same about visiting Glacier National Park.

    There are only about 25 of them left out of the original 150. If you want to see some land ice, you’d better go there fairly soon. And I quote, “… many of the glaciers are retreating faster than their predicted rates.”

  6. […] 2014/03/03: PSinclair: Newest NOAA Arctic Sea Ice Visualization: Navy Readies for Ice Free Arctic […]

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