Posted by: JohnnyRook | December 21, 2008

2008 Arctic Sea-Ice Refreeze Trend Line Dropping Below Last Year’s

Take a look at the latest charts from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. After running for several months above the refreeze trend line for 2007-2008, the 2008-2009 line is now poised to dip below last year’s.

As I have already reported, 2008 was the 2nd lowest year for summer sea-ice extent falling just short of the record set in 2007. Moreover, 2008 set a record for lowest sea ice volume. Despite the fact that 2008 was colder than 2007, the sea-ice melt rate for 2008 nearly equaled the previous year. Why did that happen? Well, in 2007 a lot of the ice that melted was multi-year ice. In 2008 after 2007’s record melt a lot of new ice formed in the fall, but it was thin being first year ice. Such ice melts more easily.

Now take a look at the amount of first year ice in 2008 compared with 2007.

The increase in first-year ice is very large, which brings us to the significance of this year’s refreeze trend line. The science-impaired denailist/delayers were getting all excited about this year’s refreeze rate, because, even though it was well below the 1979-2000 average it was above the 2007-2008 refreeze rate. Now, of course they didn’t mention what I’ve just written about first-year versus multi-year ice, but that is precisely the point.

Just as last year, much of the 2009 ice cover will be first year ice which will be easily susceptible to melting, and, now, it appears that the refreeze rate for 2008-2009 is about to go below last years rate. (For a possible reason for this, see this post: Changes Taking Place in Arctic Sea-Ice Growth and Melt Cycles)

What does this mean for next summer’s sea-ice melt? Maybe nothing, but allow me to speculate a little. If much of the sea ice come next summer is first year ice and it will be, (and a lot of the rest will be second-year ice), and if this years refreeze trend line does go below last year’s line and stays there so that we start out with a smaller ice extent, and the La Niña pattern that we’ve been having shifts to an El Niño we could easily have a new record for sea ice melt come September 2009. I should point out that the World Meteorological Organization stated in late November that it could not, at this point, make a prediction regarding El Niño-La Niña for spring 2009.

Forecast models are in general agreement that near-neutral conditions will prevail through the remainder of 2008, and that there is no substantial risk of El Niño or La Niña through the remainder of 2008 and indeed into early 2009. However, confidence in projections into early 2009 carry increased uncertainty. Expert interpretation refrains from drawing any robust conclusions at this time about the likelihood of El Niño or La Niña development during the historically favoured time of year of March-May.

So, two of my three if’s may not happen. The refreeze rate may move back up and we may not have an El Niño next year, but if we do we’re going to see a new record for summer sea-ice melt and my guess is that it will be by a big margin. Just another step to a summer-sea-ice-free Arctic, decades before when the IPCC and others said it could happen.

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Responses

  1. [...] First, despite the catastrophic decline in Arctic ice he tries the “ice experiencing massive growth” meme. I discussed the very real catastrophic loss of Arctic ice recently, but two new posts worth noting would be: “2008 Arctic Sea-Ice Refreeze Trend Line Dropping Below Last Year’s“ [...]

  2. when reading everything about global warming, it really scars me. When seeing satellight pictures of the arctic in the 2007 then seeing how much has melted in just one year just is shocking and the poor ploar bears. I wish there was something more i could. I try to do my part with recycleing and taking care of my car so it doesnt out off as much polution. There is only so much 1 person can do. Everyone needs to work together. It kills me to hear and see what the polar bears are going through, and they could be extiniced by 2013. That is just not right and doesnt sit well for me. They are sooo important for the planet and so is the acrtic ice. I can understand what i read about the arctic being like a refrigerator for the polar bears. We need to do something about this and fast. I just hope theres time to do something. I am 20 years old. When i have children i dont want to have to tell them how about the acrtic ice and the polar bears and because of global warming that is why there not around anymore. I want them to beable to be able to visit it if they wanted to. It just breaks my heart.

    • Hi Cari,

      First, thank you for your concern. I’m afraid that my generation has left your generation a very big problem. Many of us are working to solve it, but the opposition is fierce particularly from powerful oil, coal, and gas companies as well as utilities and auto companies (although the latter have been humbled a bit of late) who run huge propaganda campaigns to confuse the public.

      You are right that there is only so much that one person can do alone. It is vital that we work together, so if you’re interested in doing more I suggest joining a group such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Earthjustice, Union of Concerned Scientists, etc. which are working to change things. There are also local groups in some areas that are very active. Another very important thing is to write and call your Congress people on issues that you care about. With the Obama administration soon coming to power, there will be a lot of new initiatives to cut CO2, increase energy efficiency and switch to sustainable energy so that we can stop using coal. Obama will face a lot of opposition, so we’ll need to be organized behind him, just as we were during the election. So, don’t despair, if we all work together we can still avoid the worst consequences of Climaticide, but we have to act fast; we don’t have more than a few years to get major programs started.

      Best,

      JR

  3. Thanks for posting this information, Johnny. I think it’s great to look at real data like this instead of getting caught up in “hype and hysteria”. From your graphs, it seems that the sea-ice extent in the Northern Hemisphere on 12/20/2008 was right near the “average”. Thus, there doesn’t appear to be too much to be concerned about from this year or last year – although I note your comments that this is younger ice due to the melt-off of 2005, 2006, and 2007. Do you happen to have an even more up-to-date graph of sea-ice extent as of January 1, 2009 or later? This would be interesting to see as well since it seems that things have gotten much colder toward the end of 2008 in the Northern Hemisphere. At least where I live! :-)

    Do you have any thoughts about the RECORD HIGH sea-ice extent seen in the Southern Hemisphere during 2008?

    Do you have any thoughts about the theory that solar radiation reduction is playing a huge role in the cooling we’re seeing recently? Do you agree or disagree that solar radiation is the single biggest factor in planetary temperatures?

    Will you be continuing to track sea-ice extent throughout 2009? If data continues to track similarly to 2008 (or greater) in terms of sea-ice extent, at what point would you be willing to entertain that the “warming” trend of previous decades is changing toward a “cooling trend”? Possibly with a direct correlation to reduce solar radiation?

    Thanks again for your work to share information on sea-ice extent as an indicator of global problems / concerns!

  4. “Despite the fact that 2008 was not as cold as 2007, the sea-ice melt rate for 2008 nearly equaled the previous year.”

    Did you mean to write: “Despite the fact that 2008 was COLDER than 2007, the sea-ice melt rate for 2008 nearly equaled the previous year.”? It seems this makes more sense?

    Cheers!

    • Steven, you are correct and I have made the appropriate correction in the text. Thanks.

  5. Thanks, Johnny! Just wanted to make sure you saw these questions:

    Do you have any thoughts about the RECORD HIGH sea-ice extent seen in the Southern Hemisphere during 2008?

    Do you have any thoughts about the theory that solar radiation reduction is playing a huge role in the cooling we’re seeing recently? Do you agree or disagree that solar radiation is the single biggest factor in planetary temperatures?

    Will you be continuing to track sea-ice extent throughout 2009? If data continues to track similarly to 2008 (or greater) in terms of sea-ice extent, at what point would you be willing to entertain that the “warming” trend of previous decades is changing toward a “cooling trend”? Possibly with a direct correlation to reduce solar radiation?

    Interested to hear your thoughts…

  6. [...] points, we are talking about extent (area) of coverage, not mass of ice. The Arctic ice is falling in both mass and extent of coverage over time. Note that the 2007 Arctic ice coverage [...]

  7. All of the first year ice seems to confirm what I read on http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=81bb2fd3-63f1-476f-b0be-f48c0dc90304
    that there was a lot of volcanic activity during the summer of ’08
    This activity is a continuation of that begun in 1999 as seen on
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19826625.800-arctic-ocean-volcano-blew-its-top–even-under-pressure.html
    wherein a lot of CO2 was released.
    Dosen’t this suggest a lot of ‘hot’ water under the ice?

    • Bob,

      Here is what the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has to say about whether these undersea volcanoes have any effect on sea ice melt. (You have to scroll to near the bottom of the page to find the quotation.) JR

      Do explosive volcanic eruptions on the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean contribute to the melting of the Arctic ice cap?

      No, not at all. The Arctic Ocean is a huge reservoir of water that can readily absorb and disperse the heat and volatile gases from the volcanic eruptions at the seafloor.

      To get a sense of how readily and easily the ocean disperses heat from the Earth’s crust, look at underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents in other regions of the ocean. At hydrothermal vents, scientists have found mineral-rich fluids with temperatures approaching 400°C (750°F) spewing out of the Earth. But if you measure temperatures just a few meters above or to the side of a vent, water temperatures return to just 2° to 3°C (35° to 37°F). And if you are floating on the ocean surface and a deep-sea volcano or vent erupts thousands of meters below, you wouldn’t detect a change in ocean temperatures.

      The water in the Arctic Ocean is stratified—layered like a cake—with lighter layers lying atop denser layers of water, like oil atop water. (Colder and/or saltier seawater is denser than warmer and/or less salty seawater.) Waters in the Arctic depths remain trapped near the bottom. They do not mix much with surface waters. Almost no heat is transmitted all the way up to the underside of the ice.

      During many Arctic expeditions, scientists have studied the movement of water, heat, and chemicals in the depths of the Arctic Ocean . They have found that heat and other emissions from the Arctic seafloor do not rise much higher than 500 to 1000 meters up from the ocean bottom. The volcanoes under the Arctic sea ice are 3,000 to 4,000 meters (approximately 2.5 miles) below.

  8. Hey Johnny! So where DID 2008 wind-up on the list of “warmest years on record”? Was it somewhere around 15th? That’s quite a ways off from the “record high temperature” predictions everyone had. Now, 2009 is starting out pretty cold as well. Still people are predicting 2009 to be “The warmest year ever!” I’m sensing a lot of hype now in the face of contrary data. I’m just waiting for the data points to stack-up enough that people say “Hmmmm… Maybe we were wrong about the Global Warming thing…” Still, I agree that we’re not there yet. We’ll have to watch how 2009 develops. But if it tracks like 2008 did, then I’m hoping that people will at least acknowledge the possibility that things may not be warming as much as we’ve thought. It’s tough to back-track on a theory once you’ve put so much time and energy into it, I know. But that’s the hallmark of a great scientist – the ability to take in NEW data and form an updated theory.

  9. Sea Ice Ends 2008 at 1979 levels…

    The data is being reported by the University of Illinois’s Arctic Climate Research Center, and is derived from satellite observations of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions.

    Each year, millions of square kilometers of sea ice melt and refreeze. However, the mean ice anomaly — defined as the seasonally-adjusted difference between the current value and the average from 1979-2000, varies much more slowly. That anomaly now stands at just under zero, a value identical to one recorded at the end of 1979, the year satellite record-keeping began.

  10. Hi Johnny. Sorry, I should have posted the link. I’ll do that next time. This is just a data-point, but global sea-ice is a good data-point, I think. We could just look at the South Pole Ice Extent, but as you say, that leaves out the North Pole and wouldn’t be fair because the South Pole ice has been growing like crazy. So I’m happy with the global data point. And it says we’re back to a 1979 level – which would have been unfathomable as little as 2 years ago! As for what the “models predict”, well – they were all wrong about 2008 and I’m sure they’re wrong about 2009 as well. They’re missing important variables, I think. I used to do complex simulations, so I know all about how models can be wrong based on faulty input data. That being said, I’m perfectly willing to accept Global Warming. In fact, I HAVE accepted it. Until just recently. When new data suggested some variables seem to be missing from the equation. Like Sun Spots and Solar Radiation. So I’m going to keep an open mind and watch the weather temps in 2009. I expect that 2009 will either be colder or warmer than 2008. I’m predicting that 2009 is cooler than 2008. Pretty easy to predict so far. Also, I’ll be the first to “eat crow” if 2009 is not cooler than 2008, and sea-ice extent in early 2010 is not greater than it is today. I’m just curious about what it would take to convince YOU that things are starting to cool? Would 2009 being cooler than 2008 be enough – putting it cooler than 1990 or so? Or will it take 2010 being cooler than 1979? Where’s the line in the sand where you start to consider that solar radiation may be the biggest contributor to Global temperatures? Just consider for a moment that we ARE in a cooling trend now. What data would be stacking up? Would it be what we are seeing now, with lower avg world-wide temps, terrible cold-fronts not seen in decades, no sun-spots, and increasing sea-ice?

  11. Oops. Better update your graph. While “the 2008-2009 line is now poised to dip below last year’s,” may have been true when that graph was generated, the latest graph, http://www.nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png shows that ice extent is well above the 2006-07 average. And, unless my eyes deceive me, the trend line is accelerating.

    • The graph reflects the data at the time that I wrote I’ll update it the next time I write about sea-ice extent.

  12. Dear Cari:

    Please don’t have children.


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