Arctic Ice June 2010 - Solstice Update
    By Patrick Lockerby | June 21st 2010 02:00 PM | 9 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Retired engineer, 60+ years young. Computer builder and programmer. Linguist specialising in language acquisition and computational linguistics....

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    Arctic Ice June 2010 - Solstice Update

    This is an update to my articles Arctic Ice June 2010 and Arctic Ice June 2010 - Update, part of my ongoing series of articles about the Arctic.

    The NSIDC ice extent graph continues to show ice extent well below the 2007 levels.

    Reduced size image.  Source:

    It is not widely remembered today, but the most rapid and unusual ice loss in 2007 didn't begin until about July.  This year's ice loss didn't start to show up in graphs until the end of April, leading some bloggers to write about ice recovery and near-normal extent.

    The rapid ice melt this year began at the end of March, accelerated in late April and continues at about the same rate.  The melt extent is already ahead of 2007.  Considering that melt in 2007 didn't really begin to take off until the 4th week in June, we must expect that by the last day of June the ice extent will be dramatically below 2007 levels.

    There is always going to be a problem in using computerised measures of ice extent, area, volume and such.  It takes a human eye to see the difference in quality of sea ice in different areas.  To reiterate what I have said before: I regard the  mechanical qualities and mobility of ice as being paramount in predicting ice melt.  Ice which lacks mechanical strength is readily fragmented by melt or impact.  Fragmented ice is highly mobile and is susceptible to the vagaries of wind and current.

    In my  update of June 8 2010 I wrote:
    The ice loss in the general area of the Bering Strait has been slow to average for the season.  From the Kara Sea to Amundsen Gulf the main pack is separating from, or already separated from the shorebound ice.  I predict that this ice loss will accelerate as highly fragmented young ice, and ice with surface meltwater, disintegrate rapidly.
    That acceleration happened.  The area is even more fragmented and mobile.

    In my most recent instalment of MODIS Rapidfire For Citizen Scientists I have tried to show some tricks - yes, tricks - for drawing the eye's attention to areas of sea ice worth a closer look.  Actually, ice color is a fairly good indicator of ice condition if the image resolution integrates polynyas and meltwater pools so as to make the ice look bluish-grey.  The image below shows whiter ice within the circle and bluish ice outside of it.  The Arctic mosaic images show the bluish-grey areas as highly fragmented, mobile and melting ice.  That rotten ice probably won't last long.  I give it 4 to 6 weeks.

    Area of maximum ice quality - June 19 2010
    Source image:

    I suggest that you have a look at some of that rotten ice in the Rapidfire images  and then compare what you see with the following Cryosphere Today image.

    Image source:
    Full size image:

    Today is the summer solstice.  In the Arctic regions, peak temperatures lag the solstice by an amount which varies up to about three weeks.  The Arctic hasn't fully warmed up yet.

    A prediction:

    By July 1st, much of the ice which shows as blue, green and yellow in the above image will have melted.  The NSIDC graph will show ice extent continuing below the 2007 level.

    Reference materials:

    A list of interesting websites for Arctic-watchers, compiled by Neven.


    I rarely delete comments other than spam.  I don't agree with censorship.

    There was a very long comment here which I deleted.  Not that I disagreed with it.  How can you disagree with a long, rambling, totally unintelligible 'comment' which doesn't address the topic?
    Thanks for this update, Patrick.

    The first SEARCH Sea Ice Outlook report is out, I'm comparing it with last year's on my blog. It's quite conservative for the time being.

    I looked at models in the TOPAZ website (in the homepage you have a link to latest forecasts).
    The link:

    If you look at sea ice thickness map (hice parameter), you see a very disturbing result: practically all ice
    thicker than 3 meters is gone (very little left near the Nares straits). The only area where you see some
    thick ice is near the Siberian coast, in the Chuckchi and Siberean seas.

    Just for a quick sanity check, look at the map from April 2009 (Haas et al published measurements then).
    The map then is what you expect- a large area north of the Canadian islands and Greenland has thick ice.

    If these model results are reasoanbly valid, this implies a nearly ice-free Arctic in September in 1-3 years
    (not this year, but perhaps next).


    Gili: thanks for the link.  I wasn't aware of that site.  Nice animation on the front page!

    I'm working on part #7 of my Arctic Tipping Points series.  It includes my latest observations in the Nares Strait area and may interest you.  I'll add a link here when the article is posted.

    Edit: new article now posted: Arctic Tipping Points - #7: Can The Arctic Recover?
    Patrick, I've used one of the pictures in your update and some of your text for my latest blog post. It includes an animation of the Beaufort Sea with which I'm quite pleased:
    Neven: that's a cool animation and write-up.

    Your animation shows the Beaufort gyre nicely.

    Check out the areas on the right, bounded by white lines, day 170 - 173.  That area seems to be in compression.  Normally, that pressure would produce very thick consolidated ice.  This year it looks more like a giant mincing machine.

    Apologies for the roundabout post, but I've had problems connecting to Neven's site. One of his comments on his site mentioned the Kwok, et al paper "Large sea ice outflow into the Nares Strait in 2007," and he said it probably is behind a pay wall. The full paper appears to be here (at least it was earlier today), in case anyone's interested:

    This is very interesting subject matter, and kudos to Patrick, Neven, and all the others trying to make serious sense of the topic.

    LongWayAround:  I am exceedingly grateful for the link.  I am in process of writing an update to my Arctic Ice July 2010 article.  That paper will be very helpful.

    If you go to Neven's blog and click on any 'comments' link you will find a panel at the bottom where you can create a new account in seconds.  Just click on one of the icons, then click 'register'.