Arctic Ice October 2010
    By Patrick Lockerby | October 5th 2010 04:39 PM | 14 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 October 2010

    ... the land being very high and full of mightie mountaines all covered with snowe, no viewe of wood, grasse or earth to be seene, and the shore two leages of into the sea so full of yce as that no shipping cold by any meanes come neere the same. The lothsome viewe of the shore, and irksome noyse of the yce was such as that it bred strange conceipts among us, so that we supposed the place to be wast and voyd of any sencible or vegitable creatures, whereupon I called the same Desolation.

    John_Davis, 1587
    cited by Captain Albert Hastings Markham R.N. in -
    Our Life In The Arctic Regions, 1877

    The Arctic has changed dramatically since explorers first began to map its geographical features.  Regions which were for centuries unapproachable by ship can now be reached with little difficulty in summer.  Literally hundreds of men died trying to find a polar route from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  This year, two small ships have succeeded in traversing both the North East and North West routes in a single season and are well on the way to completing a full circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean.

    The September sea ice minimum of 4.6 million km2 reported by NSIDC was not only the third lowest in the (post 1978) satellite record.  It was not only the third lowest in living memory.  It was, as far as I am able to establish from historic records, the third lowest in recorded Arctic history.  Not only is extent remarkably low: the NSIDC report states that at the end of summer 2010 less than 15% of the remaining ice was over two years old.

    The Cryosphere Today site has a graph of seasonal northern hemisphere sea ice extent from 1900 to 2008.  Their figures are calculated differently from the NSIDC extents.  I have taken their data from 1870 to 2008 and compiled a comparable graph, posted below.  I have extrapolated the end of summer data to include 2009 and 2010, modifying the NSIDC data to conform approximately to the CT data, for purposes of illustration: the 3 data points in the green graph.

    Annual and seasonal sea ice extent 1870 to 2010
    Data source: Cryosphere Today seasonal sea ice extent timeseries

    The history of Arctic exploration and discovery is recorded in many books, journals, newspapers, magazines, ship's logs and other printed or written materials.  Old maps and atlases often show Arctic ice limits as far as they were known at the time.  What is clear from this historical data is the gradual ability of ships to travel ever further north over a course of a few centuries. This progress was partly due to the building of stronger ships, each more capable than the last of enduring in pack ice.  However, one simple fact stands out from the reading of historical materials: the Arctic sea ice has been reducing in extent and volume at an increasing rate since the beginning of the industrial era. Since about 1950 the rate of sea ice loss has accelerated further.

    This next map, scanned from the 17th edition of Philips' Handy Volume Atlas of the World, 1930, shows the spring ice extent recorded up to 1929.  This map gives some intuitive meaning to the data in the graph above.

    Philips' Handy Volume Atlas 1930 Arctic map

    The spring ice extent is shown below - in a 1955 Russian map - as a dashed line.   The 'permanent' and 'impenetrable' central pack is also shown.

    Russian map of Arctic, 1955.
    Note the reduction in Spring extent compared to the 1930 map.  The reduction is specially noticeable near Iceland which is now shown as surrounded by open water.

    The Arctic was known about in Europe for centuries through myths, legends and travelers' tales. The most consistent descriptions were of a frozen and impenetrable sea extending much as shown in the maps above: a graveyard for ships and men. The history of Arctic exploration can be rediscovered through the many places and features named by or for explorers.  There are also records of 'furthest north' achievements, such as those shown on the 1930 map, above.  To give but one example of a place-name tied to a date: Kane basin was named in honor of Elisha Kent Kane, who surveyed it in 1854 and named it Peabody Bay, the name it still bears in this 1877 map.

    The Arctic Regions, map by Capt. Albert Hastings Markham R.N. 1877,
    showing late summer ice extent in Baffin Bay.

    Note the absence of the name 'Nares Strait'.  This map was published while Sir George Nares, leader of the 1875-1876 British Arctic Expedition, was still preparing his report and it was only later that the Strait was named in his honor. 

    Open Water

    On the sort of site which doesn't deal with real climate science, much is made of the idea of 'open water' in the Arctic.  The suggestion is that open water is not an unusual occurrence.  That is true, but it must be remembered that the term 'open water' is ambiguous: it is entirely indifferent to area.  The term 'open water' is applicable equally to a small polynya or the great expanses of open ocean seen in this, the 21st century. 

    The Arctic ice has always been mobile and so has always had some amount of open water within the main pack.  Pushed first this way and then that by strong variable winds, continuous ice tends to form cracks called leads.  These can be just wide enough for a kayak or wide enough for a very large ship.  A lead can stretch for a few meters or for many kilometers.  In winter, leads and polynyas are likely to freeze at the surface.

    Almost any report of Arctic exploration will make reference to 'open water' at some stage.  In a region where close-packed thick ice is everyday fare, it is only the extremely unusual discovery of a fairly large stretch of open water that is worth reporting.  Unless, perhaps, the explorer is in a submarine, in which case even the tiniest amount of open water is of interest.  In his book  "Surface at the Pole", Commander James Calvert, USN remarked of the 5th polyna found in 1959:
    I could see through the periscope two small black spots on the underside of the thin ice.  Suddenly I could make out ripples in them.  It was the first open water we had seen on the cruise.  The puddles, about 2 feet in diameter, showed that the ice in this lead must be very new.
    That 'open water' was found in March 1959, about 100 miles from the New Siberian Islands, a few days after surfacing at the pole.  Previously, having found no open water, the USS Skate had surfaced at the pole through a frozen lead on March 17th.  The ice was so thick that it did not obstruct the conning tower with fragments as previous thinner ice had done.  Not only was the ice thick, but it was hummocked to a height estimated at 18 feet, "... the tallest we had yet seen in the Arctic."

    USS Skate surfaced at the pole, March 17 1959.
    Source: Surface at the Pole, Commander James Calvert, USN, pub:Hutchinson, 1961

    These pictures were taken in Arctic twilight, two days before polar dawn.  Thick ice covers the after deck in the top image.  The lower picture was taken in the light of flares, such as the one held by the crewman, third from left foreground.  The three men on the foredeck are ready to fire a salute following a brief memorial ceremony and the scattering of the ashes of Sir George Hubert Wilkins, MC and Bar.

    In the days of wooden ships, the tactic of Arctic explorers was to make for a previous 'furthest north' and then hope to find that local weather variability had produced conditions suited to further progress.  It is very common to find reports of open water where previous explorers had found solid ice.  It is also very common to find that any report of open water is swiftly followed by a report of solid ice, or even of the ship being trapped in the ice.

    What follows is from the official report of Elisha Kent Kane on the 1853 Second Grinnell Expedition: 'Preliminary Report of Passed Assistant Surgeon Kane to the Secretary of the Navy, Hon. JAMES C. DOBBIN.'

    On the 7th of August we reached the headland of Sir Thomas Smith's Sound, and passed the highest point attained by our predecessor, Captain Inglefield, R.N. So far our observations accorded completely with the experience of this gallant officer in the summer of 1852. A fresh breeze, with a swell setting in from the southward and westward; marks upon the rocks indicating regular tides; no ice visible from aloft, and all the signs of continuous open water.
    As we advanced, however, a belt of heavy stream-ice was seen, - an evident precursor of drift; and a little afterward it became evident that the channel to the northward was obstructed by a drifting pack.
    We reached latitude 78o 43' N. on the 29th of August, having lost a part of our starboard bulwarks, a quarter-boat, our jib-boom, our best bower-anchor, and about six hundred fathoms of hawser; but with our brig in all essentials uninjured. We were now retarded by the rapid advance of winter ...

    Current conditions in a historical context

    Historical records show that the Arctic sea ice maximum limit has been in retreat since at least the year 1587 when John Davis reached only about 72° N on the West coast of Greenland, naming the place 'Sanderson his Hope of a North West passage' in honor of one of his patrons.  It appears on Markham's map, above, as 'Sanderson's Hope'.

    Judging by historical reports and maps, the trend of Arctic sea ice retreat was quite slow until about about the 1950s.  There was a quite exceptional and brief increase in ice extent in the early 1950s, but post 1950 the downward trend increased.  There has been a further increase in downward trend post 1990s.

    The various ice shelves along the north coast of Ellesmere Island appear to have been joined together at one time as the Ellesmere ice shelf1.  Those ice shelves, over 3000 years old, have virtually vanished.

    The 'permanent pack' now lies mainly along the north coasts of Greenland, Ellesmere Island and the Canadian archipelago.  At the time of writing, much of that ice is being driven from Lincoln Sea through Nares Strait and is melting in the north of Baffin bay.  As I write these words it is October.  In late August 1853, Elisha Kent Kane was preparing his ship Advance for winter quarters in Smith Sound.  The ship was fully frozen in by September 1st.  That location, chosen for the shorefast ice which would benefit sledging parties, is currently virtually ice free.  There is no shorefast ice along that part of Greenland's coast.

    From the vast expanse of ice shown in the maps, the Arctic has changed into a region of vast expanses of open water.  Note that the '15% ice' reported for many areas may be read as '85% open water'.  The explorers from the days of wooden ships would be astonished that their 'inch by inch' progress through thick ice has been replaced by plain sailing in so many areas.

    If, at the end of some future Arctic summer, we should find Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay half choked with ice and the east coast of Greenland unreachable by sea due to pack ice, then perhaps we might start to talk rationally of Arctic recovery.  But it would take a substantial change in trends observed since 1587 before we could reach such a point of discussion.

    [1] - I am gathering data on the early exploration of Ellesmere Island and hope to produce an article on the ice shelves fairly soon.

    More Arctic articles:
    The ChatterBox Arctic Index


    Wonderful post, Patrick. It's so good to have you back. Now rest well, and 'Ellesmere Dreams' :^)

    Good to have you back.
    A introduction to various arctic explorers, some of whom you have already discussed.
    You might find it interesting, and it has a few worthwhile links as well.


    Paper: Current Arctic Sea Ice is More Extensive than Most of the past 9000 Years

    Abstract: Cores from site HLY0501-05 on the Alaskan margin in the eastern Chukchi Sea were analyzed for their geochemical (organic carbon, d13Corg, Corg/N, and CaCO3) and palynological (dinocyst, pollen, and spores) content to document oceanographic changes during the Holocene. The chronology of the cores was established from 210Pb dating of nearsurface sediments and 14C dating of bivalve shells. The sediments span the last 9000 years, possibly more, but with a gap between the base of the trigger core and top of the piston core. Sedimentation rates are very high (*156 cm/ka), allowing analyses with a decadal to centennial resolution. The data suggest a shift from a dominantly terrigenous to marine input from the early to late Holocene. Dinocyst assemblages are characterized by relatively high concentrations (600– 7200 cysts/cm3) and high species diversity, allowing the use of the modern analogue technique for the reconstruction of sea-ice cover, summer temperature, and salinity. Results indicate a decrease in sea-ice cover and a corresponding, albeit much smaller, increase in summer sea-surface temperature over the past 9000 years. Superimposed on these long-term trends are millennial-scale fluctuations characterized by periods of low sea-ice and high sea-surface temperature and salinity that appear quasi-cyclic with a frequency of about one every 2500–3000 years. The results of this study clearly show that sea-ice cover in the western Arctic Ocean has varied throughout the Holocene. More importantly, there have been times when sea-ice cover was less extensive than at the end of the 20th century.


    Why do you misrepresent the content and title of this paper and not provide us with references to the large body of studies that show the clear fingerprint of human induced warming in the arctic?

    Is your misrepresentation intentional or are you unaware of the scientific literature?

    The title of this study is:

    Holocene fluctuations in Arctic sea-ice cover:
    dinocyst-based reconstructions for the eastern
    Chukchi Sea.

    The purpose of the study as clearly stated in the paper was:

    "The primary objective of this paper is to investigate the
    natural variability of sea-ice cover in the western Arctic during
    the Holocene and thus provide a baseline to which recent
    changes can be compared."

    It does not purport to be an analysis of ice cover for the arctic as a whole over the last 9,000 years. It is an analysis of a cores from a single location that was a few miles off the coast of Alaska near Point Barrow - see the map in Figure 1 of the article.

    Point Barrow is at 71 degrees 23 minutes north. By comparison, the Petermann Glacier is near 81 degrees north. Point Barrow is an important geographical landmark, marking the limit between two marginal seas of the Arctic, the Chukchi Sea on its western side and the Beaufort Sea on the eastern.

    You have also misrepresented the time coverage of the study. The most recent date covered by the sediment core is a date that is more than 1,500 years ago (see radio carbon dates of the core sections in table 1 showing the first section as being dated to 1,468 years before present [BP], - note BP corresponds to 1950 "Before Present (BP) years is a time scale used in archaeology, geology, and other scientific disciplines to specify when events in the past occurred. Because the "present" time changes, standard practice is to use 1950 as the arbitrary origin of the age scale. For example, 1500 BP means 1500 years before 1950, that is, in the year 450 CE.), thus the study provides no data concerning the impact of the increase in CO2 levels due to human activity since 1850.

    Orkneygal: Why did you not include the following direct quote from the study?

    "There is clear evidence that over the last 30 years the
    Arctic has been experiencing dramatic environmental
    changes (e.g., Serreze et al. 2000; Comiso and Parkinson
    2004). Most notably, there has been a rapid decline in the
    extent and thickness of sea-ice in summer and more recently
    in winter as well (e.g., Parkinson et al. 1999; Comiso 2002;
    Serreze et al. 2003; Rigor and Wallace 2004; Meier et al.
    2005; Comiso 2006; Comiso et al. 2008; Stroeve et al.
    2008). It has been suggested that if the present trend continues
    the Arctic could experience ice-free summers within
    30 years (Stroeve et al. 2008). There is, however, debate on
    the relative influence of natural versus anthropogenic forcing
    on these recent changes. The decline in sea-ice, which
    began in the late 1970s, occurred contemporaneously with a
    major shift in Arctic atmospheric and oceanic circulation
    (Walsh et al. 1996), hence referred to as the Arctic Oscillation
    (Thompson and Wallace 1998). At this time, there was
    a weakening of the Arctic High that is situated over the
    Beaufort Sea and intensification of the Icelandic Low, conditions
    characteristic of the positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation
    (+AO). In response, the Beaufort Gyre contracted
    and the Transpolar Drift shifted away from Siberia to a
    more central position in the Arctic Ocean. The decline in
    Arctic sea ice associated with the +AO results primarily
    from the rapid removal of older, thicker ice from Arctic
    through Fram Strait and intensified cyclonic atmospheric
    circulation that brings warm air into Arctic, thus increasing
    sea-ice melt (Meier et al. 2005). However, sea ice has continued
    its rapid decline, since the AO returned to a more
    neutral state in the late 1990s, suggesting that anthropogenic
    warming of surface air temperatures is playing a role in the
    loss (Overland and Wang 2005), as now recognized by the
    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007)."

    The study states:

    "Nevertheless, the dinocyst reconstructions for site
    HLY0501-05 clearly show that sea-surface conditions, notably
    sea-ice cover, have fluctuated significantly during the
    Holocene. Since the early Holocene, sea-ice cover exhibits
    a general decreasing trend. This is in direct contrast to the
    eastern Arctic where sea-ice cover was substantially reduced
    during the early to mid-Holocene and has increased over the
    last 3000 years (Dyke et al. 1996; Dyke et al. 1997; Levac
    et al. 2001; Mudie et al. 2006; Rochon et al. 2006). Superimposed
    on these long-term changes are millennial-scale
    variations that appear to be quasi-cyclic, with minima in
    sea-ice cover and corresponding maxima in summer SSS
    and SST occurring about every 2500–3000 years. This type
    of cyclicity may be associated with regional climate
    changes. One possible mechanism is related to changes in
    freshwater input, which influences stratification, and thus
    vertical mixing of surface water with underlying warm, saline
    Atlantic water. Increased mixing would result in higher
    salinity and inhibit sea-ice formation, thus enhancing heat
    accumulation in the surface water during spring and
    summer. Decreases in freshwater inputs from Russian Arctic
    rivers, for example, may contribute to reduced stratification
    and decreased sea-ice formation. The influx of relatively
    fresh Pacific water via the Bering Strait may have also
    played an important role in the strength of the halocline in
    the western Arctic, as it does today. Alternatively, more intense
    vertical mixing in the upper water column due to particularly
    strong winds and (or) tidal amplification (e.g.,
    Keeling and Whorf 1997) may have influenced stratification.
    Whatever the underlying mechanism(s), changes in vertical
    stratification must be considered as a key parameter in Arctic
    sea-ice coverage. Thus, we suggest that the episodes of
    reduced sea-ice cover and corresponding relatively high
    sea-surface salinity and temperature that are centered at
    *7500, 5000, and 2000 years BP (shade zones, Fig. 7)
    might correspond to episodes of stronger vertical mixing in
    the upper water column."

    The study concludes:

    "The Holocene record from site HLY0501-05 illustrates
    the sensitivity of hydrographical conditions in the western
    Arctic Ocean. The data show a long-term warming that is
    opposite to what is reconstructed for the eastern Arctic and
    point to a bipolar behavior of the Arctic Ocean at the timescale
    of the Holocene. The millennial-scale variability in the
    eastern Chukchi Sea is characterized by quasi-cyclic periods
    of high SSS, high SST, and reduced sea-ice cover, which
    most probably reflects variations in the stratification of the
    upper water column. Such changes maybe related to tidal
    forcing and (or) large-scale mechanisms, such as AO/NAOlike
    oscillations. It is important to note that the amplitude of
    these millennial-scale changes in sea-surface conditions far
    exceed those observed at the end of the 20th century."


    No one disputes that over geological times there have been periods where there was less ice cover or no ice cover in the arctic. I do not see why anyone would take comfort in from geologic records that show it is possible to melt the arctic ice cap or the Greenland and Antarctica ice caps. Sure it has happened before, but never was it caused by human induced activity. Do you also think it would be good if humans accelerated the melting of the ice caps or caused them to melt when natural forces would not have otherwise caused them to melt?

    The issues being discussed and reported here are the impact of recent human activities on the ice cover in the arctic. The impact of human induced changes extends well beyond the melting of the floating ice cap in the arctic.

    If you are really interested in sediment cores and the topic of arctic climate (as opposed to spreading misinformation) then I recommend you look at various studies of arctic lake core studies that cover the last 200,000 years (a period that exceeds the greenland ice cores). These studies show a gradual cooling over the last 2,000 years consistent with the current Milankovitch cycle with a strong warming signal since 1950. Please read::

    Climate of the Little Ice Age and the past 2000 years
    in northeast Iceland inferred from chironomids
    and other lake sediment proxies
    Yarrow Axford Æ A ´ slaug Geirsdo´ttir Æ
    Gifford H. Miller Æ Peter G. Langdon

    If you are crunched for time you can look at the reports on the study in science daily:

    which stated:

    "An analysis of sediment cores indicates that biological and chemical changes occurring at a remote Arctic lake are unprecedented over the past 200,000 years and likely are the result of human-caused climate change, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    While environmental changes at the lake over the past millennia have been shown to be tightly linked with natural causes of climate change -- like periodic, well-understood wobbles in Earth's orbit -- changes seen in the sediment cores since about 1950 indicate expected climate cooling is being overridden by human activity like greenhouse gas emissions. The research team reconstructed past climate and environmental changes at the lake on Baffin Island using indicators that included algae, fossil insects and geochemistry preserved in sediment cores that extend back 200,000 years.

    "The past few decades have been unique in the past 200,000 years in terms of the changes we see in the biology and chemistry recorded in the cores," said lead study author Yarrow Axford of CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. "We see clear evidence for warming in one of the most remote places on Earth at a time when the Arctic should be cooling because of natural processes."

    and later in the arcticle is this information which was taken from a press release by the University of Colorado concerning their study:

    "Our results show that the human footprint is overpowering long-standing natural processes even in remote Arctic regions," said co-author John Smol of Queen's University. "This historical record shows that we are dramatically affecting the ecosystems on which we depend."

    "The 20th century is the only period during the past 200 millennia in which aquatic indicators reflect increased warming, despite the declining effect of slow changes in the tilt of the Earth's axis which, under natural conditions, would lead to climatic cooling," notes the University of Colorado's Dr. Axford.

    The ancient lake sediment cores are the oldest ever recovered from glaciated parts of Canada or Greenland. Massive ice sheets during ice ages generally scour the underlying bedrock and remove previous sediments."

    There are various studies from multiple lake locations besides the study that Science Daily that show the same signature of human induced change on the arctic.

    In an analysis of various studiesthat was published before the above study was available titled:

    From controversy to consensus: making the
    case for recent climate change in the Arctic
    using lake sediments

    by John P Smol and Marianne SV Douglas


    "We live in a constantly changing environment, yet tracking ecological change is often very difficult. Long-term
    monitoring data are frequently lacking and are especially sparse from Arctic ecosystems, where logistical difficulties
    limit most monitoring programs. Fortunately, lake and pond sediments contain important archives of past limnological communities that can be used to reconstruct environmental change. Here, we summarize some of the paleolimnological studies that have documented recent climate warming in Arctic lakes and ponds. Several hypotheses have been evaluated to determine if warming, resulting in changes in ice cover and related variables (eg increased habitat availability), was the factor most strongly influencing recent diatom and other biotic changes. Striking and often unprecedented community changes were evident in post-1850 sediments, and could be linked to ecological shifts consistent with warming. Because future temperature increases are predicted to be greatly amplified in polar regions, the ecological integrity of these sensitive ecosystems will be further imperiled.

    I would also recommend you also consider the studies of the decrease in the ice caps in the Canadian Archipelago such as the ones on Ellesmere Island, but hurry, as:

    "Large portions of Ellesmere Island are covered with glaciers and ice, with Manson Icefield and Sydkap in the south; Prince of Wales Icefield and Agassiz Ice Cap along the central-east side of the island, along with substantial ice cover in Northern Ellesmere Island. The northwest coast of Ellesmere Island was covered by a massive, 500 km (310 mi) long ice shelf until the 20th century. The Ellesmere Ice Shelf was reduced by 90 percent in the twentieth century due to global warming, leaving the separate Alfred Ernest, Ayles, Milne, Ward Hunt, and Markham Ice Shelves.[10] A 1986 survey of Canadian ice shelves found that 48 km2 (19 sq mi) 3.3 km3 (0.79 cu mi) of ice calved from the Milne and Ayles ice shelves between 1959 and 1974.[8] The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, the largest remaining section of thick (>10 m, >30 ft) landfast sea ice along the northern coastline of Ellesmere Island, lost 600 km (370 mi) of ice in a massive calving in 1961-1962.[11] It further decreased by 27% in thickness (13 m (43 ft)) between 1967 and 1999.[12]"

    For refernces see:

    The Osborn Range of the Arctic Cordillera mountain systemThe breakup of the Ellesmere Ice Shelves has continued in the 21st century: the Ward Ice Shelf experienced a major breakup during summer 2002;[13] the Ayles Ice Shelf calved entirely on August 13, 2005; the largest breakoff of the ice shelf in 25 years, it may pose a threat to the oil industry in the Beaufort Sea. The piece is 66 km2 (25 sq mi).[14] In April 2008, it was discovered that the Ward Hunt shelf was fractured into dozens of deep, multi-faceted cracks[15] and in September 2008 the Markham shelf (50 km2 / 20 square miles) completely broke off to become floating sea-ice.[16]

    Ninety percent of the 3,900 square miles of ice shelves that existed in 1906 when the Arctic explorer Robert Peary first surveyed the region are gone, said Luke Copland, the director of the University of Ottawa’s Laboratory for Cryospheric Research.

    Wacrump, Thanks for all of the information in your post. You gave me a number of things to look up. Your efforts do not go unnoticed!

    Northern Passage update:

    Our Norwegians friendson the Northern Passage expedition is now east of the Faeroe Islands, that means they are entering the Norwegian Sea on their final leg towards Norway, they will then be the first crew ever to circumnavigate the North Pole in one season.
    But remember this trip was not made possible because of climate changes but simply because of "extreme weather conditions".
    You can follow the final days of their great expedition on this site:
    Ps: Hope to be in Oslo to celebrate Regards Espen

    The Petermann ice islands are just off the southeastern coast of Ellesmere Island at the entrance to Glacier Strait.

    The image is rotated with west at the top of the image and north to the right.

    Baffin Island is at the left side of the image. The shipping lanes around Baffin Island are displayed in the link below:

    Just to the right of Baffin is a medium sized island called Bylot Island.

    The land mass that extends down from the top center of the image is Devon Island.

    At the bottom end of Devon is the Devon Ice Cap, which is losing mass according to a recent research paper discussed at:

    The paper states:

    " Several datasets suggest that over the 46-year recod, mass balance has been negative overall, with a trend toward more negative balances since 1985..."

    A link to the paper can be found at:

    Below is an article that provides additional information on the loss of ice mass at the Devon ice cap which includes a link to another study of the Devon ice cap from 2007.

    The large land mass on the right side of the image is the southeast portion of Ellesmere Island. The icefield to the far right is the Prince of Wlaes icefield that has been experiencing a "clearly negative" mass balance from 1963 to 2003 according to this study:

    The small island sitting between Devon and Ellesmere at the opening to Jones Sound is Coburg Island. The link below includes a satellite image and google map for Coburg:

    The Petermann ice islands are the two ice blocks to the right of Coburg just below Ellesmere Island with Petermann B just barely off the coast of Ellesmere.

    Below is the most recent radar image from the 10th:

    A tracking beacon was put on Petermann B which can be followed in real time at the link below:

    There is no tracking beacon on the large Petermann A ice island as of this writing. The "A" island may pass Petermann B and work its way south if the currents permit, however, there appear to be several gyres in the image below Devon Island which may temporarily capture it.

    Giant icebergs are not the only risk ships face as the cruise ship Clipper Adventurer found out at the end of August in the Coronation Gulf, in Nunavat , which is well to the west of the Petermann ice islands .

    Link has a map where the ship ran aground before being refloated:

    Today October 14 2010, the Norwegian trimaran became the first vessel to circumnavigate the North pole in one season, and Boerge Ousland and his crew the first humans to do so.
    Congratulation although there are some sad reasons for making it possible.

    Best regards Espen

    I think, though, that there is still a lot of time to pass, until we see regular shipping going through the Arctic ice, and that anyway only in the Arctic summer period which. if the warming continues, may extend to five months then. During the 8, or 7 respectively, winter months, not much will be possible--unless one builds even more powerful nuclear-powered icebreakers (of which, if I am right, only the Russians have some), to pave a route for commercial vessels.

    Concerning transports from and to the Arctic, I would prefer the Bering Strait Tunnel project for a large-capacity railroad anyway, because it would not encounter the problems posed by the ice, and allow transport throughout the year. A Russian design for a tunnel just won an award at the Shanghai World Expo. Without going into any more details, I just want to point to the website which has a number of interacttive maps and tours on the aforeasaid project, and on Arctic development.

    CCGS Amundsen entered Baffin Bay from Lancaster Sound about October 15th. It has been as close as 50 miles to Coburg Island. I do not know if they have seen the Petermann A ice island or where it currently is.

    Still no tracking beacon on Petermann A and it appears to be out of range of the current DMI radar images of Greenland which can be found at:

    I could not find access to current Canadian radar images for this area. Does anyone know whether they exist and if such images are available?

    Petermann B appears to be relatively stalled as it moves back and forth due to tidal action toward the southestern tip of Ellesmere Island near the Manson ice cap. The link below has an August 13, 2005 image of the Manson ice cap and Coburg Island

    Will Crump: Still no tracking beacon on Petermann A and it appears to be out of range of the current DMI radar images of Greenland

    Sorry its a bit late, but you may be interested to know that the Canadian Ice Service is following the fate of the Petermann Ice Islands. I'm not sure which terminology you are using - mine (which labelled the bigger of the original two islands, the rearmost chunk, "A") or what appears the the consensus among scientists (which labelled the front, smaller, part "A"). I mention only to alert to possible confusion in terminology, as the bigger part (my "A", their "B") has calved to smaller bergs which are designated B-a and B-b.

    In either case, CIS has details here:

    Oops, never mind - I see you're following CIS coverage on the Petermann Progress thread.

    Thank you for this interesting post.
    There is something, however, I would like to be more clear about: when you write "It was, as far as I am able to establish from historic records, the third lowest in recorded Arctic history.", what exactly is the time span that you refer to?

    Many thanks,