North Pole Melting: Ice Camera 2 Swims as Camera 1 Gets its Feet Wet

Camera 2 in deep water at North Pole.

Camera 2 in deep water at North Pole. Image sourc: APL

This summer has seen a great number of extraordinary events resulting from human caused climate change. These include massive heat dome high pressure systems setting off record droughts, fires and heat waves, Arctic temperatures rocketing into the 80s and 90s, Europe and Canada suffering some of their worst flooding events in history and a crazy US weather system moving backwards against the prevailing weather pattern for more than 3,000 miles. Add to these record events a substantial melting of ice in the Arctic’s most central regions, and you end up with rather strong proofs that our greenhouse gas emissions have permanently altered the word’s weather.

From late May to early July, a persistent Arctic cylone (PAC 2013) first fractured ice near the North Pole, then consistently widened and melted the gap it created. Now a large triangle of very thin ice extends from the North Pole south and eastward toward the Laptev Sea. The section of meter or less thickness keeps widening even as gaps continue opening in the ice and melt ponds form over many of the remaining flows.

Further north and on toward the western side of the North Pole, two cameras supplied by the Applied Physics Lab and funded through a National Science Foundation grant are performing their own daily recording if this major melt event. The melting, which from the satellite, appears to have turned the sea ice near the North Pole into swiss cheese has had a marked effect on visible surface conditions as well.

Sea Ice swiss cheese

Sea ice swiss chees as seen through the clouds near the North Pole. Image source: NASA/Lance Modis

Of the two ice cameras, #2 so far has seen the most action.  On about July 13th, melt puddles began to form in the region of Camera #2. By earlier this week, the camera was deep in a growing pool of ice melt. By today, the water had deepened further covering all the markers surrounding both the camera and its related sensor buoy. Water now appears to be about 3 feet deep and the pond just keeps growing and growing (you can read more about the saga of Ice Camera #2 here).

But now, Ice Camera #1 appears to be about to suffer the same fate. Over the past couple of days, melt ponds have now also been forming in the vicinity of Camera #1. You can see this new set of melt puddles here:

Puddles North Pole Camera 1

Puddles form near North Pole Camera 1. Image source: APL

Note the melt puddle snaking its way behind the wind vane visible in the camera’s field of view and on toward Camera #1 itself. If conditions at this camera are similar to those near Camera #2, then we can expect Carema #1 to be swimming in about ten days time.

With temperatures remaining above freezing for much of the Central Arctic, melt conditions have tended to dominate. Now, most of the remaining ice is rather weak, with a thickness of about 2 meters or less. And with so much of this thin ice in areas near the North Pole, a possibility exists that much of this region will melt out over the next 6 weeks or so.

As for the Ice Cams? It appears that #1 may soon join #2 in the drink.

Leave a comment


  1. Steve

     /  July 26, 2013

    I’ve enjoyed the updates and photos you’ve shared on this topic. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. If we were to have a runaway ice melt and total disappearance by 2015, would that type of event cause a sea level rise that would do widespread damage?

    • Sea ice melt does not contribute to sea level rise because the ice is already a part of the ocean when it melts. That said, loss of sea ice results in the loss of a key insulator to the land ice sheets, particularly Greenland. So when the ice goes, Greenland melt speeds up. Ironically, a large, cold water pulse from Greenland may well cool the local and global climate a bit (temporarily slowing down human warming) and that’s the point where the weather really starts to get nasty.

      • Steve

         /  July 26, 2013

        I thought I had read something like that before, but when I see how much sea levels are projected to climb over the long term, it seems like the melting ice at the poles would have to make an impact of some level.

        • Oh, the land based ice definitely does:

          Greenland, Antarctica, the mountain glaciers. All that ends up as sea level rise, should it melt.

  2. Steve

     /  July 26, 2013

    I didn’t realize how much ice was on Antarctica. Most of the land is covered in ice a mile thick. I guess that will contribute a lot. Ran across a study that was done for North Carolina involving sea level rising. Same old routine, call for more definitive studies and kick the can down the road 3 or 4 years. That must be the first thing they teach in Politics 101.

  3. Steve

     /  July 26, 2013

    Found this to be fascinating about Antarctica. The temperatures aren’t changing but there has been a huge increase in melting rate that they believe is being caused by increase sunlight. So many unexpected things continue to pop up.

  4. Sourabh

     /  July 26, 2013

    Hey Robert,

    I found this video. There are more videos like this on the same channel.

  5. Steve

     /  July 29, 2013

    What do you think, will end of July ice levels in Arctic hit an all time low?

    • The ice is still very spread out. So I don’t think it likely we will see a new record low by the end of July. That said, I’ll be interested to see what the PIOMAS volume measures show. The thickest ice has taken a serious pounding.

      I believe area and extent will likely be between 3rd and 5th lowest with volume running 1rst through 4th lowest.

      988 mb low forming at the end of this week over the Fram Strait will almost certainly shove some of that thicker ice out… Will be interesting to see what our ‘North Pole Cameras’ look like then.

  6. Steve

     /  July 30, 2013

    I went to the cameras today and everything is frozen solid. The temperatures are right around freezing, so what happened to all the water?

    • The ice pond broke through a hole in the bottom ice. It’s a typical phase of ice pond development. The ice you see now is more fragile and at risk of breaking now that the ice pond has had its chance to do work. So it’s a race between break out in this area and the end of melt season.

      Also, the melt pond at Ice Cam 1 is growing…

  7. Steve

     /  July 30, 2013

    Yes I noticed that the area in cam 1 was definitely larger, that’s why I couldn’t understand where all the water went in front of cam 2. So will a new pond develop in front of cam 2 or will the water continue to drain through the hole for the rest of the season? I can’t imagine it resolidifying and being capable of holding water, but I’m a noob in this area.

    • Melt ponds usually go through these stages:

      1. Formation.
      2. Growth.
      3. Break out through horizontal cracks at the pond edge.
      4. Disintegration of weakened remaining ice.

      So it’s possible we could see the ice in the melt pond basin start to break up. If I notice signs of this, I’ll post another blog.

      OT: You see that massive storm that hit Oklahoma yesterday? We’ve had about four days of rain bombs over the US since Saturday….

  8. Steve

     /  July 30, 2013

    It seems that having that much water pass through the base of the ice would cause a major weakening of that base. Any idea how thick the ice is in this area? How far are these cameras from open water? This is really neat stuff! Thanks for the work you do in bringing this stuff to light.

    • Slightly less than two meters. And, yes, any warmer than usual weather conditions or high stress due to storms would likely make swift work of this weak ice.

  9. Steve

     /  July 30, 2013

    No I didn’t see anything from Oklahoma from yesterday. How much did they get with this time? They got hit and were having flooding issues in OK City from Friday/Saturday too.

    • Haven’t completely investigated the matter yet. But I noticed a massive flare up on the GOES run for yesterday. Huge storm outflow the size of Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas combined.


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