Arctic Sea Ice Now Below 2014 in All Major Measures — Warm Storm Settles In

When looking at Arctic sea ice melt, there are trends and there are bounces. The great 1979 to 2015 melt we call a trend. The 2013 and 2014 rebound from all-time record lows during 2012? That we call a bounce. But it’s starting to look more and more like the bounce is ending and the long-term melt trend is starting to, inexorably, reassert.

Over at the Guardian, Arctic Sea Ice expert Neven comes to similar conclusions, he notes:

…something more important for the longer term could be happening. If this weather keeps up – and according to the current forecasts, it will for at least another week – that thicker multi-year ice could receive such a beating that the slight rebound from record low levels is essentially wiped out by the time winter sets in again (see also an excellent related article by Dana Nucitelli here).

Overall, it was a decent rebound. By September, minimum seasonal ice popped up by about 3,500 cubic kilometers in the PIOMAS volume record, by about 1.4 million square kilometers in the Cryosphere Today area measure, and by 1.5 million square kilometers in the NSIDC extent measure. A decent rebound, but still about 11,000 cubic kilometers lower in volume than 1979 (more than a 55 percent loss), about 1.9 million square kilometers lower than 1979 in area (more than a 36 percent loss), and about 1.9 million square kilometers lower than 1979 in extent (about a 30 percent loss).

PIOMAS Volume Trend

(Sea ice volume rate of decline as measured by PIOMAS.)

Sadly, a bump of this kind does not a trend make. Looking at the overall volume loss line (above), we can clearly see that the 2013 and 2014 rebound after 2012’s record low was plainly within the melt progression’s boundaries. Moreover, out of the last 8 years, 2014 is the only year above base-line rate of loss at 3,200 cubic kilometers per decade. A rate of loss that, if it continues would bring us within striking distance of a dreaded ‘blue ocean’ type event for the Arctic by the early 2020s.

Since this trend is polar amplification driven — an underlying aspect of phase 1 climate change forced by human greenhouse gas emissions — the only major driver with the potential to challenge Arctic melt is a large outflow of fresh water from Greenland. Such an outflow would temporarily reduce ocean ventilation of heat through the sea surface in the fresh water outflow region. The result being that surface temperatures would, for a short time, cool in the outflow zone. This would have an effect of regenerating sea ice in a larger counter-melt-trend feedback. It’s likely that melt outflows from Greenland would need to be significant enough to have profound impacts on the Arctic environment as a whole. To hit anywhere near these levels, we likely need to see in the range of at least a half centimeter of sea level rise from Greenland melt alone each year. And we are, as yet, nowhere near that rate of loss (although we might get there in a decade or two or three).

So though the recent 2012 Greenland melt high mark was likely enough to push AMO negative, to further weaken AMOC, to develop a cool pool in the ocean south and east of Greenland, to back a super hot Gulf Stream up to the US East Coast during the winter of 2014-2015, and to set off a slew of nasty weather impacts for the North Atlantic from 2012 through 2015, it was nowhere near enough to upset the overall long-term, human heat-driven Arctic melt trend. If such an event were to occur, what we would likely see is a signature not only of a North Atlantic cool pool but also of more ice in Baffin Bay, more ice in the North Atlantic itself and more ice on the Arctic side near Greenland. A signal that we do not fully see at this time.

It is thus more likely that we will see a re-assertion of the overall Arctic sea ice decline trend. And there are a growing number of indicators that some of this re-assertion is starting to come about during the summer of 2015.

All Major Monitors Now Below 2014

For the Summer of 2015, melt has been consistently strong — especially for July. During most of the month, strong high pressure systems dominated. This situation led to compaction, storm formation at the sea ice edge, and a degree of sea ice export. It amplified solar insolation at a time when the sun was near its seasonally highest angle — enhancing surface melt and melt ponding.

As of yesterday, the major extent monitors — JAXA and NSIDC — as well as Cryosphere Today’s area monitor were all below or well below the 2014 line. The ongoing and rapid July melt drove JAXA below the 2014 line late last week while NSIDC hit below 2014 just yesterday. As a result, NSIDC sits at 7.2 million square kilometers extent or 7th lowest on record (a decline of 2 places since last week) and JAXA shows a 6.79 million square kilometer extent or 5th lowest on record in the measure (also a decline of 2 places).

Cryosphere Today’s area measure, meanwhile, continued to drop — showing increasing divergence from the 2014 line and hitting a 4th lowest area on record for the 27th (a one place dip from last week).


(Sea ice area dips to 4.67 million square kilometers or the fourth lowest on record in the July 27th Cryosphere Today measure. Note the 2015 sea ice area trend line is indicated in yellow, the 2014 sea ice area trend line in red. Image source: Cryosphere Today.)

Neven’s most recent post over at the Arctic Sea Ice blog provides a bit more detail regarding these trends. Of particular interest to me was the most recent and significant drop-off in the CAPIE index. A drop off of this kind indicates both a high degree of melt ponding and large gaps and areas of open water behind the sea ice edge. We particularly see this now in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas — both regions that have been turned into ice cube ponds over the past month. Perhaps more concerning, however, is the impact of high heat and transport in the regions of thickest ice north of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago. Ice fracturing there is notably high as is melt ponding. But even more concerning is the development of a large polynya that now extends through most of the thick ice region.

Overall, these drop-offs are consistent with a returning to the long-term melt trend in 2015. But it does not yet place 2015 in striking distance of new all-time record end melt season lows set during 2012. And we’d be quite surprised if it did. Larger ocean and atmospheric teleconnections tend to drive increasing heat in the Arctic ocean waters and airs and to increase sea ice transport to compound ice weakness during El Nino year +1 and El Nino year +2. The most recent record lows both occurred 2 years after El Nino (2007 and 2012). Given the large ocean and atmospheric drivers related to this trend, we may look to next year or, more possibly, 2017 as potential new record low years.

Weather Change on the Way

All that said, it doesn’t mean that 2015 cannot surprise us or (2005, an El Nino year, was also a record low year), at least, serve up some interesting features. Notably, there’s a change in the weather on the way.

Throughout July, we saw what was, perhaps, the worst possible atmospheric regime for sea ice melt during that month. Atmospheric heat was relatively high, clear skies dominated allowing for enhanced surface melt through direct solar heating, and the persistent high pressure systems helped to drive compaction and export. Though the action of gyres moving ice out of the Fram Strait was relatively moderate, overall melt conditions were very strong.

In particular, a synergy between the high pressure driven pole-ward pull of sea ice away from the Siberian side of the Arctic and a significant influx of warm water northward from the Pacific Ocean and through the Bering and Chukchi Seas had a marked impact. You can see the amazing melt progress led by these two influences in the excellent animation provided by The Great White Con below:

Now, however, the high pressure is sliding increasingly to the Siberian side of the Arctic. Meanwhile, a persistent storm is beginning to take hold over the Beaufort Sea and Central Arctic. Overall, it’s an increased storminess for the Arctic. One that is now driving 25-35 mph winds through the shattered ice sections of the Beaufort Sea.

There’s some argument that storms are friendly to sea ice. And, perhaps, this is more true during the June time-frame when storms can reduce insolation and melt ponding. When they can spread the sea ice out to increase overall albedo. But in the current melt regime, sea ice is, overall, far more fragile. There is more latent heat in the Arctic Ocean that is available for storm systems to tap in order to melt ice. And it is this condition that is most at play as we enter late July and early August.


(A storm is predicted to persist over the Beaufort for at least the next five days. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Over the next five days, the current storm is predicted to persist over the Beaufort. It will rumble along, sending its 20-35 mph winds out over the fractured multi-season ice and large stretches of open water. It will linger, gobbling up little storms rushing north over Alaska and the Bering. And it will lash the ice there with increasing wave action, breaking the surface cool water cap and pumping warm water up toward the ice from below.

In addition, this Beaufort low will form a kind of dipole with a high pressure system that will tend to remain on the Kara Sea side of the Arctic Ocean. The net effect of the dual circulation of the high over the Kara and the low over the Beaufort will be to lift the thick ice away from its base of support along the Northern Canadian Archipelago. The result is likely to be a continued widening of a large polynya already developing there.

Polynya CAA

(Winds cycling between a high pressure over the Kara and a storm over the Beaufort may further widen a large polynya north of the Canadian Archipelago over the next few days. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

Meanwhile, milder compaction and sea ice retreat is likely to continue on the Siberian side with ice recession particularly likely in the Kara, Laptev, and East Siberian Sea regions.

Overall, these factors should continue to drive melt enough to keep the monitors at or below the 2014 line with particular risk of increased divergence in the area measure over the coming week due to storm activity in the Beaufort. There is an outside, though not entirely negligible, risk that Beaufort storm activity will greatly impact the already very fragile ice along the Chukchi Sea boundary toward the Siberia side. Such an impact would result in still greater area and extent impacts. But more likely is an enhanced winnowing of the remaining multi-year ice together with a widening of the large polynya north of the Canadian Archipelago.





Earth Nullschool

Melt Season Won’t Break Records But Could Wipe Out Bounce

Arctic Sea Ice Update 5: Late Momentum

Cryosphere Today


The Great White Con

The Arctic Sea Ice Blog

Hat tip to Humortra

(Please support publicly funded, non special interest based science like the fantastic work done by NSIDC, NASA, PIOMAS and JAXA which made this report possible)

Leave a comment


  1. climatehawk1

     /  July 29, 2015

    Tweet scheduled.

  2. Colorado Bob

     /  July 29, 2015

    Before the Time of Global Warming, Data Shows Spring Sprung Later
    Records of the flowering of plants, the arrival of migrating birds, and the onset of frog mating calls show spring is arriving as much as 14 days sooner.


  3. labmonkey2

     /  July 29, 2015

    Quite a lot of ocean surface heat lingering on the sidelines. That bloom through the straight is growing, too.,71.86,598

  4. NevenA

     /  July 29, 2015

    Great stuff, Robert. Today a guest blog of mine was posted over at The Guardian, stating essentially the same thing, namely that the rebound or ‘recovery’ might very well get wiped out this melting season.

    • Thanks Neven! I’ll check your Guardian piece for some good quotes for an update. If I’d have known, it would have made good fodder. But was rushing after a radio interview.

      Congrats and good show!


      • AvantGARDE

         /  July 30, 2015

        Robert, frequent follower here. Do you have a link to the recent interview? Greatly appreciated, thanks again.

      • NevenA

         /  July 30, 2015

        Thanks, Robert. I’ve also just published a new ASI update on the blog, confirming much of what you say in the second part of your article.

    • OK, Neven. I’ve got you in the updated post. Thanks so much for your wonderful insights and for alerting me to them here so I could include some of the rich context you’ve provided.

      As a curiosity, I was wondering if there’s any decent forecasting as to what may happen to the Atlantic side near the Kara, Laptev, and Barents? Typically, ice there has tended to be more resilient to both melt and refreeze. But we have a huge and hot pool of water developing in the Kara, a good deal of salt in the water in that region, and what appears to be some, at least moderately troubling, signs of lack of resiliency. The high is forecast to continue to be strong in that region as well. It’s not an area where we’ve traditionally seen large melts at this time of year. So the factors, to me, are somewhat of an enigma.


      • NevenA

         /  July 30, 2015

        I’m copypasting your question, just in case my answer doesn’t appear below it:

        As a curiosity, I was wondering if there’s any decent forecasting as to what may happen to the Atlantic side near the Kara, Laptev, and Barents? Typically, ice there has tended to be more resilient to both melt and refreeze. But we have a huge and hot pool of water developing in the Kara, a good deal of salt in the water in that region, and what appears to be some, at least moderately troubling, signs of lack of resiliency. The high is forecast to continue to be strong in that region as well. It’s not an area where we’ve traditionally seen large melts at this time of year. So the factors, to me, are somewhat of an enigma.


        Well, coincidentally I had a good look at some satellite images yesterday. I’ve neglected this area a bit because I’m obsessing over the multi-year ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

        I have to say the ice east of Severnaya Zemlya looks pretty solid, though blue-grey. Which on the one hand is strange because it was supposed to be relatively thin at the start of the melting season (lots of winds blowing away from the coast during winter). In fact, I speculated that we might see open water close to the North Pole this year because of that, as it was the first time on record probably that there was first-year ice over the Pole at the end of last winter.

        On the other hand most if not all of the action has been on the American-Pacific side of the Arctic, with the exception of the East Siberian Sea, where the ice is vanishing almost overnight as we speak. It hasn’t been as warm there as elsewhere and winds were relatively weak, so no big transport either.

        This reverse Dipole is forecast to stay put, with that big high 1030 hPa pressure area stuck over the Kara/Laptev/CAB triangle, and so it will be interesting to see how the ice there reacts to that. Will we see massive in-situ melting starting after these couple of days, perhaps followed by a disruptive cyclone? Like you say, SSTs are ready and able to take out some ice.

        Many words to hide the fact that I don’t know. 🙂

        • Then you put me in good company. As I’m somewhat puzzled as well.

          The packs are pretty tight. But the thickness doesn’t seem all too hot. Decent degree of melt ponding. High salt. Big hot pool in the Kara. High pressure overhead as a feature of that weird dipole. Not sure I’ve see those conditions for this region at this time of year before. So not too much in the way of context.

          The concern is that the high in the region draws the warm water pool in toward the ice a bit more. Wind action is more parallel to the ice, though, so no real forceful drive other than anticyclone torquing.

          1030 is pretty strong. But I don’t think it’s in the range of outside effect. Maybe if it hit 1040…

          Yeah. A lot of mystery. Of all systems, it really does seem that sea ice is profoundly complex.

        • NevenA

           /  July 30, 2015

          I’ve put your question up on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum to see what other expect.

          Whatever happens, we should be getting a good view for a couple of days. 🙂

    • Andy in SD

       /  July 30, 2015

      Reading the comments below the article, the misdirections of the deniers are always amusing and infuriating. It takes roughly 3 to 4 nanoseconds for them to derail a conversation involving irrefutable data to their fuzzy logic area of “leftist” conspiracies (backed by speculation, not data), politics, cherry picking and the obligatory stab at Al Gore. The entire conversation then devolves into nonsense (which is their desire) as they bait a few people into their line of argument (don’t discuss data, segue into anything but).

      I saw some article on one of their sites (I read them to understand what arguments they are fabricating this week) where the major claim was that Sea Ice had rebounded by a giant margin as they compared concentrations from September and December of the same year.
      Of course, this was hailed within their comments as groundbreaking research and irrefutable proof of their position.

      • It’s an ugly kind of censorship, really. An attempt to render any dialogue on the issue of climate change effectively useless. In psyops language we’d call this agitation, information denial, and propaganda. And that’s basically what we’ve seen from deniers. A vast information warfare campaign waged on us all. We’re all victims of it.

      • Anne

         /  July 30, 2015

        I’m hoping the Guardian will introduce more rigorous modding for this sort of article as it has just done for a recent article on a feminist topic – which as you can imagine attracts more than its fair share of derailing, misinformation, and vicious trolls. Then at least genuine misconceptions and disagreements can be debated in a civilised and constructive manner. Meanwhile it’s hard to escape the suspicion that some at least is part of a deliberate disinformation campaign.

    • Here’s the link to yesterday’s radio show:

      I’m waiting on the embed code from Hal. I’ve also posted this on Facebook.

      Good discussion including the Hansen Paper, the California Drought, renewable energy, fee and dividend, natural variability vs the human heat forcing, a bit on climate change deniers, concerns about Hillary Clinton’s sincerity on climate change and economic justice issues and more.

    • Neven —

      Sorry to say that I have a Dickens of a time logging in to chat on your site.

      In any case, to reply to a member of your forum…

      To my observation, the Atlantic side shows far less variance in melt and refreeze than the Pacific side. This is primarily due to the fact that additional heat has been added to the Kara and Barents through both the mechanism of ocean warming and through polar amplification. The Barents is now mostly ice free at all times of year. In the past, this wasn’t the case. The Kara also now melts very early, which is a new ice state.

      The line of ice demarcation on the Atlantic side has tended to remain very close to 80 N Latitude. This has been true in recent years during both winter and summer. Again due to added heat in the ocean and atmospheric system. Conversley, the variant melt and refreeze action has been on the Pacific side. This is why we often pay so close attention to the Beaufort and Chukchi.

      Now my query relates to the specific region near the 80 North line and along that arc between the Laptev, Kara and the CAB. Neven understood the question and the context, which I thought was rather straight forward. I hope this clears things up.

      OT: In addition, some folks on your forum keep asking why surface air temperatures tend to be cooler in the Beaufort at this time of year. Cooler even than the CAB. This is not an abnormal tendency. In part, it has to do with a thicker fresh water cap preventing heat ventilation to the atmosphere. The fresh water coming in from the continents pools in the gyre and while it is still warm enough to melt ice, it also keeps a lid on the deeper, warmer waters. The thicker ice cap itself is paradoxically less efficient at keeping air cool due to the insulating effect of the ice, and the direct lowering of the near surface albedo during summer due to melt ponding and the overall surface impact of insolation.

      Now late summer storms can break the fresh water cap up a bit, enhance ice bottom melt and even temporarily warm the surface waters. It’s one of the factors that makes the Beaufort a very interesting place to watch.

  5. Excellent post, Robert. Thanks. I, too, am watching the building hot pool/cold pool disparity in the north Atlantic and its effect on storms (and their potential impact on England). I find myself wondering if we will get any more significant disasters this year that can be traced back to warming, as such events could shift public opinion going into the year-end climate change summit. The complication is, many voices will quickly point out that this is an El Nino year and claim that outlier events are totally linked to El Nino.

  6. wili

     /  July 29, 2015

    wrt the first paragraph: I don’t know if you want to include such grim imagery, but iirc in finance, when the stock market has an uptick in a clearly bearish downward trend, I believe the actual term is ‘dead cat bounce.’

  7. I can see 2015 being second lowest to sixth lowest in sea ice, whether in extent, area, volume, or two or all of three.

    But if we hit a record… crikey!

  8. Wharf Rat

     /  July 30, 2015

    Rat tips his hat to Portland.

    Greenpeace Protestors Dangle Off Bridge to Stop Oil Ship From Leaving Portland

    Greenpeace activists swung off Portland, Ore.’s St. Johns Bridge on Wednesday in an attempt to stop a Shell Oil Arctic icebreaker from leaving the city.

    Thirteen protestors rappelled off the city’s tallest bridge, with 13 others remaining on the bridge as lookouts, according to the Associated Press.

    • We just spent a couple hours at the bridge this evening. The day and the evening were very warm, grimly synergistic with the spectacle. A festive crowd gathered at the east waterfront. Spontaneous applause and cheers erupted about every ten minutes. A steady stream of kayakers circled below. The rappellers have ten long flags fluttering in the summer breeze, which catch the last light of day perfectly as the sun disappears downriver and below the hill a little to the northwest. It is a moving sight, well-planned not only as a strategic oil-delaying action but as art.

      Local news has several vans there and a livestream going, anticipating coming conflict. The Oregonian reports that police are considering how to remove the activists. The paper’s online reader comments are 95% bloodthirsty and stupid. The bridge is open to vehicle traffic, so we drove it and saw the Greenpeace support crew, one or two stationed at most of the 13 attachment points. The attachments are on the south edge, facing the drydock with the oil ship, which is visible not too far upstream. The cops have the side lane blocked off on both sides, 2 cars at each end and another 2 or 4 in the middle, lights constantly flashing. No pedestrians who might aid the activists allowed.

      Having been at the denouement of Occupy Portland in 2011, I experienced how quickly and viciously the cops will turn against protest, when they are ordered to by the masters they ultimately serve. I expect, in the next few days, a coordinated police action against the kayakers below and the support above, probably surprise arrests and some kind of discomfort or harassment campaign against the rappellers. The cops love to claim, and they keep repeating to the media, that everyone’s safety is their highest concern, but of course that’s not true, because working to allow a crucial Shell Arctic drill support ship to pass endangers everyone vastly.

      • A rich and beautiful narrative describing the necessary action there, Jim. Thank you so much for your efforts and for telling your story here.

        If the police are stopping the action and working to aid Shell, then you’re absolutely right. Public safety is not their first concern. Their first concern has become, at least in this case, a protection of business as usual fossil fuel extraction. Protecting what has become an ongoing destruction of the life-supporting capacity of lands, airs, and waters is the exact opposite of ensuring public safety.

      • Good work Jan Miller.
        Thanks for being there!

  9. Colorado Bob

     /  July 30, 2015

    Mudslides Make a Mess in Central Asia

    Higher than average temperatures have led to increased glacial melt and dangerous mudslides across the region.


    • Colorado Bob

       /  July 30, 2015

      Freakishly High Temperatures Trigger Ice Melt, Flooding and Mudslides in Tajikistan

      “Climate change is bringing various challenges to the life of the local population,” Kurbonbek Rustambekov, a hydrometeorologist in Badakhshan, told IRIN News in 2007. “In the last five years, we have observed a rise in local temperatures of up to 3 degrees centigrade here.


      • – Turkey Glacier Melt

        More than half of the ice cover in Turkey has vanished since the 1970s, a mountainous country with an average elevation of 1,132 meters above sea level.

        Half of Turkey is covered by mountains and hills. Glaciers now exist on three volcanoes, in the high peaks in the Southeastern and Middle Taurus Mountains, and in the Eastern Black Sea Mountains. However, the glacier coverage was much larger in the 1970s, according to a study from Ege University in Turkey and NASA’s Goddard Space and Flight Center. Over more than 40 years, the total glacial area fell from 25km2 in the 1970s, to 10.85km2 in 2012-2013. Five of the glaciers have completely vanished.


        1970 Cadillac Convertible Deville
        19 ft 225 inches base
        curb weight: 2175 kg / 4795 lbs
        fuel consumption and mileage: average estimated by a-c: 22.9 l/100km / 12.3 mpg (imp.) / 10.3 mpg (U.S.) / 4.4 km/l

        – See the 1970 mark and CO2 levels at aprox.325 ppm.

  10. Ryan in New England

     /  July 30, 2015

    Record low snowpack and high temperatures are contributing to mass salmon deaths in the Pacific Northwest.

    We are seeing mass die offs throughout the animal kingdom with increasing frequency, and this is with “only” a 1C rise in temps. How the heck are species going to cope when things get really bad in coming decades!? I have a feeling (I get this feeling often) that our future will be even worse than expected 😦

    • I don’t like to talk too much about collapse these days because it feeds too much into the ‘doomer’ — ‘we’re all screwed so we may as well just give up’ kind of worldview. But my view is that, under BAU, we see broad marginal civilization collapse by 2030 to 2045 — a period in which the developed world also sees severe stress and some fractures. Under BAU, the developed world civilizations begin to fall prey to more widespread fracture and collapse on an inclining scale from 2040 to 2060. From 2060 forward, a few stable societies may survive. Stable in the sense of basically managing to eek out an organized and coordinated economic and political system. But that’s the exception and not the rule. 2100 under BAU, well I don’t really want to think about that. That’s not a pretty picture. One of desperation and short, ugly and likely violent lives.The human habitat at this point has been so greatly degraded as to be a highly adversarial ecosystem for our species. The required resources for resiliency at this point are likely too high for even the most organized efforts to manage. Perhaps a few enclaves do this. Perhaps. But the vast tide of dislocated persons puts the survival of enclaves greatly at risk…

      The issue is that we get off BAU as fast as possible and rapidly get on the Hansen track. This reduces the collapse stresses. Reduces but does not eliminate.

      • Increasing inevitability of collapse isn’t a good reason to give up.

        • Sadly, this is not the message I’m seeing from the collapse camp. The message from them is it’s hopeless — so give up. I can’t in good conscience support any message of the kind. The situation is dire and requires acts of greatness on our part to alleviate. We are put to it very hard. But we are called to stand tall and fight for a future worth living in.

        • And, as I never tire of pointing out :), it’s never too late to keep it from being even worse, so there is never an excuse for abandoning activism.

        • Yeah, and Guy McPherson is the worst.

          The only exceptions I know of is John Michael Greer, the Archdruid, and James Howard Kunstler if you call them doomers. John’s slogan is, “Colapse now and avoid the rush.” In other words, declare independence from the main stream, start a garden, raise some chickens, rediscover old lifeways, lower your cost (= “standard”) of living, and the like. Of course, getting off of fossil fuels comes with the territory.

          Then there’s Kunstler the schadenfreudist! Basically he says this nation is cluster****ed, the elites are ****ed, the masses are ****ed, and only those few with foresight as to what’s happening and is going to happen are prepared and will be dancing on their living room floors when the rest are up the creek without a paddle.

        • I’d say my bent is more civilization collapse avoidance. We have actions and policies that if put in place now save lives, property, and wealth. We should be doing that. And we should not be trying to out survive a collapsed civilization. Certainly, building your own resiliency helps, but without the policies to keep our civilizations benevolent and stable, the few dancing on their living room floors are soon confronted with a flood of needy and homeless people going after what they’ve worked so hard to secure. Not an effective survival strategy.

          My view is that we are all in this together. Going out into the woods alone does not solve the problem. But giving up fossil fuels, getting your buddies to do the same, and helping get politicians in office that promote policies to speed that process… In my view that’s the most effective initial survival strategy for us all.

          So absolutely localize and build resilient local communities that use renewable energy, increase efficiency, and put in place sustainable farming and food and water use practices. But don’t neglect the world outside that bubble. We’re connected to that world profoundly and our broader actions have far reaching impact.

        • Perhaps, but the only way to save this civilization is to collapse its energy footprint! In other words, if enough collapse now, the rush is cancelled. Because I don’t think we’ll be able to maintain the American air-conditioned, Happy Motoring!TM lifestyle on renewables and biomass. And we shouldn’t be doing biomass for energy — we need all that biomass and more as living plants to keep sequestering carbon.

        • Fossil fuel footprint, Ed. Fossil fuel…

          We get off fossil fuels and our carbon footprint is drastically lowered. And, yes, then we shift rapidly to managing biomass. But we can’t do it without lowering the fossil fuel footprint. And attacking alternative energy now is vastly counter productive — feeding into the fossil fuel anti-renewables campaigns themselves.

        • But biomass fuels (ethanol, wood pellets) are pre-fossilised fossil fuels!

          I have nothing against wind, solar, hydro and geothermal, though. The more the better!

        • Biofuels represent a gray area — some of it dark gray, some of it a bit lighter. Not as bad as fossil fuels, but still not as desirable as pure renewables. Gen 2 biofuels are better, but still occupy the gray area.

          I agree that you have to be very concerned, say, about destroying whole forests for biofuels crops, about land use related to biofuels, and about food security related to biofuels, and about carbon added to the system due to irresponsible land use (wholesale burning of biomass). It’s very bad if you’re just basically burning biomass rather than plugging a managed portion of lower impact biofuels into a larger renewables based system. That’s one reason why it’s so important to have a carbon tax –it also disincentivizes carbon emissions due to terrible land use changes and wholesale biomass burning.

          But even with all the many negatives, biofuels are still nowhere near as bad as fossil fuels from the net carbon perspective. They primarily cycle carbon in the system and, when used responsibly can even draw down carbon. The issue to me is getting biofuels right — the right level, the right kind of land use.

          Fossil fuels, though, are all terrible. No opening for good practices in the case of that particular set of energy sources.

        • Ed, to me, biofuels are the perfect example of why we need good policy. It’s something that can go wrong under a laissez-faire kind of governance — resulting in forests cut down at exactly the time we need them most. Or it can go right — with switch grass grown in fallow fields, with algae biodiesel (not palm oil biodiesel), with cogeneration of biochar from corn husks and the like. That’s the kind of thing that can happen if we price carbon and work together to make biofuels work. If we don’t then, yes, it absolutely adds to the problem.

        • Then we’re on the same wavelength, that we can’t leave the development of biofuels up to the Capitalists. Personally, I prefer we don’t use biofuels; the biomass should be left alone to continue sequestering carbon and building up soil. And dead biomass ideally should be biocharred and interred to further increase carbon sequestriation.

          (Elaine Meinel Supkis is gonna hate me for this — she think’s I’m not a “Warmist!” He he)

        • I absolutely agree it’s not a message to support, that one should give up. Me, I would say I’m in “a” collapse camp – seeing collapse as virtually inevitable now – but certainly not a defeatist camp. Whatever comes our way, I think we need to be realistic about confronting it and finding the best solutions possible, and even collapse is not necessarily an absolute thing (there are degrees).

          Whatever outcome one expects the rest of human history is to play for, and in my thinking a post collapse trajectory and provision is potentially rather relevant to mitigate and constrain the depths and awfulness implied by such. Whether or not collapse occurs, the ultimate end goal has to be the same – civilised advanced sustainable society?

        • I think these are good thoughts, CCG. I find much that I wholeheartedly agree with here.

  11. Frederic Legare

     /  July 30, 2015

    I Think we may be surprise with the ice extent this year, against the data from the past year, it could really soon cross 2012 record as El Nino will be the biggest ever see…

  12. Andy in SD

     /  July 30, 2015

    Lake Baikal – Massive fires, tons of smoke

  13. Andy in SD

     /  July 30, 2015

    Last year, the bulk of the forest fires were in Siberia. The air currents dropped the particulate across the Arctic. You can see in this satellite image from 7/29/2014 how dark the ice was a year ago. The dark ice was very evident.

    • Andy in SD

       /  July 30, 2015

      In contrast, this year (yesterday, exactly 1 year after the 2014 image) you can see that we don’t have the soot layer. This is due to the fires being prominent in Alaska and Canada. The currents draw that smoke more southerly into the continental US via Canada.

      As data accumulates perhaps there is the possibility to correlate fire size / location as an input into melt models as a variable if one can quantify the resultant melt associated with the deposition of soot. This may be difficult as it may not be a prominent variable and simply appear as noise. If the contribution can be coaxed out then again it may provide an additional input to models.

      Image from yesterday.

  14. I recently read an anecdotal account of the powerful effect of altered albedo on ice in the book Kabloona, a 1930s account of life with the Netsilik people of King William Land in the Canadian Arctic (an island of 10,000 square miles with a population of 25) by French anthropologist Gontran de Poncins. For parts of the year, the main food source for the people there came from fishing through the ice of frozen lakes on the island. He describes how, when making ice-holes through which to fish with their jigs, the Inuit would often leave a turd from a sled dog on the ice. By the time they had had a smoke, the change in albedo around the turd would have melted a hole, while the ice around it remained thick enough to walk on and support their weight while they fished.

    Incidentally, I recommend the book. An incredible insight into a way of life that has now vanished.

  15. wili

     /  July 30, 2015

    Here’s another dynamic that could hasten the melt, especially in the Beaufort: Though they are broken up, a significant portion of the ice chunks in the Beaufort are think multi-year ice. That means they are basically icebergs of various sizes.

    Famously, the amount of ice above sea is much smaller than that below. Generally that means that an iceberg is very stable–they don’t wobble a lot, generally.

    But under the conditions that are forecast for the area, there should be sustained high winds for a good long time. What might such winds do to these icebergs? If the winds are strong enough, they could cause the entire mass of the icebergs to wobble back and forth, just as the sail on a sailboat makes the whole boat tip under high winds, in spite of the deep rudder.

    So what would be the result of such movement? In the Arctic, there tends to be a film of cooler, fresher water at the surface from the melt off of ice and from land sources. So the warmer saltier water–the stuff that can very quickly melt lots of ice–is in a layer below this fresh cold ‘lens.’

    But with lots of relatively deep ‘ruddered’ icebergs blowing back and forth, back and forth for days under sustained high winds, that deep warm salty water can get churned up toward the surface, and all that warmth and ice can really melt out the thinner ice pieces, at least, very quickly.

    So I’m expecting some major melts as this storm continues. But then I’ve been wrong before about the Arctic–it is generally full of surprises for the unwary and over confident.

    • The storm is predicted to be a bit mild. But doggedly persistent. If energy gets high enough, you tap the high latent heat content waters at depth and that can be a real ice killer for this time of year.

  16. Robert in New Orleans

     /  July 30, 2015

    The 2015 line on the Cryosphere Today Sea Ice Area chart looks like WW II dive bomber attack run. The trajectory is pretty steep, now when is the pull up going to occur?

  17. 1300 HRS PDT PDX

    Greenpeace protest: Icebreaker reverses course; St. Johns Bridge reopens

    As the Shell Oil icebreaker MSV Fennica left dry dock at Vigor Industrial, Greenpeace activists lowered themselves farther down from the St Johns bridge amid a reordered warning that they were trespassing and needed to vacate the area on July 30, 2015. Supporters gathered in Cathedral Park to watch, and cheered as the ship turned back around 7:30, and eventually turned back towards Swan Island. Randy L.

  18. 1400 HRS PDT PDX
    St. Johns bridge closed to vehicle traffic.
    Section of Willamette River closed to river traffic.
    Kayaktivists herded ashore by Coast Guard.
    Greenpeace protest continues.
    Shell Oil still anxious to pursue suicidal actions to destroy Earth’s climate with further fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic.

  19. 1440 HRS PDT PDX

    NWS PDX air temp 102 F.
    Red flag fire alert in effect.


    • Tracking a big fire north of Sacremento that has forced hundreds to flee their homes. 14 major wildfires in California now. 7,000 firefighters on the ground and in the air at this time.

    • 1450 HRS PDT PDX
      GREENPEACE activists being lowered into law enforcement boats.
      Fire and police take control of tag lines, then cut them.
      Also, one valiant protester locked self to nearby railroad bridge crossing Willamette.
      Bridge is much lower over water than St. Johns bridge, and is between icebreaker and St. Johns.

      • Thanks for these updates. I wonder if Greenpeace will bring floating assets to bear?

      • Tweet photo: Portland Rising Tide activist locked to railroad bridge.

      • A necklace of true valor.


        1730 HRS PDT PDX

        Fennica ice breaker under escort leaves dock side. RR bridge raised to all passage toward St Johns.

        Political pressure from Alaska Governor on Oregon and PDX to stop protests. AK wants $$ at any cost.

      • 1740 HRS PDT PDX

        Coast Guard and Police using aggressive maneuvers against kayakers in mid river as icebreaker nears St Johns.

      • 1745 HRS PDT PDX

        Kayaktivists form dense pack in mid channel.
        Icebreaker barely underway.
        Law enforcement seems to be in a frenzy to babysit climate-breaker vessel.

  20. 1800 HRS PDT PDX

    Law enforcement vessel rams and overturns kayaker in mid channel.

    Shell Oil vessel leaves PDX and nears Columbia River.


    • 1945 HRS PDT PDX

      I have to say that it is sad to see such forceful and diligent effort by fire, Coast Guard, and law enforcement personnel that actually will work directly against public health and safety.
      It’s the very thing they are supposed to protect.
      If they really wanted to’ protect and defend’ they would be better to join Greenpeace and others who do indeed look out for all of our safety.


      • From a comments link in the article above: How Much Energy Does the U.S. Military Consume? – An Update (2013) – more than Nigeria:

        The DoD [directly] accounted for around 1 percent of the US energy consumption and 80 percent of the federal government energy consumption. Although this may seem small, the fact is that the Pentagon is the largest single consumer of energy in the World. Nigeria, with a population of more than 160 million, consumes as much energy and emits as much CO2 as the US military.

      • From a commenter at Naked Capitalism:

        a teeenie detail about Shell –Last week, the Obama administration granted federal permits that clear the way for the oil company to begin drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The company is only permitted to drill the top sections of its wells because it lacks the equipment to cap the wells in case of emergency. The ice breaker carrying the required capping stack for the wells, had been receiving repairs to its damaged hull in Portland and is now trying to leave the port. Once the Fennica is at Shell’s drill site, Shell can reapply for federal approval to drill into hydrocarbon zones in the Chukchi Sea.
        UPDATE 6:48 PM PDT: The 13 #ShellNo climbers have come off the bridge. Now all eyes on Pres. Obama to save the Arctic.

        • Let’s hope Obama does the right thing this time. My previous comment was, perhaps, premature. Come on pres, don’t fail us now.

    • Water version of shooting a motorist for driving while black! x(

      • Sad, but seemingly all-to-true comparison…

      • Indeed. And of course they’ll be called “terrorists.” Annyone who does direct action In A Manner Not Approved By The Authorities will be branded a “terrorist,” like those maniacs of Daesh who chop people’s heads off.

    • dtlange and all—I share your pain re: the injustice of last night’s actions. Is there an org to whom we can direct our voices so that they’re most impactful at this time re: pressuring Obama and other players here? Thanks. And thanks again, Robert and all who post here for all you do…………


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