Arctic Ice Maximum this Week

This week will probably be the maximum area for Arctic sea ice.  It was a pretty interesting year for ice watching.  The current area is within one standard deviation of the average of the data set and more than the last several years.

The Kara Sea was interesting this year as winds kept the pack ice from homogenizing.

You can see by the graph the wind events that took out over 200,000 square km of ice in December and then 300,000 square kms of ice blew out in February which coincided with the blocking polar high pressure that caused hundreds of deaths in Europe.  In fact, this delayed freeze accounts for most of the difference between this years total area and the 30 year average.

Below is a drift map from this week that was typical of this winter:

You can see the ice sucked out of the Kara and Barents Seas and blown out the Fram strait.  Above average ice in other regions made this year comparable to others in the last 30 years.  As with other years, statistical average ice will not make the papers. Expect a continuation of the Arctic is melting meme!

Technically, the Arctic isn’t supposed to have any ice in it.  

According to NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally, the ice could be nearly gone by the end of this year 2012!  Don’t expect any headlines when this prediction joins the rest of the failed climate scare predictions!  I also note from the National Geographic article, the government’s senior scientist at the snow and ice data center Mark Serreze says “the Arctic is screaming.”  It seems to be screaming ‘normal‘ but then again my job security doesn’t depend on scaring people into thinking I’m necessary.

One of my pet peeves with most scare mongering of the Arctic ice is the fact that it is assumed that the first 20 years of the satellite area is “normal” and any deviation from that is “abnormal.”  There are many good reasons why this is a poor assumption.  For one, every other natural system on earth is cyclical and dynamic  not static. It strikes me as very anthropocentric to assume that normal is the initial conditions when you  start observing.  

In light of this, I was very interested to discover that the world did not start in 1979 as far as ice area  goes.  In an 1990 IPCC report on page 224 of the working group, is a graph showing data collected by NOAA and the US Navy Joint Ice Center.  This set goes back to 1972 and shows ice area 2 million square kilometers less than 1979.  

 

According to section 7.8.2:

Since about 1976 the areal extent of sea-ice in the Northern Hemisphere has varied about a constant climatological level but in 1972-1975 sea-ice extent was significantly less.

 

It seems there is data showing that the ice loss between 2005 and 2007 was seen just 30 years previously.  In other words, maybe a million less kms of ice happens all the time.  If you start your data set in 1979 then its easier to convince people that 2005-2007 is abnormal.

While this answered a few questions I had about whether the beginning of the satellite era was a period of increasing ice (after all, that marks the end of a 30 year cool period)  it leaves me with many more questions.  Why is this data not included in the ice average that is so public in every scary press release?  Why is the numerical data set not available?  Why is this ancient IPCC report the only shred of evidence this data ever existed?

Without knowing any of these answers I must remain sceptical over the data quality even if it does confirm many things I’ve learned about the Arctic Ice.  That it increases and decreases all the time due to wind, waves and currents.  It confirms that the period between 1979 to 1990 is not a static normal as the fear mongers tell you but simply a stage in a cyclical and dynamic process.

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