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Beyond the metrics, the amount of 'old' 'thick' ice transported eastward north of Greenland and disgorged into the Fram over the past week is stunning. That has to bode ill for the ice next year.
Toggle Commented Sep 23, 2016 on ASI 2016 update 7: minimum time at Arctic Sea Ice
Wayne, This is why I warned about assumptions, metrics and uncertainty. A variety of assumptions are used in developing metrics (lost work days as a surrogate for safety, ice edges ...). It is extremely common for those assumptions to then be forgotten or ignored over time and for the metric to be taken as gospel. They aren't gospel. They are subject to all sorts of errors based on the assumptions and presumptions that went into their development. Equally often, the assumptions and presumptions aren't even recognized or noted. These are hidden assumptions which are almost never challenged. As conditions change, the assumptions can become huge problems as the bases for using those assumptions become invalid. Ice cover is one such case as you have correctly noted. While there may be physical limitations of the tools (e.g. Microwave). That does not then mean that the information is necessarily meaningful for assessing the ice. As the ice conditions change, a formerly wonderful tool, may simply no longer be adequate to the needs. That the only tool we have becomes incapable of providing the information we need, does not then mean that it is useless. But neither does it mean that we should blindly accept the result as meaningful when it clearly isn't. However, all that being true, another way to view this is as measures of true uncertainty (not calculational sensitivity, or model sensitivity). The true uncertainty in the measure makes the utility of the tool less as the ice conditions change. We can visually see this to be true. The tool cannot. And this in turn has impacts on the various products, particularly ice volume. The outputs of those models has a huge uncertainty that is not readily apparent. That limitations of the tools are masking the actual conditions and causing the products and metrics to provide a falsely high value for extent and volume, and probably for area (though to a lesser extent) is important for us to recognize. If we fail to recognize this and fail to correct it, this will likely lead us to make poor decisions that fail to warn us of impending events. In the end however, it won't matter at all. It is all happening too fast. Where it does matter is in the discussion, rhetoric, and politics and hence in actions. But, the transition is happening so very quickly in geologic time that it is far outpacing any meaningful human response no matter whether we get the metrics right or not. The ice will fail, the Arctic will go ice free, the atmospheric circulation will dramatically change (it has already begun) and the world will not be as we have known it again. Things may return to what we've known in a million years or so. But in the long history of earth, the quasi stable regime we have lived in and that we developed civilization and agriculture in is but a brief blip in time with conditions that are rare in earth's history. It seems unlikely that the earth will ever return here again. Instead, we will now go through a horrible transition to some other stable or quasi stable state. We have overbuilt our societies on a fiction of stability. We have pushed everything to the very limit. Collapse is now inevitable. But knowing better what is coming, we might be able to better handle the transition to salvage something. Instead, we seem hell bent on pushing the accelerator to the floor and ploughing into the wall at the highest speed possible.
Toggle Commented Sep 18, 2016 on ASI 2016 update 7: minimum time at Arctic Sea Ice
John, The only indication I have of that is the compound information that a) DMI's ice volume was becoming increasingly discordant with reality and your comment that b) they are changing factors and as a result becoming more concordant. However, as we have no reliable direct measures of volume the assessment must be to something else -e.g. One of the other models; with PIOMAS being the most prominent and hence most likely. Perhaps it is fully independent, which is better. And I mean no slam on the modelers by this. They have a tough job, made harder by the biases that can all too easily creep in. However, there is always the risk of concensus bias creeping in, which the modelers all have to work to avoid.
Toggle Commented Aug 7, 2016 on PIOMAS August 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Changing a model to make it more concordant with another model only makes the two models more similar in results. Doing this tells nothing about how concordant or how dissonant each model is to the reality they purport/intend to model. Measuring a model against another model similarly tells little about reality. They can be in tight agreement and both be wildly wrong. They can each be widely in disagreement with one another and still all be wildly wrong about reality. The one thing that is certain is that the many ice thickness/volume models disagree wildly with one another. That gives me no confidence in any of them. I suspect, but cannot support or prove that each of the models is suffering to varying degrees to a form of error that is all to common in other fields. In several fields people and researchers make the blunder of averaging logarithmic values (e.g. pH or simple logarithms of parameters) and then presuming that the result has meaning. It doesn't. It never has. The average of logarithms is a meaningless number that is exceptionally poorly correlated with the logarithm of the averages of numbers. The only time it would make sense to average logarithmic values is when the processes involved act directly on the logarithmic value of the parameter. In the case of the ice, the shattering of the ice, it's separation and the freezing of the waters between produces an ice thickness distribution that is quite complex. I don't believe it is anywhere near as bad as a logarithmic distribution. But it is still highly non-homogeneous and a very important component of the modeled analysis. And that compound field behaves considerably differently than any simple average can portray. The various tools and techniques to measure thickness vary in their performance in measuring the average thickness with a scale dependency in many cases. Even when they do a good job, the behavior of the complex assemblage of thicknesses is nothing like the behavior of the actual component parts. Thin ice melts out early exposing thicker ice to attack on a greater surface area. The relative dimensions of these component parts is important. Add to this the differing densities and salinities of the ice depending on a number of factors. The result is a reality that is extremely hard to model with fidelity, and which is very prone to errors as the conditions approach the extremes, such as the nearing of the terminal breakup of the Arctic sheet. Uniformity is rapidly falling apart, leading to vastly greater complexity in the real conditions, and increasing difficulty to successfully model. We see that playing out all over the Arctic, but most especially in the Beaufort Sea.
Toggle Commented Aug 7, 2016 on PIOMAS August 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
It looks like the coastal route of the Siberian seaway will open in the next few days. The northwest passage is rapidly breaking up as well and should open in the next several weeks. Sam
Jim, I don't think the Navy's model is likely any better or worse than any of the others. My points are these: These are each models. Models are fraught with limitations. These models are not exceptions to that. Models are all too often relied on to degrees not actually justified by what they are. We tend to forget all of these things. Forgetting these things can lead us astray precisely at the time we most need to not be led astray. These models disagree wildly with one another and with reality at this point. That disagreement is telling us important information if we will only listen. And this though applied here as a specific case is a general lesson about models that applies wherever and whenever models are used. What I am NOT doing is arguing that they don't serve useful purposes. They do. We just rely on them more than we should. And that too is usual, expected and all too common. I am NOT arguing that any particular model is better or worse than any other. They likely each excel in some ways, while failing miserably in others. And again, this is usual, common and expected. The area and extent models suffer similar problems. The thresholds for counting were designed to deal with the inherent difficulties in analyzing the edges of the areas. These never considered the case where the sheet itself is wholly shattered. As a result, as we near the breakup of the whole sheet, these indicators point us in directions that mislead more than enlighten. This too is usual and expected. Models fail worst when pressed into areas outside the bounds of conditions used or considered in their development. We humans tend to grab onto specifics. In soing so, we often miss the big picture precisely when that is where we should be focused.
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2016 on 2016 melting momentum, part 3 at Arctic Sea Ice
Neven, I mean no offense. PIOMAS may be correct, or not. The US Navy Hycom may be correct, or not. The other models may be correct, or not. Unfortunately we have little in the way of ground truthing for any of the models. And we know they disagree wildly. The Navy has strong reason for wanting a correct model. They also have the ability to ground truth the model. And they may well have done so whether or not that is ever revealed or acknowledged. Or they may not have. The only take away that I can make is that there is strong divergence in at least three well developed model sets. That leads me to distrust all of them and to seek other information (like the shattering if the ice sheet) and to place greater reliance on those direct observations than upon any model. In general I consider all models like I would taking a long road trip with a bear cub curled up asleep in my passenger seat. Sure it is cute and looks cuddly and tame. And it might well be all of those things. But it is more likely that at some point it is going to awaken and I am going to get a very rude surprise. If I am fortunate I will only have to deal with cleaning bear scat off the seat. It likely isn't going to be that easy or nice. With models, it is usual and customary to develop an inappropriate degree of confidence in them and to use them until well past their sell by date. I don't know how things will turn out for PIOMAS, though my caution remains the same. And it is the same caution former US President Robald Reagan was so found of: Trust but verify. Sadly, we have little means to verify other than visual observations via satellite. And those images are looking increasingly distressing.
Toggle Commented Jul 13, 2016 on 2016 melting momentum, part 3 at Arctic Sea Ice
This is meant as a reminder and nothing else. It is always important to remember that models are models and that all models have serious limitations based on their development. They are built with best intent and generally diligent effort, but they are still limited based on limited understanding and limited data. Models and data should never be conflated or confused with one another. Data can have problems, and often does and most often from missing data or acquisition issues. Too often models become accepted as revealed truth forgetting both their origins, their weaknesses, their limitations, and the errors inherent in both the data used in their creation and their own embedded errors and error margins, both from model development, calculational errors and bounds, and most importantly based on missing information and knowledge in their creation. Far too often models are extrapolated far outside their valid bounds without recognition that this Is even the case. Models generally provide users no warnings about such cases or their limitations. In the case of climate change it is clear that the models omit huge complications that make the result worse (more rapid and more severe) than the models suggest. This is principally due to missing elements in the knowledge when the models were created. It is vital to always bear these things in mind. For what we talk about here, this is most evident in the ice thickness models. They clearly disagree with one another by huge margins. Portrayed graphically they often do not even look similar. Using any of those to project very far into the future clearly goes outside the reasonable bounds for the models use. At the same time, the data and the observational information show clearly that things are worse than they have ever been, worse than any of these models project, and are deteriorating very rapidly.
Toggle Commented Jul 13, 2016 on 2016 melting momentum, part 3 at Arctic Sea Ice
Wayne, Remember the old saying: All models are wrong; some are slightly less horrible than others.
Toggle Commented Jul 13, 2016 on 2016 melting momentum, part 3 at Arctic Sea Ice
It's not so bad. Sure we're hanging on by a pinky and a thumb. Surely we'll be able to make it to the summit of El Capitan. We just need to rest here for a moment and get our wind back. And then we'll conquer the world. Yeah that's it. No worries. What ever this year holds in store for the minimum, the course over the next dozen is clear. The ice is going. The ice is going fast. And once it is gone, events will take a wholly different and more accelerated course. Woo hoo! It's a race to the bottom. And all we have to do is let that little pinky slip.
Toggle Commented Jul 4, 2016 on ASI 2016 update 3: crunch time at Arctic Sea Ice
Wow. I am ever more dubious of all of the ice thickness models. Thick ice never used to shatter. I doubt that it does now. Yet across the vast expanse of the Arctic sheet we see extensive shattering nearly everywhere, and often what better resembles icebergs of ice surrounding by a 'glue' of low quality ice. The ice sheet now looks very much less like an ice sheet and very much more like a new car windshield dropped off the back of a truck. Sam
Toggle Commented Jun 23, 2016 on 2016 melting momentum, part 2 at Arctic Sea Ice
P-maker, I agree. The truly extraordinary fracturing of the entire arctic ice sheet this year makes it extremely difficult for the ice to support melt ponds. They simply drain away. The big question is what that means to the melting of the ice. Does the thinning of the ice, which led to the fractures and draining then also become a late stage negative feedback as the absence of the lakes reduces the heat absorption of the ice? If so, is that in any way significant or important?
Toggle Commented Jun 17, 2016 on 2016 melting momentum, part 1 at Arctic Sea Ice
Bob, I won't play - 'bring me another rock' with you. That you don't want to change and don't want to believe you (and we all) have to is clear. Keep your head in the sand all you like. Not knowing or not accepting won't save you.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
Our collective knowledge about how the atmosphere and ocean work in an equable (not equitable) climate is quite limited. We can surmise things from sediment and soil cores, diatom and related counts, isotope ratios and a few other inferences. Even with all of that, I am unaware of an adequate complete model to explain the details. What we do know is that the far north becomes quite warm. The tropics don't cool. And the mid latitudes apparently are semitropical. What it looks like is that the pole goes very warm which removes the major atmospheric heat engine. Coriolis forces still apply. Lacking jet streams which occur at the cell boundaries (absent in an equable climate), storms likely behave very differently from what we are accustomed to. Our accustomed climate bands (rain, desert ...) likewise go out the window. What that means for biomes is an open question. Can we reliably grow crops in such conditions? Who knows? Growing crops requires the right mix of temperature, rain, soil and sun in the right times (for which the plants have become adapted). Will those be consistent year to year? Again, who knows? What will this do to animals, insects and diseases? Who knows? The transitional phase is likely to be the worst though, as the system vassilates between states and through unstable intermediate conditions. How long will that last? Again, who knows? I suspect that Greenland will play a large role in that until it completely melts. After that, the oceanic currents and the atmosphere can stabilize into a new operating mode. Will that take a millennia or a century? Good question.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
Bobcobb, First - begin with geography. The United States is -not- the world, much though some might believe it is. Second - do simple accounting. The global warming gases include more than co2 and methane. They also include water vapor, the largest impacter of all. The changes in the others move massive changes in water. Third - look to geologic history. Back up through time to higher GWG levels and watch as first the north polar ice goes away and becomes an equable climate about 3 M years ago. (Advances and retreats 2-5 M years, and all gone prior to 5 M years). Continue back to 25 M years when Antartica was iced over and the period from 25-38 M years when it formed. Then finally go back to 40 M years before present and before when there was no ice. The whole world was in an equable climate. It takes very little effort to compare current and trended GWG levels and durations and positive feedbacks to conclude that barring massive immediate changes that we will achieve GWG levels that will eliminate the Arctic Ocean ice and rapidly melt Greenland. These levels will remain high enough long enough that Greenland will fully melt out. Voile - northern hemisphere equable climate. Is there enough there long enough to melt Antarctica? Good question. I suspect not. But the release of 1,650+ GTC of tundra carbon and massive amounts of oceanic methane as the oceans warm in response to the warming atmosphere is going to make a huge dent in the Antarctic ice. Already we are seeing the major glaciers that block and protect the ice failing. We should fully expect to see West Antartica go ice free. Rising sea levels will aid in releasing Thwaites and others to dump an additional huge amount of ice into the oceans as water further raising ocean levels. The transitional period will be 'challenging'. Next look at the rate of change through this whole period. The challenge to ecosystems and biomes will be extreme. We already are in the beginnings of one of the half dozen greatest extinction events in all of world history. We are rising far faster than the PETM. Far faster is an absurd underestimation of the rate of change. And with that my friend you tire me. Enough.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
Correction, 2010 above includes 0.855 Gtc of natural sources and needs to be reduced by that amount for an apples to apples comparison. For 2015 EIAs preliminary estimate (likely somewhat low) is for a minor increase. http://www.iea.org/media/news/2016/pressrelease/EnergyRelatedCO2_TimeSeriesData.xlsx Year GT CO2 (not GTC as above) 1978 17.44 1979 17.96 1980 17.78 1981 17.54 1982 17.36 1983 17.47 1984 18.05 1985 18.32 1986 18.65 1987 19.28 1988 19.94 1989 20.33 1990 20.62 1991 20.75 1992 20.70 1993 20.81 1994 20.93 1995 21.48 1996 21.99 1997 22.23 1998 22.38 1999 22.52 2000 23.32 2001 23.58 2002 23.94 2003 24.99 2004 26.18 2005 27.05 2006 27.86 2007 28.78 2008 28.87 2009 28.32 2010 29.84 2011 31.29 2012 31.49 2013 32.07 2014 32.13 2015 32.14 The reduction in increase comes mostly from the economic conditions driven in large part by the US attempt to destabilize Russia which spiraled out of control with the Saudis increasing production leading to falling prices as they attempted first to shutdown Russia (a major competitor), then Iran (a major adversary), then the US fracking industry (viewed as another competitor) and finally Venezuela. Even with such massive changes in global supply and demand as economies stall, and as wind and solar ramp up, the best we could do globally from anthropogenic estimated releases was to nearly but not quite stop increasing emissions. And this is only anthropogenic CO2 releases. It does not include huge releases of methane from Aliso canyon, from the fracking boom, or natural sink losses from the massive fires all over the place. These both serve to destroy the sinks, and to convert them into additional sources. Add to that the effects of global warming intensified El Niño, and the conditions are much worse - the the highest year on year increase of atmospheric CO2 (using Mauna Loa as a surrogate) that we have seen. It is now very likely that no weekly average CO2 measurement at Mauna Loa will fall below 400 ppm ever again in our lifetimes, or even in the next millennium. We are now at nearly 408 ppm CO2 there, 128 ppm above the peak baseline coming out of the last ice age. We should be on the slow decent back to ice age conditions with falling CO2 over the next 90,000 years. Instead we are in a rocket to the sky. Add the several hundred ppm of CO2 equivalent from methane and other warming gases and you might begin to get the idea that we are in some sort of trouble. The consequences of all this northern hemisphere heating is devastation of the arctic ice and a high probability that we will rapidly convert to a mixed mode globally with the northern hemisphere experiencing an equable climate with a single Hadley cell extending all the way to the North Pole while the Southern Hemisphere maintains a three cell circulation. Should we have pushed far enough and hard enough to melt Antarctica over the next many millennia, the whole earth might then shift to equable climate conditions. Fortunately for us, Antartica is a large heat sink and it will take an immense amount of heating to destabilize the southern atmosphere. As a result, the Southern Hemisphere may become a refuge. Or perhaps not. The oceans may play the critical role there.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
Bobcobb, To the contrary. See below. And this is without accounting for man made methane releases, or any of the natural releases and feedbacks, or destruction of the natural sources and sinks. Even then, what is required is not slowing of the increase, or even stable emissions. What is required are dramatic year on year reductions. Add to this the huge positive impact from the loss of sulfate aerosols and particulates as reductions occur, and even more dramatic reductions are required. To even make a dent, these likely need to exceed 10% per year sustained until emissions are less than a few percent of current emissions. Deciding to do anything less means that we return to Eocene conditions. Even these levels of commitment are likely not enough. https://www.co2.earth/global-co2-emissions Global Emissions 2014. 9.795 GtC 2013 9.735 GtC 2012 9.575 GtC 2011 9.449 GtC 2010 9.995 Gtc
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
The only thing we globally have done is to reduce the rate of increase. And that is only do to recessionary forces. Though there has been huge investment in wind and solar, these are far outstripped by the actions that would be required to be meaningful.
Toggle Commented Jun 5, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
0.1%, 0.001 fraction.
Toggle Commented Jun 5, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
Rob, I agree with you. I suspect that PIOMAS is under representing the melt, and it is melting faster and faster. The positive feedbacks have kicked in. Still, the annual variation is large enough that even after we hit zero for several consecutive years, we may still not be sure what curve best represents the data. Either way though it doesn't matter. In the most extreme case we might be talking about a ten year difference. In even the time since humans began growing crops circa 10-11k years ago, this is only 0.001% of that time. In the time since we began burning fossil fuels in a big way (circa 1800) this us only ~5% of that period. The point is, this is an incredibly rapid shift and the difference in when we hit zero whether estimated one way of another is completely unimportant. We -are- going to hit zero very quickly now. That is huge. That is the important story. And rather than that causing humanity to change course, we are doubling down on burning it all faster. That is insane. Sam
Toggle Commented Jun 5, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
Or, perhaps as a more apt analogy, this may leave us trying to determine the best and most accurate counting technique for counting angels dancing on the heads of pins. That might involve all sorts of interesting math and speculation while serving no real meaningful purpose. The ice is going. The ice is going faster, and faster, and faster yet. And here we are transfixed and unable to look away. All the while, the catastrophe that lies just ahead is perilously close, and closer at an increasing pace as we continue forward at breakneck speed into our peri less future. Perhaps someone might just apply the brakes. Please. Pretty please. Now! Please? Sam
Toggle Commented Jun 5, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
All of this of course presumes that PIOMAS is correct and a reliable indicator. We have several ice thickness models. They tend toward grouping into two sets. However there is broad variation among them in predicting or estimating the thickness of the ice at various locations across the Arctic. Some are at times directly at odds with visual evidence. I do not believe it is a safe bet to presume the accuracy or reliableness of any of them. Each does provide some insights that are useful for asking questions. In the large course scale they do track the general trend. But I certainly wouldn't bet the future on their accuracy. More than that, I would encourage everyone to always remember the limitations of these models and the assumptions and presumptions that they are based upon. As we get closer to the first ice free Arctic summer, it seems highly likely that we will see increasing variability as the ice thins, both in reality and in the models behaviors. These variations are vastly different from one another. The physical variations occur for all the many reasons talked about here. The model variations add to that dependence on the assumptions upon which they are based. It is perhaps interesting that we are indeed seeing greater variability from the trend lines for all of the fit models. That is partly real and partly possibly artifactual. However, that increased variation taken as increasing random or pseudorandom variation also affects the estimated curves of the predictors, both means and standard deviations. Until we reach zero for several periods we will not be able to know what the actual curve was that these variations vary from. Until then, the predictor equations will have changing parameters even if we are only seeing random variation at work. Trying then to judge which is right before the end may leave us chasing Aluce's rabbits down so many holes, and in a backward foot race with the Red Queen. Sam
Toggle Commented Jun 5, 2016 on Crisis in the Cryosphere at Arctic Sea Ice
Correction - Late April - of course. Late June was last year. Go back a year and do the same, but move to late June to see a similar though less spectacular movement. Sam
Toggle Commented May 30, 2016 on ASI 2016 update 1: both sides at Arctic Sea Ice
For anyone who wants to see this in action, open Worldview off the north coast of Ellesmere beginning at the end of June and step forward to today. Using arrow keys you can do it as a little movie. I don't have the tools to create that or to do it as a gif, or I would. http://go.nasa.gov/1X8PqX3 Sam
Toggle Commented May 30, 2016 on ASI 2016 update 1: both sides at Arctic Sea Ice
Neven, One of the huge changes this year shows up off the north coast of Ellesmere. When I first started watching the ice in the mid 1990s, that ice was almost completely locked to the land. By 2007 that all changed. Somewhere in there (I forget when, though it was just a blink ago it seems like an eternity since) the ice separated from the land and an annual lake with a unique ecosystem that was thousands of years old drained and was lost forever. By 2012, movement of the ice off the land in the late season was routine. Last year, the ice broke completely free about July 4. This year, the ice shattered and splintered beginning at the first of May. By mid-May the ice was free. Now the ice is being dragged around like a worn out old rag doll with its stuffings coming out all over the place. In 2015 that began to happen in early July. We are fully two and a half months ahead of last year in those terms. The 'thick' ice, what there is left of it, is being rapidly transported toward the ice grinder that the Beaufort has become. Over the next four days two storm high pressure systems (on the Canadian and Siberian sides) are predicted to move over the arctic. At the same time, conditions are set up for strong surface air flows pushing across the arctic toward Svalbard coupled with a strong offshore flow from Ellesmere. The next week should be spectacular. Rather than setting in for thicker ice to slow things down, it appears that instead the thicker ice will be pushed/pulled into the warmer Beaufort to be ground to slush. It appears that we are still on course for 2.0-2.5 million square km by seasons end as the most likely result, with less than 3 being highly probably and less than 1 though possible, unlikely. Sam
Toggle Commented May 30, 2016 on ASI 2016 update 1: both sides at Arctic Sea Ice