the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Arctic Ice Flux

Posted by Jeff Id on May 8, 2009

I needed to get away from the Steig Antarctic reconstruction for the past week. My interest has shifted back to the sea ice data temporarily.  These posts are created from the daily 25 x 25 km pixel data showing percentage concentration as presented by the NSIDC.

This is a simple looking post which has a lot of hours in the creation. The gridded data by itself takes hours to download, the payoff is that the data is real time and less processed than the time series presented by the NSIDC. The matrix is so large that R can’t handle it even with it’s special libraries so a substantial amount of processing is required to get it into something that R can handle without loosing the spatial resolution – which makes the graph look pretty. Anyway, I want to understand what areas of the Arctic are gaining ice and which are loosing ice. As far a I know I’m the only one to present the ice data in this form. After seeing it, I think it tells an interesting story.

The plot I calculated is below. Each ice pixel represents the trend in ice area per year. Brown is land, black is shoreline, grey is ocean and the big blue dot in the center is the size of the satellite hole from the early satellite data. More recent satellites see more of the Arctic (smaller dot) but since this is a trend plot, I used the old style large satellite hole mask throughout the record. White represents zero trend while the maximum red value is +10Km^2/year for each 25x25Km pixel. The trend is for the full length of the satellite data 1978 -2009, only pixels with 120 months of ice data were used for the trend plot. This was arbitrarily chosen because pixels with 5 years of data aren’t sufficient to show a low noise trend.

arctic ice trend

Figure 1


Arctic ice flow video - Alaska is to the south edge. Animation of AMSR-E satellite 89Ghz sounder images. Koji Shimada of JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology ).

This video is thanks to WUWT post Watching the 2007 historic low sea ice flow out of the Arctic Sea.

A second link to a higher resolution version of the video is here. What is interesting about this video is the direction of flow of the ice. Clouds show up as shaded streaks moving across the video at high frequency, you can actually see the weather patterns pushing the ice back and forth as they change direction. From Figure 1, one particular pattern is clear, the Alaskan drain is bright red in the Bering straight (south edge of Figure 1) indicating an increased drainage of ice over the 30 year timeframe. The ice isn’t static so this shows clearly that more ice has flowed out of this gap in recent years than 30 years before.

At the same time the top edge of the Arctic plot in fig 1 is almost universally blue indicating a general loss of ice (although ice grows and shrinks as shown in the video). This is especially true in the deep blue along the edge of the two large out flows along the top edge of the plot as seen in the video.

One would expect if the ice melt was created by temperature change alone, we might see a uniform reduction in ice levels. Instead there is a top to bottom shift as the general trend is generally pushing ice toward the Bearing Strait. I makes me wonder now how much shrinkage of sea ice can be attributed to a weather pattern change rather than global temperature change.

Either way, the thirty year trend is toward a heavier ice flow out the bearing straight (bottom of figures) and lessened out-flow on the opposite side (top of figures) of the icecap.

40 Responses to “Arctic Ice Flux”

  1. Amabo said

    Looks like every time it breaks apart, if freezes back a little bigger.

    It also looks like this ice is ‘torn’ apart, rather than ‘melted’ apart.

  2. TCO said

    yawn…trying to emulate move on Anthony? Never finish anything?

  3. Dan Hughes said

    As everyone knows, about 90% of Arctic Sea Ice is under the water surface. As an engineer I would first look for the candidate dominant physical phenomena and processes governing the thermal, hydrodynamic, and structural interactions between the ice and its surroundings under the water surface. The sole focus on the thermal interactions between the atmosphere and the ice surface is completely misguided.

    So far as I know, it has not yet been determined that the convective energy exchange between the small fraction of the ice-atmosphere interface plays an important part in the state of the ice; radiative energy exchange might be more important than convective exchange. I would say that it is radiative cooling during the Arctic Winter that dominates formation of the ice; and not convective cooling. And then there are other thermal-energy exchange mechanisms that have the potential to change the thermal state of the ice.

    As the water-wind-ice structural interactions begin the break-up process, the specific interfacial surface area, the surface area between the ice and water per unit volume of ice, greatly increases. This in turn increases the convective thermal interactions between the water and the ice.

    An acceptable engineering analysis would require that all possible physical mechanisms first be listed and tested for importance. It is very likely that different mechanisms play more or less important roles as the structural aspects of the interactions change the state of the interfaces between the ice and its surrounding materials.

    Of course there will be some argument that the changes in the ice-water interactions below the surface are a direct consequence of the Global Warming. As an argument for cause and effect moves away from the location where the physical phenomena and processes that dominate an observed change in the state of materials are actually occurring, the weaker the argument becomes. Additionally, validation of the argument becomes very much more difficult. Frequently under these conditions hand and arm waving start to enter the discussions. And eventually Appeal to Authority, Consensus Predictions, The Precautionary Principle, Presumptive Labeling, and YANS (Yet Additional Naked Strawmen) will be thrown into the debate. Ain’t Science a wonderful thing.

  4. TCO said

    The alarmists are well aware of flow issues wrt ice. Like a lot of the climate debate, the issue is one of disentangling signal from noise. The simpler, stupider skeptics point at the existence of confounding noise as a disprover of trends. There are a lot of dumb skeptics. They hang out together and stroke each other in the comments.

  5. Amabo said

    Luckily we’ve got TCO in our pudding to keep our eyes on the ball. But personally I think we need someone to keep him on his toes as well, because his rhetoric is getting stale. Try to jazz it up, TCO. Use some figures or something.

  6. Dave said

    And then you have your simpler,stupider alarmists who point to confounding noise as a prover of trends. They sit around stroking themselves.

  7. Ryan O said

    The video is cool. I didn’t realize the ice moved like that. It makes me wonder how well the extent of ice correlates to amount of ice. Continental drift, but with ice.

    BTW, I might have to ask you how you did the processing of the ice data, since I will eventually need to do a similar thing to get the 5x5km raw AVHRR data into R. 😉

  8. Dan Hughes said

    :: Q E D

  9. TCO said

    Amabo: No way bitch. I’ve seen enough action from the figure pushers that had flaws or never got finished. I toast their effort and that they are trying for actual content. I just have been around long enough to criticize instead of create. Deal with it mofos.

  10. Jeff Id said

    #7 I’ve got a downloader/scraper script for the AVHRR as well as a big 20 Mb block of data if you like. It’s really noisy stuff though.

    #3 I wonder how much of the ice is actually still there as well. I believe water saturated ice confounds the sensors at these wavelengths so there may be ice where there appears to be none.

    $9 “I just have been around long enough to criticize instead of create.” – I hope you don’t mind if I flatly disagree. 😉

  11. Ryan O said

    #10 I actually have all of the raw data from NSIDC – so no cloudmasking or processing yet. ~1.2 TB total. The problem is that reading the 1605×1605 grids into R exceeds the memory allotment. I can’t figure out how to read in, say, the first half of it, process to remove the ocean, and then save . . . and then start in the middle of the original file to read in the second half.

  12. TCO said

    10. I do mind. Agree.

  13. Jeff Id said

    #11 I have that too, Jeff C did it. I’ll send an email.

  14. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Jeff ID thanks for the animated look at the Artic sea ice movements and thanks to Dan H for another view of ice formation and disintegration. That is all good stuff and adds to the general knowledge base. It does not necessarily suggest a conclusion from the evidence, but gives a view that we do not see from climate science.

    As for another frequent poster here at tAV, I can only conjecture what explains Jeff ID’s tolerance and with the help of Dr. John Milton have come up with the following:

    And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:
    They also serve who only stand and waite (and bitch and moan and name call and give unsolicited advice).

  15. Ryan O said

    #13 Awesomeness.

  16. Amabo said

    Oh, TCO, you silly sod, you know us well enough to know that you don’t have to hide your shame behind a facade of churlishness.

  17. TCO said

    McIntyre has another smarmy, over-connected to previous kerfuffles post. Essentially, he could simply post that he found an improper step in the Santer data. Instead we’re treated to (non-linked) refernces to his kerfuffles with Santer and to the “how he found the problem” story…instead of the problem.

    Furthermore…he has one particular remark where he says that he’s sure “Santer will say the error doesn’t matter”. First, that’s gratitous (irrelavent). Second it’s nasty and petty. Third it’s speculation. Fourth, after his commenters ask him to look at impact, it turns out the step does NOT have an impact (it is outside the time period of analysis).

  18. Ryan O said

    First, that’s gratitous (irrelavent). Second it’s nasty and petty. Third it’s speculation. Fourth, after his commenters ask him to look at impact, it turns out the step does NOT have an impact (it is outside the time period of analysis).

    Intriguingly enough, that also applies to comment #17 with respect to ice flux.

  19. TCO said

    crap…good point, donut eater. 😦

  20. Ryan O said

    Hahahahaha. I had to do it, TCO. I couldn’t resist. 🙂

  21. TCO said

    It’s still funny that the hoi polloi are blathering STILL about the Santer error having affected the paper, even after Steve posted the impact (although Steve fails to DIRECTLY state that there was no impact). I mean really…the choir section is a bunch of morons that make you all look bad. And Steve plays to them. What morons. What a maggot.

  22. Ralph B said

    I think TCO is correct in referring to Steve M as a maggot. He does feed upon rotten papers and when done bugs the crap out of those who spewed the mess.

  23. TCO said

    It’s funny watching him equivocate with James Lane. He just can’t man up and say “no, it doesn’t affect the Santer calculation”. He has to proceed the admission with two paragraphs of gratitous speculation about other papers. What a worm. You all should be repulsed.

  24. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Post #23

    Since you have become the crazy uncle in Jeff ID’s attic instead of Steve M’s that we apparently now need to endure here, I would hope that you could at least occasionally get a hold on your emotional aversions to assorted people so that you might comment on the content of what they present and not on them.

    Otherwise, your repeated personal aspersions tell us nothing about the topic at hand and only something about you that we are all painfully aware.

  25. TCO said


  26. Andy said

    I think TCO has a boner for steveM, it must be unrequited love that explains the posts.

  27. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Post #23

    Instead of huffing and puffing about Steve M and his Santer thread why not read the MM paper on the Santer versus Douglass treatment of tropical troposphere trends and the MM updating of the Santer analysis. Then maybe we could discuss the important issues and keep the personalities out of it. You even waste time describing the people who comment on the analysis.

    The link below to the MM paper is from the latest Steve M thread on Santer at CA.

    Click to access 0905.0445.pdf

  28. TCO said

    I need a break from the internet. Need to clean my room and lose weight. See y’all in 3 months or 60 pounds

  29. Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) said

    jeff, looking at the great lakes, looks like there is red in the east sides,
    what time/ date is the data that we are looking at?
    Thank for the work here, seen your offer at WUWT, i am sure AW will consider it.
    TX MAN !!!!

  30. Jeff Id said

    #29, 30 years. It’s the length of the satellite record.

    I don’t know if AW will consider it. He may have enough people already, I’ve sent him a couple of emails lately about the ice posts to which he didn’t reply.

    I really found the fact that the ice trend increased so dramatically in 30 years in the strait to be interesting as heck as well as the near record ice anomaly. He might be like DeWitt Payne though and just think it’s in error even after SteveM verified it thorough his own work.

    I mean look at the Antarctic post, the Wilkins ice shelf area shows an increasing sea ice trend. We hear about the collapse all the time yet the trend is up. It’s not WUWT, but WTFUWT. I found it interesting enough that I may do a post on just that area. Maybe ice was climbing for most of the record with a sudden downshift in the last two years or maybe there is an instrument bias which is unknown or unpublished. Either way, the trend at Wilkins appears to be positive.

  31. DeWitt Payne said

    Jeff Id,

    Reprocessing the NSIDC data does not verify the true rate of extent increase. NSIDC still doesn’t agree with AMSR-E data posted by JAXA and I’m still waiting for Uni-Hamburg April data. If the AMSR-E data verifies the SSMI data, then I’ll believe it. So far it hasn’t and the SSMI data has far more known issues than the AMSR-E data.

  32. Jeff Id said

    #31, All I did was load it in and add it up there’s very little other processing than that.

    I have spent a lot of hours reading on intra-satellite calibrations, instrumentation and processing algorithms and don’t know what creates the differences between Uni-Hamburg and NSIDC. I’m extremely curious what the NSIDC finalizing did to the data though, perhaps the processed data will be in better agreement but according to Cryosphere’s plot I doubt it will be the same.

  33. DeWitt Payne said

    I wonder if this isn’t related to the problem with the Cryosphere Today seasonal Arctic extent data for 2007 and 2008. It doesn’t look like there’s much of a problem with the data before 2007. I also didn’t see any problem with the Antarctic data that Steve McIntyre posted at CA. It regressed very nicely against the Uni-Hamburg data. I would like to see the time series and scatter plot of Uni-Hamburg Arctic area (not anomaly) data and the NSIDC Arctic area data starting in 2005 or so.

  34. DeWitt Payne said

    Here’s the scatter plot for Cryosphere Today Arctic area vs Uni-Hamburg Arctic area covering 7/25/2008-4/1/2009:

    The start date is when I started archiving the CT digital data and the end date is the latest data from UH. UH data goes back to mid-2002 with a few gaps. You can see why I think the CT and UH data are measuring the same thing. The question is whether NSIDC is measuring the same thing and wheter there has been a recent change. The anomaly data suggests that it isn’t and that there has been such a change.

    Would you please provide a link to a csv or other text file of your NSIDC arctic area data similar to the Antarctic data that Steve McIntyre posted at CA?

  35. Jeff Id said

    I can email it to you tonight. Unfortunately, I don’t have it here and WordPress doesn’t allow archiving of text files that I know of.

  36. That video is enlightening. To my observation, the ice is mainly NOT moved by the clouds but with something slower, more weighty, and with different speeds according to different relationship to the land mass ie the WATER moves the ice. It flows fast south down both Greenland coasts, and it re-enters the Arctic ocean north of Alaska to flow westwards towards the Bering Straits, then turns south. Looks like far more active currents north of Canada than north of Siberia.

    One fascinating fact: at the temperature the seawater freezes, most of it actually sinks; only a small part freezes and floats. Another extraordinary property of that degree of saline water: a fine balance point. The sinking cold water provides the driver for the Gulf Stream.

  37. Addition: the video shows the ice is FORMED in a way that fits with the cloud patterns; it’s MOVED by the water.

  38. Jeff Id said

    #36, 37,

    I agree with your point but my eyes see shifting of the ice sheets at a high frequency which looks to be wind originated motion as well.

    I redid these trend plots thinking of your site and comments. My previous graphics weren’t as good. I found the red area in the strait really amazing. Think of what that means for long term trends to see a strong increase in ice presence flowing from the drain. It was a surprise to me.

    I’ve got more work to do on this, DeWitt Payne has been sending me some emails about the difference between the NSIDC and other sources.

  39. Wonderful internet site Will visit again=)

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