Arctic sea ice III: it’s not through melting

NSIDC arctic sea ice extent graph for September 18, 2010

NSIDC Arctic sea ice extent graph for September 18, 2010

On September 15 the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced a provisional Arctic sea ice minimum extent of 4.76 million square kilometers, for September 10, based on the five-day-average calculation it uses for that purpose.   However it appears that while sea ice is beginning to grow in the East Siberian Sea, just about everywhere else the ice is still melting or consolidating.  This has led to a “double dip” in the past few days, which is currently visible in the NSIDC’s chart.

At this point we don’t know what will happen to the sea ice extent. Of course it’s bound to grow back rapidly pretty soon because so much of it melted during the summer season and there’s nothing much left that is likely to melt or consolidate. This is bringing the 2010 melt season to an interesting close.

Arctic sea ice II: thousands of walruses beached off the Chukchi sea (updated)

[Update September 26: See this video from the ever-excellent greenman3610 which gives a good overview of the topic]

The Associated Press reported on Monday that thousands of walrus cows have beached in North West Alaska because of the rapid loss of ice this summer in the Chukchi Sea. This is a very rare event but it has been recorded twice before, in 2007 and 2009. Beaching has also been reported on the Siberian side of the sea.

Joseph Romm has a more in-depth posting about this in which he discusses the implications for the regional walrus populations.  Of particular concern is the fate of walrus pups, which rely on their mothers’ milk for the first two years of life and cannot fend for themselves.  There are reliable reports of pups being stranded in open water where they could not possibly survive, after being separated from their mothers during the rapid thaw.

The walrus populations are also potentially endangered by oil exploration in the area, and the US government is considering adding the walrus to the endangered species list. The USGS maintains a web page where you can find out about the Alaska Science Center’s work on tracking the walrus populations.

Arctic sea ice I

I’m on a sea ice binge, and here’s what I’ve found.  I’ll probably follow this up at least once as the melt season closes and the figures are added up, so I’ve named it “Arctic sea ice I”.

Joe Romm is crowing over the collapse of yet more Watts/Goddard nonsense about the “rebound” of arctic sea ice and even says

My big $1000 bet with James Annan, William Connolley, and Brian Schmidt still looks pretty good, which is to say I would definitely not switch sides.

Bold, considering what he’s betting against:

“At no time between now and the end of the year 2020 will the minimum total Arctic Sea ice extent be less than 10% of the 1979-2000 average minimum annual Arctic Sea ice extent, as measured by NSIDC data or any other measurement mutually agreed-upon; provided, however, that if two or more volcanic eruptions with the energy level equal to or greater than the 1991 Mount Pinatubo shall occur between now and the end of 2020, then all bets are voided.”

As Joe Romm is quick to admit, William M. Connolley and James Annan are published climate scientists (Connolley was, I should say.  He now works in software engineering.)  Joe is betting against some pretty clever money.

Joe Romm in a December, 2007 posting makes it plain that he’s betting on accelerating sea ice summer melt rates. Intuitively I’d say that seems reasonable, though Joe’s timescale still seems implausibly ambitious. Of course, unlike William Connolley, I haven’t done any modeling, and I certainly don’t have a sophisticated understanding of arctic sea ice dynamics. At best my hunches (and that’s all they are) are simplistic extrapolations of what happens when I defrost my freezer. When the surface area to volume ratio increases the ice melts faster. This is true whether the overall volume decreases or the volume remains the same and I smash the ice up into smaller pieces. A lot more is going on in the arctic during the melt season, of course.

By way of data, NSIDC gives the following figures for September average sea ice extent in millions of square kilometres. Links are to the standard NSIDC sea ice minimum press release for each year.

Or you can see them all collected together in a table where they are also conveniently expressed as sea ice anomaly (baseline 1979-2000). The table also shows the quite noticeable apparent acceleration in the annual and decadal trend that has taken place in the past seven or eight years.  At  -7.3 million square kilometres per decade in 2002, it has risen year on year and after the 2009 season it stood at -11.2.  I’ll be interested to see if the trend drops back in the next few years; that’s to be expected if 2007 was simply an outlier on a linear trend.

How not to sell a television set

So I’m watching television.  We used, oh twenty years ago now, to have a nice little Sony Trinitron 21″. it was a cute as pie, but it started to get a bit elderly. Then we had a big old horrible second hand thing my American boss sold me before he was shipped back home.  Then it died and we now have a cheap crappy television somebody bought new about three years ago.  It’s a CRT telly, but it works and we have a gadget that kills all power when we put it on standby.  Whch is most of the time.

It’s that weird bit between television programs, where they sometimes try to sell you stuff.  The sound level goes up so I reflexively hit the mute button on the remote control. There ought to be a gadget that does that automatically, don’t you think?  As I understand it the advertising companies use compression techniques to make more noise while staying technically within the noise limits set for broadcast television audio by the regulator.  Well whatever that means, when there is a program break on commercial television in the UK the noise level goes through the roof until you hit the mute button.

I like to watch the pretty pictures.  So I stare vacantly, smiling pleasantly as silent cats, silent cars, silent washing machines, silent pretty girls, silent hunky men, and silent insane cartoon characters gambol on the screen trying to make me want to buy stuff.  I know how this part of the game is played.  “No”, my brain says, while I smile in guileful concupiscence at the gorgeous, seducative maidens who, by the magic of television, seem to say “yes.”  And my body says “yes”, of course, which is nice because at my age “yes” is no longer a word your body says five or six times a night.  The motor is still throbbing away under the bonnet, but I miss the constant purr of my younger years. So I get a bit of a buzz from the insanely pretty girls who are paid to try to sell me stuff on the television.

Sometimes a really funny advert appears.  These are ads that could have been deliberately calculated to make me laugh like a drain for weeks.  This bloke jumps out of an aeroplane, the ground whizzes up and you can see every blade of grass.  The grass stalks turn into a forest and a male mandrill, baring his frightening teeth, stands princely on the forest floor while the camera dives over his shoulder to a stream, down the stream at huge speed until it opens into rapids, where human maniacs in brightly colored lifejackets shoot the white water.  Suddenly the camera zooms to the river bank, where a praying mantis stares in that fixated manner peculiar to their type.  The camera somehow catches a glint in one of the optics of the mantis’ eye and expands it to a sumptuous cloudscape.  An aeroplane can be seen laboring through the clouds, and the camera again zooms, this time getting into the cockpit, barging past a pretty flight attendant who accidentally scalds the pilot with tea, shouldering through the cabin door to the back of the plane where, equipped with the latest Stupefikon 90 digital camera, a skydiver is waiting to jump.

Now about five seconds into that ad I’m already sure that this absolutely gorgeous  sequence is intended to persuade me to buy a new television.  The rest of the ad, of course, is wasted, because the visuals are so good that they convince me that my crappy cheap television is really incredibly good, thank you.

There’s a variant on this, involving George Takei.  Incidentally George is looking amazing for his age.  I recently went on a long bus journey with my daughter and we giggled like schoolgirls when a young Japanese man got on the bus.  He bore a certain familiar resemblance, and was drop-dead gorgeous so I said “don’t look now, but that young Japanese bloke looks exactly like a young Sulu.”   Of course I manages to turn my whisper into a hoarse shout which I was convinced Sulu heard all the way from the back of the bus, but he maintained his legendary helmsman cool and piloted the bus all the way back home without doing much more than sitting there at the front and blushing a bit.

Ah, okay, well this one involves George, the real one, not the lovely cutie on our London bus, showing us all kinds of television pictures that look wrong, and saying “aha, if only you had four types of LCD in your television this sea wouldn’t look green, it would be blue.”  But of course, I haven’t got any type of LCD in my television set and I have never had a problem seeing blue things before.  Could it possibly be a doctored picture designed to look green?  Well, it’s an idea.

In my earliest childhood years I had no television.  When we visited my grandmother’s house I would see her television and being a child I would go back behind the television where I would see the wonderful mysterious controls marked “Horiz. hold”, “Vert. hold”, “Grid pot.” and the like.   It was amazing in those days because I was a child I could really perceive that Cliff Michelmore, the round-faced bald news presenter, was squatting inside the massive box that enclosed the tiny cathode ray tube.  When we finally got a television set, of course it was 405 lines and monochrome, as were all sets of the time until the introduction of the PAL system and color TV in the late 1960s. By 1971 or so my family had a color television which could render Mister Sulu’s face in a way that made him look reasonably human.

The Sony trinitron is still up there in my son’s room and he never uses it.  Perhaps I ought to get it going again.