10–Year Challenge: Arctic Sea Ice

There’s been an ice meme gone viral, comparing apples to oranges, or rather land ice in Antarctica to sea ice in the Arctic, fooling and confusing everyone (see way below). So here’s a true 10–Year Challenge comparison for Arctic Sea Ice volume only.

10–Year Challenge: If we conflate the full loss of ice all through the year to a journey from the North Pole to the South Pole, then we were already Going South ten years ago, in January 2009. But we’ve come a long way since that: See the 2019 globe to the right, for January 2019.

Q: Where’s the data source for this plot?
A: Here: http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/data/
Q: How can anyone make a decadal average graph?
A: Easy. Use a computer. Add all the ice for the latest 3650 days, divide by that number of days.
Q: Why would I even do that?
A: Let’s say you want to know how much ice we have in the latest decade compared to the decades before that.

The aforementioned viral meme:

This combination of photos from NASA and the National Snow & Ice Date Center shows the Getz Ice Shelf in Antarctica in 2016, left, and a remnant of ice in the Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean, in 2018. The Associated Press reported on Friday, Jan. 18, 2018, that these photos, from opposite poles of the planet, have been circulating on the internet as a pair, falsely purporting to show the deterioration of the same portion of sea ice from 2008 to 2018. (Jeremy Harbeck/NASA, Julienne Stroeve/NSIDC via AP)

“A Terrifying 12 Years”

Excerpt from Dahr Jamail’s op–ed “A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s on Us“. Dahr’s new book was published earlier this week (and will be available in e–book formats early next week), titled “The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption”.

In October 2018, 15 months after Jirinec’s words brought me to tears in the Amazon, the world’s leading climate scientists authored a report for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning us that we have just a dozen years left to limit the catastrophic impacts of climate change. The gist of it is this: we’ve already warmed the planet one degree Celsius. If we fail to limit that warming process to 1.5 degrees, even a half-degree more than that will significantly worsen extreme heat, flooding, widespread droughts and sea level increases, among other grim phenomena. The report has become a key talking point of political progressives in the US, who, like journalist and activist Naomi Klein, are now speaking of “a terrifying 12 years” left in which to cut fossil fuel emissions.

There is, however, a problem with even this approach. It assumes that the scientific conclusions in the IPCC report are completely sound. It’s well known, however, that there’s been a political element built into the IPCC’s scientific process, based on the urge to get as many countries as possible on board the Paris climate agreement and other attempts to rein in climate change. To do that, such reports tend to use the lowest common denominator in their projections, which makes their science overly conservative (that is, overly optimistic).

In addition, new data suggest that the possibility of political will coalescing across the planet to shift the global economy completely off fossil fuels in the reasonably near future is essentially a fantasy. And that’s even if we could remove enough of the hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 already in our overburdened atmosphere to make a difference (not to speak of the heat similarly already lodged in the oceans).

“It’s extraordinarily challenging to get to the 1.5 degree Celsius target and we are nowhere near on track to doing that,” Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate scientist and a co-author of the IPCC report, told theGuardian just weeks before it was released. “While it’s technically possible, it’s extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk. We are nowhere near that.”

In fact, even best-case scenarios show us heading for at least a three-degree warming and, realistically speaking, we are undoubtedly on track for far worse than that by 2100, if not much sooner. Perhaps that’s why Shindell was so pessimistic.

For example, a study published in Nature magazine, also released in October, showed that over the last quarter century, the oceans have absorbed 60 percent more heat annually than estimated in the 2014 IPCC report. The study underscored that the globe’s oceans have, in fact, already absorbed 93 percent of all the heat humans have added to the atmosphere, that the climate system’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases is far higher than thought and that planetary warming is far more advanced than had previously been grasped.

To give you an idea of how much heat the oceans have absorbed: if that heat had instead gone into the atmosphere, the global temperature would be 97 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today. For those who think that there are still 12 years left to change things, the question posed by Wanless seems painfully apt: How do we remove all the heat that’s already been absorbed by the oceans?

Two weeks after that Nature article came out, a study in Scientific Reports warned that the extinction of animal and plant species due to climate change could lead to a “domino effect” that might, in the end, annihilate life on the planet. It suggested that organisms will die out at increasingly rapid rates because they depend on other species that are also on their way out. It’s a process the study calls “co-extinction.” According to its authors, a five to six degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures might be enough to annihilate most of Earth’s living creatures.

To put this in perspective: just a two degree rise will leave dozens of the world’s coastal mega-cities flooded, thanks primarily to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, as well as the thermal expansion of the oceans as they warm. There will be 32 times as many heat waves in India and nearly half a billion more people will suffer water scarcity. At three degrees, southern Europe will be in permanent drought and the area burned annually by wildfires in the US will sextuple. These impacts, it’s worth noting, may already be baked into the system, even if every country that signed the Paris climate accord were to fully honor its commitments, which most of them are not currently doing.

At four degrees, global grain yields could drop by half, most likely resulting in annual worldwide food crises (along with far more war, general conflict and migration than at present).

The International Energy Agency has already shown that maintaining our current fossil-fueled economic system would virtually guarantee a six-degree rise in the Earth’s temperature before 2050. To add insult to injury, a 2017 analysis from oil giants BP and Shell indicated that they expected the planet to be five degrees warmer by mid-century.

In late 2013, I wrote a piece for TomDispatch titled “Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice?” Even then, it was already clear enough that we were indeed heading off that cliff. More than five years later, a sober reading of the latest climate change science indicates that we are now genuinely in free fall.

The question is no longer whether or not we are going to fail, but how are we going to comport ourselves in the era of failure?

First 2–Day Melt in the Arctic

January 11th to 12th saw the first 2–day melt or compaction of sea ice in the 2019 Arctic. That is, the sea ice extent reported by JAXA was down two days in a row for the first time this year, be it primarily due to wind or actual melting of ice. Arguably, every single day of the year contains a combination of melt and freeze, or compaction and expansion, so clearly, we’re talking about a net melt.

January 11–12 saw extent decline for 2 days for the first time, and the 77,000 km² decrease was enough to take 2019 from 9th to 4th lowest.

Meanwhile, the much more important data for sea ice volume is being sabotaged by a scientist strike in the USA. Climate scientists refuse to do their job — nothing new there per se — so we’re left with rather old data, with November 2018 being the latest data point. For the zoomed out 10–year chart, that’s not so important anyway:

Sea ice volume showing an irreversible, post–Tipping Point collapse towards zero Arctic sea ice. Arguably, this is the most significant graph in all of human history, revealing both the lies of the UN and the larger Climate Change Community and the now inevitable fate of Global Industrial Civilisation.

Please help share this most important graph revealing persistent decline and a climate Tipping Point several decades back in our past: The true Tipping Point for ice is not at a future date or a yet to materialise future temperature threshold, it already happened.

Should you need more walk–through / explanation of the chart, I’ve got that in these fine videos: youtu.be/hXjbUY-Nt3Q | youtu.be/w8Hh5f68lhA | youtu.be/4DhzKbx21S8

Q: Where’s the data source for this plot?
A: Here: http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/data/
Q: How can anyone make a decadal average graph?
A: Easy. Use a computer. Add all the ice for the latest 3650 days, divide by that number of days.
Q: Why would I even do that?
A: Let’s say you want to know how much ice we have in the latest decade compared to the decades before that.

First Melt in the Arctic?

January 11th saw the first melt or compaction of sea ice in the 2019 Arctic. That is, the sea ice extent reported by JAXA was down for the first time this year, be it primarily due to wind or actual melting of ice. Arguably, every single day of the year contains a combination of melt and freeze, or compaction and expansion, so clearly, we’re talking about a net melt.

January 11th saw extent decline for the first time, and the 21,000 km² decrease was enough to take 2019 from 9th to 6th lowest.

Meanwhile, the much more important data for sea ice volume is being sabotaged by a scientist strike in the USA. Climate scientists refuse to do their job — nothing new there per se — so we’re left with rather old data, with November 2018 being the latest data point. For the zoomed out 10–year chart, that’s not so important anyway:

Sea ice volume showing an irreversible, post–Tipping Point collapse towards zero Arctic sea ice. Arguably, this is the most significant graph in all of human history, revealing both the lies of the UN and the larger Climate Change Community and the now inevitable fate of Global Industrial Civilisation.

Please help share this most important graph revealing persistent decline and a climate Tipping Point several decades back in our past: The true Tipping Point for ice is not at a future date or a yet to materialise future temperature threshold, it already happened.

Should you need more walk–through / explanation of the chart, I’ve got that in these fine videos: youtu.be/hXjbUY-Nt3Q | youtu.be/w8Hh5f68lhA | youtu.be/4DhzKbx21S8

Q: Where’s the data source for this plot?
A: Here: http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/data/
Q: How can anyone make a decadal average graph?
A: Easy. Use a computer. Add all the ice for the latest 3650 days, divide by that number of days.
Q: Why would I even do that?
A: Let’s say you want to know how much ice we have in the latest decade compared to the decades before that.

Year-To-Date Average Sea Ice Extent

With 2018 just ending at a 2nd lowest average for the year for Arctic sea ice extent, now we have the first week of 2019 in the database, and the new year–to–date average is at 12.55 million km², which is only the 8th lowest on record. But remember these are still early days, literally, and a 7–day average, while more reliable than a daily figure, is a lot less indicative of where the year is going than, say, a 30–day or 100–day average. This could go either way!

Q: Where’s the data source for this plot?
A: Here: https://ads.nipr.ac.jp/vishop/#/extent
Q: How can anyone make a year-to-date average graph?
A: Easy. Use a computer. Add all the ice for every day so far this year, divide by the number of days.
Q: Why would I even do that?
A: Let’s say you want to know how much ice we have in 2019 compared to other years.

2018 Arctic Sea Ice Final Scores

JAXA confirms 2018 Arctic Sea Ice extent came in 2nd lowest on record. JAXA is the Japanese NASA, or Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and their sea ice cover measurement service is widely considered to be the most accurate on the planet for Arctic sea ice extent. Their lowest year on record was 2016. Because of 2018’s 2nd place, 2017 is now 3rd lowest.

PIOMAS is the best source for Arctic sea ice volume, but they generally don’t believe in setting the record straight for annual sea ice amounts. They also do not believe sea ice could be important enough to merit daily publishing of figures, so limiting their releases to 12 times a year, compared to JAXA’s 300–325. PIOMAS waits around for about a week every new year before they publish the December figures for the previous year, so for now, where 2018 ranked for sea ice volume is anyone’s guess. PIOMAS has also yet to publish their very first annual volume graph, because they don’t think sea ice is very important, as an indicator of abrupt global warming, or otherwise.

2016–18 Top 3 Lowest Years for Sea Ice Extent

The 3 latest years were also the 3 lowest years in the Arctic for sea ice extent. Extent is the general area covered with 15 to 100% on the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas.

Graph shows an average of the 3 latest years compared to the 2006–2015 baseline for Arctic sea ice extent. We see that winters are failing to build the same sea ice cover as in the decade prior to 2016. Spring melt, however, is slower in the last 3 than in the decade before. High summer melt is faster in 2016–18, early autumn melt is slower. And then the greatest anomaly compared to the baseline is October, which in recent years has failed to refreeze to the tune of almost a million km². The delayed ice–cover refreeze catches up in the first half of November.

2018 Average Sea Ice Volume: 5th Lowest

2018 sea ice volume was 5th lowest on record. After 2017, 2012, 2016 & 2011.

Q: Where’s the data source for this plot?
A: Here: http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/data/
Q: How can anyone make a year-to-date average graph?
A: Easy. Use a computer. Add all the ice for every day so far this year, divide by the number of days.
Q: Why would I even do that?
A: Let’s say you want to know how much ice we have in 2018 compared to other years.