At 50% the Chance of a 2020 Blue Ocean Event is now a Coin Toss

State of the Arctic per August 25th, 2020. Maps & data from the University of Hamburg, Germany.

There is now an equal chance of 2020 seeing an ice-free Arctic and it not happening this year, according to this particular data-sourced setup. There’s a 50% chance of having an ice-free Arctic or Blue Ocean Event, defined by scientists as less than a million square km of sea ice.

There are several reasons for the bar being set at 1 million instead of zero km2 of ice, perhaps first of them being that glaciers also calve a lot due to the same heat trend that is melting ice out at sea. So because no one expects glaciers to stop running into the fjords in a record warm year in the Arctic, we also do not expect there to be absolutely no ice in the sea. So zero is totally impractical and won’t happen, because of the way ice at sea is regarded as sea ice, regardless of it having originated in, say, the Greenland high mountains.

Method: Using a calculated figure for ‘required sea ice area loss’ for each day remaining of the melt season, every day is then characterised as either a ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ melt day. The figure will fluctuate up and down through the summer, based on what is needed for the current day and the days that are left. If we are very far from succeeding with a 2020 BOE, the figure may get very high, and it will be near impossible to meet the requirements and actually have a BOE. You’ll perhaps see this in September.

For the past 30 days, 15 days may be ‘Good melt days’ and 15 ‘Bad’, which is the case right now. Then 15/30 translates into a 50% chance, basically because half the days were capable of meeting the requirement for that particular day.

The initial chance or percentage is calculated just using sea ice area. However, twice a month there are figures published from the PIOMAS sea ice volume project, and so some of the ‘Bad melt day’ judgements (meaning ‘not enough melt’) may be overturned, if more recently available sea ice volume figures from that same day, suggest that the melt was actually quite good (based on a similar calculation for required sea ice volume loss).

As you no doubt understand by now, the setup laid out above is an informal, practical way of getting at a reasonable chance/risk figure for the current running melt season, and its sole reason for being is simply that it’s Better Than Nothing. It’s based on some real data, and the chance WILL go up or down depending on how the melt season develops. Its memory is only 30 days, so soon all the melt from June & July will be out of sight, out of mind, and the chance percentage will be entirely based on Aug / Sep events.

Lastly, only the main central sea of the Arctic Ocean is used in this setup, basically because late September sea ice is overwhelmingly (90% +) located there in high melt record low years. When Earth has its first BOE in 3 million years, that figure may be even higher than 95%, and so clearly, this particular sea (Central Arctic Basin, or CAB) is the one to watch.

Right now we’re at 50% chance of a 2020 BOE, so it is a coin toss. That means it’s not unlikely at all, and even though this method or setup is just developed for the current summer melt season alone, I believe it also has some application for the larger debate on when we will see the first Blue Ocean Event in 3 million years. We know the scandalously conservative IPCC — the UN Climate Panel — has been treading the water here, reluctantly leaving its 2007 position of the 2090s for Earth’s first BOE over the past decade via 2050 down to 2035. But their number is more of a literally political number, and worse still: It’s the political number that every nation’s government on Earth can agree on, for something that’s in its very nature a purely scientific question.

It’s kind of like having a totalitarian government decide whether or not it’s raining in the capital city, instead of just opening a door or a window to see what is actually the case.

Sadly, instead of being the allegedly scientific organ that would advise politicians, the entire science part itself is politicised bordering on the absurd, with member states having full veto powers, so that in reality, you’re left with conservative politicians advising conservative politicians.

As a key indicator of the severity and fast pace of global warming, sea ice in general and the arrival of the first sea ice-free late summer in particular, has the potential to overturn these vast political structures of politically directed science, allowing us all to Get Real already, and start preparing for what’s coming our way very soon.

Some of us following the climate and the Arctic have been aware of these faster developments for a number of years, and may not be as shocked as the regular guy when it’s finally crystal clear for all to see with their naked eyes. But even we may be in for quite an emotional ride, because there is a difference between knowing something in your head, and knowing it in your heart. Many of us have even been hoping for the longest time that we were wrong, that we were merely some pessimistic Negative Nancys.

For the Man in the Street, it might mean an abrupt end to all games or sports of any kind, and for young people an equally abrupt end to their education or imagined career. This blog post won’t go into the full picture of a Collapse in the Arctic, but rather guide worried and interested folks to go check out the brilliant social initiative called the Deep Adaption movement, spearheaded by Professor Jem Bendell, which was just recently updated for 2020 here.

Bendell has been connected to the broader XR movement in England, or Extinction Rebellion, which some of you may be familiar with. His work and community building for dealing with all of these massive changes together, is just impressive, and I’ve no qualms with recommending his forums and social circles to anyone feeling the sense of losing the ground beneath their feet, due to something as mundane as snow and ice melting in summer in parts of the Earth that they’ve maybe never even visited: Suddenly we are all together in this!