Late October Arctic

We’re into the last two weeks of October, and there’s no snow here in Greenland’s capital Nuuk. For sure, the data from the satellites & models says there’s 0% chance of a 2020 Blue Ocean Event, but what does that really mean?

We’re gonna look into that, and unpack it.

So, obviously, a zero % chance of a 2020 BOE means a BOE won’t occur in 2020, yet at the same time, it doesn’t mean other big stuff can’t happen in 2020. Like, scary stuff, stuff you wished you’d never even heard about.

For instance, if you ask any meteorologist, he’ll say that 2016 was the warmest year on record, globally. He won’t say some YEAR was hottest because on one DAY some extreme location like Death Valley set a new heat record. So, for sea ice, while 2016 was the lowest year for extent, and 2017 for volume, this 2020 may very well end up being the lowest ever for sea ice extent. We’ll just have to wait till December 31st so we have a full YEAR of data.

Another thing is, you have this record low area of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, and these crazy waves and high temperatures, with winter storms coming and going, so before you know it the entire thing could go up in flames due to submerged permafrost, that is under these crazy warm, stormy and shallow seas, north of Siberia. This is the stuff that makes Russian scientists break down in tears during press conferences.

So yeah, that could happen.

That could still happen in 2020, ice-free Arctic or not.

Because October–November is the warmest slash waviest time of the year for those shallow bodies of water in the Arctic. A handful of wonderful social media personas will watch and inform you when or if that happens, if you don’t notice it all by yourself in a very different and perhaps much scarier way.

So, back to the least scary scenario from the above, the race is now on for 2020 (the challenger) to smash 2016 (current record holder) for lowest sea ice extent on record. In fact, 2020 leads the heat by quite a big margin already, measured as year-to-date average:

Per November 22nd, 2020 leads current record holder 2016 by a significant margin. After 327 days, ice is added for each date and divided by 327 (definition of a Year To Date average).

2016 in its day of course beat 2012 in almost complete silence, as all the Mainstream Media had decided that it failed in September and that the shop closes in September, and some newspapers even ‘celebrated’ the fact 2016 refroze quickly for the first week or so after its minimum, while ignoring the larger development, which was the record slow regrowth in September–October–November. Covering that fact would of course be less ‘positive’ or ‘optimistic’, so let’s not waste any ‘journalistic’ resources on that!

Beating 2016, which itself beat 2012 four years ago, first of all would make it more difficult for the media and polluticians to ignore the fact 2012 now is only 6th lowest, when they’d rather keep cherry-picking the month of September and pretend nothing much happens in the Arctic these days. Don’t believe me? Read a newspaper, listen to a pollutician.

Returning to the Shock & Awe horror of the Ice–Free Arctic, the 0% chance of a Blue Ocean Event in 2020 of course doesn’t mean it cannot happen in the coming years, or even the very next year. Those who follow the sea ice closely will tell you that May is too early to tell, June is slightly better, but a high or low risk of BOE at the end of summer can’t really be assessed before July, and then preferably the latter half of the month.

Anyone telling you otherwise is just bluffing, really.

You can say that the 2020s are more likely than the 2030s to feature the FIRST BOE in our species’ history on the Planet. But you can’t really tell during spring whether the CURRENT year will see such an event or not. This is because the system is complex, with lots of inherent natural variability. A constantly warming Arctic Ocean will increase the probability every year, but the sea itself is only one out of a multitude of factors in the Arctic.

The True Terror of the Ice–Free Arctic state is really the full-summer ice-free Arctic, like July–October below 1 million km², or even more extreme, June–November below that mark. This opens the Arctic Ocean to insolation, which is just sunshine, entering into the dark sea surface and heating it tremendously, and of course more and more for every year it persists. In fact, it’s hard to imagine it not continuing year on year, when it first starts happening. While the very first year of ice-free-for-a-week-or-so will do little except raise a few eyebrows and make it more difficult to campaign for other issues, which seems to be the main human focus, for polluticians and activists alike, the Summer–Half Ice–Free will allegedly be equivalent to adding 1 trillion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, or set us back 25 years in our struggle to limit emissions to ‘safe’ levels. In fact, when reading the fine-print of that study, you’ll see that a possible change to Arctic cloud formation in such a hotter world, will triple that, so 3 trillion tons of CO2 or 75 years. If you factor in methane as well, because the submerged permafrost cannot thrive in such a hot Arctic Ocean, a conservative estimate will land you at a 100 years lost in that already optimistic struggle, as laid out in this merry YouTube video from the beach here in South Central Nuuk:

One Hundred Years?

Although that’s merely what might happen going forward. Wanna look at what already HAS happened? I didn’t think so. But here goes: The Ice Tipping Point, in the literature often referred to as a cascade of intertwined climate tipping points, or Climate Dominos, to be more visual, causing all of this we see happening every day, isn’t something in the future that we must try to avoid, but rather something even your parents were too young to remember. If you want to be kind, you could say 1970, but honestly it’s more like 1950. So let’s do the math, shall we:

When we get to an Ice–Free Arctic in the Summer Half of the year, the ‘friendly’ math says we’ll be 50 + 25 = 75 years too late for the Ice Tipping Point. The honest math says we’re 70 + 100 = 170 years late. Which one do you choose? As if you had a vote.

What’s more, assuming we somehow won’t get an Ice–Free Arctic in the Summer Half of the year anytime soon, the math still puts us 50 years after the fact, in the ‘friendly’ scenario, or rather 70 years too late to avoid the major Ice Tipping Point.

Do you ever get the feeling you’re being lied to on climate? I know exactly what you mean.

Finally, I know I didn’t get this from Derrick Jensen, and I assume he didn’t get it from me. For me it was a case of reinforced message because I already thought it myself before reading it again from someone else. I’m too lazy to look up his exact words, so this is from my memory only.

Even a thing like Knowledge (of specific climate facts) is no longer binary. Meaning there’s Knowledge, and then there’s Knowledge, but then even Knowledge. This translates to ‘knowing’ a certain tragic fact about our climate in your head, versus knowing it in your heart, versus KNOWING it at a cellular level, making it hard to even get out of bed in the morning. Climate Reality is just full of such things that are no longer binary, and that just get worse and worse every time you reflect upon them.

Derrick Jensen (live from my memory).

And still, it is ONLY industrial civilisation that’s 100% doomed, life not so much!