Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Arctic Circle Assembly 2014: Wadhams - No September Arctic Sea Ice in 2020 and More

The Arctic Circle Assembly met October 31 to November 2, 2014 in Reykjavik, Iceland. The event enabled three days of meetings and presentations on all things "Arctic." See:

The Alaskan Dispatch reporter summarized 10 key points he felt important - two are shared here:

1. "The Big Thaw Has Only Just Begun. Everywhere scientists gathered here there was talk of feedback loops of one sort or another. Melting permafrost is releasing methane gas, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, to fuel more Arctic warming. Melting sea ice is exposing more ocean to the sun to capture more solar radiation to fuel more Arctic warming. Warming Arctic water is evaporating to form more water vapor, yet another greenhouse gas, to fuel Arctic warming. All of this is now underway."

2. The Arctic Ocean will likely have a sea ice free month by 2020: British physicist Peter Wadhams observed, there seems no natural mechanism for turning the thawing processes off. There seemed a broad consensus that even if there are efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions - the Arctic will continue warming for the foreseeable future. "Wadhams is predicting the end of the polar ice cap by the summer of 2020." Alaskan Dispatch:

Wadhams' comments about his prediction are recorded in a prior Alaskan Dispatch article: 

"No models here," Peter Wadhams, professor of applied mathematics and theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge in England, told the Arctic Circle Assembly on Sunday. "This is data."

Wadhams has access to data not only on the extent of ice covering the Arctic, but on the thickness of that ice. The latter comes from submarines that have been beneath the ice collecting measurements every year since 1979. 

This data shows ice volume "is accelerating downward," Wadhams said. "There doesn't seem to be anything to stop it from going down to zero.

"By 2020, one would expect the summer sea ice to disappear. By summer, we mean September. ... (but) not many years after, the neighboring months would also become ice-free."

Alaskan Dispatch:

So what data is Wadhams using? It seems he is referring to the PIOMAS data, which monitors sea ice volume and thickness in the Arctic. See the Polar Science Center:

The analysis of the data trends does point to the potential for an "ice free" month in 2020, as demonstrated by PIOMAS projections by Wipenus. The first graphic is the September Sea Ice projection based upon several statistical trend models:

Even with factoring in the bounce in September sea ice volume in Sept 2014, the statistical fits project an ice free September by 2019-2020.

The statistical trending by month reveals that other months are not far behind, and may be "ice free" by 2020 as well:

The problem is, we are not sure what impacts a sea ice free month will have on global climate, but if it does heat the Arctic Ocean in areas of sea bed methane, from the Kara to the ESS, then an acceleration of methane may not be far behind.

Another session included Igor Semiletov, and dealt with Arctic methane issues. Unfortunately, we will have to wait to hear more on his comments.

The NSIDC October Sea Ice report is out, and with October Arctic sea ice confirmed to be the sixth lowest on record - sustaining a 6.9% decline per decade since 1979.



1 comment:

  1. Wadhams is predicting the end of the polar ice cap by the summer of 2020." Alaskan Dispatch: Foto Andørja