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Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral 
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 Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic
by Peter Wadhams


Please use this thread to discuss Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral.



Tue Jun 16, 2020 6:38 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
Attachment:
Arctic Sea Ice Volume Death Spiral May 2019.png
Arctic Sea Ice Volume Death Spiral May 2019.png [ 250.95 KiB | Viewed 351 times ]


Here is the death spiral diagram showing the collapse of Arctic Sea Ice volume over forty years from 1979 to May 2019.
Source is https://twitter.com/ahaveland/status/11 ... 33/photo/1

The annual minimum is in September. The diagram illustrates that September ice volume decreased by 75% from about 17,000 cubic kilometres in 1979 to 4188 cubic km in 2019 (using more recent data from source below).

If we take that as a linear trajectory, the ice loss is 320 km3 per year over 40 years, giving a projected zero ice date of 2032. However, the future loss is likely to be faster than linear due to the combined feedback effects of all the different warming factors.

Wadhams' discussion of zero ice by 2020 appears to be based on the trend from the anomalous low year of 2012 when the ice volume was only 3787 km3.

Ice volume data is from http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects ... e-anomaly/

Further detailed analysis is at https://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2019/06 ... -2019.html

https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/sea_ice.html provides ice area data, showing the linear decadal trend reduction increased from 7% in 2002 to 13% over the last few years, but this does not factor in ice volume.


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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
It is quite easy to reproduce this death spiral diagram using Excel, using the radar chart and the data from http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects ... e-anomaly/ This data is kept up to date, now showing July 2020 ice volume of 9305 cubic kilometres.

Wadhams explains in this chapter how the advance of satellite monitoring has enabled more exact measurement. The data involves some assumptions, but these do not affect the inexorable downward trend, which has seen average yearly ice volume fall by nearly half since 1979.

The melodramatic title ‘the Arctic Death Spiral’, reflects the observation that once the summer ice is gone in the next few years it will be very difficult to get it back. A study published this week in Nature Climate Change estimates the likely end date of 2035, based on study of the geological data from the last interglacial.

Wadhams suggests it could be much faster, but as I mentioned this may be based on using shorter trend periods that don’t recognise all the wiggles in the annual data. It is highly possible that the 2035 calculation is conservative.

All this brings up the widely used concept of a tipping point, a threshold which once crossed serves as a point of no return, marking a phase shift into a new hotter climate. Wadhams gives the example of the elastic limit of a metal spring – once it is stretched beyond this limit the spring will never return to its previous coiled up state because the crystalline structure of the metal has changed. He argues that Arctic sea ice has already reached a tipping point because the situation now is that all first year ice is melting, and the remaining multi year ice is reducing steadily.

As field data has become more alarming, Wadhams observes that governments are relying on models that justify a more complacent view. The data in 2015 showed a possible range of dates for the end of summer ice between 2020 and 2040. But Wadhams regularly encountered modellers who argued their theories (ignoring the facts) showed the ice might still be there in the summers to nearly 2100.

Such impossible advice enables governments to ignore the problem. Even the IPCC accepted this complacent model in its 2013 Fifth Assessment Report, using the strategy that Wadhams describes as “consciously ignoring the observational data in favour of accepting models that have already shown themselves to be false.”

For example, the IPCC ignored historical data after 2005 in favour of previously modelled gentler falls in ice volume, and suggested the ice extent would take until 2030 to reach the level that was actually seen in 2012. This “brilliant exercise in legerdemain” produced the perfectly reasonable response from media that we don’t have to do anything about climate change, which Wadhams surmises was its intended purpose, meaning there will be a terrible price to pay.

The IPCC is controlled by governments, many of whom quite like the idea of an ice free Arctic to enable shipping and oil and gas mining, as Mike Pompeo told the Arctic Council last year. Russia is also keen to open more northern trade routes for shipping.

The history of the navigation of the North West Passage from Baffin Bay to Bering Strait tells a tale of intrepid adventure, with Swedish explorer Raoul Amundsen succeeding in 1906 by using a small engine powered herring trawler, always sticking close to shore while the main channels were full of ice. Canadians next traversed the passage in 1942, followed by big icebreakers in the 1950s such as the John Macdonald. Failures led to the expensive decision to build the Trans Alaska Pipeline, since shipping oil was just too hard.


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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
The prospect of an oil tanker disaster or a deep-sea well explosion in the Arctic region, is terrifying. Just one more reason to end reliance on fossil fuels. Wadhams raised the specter in Chap. 5, I believe it was.



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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
DWill wrote:
The prospect of an oil tanker disaster or a deep-sea well explosion in the Arctic region, is terrifying. Just one more reason to end reliance on fossil fuels. Wadhams raised the specter in Chap. 5, I believe it was.


The spectre of a seabed oil blowout is discussed in this chapter, as something that would be enabled by the melting of the ice. To "end reliance on fossil fuels" is too extreme, as renewable energy sources can't be deployed fast enough to prevent severe economic dislocation. But what that means is that firstly fossil fuels should be priced to include their environmental externalities, and secondly, that ramping up carbon removal is an urgent priority.

The Death Spiral looks like great news for shipping and fossil fuels, but this is only a brief calm before the storm. The world has to refreeze the pole as a priority security imperative. Our planet is simply far too fragile and sensitive to allow such insanity to continue.

Since Wadhams wrote this book five years ago, the low oil price has made Arctic oil exploration uneconomic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum ... the_Arctic

https://science.howstuffworks.com/envir ... arctic.htm explains the horizontal drilling process.

In this chapter, Wadhams discusses the history of Arctic oil exploration, which began in shallow waters and gradually moved out to the deeper and harsher environments. Sorting out national jurisdiction in the Arctic is complicated because Eurasia and America have big continental shelves that are connected by the Lomonosov Ridge, which is claimed in part by Russia, Canada and Denmark. Meanwhile drilling proceeds in summer in shallow waters protected by icebreakers. These oil companies and their bought politicians fiercely resist the idea that these reserves should be left in the ground because of their climate danger.

Furthermore, the harsh Arctic conditions mean a spill would be disastrous. A seabed blowout would be even more devastating than BP’s Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, which almost bankrupted BP with costs of $50 billion. In the Arctic, the oil would rise and mix with the sea ice, making an oil sandwich that would create widespread pollution, killing millions of birds, fish and severely degrading the entire ecosystem with widely dispersed oil that will be impossible to remove. The Canadian Government worked all this out in the 1970s by experiments to determine if it should allow arctic drilling. Since then such field experiments have been banned. For now, fracking is a better bet, but with cheerleaders like Pompeo and Putin, the destruction of the Arctic is entirely possible.

An ice free September is likely this decade, followed rapidly by extension of the Blue Arctic period to cover the whole summer, generating drastic global changes.


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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
AUGUST 8, 2020

Canada's last intact ice shelf collapses due to warming
by Seth Borenstein

https://phys.org/news/2020-08-canada-in ... apses.html

Image
This July 2015 photo taken by University of Ottawa glaciology professor Luke Copland shows Canadian Ice Service ice analyst Adrienne White taking a photo of cracks of the Milne Ice Shelf, which just broke apart. The Milne ice shelf was on of the Arctic's few remaining intact ice shelves, but at the end of July 2020 about 43% broke off. Scientists say that without a doubt it's man-made global warming. (Luke Copland via AP)

Much of Canada's remaining intact ice shelf has broken apart into hulking iceberg islands thanks to a hot summer and global warming, scientists said.

Canada's 4,000-year-old Milne Ice Shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island had been the country's last intact ice shelf until the end of July when ice analyst Adrienne White of the Canadian Ice Service noticed that satellite photos showed that about 43% of it had broken off. She said it happened around July 30 or 31.

Two giant icebergs formed along with lots of smaller ones, and they have already started drifting away, White said. The biggest is nearly the size of Manhattan—21 square miles (55 square kilometers) and 7 miles long (11.5 kilometers). They are 230 to 260 feet (70 to 80 meters) thick.

"This is a huge, huge block of ice," White said. "If one of these is moving toward an oil rig, there's nothing you can really do aside from move your oil rig."

The 72-square mile (187 square kilometer) undulating white ice shelf of ridges and troughs dotted with blue meltwater had been larger than the District of Columbia but now is down to 41 square miles (106 square kilometers).

Temperatures from May to early August in the region have been 9 degrees (5 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1980 to 2010 average, University of Ottawa glaciology professor Luke Copland said. This is on top of an Arctic that already had been warming much faster than the rest of globe, with this region warming even faster.

"Without a doubt, it's climate change," Copland said, noting the ice shelf is melting from both hotter air above and warmer water below. "The Milne was very special," he added. "It's an amazingly pretty location."

Ice shelves are hundreds to thousands of years old, thicker than long-term sea ice, but not as big and old as glaciers, Copland said.

Canada used to have a large continuous ice shelf across the northern coast of Ellesmere Island in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, but it has been breaking apart over the last decades because of man-made global warming, White said. By 2005 it was down to six remaining ice shelves but "the Milne was really the last complete ice shelf," she said.

"There aren't very many ice shelves around the Arctic anymore," Copland said. "It seems we've lost pretty much all of them from northern Greenland and the Russian Arctic. There may be a few in a few protected fjords."

Explore further: Huge Antarctic ice block poised to snap off


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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
The romantic legend of the North West Passage presents the adventurous excitement of the exploration of the dangers of the ice over the centuries. Travelling by ship across the northern coast of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific has long been one of the great challenges of world navigation. Yet the present situation is that this romance produces a popular mythology of conquering the elements, when what is needed is to respect nature, understanding that such a mentality of respect is absolutely essential for the future stability of the planetary climate. In turn, a stable climate is the only basis for an ongoing growth of prosperity, in view of the risks of sea level rise and other climate problems. The world economy needs more ice not less.

Unfortunately, this scientific mentality of looking at the planet as a single system conflicts with the immediate interests of a number of powerful commercial companies. One of the most vivid demonstrations of this conflict is seen in how Russian companies have welcomed the opening of the Northern Passage, the Eurasian equivalent of the North West Passage, for trade.

To understand this problem, please read this new article, https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/indus ... record-low It explains that the volume of shipping this year has taken advantage of the unprecedented Arctic heatwave to increase the tonnage of trade through the northern route between Europe and Asia, with 50 ships there at time of writing, and easy early passage through the formerly most difficult and icy sections. As a result, the companies and governments who profit from this new expanded trade route have no desire to see the Arctic freeze again, as the ice is only a hindrance to their commerce. In general, such rich parties have far more political power than scientists, with the result that claims by governments to be concerned about climate change are pure hypocrisy, melting away as soon as the economic argument begins.


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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
https://www.nature.com/articles/s43247-020-0001-2

Article, Open Access, Published: 13 August 2020
Dynamic ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet driven by sustained glacier retreat

Quote:
Abstract
The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing mass at accelerated rates in the 21st century, making it the largest single contributor to rising sea levels. Faster flow of outlet glaciers has substantially contributed to this loss, with the cause of speedup, and potential for future change, uncertain. Here we combine more than three decades of remotely sensed observational products of outlet glacier velocity, elevation, and front position changes over the full ice sheet. We compare decadal variability in discharge and calving front position and find that increased glacier discharge was due almost entirely to the retreat of glacier fronts, rather than inland ice sheet processes, with a remarkably consistent speedup of 4–5% per km of retreat across the ice sheet. We show that widespread retreat between 2000 and 2005 resulted in a step-increase in discharge and a switch to a new dynamic state of sustained mass loss that would persist even under a decline in surface melt.


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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
Which is more frightening, the Arctic sea ice death spiral itself, or the opportunity that the phenomenon presents to shipping and the oil industry? How confident can we be that these economic interests won't be able to prevent any effective action by governments to restore the ice that companies see as barriers to their profits?

The only glimmer of hope Wadhams gives is the reluctance, so far, of the oil companies to take on the risk of drilling in the Arctic when they must pay the costs of spills and oil-rig blowouts.

It's ironic that the IPCC promotes a view that climate change deniers are strongly against, yet Wadhams charges the IPCC with a kind of denialism as well. It denies the evidence of scientific observation in favor of modelling that shows us having more time to put our interventions into effect. Wadhams charges the IPCC with rather serious deception and dishonesty, in fact.



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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
DWill wrote:
Which is more frightening, the Arctic sea ice death spiral itself, or the opportunity that the phenomenon presents to shipping and the oil industry?
They are equally frightening – the massive risk to planetary security and stability combined with the inability of the world to recognise and address it.
DWill wrote:
How confident can we be that these economic interests won't be able to prevent any effective action by governments to restore the ice that companies see as barriers to their profits?
Not confident at all, but this problem shows why it is essential that measures to stop climate change have to work within the capitalist market framework. Locking up of areas like the Arctic can be compensated by increased economic opportunities elsewhere. It is simply impossible that the more revolutionary ideas promoted by many climate activists can be implemented, and in any case they would not work. For example, the Green New Deal is a recipe for conflict, consigning climate policy to bleating at the margins, with the result that advocates of Arctic trade and mining face little effective opposition.
DWill wrote:
The only glimmer of hope Wadhams gives is the reluctance, so far, of the oil companies to take on the risk of drilling in the Arctic when they must pay the costs of spills and oil-rig blowouts.
If the oil price goes up that can change quickly. It shows the importance of working out how we can sustain a high energy economy while repairing the climate. That is the point of my suggestion for large scale ocean based algae production. On shipping, if energy becomes very cheap it might be possible to develop methods to build a summer ice canal in the Arctic while preventing melting, although I suspect the better option will remain for shipping to go via Suez and Panama.
DWill wrote:
It's ironic that the IPCC promotes a view that climate change deniers are strongly against, yet Wadhams charges the IPCC with a kind of denialism as well. It denies the evidence of scientific observation in favor of modelling that shows us having more time to put our interventions into effect. Wadhams charges the IPCC with rather serious deception and dishonesty, in fact.
The IPCC finds itself stuck in the middle, developing policies of compromise that satisfy no one. Governments set IPCC policies and terms of reference, and have veto power over documents. The process of “redlining”, whereby governments go through policy documents and mark text they find unacceptable, or the action of Saudi Arabia to prevent formal discussion of the IPCC Report on meeting the 1.5°C report, creates a dilemma for policy makers. A tendency to extreme conservatism (meaning caution not reaction) is produced by the fear that more honest reporting will generate a political backlash. With the Arctic melt, the element of doubt in the rate of melting must have been enough for the authors to be over-cautious in predicting the likely speed. For a scientist who sees the results on the ground like Wadhams, this is highly frustrating, but it takes time for the consensus process to catch up with the research findings.


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Post Re: Ch. 7: The future of Arctic sea ice - the death spiral
Attachment:
Arctic Sea Ice Trend Zero 2016.png
Arctic Sea Ice Trend Zero 2016.png [ 70.13 KiB | Viewed 183 times ]
There is no question that Peter Wadhams was seriously alarmed by the speed of ice loss in 2012. As this chart shows, if the trend over the previous decade up to 2010 had continued, all the September sea ice would have been gone by 2016. It was entirely proper to issue this warning in view of the evidence, as shown in the chart above. There would still have been big chunks of ice in the sea but not enough to prevent a ship from going anywhere in the Arctic Ocean. However, as the chart shows, the ice volume rebounded dramatically by 3000 km3 in 2013-14. It has since kept falling, apart from small increases in 2017 and 2018. 2019 was again close to the 2012 record minimum. If we now continue the trend since 2014, which equals the longer trend since 1992, the zero date will be in the 2030s.

This observation raises important problems in statistical interpretation. The underlying drivers of warming are the rising levels of CO2 and methane, which are generally accepted in climate science to cause acceleration in warming feedbacks. That means the default prediction would be that the rate of Arctic sea ice melt should accelerate, as was seen in the first decade of this millennium. Scientists who study such alarming data have a duty to bring it to public attention.

It may be that the big increase in 2014 was akin to a “dead cat bounce”, that the sudden collapse of sea ice to below 20% of its long term level since 1979 brought unknown factors into play sustaining a residual amount of ice.

We can imagine three scenarios, an accelerated collapse to an ice free Arctic this decade, a continuation of the current trend to zero ice by the 2030s, or some miraculous reversal of the trend so ice hangs around for several more decades, as believed by the IPCC.

A good article was published today at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/ar ... se-debate/ It explains how climate scientists deal with deniers on the one hand and with alarmists on the other. It is clear to me that Professor Wadhams should not be grouped with the crazy alarmists of Extinction Rebellion who are discussed in this article, as his projections were entirely justified based on observed physical trends. Despite this, of course the loopy deniers have tarred him with the alarmist brush, because as the article explains, deniers always prioritise politics over evidence.


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