Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An Open Letter re: Occupy Detroit

I want to thank Yusef for responding and sharing some time with me last night. Good conversation.

As was noted last night, coming together to break bread, eye to eye, is real; you can’t hide, pretend, be lost in your own stuff or you can, should, and will be called on it. This highlights some of the difficulty in dealing with this Occupy Detroit process here in Detroit in reaching out to those who have organized it until now: it’s difficult to get a response.

Two men talking together is not going to solve the problems inherent in thousands of people attempting to come together to do good work, nor necessarily resolve anything in the moment. But it does create conditions for honest communication and perhaps a deeper understanding, partly arising out of give and take in the moment where intellectual and emotional responses interact immediately and the two modes are melded in time. E-mail and written communications do not allow for this.

Racism/~isms In Context
I do not oppose not using “occupy,” but I take a long, long view on all issues. None of what we do is any longer relevant outside of a very long term view. I do not mean to seem dismissive of the concerns others have on any given issue in any given debate; I very simply see many of the issues that divide us, intentionally or not, as being made irrelevant by larger forces over time. The climate and energy issues are so far advanced that designing a survivable future is now in a critical response phase. We don’t have time to solve food, race, and economic issues as separate issues. We don’t have time to solve them as integrated issues. We only have time to design a different future. The beauty of this is a sustainable future cannot co-exist with racism, classism, ageism or any of the other issues we choose to separate ourselves by. These fault lines are largely irrelevant in the sense that a fisherman on a beach working to repair his net even as a tsunami approaches has chosen to focus on the wrong thing. You deal with the emergency first, survival second because there is no survival if you fail to get through the emergency.

We are in an emergency.

Climate is changing so much faster than many seem to understand, and fewer still understand the implications of that. We will be living in chaos long before we reach any given milestone because it is the extremes that get you. Long before the average temperature is 3C higher than in 1850, ecosystems will be destroyed by the 20 days or more of 100F temperatures of an otherwise livable summer, e.g. Ask Texas. The emergency is already here and mitigating it is a multi-decade process, at best. If the methane deposits in the Arctic have already begun a self-propagating decline, we may have already lost the battle – and there are signs that is the case.

The emergency is already here. The scope of that emergency means it is all hands to the fire hoses and bucket brigades; nothing else is relevant.

Racism is not irrelevant in and of itself. It is relevant to how we got where we are; it is relevant to who we are; it is relevant to our daily lives and our immediate futures. But it is not relevant as a primary tool to address the emergency. We cannot undo racism in time frames that equal surviving the emergency. The same can be said for any other divisive issue. It’s a bit like how our vision works: sometimes to see something most clearly we have to look slightly to the side. Focusing on racism, or economic justice, food justice, or environmental justice, etc., is a focus that makes it more difficult to see the full extent of the emergency.

It is this longer term perspective as to what should be dominating our conversations in order to address the emergency that is behind everything I say and do. It is this I attempted to share with Yusef last night.

The Use of Occupy
As a former teacher of English as a Foreign Language, I can boil teaching language down to one simple observation: context is everything. I viscerally respond to the banishment of words because of a context that is not always applicable. Is it a fight we need to have? If in Detroit the term is so offensive, then I guess it should be changed, but we have tongues, teeth, a larynx and lungs to communicate with. Can the offensiveness of the term not be acknowledged, sensitivity to that be offered, yet still retain the word? Are not the offended under some responsibility to understand the use in context, and choose not to be offended when no offense is offered? Is this sort of conversation not what communication is supposed to allow? Is tolerance not the responsibility of all? Frankly, why should I not be offended if a person takes offense when I have not offered any and forces me to abandon language that is otherwise appropriate?

Our actions are not words. Both sides of any argument about connotation have legitimate stances: The offended consider the user of a given word to be intolerant, the user of a word not meant to give offense finds those offended intolerant. Perhaps the tie goes to the former. I mean only to sketch my intellectual ambivalence to the objection to words. I am frustrated that communication cannot allow us to defuse such emotive booby traps.

But how does one not accede to a people whose ancestors have been enslaved, who are the most affected by the current economic slavery? This is obviously a deeper issue than my distaste for not accepting words in their context or the desire to keep a visual/verbal consistency with all the other “occupy” processes evolving. Perhaps in Detroit the time needed to defuse this particular word bomb is a waste of time. Perhaps this needs to be made clear to the GA of Occupy Detroit. There are alternatives. Unified Detroit in Solidarity with Occupy Wall St., for example.

If the GA ultimately chooses not to change it (though given the process of consensus that is a near impossibility… more on that later), I wonder at what is lost if what is now called Occupy Detroit is not joined by the people I know to be doing elegant and important work in this city. If the naming cannot be resolved, what then? If this nascent “movement” should become a vehicle for global mobilization of the oppressed, and Detroit sits out, what does that mean? What are the implications? I come back to the emergency. A survivable future is a global solution. It is a systemic solution and if any given part of the system does not achieve sustainability, ultimately the entire system fails.

Ultimately, this kind of discussion is keeping us from focusing on the emergency and at some point we will have to prioritize or let the world burn and us along with it.

I am frustrated by the opposition to Occupy Detroit for one very simple reason, that to me is obvious, but what I believe to be obvious is perhaps my own ignorance: The consensus decision-making process, as I understand it, makes the dissenter the most powerful person in the room so long as their dissent is legitimate. It is the decision-making process most likely to address dissent because of the ability to block any action given legitimate grounds. This is why I fail to understand why those of you who would seek to rename or refocus Occupy Detroit choose non-participation and a separate process.  You are abandoning your power in the process.

Using Consensus to Address Your Concerns

It is very important to the success of consensus to understand the process and have training in the use of it. At the GA meeting it was clear many did not understand the process. E.g., anyone could have chose to apply the “block” to insist on a fuller conversation about locations. Nobody did, but there was complaint about the decision being “rammed” through when, in fact, it had not been. Nobody blocked, so it passed. The process functioned as designed. Jeff Debruyn left and criticized later. He failed to understand his power to change what was happening lay in participation, not disengagement.

The GA didn’t fail, those who abandoned the process did. Fail is too strong, really, since it seems it was a lack of knowledge of the process that resulted in non-use of its conventions. In fact, those who organized the GA failed, if anyone did, when they didn’t train the GA attendees sufficiently in process. This supports the critique that Occupy Detroit may be moving too fast. Had they made training their first agenda item and taken time to walk through at least the basics of the process perhaps none would have left feeling the process failed.

I hope the Detroit Facilitation guild will engage and believe steps are being taken to make it so. A link: Consensus Decision-making

* The input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision acceptable to all. Through consensus, we are not only working to achieve better solutions, but also to promote the growth of community and trust.

* With consensus people can and should work through differences and reach a mutually satisfactory position. It is possible for one person's insights or strongly held beliefs to sway the whole group. No ideas are lost, each member's input is valued as part of the solution.

* Consensus does not mean that everyone thinks that the decision made is necessarily the best one possible, or even that they are sure it will work. What it does mean is that in coming to that decision, no one felt that her/his position on the matter was misunderstood or that it wasn't given a proper hearing.

* For consensus to be a positive experience, it is best if the group has 1) common values, 2) some skill in group process and conflict resolution, or a commitment to let these be facilitated, 3) commitment and responsibility to the group by its members and 4) sufficient time for everyone to participate in the process.

* During discussion a proposal for resolution is put forward. It is amended and modified through more discussion, or withdrawn if it seems to be a dead end. During this discussion period it is important to articulate differences clearly. It is the responsibility of those who are having trouble with a proposal to put forth alternative suggestions.

* The fundamental right of consensus is for all people to be able to express themselves in their own words and of their own will. The fundamental responsibility of consensus is to assure others of their right to speak and be heard.

* If a decision has been reached, or is on the verge of being reached that you cannot support, there are several ways to express your objections:
Non-support ("I don't see the need for this, but I'll go along.")

Reservations ('I think this may be a mistake but I can live with it.")

Standing aside ("I personally can't do this, but I won't stop others from doing it. ")

Blocking ("I cannot support this or allow the group to support this. It is immoral." If a final decision violates someone's fundamental moral values they are obligated to block consensus.)

Withdrawing from the group. Obviously, if many people express non-support or reservations or stand aside or leave the group, it may not be a viable decision even if no one directly blocks it. This is what is known as a "lukewarm" consensus and it is just as desirable as a lukewarm beer or a lukewarm bath.

The key to re-naming Occupy Detroit is to be there. By not being there you are choosing the last option above, which is also the least desirable. Their use of “occupy” is not your use. They may not see the need to change it because they may have little or no sense as to whether this is the objection of a few or the objection of many. Those objecting to the name and speaking from outside the process have very little opportunity to affect change within the group. But by being in the group, you become one of those who must be heard. Your objection immediately achieves validity by your mere presence for you are a co-equal leader of the group. If outside, you have little means to effectively shape the group dynamic.

More so, there is a name committee. If you are on that committee and can speak persuasively to your concerns, this issue may be resolved before even taken to the GA as it is likely a clear, preferably unanimous, suggestion from the committee will eventually be adopted by the GA.

A note on the statement by Yusef and Jenny: Declarations and statements are not really how consensus is done. Much as Yusef and I meeting face-to-face made discussion of all this more immediate, more real, more meaningful and more effective, such is life in consensus. Rather than presenting a statement, you sit in proximity, look in people’s eyes and speak sincerely and personally of your concerns. You have to be there.

This is one time when exerting pressure from the outside is the least likely option to succeed.

Occupy Wall St. as a Two-pronged Attack – What About Detroit’s issues?

There is no agenda because everything is on the agenda.

It is vital to building solidarity between those currently critiquing from outside the process and those within the process that those outside understand Occupy Wall St., et al., is intentionally devoid of specific issues. This does not mean it cannot be successful or that it is not valid. It is the means by which all voices may join and be heard. If you set an agenda, those whose concerns are not on that agenda have no reason to participate. The “movement” is about activating and motivating, it is about inclusion, it is about coming together in one circle to address all issues rather than some people’s issues.

When you ask Occupy Wall St., et al., to specify, you are robbing it of its essence and its power. It is a consensus model, not a debate, not an election, not a win/lose. Within the group and within consensus, present your issue, ask that it be addressed, find the means to address it. There is no need to ask for an agenda, your presence puts your issue on the agenda.

There is a committee to address specific actions. Perhaps it is the means to bring specific issues to the fore. Perhaps those meeting Sunday have an opportunity to form a Detroit-specific committee to ensure local issues get supported by the GA. Whatever the means, there is nothing about the structure of Occupy Wall St., et al., that in any way prevents or interferes with addressing location-specific issues. Bring it to the group, ask for support, and you will likely get actions implemented with the support and assistance of people who otherwise would have been ignorant of the issue you raise.

Make your issue everyone’s issue: be there. Thread actions and activities already progressing in Detroit together via this process. In fact, this sort of process is exactly what Detroit has needed. We talk all the time about silos; we see self-serving choices; we compete for dollars, attention and people. I thought the People’s Movement Assembly might bring the silos together, but so far have not seen this materialize. If “Whateverthename Detroit” and the PMA merge into one process, then all other processes merge into that, we potentially have a true Detroit People’s Movement. Directionality doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the various silos become one silo in which the Food Justice Task Force, e.g., becomes a committee within the whole. The same for the Environmental Justice work, Peace Zones for Life… all of it. Bring ALL voices into one process, prioritize together, implement together.

Imagine such a model supplanting the traditional governmental structure of the city! No mayor, no city council, just neighbors talking to neighbors and sub-groups taking on challenges. Imagine each neighborhood being a committee within a city-wide whole? And that committee having sub-committees?

Mmm…mm…mm. Tasty!

I see sustainability breaking out all over!

There are some difficulties in applying consensus large-scale… but will leave that to those more expert than I.

Occupy Wall St., et al., Doesn’t Really Get it, Either

Above I stated the process intentionally has no agenda which means theoretically sustainability is on the agenda. The problem with that is it relegates sustainability to co-equal status with all other issues. Ecosystem services, however are not an issue, they are the source of life. It is vital ecosystem services become the lense through which all other issues must be viewed; they are the litmus test for whether an action is taken or not. If a proposal to address racism is not sustainable, it is not a solution to racism. If a solution to economic inequality is not sustainable (e.g., let’s build all the homeless a  new house), it’s not a solution.

Whatever movement it is that ultimately brings us all together must first and foremost set as it’s primary objective the preservation of the ecosystem. Failure to do so is an existential threat to all biota of the planet. Link: The Law  of the Rights of Mother Earth
Law of the Rights of Mother Earth (Spanish: Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra)… "gives the 'Mother Earth' the character of collective subject of public interest, to ensure their rights". The law defines Mother Earth as follows: "the dynamic living system made ​​up of indivisible community of all living systems and living beings, interrelated, interdependent and complementary, which share a common destiny. Mother Earth is considered sacred by the cosmovisions of the indigenous originary campesino nations and peoples."

I argue it is the preservation of the ecosystem that is *the* all-unifying issue. I also argue that no sustainable system can co-exist with any of the ~isms we work to attenuate. Thus, designing sustainably inherently and automatically eliminates all of them. Consensus decision-making acts as a means to attenuate selfishness, divisiveness, self-interest, racism, classism, etc. We simply design them all away, solving all problems simultaneously.

I will explore the mechanics of this in another post.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Climate Reality Project 24 Hour Live Stream

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Current State of the Arctic Sea Ice: Arctic Sea Ice Predictions Update II

My Original Predictions

Arctic Sea Ice Extent = 4.2m km2  +/- 0.2m km2
Arctic Sea Ice Area = 2.95m km2 +/- 120k km2
Arctic Sea ice Volume = 5,500 km3 +/-500 km3
Numbers (approximate) @ 8/22:
Arctic Sea Ice Extent = 5.2m km2
Arctic Sea Ice Area = 3.269m km2
Arctic Sea Ice Volume = 6,500 km3
Current Numbers (approximate)
Arctic Sea Ice Extent = 4.5m km2
Arctic Sea Ice Area = 2.994m km2
Arctic Sea Ice Volume = 6,400 - 6,500 km3

Sea Ice Extent
The final 2007 minimum extent compared to the present make it seem doubtful a new extent record will be reached unless we have unusual heat and ideal weather for melt over the next two weeks. From Cryosphere Today:
The NSIDC Extent graph shows '11 tracking '09 very closely with current extent roughly 4.5 - 4.6m sq. km.with 2 - 300k to go to match '07.
If melt continues down to where we see more compacted ice in the images above, a rough estimate of the areas of compact ice in the '11 images correspond well to the '07 extent, so we'll be looking at a near-record or new record, if so.

Melt Factors
The Arctic Oscillation (AO) is mildly positive
and expected to be mildly positive or mildly negative till the middle of the month which should help reduce ice loss. Current sea ice drift patterns seem to encourage ice loss and a possible reduction in extent. The large area of loose ice looks to be moving toward the center of the pack; given how loose it is, it could reduce to 1/4 its current area by rough estimate. The yellow box indicates an area of very little ice, also, appearing to be a place where sea ice goes to die this season. There also is a flow from both of Greenland toward the Fram Strait which would indicate significant transport out of the Arctic Ocean. These patterns can change quickly and may only be significant if they persist.

Air temps where the ice pack is sitting are hovering around 0C. Since sea ice is slightly colder than freezing, there is probably still a net melting effect from air temps. Sea surface temperatures look to be about ice temperature, but warm around the ice. I suspect also under it yet since the water around the ice pack is reading warmer than the ice, but in the area of the pack is reading about ice temp. Sounds like a sampling problem?
Sea Ice Area
This measure is more important than extent for assessing current state of the ice, but is more difficult to measure. Current analyses put ice area at or near the '07 record. The melt season could another 2 - 2.5 weeks. Even with favorable-to-neutral conditions for low melt rates, a new record here is almost a guarantee.
According to Cryosphere Today, ice area is already below 3 m sq km.
Ice area measures the total surface area of the ice excluding areas of water between floes. Given much of the ice around the edges of the main pack is very thinly distributed, and the ice is very thin, we should see enough melt to set a new record. less than 10k sq km /day will take area below 2.9m sq. km.

Sea Ice Volume
Sea ice volume is further from a record than area and extent are...

and this image from Sept 14, 2010 supports this.

PIOMAS does show ice volume already tracking below the '07 minimum.

The PIOMAS models should at least comparable to themselves year-to-year, but there are doubts about the new model as illustrated from comments at RealClimate's thread on Arctic Sea Ice.
I have reservations about the volume numbers and ice thickness models. The piomas version 2 model that was introduced this spring shows considerably higher thickness values. The navy, for example ( reports two to three meter thick ice all around the north pole. Russian and American science vessels recently met at the pole and reported actual thickness of a meter or less.
Neven has info on a report from the Polar Stern as it reached the North Pole.
The first ice thickness measurements confirm this: in 2011 as well as in 2007 most of the ice has an ice thickness of 0.9 m.
A recent post from the polar Stern (in German) speaks of the condition of the ice as being very poor.  They are having a very hard time finding ice thick and intact enough to do their research activities.

The graph below from that post illustrates the thinness of the ice. Of course, anyone who has seen footage of Arctic ice, particularly from below, knows it is anything but one large flat ice floe. The ice gets squished together and stacks up in piles and ridges. What is interesting is that old footage used to show large blocks of multi-meter ice that was contiguous. Now images and film I see only shows jumbled up ice, as if the only thick ice exists because of ice motion and not freezing. The spikiness in this graph encourages me to consider this as a serious possibility.
Also, that spikiness is reflected in the images we see of the "cottage cheese" pattern of ice I have discussed earlier in which individual floes are surrounded by what can only be thinner ice.

Unfortunately, the MODIS images have been too cloudy to get a good look at the ice for a while. This radar image gives a fair sense of the ice and with more detail and accuracy than the Cryosphere Today images.

In fairness to PIOMAS, new models take time to calibrate and refine. If the changes they made this year are an improvement, I still think it is certain they are overestimating ice volume for now. Still, lower than 2010? Perhaps not. We didn't have a strong melt this summer.

It's a mixed bag. A probable new record in Ice Area, a slightly possible new record in Ice Extent and a new 2nd lowest Ice Volume. I do think the volume numbers are not  highly reliable and the first-had reports do indicate a likely new Ice Volume record, but that would also mean the numbers for 2010 volume were too low or that 2011 numbers are far too high. We may have to wait a year or two to find out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Current State of the Arctic Sea Ice: Arctic Sea Ice Predictions Update

Post Content
Arctic Sea Ice Extent, Arctic Sea Ice Area, Arctic Sea Ice Volume, the Northwest Passage and Northeast Passage.

My Original Predictions
Arctic Sea Ice Extent = 4.2m km2  +/- 0.2m km2
Arctic Sea Ice Area = 2.95m km2 +/- 120k km2
Arctic Sea ice Volume = 5,500 km3 +/-500 km3
Current numbers (approximate):
Arctic Sea Ice Extent = 5.2m km2
Arctic Sea Ice Area = 3.269
Arctic Sea Ice Volume = 6,600 km2
Arctic Sea Ice Extent
The green line is roughly the minimum 2007 Arctic Sea Ice Extent; the yellow line indicates a rough guess for minimum 2011 Arctic Sea Ice Extent based on current areas of very low extent sea ice; and the orange and pink hatched areas are the areas of difference between the two years.
Images from UIUC.
This has been an unusual melt season in terms of extent. The area and the volume are tracking at record or near-record levels, yet the ice is very spread out. Obviously this indicates the ice is quite thin relative to historic, or even recent, conditions. Why is it so spread out?
  • Thinner ice is more prone to breaking up and once a chunk breaks off it will obviously drift.
  • Without getting too technical, let's say there haven't been strong or persistent weather patterns that moved the ice in any one direction, leaving it to drift into available space.
A brief Dipole Anomaly (2007 conditions) with a high set up in the area of Alaska then dissipated. Had this persisted we should have seen more ice transported out of the Fram Strait and the ice pack compact under a consistent wind regime toward From the Bering Strai/Sea region toward the Fram Strait.

As it stands, my prediction for Extent, just slightly more than for 2007, seems to have been low, and I can't remember why since I wasn't expecting a new record. There is an indication of another Dipole Anomaly setting up which potentially could accelerate movement of ice and ice loss via wind direction and higher temperatures. If a strong Dipole does develop, a new record is well within the range of the possible. The strong caveat comes from how spread out the ice is at this time.

Another consideration is the Arctic Oscillation (AO) which is generally predicted to begin moving toward neutral and possibly go positive by September. A positive AO is associated with cooler temperatures in the Arctic indicating slower, less or no melt is possible.Still, given there are as many as three more weeks of melt season left, we could see a new extent record.

Judge for yourself the state of the ice (Images taken from here.):
Image I
Image II

Image III

Arctic Sea Ice Area
Arctic Sea Ice Area from BPIOMAS.
This is a little more of a statistical analysis. I have looked at current conditions and the past two years and extrapolated. The black bars are the difference in area for this approximate date this season and the prior two compared to the long term mean. The red lines the difference in means for each year at the minimum for each year. As you can see, the anomaly difference can be slight as in 2009 or fairly large for 2010. The blue and green lines on the graph show what the ice area minimum will be if the anomaly right now remains the same, relatively, at the time of the minimum and what it will be if it is somewhere between '09 and '10.

The melt season, like pretty much all natural phenomena, is not linear. Over the past weeks this has been amply illustrated. We've seen Arctic Sea Ice Area decline slow, speed up and even seen the area increase. This pattern is probably more likely as the season comes to an end and the Arctic cools over all. Cooler days may see ice growth while warmer days will see it decline. The ice season also has no clear rhyme or reason; it could end in ten, twenty or thirty days.We are still looking likely to see a new record for ASI Area. This measurement tries to determine the actual area of ice, not ice and open water between floes as extent does, so it is a little less dependent on winds and currents for short term changes, though obviously weather and temperatures do drive changes.

I won't be surprised if we hit the low end of my error bar (2.83m km2) if conditions favor melt. As with extent, whether the Dipole Anomaly develops or the AO goes positive will make a difference, and potentially a large difference.

Arctic Sea Ice Volume
I have tried to mark estimate volume if melt slows (blue line, 5.4 cu. km) or continues the current trend (4.9 cu. km.) Again, it looks like my estimate may have been high, though within my range of error. The areas of low ice extent around the fringes of the main pack ice will be the key here. If we lose most of that and are left with a core of thicker ice as in 2007 we might hit a new volume record, but 2010 volume was extremely low at @4.5 cu. km.

Volume is the most important estimate, in my opinion, because it reflects all the forces affecting the Arctic Sea Ice: irradiance, air temperatures, sea temperatures, weather. It gives an excellent sense of the condition of the ice when there is divergence between extent and volume, for example, because you know the ice must be thinner if extent is higher than the record, yet volume is lower.

Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage is filled with much at this point. Those white specks are the ice floes under the clod cover. The scale here is about 20 km./inch, so there is plenty of room to maneuver, though ice obviously should be treated with great caution.

 This image is from the 16th. You can see much of the really small mushy ice has melted away.

I'm not expecting the Parry Channel to clear completely, but it is clearly navigable. The southern route would be safer, but is longer by a good 300 miles.

Northeast Passage
Yellow lines outline clouds, blue lines ice.

This image from the 16th shows the ice more clearly. The ice has thinned considerably compared to the above image.

The key point here is that the both the Northwest and Northeast Passages are opening every year, and earlier each year. This illustrates the effect of thin sea ice. It takes very little energy and bad weather for the ice at the outer reaches of the Arctic to melt out. This year it was extremely early. The Northeast Passage was officially open for ice breaker-guided shipping on June 30th, and open, by my estimate, for traffic soon after that.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Current State of the Arctic Sea Ice: Arctic Sea Ice Predictions

Updated 8/12/11
3:18 pm ET
UPDATE 8/12/11
Despite the negative AO and high pressure, the Arctic has been pretty cloudy (aren't high pressure systems supposed to be mostly cloud-free?) which is probably helping keep melt moderated, though the rate of melt is typically lower in August than the preceding two months.

The sea ice continues to be spread out like a fan all along the western half of the ice pack. The wind patterns seem to be almost opposite of 2007, which is good, because I think if we had 2007 weather we'd be setting massive new records this season. As per this original post, I'm almost certain we'll see new lows in area and volume. I assume being spread out enhances the melt process due to more ice edge being exposed and warming of the sea water underneath from the insolation. The area marked in red is about the same area, +/-, as 2007.
Arctic Sea Ice from MODIS via The red line is the main ice edge; blue is weak "cottage cheese" ice; black is relatively sparse; and yellow is very spread out ice floes.
The ice area and extent have both resumed a more precipitous drop than during the latter half of July. ASI Extent is falling at a slower rate than in spring, but is falling and looks to intersect 2007 extent if trends hold steady, which they shouldn't, of course. The AO may be turning positive or less negative by the end of the month which should slow melt considerably. Still, there are likely five more weeks of melt season remaining. New records are looking more likely.
ASI Area is heading for two million square km less than the reference period.
ASI Volume appears to be/have been setting new records every day this year.

Here's a another nice graph.

My comments posted at RealClimate prior to July 25th seem to still be accurate:
A. If weather is strongly supportive of ice loss, a 100% chance of new minimum in volume, and 95% chance of new minimum area and 90% chance of new minimum extent.
With a negative AO since I said that - though that's not really strongly negative, more like generally or moderately negative - we've seen significant changes in the ice. I'm certain now there we will see a new ice volume low, and think area is edging upward from 95%. I am a little more doubtful of a new extent low unless the wind direction changes significantly and squashes all the ice together - of course, that would also enhance transport out of the Arctic and into the north Atlantic/Greenland Sea, so not a good thing for the health of the ASI - volume and area are better indicators of future conditions, anyway, so a non-record low extent won't mean much.
I'm amazed at how spread out the ice is, though. This just goes to show that predicting ASI is a lot like picking football games for your favorite team, at least for me: picking individual games, particularly against the spread, is hard, but it's relatively easy to pick the overall season.

The original post is after the jump.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Current State of the Arctic Sea Ice: Northwest Passage OPEN

Updated 8/13/2011
11:23 PM

UPDATE 7: 8/13/11
The southern route of the Northwest Passage is wide open. The first image is a close-up showing the blue open water; the second, due to the clouds, is an infrared image showing the entire NWP. The parry Channel is clearing out enough to be called unambiguously open, too, but given the clods, we'll wait a bit. It has become very navigable, so far as I can tell.

UPDATE 8/13: The image below is roughly outlined by the yellow box above and shows the southern route almost completely clear of ice.

IR image:

UPDATE 6: 8/10/11
The Parry Channel is NAVIGABLE.

The southern route is just gettin' more opener. This image is from 8/7/11.

UPDATE 5 8/4/11
Northwest Passage unambiguously OPEN

UPDATE 4 7/31/11
I'm learning to love the MODIS images as I figure out how to navigate the website. This is a blow-up of a 250m/pixel image from MODIS. I've added a scale estimated using Google Earth for perspective on how much open water there is. The caution is that there is also ice that doesn't show up at this resolution, so interpret as you will.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Current State of the Arctic Sea Ice: Northeast Passage OPEN

Updated 7/28
Northeast Passage Open
It had looked through the clouds as if the ice might be encroaching on the shoreline, but the passage looks as open as ever.

July 27 image.

The Northeast Passage is open as of July 27, 2011.
After about a week of being open, but not strictly clear and open water with virtually no ice, but passable, the Northeast Passage is unequivocally open. The last area of coastal sea ice along the Russian coastline has cleared out but for a few wisps of ice, likely due to storms over the area the last couple of days. You can see the two previous threads and images here and here and the source of the image above here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Large Ice Shelf Breaks Free Off Eastern Greenland

Updated 7/30/11

Huge chunk of the ice shelf breaks off in the area of Bjornegletscher in the Fram Strait area of the Greenland Sea we've been watching to assess sea ice transport out of the Arctic Ocean.

UPDATE: Here's a close-up from the DMI website:

These two chunks of ice are about 80 mi. x 50 mi. total. Yesterday it looked like this:
The total area including the piece that had already broken maybe... 8,000 sq miles, very roughly estimated. I don't yet know if that is a permanent or seasonal ice shelf, so I will update when I know if this is a Big Deal or not.

UPDATE: Fun to watch, but it looks like the shelf is seasonal, at least in recent years.

UPDATE: Hard to see through the clouds. Breaking up. Drifting northeast. The Fram Strait has some interesting currents.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Current State of the Arctic Sea Ice - A Layman's Perspective **Update**

Updated NEP 7/25, NWP 7/24

Note: RealClimate has a very informative open thread on Arctic Sea Ice that is very much worth your time. There are some excellent comments and great links.  

Northeast Passage
UPDATE: Replaced the image with an annotated version; added link to a depth chart for the East Siberian Sea.

Finally, a nearly clear view of the last ice blocking the NEP. (Click for larger image.)
Based on the depth chart found here, it seems hugging the coastline is not a viable option for any large vessels with greater than between 1 - 3 fathoms' draft. This means we can consider the open water open only to vessels with very shallow drafts. All others must go through the ice, but given the 20 mile resolution of this image, that seems realistic, particularly with icebreakers on standby, as would be the case. I wish I had access to someone who navigates the Arctic to see if my thinking is realistic or B.S.

Northwest Passage
UPDATE 7/24 (Scroll down for earlier NWP post.)
It was looking more and more like the southern route of the NWP would open before the northern route, but today it's looking more like a horse race. If you click on the image for a higher resolution you can see significant cracking and deterioration of the ice is occurring in both the main channel and the southern route. The quality of the ice in the southern route appears to be lower than in the northern route. The East-West portion of the southern route is about 350 miles further south than the northern route, so this is not surprising. Passages through the Northwest Passage long ago sometimes had to use the southern route to complete the trip, in fact. If memory serves, the first documented passage of the NWP was through the southern route.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tracking Arctic Sea Ice Loss via the Fram Strait

Updated/Edited 7/01/11

NOTE: I corrected the title; you may need to update your bookmark.

Most recent:
Tracking the Fram Strait sea ice is proving. Closer to the coast of Greenland the ice is moving northward, further  east it is moving southwest and where the two meet apparently anything can happen. Additionally, the floes change in size and shape rapidly at times, so from day to day it's a bit of now you see it, now you don't. It's been very cloudy since the 27th of July with the result being I've lost  track of, or still can't see because of the clouds, almost all the floes I'd numbered. Cryosphere Today has a 42 day loop I like. Their high color loop is here.

The Fram Strait is second only to ice melt in the loss of ice from the Arctic Ocean. In terms of old, thick multi-year ice, it plays a vital role. Ice is lost via the Fram Strait because ocean water flows basically from the Pacific through the Arctic and then out into the Atlantic. This is simplified, but essentially correct.

The Strait is the deepest point through which sea ice can escape into the Atlantic. Looking at an image of the Fram Strait and not knowing the ice you see there in the melt season is moving, not standing still, you would think the ice there hardly melts in the summer. The reality is, it's a conveyor belt of sea ice flowing out of the Arctic Ocean.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Current State of the Arctic Sea Ice - A Layman's Analysis

Updated 7/9/11

We've had warnings for several years now that the Arctic Sea ice is melting away at a rate that is truly frightening. Multiple lines of evidence support there is cause for concern. They include the general fact of the dynamics of climate change that the Arctic will warm faster than the rest of the planet, a scenario in which the Arctic is ice-free by 2016 +/- 3 years, the finding that most sea ice melt is from the bottom up because more water from the Pacific and Atlantic is getting into the Arctic Ocean than previously understood (and into fjords and under ice shelves adding to Greenland and Antarctic melt), observations of melting permafrost across the Arctic for a long period of time, the 2007 report of expansion of thermokarst lakes by a factor of three over just a few years and the resulting increase in methane emissions from them, the discovery of plumes of methane bubbling out of the Arctic Ocean floor along the Siberian Arctic continental shelf, an ice assessment aboard a ship that did direct observations that found what was believed to be heavy pack ice was ice that they could steam through at regular speed , and the expectation that the sea ice melt back would have an effect up to 1,000 miles inland.

Any one of these issues is a serious problem, but all of them happening at the same time is a signal that the Arctic is  destabilizing on a massive scale. Readers unfamiliar with the climate science should note, for example, that the break down of methane clathrates on the sea floor was not expected to begin for a century at least. Just a few percent of these clathrates being released into the atmosphere can give a boost to warming that may leave us powerless to arrest the process. We are playing Russian Roulette with civilization in allowing the Russian Arctic clathrates to dissolve into the oceans and the atmosphere.

I've been feeling all season we are going to have a large drop off in ice volume this year and the season so far is backing that up. The sea ice has been growing thinner, and falling in total volume for five or six years without exception. Even as ice extent, how spread out the ice is, seemed to "recover" after 2007, the actual amount of ice has kept falling. This means the ice has been getting thinner and thinner with less and less old ice - thick ice - remaining each year. The old, thick ice is key to avoiding an ice-free Arctic Ocean. It acts as a sort of anchor for new ice each year and reduces the amount of solar insolation by keeping some of the water covered so the sun's energy is reflected back out to space. With less and less of this ice, more and more of the open water is exposed each summer, leading to even more warming of the ocean and the atmosphere as heat is exchanged between them directly, and more so by the transformation of water to ice. There is a large pulse of heat out of the oceans and into the atmosphere each Fall as the sea ice forms. This warm air coming out of the warmed sea water, and combining with the warmer water, is affecting the formation of sea ice causing it to form later than usual, thus having less time to thicken, making it more vulnerable to melting the following summer. As Mark Serreze has stated, a death spiral.

My pessimism this year is based on all the points raised earlier, but key are the findings that the ice was in such poor condition when directly observed; the steady reduction year over year of total ice volume, which indicates the sea water is warmer than expected since 2/3 of ice melt is from below rather than above; the very large losses of old, thick ice; and the very late growth of sea ice last Fall. Some areas of the Arctic and areas of Canada did not cover with ice until December when they would usually be covered with ice by the end of November. The late growth was eventually reflected in a new record low total ice extent in the winter. The ice extent has been, and remains, below the record lows for most of the winter, spring and summer, as reflected in the following graph.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent from the NSIDC. The current extent is just below the extreme lows of 2007. Barring a shift to cold, calm weather for the rest of the melt season, we appear to be headed to a new record low extent, and almost certainly a new record low of total ice volume a new record low of old, thick ice. It's important to note the extent is 3 or 4 standard deviations from the baseline. in terms of the Bell Curve, this is well out on the tail. Statistically, this is a very large deviation, i.e. very abnormal. 
The opening of the Northwest and Northeast passages give us a simple proxy for the state of the Arctic Sea Ice. That they are open at all is a large anomaly, that both have been open in recent years is a huge deviation from normal conditions. They are opening for a longer period of time each year. Last summer they were open long enough for two different ships on different expeditions to circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean. This year, I expect a new record with both opening this month, and likely by the middle of the month. 

An important regional effect comes via the Arctic Oscillation, which in its negative phase tends to disperse cold air to the lower latitudes and brings warmer air into the Arctic. The AO is currently in a negative phase, which may be enhancing the current melt. The nice thing for me? Where I live, we get a fairly direct effect from the AO, which is likely keeping temps from being hot. In fact, I casually track the weather patterns and they seem to have a near-perfect fit to the AO here. We're warm right now, but not hot. I'd rather be hot and have a cooler Arctic, though. And nothing lasts forever. When the AO goes positive, it's going to get very warm.

The Arctic Oscillation Index from the NOAA.
The following images show the western end of the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Archipelago. All the broken up ice and cracks you see in the channel have occurred in about the last week, so break-up seems to be picking up speed. The first image shows the sea ice as it had been, roughly, for weeks. It had slowly been breaking off small chunks and backing away from the open ocean. That process accelerated suddenly after the 27th of June which coincides with the beginning of a steep move into the negative AO, as you can see above. UPDATE: I read somewhere today, probably on Neven's site, that the AO is going more strongly negative for the immediate future with a strong high over the central Arctic Ocean. I would expect this to exacerbate the sea ice melt. July is commonly the month of greatest melt.
Western end of the Northwest Passage 6/27/11
 In the image from 6/29, the area of breakup has nearly doubled. Cloud cover prevents us from seeing the condition of the ice further down the channel, but it likely had visible cracks indicating where the next breakups were going to be.
Western end of the Northwest Passage 6/29/11
 You can see the area has again nearly doubled just one day later. There are cracks further back which you can see between the obvious last large crack and the thin passage in the upper left of the photo.
As we will see, the breakup continues along those lines.
Western end of the Northwest Passage 6/30/11
Here there is little change as wind and/or currents appear to have pushed the ice to the south, closing the cracks a bit. One of the difficulties in predicting sea ice is that it is inherently unstable and capricious. Winds and currents regularly push the entire Arctic ice floe one direction then another. Thus, it is entirely possible the NWP and NEP could open and close repeatedly during the summer, and be open or closed at different times.
Western end of the Northwest Passage 7/01/11
 In the next image we see that the ice appears to be stable - those cracks still haven't opened - but in fact, new cracks beyond the narrow passage at the top have developed and foreshadow significant breakup to come.
Western end of the Northwest Passage 7/02/11
Not much change here....
Western end of the Northwest Passage 7/03/11
but then it all comes apart. I suspect that the breakup will accelerate once the elbow has been turned and the NWP will be opening up not long after. Depending on the weather, of course. Remember, however, the ice is very thin and vulnerable.
Western end of the Northwest Passage 7/04/11

We have to look at the other end of the passage, also. The first image below is the eastern end of the NWP on 6/30. The ice had been stable in that general area for weeks. There are several islands in the channel at this point, and it is where the channel opens up from the narrower passage between here and the open sea further east. I believe the islands played a role in keeping this ice locked in place, but once the ice disintegrates beyond the islands the pace may increase. Note the areas of grayish ice. Those are areas where the ice has already begun to break free and where future breakup can be expected.

Eastern end of the NWP 6/30.
 Here we can see the breakup beginning with the little peninsula and some ice to the left of the channel breaking up. Again, note the gray areas.
Eastern end of the NWP 7/2.
 Here we see significant cracks forming left and further up the channel in preparation for disintegration.
Eastern end of the NWP 7/3.
 And here we now see cracks all across the channel roughly along a line drawn from the corner of the island on the right and upward and over to the islands on the left. I think we can expect significant break up over the next week or two. Perhaps the interplay of the breakups at both ends of the channel will accelerate both.
Eastern end of the NWP 7/4.
UPDATE: The area is showing signs of rapid breakdown just a day later:

The following two images show the full length of the channel. (NOTE: the channel is only part of the NWP.)

NWP along the Canadian Archipelago 6/26.
NWP along the Canadian Archipelago 7/2.
As stated earlier, I consider the NW and NE Passages to be proxies for the Arctic Sea Ice overall. One reason for this is that the oldest sea ice is supposed to be along the Canadian Archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, yet, this passage is opening every year. I'd think the narrow passages would encourage retention of sea ice since it should be difficult for it to flush out. Perhaps this assumption is wrong and the channel acts to accelerate water flow through it. Also, once the ice melted out several years ago, most of the old ice would be gone from the channel with little or no old ice floating around to help refill the channel leaving it vulnerable in subsequent years. 

UPDATE: The Northeast Passage ice is showing rapid mass and extent loss, as is much of the Arctic Sea Ice the last couple days. Here's an image from July 8th:
It's looking very much like a race to see whether the NW or NE will open first, but right now it looks like the NEP has a good lead over the NWP.

EDIT: Looks like the supposition of old ice being flushed out was correct:
This image shows ice is not static. Any ice that survives the summer becomes multi-year, thicker ice. The key to rebuilding Arctic Sea Ice is for that to happen year after year. At this point, we  are losing too much ice each summer, and because we are losing so much, it moves about more than it used to allowing more old ice to find its way out of the Arctic Ocean or adrift where it will more easily melt. Hat tip to Neven via Tenney.
Perhaps the heat retained by the islands or water flowing off of them plays a role, too. Whatever the case, since it first opened up, it has continued to open each year and I see no reason why it would not continue to do so.

Consistent with this, we have seen new lows in ice volume nearly every year, and 2007 - 2010 have been the four or five lowest years on record for volume and extent since tracking began with satellites in the late '70's. With the continued thinning year after year, the huge loss of old, thick ice, the late freeze last fall/winter, the record ice extent lows over the entire cold season and up to today, and the nearly open NW and NE Passages now, I have a very hard time not seeing a new record low for both extent and volume.

Here is a view of the entire Arctic Ocean, with annotations.

Arctic Sea Ice on 7/3/11. Some areas are obscured by clouds, but are considered open (by me) based on previous observations. Some areas of "open" water contain ice, but not enough to prevent navigation, imo. The NWP and NEP are roughly 70% and 80% open, respectively.
I'll be very surprised if both passages are not open by the end of the month, and see a 50/50 chance they will be open in the next two weeks. At minimum, all the ice should be broken up, even if not flushed out, and may be navigable. (The resolution on these images doesn't give a clear idea of space between ice floes/icebergs.)

UPDATE:  The ice bound up along the Alaskan/Canadian coast has moved offshore, opening the passage. This leaves, at least for the moment, only the ice in the Canadian Archipelago between an open and closed Northwest Passage.

The images above were taken from here. It is an interactive image you navigate like Google Earth. you can zoom in and out and drag the image around. You can also double-click anywhere to zoom and center the image at the same time. These images have the highest resolution I have found. Learning to tell clouds from ice takes a little attention in the beginning. Because it is not radar, you can't see areas covered by clouds. I encourage you to explore the sea ice to see for yourself the desperate condition it is in.