Showing posts with label Seymour Laxon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Seymour Laxon. Show all posts

Monday, September 17, 2012

UK MET Office keeps downplaying significance of events in the Arctic

One of the most respected datasets on Arctic sea ice volume is produced by the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS, Zhang and Rothrock, 2003) developed at the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington. The graph below shows PIOMAS data for annual minimum Arctic sea ice volume (black dots) with an exponential trend added (in red).

The Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG), in a February 12, 2012, written submission to the U.K.  Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), pointed at the graph:
 . . summer volume [is] less than 30% of its value 20 years ago. The trend in volume is such that if one extrapolates the observed rate forward in time, by following an exponential trend line, one obtains a September near-disappearance of the ice by 2015.

The MET Office, in a March 8, 2012, written submission:
Climate models project the Arctic will become ice-free during summer at some point this century – though likely not before 2040. . . In September 2007, sea ice extent reached an all-time low, raising the question of whether the sea ice is likely to melt more quickly than has been projected. There is, however, no evidence to support claims that this represents an exponential acceleration in the decline. Indeed, modelling evidence suggests that Arctic sea ice loss would be broadly reversible if the underlying warming were reversed.

Professor Slingo, Chief Scientist, MET Office, elaborated on this in a March 14, 2012, oral submission:
Q114 Chair: . . when the Arctic will be ice free in summer. . .
Professor Slingo: . . Our own model would say between 2040 and 2060 . .

Q115 Chair: You would rule out an icefree summer by as early as 2015, for example?
Professor Slingo: Yes we would . . .

Q117 Chair: . . In terms of the modelling that you are using, does that cover . . . volume of ice?
Professor Slingo: We run quite a sophisticated sea ice model. . . and we are looking forward now to the new measurements from CryoSat-2.

Q118 Chair: . . evidence that we had suggested that the volume of ice had already declined by 75%, and that further decreases may cause an immediate collapse of ice cover.
Professor Slingo: I wouldn’t [give credence to that]. We don’t know what the thickness of ice is across the whole Arctic with any confidence. . . I probably would [rule it out altogether] . . . to say we have lost 75% of the volume is inconsistent with our assessments.

Professor Laxon, director of Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, where CryoSat-2 data is being analysed, in an August 24, 2012, written submission:
. . [analysis of] CryoSat-2 and ICESat data . . suggest a decrease in ice volume over the period 2003–12 at least as large as that simulated by PIOMAS, and possibly higher.

The Met Office, in an August 31, 2012, supplementary written submission:
The changes in observed sea-ice volume only extends [sic] over a few years and cannot in isolation be interpreted as representative of a long term trend. . . . The extrapolation of short-term trends in ice volume is not a reliable way to predict when the Arctic will be seasonally ice free as negative feedbacks and changing weather patterns may slow the rate of ice loss. . . it is worth noting that climate models can show a period of recovery in ice volume following periods of large ice volume loss.

For some curious reason, some people seek to downplay the significance of the events taking place in the Arctic, as well as the risk of methane releases. Here's more on that.

AMEG added, in its above February 12, 2012 written submission:
The catastrophic risk of global warming leading to very large emissions of methane from large Arctic carbon pools, especially from subsea methane hydrate, is documented in the 2007 IPCC assessment.

By collaborating with others to protect the Arctic, a climate of cooperation can be engendered to protect the whole planet for the benefit of ourselves and future generations.

Professor Lenton, in a Feb 21, 2012, oral submission:
. . the Hadley Centre [has] permafrost in the latest state-of-the-art model . . . their best estimate is we may get 0.1°C of extra warming at the end of the century from the loss of methane from the northern high latitudes.

Professor Slingo, in the above March 14, 2012, oral submission:
Q126 Dr Whitehead:. . what sort of modelling factors may be accounted for by the possibility of tipping points or feedback attached to these? For example, the argument that follows very substantially from the extent of continental shelf that there is within the Arctic Basin and, therefore, the particular relationship that warming on that relatively shallow sea has on trapped methane-for example, the emergence of methane plumes in that continental shelf, apparently in quite an anomalous way-leading possibly to the idea that there may be either tipping points there or catastrophic feedback mechanisms there, which could then have other effects on things, such as more stabilised caps like the Greenland ice cap and so on. I rapidly collated all the possible catastrophe theories, but I mean how are those factored into the modelling process?

Professor Slingo: . . we are not looking at catastrophic releases of methane. . . We don’t see catastrophic change in the Arctic that would lead to catastrophic releases of methane, or very large changes in the thermohaline circulation, within the next century. Our understanding of the various feedbacks-and it is a very complex system-both through observations and modelling, suggests that we won’t see those catastrophic changes, in terms of the physical system.

Note that the above are excerpts, to make things easier to read. For the full text, click on the respective links.

Below an update of the image, produced earlier this month, with recent volume data for 2012 added. On September 2, 2012, PIOMAS recorded a volume of 3407 cubic km of ice, i.e. very close to what the exponential line projected. The volume is likely to continue to fall further before reaching its final 2012 minimum.
The image below shows Arctic sea ice extent (total area of at least 15% ice concentration) for the last 7 years, compared to the average 1972-2011, as calculated by the Polar View team at the University of Bremen, Germany.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


The image below shows how much the older, thicker sea ice has declined over the years. This decline doesn't become apparent when focusing on sea ice extent; volume measurements are needed to reveal this decline.

Old versus new ice in Arctic: The maps show the median age of sea ice in March 1985 (left) and March 2011 (right).
Overall, the proportion of old ice has decreased. By March 2011, ice over 4 years old accounts for less than
10% of the Arctic ice cover. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder.
The screenshot below shows GHRSST volume measurements from National Centre for Ocean Forecasting website.

The European Space Agency's CryoSat promises to deliver an even clearer picture. One of the scientists analyzing the CryoSat data, Dr Seymour Laxon, said in April 2012 that CryoSat's volume estimate is very similar to that of PIOMAS, the model developed at the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington.

In a recent interview, Dr Laxon said that if the current trend continues, the Arctic could be ice-free at the height of summer by the end of the decade.

John Nissen, Chair of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG), comments: "Dr Laxon failed to mention the data on sea ice thickness that has been collected over many years by sea ice expert Professor Peter Wadhams of the University of Cambridge, who now considers that the Arctic Ocean will be seasonally free of sea ice most probably by September 2016. PIOMAS sea ice volume data suggest that a collapse in sea ice area could occur even sooner, as discussed on the AMEG blog posting."