Sometime, in the next few weeks, there is the possibility of a major arctic sea ice melting event which could make 2014 a record-breaking year. Already large pockets of open ocean called polynyas have started to form within the ice-covered arctic sea.
The truth about Arctic sea ice coverage is not exactly what I generally picture in my mind. An area is said to be covered in Arctic sea ice if it is at least 15% ice covered. This means that much of the area covered by arctic sea ice could be as much as 85% open water, with just chunks floating around. In other words a really big storm could appear to be a major melting event by pushing all the sea ice from one part of the ocean to another.
Whatever the major melting event actually is there has been one in the June-July time frame for most of the record-breaking years. The major melt event for the 2012 all-time record occurred earlier in June, but the one for the 2007 record that stood until 2012 occurred later in July. Any day now! Isn’t it exciting!
The Arctic ice is currently tracking at slightly less than the 2007 year trace, and parallel to, but significantly higher than, the 2012 trace.
In March I predicted the maximum sea ice extent about a week before it happened. There was a rapid expansion event that took 2014’s maximum out of the running for a record low. I caution anyone from mistaking any of my guesses for predictions with any discernible intrinsic certainty.
In the Antarctic the amount of sea ice is increasing rapidly. Antarctic sea ice is very different from Arctic sea ice. The Antarctic data are not as pretty as their Arctic cousins. First of all, the sea ice almost completely melts off in the summer. Secondly, its rapid increase may not be a good thing.
In the Antarctic we want the ice to stay on land; by “want” I mean that melting the land ice in the Antarctic could raise the level of the oceans by many feet causing major breakdowns in social structure, wars, pestilence, biblical-level-mad-god plagues, and other “do not want” stuff. If it is in the water it could mean that it has come off the land.
A recent study suggested that some of the major Antarctic glaciers were oozing off the land into the sea at incredible rates. This is not good. To image the movement of glaciers into the Antarctic seas I picture squeezing toothpaste into water. The toothpaste eventually disperses into the water, and the level of the water rises in proportion to the amount of toothpaste squeezed into it. This, however, is an unsatisfactory metaphor as realizing it physically will result in additional dishes, and wasted toothpaste. Only a very foolish person would try it in a bathtub as it makes a significant mess, and one has to waste lots of toothpaste to get the water to rise at all; although if the tub water is really warm and soapy the toothpaste disperses quickly.
Not only does ice melt quicker in July, but paint also dies quicker. Here in the Utah high desert a freshly painted wall can go from glossy-wet to matt in minutes. I’ve got a project planned that involves knocking holes in walls and power tools. After I am almost done I will repaint, call AYD and AOD into the room with me, and I will explain that the drying paint we are watching is a metaphor for an ecological disaster destroying the fabric of humankind’s culture on this planet. Choosing one’s metaphors carefully can save a lot of scrubbing.
“Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then 'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow'r to accompt?” -Macbeth Act 5, scene 1