Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Record Heat Record Flooding

You do not have to search very far this year to find the extremes in the weather patterns. We just experienced the all-time record rains and flooding in September here in the upper Midwest. 10 1/2 inches of rain in the autumn is unheard of and it is causing havoc and chaos with evacuations, road closures and extensive farm damage throughout the region.

But it is not just here. Check out what happened in Russia this summer for instance, or maybe the little flooding situation in Pakistan and one begins to see the picture. 14 countries around the world experienced all-time record temperatures for the year.

Closer to home again in the USA, Los Angeles finds itself in the middle of the hottest weather ever recorded. According to the LA Times, "The National Weather Service's thermometer for downtown Los Angeles headed into uncharted territory at 12:15 p.m. Monday, reaching 113 degrees for the first time since records began being kept in 1877."

Can anyone really doubt that the weather patterns are changing? Really skeptics out there, what say ye these days?

Not so fast!

According to the NSIDC the Arctic ice conditions starting degrading and melting again extending the melt season even further. Scientists are collecting data and making observations currently and will post their findings soon. Stay tuned for more....

Monday, September 20, 2010

Arctic Ice reaches maximum melt.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) the pack ice in the Arctic Ocean has reached its maximum melt for the summer season and has now started refreezing. It is another record year and three out of the last four years have seen the most melting ever recorded.

"This is only the third time in the satellite record that ice extent has fallen below 5 million square kilometers (1.93 million square miles), and all those occurrences have been within the past four years. The minimum for 2009 was 5.10 million square kilometers (1.97 million square miles), fourth lowest in the satellite record.

Despite a late start to the melt season, the ice extent declined rapidly thereafter, with record daily average ice loss rates for the Arctic as a whole for May and June. Assuming that we have indeed reached the seasonal minimum extent, 2010 would have the shortest melt season in the satellite record, spanning 163 days between the seasonal maximum and minimum ice extents." NSIDC

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Circumnavigate the North Pole?

The Northwest and Northeast Passages around the North Pole including the entire Arctic Ocean are wide open for the first time and a couple vessels are trying to take advantage of the extensive melting to complete these passages.

End of summer approaches for Arctic sea ice - From the Nat. Snow and Ice Data Center

Arctic sea ice generally reaches its annual minimum extent in mid-September. This August, ice extent was the second lowest in the satellite record, after 2007. On September 3, ice extent dropped below the seasonal minimum for 2009 to become the third lowest in the satellite record.

The Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route are largely free of ice, allowing the potential for a circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean. At least two expeditions are attempting this feat, the Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland and the Peter I yacht from Russia.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Year Ago

A year ago we on Ocean Watch rolled through Bellot Strait and into ice-free water on our way to complete the Northwest Passage. As of today the passage is completely open, although not the Bellot Strait route this year. The traditional Amundsen route north south through Peel Sound is allowing boats traversing the passage through from both directions as this ice chart shows.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Northwest Passage

Hello All,

Thought it would be a good time to check in on this year's Northwest Passage conditions. As of this past weekend, the passage is open and boats are now moving through from both east and west.

Ice conditions have once again deteriorated and it appears the fabled NW Passage will be free of ice through September and once again a record number of boats will make the long traverse through northern waters.

This year's loss of ice could rival the record year of 2007 when we on Cloud Nine were the first American boat in history to go east to west, Roald Amundsen's route. We will have the data the end of September.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back looking at Climate Change

Now that the Around the America's expedition is wrapped up it is time to refocus on the lessons learned from the voyage and also what is taking place this summer.

For years we have all been reading about the side effects of "climate change" and one of the biggest is erratic changes in local weather patterns. While east coasters were pooh poohing global warming after their cold, snowy winter, the weather heated up and the four warmest months in history were recorded. This follows exactly as scientists have been predicted. There is weather and there is climate and there is a huge difference in the two.

Here are a few examples of the crazy, erratic weather taking place worldwide, including right here on the "Midwest Coast" of the Iowa Great Lakes where I live:


It has been the hottest summer ever recorded in Russia, with Moscow temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time. Russia’s drought has sparked hundreds of wildfires in forests and dried peat bogs, blanketing Moscow with a toxic smog that lifted yesterday after six days. The Russian capital’s death rate doubled to 700 people a day at one point. The drought reduced the wheat harvest by more than one-third.

The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel report predicted a doubling of disastrous droughts in Russia this century and cited studies foreseeing catastrophic fires in dry years. It also said that Russia would suffer large crop losses.


The heaviest monsoon rains on record, 12 inches in one 36-hour period, have sent rivers rampaging over huge swaths of countryside, flooding thousands of villages. It has left 14 million Pakistanis homeless or otherwise affected and killed 1,500.

The government calls it the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history.

A warmer atmosphere can hold and discharge more water. The 2007 report said rains have grown heavier for 40 years over north Pakistan and predicted greater flooding this century in south Asia’s monsoon region.


China is witnessing its worst floods in decades, the World Meteorological Organization says, particularly in the northwest province of Gansu. There, floods and landslides last weekend killed at least 1,100 people and left more than 600 missing, feared swept away, or buried beneath mud and debris.

The Intergovernmental Panel reported in 2007 that rains had increased in northwest China by up to 33 percent since 1961 and that floods nationwide had increased sevenfold since the 1950s. It predicted still more frequent flooding this century.


In Iowa, soaked by its wettest 36-month period in 127 years of recordkeeping, floods from three nights of rain this week forced hundreds from their homes and killed a 16-year-old girl. The international climate panel projected increased US precipitation this century, except for the Southwest, and more extreme rain events causing flooding.
© 2010 Associated Press

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Back in the USA

It took 26,000 miles to get here, but we are back in the USA with stops in San Diego hosted by the SD Maritime Museum then on up the west coast.

The visit to Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla was a huge highlight covering topics with scientists ranging from the North Pacific Gyre and the associated plastic garbage patch to climate change and the Keeling curve, the climate record that started it all by Scripps scientist Charles Keeling.

I had my family and Kirsty there on the San Diego dock upon arrival, so it was especially great getting in to see everyone. We found we had another fan of Ocean Watch and Around the Americas project in Bill Walton, the great basketball center who is quite an environmental activist. He had many insightful words about our oceans and the state of the planet and gave us a great boost of energy when we were just a little depleted.

The Pt. Dume Marine Academy was remarkable in Malibu with a school assembly of 300 grade school kids and then a science lab full of more extremely bright children who know their issues. On we went to Los Angeles and Marina Del Rey. More school groups and insightful children who give us faith in the future. They will make the necessary and hard changes which must be made but cannot by the current generation in power.

Now we are in Santa Barbara. Again more school groups and presentations at the SB Maritime Museum, our kind and gracious hosts. Captain Mark Schrader's father, Richard, lives here in town and at age 93 was on the dock to greet us. Special moment.

As happens, there is a gale, in fact, multiple gales. We are stuck in Santa Barbara while some of the crew split for Monterey. The hard core four, Mark, Dave Logan, Herb McCormick and I will sail the boat to Monterey and San Francisco. Nothing is ever easy out here, that is for sure.

We have published four features for Cruising World now with a new June article on the shelf with our Cape Horn article. Check it out. We continue to do our science along the way and are all busy working hard on the mission of this great Around the Americas expedition.

I will try to post more now with photos so stay tuned and watch for some website updates soon. Bye for now.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Arrival in Mexico

Greetings from Acapulco. After 24,000 miles of sailing and over 40 stops around the Americas, we on Ocean Watch are one country and a few weeks from arriving back in the USA in San Diego May 4th. Wow, what a long, strange, fascinating trip it has been.

Just arrived from Costa Rica where we witnessed damaged reefs first hand on the eastern, Caribbean side of the country. This is the direct result of chemical applications and run-off from the banana plantations. Very tragic. The Galapagos Islands were hot and quite interesting. It was humbling to be in the land of Darwin and see first-hand many of the species he observed. They face all kinds of environmental threats there but probably the greatest threat currently is this very strong El Nino we are observing. The El Nino of 1982 caused the extinction of one species and devastated bird, tortoise and marine populations.

We sailed around Cape Horn in January and into the fiords and southern channels of Chile, one of the most beautiful areas of the world. Unfortunately, fish farming is omnipresent and destroying the marine environment in the channels. We exited Chile just before the devastating earthquake which destroyed the marina we had been at in Valparaiso.

The sail from Miami east and eventually south was marked by strong anti-currents and adverse trade winds. Very tough going and very, very hot along the coast of Brazil. It was above 90 degrees day and night in our main cabin and bunks for a solid six weeks. Holidays in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, and Mar Del Plata, Argentina. The surprise for us was the Falkland Islands. We met young scientists who are documenting all the species of the islands. A highlight was the King Penguin colony we observed and the rugged field trip out to the site.

Just a few highlights. Great voyage, wonderful experiences all.

Best to you all. Cheers! David