Sunday, December 30, 2012

Presenting at Vail Symposium

I am very excited to be presenting at the Vail Symposium on Jan. 31st, 2013, as part of their Speaker Series. I have an intriguing evening planned with some history and exploration of the Northwest Passage including Sir John Franklin and Roald Amundsen. The evening will include much of my three expeditions to and through the Passage on s/v Cloud Nine and Ocean Watch and conclude with what I hope is a lively discussion of climate change and specifically an altered Arctic environment.
Hope to see a packed house in Vail. More to come soon but please follow the link below for further information on the evening. Thanks, David
Link to David's Vail Symposium Info

Monday, August 27, 2012

Record Ice Loss - NW Passage Wide Open

There has been a tremendous amount of news lately about weather including the approaching Hurricane Isaac churning in the Caribbean Sea and set to arrive in the Gulf soon. 

The summer has been hot with July being the warmest ever on record. A new scientific study indicates the drought in the North American West is/was the worst of the last 800 years with major impacts to the carbon cycle and hints of even drier times ahead (July 29 in Nature-Geoscience).  "This will also would trigger a whole host of significant water resource challenges in a region already subject to frequent water shortages.” 

Scientists are watching the Pacific looking for the developing El Nino which currently seems to be neutral.  

But what the heck has been going on in the Arctic? What is the state of the ice pack this season? Is the infamous Northwest Passage open again? As many of you know this is my main interest having sailed through both directions in 2007 (E-W) and 2009 (W-E). 

I am absolutely astounded by the loss of ice this summer up north. There is literally no ice in all of Baffin Bay all the way north to Thule some 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle. As one crosses Baffin Bay traveling west and enters the Northwest Passage in Lancaster sound the story remains the same, clear sailing all the way to the remote village of Resolute. Again, absolutely NO ice.

***Note- Confirmation has arrived today.  Arctic sea ice coverage  shrank to a record low 4.21 million square kilometers as of Aug. 25, declining below the previous record low of 4.25 million sq. km marked in 2007, this according to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency satellite data.

The red line represents current declining ice coverage in the Arctic trending towards a record sea ice loss. The light blue line represents the record loss of sea ice in 2007, the year we sailed Cloud Nine through the Northwest Passage east to west never touching any ice in 6700 nautical miles. 

A very rare Arctic/polar storm this month has shuffled the entire polar ice cap around and exposed a lot more ice to the melting conditions. Scientists will be studying the combined effects of excessive wind with the warmer infusion of water on the ice pack in the months ahead as the 2012 summer melt season continues to break all known records. 

The loss of our northern polar ice cap should be the biggest news in the history of news cycles but for some reason it just doesn't get much play. Is it just too profound for folks to comprehend or believe? If we were watching another planet's polar ice cap disintegrating before our eyes it would be an unbelievable event in history and yet we continue to have a debate about whether climate change is really real or just a perpetuated "hoax."   

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hottest 12 Months Ever Recorded

These are the warmest 12-month periods on record for the contiguous United States. During the June 2011-June 2012 period, each of the 13 months ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. The odds of this occurring randomly is 1 in 1,594,323. 
This is very interesting especially when looking at the ice reports up north. Spring came roughly 3 full weeks early this year and we had record highs in March with temps up near 90 degrees at the end of the month into April. This has now translated to the northern ice pack which just happens to be 3 full weeks ahead of the summer melt season. Coincidence? Hardly. La Nina has been replaced by El Nino. Temperatures are climbing again. Look for record numbers of boats again transitting the infamous Northwest Passage, now very much ice-free. 

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Arctic ice retreated very quickly in June. "The last three Junes (2010-2012) are the three lowest in the satellite record. June 2012 ice extent was 140,000 square kilometers (54,000 square miles) above the 2010 record low. Ice losses were notable in the Kara Sea, and in the Beaufort Sea, where a large polynya has formed. Retreat of ice in the Hudson and Baffin bays also contributed to the low June 2012 extent. The only area of the Arctic where sea ice extent is currently above average is along the eastern Greenland coast."

Monday, July 9, 2012


I've been monitoring the ice in the north this summer for the Northwest Passage season and it looks like it could surpass the 2007 season for loss of ice. Things are going south quickly and Baffin Bay is now open which is just absolutely crazy. The mouth of Lancaster is open so the situation will now develop very quickly and there will probably be an ice-free lane through the traditional passage this summer. I'd say you can put it in the bank.

Again, good for explorers, not so good for the planet... here is the latest ice chart for Baffin Bay. Warm waters flowing north have opened up the entire West coast of Greenland-

Next, let's go into the warm temperatures. I believe there have been a few records happening lately if my mind is clear on this one. Let's see what the science says and if there is some linkage with the above trends and ice charts. More coming for sure.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wisdom from the Titanic and James Cameron

Famed filmmaker James Cameron has metaphorically summed up what the human race is facing from climate change by his reframing the Titanic story:

"Part of the Titanic parable is of arrogance, of hubris, of the sense that we’re too big to fail. Well, where have we heard that one before?

There was this big machine, this human system, that was pushing forward with so much momentum that it couldn’t turn, it couldn’t stop in time to avert a disaster. And that’s what we have right now.

Within that human system on board that ship, if you want to make it a microcosm of the world, you have different classes, you’ve got first class, second class, third class. In our world right now you’ve got developed nations, undeveloped nations.

You’ve got the starving millions who are going to be the ones most affected by the next iceberg that we hit, which is going to be climate change. We can see that iceberg ahead of us right now, but we can’t turn.

We can’t turn because of the momentum of the system, the political momentum, the business momentum. There are too many people making money out of the system, the way the system works right now, and those people frankly have their hands on the levers of power and aren’t ready to let ‘em go.

Until they do, we will not be able to turn to miss that iceberg, and we’re going to hit it, and when we hit it, the rich are still going to be able to get their access to food, to arable land, to water, and so on. It’s going to be the poor, it’s going to be the steerage that are going to be impacted. It’s the same with the Titanic."

Very well said Mr. Cameron.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

NASA Ice Bridge Project

This looks like a great research project to follow-

GREENBELT, Md. -- Researchers and flight crew with NASA's Operation IceBridge, an airborne mission to study changes in polar ice, began another season of science activity with the start of the 2012 Arctic campaign on March 13. From mid-March through mid-May, a modified P-3 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., will conduct daily missions out of Thule and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland —with one flight to Fairbanks, Alaska and back—to measure sea and land ice. The campaign will also feature instrument tests, continued international collaboration and educational activities.

After NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite's (ICESat) stopped collecting data in 2009, Operation IceBridge began as a way to continue the multi-year record of ice elevation measurements until the launch of ICESat-2 in 2016. IceBridge gathers data during annual campaigns over the Arctic starting in March and Antarctic starting in October.

IceBridge flights will measure both previously surveyed sites, such as Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier, and unstudied areas of sea ice, such as the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. "The most important sea ice flights are the transits between Thule and Fairbanks," said IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger.

The P-3 carries an array of instruments for measuring ice surface elevation and thickness and snow depth, and will be joined by other aircraft later in the campaign. The Airborne Topographic Mapper uses lasers to measure changes in surface elevation and uses these readings to create elevation maps. Radar instruments from the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., show snow and ice thickness and allow scientists to see through land ice to the bedrock below. A gravimeter from Sander Geophysics and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y., similarly lets researchers determine water depth beneath floating ice.

A Falcon jet from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., carrying a high-altitude laser altimeter, the Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor (LVIS) will join the P-3 on April 19. The Falcon flies higher and faster than the P-3, which allows it to cover longer flight lines and enables LVIS to survey a 2-km (1.2 mile) wide swath of ice. The Falcon will play a critical role in surveying near coastal areas of Greenland, and in sea ice flights out of Thule.

IceBridge will also join in efforts to validate and calibrate sea ice measurements by CryoSat-2, the European Space Agency's ice-monitoring satellite. ESA's airborne calibration campaign, CryoVEx, aims to ensure that CryoSat-2's radar readings are accurate. "One of our prime goals in Thule will be to underfly a European CryoSat sea ice track within two hours of its passage over the sea ice north of Greenland," said acting project manager Seelye Martin.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Look at 2012 Arctic Ice Trends

The 2012 Arctic ice outlook is mixed. Any Arctic vessels looking to transit the Northwest Passage will have a much better chance entering from the Atlantic and Baffin Bay vs the Bering Sea. There will be delays in the shipping season through the Bering and Chukchi Seas as they have had a tremendously challenging winter throughout these areas as the National Snow and Ice Data Center lays out below:

Overall, Arctic sea ice extent remained lower than average in January. However, in the Bering Sea, ice extent was much greater than normal. The heavy ice cover caused problems for fishermen and made for an arduous late-season resupply mission to Nome, Alaska. The Arctic Oscillation, which had been in its positive phase most of the winter so far, switched to a negative mode, bringing cold weather to Europe and changing the direction of sea ice movement.

January 2012 compared to past years-
Arctic sea ice extent for January 2012 was the fourth lowest in the satellite record. Including the year 2012, the linear rate of decline for January ice extent over the satellite record is 3.2% per decade.
Based on the satellite record, before 2005 average January ice extent had never been lower than 14 million square kilometers (5.41 million square miles). January ice extent has now fallen below that mark six out of the last seven years.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

900 Record Highs Across the USA

Wow. Record-setting January weather. This reminds me very much of the winter of 2006-7 when lakes all through the upper Midwest did not freeze over the winter. Many of these signs were present as I headed north to attempt the Northwest Passage by sailboat. As we all know, the summer of 2007 turned out to be the record-setting loss of ice year of all-time. I am afraid we are going to see that again this coming summer. I don't understand how anyone can deny what is really happening anymore...