This Week in Ice: Oct. 29–Nov. 4, 2017

iceberg c

Photo taken by me, Southern Ocean, February, 2017


This Week in Ice began with news that, due to the “Halloween crack,” there would be no winter over at the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI Research Station. The station has already been moved fourteen miles across the Brunt Ice Shelf, but the fracture, which formed on Halloween last year, has been steadily growing. Spooky, indeed.


Credit: ESA

Sea Ice:

Kevin Pluck has produced yet another great visual showing the variability and overall decline of sea ice cover (since it has been observed by satellites).

Let’s hope the continuous data record of polar sea ice isn’t interrupted. Ageing satellites are putting this record at risk.




The extent and concentration of sea ice in the Arctic. Note the orange line representing the median ice from 1981-2010.  (NSIDC)

The National Snow and Ice Data Center is reporting “the second-lowest and second-latest seasonal maximum” (per the satellite record) for Arctic sea ice (in October). This GIF nicely demonstrates this long-term decline.



Image credit: Kristin Laidre  

NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) project is enlisting narwhals to help determine the relationship between warming water, melting ice, and Greenland’s coastal fjords. Sensors attached to the “unicorns of the sea” capture temperature, salinity, and depth data.

More news about Greenland in the Ice Shelves & Glaciers section below.




Ice extent and concentration.  (NSIDC)

The Weddell polynya, a massive area of open water within the ice of the Weddell Sea, is still going strong. (It’s the dark blue patch in the ice toward the top of the image above.)

The NSIDC says that sea ice in Antarctica experienced a Bactrian—or double humped, just like the camel—maximum extent on October 11th and 12th. The first was on September 15.

Spot the blue camel hump:

Figure5 (1)

Credit: NSIDC

This is the latest maximum on record (tied with 2002). It’s also the second lowest Antarctic maximum extent (per satellite records).


Ice Shelves & Glaciers


New mapping data shows that far more of Greenland’s glaciers are at risk for accelerated melting than previously thought.


Image credit: UCI



Ice shelves—floating ice surrounding land—act as a “safety band”, holding back ice flowing to the sea in glaciers. But Antarctic ice shelves are thinning and collapsing, and the Antarctic ice safety band is at risk.

Intensifying winds are hastening the melting of the Totten Glacier in West Antarctica by driving warmer water under the glacier, causing melting from below.


Credit: UT Austin/University of Texas Institute for Geophysics

A collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet would have dire consequences for sea level rise.


In previous This Week in Ice posts, I’ve written about the B-44 iceberg, which calved in September but—a mere month later—broke into pieces too small to track.

Here it is on September 28th:

pine 1

NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.


And on October 23rd…

pine 2

Marine Geologist Thomas Ronge gives a great account of the brief life and times of B-44.

And here are some incredible views of the Larsen C iceshelf and colossal iceberg A-68, which carved from it in July.


And a 400-meter iceberg has drifted into Tasmanian waters, off the coast of Macquarie Island, the first iceberg to be seen off the island in almost a decade.


Image credit: Tom Luttrell/Australian Antarctic Division

And then there’s this, which I thought was cool.


General News

Of course, the biggest news this week was the release of the Climate Science Special Report’s Fourth National Climate Assessment. Guess what? It’s us.

The World Meteorological Organization released its 2016 Greenhouse Gas report. This excellent short video explains the carbon cycle.

Carbon dioxide levels grew at a record pace last year.



Image: World Meteorological Organization


Glaciologist and climate scientist Peter Neff shares that 800,000 years of ice core data shows an off-the-charts increase in greenhouse gases.




I’m on a deadline to complete the illustrations for a book about the Yellowstone supervolcano, so This Week in Ice is not as deep a dive as usual. But I did come across this interesting climate-related news. Previous eruptions of the Yellowstone supervolcano triggered volcanic winters.

I look forward to being back with more ice news in two weeks’ time.




As always, I am not a scientist, just a writer/illustrator and science communicator passionately in love with sea ice. I welcome input and corrections by polar scientists as I learn more about this remarkable and vital part of our planet and bring this knowledge to a wider audience. 


One thought on “This Week in Ice: Oct. 29–Nov. 4, 2017

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