Arctic sea ice near record lows

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From the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Arctic sea ice extent averaged for August 2011 reached the second lowest level for the month in the 1979 to 2011 satellite record. Both the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea route appear to be open. Throughout August, sea ice extent tracked near the record lows of 2007, underscoring the continued decline in Arctic ice cover.

Note: Arctic sea ice extent will likely reach its minimum extent for the year sometime in the next two weeks. NSIDC will make a preliminary announcement when ice extent has stopped declining and has increased for several days in a row. Monthly data for September will be released in early October.

Overview of conditions
Average ice extent for August 2011 was 5.52 million square kilometers (2.13 million square miles). This is 160,000 square kilometers (61,800 square miles) above the previous record low for the month, set in August 2007, and 2.15 million square kilometers (830,000 square miles), or 28% below the average for 1979 to 2000. Sea ice coverage remained below normal everywhere except the East Greenland Sea. In addition, several large areas of open water (polynyas) have opened within the ice pack.

On August 31, 2011 Arctic sea ice extent was 4.63 million square kilometers (1.79 million square miles). This is 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) higher than the previous record low for the same day of the year, set in 2007. As of September 5, ice extent had fallen below the minimum ice extents in September 2010 and 2008 (previously the third- and second-lowest minima in the satellite record). If ice stopped declining in extent today it would be the second-lowest minimum extent in the satellite record.

Conditions in context
In August, sunlight wanes in the Arctic and the sea ice decline starts to slow down. Although the decline slowed somewhat during August, ice extent retreated at a faster pace than average, at a pace of 67,700 square kilometers (26,100 square miles) per day. In comparison, the average rate of decline for August 1979 to 2000 was 53,700 square kilometers (20,700 square miles) per day.

Air temperatures were 1 to 4 degrees Celsius (2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average (relative to the 1981 to 2010 climatology) over the Arctic Ocean (measured approximately 1000 meters above the surface). The strongest anomalies were over the Northwest Passage region. High pressure persisted over much of the central Arctic Ocean, associated with a wind pattern that helped to push ice from the Beaufort Sea westward into the Chukchi Sea. This may have slowed some ice loss in the Chukchi Sea region. However, the wind pattern also transported ice into open waters warmed during the summer, fostering melt.

August 2011 compared to previous years
Average Arctic sea ice extent for August 2011 was the second-lowest for August in the satellite data record. Including 2011 the linear trend for August now stands at –9.3% per decade.

Northwest Passage sea ice at record low levels
Sea ice is now almost completely gone from the channels of the Northwest Passage, with the exception of a small strip of ice across a stretch of the Parry Channel. The southern route (Amunden’s Route) is ice free. According to the Canadian Ice Service, sea ice extent in the western Parry Channel is now the lowest at this time of year since record keeping began in 1966 and very little multi-year ice remains. According to Multisensor Analyzed Sea Ice Extent (MASIE) data, ice cover across the Canadian Archipelago is at record low levels.
The Northern Sea Route along Siberia remains ice-free, with a number of cargo ships passing through in recent weeks. However, some areas of older, thicker ice have helped preserve the tongue of ice extending into the East Siberian Sea.

Will Arctic sea ice extent reach a new record in 2011?
The melt season for Arctic sea ice will soon draw to a close. Surface melt has already largely ended and the ocean waters are cooling. Air temperatures at the North Pole have fallen below freezing. However, with the ice cover now thinner than in years past, there is a greater potential for late-season ice loss, caused by warm water melting ice from below or winds that push the ice together.

Whether Arctic sea ice breaks a new record hinges on three factors: First, how much heat is left in the ocean to eat away at the ice edge and bottom? Second, will wind patterns blow the ice together and reduce ice extent or will they disperse the ice and expand ice extent? Finally, just how thin is the remaining ice cover? Thin ice quickly melts away when it is surrounded by warm water.

The Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust is seeking design proposals for the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area’s Phase III river restoration project

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From Steamboat Today:

The Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust is seeking design proposals for the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area’s Phase III river restoration project. The project is a design of 3,300 feet of river habitat restoration on the Yampa River. Interested firms can find proposal information on the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration’s Open Notices website, http://www.gssa.state.co.us/CDNotices.

More Yampa River basin coverage here.

Animas River watershed: The City of Durango is asking for input on their ‘Animas River Management Plan’

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From The Durango Herald:

The city of Durango is requesting assistance from individuals to participate in the development of the Animas River Management Plan. The city is seeking community comments by completing a brief survey on river-related activities and to provide thoughts about management practices. Responses will be accepted until Sept. 30. The survey can be found at http://www.durangogov.org with a link to the Animas River Management Plan.

More Animas River coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline hydroelectric generation project moves to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permit process

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is now considering Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million’s permit application for the Regional Watershed Supply Project, a 501-mile water pipeline that would stretch from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwest Wyoming to Pueblo via Interstate 80 and northeast Larimer County, supplying water to Front Range water districts and irrigators…

Million filed revised plans for the pipeline with FERC on Sept. 1 as president of a new company formed on Aug. 25, Wyco Power and Water, Inc. [ed. I couldn’t find a website], 1436 W. Oak St. According to Million’s application, the pipeline would be up to 120 inches in diameter and would take water from the Green River about three miles downstream of the city of Green River, Wyo., and from the western shore of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. It would produce about 550 megawatts of hydroelectric power on its journey from Wyoming to Colorado while using nine natural gas-powered pump stations to send water over the Continental Divide. If the pipeline is built, it will also require construction of the proposed 185,000-acre-foot Cactus Hill Reservoir near Fort Collins…

In the application, Million said studies required for the permit would cost up to $4 million and he would pay for them.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.