July 3, 2020

Prof. Julienne Stroeve
University College London

I have no training in meteorology, so treat this as you would a scream from the crowd.  I understand you are part of a team exploring the Arctic Ocean. 

 Every morning I look at https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/  to see what the arctic sea ice is doing.  I generally check at 8 AM and they update at 11 AM so my dates are all a day off.  This morning’s update shows an area next the North Pole that looks to be hundreds of miles across and the percentage of ice cover is about 50%.  On what I call July 1, three days earlier, this area was about 100% ice cover.  At that rate there could be open sea within a week.

My limited knowledge is that if the sun is close to 30o over the horizon, incident sunlight is half what it would be with the sun at the zenith (assuming my geometry teacher Mrs. Phipps was right, and she was always right before. (o;).  So, the energy being absorbed in a 24-hour day, would be greater than the energy being absorbed at noon at the equator, but the sun at that time might be above the horizon 12 hours, but not usually at the zenith, nor is it always over the ocean. 

If that great expanse of broken ice melts to open sea, it will absorb heat at a colossal rate and cause of ferocious updraft.  I figure the updraft could be roughly the speed of sound with hailstones 6 inches across.  (http://nobabies.net/economist%20ice%20cap%202020-1.html ) A ship would take a terrible pounding.  It would not be possible to go out and push such hailstones overboard.  As for lifeboats and rafts, forget it.  I’m sure the Polarstern is rugged and has a high freeboard, but I don’t know how to figure how much ice would have to accumulate on the battered deck and superstructure before the ship could not live.

Obviously, you have better information than I.  I imagine the first web site I mentioned has images from a year before, but I cannot find them.  Every child has heard of mammoths frozen in ice with unwilted flowers in their GI tracts.  Fewer have read of mammoth miles away ripped to small bits by high winds or the Grasshopper Glacier with grasshoppers throughout its substance.  The weight of the evidence suggests that a glacier a mile thick can form in hours and that we may be about to see that again.

As a total stranger, I would earnestly implore you to look the situation over and consider asking your friends aboard the Polarstern to high tail it.

Best wishes,
M. Linton Herbert 

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