“We were nice and low, saw this really cute bar…”

A funny way to point out the corruption, cronyism and failures by the ‘players’ in today’s Av-Gov Complex….

A flight attendant hanging out at a bar is handed the phone and told she has a call. She chats with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta for a few minutes. She happens to be interested in buying a house in Phoenix, and knows home prices have been plummeting due to new lower routes imposed for NextGen. She asks Mr. Huerta if he can help her to get a better price by allowing flights even lower to the ground. Here’s the video:

During the phone conversation, Serena learns that Mr. Huerta is having dinner with ‘Bill’ and ‘Shelley’. This is a reference to the relationship between House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster and Shelley Rubino, a VP at a major aviation lobbyist firm, Airlines for America.

As of this week, the two biggest ‘aviation impact people’ pushing legislation to move ATC out of FAA are Bill Shuster and Nick Calio, Shelley’s boss at Airlines for America.

The video is a funny joke; on the other hand, Mr. Shuster’s apparent conflict of interest is not funny at all.

FAA’s Drone Registry is Clearly Excessive … Yet Ineffective and Serves No Valid Purpose

Heritage Foundation has posted an excellent article that gets past the spin/hype/distortion that FAA has deployed in their recently imposed ‘Drone Registry’. A strong case exists to show that FAA’s real intent is simply to ‘look busy’, as they very publicly impose regulations upon flying toys made of foam and typically weighing far less than your average duck. Notably, too, during the six decades before the registry was started in December, FAA had consciously chosen to let model aircraft operators ‘self-regulate’ … even with much heavier and far more dangerous powered model aircraft (in fact, there was even a history of model airplane accidents with injuries and even fatalities).

The article, Purposeless Regulation: The FAA Drone Registry, was written by Jason Snead and John-Michael Seibler. Here is a copy:

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Due to its clear arbitrariness, this major FAA policy shift is at the core of a lawsuit, Taylor v. FAA, filed on 12/24/2015. Mr. Taylor argues that FAA violated Congress’ UAS guidance in the last FAA Authorization … the same horrible legislation which FAA used to justify NextGen impacts without environmental review (see the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, 2/14/2012).


See also:

Hillsboro, Toxic Lead Pollution, and the Next HARE Meeting

During much of the first month of this new year, we have heard news about lead poisoning in the Flint, Michigan water supply. Most recently, we all learned how government workers were provided bottled water to not have to rely on the water soon to be announced as toxic. All of this to save a few bucks, with evident indifference for the health and welfare of the larger community: the residents of Flint.

At the Hillsboro Airport [KHIO] in Oregon, lead has been an ongoing issue. In fact, the Hillsboro Airport officially emits 1,400 pounds of lead into the air, at an airport with numerous nearby residential neighborhoods and even schools. The vast majority of these lead emissions are created by the one airport business that imports students from across the world, and makes a large profit teaching them to fly at KHIO, with tens of thousands of flights circling low over Hillsboro neighborhoods. And, just like happened in Flint, the Port of Portland and the FAA are resisting and delaying changes needed to reduce this dangerous pollutant, all with evident indifference for the health and welfare of the larger community: the residents of Hillsboro.

The February 3rd HARE Meeting

When they have an impact problem such as aviation noise or lead pollution, a common strategy for airport authorities is to create a citizen group.

20130821.. 'Great Quote by Upton SInclair' (screencap of aiREFORM Post)

(click on image to learn more about Upton Sinclair and FAA’s inability to ‘understand’ a controller error at Camarillo)

Such groups typically consist almost entirely of pro-business interests, as well as many who are actual pilots or otherwise economically connected to the airport. And, as noted 80-years ago by Upton Sinclair, such groups have an astonishing inability to fix problems, surpassed by an astonishing ability to serve the status quo.

The airport authority at Hillsboro is the Port of Portland. Years ago they created the ‘Hillsboro Airport Issues Roundtable’, HAIR. For whatever reason (maybe the fact that their group was dominated by old white guys, who tend to have evident follicle-impairment issues?), the name was ‘upgraded’ to HARE, standing for ‘Hillsboro Airport Roundtable Exchange’. At any rate, the group of 22 people meets quarterly, to create subcommittees, to field subcommittee update reports, to hear Public Comments, and generally to project at least an appearance of ‘citizen involvement’ in the management of the activities and impacts of their local airport. Oh, and for the record, the evidence resoundingly suggests: whenever FAA and airport authorities convene a citizen committee, the group is routinely and profoundly biased against the citizenry and for the industry.

Here is a link to the Port’s HARE webpage (including a list of the members), and below is a scrollable PDF copy of the agenda for the coming meeting.

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Airport Weather Observations (METARs) for Winter Storm Jonas

20160124cpy.. Winter Storm Jonas snow depth map (WeatherChannel)A storm for the record books, Jonas is also understood to be an indication of storms to come. And, it is not a stretch to understand the cause and effect – the link between these extreme weather events and our energy consumption habits:

  • excessive fossil fuel consumption, causes…
    • …excessive greenhouse gas accumulation, causes…
      • …geologically rapid and substantial temperature increases, causes…
        •  …a more energized weather system, with more heat energy and larger amounts of water vapor, causes…
          • …more violently-interacting air masses (hence, intensified weather).

So, in the course of just a few human generations, we are literally destroying the habitability of our waters and our air. And aviation is very much at the heart of this problem. Not only is aviation arguably the poster-child of excessive and arbitrary energy consumption, but this industry also relies heavily on fossil fuel consumption (and it does us no real benefit to take food crops out of production to grow biofuels for aviation!). Thus, our best political leaders (if we have any?!) will take note: aviation is perhaps the most logical first target within the transportation sector, for meaningful action to address our growing problem of excessive atmospheric CO2.

Weather & Aviation

Aviation safety has always depended on accurate and detailed weather predictions and observations. The international system for recording weather observations is METAR. METAR observations are recorded at least once per hour at most U.S. airports, and more frequently when conditions are changing or marginal. Although the intricate coding may feel a bit ‘geeky’, it is not difficult to learn to read METARs; see Reference Materials for Decoding METARs.

July 22, 2013: Dangerous crosswinds and tailwinds contributed to this high-speed landing and nose gear collapse for a Southwest KLGA arrival.

METARs are also an excellent resource to use, to help predict the flow configurations and thus the likely impacts on your home or community, as caused by your local airport. ATC constantly refers to METARs to make runway change decisions. In most cases, ATC selects a runway configuration that is aligned into the wind, to maximize safety. At some of the most congested airports though (LGA and JFK come to mind), FAA’s failure to stop excessive airline scheduling has created barriers to runway changes, and has thus created unsafe landing conditions. These conditions have contributed to incidents, sometimes with injuries or worse. One example: the July 22, 2013 crash of Southwest Flight #345 while landing at La Guardia.

DIY: Viewing METARs Online

Most of the larger snow-impacted airports include snowfall and accumulated snow depth in their METAR observations. The METAR observations, recorded 3-times per hour during most of this weather event, offer a fascinating and precise insight into the weather severity.

Here is a summary of snowfall totals and snow history for the ten largest commercial service airports, listed from north to south. For each airport, three blue links include the aiREFORM airport page, the current METAR (showing the last 168 observations), and the NOAA forecast:

[KBOS] — Boston-Logan Airport
Snowfall first reported at 1:54pm Saturday, ended 11-hours later at 12:04am Sunday. Snow Depth not recorded. Peak winds 35 gusting to 45.METARForecast
[KPVD] — Providence Airport
Snowfall first reported at 12:30pm Saturday, ended 10-hours later at 10:16pm Saturday. Snow Depth not recorded. Peak winds 29 gusting to 38.METARForecast
[KISP] — Long Island / Islip Airport
Snowfall first reported at 11:56pm Friday, ended 29-hours later at 4:56am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 23-inches. Peak winds 36 gusting to 52.METARForecast
[KLGA] — LaGuardia Airport
Snowfall first reported at 10:30pm Friday, ended 28-hours later at 2:45am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 28-inches. Peak winds 32 gusting to 48.METARForecast
[KJFK] — JFK Airport
Snowfall first reported at 9:49pm Friday, ended 27-hours later at 2:51am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 30-inches. Peak winds 33 gusting to 46.METARForecast
[KEWR] — Newark Airport
Snowfall first reported at 9:28pm Friday, ended 29-hours later at 2:51am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 21-inches. Peak winds 30 gusting to 39.METARForecast
[KPHL] — Philadelpia Airport
Snowfall first reported at 6:34pm Friday, ended 28-hours later at 10:19pm Saturday. Snow Depth not recorded. Peak winds 31 gusting to 49.METARForecast
[BWI] — Baltimore-Washington Airport
Snowfall first reported at 1:38pm Friday, ended 35-hours later at 12:54am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 27-inches. Peak winds 23 gusting to 37.METARForecast
[KIAD] — Washington-Dulles Airport
Snowfall first reported at 12:52pm Friday, ended 35-hours later at 11:52pm Saturday. Snow Depth reached 23-inches. Peak winds 28 gusting to 46.METARForecast
[KDCA] — Washington-Reagan Airport
Snowfall first reported at 12:59pm Friday, ended 36-hours later at 12:52 am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 18-inches. Peak winds 29 gusting to 43.METARForecast

And, here is a compilation of the METARs for all ten airports, converted into a scrollable PDF file:

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Next Up: The Melting

The initial snowfall and winds are just Part One of this weather event. Part Two will soon play out, as the accumulated snowfall melts and eventually flows away. Depending on how much (and how quickly) temperatures warm up, and how much rain falls onto the accumulated snow, there may be local flooding, ponding, and other problems. Airport conditions could remain untenable for many days.


See also:

Success in Santa Monica: Prop 65 Signs Posted for Toxic Airport Lead

The situation has persisted for decades: FAA and airport management have stalled and obstructed citizen efforts to remedy the many adverse impacts caused by users of the airport in Santa Monica [KSMO]. Not just the noise impacts, but also health concerns, including toxic lead (still added to AvGas!) and soot and other hazardous air pollutants.KSMO.20160122.. Martin Rubin pointing at Prop 65 sign at observation area

And so it is a great accomplishment to see that somebody within the city’s government has finally posted Prop 65 warnings at the public observation deck.

Thank You! And, kudos to CRAAP and others who have persisted in pressing the airport management for transparent disclosure of these SMO airport health risks. [click here for a PDF copy of the CRAAP news article]

KSMO.20160122.. Prop 65 sign at observation area

We all hope FAA will halt their obstructionism and allow city officials to resume the appropriate level of ‘local control’ needed to make SMO an airport that adds to quality of life in the community. Maybe the entire airport will be shut down, or maybe the runway will be shortened and jets disallowed. But, whatever happens, we need to get away from the current imbalance that benefits so few at the expense of so many.

[QUOTE]: Why this Wisconsin Voter Has Chosen Bernie Over Hillary

Aside

QUOTE

“…I live in Wisconsin and will make a point to drive the four hours to Iowa to volunteer for Bernie the next two weekends and once he has the nomination, I hope Bill and Hillary retire and go away quietly. No more convention speeches or campaigning or anything. The real truth is that Bill sold the New Deal soul of the Democratic Party to be president and his wife is now willing to destroy one of the last true citizen-legislators so she can have power and protect her powerful friends’ interests.

Hillary has shown by her actions this week that her motivation, just like her husband, no matter what he says, is to be president. Fifty years have shown that Bernie Sanders is motivated to serve the common person. Choice made. Hillary got what she wanted from her attacks this week. They made the choice easy….”

– a blogger, Posting on Daily Kos

Click here to read the original Daily Kos post.

More Examples of ‘Enroute Delays’ for KSEA Arrivals

Three months ago, five arrivals to Seattle were analyzed in A Set of KSEA Arrivals Helps to Expose FAA’s NextGen Fraud. In the time since, on repeat occasions, readers have submitted other examples of more arrivals for which ATC issued substantial en route delays, sometimes with multiple loops. For example, check out the extensive work by ATC to sequence the December 7, 2015 arrival of ASA124 from Fairbanks, as shown in this FlightAware satview:

ATC issued multiple delays, including a huge loop east of Dungeness Spit, then a turn to Alki Point only to be turned downwind and extended on the downwind all the way back to Whidbey Island.

KSEA is the tiny orange text in the bottom-right corner. ATC issued multiple delays to ASA124, including a huge loop east of Dungeness Spit, then a turn to Alki Point only to be turned downwind and extended on the downwind all the way back to Whidbey Island. The same flight on Saturday 1/16/2016 was issued no delays, during a more moderate arrival flow. Click on the link to study all recent ASA124 arrivals.

Even with a new year, the pattern of en route delays to the airport at SeaTac [KSEA] continues. A particularly galling aspect of this is that both FAA and the management at this airport have expended a huge effort promoting these so-called ‘NextGen improvements’, even going so far as to over-use a ‘Greener Skies’ eco-moniker. To help reveal this propaganda, an analysis was recently done, looking closely at 25 arrivals during a half-hour-long push on the late evening of Thursday, January 14, 2016. Here is a table listing the flights, with departure airport, times, color-coded delay amounts, and time gained/lost en route:KSEA.20160114.. Data on delays related to 2120-2131 Arrival pushA more in-depth analysis was prepared for the first ten in this series of arrivals (those landing between 9:20pm and 9:31pm). A distinct pattern is apparent, revealing the following facts for how ATC is routinely issuing en route delays (which consistently cancel all NextGen time-savings, thus negating all ‘potential benefits’ being oversold to the Public and to Congress):

  1. The bulk of each route of flight is extremely direct, for both transcontinental and regional flights.
  2. During the last hour of each flight, ATC consistently delays the flight, typically with vectors or one or more ‘loops’. Delay durations of 10- or 20-minutes are common. The most common location for these delays is in the sectors at the Center/TRACON boundary.
  3. Even with these en route delays, the arriving flights are routinely subjected to additional delays, such as extended downwind legs stuck in low level flight.
  4. For each flight, any time-savings gained by early turns after takeoff is more than lost if and when ATC issues delay instructions

For the record, airlines have flown these optimized direct routes for decades, using technologies deployed more than three decades prior to FAA’s first use of the term ‘NextGen’. In other words, the ‘benefits’ FAA and others are claiming when they seek Congressional funding are a bald-faced lie, just selling again benefits that already exist.

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

FAA’s NextGen Fraud

The SeaTac airport has a triple-parallel runway configuration, oriented north-south. Thus, arrivals to KSEA will land in a NORTH FLOW or a SOUTH FLOW, depending on winds.

Like most major U.S. airports, the Seattle area has winds that are reliably consistent and, most of the time, changes are accurately predictable. This is important, as wind reliability means airspace can be designed to flow arrivals to strategically located ‘gates’ that efficiently feed arrivals into a manageable final flow.

If FAA chose to use NextGen technologies optimally, the airspace would be designed to minimize distance flown while also ensuring minimal noise and air pollution impacts, particularly on noise-sensitive areas in the airport vicinity. Airspace would also be designed so as to keep arriving flights as high as possible, and as late as possible… to minimize noise and air pollution impacts. Unfortunately, FAA is not using NextGen to accomplish these improvements: instead, FAA is using NextGen as a ‘shortcut’ to eliminate pre-existing noise-abatement procedures.

In short, NextGen is a fraud being foisted on both the People and the Congress. The alleged ‘benefits’ have been grossly oversold, and the very real impacts are routinely ignored by an agency captured in service to the industry.

The Incredible Shrinking NAS (…that FAA & the Av-Gov Complex Don’t Talk About)

A new year is upon us and it is clear that forces in Washington, DC are carefully applying pressure. The current deadline for renewing FAA’s budget authorization is in March. So, the lobbyists, many of whom receive FAA paychecks every two weeks, are coordinating their daily efforts, with two goals in clear focus:

  1. they hope to aid the airlines in achieving even higher profits by accelerating and expanding their ongoing NextGen implementation debacle; and,
  2. they hope to further insulate FAA – and the industry – from accountability.

They are aiming to accomplish these two goals by getting elected officials to remove ATC from FAA (creating a sort-of privatized entity run largely by the so-called ‘stakeholders’), and by getting Congressional authorization to spend more on NextGen. The lies and misstatements used to justify their targets are many and frequent … and increasingly egregious. For example, out of one side of the mouth, they boast how incredibly safe the U.S. commercial aviation system is; then, out of the other side of the same mouth, the cry about how absolutely critical it is that we invest billions in Public money to ‘modernize’ the ATC system.

As another example, the NextGen-&-Privatization ‘collaborators’ are repeatedly shouting a false claim that our National Airspace System (NAS) is limited by serious ‘capacity issues’. Here are four snippets from online articles:20160109scp.. four samples of propaganda on Capacity need for NextGen

These snippets hammer home the idea we are maxing out, needing to extend capacity. But, the data shows a very different reality: that air traffic operations peaked in the late 1990s and have since declined substantially. Frankly, the ONE REAL capacity issue impacting the system of U.S. airports is that FAA refuses to impose rational capacity management controls. Instead, FAA sits back and lets the airlines routinely over-schedule at even the most capacity-sensitive airports. FAA does this because airlines want to maximize profits, and this captured agency does everything it can to not impede that airline objective. And the controllers union (NATCA) goes along with this charade, because the flight proceduralization being imposed via NextGen means they do much less real work while continuing to collect some of the highest paychecks in all of Federal civil service.

So, here is some hard data…

The PDF file below was compiled using FAA’s own data from their ATADS/OPSNET webpage. Annual totals for each year from 1990 through 2014 were compiled, for all 516 airports that submitted data into the 2014 ATADS database. The ‘Peak Year’ was identified for each airport. Data for both the Peak Year and Calendar Year 2014 was then refined into the presentation, and statistics were added to show key change parameters: changes in total annual operations, as well as itinerant air carrier (ITIN-AC) and itinerant air taxi (ITIN-AT) operations. (NOTE: this pair of parameters accurately reflects passenger flights, and also reflects how the airlines changed their mix of aircraft sizes between the larger AC fleet and the smaller AT fleet). Additional parameters include local operations (primarily flight training), and VFR operations (primarily general aviation). Some color-coding has been added, to aid in identifying trends (mostly downward) and airport types (three types stand out: primarily commercial air passenger airports, vs. primarily instructional airports, vs. primarily GA airports).

One of the most shocking realities illuminated by this 64-page spreadsheet is how far downward the aviation industry has declined, in terms of the need for ATC services. Specifically, of the 504 airports in this PDF file for which ATADS data shows a ‘change’ in annual operations (i.e., takeoffs and landings), the trend is overwhelming downward:

  • the average 2014 traffic for all 504 airports is 45% below Peak Year.
  • even the strongest performers, the current top-ten airports in terms of daily traffic counts, had declines in 2014 that measured 12% below Peak Year.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the top 30 airports (an accurate indicator of traffic demands by the commercial passenger aviation sector) is 21% below Peak Year.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the top 100 airports (the busiest 3% of airports on FAA’s list of 3,300+ NPIAS airports) is 31% below Peak Year. Please note, this list of the top 100 airports is a very accurate indicator of traffic demands by the entire aviation system, as these airports produce nearly all commercial passenger flights and enplanements.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the top half of the 504 airports is 38% below Peak Year.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the bottom half of the 504 airports is 52% below Peak Year.
This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Not only is there no pressing need for NextGen to alleviate capacity issues, but, in fact, the data shows an industry in a steep and prolonged decline. Put it this way: if the U.S. commercial aviation sector was to make a truthful presentation seeking venture capital, they would have zero success, because the charts show steady decline and no reliable growth. Given other major trends (downsizing of the U.S. middle class, growing wealth inequality, and fossil-fuel-related Climate Change impacts, for example) it appears increasingly improbable that commercial passenger aviation will change into a ‘growth’ industry.

All They Want is ‘LOCAL CONTROL’

The Mayor of Santa Monica lays it out very clearly, in an article published by a local paper, The Argonaut. The 1/6/2016 article presents a set of questions to community leaders, asking them to predict what citizens might expect to see during the new year on important Santa Monica issues. Here is the response by Mayor Vazquez:

What will happen next in the city’s battle
with the FAA over Santa Monica Airport?

– by Tony Vazquez

“The controversy over the Santa Monica Airport will continue into the New Year and most likely for years to come. The facts are Santa Monicans have voted to take control over our airport land. Yet the FAA continues to favor aviation interests to the detriment of the health and safety of the families that live near the airport.

After almost two years, including four extensions of time to render a decision, on Dec. 4 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally released its director’s determination that may affect the timing of Santa Monica regaining local control over our airport. The issue before the FAA was whether the city’s assurances stemming from a 1994 FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant expired in 2014 or whether the assurances expire in 2023. According to the determination, the assurances expire in 2023. The implication is that the city must continue to adhere to federal grant assurances and operate the airport accordingly until 2023. The city disagrees with the determination.

We believe the determination is factually incorrect and inconsistent with best grant management practices. Here’s why. Airports that receive FAA grants are obligated to meet and maintain certain assurances. We understand that and have fully complied. However, federal law states that after 20 years from the date of acceptance of the grant offer, the city — just like any other FAA grantee — is no longer subject to the assurances. Santa Monica accepted the grant in 1994; therefore the determination is wrong on the facts and is not sustainable.

The determination is not the final word; it is only the first. The city is entitled to two levels of appeals within FAA. The next level would be with an FAA hearing officer. Should the hearing officer agree with the director, the city may appeal to the FAA associate director of airports. And, of course, if the FAA associate director sides with previous conclusions, the city may pursue our rights in federal court.

The City Council has yet to decide as a body whether to appeal the determination. That decision will come in 2016. As mayor, I can say the city is fully committed to realizing the will of the voters, who in 2014 voted overwhelming in favor of Measure LC (Local Control).

We hope FAA senior management will rectify the agency’s initial error. Regardless, the city will keep fighting for local control over the airport land. The voters have spoken, and we will never give up!”

— Tony Vazquez is mayor of Santa Monica.

Mayor Vazquez accurately depicts the Delay-Game FAA plays, to benefit a handful of aviation interests against the health and quality-of-life interest of thousands of local residents. This is an egregious abuse of authority by FAA. The laws that Congress creates need to protect every community, to ensure they retain substantial ‘Local Control’ of their local community airport. Quite reasonably, local control should include setting the hours and intensity of use of their local airport, and protecting against pattern-noise operations such as skydiving operations or razor-thin NextGen routes. Airports need to serve communities first.

The substantial community problems around the Santa Monica Airport are caused mostly by bizjets and flight training. Frankly, these problems could easily be solved, improving both local environmental quality and safety, if only FAA would cooperate.  The solutions needed at KSMO need to go far beyond Santa Monica, as there are dozens of other U.S. communities denied local control by an FAA that behaves like an irresponsible out-of-state landlord. Notably, the jet-related impacts at Santa Monica have gone on for more than fifty years (check out this 1967 news article, showing a time when local control was asserted). Today’s FAA, using public funds to demand full-term compliance with 20-year grant assurance obligations, is sharply out of step with the need to serve the PUBLIC. Today’s FAA is using these grant obligations solely to deny local control.

Perhaps, new legislation is needed, to force FAA to restore meaningful local control. As part of that legislation, set Santa Monica free: let this community resume local control of it’s very impactful airport. Every community should have a contractual right to end obligations after 10-years, and even sooner if they refund a pro-rated portion of the grant amount.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent: Flat-lining in Mid-Winter?

One of the most important measures of significant climate change is Arctic sea ice extent. Associated with the recent extreme/weird weather events during the last week of 2015, we had an intense low pressure system with hurricane force winds blow north over Iceland, and heating the North Pole surface air to above freezing. This happened, of course, during a time of year when the North Pole is normally in the middle of a 6-month stretch of cold darkness, spanning from the Fall Equinox to the Spring Equinox.

20160105scp.. Arctic Sea Ice Extent (graph 2005-2015, crossing year)One consequence of this warm air blast is that Arctic sea ice extent flat-lined at 12.8 million square kilometers (of surface area with at least 15% ice coverage). To the right is a graph showing sea ice extent, with colored lines depicting the years from 2005-2016. This graph actually fuses two smaller graph fragments, both copied from NSIDC; on the left half is the graph for the last days of the year, and on the right is the graph for the first days of the year. The light gray background represents two standard deviations below the 1981-2010 average value (thick black line, near the top of the graph).

The right end of the flat red line marks January 4th. This is a record low sea ice extent, even below the previous record for 2011 (orange line). A significant concern with this low ice level is that, come Spring, there may be far less accumulated ice to melt, in both area extent and ice thickness. This may result in a rapid melt off, setting new low records through the Summer, beating the previous low records set in 2012. The minimal Arctic sea ice extent reliably occurs around September 15th each year.

A worthwhile discussion of the recent weather events was covered by a panel at the weekly show, HashtagVOA. Featured panelists included Robert Fanney (RobertScribbler blog), Dr. Jeff Masters (WeatherUnderground), and Dr. Steven Amstrup (Polar Bears International). Here’s an embed of the 30-minute video:


See also:
  • 1/5/2016 – Post by Sam Carana, at the Arctic-News blog. Includes image-set showing downward trend in sea-ice thickness, on the fourth of January, from 2012 to 2015 and on to 2016.