After Brief Pause, Arctic Sea Ice Still in Record Decline, Science Begins to Show Human-Caused Arctic Melt is a Primary Driver of Extreme Weather

Today is September 13th. We are two days from a typical melt season’s end. And yet this melt season is anything but typical. After a brief period when weather conditions seemed to favor a stop in sea ice melt, melt has resumed. So, late in the season, we are still reaching new substantial record lows.

Today we’ve seen declines in both sea ice area and extent. JAXA fell 6,000 square kilometers from yesterday’s record to hit a new low of 3.585 million square kilometers. Cryosphere Today, on the other hand, fell by more than 50,000 square kilometers to reach a new record low of 2.262 million square kilometers. NSIDC is holding at near its record low set just yesterday.

Overall rates of decline are still a little steeper than for this time in 2007. So given these decline rates, it seems that yesterday’s call for 1 or 2 new record lows may be premature and that another series of record low days are in store.

Conditions in the Arctic are still dramatically warm for this time of year, though weather patterns have shifted into a phase that should encourage re-freeze. This has been the case over the past week. But melt is still ongoing. The best conclusion is that Arctic heat content and ice fragility are resulting in patterns that do not conform to typical Arctic weather and ice response.

Departures from previous record lows are as follows (last record year in parenthesis):

JAXA Extent: -665,000 square kilometers (2007)

Cryosphere Today Area: -643,000 square kilometers (2011)

PIOMAS Volume: -400 cubic kilometers (2011)

NSIDC Extent: -750,000 square kilometers (2007)

BBC and a number of other news outlets are finally starting to report on this year’s record ice loss. However, reports from these news agencies are using data from back in late August, so their reports do not, as yet, show the full extent of this year’s dramatic ice loss. Regardless, these reports are useful in spreading the word about the highly rapid and volatile decline of Arctic sea ice. You can view the BBC report here.

Of particular note is that news agencies are beginning to report on the groundbreaking work of Jennifer Francis showing how loss of sea ice is affecting the Jet Stream and enhancing extreme weather events around the world. The first major outlet to report on Francis’s findings was Think Progress. But it now appears other outlets are starting to follow suit. Radio ecoshock has an excellent interview with Ms Francis here.

The extreme weather mechanism resulting from Arctic sea ice melt has received a lot of analysis of late. Ms Francis has called a lot of attention to the increasing size of atmospheric wave patterns that result in slower, more powerful weather patterns. An excellent visual of these weather patterns can be viewed here:

Extreme weather resulting from these patterns includes extended cool, wet, and rainy periods resulting in more floods or extreme snowfall events and extreme heat and dryness resulting in more droughts. The march of these weather patterns around the world is likely to result in greater damage to modern infrastructure, in harm to crops likely to result in food scarcity and increasing prices at the grocery store. These are just the kinds of weather patterns that the world has been experiencing with greater and greater frequency since the 1990s. The current loss of sea ice and snowpack in the Arctic is likely to result in even more extreme weather to come.

Links:

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.recent.arctic.png

http://nsidc.org/

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