Persistent Arctic Cyclone 2013 Churns On, Shattering Central Arctic Sea Ice as Arctic Interior Continues to Warm.

Today, clouds parted enough over the Central Arctic to give us a visual of the ongoing damage inflicted by 2013’s Persistent Arctic Cyclone (PAC). And the damage, as we can see in the images below is extensive.

For comparison, I have provided this shot, taken on May 26th, just as the PAC was beginning to ramp up. Note how pristine and mostly crack-free the ice looks in this satellite shot. Though areas of leads and cracks exist, they are comparatively minor, small, and diffuse.


(Image source: Lance-Modis)

Today’s most recent Lance-Modis shot shows conditions that are radically different. Note the broad, black spider-web of cracks that has come to dominate this large region of the Central Arctic Ocean. The only places where these large, angry cracks aren’t visible is in areas still covered by dense cloud:


(Image source: Lance-Modis)

Uni-Bremen sea ice concentration assessments have now been showing confirmation of the storm’s thinning action for more than a week. Today’s concentration graphic provides yet one more validation of central area sea ice losses.


(Image source: Uni-Bremen)

This is the wreckage 18 days of constant pounding has inflicted upon some of the Arctic’s most resilient sea ice. One doesn’t have to think too hard to imagine what another 18 days of such pounding may look like. The Navy CICE/HYCOM model run further on in the post gets us less than half-way there. And weather forecast models show PAC 2013 remaining in the Central Arctic at least until Wednesday of next week.

PAC Positioned Near Warm Air Influx


(Image source: DMI)

The current pressure map shows the cyclone centered near the North Pole. Incorporated in its circulation are two weaker storms — one near the Kara Sea, the other over the East Siberian Sea. Lowest pressures are in the range of 990 mb.

Over the past few days, warmer air has been flowing into the Arctic from the region of Alaska and Kamchatka. This warmer air is embedded throughout the Arctic and is, largely incorporated into the circulation of our cyclone. So a substantial portion of the Central Arctic shows above freezing temperatures at this time:


(Image source: DMI)

Model forecasts show this warm air influx continuing to grow over the next week with above freezing temperatures covering larger portions of the Central Arctic as time moves forward. Above freezing temperatures are rather common this time of year. What is less common is for cold-core Arctic storms to host such temperatures, even during summer time.

A Constant Influx of Storms

One of PAC 2013’s unique features is its ability to consistently gobble up smaller storms. Storm after storm has arisen from the south, only to be subsumed by the Persistent Arctic Cyclone. This constant infusion of energy from the south is, likely, one of the features that has allowed PAC 2013 to last as long as it has.

Model forecasts show this trend continuing until at least June 19th. At that time, the cyclone is shown to transition to the Canadian Archipelago, as weaker storms trail along through the Central Arctic behind it. This projected storm track brings PAC 2013 on a path directly through a region of the Arctic’s thickest ice just north of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Throughout this period, PAC 2013 is expected to maintain a strength between 990 and 1000 mb — about the intensity of a moderately strong tropical cyclone, but diffused over a much larger area. Current projected storm track and strength show that it may pose a risk to fracture, disperse, and thin a section of ice that has been, thus far, left relatively unscathed.

Here is the ECMWF model forecast showing the storm’s predicted position on June 18th:


(Image source: ECMWF)

That puts a moderately strong 995 mb storm directly over the thickest part of the ice pack sometime next Tuesday.

Fram Strait Export

The constant counter-clockwise motion of PAC 2013 has also begun to have a substantial impact on the remaining thick ice near Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago. Since late May, this region has shown a thinning at the edges and a consistent motion toward the Fram Strait.

This motion is plainly visible in the US Navy CICE model history and forecast from May 23 to June 20 (posted below). Note the large front of greens and yellows (denoting thicker ice) pushing steadily toward the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard.

It is also worth mentioning that the amount of thinning forecast for a region from the North Pole to the Laptev Sea is astounding. Later days in the model forecast show this large region of thinning starting to wrap around the North Pole in the direction of Svalbard. The US Navy projects this region to include large areas of 0.75 meter thickness or less opening up in this region by June 20th. Bands of thin ice seem to be forming a ring pattern emitting out from the North Pole. A stunning effect more reminiscent of disaster movie graphics than actual weather forecast models. Should this forecast thinning emerge, it will be nothing short of remarkable.


(Image source: US Navy)

In conclusion, PAC 2013 continues. Though some models show the storm transitioning to the Canadian Archipelago by after June 20th, the storm appears likely to continue to impact one region of the Arctic or another for the time being. At 18 days, this is a very long-lasting storm, especially for early summer. Yet models show the potential for the storm to persist and continue to have impacts, having lasted at least 25 days by the end of some model runs.





Arctic Ice Graphs


US Navy

Leave a comment


  1. Sourabh

     /  June 13, 2013

    Hey Robert,

    I think you may find this link interesting.

    I think there might be some connection between how fast arctic melts and how much methane gets released. I think we are close to three tipping points: i) arctic ice ii) methane clatherates iii) tundra melting

    Its going to be sadly interesting next few years in arctic climate research.


  2. Hey Robert,

    I think there is another story/study floating around.

    We are focused on arctic, but antarctic is also doing some crazy stuff. If you are interested, you can also write something about it.


    • I’m taking a look at it now. Thanks for this link!


    • So I’ve posted an article on this subject. The ongoing research in this field is quite interesting.


      • Thanks a lot. I really appreciate your efforts in explaining on-going changes in Arctic. I will continue to follow your blog for more updates.

        I think Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctic are melting a lot faster than our worst case scenarios. Methane release has already started. I hate to say, but by the time our politicians realize, it will be too late to protect our civilization. After a decade we will be living in a new world.

        I am not sure if you have heard about peak oil or economic collapse due to monetary policy. I think peak oil is also an interesting topic to follow besides climate change. We already reached peak oil. Now, in next few years, our economic system will collapse. We will also loose our ability to adapt to climate change. Its depressing,but true.


        • I am aware of Peak Oil. Had been a regular over at The Oil Drum for a number of years. And yes, you’re right, conventional crude oil did reach a peak/plateau back in 2005-2006 and has been bumping along ever since.

          I also agree that our monetary system is based on the assumption of endless economic growth and that this growth is facilitated by an economy’s ability to provide an ever increasing array of materials, energy, and services.

          So a peak in non-renewable energy supplies is a huge shock. One that removes growth from an engine dependent upon it. That said, despite what many peak-oilers claim, we do have viable alternatives. EROEI for solar is 10-1 to 30-1. Wind is in a similar range. Storage tech is running apace and the costs for renewables continues to fall. So these energy sources can serve as a viable basis for a civilization with a long-term shrinking population, an economy geared toward sustainability (not exploitation), and a stable climate.

          Methane release from permafrost and clathrates at the bottom of the ocean is a viable and dangerous risk. One that grows the more we emit. And it does appear that some amplifying feedbacks are starting to kick in. But I’m not sure if it’s so much a settled matter that we are sliding down that slow. That said, I think we are probably closer to tipping points than most people think.

          My opinion is that we have time to start turning the corner, if we start to put in place strong policies between now and 2020. After that, the likelihood of developing an effective response greatly diminishes.

          This is not to say we won’t encounter difficulty. I think we’ve well passed that margin where we could have prevented shocks and damage. Now, it’s a question of if we can prevent the heavy blows that really take the system down. And, my opinion, is that we still have a shot. But we’ve really got to get the ball rolling and act soon.

          I also wanted to let you know that I saw the Think Progress article on NASA’s CARVE mission. I’ve got some info on methane that I’m working on at the moment. It’s hard to track down good info on methane. But I’ve managed to chase up a few bits. Will post on it soon.


        • The main problem is that it takes fossil energy to manufacture, transport, and install renewable energy. Even if we replace much of the fossil based infrastructure, we cannot run factories/heavy industries on PV/wind energy. I totally support wind and solar, but we have to practical. There is another concept called energy cannibalism.

          IMO, only viable alternatives are energy conservation ( consume very little) and nuclear. However, environmentalists have been opposing nuclear too. People don’t want to change their behavior or habits. People want all comfort/conveniences in their lives. Therefore, its hard to tell people not to consume.

          Btw, you should read about Molten Salt reactors and Thorium (liquid fluoride thorium reactor). Its awesome technology. I think its the only technology that can replace coal/gas.

          I also wanted to ask about how to reduce atmospheric CO2. Suppose, today we magically stopped emitting our CO2( at 400ppm). However, planet will continue to warm for centuries. If we start reforesting the planet to capture CO2, how much land would it take to bring down CO2 to safe level (350 ppm)? I read somewhere that after a particular limit, even if we reforested entire land area, we wouldn’t be able to capture enough CO2 to bring it down to 350ppm. I don’t know what that limit it, but I think that’s really scary. Reforestation is the only viable alternative we have got to capture CO2. We have limited land too.


        • I’ll reply to the second part of your response first…

          If we stopped emitting CO2 cold, and if major feedbacks didn’t immediately kick in, carbon sinks would take up 40% of added atmospheric carbon within 100 years, dropping world CO2 levels to slightly more than 350 parts per million by that time. Over the next 1000 years, another 30% of CO2 gets taken out by natural sinks, then we’re down to 310 ppmv.

          The major problem here is feedbacks. So the question is how powerful the initial forcing of 400 ppm CO2 is and how rapidly feedbacks come into play. And, as I said before, we are probably at the point of danger where some feedbacks start to arise. The question is are they powerful enough to set off the mini runaway that would almost surely take down civilization? I think probably not quite yet.

          In the very worst case, we could use atmospheric capture (chemical). But that would be extremely costly, on the order of funding a major war year in year out. But that gets pretty dicey some of the carbon gets re-released from the ocean.

          Inevitable destruction — not quite yet. Major danger. Yes.

          I’ll talk more about my opinion on nuclear, heavy industry, and thorium reactors tomorrow. But I’ll briefly say that nuclear could well be part of the solution, if we could solve the safety and PR trouble.


  3. Thanks,

    One thing I don’t understand is how carbon sink will continue to absorb more CO2. I thought there was a balance between atmospheric CO2 and carbon sink. Increased uptake of CO2 by ocean and forest was in response to increased atmospheric CO2. So, if we stopped increasing CO2, there won’t be any uptake. We have had that balance until industrial revolution.

    I found this article/abstract that contradicts your argument that CO2 concentration will decline in next 100 years if we suddenly stopped emitting CO2.

    These are additional article that you may find interesting.


  4. I think first link doesn’t work. Here is the title of the article: “Would atmospheric CO2 concentration continue to increase if anthropogenic CO2 emissions were to suddenly cease?”



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