Arctic Heat Pushes Sea Ice Into Record Low Territory During February

While the British Isles suffered a 60 day string of hurricane-force storms delivering the worst rain and wind events since record-keeping began in 1766, while the Eastern US suffered numerous and crippling severe storm events, and while California flirted with a 500 year drought before succumbing to a deluge of 11 inch in one day rainfall, the Arctic has been outrageously warm for winter.

Throughout the past three months, daily averages for the Arctic have ranged, overall, between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius hotter than normal. All while regional averages for locations within the Arctic often hit more than 20 degrees Celsius above average as a large pool of heat drifted about the northern polar zone.

By this week, that excess heat had finally done its work on sea ice, setting a new daily record low for this time of year.

NSIDC record low February 14

(NSIDC sea ice extent. Image source: Pogoda i Klimat)

As of February 12, sea ice extent had fallen to a record low for the date of 14.2 million square kilometers only nudging slightly higher to 14.24 million square kilometers by the 13th. According the Cryosphere Today, sea ice area also hit a new record low of 12.51 million square kilometers on the 11th before nudging slightly higher than 2012’s record lows on the 12th and 13th.

These, very low, sea ice area and extent measures are comparable to those seen during mid-May in 1979. If the extreme heat continues, we could see an end to the annual freeze season in February. But such an event would be rare and unprecedented. So it is too early to call.

Currently, conditions remain far, far warmer than normal with temperatures in the high Arctic are flirting with values typically seen during May:

Mean T above 80

(Average Arctic temperatures above 80 degrees North with current anomaly. Image source: DMI)

The recent high temperature anomaly for this furthest north region is extraordinary with averages for the zone about 17 degrees Celsius above the norm. And all that extra heat is translating into record low or near record low sea ice on the ocean surface.

As mentioned in numerous other blog posts, these extraordinary temperature values, a part of an average Arctic climate now hotter than at any time in at least 44,000 years, has profound impacts on world weather. It drives severe changes to the Jet Stream that can collapse the polar vortex and push Arctic-type storms into the US, while ski slopes in typically frigid Sochi, Russia melt. It can turn the North Atlantic into a breeding ground for severe storms that last for more than 40 days and 40 nights in Great Britain. It can spark winter wildfires in Norway. And it can set off record heatwaves, January thaws and snow melt spurring avalanches that cut off entire cities in Alaska.

These kinds of difficult to manage changes are exactly what we would expect from the initial ramping up of human-caused warming. An intensification that features Arctic temperatures which drive record low sea ice totals during winter and result in Arctic temperature anomaly spikes that look like this:


(Temperature anomaly for last 30 days when compared to the, already warmer than normal, 1981 to 2010 average. Image source: NOAA.)

If you think the world here looks like it has a  fever, then you are right. And this, along with the severe weather changes we have witnessed this winter are exactly what we can expect from a world which humans are causing to rapidly warm.




Pogoda i Klimat


Leave a comment


  1. james cole

     /  February 14, 2014

    I follow the denial movement as near as possible, they operate mostly from a script, as you can read any number of blog comments sections or online news sites comments sections and the denial posts are remarkably similar at any given time. This prompts me to believe that much of what is posted as comments is really coming from the fossil fuel industry’s employed PR firms who run professional trolling operations. I have publicly called out posters on a number of different blogs, like “Business Insider” and the news site the “UK Daily Mail Online” . In fact, the “Mail Online” will no longer post any comment coming from my registered account, this is censorship of course. I’ve gotten only a rare response, mostly I am met by silence. The few responses to my calling a poster out as a paid PR employee troll. have be of pure rage and anger. I believe the higher the rage factor, the closer to the truth I have hit.
    I bring this up, because the angle of denial attack this fall and early winter has been centered around the recovery of surface ice in the arctic, I am offered links to maps and photos of the arctic’s huge ice recovery this year. I suspect with the new information on a record low for Feb. being reached, that that angle will be abandoned and something new is being cooked up for diversion purposes. Big Oil and Coal practice diversion when denial is impossible, change the subject, focus on something else, that is their tactic. So I will follow with interest what angle they approach, what I think will be ,a shocking low in summer ice in the high arctic. As for the wild weather that Britain has seen, the Daily Mail, a big fossil fuel influenced news source, has been remarkably quiet. The storms roll in one after the other, and the Mail is hopelessly out of it’s league, as they must keep silent on climate change, and thus can explain nothing as to the cause of such radical weather events. Silence or denial, that is all they have got in 2014.

    • The reason why I don’t let deniers post on this site is primarily due to the fact that their arguments amount to little more than smoke. The fact that such distractions are clearly driven by industry special interests is yet another reason. Furthermore, it’s impossible to have a clear-headed and rational discussion if the goal of some parties is to muddy the water rather than to engage in an action of discovery.

      It’s clear there will be a difference of opinion on certain key matters regarding climate change. But for people to outright deny that human fossil fuel use is changing the atmosphere is about as ignorant or idiotic as people who still claim the Earth is flat or who seem to think that the Earth doesn’t revolve around the sun.

      Engaging such nonsense elevates it. And that’s what we tend to see on a lot of on these forums. Even worse, as you note, the constant spam of misinformation being posted by deniers acts as a sort of white-noise censorship. And that’s not even taking into account the various sites that are actively hostile to those, like you, who try to raise awareness.

  2. coopgeek

     /  February 14, 2014

    That leading chart of ice coverage is giving me the creeps. Assuming that this is the start of the melt, the ice peak is not only lower than ever but significantly earlier. So if a trajectory even just like the average melt takes place from this point (about a month earlier and a couple million km2 less), this year’s curve is quickly going to become a striking outlier. And of course it might be a worse rate.

    Has anyone found an attempt to project this scenario out? Ideally it should be charted with the bottom of the chart at 0 rather than 2, so as not to make things look even worse than they are (which is certainly bad enough). I’m trying to get an eyeball sense of where various melt forecasts intersect with ice-free.

    Thanks again.

  3. One tiny thing I’d like clarified – by “worst rain and wind events since 1766” – do you mean there was worse wind and/or rain recorded in 1766? Or are you in fact saying that the instrumental record does not contain examples of such severe conditions, and that the record only goes back that far?

    I have a bad feeling about this year – I can’t pin it down any more than that yet… hopefully I’m wrong, eh?

    • james cole

       /  February 15, 2014

      I share your confusion over the dating of such things as “worst since …date”. Other than that, the British press is running satellite photos tonight showing the great storm over Britain and the other over the US East, being now connected by a long arm of clouds that appear to mean the two storms are sharing some of their energy. I’de love to know more about what this exactly implies.

      • Ominous sight of things to come. Storm synergy and hybridization is one of the things we’ll probably see more of as these beasts get pumped up by added moisture, heat exchange and high temperature differentials.

      • It’s worth noting that the 10 day models show the storm path starting to shift northward. This may be the beginning of the end to this long, damaging progression.

        We’ll see.

    • I have a problem with this same question every time an all time record gets smashed. Usually something like :
      ” Hottest day in over 100 years” is the headline.
      When in fact the POR is say , 134 years, and no temp was ever as high as the one that was just set.
      These days it’s safe to assume that when a record get’s broken , it’s because the record stops. Not that it was hotter 134 years ago.

  4. Robert is citing the MET Office comments. It is in regard to how far back the UK records go for precipitation and temperature. I blogged on this as well given the closest comments on correlation of UK climate change impacting its weather.

    See: .

  5. Meanwhile on the other side of the North Pole in Siberia…

    All-time record monthly warm temperatures have been observed at many sites in the Siberian states of Yakutia and Kamchatka. In what is normally the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth, Oymyakon (various spellings), saw its temperature rise to a February record high of -12.5°C (9.5°F) on February 9th (previous record was -15.3°C/4.5°F in February 2010). The normal high temperature at this time of the year should be around -42°C (-51°F). Oymyakon also holds the world record (along with Verkhoyansk) for the coldest temperature ever measured on earth at an inhabited site: -67.7°C (-90°F) set on February 6, 1933 (almost exactly 80 years ago).

    Other all-time monthly records have been set at:

    Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski: 5.3°C (41.5°F) on Feb. 3 (previous record 5.0°C/41.0°F on Feb. 19, 1986)

    Pevek: 5.6°C (42.1°F) on Feb. 8 (previous record 1.4°C/34.5°F on Feb. 28, 2008)

    Magadan: 3.2°C (37.8°F) on Feb. 8 (old record 2.5°C/36.5°F in February 1968

    Omolon: 2.9°C (37.2°F) on Feb. 7 (old record -0.6°C/30.9°F on Feb. 1, 1985). This is the first time this site has ever risen above freezing during the month of February.

    Okhotsk: 2.0°C (35.6°F) on Feb. 7 (old record 1.9°C/35.4°F in February 1985

    Keyes: 3.7°C (38.7°F) on Feb. 6 (old record 3.0°C/37.4°F on Feb. 28, 1982).

    • james cole

       /  February 15, 2014

      Siberia is a huge deposit of CO2 and Methane in that vast permafrost tundra, perhaps we can now call Siberia a “ticking time bomb”??

    • And Yakutia, as Bob has mentioned many times before, hosts one of the largest carbon piles in the Arctic.

      Very, very bad news here.

  6. Second, and Heavier, Snowstorm Hits Tokyo Area. All-time snow depth records set

    As the eastern U.S. digs out of its biggest snowstorm of the season (see Jeff Masters blog on the subject) another snowstorm has hit Tokyo, Japan this Friday-Saturday (February 14-15), the 2nd big snow to hit the city in the span of just a week. Early reports say that 27 cm (10.6”) of snow has fallen in downtown Tokyo as of 2 a.m., February 15th local time. However, extraordinary snowfalls of up to 42″ have fallen in sites in the far suburbs (50 mile radius) of the city, doubling previous all-time records.

  7. The Weather Bell map for Northern Europe for today :

  8. Cat parasite found in western Arctic Beluga deemed infectious

    University of British Columbia scientists have found for the first time an infectious form of the cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii in western Arctic Beluga, prompting a call for caution for the Inuit people who eat whale meat.

    The same team also discovered a new strain of the parasite, previously sequestered in the icy north, that is responsible for killing 406 grey seals in the north Atlantic in 2012.

    Presenting their findings today at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Michael Grigg and Stephen Raverty from UBC’s Marine Mammal Research Unit say that the “big thaw” occurring in the Arctic is allowing never-before-seen movement of pathogens between the Arctic and the lower latitudes.

    “Ice is a major eco-barrier for pathogens,” says Michael Grigg, a molecular parasitologist with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and an adjunct professor at UBC. “What we’re seeing with the big thaw is the liberation of pathogens gaining access to vulnerable new hosts and wreaking havoc.”

    Toxoplasmosis, also known as kitty litter disease, is the leading cause of infectious blindness in humans and can be fatal to fetuses and to people and animals with compromised immune systems.


  9. Not every astronomer can claim to have enjoyed both the attention of the Inquisition and the Indigo Girls, but then again, Galileo was no ordinary genius.

    Discoverer of moons, toppler of Aristotle’s physics, and celebrated loser of history’s most famous heresy trial, Galileo Galilei’s greatest invention, in truth, was our own modern world.

    On the 450th anniversary of his birth today, February 15, 2014, it’s worth taking a telescopic look at the achievements of this unparalleled genius of the Renaissance. Born in 1564 in Pisa, Italy, Galileo lived to the age of 77, a life span that saw the start of the scientific revolution in Europe. (See also: “Galileo’s Telescope at 400.”)

  10. Our nuclear waste dump is having problems. About ten days ago a salt truck burned up, and now this:

    “CARLSBAD — A possible radiation leak is being reported at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. 

    Department of Energy officials said that air monitors late Friday night detected airborne radiation in the underground. Officials are on site to assess the situation and determine the next reasonable steps according to a news release.

    WIPP, located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, is the nation’s first transuranic nuclear waste repository, used to permanently dispose of low-level nuclear waste from government sites around the nation.

    • This is not good , not good at all –

      • There are interests here who are pushing to expand WIPP, accept more radioactive stuff than they currently are. Expressing concern about these little incidents gets the same kind of reaction as those coal miners who can’t drink their own water, that it’s just the cost of doing business, that somebody’s gotta do it.

        Carlsbad is really a sacrifice zone.

  11. To Galileo Galilei’s question 450 years ago. “Does the Earth orbit the Sun ?”
    One out of four of us doesn’t know the right answer.

    • One out of four of us likely doesn’t know a lot of things.

      I tried to engage a neighbor in conversation years ago. She wanted to talk about gardening. I mentioned that nitrogen is limiting in desert soils. She asked me what nitrogen was.

      I’m not too adept at handling such conversations. And being aware of the existence of chemistry is much more complicated than knowing which way is up, or what “up” even means.

  12. ” Carlsbad is really a sacrifice zone.”
    The whole Permian basin, ………… Carlsbad to Roswell , this is the just the West End of it.

  13. The last 7 days.

  14. Robert, I’ve been reading your Luthiel fantasy novels. I like your character and plot development, and making the main protaganist a fifteen year old girl is excellent. She’s a great character.

    I don’t read a lot of fantasy because I expect most of it to be thin derivative tripe. I’m almost done with volume II and I think you really did some good work with this, you involved a lot of good themes.

    The only sour note for me, and this is substantial, is why on earth do you hate spiders? Okay, I’m not done yet, and I can see that Luthiel is about transforming them back into humans. But this all suggests that humans are superior to spiders, and that’s ridiculous. Spiders are our protectors. Spiders are the great biological vectors of controlling populations of disease-bearing Diptera, including house flies and mosquitos.

    So what good is done by trying to sell the public on their being evil?

    Even if they all get back to being elves in the end, because Luthiel is such an awesome woman, why lay all this on spiders?

    What did spiders ever do to humans to deserve this sort of vicious fantasy about them?

    I can see you’re working with the theme as I work through your second book, but I keep feeling more and more uncomfortable about reading more spider gore scenes.


    • Ah, Miep. All good points I never thought about.

      For my part, though I understand how important spiders are, I’ve had an in-born visceral fear of them for some time. Perhaps this is also linked to my dislike of manipulative behavior.

      But, fear not, there are both good and bad examples of spiders in the series. And there’s a common thread running through all the various things that went wrong, including the spiders you feel I’ve so wrongly maligned.

  15. What bothers me about your fantasy novels is not that you involved enchanted vicious spiders who are really elves, but that you devoted so much space to this. I have a lot of professional history with working with spiders, and this sort of carrying on comes off as anti-arachnid bigotry to me. Spewing out black toxic fluids when punctured, etc. This is really inexcusable. You’re supposed to be someone who cares about our natural world and you write crap about spiders like that? You focussed your novels around spiders like that so much? You apparently thought this would be helpful?

    Spiders help enormously to keep this world’s natural communities together. Humans do not, mostly.

    I like Luthien. I like the mini-dragon and the werewolf. I like the poisoned people in many cases. I like the sorcerors.

    But I don’t like what you did to spiders. It was so nasty that I don’t want to finish the book. I’m sure you have some kind of excuse. But what you did there sucks, it ruined your writing.

    “Spiders are inferior! When humans or elves turn into spiders they are evil and wrong!”



    • And this is how you offend people by writing. Entirely unintentionally.

      Nor do I think my particular vision of how some spiders were corrupted and went wrong impinges all spiders, as the horrible wretchedness of Zaelos does not impinge on all humans or elves.

      These particular spiders were originally elves in any case and now the spell is being broken and Luthiel is turning them back. Some, whose nature could not be re-altered became the Senasarab, also spiders.

      In any case, I’m sorry that I’ve offended your spider sensibilities. But with all writing it is practically impossible to see all points of view or to please all people on all counts.

      And last of all, the books are more an interrogation of how humans (elves etc) wreck and twist natural systems in pursuit of power. I’m sorry to see that one incarnation of this — the twisted spider forms — have offended you.

      Warmest regards,


  16. Mark Archambault

     /  February 16, 2014

    In reply to Miep, perhaps Robert has a touch of arachnophobia. I can relate. When I come across a snake in the wild, I try to get a better look, and sometimes to ‘catch and release it’. (Note: non-poisonous relatively small snakes) But if I see a big spider, I freak out. I do not, however, then decide to kill it. I respect their role in nature, just don’t want to get too close to any 🙂

  17. Mark Archambault

     /  February 16, 2014

    I have a question for Robert or anyone who knows: how likely is it for the Pacific ocean circulation pattern to go into El Nino mode this year or in the near future? Is there a natural periodicity between El Nino and La Nina? And if a strong El Nino were to occur, how would that likely affect precipitation in the southwestern US and California?

    • In typical climate variation we go through periods when La Nina is more prevalent and periods when El Nino is more prevalent. This cyclicity normally lasts about 10-15 years and is termed Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).

      Since about 2000, we’ve been in a negative PDO in which La Nina conditions have been more prevalent.

      During negative PDO, the ocean system takes up more heat from the atmosphere as cooler waters from the depths in the Eastern Pacific contact the hot tropical airs. The cooler waters dump the coolness of the depths into the atmosphere while they transfer the warmth into the abyss.

      Kevin Trenberth’s research has shown that this transfer has resulted in rapid acceleration of deep ocean warming during the past decade.

      Going forward, there’s a big question as to if/when PDO switches back to positive and what will happen as a result. I say if, because it is remotely possible that a warming atmosphere could tip PDO into a fixed state for a long period as atmosphere to ocean heat transfer continues indefinitely. This is a scientific question that remains unanswered and other research has pointed toward the opposite — a fixed El Nino state (as occurred when the Earth was cooling down a few million years ago).

      If PDO does switch to positive, and we should expect natural cyclicity to push that switch soon, we will see a huge amount of heat being dumped into the atmosphere. Among other things, this will likely produce the potential for very strong, persistent storm events during winter for California. Record events like we’ve seen in Britain and in other places. Events that could very severely disrupt and damage West Coast cities and communities (with potential megastorms).

      As for are we seeing El Nino now…

      Quite the opposite. What we are seeing, instead, looks like a flirting with La Nina. And this, given the current long negative PDO is getting to be somewhat odd. The forecast shows a potential for El Nino by summer, but it did this last year too. So we shall have to see.

      • Thanks Robert, that’s a helpful description of how ENSO works. It’s so important to understand this when assessing relatively short term climate variations, how the ocean operates as a heat sink, and when it doesn’t.

  18. islandraider

     /  February 16, 2014

    For all things ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation):
    Scroll down & click on the ‘Weekly ENSO Evolution, Status, and Prediction Presentation’ (pdf). NOAA gives a good overview & predictions. Bottom line: “Most models predict ENSO-neutral (-0.5ºC to +0.5ºC) to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring. After that, models predict either ENSO-neutral or El Niño (greater or equal to +0.5ºC) during the Northern Hemisphere summer 2014.”

    • This is a good link.

      We’re looking at negative/neutral conditions now. If we switch to El Nino during summer, we’ll start to see a degree of heat transfer from the ocean to atmosphere and this will result in a number of changes to California weather.

      The best thing California (and the rest of us) can hope for, at this point, is a weak El Nino which would result in some much needed but probably not too disruptive rains for the region.

      If El Nino is weak and PDO remains primarily negative, it will be a rather long running negative. Hence my statement below.

      Most ocean scientists are looking at a strong flip from negative to positive and a very large heat transfer from the oceans to the atmosphere. Most climate model predictions also follow these projections. So when/if PDO flips. Watch out for a rather rapid jump in global average temps along with a string of related severe weather events.

    • Excellent research, though terrifying to me. Total albedo loss is already 4%? Total additional warming impact is already +25%. This alone is a very powerful amplifying feedback.

  19. Phil

     /  February 18, 2014

    I saw the monthly JISAO PDO value for January 2014 was positive (0.3). This, of course, is only one value and it could switch back to negative values but it has been a while since we have seen a positive value in that data series. The amplitude of the negative values in recent years seems to have been slowly diminishing as well in broad terms.

    • Hardly an exceptional positive. They’ve hit as high as 2.5+ in past decades and the last year we had a value above +1 was 2003.

      It will take much more than one month of +.3 to flip us into positive.

      ENSO also still on the cool side of neutral for most of February. We might get an El Nino by summer. But the models are currently very uncertain. With Arctic amplification currently weakening the westerlies and strengthening the trades, I’m starting to wonder about how long this negative PDO will last.

      We’ve had negative PDO last as long as 22 years. Usually about 10-15 and we’re currently about 14 years into the recent negative phase.

  20. Increase in Arctic cyclones is linked to climate change


    Winter in the Arctic is not only cold and dark; it is also storm season when hurricane-like cyclones traverse the northern waters from Iceland to Alaska. These cyclones are characterized by strong localized drops in sea level pressure, and as Arctic-wide decreases in sea level pressure are one of the expected results of climate change, this could increase extreme Arctic cyclone activity, including powerful storms in the spring and fall. A new study uses historical climate model simulations to demonstrate that there has been an Arctic-wide decrease in sea level pressure since the 1800’s.

  21. Canada’s Arctic ice caps melting rapidly since 2005, according to documents

    Federal data show the Devon ice cap’s northwest sector has lost 1.6 per cent of its mass since the 1960s, the Meighen approximately 11 per cent of its mass and the Melville about 13 per cent, he said. However, approximately 30 to 40 per cent of the ice mass lost has happened since 2005.

    “Since 2005 it has enhanced quite significantly,” Burgess said in an interview.

  22. Hi, Robert. Please understand that your writing, when it’s not focussed on spider gore, literally moves me to tears at times, it’s that good.

    I rarely write critical comments about people’s work. I probably should not have in this case. But I spent many years working in arachnid education and it’s always difficult to see them framed as evil in any sense. Years of dealing with answering email from people writing about how spiders were attacking them in the night, spiders they never saw but they were sure they were spiders because they just knew. People who wish all spiders dead, though that would deal a severe blow to natural communities everywhere.

    It is the most common phobia, though the odds of dying from a spider bite in the USA are similar to the odds of dying from falling into an open sewer cover. You’re more likely to die from tripping and falling while walking down the street. (I researched this once for an article I wrote.)

    So it’s just frustrating seeing this kind of thing fed.

    • Well, it’s important for me to hear what you have to say. If you’d like to send along any material about arachnids, I’d be more than happy to look.

      In any case, spider demonization is not at all the goal. So I guess I need to think about portrayal.

      • Arachnids are a hugely complex class. My knowledge is uneven, but I know more about them than most people, and who is available online for referral.

        There isn’t any money in arachnology, unless you’re a poisoner, so the people who slog through getting their entomology degrees and then on their own nickel read enough arachnology journal articles and other literature, tend to be pretty special people. I am not an arachnologist.

        The American Tarantula Society, which I co-managed for several years, is at

        They are nice folks and I do recommend them.

    • In any case, I believe that all creatures are important. This awareness, for me, has been one that’s developed over time. So there may well be some gaps in my fiction.

    • Absolutely. Except that it takes about about 50 to 100k years to recover from an asteroid impact. Climate change can take ten times as long.

  1. Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low | ClimateState
  2. Another Week of Anthropocene Antics, February 16, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered
  3. Despite ‘Unprecedented’ Heat Transfer to Oceans, NASA Shows January 2014 was Second Hottest On Record; Models Hint at El Nino, Big Atmospheric Temperature Jump on Horizon | robertscribbler
  4. Dr Jennifer Francis and the Year-Long Blocking Pattern | robertscribbler
  5. Sea Ice Loss, Human Warming Places Earth Under Ongoing Fire of Severe Weather Events Through Early 2014, Likelihood of Extremes For Some Regions Increases by 500% | robertscribbler

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