Hot Arctic Water, High Pressure Domes Pushing Sea Ice Toward New Record Lows

It doesn’t take much to shove Arctic sea ice toward new record low values these days. Human caused climate change has made it easy for all kinds of weather systems to bully the ice.

In the case of the past seven days, three moderate strength high pressure cells churned away over the central Arctic, bringing with them clear skies, air temperatures in the range of average for 1979-2000 above the 70 North Latitude line, and a clockwise circulation favoring sea ice compaction and warm water upwelling at the ice edge.

The highs measured in the range of 1020 to 1025 hPa barometric pressure. Moderate-strength weather conditions that during a typical year of the last century would have been almost completely non-noteworthy. Today, instead, we have sea ice extent testing new record lows in the Japanese Space Agency’s monitor:

Sea_Ice_Extent_v2

(Arctic sea ice extent as recorded by JAXA. Image source: IJIS Sea Ice Monitor.)

On June 30, JAXA showed Arctic Sea Ice extent totals in the range of 9,058,000 square kilometers or approximately tied with previous all-time record lows for the date set in 2011 and 2012. By comparison, NSIDC showed extent plunging to 3rd lowest in the record on June 29th and remaining in the same range on June 30th.

Weak Ice Facing Warm Winters, Hot Water

So how can moderate weather systems have such a powerful effect on sea ice? One need only look back to this winter when Arctic temperatures surged to 5-7 C above average for months on end with large areas experiencing extended periods of + 20 C above average readings. An extraordinary and abnormal warmth in winter that harms sea ice resiliency during summer periods of above freezing temperatures and 24 hour daylight.

In addition, sea surface temperatures in the Arctic are very warm. Much, much warmer than during similar periods of the 20th Century. The ice edge is surrounded on all sides by water that is much hotter than normal and even warmer waters lurk in the Arctic depths, waiting for only the slightest weather disturbance to dredge it to the surface. In this case, Arctic high pressure systems result in warm water upwelling at the ice edge, exactly where the ice is weakest.

Arctic SST Heat Anomaly For June 30

(Arctic Sea Surface temperature Anomaly showing much hotter than normal water temperatures throughout the Arctic on June 30, 2014. Image source: NOAA/National Weather Service.)

The above graphic provides a stark view of how hot Arctic Ocean waters have now become with most ice edge zones seeing temperatures in the range of 2.25 to even 8+ C values. This heat pressure combines with the ongoing ocean mixing and clear skies influence of even moderate high pressure systems to challenge sea ice record lows set just 2-3 years ago.

GFS model runs show high pressure systems continuing to dominate the Central Arctic for at least the next 144 hours. After that time, warm storms are shown to encroach over the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas. Throughout that time, solar insolation will continue to proliferate melt ponds over the sea ice even as warm water up-wells at the ice edge and the moderate strength high pressure domes continue to compact the ice.

Arctic Sea Ice June 30

(Arctic sea ice on June 30, 2014 as viewed from NASA’s LANCE MODIS sensor array showing a sea ice extent that is, in some measures, currently tied with record lows set in 2011 and 2012. Note the very large open areas of dark water in the Laptev, the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. These regions have been particularly vulnerable to rapid recession in 2014. In addition, note the characteristic blue tint of some ice sections in the image, indicating melt pond formation over large regions under the influence of high pressure and related clear skies.)

Given current trends, it appears we have about a 50-50 shot of seeing new record lows in some measures by the end of this melt season. Under the massive overall stress delivered to the Arctic sea ice by a combination of factors directly attributable to human-caused warming, it appears possible that near zero sea ice conditions may emerge one summer between now and 2020. Finally, with sea ice measures falling between 50-80 percent below 1979 levels over recent years, the overall stress to global and Northern Hemisphere weather systems has become quite extreme. A trend, unfortunately, that is bound to continue so long as human carbon emissions and related amplifying feedbacks remain at extraordinarily dangerous levels.

Links:

The Japanese Space Agency’s Sea Ice Monitor

NASA/LANCE MODIS

NOAA/The National Weather Service

The National Snow and Ice Data Center

 

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40 Comments

  1. cowpoke

     /  July 1, 2014

    Look at this SSTA off the East Coast, I know its the Gulf stream but a 6.5 C anomaly? I think it is a valid reading, as it is surrounded by 6+ anomalies. I imagine Arthur is heading this way at some point. Taken July 1st 2pm EST.

    http://imgur.com/MdBmKx9

    Reply
    • Very high tropical cyclone intensity potentials off that warm water. I’m seeing cat 4 and 5 convective potentials where we hardly ever see them in the North Atlantic this time of year.

      That + 6 C or more is partly due to the Gulf Stream backing up in this zone. It’s been shoved further south of late.

      Reply
      • Mark from New England

         /  July 1, 2014

        So if the El Nino is slow to develop, or fizzles out, we may see a ‘normal’ level of tropical storms and hurricanes in the North Atlantic later this summer and fall?

        Reply
        • I honestly don’t know what’s normal anymore. The regions where we have hot water are very close to the coast. If storms form there, they will have a good chance of rushing ashore. The high tropical storm potential energies we see there mean that any one of these storms could spike to major hurricane status or worse.

          El Nino tends to suppress off-shore formation in the broader Atlantic basin. That said, it tends to push storm formation closer to shore. With waters so warm, and with so much frontal system energy coming off North America, any one of these frontal boundaries could stall out land spawn storms.

          As for trends for number of storms, we would generally expect less storms overall during El Nino but with a higher percentage of those storms hitting land. With El Nino still looking to develop (strong WWBs off New Guinea), I’d say this trend will probably hold with the caveat that due to very warm water off the US east coast, some of these storms may be extraordinarily dangerous.

  2. james cole

     /  July 1, 2014

    I guess the really important thing is to keep our eyes on the trend lines. And those show that the Arctic Seas are rapidly headed for ice free summers and then those periods coming sooner and lasting longer. From what we already see in Jet Stream behavior from the present state of melted ice up there, I shudder to think the weather extremes that will follow long periods of ice free summers and less temperature differentials working to keep the Jet Stream in a defined path. I wonder just how big the waves in the Jet Stream will be in 5 years time and what that means for weather.
    I have noticed in the last few months that the denial community has really hit the blogs and comments sections very hard with denial posts and bully tactics. In particular I daily read a certain economic blog that is rather famous for it comments section. The weather impacts on food prices and economies was a recent topic and the comments section went off like a nuclear detonation. Bullying was extraordinary and the sheer weight of denial posts has driven all sane people off the comments whenever weather or climate comes up. I see this as a further heavy funding of trolls to swamp well known blogs and New Paper sites with masses of lies and when that fails, with extreme bullying. The Koch brothers seem to be able to buy silence, as climate science is not getting support on News Sites and Blogs. Denial is moving to up their game. Notice that Main Stream Media is a black hole of silence, even as we see global warming effects take off and dangerous feed backs in the arctic kick into full gear.

    Reply
    • The Arctic seems to have hit new major record lows once every five years or thereabouts… 2007, 2012. If we see another year like either of those by 2017, we will be at near ice free conditions. Just one summer where the weather promotes melt. That’s really all you need. A ridiculously low bar if you ask me.

      Reply
      • Typo? Your comment beginning: ” I honestly don’t know what’s normal anymore.”
        Second paragraph: “frontal boundaries could stall out land spawn storms.” land? and?
        Keep up the good fight.

        Reply
      • Danabanana

         /  July 2, 2014

        “If we see another year like either of those by 2017, we will be at near ice free conditions”

        Don’t worry, you will see another (the last straw for the ice) in 2017.

        Reply
    • Mark from New England

       /  July 1, 2014

      James,

      Good observations about a disturbing trend. The latest “Climate Change Denial” blog by George Marshall is called “Bald Blokes Talk About Extreme Weather”. Haven’t watched it yet but it looks timely.

      And yes, what will the drunken jet stream be like in a decade, say, when late-summer sea ice is gone for all practical purposes?

      Reply
    • Main stream media has been inadequate for so long, I doubt they have the ken or the courage to involve themselves in describing a climate going all to hell while they dawdle and cash their pay checks. They are ‘writing themselves out of the picture’.
      Such is life, as we know it.

      Reply
  3. Robert, I scooped and reblogged your post. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Those taller cloud systems are working their magic in Chicago today.

    “At one point, Midway Airport registered nearly an inch of rain in just 7 minutes”

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/01/chicago-storm-flooding-power-outage/11884545/

    Reply
    • God you have got to be kidding me. That’s tropical scale rainfall in Chicago!

      The mangled jet is killing the midwest. Just killing it.

      Reply
    • OK, I’ve been smeared over at Watts and a number of other numbskull sites many times now. So I’m going to start a pool on when they make some crap up about me over at Fox News… I mean, they’ve stooped to Steve Goddard levels of low and gone on a witch hunting rampage against NASA.

      I give ’em about 2 years. Perhaps enough time for me to finish my atmospheric and ocean sciences degree and slap my NWS cert in their faces.😉

      Reply
      • Mark from New England

         /  July 1, 2014

        Robert, when you’re slammed on FOX, that’ll be a sign that you’ve made it to the big time! We’ve got your back.

        Reply
        • Thx, Mark. You guys rock.

          I think it might be worthwhile to sue them and donate the proceeds to 350.org. Really getting tired of these bozos.

      • JPL

         /  July 1, 2014

        “Perhaps enough time for me to finish my atmospheric and ocean sciences degree…”

        Working on this degree and going to classes with you must be going to be like attending Hogwarts with Harry Potter…🙂

        Ditto what Mark said!

        John

        Reply
        • Will be teaching as an adjunct in Defense Against the Climate Dark Arts in 2016😉 All here are welcome to attend, teach from what they’ve learned, and share insights.

      • Spike

         /  July 1, 2014

        To be smeared by them is a badge of honour and proof that your relentless blogging of truth is getting through. Personally I avoid such sites now as the scale of psychopathology is just too wearisome.

        Reply
        • Saw a recent stat in which 1,500 newspapers, TV stations, and news websites were all owned by just 6 corporations. Too much influence in too few hands. These large corps need to be broken up.

      • Ron L

         /  July 1, 2014

        The antitrust laws are just not being used at all, for years now. It really quite tragic.So many of these large corporations, media, energy, agri/food, need to be taken apart.

        Reply
        • Couldn’t agree more. Conglomeration, corruption and inequality all tend to run in the same pack.

    • Damn. The NWT is really erupting. Sea of smoke and fire on the latest MODIS shot. Looks like I’ll be writing til midnight today🙂

      Reply
      • Mark from New England

         /  July 1, 2014

        Imagine being on a fishing expedition at Great Slave Lake and seeing these huge smoke clouds all around you. I think I would stay close to the water at all times!

        Reply
  5. messtime

     /  July 1, 2014

    I stumbled across this comment from a gardening site in New Zealand: Moosey @mooseysgarden 18 Apr 2014
    Ha! Statistix! 65mm of rain fell in the last 12 hours – that’s almost 10% of yearly rainfall. It’s too wet to garden!

    Reply
  6. Phil

     /  July 1, 2014

    Interesting that area seems to be still lagging extent significantly and relative to 2012, 2007,etc. Will be interested to see if drops in area pick up – they have seemed to be stuck in seventh or eight place for a while.

    Also seems to be alot of fog around and alot of debate at least on the arctic sea ice forum about what is causing it and its impact – e.g. whether it is likely to promote or retard sea ice melt and even hamper satellite measurements.

    More recently, also a discussion of the role that rain might also play in melt process. I am not sure if the fog and rain has been of abnormal extent compared to previous years or whether what we have seen in 2014 is typical.

    Will be interesting to see how this month progresses in terms of extent and particuarly area metrics.

    Reply
    • Rain and fog are a greater stress to sea ice due to high energy potential of water vapor. See snow eating fog…

      In the satellite shots, you tend to see a drop in ice coverage following foggy conditions.

      As for the area/extent discrepancy, it’s a bit odd. Pretty clear there’s a little confusion in the measures.

      Reply
    • Phil

       /  July 2, 2014

      Seems like latest extent is second lowest for the date, now only behind 2010. Also forecast for the next couple of days seems promising for further melt.

      Reply
  7. I personally wouldn’t blink if the Arctic set a new record this year – I’ve stopped bothering to keep a close eye on it actually (along with a whole bunch of other things due to real life demands), as I think the next big thing is total (or nearly so) loss. It’s only a matter of time – and then to see what follows.

    Reply
    • Danabanana

       /  July 2, 2014

      “I think the next big thing is total (or nearly so) loss. It’s only a matter of time – and then to see what follows.”

      … mass panic?

      Reply
      • Doubtful, if for no reason other than there has been no major panic or even substantial concern by the record lows being set in recent years (or even the aggressive predictions from people like Wadhams for near future total loss).

        I think the population at large still doesn’t appreciate the connection between the Arctic and the rest of the northern hemisphere – so no panic until food is unobtainable/too costly – which won’t necessarily correlate to the first ice free summer (even if one does expect that the effects will be increasingly obvious and accelerating and food prices will be rising further – it’s really a question of where the breaking point lies in any given nation, some having already run into problems).

        Reply
        • I think it’s an issue of the problem being out of context for them. Take North Carolina’s response to sea level rise as an example. The notion of a collapse in coastal real estate value and development was far too much to bear and so building at the edge of a rising sea hosting stronger storms continues pretty much unabated.

          It’s the same thinking that has made us vulnerable to so many bubbles of late. Poor planning, no flexibility or imagination, zero tolerance for change, no forward thinking or working for resiliency. It’s a gambling kind of mindset in which they rig the odds for catastrophic failure.

        • One suspects it would be precisely the same if the problem was an asteroid on a collision course – only when it became tangible or at least unmistakably visible would people pay notice?

          The problem is too abstract and too out of the ordinary for most people to comprehend it adequately, and thus it is continually filtered out of perception (there are of course numerous psychological mechanisms to account for this).

      • Given current behavior, more like mass denial.

        Reply
  1. Hot Arctic Water, High Pressure Domes Pushing Sea Ice Toward New Record Lows | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

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