Arctic Sea Ice Flirts With New Record Lows Dragging Global Coverage Inexorably Down

It’s another winter of far above average temperatures for the Arctic.

Warm air has risen — south to north — over both the North Atlantic and Pacific. It has ridden through the Bering and Barents seas. And it has invaded an Arctic sea ice pack that is far, far more fragile than it has ever been in modern human reckoning.

image

(A parade of warm fronts predicted to run up through the North Atlantic and Barents between Greenland and Northern Europe and on up into the Arctic Ocean on Thursday, March 5. The warm fronts are indicated by regions of perpendicular wind flow across the meridional pattern running northward from the Eastern Seaboard of North America and on into the Arctic. It is a pattern we’ve seen frequently throughout the winter of 2014-2015. One that has resulted both in Arctic warming and extreme polar vortex excursions. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data Source: Global Forecast Systems Model.)

The winds have been fed by the warmest ocean surface temperatures ever seen in the aftermath of the hottest year on record (2014). They have pushed against ice packs off Irkutsk in Russia. They have driven ice northward and melted it throughout the Bering. And they have pushed 10-20 foot waves against the ice along the coasts of Greenland, in the Strait near Svalbard, and in the Barents west of Novaya Zemlya.

Near Record Low Arctic Sea Ice

This warm air influx has had a strong effect on the sea ice. Even in the far north near the pole, sea ice has been occasionally observed to thin this winter, reaching 80-90 percent concentration in a broad patch just south of the pole. Marked thinning for an area from which thicker, multi-year ice has undergone an extended retreat and 2 meter thick ice is now the mainstay. A mere shadow of ice for a region that once featured great hills and mounds of stable ice bounded by bridges between the North American and Asian Continents.

Now, over the greatly thinned and reduced ice, periods when temperatures have neared or even exceeded the point at which sea ice melts (28 F) have become more and more common in a broad wedge covering the Arctic Ocean between Novaya and the pole itself. When combined with the warm waters continuing to invade the Arctic Ocean from the flanks and from below, it’s enough to have again pushed sea ice to near record low extents for this time of year:

chart

(Arctic sea ice extent for March 1 of 2015 shown by the purple line sandwiched between the orange line [2011] and the pink line [2006]. Yesterday’s sea ice extent was second lowest in the record with 2006 being the lowest and 2011 running in as third lowest for the date. 2012 [dotted green], 2007 [light blue] and 1979 [dark blue] were added for reference. Image source: NSIDC.)

At the current measure of 14,450,000 square kilometers, that’s well less than what we’ve seen during previous decades. More than 2,000,000 square kilometers, or about an area the size of Greenland, less than 1979’s extent for March 1, for example.

And the total could well go lower — testing new record ranges for early March. For the Arctic is about to see another major influx of warm air.

Starting tomorrow and through Saturday, warm southerly winds will ride up into both the Bering and through the Barents side of the Arctic Ocean east of Novaya Zemlya. The warm air influx will be strongest through the Barents region, pushing temperatures as warm as 30 F to withing 200 miles of the North Pole:

image image

(Forecast for Wednesday finds 30 F temperatures riding up through the Barents and deep into the Arctic Ocean to within 200 miles of the North Pole. Note that similar temperatures appear in Ohio on the same day in the second frame. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data source: Global Forecast Systems Model.)

For comparison Ohio, many hundreds of miles to the south and well outside the Arctic, will see the same reading at the same time. It’s another major warm air influx that will again drive against the ice pack. A continuation of a decades long assault that will bring with it further threat of record lows in Arctic sea ice. One that could set the 2015 melt season up for a rather low launching pad if the major gains seen during this time of year in 2012, 2013, and 2014 don’t manage to materialize.

NASA Study Finds 35,000 Square Kilometers of Sea Ice Lost Each Year Globally

As Arctic sea ice faces the potential for new all-time lows, a recently released NASA study puts these losses in a global context.

This important broader assessment shows that both Arctic sea ice loss and global sea ice loss since 1979 has followed an unequivocal trend of thinning and recession. This ongoing loss is despite the fact that Antarctica has seen some minor gains in sea ice extent during that same period.

Claire Parkinson, author of the study, noted:

“Even though Antarctic sea ice reached a new record maximum this past September, global sea ice is still decreasing. That’s because the decreases in Arctic sea ice far exceed the increases in Antarctic sea ice.”

A graphic illustration of sea ice trends shows how rates of global and Arctic decline compare when adding in the slight and far more gradual sea ice gains occurring near Antarctica:

polar_trend_graphs_1979-2013

(NASA Polar Trend Graph shows Arctic, Antarctic, and combined global sea ice trends. Note the slight gain for Antarctica as compared to a precipitous fall for the Arctic even as the global trend shows a marked downswing. Image source: NASA.)

Massive losses in the Arctic are likely due to the fact that the sea ice there sits upon a warming ocean surrounded by warming continents. By contrast, Antarctic sea ice sits in the Southern Ocean whose surface waters are often cooled both by winds and by an increasing outflow of cold, fresh water from the melting Antarctic glaciers. Factors that serve as a minor surface counter-trend to the larger warming signal. A signal, that for Antarctica, is driving an assault of warm water at the ice sheets from the depth of hundreds of feet below the ocean surface.

Overall, the Arctic has lost of an average of 2 million square kilometers since 1979. Antarctic gains of about 700,000 square kilometers are enough to result in a global loss of around 1.3 million square kilometers over the period. That’s equal to about 35,000 square kilometers lost each year or an area the size of the State of Maryland.

Finally, it’s important to note that recent studies have shown (as hinted at above) that sea ice gain around Antarctica is being driven by cold water and ice berg outflows ramping up as the great glaciers of Antarctica increase their melt rates. The melt, which is driven by a pool of warm water expanding hundreds of feet beneath the ocean surface and at the base of ice sheets and ice shelves is creating a kind of heat conveyor which spreads cool water along the surface even as it pulls more warm water in from underneath.

So it appears even the slight ice gain for Antarctica has a connection to human caused warming. One that is even more ominously linked to an exponentially ramping rate of land ice loss from Antarctica itself.

Links:

NSIDC

NASA: Global Sea Ice Diminishing, Despite Antarctic Gains

Earth Nullschool

Global Forecast Systems Model

Expanding Arctic Sea Ice is Flooding Warning Bell

Cryosat Shows Rate of Antarctic Land Ice Loss Doubled During Last Decade

Hat Tips:

The Arctic Sea Ice Blog

Anna

Dnem

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133 Comments

  1. Meanwhile, they’re tossing snowballs in the US Senate…

    Reply
    • Is the snowball the new mascot for climate change deniers everywhere? Let’s hope that doesn’t turn into hail this summer…

      Reply
    • Well, there some old time saying about a “snowballs chance in hell”. This US Senate chamber fits right in to the equation.🙂

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 3, 2015

        Inhofe’s an ectotherm, ergo it’s not melting in his hand.

        Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 3, 2015

        ‘U.S. Senator James “Global warming is a hoax” Inhofe on video hosting a pigeon-blasting fundraiser’
        September 23, 2014 http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/09/23/shark-catches-u-s-senator-james-global-warming-is-a-hoax-inhofe-on-video-hosting-a-pigeon-blasting-fundraiser/
        Inhofe was himself videotaped in the act of shooting at pigeons. Other participants were shown throwing banded captive-raised pigeons into the air to be shot, kicking wounded birds, and throwing them up to be shot again.

        The event, billed as Inhofe’s ninth annual “pigeon hunt,” was to benefit “Friends of Jim Inhofe and the Fund For A Conservative Future.”

        The Oklahoma City television station KFOR posted links to the eight-minute SHARK video, with coverage by staff reporter Sarah Stewart, at the top of the 10 p.m. news o n September 22.
        Furious messages from constituents were prominent on Inhofe’s Facebook pages by midnight.

        Hooray for those sane Oklahomans!!!

        Reply
      • Like I’ve said before, Inhofe should be shot like those innocent pigeons he tormented. He is a despicable excuse for a human being, and has made a mockery and an embarrassment of our once legitimate government.

        Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 3, 2015

        He’s guilty as sin of all sorts of sins, and should be taken to task for his trangressions.
        However, preserving life on this planet must include all life, otherwise we just continue the same old cycle of desecration that’s led to where we are now.
        We know how that cycle will end. Let’s end that sick cycle before it ends us.

        Reply
      • Not that long A. Hitler had plenty of “willing executioners”. Be sure many Americans have the same cold cruel streak in them. This “fundraiser” for Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma and Koch land should be instructive.

        Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 4, 2015

        Gruesome. Too bad Dick Cheney wasn’t there.

        Reply
  2. I’m writing a Huffington Post article about Inhoffe and the Snowball. I’ll post it here when it’s printed.

    Reply
    • Griffin

       /  March 3, 2015

      Can’t wait to read it. This one will even beat the one about him landing his own airplane on a closed runway!

      Reply
  3. Hub is heading up that way for work in a week or so; I’ll report about what he sees.

    Reply
  4. Griffin

     /  March 3, 2015

    Robert, thank you as always for another very informative post. I have learned to pay close attention when you mention to keep an eye out for something.

    Reply
  5. Reblogged this on dtlange2.

    Reply
  6. Reblogged this on jpratt27.

    Reply
  7. eleggua

     /  March 3, 2015

    ‘ Inhofe’s Insane Climate Denial Speech Tells You Everything You Need to Know About the Republican Party Right Now’
    March 1, 2015
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/02/inhofes-insane-climate-denial-speech.html …Jeb Bush, who has positioned himself as the most pragmatic Republican candidate, has questioned the validity of climate science:
    – I’m a skeptic. I’m not a scientist. I think the science has been politicized. I would be very wary of hollowing out our industrial base even further… It may be only partially man-made. It may not be warming by the way. The last six years we’ve actually had mean temperatures that are cooler. –
    Bush prefers to frame his position in terms of economic growth. Taken at face value, Bush’s position is that the balance between economic growth and environmental quality should be 100 to 0. Even trivial costs are intolerable….

    …the modern Republican party (as opposed to the one of a generation ago) is structurally incapable of reasonable disagreement or calculus. Cranks like Inhofe have veto power. Even if Bush were inclined to disagree, and we have no evidence he is, he can’t. And so a stunt like Inhofe tossing a snowball on the Senate floor and claiming this refutes climate science actually tells you everything you need to know about giving the Republican Party power over government policy.

    Reply
    • And Bush has jumped off into looney toons ville…

      Bush should know now that any economic growth of consequence is unlikely to occur in the coming decades without strong climate policy. And the same energy systems that he and his republican colleagues so radically oppose are the same systems that use the least of the most precious of resources in an increasingly difficult climate change scenario: water.

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 3, 2015

        Robert, have you seen the names on the list of his ‘advisory board’? The handwriting on the wall seems pretty obvious here and it’s ugly graffiti.
        Decent NYTimes op-ed piece by Maureen Dowd from two Sundays ago:

        ‘Jeb Bush’s Brainless Trust’ http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/22/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-jeb-bushs-brainless-trust.html?_r=0
        …the day of his speech, his aide released a list of 21 advisers, 19 of whom had worked in the administrations of his father and his brother. The list starts with the estimable James Baker. But then it shockingly veers into warmongers.

        It’s mind-boggling, but there’s Paul Wolfowitz, the unapologetic designer of the doctrine of unilateralism and pre-emption, the naïve cheerleader for the Iraq invasion and the man who assured Congress that Iraqi oil would pay for the country’s reconstruction and that it was ridiculous to think we would need as many troops to control the country as Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, suggested.

        There’s John Hannah, Cheney’s national security adviser (cultivated by the scheming Ahmed Chalabi), who tried to stuff hyped-up junk on Saddam into Powell’s U.N. speech and who harbored bellicose ambitions about Iran; Stephen Hadley, who let the false 16-word assertion about Saddam trying to buy yellowcake in Niger into W.’s 2003 State of the Union; Porter Goss, the former C.I.A. director who defended waterboarding.

        There’s Michael Hayden, who publicly misled Congress about warrantless wiretapping and torture, and Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary who fumbled Katrina.

        Jeb is also getting advice from Condi Rice, queen of the apocalyptic mushroom cloud. And in his speech he twice praised a supporter, Henry Kissinger, who advised prolonging the Vietnam War, which the Nixon White House thought might help with the 1972 election.

        Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 3, 2015

        Yes. Neocon redux. Does not look good. They’re way out ahead already; Dems don’t even have a hat in the ring yet.

        None of the three names on this list count:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Party_presidential_candidates,_2016
        Vermin Supreme’s an interesting looking character and he does wear a funny hat, though.
        <em?Performance artist and perennial candidate from Massachusetts

        Pat Paulsen has a better chance of winning than any of those clowns and he’s been dead for nearly 20 years. And he’d be better than Jeb, despite not being alive.

        “Bush should know now that any economic growth of consequence is unlikely to occur in the coming decades without strong climate policy.”

        Exactly. That neocon crowd’s too smart not to see that. Makes one wonder, what’s their endgame?

        Reply
      • Andrew Dodds

         /  March 3, 2015

        eleggua –

        Why do you think that the neocons *want* economic growth particularly.

        It’s government by and for the rich. And if you already have more money than you need then the real ‘status’ is how you are doing relative to everyone else. That includes other people getting poorer.

        And, of course, you have the recurrent crises caused by a lack of ‘standard’ growth, they are a justification for more neocon policies.. You would notice, for instance, how every crisis seems to be taken as a chance to ‘push through important reforms’.

        Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 3, 2015

        Andrew, that’s twice in two days that you’ve made incorrect assumptions about me.
        You’ve misinterpreted/misunderstood what I’ve written. Where did I say that I think they want economic growth?

        robertscribbler – “Bush should know now that any economic growth of consequence is unlikely to occur in the coming decades without strong climate policy.”

        eleggua – “Exactly. That neocon crowd’s too smart not to see that. Makes one wonder, what’s their endgame?”

        Reply
        • climatehawk1

           /  March 3, 2015

          They’re not that smart. Their strategy consists of painting themselves into corner after corner –opposing gay rights, opposing immigration, opposing health care for all–for short-term gain, then pivoting to another issue when one dries up. This is just more of the same, except that the issue poses serious risks to us all. There is no end-game strategy, except to set various components of the public against each other, while helping corporations loot the commons. MHO.

      • eleggua

         /  March 3, 2015

        Definitely not ~that~ smart. Smart in a certain way, though; they’ve got their sh!t together when it comes to pushing their own warped agenda/s.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century

        Reply
  8. eleggua

     /  March 3, 2015

    No idea if the Dems and/or Hilary have anything better up their sleeves nor if they even plan to roll up their sleeves. It’s a mess in DC.

    Reply
  9. climatehawk1

     /  March 3, 2015

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  10. Bang on again, Robert.

    “Warm air has risen — south to north — over both the North Atlantic and Pacific. It has ridden through the Bering and Barents seas. And it has invaded an Arctic sea ice pack…”
    Good writing, a very apt description.

    Thanks

    Reply
  11. Robert, Since you’re looking at the Antarctic as well as the Arctic you may well be interested in this new Antarctic resource:

    http://GreatWhiteCon.info/resources/antarctic-sea-ice-graphs/

    It includes regional area and extent graphs as well as overall Antarctic metrics. Compare and contrast the Weddell and Ross Seas with the Indian and Pacific Ocean sectors!

    Reply
  12. Heavy toll as Australian farmers struggle through drought

    “We had droughts 2001-08, then we had three years off and then we are back in it again,” said Bill Murray, whose family has farmed a large tract of land about an hour’s drive west of Walgett for 150 years. “And that’s hard.”

    Adding to their despair, an Australian study last year forecast climate change would lead to less rainfall in the nation’s south—and more severe droughts.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-heavy-toll-australian-farmers-struggle.html#jCp

    Reply
  13. wili

     /  March 3, 2015

    Extent is now the lowest it’s ever been for this time of year, about 13.8 million k^2. It’s possible that this will be the first time in recorded history that it doesn’t get to or above 14 throughout the winter.

    But really, it is _volume_ that we should keep an eye on most avidly.

    With freshening surface waters, you can theoretically fairly quickly gain quite a bit of extent, even as you’re losing total volume, if the new ice is thin and your old ice has been flushed out of the Fram or melted in place.

    It’s a bit harder (and takes longer) to grow significant _volumes_ (thousands of cubic kilometers) of ice once it’s been lost. But volume is, of course, harder to measure accurately in real time.

    Reply
    • You’re looking at the JAXA extent measure, correct?

      PIOMAS shows volume bumped up above record low levels set in 2012, but is still well within the linear downward trend. As Jim notes above, we have some conflicting readings coming in — with CRYOSAT showing continued falls in 2013/2014. So a bit of noise there.

      Any of the three measures in record low range, in my view, is worth taking account of.

      Reply
    • Spike

       /  March 4, 2015

      And they’re increasing deforestation again – which is to put it mildly, as Mr Spock would say, illogical.

      The forests begin to take their revenge. “According to Dr. Antonio Nobre, researcher in the government’s space institute’s Earth System Science Centre, and Chief Science Advisor, National Institute for Research in the Amazon (reported by the Guardian’s Jonathan Watts last October):”

      “Vegetation-climate equilibrium is teetering on the brink of the abyss … Studies more than 20 years ago predicted what is happening with lowering rainfall. Amazon deforestation is altering climate. It is no longer about models. It is about observation. The connection with the event in São Paulo is important because finally people are paying attention.”

      And:

      “During the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down-more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization began”, Wallace continues. “Scientists fear that an additional 20 percent of the trees will be lost over the next two decades into the atmosphere.

      “If that happens, the forest’s ecology will begin to unravel. In fact, the Amazon produces half its own rainfall through the moisture it releases into the atmosphere. Eliminate enough of that rain through clearing, and the remaining trees dry out and die.”

      A few scientists are even suggesting that areas will revert to desert rather than savannah:

      http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2773319/brazils_ravaged_forests_are_taking_their_revenge.html

      Reply
  14. dnem

     /  March 3, 2015

    Thanks for this entry Robert – I raised the issue in a comment a couple of days ago (under a slightly different login). I continue to believe we’ll be better off in the long run the sooner we have a year that demolishes 1998 in the cherry-pickers’ “pause” arsenal. And in a similar vein, if this year’s melt eclipses 2012, we can get past talk of the 2012-2013 arctic “recovery.”

    Reply
    • Thanks Dnem. I’ll credit you in the hat tips. I hadn’t remembered who put the request in!

      I think we need to just roll with the variation. The overall trend is clear and provides more than enough proof. 1998 is already falling behind in the temperature measures. As for sea ice — it’s a complex beast that can be wagged about by glacial discharge rates. It’s worth tracking, but it isn’t the sole evidence for warming and I think we shouldn’t use it as the primary measure.

      Warming is primarily a measure of ocean warming (where the majority of the heat goes), ice melt (primarily land ice, the smaller fraction that is sea ice can be quite variable), atmosphere (which captures the least amount of heat overall). I’d say ocean temperature and rate of sea level rise are primary indicators. Atmospheric warming is more wildly shoved about, and sea ice might well be the most volatile measure of all.

      Still worth tracking in this context. But we should be aware that large glacial outflows thickening the fresh water wedge have their impacts.

      Reply
      • dnem

         /  March 3, 2015

        Completely agree. I’d only add that there are good, scientifically useful metrics, and then there are those things that capture the public’s attention. This is the last time I’ll belabor this point, but I know 1998 is fading away, but it still makes a good cherry-pick start point for a bogus temperature regression that can sow doubt. I know sea ice is highly variable and subject to confounding feedbacks, but an ice-free arctic is a striking image that will play large in the public zeitgeist.

        Reply
      • I agree, Dnem.

        Reply
  15. dnem

     /  March 3, 2015

    I meant 2013-2014 “recovery”.

    Reply
    • dnem – Please excuse my ignorance, but what “2013-2014 recovery” would that be?

      http://GreatWhiteCon.info/2014/08/has-the-arctic-ice-cap-expanded-for-the-second-year-in-succession/

      Reply
      • dnem

         /  March 3, 2015

        Jim, I read your comments on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum all the time. Great, sane, valuable information. Did you miss my “quotes” around “recovery”? All I was saying was that as we bounce along well below 2 SDs below the already low recent 30 year period, it raises the possibility that this summer might help kill a persistent meme – that the summer’s of 2013 and 2014 represent any sort of arctic ice “recovery.”

        Reply
        • climatehawk1

           /  March 3, 2015

          Nice idea, but it won’t happen. Fundamental axiom of denialism: “Every new record marks the beginning of a recovery.”

        • Sorry if my comment seemed a trifle curt dnem. I wasn’t sure why you changed 2012/13 to 13/14? 2012/13 was a “recovery”. Depending on the power of your magnifying glass 2013/14 was either a “statistical tie” or a modest resumption of the long term downtrend.

      • Climate Hawk — exactly. They play the massive warming as bears might play the stock market. The problem, for them and the rest of us, is that warming doesn’t respond to human expectation in the way markets have tended to. But it does give a hint about the source of the denial and its frame of reference.

        Reply
      • Jim —

        I like the term pseudo-recovery. Don’t let those pseudo-recoveries fool ya😉 In any case, we’ve all gotten wrapped around a term now and then…

        Reply
  16. Jeremy Jackson lecture – not new, but new to me –

    Ocean Apocalypse.

    Reply
  17. Wili – As you are probably already aware, there was a difference of opinion about 2013/14 delta volume. PIOMAS figured it increased, whereas Cryosat 2 measured a decrease!

    http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,119.msg44847.html#msg44847

    Reply
  18. Spike

     /  March 3, 2015

    Readers of this blog may be interested in this new online book by a UK renewables advocate. I’ve just got through the first 7 chapters and it contains much food for thought.

    http://www.jeremyleggett.net/latestbook/

    Reply
  19. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    Yes, humortra. Ain’t Prof. Jackson something. Tie the deniers to a chair and stick a big screen of this in front of them…(and turn up the volume…..)

    Reply
  20. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    As we move inexorably towards an Arctic free of summer sea ice and , in time, ice-free year round(?), I’m reminded that winter surface air temps averaged -30F or so while below the ice approx. +30F water temps…a near 60 degree (F) difference… we are truly playing with fire. Superb reporting, yet again, Robert!

    Reply
    • It really is stunning how much temps, especially water temps, have moved in some regions of the Arctic. This to me is a pretty big deal.

      Reply
    • Ouse M.D.

       /  March 3, 2015

      I can only reaffirm that after my recent visit to Finnish Lappland:
      temps around -4 C and +1 C, hundreds of kms north of the arctic circle.
      In Helsinki devastating rain +1 C washing away the snow and outdoor- hockey rinks.

      Reply
  21. Global warming contributed to Syria’s 2011 uprising, scientists claim

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/02/global-warming-worsened-syria-drought-study

    Scientists discuss the role of climate change in the Syrian civil war
    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/03/scientists-discuss-the-role-of-climate-change-in-the-syrian-civil-war/

    Reply
    • I read this. And I have a few disagreements for what is a good, overall, article.

      First, I think it’s a bit myopic to say that we need 20 million of the craters to have a problem. A single multi kiloton catastrophic methane release of this kind would look like something from the worst of human weaponry. This makes the crater problem more than just a methane release problem. It is a catastrophic geophysical changes problem.

      Second, sole reliance of the ESRL measure is probably not a good idea. The measure has only a few point source observations around the Arctic and does not give a good idea of the overall disposition of methane in the Arctic. In contrast to what the article claims, METOP and AQUA have both shown a substantial increase in atmospheric Arctic methane overburden. Overburden, because the Arctic hosts the highest methane readings on Earth — a feature that should not be blithely ignored. All that said, despite the limits of ESRL, the sensors do continue to show a rise is the level of overburden at many stations.

      For reference, consider this Aqua sequence at 400 mb from 2003 through 2012:

      To this point, and to the point of Arctic overburden, it is worth noting that almost all reporting stations show Arctic methane levels above 1900 ppb now. Meanwhile, Mauna Loa lags by more than 50 points in the range of 1850 ppb on average.

      Third, the amount of hydrate in the permafrost or beneath seabed is a matter of some conjecture. For the Arctic alone, it’s a matter of hundreds of gigatons. So even on the low end of estimates, you’re dealing with a very large carbon store. One that we now see may spontaneously disassociate in these kinds of events.

      Fourth, the methane blowhole events are just one piece of the methane response puzzle for the Arctic. Thawing permafrost itself contains hundreds of gigatons of organic material that will break down into CO2 or methane as it thaws. So the blowholes are just part of the issue.

      Finally, we have a recent survey of Arctic reasearchers showing an expectation of an Arctic carbon response equal to 10-35 percent of the annual human release by 2100. And when that human release rate is now at about 11 gigatons of carbon each year and at least ten times faster than at any time in the last 65 million years, that additional predicted response is a critical issue. One that should not be taken lightly.

      For reference, here’s the researcher survey:

      http://www.lter.uaf.edu/pdf/1562_Schuur_Abbott_2011.pdf

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 3, 2015

        Kid that wrote the article also tries to play down the importance of the potential of “methane emissions from sub-sea permafrost”.
        His words: “we should chill out.”

        He’s incorrect. We should chill out the heat/global warming but not our concern.

        Reply
      • I think there’s cause for appropriate concern. Even if the 10-35 percent estimate is not conservative, it is still a very bad outcome. 1 – 4 GT carbon of which 150 – 600 MT is methane. The rate of emission alone is enough to pose serious problems even if the human emission is zero at that time. In addition, I think the geophysical changes we would see as a result of some of this carbon coming from sea beds and tundra would be rather bad. We have terrible fires in the Arctic now. In some places the ground explodes now due to carbon release. Frozen lake surfaces can catch on fire now. Multiply this by 5, 10 or 20 and engage imagination. Not a very pretty picture, is it?

        Reply
      • eleggua

         /  March 3, 2015

        Nope. Definitely not a pretty picture. I’m concerned. Positive feedback looping nightmares.

        Reply
  22. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    Very good (overall) Post article, todaysguestis. A better reply, Robert.

    Reply
  23. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    ….I mean your last paragraph of it, Robert. The damn speed of 11 billion tons C/yr. The PETM was abrupt enough in geological time, but comfortingly slow in human terms? I’m agreeing that the anthropocene is more akin to the asteroid/comet impact as analogue…..

    Reply
  24. rustj2015

     /  March 3, 2015

    If this is so, as seems to be from constant study and reporting here…
    http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2777808/coming_soon_the_big_heat.html

    Reply
  25. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    ‘good’ summation of a whole range of my (and others) concerns, rustj2015.

    Reply
  26. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    Gerald. I’m 99.9% in agreement with Robert’s response to Wash Post piece. NOT sure, though, I’m not 99.9% in agreement with your last sentence….😦

    Reply
    • Sorry, guys. I’ve been moderating some of Gerald’s comments today. He’s more divisive than usual.

      Reply
      • Yes, I.m hearing more rant than reason from GS. Reason is a better currency for RS. In my humblest of opinions🙂. I hope I don’t get to humble, though.

        Reply
      • You’re right DT. Focus on facts tends to help cull out the extraneous bits.

        And your thoughts, humble or no, are ever welcome.

        Reply
      • climatehawk1

         /  March 3, 2015

        As the saying goes, thank you for your service.

        Reply
  27. Here is the last paragraph from incorruptible Nafeez Ahmed’s piece about the BIG HEAT COMING SOON recommended above by rustj2015.

    “What this means, if the UK Met Office is right, is that we probably have five years (likely less) before we witness the ‘Big Heat’ – a supercharged surge of rapid global warming that could last a decade, further destabilizing the climate system in deeply unpredictable ways.”

    It IS later than almost everybody is willing to admit.

    Reply
  28. I think that my last sentence stinks like methane.
    I hate it like I hate malignant cancer
    The trouble is that it is probably true.

    Reply
    • We have nothing in the science or the observational record to show that we are at 1 GT to 3 GT carbon from the Arctic now. If we were, I think we’d be seeing even more upheval than we are today.

      Some estimates have Arctic methane at 30-35 MT. Others are rather lower at this time. We might emit 100-250 MT carbon from the Arctic now.

      It’s worth noting that we have a bit of a hole in our data when it comes to the overall Arctic carbon emission. But it is important in that it is mostly a net addition to the carbon cycle — meaning that we didn’t really see much in the way of Arctic carbon emissions before and that a warming of the Arctic environment is adding this region to the global carbon equation. So we should probably have a better assessment of this as soon as possible.

      Reply
  29. – USN & Arctic Ice

    Navy Deploys Drones Under Arctic Ice Ahead of Increased Ship Presence

    The Navy has deployed underwater drones beneath the ice in the Arctic Ocean to assess how quickly the ice is melting and understand how soon the U.S. and Russia will be competing for strategic waterways in the region.

    The drones are measuring the temperature and salt content to help scientists develop more accurate computer models with which to predict the anticipated future pace of melting ice, Martin Jeffries, science advisor to the Office of Naval Research, or ONR, told Military.com.

    http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/03/02/navy-deploys-drones-under-arctic-ice-ahead-of-increased-ship.html

    Reply
    • – From the above USN Arctic Ice applies to this RS post:

      “The Arctic Ocean is a highly stratified ocean. It is a highly layered ocean and those layers can be measured by looking at the salinity and temperature of the water,” he said.

      Warmer water currents from both the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean currently flow into the Arctic region; warm waters from the Pacific are roughly 50 meters below the surface, whereas warmer waters from the Atlantic flow as deep as 200 to 250 meters below the surface…”

      Reply
  30. Here is Guy McPherson’s 2 minute take on the melting Arctic Ice cover & the edge of extinction from abrupt methane release that goes hand in hand with the rapidly melting ice cover.

    Reply
  31. I dunno whad happened, but I learned that McPherson’s vid with famous professor “kill off the poor by spiking their drinking water ” Ehrlich is now private.

    Here is Guy McPherson doing his best to tell us that we are on the edge of extinction;
    Edge of Extinction: WTH?? Abrupt Climate Change
    View on http://www.youtube.com

    I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN.

    Reply
  32. Robert, are you familiar w/ this USGS report? First posted January 26, 2015. I don’t recall if you referenced it in an earlier post.

    Future Wave and Wind Projections for United States and United States-Affiliated Pacific Islands

    Abstract

    Changes in future wave climates in the tropical Pacific Ocean from global climate change are not well understood. Spatially and temporally varying waves dominate coastal morphology and ecosystem structure of the islands throughout the tropical Pacific. Waves also impact coastal infrastructure, natural and cultural resources, and coastal-related economic activities of the islands. Wave heights, periods, and directions were forecast through the year 2100 using wind parameter outputs from four atmosphere-ocean global climate models from the Coupled Model Inter-Comparison Project…

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2015/1001/

    Reply
    • Had not yet seen this report for the Pacific. Overall, warming without ice sheet involvement results in a pretty stagnant world. The problem is that ice sheets, when they melt, can result in some rather spectacular weather and movement of hot and cold around the globe. I’d think that any model assessment that doesn’t include dynamic ice sheet response and related atmospheric response is missing part of the picture. To this point the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 models mostly assume a rather marked and steady rate of ice sheet response. Unfortunately, I don’t think that would be the case under either scenario.

      Reply
  33. -For those w/ PNW or BC/Canada ties wind/ocean/nutrient dynamics:

    Salish Sea a Key Source of Regional Marine Nutrients

    Summer winds along the west coast of the United States upwell dense, nutrient-rich water from the ocean depths onto the continental shelf throughout the California Current System, a region that stretches from Baja California to southern Canada. The upwelled nutrients fuel phytoplankton populations and influence marine life across the food chain.

    In the Pacific Northwest, however, the coastal waters are particularly nutrient rich. Underwater canyons here increase upwelling, and the continental shelves are wider than those to the south, which helps retain the nutrients just offshore. The Pacific Northwest’s continental shelf also sees more freshwater due to outflow from the Columbia River and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is the pathway through which all the water from the inland Salish Sea reaches the open ocean. Nineteen major rivers and runoff from 45 watersheds freshen the Salish Sea, which, in addition to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, includes Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia.

    …The authors estimate the strait is a more important supplier of nitrogen in Pacific Northwest coastal waters than the Columbia River. The authors also show that the strait’s nitrogen contribution is comparable to that supplied by local wind-driven upwelling along the Washington coast.

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-03/agu-twf030315.php

    Reply
  34. Most of this Youtube page contains short vids of Guy McPherson’s predictions of near term extinction.

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 3, 2015

      Doom porn is soooo boring.

      Reply
    • james cole

       /  March 3, 2015

      It is kind of an amazing fact that our dirty industries and transport vehicles really are all that stand between us an a catastrophic rise in global atmospheric temperatures. So much more solar energy will make it’s way down to the surface through the crystal clear air, and much will be trapped here by our greenhouse gas blanket. And this could happen at lightning speed, given a major world depression or economic collapse. Anything that shut down the industrial scale output of particulate pollution.
      Here is a simple test of that theory. If you live in a cold climate like I do, you experience a short warm summer, and a short cool fall before the long winter sets in. My favorite time of the year is Sept. We experience some crystal clear air as cold northern air pours down from Canada, the skies are brilliantly blue and clear. Though the air temperature is maybe 45 degrees at noon, the clear air allows solar heating to blast the temperatures up to the 70’s by 3:00 to 4:00, then rapid cooling again. Only on the crystal clear air days does this short heat burst happen, when we have the hazy air quality coming from the Dakotas, the same typical day will see 45 degrees at noon, with 55 degrees the top temperature by 3:00 PM. I put that extra heating down to the clear air and solar radiation effect.
      I shudder to think the world’s fate if a global economic crisis shut down air pollution. Imagine the increase in solar energy!

      Reply
  35. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    If I had the where-with-all I would gladly invite us all to a conference, hopefully in a greener and warmer place than the one I’m presently in. The topic? What Are We Going To Do? McPherson is not ALL wrong, but laughably so if he thinks Greenland and Antarctica wouldn’t have a (very stormy) complaint about GHG’s trying to warm earth’s surface by several degrees in a few years/decades. None of us, wholly exasperated by the data and the political response, are wrong to be frightened, furious, frustrated….eleggua. If the history of humans over the past 10,000 year long Holocene…this remarkable gift to us all of a stable global climate….and how we’ve robbed, stabbed, shot and looted each other and our collective Mother ain’t at least Eco-Porn, then, pray tell, what is?

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 3, 2015

      I agree; not wrong to be frightened, etc. But not good to ascribe to doom scenarios.
      Giving up is not an option. Some are definitely attracted to the doom and gloom: they get off on it.
      It’s porn for them and a major turn-off for me.

      Reply
  36. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    And, sincerely, eleggua, the scenario(s) you subscribe to, please? Share.

    Reply
  37. Kevin Jones

     /  March 3, 2015

    “Human beings will be happier– not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie, but when they learn to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia.” Kurt Vonnegut And mine too, dear soul. RIP. RIP.

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  March 3, 2015

      Agreed on the utopia and on Kurt.

      This blog is a virtual utopia, thanks to its creator and resident posters.

      Reply
  38. Robert In New Orleans

     /  March 4, 2015

    I recently went to Houston, TX for my brother in laws 60th birthday. He has been living on a transplanted heart for the last ten years and was never expected to live this long. During the course of my travels I went to Rosenburg TX to eat a little Mexican diner called Bobs Taco Station. On the way back into Houston, I could not be amazed at all of the new housing projects, strip malls and business parks sprouting all over the country side. I hate to sound like a pessimist, but I just cannot see us turning things around to prevent major calamities by adopting a low carbon lifestyle. What I am reading is that in order to save our collective skins we need to be at a no carbon or better yet a negative carbon existence.

    I am to the point where my thoughts are that Homo Sapiens is just another evolutionary dead end.

    Reply
  39. wili

     /  March 4, 2015

    This from one of the many careful observers of things arctic at neven’s Arctic sea ice forums, jdallen: “Given average conditions, 2015 melt season will almost certainly be among the three lowest in modern times, and I give it a greater than 50% chance of breaking the 2012 record.”
    And in a later post: “if we have a nasty melt year like 2012, it could blow away my low numbers, possibly all the way down to 2.25 million KM2 extent…”

    Reply
  40. Kevin Jones

     /  March 4, 2015

    A longtime student of the gang over at Nevin’s, wili, it looks like if we had a repeat of 2012, considering the spread between max. and min. area, that year…we could see 1.5KM2 area min……or so. I’m fascinated by the wealth of info packed into the various parameters: NSIDC’s 15% extent, DMI’s 30% extent. CT’s area, PIOMAS and CryoSat….

    Reply
  41. Kevin Jones

     /  March 4, 2015

    …million square kilometers…mK2(?)

    Reply
  42. wili

     /  March 4, 2015

    “million square kilometers…mK2(?)” Yes, I think that is his intended meaning. IIRC, the best predictor at this time of year for melt-season-end extent values is actually the extent of snow cover on the surrounding continents. I haven’t checked out those figures, yet.

    Reply
  1. “Dramatic Thinning” — Arctic Sea Ice Enters Record Low Territory as Northern Polar Region Heats Up | robertscribbler

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