The Arctic sea ice is breaking up to the north of Greenland during June. It’s the fossil fuel burning global dystopia phrase of the day. Another cognitive dissonance producing instance of something that would have never happened without the added heat kick provided by human-forced climate change. But now, with atmospheric CO2 topping out at near 408 ppm during May of this year, it appears that all sorts of weather weirdness is currently possible.
(1-3 mile wide cracks appear in the sea ice north of Greenland in this NASA satellite shot on June 19 of 2016. For reference, bottom edge of frame is 400 miles. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)
It was an odd break-up spurred by the onrush of warm winds rising up from Continental North America. These winds of climate change fueled record temperatures as they crossed the northern islands of the Canadian Archipelago over the past week. On Axel Heiburg Island, temperatures hit near 54 degrees F (12.3 C) along the 80 degree North Latitude line. Readings that are about 15-20 degrees F (7 to 12 C) above average for this time of year and highly anomalous readings for what should be a permanently frozen island.
These southerly winds then bore the record warm to near record warm airs across a region just north of Greenland — pushing temperatures over this section of the Arctic Ocean into the mid to upper 30s. This extra heat was then enough to shatter the thinning ice. 1-3 Mile wide cracks opened up as the ice drifted off its moorings between Northern Greenland and the North Pole.
(Warm, moist winds flowing over the Canadian Archipelago and into the Arctic Ocean on June 15-18 set up conditions that shattered sea ice to the North of Greenland. Image capture at 00:00 UTC on June 18 by Earth Nullschool.)
Now, the entire Arctic Ocean ice pack from the Beaufort to the East Siberian Sea, to the Laptev, across the Kara and north of the Barents on to north of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago is floating free in June. A condition that was unheard of in August or September just a decade and a half ago, but one that is now occurring before the Summer Solstice.
Overall, for this time of year, Arctic sea ice extent remains in or near record low ranges despite weather conditions that would have traditionally helped to preserve sea ice. Storms over the central ice have provided cloudy conditions, preventing direct sunlight from hitting the ice and speeding melt. However, despite these conditions, temperatures over most of the Arctic have remained above average — with some regions along the coast experiencing substantially above average temperatures.
(Arctic sea ice extent continues in record low ranges on June 19 of 2016 according to JAXA’s sea ice monitor.)
After record Arctic warmth this Winter and Spring, storms churning over the sea ice during June have done little to prevent continued record low extents throughout the Northern Polar zone or to disallow strange events like the early-season break-up of ice to the north of Greenland. To the contrary, we have numerous instances where storms are drawing in warm, wet winds from the south and are increasingly dumping rainfall over the sea ice. A condition that also tends to speed melt.
By yesterday, Japan’s sea ice measure (JAXA) had dropped to 9,730,000 square kilometers or about three days ahead of record melt year 2012’s all time low line. Rates of loss steepened over recent days as the anomalous Arctic heat bit in and numerous shattered ice flows lost integrity under relentless elemental punishment.
(Rainstorms over Arctic sea ice, like this one which is predicted to form by Tuesday in the GFS Model, can be even more damaging to ice coverage than direct sunlight. High amplitude Jet Stream waves often deliver these storms — born upon warm, wet winds — to the Arctic during summers that have now been dramatically warmed by human fossil fuel emissions. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer GFS capture for 00:00 UTC Tuesday June 21.)
Record low sea ice extents for 2016 are likely to continue to have an influence on Northern Hemisphere weather — assisting the formation of high amplitude Jet Stream wave patterns. These waves are associated with extreme and persistent weather conditions to include — heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods. One such wave pattern is now facilitating record hot temperatures and increased wildfire hazards over the US West and has the potential to set off heatwaves over the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic even as anomalous rainstorms form over wide sections of the Arctic Ocean during the next couple of weeks.
Hat tip to Cate
Hat tip to DT Lange