What’s Swimming in the Open Water Near the North Pole These Days?

Globally, it’s been a record-hot year. But nowhere has seen so much anomalous warmth during 2016 as the Arctic. As melt season draws to a close, some dramatic effects are now becoming visible in the NASA satellite shots. Large regions near the North Pole are losing their white covering of sea ice and showing the telltale blue-black of open water:

north-pole-open-water

(Large areas of open water are visible near the North Pole in this LANCE MODIS satellite shot.)

The above image, provided by NASA, shows the Northern Hemisphere polar region on September 5, 2016. To get some sense of the size of this region of low-concentration sea ice, the bottom edge of this capture represents approximately 300 miles. For a point of reference, the North Pole can be seen where the lines of the satellite image frames converge in the lower left-hand side of the capture.

All throughout this satellite shot, we see large expanses of open water. The smaller openings are five to ten miles wide, with very large openings ranging as much as 50 miles long appearing as well. Cloud cover is present throughout the image and blocks some visibility to open regions on the Siberian side of the Pole (upper section of the image) and over the Pole itself (lower left).

arctic-sea-ice-area

(Arctic sea ice area coming uncomfortably close to 2012 record lows in this NORSEX SSM model summary.)

Loss of ice in this region of the central Arctic is similar to and perhaps more extensive than that seen during 2010 and 2013. In 2013, strong storms combined with weakened ice states resulting in severe melt near the North Pole, with ice becoming more dispersed throughout the Arctic. This year, both storms and heat have hit the ice hard. Now, ice edge extent is far lower than in 2013 even as low-concentration ice floes and open water are visible near the Pole. As such, the overall health of sea ice is dramatically worse during 2016.

Unfortunately, sea ice buoy observations near the North Pole have seen cuts to research funding and no camera buoys are operating near the Pole. Otherwise, we’d probably be treated to images like this:

north-pole-camera-2-swims

(North Pole Camera 2 goes for a swim during the summer of 2013 as a period of extensive near-polar melt set in. Most indicators show that ice conditions at the North Pole this summer were as bad or worse. Image source: North Pole Environmental Observatory.)

The large, open sections of water near the Pole appeared as sea-ice extent and area in many measures fell to second lowest on record for this time of year. Some measures (shown in the middle image above) have come uncomfortably close to the 2012 record low line.

Overall, 2016 is a very bad year for sea ice. And the weird prospect of polar bears (or anything else) being forced to swim at the North Pole is not at all something to brighten one’s day.

Links:

NASA GISS

LANCE MODIS

NORSEX SSM

North Pole Environmental Observatory

 

Leave a comment

61 Comments

  1. Griffin

     /  September 6, 2016

    Too many years with too much open water. I just keep thinking of the NASA study that found an imbalance of 50w/sqm in the Beaufort Sea when it was largely ice free for a summer.
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=84930

    Reply
  2. Griffin

     /  September 6, 2016

    We are running out of time but the state of PA is still choosing to be on the side of the problem and not the solution.
    “…the state’s Department of Environmental Protection revealed that the agency has approved 42 new natural gas power plants since January 2014. Pennsylvanians Against Fracking compiled its own list of power plants mentioned in articles and industry reports. Our list contained 15 plants not on the DEP’s list. That means that even more plants may be on the horizon.”
    http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-environment/294232-the-problem-with-natural-gas-methane-emissions

    Reply
  3. June

     /  September 6, 2016

    The fact that lack of funding is hindering our ability to see what is going on is another reason to work not only on defeating Trump, but on getting Congress out of Republican hands.

    Reply
  4. Cate

     /  September 7, 2016

    http://www.climatechangenews.com/2016/09/05/g20-cut-n-paste-mocks-urgency-of-fossil-fuel-subsidy-cuts/

    “According to a new study, current G20 climate pledges under the Paris Agreement fall way short of what is needed. In fact, they need a six-fold increase in emission cuts up to 2030 – sticking to their current plans will almost certainly push the world beyond the two degree limit.
    Although fossil fuel subsidies were noticeably absent in the Paris deal due to political sensitivities, a first step – and a quick and easy win – would be to stop handing out public money and tax breaks to big business to search for, dig up and produce yet more oil, coal, and gas.
    Yet on average, the G20 continues to spend $444 billion a year supporting fossil fuel production alone.
    Just last week Bloomberg said fossil fuel subsidies are the world’s ‘dumbest policy,’1 and leading insurers called for a 2020 deadline for phasing out ‘simply unsustainable’ subsidies in a statement targeting the G20.”

    Reply
  5. coloradobob

     /  September 7, 2016

    Killer whales from Iceland, eating beluga whales . They are helpless. The ice used to save them. it’s gone.

    Reply
  6. coloradobob

     /  September 7, 2016

    Hell comes to breakfast.

    Reply
  7. coloradobob

     /  September 7, 2016

    The ruined number of cars is over 100,000, in La. This means all the flood victims are a foot.

    Reply
    • Andy_in_SD

       /  September 7, 2016

      They’ll be dried out and sent to other states to be sold to unsuspecting people. That is what is normally done with “flood” cars.

      Reply
  8. coloradobob

     /  September 7, 2016

    Try and rebuild your life when your house is full of mud. And your car is dead.

    Reply
  9. coloradobob

     /  September 7, 2016

    Hell comes breakfast.

    Reply
  10. coloradobob

     /  September 7, 2016

    We have never seen this before

    Reply
  11. Judge blocks oil development in Central California over fracking

    A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from opening more than 1 million acres in Central California to oil drilling because the agency did not properly explore the potential dangers of fracking.

    U.S. District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald sided with environmentalists who argued that the bureau should have addressed the possible impacts of hydraulic fracturing in an environmental impact statement issued as part of the formal process of opening public lands to drilling.

    Instead, the 1,073-page impact statement only mentioned fracking three times and never discussed the controversial practice in depth, according to the judge.
    http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Judge-blocks-oil-development-in-Central-9206391.php

    Reply
  12. Greg

     /  September 7, 2016

    Environmental Group Backs Republican Florida Congressman In New Ad
    Climate advocacy is paying off for some Republican politicians. Will others take note?
    https://thinkprogress.org/nearly-3-out-of-4-florida-voters-approve-solar-measure-b0bcbb6b65fd#.g0gtlcsyv

    Reply
  13. Greg

     /  September 7, 2016

    WHO declares Sri Lanka malaria-free in “truly remarkable” achievement
    http://news.trust.org/item/20160906144637-qvgsb/

    Reply
    • wili

       /  September 7, 2016

      Interesting that the main winning innovation was not about spraying ever more massive amounts of pesticides everywhere, but by going after the parasite itself through mobile care units that cured new cases quickly so they did not become new vectors–emphasis on curing people more than on killing insects.

      Reply
  14. Geert

     /  September 7, 2016

    I’m wondering what temperature the water directly under the seaice is? Especially the anomaly with 2007 and 2012…

    And what effect will this warmer atlantic water have (flowing into the Arctic over Barentsz sea and to Greenland sea) on icemelt the oncoming few weeks, maybe even into october?

    Could it be that because of higher water temperatures directly below the seaice, the ice could melt further a few more weeks and that the record low of 2012 still could be reached, with dramatically more iceloss than what we expected a month ago?

    Reply
  15. Shawn Redmond

     /  September 7, 2016

    This is a little OT but a very interesting read and RS is referenced a couple of times.
    In this latest climate dispatch, Dahr Jamail reports that July was the warmest month ever in Anchorage. The town of Deadhorse, which sits on the Arctic Ocean, hit a stunning 29.4 degrees C. This is in Alaska. Even Alaskan highways are in danger, because, as the permafrost underneath the roads melts, the asphalt caves in (see here). In Siberia, on the Yamal peninsula on which I commented before with regards to the methane spikes (see here), thawing permafrost caused an anthrax outbreak (see here). Two thousand reindeer have been affected thus far and the Russian government has airlifted several families out of the area. The cause of the outbreak is the thawing of a reindeer carcass that had been infected with anthrax. Once the stuff of science fiction, climate scientists fear that this is just the beginning. There is no way of knowing what other kinds of deadly bacteria remain frozen in the permafrost. We will find out, probably to our peril, as the melting increases (see here). http://www.flassbeck-economics.com/the-way-the-world-will-end-superstorms-soaring-temperatures-droughts-fires-and-the-collision-of-political-economic-and-environmental-disasters/

    Reply
  16. Shawn Redmond

     /  September 7, 2016

    Okay this is OT but I think it applies to most of the western world and maybe all of the globe. “Such pitiful result would mean that even the first sentence of the Federal Statistical Office’s press release “The German economy continues to grow” is misleading. Because then, the economy is not really growing at all. It is a matter of a statistical calculation showing a positive result because declining production is evened out by less imports and somewhat higher consumption of domestic goods. The point of the Federal Office’s figures is the all-important political message behind it: we are doing well.” I do believe however that contraction is a good thing. How much stuff does one person really need. We need a steady state economy that is much smaller than any thing we’ve become accustomed to and based on our physical needs not physiological wants. Robert asked awhile back what were some of the factors that led me and others to going “off grid”. I have to admit it was more about saving money than the planet at the time. I was aware of the CO2 problem but in the early part of this century the urgency wasn’t as apparent. However the financial manipulation by the corporate world was. If you could drastically reduce your monthly bills if not eliminate them all together you wouldn’t have to work as much. I am happy to report that my need for gainful employment is down to two days a week. If I work four months of the year than I have earned enough to maintain my current life style and have some left over. Most of my employ comes during the summer so I get to sit out the winters. This helps in reducing my carbon footprint by not having to struggle through winter storms just to make my monthly commitments, and I don’t fly south! I’ve flown only once and that was to Ireland. Change the way you think. Lead by example. Investing in the markets only insures the one percenters continued wealth. http://www.flassbeck-economics.com/cyclical-analysis-of-the-european-economy-for-the-summer-of-2016-no-recovery-anywhere-part-1/

    Reply
    • Higher overall prosperity with less consumption — who’d have thunk it?😉

      Reply
    • Marcusblanc

       /  September 7, 2016

      Like the website a lot. Economics is really getting more interesting, now the neo-liberal hegemony lost its new clothes in 2008.

      “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”
      ― John Maynard Keynes

      Reply
  17. wili

     /  September 7, 2016

    I must admit that, at the beginning of the melt season, I though there was a good chance that we would get much lower than even this by now. But unpredictable weather always dominates these outcomes, and we had a very cloudy summer up there, as I understand it, that shielded much of the ice from the melting rays of the 24/7 summer Arctic sun.

    Reply
    • Griffin

       /  September 7, 2016

      Quite true wili. The remarkable and scary take from this season is that, despite a long stretch of weather that was not conducive to high melt rates, we still ended up with a devastated ice pack. As Neven has pointed out many times, this leaves us to conclude that the oceanic heat content is really starting to have a pronounced effect upon the ice.
      Given that there is little that can be done to reduce (or even slow the rise of) the oceanic heat content in the short term, we can safely say that we are in a full blown emergency in regards to losing the Northern Hemisphere ice cap as we have previously known it.
      Things are different now.

      Reply
      • Cate

         /  September 7, 2016

        I am not looking forward to what winter 2016-17 might bring to the Arctic.

        Reply
    • – “cloudy … that shielded much of the ice from the melting rays of the sun…”
      There is that. But there may be two things at work.
      Cloudy can also mean warm and moist. Not something favorable to maintaining solid ice.

      Reply
  18. Cate

     /  September 7, 2016

    http://www.foe.org/news/archives/2016-09-house-votes-to-silence-public-opposition-to-oil-and-gas-lease-sales

    Dateline Washington, DC. 6 Sept 2016:

    “The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that will shield offshore oil and gas lease sales from public scrutiny.

    House Resolution 5577: Innovation in Offshore Leasing Act, sponsored by Representatives Garret Graves (R-La.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Ca.) would require the Bureau of Ocean Management to conduct an Internet-based lease sale for oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Mexico. An online lease system will marginalize public input and comes amid rising public pressure from the Keep It in the Ground movement to end new oil and gas leasing on public lands and oceans. A coalition of community-based groups from the Gulf Coast and Alaska, supported by national allies, sent a letter to House leadership in July expressing strong opposition to the bill, because the bill would threaten wildlife, coastal communities and the climate.”

    Reply
    • June

       /  September 7, 2016

      The more effective the movement, the more heavy-handed the repression. The Keep it in the Ground campaign is getting stronger.

      Reply
    • Griffin

       /  September 8, 2016

      Knowing what we know now regarding the situation with our emissions, such a bill is unthinkable. It makes me sick to my stomach.

      Reply
  19. Cate

     /  September 7, 2016

    Good, long read on the latest research projects, data and opinions on a possible AMOC slowdown.

    Conclusion: jury still out–for some scientists, although not for all.

    “We need another decade of observations..” to figure out what is going on and what it might mean for the planet, according to Laura Jackson of the UK Met office.

    http://e360.yale.edu/feature/will_climate_change_jam_the_global_ocean_conveyor_belt/3030/

    Reply
  20. June

     /  September 7, 2016

    From Weather Underground’s Christopher Burt blog. There is also a list of summer heat records.

    Hottest Temperature Ever Measured in September for Europe

    An intense heat wave has occurred in recent days in the Iberian Peninsula with a site in Spain, Sanlucar La Mayor, measuring 46.4°C (115.5°F) on Monday, September 5th…

    We have seen some unprecedented heat anomalies in the northern hemisphere beginning this past spring in Southeast Asia, and then during the summer on the Indian sub-continent, Middle East, and also portions of the U.S.A. And now, into this climatological fall, we now see the Iberian Peninsula and the region of the Persian Gulf also observing all-time heat records for their respective locations and/or for the time of season.

    https://www.wunderground.com/blog/weatherhistorian/comment.html?entrynum=342

    Reply
  21. wharf rat

     /  September 7, 2016

    Ridiculous Tesla Drag Race: Alfa Romeo vs Alfa Romeo being towed by a Model X
    https://electrek.co/2016/03/21/tesla-drag-race-alfa-romeo-vs-alfa-romeo-towed-by-model-x/

    Reply
    • wharf rat

       /  September 7, 2016

      Reply
      • Greg

         /  September 7, 2016

        This is part of a cultural shift necessary to attract engineers and designers and most importantly buyers to see that abandoning an ICE vehicle can be fun and exciting, and help avoid climate catastrophe. Autonomy will hopefully begin to reduce overall ownership and vehicle miles in the near future.

        Reply
  22. June

     /  September 7, 2016

    Enbridge Spreads Tentacles to Acquire Spectra, Creating ‘Pipeline Enemy #1’

    http://commondreams.org/news/2016/09/06/enbridge-spreads-tentacles-acquire-spectra-creating-pipeline-enemy-1

    Reply
  23. June

     /  September 7, 2016

    These are the kinds of incentives needed in the U.S. and elsewhere, not ff subsidies.

    World’s largest fast-charging site opens in Norway: 28 electric cars can charge, all standards included

    The country where plug-in cars make up a higher proportion of new-car sales than any other… Generous government incentives have stoked consumer enthusiasm for electric cars over the past few years…Drivers pay no road tax, registration fee, sales tax, or value-added tax. The corporate-car tax is also lower for electric cars. Electric cars also get free public parking, free public charging, free ferry transport, and are exempt from tolls on roads, bridges, and tunnels…As of May, there were more than 105,000 plug-in electric cars registered in the Scandinavian country of 5 million people.

    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1105925_worlds-largest-fast-charging-site-opens-in-norway-28-electric-cars-can-charge-all-standards-included

    Reply
  24. Greg

     /  September 7, 2016

    Louisiana Downpours, August 2016- A Quantitative assessment that shows the significance of climate change to the flooding.
    Based on these different approaches – all of which are in agreement – the team found that human-caused climate change increased the frequency and intensity of the heavy rains such as the August 12 – 14 event along the Central U.S. Gulf Coast region.
    https://wwa.climatecentral.org/analyses/louisiana-downpours-august-2016

    Reply
  25. Greg

     /  September 7, 2016

    Hermine basically still sitting there days later. Is this the future? Storms that just sit there and keep pounding you after you’ve cried for mercy.

    Reply
    • Hi Greg-

      Interesting question, about storms that might persist longer. Certainly, as warming continues we’ll have 7 percent more water in the atmosphere per degree C of warming. More water vapor means more heat of condensation, to drive storms. Large patches of very warm ocean will of course drive storms.

      People have talked about increased intensity, but I don’t know if many scientists have examined increased longevity of storms. Good question, I think.

      I can imagine persistent storms, like Jupiter’s great red spot, that last for weeks, months, or even decades, in some of the worst scenarios.

      And if the methane hydrates start dissociating, Hell may really be coming for breakfast – and lunch, dinner, overnight, for vacation, and maybe will just move in and stay.

      Reply
    • Griffin

       /  September 8, 2016

      Some insight as to your question can be found in the words of a very smart woman that works not very far from the center of that storm.
      Her hypothesis about loss of Arctic ice contributing to “stuck” weather patterns was considered controversial at the time that it was published. She said that time would tell.
      I think it has. Somewhere in the halls of Rutgers U. Dr. Jennifer Francis is probably shaking her head and saying “Welcome to the coast of New Jersey there Hermine, I have been expecting you.”

      Reply
  26. Robert.

    Reply
    • Greg

       /  September 7, 2016

      And a reminder that the specific heat of water is 4 times that of air and the density is over 800 times that of water so that means a hell of a lot of energy is tied up in those temperature rises:

      Reply
  27. – USA — I recommend this well written in-depth look from the Guardian:

    How the ‘Great Paradox’ of American politics holds the secret to Trump’s success

    In the heartland of the American right, people harmed by polluting industries have instead come to hate the government whose environmental regulations protect them. Now they’re voting for Donald Trump

    Across the country, conservative “red states” are poorer and have more teenage mothers, more divorce, worse health, more obesity, more trauma-related deaths, more low-birth-weight babies, and lower school enrolment. On average, people in red states die five years earlier than people in liberal “blue states”. Indeed, the gap in life expectancy between Louisiana (75.7) and Connecticut (80.8) is the same as that between Nicaragua and the United States. Red states suffer more in another important but little-known way, one that speaks to the very biological self-interest in health and life: industrial pollution.
    Advertisement

    The right now calls for cuts in entire segments of the federal government – the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Interior, for example…

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/07/how-great-paradox-american-politics-holds-secret-trumps-success?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+morning+briefing+2016&utm_term=189370&subid=8553955&CMP=ema_a-morning-briefing_b-morning-briefing_c-US_d-1

    Reply
    • ‘Working overtime in the evenings, under cover of dark, his respirator on, Sherman would tow the tar buggy down a path that led towards the Calcasieu Ship Channel in one direction and towards Bayou d’Inde in another.

      Sherman would look around “to make sure no one saw me” and check if the wind was blowing away from him, so as to avoid fumes blowing into his face. He backed the tar buggy up to the marsh. Then, he said, “I’d bend down and open the faucet.” Under the pressure of compressed air, the toxins would spurt out “20 or 30 feet” into the marsh. Sherman waited until the buggy was drained of the illegal toxic waste.
      Advertisement

      “No one ever saw me,” he says.

      Sherman lingers over an event that occurred one day while he was alone on the bank with his secret. “While I was dumping the heavy bottoms in the canal, I saw a bird fly into the fumes and fall instantly into the water. It was like he’d been shot. I put two shovels out into the mud, so I could walk on them into the marsh without sinking too far down. I walked out and picked up the bird. Its wings and body didn’t move. It looked dead, but its heart was still beating.

      Reply
    • ‘ … It was as if Sherman had performed the company’s crime and assumed the company’s guilt as his own.

      But, like the bird, Sherman himself became a victim. He grew ill from his exposure to the chemicals. After his hydrocarbon burn, “My feet felt like clubs, and I couldn’t bend my legs and rise up, so the company doctor ordered me put on medical leave. I kept visiting the company doctor to see if I was ready to come back, but he kept saying I shouldn’t come back until I could do a deep knee bend.” Sherman took a medical leave of eight months and then returned to work. But not for long.

      In 1980, after 15 years of working at PPG, Sherman was summoned and found himself facing a seven-member termination committee. “They didn’t want to pay my medical disability,” he explains. “So they fired me for absenteeism. They said I hadn’t worked enough hours! They didn’t count my overtime. They didn’t discount time I took off for my Army Reserve duty. So that’s what I got fired for – absenteeism. They handed me my pink slip. Two security guards escorted me to the parking lot.” Sherman slaps the table as if, decades later, he has just got fired again.

      Seven years later, Sherman would meet a member of that termination committee once again. There had been an enormous fish kill in Bayou d’Inde, downstream from the spot where Sherman had dumped the toxic waste and rescued the overcome bird. A Calcasieu Advisory Task Force met to discuss the surrounding waterways, to describe them as “impaired”, and to consider issuing a seafood advisory, warning people to limit their consumption of local fish…

      Reply
    • – Emotion:
      ‘Trump is an “emotions candidate”. More than any other presidential candidate in decades, Trump focuses on eliciting and praising emotional responses from his fans rather than on detailed policy prescriptions….

      Reply
    • Poignant, troubling, fearsome to me…

      Reply
  28. Greg

     /  September 7, 2016

    Pokémon Go users have downloaded the game over 500 million times and have walked several billion kilometers since its debut in early July. A silly game shows, among other things how many smartphones are now out there throughout the world and how many young people are stepping out. Just a silly game. But I see a small revolution. If it is that easy to motivate people who, I personally know, were not motivated by anything else, who spent years on a couch, how difficult would it really be to motivate people for something we all care about with the right triggers and tools?

    Reply
    • Griffin

       /  September 8, 2016

      It is a very good point Greg. I don’t know the answer to the motivation question though. I have progressed to the point of openly and boldly raising the topic of global warming to my coworkers these days. What I am repeatedly finding out is that I am starting from scratch with it. I can tie it in to what matters to us on a personal level and get their attention when I point out real impacts to them. But I sure have a hard time explaining the urgency of the situation to them. To care, they must know how urgent the situation is. To know how urgent the situation is. They must learn a great deal in a short time and have it truly sink in as something that is very real and very now. If they haven’t a clue (as most don’t) it all comes as a helluva shock to them and they have a hard time coming to terms with the reality of the situation. It is just too easy for them to brush it off and move on.
      I truly hope that someone can create the app that inspires truth in climate education that goes on to save this planet for the children. That would be pretty frickin cool.

      Reply
  29. 12volt dan

     /  September 7, 2016

    off topic but the protesters at Dakota Access pipeline demonstrations are getting rough to put it mildly.
    http://www.desmogblog.com/2016/09/06/dakota-access-pipeline-sacred-sites-federal-judge

    a quote from the story

    “Based upon reports from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawyers, on Friday, September 2, the tribe provided to the federal court in Washington, D.C. specific locations along the planned pipeline route where evidence of sacred burial and other culturally important sites had been identified by experts. The tribe’s intent was obviously to protect these irreplaceable sacred sites by requesting that the court consider them in connection with a pending motion for a preliminary injunction, on which a ruling is expected by this Friday. Shockingly, the day after the tribe notified the court of the specific locations of the sacred sites — and knowing the tribe would not be able to get into court over Labor Day weekend — Dakota Access LLC sent work crews with bulldozers and other heavy equipment out to the very locations that had been identified by the tribe and physically destroyed them. If these allegations against the pipeline company are true, in the 23 years that I have practiced and taught environmental law, I have never seen such an outrageous, unconscionable, and bad faith abuse of the legal process. It also plainly demonstrates that contrary to the pipeline company’s spin, it is the company, not the tribe, that is the aggressor here.”

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: