Drifting into Arctic Un-Winter

Many call it global weirding. But weird just barely describes what’s happening in the Arctic right now. To the consternation of some, I’ve warned that the process we are now witnessing is the start to a kind of death of winter that will assuredly happen if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels soon. But we could just as well call it un-winter. Or de-wintering. Whatever you want to name it, and regardless of whether your initial inclination is to downplay it or to shout it from the hills, what’s happening in the Arctic right now is unprecedented and more than a little scary.

Sea Ice Loss as Start of Arctic De-Wintering

The Arctic Ocean has lost a great deal of its ice coverage during summer over recent years. Darker oceans reflect less of the sun’s rays. And more heat gets transferred to the water’s surface. As summer transitions into fall, this added energy loading creates a latent heat barrier to ice refreeze. Without its traditional ice coverage, the ocean then ventilates this heat into the Arctic environment — keeping air temperatures abnormally warm, increasing water vapor content, and thickening the Arctic atmosphere.

Over recent years, this process has generated the powerful winter warming that we call polar amplification. It has disrupted the Jet Stream and contributed to other changes to global weather patterns. But fall of 2016 has so far seen some of the worst instances of this climate change related heating of the world’s frozen regions.

Current Arctic Heat is Unprecedented

arctic-temperature-anomaly-november-2-2016

(Temperature departures for the entire Arctic have exceeded 6 C above average for three out of the past four days. The delay of the usual fall progression of cooling toward winter is a month or more behind schedule for this region of our world. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Today, the temperature above the Arctic Circle is averaging 6.21 degrees Celsius above average. Large local areas are seeing temperatures in the range of 15 to 20 degrees Celsius above average with locally higher peaks. Beyond the 80 degree north latitude line, temperatures are currently about 12 degrees Celsius above average. The result is that most places in the Arctic are about 25 to 40 days behind the average cooling trend line and that temperatures are more reminiscent of late September or early October than early November.

Sea Ice Record Lows Are Likewise Extreme

Not only is the added ocean heat pumping season-wrenching warmth into the Arctic atmosphere, it is also generating a self-reinforcing feedback loop with record low sea ice departures that have been worsening with each passing day. According to JAXA, current Arctic Ocean sea ice extents are now 710,000 square kilometers below the previous record low set in 2012. That’s an area larger than the state of Texas. But when you compare this new record low to averages seen in the 1980s, a region the size of Texas, Alaska, and California combined have been lost.

jaxa-sea-ice

(Arctic sea ice extents of 7.03 million square kilometers on November 1 of 2016 are about equal to end summer sea ice minimums during the 1990s. So much open ocean is having a dramatic warming effect on the Arctic atmosphere during the Fall of 2016. Image source: JAXA.)

All that naked ocean dumping heat into the atmosphere is having a marked effect. One that is producing these extreme temperatures even as it generates a self-sustaining cycle that prevents refreeze.

Over recent days, the heat in the Arctic has created a situation where ocean refreeze rates have essentially moved sideways on the graph. This has created a well-earned hubub by weather and Arctic experts across the net. Bob Hensen at WeatherUnderground recently tweeted: ‘the Arctic Ocean appears to have forgotten it’s supposed to be refreezing right now.‘ To which PHD student Zack Labe responded: ‘it’s crazy… the daily data shows the recent flat line.‘ Meanwhile, the Arctic Sea Ice forum has basically gone nuts over the very odd behavior of sea ice this fall.

Will it Continue? ENSO Adding to the Heat Transfer Bias

How long this vicious tug of war will continue to last is anyone’s guess. It ultimately boils down to how much heat the Arctic Ocean has taken in and how much energy is still being transferred in that direction. With La Nina forming in the Pacific, ocean and atmospheric heat transfer toward the Arctic would tend to ramp up. And we may well be seeing a kind of teleconnection type handshake between polar amplification and the ENSO cycle now.

To this point it’s worth noting that the most recent big heat pulse in the Arctic started with the powerful 2015-2016 El Nino. And this traditional natural variability related heat transfer is likely to continue to push the scales for Arctic heat content through 2017 and possibly into 2018. The question in this case is whether or not climate change related warming is being enabled by this periodic flux to hit a new tipping point. And from the perspective of this fall, things don’t look very good for the Arctic.

Links:

National Snow and Ice Data Center

Polar Amplification

On the Atmospheric Response to a Blue Arctic Ocean

Climate Reanalyzer

DMI

JAXA

Death of Winter

Scientific hat tip to Dr Jennifer Francis

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Leave a comment

64 Comments

  1. miles h

     /  November 2, 2016

    narwhal, walrus, polar bears, arctic terns… just a few of the species dependent on ice. the list is likely much, much longer. it’s these innocents i feel sorry for too. they face extinction.
    Gone forever.

    Reply
    • I don’t want to live in a world without these magnificent creatures. But humankind is at risk as well.

      Reply
    • A year old, but still🙂 pertinent: “Humans have in the space of a few centuries swung a wrecking ball through the Earth’s biosphere.” http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2946415/earths_sixth_mass_extinction_is_under_way_but_are_we_bothered.html

      Reply
      • Thanks for this, CH1. I find that a lot of the stuff that came out during the late 90s through mid 2000s is pretty pertinent as well. The mid 2000s especially were a wake up call from the sciences. There was a bit of a reticent backlash in the early 2010s. That seems to be fading somewhat at the moment.

        Reply
        • mulga mumblebrain

           /  November 3, 2016

          I remember Teddy Goldsmith of the Ecologist on the radio in the 1980s, when he visited this benighted land. He stated, straight out, the commonsense that another forty years of ecological destruction similar to that seen in the last (since WW2) would destroy the planet’s habitability for our and most higher species. There was a little public concern expressed in those days, oin the MSM, before the enialist industry got going, but today, after forty years of Rightwing dominance and Murdochite brainwashing, any such talk, or even an admission that Goldsmith was correct, would be suppressed and/or met by a tsunami of denial and abuse. Needless to say the Arctic situation remains utterly unreported in the local MSM.
          Instead, today, we get a baloney of economists declaring that we MUST radically increase our immigration and population. In contrast to these deranged cargo cultists with their ludicrous pseudo-science, ecologists have declared the carrying capacity of the country to be twenty million (we are 24 million today)at a maximum. We can guess who the political drones will listen to. And the gigantic Yallourn brown coal burning power station in Victoria is to be closed. All the commentary was of how this will increase power prices, how the power will be replaced by black coal power from other states, and the loss of jobs. Climate change got a tiny mention, as a fact of no real importance. The ABC decided to broadcast one worker bemoaning that ‘The greens have won’. If Trump loses he should consider a political career he, although he might be thought a bit of a ‘Lefty’.
          .

        • You’re welcome. Shows the power of a well-crafted phrase–the image of us and our “wrecking ball” is constantly recurring to me since I read that sentence.

  2. Spike

     /  November 2, 2016

    BBC finally stepping up to the plate and providing some good coverage of this crucial story – just watched second episode and it was pretty good.

    https://www.aol.co.uk/entertainment/2016/11/01/bbcs-arctic-live-new-documentary-explores-the-icy-wilderness/

    Reply
  3. Tigertown

     /  November 2, 2016

    Proud member of the ASIF here. I have read a lot lately of how through the use of Argo, it has been discovered that the oceans overall, not just in the Arctic, are heating deeper and have accumulated more heat than previously thought. The MOC is transferring much of this heat to both polar regions. The Arctic took a hard hit through insolation this year as well, and seems to be really teetering from the near knockout 2016 summer.

    Reply
    • Absolutely. And the gyres spin up that rate of transfer as El Nino transitions into La Nina…

      Reply
    • Steven Blaisdell

       /  November 6, 2016

      I cannot see, given the accelerated as opposed to linear rates of change in all areas of AGW how Arctic summer ice survives the next El Nino.

      Reply
  4. climatehawk1

     /  November 2, 2016

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  5. Abel Adamski

     /  November 2, 2016

    Back down under from the Australian Financial Review. A respected economic publication.

    http://www.afr.com/markets/climate-change-is-real-and-the-world-is-in-denial-20161101-gsfw59

    Reply
    • T-rev

       /  November 3, 2016

      You’ll notice the article was actually written by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times in the UK. It’s just a reprint. Anyone with emisisons > about 3t per annum are the cause of this problem and they are legion.

      Reply
  6. marcel_g

     /  November 2, 2016

    There are really no metrics by which this last 6 weeks in the arctic haven’t been absolutely stunning. It’s mind blowing to think of it, but I really wonder how far we are from an equable climate.

    It feels like it could really be soon, within a few years after we start having blue sea summers. The fall of 2012 wasn’t nearly so warm (no years were anywhere close to what we’re seeing now) so I’m not terribly hopeful the ice will rebound much in 2017. Obviously I’m guessing though.

    Reply
    • The process of loss of ice, ice destabilization at the poles is well underway. That a formula for some pretty hard wrenching of the global climate system overall once the land ice sheets really start going down. Per Hansen, energy imbalance increases as that starts to happen due to the fresh water lens effect.

      Reply
    • Marcel_g

       /  November 2, 2016

      Oh bugger, I just realized that an equable climate means *all* the permafrost thaws.

      I’d guess we’d have to be closer to 3 or 4C of warming before we hit an equable climate, but it’s really sounding like the worst case scenarios are becoming more plausible.

      As well, I’m also remembering that systems like the climate system don’t change state in a linear fashion, they tip abruptly.

      Time to get yer relatives away from the coasts.

      Reply
      • Trying… I’m going to bring a presentation for them this Thanksgiving.

        Reply
        • wili

           /  November 3, 2016

          You might want to include this in the slide show: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016GL070552/abstract

          “…The analyzed records have an average twentieth century rate of approximately 1.6 mm/yr, but based on the locations of these gauges, we show that the simple average underestimates the twentieth century global mean rate by 0.1 ± 0.2 mm/yr…”

        • wili

           /  November 3, 2016

          More discussion here: http://www.sciencealert.com/we-ve-been-underestimating-sea-level-rise-this-whole-time-say-scientists

          We’ve been underestimating sea level rise this whole time, say scientists

          Things just got even worse.

          A new study suggests that we’ve underestimated the amount of sea level rise that occurred in the Northern Hemisphere during the 20th century, finding that historical records have miscalculated the increase by as much as 5 to 28 percent in certain areas.

          By applying the original sea level measurements to a new climate model, researchers found that sea level estimates were based on certain areas that were not indicative of the increases on the globe as a whole, and we’re only now seeing the real picture.

          The researchers, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, say that it’s now “highly unlikely” that the global average sea level rose less than 14 centimetres (5.5 inches) during the 20th century, and the most likely amount was closer to 17 cm (6.7 inches).

  7. Robert Scribbler, Your posts are the most timely, well-researched & readable than other sites like Climate News Network, Climate State or Arctic News. You explain very well to the non-scientists who trust your articles. I mention you often when I blog on Truthdig or Truthout. Thank you from DrDignity

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words. And I respectfully disagree with your other comment. It’s exactly this kind of cynicism that gets us into trouble. But that discussion is for another time and another forum. I don’t entertain wedge issues here. This doesn’t mean that I don’t respect opposing views. Just that I have a mission to accomplish. Not to turn this into an academic discussion, a pursuit of an unattainable perfect ideal, to wallow in despair or doomerism, or to pander the a sickening intellectual form of cynicism.

      Reply
  8. Cate

     /  November 3, 2016

    Reply
  9. Tigertown

     /  November 3, 2016

    Is this it. Later date, but still.
    file:///C:/Users/Owner/Pictures/DMI%20Temp%2080N.jpg

    Reply
  10. wili

     /  November 3, 2016

    I’m still wondering what kind of effect increased water vapor is having in the region. In the Pleistocene, iirc, there were pretty balmy temperatures up there all the way through the long winter of no sun. My understanding that this was possible mostly because of the the strong greenhouse effect of water vapor holding in heat right through the winter.

    It looks to me as if we are already seeing movement into that condition, with temperatures remaining far above historical norms well past the time when essentially no solar energy was directly entering the region. I know that there are other dynamics in play–changing currents, front bringing warm air in from further south…but surely the increase in water vapor from having so much open water for so long is playing a considerable roll in these anomalously warm temps we’re seeing up there this time of year, right?

    I’m too damn lazy right now to try to actually track down comparative water vapor data for the region, or even to figure out if any such exists. So if anyone happens to know anything about these things, or has links to point to, or just has time and energy on their hand to look into it…I would be most appreciative. ‘-)

    Reply
    • wili

       /  November 3, 2016

      Ooops, I meant Pliocene, not Pleistocene.

      “The global average temperature in the mid-Pliocene (3.3–3 mya) was 2–3 °C higher than today,[9] and carbon dioxide levels were the same as today,[10] global sea level 25 m higher[11] and the Northern hemisphere ice sheet was ephemeral before the onset of extensive glaciation over Greenland that occurred in the late Pliocene around 3 Ma.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pliocene

      Reply
      • wili

         /  November 3, 2016

        Interest in and knowledge of these millions-of-years-ago eras is no longer just of academic interest. They are now the best windows into the future that we are facing.

        And we are not likely to stay very long in Pliocene conditions. Before the end of the century we are hurtling into conditions not seen on earth since much deeper in the paleo-geological record.

        Reply
  11. Discovery of ‘lost’ early satellite data to aid understanding of the Earth’s climate. October 27, 2016. European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT)
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161027094137.htm

    Serendipity, expertise, foresight and the equivalent of an Earth observation data archaeological dig have led to recovery of almost-40-year-old satellite imagery — thought lost forever — which will significantly add to understanding of our planet’s climate.

    The data, from the European Space Agency’s prototype Meteosat-1 geostationary meteorological satellite, was found at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) in the United States.

    It has now been provided to EUMETSAT, which operates and disseminates data from Meteosat-1’s “descendents” and, crucially, has an uninterrupted record of climate data from these satellites stretching back more than 30 years. That record, although with a small gap, now extends even further back in time.

    To say that the discovery of this lost data was greeted with enthusiasm would be an understatement, with climate scientists describing it as “like finding a lost child” — “the first born”!

    Reply
  12. About those disappearing insects. From an article on genetically modified crops in the NYT:
    Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/business/gmo-promise-falls-short.html.
    . . .
    “One measure, contained in data from the United States Geological Survey, shows the stark difference in the use of pesticides. Since genetically modified crops were introduced in the United States two decades ago for crops like corn, cotton and soybeans, the use of toxins that kill insects and fungi has fallen by a third, but the spraying of herbicides, which are used in much higher volumes, has risen by 21 percent.

    By contrast, in France, use of insecticides and fungicides has fallen by a far greater percentage — 65 percent — and herbicide use has decreased as well, by 36 percent.”

    Reply
    • mulga mumblebrain

       /  November 4, 2016

      Everything Monsatan et al and their armies of trolls said about GE crops was a lie, lies in the service of profit maximisation and control of the planet’s food supply, a key US Imperial priority for decades. To the disaster of GE, we can add the insanity of neonicotinoids, systemic, unselective, insecticides that make every part of a plant toxic to insects (and who knows-perhaps we will find one day that they are toxic to higher animals, too)and which are devastating insect populations, undermining food-chains and threatening pollination.

      Reply
  13. On the DAPL front, recently there has been a marked uptick in donations to the Sacred Stone camp by about half a mil. Now @ $1,390,430.
    https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp?viewupdates=1&utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=cta_button&utm_campaign=upd_n

    Reply
  14. wili

     /  November 3, 2016

    “The Arctic Ocean seems to have forgotten it’s supposed to be freezing up right now.”
    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/arctic-sea-ice-slow-growth-20838

    Reply
  15. wili

     /  November 3, 2016

    I’ll try again to see if the image will actually show up this time:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CwS28nfVIAEN67c.jpg:small

    Reply
  16. Cate

     /  November 3, 2016

    Meanwhile, way down south: this is an online exhibit of photos in the Royal Collection from the heyday of Antarctic exploration a century ago. The live exhibition was mounted in 2012 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Scott’s fatal expedition.

    “Ponting’s dramatic images record Scott’s Terra Nova expedition of 1910–12, which led to the tragic death of five of the team on their return from the South Pole. Hurley’s extraordinary icescapes were taken during Ernest Shackleton’s polar expedition on Endurance in 1914–17, which ended with the heroic sea journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Both collections of photographs were presented to King George V and are today part of the Royal Photograph Collection.”

    https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/the-heart-of-the-great-alone-scott-shackleton-and-antarctic-1

    Reply
    • There was a heck of a lot more ice back then. That’s becoming pretty apparent, even now.

      Reply
    • miles h

       /  November 6, 2016

      scott, shackleton and (australian) mawson’s books on their explorations are all fantastic reads… hurleys pics are amazing, especially when you consider the lengths that were gone to to keep the glass plates even in the face of death!… they didnt dump them in the sea; they saved them, knowing what they meant.

      Reply
  17. June

     /  November 3, 2016

    Not enough ice for a gin and tonic:’ two weeks in the Northwest Passage

    http://mashable.com/2016/11/02/sailboat-arctic-circumnavigation-ice/#PvP_iBMfQkqr

    Reply
  18. Sheri Trego

     /  November 3, 2016

    another stunningly scary report, but thank you, Robert.

    In Phoenix at the end of the first week in November, we are still in the mid to high 80s. I did not feel my chilly mornings yet this year and they usually happen by Nov 1. I wake up chilly enough to put a real blanket on the bed. It is a rather grim feeling. I think we are going to lose our winter for good in the next 2-3 years. We should have at least Nov-mid March with temps in 60- and 70s.

    Sheri

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words and for the continued reports from your home. It’s so important that we each make our testimony, on our own way, to what is happening. If we are not aware then we cannot act. If we hear what each one of us is experiencing, then we become less able to turn away in callous disregard. I appreciate your voice.

      Reply
  19. wili

     /  November 3, 2016

    Another graph, the from wipneus at neven’s site, that gets across just how far out of whack things are in the Arctic now:

    http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=1457.0;attach=37899;image

    (units on the left are millions of square kilometers of ice area, units on the bottom are days of the year)

    Reply
    • wili

       /  November 4, 2016

      Tealight points out: “Currently 2016 is around 2.8 million km2 below the previous record low.”

      Reply
  20. Cate

     /  November 4, 2016

    Okay, so this caused a massive screen-spray chez Cate.

    The CEO of Kinder Morgan is one of the corporatocrats who dictate energy policy to the govt of Canada. So Trudeau’s forked-tongued talk on climate change comes as no surprise, when you realise this is the vested interest he is serving.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/kinder-morgan-climate-change-vancouver-board-of-trade-1.3835280

    “The president of the company that hopes to build the $6.8-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion said today that he doesn’t know whether humans are contributing to climate change.
    Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson told the Vancouver Board of Trade on Thursday that there is disagreement about the degree to which people influence global warming.
    “I’ve read the science on both sides and I don’t pretend to be smart enough to know which is right,” he said…..
    .Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist who was a lead author in several of the panel’s scientific assessments, said the problem with Anderson’s earlier statement at the Board of Trade is that there isn’t science on both sides. There is ideology on one side and science on the other, said Weaver.
    “The fact that [Anderson] could say he’s read the science on both sides suggests to me he doesn’t understand what science is.”

    Reply
  1. To October 4 Climate News, and Nuclear « nuclear-news
  2. From the Bering to Maine, Hot Oceans Are Killing the Puffin | robertscribbler
  3. From the Bering to Maine, Hot Oceans Are Killing the Puffin | RClimate
  4. Rumo ao Desinverno Ártico - Alterações Climáticas

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: