Polar Anomaly Flip in an Abnormally Warm World: Arctic to Cool as Antarctica Heats Up

Interesting and concerning climate-change influenced weather in the global forecast for the next ten days.

As the Arctic is projected to cool down, it will open a brief window for sea ice to grow above its present track toward a record low maximum. However, any new edge ice will likely be weak and thin relative to past years. Meanwhile, sections of western Antarctica are predicted to see above freezing temperatures over the next week. And all of these various swings are occurring in a world that is considerably warmer than normal.

Global Context

Today, as with practically every day since I began tracking global weather and climate back in 2012, the world’s temperature averages are warmer than normal. An odd and increasingly harmful warmth that is driven by atmospheric CO2 levels ranging above 405 ppm (490 ppm CO2e). High heat-trapping gas levels that are, in turn, primarily the result of human fossil fuel burning.

(Despite an building cool-down relative to typical temperatures in the Arctic, the globe remains much warmer than average. The most intense hot spots for today hover over Canada, Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, India through China, and Parts of Antarctica. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

The world, overall today, is about 0.7 C warmer than the 1979 to 2000 average. Compared to 1880s, that’s about 1.2 C warmer than a typical late 19th Century day. This warming is considerable. A long term average that is in a range comparable to the Eemian of about 120,000 years ago. In other words, the world we live in today is the hottest its been in more than a thousand centuries.

Looking at the various climate zones, we find that every major region except the Arctic is warmer than average. This is happening as Northern Hemisphere Winter transitions to Spring and as the polar jet stream appears to be reasserting itself a bit after a major polar vortex collapse event during February. A new integral cold air vortex is gathering over Northwest Siberia — which is allowing cooler conditions to again reassert in the Arctic.

Opportunity for Late Season Sea Ice Regrowth

Over the next week, temperatures in the High Arctic are expected to plummet. And for the first time since practically the start of Winter, readings over the Arctic Ocean zone are expected to range below average.

As noted above, the cold pole appears to be asserting in the region of Northwest Siberia. But cold air pushing out into the Barents, North Bering, North Baffin, and Irkutsk regions will afford some opportunity for a sea ice rebound.

This cold air retrenchment is expected to be juxtaposed by significant warming through Northern Canada, Alaska, the Southern Bering, Southern Baffin Bay, Southern Greenland and in a zone just north of Svalbard. This warm pole will likely help retard any sea ice bounce coming from cooler air asserting on the Siberian side — constraining ice growth in a number of edge zones and possibly asserting some counter-cooling melt. We may even see a polynya open up in the Beaufort as temperatures over Alberta rise to above freezing and warm winds drive northward.

As a result of this warm-cold dipole, and the related warmth in certain key ice edge zones, it remains uncertain whether sea ice will bounce enough to overcome an otherwise strongly asserted trend toward a record low Arctic sea ice maximum for 2018. But if such a bounce back were to happen, the opportunity for it to occur will be during this week or next.

Extreme Antarctic Warming

As the Arctic is predicted to cool down this week, the Antarctic is expected to heat up. By late this week through next weekend, a powerful plume of warm air is expected to drive above freezing temperatures across Marie Byrd Land and the Ross Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. As with recent Northern Hemisphere Events, a high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream will drive much warmer than typical temperatures far into what should be a frigid polar zone.

(A major warm-up predicted for sections of West Antarctica will likely produce surface melt as temperatures rise to above freezing. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

This warming event is predicted to be rather intense and last for 2-3 days, with temperatures rising to 25-30 degrees Celsius above average in certain zones.

Such a warm-up would push surface temperatures in some locations to 2-4 C or warmer (up to 40 degrees F) and would likely produce periods of surface melt. These kinds of melt events have been a more frequent occurrence for Antarctica recently. They’re a part of the larger trend of ice mass loss both at the surface and on the underside of sea facing ice sheets as the local ocean has warmed. A primary driver of a noted acceleration in the rate of global sea level rise.

Looking on into next week, a subsequent warming in East Antarctica is expected to push temperatures for the whole Continent into a range approximately 3.5 C above average. This event, however, is not expected to drive significant above freezing temperatures inland, though some coastal areas may see brief departures into these ranges.

Leave a comment


  1. Syd Bridges

     /  March 12, 2018

    And continuing the dismal trend Mauna Loa CO2 last week was near to 410 PPM:

    Up-to-date weekly average CO2 at Mauna Loa
    Week beginning on March 4, 2018: 409.84 ppm
    Weekly value from 1 year ago: 406.56 ppm
    Weekly value from 10 years ago: 385.95 ppm
    Last updated: March 12, 2018
    CO2 Weekly Values for Mauna Loa

    • Likely slower rate of increase this year than during recent years due to cooler Equatorial Pacific SSTs. We will probably max out monthly at 411-412 PPM April through May.

      Rate of carbon emissions still near 11 GT per year. That’s plateauing or slowing rate of additions near record highs. Rate of emissions growth slower in recent years needs to trend downward.

      Big opportunity with present renewables.

      • rhymeswithgoalie

         /  March 12, 2018

        Who’s tracking emissions (CO2 and CH4) of thawing permafrost?

  2. Jeremy in Wales

     /  March 12, 2018

    Article on the basal melting of the Totten Glacier derived from in situ measurements

    A recent view on EOSDIS Worldwide shows the Totten with a large polynya in front of the ice shelf.

    It is warm (0.4°C) ocean waters doing the damage. Even if CO2 emissions trend downwards the oceans will continue to warm and this melting will extend.

    • You can considerably reduce damage by cutting emissions sooner rather than later. The sooner you cut emissions now, the sooner it’s possible to get to net negative emission — and that’s when the real repair starts.

      • Jeremy in Wales

         /  March 12, 2018

        The UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report warned that we must get CO2 emissions to zero by 2070 to prevent global warming of over 2°C and dangerous climate impacts. Assuming that we can do this a decade earlier, say 2060, which is probably doable, will likely avoid more extreme actions. But that excess CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for many lifetimes which will continue to damage the ice sheets

        Negative emissions, naturally will take hundreds if not thousands of years to repair the damage – so some sort of geo-engineering?

        • I honestly think we could do it early if we really got serious given the options that are available now. 2035 to 2050 is realistic, IMO. It’s just a question of rapid deployment and then following up.

      • John McCormick

         /  March 13, 2018

        Robert: “and that’s when the real repair starts” Yes. However, we will have to face the effects of reduced dimming,

        • Reduced dimming is a tempest in a teapot compared to continued fossil fuel burning. 0.3 to 0.5 Watts per meter squared is a drop in the bucked compared to 9+.

          This meme has been so beaten to death here it’s getting ridiculous. And I’m pretty sure I know why. Some of you guys (not sure if John is a ‘true believer’ in this nonsense or has just been carried on by the bad information) are closet geo-engineering (solar radiation management) advocates.

          I’ll clue you guys in on the basic facts of the matter again.

          1. The main problem is fossil fuel burning (you guys keep ignoring this in favor of shiny objects).
          2. Solar radiation management is high risk, low pay-off (stop ignoring or distorting the mainstream science).
          3. Global dimming is a minor factor in the larger problem generated by fossil fuel burning.

          So please stop pandering to irrational fear on this issue, using a line that is often used to defend coal burning, and feeding into a narrative that promotes a non solution that is nothing more than a moral hazard that is likely to give cover for continued harmful fossil fuel burning even as it further destabilizes an already off-kilter climate system.

  3. miles h

     /  March 12, 2018

    bit of an old article, but it was new to me… apologies if previously seen.
    “Climate change is literally turning the Arctic ocean inside out” – Atlantification of Arctic waters…

    • Thanks for this, Miles.

    • miles h
      Checked on the warmth of the water currently entering the Arctic Ocean. Gulf Stream SSTA today is 9.2C off Cape Cod. The two hot spots around Svalbard that Leland Palmer follows clock in at 11.1 C. That’s pretty warm. I wonder what the actual Arctic water temperature is now under the ice.,38.82,1097/loc=-63.439,42.150

      • You have a nice “wonder”, mlp in nc… If you focus the Nullschool map on Arctic Ice and use the settings Ocean+Surface Temps, there are broad regions of polar ice that exhibit a deep red color which indicates a surface temp around 0.3C/0.5F. If so, and true, that would indicate, I suppose, Polar ice warmed beneath by the Gulf Stream. ((Seems like there was a discussion about the deep red color+polar ice in posts over a year ago, but I don’t recall whether it was valid data, or what was concluded. I’ve seen this over the last few months, and have wondered myself… Anybody else have info?))

      • Very warm SSTs that are likely retarding sea ice growth even as they’re helping to spike the intensity of the nor’easters we are presently seeing off the U.S. East Coast.


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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: