Advertisements

Unusually Warm Early Arctic Spring Predicted Following Second Lowest Sea Ice Maximum on Record

After a brief Arctic cool-down late during a much warmer than usual freeze season, sea ice extents tortuously rose out of record low daily ranges during mid-March. This feeble climb was enough to barely hit above 2017’s record low maximum extent. It did not, however, push the Arctic out of its present trend of long term declines. Moreover, we are again set on a very low platform for sea ice as we enter what is predicted to be a warmer than normal start to melt season.

(Arctic sea ice losses are a long term trend that has been in place since the early to mid 20th Century. The recent satellite record captures this ongoing loss due to polar warming and triggered primarily by fossil fuel burning. In keeping with this trend, 2018 saw the second lowest sea ice extent maximum on record. Image source: Zack Labe. Data Source: JAXA.)

Arctic sea ice extent measured by JAXA and depicted above by Arctic observer Zack Labe, hit 13.89 million square kilometers on March 17th. Given the fact that warmer Arctic temperatures are now on the way, this is likely the furthest sea ice will extend in the northern polar region during 2018. By comparison, 2017 sea ice extent maxed out at 13.88 million square kilometers on March 6th of that year. As a result, 2017 just barely beat out 2018 as the lowest maximum extent in the satellite record according to JAXA.

A brief spate of cooler than average temperatures contributed to a short period of expanding sea ice late during freeze season. This cool snap in a much warmer than normal winter overall, has now ended. And the forecast shows that warmer to much warmer weather for late March may well be on tap.

Over the next week and a half, Arctic temperatures are expected to range between 0.2 to 0.8 C above average. This may not sound like much compared to the past winter which experienced long periods of 3-5 C above normal temperatures. However, the transition to spring and summer typically shows a regression toward baseline averages. In other words, since winter is where we are seeing most of the climate change related warming at present, even slightly warmer than normal temperatures during spring and summer can have an outsized impact. Especially following a very warm winter like the one we have just seen.

(The ten day forecast is presently predicting a very substantial Arctic warm-up. If this forecast is correct, it could result in a fast start to melt season. With sea ice extents already near record low levels, this potential is rather concerning. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Keeping this thought in mind, we are more likely to see slowly mounting sea ice losses over the coming days in various regions. Especially on the Pacific side of the Arctic — which is presently seeing above freezing temperatures running up through the Bering and well into the Chukchi seas. Given such a strong warm wind invasion over a key region of ice, we are very unlikely to see sea ice expansion beyond the present maximum.

Looking at the long term forecast, we find that the Arctic is expected to experience substantial warming — especially for spring. And this warming may serve to accelerate melt beyond typical rates for this time of year. The tendency for Pacific emerging warm winds appears to be in place. And by April 1st, a large plume of abnormal warmth is expected to run up from the Pacific and Eastern Siberian side of the Arctic. This plume is forecast to spread deep into the High Arctic — driving overall temperatures for the zone to 4.1 C above average with local temperatures between 20 and 25 C above average. If the present forecast holds, this unseasonal flow will also result in large regions of the East Siberian Sea experiencing above freezing temperatures for brief periods.

Taken in the greater context, if the predicted warm pattern of the next ten days becomes more of a trend for spring of 2018, then the near record low maximum of 2018 could well be followed by significant losses during melt season. Definitely a trend to keep an eye on.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

7 Comments

  1. Paul in WI

     /  March 23, 2018

    Remarkable weather in the Arctic over the last few years. As you say, this is appears to be a recent acceleration of a melting trend first observed a few decades ago. Thanks for helping to keep us up to date on the changes going on up there!

    On a side note, I saw this article from Rueters yesterday: “Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2017”

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-energy-carbon-iea/global-carbon-emissions-hit-record-high-in-2017-idUSKBN1GY0RB

    Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:

    LONDON (Reuters) – Global energy-related carbon emissions rose to a historic high of 32.5 gigatons last year, after three years of being flat, due to higher energy demand and the slowing of energy efficiency improvements, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

    Global energy demand rose by 2.1 percent last year to 14,050 million tonnes of oil equivalent, more than twice the previous year’s rate, boosted by strong economic growth, according to preliminary estimates from the IEA.

    Energy demand rose by 0.9 percent in 2016 and 0.9 percent on average over the previous five years.

    Over 70 percent of global energy demand growth was met by oil, natural gas and coal, while renewables accounted for almost all of the rest, the IEA said in a report.

    Improvements in energy efficiency slowed last year. As a result of these trends, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.4 percent in 2017 to 32.5 gigatons, a record high.

    “The significant growth in global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 tells us that current efforts to combat climate change are far from sufficient,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

    “For example, there has been a dramatic slowdown in the rate of improvement in global energy efficiency as policy makers have put less focus in this area.”

    Most major economies saw an increase in carbon emissions, though Britain, the United States, Mexico and Japan experienced declines.

    The biggest drop came from the United States, where they were down 0.5 percent to 4.8 gigatons due to higher renewables deployment.

    The IEA said oil demand grew by 1.6 percent, or 1.5 million barrels a day, more than twice the average annual rate over the past decade, driven by the transport sector and rising petrochemical demand.

    Natural gas consumption grew by 3 percent – the most of all fossil fuels – with China alone accounting for nearly a third of the growth. This was largely due to abundant and relatively low-cost supplies, the IEA said.

    Coal demand was 1 percent higher last year, reversing declines over the previous two years, due to rises in coal-fired electricity generation, mostly in Asia.

    However, renewables-based electricity generation rose by 6.3 percent, due to the expansion of wind, solar and hydropower. Renewables had the highest growth rate of any energy source, meeting a quarter of world energy demand growth, the IEA said.

    Like

    Reply
    • I find it’s informative to put 2017 into the larger decadal context:

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • We should note that since 2012, emissions growth has been very, very slow. We should also note that peaking carbon emissions was not expected until the 2020s in even the best case scenarios. That said, we do have the opportunity to peak carbon emissions now if we pursue policies that replace fossil fuels with renewables and if we continue to work hard to increase energy efficiency.

        The primary cause for the increased carbon emissions was an increase in energy demand during 2017. And despite renewables growth, the larger size of the energy pie held by fossil fuels presently results in higher demand levels being met, in larger extent, by that source. That said, renewables are gaining.

        It’s also worth noting that in the U.S. carbon emissions fell again — reasserting a longer term trend. The main carbon growth areas are now in places like India, China, Russia, the Middle East, and Africa. We’re getting ahead of this trend in China and India at present. But it’s still not enough to reliably reduce global carbon emissions. So a sense of urgency is needed.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
    • Pasander

       /  March 24, 2018

      This number (32.5 GtCO2) is for “energy-related” CO2 emissions only. Total GHG emissions are higher.

      http://www.pbl.nl/en/publications/trends-in-global-co2-and-total-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2017-report

      ~55 GtCO2eq in 2017? That is beyond insane.

      Like

      Reply
  2. wharf rat

     /  March 24, 2018

    Nearly 16 Feet of Snow Has Fallen in California’s Sierra Nevada in 18 Days
    Mar 19, 2018

    A series of storms have been a boon for California’s Sierra Nevada where nearly 16 feet of snow has piled up in March, more than double the paltry seasonal total before the month began.

    https://weather.com/news/news/2018-03-19-16-feet-snow-sierra-nevada-march
    =
    It’s still snowing up there.

    Like

    Reply
    • Hard shift in precip action regime from severe drought to sudden excess. Much of this snow is high elevation and high heat content. In addition, we’re still below average in many locations.

      Like

      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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: