Advertisements

Warm Arctic Winds Rip Polar Vortex in Half, Blast East Face of Greenland Ice Sheet

Last night, at around 9 PM Eastern Time, a broad region just south of the North Pole was undergoing an extraordinary warm-up. Temperatures along the 37 W Longitude line just 80 miles south of the pole had surged to 33 degrees Fahrenheit. A reading warmer than a region of central Michigan thousands of miles to the south but running over an area of sea ice more accustomed to -5 F or lower temperatures during the great dark of the December night.

image

(Knife of warm air drives above freezing temperatures to within 80 miles of the North Pole on December 1 of 2014. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data Source: UCAR, OSCAR, NCEP.)

It was the much warmer than normal core of an intense and anomalous Arctic heat surge. One that blasted up over Svalbard and flooded into the high Arctic. Meeting with a similar but weaker air surge to the south, both surface and upper layers of the Arctic Ocean atmosphere hosted a joining of rivers of warm air.

This warm air double envelopment neatly sliced the polar vortex in twain. The remnant cold air cores at the Jet Stream level slipped down over both the Canadian Archipelago and Central Asia. Leaving open the lane for warm, maritime air to surge over the Arctic Ocean region.

image

(Jet Stream level atmospheric circulation shows polar vortex cut in two with one circulation over the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the other over Yamal, Siberia — scene to the freakish methane blowholes earlier this year. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data Source: UCAR, OSCAR, NCEP.)

It is a pattern of negative phase Arctic Oscillation (AO) — featuring a warming in the central Arctic which flushes the cold air out. But this ripping of the polar vortex in half is also related to polar amplification due to the human heat forcing. In which the high Arctic has warmed dramatically in comparison with the rest of the globe. So the heat anomalies we see now are much higher than they would otherwise be, with abnormal warmth remaining even into a positive phase of the AO (which we may see a bit more of, should El Nino finally emerge).

It’s a feature also related to a warming of the upper atmosphere at stratospheric levels. Such Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) events can often be associated with the kind of polar vortex split we are seeing now. And, from recent observations, we find temperatures over the Arctic Stratosphere are now in record range.

According to weather blogger, Matthew Holliday:

Even though I wouldn’t categorize this as a *sudden* stratospheric event as of yet, the warming that has already occurred will likely have effects by middle December. In fact, the warming that has occurred is currently at record levels for this time of year.

Recent scientific studies have also indicated an increasing prevalence of SSW events as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise.

Extraordinary Arctic Warming

For much of November, readings in the Arctic as a whole have ranged from +1.5 to +2.5 degrees Celsius above the global average. A region featuring the highest global anomalies in a world that just saw its hottest ten months in the past 136 years, and probably its hottest ten months in many thousands of years. A region well known for its cold — but warming far faster than almost anywhere else.

Global anomaly Dec 1

(The Arctic hits an extraordinary early December +3.16 C positive anomaly on the first day of the month amidst a flood of warm air from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Image source: The University of Maine. Data Source: Global Forecast System Model.)

Today, beset by this abnormal heat, overall Arctic departures hit 3.16 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average. Regions within this warm zone showed readings well above 36 F higher than average. A kind of winter Arctic heatwave. One that will keep worsening as the human heat forcing continues its terrible advance.

Near Freezing Temperatures Over Zachariae Glacier During Meteorological Winter

Much of the added heat expanded through the region between the North Pole and Greenland, wrapping in a surface circulation that has tended more and more to envelop the frozen isle, Baffin Bay and the accompanying Canadian Archipelago.

image

(Warm front off Atlantic Ocean featuring blow torch like wind flow over the Zahcariae Glacier collides with Greenland, pushes far into Arctic Ocean. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data source: Data Source: UCAR, OSCAR, NCEP.)

This morning, some of that circulation and its entrapped warm air flow rode up over the East Coast of Greenland, surging over the ocean-facing cliffs of the Zachariae Glacier. Pushing temperatures to almost above freezing in a period where much deeper cold should be firmly established.

A great flood of abnormal winter warmth and moisture. The leading edge of a flow of ocean and atmospheric heat driven all too obviously by human warming.

Links:

UCAR

James Hansen: If It’s Warm, Why is it So Damned Cold?

Earth Nullschool

University of Maine

OSCAR

NCEP

Global Forecast System Model

National Climate Data Center

Changes in Northern Hemisphere Stratospheric Variability Under Increased CO2 Concentrations

Hat Tip to Wili

Advertisements

Melt Puddles, Distant Open Water Visible at North Pole Camera 2

Melt Puddles North Pole Camera 2

(Melt Puddles and Distant Open Water at North Pole Camera 2 on July 13. Image source: APL)

With the emergence then fading of a ‘warm storm’ in late June and early July, then a subsequent set of intermittent storms and sunny days, all occurring in warmer than freezing conditions, central Arctic surface ice melt has continued to proceed apace.

This melt is now plainly visible at North Pole Camera 2 were a number of near-camera melt puddles have been forming and growing over the past few days. You can see these melt puddles clearly in the above image provided by the Applied Physics Lab through its North Pole Camera #2. The puddles, which were at first in the front field of the camera, have now expanded to cover about 105 degrees of the view provided. Smaller, darker melt spots also appear to have invaded behind the markers set around the camera.

In the distance, in the left-hand field of view, a larger section of dark water appears to have opened as well. This darker, open section, which has been an intermittent feature since late June, seems to have grown of late, with larger gaps appearing in this more distant section.

Uni Bremen Sea Ice July 12

(Image source: Uni Bremen)

Since early July, rapid extent and area melt have continued apace as a strong high pressure system formed over the Beaufort and a series of intermittent storms rushed through the Central Arctic via origins in the Laptev, Barents, Kara, and extreme North Atlantic. Central sea ice concentration has remained low due to damage during June’s PAC 2013 and now three melt tongues are plunging into the Arctic — one from the Chukchi, one from the Laptev and one from the Kara and a broad region all the way to the Fram Strait. More gradual melt is also proceeding from the Mackenzie Delta even as ice in the Canadian Archipelago gradually collapses. Hudson and Baffin Bays, as you can see in the above image provided by Uni Bremen are mostly cleared out. These conditions: three areas of rapid melt at the ice edge combined with continued low concentration, melting ice at the Arctic’s heart, represent high risk for further rapid melt through late July. This is especially due to the fact that many ice regions are now at risk of separation from the main ice pack or from surrounding by open water on three sides. Such circumstances usually enhance ice fragility and result in greater ice vulnerability to disruptive weather events come late summer. It’s a set of conditions we’ll explore more deeply in a blog I’m preparing for next week.

For now, though, it is sufficient to show that Central Arctic regions are still undergoing surface melt even though the forces driving rapid bottom melt and dispersal appear to have abated for the moment. We’ll also be keeping an eye on ECMWF forecasts which show a 985 or stronger low forming directly over the North Pole for a few days next week. Another warm storm potential that may have further impacts as sunlight has now had the opportunity to warm areas of water beneath the fractured ice.

US Energy Experiences Natural Gas to Coal Whiplash; Natural Gas ‘Bridge to Sustainability’ Collapses Yet Again

Ugly Coal

(A Coal Plant Dumping its Toxic Brew into the Atmosphere. Image source: Climate Crocks)

Natural gas was supposed to act as a bridge to sustainability. Fracking and increased drilling were supposed to reduce US reliance on high-carbon coal. But in 2013, coal consumption is again rising. So what the hell happened?

In short, history repeated itself and energy markets have experienced yet another natural gas to coal whiplash….

Natural gas is an inherently volatile energy source. As prices rise, new sources are sought out, new technologies applied to its extraction and, if depletion barriers are overcome, a surge of new supplies are brought to market. Then, as the wave of new supplies comes to dominate, prices crash. Rushing in to take advantage of the falling prices, the utility companies engage in a generational shift to natural gas electricity production. This increasing consumption of natural gas has two effects. It puts a bottom on natural gas prices and it reduces coal-fired power generation by becoming more competitive on the basis of price. A result of these changes is that US CO2 emissions fall. But, due to the market whip-lash effect of natural gas, these reductions are only temporary.

On the supply side, as natural gas prices fall, less and less producers are able to make a profit. The rate of drilling that drove both the boom and the glut slows to a trickle. This happens even as utilities and other natural gas users demand more of the low cost substance. As a result, prices begin to rise. But since drilling rigs are now allocated elsewhere and natural gas producers are cautious to return to aggressive drilling, supply doesn’t keep pace with demand. Eventually prices rise to the point where natural gas is again, less competitive with coal. Utilities, to preserve their balance sheets, shift back to black rock fuel and carbon emissions again rise.

The 2013 Whiplash

In 2013, US energy markets and related CO2 emissions are now experiencing just this kind of whiplash. After falling to a low price of around $2.60 per million btu, natural gas has been trading in a range between $3.60 and $4.25 since May of this year. And the effect on energy markets has been profound. The result, as Joe Romm implied in his allegorical article ‘Bridge Out’ is that the entirely ephemeral natural gas bridge to sustainability has again disappeared. According to Romm’s excellent article:

Coal’s share of total domestic power generation in the first four months of 2013 averaged 39.5%, compared with 35.4% during the same period last year, according to the Energy Information Administration [EIA]…. By contrast, natural gas generation averaged about 25.8% this year, compared with 29.5% a year earlier.

In the words of another brand of popular fiction: what the frack?

The long touted bridge to sustainability has, yet again, failed. And we find ourselves increasing consumption, yet again, of the worst emitting fuel source — coal. As a result, US carbon emissions are, after about four years of decline, expected to rise in 2013. The US Energy Information Agency projects that the US will emit 2.4% more CO2 than it did last year. But, should the coal surge continue through end of year, this carbon emissions backslide could be even worse than predicted.

Natural Gas: Unreliable Bridge, Bad Help

Sadly, even the reduced CO2 emissions that came, in part, as a result of a temporary shift to natural gas generation also brought with it a terrible cost. Fracked wells drove the most recent boom and bust whip-lash cycle. They were a rapidly depleting, temporary measure to increase production, and these costly wells emit far more methane than their contemporary counter parts. Some studies have even noted that methane leaks via the fracking process make natural gas a more harmful than coal when net carbon emissions are taken into account.

Perhaps worse, the fracked wells also threaten underground and surface water sources from both cracks in the casing pipes and toxic effluent at the numerous and proliferating drill sites. Further, water use in fracking is voracious and, in many cases, adds another burden to fresh water supplies.

Water stress is rising across the United States with fossil water in the Ogallala rapidly depleting even as the US West suffers year after year from a widening climate-change induced drought. With fracking threatening the purity and safety of dwindling supplies, numerous cities and one New Mexico county have banned the enhanced extraction process in an effort to protect municipal water.

In the end, high cost natural gas fracking efforts have managed a temporary reduction in US CO2 emissions at the cost of rising methane emission and harm to water supplies. The flood of new gas also likely delayed or replaced some efforts to transition to the more effective pollution reducing sources of wind and solar. Finally, the price whip lash inherent to natural gas production has returned markets, yet again, to rising coal use.

The term for this is bad help. Very bad help. In short, no fossil fuels represent a solution to climate change or enhance sustainability. They are all dirty, dangerous, and depleting.

To this point, I’ll leave you with the trailer to the must-seem Gasland II:

Unprecedented Jet Stream Wave Sparks 120+ Degree Temps in the US Southwest and Tundra Fires in Extreme Northern Canada.

Canadian Tundra Fires June 29

(Tundra Fires Near Hudson Bay in Northern Canada on June 29, 2013. Image source: Lance-Modis)

Today, as temperatures rocketed to above 120 in the US Desert Southwest, temperatures hit 87 degrees on the shore of the frozen waters of the Canadian Archipelago. These were the south to north markers of a heatwave that spanned 3,000 miles from Death Valley, California to Cambridge Bay in extreme northern Canada.

Beneath the southern section of this vast and sprawling heat dome, US communities coped by setting up cooling centers and issuing heat warnings. But despite this agile preparedness, hospitals in the hardest hit areas were flooded with cases of heat injury.

In one instance, an outdoor concert in Las Vegas saw more than 200 persons treated for heat injuries while more than 36 were hospitalized. Sadly, an elderly man also passed away at one local hospital after suffering from heat stroke. Temperatures reached an extraordinarily hot 115 (Fahrenheit) in Sin City.

Elsewhere, across the region, Palm Springs hit 122, Death Valley hit 125, and Phoenix hit a scorching 119. Tomorrow is expected to bring another day of extreme record heat, so area cities and residents are still under the gun.

Further north, near 90 degree temperatures stretched all the way to the frozen shores of Cambridge Bay in extreme northern Canada. There, some locations on the ice choked waterway experienced 87 degree temperatures, which is nearly 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) above average for this time of year.

The extreme heat sparked numerous tundra fires across Northern Canada, some of which you can see in the NASA satellite image above. Note the smoke tails rising from two clusters of fires in the upper center portion of the image. That ice speckled area of blue to the right is the, usually frigid, Hudson Bay.

The heat also set off melt and fracturing of sea ice in Cambridge Bay, which you can see in the NASA shot below:

Ice melt Cambridge Bay June 29

(June 29 Ice Melt and Fracturing, Cambridge Bay. Image source: Lance-Modis)

Warming air temperatures typical for this region (high 40s to low 50s) usually result in a more gradual melt. But hot air temperatures at up to 55 degrees (Fahrenheit) above freezing tend to have a far more rapid effect. It is also worth noting the nearly complete lack of visible snow cover in this extreme northern region.

I’ve Never Seen A Rossby Wave Like This

The cause of this 3000 mile swath of heat is an extremely high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream that stretches from the Western US all the way up to the Arctic Ocean. This large bulge has allowed a powerful ‘heat dome’ high pressure system to build up beneath it, concentrating heat over the vast area affected.

Epic Rossby Wave June 30

(Image source: California Regional Weather Office)

Note the up-flow of Jet Stream winds rising up the coast of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia then lifting all the way up to the Arctic Ocean before diving back down through central Hudson Bay and into the US Midwest, before making another hairpin turn north again over the Appalachians.

Large Jet Stream waves of this kind are termed ‘Rossby Waves’ after the climate scientist who first identified them. They show extreme north-south and south-north elongation. In the time I’ve been tracking the extreme changes to the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream brought about by human-caused warming, I’ve never seen a Rossby Wave quite so large as this. Nor have I seen one that is the result of so many large back and forth meanders. In fact, the entire Northern Hemisphere Jet is a mess of meanders, cut off upper level lows and blocking highs.

One of these upper level lows is expected to bring abnormally heavy rain with up to 3-5 inches for some parts of the US East Coast over the next couple of days. So as heat bakes a swath from Death Valley to the Arctic Ocean, the Eastern US braces for potential flooding. Similar Jet Stream loops and swirls spawned the European floods this June, a series of deadly floods that killed hundreds in India and Tibet, and multiple anomalous Arctic heatwaves occurring throughout the past month.

Extreme Jet Streams, like the one displayed above (for late Saturday, June 29), are far more likely to spawn extreme weather events than the usual, gently wavy Jet Stream that human civilization has been used to for much of the 20th Century and, probably, for most of the 10,000 year period since the last ice age. But a combination of eroding sea ice and record or near record low Northern Hemisphere snow cover contribute to both a slowing of the Jet Stream and in greater north-south and south-north flows. The result is large wave patterns in the Jet that tend to get stuck in the same configuration for long periods. Beneath the swells in the Jet, we get hotter temperatures, dryer conditions, and the risk of everything from extreme heatwaves to droughts and fires. In the dips, we get cooler temperatures and much, much stormier conditions resulting in a range of weather from extreme winters (Europe during winter/spring 2013), to floods (Europe summer 2013, India late June 2013), to record rainfall and powerful thunderstorms (US May-June 2013).

These are vivid examples of how human-caused climate change can result in extreme weather.

Heat Wave to Last For at Least a Week

The current record heat wave affecting both the US West and a large section of Canada is expected to last at least until the end of this week. Slow moderation, though, is expected for some regions after Sunday. However, the blocking pattern that spawned this particular heat wave shows little sign of changing position. So hotter, dryer conditions are expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future for much of the US South-West.

Meanwhile, Canada and regions along the Arctic coastline are still likely to see much warmer than usual conditions as periodic warm air invasions from the south are likely to continue.

Links:

Lance-Modis

California Regional Weather Office

Punishing Heat Hits Western US

 

 

 

On the Path to 400: Weekly CO2 Averages Above 398 PPM For First Time

co2_weekly_mlomar31

Worldwide CO2 averages inched slightly higher last week topping 398.08 ppm.  This measure is 2.87 parts per million higher than for the same week last year and 21.21 parts per million higher than the value recorded for the same week in 2003.

To find sustained levels of CO2 comparable to those measured during the week of March 31, we have to go back more than 2 million years into Earth’s geological past. This change has at a  remarkable and increasing pace over the past 130 years. In that period, world CO2 levels have risen from about 275 parts per million to the extraordinarily high levels we see today. This jump of about 120 parts per million CO2 was caused by rampant burning of fossil fuels in the period of 1880 through 2013.

Long term temperature averages in a world of 400 ppm CO2, according to paleoclimate, are between 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer than 20th century averages. Sea levels are 15-75 feet higher and both weather and climates are radically different.

But it is important to note that the human addition of 120 parts per million CO2 is just an initial forcing to the world’s climate system. This large forcing, occurring at about 10 times more rapidly than any comparable forcing in the geological past, presents a high risk of resulting in feedbacks from the Earth’s environment that pump even more CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Loss of glaciers and reduced overall albedo will also result in the removal of a key cooling feature. These responses, at best, are likely to keep worldwide CO2 levels at or just below current high marks for hundreds or thousands of years even if all emissions immediately cease. The result is that a long-term trend of warming and somewhat harmful climate change is mostly locked in. At the worst case, we enter a period of amplifying feedbacks where the Earth contributes large volumes of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses comparable to the amount humans have already pumped into the atmosphere.

Both of these scenarios are probably survivable. But both involve substantial increased risk of damaging Earth changes, altered and erratic weather patterns, and increased instances of damaging, extreme events. So it must be emphasized that we are at the threshold of a period of increasing harm now and that continuing to pump CO2 into the atmosphere at increasing rates is simply a devastating regime of self-inflicted harm. In such a case, we risk runaway climate change of a kind that would be impossible for humans and civilizations to adapt to long-term.

The only wise, sane choice would be to draw down CO2 and greenhouse gas emission as rapidly as possible. Sadly, the rate of CO2 emission is increasing.

2013 or 2014 will likely see world CO2 levels cross the 400 ppm threshold. But at the current rate at which the world continues to burn fossil fuels this marker will only serve as a milepost on a road toward increasingly damaging and catastrophic harm.

Human Greenhouse Gas Emissions Following Path of Worst Case Climate Change

TimeBombFig16

(Image Source: James Hansen)

In 2011, the world emitted more than 10 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere and the amount for 2012 is likely to exceed 11 billion tons. This massive pace of carbon emissions puts the world directly on the worst-case path of human-caused climate change. This path, modeled by IPCC as the A1FI is the highest CO2 emissions scenario resulting in the most global temperature increase and/or the most drastic alterations to the global environment.

A1FI model range starts in 2000 and, as you can see, the pace of CO2 emission increase follows directly along this worst-case path through 2011. What this also shows is that the world, overall, has neither pursued a balance (A1B) between fossil fuels and renewables or a transition (A1T) from fossil fuel to renewable energy. Instead, the rate of global carbon emissions increase since 2000 shows that the world has chosen to emphasize fossil fuel use and chosen not to invest in alternative energy to the degree that it replaces carbon-based fuels.

This is not to say that certain countries haven’t made great strides. But it does show that, overall, the world has failed to put in place the investments and technologies that will allow it to transition away from fossil fuels that dump massive volumes of dangerous CO2 into the atmosphere. One can see the preference the world has placed on continued fossil fuel burning by looking at the discrepancy between worldwide subsidies of oil vs worldwide renewable energy subsidies. On the one hand, oil subsidies are in the range of 500 billion dollars each year while worldwide renewable energy subsidies are less than 1/5 that number.

And what does all this emphasis on fossil fuels buy us, in the end? According to A1FI climate models, world temperatures increase by an average of 6.4 degrees Celsius by 2100 to devastating and terrible effect. This ‘catastrophic high burn’ scenario would leave posterity with a hellish world, one that grows steadily more hellish until global temperature increases top 12 degrees Celsius by 2300.

My view, is that this future is not worth one cent, much less the 500 billion dollars plus we pay each year to subsidize it.

 

On the Path to 400 PPM: Last Week Sees CO2 Just Shy of 398 PPM

co2_weekly_mlo

(Image source: NOAA)

According to reports from the Mauna Loa Observatory, worldwide CO2 averages for last week were 397.92 ppm. Daily measurements showed CO2 levels exceeding 398 ppm. And it appears likely that monthly CO2 averages for March will be in the range of 397.5 ppm. At this pace, it appears that worldwide CO2 will come very close to touching 400 ppm averages in May of this year and will certainly exceed the 400 ppm threshold by 2014.

Scientists have set the safe limit for worldwide CO2 levels at 350 ppm. We are currently far in excess of that number.

The last time CO2 was 400 ppm was between 2-3 million years ago. So a sustained CO2 of this level over long periods would continue to drive radical environmental changes. A world with average CO2 of 400 ppm, according to paleoclimate, eventually becomes 2-3 degrees hotter than today. Sea levels in such a world rise, over time, and eventually stabilize between 15 and 75 feet higher than today.

The average pace of CO2 increase over the past ten years is more than 2 ppm each year. This pace of increase is many times faster than any period in the geological record. At 400 ppm, worldwide CO2 will be about 125 ppm higher than in 1880. During the ice age, worldwide CO2 averaged around 190 ppm. The jump from 190 ppm to 275 ppm set off changes in Earth’s heat balance that increased global temperatures by more than 5 degrees Celsius, melted the great Laurentide ice sheet, and caused sea levels to rise by scores of feet.

Under business as usual fossil fuel burning, scientists expect world CO2 levels to reach between 600 and 850 ppm by the end of this century. Such high levels of CO2 have not been seen for 6 million years or more. Further, the massive forcing a jump to 600 to 850 ppm would induce would likely result in feedbacks that continue to push worldwide greenhouse gasses even higher. Many scientists believe that this would result in enough heat increases to make the world very hostile to life.

Links:

Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Too Hot For Life by 2300, That’s Where Current Emissions Path Leads

Arctic Sea Ice Conditions: Thin, Melting, Cracking, Mobile

N_stddev_timeseriesMar20

(Image source: NSIDC)

Arctic melt for the season of 2013 appears to be under way. For almost a week now, sea ice area and extent numbers have been on the decline. The above measurement, produced by NSIDC, shows current sea ice extent inching lower and ever closer to the two standard deviation boundary.

Though both sea ice area and extent remain a little above record lows, a number of factors have come to dominate that may point toward a rapid melt once the season gets under way. These include cracking, rapid ice movement, thin ice, warmer than average air temps, and negative Arctic Oscillation.

Extensive Cracking

Ever since February, a growing portion of the sea ice has suffered an ever expanding and widening series of cracks. These cracks began just north and east of Alaska and have now expanded to cover almost all the ice on the North American/Greenland side of the Arctic. Today’s satellite shot from the Canadian Weather Office provides a vivid image of the broken ice:

hrpt_dfo_ir_100

From Alaska to the Fram Straight, almost every break in the clouds shows fractured sea ice below.

Broken ice melts much more easily than solid ice. The gaps are darker and therefore absorb more heat. The broken chunks are more exposed to the elements and mechanical forces that tend to enhance melt. Even worse, much of the Arctic’s last remaining thick, multi-year ice is shot through with cracks. This ice is supposed to be the Arctic’s most resilient. But its succumbing to cracking so early may well show that even this remnant is now involved in what appears to be an amplifying decline.

Sea Ice Motion

Likely aiding in this massive break-up of sea ice is rather rapid ice motion for the winter/spring of 2013. It appears that brisk winds pushed a large section of ice off Alaska and precipitated a clockwise shifting of the thinner ice. This ice, still connected to the denser, less mobile ice north of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Greenland, likely created the expanding ring of stress fractures as it moved.

These brisk winds appear to be the result of an ongoing Arctic weather system set up by two blocking ridges — one near Eastern Siberia and the other near Greenland. These ridges both facilitated a clockwise field of winds while pumping warmer air into the Arctic. Over the past week, a powerful Arctic high pressure system formed and positioned itself near the North Pole. This high reinforced the clockwise wind pattern as it pushed the Arctic Oscillation into a strong negative phase (-5.5).

You can view sea ice motion and stress fracturing on this ASCAT radar sequence provided by anonymous poster A-Team over at the Arctic Ice Blog:

ASCATradarwinter2013

Thin Ice

With sea ice volume hovering just a hair above record low values and with multi-year ice reduced to the lowest levels ever seen, Arctic sea ice is as thin as it has ever been. The below thickness graph from PIOMAS shows that current ice thickness is even lower than last year’s record values.

Piomass thickness febmar2013

Thin ice is more at the mercy of wind, warmth and weather. So it is likely a primary factor in the current ongoing cracking event. It also presents serious risk for large melt events as the spring and summer season ramp up.

Arctic Weather in Context

In the current Arctic weather pattern, a powerful negative Arctic Oscillation continues to dominate. The strong high pressure system that developed over the Arctic last week has drifted into Baffin bay, reinforcing the ridge/blocking pattern over Greenland. Forecasts seem to indicate a gradual weakening of the negative oscillation over the next seven days.

mslp_latest.big

(Image source: DMI)

Heat transport into the Arctic remains high with continued warm air influx over Greenland and Eastern Siberia. The result is temperatures well above average for much of the Arctic.

These conditions: persistent warmer than average air temperatures, continued negative Arctic Oscillation, and cracking, mobile ice would seem to favor continued slow melt over the coming week.

ASCAT Satellite Images Show 2013 Arctic Sea Ice Break-up, Speed of Motion Unprecedented

Ascat2010

Ascat2011

Ascat2012

ATeamscat2013

The above series of images is a composite of ASCAT radar sequences for 2010 to 2013. They were produced by anonymous Arctic Ice Blog comment poster A-Team. A-Team has recently gotten the attention of Climate Central and Discover News, among others, for his/her vivid images tracking an unprecedented sea ice break up starting in February of 2013.

This, most recent, series of images composed by A-Team compares this season’s Arctic sea ice with that of 2010 through 2012. These radar images both show cracks and the motion of sea ice. As can plainly be seen, sea ice motion and cracking is far greater for 2013.

Unprecedented cracking and rapid motion of late winter sea ice is yet one more sign of sea ice fragility. Though it is no guarantee that sea ice melt at end of summer 2013 will produce a new record low, as happened in 2012, it does appear to be yet one more factor emerging from an ongoing period of catastrophic melt that began in the 1950s and has accelerated since 1979. It is worth noting that, if the current rate of sea ice volume losses holds, there is risk of a complete Arctic melt as soon as 2013-2017.

Another series of images, these identified by Chris Reynolds from the archive at the Canadian Weather Office, vividly shows the progression of breakage in the Beaufort Sea which has continued to intensify over the past few days. You can view this image sequence here:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3pB-kdzoLU3NEFwVDJzZVNxQ1k/edit?pli=1

And last of all, a very large crack has appeared directly through the thickest ice. This one ending very close to the North Pole:

newCrackMar17_zpsb984a4c3

Learn more on Neven’s Arctic Ice Blog.

Paul Ryan’s Path to Catastrophe; Or How to Wreck America in Six Easy Steps

Paul Ryan released his budget yesterday. And, in addition to the usual cutting of government programs supporting the middle class in favor of wealthy, global special interests, Ryan pushes for a number of highly damaging policies that would greatly harm America’s future energy and climate security.

Ryan’s Path to Catastrophe includes the following:

1. Cut investment in the development of clean energy sources and systems like: efficiency, solar, wind, and electric vehicles.

2. Continue subsidies for big pollutors like oil, gas, and coal companies. In fact, Ryan’s budget provides far more funding for these polluting, harmful, expensive and depleting sources than he does for renewable energy systems.

3. Slander loan development funding to clean energy companies. Ryan talks up the trouble faced by Solyndra via Chinese solar panel dumping and ignores success stories like SunPower, Tesla Motors and GM’s Chevy Volt.

4. Attack solar projects that produce energy at grid parity to gas and coal. Ryan attacked two southwestern solar projects that are both scheduled to repay their government loans and to produce energy at prices equal to or less than those of dirty fossil energy sources.

5. Attack the EPA’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution. Ryan’s budget attacks efforts to cap and trade carbon emissions in an effort to reduce America’s contribution to the climate change that is now sweltering western states while increasing the frequency of powerful storms like Sandy and Katrina. It is worth noting that cap and trade was first used under the Reagan administration. So Ryan’s descriptions of EPA’s efforts to employ market-based cap and trade as unilateral is little more than inaccurate exaggeration.

6. Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Ryan pushes to approve a pipeline that will shackle the US to a very polluting energy source, increase energy prices at home, and ship North American resources to China. Climate scientist James Hansen calls the tar sands Keystone would tap ‘climate change game over.’ Yet Ryan chooses to ignore both sound science and local US interests in favor of putting another dirty product on global markets.

Ryan also seems to have turned a deaf ear to warnings from the Commander of US Naval forces in the Pacific who recently stated that climate change was the greatest risk to security there. Instead, Ryan plays the ignoramus by lampooning the validity of climate science. But facts haven’t gotten in the way of Ryan pushing dreadful climate and economic policy before…

Links:

Rep Ryan Needs to Learn Something (Anything!) About Clean Energy

Cornell Paper Confirms Growing Consensus: Global Warming Made Sandy More Violent, Will Result in More Freak Storms

On October 30th of 2012, I published a blog entitled “Hurricane Sandy, The Storm that Climate Change Wrought; How Global Warming Made Sandy Far, Far Worse.” This blog was largely intended to connect the dots between current storms, climate change, and ongoing advances in science produced by researchers such as James Hansen, Jennifer Francis, Bob Corell, Charles Greene, Jeff Masters, and prognosticators like Joe Romm and Bill McKibben.

In this blog, I referenced scientific research and weather observations from these leaders and others providing substantial evidence showing how global warming set in motion a series of events that first intensified Sandy, then moved her in a direction far more damaging to US coastal cities. Though I believed my meta-analysis of the scientific data to be correct, I wasn’t entirely certain that evidence would line up to largely match my initial observations.

After the publication of this blog, a number of key voices on climate change also produced similar analyses. On October 31, Joe Romm, head of Climate Progress published How Does Climate Change Make Storms Like Sandy More Destructive?  In the following weeks, more reports emerged. Dr. Jeff Masters, Bob Corell, and many others all bravely chimed in to claim that global warming played a major part in making Sandy worse. James Hansen called the current state of affairs a ‘global emergency. ‘

Now, a new paper produced by Cornell University shows that Arctic Melt Amplified Sandy’s Violence.

The report, issued by Cornell and Rutgers researchers in the March issue of Oceanography, describes how the severe loss of summertime sea ice appeared to:

… enhance northern hemisphere jet stream meandering, intensify Arctic air mass invasions toward middle latitudes, and increase the frequency of atmospheric blocking events like the one that steered Hurricane Sandy west into the densely populated New York City area.

The article was authored by Charles Greene and Jennifer Francis. Both scientists have produced ground-breaking work showing how the northern hemisphere jet stream produces increasingly amplified blocking patterns as sea ice erodes and how this new weather state heightens the frequency of extreme weather events. The risks, Francis notes, are highest when sea ice melt is greatest — during summer and autumn. However, as sea ice melt extends into winter and spring, risks for extreme events will increase then as well.

So we can look forward to more storms like Sandy.

It was Jennifer Francis who made near prescient warnings about the potential for violent weather during the fall of 2012 just prior to the emergence of hybrid superstorm Sandy. Francis and Greene’s new paper now connects the dots between global warming and increasingly severe weather events in a way never before seen in science. This new work appears, also, to be a validation of a broader work by James Hansen warning of the potential for powerful storms spurred by Greenland and West Antarctic ice melt (outlined in his book Storms of My Grandchildren). And the clarifying work of Francis and Greene seem to eerily mimic Joe Romm’s own prognostications in Hell and High Water.

In closing, I will leave you with a satellite image of Sandy — one that shows the blocking pattern spawned, deep-cutting Arctic cold front that linked up with an already powerful hurricane to both intensify and redirect Sandy in a way that produced unprecedented violence.

Sandy Arctic Arm

Links:

How Climate Scientists Journalists and Bloggers Warned of New Potential For Extreme Storms Before Sandy

Arctic Ice Loss Amplified Superstorm Sandy Violence

Joe Romm’s Analysis

Did Arctic Sea Ice Respond Almost Immediately to Human-Caused Temperature Change?

In 2004, a scientific study analyzing driftwood freed by Arctic melt determined that sea ice in the coldest regions of the Arctic was at the lowest level in 3,000 years. Since that time, Arctic sea ice has continued to rapidly decline. Then, in 2013, another study of ice cores released just this month found that global temperatures are now as hot as they were 3,000 years ago.

The results of these two studies begs the question: did Arctic sea ice respond almost immediately to human caused temperature change?

The answer to this question is an important one because much of the assertion that human caused climate change will be gradual rests on the assumption that things like vast ice sheets only slowly respond due to the inertia inherent in such large systems. Inertia, in this case, is predicted to keep a degree of human caused climate change in check, giving us more time to mitigate, respond, and adapt.

However, if human-caused temperature increase has resulted in an almost immediate response from the Arctic sea ice, then what does that mean for the land-based glaciers and floating ice shelves in Greenland and West Antarctica? Will the ongoing ocean/atmosphere temperature increase that appears to have driven such rapid change in the Arctic also result in rapid change there?

Given the extraordinary and ongoing loss of sea ice in the Arctic, it would seem that providing answers to these questions begs a degree of urgency. A collapse in Greenland and/or West Antarctica of any rough corollary to the nonlinear melt of Arctic sea ice could be a disaster without parallel in human history. And the sensitivity of Arctic sea ice to temperature change, at least, hints at much greater climate sensitivity in the world climate as a whole.

It may be that the Arctic sea ice is very sensitive for specific, identifiable reasons that do not make it a good model for overall climate change. But, if the opposite is true, we should at least be aware so that we can provide appropriate mitigation and adaptation policies. One would think, in such cases, that more resources would be provided to clarify and, as necessary, respond to these risks.

The graph below, produced by Climate Progress and based on a new study published in Science, shows how temperature is as warm now as it was 3,000 years ago. It also shows how the pace of increase is without corollary for any time during the last 11,300 years — the space in which human civilization developed.

Carbon-Final

Links:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/record-arctic-sea-ice-melt-to-levels-unseen-in-millennia.html

https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/arctic-sea-ice-melt-worst-seen-in-3000-years-summer-arctic-ocean-may-be-essentially-ice-free-within-5-20-years/

http://classic.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=605&tstamp=&page=4

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/03/08/1691411/bombshell-recent-warming-is-amazing-and-atypical-and-poised-to-destroy-stable-climate-that-made-civilization-possible/

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: