Greenland Ice Sheet Slipping Under Hottest Temperatures Ever Recorded

According to reports from Weather Underground, Greenland experienced its hottest temperature ever recorded on July 30th, 2013. The new record, 78.6 degrees Fahrenheit, was measured at Maniistoq Mittarfia on the western coast of Greenland near Baffin Bay. The event occurred during a period of rapidly increasing Greenland melt as a high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream surged over Greenland, pulling warm air up from the south.

This southerly flow set up conditions for what is called a foehn event — a warm, dry airflow that occurred in the slopes of Greenland’s western mountains. This associated warm flow amplified heat over a broad region of Greenland, creating 2013’s largest melt spike, even as it set new temperature records. The previous record was 77.9 degrees (F) which was set in 1990 at Kangerlussuaq on July 27th.

As Greenland was experiencing its hottest foehn wind event ever recorded, a number of Arctic specialists were putting together the above video summary explaining how the Greenland ice sheet has sped up in recent years. Peter Sinclair, Jason Box and other experts provide an in depth analysis of this planet-shaping event in the video above. Live filming occurs at the site where a large melt pulse from the Greenland ice sheet washed out a bridge, road and threatened a nearby airport during the record 2012 melt year.

A rapid melt pulse from Greenland could set off an abrupt release of ice into the North Atlantic known as a Heinrich Event. Such a major release of glaciers and melt water would have a severe disruptive effect on both local and global climates. Local cooling would result in vicious weather for Europe and the rest of the world has hot tropical air, amplified by human warming, came into direct and violent conflict with air chilled by what is known as the ‘ice berg cooling effect.’

In order for such an event to take place, the speed of Greenland’s ice sheets would have to greatly accelerate. The fact that we are starting to see the early stages of such an acceleration is not cause for comfort.

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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.

With ‘Warm Storm’ at Its Heart and Heatwaves Rushing in From The Sides, Arctic Sea Ice Braces for Major Blow

Over the past month, warmth and energy have been building in the Arctic. All around, from Siberia to Scandinavia to Alaska, heatwaves have flared beneath anomalous long-wave patterns in the Jet Stream. Patterns, that in many cases have persisted for months. The Alaskan heat dome sent temperatures there to 98 degrees (Fahrenheit). Temperatures in Siberia flared to the low 90s. And heat built and flared again in Scandinavia and Northeastern Europe, sending Arctic temperatures first into the 80s and then to 92.

This building and highly anomalous heat was coupled by another unusual event — a long duration series of Arctic storms that have thinned and weakened large sections of sea ice near the North Pole. This Persistent Arctic Cyclone has flared and faded, remaining in the Arctic since late May.

Now, with central sea ice weakened and with heat circling in from all around, the Arctic appears to be bracing for a period of rapid sea ice loss.

Part 1: The Monitors Start to Go Sharply Negative

The first hint that the Arctic may be at the start of a precipitous fall in sea ice came when the major monitors all went negative. Cryosphere Today, Jaxa, NSIDC — all these key monitors show Arctic sea ice coverage falling sharply over the past two days.

Cryosphere Today showed a substantial loss of more than 200,000 square kilometers of sea ice area in its most recent 24 hour period. Jaxa and NSIDC showed similar extent losses with NSIDC following a steeply declining curve to 10.6 million square kilometers and JAXA diving down to 10.1 million square kilometers.

You can vividly see this declining curve in the most recent NSIDC graph:

The Cliff Starts NSIDC

(Image source: Pogoda i Klimat, Data Source: NSIDC)

And you can see the stunning near-vertical recent decline in the Cryosphere Today graph here:

Sea Ice Cliff Area CT

(Image source: Pogoda i Klimat, Data source: Cryosphere Today)

Together, these monitors begin to show what could well be the emergence of a potential ‘sea ice cliff’ resulting from rapid loss of ice during a time of escalating impacts. And these impacts appear to be emerging in rapid succession. Most notably, a Warm Storm now melts the central ice even as massive heatwaves threaten to inject hot air into the Arctic’s perimeter.

Part 2: PAC 2013 Now a ‘Warm Storm’

We find that even as these sharp sea ice declines began to emerge, temperatures in the Central Arctic Basin are now all above freezing. Meanwhile, a 995 mb low churns almost directly over the North Pole. This low is part of the same complex of storms that has remained in the Central Arctic since about May 26. Though storms, even strong, long duration storm events like this one, have been known to occur in this region during June, a persistent storm thinning and melting the Central Arctic Basin ice is unprecedented. And this is exactly what has been happening.

Now, it appears this storm has shifted into a new phase that is likely to further enhance central sea ice thinning and melting. The Warm Storm appears to have taken hold.

In a previous post, I defined a ‘Warm’ Arctic Storm as a storm occurring in the Central Arctic in conjunction with average atmospheric temperatures in the range of 0 to 6 degrees Celsius. We are now decisively in the lower end of that temperature range as you can see in the current DMI temperature measure:

Warm Storm Temp June 28

(Image source: DMI)

Note the wide area of above freezing temperatures now dominating all but isolated portions of the Central Arctic. And, for reference, we have the position of our Warm Storm given in the DMI image below.

Warm Storm Pressure June 28

(Image source: DMI)

Here we can see our Warm Storm now hovering almost directly over the North Pole.

These Warm Storm conditions provide an added surface stress to the sea ice by burdening the ice will above freezing precipitation, winds, fog and air with higher moisture content. These forces add to the churning mechanism of the storm which tends to break the fresh water cap that protects the sea ice and pull up warmer, saltier water from below. It is a combined stress that has already greatly eroded and melted the Central Arctic’s sea ice.

A vivid modeling of current and projected impacts of this Warm Storm are graphically displayed in the US Navy CICE/HYCOM thickness monitor below:

Warm Storm Turns Central Arctic Into Puddle

(Image source: US Navy)

In this vivid model history we can see our ‘Warm Storm’ turning a growing section of the Central Arctic sea ice into one enormous melt puddle even as it continues to shove sea ice along the north coast of Greenland and out through the Fram Strait. It is also worth noting the speed and violence with which edge melt is projected to proceed between now and July 5th. Hudson Bay, Baffin Bay, the waters of the Canadian Archipelago, The Kara Sea, The East Siberian Sea, The Chukchi, and even the edges of the Beaufort are all projected (in this model) to see rapid to extraordinarily rapid melt.

As noted before, a ‘Warm Storm’ event is a potential nightmare scenario for sea ice loss. And we’re experiencing the early phase of such an event now.

Part 3: Mangled Jet Stream Delivers Major Arctic Heat Spike

As if the formation of a ‘Warm Storm’ in the Central Arctic wasn’t enough…

Today, the Jet Stream set up to begin to deliver an enormous heat spike based in the Western US, which is predicted to see blast furnace temperatures that challenge Earth’s all time record of 134 degrees (Fahrenheit), extending up across a Canada that I’m not sure is prepared for this level of heat, stretching over the Canadian Archipelago, and finally dumping an enormous heat load into the Beaufort Sea.

We can see the current Jet Stream configuration, which can well be described as a freaky hydra-head pattern with multiple rapid upper air flows converging on the high Arctic, in the image below:

Mangled Hydra-Headed Jet Stream June 28

(Image source: California Regional Weather Service)

In particular, we note the high amplitude Rossby Wave pattern emerging over the western US and reinforced by a second echoing pattern extending up over the Beaufort Sea. The wave height for this massive blocking pattern in the Jet is expected to jump northward over the coming days even as a terrific heat dome intensifies with a center near the ‘Devil’s Armpit’ (Hat Tip to X-Ray Mike over at Collapse) of the US (Southern California, Nevada, Arizona).

By Wednesday, we see extraordinary 35 degree Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) average 5,000 foot temperatures at the heat dome’s heart in the US Southwest (translating into 105 to 123+ degree surface highs over a broad area), and a long pulse of hot air jumping all the way up to the Beaufort Sea where it appears near 80 degree (F) high temperatures could emerge near or even over the sea ice.

You can view this uncanny record hot air pulse in the ECMWF weather model forecast below:

Mangled Jet Stream Delivers Severe Heat Pulse

(Image source: ECMWF)

Note the angry hot pink heat dome over the US Southwest and the long, hot arm extending from it and all the way into the Beaufort. It is also worth noting that a secondary, though somewhat less intense, heat surge also emerges above Scandinavia and extends deep into the Arctic from its opposite end, creating a kind of pincher of hot air keeping the Arctic in its grip.

By Thursday, this hot air gets wrapped into a 990 mb ‘Warm Storm’ that then goes traipsing through the Beaufort. Not a pleasant prospect, if one wishes to see sea ice preserved…

Worst Case Melt Scenario May be Emerging

So by late June, it appears that the worst case melt scenario — with a storm hollowing out and melting the Arctic sea ice from the center and powerful warm air pulses delivered by a mangled Jet Stream rapidly melting the sea ice from its edges — may be emerging. A start to a ‘melt cliff’ that occurred this week, therefore, may extend and rapidly advance over the coming days. Model ensembles seem to support this forecast even as atmospheric heat delivery to the Arctic ramps up. It is an extreme situation that is well worth monitoring.

Links:

NSIDC

Cryosphere Today

DMI

US Navy

California Regional Weather Service

ECMWF

Storm Thins Sea Ice: Most Sea Ice Monitors Now Show 2013’s Persistent Arctic Storm’s Dramatic Impact

Over the past two weeks a storm has raged through the Arctic, churning and thinning the region’s thickest, most resilient sea ice. Now, almost all major measures show a dramatic thinning of the central ice even as warmer air has been funneling into the region. Models still show storm conditions continuing until June 17th. So the ongoing thinning and churning this storm has produced is likely to continue even as the region steadily warms.

Name Change to Persistent Arctic Storm 2013

The storm that has now plagued the Arctic for two weeks has recently involved numerous low pressure areas. For this reason, it is appropriate to change its name, since multiple low pressure systems, rather than a single consistent cyclone, are involved. So, going forward, we will be calling this event: Persistent Arctic Storm 2013 (PAS 2013).

Pressure Levels Rise Somewhat

Today, we can see a double barrel low pressure system still hovering over the central Arctic:

PAS2013pressureJune7

(Image source: DMI)

Pressure levels are up somewhat, now showing about 995 mb in two low pressure centers flanking the North Pole. Forecast models show the storm remaining in the 985-995 strength range all the way out to June 17. These models have tended to show the storm hovering closer to Svalbard, the Kara and Laptev seas over this period as warmer air filters in and builds over the region of the Beaufort Sea and East Siberian Arctic Shelf. These models can be subject to quite a bit of change, so we’ll have to keep a close eye for any alterations.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for the double-barrel low to recombine over the North Pole and drop to 985 millibars. It’s important to note that 985-995 is still a moderately strong storm. By comparison, Tropical Cyclone Andrea bottomed out at 997 millibars before dumping 10 inches of rain and sending 2-5 foot storm surges over portions of coastal Florida. So this particular storm, with a strength ranging from 975 to 995 millibars over much of its life contains a substantial amount of energy. It is also worth noting that quite a bit of warm air is lurking around the storm’s periphery. This air could boost the storm if conditions favor an influx of warm, moist air.

Dramatic, Widespread Thinning Now Visible in Most Sea Ice Monitors

It’s becoming more and more clear that this storm’s energy has gone to work in significantly eroding the Arctic’s central ice. Now, almost all sea ice monitors are showing dramatic impacts on sea ice in and around the Central Arctic Basin.

arcticictnnowcastPAS

(Image source: US Navy)

The US Navy’s CICE/HYCOM thickness model now shows substantial thinning and divergence in two regions of the central, thick ice. The region closer to the Russian side of the Arctic has persisted for about a week now and is confirmed in the other measures below. The second region, closer to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is newer. So we’ll have to look for persistence there. Overall, the remaining thick ice is in a much worse state in this monitor than it was last week.

UNIBREMENPAS

(Image source: Uni-Bremen)

Uni-Bremen has also shown persistent and growing thinning in its surface ice concentration monitor. Now, many regions where the storm passed are showing surface concentrations of 75% or less. These features have continued to grow more prominent as ice in the Central Arctic thinned over the past week. In contrast to the US Navy’s CICE/HYCOM thickness model, this Uni-Bremen model measures surface concentration while CICE models thickness.

Loss of surface concentration is the final result of thinning. But thinning tends to occur before losses in surface concentration are visible.

Arctic_r04c04.2013158.terra.1kmPAS

(Image source: Lance Modis)

A few breaks in the clouds have also opened up over the Central Arctic. These gaps confirm what both Uni-Bremen and CICE are showing. In the most recent Lance-Modis shot, we have visual of a dramatic Central Arctic thinning. In the upper left hand corner, note the large region of thinned and broken ice. This visual shot shows that the thinning and loss of concentration seen in the other measures bears out in reality. (So yes, Neven, it increasingly appears that this is quite real.)

Together, these measures provide growing evidence that the central Arctic sea ice has taken a substantial blow.

More rapid decline in sea ice area and extent during storm

As the central ice thinned and dispersed during this month’s Persistent Arctic Storm, sea ice area and extent also rapidly dropped off. Both Cryosphere Today and JAXA showed area and extent falling at rapid rates over the past week. Weekly extent declines for JAXA is in the range of 400,000 square kilometers, dropping back to 2012’s lower levels. Cryosphere Today sea ice area losses were also rapid — in the range of 500,000 square kilometers. But sea ice area, according to Cryosphere Today, remained above 2012 levels.

Sea_Ice_ExtentPAS

(Image source: JAXA)

Some had asserted that this storm would result in ice formation, not loss. But visual, concentration, and thickness monitors show that just the opposite occurred. Furthermore, increasing (not slowing) pace of sea ice loss in both area and extent measures confirm the likelihood that this Arctic storm hastened sea ice erosion, melt, and volume loss during early June.

This Storm’s Story Isn’t Over Yet

Needless to say, this storm’s story isn’t finished yet.

Associated with its circulation was the influx of above-freezing temperatures into the Central Arctic. You can see this area  in the DMI temperature measurement below:

temp_latestPAS.big

(Image source: DMI)

Note the swath above freezing temperatures hovering near the region of East Siberia. This area is a remnant of warm air pulled up from the Scandinavian heatwave earlier this week. It has now transitioned to its new location where models expect above-freezing temperatures to amplify over the coming days.

By Wednesday of next week, model runs show a large influx of above freezing average temperatures expanding over this half of the Arctic Basin, while a still respectable 990 millibar Persistent Arctic Storm continues to chew away the sea ice on the Svalbard side of the North Pole. Storm rotation is also shown to pull in 5+ degree Celsius temperatures into the region of the Kara and Laptev seas. By June 17, the model looks like this:

Arctic Forecast Persistent Storm Impacts

(Image source: ECMWF)

Our storm still persists, centering now over Svalbard and the Kara Sea, while warm air is shown to engulf and invade the Arctic .

So it appears that from all sides warmer air continues to encroach and get wrapped into this storm. Such conditions are likely to further enhance rapid melt and thinning of the sea ice. Should these conditions, as projected in the ECMWF models, bear out, it is likely we will continue to see a melt acceleration over the next ten days. The higher temperatures, the action of the persistent storm in the central Arctic, and the already observed thinning of sea ice there are indications that melt may well already be on its way to a rapid ramp up.

Conditions remain very dynamic and unstable with the likelihood of dramatic melt increasing as time moves forward.

Links:

The Arctic Ice Blog

DMI

US Navy

Uni-Bremen

JAXA

Cryosphere Today

Lance Modis

ECMWF

Uni Bremen, JAXA Show Sea Ice Extent in Rapid Early Season Decline

Uni Bremen Sea Ice Cliff

(Image source: Uni Bremen)

The most recent updates from the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and Uni Bremen show Arctic sea ice extent in very rapid early season decline. The above graph, produced by Uni Bremen, shows a stunning loss of sea ice extent over the past week of more than 1 million square kilometers. Such extent losses are almost unheard of for this time of year, with retraction, at least according to Uni Bremen, even out-pacing what is usual for July and August.

Uni Bremen is not the only sea ice extent monitor and not all the others show such a rapid decline. Uni Bremen uses less smoothing, so we will expect to see whether these numbers bear out in the other measures over the coming days. Ominously, JAXA is also showing a rapid extent decline:

JAXAextent17April2013

(Image source: JAXA)

Though neither as extensive nor as sudden as Uni-Bremen losses, the JAXA graph does show a rapid decline of about 500,000 square kilometers over the past week. NSIDC and DMI, on the other hand, show declines to be much more gradual. The NSIDC area measurement also is currently showing a much more gradual decline.

As noted above, the discrepancy between these measures should wash out over the next week. But early indications from JAXA and Uni-Bremen are some cause for concern.

Conditions in Context

Arctic conditions in context show warmer than average air temperatures remaining over much of the region. These departures from normal high and low temperatures are not as great as they were a week ago. However, these warmer than normal air temperatures are also now riding on top of a seasonal increase and so more rapidly push the Arctic toward melting.

Warmer than average water temperatures also continue to pervade over most of the Arctic Ocean. Recent reports have confirmed sporadic warm water upwelling throughout the Arctic. These events contribute to bottom melt  and cracking of sea ice and are just one more mechanism pushing the Arctic sea ice into decline. Such warm water upwelling is likely linked to a rapid increase in ocean heat content. A portion of this newly sequestered heat energy appears to already have done quite a bit of work in reducing Arctic sea ice extent, area and volume. One such upwelling event occurred off Barrow Alaska in March of 2013. The event combined with off-shore winds to result in ice free waters for a short time off Barrow, one of the consistently coldest locations in the Northern hemisphere, in winter time. Such events have been known to occur. But the up-welling and wind driven melt this March was one of the largest such winter-time events yet witnessed and it coincided with an immense sea ice cracking event.

Arctic Weather 17apr2013

(Image source: Uni-Koeln)

Overall, we see warm air temperatures over Eastern Europe and Russia rapidly expanding northward with above freezing temperatures crossing the Arctic Circle in some areas. Even Siberia is seeing rapidly warming temperatures. Cooler air remains settled in over Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA). These conditions are somewhat the reverse of those seen earlier in the month when Greenland and Baffin Bay showed warmer temperatures while Europe and Russia shivered.

As the Arctic continues to warm, we are likely to see sea ice melt continue at a slow to moderate pace. That said, an increasing number of indicators show the potential (low to moderate) for a major pick-up in early season melt rates come late April/early May. Should these events emerge, the upshot would be the possible start to a summer of massive Arctic melt. A melt that would be the pre-cursor or possibly even the start of a new period of ice-free or near ice-free summers. It is still too soon to make this call. That said, it is possible we are seeing some foreshadowing in the Uni-Bremen and JAXA measures showing very rapid extent losses over the past week.

As a final note, it important to re-iterate that the Arctic sea ice remains extraordinarily thin, fractured and fragile for this time of year with continued rumblings that melt may begin to proceed rapidly and well ahead of schedule.

UPDATE:

Uni-Bremen has just posted a revised estimate of sea ice extent. This revision shows melt occurring at a somewhat more gradual pace. You can view the revised data here. JAXA estimates, however, remain the same as previously posted.

Arctic Shows Very Rapid Sea Ice Motion, Hints of Quickening Melt

Ateam sea ice motion

(Image source: Sea Ice Blog/A-Team)

Last month’s Arctic sea ice cracking event has left the Beaufort ice pack particularly vulnerable to rapid transport. This mobility can be seen in the above image sequence provided by Arctic Sea Ice blog poster: A-Team.

The sequence reveals very rapid motion in the freshly broken ice by tracking the largest crack’s rate of movement. According to A-Team’s back of the napkin analysis, this crack is moving at a rate of 11.7 kilometers per day. Buoy measurement of sea ice motion also shows very rapid movement of Beaufort ice, especially at the ice edge.

Rapid ice motion is yet one more indicator of the Arctic’s current fragile state. Record low or near record low sea ice volume, area and extent, nearly constant above average air temperatures, above average ocean temperatures, more volatile Arctic weather, and the continued transport of warmer, stormier air masses into the Arctic via blocking patterns completes a context of rapid change. You can read more about this ongoing climate phenomena here.

Signs of increasing melt

Spring sea ice melt also showed signs of picking up pace today with both the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and Cryopshere Today showing drops in both sea ice extent and area. Sea ice area showed a daily drop of about 50,000 square kilometers. This rate of loss is a bit faster than usual for this time of year which tends to show mostly gradual melt. But the big loser, according to JAXA, was sea ice extent which appears to have fallen by about 100,000 square kilometers in one day. This new JAXA estimate is preliminary. So validation will have to be made for such an apparently precipitous fall so early in the season. If validated, this will show a very significant loss of sea ice for a date so early in the year. And, if such a trend were to continue, it would be nothing short of devastating. As noted before, the figure is preliminary and subject to correction. So let’s not get too worried yet.

JAXA sea ice april3

(Image source: JAXA)

Weather conditions in the Arctic remain far warmer than average for this time of year. Temps throughout most of the region range between 2 and 10 degrees Celsius above average with local spikes at 15 degrees C above normal. Our favorite weather spot — Nuuk, Greenland — showed a high temperature today of 54 degrees Fahrenheit. This is 28 degrees Fahrenheit above average and likely at or near a record high for today.

Strong negative arctic oscillation (AO) has, once more, taken hold. AO values have returned to the negative 3.5 range with a strong area of high pressure forming over the Beaufort. This high is expected to promote rapid sea ice motion over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf as well as in the region of the Fram Straight. The North Atlantic Low has backed up over eastern Canada and remains locked into position near Hudson Bay. This low continues to pump warm air up into Baffin Bay and a region surround Nuuk.

Overall, slow to gradual melt should continue throughout the Arctic. However, as April proceeds there is some increased risk of anomalous events as the potential for disruptive weather rises toward mid-month. April is usually a slow melt month. But the continued fragile state of the Arctic sea ice must also be taken into account. We’ll also keep an eye on those strong melt numbers coming from JAXA. Should they validate, April could turn out to be a very volatile month.

Powerful Arctic Cyclone Driving Record Sea Ice Melt

Since August 2nd, we’ve been reporting on the potential for a new record low in sea ice area and extent for 2012. And since that date, the Arctic has lost unprecedented volumes due to melt. Strangely, as if on queue, a powerful storm formed in the Arctic late on August 5th and has since churned through the ice pack, further accelerating melt.

The low formed on August 5th in the East Siberian Sea. It quickly grew into a powerful cyclone with 35 knot winds, pushing 10-12 foot seas. It then tore northward and is now wobbling near the pole. Forecasters expect it to linger through today before weakening. The forecast following this powerful storm is for warm weather and strong winds.

Strong storms of this kind are rare in the Arctic, especially in summer. But they do have a dramatic impact on sea ice. The powerful wind and wave action generated by these storms mixes the water column, bringing warmer water up to the surface. It also breaks ice flows into smaller bits. Finally, powerful storms can tap into warmer air to the south, drawing it in behind the storm. This one, two, three punch tends to result in rapid melting following these events. And given the already fragile state of sea ice this year, the current storm appears to be delivering a coupe de grace to the ice sheet.

You can view this rapid ice loss in the sequence provided by Cryosphere Today above. Looking at the ice’s motion, it appears that the main ice sheet is pulling away from stranded ice left in the East Siberian Sea, creating what appears to be a growing gap between these ice packs. This kind of a break-up is very rare for the Arctic Ocean and we are probably witnessing something that has never been seen before in the satellite record.

Overall, first indicators are that this storm has delivered a powerful blow to Arctic Sea ice. Cryosphere Today is showing a loss of 310,000 square kilometers of sea ice since we began reporting on the potential for record melt on August 3rd. That’s a loss of nearly 80,000 square kilometers of sea ice each day. Currently, Cryosphere Today is showing sea ice area at 3,480,000 square kilometers. This is about 500,000 square kilometers above the previous record low set in 2007. At the current rate of melt, it would take less than a week for this record to be breached.

Indicators for sea ice extent are also tracking lower with the NSIDC chart showing continued decline below 2007 records and the Japanese Space Agency showing sea ice extent entering record low territory as well:

With the most recent turn in the JAXA chart looking like the edge of a cliff.

Forecasters expect this cyclone to continue today before finally dissipating sometime after 24 hours. Afterward, forecasters are calling for warm and windy conditions. These conditions are likely to support continued rapid melt over the next few days.
Links:

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/cgi-bin/seaice-monitor.cgi

http://neven1.typepad.com/

https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/arctic-sea-ice-breakup-continues-trending-for-new-record-low-for-2012-26-2/

https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/arctic-sea-ice-in-rapid-decline-may-break-2007-record-low-by-summers-end/

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