Under the Arctic Dome — Brutish High Pressure System is Wrecking the Already Thinned Sea Ice

There’s a real atmospheric brute towering over the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea at this time. A high pressure system that would put shame to most other anti-cyclonic phenomena that bear the name. It is sending out a broad, clockwise pattern of winds. It is pulling up warm air from the Pacific to invade the Bering, Chukchi, East Siberian and Laptev Seas. And its torquing motion is shattering the already considerably thinned ice beneath it.

(A powerful high pressure system over the Beaufort Sea is predicted to further strengthen by late April 15. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Clocking in at 1046 mb of pressure, it makes typically strong 1030 mb high pressure systems seem weak by comparison. Over the next day it is expected to strengthen still — hitting 1048 mb by late April 15th (coming very close to an extraordinary 1050 mb system).

Shattered Sea Ice

This powerful and strengthening system has already been in place for about two weeks — slowly gaining momentum as its circulation has moved in mirror to the waters of the Beaufort Gyre that swirl beneath it. Masked only by a veil of sea ice considerably thinned by human-forced climate change, the waters of the Beaufort are now breaking through. Streaks of dark blue on white in an early break-up enabled both by a terrible Arctic warming and by this powerful spring weather system.

(Side-by-side images of Beaufort sea ice from April 4 [left frame] to April 13 [right frame]. Note the considerable and rapid advance of fracturing in a relatively short period. For reference, bottom edge of frame in both images is 500 miles. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

Warm Storms

On the Siberian side of the Arctic, this massive high pressure dome is drawing in warm winds from the Pacific Ocean. Gust by gust and front by front, they come in the form of squalls that deliver above freezing temperatures and rains that blanket this thawing section of the Arctic. On Thursday, April 13, these warm winds had driven northward over 2,500 miles of Pacific waters to be drawn into storms that unleashed their fury — driving rains and gales through the already dispersed ice in the Bering Sea and shattering ice floes through the Chukchi. Today, April 14, these winds and rains drove northward to assault the ice of the East Siberian and Laptev seas.

(On April 13, above freezing temperatures, rains, and gale force winds ripped through the sea ice near Wrangle Island in the Chukchi Sea. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

A Great Atmospheric Stack Drawing Heat into the Arctic

In the past, meteorologists like Stu Ostro envisioned that climate change would tend to produce towering high pressure systems — featuring increasingly strong storms roaring about their fierce outer boundaries. And the massive high lurking over the Arctic at this time is a good example of Ostro’s predictions coming to light in a region that is very sensitive to human-forced warming.

This great atmospheric stack appears to have had a considerable impact on the ice already — helping to push extent measures back into record low ranges by accelerating the melt trend. But these impacts are likely to spike over the coming week as this powerful high expected to remain in place through the next five days — continuing to draw warm air into the region.

(Global Forecast System models predict extreme warming over the Arctic Ocean throughout the next week resulting from the influence of a powerful high pressure system and very strong associated ridge in the Jet Stream. Image source: NCEP Global Forecast System Reanalysis.)

GFS model runs indicate that average temperatures over the Arctic Ocean region will hit a peak as high as 4 degrees Celsius above average by late next week. Meanwhile, the warmest zones are expected to be as much as 18-20 degrees Celsius above average. Such abnormal warmth at this time of year, if it emerges, will put a considerable damper on a freeze that should now be continuing in the High Arctic even as edge melt ramps up with the progression of spring.

This is particularly concerning due to the fact that temperature anomalies in the Arctic tend to fall off during spring and summer. In other words, such a powerful warming trend for the Arctic Ocean would be bad enough during winter — but it is an even more unusual event for spring. An ominous start to a melt season that could produce far-reaching regional and global consequences.

Links:

Earth Nullschool

LANCE MODIS

NCEP Global Forecast System Reanalysis

Stu Ostro

Climate Reanalyzer

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Andy in San Diego

Antarctic Sea Ice Likely to Hit New All-Time Record Lows Over Coming Days

Throughout the record global heat of 2016 and on into 2017, the world’s sea ice has taken a merciless pounding.

In the Northern Hemisphere, extreme warming of the polar region pushed Arctic sea ice extents to record low daily ranges throughout the winter, spring and fall of 2016. And even today, after many months of daily record lows, sea ice in the Arctic remains more reduced (in most measures) than it has ever been for this time of year.

On the other side of the world, the story is much the same. For it now appears that the ocean region around Antarctica is about to experience an all-time record annual low for sea ice:

antarctic-sea-ice-new-record-low

(JAXA Antarctic sea ice measure for all years since 1978 shows a strong challenge to the previous record low for extent set in 1997 [lower left hand corner of the graph]. With 2-4 weeks left in the melt season, the present measure is just about 170,000 square kilometers above the 1997 record low during Southern Hemisphere summer.)

Anomalous warmth, though less intense than in the Arctic zone, did finally begin to invade the austral polar region during Southern Hemisphere spring and summer (2016-2017). And since mid October, sea ice surrounding Antarctica has remained in record low daily ranges (see lower red line on the graph above). Wednesday, February 1st’s, JAXA measure of 2.42 million square kilometers of sea ice extent remaining is now just about 170,000 square kilometers above the previous record low sea ice extent set during mid-to-late February of 1997.

During this time of year, average drops in sea ice extent are around 50,000 square kilometers per day. So if all things were equal, we’d expect melt inertia to push the measure into new record low ranges over the next 3-5 days. Unfortunately, there appears to be an added impetus for melting as another blast of above average temperatures is being drawn into Antarctica underneath strong ridging features in the Southern Hemisphere Jet stream.

antarctic-warmth

(Warmth building into Antarctica over the next two weeks may be the final straw that tips the near ocean region into new all-time record lows for sea ice extent. The above GFS model prediction for February 9th rendered by Climate Reanalyzer shows temperature anomalies predicted for Antarctica and the surrounding regions. Red to orange is warmer than average, blue to purple is colder than average.)

As a result, over the next week, temperatures around Antarctica and in the nearby region of the Southern Ocean are expected to average between 1.2 and 1.8 C above the already warmer than normal 1979 through 2000 average. Meanwhile, parts of West Antarctica’s coastal zone are expected to hit as high as 5-20 C above that average.

With more warmth on the way, with measures already striking nearly half a million square kilometers below previous daily record lows, and with at least two weeks remaining in the melt season, it appears likely that we are in for a new all-time record low for sea ice extent in the ocean region surrounding Antarctica. If the new record does occur, it will happen during a time when the Arctic is also experiencing daily record lows for sea ice during Northern Hemisphere winter and as the world is experiencing global temperatures in the range of 1 to 1.2 degrees Celsius above 1880s averages.

Links:

JAXA Sea Ice

Arctic Sea Ice Graphs

Climate Reanalyzer

 

Hot Climate Conjures Trio of Nasty Halloween Tricks — Heatwaves, Record-Low Sea Ice, Fall Greenland Melt

With each passing year, the effects of human-caused climate change become more and more visible. But for some reason, Halloween appears to be a preferred time for the emergence of various hothouse hobgoblins. In 2012, the Atlantic seaboard was reeling after a vicious strike from Hurricane Sandy. Over the past three years, powerful North Atlantic storms had begun to build at this time of year, setting sights on the UK and Europe. This year, as a hurricane-force low roars toward the Aleutians, the nastiness comes in the form of weird heatwaves, record-low global sea ice coverage, and hints of odd late-fall Greenland melt.

Record Heat Strikes Arctic, U.S.

NASA’s Gavin Schmidt has been warning for months that 2016 will be a global scorcher for the record books. Nowhere has this heat been more apparent than in the Arctic. Halloween only serves to reinforce the rule as today’s temperature departure for the entire region above 66 degrees north latitude hit 5.94 degrees Celsius above average:

global-anomaly-map-halloween

(The extreme Arctic warmth that has already caused so much in the way of climate disruption remains firmly entrenched on Halloween. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Yesterday, those temperatures exceeded the 6-C-above-normal mark. And later this week, temperatures for the region could approach 6.3 to 6.5 C above average.

These are the average departure ranges for the entire area above the Arctic Circle. Localities within that broader region are hitting as much as 20 C (36 Fahrenheit) or more above average on an almost daily basis, bringing temperatures more typical of the Arctic during late summer than in the middle of fall.

In Barrow, Alaska, Jonathan Erdman reports that Saturday saw the proverbial mercury hit 41 F. This temperature, at about 26 degrees above average, smashed the previous daily high and pushed the latest day Barrow has ever seen a reading above 40 F fully one week forward.

record-temperatures-us

(Daily high and high min temperature records for the U.S. were broken at an alarming rate over the past week, producing a Halloween heatwave. Image source:  NOAA.)

Farther south, the lower 48 is experiencing what Bob Henson over at Weather Underground is calling the Halloween Heatwave. Over the past week alone, nearly 300 daytime high marks were broken. But the measure of record-high minimum temperatures — a key indicator of human-forced warming — is off the charts with 639 total records smashed over the past seven days.

What’s even more odd is a near-total lack of cool temperatures. Bob Henson finds that:

Even more noteworthy than the degree of warmth is the lack of widespread autumn chill. For example, Minneapolis has yet to dip below 36°F as of Friday, October 28. That doesn’t look likely to happen before at least next weekend (November 5 – 6). In records going back to 1873, the latest Minneapolis has ever gone before seeing its first 35°F of the autumn is November 1, way back in 1931. The city’s latest first freeze was on Nov. 7, 1900.

Reinforcing this point, NOAA finds that over the past week just 40 record low high temperatures were achieved (about one-seventh the number of record highs). Meanwhile, record low nighttime temperatures were only achieved in six instances, about one-one-hundredth the rate of record high minimum temperatures! Furthermore, at no location in the U.S. for this week, this month, or even this past year has snow depth achieved a new record high. That’s a pretty ridiculous indicator that the U.S. has reached a rather disturbing climate threshold for heat overall.

Record Low Global Sea Ice Coverage

Even as new warm temperature records were being set with amazing frequency across parts of the Northern Hemisphere, another duo of worrisome indicators were popping up in the Arctic and Antarctic. In the Arctic, the ocean has been loaded up with a ridiculous amount of heat. This heat is preventing the ocean from refreezing, creating various regional barriers to ice formation as the waters ventilate this excess heat into the atmosphere. As a result, Arctic sea-ice extent record lows continue to deepen.

Fall 2016 sea ice extent values — which have consistently lagged behind average daily refreeze rates for most of the season — are now more than 600,000 square kilometers below the previous record set during 2012. It’s, quite frankly, an insane shattering of the previous record low value; a warming-spurred melt that has erased an area of sea ice coverage nearly the size of Texas in just four years.

arctic-sea-ice-jaxa

(Current Arctic sea ice extent values are 6.92 million square kilometers [October 30]. This is 600,000 square kilometers below the previous record low set on the same day during 2012. It is also about 3 million square kilometers below average values seen for this day back during the 1980s. Image source: JAXA.)

The Washington Post this past Friday provided a good article explaining the dynamics involved and highlighted predictions by prominent Arctic researchers that ice-free summers could occur by the 2030s. This is a marked departure from earlier estimates that had put off ice-free summers until the 2050s or even the 2080s. However, it’s worth noting that there’s a decent risk that even these more advanced predictions may prove conservative in the end. Under current trends, ice-free periods for the Arctic Ocean during summer become statistically possible as soon as the early to mid 2020s, and a strong outlier year — where an abnormally warm winter is followed by an abnormally warm summer — could produce such a result even sooner.

On the other side of the world, the Antarctic is also experiencing record-low ranges for sea ice extents. There, regional temperatures are near 4 C above average for the entire Antarctic. Though these departures are not as extreme as those currently seen in the Arctic, they are certainly enough to impact sea ice. Now, sea ice extent values there are at their second lowest ever recorded in the daily measure.

Over recent years, storminess in the Southern Ocean and an expanding fresh water lens running out from Antarctica due to glacial melt have generated a seemingly contradictory expansion of sea ice near Antarctica. This happens because fresh water at the ocean’s surface acts to deflect heat toward the ocean bottom, a feature that has enabled the melting of various glacier undersides in Antarctica. But as the global ocean and atmosphere warm in general, larger melt outflows are necessary to reinforce this surface freshwater lens effect. As a result, we appear to be experiencing a seesaw in Antarctic sea ice extent as a pulse of atmospheric and ocean warming overrides the impact of initial fresh water lensing.

global_sea_ice_extent_zoomed_2016_day_301_1981-2010

(MASIE global sea ice extent shows a severe negative departure through October 28, 2016. Image source: Sunshine Hours.)

The combination of significant sea ice losses in the north and second-lowest sea ice extents in the south has resulted in a global sea-ice measure that is well below anything seen in the past for this time of year. It is also one of the largest global negative sea-ice departures seen for any part of the record for any time of year — even when compared to the extreme period of Arctic sea ice loss during September of 2012.

Halloween Greenland Melt?

In addition to producing heatwaves, new temperature records, and ever more extreme sea ice melt, the odd Halloween warmth appears to also be generating flashes of surface melt over parts of northeastern Greenland. There, over the past few days, temperatures have approached or even exceeded the freezing point as warm winds have blown in from the heating Greenland Strait.

(A warm front crosses over northeastern Greenland on October 27, 2016. The associated warm winds blowing off the heating waters of the Greenland Strait produced near or above freezing temperatures for isolated parts of this section of Greenland. This abnormal warmth appears to have tripped NSIDC’s melt sensor, producing a possible odd late-season melt event for sections of this frozen island. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

This heat has been enough to trip NSIDC’s Greenland melt indicators for the region of the Zachariæ Isstrøm glacier. These indicators, over the past couple of days, have shown relatively extensive melt in this sector of Greenland. During summer 2016, northeastern Greenland was one of the regions that saw strongest indications of surface melt. Typically isolated by sea ice from warm ocean breezes, northeast Greenland does not usually see such long-lasting periods of surface melt. This is especially true for late October as melt during this time for any portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet is practically unheard of. However, as warm ocean water has advanced further and further north, this region has become more vulnerable to invasions of warm air. And it appears that the melt-forcing effect of this ocean warming for nearby Greenland glaciers may well be extending into fall.

Though unconfirmed by NSIDC, these periods of possible melt have occurred coincident with temperature departures in the range of 10-20 degrees C above average. However, since near or above freezing temperatures have mostly been isolated to the very far northeastern sections of Zachariæ Isstrøm near the coast, it’s likely that any potential and brief periods of melt were located in a more limited band than what has shown up on the NSIDC melt maps for October 27, 28, and 29. That said, as noted above, any surface melt over glaicers in Greenland for this time of year would be very odd and concerning — no matter how isolated.

Nasty Global Warming Tricks for Halloween

Halloween heatwaves, record-low sea ice extents and possible periods of fall Greenland melt are all indicators that human-forced climate change is starting to generate more and more obvious effects. Though the most extreme impacts are hitting remote regions like Greenland, the Arctic and the Antarctic, the related abnormal warmth has filtered into the middle latitudes and is now affecting millions of people across the U.S. And what’s happening in the U.S. is linked to these related warming events on a global scale.

So happy Halloween, everyone. Enjoy the holiday. But remember that if it’s oddly warm where you are, it’s not just a freak warm weather treat, but one of the many and worsening tricks conjured up by global climate change.

Links:

NOAA

The Climate of Gavin

Climate Reanalyzer

Jonathan Erdman

Zack Labe

Earth Nullschool

NSIDC

Sunshine Hours

Half a Kilometer of Ice Gone in Just 7 Years

JAXA

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to June

This is What A Fossil Fuel Dystopia Looks Like — The Arctic Sea Ice is Breaking Up North of Greenland in June

The Arctic sea ice is breaking up to the north of Greenland during June. It’s the fossil fuel burning global dystopia phrase of the day. Another cognitive dissonance producing instance of something that would have never happened without the added heat kick provided by human-forced climate change. But now, with atmospheric CO2 topping out at near 408 ppm during May of this year, it appears that all sorts of weather weirdness is currently possible.

Arctic Sea Ice breaking up north of Greenland in June

(1-3 mile wide cracks appear in the sea ice north of Greenland in this NASA satellite shot on June 19 of 2016. For reference, bottom edge of frame is 400 miles. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

It was an odd break-up spurred by the onrush of warm winds rising up from Continental North America. These winds of climate change fueled record temperatures as they crossed the northern islands of the Canadian Archipelago over the past week. On Axel Heiburg Island, temperatures hit near 54 degrees F (12.3 C) along the 80 degree North Latitude line. Readings that are about 15-20 degrees F (7 to 12 C) above average for this time of year and highly anomalous readings for what should be a permanently frozen island.

These southerly winds then bore the record warm to near record warm airs across a region just north of Greenland — pushing temperatures over this section of the Arctic Ocean into the mid to upper 30s. This extra heat was then enough to shatter the thinning ice. 1-3 Mile wide cracks opened up as the ice drifted off its moorings between Northern Greenland and the North Pole.

image

(Warm, moist winds flowing over the Canadian Archipelago and into the Arctic Ocean on June 15-18 set up conditions that shattered sea ice to the North of Greenland. Image capture at 00:00 UTC on June 18 by Earth Nullschool.)

Now, the entire Arctic Ocean ice pack from the Beaufort to the East Siberian Sea, to the Laptev, across the Kara and north of the Barents on to north of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago is floating free in June. A condition that was unheard of in August or September just a decade and a half ago, but one that is now occurring before the Summer Solstice.

Overall, for this time of year, Arctic sea ice extent remains in or near record low ranges despite weather conditions that would have traditionally helped to preserve sea ice. Storms over the central ice have provided cloudy conditions, preventing direct sunlight from hitting the ice and speeding melt. However, despite these conditions, temperatures over most of the Arctic have remained above average — with some regions along the coast experiencing substantially above average temperatures.

Record Low Sea Ice Extent June 19

(Arctic sea ice extent continues in record low ranges on June 19 of 2016 according to JAXA’s sea ice monitor.)

After record Arctic warmth this Winter and Spring, storms churning over the sea ice during June have done little to prevent continued record low extents throughout the Northern Polar zone or to disallow strange events like the early-season break-up of ice to the north of Greenland. To the contrary, we have numerous instances where storms are drawing in warm, wet winds from the south and are increasingly dumping rainfall over the sea ice. A condition that also tends to speed melt.

By yesterday, Japan’s sea ice measure (JAXA) had dropped to 9,730,000 square kilometers or about three days ahead of record melt year 2012’s all time low line. Rates of loss steepened over recent days as the anomalous Arctic heat bit in and numerous shattered ice flows lost integrity under relentless elemental punishment.

Rainstorms Over Arctic Sea Ice

(Rainstorms over Arctic sea ice, like this one which is predicted to form by Tuesday in the GFS Model, can be even more damaging to ice coverage than direct sunlight. High amplitude Jet Stream waves often deliver these storms — born upon warm, wet winds — to the Arctic during summers that have now been dramatically warmed by human fossil fuel emissions. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer GFS capture for 00:00 UTC Tuesday June 21.)

Record low sea ice extents for 2016 are likely to continue to have an influence on Northern Hemisphere weather — assisting the formation of high amplitude Jet Stream wave patterns. These waves are associated with extreme and persistent weather conditions to include — heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods. One such wave pattern is now facilitating record hot temperatures and increased wildfire hazards over the US West and has the potential to set off heatwaves over the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic even as anomalous rainstorms form over wide sections of the Arctic Ocean during the next couple of weeks.

Links:

LANCE MODIS

Earth Nullschool

Climate Reanalyzer

JAXA

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to DT Lange

Warm North Pacific Winds Predicted to Usher in Brutal Arctic Heatwave this Week

Sprawling over the Northeastern Pacific, there’s a big, doggedly-determined high pressure system. One grown to enormous size and influence in a global atmosphere boiling with the heat of fossil-fuel laden airs. A weather system that’s now able to stretch out a long arm of influence into the High Arctic due to an unrelenting northward shove of oppressive record global heat.

Beaufort Sea Ice Shattered

(The Beaufort Sea Ice has been shattered under the weight of a relentless a high pressure system that has dominated this region of the Arctic for about a month. Now, a freak early-season invasion of above-freezing temperatures is set to level another melt-forcing blow at a region that is very sensitive to the worsening impacts of human-caused climate change. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Extreme Fires, Sea Ice Loss in a Context of Ever-Worsening Climate Change

Beneath the high, much warmer than normal airs have settled in over the Northeast Pacific, over Western Canada, and over Alaska. These much hotter than typical temperatures have provided fuel for a raging start to fire season in such far northern regions. In Canada, nearly a hundred and fifty fires now burn. Sparked by never-before-seen heat and dryness, the worst of these blazes has now consumed 620 square miles of land and more than 1,600 structures around the city of Fort McMurray — forcing about 90,000 people to evacuate and threatening Canada’s hothouse gas emitting tar sands production facilities. Meanwhile, in Alaska, the heat has been lighting off forest fires since as early as February. A month that once only featured a climate of deep chill and heavy snow — but one that in the new, greenhouse gas warmed, world features an ominous winter burning.

The high has also extended it atmospheric influence up into the Polar zone — joining a powerful ridge that has torn away and shattered sea ice across the Central Arctic since at least mid-April. Opening wide areas of dark, heat absorbing water and contributing to never-before-seen low levels of sea ice extent and volume for May.

May Arctic Heatwave Builds

As of Sunday, this lumbering high began a big shift to the west — expanding its influence on into the North-Central Pacific and the Bering Sea. There, it rallied a warm flood of airs in the form of northbound winds. Warm winds now readying to make a big push into the Arctic Ocean later this week.

image

(Huge northward thrust of warm air seen in this Earth Nullschool capture for predicted May 12 conditions. Note the large swath of above-freezing temperatures invading the Arctic Ocean as readings in Northern Alaska and the Northwest Territory of Canada hit the upper 60s and lower 70s. Regions that are typically still covered in snow experiencing conditions that would be somewhat warmer than normal May weather for the US West Coast city of San Fransisco more than 2,000 miles to the south. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

These winds are expected to build northward along a warm frontal zone over Northern Alaska and the southern reaches of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas on Monday. Linking up with two low pressure systems forming over the East Siberian Sea by Wednesday morning, this wave of heat rising out of the Pacific is expected to have expanded into that sea and taken in all of the Chukchi and half of the Beaufort. By Friday, this northward drive of above freezing airs is expected to have taken in about a third of the Arctic Ocean region in total.

Over Alaska and the Northwest Territory near the Mackenzie Delta, temperatures are expected to rise into the upper 60s to upper 70s Fahrenheit (20-25 C). These are temperatures 20-28 degrees F (9-16 C) above average for early-to-mid May and readings seldom seen for this region even during June. Such high temperatures will hasten melt of any remaining snow or ice and spike fire hazards over this Arctic zone.

Extreme warm temperature anomalies over Arctic zones predicted for May 13

(Two lows on the Siberian side of the Arctic and a high over southern Alaska and the Northeast Pacific are predicted to drive an extreme level of heat into the Arctic starting Monday and continuing on through the end of this week. This extraordinary northward thrust of warmth appears set to tip the scales swiftly toward high Arctic thaw conditions that are typically experienced during June. Such a high degree of added heat will have a profound effect on both sea ice and remaining snow cover. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

Savaging of the Sea Ice to Continue

Over the Arctic Ocean, conditions will arguably be worse. Temperatures in the near coastal waters of the Beaufort Sea could rise to as high as 41 degrees F (5 C) while temperatures in the range of 32-38 F (0 to 3 C) are expected to cover a very wide zone of Arctic waters invading about 600 miles of the thinning sea ice area between the Mackenzie Delta and the North Pole and covering a breadth of around 800 miles from the Canadian Archipelago to the shores of the East Siberian Sea. These temperatures are also 20-28 F (9-16 C) above average and are more like the atmospheric readings one would expect during July over these typically frozen Arctic waters.

It’s not just the high temperatures that are a concern with this invasion of extreme heat running into the Arctic. It’s also its sheer scale — taking in about 30 percent of the Arctic Ocean zone, most of Alaska, a large region of Northeast Siberia, and a big chunk of Northwest Canada. Such a huge warm air injection will be taken in by the larger circulation over the Arctic Ocean and greatly shrink the remaining pool of cooler airs — driving temperatures to push more rapidly above freezing.

Freezing Degree Day Anomaly

(Off-the charts record Arctic heat shows up in a -1012 freezing degree day anomaly during 2016. In an average year, the Arctic experiences about 6,000 freezing degree days. We’ve lost more than 1/6th of that during 2016, which is basically like knocking one month out of the Polar Winter. Image source: CIRES.)

To this point, temperature anomalies above the 66 North Latitude Line are predicted to continue in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 C above average for the entire Arctic region into mid-May during a time of year when readings tend to moderate. In other words, this range is well above average for this time of year and continues a trend of record Arctic heat for 2016 that began during January. One that has now pushed freezing degree days (FDD) to a never-before-seen -1012 anomaly — which is like losing one entire month out of the coldest time of year in the Arctic.

The severe Arctic warmth continues to have a profound impact on Arctic sea ice — pushing measures inexorably into new record low levels. As of today, pretty much all the major extent and volume measures showed sea ice at new record daily lows and indicated a pace of melt at start of season that is absolutely unprecedented. Of particular concern are volume measures which have rapidly closed and overcome the gap between previous record low years.

DMI sea ice

(DMI’s sea ice volume measure enters a new record low range during early May. Note how swiftly comparative sea ice levels have fallen since February and March of this year. In essence, we are currently just below the record low 2012 launching pad all while facing an unprecedented level of heat building up in the Arctic. Image source: DMI.)

In this context of extreme Arctic heat and already record low Arctic sea ice levels, we continue to expect new record lows to be reached by the end of the melt season — pushing past one or more of the low marks set during 2012 and possibly testing near zero sea ice ranges (blue ocean event) of 80 percent volume loss since 1979 and below 750,000 square kilometers of sea ice area and 1.5 million square kilometers of sea ice extent by September of this year.

Links:

Earth Nullschool

Global and Regional Climate Anomalies

CIRES

DMI

The Beaufort Under Relentless Pressure

Canadian Interagency Fire Center

LANCE-MODIS

 

Conditions Promoting Arctic Sea Ice Collapse Are Exceptionally Strong This Spring

It didn’t take long for Arctic sea ice to start to respond to a fossil-fuel based accumulation of hothouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere. For since the 1920s, that region of ocean ice along the northern polar zone has been in a steady, and increasingly rapid, retreat. Rachel Carson wrote about the start of the Northern Hemisphere ocean ice decline in her ground-breaking 1955 book — The Edge of the Sea.

But it wasn’t until the late 1970s that consistent satellite observations began to provide an unbroken record telling the tale of Arctic sea ice decline. The National Snow and Ice Data Center, The Polar Science Center (PIOMAS), Japan’s JAXA, The Danish Meteorological Institute, and others have since that time provided a loyal recording of the stark impact human-forced warming has had on this sensitive and critical region.

(Severe sea ice volume losses since 1979 illustrated in the above video by Andy Lee Robinson.)

Perhaps the most poignant and direct telling of this tale has been provided in the form of Andy Lee Robinson’s tragic and resonant re-rendering of sea ice volume declines as measured by PIOMAS. Others, like Neven over at the Arctic Sea Ice Blog, have heroically and often thanklessly provided the essential week-to-week analysis of this tragic decline. Rising to the task of a necessary telling of a key chapter in the human tale that our mainstream media sources have all-too-often neglected. Before we go on to today’s update on an Arctic Ocean ice cap that is now in a critically weak condition, I want to add one last mention — these scientists, analysts, experts, and creative and artistically inclined laymen have done the right thing. They were the modern-day prophets providing the critical warning that has been oft-ignored.

A Tale of Devastating Losses

It’s a warning that has been written in the record of the ice itself. A decline that since 1979 has followed a steepening descent curve. An overall downward trend punctuated by the abrupt and severe loss years of 2007 and 2012. A trend that has, nonetheless, featured a few weak challenges in the form of pseudo-recovery years like 2008, 2013, and 2014. A precipitous loss that, all too soon, will likely terminate with abrupt finality in temporally-expanding blue ocean events. Periods when little or no sea ice is observed on the surface of oceans and seas within the Arctic.

JAXA sea ice

(After the warmest Winter and early Spring period on record, Arctic sea ice extent, area and volume are now at or near new record lows. With abnormal heat persisting and with the ice showing an extraordinary lack of resiliency, there appears to be a heightened risk that Arctic sea ice will hit new record all-time lows by September and October of 2016. Image source: JAXA.)

Why should we talk about blue ocean events now? Well, we have only to look at the sea ice record to find that substantial losses have occurred during single years. Years when Arctic heat hit new peaks — lining up with severe adverse weather conditions to take a terrible toll on the ice. Years like 2007 when nearly 2 million square kilometers of ice was lost over the previous year and 2012 which featured about 800,000 square kilometers of extent lost below the 2007 low mark. And if a blue ocean event does happen, it will be during one of these severe loss years.

Extremely Frail Sea Ice During the Spring of 2016

2016 and 2017 could be years when such precipitous declines occur. Heat from an extraordinarily powerful El Nino already skipped over the weakening atmospheric wall of the Jet Stream to invade the High Arctic during Winter of this year. As a result, Winter and Springtime Arctic temperatures are currently at their warmest levels ever recorded.

All this extra heat is doing a number on the ice. Sea ice extent, volume and area, which had experienced a false recovery during the years of 2013 and 2014, have again retreated to seasonally record low levels. In particular, the new near record low seasonal volume measure is disturbing. For while area and extent measure the expanse of surface ice as visible from above, volume measures the ice in three dimensions — giving a better idea of overall resiliency or lack thereof. It’s worth noting that the PIOMAS volume measure is based on a model of assimilated observational data. And, as with any model, there are a few assumptions built in. But overall, PIOMAS has tended to provide data that has matched with other observational findings.

Broken Beaufort

(Extreme fracturing of Beaufort sea ice over recent days has come after a record warm Arctic Spring and Winter and during a period when a powerful high pressure system has been breaking and compacting the ice. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Sea ice frailty seen in the measures is also verified by current satellite observations of the ice surface. This frailty is particularly visible in the region of the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and Canada. There, extensive fracturing of the ice is clearly visible in yesterday’s MODIS satellite shot. Here we find huge regions of thin ice and open water as the torquing influence of a powerful high pressure system has turned the greatly weakened Beaufort ice into a sea of ice cubes.

During recent years in the post 2012 timeframe, Beaufort ice has shown a considerable lack of resiliency to fracturing. This is particularly disturbing as, historically, the Beaufort Sea has tended to house the thickest, toughest ice in the Arctic. If such a great former bastion for the ice can now be torn to ribbons by the slightest fluxes of wind and weather, then the sea ice is, indeed, in a rather wretched state. And last year, just this kind of early fracturing and warm up in the Beaufort greatly contributed to an overall return to the trend of an Arctic sea ice death spiral in 2015.

Neven notes in a recent blog at his Arctic sea ice portal:

Last year’s April cracking event caused a lot of fragmented multi-year ice to be transported all the way up to the Chukchi Sea (see here), leaving a vulnerable looking barrier on the Pacific side of the Arctic. When this was followed by an early heat wave in May (see here), the ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas received a beating it never really recovered from during the rest of the melting season. This was also because continental snow had melted out really quickly, making it possible for warm winds to blow in from the land.

Heating From Both Water and Land

Compared to last year, this year looks quite a bit worse. A wide-ranging Beaufort break-up is happening on the back of last year’s losses and is concurrent with new record and near record low sea ice extent, area and volume values and is happening during a period in which Arctic heat has hit new all-time highs. The result is a risk of compounding melt factors hitting the greatly weakened ice all at the same time.

Locally, the kind of widespread fracturing we now observe can result in a loss of protective reflectivity for the sea ice. As the Springtime sun rises and more of its direct rays fall upon the ice, darker thin ice patches and areas of open water will absorb more of the solar heat. That extra heat will then go to melting the islands of thicker ice that remain.

This situation can generate a compounding effect of ice losses if weather conditions and atmospheric temperatures line up. In addition, loss of the thicker sea ice cap during break-up can result in the ventilating of heat from the warmer waters beneath the ice. In fact, it is the heating of waters beneath the sea ice by means of current transport of warming ocean waters from around the world and into the Arctic that is one of the chief drivers of Arctic Ocean ice losses as the globe has been forced to warm by human fossil fuel emissions. So not only does an ice crack up in the Beaufort reduce the ice’s resiliency to the sun, it also tears the lid off the deeper ocean warming rising up from below.

Warmer Arctic Ocean Cooler Land

(Lower albedo due to ice fracturing results in more of the sun’s rays being absorbed into the ocean surface. A warmer Arctic Ocean surface then radiates more heat into the surrounding environment. Such conditions can result in periods when temperatures over the, previously colder and solidly frozen, Arctic Ocean are far warmer than even over land masses on the verge of tipping into a springtime thaw. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

During Arctic Spring, when land surfaces are now retaining snow cover even as the sea ice breaks up, the effect of lower albedo and ocean heat ventilation can be found in the form of warmer temperatures over thin ice, broken ice, and in open water regions when compared to nearby land masses. Such a condition of newly added heat over ocean zones can have substantial impacts come Summer if melt-favorable weather patterns continue to hold sway. The result is a kind of melt synergy developing between the land, the waters, and the sun. Early on, during Spring, the warmer ocean zone weakens ice and provides warm air pools that aid in the initiation of snow melt over adjacent land. Then, as land warming ramps up, the warm winds coming from regions of early snow withdrawal provide further pressure to the already greatly weakened ice.

A Big Burly High as the Final Ingredient

Weather patterns that favor melt during Spring and Summer include powerful high pressure systems dominating large regions of the Arctic. And for much of the past week, an extremely intense high in the range of 1040 to 1045 mb has stooped over the Beaufort, torqued the ice, and developed the kind of strong clockwise wind flow that has tended to result in fracturing, ice compaction, and the opening of darker ice and open water areas (please read Neven’s fantastic recent blog on this observation here).

This kind of weather system is the last ingredient necessary to trigger an early, rapid melt for the side of the Arctic where the last of the thick, old ice now remains. And it appears that, for at least two weeks, such conditions will hold strong sway over the Beaufort.

So overall, more and more conditions are lining up to deliver a ramping up of melt pressure on the Arctic sea ice. Record atmospheric heat, early break-up, record low or near record low area, extent, and volume, and a powerful high pressure system over the Beaufort do not at all bode well. In fact, this looks like a near perfect early season set-up for a record melt in 2016 should this clearly ominous trend continue.

Links:

Beaufort Under Early Pressure

The National Snow and Ice Data Center

The Polar Science Center (PIOMAS)

The Danish Meteorological Institute

JAXA

Andy Lee Robinson

The Edge of the Sea

CIRES1

LANCE-MODIS

Earth Nullschool

Warm Storms Rage Through Barents as Arctic Sea Ice Enters 13th Day of Record Low Extent

On March 4, amidst a building polar heat amplification and a strong, thousands mile long, south to north wind and storm flow across the North Atlantic and into the Arctic, sea ice extent coverage for the northern polar region plunged to new record lows.

imageimage

(26 foot wave heights [left frame] and 50-60 mph sustained southerly winds [right frame] in conjunction with warm storm near the ice edge at Svalbard on March 15, 2015. Storms of this kind have been raging up through the Barents delivering powerful, warm southerly winds and immense swells to the ice edge region for at least the past half month. This strong melt pressure and warm air delivery has contributed to record low sea ice extent totals continuing for the past 13 days running. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data source: GFS.)

Human-forced heat continued to build throughout the Arctic as warm and intensely windy storms churned northward through the Barents, bringing with them powerful swells ranging from 15 to, at times, 40 feet in height. As these great swells ground away at the ice edge, temperatures hit daily anomalies greater than 4 C above the 1979-2000 average on Sunday, March 8 for the entire Arctic region. The next day, sea ice extent, according to NSIDC, plummeted to 14,273,000 square kilometers. A value 303,000 square kilometers, or an area about the size of Arizona, smaller than the previous record low value for the date set in 2006.

Ever since March 4, the Arctic has remained in new record low territory — a period that has now lasted 13 days. Though anomalous warmth has faded somewhat — dropping today to a range of 2.65 degrees Celsius above the 1979-2000 average — sea ice has only bounced back slightly. On March 15, the NSIDC extent measure had inched up to 14,333,000 square kilometers, still about 235,000 square kilometers below the previous record low for the date.

chart(3)

(Arctic sea ice extent as measured by NSIDC drops below previous record low values on March 4 of 2015 [bottom dark blue line] and has remained at record low levels ever since. For reference, previous record low years for March dates include 2006 [pink line], 2007 [light blue line], and 2011 [orange line]. The top dark blue line [1979] indicates how much sea ice extent has been lost during March over the past 36 years. Image source: NSIDC.)

Over the next week, however, these new record lows are more likely to continue to fade as warm Arctic surface temperature anomalies drop to around 1-2 C above average, the Arctic Oscillation shifts toward neutral or slightly negative, and the warm storm track through the Barents is interrupted by cold winds pushing south toward Scandinavia from the pole. Although mid-week warming forecast for Alaska and Baffin Bay may retard any potential rebound somewhat.

For the past two years, Arctic sea ice has experienced a bit of a rebound during the March through early April time-frame. This has appeared to coincide with a restrengthening of the polar Jet Stream as mid latitudes have warmed which, in turn, has weakened meridional patterns transporting heat into the Arctic during winter time. Low angle sunlight entering the Arctic at this time of year has also not yet gained enough momentum to significantly push the ice to melt. So we still have about a 2-3 week window for potential bounce-back before sunlight builds and begins to apply its steady heat forcing to the greatly diminished ice.

AO index forecast

(Arctic Oscillation [AO] index forecast shows dip toward slightly negative or neutral AO status by end week after a rather extreme high in early March, with a return to mildly positive AO values by end month. Positive AO enhances edge melt of sea ice by encouraging storm formation at the ice edge and warm air invasions over the central ice. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

That said, the ice is quite frail now, even with potential volume rebounds to mid 2000s levels. So even the slight addition of solar insolation may be enough to keep ice coverage values depressed in the neutral or moderately positive Arctic Oscillation regime that is predicted through the end of March. Extent measures maintaining near record lows along the 2006, 2007 and 2011 tracks, or just below, would establish a very low launching pad for a melt season that, lately, has tended to include precipitous declines in ice during the summer months.

The ongoing record low extent status, despite a return to weather patterns that are more favorable for rebound or maintenance, therefore, should be closely monitored.

Links:

NSIDC

NOAA/CPC

Earth Nullschool

GFS

Climate Reanalyzer

Arctic Sea Ice Flirts With New Record Lows Dragging Global Coverage Inexorably Down

It’s another winter of far above average temperatures for the Arctic.

Warm air has risen — south to north — over both the North Atlantic and Pacific. It has ridden through the Bering and Barents seas. And it has invaded an Arctic sea ice pack that is far, far more fragile than it has ever been in modern human reckoning.

image

(A parade of warm fronts predicted to run up through the North Atlantic and Barents between Greenland and Northern Europe and on up into the Arctic Ocean on Thursday, March 5. The warm fronts are indicated by regions of perpendicular wind flow across the meridional pattern running northward from the Eastern Seaboard of North America and on into the Arctic. It is a pattern we’ve seen frequently throughout the winter of 2014-2015. One that has resulted both in Arctic warming and extreme polar vortex excursions. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data Source: Global Forecast Systems Model.)

The winds have been fed by the warmest ocean surface temperatures ever seen in the aftermath of the hottest year on record (2014). They have pushed against ice packs off Irkutsk in Russia. They have driven ice northward and melted it throughout the Bering. And they have pushed 10-20 foot waves against the ice along the coasts of Greenland, in the Strait near Svalbard, and in the Barents west of Novaya Zemlya.

Near Record Low Arctic Sea Ice

This warm air influx has had a strong effect on the sea ice. Even in the far north near the pole, sea ice has been occasionally observed to thin this winter, reaching 80-90 percent concentration in a broad patch just south of the pole. Marked thinning for an area from which thicker, multi-year ice has undergone an extended retreat and 2 meter thick ice is now the mainstay. A mere shadow of ice for a region that once featured great hills and mounds of stable ice bounded by bridges between the North American and Asian Continents.

Now, over the greatly thinned and reduced ice, periods when temperatures have neared or even exceeded the point at which sea ice melts (28 F) have become more and more common in a broad wedge covering the Arctic Ocean between Novaya and the pole itself. When combined with the warm waters continuing to invade the Arctic Ocean from the flanks and from below, it’s enough to have again pushed sea ice to near record low extents for this time of year:

chart

(Arctic sea ice extent for March 1 of 2015 shown by the purple line sandwiched between the orange line [2011] and the pink line [2006]. Yesterday’s sea ice extent was second lowest in the record with 2006 being the lowest and 2011 running in as third lowest for the date. 2012 [dotted green], 2007 [light blue] and 1979 [dark blue] were added for reference. Image source: NSIDC.)

At the current measure of 14,450,000 square kilometers, that’s well less than what we’ve seen during previous decades. More than 2,000,000 square kilometers, or about an area the size of Greenland, less than 1979’s extent for March 1, for example.

And the total could well go lower — testing new record ranges for early March. For the Arctic is about to see another major influx of warm air.

Starting tomorrow and through Saturday, warm southerly winds will ride up into both the Bering and through the Barents side of the Arctic Ocean east of Novaya Zemlya. The warm air influx will be strongest through the Barents region, pushing temperatures as warm as 30 F to withing 200 miles of the North Pole:

image image

(Forecast for Wednesday finds 30 F temperatures riding up through the Barents and deep into the Arctic Ocean to within 200 miles of the North Pole. Note that similar temperatures appear in Ohio on the same day in the second frame. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data source: Global Forecast Systems Model.)

For comparison Ohio, many hundreds of miles to the south and well outside the Arctic, will see the same reading at the same time. It’s another major warm air influx that will again drive against the ice pack. A continuation of a decades long assault that will bring with it further threat of record lows in Arctic sea ice. One that could set the 2015 melt season up for a rather low launching pad if the major gains seen during this time of year in 2012, 2013, and 2014 don’t manage to materialize.

NASA Study Finds 35,000 Square Kilometers of Sea Ice Lost Each Year Globally

As Arctic sea ice faces the potential for new all-time lows, a recently released NASA study puts these losses in a global context.

This important broader assessment shows that both Arctic sea ice loss and global sea ice loss since 1979 has followed an unequivocal trend of thinning and recession. This ongoing loss is despite the fact that Antarctica has seen some minor gains in sea ice extent during that same period.

Claire Parkinson, author of the study, noted:

“Even though Antarctic sea ice reached a new record maximum this past September, global sea ice is still decreasing. That’s because the decreases in Arctic sea ice far exceed the increases in Antarctic sea ice.”

A graphic illustration of sea ice trends shows how rates of global and Arctic decline compare when adding in the slight and far more gradual sea ice gains occurring near Antarctica:

polar_trend_graphs_1979-2013

(NASA Polar Trend Graph shows Arctic, Antarctic, and combined global sea ice trends. Note the slight gain for Antarctica as compared to a precipitous fall for the Arctic even as the global trend shows a marked downswing. Image source: NASA.)

Massive losses in the Arctic are likely due to the fact that the sea ice there sits upon a warming ocean surrounded by warming continents. By contrast, Antarctic sea ice sits in the Southern Ocean whose surface waters are often cooled both by winds and by an increasing outflow of cold, fresh water from the melting Antarctic glaciers. Factors that serve as a minor surface counter-trend to the larger warming signal. A signal, that for Antarctica, is driving an assault of warm water at the ice sheets from the depth of hundreds of feet below the ocean surface.

Overall, the Arctic has lost of an average of 2 million square kilometers since 1979. Antarctic gains of about 700,000 square kilometers are enough to result in a global loss of around 1.3 million square kilometers over the period. That’s equal to about 35,000 square kilometers lost each year or an area the size of the State of Maryland.

Finally, it’s important to note that recent studies have shown (as hinted at above) that sea ice gain around Antarctica is being driven by cold water and ice berg outflows ramping up as the great glaciers of Antarctica increase their melt rates. The melt, which is driven by a pool of warm water expanding hundreds of feet beneath the ocean surface and at the base of ice sheets and ice shelves is creating a kind of heat conveyor which spreads cool water along the surface even as it pulls more warm water in from underneath.

So it appears even the slight ice gain for Antarctica has a connection to human caused warming. One that is even more ominously linked to an exponentially ramping rate of land ice loss from Antarctica itself.

Links:

NSIDC

NASA: Global Sea Ice Diminishing, Despite Antarctic Gains

Earth Nullschool

Global Forecast Systems Model

Expanding Arctic Sea Ice is Flooding Warning Bell

Cryosat Shows Rate of Antarctic Land Ice Loss Doubled During Last Decade

Hat Tips:

The Arctic Sea Ice Blog

Anna

Dnem

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.

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