Barrow Sea Ice Break-up: Dark Open Water In Late April

Barrow Sea ice break-up late April

(Image source: Barrow Sea Ice Cam.)

The warming trend that we provided predictive analysis for yesterday has barely even begun and we already have visible dark, open water off Point Barrow, Alaska as of late Tuesday evening on April 29.  A large polynya that had opened up off the northern Alaskan coast has now extended well past Barrow and landward toward the near-shore waters. By late evening, the open water had invaded to within about 200 yards of shore along and past the Point Barrow coastline.

In broader summary, the open water polynya stretches from Cape Lisburne to past Point Barrow and measures between 20 and 50 miles in width. General trends show this large polynya continuing to expand northward into the Chukchi Sea, a motion that is likely to continue for at least the next few days.

Some cooling will likely return after the currently building Arctic heatwave, but it is questionable if it will be enough to result in a refreeze given the prevailing and much warmer than usual conditions.

Sea ice break-up at Point Barrow typically begins in mid-to-late June. It often involves both the formation of open water offshore as well as sea ice motion near-shore. Though the polynya removed ice from the off-shore waters of Point Barrow today, the near-shore ice still remains grounded, so this admittedly impressive event cannot technically be considered a break-up. That said, it appears that we are seeing a very early initiation of melt conditions for the Barrow region.

With warmer weather settling in, heat stresses to the local and regional sea ice will likely continue to ramp up. So, in other words, this early season melt event has only just begun.

large polynya April 28

(Large polynya extending from Cape Lisburne to about 80 miles past Point Barrow on April 28. The polynya continued to enlarge even as it invaded the near-shore regions of Point Barrow on April 29th. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Links:

Barrow Sea Ice Cam

LANCE-MODIS

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63 Comments

  1. Tom

     /  April 30, 2014

    Right, while here on the east coast of the U.S. we can’t get spring to “stick” (today it won’t get above the mid-50′s, tomorrow being May 1st). The weather’s been waffling back and forth for about a month now, with the displaced cold air plunging down from the Arctic interrupting the usual planting season. This has happened before, but the jet stream wasn’t out of bounds then.

    Reply
    • The cold core is firmly entrenched over Greenland. This is an unstable weather pattern capable of producing very extreme weather. Warm air pushing against the eastern/cold dipole is producing some very intense weather over the eastern half of the US. Yesterday, on my way south to a conference in Charleston, we drove under a rather severe thunderstorm in central North Carolina. About 30 minutes later a NWS alert on the radio indicated that a tornado had formed from the same storm just east of Fayetteville.

      Reply
    • Air temps at Barrow now above sea ice melt point. Large area of open, dark water still visible. Mackenzie delta offshore region also shows large and growing polynya. Beaufort Sea ice undergoing significant break up. Water temps are at or near melt point in large sections of the Beaufort, Chukchi and East Siberian seas.

      Looks like we’re in the early stages of a strong event. Next few days will be interesting.

      Reply
  2. Gerald Spezio

     /  April 30, 2014

    The Barrow, Alaska sea ice cam is inescapable hard-nosed empiricism.

    What should we expect in July?

    As is 20 inches of rain in Pensacola, FL.

    Poor George Will, a professed intelligent man, still sees only politics in the data.
    When you are obsessed with politics, you will see politics everywhere.

    So we watch … as the UNnatural “shocks that flesh is heir to,” come faster & faster.

    Reply
    • james cole

       /  April 30, 2014

      Another epic rain event, the kind usually associated with a hurricane passing over mountainous terrain. But in the last decade or so we have come to take this sort of thing for granted. We had one of these 24 hour rain events in Northern Minnesota a few summers back. Anywhere from 10-20 inches of rain based on location. It was a 24 hour thunderstorm and downpour. Back in the 80′s when global warming was in the media spotlight for awhile, these rain events were what we were told would become more common. I have lived to see that proved true. I guess if El Nino does fully develop, all of us will be watching California to see what type of storms develop. It also requires a sharp eye on how media handles it if major rain events become catastrophic. Climate change has slipped out of much of the corporate media, and by design I am willing to bet!

      Reply
  3. The earlier seasonal sea ice breakup in the Arctic corresponds with new animal migration studies showing bird species moving higher in elevation in addition to moving to higher latitudes. See: http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/14174/20140423/wildlife-response-climate-change-underestimated-birds-migrate-north.htm

    Reply
  4. Colorado Bob

     /  April 30, 2014

    NOAA-led researchers discover ocean acidity is dissolving shells of tiny snails off the U.S. West Coast

    A NOAA-led research team has found the first evidence that acidity of continental shelf waters off the West Coast is dissolving the shells of tiny free-swimming marine snails, called pteropods, which provide food for pink salmon, mackerel and herring, according to a new paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

    Researchers estimate that the percentage of pteropods in this region with dissolving shells due to ocean acidification has doubled in the nearshore habitat since the pre-industrial era and is on track to triple by 2050 when coastal waters become 70 percent more corrosive than in the pre-industrial era due to human-caused ocean acidification.

    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2014/20140430_oceanacidification.html

    Reply
  5. Colorado Bob

     /  April 30, 2014

    The melting polar icecap is creating waves the size of houses

    Compared with the monster seas of the Pacific, Arctic waters are a picture of calm—whipping up, at their most violent, into lake-like chop. Or, at least, they were. New research shows that something is whipping up waves that reach five meters (16.4 feet).

    “That’s a big wave—that’s a house-sized wave. And that has never been observed before in the Arctic,” says Jim Thomson, a physicist at the University of Washington who led the study (paywall).

    So why is it happening now? “As the ice retreats in the Arctic, which it is doing in a very remarkable way, we’re finding more and more waves,” says Thomson. “And we’re finding a very direct relationship between the height of the waves and the retreat of the ice.”
    Link

    Reply
  6. Video: Far-east wildfire ignites military depot, massive explosions rock Siberia, deaths reported

    Reply
    • james cole

       /  May 1, 2014

      Great link. I read the story of the explosion earlier, but did not know it was caused by a wildfire. Also, I came to the blog just now to mention the breaking news out of California with a brush fire causing 1,500 homes to be evacuated as a heat wave in Southern California puts fire conditions into the red zone. More to come, before El Nino potentially floods the place out later in the year???

      Reply
  7. Meanwhile here in the Pacific Northwest we have April/May temps, in the high 80′s, which were the norm for June and July. The air is very dry at 20%.
    Wind maps, nullschool.net, show a wide swath of air moving straight offshore and joining a counter clockwise rotation. Sky is dense with particulate and aviation trails.
    It’s all very unsettling.

    Reply
    • Ps At midday, 043914, the wide swath of hot/dry air moving offshore from the PNW was splitting in half. The northern half headed N/NW — the southern half S/SW.

      Reply
  8. Colorado Bob

     /  May 1, 2014

    Check out this satellite image :
    Freak “S” shaped storm unleashes biblical rain in Pensacola, Mobile

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/04/30/freak-s-shaped-storm-unleashes-biblical-rain-in-pensacola-mobile/

    Reply
  9. Colorado Bob

     /  May 1, 2014

    CO2 Levels Stay Above 400 PPM Throughout April, First Time Ever in Human History

    The end of April has arrived, and with it, the record for the first month in human history with an average carbon dioxide level in Earth’s atmosphere above 400 parts per million has been set.

    With a little more than 24 hours left in the month, the average for April can’t slip below 400 ppm. “Every day in April has been over 400 ppm,” said Pieter Tans, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are monitored from a site atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, where they have been measured continuously since 1958. The long record has charted the steep rise of the greenhouse gas — the most prevalent in Earth’s atmosphere — as a result of human emissions.

    The first measurement in excess of 400 ppm was made on May 9, 2013. This year, the level rose above that mark a full two months earlier, and has remained above 400 ppm steadily since the beginning of April. While the milestone is largely a symbolic one, it does illustrate how far emissions have risen from their preindustrial levels of 280 ppm.

    http://www.wunderground.com/news/april-first-month-co2-levels-above-400-ppm-20140430

    Reply
  10. Colorado Bob

     /  May 1, 2014

    The last 11 months -

    Flooding worst in 500 years in parts of Europe
    June 3, 2013

    In the days leading up to June 20, 2013, Alberta, Canada, experienced heavy rainfall that triggered catastrophic flooding described by the provincial government as the worst in Alberta’s history.

    From the afternoon of September 9 through midday on September 13, 14.62 inches of rain had fallen in Boulder, Colo. This included an incredible 9.08 inches of rain on September 12, alone!

    27 February 2014 – Early Met Office statistics for Winter 2014 show that England and Wales has already had its wettest winter in almost 250 years.

    Reply
  11. Colorado Bob

     /  May 2, 2014

    OT -
    Virus Kills Millions of American Pigs, Pushing Up Pork Prices

    A virus that has wiped out as many as seven million pigs in the United States during the past year is pushing the price of pork to record highs and contributing to rising overall meat costs.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140501-pigs-virus-meat-prices-food-science-health/?google_editors_picks=true

    The smallest things make the jump to a new climate first. And when it comes to small, viruses take the cake.
    Read this link, this thing came in like tornado .
    As the climate warms , we’re going to see a wall of small creatures attacking our way of life. Things we never dreamed of . I call it the 52 card pick-up Hypothesis, climate change will shoot every card we ever known into air , then we get to pick then Up.

    Reply
    • Mark from New England

       /  May 2, 2014

      Just when you thought it was bad enough, now comes a plague of global warming enhanced viruses and bacteria. Life is going to be rough on this planet in a few decades if we don’t change our carbon burnin’ ways.

      Reply
    • Tom

       /  May 4, 2014

      Thanks for this link CO Bob – I like your hypothesis too, since most people assume that, beside the weather, everything else will stay as it is (forgetting it’s all connected) there will be many “black swan” events and “surprises” we as a culture hadn’t the capacity to predict. Our “gummint” isn’t helping at all by turning off radiation monitors, de-funding science,
      erasing data from their earthquake sites and continually projecting that all is well, nothing to worry about, we have it all under control . . . ”

      Mark from NE – I think we’re already at the rough part with our first case of MERS here, the persistent drought, stronger storms like tornados and hurricanes, deluges in other areas, on top of all the man-made problems (currency wars, police brutality, widening income gaps, stagnant salaries etc) and that conditions are only going to get worse going forward.

      Reply
      • Mark from New England

         /  May 4, 2014

        Tom, I’m afraid you’re right – and yes, it is happening now, especially if you’re poor and in an inner city or hollowed out mill town.

  12. Phil

     /  May 2, 2014

    Apparently latest 30-day moving average of SOI has now entered the La Nina range – over +8. Has moved beyond neutral.

    Reply
    • Mark from New England

       /  May 2, 2014

      Phil,

      Thanks for the update – but please translate into layman’s terms for me! I’m not sure what the SOI is. Does the +8 indicate that the massive Kelvin wave has stalled or something like that? Thanks much.

      Mark

      Reply
      • Phil

         /  May 2, 2014

        Hello Mark,

        I will put some web references in a follow up response. Information about it can be found on the BOM web-site – I did a search on ‘BOM SOI’ and got the web address that way.

        The information about current 30 day moving average was on Arctic Sea Ice Forum, Consequences, 2014 El Nino Topic, last response by AbruptSLR. He said that the current value was +8.6 which is indicative of La Nina. ENSO neutral range is from -8 to +8 and El Nino is less than -8.

        He also stated that SOI is very volatile and is expected by decline back into neutral in the next day or so.

        The latest BOM advice of around 24 April was of the expectation for EL Nino still latter on but SOI index values since then have been increasing significantly. Will be interesting if their advice remains the same on around 6th May.

      • Mark from New England

         /  May 2, 2014

        Thanks Phil. Do you think we’re still headed for El Nino conditions later this year or next?

        Are you a climate scientist? If not, you should be! Your posts are the among the most technical here. Still on the learning curve…

        Best wishes, Mark

      • Phil

         /  May 2, 2014

        Hello Mark, no not a climate scientist. About the El Nino, I tend to depend ultimately on BOM and NOAA advice. From my reading of blogs, however, I think the issue is that the atmospheric forcing has not been as ‘good’ as in earlier months to produce the full transition to El Nino in the near term – e.g. last month and this month.

        I think it is a waiting game to see how things eventuate. It seems that with the size of the Kelvin Wave, things are primed but need a further push along which has been lacking over the last month. The question is whether this additional forcing will evenuate and if an El Nino does eventuate, what will its strength be.

      • Usually it takes many months for El Nino to develop.

      • Phil

         /  May 4, 2014

        From Arctic sea ice blog, the SOI is declining rapidly and is well back into neutral territory and also appears that their might be a second Kelvin Wave in operation that will reinforce the existing one with impacts expected in June. Apparently this is not unusual for strong events and the 1997 El Nino event seemed to have a couple of Kelvin waves as well (according to commentary on the above blog site).

        Will be interesting to see how things pan out.

      • The current Kelvin wave is in the upwelling phase. As a result sub-surface temperature anomalies will fall as surface anomalies will increase.

        We already see this as all Nino sectors but one are above the .5 C threshold in the first week of May.

  13. Jay M

     /  May 2, 2014

    Front page SF Chronicle–5/2/14: Snow in Sierra melts down to 18% of normal (irrigation for California crops and urban water supplies)
    inside: [being skepical about hope for rainy El Nino] . . . Null (meteorologist) said “one was in place during the second year of that 1970-’s drought .”

    Reply
    • It’s true the El Nino and related Pacific moisture flow would have to be rather strong to overcome the current block.

      Reply
  14. Colorado Bob

     /  May 2, 2014

    Hundreds feared dead, thousands trapped under Afghan landslide

    The landslide, which followed a week of heavy rain at a time of melting spring snow, crushed hundreds of houses and damaged hundreds more, Sayad said.

    DIFFICULT CONDITIONS

    Rescue efforts have been hampered by difficult conditions, with the area flooded by more than a week of rain. Seasonal rains have caused heavy destruction across the north of the country, killing over 100 people.

    Link

    Reply
  15. Colorado Bob

     /  May 4, 2014

    The world had 3 great grain exporters , the US, Argentina , and Ukraine.

    The price of flour is about to rise.

    Reply
  16. Colorado Bob

     /  May 4, 2014

    Texas like California is in a state of denial. The 2 largest engines of our “growth” are about to start drinking water from out of toilets
    Texas leads the way -
    There are about 110,00 of them about to start drinking water from toilets at Wichita Falls. , Texas.

    The idea that we could grow for ever is over. the idea we must change has come to
    Wichita Falls.

    Reply
  17. Colorado Bob

     /  May 4, 2014

    Texas like California is in a state of denial. The 2 largest engines of our “growth” are about to start drinking water from out of toilets
    Texas leads the way -
    There are about 110,00 of them about to start drinking water from toilets at Wichita Falls. , Texas.

    The idea that we could grow forever is over. the idea we must change has come to
    Wichita Falls.

    Reply
    • Mark from New England

       /  May 4, 2014

      Best to stay out of Wichita Falls Texas! Pretty soon the town will be left to the dogs, who don’t mind drinking toilet water. An yes, we can’t grow on like this forever, or much longer for that matter.

      Reply
  18. Colorado Bob

     /  May 4, 2014

    We are the largest asteroid to ever hit the planet.

    Reply
  19. Colorado Bob

     /  May 4, 2014

    Savoy Brown

    Where is Savoy Brown now that we really need them ?

    Louisiana Blues

    Reply
  20. Colorado Bob

     /  May 4, 2014

    Savoy Brown – Tell Mama

    Reply
  21. Mark from New England

     /  May 4, 2014

    Weather observation from central New England: This weekend and the past week in general have been cooler and windier than normal for us (with highs ranging from about 45 – 55 F, when they should be in the low – mid 60s F). Rather than early May, it feels more like early April. It will be interesting to see how this affects the timing of the annual May migration of warblers, vireos, orioles, tanagers, thrushes, etc.; that fly into and through here during May. I’m a pretty avid birder and amateur naturalist and am watching nature’s response to climate change closely. For instance, within the last decade populations of Carolina Wrens, a well-named southern species, have shot up in southern and central New England, The suet I supplied may have kept a pair from starvation here in this winter of the polar vortex plunge.

    I tend to think the bird migration will be delayed a week on average, unless it turns much warmer with winds out of the southwest within a week or so, rather than the pattern of the west / northwest winds we’ve been in for a few weeks. The birds are likely amassing in the southern US, awaiting the proper warm front and tailwind to come up to us. Considering we had a cold and snowy winter, this spring isn’t surprising, though its a bit disconcerting if you want to get out in a T-shirt and shorts.

    Reply
    • Mark from New England

       /  May 6, 2014

      Central New England is now in the mid-60′s (F) for daily high temperatures. This is normal, and quite nice. We’ll see how long that lasts before the first heat wave! I for one like it on the cool side, but not the 40s in May.

      Reply
  22. Colorado Bob

     /  May 5, 2014

    Wildfire area doubles in Siberia over holidays, over half of forest fires put out in Russia’s Far East
    Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_05_05/Wildfire-area-doubles-in-Siberia-over-holidays-over-half-of-forest-fires-put-out-in-Russias-Far-East-8307/

    Reply
  23. Colorado Bob

     /  May 6, 2014

    Dr Wenju Cai, a climate expert at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, said rises in Pacific Ocean temperature above those seen in previous El Nino years and the quick movement of warm water eastwards had raised fears of a significant event.

    “I think this event has lots of characteristics with a strong El Nino,” said Cai.

    “A strong El Nino appears early and we have seen this event over the last couple of months, which is unusual; the wind that has caused the warming is quite large and there is what we call the pre-conditioned effects, where you must have a lot of heat already in the system to have a big El Nino event.”

    Link

    Reply
    • Mark from New England

       /  May 6, 2014

      Thanks for the El Nino update Bob. I was wondering what was happening with it.

      Reply
    • Great link, Bob. I’d certainly call this pre-conditioned. The latest NOAA report shows the entire basin above 1.5 C average by this coming fall/winter. Average basin conditions are now above the .5 C threshold.

      Reply
  24. Gerald Spezio

     /  May 6, 2014

    Sam Carana has recently stated a plausible worst case scenario for the near term.
    ———-
    A polynomial trend line points at global temperature anomalies of 5°C by 2060.

    Even worse, a polynomial trend for the Arctic shows temperature anomalies of 4°C by 2020, 7°C by 2030 and 11°C by 2040, threatening to cause major feedbacks to kick in, including albedo changes and methane releases that will trigger runaway global warming that looks set to eventually catch up with accelerated warming in the Arctic and result in global temperature anomalies of 20°C+ by 2050.
    ——–
    The nebulous “zeitgeist” is routinely selling the hype that humans can adapt to a two degree C increase.

    “JUST A LITTLE BIT LONGER …”

    Indeed, the issue has become; “We MUST hold to ONLY a two degree increase.”
    …. and the U.N. has recently endorsed such preposterous nonsense.

    Economists, politicians, & fairies will surely come forward & exclaim; “See comes our mystical equilibrium at two degrees C.”

    Or a transgender & benevolent Gawd will answer our hopes & prayers & stop the acceleration of methane release in its tracks.

    Bangledeshies & Inuit are dying now.

    What was that about the Southern Hemisphere being less vulnerable?

    And let’s all get some magical grief counseling for bummer negativity?

    If you are not despairing, you just ain’t paying attention.

    Reply
    • You can’t just go fitting polynomial curves williy-nilly and go about calling it science.

      Reply
      • Nature does tend to wag the curves quite a bit before settling in. Mann shows a potential for 2 C by 2036 under current emissions trends, I wouldn’t call 5 C by 2060 too far on the outside of the upper boundary. The ice sheet inertia might well put a cap on the high polynomial as they continue to become more involved.

  25. Colorado Bob

     /  May 6, 2014

    SÃO PAULO–Officials vowed not to ration water in São Paulo even as a drought reduced the main reservoir serving South America’s largest city to a record low just weeks before it hosts the opening game for soccer’s World Cup.

    The greater São Paulo region has already enacted conservation measures to try to reduce water consumption by its 20 million residents. The governor of São Paulo state, Geraldo Alckmin, who is running in state elections in October, vowed on Sunday not to ration this year.

    Despite his pledge, hundreds of thousands of metropolitan residents are already seeing their water supplies reduced, a sign critics say that conditions are worse than São Paulo officials will admit publicly.

    As officials on Monday said the main reservoir serving São Paulo reached 10% of capacity, its lowest level on record–amid environmental degradation and a drought–some predicted solutions will only get tougher the longer authorities put off emergency measures.

    Link

    Reply
  26. Kevin Jones

     /  May 6, 2014

    Rutgers University Global Snow Lab shows Eurasia April snow cover at record low. Not trying to add any fuel to the fire, so to speak. Thanks , you all. Great work, Robert.

    Reply
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