Arctic Cyclone Hangs On, Record 2012 Sea Ice Loss Continues, Large Areas of Sea Ice Detached From Main Ice Flow

(Weather Report Credit: DMI)

An immense cyclone that has ravaged the Arctic continues its powerful blow today.

The cyclone, which formed over East Siberian and then ripped through the Arctic has left a wave of chaos in its wake. First, it pushed 10-12 foot seas through a region that rarely sees powerful storms of this type. Then, it enhanced sea ice melt in the regions it impacted. Now, it hangs on as a 970 millibar storm system — a pressure level usually seen in tropical cyclones.

It is difficult to emphasize how rare this event is. Though summer cyclones do occur, most tend to be weak and have little effect. Usually, the strongest events occur during winter time. The last powerful summer Arctic cyclone was observed in 2006, but this 2012 event is much more powerful. If these strong summer storm events become more common-place, they are likely to represent another threat to Arctic sea ice.

As the storm continued, so has rapid melt. Since August 3rd, more than 360,000 square kilometers of sea ice has been lost — an average rate of more than 70,000 square kilometers each day. Currently, Cryosphere Today is showing a total sea ice area of 3,425,000 square kilometers, a mere 450,000 square kilometers above the record low set in 2007, with more than one month of melt left in this season. For this date, Cryosphere Today is showing sea ice area levels more than 430,000 square kilometers below the previous record low set just last year.

Furthermore, something entirely unprecedented is happening to the ice sheet. Driven by storm winds, it appears that a large section of sea ice has detached from the main flow and is now stranded in the East Siberian Sea. This is an event that is without precedent in the satellite record.


For years, Arctic researchers have speculated that weakened Arctic sea ice would be vulnerable to detachment from major storm or wind events. Now that speculation is reality. A large area of ice is now detached from the main flow and, due to that detachment, remains vulnerable to enhanced melting around its edges and at its center. In particular, this detachment shows that Arctic sea ice has become even more vulnerable to rapid melt due to another powerful feedback mechanism acting on it.

It is difficult to emphasize how important an event this is. In short, it is another powerful and glaring sign that Arctic Sea ice may be in terminal decline.

Sea ice extent measurements also continue to show rapid melt with both the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and the NSIDC showing current day melt below the record lows set for this date:

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