Regions Near North Pole to Hit Above Freezing Three Days Before Christmas

In our cultural mythology we consider the North Pole to be this permanently frozen wonderland. And, during the 20th Century, the depiction was mostly true. Explorers venturing into the Arctic at that time found towering floes of ice — often measuring 15 to 20 feet high. And, up until the mid 2000s, the Arctic Ocean was permanently frozen from Continent to Pole even during summer. So adventurous skiers could strike out from northern Siberian, and treck to the pole over ice in months like June and July. Now such expeditions require the use of a kayak — if they occur at all.


(A warm storm over Svalbard joins with a chain of systems running from the North Atlantic to the Pole to drive gale force winds and above freezing temperatures into the Arctic in this December 22nd GFS model prediction. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Back then, the polar zone in the north appeared to be mostly solid. And if ice moved or melted — it was a slow grind or a rare event. No more. Now, Arctic sea ice extent values have plummeted and the thinner ice that remains is often melting, cracking, and mobile. Now, increasingly, during late fall and early winter temperatures have been rising to near or above freezing. Last year a powerful storm system pulled warming air up out of the North Atlantic — pushing temperatures over the North Pole to above freezing on December 29th. One month later, during late January of 2016, a similar weather system drove temperatures at the North Pole to near freezing.

This year, GFS model runs again show the potential for extreme above average temperatures in the region of the North Pole three days before Christmas. A storm in the Greenland Sea is predicted to strengthen to 940 mb intensity on the 20th and 21st. This system is expected to dredge warm air from the tropical North Atlantic and then fling it all the way to the Pole.


(Temperatures may rise to as high as 55 F [31 C] above average on December 22nd over sections of the Arctic near the North Pole. Note that this dynamic will tend to drive colder air out over the Continents — especially, in this case, toward Siberia. Also note that global temperatures remain well above average even when compared to the warmer than normal 1979 to 2000 time-frame. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

As a result, temperatures in the polar region are expected to rise to near or above freezing. According to GFS model runs, the thermometer at 90 North is expected to hit around -0.3 C (31.5 F) at 0400 UTC on December 22. Meanwhile temperatures on the Siberian side of the Pole at 88 North, 109 East are predicted to hit 0.6 C or 33 F during the same time period. By comparison, temperatures in Southeast Texas at 27.9 N, 97.8 W — not far from from the U.S. Gulf Coast — were about -0.3 C on Monday morning following the passage of a cold front late Sunday.

This level of warmth during December for the Arctic is excessive and the expected readings are in the range of 25 to 31 degrees Celsius above average ( 45 to 55 Fahrenheit warmer than normal). These are near all-time record highs. But it is not just the extreme departures predicted for Wednesday that should be cause for concern, it’s the fact that such a high level of warmth for this region of the Arctic is occurring with a greater and greater frequency. For human-forced climate change — primarily driven by the burning of fossil fuels — is now in the process of radically changing the Arctic environment. And so much warming in the Arctic is a main driver of extreme Northern Hemisphere weather, of glacial melt contributing to sea level rise, and to severe loss of life among key Arctic species.


Earth Nullschool

Climate Reanalyzer

Warm Arctic Storm to Unfreeze North Pole

Warm Arctic Storm Aims to Unfreeze North Pole Again

Has the Last Human Trekked to the North Pole?

Florida’s Existential Choice For 2016 — Renewables and Climate Responses or Death by Fossil Fuels

People living in the state of Florida have a big problem — their homeland, as it is today, cannot exist for very long if we double down on fossil fuel burning as Donald Trump has proposed. And this situation, in turn, creates a big problem for Trump — he can’t win the 2016 election without Florida’s support. Trump’s vicious combination of climate change denial, anti-renewables policy stances, and attacks on immigrants whose family members may also be displaced by climate change have considerably damaged his chances of capturing the state’s 29 electoral votes. He’s now in a situation where he’s basically reliant on smoke screens and misinformation to convince the voters of Florida to commit what amounts to an electoral suicide.


(U.S. coal production has been falling since Obama’s election in 2008. As a result, US carbon emissions have plateaued. The kinds of renewable energy that the American people want can continue to generate reductions in greenhouse gasses flooding the environment and give the people living in Florida a fighting chance. But that won’t happen if we elect Donald Trump as President. Image source: Vox and The Energy Information Administration.)

Trump’s Dirty Energy Pledges Would Mean Certain Devastation For Florida

About a week ago, Trump pledged to, in effect, zero out all spending on renewable energy and climate change related science while pushing hard for an expansion of coal, oil, and gas burning if he is elected. Meanwhile, Trump’s energy team is little more than a covey of climate change deniers hand picked directly from the fossil fuel industry. Trump has pledged to kill the EPA, to roll back Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and to drop out of U.S. emissions reductions pledges to the Paris Climate Summit (COP 21).

If you were looking for an example of a perfect storm of the absolute worst climate change and renewable energy related policies, policies that were guaranteed to put the world back on a track toward a devastating business as usual carbon emission — then Trump fits the bill. And to large parts of Florida, Trump’s policy pledges are starting to look a lot like a promise to inflict climate Armageddon on the low-lying state.

(This year, surface melt was observed for the first time in East Antarctica. This new observation points to increased risk of glacial melt from a region that is capable of dramatically raising global sea levels. The people living in low-lying Florida are becoming more and more concerned. And they should be. Video source: Climate State.)

Miami-Dade County sits on the front lines of this rising climate crisis. Already, the city has pledged 400 million dollars to raise streets and upgrade the city’s drainage system. Why? The oceans in Miami have now risen to the point that tides frequently disrupt transportation, flood neighborhoods, and swamp businesses. These upgrades may buy Miami a decade or two or three. But there’s absolutely no way Miami can survive for any longer than this if Trump commits to his policy choices as-is. Even the rosiest rational predictions for sea level rise by the end of this Century put Miami mostly under water well before the year 2100 under the kinds of emission scenarios that a Trump Presidency would commit us to.

Further up the coast, Jacksonville is still reeling from damages inflicted by Hurricane Matthew — a storm made worse both by the record hot Atlantic Ocean and by the added effect sea level rise had on the height of its wind-driven surge of flooding water. Like Miami, Jacksonville is starting to feel the effects of sea level rise. And its likelihood for continued existence this Century would be quite low if Trump’s fossil fuel burning policies were enacted. The story is much the same for pretty much all of Florida’s coastal cities as well as the southern tip of Florida stretching on north to the Everglades. Sea level rise is an existential threat to these regions now. One that will be made far worse if we continue to burn the fossil fuels that Trump is committed to.

Trump Seeks to Kill Renewables While Amendment 1 Attempts to Stymie Solar

Even as Trump is moving to crush renewable energy progress and responses to climate change at the federal level, hurting Florida’s chances of facing down climate threats, the fossil fuel industry and a number of aligned utilities are attempting to stymie solar energy development across the state. Like much of America, residents within Florida are attracted by renewable energy. In fact, a recent poll showed that four out of five voters supported increasing levels of renewable energy development. Home and business owners alike want access to new, clean, independent energy choices. People rightly concerned about the impacts of climate change want more clean energy.


(As the effects of climate change worsened, clean energy costs have been falling. Now costs are so low that financial benefits to individual energy users abound. Fossil fuel industry is acting in increasingly aggressive ways to stifle access by using laws to prevent people from using clean energy sources. Trump is fighting to help these corporations prevent you and your family members from taking advantage of the multiple benefits clean energy provides. Image source: The Whitehouse.)

Since renewable energy is so popular among voters, and even among republicans, fossil fuel special interests often resort to deceptive tactics in order to keep people captive to harmful energy consumption. And this election, utilities have attempted to protect their monopoly power interests by forcing anti-solar Amendment 1 on the state. Amendment 1 aims to open a loop-hole for utilities to charge independent renewable power generators exorbitant fees and to suppress the rate of solar adoption in the state. Amendment 1’s language has been called deceitful by the Union of Concerned Scientists. It’s a proposal that has been put forward by a collection of fossil fuel special interests including Exxon Mobile, Duke Power, The Koch Brothers, Florida Power and Light and others. And if the Amendment passes, it will help to lock Florida in a fossil fueled climate change nightmare. One that is, even now, starting to nibble away at the vital cities that enable the state to function.

Yuge Wave of Climate/Renewable Energy Voters?

With both the future existence of Florida’s cities and access to renewable energy under threat, voters in Florida are turning out like never before. Nationalized Hispanic and Caribbean immigrants whose families may also be forced to seek refuge in the U.S. due to climate change are voting in droves. And the people of the increasingly swamped Miami Dade County are flooding the polls. There, fully 55 percent of registered voters had cast a ballot before election day.

The record turnout in places like Miami-Dade helped bouy the Florida early vote to 6.4 million — more than the total post election day count for the year 2000. This large turnout has come as registered democratic voters lead republicans by 92,000 coming into election day. But first and second generation citizens may well be generating even more of a democratic edge. According to Vice, 86.9 percent more Latinos voted early than during 2012. And a good portion of that 455,000 total are registered as independents and even republicans. Meanwhile, there is some indication that well less than 90 percent of republicans are voting for Trump.

While Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric may have helped to generate some of this shift, it is likely that rising climate and energy concerns are also affecting the Florida vote. A poll from earlier this year found that concerns about climate change from Florida residents was on the rise. Fully 81.3 percent of Florida peninsular residents expressed moderate to serious concern about climate change as an issue. And though debate moderators and their mainstream media sponsors failed to raise the critical issues of climate change and renewable energy in the televised match-ups between Clinton and Trump, Clinton frequently harangued Trump for his noted extreme degree of climate change denial. Furthermore, Trump’s own statements and policy choices have produced enough ripples in the media to generate a general understanding that Trump is fighting against popular advances in renewable energy while stifling responses to climate change in a state where people are becoming increasingly aware that they’re under the gun. Together, these underlying political forces are likely to sap voters away from Trump in a state he must win to secure the 2016 election.

Let’s hope that happens. The future of Florida and so many other important things hangs in the balance.



The Energy Information Administration

Trump to Zero Out Clean Energy Funding

Climate State

U.S. Voters Want Renewable Energy

The Whitehouse

Four Reasons to Vote No on Anti-Solar Amendment 1

Florida Early Vote Beats Entire 2000 Turnout

Floridians are More Concerned About Climate Change

Endless Hot Summer of 2016 — Heavy Arctic Sea Ice Losses, Record Temps for Alaska and Hermine’s Rains Barreling In

From the Arctic leveling yet another challenge to all-time record lows for sea ice, to a ridiculously long spate of hotter-than-normal temperatures for Alaska, to Hermine — which appears to be readying to drop 20 inches of rain over parts of the Southeast — there’s a ton of concerning climate news today. Let’s get to it.

Storms, Mega-Dipoles, and Shattered Sea Ice

A few weeks ago, big storms of near-record intensity started ripping through the Arctic. These storms saw numerous pressure dips into the 960-millibar range. These severe systems raked the ice with gale-force winds, heavy seas, and rainfall. A vulnerable ‘arm’ of ice extending out from the central Arctic toward Wrangel Island began to disintegrate under these multiple insults.

Melt Lobes

(The two frames above provide a good visual of the most vulnerable Arctic Ocean melt regions for early to mid-September. These primarily compose the Siberian side of the Arctic and run on toward the Pole. A mostly detached and storm-battered region of sea ice north of Wrangel Island [left frame] is likely to see continued losses through mid-September. At the same time, another vulnerable lobe of ice extending from the Pole to the Laptev Sea [right frame] is seeing substantial thinning. As southerly winds pick up later this week over the Barents and Greenland Seas, the Atlantic side of the Arctic [lower right portion of right-hand image] may also take a final blow or two before refreeze starts to kick in. Images provided by: LANCE-MODIS. Date for images: September 1, 2016.)

Meanwhile, another melting wedge running out from the Pole toward the Laptev Sea was increasingly wracked, showing severe losses along the ice edge even as large openings expanded, stretching in toward the Pole. As a result, major late-season drops in Arctic sea ice area and extent measures began to show. Unfortunately, the damage had only just begun.

Last week, this stormy pattern saw the added wrinkle of a strong high-pressure system in the range of 1040 mb intensity forming over the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. This new system created an extreme pressure gradient between itself and the storms raging near the Pole and on the Atlantic side. Expert Arctic sea ice observer Neven aptly coined this condition the 2016 Mega-Dipole.

Neven's Mega-Dipole

(Neven’s Mega-Dipole featured a burly high-pressure system over the Pacific side of the Arctic as strong storms continued to rage across the Atlantic side on August 29th. The combined force of these systems helped further damage the already weakened sea ice as warm winds blowing between them pulled heat up from Siberia, generating a late-season temperature spike over the Arctic Ocean. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Strong winds blew between the juxtaposed low- and high-pressure systems. This convergence sucked an intense pulse of warm air up from the south, not only providing a severe blow to the ice from gales and waves, but also injecting a surge of late-season heat into the High Arctic. In addition to the damage being done to the two melt arms, the whole of the remaining contiguous ice was driven in one big push toward the Canadian Arctic Archipelago — a shove that has now likely resulted in the complete separation of the thinned near-Wrangel ice from the pack even as large polynya (or holes) opened up within 10 kilometers of the Pole.

Late Season Arctic Heat Spike

(A late-season temperature spike in the region above 80° North Latitude is helping to generate a surge in ice losses during early September. Image source: DMI.)

All this pushing and shoving and storming and low and high pressuring in the context of never-before-seen Arctic warmth has brought most of the major measures within range of beating out 2007 as second-lowest extent on record by mid-September. Meanwhile, a few of the measures are now making serious challenges to the 2012 record-low marks.

Over the coming days, the various high-pressure systems are predicted to shift more toward the Siberian side of the Arctic. Meanwhile, storms are expected to gather around Greenland, with some hitting the 970 to 980 mb range as they circulate up from the North Atlantic. Warm air is expected to funnel in from the Barents and Greenland Seas even as the region north of Greenland starts a cooling trend.

Sea Ice Extent Measures


(Japan’s JAXA monitor shows [top left] sea ice extent beating out 2007 in the daily extent measure. Meanwhile, DMI’s EUMETSAT-based monitor shows [top right] extent falling to near the 2012 line. Sea ice area in NERSC’s SSMI monitor [bottom] over recent days comes uncomfortably close to the 2012 line.)

This hot-cold juxtaposition combined with ongoing pressure from storms, winds, and waves should continue to damage and expel the most vulnerable sections of ice in the near-Pole region and on toward the Laptev as well as the detached ice floes near Wrangel Island. Additional losses in the range of 150,000 to 300,000 square kilometers or more over the coming seven days are entirely possible. If this happens, it would be a rather severe rate of loss for early September all on top of a year that, on average so far, has seen lowest-recorded sea ice extents for the January-to-August timeframe and remains on track to hold that low mark through year-end.

An Amazingly Hot Year for Alaska

We should be very clear that despite all the storms and other weather drama going on over the Arctic Ocean, the primary cause for severe sea-ice losses is a record-hot world in which a lion’s share of the temperature rise is occurring over the far northern latitudes. And not too far from the melting Arctic sea ice, another Arctic region is also getting a big dose of this record heat.

This year, Alaska appears set to exceed all previous marks for warmest temperatures ever recorded during an annual period for the state:

(Through August 27, Alaska had experienced zero cooler-than-typical days, 22 days of relatively normal temperatures, and 218 days in which temperatures were in the top third of all daily averages. It’s a record that makes previous all-time hot years 2014 and 2015 look somewhat cool by comparison. Image source: Climatologist Brian Brettschneider.)

As climatologist Brian Brettschneider recently found, above, the number of days featuring temperatures in the top third of measurements included nearly nine out of ten of all days so far during 2016 and through August 27th. This extreme Alaskan heat has already exceeded the number of warmer-than-normal days during record-hot years 2014 and 2015. With four months in 2016 still remaining, and with the Arctic Ocean opening up to its north, it appears that Alaska is about to blow these previous record years out of the water.

Alaska in hot water

(Sea-surface temperatures surrounding Alaska are between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius above average. Such extreme ocean heat should help keep temperatures abnormally warm over the state for at least the next couple of months and continue to add to a period of record heat during 2016. Note that the graphic above shows temperature departures from normal ranges, not absolute temperature values. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

La Niña is settling in, though. This would normally provide some hope that temperatures in Alaska might start to fall off a bit, but right now, the local ocean waters surrounding Alaska are extraordinarily warm. It’s as if the Pacific ‘hot blob’ that plagued the U.S. west coast in 2014 and 2015 has shifted north toward Alaska in 2016. This climate change-related warm-water feature is likely to continue to create a warm surface temperature bias for the state over the next couple of months.

20 Inches of Rain Possible for Parts of the Southeast

Moving south and away from the various heating and melting in the Arctic, we find yet another big rainstorm brewing in the moisture-stacked atmosphere of the Gulf of Mexico. In this case, unlike the big deluge that roared through Louisiana during early August, this collection of towering thunderheads has a name — Hermine.

Hermine 4

(Hermine, which may produce severe flooding over the U.S. southeast in the coming days, barrels toward Florida in this National Hurricane Center satellite animation.)

Punching up to minimal hurricane status early in the afternoon (EST) on Thursday, Hermine is predicted to make landfall along the big bend of Florida (pushing in 3-8 foot storm surges), track north into Georgia and then run up along coastal South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Along this path, 4-10 inches of rainfall are expected with local amounts hitting as high as 20 inches.

To this point, The National Hurricane Center notes:

Hermine is expected to produce storm total rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches over portions of northwest Florida and southern Georgia through Friday, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches. On Friday and Saturday, Hermine is expected to produce totals of 4 to 8 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 10 inches possible across portions of eastern Georgia, South Carolina, and eastern North Carolina through Saturday. These rains may cause life-threatening flash flooding.

As with past rain-bomb events this year, Hermine is churning through a record-hot atmosphere and feeding on overall record-high moisture levels. Sea-surface temperatures over the Gulf of Mexico and particularly over the Gulf Stream region of the Atlantic near the eastern seaboard are extraordinarily hot. Ocean surfaces off coastal Virginia, for example, now rival those along the eastern Gulf at near 30 degrees Celsius (86 F). The result is that a ton of storm energy in the form of heat and moisture is blanketing a big swath from Florida to the U.S. northeast. In this heat- and moisture-rich environment, even the high forecast rainfall amounts have a potential to be exceeded.

Hot Water Gulf Stream

(Ocean temperature and currents map for 8/30/16. Water temperatures in the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast are near 30 C [86 F] or about 4 C hotter than normal. This means there’s almost as much potential storm fuel for a hurricane off the eastern seaboard as there is in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico — fuel that can both provide energy for extreme rainfall events related to Hermine and for a possible rapid reintensification. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Moreover, Hermine is predicted retain a degree of strength over land due to this fuel even as it is expected re-emerge over water along the North Carolina sounds and then track toward the hot Gulf Stream. Along this track, the storm is expected to restrengthen and lash coastal North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey before it skirts Long Island and Massachusetts. Given the hot ocean waters, some models even show Hermine bombing into a significant storm with ECMWF model runs earlier today highlighting a potential for a 969 mb storm center off Delaware on late Saturday.

Fortunately, the storm center is currently predicted to remain offshore after re-emerging over open waters on Saturday. However, the large circulation of the system means that any reintensification will likely see some of the storm’s related rain bands swirling out over the mid-Atlantic and northeast coasts.


So from big sea ice losses to record heat in Alaska, to what’s shaping up to be another extreme rain event for the U.S. southeast, the climate hits just keep on coming. It’s all a part of the context of climate change that’s been steadily settling in over the past few decades, which paints a rather obvious picture of ongoing climate shifts and alterations to expected weather patterns — to include the loss of sea ice, the intensity of heat over Alaska and the severity of rains falling out during storms like Hermine.


Warm Arctic Storm Tears Sea Ice to Shreds


2016’s Mega-Dipole

Earth Nullschool




Brian Brettschneider

The National Hurricane Center

Dan Leonard

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to DavidlWindt

Hat tip to Jay M

Hat tip to the Arctic Sea Ice Forum

Hat tip to Greg

Record Global Heat — Huge Springtime Arctic Warm-up to Crush Sea Ice, Drive Extreme Jet Stream Dip into Europe

We know now, as soon as the middle of April, that 2016 will be the hottest year on record. That not only will it be the hottest year, but that it will crush any other previous record hot year by a wide margin.

NASA GISS head — Gavin Schmidt — in a recent tweet estimated that 2016 would fall into a range near 1.32 C above the 1880-1899 average that NASA uses for its preindustrial baseline. By comparison, 2015 — which was the most recent hottest year on record after 2014 (three in a row!) — hit 1.07 C above the 1880-1899 average.

GISS Temperature Map First Quarter of 2016

(According to NASA, the first three months of 2016 were 1.25 C above the NASA 20th Century baseline and a ridiculous 1.47 C above the 1880 through 1899 preindustrial average. Image source: NASA GISS.)

As a result, 2016 will likely have jumped by about a quarter of a degree Celsius in a single year. If every year from 2016 on warmed up so fast the world would surpass the dreaded 2 C mark by 2019 and rocket to about +22 C above 19th Century averages by 2100. That’s not going to happen. Why? Because natural variability assisted greenhouse gas warming from fossil fuels to kick 2016 higher in the form of a serious heavyweight El Nino. But it’s a decent exercise to show how ridiculously fast the world is expected to warm from 2015 to 2016. And in the 2014-2016 string of three record warm years in a row we are basically expecting a 0.40 C jump above the then record warm year of 2010. Given that the world has warmed, on average by about 0.15 C to 0.20 C per decade since the late 1970s, what we’re expecting to see is about two decades worth of warming all cram-jammed into the past three years.

More Severe Arctic Heat is on the Way

But the Earth, as of this Earth Day, hasn’t warmed evenly. A far, far greater portion of that excess heat has stooped over the Arctic. During the first three months of 2016, the Arctic region above 66 degrees North Latitude has been fully 4.5 C hotter than the NASA 20th Century baseline. That’s a departure more than three times that of the rest of the Earth. And that’s bad news for anyone concerned about sea ice, or polar bears, or Arctic carbon feedbacks, or predictable seasons, or extreme droughts and floods, or the Jet Stream, or Greenland melt, or sea level rise, or … well, you get the picture.

One region, at the boundary between the Arctic Ocean and the Greenland Sea near Svalbard, has been particularly warm. So warm, in fact, that sea surfaces now devour slabs of Arctic Ocean ice blown into it by winds running out of the Arctic in a matter of days. It takes a lot of ocean warmth to have this kind of effect on sea ice. A particularly ferocious amount of heat for the ocean to exhibit so early on in the melt season.

Ice Devoured by Warm Greenland Sea

(Neven posted this excellent blog tracking a ferocious amount of heat in the region of the Greenland and Barents Sea. Arctic Sea Ice Forum commenter Andreas T provided this graphical representation of sea ice disintegration as it was blown into waters just to the north of Svalbard earlier this week.)

Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate how relatively hot the Arctic is now is the fact that sea ice in the region is melting fast. So fast that current extent measures by JAXA are at their lowest levels on record. It’s a precipitous rate of melt that’s about one week ahead of any of the previous fastest melt season. Or you could just look at the number of Arctic freezing degree days recorded at CIRES and find one more measure added to NASA or record low sea ice pointing toward the obvious fact that this year, for the Arctic, has been one of just absolutely ludicrous warmth.

As Winter progresses into Spring, temperatures typically moderate — closing in on baseline averages. And this year has been no exception. However, readings for the entire Arctic have tended to range between 1.5 and 2.5 C above average over the past two weeks. These are some seriously hot departures for Spring. Enough to keep Arctic heat in record ranges for 2016.

Three Powerful Warm Wind Events to Strike the Arctic in Concert

But over the coming five days, a series of south-to-north warm wind events is expected to push even these seasonally excessive readings higher.

Extreme Springtime warming in the Arctic

(GFS model forecasts predict Arctic temperatures to rise into a range between 3 and 5 C above normal for this time of year over the coming week. Such departures are in record ranges and will likely result in rapid snow and sea ice melt even as it drives a wedge of cold air out of the Arctic and over Europe — setting up a high risk of very severe weather events. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

The first event is predicted to originate over the Yamal Peninsula of Russia during Saturday and Sunday — lasting on into Monday and Tuesday. There, temperatures are expected to rise into the (scorching for the Arctic at this time of year) mid 30s (F) as strong, warm winds blow over about 1,000 miles of western Russia and on up into the Kara and Laptev seas which are predicted to, likewise, experience near or above freezing temperatures. Over the entire region, temperatures are expected to range between 18 and 36 degrees F (10-20 C) above typical daily averages for this time of year. Snow and sea ice melt melt rates in this already rapidly thawing region will almost certainly pick up pace in the face of these obnoxiously unseasonable readings.

A second warm wind event is predicted to heat up Greenland, Baffin Bay, the mouth of Hudson Bay and a chunk of the Canadian Archipelago on Monday and Tuesday. A 1,500 mile synoptic southeast to northwest air flow is expected to originate in the Central North Atlantic. Running along the back of a high pressure system rooted between Iceland and Southeastern Greenland, these winds will ram a broad front of above-freezing airs over a rapidly melting Baffin Bay, dramatically warm the southern 2/3 of Greenland, and flush a comparable warm air pulse into the outlets of Hudson Bay. Temperatures in this broad zone are also expected to hit 18-36 F (10-20 C) above average readings. And its effects will likely be strong enough to initiate another strong early season melt spike for Greenland in addition to aiding in driving a quickening pace of melt for Baffin and Hudson bays.

Shattered Ice Beaufort and Chukchi

(Shattered sea ice over the Beaufort and Chukchi looks as if it’s been fractured from a blow from Thor’s mythical hammer Mjolnir. Open water and very thin ice openings stretch as wide as 60 miles in some sections. A warm wind event later this week is expected to provide still more melt pressure to this already greatly weakened sea ice. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

A final warm wind event will be fed by a big warm up across Alaska predicted to settle in on Wednesday and Thursday. There, temperatures in Central Alaska are expected to rise into the lower 60s as two stalled out lows to the south pull warmer airs up from the Pacific Ocean. This heat is expected to invade the Chukchi and Beaufort seas driving temperatures to near or above freezing over Arctic Ocean surfaces that have already witnessed a great shattering of ice and an opening of dark, heat-venting open water holes. There the anomaly spike will be slightly milder — in the range of 15-32 F (8-18 C) above average. Such heat will provide melt stress to the fractured Beaufort, likely making more permanent the wide array of open water and thin ice spaces as the push toward Summer advances.

Mangled Jet Stream to Bring Storms to Europe

As all this heat bullies its way into the Arctic, a flood of cold air is expected to flee out of the region and on down a big dip in the Jet Stream — making a late-season invasion across the North Atlantic and into Europe. There, as we’ve seen previously during recent warm wind invasions of the Arctic during Fall, Winter and Spring, warm air from the south tends to cause cold to break out and then to dive down the trough lines. And there’s a huge trough predicted to dig in over Europe.

We should expect some rather severe weather to accompany this Springtime onrush of colder air — including potentially extreme thunderstorms, flooding, and even instances of late April snowfall over parts of Norway, Sweden, Scotland, the Alps, and sections of Germany.

Deep Trough Predicted for Europe

(A very deep Arctic trough is expected to dig into Europe and the Mediterranean this coming week bringing with it the likelihood of some very severe weather. Image source: ECMWF/Severe Weather EU.)

Likely increased rates of sea ice melt, a severe blow to record low snow packs around the Arctic and a likely freakish cold air and severe weather invasion of Europe are all a result of this extreme Arctic heat playing havoc with typical weather and seasonality. By the middle of next week, temperature anomalies for the entire Arctic may rise to as high as 5 C above the already much warmer than normal 1981 to 2010 average. In such a case, we could hardly expect weather or climate conditions to be normal and there appears to be a big helping of weirdness and extreme effects coming down the pipe over the next seven days.


We Already Know 2016 Will be the Hottest Year on Record

Gavin Schmidt’s Estimate for End 2016 Temperatures Crushes Previous Hottest Years

Neven Sea Ice




Arctic Sea Ice Graphs

Climate Reanalyzer


ECMWF/Severe Weather EU

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Andreas T

More Signs of Winter Arctic Melt — Icebergs are Showing up off Newfoundland in January

From pole to pole the ice is melting. Winter is retreating. And much of life and even the seasons themselves appear to have been thrown off-kilter. In the Southern Ocean near the Antarctic Peninsula, krill populations have dropped by more than 50 percent due to a shortening of the season in which sea ice forms. The North Pole now experiences near or above freezing temperature events during Winter with increasing frequency. Greenland appears to be undergoing melt episodes during Winter. And now, the iceberg season for Newfoundland is starting four months early.


Iceberg spotted off Bonavista in January

(This iceberg was spotted off the coast of Bonavista, Newfoundland on January 20, 2016. It’s the first iceberg of the year for Newfoundland. One that is appearing four months earlier than the typical iceberg season for this part of the world. Image source: Iceberg Spotter.)

During any normal year in the 20th Century, Newfoundland was a prime spot for viewing icebergs. Locked away in the sea ice for much of the Winter, these behemoths became liberated with the spring thaw. By April or May, they could at first be seen off the coast of Newfoundland as they made their trek out into the Atlantic Ocean along the currents running away from Baffin Bay and the West Coast of Greenland.

During a normal year, the sea ice begins its thaw in Baffin Bay along Greenland’s western coastal boundary by early to late April. A milder air flow along the northward progressing warm water current is enough to unlock some of the icebergs stranded within the sea ice and to send them cycling southward toward Newfoundland.

major iceburg drift patterns

(Icebergs typically originate from Greenland’s west coast and then cycle around Baffin Bay. Icebergs sighted off Newfoundland typically break away from the Baffin ice pack during Spring. This year, one got free of the ice in January. Image source: The Atlas of Canada.)

But this year, something odd and rather strange happened. During mid January, following a December in which Arctic sea ice extents were their fourth lowest on record, a period of unseasonable warmth settled in over Western Greenland. Warm, wet winds blew up over Greenland’s coastal mountain ranges and into Baffin Bay. These winds were ushered northward by both a very powerful North Atlantic storm track and by an anomalously warm termination of the Gulf Stream Current just south and east of Newfoundland.

By late last week, the remnants of a January Atlantic hurricane had been pulled into this warm storm generation zone just south of Greenland where it eventually unspooled over the frozen isle’s mountains even as it vented the last remainder of its fury on the iceberg outlets of Baffin Bay.

(Warm, tropical moisture associated with Hurricane Alex is pulled northward into Greenland and Baffin Bay in mid January. This heat and moist air delivery, associated with northward propagating warm winds along Western Greenland, appears to have had multiple wintertime melt impacts for this region of the Arctic. Video source: Hurricane Alex Transitioning to Post-Tropical.)

And all this heat and tropical weather aimed at Greenland and Baffin Bay during January appears to have had a pretty far-ranging impact. For not only have melt monitors over the Greenland Ice Sheet picked up a Winter melt signal. Not only has Disko and Uummannaq Bay been flushed clear of sea ice during Winter. Now, just a few days later, we see the first iceberg of a four month early start to typical iceberg season for Newfoundland. Yet one more well out of season impact during a Winter that really isn’t like any Winter that could be considered normal — at least for what human beings or the living creatures of this world are used to.


Mystery Beneath the Ice

Newfoundland Labrador Iceberg Facts

Warm Arctic Storm Brings Above Freezing Temperatures to the North Pole During Winter

Major Greenland Melt Event During Winter


The Atlas of Canada

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to Catherine Simpson

“Massive” Arctic Heat Dome Sets Up to Bake Sea Ice

There’s a massive heat dome building over an Arctic sea ice pack that is looking increasingly fragile in both model forecasts and observations. In short, very bad weather for sea ice is rapidly settling in even as the ice pack, despite recent place gains in some measures, is looking increasingly weak.

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First the somewhat good news… Arctic sea ice extent has backed off to about 8th lowest on record. Arctic sea ice area is at about 4th lowest on record. And Arctic sea ice volume, according to DMI, is in the range of 3rd lowest on record (PIOMAS looks even better). This report may sound rather bad, but when compared with  late May and early June when sea ice extent measures were at or near new record lows the data could arguably be characterized as an improvement. Yeah, there’s been some big area drops recently, but all in all, not too terrible, right?

Probably wrong… Because the Arctic is gearing up for a very powerful heat wave over the coming week. One that is likely to spike maximum summer temperatures in the High Arctic, a region that seldom shows much variance on the side of hot or cold at this time of year, by 0.5 to 1.5 C above average. A heatwave my somewhat more reserved fellow ice observer, Neven, has called ‘HUGE’ (note that Neven seldom uses caps lock) and is characterizing as something he’s not seen in all of his five years of sea ice observation. From The Arctic Sea Ice Blog Today:

However, there is one big difference compared to last year and that’s heat. Despite a very cold start, there have been several outbreaks of warm air over the ice, slowly but radically shifting the balance between extent and area data. The impact is felt on the surface of the ice pack, but doesn’t translate directly into a decrease. Not yet. In theory, it should percolate through after a while, especially if the heat persists. And right now the Arctic sea ice pack is undergoing a massive heat wave which shows no signs of letting up.

I find myself in agreement with Neven. The massive heat build in the Arctic predicted for this week is likely to be a significant event with potentially wide-ranging impact. But to understand why, it helps to get an overall picture of the broader context in which this particular heatwave is occurring. And that context includes two other stories as well — the story of human-forced climate change and the story of a still developing and potentially monstrous El Nino.

Ocean Warming Injects Heat into the Arctic

To get an idea how warming in the Equatorial Pacific and over-all greenhouse gas based warming can have such a far-flung impact, particularly on the currently building Arctic heatwave, it always helps to take a look at the behavior of the circumpolar Jet Stream. Large areas of persistently warmed water, like the one we have seen now for two years over the Eastern Pacific, have a tendency to generate high amplitude ridges in the Jet. Ridges that serve as open avenues for heat transport into the Arctic. Specifically yesterday a huge pulse of heat was traveling north along just such a high amplitude and ocean-warmed ridge:

Jet Stream July 6 2015

(Amazing high amplitude Jet Stream wave punching all the way through to the High Arctic on the back of the Eastern Pacific’s Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Our particular heat transporter should by now be very familiar — a ridiculously resilient ridge (RRR) — extending northward and buttressed by multiple high pressure cells stubbornly entrenched over abnormally hot water in the Eastern Pacific. Yesterday (Monday, July 6) the ridge elongated. South to north winds over-riding northward flowing warm, salty ocean water. Running up through Alaska, the heat pulse set off all-time daily highs in places like Anchorage (81 degrees and breaking the record set in 1972). The heat then spilled into the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas where it met with adjoining, though lesser heat pulses over-riding Greenland and the Laptev. A gathering pocket of hot, thick air that is now pooling in the so-called sea ice ‘safe zone’ just north of Greenland.’ A precursor to the very intense high pressure cell we see developing now.

But before we go on to tell the tale of our gathering Arctic heatwave we should first take a closer look at ocean surface temperatures. As these give us a rather clear picture of the Arctic’s current vulnerability — providing for us a hint as to why heat will intensify most strongly to the north of the Canadian Archipelago and Greenland. For it is ocean surface heat that built the road that warm air followed:

Warm water plume invades Arctic

(Heat plume running all the way from Equator to Pole clearly reflected in this July 6 NOAA/ESRL SSTA anomaly map.)

Taking a look at NOAA’s July 6 Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly (SSTA) map, we find a massive plume of much warmer than normal (1971-2000) waters extending up from a plainly visible El Nino pattern, all throughout a large sweep of the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Moving northward, these steamy waters spill into two hot blobs off the Mexican, US, and Canadian coasts — a heat pool that again punches up through the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. An Equator to Pole expanse of ominously hot water that is enabling both sea ice melt in the regions directly impacted as well as a broader invasion of warmth into even the sea ice’s most secure haunts.

Heat Directly North of Greenland, Canadian Archipelago

Warmth that today aided in the formation of an Arctic high pressure ridge hitting significant heights of 1030 to 1035 mb directly between the Pole and Greenland. At 1245 Eastern Standard Time, the ridge had already intensified to 1032 mb. And for at least the next seven days both the GFS and the Euro model shows a 1025 to 1035 mb high pressure cell dominating the same region.


(Left frame shows strong, 1032 mb high pressure system settling in to the region just north of Greenland on July 7. By July 10 [right frame], this ridge is predicted to have greatly warmed the Central Arctic zone between Greenland and the Pole. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

This persistent ridge will remove cloud cover in a large area between North America and the Pole. Sunlight, at its seasonally most intense, will multiply already widespread melt ponds on the sea ice surface. The combined solar forcing and loss of albedo will push surface temperatures higher as the ridge remains in place. And by Friday a broad band of 2-4 C temperatures is predicted to form in a bulge over the Arctic Ocean north of Greenland and the Pole. Abnormally warm temperatures and direct sunlight that will, over the next week, increase melt pressure over the last remnant of thick sea ice left to the Arctic.

In addition to reducing cloud formation and enhancing the melt-forcing impact of sunlight on the sea ice, high pressure cells in this region will have a couple of further influences. First, they will tend to compact the sea ice overall — drawing in the fringe ice while generating warm water upwelling at the ice edge. And second, the clockwise motion of air circulating around a strong high pressure cell will nudge sea ice out of the Central Arctic toward the gateway of the Fram Strait. Add in the significant impact due to reduced cloud formation allowing sunlight to contact sea ice during a period of peak solar radiative forcing and we end up with a substantial overall blow to the sea ice.

Arctic temperature anomaly

(Extraordinary high temperature anomalies are predicted for the Arctic from July 7-17. A departure more typical for winter when human greenhouse gasses have the greatest heat-amplifying impact. Image Source: meteomodel.)

Taking a look at the meteomodel anomaly map above, we find a very extreme warming of the Central Arctic predicted over the next ten days. A heat pulse to rival 2012 for this period. A melt multiplying heatwave that is predicted to push anomalies for the entire Arctic above +1.5 C beyond the early July average. A polar amplification similar to what is typically a winter manifestation of human emissions-driven anomalous warmth — this time anomalously occurring during a period when heat for the region is approaching peak intensity.

Impacts to Sea Ice Could Be Substantial

In the face of this oncoming weather, ice pack strength would be a deciding factor lending resiliency during melt-promoting conditions or a shift to a much more rapid rate of decline. Though some indicators, including a seemingly slower rate of decline during late June, may point toward more ice resiliency, a growing number of satellite reports and model analysis hint at a general and overall weakness throughout the ice pack.

This weakness can best be described as model indication of thin or low concentration ice, already widespread melt ponding, and visual indication of ice weakness in the satellite shot.

GLBb Holy Shit Model

(The US Navy’s GLBb model has always been unfriendly to sea ice. But other models are now starting to agree. Image source: US Navy.)

For low concentration ice, no model is more stark than the US Navy’s experimental GLBb sea ice thickness ensemble. I colloquially think of this as the ‘holy crap’ sea ice model. This label due to the fact that if sea ice state is really as bad as the model indicates, then the ice is basically toast. Starting in June, this model displayed a great overall weakness in the sea ice and, according to its analysis, the situation has progressed from bad to worse with most of the remaining Arctic Ice possessing a thickness of 1.2 meters or less. Easily thin enough for any nudge by weather to really start rapidly bringing the ice down and opening up very large expanses of open ocean.

If the GLBb ‘holy crap’ model were the only sea ice model making us want to say ‘holy crap!’ then we could probably breathe a bit easier. Unfortunately, another US Navy model is now also tending to elicit this response in reaction to its predictions for the next 7 days and more specifically for the next 3 days:

Arctic Sea Ice Concentration TodayArctic sea ice concentration forecast

(The US Navy’s ARCc sea ice concentration model predicts a very rapid rate of sea ice decline over the next few days. Image source US Navy.)

The top image in this up and down comparison shows the US Navy’s ARCc model’s interpretation of sea ice concentration for July 6 of 2015. Note the extensive green regions showing a 40-50 percent sea ice concentration. It’s a huge swath of ice including large sections of the Chukchi, the Beaufort the ESS, the Laptev, as well as remaining ice in the Kara Sea, and Baffin and Hudson Bay. Now watch what happens to those large sections of lower concentration ice from July 7 to July 10 in the ARCc model 30 day history and forecast summary. Almost all that green is wiped off the map. It’s like losing about 1 million square kilometers of extent and 600,000 kilometers of area in just 72 hours. Or about 10,000 square kilometers of ice per hour. A precipitous fall that would mark an extraordinary and likely unprecedented rate of loss should it emerge as the Navy model predicts.

But you know what they say about models — no model is perfect and every model ends up wrong in some manner or another. So the question here is — how likely is it that the Navy models could be correct or incorrect this time?

To try and tease this answer out we could also look at other sea ice concentration maps. Notably all the major ones including Cryosphere Today, Uni Bremen, and NSIDC currently show sea ice looking either thin or very thin. Specifically, Uni Bremen has shown some amazing contrast over the past 48 hours:

Uni Bremen July 5Uni Bremen July 6

(AMSR2 model analysis of sea ice surface state shows very rapid thinning in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas during the past 24 hours. Image source: Uni Bremen)

The left image in the above comparison is from the AMSR2 model analysis for Arctic sea ice concentration on July 5. The right image is the same analysis but for July 6. Note the substantial change in the sea ice concentration for the Beaufort and Chukchi seas over just one day. A change that is consistent with the pulse of warm air and water riding up through the Eastern Pacific and through Alaska, the Bering and the Chukchi. Another holy crap moment, and not at all of the good variety. To say the least, a similar response north of Greenland and the CAA would be devastating.

Moving away from models and back to observations we find that from the satellite vantage the entire Arctic Ocean displays an ice pack in various shades of azure. By color analysis alone we can readily see that the 2015 ice (July 6 MODIS image) is far more melt pond embedded than 2014 or 2013. 2012 is a tough comparison due to NASA-MODIS’s format change from that year. But the widespread melt ponding alone hints at a reduced resiliency for the ice when compared with recent years.

Arctic Ice Pack July 6

(Arctic sea ice turns blue color characteristic of widespread proliferation of melt ponds on July 6. Also note very thin and diffuse sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Turning to the Chukchi and Beaufort, we see a visible confirmation of the weakness indicated in the US Navy and Uni Bremen models. Beneath the smoldering outflow of the Alaskan fires we can plainly see the decayed state of ice. The floes greatly disassociated with widening gaps appearing between diminishing ice clusters.

As satellite gives us an overall view of the Arctic from above, local observations can help provide a sense of the sea ice state at the surface. During recent years, cameras mounted on buoys throughout the Arctic have provided us with a first-hand account of the story of Northern Hemisphere sea ice decline. And during recent days almost every camera-based buoy has shown an extensive expansion of melt ponds and open water. (Extensive melt ponding extends as far north as the Pole).

In the swiftly thinning ice pack of the Beaufort even the contrast of a single day can be quite stark.

Beaufort Open WaterBeaufort Open Water Waves

(Warm storm kicks up under the gradient imposed by a building heat dome of the Arctic. Top and bottom frame provides a stark tale of impacts in just one 24-hour period. Image source: USIABP.)

In the above top-bottom comparison of RACS#2 ice buoy photos we find that wide but placid areas of sunlit open water in the Beaufort Sea on July 6th (top frame) have rapidly transformed to wind-driven 1-2 foot waves whipped up by 15-25 mile per hour winds on July 7th (bottom frame) in association with a tightening gradient around the strengthening high pressure in the Central Arctic. Waves of this kind can deliver a significant amount of melt forcing to the ice — mixing cooler surface waters with warmer waters below as well as rocking through the ice floes with a rain of incessant, ice-breaking blows.

Conditions in Context: Rapid Melt Likely On the Way

Increasing model agreement indicating rapid sea ice melt, observations of sea ice weakness via satellite and buoy based systems throughout the Arctic, and predictions of a substantial Arctic heatwave all point toward a high and rising risk of rapid sea ice melt. Larger global trends, particularly heat transport from the Equatorial Pacific all the way to the northern Polar zone through the mechanisms of El Nino, human based greenhouse gas heat forcing, and the associated Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, heighten this risk even further. Finally, a wide array of observations indicate that such rapid melt is already starting to set in. Given this increasing agreement and confluence, it appears that the late June ice dispersal is likely over and that serious trouble for Arctic sea ice has now set in and will remain in play for at least the next seven days.


The Arctic Sea Ice Blog

Cryosphere Today

Uni Bremen


The Polar Science Center


Earth Nullschool

US Navy


Hat Tip to Neven

Hat Tip to Frivolous

Hat Tip to Jim Hunt

Hat Tip to Climate Hawk



Permafrost Thaw Feedback To Blow Carbon Budget ‘Faster Than We Would Expect’

“Permafrost carbon emissions are likely to be felt over decades to centuries as northern regions warm, making climate change happen faster than we would expect based on projected emissions from human activities alone.” — Climate Change and the Permafrost Carbon Feedback

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Soil Organic Carbon Store

(Extent of Northern Hemisphere 1 meter soil organic carbon store in the now thawing and burning permafrost. At about 1,000 billion tons, it’s more than enough to put a hefty strain on the IPCC’s remaining 275 billion ton carbon budget. Image source: Stockholm University.)

For a moment, let’s consider some rather difficult to deal with numbers —

790 billion tons — that’s the so-called ‘carbon budget’ the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates we need to stay within to prevent 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming in just this Century (note that current stated fossil fuel reserves hold enough carbon to exceed this budget many times over). It’s the level IPCC says we need to stay below to prevent ‘bad outcomes.’ A rate of warming that does not including later temperature increases in following centuries — which would be about double the 21st Century’s amount if global greenhouse gas levels managed to plateau and the global carbon stores remained on good behavior.

515 billion tons — that’s the amount of carbon humans have already emitted into the atmosphere. It leaves us with less than 275 billion tons remaining.

About 24 years — that’s how long it will take for humans to burn enough fossil fuels and emit enough carbon (at current and projected rates) to use up that ‘carbon budget.’ A break-neck pace of burning and dumping of carbon that is now probably about six times faster than at any time in the geological record. Faster than the atmospheric carbon accumulation during the last hothouse extinction — the PETM. Faster than during the worst hothouse mass extinction of all — the Permian.

Hitting Carbon Limits

Sound like we’re up against some hard limits? Well, we are. Because the above basically implies that human emissions would need to start falling dramatically now and get to near zero by 2050 to meet IPCC’s goal. A limit that, by itself, may have built in too much slack and may not have taken into account other responses from the Earth climate system.

Now let’s consider these new numbers from a recent permafrost study released earlier this month in the context of IPCC’s ‘carbon budget…’

0.6 degrees Celsius — that’s the pace at which the Arctic is warming each and every decade. According to the new study:

This is causing normally frozen ground to thaw — exposing substantial quantities of organic carbon to decomposition by soil microbes. This permafrost carbon is the remnant of plants and animals accumulated in perennially frozen soil over thousands of years, and the permafrost region contains twice as much carbon as there is currently in the atmosphere.

This amounts to about 1400 billion tons and around 1,000 billion tons in the shallow carbon store alone. A massive fireplug of carbon stored in thawing (and burning) land-based permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere at a shallow depth of zero to 3 meters. The new study expects 40 to 170 billion tons of this carbon store to release over the next 85 years. A further 120 to 300 billion tons could hit the atmosphere by 2300 if the ongoing thaw in the north continues.

model estimates of potential carbon release from permafrost

(Model estimates of potential carbon release from permafrost. Note that Pg carbon is roughly equivalent to gigatons of carbon. Image source: Climate Change and the Permafrost Carbon Feedback.)

So where does that leave our so-called carbon budget?

Averaging the report’s findings, we can add about 92 gigatons of baked-in feedback from the shallow permafrost zone alone and end up with 607 billion tons of carbon (human + expected permafrost). This leaves us with about 15 years before we are locked in to hit the ‘2 C limit’ of around 450 ppm CO2 by end Century (not considering a current 485 ppm CO2e level or end Century CO2e of 530 to 550 ppm when all other greenhouse gasses are added in).

In addition, the 120 to 300 billion additional tons from the shallow permafrost store expected to keep out-gassing through 2300 would ultimately result in a carbon pool that pushes atmospheric values up to 480-530 ppm CO2 (560 to 600 CO2e) and turns the ‘2 C limit’ into a 4-6 C (7.2 to 10.8 F) long term climate bake.

Carbon Debt With Compound Interest

Looking at the report’s numbers leaves us with the all-too-salient impression that we really don’t have a carbon budget at all. What we have is carbon bankruptcy. A carbon compounded debt shock enough to crack the whole of the Earth System carbon piggy bank and bleed out gigaton-sized carbon pennies for decades and centuries to come. And the new shallow permafrost carbon feedback estimate does not include the approximate 400 gigatons of carbon in the deep permafrost. Nor does it consider ocean carbon stores — which may provide their own carbon debt spiral. Nor does it include Antarctic carbon stores or a number of other possible stores that could be pushed out by heat stress.

Needless to say, some considered the news in the recent Nature Report ‘good.’ At least it didn’t identify a 50 gigaton methane release over one decade from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf as some other recent articles have considered. Some news reports even went so far as to call an approximate 92 gigaton release by 2100 (or a little more than 1 gigaton per year) from permafrost carbon ‘slow.’ The last hothouse extinction, the PETM, also saw similar ‘slow’ rates of release from the global carbon system. So, slow when compared to the raging 10 gigaton per year pace of current human emissions, but fast when compared to about practically anything else in geological history.

What the new report really means is that humans can’t afford to emit any more carbon. And what we need to be looking at now is a way to swiftly transition to a net carbon negative civilization — fast.

“This is not a minor feedback,” Kevin Schaefer, a prominent scientist from the National Snow and Ice Data Center said in a recent report on the new study’s findings. “… If you don’t account for it, you’ll overshoot this 2 degree target.”


Climate Change and the Permafrost Carbon Feedback

Thawing Permafrost — The Arctic’s Giant Carbon Release

Earth’s Natural Fridge is Turning into a Greenhouse Gas Machine

Bacteria Warm up the Permafrost

Stockholm University

Permafrost Feedback Update — Good News or Bad?

Arctic Heat Wave Sets off Hottest Ever Winter-Time Temperatures, Major Melt, Disasters for Coastal and Interior Alaska

Major melt in the midst of winter. Doesn’t sound quite right, does it? We tend to think of winter as the time of freezing, as the time of ice accumulation. Not the time of melt and thaw.

Now try this — major melt in Alaska in the midst of winter. Average temperatures 40 degrees hotter than normal in the midst of winter. Rainfall over snow and ice causing avalanches, major road blockages and ice dams to rivers in the midst of winter.

In this instance we have been transported from the somewhat odd into a reality that is completely outside of our previously ‘normal’ context. In this instance we are transported to a time that may well seem like the beginning of the end of the age of ice on planet Earth.

And yet this is exactly what is happening: one of the coldest regions on the planet is experiencing melt and related record heat in January.

For the state of Alaska, the consequences are a strange and freakish winter heat wave, one that features the extreme temperatures mentioned above. For the city of Valdez, as we shall see below, the situation is far more stark.


(Massive Avalanche set off by rainfall, winter warmth, cutting off Richardson Highway to Valdez Alaska and forming a dangerous ice dam of the ironically named Keystone Canyon’s Lowe River. Image source: Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.)

Hottest ever Winter-time Temperatures for Alaska

On Sunday, a collapse event that flooded the Arctic with heat and ripped the polar vortex in half began. A freakish high amplitude ridge in the Jet Stream that had been pumping warmth over Alaska and into the Arctic for ten months running strengthened. The result was that many regions throughout the state experienced their hottest temperatures ever recorded for that day, month, or season.

Global Temperature Anomaly Reanalyzer

(Global Temperature Anomaly Data vs 1979-2000 mean with focus on Arctic for January 29. Note the extreme Arctic deviation of +5.58 degrees Celsius and the pool of 36+ F high temperature deviations still lingering over Alaska. Also note that global anomalies are +.32 C above the 1979-2000 mean which is, itself, about +.5 C above average temperatures during the 1880s, for a total of about +.82 globally. The above measure is an excellent illustration of both extreme polar amplification and very rapid warming coinciding with a strong negative Arctic Oscillation, related warm air influx, and polar vortex separation. Source: Climate Change Institute.)

According to reports from Weather Underground, Homer Alaska, for example, experienced an all time record high for the day of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, 4 degrees hotter than the previous all-time high set just a few years earlier. And Homer was just one of the many cities sitting in a broad region of extraordinary, 40 degree hotter than normal temperatures. A region extending from the interior to the southern and western coasts. Bolio Lake Range, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks in central Alaska, saw temperatures rocket to 60 degrees, just 2 degrees short of the all-time record high for any part of the state during January (the previous record high of 62 was set in Petersburg, nearly 700 miles to the south and east).

Typically colder high mountain regions also experienced record warmth for the day. A zone 10,600 feet above Fairbanks hit 32 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, the highest temperature ever measured for this region during any winter-time period from November through February.

Even before the most recent extreme Arctic temperature spike, January saw numerous powerful heat influxes for Alaska with Nome, Denali Park, Palmer, Homer, Alyseka, Seward, and Talkeetna each setting all-time record high temperatures during the month.

These records come on the back of a long period of rapidly increasing Alaskan heat stretching all the way back to the 1970s. In many cases, we are seeing all-time record highs broken with 5-10 year frequency. In the most extreme cases, these records fall again after only standing for 1-5 years.

Taken in this context, what we are seeing is the freakish continuation of an ongoing period of inexorable Arctic warming providing yet one more major insult to the Alaskan climate during the winter of 2013-2014.

Rain and Melt Sets off Major, Spring-like, Outflows From Streams and Rivers

The same anomalous Jet Stream pattern that has acted as a conveyer belt continuously transporting heat into the high north over Alaska has brought with it an almost endless series of rain events to coastal Alaska. Storm after storm, fueled by heat and high rates of evaporation over the northern Pacific, slammed into the Alaskan coastline, disgorging record levels of precipitation.

With temperatures freakishly high, mirroring conditions typically present during late spring or early summer, much of this precipitation fell in the form of rain. Valdez, Alaska, for example, has likely experienced its wettest January ever with rainfall measures just 1.35 inches short of the record on Sunday and a series of strong storms rushing into the city on Monday and Tuesday. Given the nearly endless train of storms lining up to sweep over Valdez, it is possible that its previous record of 15.18 inches for January could easily be surpassed by an inch or two at month-end.

The storms and cloudiness make it difficult to peer down and get a good view of what all this heat and rainfall is doing to the Alaskan snow and ice pack. But, for brief respite, on January 25th, just ahead of the most recent influx of rain and warmth, the clouds cleared, revealing the land and sea surface. And what we witness is extraordinary:

Alaska Melt Rain Sediment January 25

(Southern Coast of Alaska with major sediment outflow from snow and ice melt, record heat and rainfall in January 2014. Image source: Lance-Modis)

The entire southern coast of Alaska from Prince William Sound to Cook Inlet are visibly experiencing major snow and ice melt along with flooded streams and rivers flushing out a massive volume of sediment into the Gulf Alaska. Clearly visible in the satellite shot, the sediment now streaming into the ocean is more reminiscent of a major late spring flood event than anything that should be ongoing for Alaska in the midst of winter.

Yet here we are. A situation of continuous, never-before seen heat for Alaska during winter time bringing on a flooding thaw that is far, far too early.

Rainfall over Glaciers, Snow Pack Triggers Massive Avalanche that Cuts off Valdez

The constant assault of heat and record temperatures combined with an almost endless flow of moisture riding up from the Gulf of Alaska set off a devastating and freakish event near Valdez on Saturday. Severe and record rainfall over the mountain regions have continuously softened glacial ice and snow packs above this major Alaskan city. On Monday, the continuous insults of heat and water passed a critical threshold.

As the warm water filtered down through the colder snow and ice, the anchoring base was lubricated even as the capping snow grew heavily burdened with water. Eventually, the insults of heat and rainfall became too great and a major snow and ice slope system above the main road linking Valdez to mainland Alaska collapsed. The immense volume of snow and ice unleashed, spilling down to fill the base of Keystone Canyon, blocking both the Lowe River and the Richardson Highway running through it.

This snow and ice dam rose as high as 100 feet above the Canyon floor, causing the Lowe River to rapidly flood, inundating the already snow-and ice buried road under an expanding pool 20 to 25 feet deep and filled with ice-choked water.

You can see the massive avalanche-created ice dam and related road inundation in the video provided by akiwiguy below:

(video source: akiwiguy)

Warming-related rainfall events of the kind that has now cut Valdez off from the mainland are just one of the extraordinarily dangerous consequences of human-caused climate change. They are a phenomena linked to the massive glacial outburst flood that killed thousands in India this year together with other dangerous snow and ice melt events. Should such major heating and rainfall events impact Greenland and West Antarctica, the consequences could be even more extreme than what we are currently witnessing in Alaska.

Conditions in Context

In the context of our present extreme Jet Stream pattern that is setting off warmest-ever conditions for Alaska during January together with dangerous melt-outburst related events while at the same time periodically flushing Arctic air and extreme winter weather south into the United States, it is important to remember a few things. The first is that the Arctic is now experiencing never-before observed warmth with stunning frequency. Scientific papers now show that the Arctic is hotter than it has been for at least 44,000 years and possibly 120,000 years.

By comparison, the cold snaps, that could very well be seen as the death gasps of the Arctic we know, impacting the eastern US are relatively minor when put into this larger, more ominous context. Similar cold events were last seen about 20 years ago in the US. And so there is simply no comparison that can generate a rational equivalency between the, hottest in an age, Arctic temperatures and the, coldest in a few handfuls of years, temperatures in the Eastern US.

And if you’re one of those sensitive, perceptive souls who feels that the weather events you’re seeing, the extreme swings from very hot to somewhat cool temperatures, the extreme swings from drought to record rainfall, and the extreme events now accelerating the melting of the world’s ice and snow, are freakish, strange, and terrifyingly abnormal, then you are absolutely correct. Don’t let anyone, be they friends or family, or journalists in the media, tell you otherwise. There is reason for your discomfort and there is very serious cause for concern.


Colorado Bob’s Climate Feed

Weather Underground

NASA: Lance-Modis

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

Climate Change Institute

Alaska All Time High For This Date, Warmer than Alabama

The Glacial Megaflood

Arctic Experiencing Hottest Temperatures in at Least 44,000 Years

Arctic Heat Wave to Rip Polar Vortex in Half


Smokey Arctic Cyclone Sets Sights on Central Arctic; PIOMAS Shows Sea Ice Volume 4th Lowest on Record

Smokey Arctic Cyclone on August 6, 2013

Smokey Arctic Cyclone on August 6, 2013

(Image source: NASA/Lance-Modis)

A strong, 980 mb cyclone formed over the Laptev Sea today, pulling in a dense coil of smoke from Siberian wildfires raging to the south and setting its sights along a path that will bring it through waters filled with a slurry of broken ice, passing over the North Pole, and then heading on toward the Fram Strait.

Unlike the Sudden Arctic Cyclone of late July, the new Smokey Arctic Cyclone is strengthening over a region of open water in the Laptev Sea before it begins its passage over a broken ice pack. This will allow the storm to develop more fetch and wave action before it encounters the sea ice. Though not as strong as the Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012, this Smokey storm is likely to pack 25-40 mph winds over large expanses of water and ice, applying wave action to a greatly diffuse and weakened film of thin ice. Though Ekman pumping and mixing of cold surface layers with deeper, warmer layers will likely have some impact on ice — thinning and dispersing it further — it remains to be seen if this storm will be strong enough to have a decisive influence on final melt for the 2013 season.

The storm is, however, moving through an area of very weakened ice even as it pulls a flood of warmer, rougher water along with it. And it remains to be seen what, if any impact, soot pulled in from the Siberian wildfires will have on the ice. Solar insolation is steadily falling as we move on into August. That said, the angle of the sun is still high enough to have some added impact should soot-laden precipitation fall.

The ice state, which has seemed weak and diffuse all summer appears especially vulnerable now.

Smokey Cyclone Broken Ice

(Image source: NASA/Lance-Modis)

Cracks and large sections of open water riddle the thin ice in a wide stretch from the Chukchi Sea, running through a portion of the Beaufort and then turning on toward the open water in the Laptev. So it will be interesting to see how much this storm affects this section of ice. As the storm is predicted to move on through the Central Arctic and then spend a day or two churning near the Fram Strait, it may also give the thick ice a bit of a late-season nudge.

Party like it’s 2009?

Overall, the storm would have to be a very extreme event to drive the current melt rate to near 2012 levels. Both sea ice extent and area are currently tracking near 2008 and 2009 while sea ice volume, as of mid-July, was just a hair above the third lowest year — 2010. Though it is still possible, given the sea ice’s very fragile state, that 2013 could still hit record lows this year, the likelihood, with each passing day, grows more remote.

PIOMAS Mid-July 2013

PIOMAS Mid-July 2013

(Image source: PIOMAS)

So, at this point, it is worth considering that 2013 may be a counter-trend year. Most of the record heat and warmth associated with human caused warming has been confined to a region of the high Arctic land masses between 55 and 70 degrees north. In this zone, we’ve seen an ominously large number of heatwaves, where temperatures exceeded 90 degrees, along with wildfires spreading above the 60 degrees north latitude line. And though large areas of warmer than normal surface water temperatures invaded the sea ice, air temperatures have been at or slightly lower than average. This is a result of persistent cloudy conditions dominating during periods when solar insolation would have done its greatest damage to the ice sheet. Storms, which at times seemed to drive more rapid melt had the added effect of spreading out the ice, likely contributing to cooler air temperatures. These storms were not powerful enough to provide the energy needed to push 2013 into record melt territory. It is also possible that fresh water melt from the Greenland ice sheets — representing a large pulse of about 700 cubic kilometers last year — and from record or near-record snow melts on the continents surrounding the Arctic added some resiliency to the greatly thinned ice in the Beaufort.

These various conditions may be consistent with a combination of natural variability and a potentially emerging negative feedback from melting snow and ice. If 2013 does emerge as a counter trend year, though, it is no indication, as yet, that Arctic melt, overall, has slowed. 2012 was a powerful record melt year and one that occurred under far less than ideal conditions. It is just as likely that natural variability and human forcings will swing back in the other direction come 2014, 2015 or later as happened through the period of 2008 through 2012.

All that said, it is still a bit premature to call the 2013 melt season. We have a storm laden with smoke from the immense Siberia fires on the way and large regions of sea ice remain very fragile. As ever, the Arctic is reluctant to give up her secrets, especially under the assaults of human warming.

Smokey Storm 980 MB

Smokey 980 mb Cyclone churns through the Laptev

(Image source: DMI)


The Arctic Ice Blog


How Ice Cam #2 Learned to Swim as the North Pole Melted

Swimming Arctic Ice Cam #2

This was what our hero, APL’s North Pole Ice Camera #2, looked like about two weeks ago. The only open water was a far-off leed barely visible in the upper left hand corner of the image.

Then, about a week ago, melt began to set in on the ice sheet surface near the North Pole. Things started to look bad for North Pole Camera #2 as small puddles of very cold water began to appear.

Melt Puddles North Pole Camera 2

Was there much hope our Camera #2 might stay dry? It was, after all, just July 13th. And there was still more than a month and half of melt season left. What was a North Pole Camera to do?

And as the water continued to advance, the answer became clear: start learning to swim.

North Pole Camera 2 in Melt Pool

In this image, taken on July 18th, we see North Pole Camera #2 just starting to get its feet wet.

North Pole water is quite cold! But not so cold as Arctic ice or wind or snow. These the North Pole Camera was very used to. In fact, it was built to handle such harsh weather. So North Pole Camera #2 had some reason to hope for staying warm if it got wet. But could it stay afloat?

Camera 2 now in icy water.

Camera 2 now in icy water.

Then, just one day later, Camera #2 found itself standing alone in the icy water. It was now in the midst of a large melt lake with very little snow cover left. Our Camera #2 now knew what was coming. And it was ready.

North Pole Camera 2 immersed in Melt Lake

A good thing, because North Pole Camera #2 soon found itself with more than 1 foot of melt lake water splashing around its base.

It was a miserable, windy cloudy day and our camera sat alone, tethered to a stake, in a giant, expanding melt lake. It couldn’t help but wonder if soon it would have to face the open ocean. Clouds mounded all around it, and weather reports called for a massive storm. Our North Pole Camera #2 knew that in recent years such Cyclones increasingly broke, cracked and flooded the thinning ice it was sent to observe.

So North Pole Camera #2 waited in its melt lake for the storm that was, even now, forming. Would the North Pole melt entirely and send our camera out into the raging Arctic seas? We wait and watch:

Ice Cam Rainbow


Take a look at this animation of our swimming North Pole Camera provided by A-Team over at the Arctic Ice Blog


Central Arctic ‘Heat Dome’ to Replace ‘Warm Storm’ As Melt Season Shifts to New Extreme?

All the updates are in and with the major melt month of June now in the rear view mirror, it’s time take a fresh look at the volatile melt season of 2013.

In short, June melt proceeded rapidly, but not rapidly enough to break into new record territory after the slow melt month of May. Meanwhile, PAC 2013, which turned a large section of the central Arctic into a mush of broken ice faded as high pressure began to deepen and exert its own unique sets of influences over the region. As the clouds broke, air temperatures began to heat up in the Central Arctic even as anticyclonic pumping began to pull ice into the large hole formed by the storms of June. Above average temperatures ruled much of the Arctic edge as Scandinavia and North-Eastern Europe, Siberian Kamchatka, Eastern Alaska and Central Canada all showed hotter than normal conditions. The high, entrenching itself, began to pool warm air directly over the Arctic’s fractured heart…

Major Monitors Show 2013 Melted Rapidly in June through early July, But Not Rapidly Enough to Break into New Record Territory

A combination of a storm thinning the ice of the Central Arctic and hot air pulses rushing in from the ice edge resulted in a near record pace of melt for sea ice area, volume, and extent during June through early July. This furious pace of melt was fast enough to challenge previous record lows, if not to break them.

Sea ice extent July 8

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

Sea ice extent measures produced by NSIDC provide a good allegory for the overall melt trend seen in June through early July. In early to mid June, extent melt proceeded at a gradual pace at first. By late June and into early July, extent melt had drastically increased showing multiple days of 150,000 kilometer or greater loss. This extraordinarily steep pace of melt can be seen in the above graph. If such a rapid pace continues through mid July, a new record low extent level will be breached.

Currently, sea ice extent is 6th lowest on record and is only slightly above the 2007 melt line. This puts sea ice extent, according to NSIDC, about 1.4 million square kilometers below the 1979-2000 average.

To this point, it is important to consider that NSIDC has now included the extreme melt decade of 2000-2010 in its official records. So NSIDC ‘averages’ on site include these shifting goal-posts. The data set includes a declining curve and, therefore, cannot be seen entirely as ‘normal.’ Instead, it provides an anomaly base-line for a highly anomalous period and should be viewed as such. To the superficial observer, presenting the data in this fashion will somewhat serve to mask what can best be described as a sea ice death spiral. A plain example of this discrepancy is the fact that 1979 sea ice values for the same date (July 8) were about 2.1 million square kilometers higher than today. A severe decline by any measure. It is worth noting, though, that NSIDC does provide a very useful interactive tool in which all sea ice extent records are available here. (Hat-tip to Physicist-retired who provided this link in the comments section below).

sea ice area CT July 8

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

Pace of sea ice area melt was also rapid during the month of June through early July with more than 4 million square kilometers lost during the five-week period. As a result, sea ice area measurements are now around 4th or 5th lowest in the record or about 1.8 million square kilometers below 1979 values. Though rapid, this melt rate still puts current measures about 800,000 square kilometers above record low totals seen for this date in 2012. So area melt will have to be steep, indeed, for new records to be reached by end of summer.


(Image Source: PIOMAS)

The critical measure of sea ice volume showed a quickening pace of decline from mid-May to mid-June. PIOMAS showed volume levels about tied with 2010 as third lowest in the measure by about June 15th. PIOMAS tends to lag a bit behind area and extent. So we don’t yet have an idea of where volume stands come early July.

That said, it is important to note that much of the region usually covered with thick ice — the Beaufort and the area north of Greenland and the CAA are substantially thinned compared to previous years. NASA’s Ice Bridge survey found this region about 8% thinner during March and April of 2013 than during the same period of 2012. Thinner ice in regions that are typically the bastion for thick ice during late summer may show much more rapid melt in July and August (especially at times when strong high pressure systems dominate the Central Arctic).

Ice Bridge Thickness

(Image provided by NSIDC as a compilation of NASA Ice Bridge Data)

Note the large region where ice thickness is 2 meters or less from the middle Canadian Archipelago and stretching on into the Beaufort. A large pulse of melt now advances from the Chukchi and along the coast of Canada and Alaska into this region. A persistent blocking pattern has also driven pulses of much warmer than normal air into this area consistently throughout June. Weather models forecast additional atmospheric warming through at least mid July. With a strong high pressure ridge now forming in the Central Arctic, this region will be one to watch for potentially rapid melt as July progresses into August.

High Pressure Forms in the Wake of PAC 2013

The dominant feature of the Central Arctic during June of 2013, a Persistent Arctic Cyclone that turned a large section of this region into an icy slurry, finally faded as of last week. The impact of this storm has now been widely accepted with NSIDC providing expert analysis on the subject:

High-resolution passive microwave concentration data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency AMSR2 sensor, produced by the University of Bremen, indicate a highly unusual region of broken-up ice near the North Pole. Development of this low concentration ice may have been assisted by the cyclonic atmospheric pattern noted earlier.

…MODIS data do confirm that the ice is highly fractured with numerous small floes. Such small floes are more easily melted from the sides and the bottom by ocean waters that are exposed to the 24-hour sunlight. It remains to be seen how many of these small floes will ultimately melt completely (emphasis added).

Thin Ice North Pole

(Image source: NSIDC)

I wrote extensively on the subject of PAC 2013 ice thinning during June. Now, NSIDC confirms a large region north of Svalbard featuring sea ice with concentrations of 50% or less that may be vulnerable to melt as July and August progress.

This condition may become particularly evident as the dipole switches from storm over the Central Arctic to clear air, warmer temperatures and higher pressure. A 1020 millibar high has already formed over the central Arctic and is expected to heighten into a 1030 millibar high by the middle of July. This thickening high will bring sunny conditions and much warmer air temperatures to the Central Arctic. It will also create an anti-cyclonic down-welling near its center. This pumping action will tend to have the effect of drawing edge ice into the hole created by PAC 2013. If the waters in the hole are substantially warmed, it is possible that enhanced melt will occur in this region even as edge ice is drawn back into the hole.

You can see some of this potential melt action predicted in the US Navy CICE model run for the 30 days from mid June through the end of next week:

High Pressure Suction

(Image source: US Navy)

The effect a high like the one predicted has on sea ice is clearly demonstrated at the end of the above model run. The down-welling in the Central Arctic is seen to suck large portions of the ice in this region toward the hole formed by PAC 2013. At the edges, an upwelling action combines with counter-clockwise winds around the high to pull the ice edge inward even as the warmer upwelling waters eat away at the outliers. Note the rapid drawing in of all ice from the Beaufort, East Siberian Sea, Laptev and in a broad region north of Svalbard.

This action is the exact opposite of the effect seen during June via the impacts of PAC 2013. Then, a storm created an anomalous hole in the central sea ice even as it shoved ice toward warmer regions. Now, the rapid switch from storm conditions to strong high pressure conditions creates the potential for another unusual event: the collapse of thick ice and edge ice into the hole PAC created. Such an event would likely have an amplified effect on sea ice melt, especially in the extent measures. So we’ll will have to keep a close eye on both this building high pressure system and its interaction with the hole created by PAC 2013. Should these CICE model runs bear out, the next few weeks will be extraordinarily interesting.

It is also important to note that CICE only shows impacts through July 15th. Yet, according to ECMWF weather forecasts, a strong, 1030 millibar high is expected to last in the Central Arctic at least until July 18th.

Arctic Heat Dome Starting to Form?

To this point, it is worth noting that the weather models indicate a potential for yet another extreme Arctic weather event: the formation of an Arctic ‘heat dome.’

Arctic Heat Dome

(Image source: ECMWF)

ECMWF forecasts show a powerful high pressure ridge developing over the Central Arctic through mid July. Associated with this high is a river of warmer air that is predicted to run directly over the North Pole. Indications are for 40 degree plus average temperatures at the 5,000 foot level by July 18th. This translates to average surface temperatures as high as the mid 50s over a broad section of the Beaufort, through the North Pole and on over to Svalbard. For the high Arctic, which averages just above freezing for this time of year, that’s a heatwave.

The establishment of this ‘dome’ high pressure system has already begun with a 1020 millibar high strengthening over the Laptev and Central Arctic. Should this ‘heat dome’ continue to strengthen and entrench as predicted, it is likely that edge melt will be greatly enhanced even as thicker ice is pulled into the melt hole created by PAC 2013 as July progresses.

The formation of such a strong high and associated warmer atmospheric temperatures during July is not conducive for ice preservation. In fact, the formation of this kind of weather system would have resulted in hastening melt even during times when the ice was thicker and more resilient. Instead, the ice suffered at the hands of a storm that, typically, would have helped preserve it. Now, the formation of a powerful high pressure system threatens a crowning blow.

So an interesting and volatile melt season continues. Anomalous storm melting of Central Basin sea ice appears to be transitioning to a powerful regime of high pressure that threatens to bring much warmer temperatures to the Central Arctic all while drawing edge ice into the deep melt hole formed by PAC 2013.



Pogoda i Klimat


US Navy


A Farewell to The Persistent Arctic Cyclone of 2013? Models Say Not Until June 22nd.

Today, the center of 2013’s Persistent Arctic Cyclone of May and June transitioned to Baffin Bay and the Canadian Archipelago. Forecast models show the storm lingering there over the next 24 hours, then briefly redeveloping in the Central Arctic on Thursday and Friday before finally transitioning on out of Baffin Bay by Sunday. If this forecast holds true, a storm that developed in late May and persisted to fracture and melt a broad swath of sea ice from Svalbard to the East Siberian Sea, will finally be done.

PAC 2013 Baffin Bay

(PAC 2013 over the Canadian Archipelago and North Baffin Bay on June 18. Image source: DMI)

The storm’s legacy, should it transition away from the Central Arctic as forecast, will likely leave impacts throughout this summer and beyond. The large area of fragmented and thinned ice left in the wake of PAC 2013 is more vulnerable to melt as June, July, and August progress. And a controversy among scientists, researchers, and Arctic and climate enthusiasts over if and how much PAC impacted the 2013 melt season is also likely to ensue, perhaps lasting for years after this melt season.

Already, a number of excellent blog posts on the subject of PAC 2013 have been published. Two that are certainly worth reading appear over at the Arctic Ice Blog and on FishOutofWater’s Daily Kos page. At the center of this controversy will likely be the issue of whether or not PAC 2013 enhanced or impeded melt. An issue arising from the new possibility that human warming enables summer storms to melt and thin Arctic sea ice.

This new possibility emerged in the wake of the Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012, which is shown to have melted about 250,000 square kilometers of sea ice, contributing to, but not causing, the record melt seen in that year. 2013’s PAC is likely to prove even more controversial due to the fact that its primary action was to thin and fragment thicker ice during June, rather than blow large holes in already weakened ice during August.

Regardless, the discussion will probably be far-flung. Just one more aspect of our evolving understanding of a rapidly changing Arctic.

Not Quite Done Yet

PAC 2013 is not done quite yet, though. So here’s a basic assessment of its, likely, last days.

As noted above, PAC 2013 is expected to transition to Baffin Bay, then re-develop over the Central Arctic, before retracing its steps through the Canadian Archipelago and, finally, out of the Arctic. It will be very interesting to see what happens to the remaining Baffin Bay sea ice, which has been substantially thinned during the June melt and may now see impacts from this storm.

Here is the ECMWF model run for June 20th showing a 985 mb PAC about the eject itself from the Arctic:

PAC 2013 June 20

(Image source: ECMWF)

It is also worth noting a very strong ‘warm side’ to this PAC persisting over Alaska and the Beaufort Sea. This particular region of warm weather has spawned some very hot temperatures over Alaska and resulted in a broad swath of melt lakes forming over the Beaufort, Chukchi, and East Siberian Seas. This particular warm air pulse has lasted for at least a week and may have consequences for mid-to-late June melt (I’ll be exploring this Alaskan Heatwave more in another blog).

PAC’s transitions over the thickest ice appear to be having impacts, which you can see in the US Navy’s CICE model runs below:


(Image source: US Navy)

Note the substantial reductions and fragmentation in the large pack of thick ice just north of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago even as the already fractured ice from Svalbard to the East Siberian Sea continues to thin and break.

It is also worth noting that the CICE/HYCOM model shows substantial impacts you would expect from a PAC continuing on until June 25. Whether this is indicative of a disagreement between US Navy and ECMWF models on the length of PAC duration or just a projection of after-effect is unclear.

To this final point, one caution. Though models now show the absence of PAC 2013 from June 22 on, this particular storm has shown a dogged resilience. Further, even after the ECMWF model shows PAC 2013’s exit, a number of smaller storms are shown to enter and leave the Central Arctic. So it’s not, as yet, a decisive end to stormy conditions there.


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:


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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:


(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.


The Arctic Ice Blog


US Navy



Cryosphere Today

Lance Modis


Where Insolation is King: ‘Blue Ice’ Melt Forming In Northwest Passage


(Image source: Lance Modis)

It’s been rather warm in the Canadian Arctic over the past few days. This day, especially, revealed particularly high temperatures. From the bottom edge of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago southward, 20 degree + Celsius temperatures ran through a wide region on the west side of Hudson Bay.

These high temperatures are having their impact. Hudson Bay itself is riddled with holes and rapidly thinning. Meanwhile, a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Archipelago is turning a characteristic blue color.

Looking down from our satellite perch, this pale shade appears to grace the ice with a flattering color. But closer in we notice that this particular peal is a result of a multiplication of melt ponds on the ice surface. The ponds refract the light, turning them a mesmerizing shade of blue. And as these lakes increase in number to dot the ice, from far away the it appears to take on their color.

This particularly brilliant display comes with an ominous note. Thin ice, vulnerable to accumulated energy from the sun (insolation) tends to melt much faster. And so it is melting faster, about three weeks to a month ahead of schedule in this particular region. Together, warm air plus insolation may be spelling out an early end to winter’s ice here.

Chris Reynolds over at Dosbat and Neven over at the Arctic Ice Blog have been warning of the sea ice’s special vulnerability to insolation this year. This vulnerability is primarily due to the fact that most of the Arctic Ocean and related waterways are covered only by a thin layer of about two meters of ice. Very few regions remain where thick ice dominates. And two meter ice may well not survive the assault of the summer sun.

In the Central Arctic, where much of the remaining thick ice resides, the area is plagued by a powerfully churning storm. This persistent monstrosity is little more than a giant engine of heat exchange. It pulls air in from the surrounding atmosphere, it feeds on heat and moisture, it flings out winds, and it even turns and churns the icy ocean beneath. Such a storm, so long ongoing, poses its own threats to the Arctic’s more vulnerable ice.

But where the air is still, where there is ambient heat, and where the clouds open wide and allow the sun’s rays to plunge down upon the ice surface, insolation is king. And that force, a direct force of sunlight, appears to be spelling an early end to this so seemingly lovely stretch of pale, blue ice.



Arctic Ice Blog


Thin Ice Forces Arctic Expedition to Evacuate

According to news reports, a devastating loss of Arctic sea ice is now forcing a Russian science expedition to evacuate.

Last year, Russia was forced to look hard for an ice flow sturdy enough to host a 16 man polar science expedition to the rapidly melting Arctic Ocean. The flow, located near the center of the thickest ice, was expected to support this scientific expedition all throughout the summer. Yet, by the middle of May, the ice flow had begun to disintegrate, forcing an emergency evacuation of the researchers.

Spokespersons at the Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry appeared distressed:

“The ice is disintegrating,” a ministry spokeswoman told AFP. “Cracks appeared in the floe.” The station is currently home to 16 personnel.

“The destruction of the ice has put at risk the station’s further work and life of its staff,” the ministry said in the statement.

“A collapse of the station’s ice floe poses a threat to its continued work, the lives of the crew, the environment close to the Canadian Economic Zone and to equipment and supplies”, a note from the minister reads.

An icebreaker had been dispatched to rescue researchers along with heavy equipment used as part of the expedition. But risks remain high that valuable equipment will be lost.

Polar expedition

The above image, provided by A-Team over at the Arctic Ice Blog notes the current position of the expedition.

The expedition had been placed near the center of the remaining thick ice. However, rapid motion of the ice pushed the expedition closer and closer to the Beaufort Sea, a region where powerful currents can often result in sudden ice fracturing.

Conditions in the Arctic over the past year created a high degree of risk for the Russian expedition. Very little thick ice remains to the Arctic. Volume is currently in record low territory and even the thickest remaining ice is increasingly fractured and mobile. Since the 1908s, end summer ice has lost 80 percent of its total volume, putting it at risk of complete melt within the next few years.

This winter, a major sea ice cracking event fractured a large section of sea ice near the expedition. This past week, an influx of warmer air added further stress to the ice. For the region near the expedition, ice stress appeared to pass  a tipping point as melt and break-up resulted in a heightening risk to lives and equipment.

This event is just one more in a long string of uncanny and extraordinarily rapid melt events affecting the Arctic. It is quite possible that major Arctic research expeditions on the sea ice will be rendered more and more difficult and dangerous as the ice continues its rapid disintegration. At this point, all Arctic expeditions on the ice are at increased risk.

Overall, chances for total or near total ice melt remain at around 10% for the end of summer 2013. Though comparatively low, this risk is substantial in that it is the first time in the human record that sea ice has a chance to completely melt out. Overall, sea ice area and extent losses have been about average for May. But the important measure, Volume, won’t come in until June. By that time, it will be more apparent if stresses on the ice are resulting in a terminal or near terminal decline. Major heating and energetic impacts tend to multiply come June.

That said, motion and melt in certain regions appears strange and uncanny. The Beaufort is experiencing cracking, thinning and a kind of wip-lash as weather systems and warmer air rake over the ice. On the other side of the Arctic, a rapid thinning appears to be ongoing in the Kara and Laptev seas. And all over the ice, ripples and cracks are appearing with greater frequency. At the very least, summer is likely to bring a very unstable, mobile and fractured ice state.

Meanwhile, warmer air is advancing. So it appears things are likely to get interesting rather rapidly.

Best hopes to this Russian crew and all those on the ice this year. A destabilizing climate is making it a much more hazardous place to work.


Russia to Urgently Evacuate Post as Ice Melts

Russia Plans Urgent Evacuation

Russia To Evacuate Arctic Station

Russia Evacuates Drifting Arctic Research Station

Pace of Sea Ice Melt Increasing, Numerous Regions Showing Rapid Decline

Jaxa sea ice

Last week saw a quickening pace of sea ice melt, with key regions displaying rapid loss of ice.

Most rapid melt occurred in the Barents Sea which saw major ice losses both to the north and south of Svalbard, north and south of Franz Joseph Land, with a large polyna opening to the north of the island and more gradual melt to the south and west of Novaya Zemlya.

Other regions showing rapid melt included the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. Most sea ice in the Okhotsk region has been driven shoreward with Bering ice rapidly melting in the southeast and the entire ice pack there showing thinning and opening polynas.

The Fram Straight and Baffin Bay showed more moderate rates of ice recession.

Sea_Ice_Extent Apr 26

Overall, sea ice extent, according to the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) is currently at 12.86 million square kilometers. This measure is tracking just below values for 2011 for this time of year. Sea ice area also showed more rapid melt this week with values falling by 400,000 square kilometers over the past seven days to reach 12.56 million square kilometers yesterday. Average rates of daily loss remain between 50,000 and 70,000 square kilometers for area with the pace picking up to around 90,000 square kilometers per day at week’s end.

The pace of loss for both area and extent remain above average for this time of year, matching the extreme rate of loss that began to emerge during 2012 at this time of year. Furthermore, all the latest measures show sea ice volume remaining at or near record low levels while multi-year ice coverage is at lowest levels ever.


Loss of Arctic snow cover and corresponding river melt for this time of year also accelerated. Areas near Hudson Bay, in northeastern Europe, and central Siberia showed the most rapid melt. As snow melt accelerates, rivers fill with warmer melt waters that then flush into estuaries and the ocean. This snow-melt flushing warmer water into the ocean usually pushes melt faster during May and June. This year, the process appears to be happening at least two to three weeks ahead of schedule.


Above-freezing air temperatures continue to advance northward. Air warm enough to facilitate large-scale melt has invaded most of Siberia and Northern Europe. This week also saw above freezing air temps regularly pushing north toward Svalbard and into the Barents sea. The Sea of Okhotsk has seen above freezing temps for much of the week, with the Bering Sea also experiencing above-freezing air temperatures. In Canada, the melt line has regularly advanced into Northern Quebec, covering southern portions of Hudson Bay. The southern tip of Greenland also shows consistently above-freezing temperatures. Colder air, however, remains entrenched over north-central Greenland and over the northern portion of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.


Average air temperatures in the high Arctic remain well above normal for this time of year with today’s values showing temps between 6 and 7 degrees Celsius above mean for most areas.

In the context of this report, it is worth noting that sea ice melts at around -1.9 degrees Celsius. So near freezing or above freezing air temperatures are usually enough to promote melt. Ocean temperatures beneath the ice hover at or above the freezing mark as well. So the ice is under stress not only from the surrounding air, but also from beneath as warm water upwelling events have become more frequent. Sunlight is also now a constant in the Arctic. So any open water areas, showing dark ocean, will tend to rapidly absorb heat. In addition, an unprecedented number of leads have shot through the ice this winter and spring. These crack are both darker and warmer than the surrounding ice. So weaknesses are likely to begin to appear as warming starts its more rapid cascade over the coming weeks.


As noted above, warmer than freezing sea surface temperatures compose one of the main forces promoting ice melt. The above graph, provided by NOAA, shows expanding regions of above freezing (sea water) surface water in Hudson Bay, The Canadian Arctic Archipelago, in a region of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska and Canada, the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, in multiple areas over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, and in a growing region of the Barents Sea.


The combined impact of constant sunlight, above-freezing water and rising air temperatures is starkly visible in this most recent Lance-Modis satellite shot of a region of the Barents and Kara Seas. This region shows rapidly fracturing ice with numerous expanding polynas as regions of open water creep northward. In large regions, newly open water shows no sign of surface refreeze and instead has rapidly invaded the weaker ice. Such conditions are now common in many regions near the ice edge.

Overall, the Arctic has now entered a phase which shows increasing risk of rapid to very rapid melt. High temperatures, warming and above average ocean temperatures, continued invasions of warm air, rapid snow melt in Siberia and expanding regions of dark, sunlight absorbing water all will likely conspire to speed melt in the coming weeks. So the forecast is for moderate to rapid (and possibly near-record) melt over the next 7-14 days. One caveat is that the Beaufort Sea has remained cold and that Arctic Oscillation has remained positive. The result is that risks for a rapid Beaufort melt appear to be lower at this time. However, ongoing moderate new re-cracking north of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago may render this, somewhat comforting, observation premature.

Overall, sea ice melt appears to be on pace to hit or rival most recent record lows. Our forecast remains that there is a high (60%) likelihood that either sea ice area, extent, or volume will reach new record lows in 2013. There is a moderate risk that all measures will show a new record low by the end of this year (35%). And there remains a low but significant risk that the Arctic will be essentially ice-free by the end of this summer (20%).  Chances for total ice melt (an event that likely hasn’t occurred in the past 400,000 years), as noted in previous posts, remains low at 10%.

(Note: we define ‘essentially ice free’ as an Arctic showing less than 1 million square kilometers of surface ice area and/or extent by summer’s end. This ‘essentially ice free’ state is defined as a surface area of less than half that of Greenland.)

As the melt season progresses, we will continue to refine predictions and global risk analysis. It is worth noting that no year since sea ice record keeping began has ever shown risk of total or near ice free conditions. So the 2013 melt season is already a historic one in that respect. Finally, as noted in previous posts, risk for total melt or near ice free conditions continue to rise over the coming years.


The Japanese Space Agency

Cryosphere Today


DMI Centre for Ocean and Ice

NASA Lance-Modis

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:


(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.


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.

Top Scientists Speak Out On Growing Risk of Methane Emergency

With the Arctic warming so rapidly, risk of a large methane release is a considerable and growing problem. Estimates are that more than 2,000 gigatons of the stuff lay trapped in northern hemisphere permafrost or locked in methane stores called clathrates on the bottom of the shallow Arctic Ocean. As human caused climate change drives rapid sea ice retreat, the ocean warms and mechanical action mixes the water, transporting more and more heat down to the seabed, destabilizing the frozen methane. As the snow line retreats in the warming climate, more permafrost is also laid bear, amplifying the release of land-based methane stores.

On the East Siberian Arctic shelf, a vulnerable region of the Arctic Ocean, perhaps 500 gigatons of methane and methane clathrate rest on or just beneath the sea bed. If just 1% of the  methane store in this single region were released, atmospheric methane would double.

Over the past few years, growing evidence has been accumulated that methane emissions from the Arctic permafrost and seabed are increasing. The East Siberian Arctic shelf produced vast methane emitting formations as large as 1 kilometer in diameter during 2011. Such releases are a potential sign of growing destabilization in the region. And since any major release of Arctic methane would provide a catastrophic amplifying feedback to human caused global warming, concern is growing that we are at increasing risk for just such an event.

In the above video, James Hansen, head of NASA’s GISS division, Natalia Shakhova, a scientist at the International Arctic Research Center, Peter Wadhams, a Professor at Cambridge and resident Arctic sea ice expert, and David Wasdell, a prominent environmentalist, discuss the dangers of Arctic methane release. Hansen and Wadhams are both very heavy hitters and bear listening to. Shakhova is doing cutting-edge research in the field and serves as a witness to the dangerous trend that is unfolding. And Wasdell rounds the discussion out by providing the ecological and climate context in which a large methane release may occur.

The problem is certainly very, very serious and we urgently need to reduce carbon emissions to reduce the risk of a large and catastrophic release.

To follow atmospheric methane, take a look at NOAA’s carbon gasses tracker at Barrow Alaska (CO2, methane, CFCs, etc):


Arctic Sea Ice Melt in November Brings New Record Lows for Date; Stormy Weather Patterns Emerge; Low Degree of Re-Freeze Means 2013 Melt May Surpass 2012

Arctic sea ice area and extent remained at record lows today as very warm Arctic conditions suppressed re-freeze for this time of year. According to JAXA (the Japanese Space Agency), sea ice extent for today was 8.47 million square kilometers — or about 1.7 million square kilometers below the 1980s average for this date. According to Cryopshere Today, Arctic sea ice area was 7.11 million square kilometers — or about 1.8 million square kilometers below the 1979-2008 average. This value for sea ice area was also about 70,000 square kilometers below yesterday’s value, showing that sea ice area fell at a time that usually includes rapid re-freeze. Minor ‘melts’ of this kind can happen in November. However, given the fact that we are already in record low territory, any ice recession results in compounding a serious Arctic melt problem.

Arctic sea ice melt is still the driving factor in global sea ice totals. Today, global sea ice averages also remained in record low territory.

The likely causes of continued record low Arctic sea ice values are manifold. First, temperatures are abnormally high for this time of year. Looking at the image below, we can see that Arctic temperatures range from a, very warm, 7 degrees Celsius above average to a stunning 20 degrees Celsius (or more) above average. When combined with a large zone of hotter than average temperatures in Europe and Asia, these extreme temperatures are likely pushing global averages into record ranges for the month.

Another graph, showing temperatures above the 80th parallel, reveals very high Arctic temperatures in that region as well.

Likely aiding in these high Arctic temperatures are very large peaks and troughs in the jet stream. The troughs, likely caused by receding sea ice influencing the jet stream, are pushing powerful storm systems into temperate zones throughout the northern hemisphere. A couple of weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy combined with one of these Arctic-born weather systems to severely impact the US East Coast. Just yesterday, another powerful storm, fueled by these Arctic troughs, ripped through Europe dumping enough rain to create the 6th worst flood in Venice’s, very long, history.

It is possible that the new weather pattern caused by Arctic sea ice melt will result in more strong storms for the US East Coast and Europe this winter. In addition, that weather pattern is also transporting heat from the south up into the Arctic, further enhancing warming and reducing re-freeze. This air, dredged up from the tropics, is likely to result in sea ice being thinner and more fragile than usual at the end of this year’s freeze season. The result is that next summer (2013) may see even worse melt than that experienced during 2012’s record season.


Don’t Believe in Global Warming? Businessweek has a Word for You: STUPID

In its bold cover story, Businessweek directly and correctly links the devastation caused by climate change to Sandy and, mockingly, called out climate change deniers to refute their arguments, calling them stupid.

Yes, yes, it’s unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change. Men and women in white lab coats tell us—and they’re right—that many factors contribute to each severe weather episode. Climate deniers exploit scientific complexity to avoid any discussion at all.

Clarity, however, is not beyond reach. Hurricane Sandy demands it: At least 40 U.S. deaths. Economic losses expected to climb as high as $50 billion. Eight million homes without power. Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated. More than 15,000 flights grounded. Factories, stores, and hospitals shut. Lower Manhattan dark, silent, and underwater.

Businessweek then sifted through the experts who are calling Sandy anything from feeding on ‘global warming fuel’ to a megastorm amped up on ‘climate change steroids.’ Businessweek also seemed to corroborate an analysis posted here and supported by an increasing number of climate scientists:

Sandy featured a scary extra twist implicating climate change. An Atlantic hurricane moving up the East Coast crashed into cold air dipping south from Canada. The collision supercharged the storm’s energy level and extended its geographical reach. Pushing that cold air south was an atmospheric pattern, known as a blocking high, above the Arctic Ocean. Climate scientists Charles Greene and Bruce Monger of Cornell University, writing earlier this year in Oceanography, provided evidence that Arctic icemelts linked to global warming contribute to the very atmospheric pattern that sent the frigid burst down across Canada and the eastern U.S.

Businessweek then shifted its analysis to insurance providers who have been increasingly vocal about the current ongoing impacts of climate change and about their concerns for the situation continuing to worsen. According to the Munich Re, the world’s largest re-insurer, damages caused by extreme weather disasters from 1980 to 2011 (not including this year’s record damage) have reached 1.06 trillion dollars. This level is five times that of the previous 30 year period. Damage also quadrupled in Asia and doubled in the rest of the world. Munich Re’s Peter Hoppe, the company’s geo-risks research chief noted:

“If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible, all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing.”

Businessweek laments the wretched political climate, fueled by climate change denial and fossil fuel special interest money, that has managed to take climate change off the table as a topic of political and policy discussion in Washington. The article also links fossil fuels to economic growth. Though, in our view, given the damage fossil fuels cause and the ever-increasing costs to extract more and more remote resources, this is a dubious proposition. If the thing powering your growth makes your climate too dangerous and damaging for you to keep cities at the coast, for example, then the overall economic pay-off is only short-term and ephemeral. And that doesn’t even begin to get into the rising costs of fossil fuel extraction.

Businessweek did, however, saliently illustrate the increasingly unrealistic and callous position of republican leaders on the issue of climate change:

Mitt Romney has gone from being a supporter years ago of clean energy and emission caps to, more recently, a climate agnostic. On Aug. 30, he belittled his opponent’s vow to arrest climate change, made during the 2008 presidential campaign. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” Romney told the Republican National Convention in storm-tossed Tampa. “My promise is to help you and your family.” Two months later, in the wake of Sandy, submerged families in New Jersey and New York urgently needed some help dealing with that rising-ocean stuff.

Romney had also pledged to eliminate FEMA as an agency of the Federal Government, the same FEMA that is now helping so many families in New Jersey. The Romney campaign has since backed off its pledge to get rid of FEMA funding. However, the predilection of republicans to remove necessary government services and to cut programs that help people, communities and states during the current period of growing climate crisis is plainly apparent.

During one Republican primary debate last year, [Romney] was asked point-blank whether the functions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency ought to be turned back to the states. “Absolutely,” he replied. Let the states fend for themselves or, better yet, put the private sector in charge. Pay-as-you-go rooftop rescue service may appeal to plutocrats; when the flood waters are rising, ordinary folks welcome the National Guard.

Businessweek also lamented the death of the market-based cap and trade legislation the Tea Party defeated in Congress in 2009:

In 2009 the House of Representatives passed cap-and-trade legislation that would have rewarded more nimble industrial players that figure out how to use cleaner energy. The bill died in the Senate in 2010, a victim of Tea Party-inspired Republican obstructionism…Despite Republican fanaticism about all forms of government intervention in the economy, the idea of pricing carbon must remain a part of the national debate. One politically plausible way to tax carbon emissions is to transfer the revenue to individuals. Alaska, which pays dividends to its citizens from royalties imposed on oil companies, could provide inspiration.

In this, Businessweek brings up an excellent point. Tax and transfer is an incentive plan pushed by none other than NASA scientist James Hansen. It would increase the cost of carbon intensive energy sources and incentivize non-carbon or low-carbon energy sources. The tax would create an economic advantage for those who used less energy, were more efficient, or who were more active in transferring to non-fossil fuel based energy sources like wind, solar and electric vehicles. Such a program would work within the framework of current markets and cause far less disruption even as it speeds transitions to newer energy programs. Incentive and choice still allow for competition and innovation while pushing for better outcomes.

Of related importance was Businessweek’s clarion call for American leadership in climate change. It suggested that the US provide incentive for China and India to shift away from the worst CO2 emitter — coal. But the article saliently noted that, for any such framework to be effective, it must involve real penalties for noncompliance, something many nations have been unable to agree upon thus far.

Businessweek notes that Sandy should serve as a wake-up call. It should also serve as a signal that we are all in this together. Those in danger aren’t just the ones living on islands about to be overwhelmed by the Pacific Ocean. They include those who dwell in all our coastal cities, which are now at ever increasing risk of flooding and dangerous storms. They include the American farmers faced with the prospect of growing decadal droughts. And they include all of us who rely on a stable climate for both our food sources and our economic prosperity.

As for action, or the reason for lack of action, Businessweek provides to most salient argument I’ve seen thus far on the issue:

In truth, what’s lacking in America’s approach to climate change is not the resources to act but the political will to do so. A Pew Research Center poll conducted in October found that two-thirds of Americans say there is “solid evidence” the earth is getting warmer. That’s down 10 points since 2006. Among Republicans, more than half say it’s either not a serious problem or not a problem at all.

Such numbers reflect the success of climate deniers in framing action on global warming as inimical to economic growth. This is both shortsighted and dangerous. The U.S. can’t afford regular Sandy-size disruptions in economic activity. To limit the costs of climate-related disasters, both politicians and the public need to accept how much they’re helping to cause them.

In other words, if you’re still denying climate change at this late hour, you’re stupid. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to act NOW.


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