Pulse of Warm Air Brings Above-Freezing Temps to North Pole; Cyclone, Central Ice Thinning Projected to Continue

It’s happened. An early-season Scandinavian heatwave has pushed above freezing temperatures all the way into the central Arctic.

A powerful atmospheric blocking pattern that spawned record 80+ degree temperatures in Scandinavia this weekend has elongated, stretching all the way into the central Arctic. As the bulge increased in amplitude, it brought warmer air with it. Temperatures at the North Pole over the past week ranged from 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, we are seeing temps around 33 degrees, a range of ‘warmth’ usually reserved for mid summer.

You can see the culprit of this warm air injection on the map below. Note the large bulge in the Jet Stream appearing over Scandinavia and reaching all the way to the North Pole:


(Image source: California Regional Weather Service)

This pulse of warmer air is now riding over regions where sea ice was thinned by a persistent, moderate-strength Arctic cyclone that lasted for about a week. The cyclone churned and dispersed the ice, causing large cracks to form even in a region very close to the North Pole. The freezing point of sea water is about 29 degrees Fahrenheit, so we’ll have to see if this warmer air combined with near constant sunlight has any further melting effect (see The Big Thin Begins to learn more about this event).

You can see these above -freezing temperatures running up over Svalbard and on to the North Pole on the map below. Note that temperatures displayed here are in Celsius, not Fahrenheit:


(Image source: Uni-Koeln)

Particularly interesting is that 40 degree F reading on the northeastern tip of Greenland. But the high 30s and low 40s blanket Svalbard as well.

Weather forecast model maps show this pulse of warm air persisting through tomorrow. Then colder air returns along with stormier weather.

A related feature is the persistent cyclone that chewed away at the central ice for much of last week. It has now transitioned to the Beaufort Sea where it appears to be strengthening. Intensification is expected to continue through tomorrow. Then, the cyclone is projected to swing back to the Central Arctic by late Tuesday, apparently feeding on warmer, moister air as it intensifies to a 980-985 mb low by early Wednesday.


(Image source: ECMWF)

Longer range forecasts show the cyclone persisting as it continues its strange dance around the Central Arctic.

We’ll have to watch the ice pack for further breakage and fracture from these two events. A continued thinning of the central ice so early in the year would be unprecedented. Yet it seems possible enough to continue monitoring.

It’s worth noting that CICE model forecasts show the thickest sea ice just north of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago suffering a sustained thinning. This event, should it arise, would likely be the result of this persistent cyclone combined with intensifying warm air pulses:


(Image source: US Navy CICE)


California Regional Weather Service



Arctic Warming: Blocking Patterns Set up to Transport Heat Into Arctic over Siberia, Greenland

Arctic Heat Anomaly

(Image credit: Greenland Climate Research Center)

It’s getting hotter in the Arctic. In fact, the past few days have seen a pretty large temperature spike pushing values 5-9 degrees Celsius above average for much of the region.

Looking at atmosphere and heat maps, it appears that two large blocking patterns are beginning to form. One over eastern Siberia is responsible for a tongue of hot air moving northward into the Arctic. Another appears to be transporting abnormally warm air over Greenland.

Arctic Heat Map

(Image source: Earth Systems Research Laboratory)

You can see these temperature differentials setting up on the front side of blocking patterns over Eastern Siberia and Greenland respectively. And on the polar map below you can see a stream of warmer, moist air moving into the Arctic from Eastern Siberia as well. Note the white stream of clouds on the upper left corner of the map.

Arctic Cracks

(Image source: Canadian Weather Office)

So long as this pattern exists, we can expect warmer air to continue flowing into the Arctic. In fact, it is this pattern that has resulted in rapidly climbing temperatures in the region. And a continuation of this pattern would probably result in extended and increased unseasonably warm conditions for most Arctic regions.

With the recent major crack up of Arctic sea ice, a warming pattern may bring on an early start to melt season. We’ll have to keep eyes on the weather. But spring/summer 2013 is already shaping up to be an Arctic melt season to watch.


A high pressure system is currently forming over the Beaufort Sea. According to weather models, this high is forecast to strengthen and move over the North Pole over the next few days, then drift south over Greenland. This forecast shows the high eventually pulling colder air now located over the continents into the central Arctic even as warm air continues to invade from the south over Eastern Siberia.


This is a similar weather pattern to that occurring during the massive sea ice melt event in the summer of 2007. Such a pattern setting up during early spring is not, generally, seen as a threat to sea ice. But the establishment of a strong influx of warm air at the ice edges near East Siberia and Greenland (via the blocking patterns mentioned above) may well encourage melt there. We’ll have to see.

There’s very little sunlight in the Arctic at the moment, so it is not expected that clear skies under this emerging high pressure will result in much melt. Cooler air directly beneath the high may have the opposite effect. Even so, ominous cracks running through the Arctic and a set up similar to what occurred during most of summer 2007 is not necessarily comforting.

Neven’s comment over at the Arctic Ice blog was that “a high like this during May or June would be a disaster.” Read Neven’s take on the developing high here: http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2013/03/crack-is-bad-for-you-and-sea-ice.html#comments

‘Year of Epic Melt’ Continues to Hunt New Records in Arctic, Highlights Ongoing Reality of Global Warming

For the Arctic, this has been the year of epic melt. Greenland broke its record for melt in early August, more than a month before melt normally ends, and Arctic Sea ice has been tracking at daily record low levels since the end of July. Now, every few days seems to bring with it a new major record. Just yesterday, sea ice area broke its all-time record low and today sea ice area continued to show losses.

The Arctic sea ice monitor Cryosphere Today showed sea ice area at a new record low of 2,844,000 square kilometers for the date. This is 61,000 square kilometers below the previous record low and with more than three weeks of melt remaining, final values will almost certainly be even lower.


To put things in perspective, the 2.84 million square kilometer ice area measurement for today compares to a sea ice area low for the end of summer in 1986 of about 5.5 million square kilometers. The size of the current ice sheet floating over polar waters is nearly half that of what it was just 26 years ago.

The measure for sea ice extent is also rapidly falling. Values from both the NSIDC and the Japanese Space Agency show sea ice extent measurements at around 4.5 million square kilometers. This is less than 300,000 square kilometers above the record set in 2007. At the current rate of melt, a new record low for sea ice extent will likely be seen within the week.


Sea ice volume also continues to track toward new record lows.

And according to Neven over at the Arctic Ice Blog, a new low for Northern Hemisphere snow cover has also been reached.

If the volume and extent values fall, then all previous records for Arctic melt including Greenland, Sea Ice Area, Sea Ice Extent, Northern Snow Cover, and Sea Ice Volume will have been broken this year.

This year of epic melt has occurred at the same time as the hottest July for Northern Hemisphere land masses ever recorded. Russia has experienced its hottest summer in at least 170 years while the US has experienced its hottest 12 months ever on record. The heat has also ignited massive fires and resulted in the worst drought since 1956 in the US.

In the Arctic, sea ice melt usually ends sometime around mid September. So we have weeks to go before we can declare an end to a season that has clearly set in bold for all the world to see these two words:






Arctic Cyclone Slowly Fading, Leaves Greatly Reduced Sea Ice in Its Wake


A powerful Arctic cyclone that played havoc with sea ice is now slowly fading.

Since August 5th, the storm has raged over the Arctic, enhancing melt and stranding a large ice flow in the East Siberian Sea. Taking a look at Japanese Space Agency images of the ice sheet, it is easy to see the storm’s impacts from these before and after shots:


The above image was taken by JAXA on August 4th. In the image, you can see an area of thin ice in the Arctic Ocean between Alaska and Siberia. In the next image, taken today, much of that sea ice is gone:


In addition, it appears that a rift has opened between the main ice flow surrounding the North Pole and a rapidly diminishing flow closer to Siberia and Alaska. In general, both the storm and other strong summer melt conditions have pushed the ice pack into record melt territory for sea ice area and extent for this time of year.

Since we began making daily observations on Arctic sea ice decline on August 2nd, sea ice area has fallen by about 440,000 square kilometers or more than 70,000 square kilometers per day. Current total area measurements from the Cryosphere Today website show 3,340,000 square kilometers, about 400,000 square kilometers above the record low set for 2007. Needless to say, if ice melt rates continue apace, it would take less than six days to break the 2007 record low for sea ice area.

Sea ice extent also continued to show declines with both NSIDC and JAXA widening the gap between current measurements and the 2007 record low set for this date.


If weather conditions continue to remain favorable for Arctic melting, it appears likely that new records may be reached for both extent and area. And, as mentioned in the previous post, sea ice is also tracking for a new record low volume in 2012 as well.

As the NSIDC noted in its report yesterday — this has been an interesting summer. And it appears likely to get more interesting before it’s over.

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