Old ice at a record low in Arctic as melting season begins

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:33 PM GMT on April 20, 2009

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March 2009 Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent was the 6th lowest since 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The record March low was set in 2006, and it has now been nearly two years since we have set any record monthly minimums for Arctic sea ice. While it is good news that the area of sea ice coverage has not been reaching record lows recently, there is concern about the recent record loss of thick, multi-year ice in the Arctic. Strong winter winds pushed a considerable amount of multi-year-old ice out of the Arctic this year, leaving the Arctic Ocean with its lowest amount of old sea ice on record (Figure 1). Sea ice more than two years old fell below 10% for the first time since satellites began observing the ice in 1979. This is a factor of three lower than the 30% coverage for the period 1981 through 2000.


Figure 2. These images show declining sea ice age, which indicates a thinning Arctic sea ice cover more vulnerable to melting in summer. Ice older than two years now accounts for less than 10% of the ice cover. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center, courtesy J. Maslanik and C. Fowler, University of Colorado.

As the ice melting season begins this year, the exceptionally low amount of old, thick ice leaves the Arctic very vulnerable to melting. Air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean this past winter were 1 - 2°C (1.8 - 3.6°F) above average, and a continuation of conditions this warm would probably cause record melting of the Arctic ice cap this summer. On the other hand, the amount of 1 - 2 year old in the Arctic increased in 2008 compared to 2007, so if the Arctic experiences below average temperatures this summer and throughout 2010, the potential exists for old ice to make a comeback. However, the Arctic has experienced very warm temperatures in excess of 1°C above average for most of the past decade (Figure 2). The latest Arctic Report Card 2008 concludes that "it is becoming increasingly likely that the Arctic will change from a perennially ice-covered to an ice-free ocean in the summer". The best hope I see for the Arctic sea ice to recover in the next few years is for a major volcanic eruption in the tropics to create a "Volcanic Winter" cooling effect for a year or two. Such an eruption would probably not allow for a complete recovery of Arctic sea ice, but might delay the transition to a summertime ice-free state by several years.


Figure 2. Arctic-wide annual averaged surface air temperature anomalies (60°-90°N) based from 1900 - 2007 on land stations north of 60°N relative to the 1961 - 1990 mean. From the CRUTEM 3v dataset, (available online at www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/). Note this curve does not include ship observations. The year 2007 was the warmest year on record in the Arctic. The year 2008 (not plotted) was cooler than 2007. Image credit: Arctic Report Card 2008.

As usual, I'm saying little about Antarctic sea ice, since the ice at the bottom of the world is not changing much and has a small impact on global climate compared to Arctic sea ice. Antarctic sea ice is currently quite a bit above average in extent, making total global sea ice above average this month. However, as I explained in a post earlier this year, drawing attention to this statistic is not a very intelligent thing to do, and hides the important fact that Arctic sea ice is in serious danger.

My next post will be on Wednesday--Earth Day--when I'll pick my top wunderphotos from the past year. I'll talk more about "Volcanic Winter" on Friday.

Jeff Masters

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Yet, AGW cannot be proven via the scientific method.....Therefore it should be rejected.
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222. beell
209. StSimonsIslandGAGuy
e.g. more than 9 million live in Long Island, Manhattan and Staten Island.) But still informative.

There you go, SSIGG-and if just a Hurricane was not enough,they even throw in some added risk due to rising sea levels. Something for everyone!

The 3rd Major City at risk-behind Miami and New Orleans.
Hurricanes, Sea Level Rise, and New York City
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Quoting spathy:
Jeff Masters. Please excuse this direct opinion. I know I will regret this.History and new information do not add up to man made cause of global warming.The solar activity and our placement in the Milky Way have a far greater influence on our global temperatures than our input of carbon and methane. I do agree that we should do everything we can to be clean,and green. But not carbon taxes. Not passing on debt to solve natural cycles. please lets give windows to clean industry. Please don't put up exaggerated walls that will kill the private funds and incentive to create better technology.We all want to be clean. Dont promote hype that will cut off our noses despite our face. This is obviously an opinion. It came from my heart. please continue the worthy discussion.


I agree...The sun and the cosmos(also, the magnetic shield around the earth) are far more powerful to influence the earth's climate on the large scale. Also, volcanic eruptions(natural occurring phenomenon) affect the climate much more than man made Co2. AGW does not hold up to the scientific method, and thus deserves to be rejected....I know this, getting a degree in meteorology in school...I was lectured about AGW while at the same time hundreds of well renowned scientists around the world reject AGW.... There is no consensus, regardless what the media says....I have researched this myself...
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Quoting hahaguy:
Severe, That's another example why i don't trust inaccuweather.


You see they have done the job. They have you all talking about them. Its free advertising just so some will come to the site to pay their bills.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Though, to be fair, the NHC themselves had at one point indicated the possibility, albeit slim, that Ophelia could enter the Gulf of Mexico.
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213: XFD, I honestly don't, despite seriously being drawn in by the 2005 season. But it certainly isn't surprising.
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Severe, That's another example why i don't trust inaccuweather.
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214. GBlet
give the iggy...
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Who remembers this?

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good evening everyone
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting spathy:
Jeff Masters. Please excuse this direct opinion. I know I will regret this.History and new information do not add up to man made cause of global warming.The solar activity and our placement in the Milky Way have a far greater influence on our global temperatures than our input of carbon and methane. I do agree that we should do everything we can to be clean,and green. But not carbon taxes. Not passing on debt to solve natural cycles. please lets give windows to clean industry. Please don't put up exaggerated walls that will kill the private funds and incentive to create better technology.We all want to be clean. Dont promote hype that will cut off our noses despite our face. This is obviously an opinion. It came from my heart. please continue the worthy discussion.



so you believe that homo-sapians have had zero effect on the global temp increases?????and that we've had no effect on our enviornment???,sorry not possible!!!!!
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Quoting HIEXPRESS:
1951 - Another Nina-Nino transition year (if that's what this is) had an early storm brush the Bahamas & threaten the E Coast before going fishing.

Hurricane Able 05/15-05/24


Said storm also happens to be the only major hurricane on record during the month of May.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 552 Comments: 19871
Quoting cdo:
I looked into KoritheMan's crystal ball and saw a totally different picture. I saw a early season Cape Verde system...of course he bought the cyrstal ball at a yard sale so not sure if it really works.


The people I bought it from told me that it worked!

Oh snap.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 552 Comments: 19871
1951 - Another Nina-Nino transition year (if that's what this is) had an early storm brush the Bahamas & threaten the E Coast before going fishing.

Hurricane Able 05/15-05/24
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
203. cdo
I looked into KoritheMan's crystal ball and saw a totally different picture. I saw a early season Cape Verde system...of course he bought the cyrstal ball at a yard sale so not sure if it really works.
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eeeeeeeeeeeek



poor all my cows they have too be waiting for a few more weeks they need to pay them for hay
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114696
201. KoritheMan
2:07 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
hmm if today is not the day for the Retired Hurricane Names then when is it???


I had a feeling that all of us were confusing the date. So, out of curiosity, after I talked to you last night on YIM, I decided to look at when the 2007 names were retired, and that wasn't until May 12, 2008. So if that is any indication, then we could be waiting a few more weeks before we hear about 2008's retired names.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 552 Comments: 19871
200. KoritheMan
2:05 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
I still think we will start the season off early or right on target with the focus in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

If the current upper-level shear persists into June or July, then I would think that our only shot at development would be closer to home, in the areas you mentioned. One thing that I'm basing off a gut feeling and nothing more is that, unlike in 2008, we won't see an early season Cape Verde storm like Bertha this year.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 552 Comments: 19871
199. Tazmanian
2:05 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
hmm if today is not the day for the Retired Hurricane Names then when is it???
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114696
198. GeoffreyWPB
1:56 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
For no good reason except my own personal 'feelings' I think we will have a relatively late start to the season, with the first named storm after July 4th.


Get ready for the counterpoint!!!!!
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197. conchygirl
1:55 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
194 Drakoen....you are probably right but lets hope not!
Member Since: June 11, 2008 Posts: 24 Comments: 5910
195. hahaguy
1:51 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Those waters are pretty warm.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
194. Drakoen
1:50 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Basin is warming up. I still think we will start the season off early or right on target with the focus in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29883
193. GeoffreyWPB
1:44 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
We are talking about diction...leave me out of the conversation!...some make posts with words or terms i do not understand..i just do the google and try to understand them my best...but i do wish for this blog, the intelligent ones who use the big words or technical explanations would take it down a notch (go crazy on your own blogs) so us regular people (who make up most of this blog) can follow along. Thank you!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10965
192. Tazmanian
1:38 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
that how slow they are
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114696
191. HIEXPRESS
1:34 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
6. JeffMasters (Admin) 3:22 PM GMT on January 28, 2009 The current wunderpoll doesn't have a submit button if you're using Internet Explorer, sorry about that. It works with other browsers. I've asked our tech guy to fix it.

Jeff Masters

LOL - It still isn't fixed. Who's in charge? (The devs, that's who LOL)

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190. futuremet
1:30 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting hahaguy:
Drak let me guess, you're talking about me.


No, it is Searcher14 LoL j/k
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
189. GeoffreyWPB
1:28 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
WOW..(to quote TampaSpin...just a joke Tim) the gloves are coming off early this season...I wish I knew half as much as some of you do on here...If I had a brain....I could...

Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10965
188. Tazmanian
1:28 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
i be a mod
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114696
187. hahaguy
1:26 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Drak let me guess, you're talking about me.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
186. Drakoen
1:24 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
there sould be A MOD on this blog at all times i no we got the Admin and they do a find job in moding the blog but they are nevere a round any more if any one has not noted


Hopefully wunderground, if they do get a MOD, will be the one to hire the MOD. Giving that position to a regular blogger is a lot of power.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29883
185. Orcasystems
1:24 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
OMG a new movie... D&D find a thesaurus
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
184. Drakoen
1:23 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting futuremet:
I noticed that you are beginning to use new and more effectual rhetorical strategies in your posts. You are always introducing 'big' words to the blog. lol


That's true. But I am not talking about myself.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29883
183. Tazmanian
1:23 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
there sould be A MOD on this blog at all times i no we got the Admin and they do a find job in moding the blog but they are nevere a round any more if any one has not noted
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114696
182. Drakoen
1:21 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting hahaguy:


I'm confused LOL.


Even the syntactical structure too...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29883
181. futuremet
1:21 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
I noticed that you are beginning to use new and more effectual rhetorical strategies in your posts. You are always introducing 'big' words to the blog. lol
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
180. hahaguy
1:20 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting Drakoen:


LOL hardly...


I'm confused LOL.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
179. KoritheMan
1:19 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting Tazmanian:
169. searcher14 12:53 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Jeff - your global warming scare mongering really sucks .... and is very boring



if you dont like what dr m talks about then dont come here any more


Well said.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 552 Comments: 19871
178. Drakoen
1:18 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting futuremet:


You :]


LOL hardly...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29883
177. futuremet
1:17 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Quoting Drakoen:
Somebody has been elevating their diction lately...


You :]
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
176. hahaguy
1:17 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
searcher is always trying to start stuff.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
175. Tazmanian
1:15 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
169. searcher14 12:53 AM GMT on April 21, 2009
Jeff - your global warming scare mongering really sucks .... and is very boring



if you dont like what dr m talks about then dont come here any more
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114696

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.