Arctic temperatures the warmest in 2,000 years; 2009 Arctic sea ice loss 3rd highest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:32 PM GMT on September 04, 2009

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It's time to take a bit of a break from coverage of the Atlantic hurricane season of 2009, and report on some important climate news. The past decade was the warmest decade in the Arctic for the past 2,000 years, according to a study called "Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling" published today in the journal Science. Furthermore, four of the five warmest decades in the past 2,000 years occurred between 1950 - 2000, despite the fact that summertime solar radiation in the Arctic has been steadily declining for the past 2,000 years. Previous efforts to reconstruct past climate in the Arctic extended back only 400 years, so the new study--which used lake sediments, glacier ice cores, and tree rings to look at past climate back to the time of Christ, decade by decade-- is a major new milestone in our understanding of the Arctic climate. The researchers found that Arctic temperatures steadily declined between 1 A.D. and 1900 A.D., as would be expected due to a 26,000-year cycle in Earth's orbit that brought less summer sunshine to the North Pole. Earth is now about 620,000 miles (1 million km) farther from the Sun in the Arctic summer than it was 2000 years ago. However, temperatures in the Arctic began to rise around the year 1900, and are now 1.4°C (2.5°F) warmer than they should be, based on the amount of sunlight that is currently falling in the Arctic in summer. "If it hadn't been for the increase in human-produced greenhouse gases, summer temperatures in the Arctic should have cooled gradually over the last century," Bette Otto-Bliesner, a co-author from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in a statement.

The Arctic melt season of 2009
Arctic sea ice suffered another summer of significant melting in 2009, with August ice extent the third lowest on record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. August ice extent was 19% below the 1979 - 2000 average, and only 2007 and 2008 saw more melting of Arctic sea ice. We've now had two straight years in the Arctic without a new record minimum in sea ice. However, this does not mean that the Arctic sea ice is recovering. The reduced melting in 2009 compared to 2007 and 2008 primarily resulted from a different atmospheric circulation pattern this summer. This pattern generated winds that transported ice toward the Siberian coast and discouraged export of ice out of the Arctic Ocean. The previous two summers, the prevailing wind pattern acted to transport more ice out of the Arctic through Fram Strait, along the east side of Greenland. At last December's meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world's largest scientific conference on climate change, J.E. Kay of the National Center for Atmospheric Research showed that Arctic surface pressure in the summer of 2007 was the fourth highest since 1948, and cloud cover at Barrow, Alaska was the sixth lowest. This suggests that once every 10 - 20 years a "perfect storm" of weather conditions highly favorable for ice loss invades the Arctic. The last two times such conditions existed was 1977 and 1987, and it may be another ten or so years before weather conditions align properly to set a new record minimum.

The Northeast Passage opens
As a result of this summer's melting, the Northeast Passage, a notoriously ice-choked sea route along the northern Russia, is now clear of ice and open for navigation. Satellite analyses by the University of Illinois Polar Research Group and the National Snow and Ice Data Center show that the last remaining ice blockage along the north coast of Russia melted in late August, allowing navigation from Europe to Alaska in ice-free waters. Mariners have been attempting to sail the Northeast Passage since 1553, and it wasn't until the record-breaking Arctic sea-ice melt year of 2005 that the Northeast Passage opened for ice-free navigation for the first time in recorded history. The fabled Northwest Passage through the Arctic waters of Canada has remained closed this summer, however. An atmospheric pressure pattern set up in late July that created winds that pushed old, thick ice into several of the channels of the Northwest Passage. Recent research by Stephen Howell at the University of Waterloo in Canada shows that whether the Northwest Passage clears depends less on how much melt occurs, and more on whether multi-year sea ice is pushed into the channels. Counter-intuitively, as the ice cover thins, ice may flow more easily into the channels, preventing the Northwest Passage from regularly opening in coming decades, if the prevailing winds set up to blow ice into the channels of the Passage. The Northwest Passage opened for the first time in recorded history in 2007, and again in 2008. Mariners have been attempting to find a route through the Northwest Passage since 1497.


Figure 1. Sea ice extent on September 2, 2009, with the Northwest Passage (red line) and Northeast Passage (green line) shown. The Northeast Passage was open, but the Northwest Passage was blocked in three places. The orange line shows the median edge of sea ice extent for September 2 during the period 1979 - 2000, and this year's ice extent is about 19% below average. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Commercial shipping begins in the Northeast Passage
This year's opening marks the fourth time in five years that the Northeast Passage has opened, and commercial shipping companies are taking note. Two German ships set off on August 21 on the first commercial voyage ever made through the Northeast Passage without the help of icebreakers. The Northeast Passage trims 4,500 miles off the 12,500 mile trip through the Suez Canal, yielding considerable savings in fuel. The voyage was not possible last year, because Russia had not yet worked out a permitting process. With Arctic sea ice expected to continue to decline in the coming decades, shipping traffic through the Northeast Passage will likely become commonplace most summers.

When was the Northeast Passage ice-free in the past?
People have been attempting to penetrate the ice-bound Northeast Passage since 1553, when British explorer Sir Hugh Willoughby attempted the passage with three ships and 62 men. The frozen bodies of Sir Hugh and his men were found a year later, after they failed to make it past the northern coast of Finland. British explorer Henry Hudson, who died in 1611 trying to find a route through Canada's fabled Northwest Passage, (and whom Canada's Hudson Bay and New York's Hudson River are named after), attempted to sail the Northeast Passage in 1607 and 1608, and failed. The Northeast Passage has remained closed to navigation, except via assist by icebreakers, from 1553 to 2005. The results published in Science today suggest that prior to 2005, the last previous opening was the period 5,000 - 7,000 years ago, when the Earth's orbital variations brought more sunlight to the Arctic in summer than at present. It is possible we'll know better soon. A new technique that examines organic compounds left behind in Arctic sediments by diatoms that live in sea ice give hope that a detailed record of sea ice extent extending back to the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago may be possible (Belt et al., 2007). The researchers are studying sediments along the Northwest Passage in hopes of being able to determine when the Passage was last open.

References
Belt, S.T., G. Masse, S.J. Rowland, M. Poulin, C. Michel, and B. LeBlanc, "A novel chemical fossil of palaeo sea ice: IP25", Organic Geochemistry, Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 16-27.

Darrell S. Kaufman, David P. Schneider, Nicholas P. McKay, Caspar M. Ammann, Raymond S. Bradley, Keith R. Briffa, Gifford H. Miller, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Bo M. Vinther, and Arctic Lakes 2k Project Members, 2009, "Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling", Science 4 September 2009: 1236-1239.

Howell, S. E. L., C. R. Duguay, and T. Markus. 2009. Sea ice conditions and melt season duration variability within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: 1979.2008, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L10502, doi:10.1029/2009GL037681.

Tropical Weather Outlook
The remains of Tropical Storm Erika are bringing heavy rain to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands today, and this activity will spread to the Dominican Republic on Saturday. Radar-estimated rainfall shows up to three inches of rain has fallen in eastern Puerto Rico from the storm. Long range radar out of Puerto Rico shows no surface circulation or organization of the echoes, and redevelopment of Erika over the next three days is unlikely to occur due to high wind shear of 25 - 30 knots. By Monday or Tuesday, shear may drop enough to allow redevelopment, depending upon the location of Erika's remains. Redevelopment is more likely if Erika works its way northwestward into the Bahamas.

A large tropical wave with plenty of spin is located a few hundred miles southwest of the Cape Verdes Islands, off the coast of Africa. Heavy thunderstorm activity has increased slightly in this wave over the past day, and it has the potential to gradually develop into a tropical depression by early next week. NHC is giving this wave a low (less than 30% chance) of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday. The GFS model continues to predict development of this wave into a tropical depression early next week.

I'll have an update Saturday or Sunday, depending upon developments in the tropics.

Jeff Masters

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all storms that far out will go out too sea


THE USA IS SAFE



MARK MY WORDS
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2274. JLPR
Quoting hurricaneseason2006:
Imagine only 2 bloggers got Erika right,

StormW
Weather456


dont forget Kmanislander he got it right when he said it would enter the Caribbean at 16N
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Quoting StormW:


:)


Hi StormW,

What are your thoughts on the 2 areas in the Atlantic and the new one fixing to come off of Africa? Think these will all go out to sea or be east coasters?
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Quoting Relix:
CMC puts "Fred" turning N and then NE
GFDL has it going west-WNW. If the track is to be trusted it will be well over the antilles.
NOGAPS is a downcaster =P. Nothing from it.
HWRF makes it follow 95L.



take your pick


A

B

C
or D
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2270. Relix
CMC puts "Fred" turning N and then NE
GFDL has it going west-WNW. If the track is to be trusted it will be well over the antilles.
NOGAPS is a downcaster =P. Nothing from it.
HWRF makes it follow 95L.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2269. Relix
I really want models on 96L (whenever it gets.. invested? lol) soon =P
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w456 this storm could be like Helene but I think it may develop a bit faster than her.
On the original blog topic:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/
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Quoting photonchaser:
So how do you get your comment hidden?


Become a troll.
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I just put Show All on my comments preferences. Don't want to let others tastes override mine.

People were aching for Quickscat, and I came upon this:

Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
Imagine only 2 bloggers got Erika right,

StormW
Weather456
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So how do you get your comment hidden?
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Colder winder for the Southeast during El Nino. Wonder how much colder this season.
Quoting iceman55:
winter123 at u


I've said multiple things, what was it? Use the "quote" feature. Plus I won't see it anyway because I guess people are hitting the minus button on all your posts causing them to be hidden.
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are my comments hidden?
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2254. xoverau
All y'all talking about bad winters after El Nino is making me nervous--our last two winters here were already AWFUL. In 2007 we had 7.5 feet of snow just in December, and in 2008 it was below 0 for a record number of days. The mounds never melted so we had slow far above our heads on every sidewalk. I was afraid to back out of my driveway til April 30th, *lol*.
Member Since: July 10, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 20

AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

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Quoting winter123:


iceman55 what are you lololing about? Why are all his comments hidden?
your comment is too
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Quoting Orcasystems:


ROFLMAO
Link removed in self preservation mode.. but the pic is on my blog in remark #387


iceman55 what are you lololing about? Why are all his comments hidden?
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Quoting Funkadelic:
2010 will be an active year, El-nino should be long gone.

That's very likely.
Most of the time after El-nino seasons, there will be a above average season.
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Quoting iceman55:
Orcasystems what


Ummm nothing :)
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This will likely become 96L on Monday if not Sunday

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you nevere no what get done with 09 1st
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2010 will be an active year, El-nino should be long gone.
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WOW nic WAVE
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2239. miajrz
All SoFlas, please remember that El Nino winters are not only cold, but wet and grey. There was one in the '90s that seemed to pick up lows spinning up from the EPac and shunt them thru the AZ straight across the GOM to us . . . .
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Link ROFLMAO



LOL!
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Quoting winter123:
holy crap, its gonna become a td over land!



No..no...no its not.


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Quoting iceman55:
winter123 lolol


ROFLMAO
Link removed in self preservation mode.. but the pic is on my blog in remark #387
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afternoon all...
anything cookin' in the GOM? I've read so many things that something will form, but the shear is too high, but the conditions are favorable....
just checkin'
Thanks.
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holy crap, its gonna become a td over land!

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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Uh...

where?



definitely here in Indiana too, good afternoon all
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Quoting pcbdragon:

check out the late starts to the hurricane seasons of 1887, 1977, and 1992 and the corresponding blizzards in the years 1888, 1978, and 1993.

plus the storms of those years also curved out into the altantic.
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Soft wood trees do not do well in an ice storm so the pines were devastated. They had not recovered when Rita hit in 2005, which I sure you saw for yourself.

By the way, we're south of I10 about 10 miles from the border. No water from Ike- 17 feet above sea level which is high for that area.
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2229. IKE
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Odd. We have no lows in the 60s forecast this week, which I would expect given a decent cold front:

Link


And from the New Orleans,LA. extended afternoon discussion...."ONE THING IS
DEFINITE...NO WIDESPREAD DRYING OR COOLING TO BE SEEN IN THE
MODELS."

I wonder if the below normal temps forecast are related to above normal precipitation...cloud cover keeping temperatures lower than normal.

Maybe they'll adjust those extended 6-10 and 8-14 day temperatures back up tomorrow. Something isn't adding up.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
1st time this year i seen this

Link



its going to be a long winter

check out the late starts to the hurricane seasons of 1887, 1977, and 1992 and the corresponding blizzards in the years 1888, 1978, and 1993.
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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.

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