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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Quoting Drakoen:
The wave over Africa exhibits strong 850mb vorticity maximum. Satellite derived winds indicated a closed mid level low with the system. An upper level anticyclone is vertically stacked with the mid level circulation. Lower level convergence is over the wave's axis.


Was looking it too Drak i was thinking to myself, i could almost qualify that as an Invest over Land........LOL
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1824. 7544
is the blob over pr moving nw now and if gets by the bahammas isnt there less shear there coming up could it form close to home ? lloks like a spin at 18//69
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1823. Patrap
GOM 60 Hour Surface Current Forecast Model
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Quoting LightningCharmer:
Any of the experts here watching the increase in cloudiness off the coast of Naples, Florida? Radar showing many little swirls over the last couple hours. This is just my untrained eye observations but is it worth watching?


NO expert! But nothing to worry about. It appears to be just upper Divergence caused by the ULL to the West in the GOM! There is nothing in Vorticity at the LOWER or Middle levels at all!
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1820. Drakoen
The wave over Africa exhibits strong 850mb vorticity maximum. Satellite derived winds indicated a closed mid level low with the system. An upper level anticyclone is vertically stacked with the mid level circulation. Lower level convergence is over the wave's axis.
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Thanks Storm for the update. I have learned a lot from you. Hope you are feeling better.

As for "the blob", hope they will party somewhere else.
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Quoting LightningCharmer:
Any of the experts here watching the increase in cloudiness off the coast of Naples, Florida? Radar showing many little swirls over the last couple hours. This is just my untrained eye observations but is it worth watching?


It's certainly worth watching, conditions right around florida are pretty ideal, I would watch the area off Jacksonville as well.
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1817. Patrap
Quoting jpsb:
Ok, thanks for the correction.


After looking at the post 1810..I may stand corrected.

It may be related also to the Sun,as the Sat Imager may take direct sunlight in from the ol SOL,..

I didnt know of the Eclipse schedule Until IKE Last year,
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Quoting Orcasystems:


I am not an expert.. or even a competent amateur.. but its been one of my AOI's for the past two days.
LOL...Thanks for the reply. Noticed it early yesterday, and the convection has been gradually covering a larger area. Drove through some incredible lightning storms yesterday as well.
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1814. jpsb
Quoting Patrap:


It has nothing to do with the Sun,the Sat's becomes eclipsed by the Earths Shadow and cant relay the Info due to the Line of sight being eclipsed.
Ok, thanks for the correction.
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The models have been hinting of something off the east coast for the last few runs.....nothing really new!
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1812. Patrap
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Quoting LightningCharmer:
Any of the experts here watching the increase in cloudiness off the coast of Naples, Florida? Radar showing many little swirls over the last couple hours. This is just my untrained eye observations but is it worth watching?

Link plz
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:



KOZ (KEEP OUT ZONE) / ECLIPSE

The GOES satellites encounter two periods, during the year, which the satellites are in the Earth’s shadow. Known as the Eclipse season, these periods require the spacecraft to be totally dependent on onboard batteries for a maximum of 72 minutes daily. Eclipse’s occur from about February 28 - April 11 and August 31 - October 13. The Imager and Sounder instruments are powered down to conserve power, until the daily eclipse is over. There is a significant risk of the sun light directly entering the scanners, as the spacecraft enters and leaves the Earth’s shadow, requiring the Imager and Sounder to be idle prior to and following eclipse. This is known as the “Keep Out Zone”. The seasonal charts describe the GOES-East and GOES-West Imager and Sounder scan frames that are canceled, due to KOZ/ECLIPSE.


Link


Thanks for the information.
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1808. Patrap
95L Dynamic Run

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Quoting LightningCharmer:
Any of the experts here watching the increase in cloudiness off the coast of Naples, Florida? Radar showing many little swirls over the last couple hours. This is just my untrained eye observations but is it worth watching?


I am not an expert.. or even a competent amateur.. but its been one of my AOI's for the past two days.
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1806. Patrap
Quoting jpsb:


Looking at the Sun? Very bad for optics


It has nothing to do with the Sun,the Sat's becomes eclipsed by the Earths Shadow and cant relay the Info due to the Line of sight being eclipsed.
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On ex-Erika

MARINE WEATHER DISCUSSION FOR THE GULF OF MEXICO...CARIBBEAN SEA
AND SOUTHWEST NORTH ATLC S OF 31N W OF 55W.

GULF OF MEXICO...SPLIT FLOW OVER THE CENTRAL CONUS WITH A BROAD
MID TO UPPER LEVEL TROUGH OVER THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY IS
SUPPORTING A SURFACE TROUGH THROUGH CENTRAL FL AND THE GULF OF
MEXICO ALONG 27N TO 28N E OF 90W. SURFACE TROUGH WILL CONTINUE
TO DRIFT N INTO NORTHERN GULF WATERS THROUGH EARLY NEXT WEEK.
MODELS SHOW THE WEAK TROUGH MEANDERING OVER THE N GULF COAST TUE
AND WED. MOST OF THE MODELS CARRY SOME OF THE MID LEVEL ENERGY
ASSOCIATED WITH THE REMAINS OF ERIKA THROUGH THE STRAITS OF FL
INTO THE SE GULF ON TUE...WITH THE NOTABLE EXCEPTION OF THE GFS
WHOSE SOLUTION WITH THE REMNANT OF ERIKA IS NOT PREFERRED. SEE
SECTION BELOW FOR DETAILS. THE FORECAST CALLS FOR TROUGHING TO
BUILD OVER THE EASTERN GULF TUE AND WED AS THE REMNANTS OF ERIKA
APPROACH THE AREA WITH THE ECMWF AND CMC SOLUTIONS RECOMMENDED
BY THE HPC PMDHMD PRODUCT. IN ANY EVENT...WINDS 5 TO 10 KT AND
SEAS 1 TO 3 FT THROUGH PERIOD.

Once again. Take your pick. El Nino strikes again.
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1802. Patrap
95L 12 Z Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)

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Quoting StormW:


Can't rule it out right now.


I believe its the ramain of Erika is what the models are trying to pick up StormW
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Quoting AllStar17:


Yep...and it is far enough south it may just head W or WNW


it has a massive weakness to overcome as the subtropical ridge splits. If it develops will likely head into that weakness and out to sea.
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Any of the experts here watching the increase in cloudiness off the coast of Naples, Florida? Radar showing many little swirls over the last couple hours. This is just my untrained eye observations but is it worth watching?
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1798. jpsb
Quoting lawntonlookers:
456

I see you comment about the eclipses of the satellites. I understand the geostationary orbits of the satellites and the fact that they are around 22,000 miles up, but I don’t understand why they would have an eclipse when there is nothing big between them and the earth. Why the eclipse?


Looking at the Sun? Very bad for optics
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Quoting Weather456:
The wave behind 95L will likely become 96L

The GFS has it(96L) turning north 200miles west of CV's
link

and NOGAPS has it turning north almost straight away going between the CV's and Africa
Link
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Quoting Orcasystems:


You mean circles... there are two now :)

I know - I meant the big one could eat the little one...
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Quoting Drakoen:
A strong tropical wave is expected to move of the coast of Africa in 24-30 hours and rapidly begin cyclogensis there after as indicated among the majority of the computer models. This is our best chance to have a true cape verde system.


Yep...and it is far enough south it may just head W or WNW
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1792. Patrap
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Morning all! Hi Storm- thanks for your update.
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06Z GFS appears to strengthen 95L in 72-96 hours out in the Central Atlantic...well away from land.
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The system in front of 95 is also a yellow circle..and in a better environment.

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Quoting superweatherman:
what about the gulf. any development. early in the week they where something possible in Texas or Louisiana


I posted this earlier

According to New Orleans...

MARINE...
LIGHT TO OCCASIONALLY MODERATE SOUTHEASTERLY FLOW WILL PREVAIL
THROUGH THE WEEKEND. A WEAK AREA OF LOW PRESSURE IS FORECAST TO
DEVELOP ALONG AN OLD TROUGH OVER THE GULF AND TRACK TOWARD THE
LOUISIANA COAST LATE SUNDAY INTO MONDAY. THERE IS STILL SOME
UNCERTAINTY AS TO EXACTLY WHERE ALONG THE LOUISIANA COAST THIS
FEATURE WILL ACTUALLY MOVE INTO WITH MODELS OFFERING VARIOUS SOLUTIONS
..BUT AT THIS TIME WE ARE FORECASTING THE LOW TO MOVE INTO THE
SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA COASTAL WATERS WEST OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER AND
THEN INLAND AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WEEK. THIS FEATURE MAY CAUSE
WINDS TO INCREASE A BIT WITH CORRESPONDINGLY HIGHER SEAS
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1786. Patrap
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Quoting StormW:


I would like to look at update steering over the next 24 hours, but as far as developemnt...not out of the question...I sort of hint at it in my synopsis...does it show development off the SEUS coast...SC/GA area?


Basically.. yes
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1782. Drakoen
A strong tropical wave is expected to move of the coast of Africa in 24-30 hours and rapidly begin cyclogensis there after as indicated among the majority of the computer models. This is our best chance to have a true cape verde system.
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Quoting hurricanehanna:
You know, one of the forecasters at the NHC could have some fun and turn the big yellow circle into Pacman!


Though, shear is doing a great job of being Pacman right now!
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Quoting hurricanehanna:
You know, one of the forecasters at the NHC could have some fun and turn the big yellow circle into Pacman!


You mean circles... there are two now :)
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You know, one of the forecasters at the NHC could have some fun and turn the big yellow circle into Pacman!
Member Since: September 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3488
1776. Dakster
NRT - THANKS for the update on the QuickScat. Glad to see theya re still hopefule of a recovery. I would hate to lose that Sat!
I was getting worried since we haven't had a good run in a couple of days.


Stormw - as always thanks for the analysis and update.
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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.