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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1526. JLPR
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Floodman:


Me too...then I started working for the company (and owner) I work for now...all the computers he uses have to be fumigated for bad stuff about twice a week...he's set the new record on this one; 17 active trojans, keyloggers and malware simultaneously...free porn is apprently not worth it

thats impressive. I cleaned off a friend of mine's desktop, and he was complaining how it was running "crazy slow". 22 different trojans and malware later... (and taking a bunch of crap off it didn't need) it was blazing fast. Of course, it got jammed up again within 3 months.
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1524. JLPR
Quoting serialteg:


Puerto Rican tag team working in tandem!


xD
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1522. JLPR
Quoting Bordonaro:

Do you think there is any possibility of anything developing in that area? The nickname for the 2009 Hurricane season should be, "2009, THE YEAR OF SHEAR"!! The 95L looks like a creature from outer space and the ULL to the west of it is a life sucking lil' leach!!


Upper level low to the west of it?
that's a Low level low
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR:


heading into heavy shear


man shear is sure aggressive this year =P
everyone like El Niño =]


Puerto Rican tag team working in tandem!
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1983
1520. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting 7544:


moving north ?
trackin in a normal sept track

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Bordonaro:

Do you think there is any possibility of anything developing in that area? The nickname for the 2009 Hurricane season should be, "2009, THE YEAR OF SHEAR"!! The 95L looks like a creature from outer space and the ULL to the west of it is a life sucking lil' leach!!


Very Erika - like conditions over there...

Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1983
1518. JLPR
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


AOI
MARK
15N/81W


heading into heavy shear


man shear is sure aggressive this year =P
everyone like El Niño =]
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting serialteg:
Hmm that thing over at the southwest corner of the caribbean people have been poking around has positive divergence and convergence numbers.

Meanwhile with the exception of the central and east atlantic, everything is Shear City

Do you think there is any possibility of anything developing in that area? The nickname for the 2009 Hurricane season should be, "2009, THE YEAR OF SHEAR"!! The 95L looks like a creature from outer space and the ULL to the west of it is a life sucking lil' leach!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1513. 7544
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


AOI
MARK
15N/81W


moving north ?
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1511. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)


AOI
MARK
15N/81W
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1509. Patrap
WunderMap®
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Quoting JLPR:
The Nogaps is nuts lol



The Nogaps is

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Hmm that thing over at the southwest corner of the caribbean people have been poking around has positive divergence and convergence numbers. Also the Erika remnants over and near PR.

Meanwhile with the exception of the central and east atlantic, everything is Shear City
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1983
Nothing more than normal GOMEX weather ..old boundary and impulses moving along it...
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1504. JLPR
entertainment xD

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Howdy StormW...
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On the topic of global warming, here is the offical record report from Barrow, AK; now 66 DAYS ABOVE 32F!! Global warming is a natural occurance in climate, unfortunately we HUMANS are helping this along!!
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov.
Record Report
000
SXAK79 PABR 020010
RERBRW

RECORD EVENT REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BARROW AK

410 PM AKDT TUE SEP 1 2009

...FIRST CONSECUTIVE MONTHS ABOVE FREEZING EVER AT BARROW...

FOR THE MONTHS OF JULY AND AUGUST THE TEMPERATURE REMAINED ABOVE
FREEZING AT BARROW...THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME IN STATION HISTORY THAT
THIS HAS OCCURRED...THIS MEANS THAT THERE HAVE BEEN 62 CONSECUTIVE
DAYS OF ABOVE FREEZING TEMPERATURES...THIS SHATTERS THE OLD RECORD OF
50 SET BACK IN 1979.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

HATTINGS SEP 09









Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:


..."I slept some in the early 90's.."


Me too...then I started working for the company (and owner) I work for now...all the computers he uses have to be fumigated for bad stuff about twice a week...he's set the new record on this one; 17 active trojans, keyloggers and malware simultaneously...free porn is apprently not worth it
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1500. JLPR
Quoting lordhuracan01:


That Catl low is looking more and more interesting
probably 96L if it maintains itself for awhile
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Ok Storm just a quick question....

Do you see a Low trying to form in the GOM????

And I have to tell you all that I have had ants trying to get inside my Home and also was making Sweet Tea and the funnel that I was using looked like a Hurricane Swirle and I thought MMMMM
Then this afternoon we had some storms move from East towards the West....

Ok Storm what do you thing other than I'm crazy....
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1496. Patrap
Quoting taco2me61:
Hey Pat I watched a storm brew up this afternoon and it was going "West" which I thought it as a first sign of a Low forming.... It was very Stormy here and still very Tropical... If you know what I mean....


Tropical Rains Inbound from the Sound..





NEXRAD Radar
New Orleans, Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI
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1495. JLPR
The Nogaps is nuts lol

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Quoting Floodman:
Wow, don't y'all ever sleep?

Nope :0)

Quoting StormW:
Greetings!


Hi ya there Storm.... Good to see you tonight
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Hey Pat I watched a storm brew up this afternoon and it was going "West" which I thought it as a first sign of a Low forming.... It was very Stormy here and still very Tropical... If you know what I mean....
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1490. xoverau
Quoting StormW:
Greetings!


Greetings, Storm! Any sage thoughts on the upcoming few weeks in the tropics?
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1488. 2ifbyC
Quoting lavinia:


you're probably all too young to remember it. :)


Nothing personal, but I'm too old to remember dancing my azz off to it! 8-)
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1487. Patrap
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Quoting Floodman:
Wow, don't y'all ever sleep?


Suuuuuuuuuure.

And when there's a Cat 1 - 3 cane coming my way, expect me to put the computer up on the emergency generator - and break that F5 key ;)
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1983
1485. Patrap
Quoting Floodman:
Wow, don't y'all ever sleep?


..."I slept some in the early 90's.."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Bay of Bengal invest looks to be getting close to landfall. Probably will not become a depression.

North Indian visible
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1483. Patrap
GOM
60 Hour Wave Forecast (using WaveWatch-3)
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Quoting Patrap:


Upper Low Mid Gulf,..May be interesting in the Sw Gom Come Sat-Sun


"I agree with you on this"
It sure looks like it is trying too....
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You can see in TPW how 95L has felt that weakness



Looks better if you open it on another tab and really zoom in
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1983
1480. 7544
Quoting 7544:
caribiean blob going north ?
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Wow, don't y'all ever sleep?
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1477. Patrap


080
fxus64 klix 042016
afdlix


Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
316 PM CDT Friday Sep 4 2009


Synopsis...
weak inverted trough remains near Interstate 55 this afternoon. As
airmass has moistened...isolated to scattered convection has
developed with most of the activity east of a Hammond to Houma
line. Afternoon temperatures generally in the middle to upper 80s...with
dew points generally within a few degrees of the 70 mark.
&&






Short term...
impulse moving through Texas will turn our flow more southerly by tomorrow
morning. Areal coverage of convection should be greater tomorrow into
Monday than what we have seen over the last few days. Will be carrying
likely probability of precipitation during the day...and chance probability of precipitation at night for all 3 days.
Convection will be moving...so any heavy rainfall should be on the
isolated side. Models attempt to bring the upper trough axis across the
area on Monday...which should allow some drier air to work into the
area Monday night into Tuesday. Expect temperatures to be within a
few degrees of normal for early September. 35
&&
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting lavinia:


Erika's theme song should be "I love the night life, I got to boogie"

Sorry...you're probably all too young to remember it. :)


I'm not to young for that song..... "I Love It"
hehehe
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About

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