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 Weather456:
Bill was about 10 miles smaller than Ike. They both were monsters.

Bill hurricane winds 115 miles
Ike hurricane winds 125 miles
Katrina hurricane winds 125 miles

And Charley the strongest of them all had winds of 145mph, I think had only 10 miles of hurricane force winds and 45 miles of ts force winds.
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Quoting Weather456:


not bad, we did got the rain and cool down without the expense of flooding.
sunny day here in San Juan
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Quoting Weather456:
If anyone missed it

My September Outlook

I'm looking at 4-5 named storms, so I expect 3 more and if 95L develops, 2 more. We have three more weeks thats how active September could be.


The weekend of August 14-16
As always,thanks for your synoptic observations !
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Marginal shear? More like RIP'ing shear!
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
Quoting serialteg:
Hey Weather456, how was Erika?


not bad, we did got the rain and cool down without the expense of flooding.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



weather456 do to the fac that we are in SEP and we have EL Nino do you think wind shear is starting too take overe???


This is what I'm thinking of shear this month back on 31 august. The TUTT seems to the main issue out west but the tropical atl is open. This set up seems reminecent of what happened to Erika.


Also notice nothing has develop in the Caribbean for the entire season and the 2 storms that entered met their demise.

Read more

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1270. hydrus
Quoting weathermancer:


2 TS's... and 2 Hurricanes (one major hurricane)
That would give us a near normal season with October and November remaining. So the predictions would then be accurate unless we had a really active October.
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Quoting Brillig:
Anyone know what the hurricane hunters were investigating briefly?


They flew down to St. Croix, must have had their HDOB on briefly at the start.
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Hey Weather456, how was Erika?
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
Quoting Relix:


I haven't seen a single drop of water here for the past 12 hours =P


Move to Ponce, you won't see it for a year until these things come
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
Bill was about 10 miles smaller than Ike. They both were monsters.

Bill hurricane winds 115 miles
Ike hurricane winds 125 miles
Katrina hurricane winds 125 miles
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1265. Brillig
Quoting Brillig:


Well, that was exciting. Lightning struck, knocking out the power 2 seconds after I hit the Post Comment button. Since then, I've received 3/4 inch of rain, about 3 times our August rainfall.


It's just one thing after another. It started raining onto my computer from the 2nd floor. I traced the leak back to a broken window upstairs. That's duct taped closed now. Meanwhile, rain is up to an inch and a half now.
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1264. Relix
Quoting serialteg:
Hold the presses, people: finally Erika showers come ashore in Ponce. Heavy rains falling, at least 1-2 inches, just went to get my meds from the drugstore and had to use a combination of Umbrella and Windshield Defroster


I haven't seen a single drop of water here for the past 12 hours =P
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1263. LUCARIO
Quoting Tazmanian:
lol bill and ike where about the same


hurricane ike look like a giant blob to me(atleast in the gulf of mexico)
If anyone missed it

My September Outlook

I'm looking at 4-5 named storms, so I expect 3 more and if 95L develops, 2 more. We have three more weeks thats how active September could be.


The weekend of August 14-16
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Quoting Weather456:


I was just about to post it but the future of 95L does not look good. Much of the intensity guidance show shear increasing across 95L to 30 knots. Neither the ECMWF nor GFS develops the feature. Some development is expected in the near term but the long-term faith of 95L is uncertain.

One thing I've notice is that the models show 95L moving NW as it develops but then encounter shear near 20N if this does play out then likely it will not pass a moderate TS. However the other solution is that the storm does not develop and track west in shallow steering flow apparently missing some of the heavier shear.




weather456 do to the fac that we are in SEP and we have EL Nino do you think wind shear is starting too take overe???
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Hold the presses, people: finally Erika showers come ashore in Ponce. Heavy rains falling, at least 1-2 inches, just went to get my meds from the drugstore and had to use a combination of Umbrella and Windshield Defroster
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
lol bill and ike where about the same
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Quoting Weather456:


I was just about to post it but the future of 95L does not look good. Much of the intensity guidance show shear increasing across 95L to 30 knots. Neither the ECMWF nor GFS develops the feature. Some development is expected in the near term but the long-term faith of 95L is uncertain.

One thing I've notice is that the models show 95L moving NW as it develops but then encounter shear near 20N if this does play out then likely it will not pass a moderate TS. However the other solution is that the storm does not develop and track west in shallow steering flow apparently missing some of the heavier shear.




Hmmmm
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Quoting hydrus:
3 storms.


2 TS's... and 2 Hurricanes (one major hurricane)
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Keep in mind we have seen 1 named storm already for September and the likelihood for 1 or 2 more by next week is very high
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Quoting SunnyDaysFla:

Sorry to hear that weather456. Any details?
Swimming,spearfishing? I am a diver, most sharks do not bother me---but bull sharks freak me out. Too many nasty stories.


Here's the story


He went missing on Wednesday and persons were speculating that the weather was to blame.
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1254. hydrus
Quoting Tazmanian:
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Here is a poll for you all:
How many storms will form in Sept?

A)4
B)3
C)2
D)1
E)0



C
3 storms. B
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LOL...I love how we know who's right and wrong in guessing how many storms will have in September before September is actually over.
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It's a difficult forecast mid range because on the one hand space weather is very poor for tropical storms with the model year 1914 but on the other hand added CO2 is the biggest forcing this time of year when the global electrical currents are at their max:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qePNsPwcpbM
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Quoting SykKid:


Wrong


It is an opinion, there is no wrong answer.
"I disagree" would be a nicer alternative.
Member Since: April 3, 2009 Posts: 107 Comments: 382
1250. hydrus
Quoting StormW:


Looks good now, but shear is forecast to increase from the NW in about 48 hours.
Thanks, I Know you are busy guy.
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Quoting Weather456:
Something I have never seen in my life here. A bull shark ate a Nevision. If you did know, Nevis is Saint Kitts sister island. Never knew the threat of sharks was so alive here until now.

Sorry to hear that weather456. Any details?
Swimming,spearfishing? I am a diver, most sharks do not bother me---but bull sharks freak me out. Too many nasty stories.
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1248. LUCARIO
Quoting SykKid:


Im sorry but Bill was pathetic....what was left of Danny gave us more rain and wind.


bill was better looking then IKE
Quoting Seflhurricane:
weather i see we have 95L what is your current thinking


I was just about to post it but the future of 95L does not look good. Much of the intensity guidance show shear increasing across 95L to 30 knots. Neither the ECMWF nor GFS develops the feature. Some development is expected in the near term but the long-term faith of 95L is uncertain.

One thing I've notice is that the models show 95L moving NW as it develops but then encounter shear near 20N if this does play out then likely it will not pass a moderate TS. However the other solution is that the storm does not develop and track west in shallow steering flow apparently missing some of the heavier shear.

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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Here is a poll for you all:
How many storms will form in Sept?

A)4+
B)3
C)2
D)1
E)0


A
Member Since: April 3, 2009 Posts: 107 Comments: 382
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Here is a poll for you all:
How many storms will form in Sept?

A)4+
B)3
C)2
D)1
E)0



C
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Quoting LUCARIO:


wild guess

same here! been reading this blog for yrs. learn something new everyday. yor guess is as good as mine, guess we have to wait and see, models except the ECMWF and CMC have done a poor job this yr. especially with the shear, funny I might consider changing schools in America to go out of the country, seems their met. schools are more advanced. LOL
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


People look for a reaction that is all, they have no clue what they are talking about; its been proven over and over


True. At times it is funny, but can be quite annoying.
Member Since: April 3, 2009 Posts: 107 Comments: 382
1240. LUCARIO
Quoting Bordonaro:

The answer is (A)!! I don't care El NIno or no El Nino, September is going to be v ery, very intersting!!


nah, there will be nothing

95 WILL BE yellow at 8pm

he looks sickly
1238. Brillig
Quoting Brillig:
It's raining! We got 0.29 inches for the entire month of August. This is the first rain since then. (northwest Austin)


Well, that was exciting. Lightning struck, knocking out the power 2 seconds after I hit the Post Comment button. Since then, I've received 3/4 inch of rain, about 3 times our August rainfall.
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1237. Relix
Today has been one of the nicest days ever here in PR lol. So sunny... and clear skies. Nice day for the beach.
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Quoting antonio28:


A

The answer is (A)!! I don't care El NIno or no El Nino, September is going to be v ery, very intersting!!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Weather456:
Something I have never seen in my life here. A bull shark ate a Nevision. If you did know, Nevis is Saint Kitts sister island. Never knew the threat of sharks was so alive here until now.
weather i see we have 95L what is your current thinking
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1234. LUCARIO
95 will be the color yellow
mark my words
1233. LUCARIO
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Let me guess...are you basing your ans. off El Nino, or just a wild guess?


wild guess
Quoting StormW:


Looks good now, but shear is forecast to increase from the NW in about 48 hours.


Hi guys,

do you know what the shear will raise to?
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Something I have never seen in my life here. A bull shark ate a Nevision. If you did know, Nevis is Saint Kitts sister island. Never knew the threat of sharks was so alive here until now.
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1230. LUCARIO
TROLL SCALE

Tropical Depression Troll= Newbie who usually doesn't know anything, people mistake them for trolls.

Tropical storm troll= a poster who writes normal sometimes but has his troll moments.

cat 1 and 2 troll, nice but very very annoying

major hurricane troll, rude mean, floods the form, never makes sense, never leaves.
I'm guessing 4 to 5 we should keep an eye close to home in the GOM for stalled out fronts. and in the SW Caribbean for MJO pulse.
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1228. JLPR
to me it looks like the low in front of 95L is pulling an Ana trying to tap into 95L's moisture to survive
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 5223
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Here is a poll for you all:
How many storms will form in Sept?

A)4+
B)3
C)2
D)1
E)0


A
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Quoting LUCARIO:


0


Obvious answer
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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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