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 homelesswanderer:


Still on the CMC and GFS. The 850 vort shows it well. Link


Is it my eyes or does that low that goes in to LA look like it is coming from the bay of campeche?

Edit: on the GFS 850 run
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Tracking Western Pacific tropical cyclones is another hobby of mine. The one out there now so far looks like it could affect the Izu Islands of Japan around 4 to 5 days from now. Hasn't strengthened in the last 18 hours but the environment is right for it to strengthen. My latest Public Advisory.
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1173. hydrus
Quoting tornadodude:


epic, yet classic. I still have a lot of respect for the man
Jim Cantore is short, I respect him to.he is very smart.
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1172. hydrus
Quoting barryweather:


I vote for the Weather Undergoround Channel. Oz can be our Jim Cantore
Great idea.
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Quoting IKE:


This one is a yawner, for now.

Have a nice evening folks. I have another hobby...filling my belly up. It needs food.



ZZZZZZZZZZZ
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1170. IKE
Quoting scCane:
To soon to be saying that as we are approching the peak. Though I do agree that having one hobby can get dull.


This one is a yawner, for now.

Have a nice evening folks. I have another hobby...filling my belly up. It needs food.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
......and fishing, of course.
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1168. scCane
Quoting IKE:


A good season to have other hobbies.....
To soon to be saying that as we are approching the peak. Though I do agree that having one hobby can get dull.
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Quoting RufusBaker:
Forget 95 look at the convection in central carribean!


Nothing will happen in the Caribbean anytime soon with very hostile wind shear dominating the region and forecast to do so during the next three to five days.
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1166. hydrus
Quoting serialteg:


I'm hoping for some real crazy, ramped-steroid-pumped fronts. Sorry to all the CONUS folks!
Where can I long range forecast for this winter?
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Rita RIP? A Category 5? Are you serious!?

Totally stormtop on another Alt.
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Quoting IKE:


A good season to have other hobbies.....


Golf, bowling, gardening, reading.....etc...


and hurricane observation.
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Quoting hurricanehanna:
Speaking of the GOM, those of you with really good eyes check out the water vapor and see if you pick out something around 22.5 and 87.5


I couldn't tell what it was. But this sounds like the gulf should be protected. I think. With a ridge in it. Not sure about the timing but that wouldn't seem to gel with the GFS and CMC disturbance.

MARINE WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT FRI SEP 04 2009

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

GULF OF MEXICO...A WEAK FRONTAL TROUGH EXTENDING E TO W ALONG
ROUGHLY 25N IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN TO DRIFT NW TONIGHT REACHING
THE NW GULF WATERS LATE THIS WEEKEND. MODELS NOW SEEM TO HANG
ONTO A WEAK TROUGH OVER THE NW PORTION THROUGH MON THEN MOVE IT
IT AGAIN TUE INTO WED WITH AN E TO W RIDGE BUILDING TO ITS SE
OVER THE CENTRAL WATERS. IN ANY EVENT...WINDS 5 TO 10 KT AND
SEAS 1 TO 3 FT THROUGH PERIOD.
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
1161. IKE
Quoting StormFreakyisher:
You know what I hate to say this but this season has been a BUST so far. I lost all hope, I could of swore Erika would hit us but its dead now.I have been wasting all 3 months but nothing is really happening.Your right, El Nino years do suck, not that I don't want something to hit us but I really want to track a Cat. 5 hurricane going out to sea, I miss that.


A good season to have other hobbies.....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting StormFreakyisher:
You know what I hate to say this but this season has been a BUST so far. I lost all hope, I could of swore Erika would hit us but its dead now.I have been wasting all 3 months but nothing is really happening.Your right, El Nino years do suck, not that I don't want something to hit us but I really want to track a Cat. 5 hurricane going out to sea, I miss that.


You tracking storms back in the 50s?

(Last time a Cat 5 didn't hit land was Cleo in 1958. Unfortunately, the later Cleo did.)
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Quoting StormFreakyisher:
You know what I hate to say this but this season has been a BUST so far. I lost all hope, I could of swore Erika would hit us but its dead now.I have been wasting all 3 months but nothing is really happening.Your right, El Nino years do suck, not that I don't want something to hit us but I really want to track a Cat. 5 hurricane going out to sea, I miss that.


oh you poor thing lol, I would say after last year, count your blessings and be happy that there isnt a storm threatening yet.
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Forget 95 look at the convection in central carribean!
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
yep
gonnna be a wicked winter


I'm hoping for some real crazy, ramped-steroid-pumped fronts. Sorry to all the CONUS folks!
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Quoting zebralove:
thanks for the info I am going to try to go read up on upper level lows now if I can find it somewhere


that's a good girl :) actually, once someone posted a link to a free online meteorological college, but i lost it :(

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
You know what I hate to say this but this season has been a BUST so far. I lost all hope, I could of swore Erika would hit us but its dead now.I have been wasting all 3 months but nothing is really happening.Your right, El Nino years do suck, not that I don't want something to hit us but I really want to track a Cat. 5 hurricane going out to sea, I miss that.
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1153. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Tazmanian:



EL NINO
yep
gonnna be a wicked winter
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1152. LUCARIO
Quoting NARCHER:
has there ever been an atlantic season were no hurricane warning were posted for any locaton on the us east cost or gom.if not this could be the year.


yes, it is the year

2009 is weaker then 2006

atleast 2006 had ernie
Quoting weathermancer:


A dirty high?


*tangent alert*

Even legal highs can be dirty. I was watching a documentary from the BBC on that one in Stagevu the other day (the site would rule if not for it's incredibly slow speed). Chemists actually argue that taking illegal substances is safer than legal ones, because the illegal ones have been taken by so many people for so long that we already know the side and direct effects, whereas new, legal highs are completely untested and released on the market with no control, and most are pretty new...
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1150. LUCARIO
Quoting tornadodude:


probably should have mentioned 2007 too


no, those all went to mexico O__________O

Hurricane Dean was much scarier then Katrina

now, Hurricane Dean NEVER WAS RIP

Unlike 2009 hurricane season
thanks for the info I am going to try to go read up on upper level lows now if I can find it somewhere
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I call this one Count Drak ... I see 1...2 ... 3...4

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516
1147. BDAwx
Quoting mobilegirl81:

The weather channel probably said that it was a nice ploom of convection and nothing to worry about. I dont even watch the tropical update anymore, I just go here for better in- depth information. TWC down plays everything and sometimes they bust thier own forecast.


LOL do you remember 2005 that was funny...
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Quoting Drakoen:
We could see two system form by early next week. Both CV type storms. Models indicate a vigorous wave developing behind 95L.


yea usually when the ECMWF latches on to a system its going to develop; it has latched on the wave behind 95L for about a week now
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:
Many of you have been ruined by seasons like 2004, 2005 and 2008; makes you think that we have to have a storm every day during the heart of a season



probably should have mentioned 2007 too
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Quoting serialteg:


Lol ...

An area of moisture drawn into an anticyclone?

Don't feel bad if no one answers your questions... it tends to happen (hugs)

And even I don't know if I'm correct, but hey, I stayed in a Holiday Express last night


A dirty high?
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1141. Drakoen
We could see two system form by early next week. Both CV type storms. Models indicate a vigorous wave developing behind 95L.
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Quoting IKE:


From the latest tropical weather discussion....

"A NARROW AND ELONGATED UPPER
LEVEL TROUGH IS OVER THE CENTRAL ATLC. MOIST SWLY UPPER LEVEL
FLOW S OF THE TROUGH AXIS AND UPPER LEVEL DIFFLUENCE IN THE
VICINITY OF THE UPPER TROUGH IS PRODUCING AN AREA OF SCATTERED
SHOWERS WITHIN 150 NM OF A LINE FROM 28N60W TO 22N52W."


There you go. Ratified by NHC weatherpeople.
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1138. NARCHER
has there ever been an atlantic season were no hurricane warning were posted for any locaton on the us east cost or gom.if not this could be the year.
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Quoting TheDawnAwakening:
What's causing the shear over the SW Caribbean Sea, or should I say the southwesterly winds?
' El nino in all his almighty strength, giving a punch for anything that tries to enter the caribbean ....Erikas remains is feeling it badly at the moment.
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Many of you have been ruined by seasons like 2004, 2005 and 2008; makes you think that we have to have a storm every day during the heart of a season

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Quoting zebralove:
I realize I am extremely ignorant which is why I am hanging out here trying to learn, but I was wondering if anyone can tell me what the blob with the tail that looks like a comet or a shooting start is. Is it just any old group of thunderstorms or could it be something interesting? It is in the middle of the atlantic heading south west. It just caught my eye for some reason and I was wondering what other people thought it could be. I dont know how to post images or I would put it up. Soryy I cant even give lats and logitudes. But I would love an answer even if my question is too lame for everyone. sorry


Lol ...

An area of moisture drawn into an anticyclone?

Don't feel bad if no one answers your questions... it tends to happen (hugs)

And even I don't know if I'm correct, but hey, I stayed in a Holiday Express last night
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1134. IKE
Quoting zebralove:
I realize I am extremely ignorant which is why I am hanging out here trying to learn, but I was wondering if anyone can tell me what the blob with the tail that looks like a comet or a shooting start is. Is it just any old group of thunderstorms or could it be something interesting? It is in the middle of the atlantic heading south west. It just caught my eye for some reason and I was wondering what other people thought it could be. I dont know how to post images or I would put it up. Soryy I cant even give lats and logitudes. But I would love an answer even if my question is too lame for everyone. sorry


From the latest tropical weather discussion....

"A NARROW AND ELONGATED UPPER
LEVEL TROUGH IS OVER THE CENTRAL ATLC. MOIST SWLY UPPER LEVEL
FLOW S OF THE TROUGH AXIS AND UPPER LEVEL DIFFLUENCE IN THE
VICINITY OF THE UPPER TROUGH IS PRODUCING AN AREA OF SCATTERED
SHOWERS WITHIN 150 NM OF A LINE FROM 28N60W TO 22N52W."
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
i will say 4 :) wave behind this one looks OK too, and if el nino gives us a break, why not even 5?
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:
We WILL see more than 2 storms in September

We have already had 1, I say 5 total


Maybe 3.
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1131. scCane
Its amazing how long that trough been sitting off our coast. Its been there since last sunday.
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Quoting zebralove:
I realize I am extremely ignorant which is why I am hanging out here trying to learn, but I was wondering if anyone can tell me what the blob with the tail that looks like a comet or a shooting start is. Is it just any old group of thunderstorms or could it be something interesting? It is in the middle of the atlantic heading south west. It just caught my eye for some reason and I was wondering what other people thought it could be. I dont know how to post images or I would put it up. Soryy I cant even give lats and logitudes. But I would love an answer even if my question is too lame for everyone. sorry


I believe its an upper level low. Is eye catching though.
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
1129. LUCARIO
Quoting Magicchaos:
Anyone want to guess how any storms for September?

I'm guessing 4-6.


zero more

justmehouston thanks for not ignoring me and answering my question even if it was just to say you dont know
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We WILL see more than 2 storms in September

We have already had 1, I say 5 total

you guys downcasting the season absolutely crack me up LOL. This is still very much an average season as the 6th storm doesnt form on Average until September 12th
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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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