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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Caribbean Sea has too much wind shear. The eastern Atlantic is the place to watch for now.
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1074. IKE
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
August 6, 2009

According to its August Atlantic hurricane season outlook, NOAA now expects a near- to below-normal Atlantic hurricane season, as the calming effects of El Niño continue to develop.

El Niño continues to develop and is already affecting upper-level atmospheric pressure and winds across the global tropics,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “El Niño produces stronger upper-level westerly winds over the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean, which help to reduce hurricane activity by blowing away the tops of growing thunderstorm clouds that would normally lead to tropical storms.”


Sounds Familiar........


Ah-nah.
Danny.
Eri-ka.
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MJO is out
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Quoting hurricanehanna:

We voted a few months back - GOM is off limits. Sorry, so takesy backies!


Oooh that's right. Thanks I had forgotten that. Lol. Phew!
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
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August 6, 2009

According to its August Atlantic hurricane season outlook, NOAA now expects a near- to below-normal Atlantic hurricane season, as the calming effects of El Niño continue to develop.

El Niño continues to develop and is already affecting upper-level atmospheric pressure and winds across the global tropics,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “El Niño produces stronger upper-level westerly winds over the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean, which help to reduce hurricane activity by blowing away the tops of growing thunderstorm clouds that would normally lead to tropical storms.”


Sounds Familiar........
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Ooohhh... I want a cookie.
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


I don't know if its over yet. But I might feel better after September's over. Lol.

We voted a few months back - GOM is off limits. Sorry, so takesy backies!
Member Since: September 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3488
Quoting GeauxGirl:


They have been super-terrible recently. Someone is going to have to create another
"Weather" channel so we can actually get the freaking weather and not human event stories 24/7.


I vote for the Weather Undergoround Channel. Oz can be our Jim Cantore
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Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115239
Quoting Floodman:


Cantore was only good in the early days...

**Open camera on a tall bald man, apparently lashed to a palm tree**

"Jim Cantore here in Homestead, awaiting the landfall of Hurricane Andrew...the winds are pretty bad here about now"...ducks to avoid large piece of flying debris...
"...but I will keep you updated as long as the signal hold..." screen fills with static


epic, yet classic. I still have a lot of respect for the man
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Quoting stormno:
texas as it stands right now the gom is open for business only near the bay of campeche.southern texas and mexico could still get something at anytime if something formes in the sw gom.the shear is covering everything from 25 degrees north.....Stormno


ok, but should that change down the road? The shear over the western northern GOM?
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Quoting IKE:
Season in the Atlantic is like trying to light a firecracker with a wet fuse.

87 more days and......it's over.


Yea, but it seems we were able to light that firecracker in August.
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AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting TexasHurricane:


Is the GOM and Carribean not participating this year? There seems to be a few that think the GOM has no worries this year.....Is that really the case? Is the shear and all going to be more favorable down the road? or should we just take a hurricane vacation and come back next year? This is just so confusing...


I don't know if its over yet. But I might feel better after September's over. Lol.
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
1057. IKE
Season in the Atlantic is like trying to light a firecracker with a wet fuse.

87 more days and......it's over.
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Quoting tornadodude:


haha yeah, i know what you mean, i still watch it, but only for Jim Cantore and Dr. Lyons


Cantore was only good in the early days...

**Open camera on a tall bald man, apparently lashed to a palm tree**

"Jim Cantore here in Homestead, awaiting the landfall of Hurricane Andrew...the winds are pretty bad here about now"...ducks to avoid large piece of flying debris...
"...but I will keep you updated as long as the signal hold..." screen fills with static
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Quoting NWHoustonMom:
wow! I feel kinda special... I initiated one of the few Hurricane related topics of the day :-P


would you like a cookie? :)
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wow! I feel kinda special... I initiated one of the few Hurricane related topics of the day :-P
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1052. IKE
Quoting serialteg:


I am 97% sure I'm on Ike's list :D



Nope.
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Afternoon all. I see the trusty box of crayons was opened yet once again.
Member Since: September 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3488
It's not a good debate if someone doesn't get pissed. I mean we can't all agree...

If I don't agree with you, it means you are wrong! ;-)
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1049. IKE
Quoting Floodman:


IKE would never ignore a Packers fan...right, IKE?


Yo bud.
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Quoting serialteg:


You forgot the Healthcare Debate


ANd Climate Change...you can't forget Climte Change...I know I PO'ed a couple of folks on that one
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Quoting stormno:
there is no chance guys for anything to form in the gom there is a possibility a slim one of something forming in the nw caribbean however...it has no chance to move into the gom though shear is much to strong and the trough will be there for at least next week...so if something did form it woould be short lived it would have to go into the yucatan and then maybe southern texas...Stormno


Is the GOM and Carribean not participating this year? There seems to be a few that think the GOM has no worries this year.....Is that really the case? Is the shear and all going to be more favorable down the road? or should we just take a hurricane vacation and come back next year? This is just so confusing...
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Quoting serialteg:


You forgot the Healthcare Debate

Sadly, I missed that one. (Ok, I'm not really sad I missed it. Quite happy I missed it, actually.)
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Quoting gtownTX:


Close it was "Puff" the magic dragon. Course that may depend on what you were doing in the 60's. :-)


It was a play on words LOL
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CURRENT STATUS as at 2nd September 2009
Next update expected by 16th September 2009 (two weeks after this update).

Summary: Mixed El Niño indicators, but Pacific continues to warm Temperatures have risen across the equatorial Pacific during the past fortnight, in response to generally weakened Trade Winds. However, the warming has been strongest in the west of the basin which has resulted in anomalous warmth across the entire breadth of the Pacific. The typical El Niño pattern sees warmth concentrated in the central or eastern Pacific with cooler than normal temperatures in the western Pacific.

Leading climate models continue to predict further development of the El Niño (i.e. warming of the Pacific), although not as emphatically as a month or two back. Therefore, the odds remain strongly in favour of 2009 being recognised as an El Niño year.

Six of the seven leading international climate models surveyed by the Bureau predict the tropical Pacific to continue to warm and to remain above El Niño thresholds for the remainder of 2009.


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Hmmm... all good debates I'm sure. I'm wasting time until the hubby gets home so we can leave town.

Side note: I just saw Green Day Aug. 8th. I was a good show.
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Quoting TexasHurricane:
Anyone think we will start to see more "circles" or think it will stay around two at a time?


Likely once the next 2 waves pull off of Africa.
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Quoting serialteg:


I am 97% sure I'm on Ike's list :D



IKE would never ignore a Packers fan...right, IKE?
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1039. gtownTX
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Floodman.Just had a flashback from the 60's.I remember now......It was "Poof the Magic Dragon"


Close it was "Puff" the magic dragon. Course that may depend on what you were doing in the 60's. :-)
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Quoting jeffs713:

lets see...

The meaning of green/yellow/red lights in different states;
What kind of waves are in hurricanes;
How to use the ignore list;
The proper way to say **POOF**;
And criticisms against the Weather Channel.

How are you doing?


You forgot the Healthcare Debate
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Quoting GeauxGirl:


They have been super-terrible recently. Someone is going to have to create another
"Weather" channel so we can actually get the freaking weather and not human event stories 24/7.


Just like MTV, when they stopped showing videos and started showing reality shows.

One of my early electric guitar-playing music inspirations was watching Green Day on MTV at around 1996-1997, when they still showed a lot of them.
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Quoting smmcdavid:
Good afternoon fellow weather nerds. What's the topic of discussion today?

lets see...

The meaning of green/yellow/red lights in different states;
What kind of waves are in hurricanes;
How to use the ignore list;
The proper way to say **POOF**;
And criticisms against the Weather Channel.

How are you doing?
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Quoting NWHoustonMom:
THX 1002 :-)

is it updated frequently? Can I watch it during the next storm to see how far down things change?

side note... how do they monitor sub sea temp?
I doubt that the readings are that quick, but looking at the coordinates of where the storm had been, perhaps you would get an indication of what is going on.

The model is run once a day, completing at about 1400Z. Each run starts with a 24 hour assimiliation hindcast and produces ocean surface forecasts every hour and full volume forecasts every 24 hours from the 0000Z nowcast out to 120 hours. Model incorporates:
* RTG: Real Time Global sea surface temperature analysis
* GOES: Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite
* AVHRR: Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer
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Quoting TexasHurricane:
Anyone think we will start to see more "circles" or think it will stay around two at a time?



Upgraded to Medium, I see
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its really all we had at the time.. i remember having the station on for an hour just to see the update at 50 past the hour!
Quoting serialteg:


I haven't watched TWC for years now, but I remember how years ago the whole neigborhood huddled around the Tropical Update like a religious litany.
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Quoting stormno:
there is no chance guys for anything to form in the gom there is a possibility a slim one of something forming in the nw caribbean however...it has no chance to move into the gom though shear is much to strong and the trough will be there for at least next week...so if something did form it woould be short lived it would have to go into the yucatan and then maybe southern texas...Stormno


Storm, thought you would only come back in a week when things maybe got more interesting!
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Anyone think we will start to see more "circles" or think it will stay around two at a time?

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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.


They have been super-terrible recently. Someone is going to have to create another
"Weather" channel so we can actually get the freaking weather and not human event stories 24/7.
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Good afternoon fellow weather nerds. What's the topic of discussion today?
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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.


I haven't watched TWC for years now, but I remember how years ago the whole neigborhood huddled around the Tropical Update like a religious litany.
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Quoting Cotillion:


Nah.

Nature would still conspire to rain on us somehow.

(We do tend to get a period of nice weather in September, called an 'Indian Summer', in relation to the period of nice weather after the monsoon trough in that part of the world. Might even hit 20C. What a novelty.)


Lol.
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665

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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.

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