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 serialteg:


It's a smiley character. Like this :) only XD in a Japanese animation style. If you see some manga, anime or asian cartoons you'll notice sometimes they draw the eyes as an X when characters laugh.

XD

Thank you. That has been making me nuts. I just could not figure it out.
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Quoting NWHoustonMom:
I'm really quite a novice, do the waves all get larger or just outside of the center. Do they form a downward spiral near the center? I'm envisioning a swirl like when you drain a tub?

or when you stir tea quickly?

No, they don't form a spiral, per se. Entirely too much energy would be involved in that. A washing machine or a swimming pool after half a dozen people just did cannonballs into the pool are the best analogies. The waves kick up from all kinds of different directions, but generally (more or less) move in the same direction as the wind.
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Quoting SQUAWK:
Will someone tell me what this "XD" thing is all about. I have no clue.


It's a smiley character. Like this :) only XD in a Japanese animation style. If you see some manga, anime or asian cartoons you'll notice sometimes they draw the eyes as an X when characters laugh.

XD
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1983
Will someone tell me what this "XD" thing is all about. I have no clue.
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AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting markymark1973:
95L is going fishing in the central atlantic. Going to be a nice weakness out there. Next... Link


You know that's not the layer to use right now?



If it gets stronger, then it'll use the layer you showed and will follow that weakness more. If it's like now, then it'll follow more the one I posted.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1983
StormW, the CFS seems to be anomalous troughing over the east coast, and shows above average shear conditions. Assuming my data may be old, please provide me a link of where you got your data.

500mb anomalies



Wind shear anomalies

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I'm really quite a novice, do the waves all get larger or just outside of the center. Do they form a downward spiral near the center? I'm envisioning a swirl like when you drain a tub?

or when you stir tea quickly?
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Quoting serialteg:


As to the question "how does the sea look beneath a TC"

Have you ever seen footage of the sea in a landfalling cyclone? It's the same windblown "washing machine" seas... only I think the waves can be much, much bigger.

Of course in the eye things get calmer.

The waves still stay up in the eye. If not worse. Think about how far Bill was pushing waves out...
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Good Afternoon StormW
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 263
Quoting NWHoustonMom:

is it bad blog etiquette to quote yourself?
but I'm still really curious about this ...




As to the question "how does the sea look beneath a TC"

Have you ever seen footage of the sea in a landfalling cyclone? It's the same windblown "washing machine" seas... only I think the waves can be much, much bigger.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1983
I think that's the time we switch from the "at work" crowd to the "after work" crowd.
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The Purdue Student Health Center on Friday (Sept. 4) reported that 16 new cases of suspected H1N1 influenza since 3 p.m. the day before, bringing the total reported this week to 85.

In comparison, there were 66 reported cases of flulike illness during the peak week of the previous school year.
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With the Tropics quiet for the time being, eveyrone have a great 3-Day Weekend....WW
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95L is going fishing in the central atlantic. Going to be a nice weakness out there. Next... Link
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One thing I've noticed lately is that the blog really slows down between about 2-5pm on weekdays, and then goes crazy-nuts after that. This slowdown really became apparent once school got started.
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Quoting JLPR:


seems to have a Good circulation but its missing convection for the moment


gotcha, thanks
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Quoting IKE:
Ignore feature really helps. I have 81 on mine. Goes back 2-3 years.
Yes its a great feature. I was the one that got WU to start using the option. Only bad thing is when people Quote trolls or someone you have on ignore.
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Quoting RufusBaker:
LOL computer models show 95 already turning out to sea...


well since the computer models are always right, no worries xD
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957. JLPR
Quoting tornadodude:
good afternoon all, seems like the GW conversations have died down, but anyway, how is 95L?


seems to have a Good circulation but its missing convection for the moment
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Good afternoon...
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LOL computer models show 95 already turning out to sea...
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good afternoon all, seems like the GW conversations have died down, but anyway, how is 95L?
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Quoting toasterbell:
Thanks Jeffs! I usually don't post too much because my questions get answered just by watching long enough and I'm not knowledgeable enough to answer newbie questions yet. I've lurked consistently since 2006 and I still learn new stuff every day (thanks everyone).


Ditto
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Quoting StormW:


I hear ya...the only thing to my thinking is, even though the ensemble forecast for the NAO doesn't show it...the CFS model has been CONSISTENT all season with a Negative NAO from later on this month, through the end of the season. CFS is calling for a mean of the MSLP at 1020mb for this month, and 1018 for October and November. This should be 3 fold...help lessen shear, allow waters to hold their own, and weaken the mean trof.


Good afternoon Storm and everyone. :) I wa fixing to say, I just noticed the ECMWF has a negative NAO for the 9th,10th and 11th. Which is as far as the chart went. So youre right season may just be a late bloomer.
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Quoting StormW:


I hear ya...the only thing to my thinking is, even though the ensemble forecast for the NAO doesn't show it...the CFS model has been CONSISTENT all season with a Negative NAO from later on this month, through the end of the season. CFS is calling for a mean of the MSLP at 1020mb for this month, and 1018 for October and November. This should be 3 fold...help lessen shear, allow waters to hold their own, and weaken the mean trof.


Dang it! Just when I thought it was time to become complacent and lethargic about the whole rest of the season! As always good to hear your thoughts, Mr. Storm!
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Quoting justalurker:


thanks, but it brings me to create a blog page..

you have to have a blog to be able to ignore people, so just create a simple one and then you can
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Quoting jeffs713:

are you looking for something like a cross section with temps? or just where the highest waves usually are?


yeah that would be great!
Motion also, looking for effects (or affects, never really know when to use which)of sea floor disruption
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later...
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Quoting StormW:


The area you asked about near Panama...there is a low just barely on the coast, associated with the ITCZ (InterTropical Convergence Zone).

There is outflow from it, as there is an upper level anticyclone over the area (fancy term for upper high). There is a trof over the GOMEX, and is what is known as a TUTT (Tropical Upper Tropospheric Trough). The upper level anticyclone is helping to fire up the area near Panama, and the flow from the nothern side of that, together with another large trof to the NE of ex Erika, is producing shear over ex Erika.

Did this answer what you asked?


Absolutely!! Thank you!! I had it half figured out--without all the big words anyway...lol.

Thanks again for taking the time. :)
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Guys, just ignore those two trolls. They really haven't a clue about meterology, just want to rall up the blog.
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Poor ol' Erika getting blown to pieces on RGB. Just a lil' swirl left at 16N 65W

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941. IKE
Quoting seflagamma:


LOL, I found out I could "clear it out" after every season.. because most of those troll handles are eventually banned and do not return. the only ones that return are the ones that are just annoying but I've seen some of those bloggers actually "grow up" a little and become ok after a season or two.
But I am an Optimist!
My glass is always half full! :o)

So I start out every year with a clean slate.



I don't think I've ever cleared mine out. That's why it's at 81. Some I've put on ignore have come back with new handles and I've put the new handle on ignore.
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Quoting NWHoustonMom:

is it bad blog etiquette to quote yourself?
but I'm still really curious about this ...


are you looking for something like a cross section with temps? or just where the highest waves usually are?
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Quoting NWHoustonMom:
Quoting NWHoustonMom:
Does anyone know of any images or graphics with what water looks like below the surface of a TC? TIA


is it bad blog etiquette to quote yourself?
but I'm still really curious about this ...



I am sorry, this is out of my league of knowledge, got to hope someone else catches this one.
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937. IKE
PROGNOSTIC DISCUSSION FOR 6 TO 10 AND 8 TO 14 DAY OUTLOOKS
NWS CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER CAMP SPRINGS, MD
300 PM EDT FRI SEPTEMBER 04 2009

6-10 DAY OUTLOOK FOR SEP 10 - 14 2009

MOISTURE
TRANSPORT FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO AROUND A WEAKNESS IN THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE IS
EXPECTED TO RESULT IN ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION TOTALS FOR THE GULF COAST AND
FLORIDA.



8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR SEP 12 - 18 2009

PRECIPITATION AMOUNTS MAY BE ENHANCED OVER PARTS OF THE EAST COAST DUE TO
POSSIBLE INFLUXES OF TROPICAL MOISTURE EARLY IN THE PERIOD.
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There were two today that I just had to put on ignore. It was like they were competing to see who could be the most irritating! Well, no more for me!
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is it bad blog etiquette to quote yourself?
but I'm still really curious about this ...

Quoting NWHoustonMom:
Does anyone know of any images or graphics with what water looks like below the surface of a TC? TIA
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My question earlier was about someone who said the MJO should be very favorable in October (if I understand correctly its in an unfavorable oscillation for formation now). I had asked for a link. I am very interested in learning about it. Have read some stuff by "googling" but it still leaves me scratching my head at the end, lol. I like the graphs that Atmoaggie posts but wish I understood a little more...
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Quoting IKE:
Ignore feature really helps. I have 81 on mine. Goes back 2-3 years.


LOL, I found out I could "clear it out" after every season.. because most of those troll handles are eventually banned and do not return. the only ones that return are the ones that are just annoying but I've seen some of those bloggers actually "grow up" a little and become ok after a season or two.
But I am an Optimist!
My glass is always half full! :o)

So I start out every year with a clean slate.

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Quoting IKE:
Ignore feature really helps. I have 81 on mine. Goes back 2-3 years.


its like a new toy, just cant put it down..LOL
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Quoting kmanislander:


The reason you may not get a reply sometimes is that when the blog is moving very fast nearly a dozen posts may show up between the time someone reads the blog and then posts their own reply. If you are one of the dozen posts you may get overlooked particularly if bloggers do not read back more than 4 or 5 posts.

The other issue is that the regulars tend to look for comments from bloggers they are familiar with and a newbie can have a hard time breaking in.

The best thing to do is stop lurking and join in when times are slow, like now. That way, when the pace picks up, you will be recognised right away. If you are looking for answers, ask the questions during slow periods. In a fast moving blog everyone is busy giving their own take on things or commenting on the prognostications of others. There is little time then to answer questions but if you do have a question while the blog is busy send a WU e mail to a blogger who looks like they know what they are talking about and when the pace slows you should get a reply.

Hope this helps.

This is exactly right. I've been on WU going on 2-1/2 years now (started actively blogging last year), and I am always open for questions. If I don't know the answer myself, I will at least refer you to someone who has a better shot at it than I do.

Also, when the season dies down, I plan on posting some blogs teaching the basics, and what to look for. (I intended to early this season, but the thing called "life" kinda took over for a bit)
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928. IKE
Ignore feature really helps. I have 81 on mine. Goes back 2-3 years.
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Quoting druseljic:
Kmanislander, thanks for the response. Will try to pop up a little more when things aren't so crazy in here.


See, I spotted you right away LOL
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Wow, I cannot believe I have never used the Ignore feature before. It is so nice not to see the endless dripple coming from a particular person.
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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.