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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SHIPS had decreasing shear for Erika and looked what happened the whole time.
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Quoting Floodman:


agita?




Agita: Heartburn, acid indigestion, an upset stomach or, by extension, a general feeling of upset. The word is Italian-American slang derived from the Italian "agitare" meaning "to agitate." LOL
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Quoting FLTozman:
For all that are experienced in Tropical Systems, did Erika not look like one of the most impressive systems that actually was a mess inside....



SHE WAS BETTER LOOKING THEN Ike

ike = one ugly hurricane in the gulf
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What's the blog coming off mexico in caribbean sea? Anything?
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Quoting LUCARIO:


I just try to face the truth

Fred paid Erika to do his dirty work

Erika was suppose to grab our attention

so fred can get ready to attack


Conspiracaster!!! :-p
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Quoting StormW:
Good afternoon!


i thought you were taking a break? now go back to bed and get some rest..
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Quoting btwntx08:
18z ships have shear increasing with 95L after 36 hrs lasting for 2-3 days


Have to say 95L will more than likely be a storm for the fishies. Anything starting that far East and above 10deg. Lattitude and is organized usually goes North out to sea.
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Quoting justalurker:
95L another one of these storms in the Atlantic, that give me agita..


agita?
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what makes a troll?
is being a fivecaster being a troll?

Im just saying what I think

I think fred will be the strongest cane since 2005

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Quoting presslord:
fishcaster - self explanatory...

clowncaster - WSJFV


LMFAO
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For all that are experienced in Tropical Systems, did Erika not look like one of the most impressive systems that actually was a mess inside....

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95L another one of these storms in the Atlantic, that give me agita..
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Quoting DestinJeff:


that would be a "Tupacaster"


haha o my
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Quoting MILLERTIME1:
I wish people would stop saying 95l is going to be a cat 5 are the next Wilma. Invest having been coming off the coast for the last 3-4 weeks with only one storm(Bill) that had any real meaning!


I just try to face the truth

Fred paid Erika to do his dirty work

Erika was suppose to grab our attention

so fred can get ready to attack
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Quoting Floodman:


No, that would be a "Regenicaster"...LOL


LOL true
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Quoting LUCARIO:
i KEEP TELLING YALL fred will not die
he is a future cat 5 in the GOM

He will hit PR then hit florida, then skirt new orleans and last but not least hit texas.

it is possible.


Atlantic Pinball much???
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Quoting tornadodude:


i thought regurgicaster was a reference to those who bring constantly forecast that storms come back to life lol


No, that would be a "Regenicaster"...LOL
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Quoting FloridaRick:
RWDOBSON,
Lets take a look at government controled industries for a moment...

The US Postal Service-
This government industry provides a service of delivery of mail, parcels, etc. and has private sector competition in the form of Internet Service Providers (Email vs Snail Mail), Fedex, DHL, UPS, and several small local companies. The US Postal Service is scheduled to lose 14 Billion with a B of the next two years. That is 14 Billion More US Tax Payer Dollars, for something we have to pay for to use anyway.

The Veterans Health Administration-
This is government run health care for our service members and should be better than anything in the private sector. How many stories have your read in recent months about the mistakes made in serving these veterans? There was the endoscopy problem in Miami, then recently 600 some veterans were notified that they had alzhimers disease when in actuallity they did not have anything. Then to cut the budget early in his presidency, President Obama made a case for charging the veteran's insurance company for care that is congressional mandated for our wounded warriors. So if this government run Health care is going to try and charge insurance companies anyway, after being paid for with tax payer money...What do we need it for. Your arguments for the fire departments and everything else is weak. THese are local municple agencies provided by the local government and local tax dollars. If I don't like being taxed for their services I can move. The federal government should not be in control of state and local business in accordance with the constitution. Forming a federal government run health care system and taking control of 1/6 of the nations economy is not providing the state and local governments control over their own destiny.

Last but not least...THere is a reason I stay off this website during the non-tropical season. THat reason is becasue of all the far left people that think we can control mother nature. THey have the audacity to think we cause global warming and can fix it. We casued stronger Hurricanes in 04 and 05. THe fact is that this is cyclical. Even Dr. Masters above notes a 10-20 year cycle for this ice melt. There is money to be had by saying global warming is man made and we need to green this and green that. But what you are really saying in the words of Green Czar Van Jones..."we need pay back" in other words redistribute wealth.

I will be glad when there is another storm to watch so that the discussion can get back to what it is supposed to be...Tropical Weather Blog.

Peace out!


Stepping out of lurk mode for a minute...

You mentioned Veterans Affairs and the recent misinformation sent to 1600 veterans (not 600) that they have ALS (not alzeimers)...

The VA is a perfect example of what will happen to the healthcare system if it is taken over by the government. It usually takes me a month to get an appointment, and because VA policy doesnt allow us to make appointments more than 30 days into the future, on more than one occasion, I have been told to call back in a couple of days (or weeks) to see if I can get an appointment. Worse still is the fact that we (VA patients) must call a "telephone care nurse" to get permission to go to the ER unless we are literally dying and must be rushed in right away. I was bleeding out from a miscarriage last November and waited over an hour on the phone before getting permission to go to the hospital. If you go without permission, you are billed for services rendered.

If this is what people want, well...you can have it. I think we've all heard the phrase "dont knock it til you try it". Government-run healthcare---I've tried it, I'm stuck with it, and yes, I'm knocking it.
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Quoting DestinJeff:


Regurgicaster: similar to a straight lift of another's forecast. different, however, in that a regurgicaster will "chew up" lots of different forecasts from many sources, then "regurgitate" those in a unique post. regurgicasters make no effort to understand the forecast at all, but make every effort to sound as if they do
Are we still talking about congress here?
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Quoting DestinJeff:


Regurgicaster: similar to a straight lift of another's forecast. different, however, in that a regurgicaster will "chew up" lots of different forecasts from many sources, then "regurgitate" those in a unique post. regurgicasters make no effort to understand the forecast at all, but make every effort to sound as if they do


i thought regurgicaster was a reference to those who bring constantly forecast that storms come back to life lol
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Quoting btwntx08:

liar


Why haven't you ignored him? It's all he does
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Quoting iceman55:
i think 95l a cat 1 in 96 hr imo

I agree
fred is a Ivan, Ike and gilbert.
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I wish people would stop saying 95l is going to be a cat 5 are the next Wilma. Invest having been coming off the coast for the last 3-4 weeks with only one storm(Bill) that had any real meaning!
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 65

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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.