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 Funkadelic:
Texashurricane, do you want a storm or something? Everyday you seem upset that the shear has been high in the GOM this year, and I dont know I just get the feeling that you want to experience another storm.

I will advise you to not wishcast if you are, remember the old saying "be careful what you wish for"


no, I'm not. Just wondering why....just seemed odd that there has been so much shear for so long.
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
Quoting zoomiami:
Hey Nrt - when I bring up the map it has 95l on our side and 96l on the west coast.

How did you like the weather today?


WU uses an "L" to designate low pressure, it does not indicate the basin the storm is in.

Today was not as bad as yesterday, got a lot of rain and lightning. Also last evening had the C130 mosquito plane fly over at about 150 feet, that was neat.
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Quoting zuglie:
Tornadodude

lol that's true I still dont know why the NHC kept Erika's cone the same when everyone could see it was drifting south not north


yeah, I guess they just didnt want to admit that they had no clue about where it was going, but heck, who wants to be wrong? lol
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8201
Concerning the missing invests from earlier in the season...I wrote Max Mayfield and asked him why the NHC had skipped them. Here is his reply:

Geoff:

The NHC uses a numbering system for tropical cyclones (depressions, storms, and hurricanes) that starts with 01 and goes as high as needed. There is a separate numbering system for the Atlantic and the eastern Pacific. In fact, this system is used globally which makes it easy for modeling centers and others to grab the information and quickly understand what it refers to. Each tropical cyclone has a seven digit code. For example, the first official tropical depression that we had in the Atlantic back in May was designated AL012009. The AL refers to the Atlantic, the 01 means that it was the first tropical cyclone in the Atlantic, and the 2009 is the year. The next official tropical cyclone in the Atlantic will be AL022009.

For disturbances that are not yet declared a tropical depression, the NHC uses numbers in the 90s, such as AL972009. If AL972009 were to become the second depression of the year, for example, all associated files would be moved to AL022009. And then AL972009 could be use again. I suspect AL962009 was previously used and the data had not been cleaned out yet. There is no requirement to use the 90 number consecutively. They were initially used
internally at the NHC, but the information is now made available to the world
thanks to the internet.

I have copied James Franklin, the Branch Chief of NHC's Hurricane Unit. James can correct me if I have misspoken.

Regards,
Max

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I have a new blog entry up of high importance. I hope you all will read it and help spread the word of such a event, as it has been inexplicably under reported. Have a good night y'all.

Lake Kivu
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2469. zuglie
Tornadodude

lol that's true I still dont know why the NHC kept Erika's cone the same when everyone could see it was drifting south not north
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...
Visible from Houston up through Tenn and up to near E. Coast
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Quoting 19N81W:
pretty quiet season...sticking to my bet....any named storms make US landfall yet?
Claudette
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Hey Nrt - when I bring up the map it has 95l on our side and 96l on the west coast.

How did you like the weather today?
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Quoting zuglie:
A few model runs do show 95L staying more south but I believe this is a fish storm.


well, the models havent really been accurate, I.E. Erika lol
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8201
Heads up Houston & southern U.S. visible pass of ISS - Shuttle coming up in about 10 minutes
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2462. zuglie
A few model runs do show 95L staying more south but I believe this is a fish storm.
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2461. mnborn
Looks like the ULL is drawing in the remains of Erica for some moisture... Any thoughts on that?
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2460. 19N81W
pretty quiet season...sticking to my bet....any named storms make US landfall yet?
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Quoting zoomiami:
Isn't 96L already being used?


No, there is a 96E but 96L has not been used yet this year. It is one of the numbers they skipped during the first round through the numbers.
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Quoting iceman55:


I see you got the hang of posting an image.... :)
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
2454. Relix
Quoting Funkadelic:
this is a strange GFS run take a look at the African wave just spinning in the same spot lol.



Link


It could stick to the south and get its sights on the Antilles. That track shows the high strong, weakens, strengthens some more... and... something happens XD!!!
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


so why has there been so much shear in the GOM this season? just curious...


impending El nino and probably all the troughs getting down there this year too
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Quoting kmanislander:


Right click on the image, select properties, highlight the URL and copy by selecting cntrl C, go to WU, write you post, then to insert image select

That will do it.


Don't know what happened to the rest of my post but have to run. Will be back later
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


Sorry, I tried for you but can't seem to do it either.


so why has there been so much shear in the GOM this season? just curious...
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
Quoting jurakantaino:
Link
To much shear the next 3 to 4 days for anything that tries to cross the atlantic.


ummm Look again
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Isn't 96L already being used?
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Quoting iceman55:
img src="http://raleighwx.easternuswx.com/models/euro/00zeurotropical850mbVortSLP168.gif


Right click on the image, select properties, highlight the URL and copy by selecting cntrl C, go to WU, write you post, then to insert image select

That will do it.
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Quoting iceman55:
i try post image .:(


Sorry, I tried for you but can't seem to do it either.
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
Quoting NARCHER:
http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Includes/Documents/15_Day_Forecasts/september_4_2009.pdf


sorry, wrong post.
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
Quoting NARCHER:
http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Includes/Documents/15_Day_Forecasts/september_4_2009.pdf


sorry, I can't seem to get it up there....
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
The weather here in Orlando has been noticeably cooler for about the last week, with an unusual amount of cloudiness and showers(though not much at my house). This hurricane season is shaping up to be kind of a yawn(which is great for those in harm's way), are things forcast to pick up at all toward the last two months of the season?
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Quoting iceman55:
img src=http://raleighwx.easternuswx.com/models/euro/00zeurotropical850mbVortSLP168.gif


This what you are trying to show?

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2434. NARCHER
http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Includes/Documents/15_Day_Forecasts/september_4_2009.pdf
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2432. rv1pop
I just came over Satus Pass in WA. 90° two days ago, snowing today!

I know it is not tropics, but the WX here has been wild, too.
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Boring weather up here.

Bill really cleaned-out the humidity and we are getting locked into two weeks of boring high pressure cells and ridges. Not even a stray shower to liven things up. In fact, this year has been bust all summer for the usual coastal trough thunderstorms.

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Quoting Weather456:
The upswing in the MJO also coincides with the secondary peak in October, so October maybe more active that just 1.


really....this is really confusing. The season is over ,no it isn't ,yes it is......aahhhhh.
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
2426. NARCHER
http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Includes/Documents/15_Day_Forecasts/september_4_2009.pdf



bill gray outlook link above...........
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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.