Arctic sea ice at a record low again; a warmer February for the U.S. coming

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:42 PM GMT on February 08, 2011

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Arctic sea ice extent for January 2011 was the lowest on record for the month, and marked the second consecutive month a record low has been set, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Most of the missing ice was concentrated along the shores of Northeast Canada and Western Greenland. Relative to the 1979 - 2000 average, the missing ice area was about twice the size of Texas, or about 60% of the size of the Mediterranean Sea. Hudson Bay in Canada did not freeze over until mid-January, the latest freeze-up date on record, and at least a month later than average. The late freeze-up contributed to record warm winter temperatures across much of the Canadian Arctic in December and January. Bob Henson of the National Center for Atmospheric Research has a very interesting post on this, noting that Coral Harbor on the shores of Hudson Bay had a low temperature on January 6 that was 30°C (54°F) above average--a pretty ridiculous temperature anomaly. He quotes David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, who discussed the lack of ice near Canada's Baffin Island: "The Meteorological Service of Canada was still writing marine forecasts as of 7 January, well beyond anything we have ever done." Henson also writes:

"The extremes have been just as impressive when you look high in the atmosphere above these areas. Typically the midpoint of the atmosphere's mass--the 500-millibar (500 hPa) level--rests around 5 kilometers (3 miles) above sea level during the Arctic midwinter. In mid-December, a vast bubble of high pressure formed in the vicinity of Greenland. At the center of this high, the 500-mb surface rose to more than 5.8 kilometers, a sign of remarkably mild air below. Stu Ostro (The Weather Channel) found that this was the most extreme 500-mb anomaly anywhere on the planet in weather analyses dating back to 1948.

Farther west, a separate monster high developed over Alaska in January. According to Richard Thoman (National Weather Service, Fairbanks), the 500-mb height over both Nome and Kotzebue rose to 582 decameters (5.82 km). That's not only a January record: those are the highest values ever observed at those points outside of June, July, and August."



Figure 1. Monthly January sea ice extent for 1979 to 2011 shows a decline of 3.3% per decade. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The warm temperatures in Canada and record sea ice loss in the Arctic were also due, in part, to a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO). The Arctic Oscillation and its close cousin, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) are naturally occurring pressure patterns in the Arctic and mid-latitudes. A negative AO and NAO results when we have weaker than normal low pressure over the Arctic, and weaker than normal high pressure over the Azores Islands. This fosters an easterly flow of air off the warm Atlantic Ocean into the Canadian Arctic, and also weakens the winds of the polar vortex, the ring of counter-clockwise spinning winds that encircles the Arctic. A weaker polar vortex allows cold air to spill southwards out of the Arctic into eastern North America and Western Europe. Thus, the strongly negative AO and NAO the past two winters have been largely responsible for the cold and snowy winters in these regions, and exceptionally warm conditions in the Arctic. I described this pattern in more detail in my December post titled, Florida shivers; Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern is back. It is possible that Arctic sea ice loss is largely responsible for the unusual Arctic Oscillation pattern we've observed during the past two winters, as well as for the record-strength ridges of high pressure observed over Greenland and Alaska this winter. It should not surprise us that Arctic sea ice loss would be capable of causing major perturbations to Earth's weather, since it is well known that changes from average in sea surface temperatures over large regions of the ocean modify the jet stream, storm tracks, and precipitation patterns. The El Niño and La Niña patterns are prime examples of this (though the area of oceans affected by these phenomena are much larger than what we're talking about in the Arctic.) Another example: Feudale and Shukla (2010) found that during the summer of 2003, exceptionally high sea surface temperatures of 4°C (7°F) above average over the Mediterranean Sea, combined with unusually warm SSTs in the northern portion of the North Atlantic Ocean near the Arctic, combined to shift the jet stream to the north over Western Europe and create the heat wave of 2003, the deadliest heat wave in history with 30,000 - 50,000 deaths in Europe.

References
Feudale, L., and J. Shukla (2010), "Influence of sea surface temperature on the European heat wave of 2003 summer. Part I: an observational study", Climate Dynamics DOI: 10.1007/s00382-010-0788-0


Figure 2. The 6-10 temperature forecast issued by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center calls for an above-average chance of warm temperatures across most of the U.S. by mid-February.

A warmer forecast for February
Over the past two weeks, the Arctic Oscillation has undergone a major transition, changing from negative to positive. This means that low pressure over the Arctic has intensified, which will act to speed up the counter-clockwise spinning winds (the polar vortex.) This spin-up of the polar vortex will tend to keep cold air bottled up the Arctic, leading to more Arctic sea ice formation and warmer winter conditions over the U.S. This warm-up is reflected in the latest 6 - 10 day temperature outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (Figure 2.) Could it be the groundhog was right, and we have only three more weeks of winter left? Time will tell--we have little skill predicting what may happen to the Arctic Oscillation more than about two weeks in advance.

Jeff Masters

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I like the Pack but my 7th B-day was Super Bowl One and Ive seen every one,and waited 43 outta 50 yrs for our turn.

So Detroit and a few others have that Burden now,,Sorry Dr. Masters.


I saw Peyton Manning's, Eli's and Coopers Dad, Archie Play his First Saints Game here in a Galaxy and Tulane Stadium far,far away.

But thats a entry fer nuther day.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128875
The warmth arrives over snow-covered ground which will restrain the rise in temperatures at least initially. But it may still produce the area's first above-freezing temperatures in two-weeks beginning this weekend.

Days continue lengthening and the sun has risen in the arctic. This will allow readings there to warm in the weeks ahead. But don't be surprised if the break in the cold air is transitional. Global computer model forecasts hint at warmth rebuilding aloft over the North Atlantic in the 11-15 day range. This might well re-establish the Greenland Block and begin a new cascade of cold air into North America before month's end. Weather history reveals 35 percent of Chicago's seasonal snow falls beyond this date.

Link
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BUSHLAND #1 (MADIS) MBUST2 7° F

Pecos KPEQ 79° F

72 degree difference now where Arctic blast with howling winds and clouds are to warm southerly sunny conditions are within 200 miles
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155. Jax82
In case anyone cares, only 160,380 minutes until hurricane season. And yes i'm bored.
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"Do you light your own farts too?"

LOL, only if I suspect a dangerous foul emission to ensue...
...and by all means, with underwear or other protective clothing on... Trust me, I learned painfully the hard way back in my more adventurous youth!

Hey, c'mon... I only did it (hastily, might add) in the name of advancing scientific knowledge!
;)
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 94 Comments: 4794
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Maybe Google dem Colors with a Mardi Gras Tag.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128875
Quoting Patrap:
Reality is skewed fer some.


And thats Okay.



Im decorating the Front of the Haus here for Mardi Gras.

I have more Lights of the Purple green and gold variety to go Hang.






Drink one for me but don't black out! Or maybe that would be even more fun...LOL!
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Quoting DocNDswamp:


Hiya Eyes,
Might depend on particular location (or definition of a "doozy", lol) - if it's N Cen MS which could get notable snowfall... vs S Cen MS getting more of a possible changeover to frz rain, viewing the model projections of temps aloft... Those of us more on the S side of the system will get more rapid, strongest CAA at sfc to around 850 mb, much less aloft at critical thickness values...

LOL, it's an easier call here in SE LA...



Ty Doc, I'm more S central, little below I-20....would really prefer the snow...lol...MDOT still being talked about here from problems last week....was awful... will be civil unrest if not better this time...;}
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142. JRRP

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Reality is skewed fer some.


And thats Okay.



Im decorating the Front of the Haus here for Mardi Gras.

I have more Lights of the Purple green and gold variety to go Hang.




Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128875
Quoting hurricanejunky:


Are you really that dense? Oh silly me...I should know the answer to that one...one snow storm and now the globe is cooling...what's next genius? Do you light your own farts too?

Oh hey, sarcasm.
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Quoting weatherboy1992:
How do you know the seals will adapt to life on land instead of die out? Can you prove that?




are you sure you want to try 'reason' with this individual?
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135. JRRP
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Pat they should feel right at home when this ARCTIC BLAST comes barreling thru there!!
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Well, my local weather guy on noon news say we are in for "a Doozy of some weather" tomorrow night and early Thur. morn here in cetral Ms. From 2 to 4 inches of snow/or wintry stuff. Someone please take a look and see what it looks like to you. Prepare for a Doozy....lol...or what?


Hiya Eyes,
Might depend on particular location (or definition of a "doozy", lol) - if it's N Cen MS which could get notable snowfall... vs S Cen MS getting more of a possible changeover to frz rain, viewing the model projections of temps aloft... Those of us more on the S side of the system will get more rapid, strongest CAA at sfc to around 850 mb, much less aloft at critical thickness values...

LOL, it's an easier call here in SE LA...

Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 94 Comments: 4794
Im off till March 9th Ash Wednesday,,so me and the Brewski's are staying right here thru Mardi Gras.

Even have some folks from Canada coming.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128875
There wont be beer because that's part of the problems with global warming, too much energy being used and CO2 to make all that stuff and the trucks to ship it out and it's just not practical anymore
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AND we'll shut down all the plants and refineries and just like what PAT posted so were all warm and safe and cozy at the camp fire trying to survive the Arctic Blast that is barreling down into TX as I type.
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* Blast rocks Enterprise Mount Belvieu plant-reports

2:11pm EST


HOUSTON | Tue Feb 8, 2011 2:15pm EST

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Explosions triggered a massive fire at Enterprise Products Mont Belvieu, Texas, natural gas storage plant at about 12:15 p.m. local time, according to local media reports.

KHOU-TV said the blaze at the plant located about 35 miles east of downtown Houston appeared to be burning out of control following a series of explosions.

Mont Belvieu is a major natural gas liquid storage hub.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by David Gregorio)
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128875
And we can all hold hands around the planet and sing Koom by yaaaaa
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And now it's OUR LAND! Pat, build up some buildings and golf courses and more people to inhabit the poles
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A Warming Planet is showing the Stress in the Arctic, like the proverbial Canary in a Cave.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128875
I'm sorry, it's not REALITY, IT'S ACTUAL ALITY!
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This is reality Pat!! North Pole has arrived in TEXAS!!
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try NETFLix
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128875
Dalhart, Texas (Airport)
Updated: 14 min 13 sec ago
7 °F Light Snow
Windchill: -18 °F
Humidity: 67%
Dew Point: -2 °F
Wind: 36 mph from the North
Wind Gust: 43 mph

Pressure: 30.08 in (Falling)
Visibility: 4.0 miles

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DANGEROUS DEGREES
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North Pole is visiting Texas for crying out loud
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Howling Blue Norther blasting thru TX Panhandle!! it's outta control out there folks!
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Quoting MichaelSTL:
Speaking of SSTs, it is interesting to note that despite a La Nina that has set many records (including the highest January SOI on record, after the highest December SOI on record, highest October-December SOI, etc, not to mention near records like the second lowest MEI value of all time), global SSTs have already recovered to 2009 levels; in fact, it is currently closer to 2010 (during the strongest El Nino since 1997-98) than it is to 2008 (the last strong La Nina):



(note also that 2009 started setting monthly SST records beginning in June, of course, related to El Nino, but also the long-term warming trend)


It's also convenient to leave out how this La Nina did, after all, come directly off the heels of one of the strongest El Ninos ever recorded, and it takes a lot to get the global temperature to fall far below average straight off that kind of a peak. 2008's La Nina started with global temperatures over 0.1C cooler than they were when this La Nina started, and we have already fallen a greater amount in global temperature than 2008's La Nina did. If this La Nina is a single-year event then we likely won't get down as far as 2008, which is very typical of ENSO cycles. The bigger question is whether a potential multi-year La Nina event or more frequent La Ninas due to the now negative PDO will help level global temperature off during this decade. In fact, since last decade the trend is already more than flat in the oceans.


Note on the figure: The anomalies here don't matter. The base period does not matter. They are there for relative comparison within the last decade only. It is the trends that matter here.
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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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