Arctic sea ice bottoms out near all-time low; August was Earth's 4th - 8th warmest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:11 PM GMT on September 17, 2011

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Arctic sea ice extent hit its minimum on September 9 this year, falling to its second lowest value since satellite measurements began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center . More than one third (35%) of the Arctic sea ice was missing this summer, compared to the 1979 - 2000 average. This is an area about the size of the Mediterranean Sea. The 2011 sea ice minimum was very close to the all-time record low set in 2007; in fact, the University of Bremen rated the 2011 loss the greatest on record. For the fourth consecutive year, and fourth time in recorded history, ice-free navigation was possible in the Arctic along the coast of Canada (the Northwest Passage), and along the coast of Russia (the Northeast Passage.) Mariners have been attempting to sail these waters since 1497.

While the record low sea ice year of 2007 was marked by a very unusual 1-in-20 year combination of weather conditions that favored ice loss (including clearer skies, favorable wind patterns, and warm temperatures), 2011's weather patterns were much closer to average. The fact we pretty much tied the record for most sea ice loss this year despite this rather ordinary weather is a result of the fact that large amounts of thicker, multi-year ice has melted or been flushed out of the Arctic since 2007. As a result of the loss of this old, thick ice, both 2010 and now 2011 set new records for the lowest volume of sea ice in the Arctic, according the University of Washington PIOMAS model. Given the very thin ice now covering most of the Arctic, we can expect truly dramatic sea ice loss the next time 1-in-10 year or 1-in-20 year warmth and sunshine invades the Arctic. We are definitely on pace to see the Arctic virtually sea ice-free in summer by 2030, as predicted by several leading Arctic sea ice scientists. I expect we'll see more than half of the Arctic ice gone and the North Pole liquid instead of solid by the summer of 2020, and probably sooner.


Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent in 2011 (blue line) compared to the record low year of 2007 (dashed green line) and average (thick grey line.) Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center .

When was the last time the Arctic was this ice-free?
We can be sure the Northwest Passage was never open for ice-free navigation--particularly ice-free navigation for multiple years in a row--between 1900 and 2000, as we have detailed ice edge records from ships (Walsh and Chapman, 2001). It is very unlikely the Passage was open between 1497 and 1900, since this spanned a cold period in the northern latitudes known as "The Little Ice Age". Ships periodically attempted the Passage and were foiled during this period, and the native Inuit people have no historical tales of the Passage being navigable at any time in the past.

The Northwest passage may have been open multiple years in a row for ice-free navigation at some period during the Medieval Warm Period, between 1000 and 1300 AD. A better candidate was the period 6,000 - 8,500 years ago, when the Earth's orbital variations brought more sunlight to the Arctic in summer than at present. Funder and Kjaer (2007) found extensive systems of wave generated beach ridges along the North Greenland coast that suggested the Arctic Ocean was ice-free in the summer for over 1,000 years during that period. Prior to that, the next likely time was during the last inter-glacial period, 120,000 years ago. Arctic temperatures then were 2 - 3°C higher than present-day temperatures, and sea levels were 4-6 meters higher.

However, it is possible that the recent summer low-ice conditions in the Arctic are unprecedented for the past 800,000 years, according to a 2011 press release by Project CLAMER, a European group dedicated to climate change and European marine ecosystem research. They found that a tiny species of plankton called Neodenticula seminae that went extinct in the North Atlantic 800,000 years ago has become a resident of the Atlantic again, having drifted from the Pacific through the Arctic Ocean thanks to dramatically reduced polar ice. The 1999 discovery represents "the first evidence of a trans-Arctic migration in modern times" related to plankton, according to the UK-based Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, whose researchers warn that "such a geographical shift could transform the biodiversity and functioning of the Arctic and North Atlantic marine ecosystems."

It is possible we'll have a better idea of historical ice-free conditions in the Arctic in the next few years. 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 open during the past 12,000 years.

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.

Funder, S. and K.H. Kjaer, 2007, "A sea-ice free Arctic Ocean?", Geophys. Res. Abstr. 9 (2007), p. 07815.

Walsh, J.E and W.L.Chapman, 2001, "Twentieth-century sea ice variations from observational data", Annals of Glaciology, 33, Number 1, January 2001 , pp. 444-448.

August 2011: Earth's 4th - 8th warmest on record
August 2011 was the globe's 8th warmest August on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies rated August the 4th warmest on record. Land temperatures during August were the 2nd warmest on record, and ocean temperatures were the 12th warmest on record. Ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean's Main Development Region (MDR) for hurricanes, from the coast of Africa to the coast of Central America between 10°N and 20°N latitude, were 0.8°C above average, the 4rd warmest August on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the 6th or 3rd warmest in the 34-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). For more details on global extremes during August, see the details from weather historian Christopher C. Burt.


Figure 2. Departure of temperature from average for August 2011. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

Maria hits Newfoundland
Hurricane Maria hit Newfoundland, Canada yesterday afternoon near 3:30 pm local time as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. However, the hurricane's strongest winds were over water, and the storm brought very little in the way of strong winds or heavy rain to the island. Cape Race at the southeast tip of Newfoundland saw sustained winds of 41 mph, gusting to 54 mph at 3:30 pm Friday as the center of the storm passed. Winds in the capital of St. John's peaked at 37 mph, gusting to 46 mph, at 10:30 am local time. Maria's strike makes this Newfoundland's second consecutive year with a hurricane strike, something that has never occurred since hurricane record keeping began in 1851. Last year, Hurricane Igor killed one person on Newfoundland, and damage exceeded $100 million, making Igor the most damaging tropical cyclone in Newfoundland history.


Figure 3. Satellite image of Hurricane Maria taken at 12:15 pm EDT September 16, 2011. At the time, Maria was a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Image credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab.

Invest 97L
For the first day since August 18, we don't have a named storm in the Atlantic. However, we have a new area to watch. A tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa Friday and is now 300 miles south of the Cape Verde Islands is moving west at 10 - 15 mph. The wave has developed a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity and spin, and has been designated Invest 97L by NHC. Wind shear as diagnosed by the SHIPS model is light, 5 - 10 knots, and is predicted to stay light to moderate through Tuesday morning. Ocean temperatures are 27.5°C, one degree above the threshold typically needed for a tropical storm to spin up. Water vapor satellite images show 97L is embedded in a moist environment.

Most of the models develop 97L into a tropical depression by Tuesday; NHC gave the disturbance a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Monday in their 2 pm Tropical Weather Outlook. 97L should head west or west-northwest towards the Lesser Antilles over the next six days, and could arrive in the islands as early as Friday--though most of the models predict a later arrival. It is likely 97L will encounter the usual troubles storms this year have had with wind shear and dry air on the long trek across the Atlantic.

I'll have a new post on Monday, when I'll discuss the long-range hurricane outlook for the rest of September.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting JLPR2:
98L should be interesting to watch tonight.



You mean during the D-MAX period right?
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14889
Quoting jascott1967:


Bye.


Not cool bro., definitely not cool.

-1
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
974. ackee
most storm this seasons seem track near or over NE carrb I think 98L will be no diffrent if it track thought the carrb may just fizzle out seem like shear may increase by then guess we see
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Quoting Ameister12:
More rain in Texas.

95 sunny with heat index over 100 here south of Austin, again not a drop of rain, showers are isolated and scattered unfortunately. Dryer air moving into Texas
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Just got off the phone with Grothar. He has reopened his WU Mail if you wish to write him.
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971. JLPR2
Quoting CaribBoy:
We had ZERO hurricans in the MDR between africa and the lesser antilles this year


Katia doesn't count?
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
970. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Look at that wave over Western Africa.

May have to watch it for development once it enters the Atlantic, has a very nice spin to it.

Cape Verde season may not be over yet.


Yeah, the land cane. Looked like a TS inland on Friday night.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
We had ZERO hurricanes in the MDR between africa and the lesser antilles this year

EDIT : oops I forgot the great fish Katia
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Favorable shear through 48 hours:


then after...
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Favorable shear through 48 hours:


----

Look at the vorticity associated with that area off the East Coast:

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
Quoting JLPR2:
98L should be interesting to watch tonight.



I wish it won't fizzle over the next few days
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965. JLPR2
98L should be interesting to watch tonight.

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
That ULL is taking its toll on 99L...

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
OH?





Those are 50 kt. winds right there, with a well-defined wave axis as well...Maybe frontal development?


Nothing too organized.. yet.
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i for got too say



97L and 99L RIP
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Quoting Landfall2004:


Taz, it is OK--we know where you are coming from, we have seen it, too. But please know that most of us have a great deal of respect and admiration for you AND MISS YOU!!!! Some were just concerned with the incidents and banning of late.........we have lost many valuable members.....and don't want to lose you!





thanks
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Not everybody is on to read your comments.




oh well thats ok whats done been done whats move on
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Quoting Tazmanian:




nothing am right here





am geting too a point where am going too leve this site and start lurking more am geting sick of this that evere time i leve for the day evere one start makeing up things or start saying things that are not ture or start thinking of things that are not ture it seems like it gos on a lot evere time i leve for today and am geting vary sick of it i cant be on this blog 24hrs a day i got my own life other then this lazy old blog too hang a round on all day


plzs stop with this evere time i leve too go some where this be come i am gone dos NOT MEAN I GOT BAN from the blog


Taz, it is OK--we know where you are coming from, we have seen it, too. But please know that most of us have a great deal of respect and admiration for you AND MISS YOU!!!! Some were just concerned with the incidents and banning of late.........we have lost many valuable members.....and don't want to lose you!
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Quoting Tazmanian:




i said last night and this AM i was going river rafting and may or may not be back on



i say if evere starts reading my commets more they will no where i be at


Not everybody is on to read your comments. If you were wondering where somebody was, and there were no comments that you saw about him, wouldn't you ask to?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Nobody was making up things, just wanted to know where you were.

Chill Taz, go get more fresh air.




i said last night and this AM i was going river rafting and may or may not be back on



i say if evere starts reading my commets more they will no where i be at
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Quoting Tazmanian:




nothing am right here





am geting too a point where am going too leve this site and start lurking more am geting sick of this that evere time i leve for the day evere one start makeing up things or start saying things that are not ture or start thinking of things that are not ture it seems like it gos on a lot evere time i leve for today and am geting vary sick of it i cant be on this blog 24hrs a day i got my own life other then this lazy old blog too hang a round on all day


plzs stop with this evere time i leve too go some where this be come i am gone dos NOT MEAN I GOT BAN from the blog


No taz don't leave, you do a great job at poofing the trolls, pinhole eye.
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
Quoting Tazmanian:




nothing am right here





am geting too a point where am going too leve this site and start lurking more am geting sick of this that evere time i leve for the day evere one start makeing up things or start saying things that are not ture or start thinking of things that are not ture it seems like it gos on a lot evere time i leve for today and am geting vary sick of it i cant be on this blog 24hrs a day i got my own life other then this lazy old blog too hang a round on all day


plzs stop with this evere time i leve too go some where this be come i am gone dos NOT MEAN I GOT BAN from the blog


Nobody was making up things, just wanted to know where you were.

Chill Taz, go get more fresh air.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Well, it was a Katrina-sized Category 1 hurricane or strong tropical storm...Does that count? =P


It would had it not decided to swallow some dry air, pretty close call.
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Quoting tropicfreak:


Wait what happened with taz??




nothing am right here





am geting too a point where am going too leve this site and start lurking more am geting sick of this that evere time i leve for the day evere one start makeing up things or start saying things that are not ture or start thinking of things that are not ture it seems like it gos on a lot evere time i leve for today and am geting vary sick of it i cant be on this blog 24hrs a day i got my own life other then this lazy old blog too hang a round on all day


plzs stop with this evere time i leve too go some where this be come i am gone dos NOT MEAN I GOT BAN from the blog
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Visible Satellite Imagery:


Severe Thunderstorm Watch:
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
Quoting wxgeek723:


The hit was nothin'. Just the forecast of a Katrina-size category 2 making landfall in Atlantic City. THAT really scared me.


Well, it was a Katrina-sized Category 1 hurricane or strong tropical storm...Does that count? =P
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


lol, I was hit too.


The hit was nothin'. Just the forecast of a Katrina-size category 2 making landfall in Atlantic City. THAT really scared me.
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OH?





Those are 50 kt. winds right there, with a well-defined wave axis as well...Maybe frontal development?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
Inactive? Nah...not really:



Holding at 15-14-3-2
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
945. Skyepony (Mod)
Sick Gulf residents continue to blame BP
Many people living near the site of the BP oil spill have reported a long list of similar health problems.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39361
Quoting tropicfreak:


Wait what happened with taz??


Nothing.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
Quoting weatherh98:
Did taz get a perma-ban


Wait what happened with taz??
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
Quoting weatherh98:
Did taz get a perma-ban




NO
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Quoting wxgeek723:


NO. DON'T scare me.


lol, I was hit too.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


More like a Irene track dude.


NO. DON'T scare me.
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Quoting weatherh98:
Did taz get a perma-ban


I thought I saw him this AM. Must be watchin' football or something.
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GOES-13 Low Cloud Product

..click image for Loop


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936. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Eh, that one was slower than this one.

Link

(lol, when I don't need it, it opens just as fast as ever in GC)


LOL!
Well that's interesting. Hm... Strange that's the one I use and it opens fine with GC.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Did taz get a perma-ban
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Recipe for 98L's track:

* 5 tbsp. Emily
* Hint of Irene
* Sprinkle of Katia
* Spice of Don

and just to bring in a 100 year cane


*a spritz of andrew
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Quoting JLPR2:


No idea, had the same problem, but then I found this other ATCF link that works faster than the other.
Link


Eh, that one was slower than this one.

Link

(lol, when I don't need it, it opens just as fast as ever in GC)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

I leave the blog for a couple of hours to finish a few school projects and this is the first comment I see. My god... xD


lol.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
Quoting JLPR2:


LOL! What's coming out of that? The Powerpuff girls? XD

Where's the chemical X? LOL!

I leave the blog for a couple of hours to finish a few school projects and this is the first comment I see. My god... xD
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
930. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I've noticed that none of the web browsers I use like the ATCF page. Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Google Chrome all have troubles opening the page.

Anybody know why?


No idea, had the same problem, but then I found this other ATCF link that works faster than the other.
Link
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting indianrivguy:


They had little experience, most were new, arriving in the boom and had NO idea what a hurricane "really" was. As an example, most of the 100 deaths in Miama were from folks coming out during the eye. In my own family we have a home built of Dade county pine 1903 in Lantana that still stands. There were two more there that were torn down for apts that lasted through the 1980's before demolition. Landfall lives in a 116 year old home of Dade county pine too so a properly constructed wooden home does have "some" chance as long as it isn't a full bore cat 5.

From Wiki, a result of the '26 storm.

In response to the widespread destruction of buildings on Miami Beach, John J. Farrey was appointed Chief Building, Plumbing and Electrical Inspector. He initiated and enforced the first building code in the United States, which more than 5000 US cities duplicated.


Let me tell you what--this old 1895 Dade County Pine house was a rockin' during Frances, Jeanne & Wilma. Creaking, popping and groaning. The chandeliers were swingin'--got it on video. One piece of decorative trim came off the cupola finally--I think with Jeanne, and that is it. Thank GOD we got our hurricane shutters in April 2004!!!!!! Even then, the pressure was forcing water behind the shutters and UP through where the double hung windows come together in the middle and lock--got video of my windows blowing bubbles. Our big mistake was stripping off 100 yrs. of paint and letting water push thru the siding. She leaked like an old ship, but then I guess the wood swelled and the leaks stopped. All the wood dried and we were none the worse for wear---3 times in 13 months!!!
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I've noticed that none of the web browsers I use like the ATCF page. Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Google Chrome all have troubles opening the page.

Anybody know why?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32807
927. JLPR2
Yesterday's runs showed stronger systems. Today's runs show some really weak ones.

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747

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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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