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

Share this Blog
34
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 927 - 877

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29Blog Index

927. JLPR2
Yesterday's runs showed stronger systems. Today's runs show some really weak ones.

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8732
926. Skyepony (Mod)
Fine particle air pollution is up to moderate range on parts of the Gulf coast today..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
925. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Recipe for 98L's track:

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


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

Where's the chemical X? LOL!
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8732
More rain in Texas.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Recipe for 98L's track:

* 5 tbsp. Emily
* Hint of Irene
* Sprinkle of Katia
* Spice of Don
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32255
Quoting JLPR2:


And a spice of Don. XD


lol.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32255
921. JLPR2
Quoting indianrivguy:


wow, it wrecked the forest. I saw that after Andrew, pictures don't do it justice.


Yes, although that allowed light to reach the ground in many areas and that helped in the growth of new trees, so hurricanes actually trigger a renewal process.

Luquillo and Rio Grande(where the forest is located) are right to the west of Fajardo, so even though the eye didn't pass through there, the eyewall surely did.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8732
920. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Maybe a sprinkle of Katia? =P


And a spice of Don. XD
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8732
Quoting JLPR2:


According to the models 98L might have more of an Emily track but with a hint of Irene.


Maybe a sprinkle of Katia? =P
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32255
918. jpsb
Quoting indianrivguy:


It was at that time the largest ship to have entered the harbor. It was going to be used as a floating hotel. I have found a TON of old images of Biscayne Bay in that era and was prolly as surprised as you that so many ships were still blowboats. I think many also had steam, but kept using sails when it was advantageous.
I was surprised, 4 masted to boot and I see more then one in your pic so, yeah sailing ships still used for commercial trade. I thought steam and oil had put the schooners out of business back in the 1890's. Thanks for the history lesson.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
WHO DAT!!!!! The Bears found out Who Dat is. Jay Cutler found out fuh sho.

Man what happened? I was here yesterday and there was one little struggling invest way out there. I get on now and wow there are 3.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:
22 years ago today, Hugo made landfall in Eastern Puerto Rico, in the Municipality of Fajardo as a strong category 3 hurricane after ravaging the NE Lesser Antilles, Vieques and Cuelebra.



A view of El Yunque National Forest after Hugo.


wow, it wrecked the forest. I saw that after Andrew, pictures don't do it justice.
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2556
Almost 90 degrees here in no. Cali. Way too nice outside to be sitting in front of a computer.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
914. JLPR2
22 years ago today, Hugo made landfall in Eastern Puerto Rico, in the Municipality of Fajardo as a strong category 3 hurricane after ravaging the NE Lesser Antilles, Vieques and Cuelebra.



A view of El Yunque National Forest after Hugo.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8732
I'm surprised no one has brought up Roke looping aimlessly near the Ryukyu Islands.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BDADUDE:
Its not a good idea to build houses from lumber in Florida anyway.


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.
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2556
98L will have a new track compared to Maria, Katia and Irene. It will continue on a westerly track.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting indianrivguy:
Hey Pat!

Closer look at the track with forward speed, strength and approximate eye size



27.61 inHg is the recorded pressure for the '26 in MiamI

A stuck barometer



South Beach



Coral Gables




Twas a Bad Hurricane by any standard fer sure irg.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
909. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


More like a Irene track dude.


According to the models 98L might have more of an Emily track but with a hint of Irene.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8732
908. JLPR2
Quoting CaribBoy:


That's increase the chance for a IRENE-like track... towards the NE Carib instead of being a caribbean cruiser.


Not sure about that, but it means the 18z model suite isn't accurate.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8732
You can tell that the Atlantic is moistening up..MJO returning.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32255
Hey Pat!

Closer look at the track with forward speed, strength and approximate eye size



27.61 inHg is the recorded pressure for the '26 in MiamI

A stuck barometer



South Beach



Coral Gables

Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2556
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


More like a Irene track dude.
Time will tell i guess. WE will have to wait and see.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BDADUDE:
More like a Katia track dude.


More like a Irene track dude.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32255
Quoting jpsb:
Sailing ships? 1926? Wow.


It was at that time the largest ship to have entered the harbor. It was going to be used as a floating hotel. I have found a TON of old images of Biscayne Bay in that era and was prolly as surprised as you that so many ships were still blowboats. I think many also had steam, but kept using sails when it was advantageous.
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2556
Quoting CaribBoy:


That's increase the chance for a IRENE-like track... towards the NE Carib instead of being a caribbean cruiser.
More like a Katia track dude.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:
98L's file was edited at 20z and it was relocated to the NW of the last position.

AL, 98, 2011091818, , BEST, 0, 119N, 364W


That's increase the chance for a IRENE-like track... towards the NE Carib instead of being a caribbean cruiser.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:
This area seems interesting.



Sure it will develop before 98L lol... another boring fish
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
899. JLPR2
98L's file was edited at 20z and it was relocated to the NW of the last position.

AL, 98, 2011091818, , BEST, 0, 119N, 364W
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8732
Quoting Martuch:
Are you expecting a tropical Storm for the Antilles on friday?
let me know your opinions thanks
San Juan PR


Possibly.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32255
Quoting CitikatzSouthFL:


Awful storm and results. By the way, it is MIAMI not Miama. Thanks


btw, it was Maama once upon a time, as an "old timer" born and raised there I still say Miama.... and hurrikin :)
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2556
Are you expecting a tropical Storm for the Antilles on friday?
let me know your opinions thanks
San Juan PR
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
895. jpsb
Quoting indianrivguy:


It KILLED all hope the land boom would continue. It was already slowing down as the land speculators were out of control and then in Jan 1926, the Prinz Valdemar sank in the channel preventing more 100 ships with some 45 million board feet of lumber from being delivered.

Sailing ships? 1926? Wow.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
looks extratropical on water vapor loop
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Haven't been on here since Maria was named, but seem like this September is surprising not active this year which is good for East Coast. This is very confusing...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting indianrivguy:


It KILLED all hope the land boom would continue. It was already slowing down as the land speculators were out of control and then in Jan 1926, the Prinz Valdemar sank in the channel preventing more 100 ships with some 45 million board feet of lumber from being delivered.

Its not a good idea to build houses from lumber in Florida anyway.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:
This area seems interesting.




yes might get a noreaster out of that stuff
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting biloxibob:
Yes. and according to my grandfather,the storm immediately,ended a construction boom in south Florida!


It KILLED all hope the land boom would continue. It was already slowing down as the land speculators were out of control and then in Jan 1926, the Prinz Valdemar sank in the channel preventing more 100 ships with some 45 million board feet of lumber from being delivered.

Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2556
889. JLPR2
This area seems interesting.

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8732
Quoting nofailsafe:




The ensemble members seem to diverge a little towards the end of their runs, I suspect that if they're right, 98L will have a somewhat more northerly component to it putting it near the leeward islands instead of farther south in the windward chain.

Troughs coming off CONUS would help move it further north and potentially off to sea. However it may be too far south to be affected by any which most of the models seem to indicate and some of the ensemble members.

We'll see what happens with this, could be interesting.
Looks like it will follow a similiar path to Katia.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Raining hard in San Juan right now. What is new here as the wet pattern has been with us almost all year.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
GFS says upward motion of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) in the Caribbean by the end of September. This would significantly help anything trying to develop in the Western Caribbean.



(Click to enlarge, then you can zoom.)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32255
Quoting jpsb:
www.usinflationcalculator.com/


Thanks
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32255
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
There's no reason the surge of moisture associated with 98l would be compromised, even if neither system develops into a depression... Expect your rain.


thanks for being optimistic ;-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
883. jpsb
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Anybody have a USD converter calculator link?

like $1,246 2004 USD = X 2011 USD
www.usinflationcalculator.com/
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
Quoting CaribBoy:
I wish 98L will bring at least a good shower to the islands ^^... and even that seems a little too much generous.
There's no reason the surge of moisture associated with 98l would be compromised, even if neither system develops into a depression... Expect your rain.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Anybody have a USD converter calculator link?

like $1,246 2004 USD = X 2011 USD
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32255
Quoting CaribBoy:


Pathetic for september!


After the Frances and Jeanne whammy, SOME of us are breathing a sigh of relief!!!! LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I wish 98L will bring at least a good shower to the islands ^^... and even that seems a little too much generous.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 927 - 877

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29Blog Index

Top of Page

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.