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 charlottefl:


If you're using the whole 20th century for an average, then it's ~138 months that have been above the 20th century average. Not debating AGW, just that the number of months does not equate.


The last 318 months covers both the 20th and 21st century, from roughly 1985 to present. That period of 1985 to present has been warmer than the average of the entire 20th century, which is 1901-2000. So yes, the math does equate/compute/make sense.... unless I misunderstood your comment?
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Quoting jpsb:



I posted quotes from the science paper the other day, I suppose I could go googling again. Also the paper from the 70's that claimed increased CO2 could cause global cooling was sited by many dozens of other science papers. If you insist I'll find it again, but I don't think anyone denies the existence of the peer reviewed and often sited paper.

OK, now I am going to read your links


You are probably talking about the Rasool and Scheider (1971) paper. Considering that it is about 40 years old, one might suspect that newer papers may exist to estimate atmospheric forcings, particularly in a science as quickly unfolding as climate science. And this actually has been the case, as newer science has revised estimates of forcing due to carbon dioxide and aerosols, and the authors of the paper have drifted away from their early results. Rasool and Schneider used a small CO2 climate sensitivity that is no longer considered in the likely range, and there is even evidence to suggest that it was a mistake by Schneider that led to the unrealistic value being used.

This unrealistic value for CO2 sensitivity yielded a climate that warmed slowly upon increasing CO2 and aerosol contributions, which eventually slowed in it's warming due to aerosols overwhelming the atmospheric chemistry with their tendency to cause cooling. We know now with the gift of history since 1971 that aerosols have not accumulated quite at the same rate as greenhouse gases due to cleaner factories and power plants. And we also have newer, more precise estimates of the CO2 climate sensitivity, which if used for the Rasool and Schneider paper would have yielded a different result.
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823. JLPR2
98L linked up with what's left of 97L.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8668
OMG.

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Quoting Skyepony:
TRMM got the eye of SONCA. Click pic for quicktime animation.


Has a cute little eye:

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Lets hope conditions aren't favorable once 98L arrives in the Caribbean:

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819. Skyepony (Mod)
TRMM got the eye of SONCA. Click pic for quicktime animation.
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818. jpsb
Quoting bappit:

I checked your link. It cites Newsweek,Washington Times, New York Times, Time Magazine. I don't see references to scientific publications that can be confirmed or discussion of how scientific opinion has treated whatever was published. This link discusses sensationalist opinion, the kind of thing that would have helped sell newspapers and magazines to a mass audience back then.

The web site is "a project of CFACT" according to the banner at the top of the page.
Some people just see what they want to see, you have to read the articles to see that the sources are in fact scientists that feared Global Cooling. (Some of these same scientists today fear runaway AGW global warming.) To deny that is not true is to engage in revisionist history. Facts are stubborn things.

I will grant you that even thou the history of climate scientists predicting future climates is not very good that really has little bearing on todays' climate debate since science has and is (knock on wood) always getting better.
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817. DDR
La nina is back,looks like more devastating floods for Trinidad as we move into the second peak of our rainy season which begins in October through November.
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Quoting QueensEddie:
I find it disturbing re the arctic. As in a canary is dead? And someone is telling my son in school that there is more volume of arctic ice than before. Nuts.


That person at your son's school may be buying some of the claims made on the blog Watts Up With That and D'Aleo.
Link

It somehow gets continuously claimed (even while we break records or near records under calm Arctic conditions) that ice is somehow "recovered" or in some unnamed "cycle" soon to recover. Many times only certain arctic stations are shown in an attempt to promote the idea that the arctic has not warmed faster than any part of the globe and this warming far exceeds anything in 1000-2000 years. And when that fails, they will find a picture here or there where some sea vessel from 50+ years ago found a patch of water with no ice and make interesting postulations that it is a primer for the entire Arctic. These claims are not new, they didn't go away the last time we broke a record, and they wont go away the next time. Sometimes doubt is a bond as strong as certainty.
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:



"Darwinism" in action if he does. (Is that even a word?)


Maybe Closer would be "Darwin Awards Candidate"
http://www.darwinawards.com/
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814. txjac
Quoting sunlinepr:


Fixed my glasses
Crowd disapeared
Lasy turned into a buoy...

And yes... the beach is beautiful..



Thanks for clarifying ..I couldnt stop watching it as I was waiting for her to stand up!
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Quoting txjac:


The beach is beautiful. However are you sure thats a lady in an orange swim cap???


Fixed my glasses
Crowd disapeared
Lady turned into a buoy...

And yes... the beach is beautiful..
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Quoting weatherh98:
blog is slow
american football
Member Since: September 11, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 4512
Levi:

"‎3 invests have popped up in the central and eastern Atlantic. 97L and 99L probably won't be a problem for land. 98L will likely make it into the Caribbean and slowly develop. There's a chance that this will be a catalyst for the western Caribbean, though the GFS still tries to curve it sharply northward while still in the eastern Caribbean. Even if 98L is not the western Caribbean system we've been waiting for, it will likely be land-impacting."
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810. txjac
Quoting sunlinepr:
Watching that crowded beach from the Webcam posted here:
What calls my attention is the lady with the orange swimming head cap.... ;-)

Link


The beach is beautiful. However are you sure thats a lady in an orange swim cap???
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this years summer was very short for la its already getting clold fronts
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Good for us.... that swirl ain't another storm...

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98L stays 20%, 99L down to 10%..

that should make the blog even slower now. WUnderful.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23892
806. SLU
000
ABNT20 KNHC 181739
TWOAT

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT SUN SEP 18 2011

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE LOCATED OVER THE CENTRAL TROPICAL
ATLANTIC ABOUT MIDWAY BETWEEN THE LESSER ANTILLES AND THE WEST
COAST OF AFRICA HAS CHANGED LITTLE IN ORGANIZATION OVER THE PAST
FEW HOURS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS APPEAR FAVORABLE FOR GRADUAL
DEVELOPMENT OF THIS DISTURBANCE OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS AS IT MOVES
SLOWLY WESTWARD. THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...20 PERCENT...OF
BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

SHOWER AND THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY HAS NOT BECOME ANY BETTER ORGANIZED
IN ASSOCIATION WITH A WEAK AREA OF LOW PRESSURE LOCATED ABOUT 1200
MILES EAST OF THE NORTHERN LEEWARD ISLANDS. ANY DEVELOPMENT OF THIS
SYSTEM IS EXPECTED TO BE SLOW TO OCCUR DUE TO UNFAVORABLE
UPPER-LEVEL WINDS. THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF
BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES
WESTWARD AT 10 TO 15 MPH.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BRENNAN



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I've got Crow cooking for the season's over crew.
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804. txjac
Hmmm ...looks like my chances for rain again today are lessening for a bit, maybe some more this afternoon ...

My dog loved her walk this morning as she had puddles to play in. It was so nice to see wetness on the leaves of the plants and trees
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Watching that crowded beach from the Webcam posted here:
What calls my attention is the lady with the orange swimming head cap.... ;-)

Link
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Hmm, Looks like 98L will be an interesting one to watch. Impressive to the sight at first and then becoming viral later....
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Quoting Ineluki:


Oh lord, reading comprehension has died.

The average temperatures for the last 30 years has risen higher than the average temperature for the 20th century. 1985 being in the 20th century doesn't say that the 15 years covered in the 318 months are the average for the entire century. It works like this.

Average temperatures for the last 318 months > the average temperature for the 20th century.

Thanks for playing.


If you're using the whole 20th century for an average, then it's ~138 months that have been above the 20th century average. Not debating AGW, just that the number of months does not equate.
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blog is slow
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Quoting nymore:
Winner winner of a chicken dinner


Oh lord, reading comprehension has died.

The average temperatures for the last 30 years has risen higher than the average temperature for the 20th century. 1985 being in the 20th century doesn't say that the 15 years covered in the 318 months are the average for the entire century. It works like this.

Average temperatures for the last 318 months > the average temperature for the 20th century.

Thanks for playing.
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the catl wave looks kinda big
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Quoting Neapolitan:
So--the fact that the average global temperature has risen is evidence that the globe isn't warming. Hmmm. Care to run that by me again?


That doesn't even make sense to ME, lol.
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Eh nothing has changed on the blog since I left like what? two days ago.I do see we have some systems to at least give us eye candy until the season picks back up.I see a GW discussion is back on the rise.I'm outta here.
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Quoting STLweatherjunkie:


coul's dnt have said it better myself, +1
That's presicely why I follow Dr.Masters discussion,because instead of trying to politicized any serious discussion he brings facts and scientific evidence to support his views.
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Quoting aislinnpaps:
We had rain this morning!!! And I think Houston might have as well. And it looks like there may be more headed our way.

Looks like the season is ramping back up again.

As to the one who calls Irene a dud, there's a five letter word for that one. Just a new name for an old, can't say friend, so guess I'll go back to that five letter word.


I'm not sure anyone called Irene a dud, I know I never did. I've simply stated in various forms that Irene wasn't the end all that the media presented it to be. Additionally, I don't understand the persistent chatter from some here about Irene. Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, the most remarkable thing about that storm was how tremendous the models were on nailing Irene's track, albeit they were way off on intensity.

To put it in perspective, if a significantly destructive storm like Ike were to have made an appearance this year, nobody outside of those directly impacted by Irene would be talking about her. Can you at least admit that?
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So--the fact that the average global temperature has risen is evidence that the globe isn't warming. Hmmm. Care to run that by me again?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13509
Quoting Altestic2012:
Iggy List:

Neapolitan
Patrap


HUH??????????????????????

Well, YOU have just showed US your hand! POOF
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Ummm...because Anthony Watts says it is? ;-)
sorry sorry we already have a winner but you can collect your parting gifts on the way out
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Quoting charlottefl:


1985 is in the 20th century. Therefore it may be an average of part of the 20th century, but it's not a whole 20th century average.


Just remember, figures can be manipulated. Liars figure, figures don't lie.

PS It's a MATH thing! No comment on GW.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

I am honored. Thank you.


lol.

+1
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Quoting Altestic2012:
Iggy List:

Neapolitan
Patrap


They're both excellent bloggers, why would you ignore them? Better yet, why would you announce it?
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Quoting charlottefl:


1985 is in the 20th century. Therefore it may be an average of part of the 20th century, but it's not a whole 20th century average.
Winner winner of a chicken dinner
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Quoting BDADUDE:
You sleep too much.


Heh, it was the best night's sleep I've had in a long while. I'm real tired of only getting 4-5 hours a night. Not, I assure you, on my own volition.
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Quoting nymore:
The 318 month above the 20th century average is nonsense for one simple reason, can anyone here figure out why?


1985 is in the 20th century. Therefore it may be an average of part of the 20th century, but it's not a whole 20th century average.
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Quoting zicoille:

Yeeeeeessssssss !


You, sir, are ignorant.
Member Since: August 27, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1497
Flood Warning for Eastern PR.
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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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