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 Tazmanian:
here where i put things


IE 9 F -

firefox D-


chrom A


and any thing else F-


Safari is C/B
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6877
the W PAC sure dos have some odd names but i would love too see the W PAC make it too this name but vary un likey



here the name i want too see the W PAC make it too Zigzag
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115104
Quoting bappit:

Notice that little blow up of convection over Houston? : )
Well you're smiling, so you must be getting rain.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I have an off-topic question that might make some of you laugh.

People always say that rock beats paper. Stand in front of me while I throw a rock at you and you are protecting yourself with a piece of paper, and tell me which one wins. =)

paper covers rock, rock breaks scissors, scissors cut paper.

I get what you are trying to say...just got it backwards...if PAPER cover ROCK...then the rest of your comment. And, yes, it is funny. Got a great laugh out of that thought. Thanks.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:
While we are talking about beasts -


gotta love the classics. classic rock that is

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I have an off-topic question that might make some of you laugh.

People always say that rock beats paper. Stand in front of me while I throw a rock at you and you are protecting yourself with a piece of paper, and tell me which one wins. =)
ROFLMAO...do you have one for scissors beating rock, or paper beating scissors?
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Quoting bappit:

Notice that little blow up of convection over Houston? : )


I am just east of Houston. We had a light rain that lasted 10 minutes about two hours ago. There was a lot of activity near San Antonio moving our way but, I doubt it holds together long enough to reach us.
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Quoting Tazmanian:


IDK
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6877
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I have an off-topic question that might make some of you laugh.

People always say that rock beats paper. Stand in front of me while I throw a rock at you and you are protecting yourself with a piece of paper, and tell me which one wins. =)

LOL That's classic.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5682
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Monster ULL in the middle of the Atlantic and one over the Caribbean



Notice that little blow up of convection over Houston? : )
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Quoting sunlinepr:


New Stealth fighter with stolen US Techno
New aircraft carrier released / 4 in construction
New GPS more accurate than the US
Soon, new helicopter with stealth techno...
Space program with different launching sites around the country
Owns nearly 30% of US debt..
and will keep receiving all the new techno gizmos free to be produced there and be pirated by them...

Closed internet for their area...


And the beat goes on.
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East Pacific hasn't had a named storm form in over a month. SST anomalies which were once slightly above average near central America and south America have returned back to below normal.

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Quoting jpsb:

Just to continue the discussion on Solar,

Solar is very good at heating water up to about 120-140F, I have thought about trying to build a solar heating system for the few cold days I experience here in Texas, if done properly such a system could supply hot water for showers, dishes etc. All you would really need is a lot of black water hoses, maybe a reserve water tank and a little wind mills to move water thru the system. I'm building a little wind mill to pump water out of my well for my garden, if I get that right I might work on a solar heating system too. I think it's doable now. Solar for electricity? Maybe later.

I got hot water out of my attic this past summer. Just the pipes (hot and cold) sitting in the attic during the heat of the day. Cheap construction.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I have an off-topic question that might make some of you laugh

People always say that rock beats paper. Stand in front of me while I throw a rock at you and you are protecting yourself with a piece of paper, and tell me which one wins. =)


I thought "paper covers rock" wins???
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
There is a new tropical disturbance in the Eastern Pacific taking place...Should take the name "Hilary" over the next few days, potentially becoming the seasons first and last hurricane. Of course, it may not develop at all, but it has the model support.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32046
511. JLPR2
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Jeez 70 knot winds blowing off of the East Coast the Jet Stream must be located there & 50 knots of wind shear associated with our Atlantic ULL.



But the ULL in the Eastern Caribbean has weakened considerably.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8697
I have an off-topic question that might make some of you laugh.

People always say that rock beats paper. Stand in front of me while I throw a rock at you and you are protecting yourself with a piece of paper, and tell me which one wins. =)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32046
here where i put things


IE 9 F -

firefox D-


chrom A


and any thing else F-
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115104
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Monster ULL in the middle of the Atlantic and one over the Caribbean


definitely a beast.





here's some music during these quiet times
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Jeez 70 knot winds blowing off of the East Coast the Jet Stream must be located there & 50 knots of wind shear associated with our Atlantic ULL.

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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

IE doesn't get an F, it should get an F-, or
-16,789,546%.


Agree 100%
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Quoting TomTaylor:
Exactly how I felt switching from IE to FF.

Also, I wouldn't say FF is that bad. It has a lot of add-ons which can be very helpful, like DownloadHelper which allows you to take just about any internet video (youtube included) and download it onto your computer.

I'd rate it like this

IE: F
Safari: B-
FF: A-
Google Chrome: A

IE doesn't get an F, it should get an F-, or
-16,789,546%.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5682
Quoting jpsb:
We have rare earth minerals here, it is just cheaper to buy from China then to mine here. If that changes we will mine here.


I completely agree with you. We do have rare earth mines here. We just do not have enough to compete against China and their mines. China will control the rare earth markets, not the U.S.. Hopefully, we are smart enough to use our supplies for our own purposes and to not try to compete China's resources. We could not win that battle.
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Monster ULL in the middle of the Atlantic and one over the Caribbean


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Quoting JLPR2:
This is sad.




97L RIP
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115104
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Its not slow on the blog...its just not fast.



Internet Explorer isn't feeling the love tonight...lol.


See, another F for IE.
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498. JLPR2
This is sad.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8697
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Its not slow on the blog...its just not fast.



Internet Explorer isn't feeling the love tonight...lol.
can't stand IE lol.

It's gotten better though, so I suppose it doesn't deserve an F, but it's definitely the worst of the most popular browsers.
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seems too me Chrome 14 has a new UI and many new tools
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115104
Quoting TomTaylor:
hey, not much

watching my brother and Jackass 3.5 lolz

another slow night on the blog I see

LOL
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5682
I really wish we had better modeling of the MJO

wtf is this supposed to mean lol




Models are basically all over the place as far as where the MJO will go.
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so oh has Chrome 14
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115104
492. jpsb
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


I get a 404 error - Page not found

Never mind. A found a space, in the link, that should not be there.

Added - I read the article. China still controls 90% of the world's rare earth mining. China still has control, sooner or later.
We have rare earth minerals here, it is just cheaper to buy from China then to mine here. If that changes we will mine here.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1191
Its not slow on the blog...its just not fast.

Quoting TomTaylor:
Exactly how I felt switching from IE to FF.

Also, I wouldn't say FF is that bad. It has a lot of add-ons which can be very helpful, like DownloadHelper which allows you to take just about any internet video (youtube included) and download it onto your computer.

I'd rate it like this

IE: F
Safari: B-
FF: A-
Google Chrome: A


Internet Explorer isn't feeling the love tonight...lol.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32046
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Wasabi! XD
hey, not much

watching my brother and Jackass 3.5 lolz

another slow night on the blog I see
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Quoting tropicfreak:


I've had chrome for over a year now, it's awesome and super quick!




dos you have chrom 14?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115104
488. jpsb
Quoting Skyepony:

Just to continue the discussion on Solar,

Solar is very good at heating water up to about 120-140F, I have thought about trying to build a solar heating system for the few cold days I experience here in Texas, if done properly such a system could supply hot water for showers, dishes etc. All you would really need is a lot of black water hoses, maybe a reserve water tank and a little wind mills to move water thru the system. I'm building a little wind mill to pump water out of my well for my garden, if I get that right I might work on a solar heating system too. I think it's doable now. Solar for electricity? Maybe later.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1191
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
O-M-G-!

Google Chrome is so much better than firefox...

First time user (:
Exactly how I felt switching from IE to FF.

Also, I wouldn't say FF is that bad. It has a lot of add-ons which can be very helpful, like DownloadHelper which allows you to take just about any internet video (youtube included) and download it onto your computer.

I'd rate it like this

IE: F
Safari: B-
FF: A-
Google Chrome: A
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
486. JLPR2
Only one area of intense convection.

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8697
Quoting TomTaylor:
yo im back


Quick! Where is your brother? LOL
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Quoting TomTaylor:
yo im back

Wasabi! XD
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5682
Well while we're talking about internet web browsers, anyone still uses Netscape Navigator?
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482. JLPR2
Saw some videos of Irene in PR and wondered, why didn't I take one. :\

Dang! Next storm I'll take a short video.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8697
Quoting TomTaylor:
yo im back


Hey.

We we're just talking about my first time experience with Google Chrome, lol.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32046
Quoting AvidWeatherHound:


Exactly! However I'd give IE an F.


Well...I wouldn't give it an F, because its what I used to use and it was pretty good. Of course, my opinion changed when I met firefox :P
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32046
Quoting interstatelover7165:
Sloooooooooowwwwwwwwwww Blog Tonight,Huh? Anybody? Anybody Home? Hello?
yo im back
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Internet Explorer: D

Firefox: B

Google Chrome: A++++


Exactly! However I'd give IE an F.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Internet Explorer: D

Firefox: B

Google Chrome: A++++


I've had chrome for over a year now, it's awesome and super quick!
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6877

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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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