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: 1377 - 1327

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

1376. JLPR2
Waited till 2:30am to see 98L get bumped to red but now I'm a zombie at a university. :\
Thankfully I only have two classes.

Also, it seems like 98L isn't ready to be a TD just yet, needs to maintain heavy convection. As of now 98L is behaving in a similar way to Maria.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting Cotillion:
One big example is the Battle of Britain - clouds obscured RAF pilots view when bombing targets around Berlin, accidentally hitting civilian areas. It was responded to, and the Blitz began, cutting short the battle. The Luftwaffe, according to one historian, may have ran out of time anyway due to the British weather.

Being an island does have significant advantages.

Little closer to the topic - the most fatal hurricane* of all time still to this date in 1780 wrecked several ships involved in the American Revolutionary War.

(* - not the most fatal tropical cyclone, that distinction unfortunately is given to the 1970 Bhola Cyclone. That is a little different - it wasn't a part of a war per se, but it was a huge impact in beginning the Bangladeshi Liberation War due to the poor handling by the Pakistani government at the time in response).


It's a fascinating subject....there was a hurricane which had a big impact on our revolution....the details are fuzzy to me....but I once read a book about it...also, I remember the scene from "Patton' regarding the weather lifting...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Looks like Orlando's first front should arrive by Sunday/Monday-Our first taste of Fall!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Well, I'm off to the place called High School.

Be back this afternoon (3:45ish).
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32813
Another good lines of storms came through Houston this morning (well good in that they brought more rain - bad if they knocked down any trees although ultimately it will do way more good than harm). Another. 83 inches of rain at my house which gets me close to 3 inches in 3 days.

The rain will let up in this part of Texas later this morning likely. We may have light rain the next two days with a slightly better chance of rain Thursday in advance of a cold front that definitely will cool things down and dry the air again.

Hopefully my Texas friends did as well as we did.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32813
ex 97L looking better
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
One big example is the Battle of Britain - clouds obscured RAF pilots view when bombing targets around Berlin, accidentally hitting civilian areas. It was responded to, and the Blitz began, cutting short the battle. The Luftwaffe, according to one historian, may have ran out of time anyway due to the British weather.

Being an island does have significant advantages.

Little closer to the topic - the most fatal hurricane* of all time still to this date in 1780 wrecked several ships involved in the American Revolutionary War.

(* - not the most fatal tropical cyclone, that distinction unfortunately is given to the 1970 Bhola Cyclone. That is a little different - it wasn't a part of a war per se, but it was a huge impact in beginning the Bangladeshi Liberation War due to the poor handling by the Pakistani government at the time in response).
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Neapolitan:
New EPAC invest:

BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_ep962011.invest
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201109191149
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END
INVEST, EP, E, , , , , 96, 2011, DB, O, 2011091906, 9999999999, , , , , , METWATCH, , EP962011
EP, 96, 2011091906, , BEST, 0, 124N, 932W, 25, 0, DB, 0, , 0, 0, 0, 0,


Expected.

That'll be Hilary.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32813
New EPAC invest:

BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_ep962011.invest
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201109191149
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END
INVEST, EP, E, , , , , 96, 2011, DB, O, 2011091906, 9999999999, , , , , , METWATCH, , EP962011
EP, 96, 2011091906, , BEST, 0, 124N, 932W, 25, 0, DB, 0, , 0, 0, 0, 0,
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weatherh98:
wow go to bed with a low orange wakeup with a low red


Just wait until the "go to bed with a tropical storm, wake up with a rapidly intensifying hurricane" happens.

Does it every year..
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32813
And yeah, I'd look forward to reading a piece on warfare and weather. Many interesting examples over the years which have greatly impacted the course of history.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
wow go to bed with a low orange wakeup with a low red
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


1. AN AREA OF LOW PRESSURE LOCATED ABOUT 1450 MILES EAST OF THE
WINDWARD ISLANDS CONTINUES TO SHOW SIGNS OF ORGANIZATION...AND
ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS APPEAR FAVORABLE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A
TROPICAL DEPRESSION DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS. THIS SYSTEM HAS
A HIGH CHANCE...60 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING
THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT BEGINS TO MOVE WESTWARD AT ABOUT 10 MPH.

2. THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY IS LIMITED IN ASSOCIATION WITH A SMALL AREA OF
LOW PRESSURE LOCATED ABOUT 900 MILES EAST OF THE NORTHERN LEEWARD
ISLANDS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ARE NOT FAVORABLE FOR SIGNIFICANT
DEVELOPMENT...AND THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...NEAR 0 PERCENT...
OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES
WESTWARD AT 10 TO 15 MPH.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32813
A lot of the models aren't showing as much shear as they were yesterday. In fact, the LGEM doesn't weaken the system through 120 hours.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32813
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
The 00Z run of the GFS at 96 hours shows 98L continuing to move west at about the same strength near 12.5 N 52 W. As a tropical depression, and it seems to have been a tropical depression for 2 days at this point.

The Cape Verde low is now moving more northwestward near 20 N 29 W at about the same strength. There is a weakness in the ridge to its north.

The 3rd low is near 12.5 N 35 W and looking weaker.
For us in PUerto Rico "El grito De Lares" an insurrection for the independence of PUerto Rico,September 23, 1868 failed mostly because the help that were expecting in the island from the DR, some Ships full with weapons and men, couldn't cross the Mona Canal, their was a Hurricane crossing the Channel. A Weather fact that changed history for our island.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good Morning All.

Invest 98L is now up to Code Red, as I expected it would today. There is deep convection atop a well-defined center or circulation, as an earlier ASCAT pass caught. The invest is well on its way to tropical depression status, and it may become one tomorrow morning, if not today.



Meanwhile, poor 99L is still being sheared, but it is beginning to lessen over the system. It has very little thunderstorm activity, but a well-defined swirl, and it wouldn't surprise me to see 99L become a tropical depression eventually.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32813
Quoting aislinnpaps:


LOL, love it!

Houston is getting even more than here according to the radar. Shreveport, LA had around 3.5 inches and Arkansas had around 5.5 I think? Not as much here, but that's all right. Houston looks like it will get a good amount.
The front split 100 miles west of Austin and 100 miles east of Austin, Austin and my area did not get even a trace of rain, now dry air has moved in. It is suppose to cool off later this week with no rain here. I will take the cooler weather since it was near 100 here Sunday.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1358. WxLogic
As far as conditions are concern... 98L is currently under a very little SAL environment:



Moisture wise... is located in the middle of a decent moisture (high PW) envelope that will assist in further enhancing the environment for development.





Finally, it has a quite decent and well shaped 850MB/700MB VORT, and which should be able to propagate to 500MB once it detaches some more from the Monsoonal TROF:



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I hope Levi makes a new video today. His last one is from the 16. He makes complated things SEEM simple.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Blog has a lot of new faces (and some familiar ones too).

Totally different complexion than a month ago.

Looks like we have two contestants.

For those of us in the SEUS, 98L looks like the one that could get closer, and 99L has the more aggressive intensity scheme.

Both look to be a threat to the Leewards.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1355. WxLogic
Quoting Chicklit:
Hi WxLogic, where do you think 98L is headed?


Hi Chicklit... For at least the next 48 to 72HR it should be heading to the W to WNW (at times).

Here's the current steering (as you know) which shows a pretty respectable Bermuda High which extends over to the E GOM:



Can't disagree with 98L being a Carib. type system such as Emily.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I have decide that the models are pretty much usless until you at least have a closed low, or possobibly even a depresion.

After they get a fix on the closed low they are pretty darn good for the first 4 days.

Now for our new RED circle, hum,
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Off to my classroom. Everyone have a great Monday!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Ooops.

"Leading UK polar scientists say the Times Atlas of the World was wrong to assert that it has had to re-draw its map of Greenland due to climate change.

Publicity for the latest edition of the atlas, launched last week, said warming had turned 15% of Greenland's former ice-covered land "green and ice-free".

But scientists from the Scott Polar Research Institute say the figures are wrong; the ice has not shrunk so much."

Naughty. Link

(however, before anyone tries to claim it's some conspiracy, note the following: 'The Times Atlas is not owned by The Times newspaper. It is published by Times Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, which is in turn owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.' Same conglomerate behind Fox.)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:


Posted you some links back there. People's Doctors are sending their blood to labs & the results comeback with off the chart levels of hexane & other VOCs found in the dispersant used & oil vapors. You either haven't looked at the evidence or don't believe in Chemistry & hematology. Knowing people & a Dr in the area, I've heard some first hand stories..People have died. Also BP has payed no one for claiming to be sick..I don't see where people are scamming BP by saying they are sick..most are paying for detox out of pocket & then moving away with no compensation.


Lol. Oh the irony. In the meanwhile, they have no idea that we're having a widespread vitamin D deficiency that is costing us 4 TRILLION dollar in medical expense over the next 10 years!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hi WxLogic, where do you think 98L is headed?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting leicesterlass:
Can someone explain how or why WU shows co-ordinates for 98 at 2a.m. at 11.7 37.2 yet stormpulse shows 9.7 39.5 at 2 a.m. As I am in Grenada, those two degrees make a big difference to my preps.


Until a real center forms it's not a bad idea to keep watching it.
LinkNHCTropicalCyclonePage
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1348. WxLogic
Good Morning...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
caribbeantracker01:

me too am in grrenz whats poppin i wonder if the country is able to deal with any storm?
Although worse for the wear, we survived IVAN but don't think we will come back as quickly from another direct hit.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
98L
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good morning, 98L developing and Roke is going to strafe the east coast of Japan.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting leicesterlass:
Can someone explain how or why WU shows co-ordinates for 98 at 2a.m. at 11.7 37.2 yet stormpulse shows 9.7 39.5 at 2 a.m. As I am in Grenada, those two degrees make a big difference to my preps.

me too am in grrenz whats poppin i wonder if the country is able to deal with any storm?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Can someone explain how or why WU shows co-ordinates for 98 at 2a.m. at 11.7 37.2 yet stormpulse shows 9.7 39.5 at 2 a.m. As I am in Grenada, those two degrees make a big difference to my preps.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:
Ais, that's good news. I see Houston got/is getting some rain too, and there's a hint of more throughout the week.
But I don't wish the 8.1 inches I got in a 6hour period on you.
Enjoy it. Heck, freeze some and save it for posterity.


LOL, love it!

Houston is getting even more than here according to the radar. Shreveport, LA had around 3.5 inches and Arkansas had around 5.5 I think? Not as much here, but that's all right. Houston looks like it will get a good amount.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1339. aquak9
Ais, that's good news. I see Houston got/is getting some rain too, and there's a hint of more throughout the week.
But I don't wish the 8.1 inches I got in a 6hour period on you.
Enjoy it. Heck, freeze some and save it for posterity.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Morning Aqua and all,
Woke up at 2:30, thought the world was going to end. It was thunder!! *G* And lovely rain. The wind though was very strong, almost shook the house. I lay there listening to it howl. It's been quite a while since I've heard that.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
morning
it looks certaun now that ophelia will affect the windwards and barbados later this week. the gfs is saying that the system will increase in forewaed speed and weakens in the caribbean. the other models have it moving slower.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting farupnorth:
Don't know if posted yet but this is a pretty cool photo sequence taken from the ISS:

Link


That's very cool. I especially enjoyed the lightning under the clouds. It would've been better, however, if we knew which country was which though, lol.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Don't know if posted yet but this is a pretty cool photo sequence taken from the ISS:

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
This is a video clip of a depiction of the battle of Carrhae (June 9-12, 53 B.C) I really like the Suren (Saka) archers and their uniforms. You can see them very briefly at 34 seconds and from 6:22-6:35. The first segment is mostly introductory about the politics and background before the battle. The next two segments show the real action.

The heat really fried the Romans.

Alexander the Great was smarter. He invaded near the same location and fought the battle of Guagemala where he defeated the Persian empire---in October!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Yup! There was one run of the GFS a few days ago that brought a system into the Atlantic about now, and turned it into a hurricane before it reached the Cape Verde islands!

I don't think that's ever happened and I doubt it will now. But I think it looks good!

Track will probably be NW and stay out to sea after the Cape Verdes.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1329. JLPR2
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
Thats quite an MCC over southern Senegal, JLPR2.

It's too bad we don't have radar coverage in west Africa. I'd like to see how the storm clusters there compare with MCC's here.



That spin has looked great for two days, I wonder if it'll hold together for one more.
If it does, it'll pretty much be an instantaneous CV storm, just add water. XD
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
1328. JLPR2
Looking better.

And with that I'm off to bed.
Goodnight everyone!
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
I see the NHC has 60% for 98L.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 1377 - 1327

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.

Local Weather

Overcast
27 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Lake Effort Snow Shower Over Windsor, Ontario
Sunset on Dunham Lake
Pictured Rocks Sunset
Sunset on Lake Huron