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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Seems a bit cloudy.
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Ugh, more rain coming for PR.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Over 5" of Rain in some areas.


Texas finally getting something...
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like where my home page buttin on this thing lol
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:


Over 5" of Rain in some areas.

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Quoting FrankZapper:
Congratulation to all Texans for the rain. Hope this is the beginning of a good thing.


Might be for the eastern half of the state. Not a drought buster by any means but you've got to start somewhere.

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Quoting FrankZapper:
There is a current poster who follows that exact policy of calling one a troll if he feels they are downcasting and then brags about how many trolls he has on ignore and even harasses others as to who they should ignore. Very immature and distasteful.

You may be right. If it's who I am thinking. I'm thinking "savant", may be apropos. Should I be wrong...Apropos to you. Should I be right. Shame! Tolerance is not your strong suite. Understanding,even less so.
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Quoting BDADUDE:
Stick with ie dude. its the best and very safe.


Stick with Chrome. Doesn't have the memory leaks that Firefox does, is more stable and less vulnerable to spyware and viruses than IE and is HTML 5 compliant.
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Quoting jascott1967:


Sarcasm on:
Sorry it was over-hyped.
Sorry you took the bait.
Sarcasm off:
Not sorry it wasn't, in the end, as destructive as you hype it.

Link

In the end, after the real totals are in, you will see the happy truth about Irene and understand.

You know guys, its posts like these that make me think that he wouldn't really consider a system really destructive unless it was another Katrina.

Best just to ignore him..
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Quoting FrankZapper:
Congratulation to all Texans for the rain. Hope this is the beginning of a good thing.


yes, so glad they are getting it. We aren't getting any but we got some from Lee so its ok.

Are any of these rains getting where the fires are or were?
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


Tom,you may enjoy next week than,they saying a warmup with offshore flow,not quite a santa ana,but offshore,so you on the coast might be warmer than me in the mountains.
Do not want to see an offshore in SoCal with all these brown hills waiting for a spark :(
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Congratulation to all Texans for the rain. Hope this is the beginning of a good thing.
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263. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Still disabled or does it show?



raleighwx still has it disabled.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I'm sorry I keep posting about one of the most costliest hurricanes to hit the USA.

I'm sorry for posting the latest information and damage totals coming in as well.

Sarcasm Flag: ON


Sarcasm on:
Sorry it was over-hyped.
Sorry you took the bait.
Sarcasm off:
Not sorry it wasn't, in the end, as destructive as you hype it.

Link

In the end, after the real totals are in, you will see the happy truth about Irene and understand.
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If it didn't work, here.

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Still disabled or does it show?

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i would believe that Artic Sea ice is at a record low. However i can read a graph dr. Masters
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:
Gotta go the biscuits is ready to come outta the oven. Ya'll be good off up in here.


what no shrimps tonight :(
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257. JLPR2
Direct hit on the CV islands.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting TomTaylor:
yeah, down at the coast its even cooler...too cool for me lol

ah yea I figured you guys weren't getting much. When I was watching the satellite loops though, just about the entire south west region of the US was getting subtropical moisture and thunderstorm development. Unfortunately the ULL that brought the moisture into the region was too close to us and kept us dry along the coast in southern California.


Tom,you may enjoy next week than,they saying a warmup with offshore flow,not quite a santa ana,but offshore,so you on the coast might be warmer than me in the mountains.
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Quoting JUSTPLAINWRONG:
just watch how they change the forcast and track of 97 every hour or 2 up to 30% down to 10% up to 60% down to 20% then its going this way then going that way then falling apart then regenerating then heading towards florida then falling apart then heading towards bermuda then stalling for 1 week they have no idea whats gonna happen but i know it will be nothing or a fish if it even develops and thats a huge if no matter what the models say they have been wrong all year with every storm intensity and track so why rack your brains for the next 10 days



Here is a good site you might like !! AQUARIACENTRAL.COM
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Quoting seafarer459:

It's not the differing of opinions, it's the attitude.
If differing opinions were a prerequisite for trolliness half the commentators would be trolls.
There is a current poster who follows that exact policy of calling one a troll if he feels they are downcasting and then brags about how many trolls he has on ignore and even harasses others as to who they should ignore. Very immature and distasteful.
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251. seafarer459


anytime,,been using it since TS Lee.
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252. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Don't forget the ECMWF, CMC, NOGAPS, and UKMET.


Nogaps has a train of storms.

Two in the CATL and one starting to get going at the coast of Africa. Nuts!
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting Patrap:


Speed mostly,,and how it Handles Flash player on the NOAA loops as well.

More here

What makes Google Chrome different is its architecture.


Thanks Pat & Taz. Points to ponder. Will take it for a spin
Again...Thanks
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


his, and pretty much his only. :P

Planet (word that would get me banned)
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Rina is coming by the first week of October, if not before. Models are back on with Caribbean development, especially the GFS.


hmm, wonder if Rina could be a Rita.....just kidding...
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Quoting JLPR2:
If the GFS checks out by the middle of the week we should have two new storms.



Don't forget the ECMWF, CMC, NOGAPS, and UKMET.
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247. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


his, and pretty much his only. :P


In Bill Gate's world too. xD
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
246. JLPR2
If the GFS checks out by the middle of the week we should have two new storms.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

On what planet is IE better than Chrome?!


his, and pretty much his only. :P
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Quoting jascott1967:


I think another reason people are leaving is because others keep drudging up the same information over and over again. For example, the information you keep posting about Irene is getting tiresome. I can't remember a post Irene blog that you haven't mentioned that storm. She's gone dude. Let her go...


I'm sorry I keep posting about one of the most costliest hurricanes to hit the USA.

I'm sorry for posting the latest information and damage totals coming in as well.

Sarcasm Flag: ON
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Quoting jascott1967:


I think another reason people are leaving is because others keep drudging up the same information over and over again. For example, the information you keep posting about Irene is getting tiresome. I can't remember a post Irene blog that you haven't mentioned that storm. She's gone dude. Let her go...

Irene is long gone, but her destruction live on.
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Quoting BDADUDE:
Stick with ie dude. its the best and very safe.

On what planet is IE better than Chrome?!
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
People aren't leaving because of the Global Warming posts, they've dealt with those for years. They are leaving because people get way too out of hand and start disrespecting one another. If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all.


I think another reason people are leaving is because others keep drudging up the same information over and over again. For example, the information you keep posting about Irene is getting tiresome. I can't remember a post Irene blog that you haven't mentioned that storm. She's gone dude. Let her go...
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BDA... I am assuming u guys fared well with shortly-thereafter Hurricane Maria....
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Quoting BDADUDE:
Stick with ie dude. its the best and very safe.


HA!
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Quoting Tazmanian:



thanks


next upgrade for Google Chrome is Google Chrome 15
Stick with ie dude. its the best and very safe.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Not a problem. I have not heard of any issues with Windows Mail. You should be fine.



thanks


next upgrade for Google Chrome is Google Chrome 15
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Quoting seafarer459:

Same question...Why?


Speed mostly,,and how it Handles Flash player on the NOAA loops as well.

More here

What makes Google Chrome different is its architecture.

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wind shear looks more like late OCT or NOV


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Quoting Tazmanian:




thank you for yeting me no but i dont ues outlook for for my mail i olny ues window live hot mail or yahoo mail


Not a problem. I have not heard of any issues with Windows Mail. You should be fine.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


You need to be aware that if you uninstall Chrome it can cause problems with Outlook. You will still be able to receive emails but, you will not be able to send, delete or move emails.

http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Chrome/thre ad?tid=6223bc3b0294b96a&hl=en

I have already dealt with this problem




thank you for yeting me no but i dont ues outlook for for my mail i olny ues window live hot mail or yahoo mail
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OK TAZ... Thanks
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Quoting Tazmanian:
well i am done with firefox i have now moved too Google Chrome 14


You need to be aware that if you uninstall Chrome it can cause problems with Outlook. You will still be able to receive emails but, you will not be able to send, delete or move emails.

http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Chrome/thre ad?tid=6223bc3b0294b96a&hl=en

I have already dealt with this problem
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Quoting Patrap:
Im a liking it as well Taz,,



good for you
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Quoting seafarer459:

What made you change?




i like Google Chrome 14 its vary fast and Google Chrome upgrades more then firefox dos
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Quoting Tazmanian:





we better watch out for Oscar next year
Hey Tazmanian...I had a dream and you were in it. In the form of a tropical storm and that you were on the offical NHC map....then you strengthened in to a cat25 with 9000 MPH winds and a pressure of 1 mb and hit NOLA as a doomicane...
P.S.must be all this time I spend on the blog
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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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