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:





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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Quoting JLPR2:
I really doubt 97L will be able to recover.


Took a beating today.


That low at 35W sould be invest 98L soon.
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Quoting Patrap:
Im a liking it as well Taz,,

Same question...Why?
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Im a liking it as well Taz,,
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223. JLPR2
Those three vorts should merge into one in the following day.



Neat. XD
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting Tazmanian:
well i am done with firefox i have now moved too Google Chrome 14

What made you change?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
now its time too start looking closer too home
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115439
but i think CV season is slowey comeing too a end
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115439
Gotta go the biscuits is ready to come outta the oven. Ya'll be good off up in here.
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Quoting JLPR2:


Lets not get ahead of ourselves yet, 97L could try to make a comeback.




so ture
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115439
well i am done with firefox i have now moved too Google Chrome 14
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115439
216. jpsb
Quoting txjac:



It's short lived drizzle ...I'm positive that you will get some though!
Hope so, nothing here yet.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1266
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Quoting Patrap:
Weather Station

Uptown, New Orleans

Elevation
20 ft
Station Select
Now

Scattered Clouds
Temperature
83.4 °F

Geaux Tigah's..3 and 0


Yeah Geaux Tigah's soon to be #1.
I was wondering about the weather in netherland though haha
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212. JLPR2
Quoting Tazmanian:




yes he is right 97L RIP thats why the nhc lower it too 20% and may likey be gone


Lets not get ahead of ourselves yet, 97L could try to make a comeback.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting HimacaneBrees:


How soon are the models predicting development in the carib?
Last week of September (25th-30th), on the GFS. ECMWF doesn't develop anything in the area but it shows a large area of low pressure moving westward.
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Quoting rkay1:
This site is annoying.  Everyone that has a different opinion is labeled a troll and ridiculed.  Go kick rocks.


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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Weather Station

Uptown, New Orleans

Elevation
20 ft
Station Select
Now

Scattered Clouds
Temperature
83.4 °F

Geaux Tigah's..3 and 0
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting rkay1:
This site is annoying.  Everyone that has a different opinion is labeled a troll and ridiculed.  Go kick rocks.



The join date, the persistent negative posting, and the handle (all caps, too) are the keys; a difference of opinion, by itself, would be nothing.
Member Since: September 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 616
Quoting HimacaneBrees:


How soon are the models predicting development in the carib?


It'd be the end of September into early October.
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Quoting Tazmanian:




yes he is right 97L RIP thats why the nhc lower it too 20% and may likey be gone


I wouldn't be too sure taz, I've seen several invests make comebacks.
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Quoting Patrap:
Whoa,,wormhole in Google Chrome.

I was in nether land for 2 minutes


What's the weather like there?
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202. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


It did?


Yeah, also it seems the swirl seen there is mid level, its LLC is getting stretched and pulled by the TW nearing the coast.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


It did?




yes he is right 97L RIP thats why the nhc lower it too 20% and may likey be gone
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115439
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


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


How soon are the models predicting development in the carib?
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Quoting JLPR2:
I really doubt 97L will be able to recover.


Took a beating today.


It did?
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
it may even be in the 70's right now tom wowowowow
yeah, down at the coast its even cooler...too cool for me lol

Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


Hi Tom, got about 5 minutes outta 1 storm,for the most part,the buildups were just east and southeast of me.I think Warner Springs,and Borrego Springs in the desert got it mostly.
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.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
The ECMWF, GFS, CMC, UKMET, and NOGAPS all agree that two systems will develop, Ophelia and Philippe, early into next week. They have been showing consistency and it appears promising that this could very well happen.

While the ACE is not living up to what you would expect for a 14 named storm in September season, or as much as 2010 had, it has proved a far more destructive season than 2010 and 2009.. with the potential for more storms to come. This lull we're in since Maria died yesterday looks like it will end.

Its not natural to be on 14-3-2 by September 17th in any way you look at it, with the possibility of that number raising to 16-3-2 by early next week.


Rina is coming by the first week of October, if not before. Models are back on with Caribbean development, especially the GFS.
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195. JLPR2
I really doubt 97L will be able to recover.


Took a beating today.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
The 18z surface analysis by TAFB has added yet another low pressure in that general area.



LOL...what the heck is going on?!
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Texas:
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Quoting JUSTPLAINWRONG:
been boring all season iin reality but not what was predicted with each crap storm

Son, shouldn't you be getting ready for a date? I'm sure trolling has it's rewards. But damn! There is a big wide world out there. Shut down the puter. Breathe the fresh air. Live a life! Won't know unless you try. Were I 20 yrs younger, this site would be an afterthought.
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Whoa,,wormhole in Google Chrome.

I was in nether land for 2 minutes
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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
Looks like it will follow a similiar track to Katia.
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The 18z surface analysis by TAFB has added yet another low pressure in that general area.

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I wonder what chicken-fried Troll tastes like.... Hmmm might be good. Hell you can roll a frogs legs in some flour, garlic powder, and Tony's Chachere's then drop it in some hot grease and it's damn good. A troll might be good to yeah. Don't get to close to a hungry cajun now boy.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I should change it a little...Between $200 to $400 million.

AIR Lowers Loss Estimates for Hurricane Irene in the Bahamas

"Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide has revised its industry insured loss estimates for Hurricane Irene’s impact in the Bahamas to between $200 million and $400 million (previously $300 million to $700 million)."
Thanks.
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Wow the tropics are pretty boring right now. At least it's football season. Cooking up some tomato gravy, homemade biscuits, and chicken-fried venison watching Florida and Tenn get their game on.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The ECMWF, GFS, CMC, UKMET, and NOGAPS all agree that two systems will develop, Ophelia and Philippe, early into next week. They have been showing consistency and it appears promising that this could very well happen.

While the ACE is not living up to what you would expect for a 14 named storm in September season, or as much as 2010 had, it has proved a far more destructive season than 2010 and 2009.. with the potential for more storms to come. This lull we're in since Maria died yesterday looks like it will end.

Its not natural to be on 14-3-2 by September 17th in any way you look at it, with the possibility of that number raising to 16-3-2 by early next week.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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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