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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Does anyone has the 12z ECMWF?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I figured since Levi won't be on the main blog any longer unless there is a storm, I would post some of the things he posts on facebook:

"The 10-15 day GFS runs are back to looking fishy in the Caribbean with storms developing and moving north. Potential catalysts are showing up now in the central Atlantic as well which may come west and throw themselves into this pattern if they don't recurve too early. The MJO is coming back too as the upper trough evolves over New England in 8-12 days. September may go out fighting."

Wut? Why?
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Hey JLPR, are you seeing the sun today? Nasty weather near the Cibuco River.


Mostly Cloudy with lite rain showers every once in awhile.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8459
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Still sun in Santurce this afternoon.

Lucky.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Hey JLPR, are you seeing the sun today? Nasty weather near the Cibuco River.


Still sun in Santurce this afternoon.
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The National Weather Service in San Juan has issued an

* Urban and Small Stream Flood Advisory
for the following municipalities...

in Puerto Rico
Vega Alta... Vega Baja and Dorado

* until 545 PM AST

* at 251 PM AST... Doppler radar indicated showers and thunderstorms
with very heavy rain and even possibly some small hail across Dorado
drifting northwest. These thunderstorms will be capable of producing
flooding of small streams... urban and poor drainage areas.

Most flood deaths occur in automobiles. Never drive your vehicle into
areas where the water covers the roadway. Flood waters are usually
deeper than they appear. Just one foot of flowing water is powerful
enough to sweep vehicles off the Road. When encountering flooded
roads make the smart choice... turn around... dont drown.


Lat... Lon 1849 6636 1849 6633 1849 6630 1846 6629
1840 6631 1843 6642 1849 6644 1851 6641


Rosa
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Quoting pottery:

That's the Forecasters view, yes.
But that forecast is based on Historical data and parameters, and I dont think that the current overall warming can be accurately included .

We really are in Unexplored Waters right now, in terms of Forecasting.

For instance,--
1) what effect will the reduction in Polar Ice during summers have on Tropical Storms, as this affects ocean temps with the addition of rivers of cold surface water joining the Northern Gulf Stream?

2) How will warming Polar regions affect the Highs that are dominant during current summers?

So much still to know....


That could be a new field of science. It would be of interest to know how large input of cold water would interfere with the Gulfstream and others.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Already? lol


Well...I wonder if 2012 will get into the greek alphabet instead of 2011...LOL...lets forget about this season....
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Already? lol





we better watch out for Oscar next year
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114072
Quoting Tazmanian:
names for hurricane season 2012


Alberto Beryl Chris Debby Ernesto Florence Gordon Helene Isaac Joyce Kirk
Leslie Michael Nadine Oscar Patty Rafael Sandy Tony Valerie William

Already? lol
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names for hurricane season 2012


Alberto Beryl Chris Debby Ernesto Florence Gordon Helene Isaac Joyce Kirk
Leslie Michael Nadine Oscar Patty Rafael Sandy Tony Valerie William
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114072
Quoting Altestic2012:
Here JeffMasters and Neapolitan go with their AGW BS.... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz





I think we need to get the people that sell all the ice to the quicky- mart to take all there ice to the north pole and dump it warm beer but that`s ok
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Quoting Altestic2012:

You're an idiot. There is always a warming spell associated with positive NAO and AMO periods, and we just got out of a postive PDO period and are in the midst of a postive AMO period. Within the next 10-15 years the AMO should deteriorate, we should have less hurricanes in the Atlantic basin like we did before 1995, and the sea ice will build.


Ok, I'm an idiot. I guess that makes Dr. Masters an idiot too. Not to mention 98% of practicing climate scientists. Glad we have someone as brilliant as you to set us all straight.

Yes, yes natural variability explains some of the ice loss, but not most of it. I don't have time get into it, it's too nice outside, but there is a good explanation of the relative contributions of the different drivers here, http://www.wunderground.com/climate/SeaIce.asp, that includes a set of handy references.

Again I'll put my trust in the vast majority of Arctic scientists who don't hold your view of the modern era of sea-ice dynamics.



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Quoting JLPR2:
But the CMC and Nogaps say 97L will develop, ah well, time to see which group is right.

Hey JLPR, are you seeing the sun today? Nasty weather near the Cibuco River.
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Quoting MidwestGuy:
:ban:


I asked before: what's this "ban" about?
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it may even be in the 70's right now tom wowowowow
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Quoting hurricane23:


What is wrong with this season is too much dry air & subsidence across the MDR, probably a lot to do with the heat across the mid latitudes into the continental US, as indicated below instability is running well below average across the MDR, Caribbean and GOM.

It's not going to take much to change that, since the Heat across the US is already being replaced by colder air, which means the Heat has to build up elsewhere and it should be over the MDR and the Caribbean, the GOM is in question though.
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Man it is sweet for Sept 17 in the 80's, man summer has been so cool,god i love digging trofs and cut off lows.................lolololol
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Quoting hurricane23:


What is wrong with this season is too much dry air & subsidence across the MDR, probably a lot to do with the heat across the mid latitudes into the continental US, as indicated below instability is running well below average across the MDR, Caribbean and GOM.



Well a hot air mass in all layers of atmosphere decreases the environmental lapse rate...and the dryness increases the lifted air parcel lapse rate...so I could see how that would lead to more stability....
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:ban:
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But the CMC and Nogaps say 97L will develop, ah well, time to see which group is right.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8459
Here are more.

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Quoting TomTaylor:
hey Joe, have you gotten much rain in the last week? Been meaning to ask you cuz I've seen the thunderstorms off to our east earlier in the week.

Down here along the coast its been pretty cool the last couple of days but the marine layer is breaking up today so it should warm up some


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.
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100% agree pott ...interesting. Hadnt really thought about that until you brought it up
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Northern Vega Alta getting drenched...
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GFS and EURO say 97L will be absorbed by the wave inland in 48-72hrs.

They dont give our invest a shiny future.

In other news both the GFS and Euro are in agreement and develop the CATL disturbance, sending it in the general direction of the Lesser Antilles.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8459
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Well...actually dry air can be the culrpit of less vertical instability...

If you lift an air parcel from a dry air mass on an instability plot, its lapse rate is faster than the environmental lapse rate (i.e. tendency into stability).

However if you lift an air parcel from a moist air mass on an instability plot, you develop a slower lapse rate than the environmental lapse rate due to latnent heat release associated with condensation...hence more instability in this case...


What is wrong with this season is too much dry air & subsidence across the MDR, probably a lot to do with the heat across the mid latitudes into the continental US, as indicated below instability is running well below average across the MDR, Caribbean and GOM.

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Quoting Altestic2012:
2010 > 2011 it seems.


Maybe in terms of ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) and impacts to land...but not in terms of the number of storms...
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this year is not like 2010 hurricane season
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114072
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


But even though we will have less tropical cyclones as a whole, won't be have stronger storms?

That's the Forecasters view, yes.
But that forecast is based on Historical data and parameters, and I dont think that the current overall warming can be accurately included .

We really are in Unexplored Waters right now, in terms of Forecasting.

For instance,--
1) what effect will the reduction in Polar Ice during summers have on Tropical Storms, as this affects ocean temps with the addition of rivers of cold surface water joining the Northern Gulf Stream?

2) How will warming Polar regions affect the Highs that are dominant during current summers?

So much still to know....
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Quoting txjac:



We'll gladly take that off your hands there WeatherNerdPR

Please, take it. There's a slow-moving possibly severe thunderstorm over the Cibuco river...
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No Internet at home (again) since 2pm Fri. I have to come to Flamingo Pharmacy to get wifi and check on the tropics.... sigh, life in paradise?

good day to all.



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Quoting Altestic2012:

You're an idiot. There is always a warming spell associated with positive NAO and AMO periods, and we just got out of a postive PDO period and are in the midst of a postive AMO period. Within the next 10-15 years the AMO should deteriorate, we should have less hurricanes in the Atlantic basin like we did before 1995, and the sea ice will build.

It it your opinion, then, that the world hasn't seen a positive NAO and AMO period in the last 8,000 centuries? That is, since Arctic Sea ice was last at this level? I'm no expert, but I was under the impression they came around more often than that...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Yes Adrian,that is correct. What we have to find out what factor is the culprit of why the vertical inestability has been low this season.


Well...actually dry air can be the culrpit of less vertical instability...

If you lift an air parcel from a dry air mass on an instability plot, its lapse rate is faster than the environmental lapse rate (i.e. tendency into stability).

However if you lift an air parcel from a moist air mass on an instability plot, you develop a slower lapse rate than the environmental lapse rate due to latnent heat release associated with condensation...hence more instability in this case...
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got some news for ya all and doc don't mean to say you are incorrect but the ice will all be gone by end of august 2015 then the shift to greenlands thinning ice sheet we begin as greenland will then be completed surrounded by ice free water and melt of the sheet wil increase ten fold if it does not slide off into the sea before that
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Most models indicate a more west and South direction.

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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
Good Day all from SOO Cal, things look to be picking up as far as the tropics go.
hey Joe, have you gotten much rain in the last week? Been meaning to ask you cuz I've seen the thunderstorms off to our east earlier in the week.

Down here along the coast its been pretty cool the last couple of days but the marine layer is breaking up today so it should warm up some
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Are you freaking kidding me? Not a single day without rain? Give this to Texas for Pete's sake!



We'll gladly take that off your hands there WeatherNerdPR
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Errr....What happened to the completely sunny skies forecast yesterday?

Nature defied it! XD
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Just going back through some of the pictures I saved from last season...We were tracking Karl today last year:

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Thanks Dr. Masters, look forward to your new post on the outlook for the rest of Sept. on Monday.

From the previous blog:


Yeah, vertical instability does seem to be below the norm.



Why is the vertical instability lower...are lapse rates lower than average...and why?
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Are you freaking kidding me? Not a single day without rain? Give this to Texas for Pete's sake!


Errr....What happened to the completely sunny skies forecast yesterday?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291
Are you freaking kidding me? Not a single day without rain? Give this to Texas for Pete's sake!
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Quoting nofailsafe:


So one wonders, like with the capping effect of the high pressure we've seen here in the south, is the same affecting the Atlantic this year?
I'm thinking the wild-card here is the development of ULL's. I'm not sure how they show up on CIMSS's wind shear map?
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Quoting Altestic2012:

You're an idiot. There is always a warming spell associated with positive NAO and AMO periods, and we just got out of a postive PDO period and are in the midst of a postive AMO period. Within the next 10-15 years the AMO should deteriorate, we should have less hurricanes in the Atlantic basin like we did before 1995, and the sea ice will build.


But even though we will have less tropical cyclones as a whole, won't be have stronger storms?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291
Strange to see the gulf of mexico so clear
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Torrential rain in North Trinidad for the last hour or so. (11n 61w)
Sky over my house (central T'dad) is heavy overcast, but north and east it's as black as an old-time telephone, with serious rumbles....

No rain for me though, as yet.
I need some....
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Good Day all from SOO Cal, things look to be picking up as far as the tropics go.
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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.