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 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.


I also wouldn't be too surprised to see leukemia and bone marrow cancer rates go up along the coast due to benzene exposure. Benzene is a hydrocarbon that is often found in gas and oil wells and is soluble, unlike most other hydrocarbons, in water. So exposure to the water near the site, or the air near the site, or even on shore would not be a good thing for anyone.
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1172. j2008
Quoting DFWjc:


are you kidding me, do you know what the odds of that happening...

Especially this year, hardly anything can get above TS status, although I'd better watch what I say. My luck is that everything will be a hurricane from now on.
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1171. lhwhelk
Quoting RussianWinter:

I thought wishcasting was against the rules?
What if this turns out to be a category 5 monster that ruins half of the caribbean and lands as a major hurricane in galveston?

I'd rather cheer for cold fronts sweeping down providing some rain.

Not wishcasting. (I did, after all, get "Ike'd.") But unfortunately at this time of year, our moisture can only come from something tropical. No-one wants a big hurricane, but a little tropical depression or tropical storm could make a big difference to all of us in Texas.
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1169. DFWjc
Quoting RussianWinter:

I thought wishcasting was against the rules?
What if this turns out to be a category 5 monster that ruins half of the caribbean and lands as a major hurricane in galveston?

I'd rather cheer for cold fronts sweeping down providing some rain.


are you kidding me, do you know what the odds of that happening...
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Quoting lhwhelk:

Apparently only meaningful if you live in Dallas. My rain guage this morning registered <1/4". Come on, 98, we're rooting for you!

I thought wishcasting was against the rules?
What if this turns out to be a category 5 monster that ruins half of the caribbean and lands as a major hurricane in galveston?

I'd rather cheer for cold fronts sweeping down providing some rain.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1167. JLPR2
But 99L is now heading to an area of lower shear (20knots), yesterday it was 40-50knots.

Wouldn't surprise me if this grabbed at least a TD number.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8731
1166. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting twincomanche:
I just dont see any links to the cause. I don't doubt the blood tests.


The VOCs in the blood tests are the same in the dispersant & oil...someone living in a clean environment wouldn't have things like m,p-Xylene, hexane, and ethylbenzene in their blood. They are finding that & other markers in really sick people that live around the area or visited & got in the water on the wrong day. Some were in the wrong place & got sprayed by dispersant. Look around links are everywhere.. Here's one FL family that got the typical symptoms..turns out their pool had dispersant in it.. They didn't outlaw that stuff in a bunch of countries for no reason.. the link was made along time ago. If you can't see the link..well Gulf is open..take a swim, enjoy some crabs.
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1165. will40
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Should be Tropical Storm Ophelia. Has the same amount of organized convection that Jose had.



maybe when it consolidates more
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Yo nutjob Pat. Thanks for the nice sat links tonight. Last night you posted a link to one with an orange color, from LSU maybe.. anyway, I "thought " I bookmarked it but apparently not.. would you share again kind sir eerrrr nutjob :)
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1163. JLPR2
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Should be Tropical Storm Ophelia. Has the same amount of organized convection that Jose had.


LLC isn't as defined.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8731
Quoting JLPR2:
Cute. LOL!
Should be Tropical Storm Ophelia. Has the same amount of organized convection that Jose had.
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1161. jpsb
Vampires come out at night and werewolves too.
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1160. DFWjc
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


And I am sick of the 9/11 first responders saying they got sick of all that crap in the air. Give me a break.


yeah because air-bourne asbestos doesn't kill people, just smoggy air does...

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1159. j2008
Sorry , I had to step out for a bit, I'm glad the people of Dallas are getting some rain, heres rooting for the rest of you in texas!! Ohh and not to forget the rest of the states being affected, lets hope 98 stays week and brings some rain to SE coastline. Sorry bout the west casting there.........
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1158. will40
When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself. Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering. Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored.
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Settle down guys.
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1156. beell
Quoting twincomanche:
WTF, read all the posts.


Which ones?
About the Dust Bowl?
Poverty in America?
Agent Orange?

So many to choose from,lol.
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Quoting j2008:
Is that rain in texas????? (Gasp)


Awesome lightening show here in San Antonio.
Member Since: June 27, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 377
1151. lhwhelk
Quoting j2008:
Is that rain in texas????? (Gasp)

Apparently only meaningful if you live in Dallas. My rain guage this morning registered <1/4". Come on, 98, we're rooting for you!
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1150. Patrap
,,,indeed
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128609
Quoting twincomanche:
Sorry if I was mean. Just no facts in evidence.


Its all good, we can disagree and be civil bro. And I am skeptical of your statement. Reading post 1135 by SouthALWX I believe it, I think he is telling the truth. Sure, there will be some fraud, but in my opinion there was to much volatile vapor for it NOT to affect at least some folks. Time will tell, prolly in a bad way.
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1146. jpsb
Quoting Neapolitan:

The South Pole is melting, of course.


West Antarctic ice field is breaking up a bit, East Antarctic (much bigger) is growing. Over all Antarctic ice is increasing. Or so I have been told, but my info is 2 or 3 years old.

Also there a numerous causes of lose of Arctic ice, temperature not being the primary one. It is also significant that Arctic ice never shrank to or below the level of 2007.
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1145. DFWjc
Quoting j2008:
Is that rain in texas????? (Gasp)


Yep yep...from Dallas CBS weatherman

Larry Mowry
Looks like heavy rain moving in south Arlington toward Mansfield. Probably some hail in there too.
16 minutes ago via Twitter

Larry Mowry
Radar estimating 2.5" of rain fell from Garland to Sacshe in NE Dallas County.
Like · · @CBS11Larry on Twitter · 17 minutes ago via Twitter

Larry Mowry
Areas from Denton to Lewisville to Keller and to the west are done with the storms.
@CBS11Larry on Twitter · 18 minutes ago via Twitter

Larry Mowry
Flood Advisory for Dallas County. Rainfall rates around 4" per hour. Usual low lying spots filling up with water, ponding on roadways.
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Quoting IceCoast:




can you plzs link that and not post them right on the blog it mass up the srcolling on the blog when you move the pages up and down it makes it slow
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115239
Oh Yeah...:)

Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
1142. RTLSNK
Quoting twincomanche:
Oh stop with the conspiracy crap unless you have some facts to present.


If you would like to read the facts for yourself, simply Google Agent Orange and read.

We sprayed 20 Million Gallons of it all over Vietnam.

WARNING - For those of you who have weak stomachs, do not read or scroll all the way down to the end of the article where there are true and factual photos of the effects of Agent Orange on adults and children. They are horrible to see and yet they are the facts that you so sarcasticly are inquiring about.

If you would like some personal "facts" about the effects on those of us in the military who were actually in contact with Agent Orange during our tours in Vietnam, or you would like to know the "facts" about our children that were born with birth defects caused by our contamination with the chemical after we returned to the States, you can send Grothar or I a WU-mail.

We may not answer you, but you can send it.
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1041 Orcasystems "Correct me if I am wrong... the south pole ice has been expanding for approx that last 10 years?"

There is strong evidence that Antarctica is currently losing nearly as much glacial ice as Greenland,
and weaker (shorter timeframe, greater margin of error) evidence that its glacial ice loss is increasing at a rate such that Antarctica is poised to begin losing more than Greenland within the next few years*.
ie Antarctica's loss rate will still be smaller as a percentage of its total than Greenland's, but there's so much more of Antarctica than of Greenland...

* If it hasn't already begun. There's been a rather large time lag between data collection and data analysis, then another (albeit not as large) time lag between analysis and publication.
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1139. will40
98L needs to consolodate all those centers
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1138. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting twincomanche:
There is no evidence with any credibility to suggest that anyone has any health problems from the spill.


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.
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1136. JLPR2
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
Any recent ASCAT pass for 98L?


Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8731
At the peak of the spill, here in mobile the air smelled horrible. Any exposure gave headaches. I don't know how much long term damage there was/is, but I was here. I had a headache for days after the smell diminished. Was like a combination of fresh pavement and industrial cleaners. You know they say open the windows when you use powerful cleaners? Well, there were no windows to be opened. And we got sick. Im sure those working the cleanup got it worse than we did, too. I dont care what you may think about boloney claims. There may be some. But I'll tell you with certainty, we got real ill down here.
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1134. j2008
Quoting IceCoast:
Is that rain in texas????? (Gasp)
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1132. j2008
Quoting Patrap:
WP192011 - Typhoon SONCA

click image for Loop dee loop,






Very impressive looking typhoon!! If anybody cares Hurricane Phillipe formed in 2005 today, meaning we are two storms behind 2005 now......and if we dont start churning storms out soon again, I might not be able to survive the GW talk. LOL
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1131. Patrap
RAMMB Currently Active Tropical Cyclones, Worldwide
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128609
Quoting twincomanche:
Oh stop with the conspiracy crap unless you have some facts to present.


I beg your pardon? VA.. the government, refused for years to acknowledge agent orange had any long term illnesses, or was killing folks. No conspiracy there, just a fact.

I don't see how you can be so certain that "no one" is sick. Who told you that was the case, or is it just opinion?

Also, it is rude as hell to accuse me of pushing "conspiracy crap". Nothing in my comment warranted your mean spirited reaction.

G-night TA13
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Good night All.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32230
Any recent ASCAT pass for 98L?
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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.