Half of the polar ice cap is missing: Arctic sea ice hits a new record low

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:53 PM GMT on September 06, 2012

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Extraordinary melting of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has shattered the all-time low sea ice extent record set in September 2007, and sea ice continues to decline far below what has ever been observed. The new sea ice record was set on August 26, a full three weeks before the usual end of the melting season, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Every major scientific institution that tracks Arctic sea ice agrees that new records for low ice area, extent, and volume have been set. These organizations include the University of Washington Polar Science Center (a new record for low ice volume), the Nansen Environmental & Remote Sensing Center in Norway, and the University of Illinois Cryosphere Today. A comprehensive collection of sea ice graphs shows the full story. Satellite records of sea ice extent date back to 1979, though a 2011 study by Kinnard et al. shows that the Arctic hasn't seen a melt like this for at least 1,450 years (see a more detailed article on this over at skepticalscience.com.) The latest September 5, 2012 extent of 3.5 million square kilometers is approximately a 50% reduction in the area of Arctic covered by sea ice, compared to the average from 1979 - 2000. The ice continues to melt, and has not reached the low for this year yet.


Figure 1. A sunny, slushy day at the North Pole on September 1, 2012. Webcam image courtesy of the North Pole Environmental Observatory.


Figure 2. Sea ice extent on September 5, 2012, showed that half of the polar ice cap was missing, compared to the average from 1979 - 2000. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Why the Arctic sea ice is important
Arctic sea ice is an important component of the global climate system. The polar ice caps help to regulate global temperature by reflecting sunlight back into space. White snow and ice at the poles reflects sunlight, but dark ocean absorbs it. Replacing bright sea ice with dark ocean is a recipe for more and faster global warming. The Autumn air temperature over the Arctic has increased by 4 - 6°F in the past decade, and we could already be seeing the impacts of this warming in the mid-latitudes, by an increase in extreme weather events. Another non-trivial impact of the absence of sea ice is increased melting in Greenland. We already saw an unprecedented melting event in Greenland this year, and as warming continues, the likelihood of these events increase.


Figure 3. August set a new record for lowest Arctic sea ice extent. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.



Figure 4. Arctic sea ice death spiral as plotted by Jim Pettit using data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Huge storm pummels Alaska
A massive low pressure system with a central pressure of 970 mb swept through Alaska on Tuesday, generating hurricane-force wind gusts near Anchorage, Alaska that knocked out power to 55,000 homes. Mighty Alaskan storms like this are common in winter, but rare in summer and early fall. The National Weather Service in Anchorage said in their Wednesday forecast discussion that the forecast wind speeds from this storm were incredibly strong for this time of year--four to six standard anomalies above normal. A four-standard anomaly event occurs once every 43 years, and a five-standard anomaly event is a 1-in-4800 year event. However, a meteorologist I heard from who lives in the Anchorage area characterized the wind damage that actually occurred as a 1-in-10 year event. A few maximum wind gusts recorded on Tuesday during the storm:

McHugh Creek (Turnagain Arm)... ... ..88 mph
Paradise Valley (Potter Marsh)... ... 75 mph
Upper Hillside (1400 ft)... ... ... ... 70 mph
Anchorage port... ... ... ... ... ... ... .63 mph

The storm has weakened to a central pressure of 988 mb today, and is located just north of Alaska. The storm is predicted to bring strong winds of 25 - 35 mph and large waves to the edge of the record-thin and record-small Arctic ice cap, and may add to the unprecedented decline in Arctic sea ice being observed this summer.


Figure 5. An unusually strong storm formed off the coast of Alaska on August 5 and tracked into the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it slowly dissipated over the next several days. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural-color mosaic image on Aug. 6, 2012. The center of the storm at that date was located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. Image credit: NASA.

Arctic storms may be increasing due to climate change
This week's Alaskan storm is the second unusually strong low pressure system to affect the Arctic in the past month. On August 4 - 8, a mighty storm with a central pressure of 963 mb raged through the Arctic, bringing strong winds that helped scatter and break up Arctic sea ice. According to a detailed post at NASA Earth Observatory, that storm was in the top 3 percent for strongest storms ever recorded north of 70 degrees latitude. A study of long-term Arctic cyclone trends authored by a team led by John Walsh and Xiangdong Zhang of the University of Alaska Fairbanks found that number and intensity of Arctic cyclones has increased during the second half of the twentieth century, particularly during the summer. Dr. Zhang explained that climate change has caused sea ice to retreat markedly in recent decades and has also warmed Arctic Ocean temperatures. Such changes may be providing more energy and moisture to support cyclone development and persistence. The strong storms of this week and a month ago would have had far less impact on the ice just a decade ago, when the sea ice was much thicker and more extensive.

A sea ice decline double-whammy
The monster Arctic storms like we've seen this year have sped up the rate of sea ice loss, but increased water temperatures and air temperatures due to human-caused global warming are the dominant reasons for the record melting of the Arctic sea ice. A July 2012 study by Day et al. found that the most influential of the possible natural influences on sea ice loss was the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO). The AMO has two phases, negative (cold) and positive (warm), which impact Arctic sea ice. The negative phase tends to create sea surface temperatures in the far north Atlantic that are colder than average. In this study, the AMO only accounted for 5% - 31% of the observed September sea ice decline since 1979. The scientists concluded that given the lack of evidence that natural forces were controlling sea ice fluctuations, the majority of sea ice decline we've seen during the 1953 - 2010 period was due to human causes.

Joe Romm has a more in-depth look at the new Arctic sea ice record and what it means for the future over at climateprogess.org.

Angela Fritz and Jeff Masters

Turbulence (katy99780)
Beautiful orographic formations over the mountains on a windy evening.
Turbulence

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Quoting wxchaser97:

That would be crazy for the area, if that happened where I'm at I would go nuts. Could there be a wintry mix in Detroit if that happened?


Ugh...I am right there with you...not in the mindset for winter here in Detroit. My mind is still set deep in the tropics....here are my most recent posts on the Atlantic tropics (details on Leslie...Michael...90L...and more)

Link to this morning's full discussion

Link to special update I released minutes ago....
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Well at least it has a defined naked swirl :P

Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
Quoting LurkyMcLurkerson:



Bwahahahahaha!

Jesus, GW _is global_ and the heat is _averaged across the globe. The fact that one part of the globe happened to not have a spectacularly weird set of weather doesn't negate the fact that other huge parts of the globe are experiencing absolutely bizarre weather.

That is the most winningest "missing the point" comment on global warming I have ever read. Adding a bunch of heat -- representing a gigantic amount of total energy -- to the planet's atmosphere is _destabilizing_ weather patterns, not making every place on the entire planet be just like the Sonoran Desert all at once.

These things are helpful in figuring out which posters should be utterly ignored in general. And I have to say that if the denial line is becoming "but, Ireland!" then I think it's safe to say there's not much argument left, really.

yep
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Quoting hydrus:
Should get some refreshing cool temps from the next front...No sno tho..:)

yeah,a bit to early for that
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Quoting VR46L:


Well it is a fact that at least one part of the world is not going through GW and its an official government agency in a country that does not need to cover the facts either way as it does not depend on oil ,gas or manufacturing industry and has alot of environmental laws... and I imagine the UK , Norway and Iceland will have similar results...and btw there is no reason to be rude about the Republic of Ireland just because it has issued truthful results about this summer



Bwahahahahaha!

Jesus, GW _is global_ and the heat is _averaged across the globe. The fact that one part of the globe happened to not have a spectacularly weird set of weather doesn't negate the fact that other huge parts of the globe are experiencing absolutely bizarre weather.

That is the most winningest "missing the point" comment on global warming I have ever read. Adding a bunch of heat -- representing a gigantic amount of total energy -- to the planet's atmosphere is _destabilizing_ weather patterns, not making every place on the entire planet be just like the Sonoran Desert all at once.

These things are helpful in figuring out which posters should be utterly ignored in general. And I have to say that if the denial line is becoming "but, Ireland!" then I think it's safe to say there's not much argument left, really.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

...And this confirms my thoughts.

Should get some refreshing cool temps from the next front...No sno tho..:)
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Much above freezing, even in GFS fantasy land.

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Quoting wxchaser97:

I don't think we would get a Chicago-Detroit September snow event. I was in Traverse City in late August, the waters were still warm.


I live on Lake Superior and the water is still surprisingly warm enough to swim in. September snow events are incredibly rare here, I don't think I've ever seen snow before late October here.
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We've been getting some good rains here in D.C lately.Really need it considering how dry it's been all spring and summer.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Lake Michigan water temperatures are mostly in the 70s, and even Lake Superior's waters range from the mid-60s to around 70. I suppose things could rapidly cool in the next two weeks, but I'm willing to bet that Chicago will see no September snow this year.



hmmm, freezing air, warm water, lake effect ?

edit; seeee Taz is paying attention.
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How Hot has Texas been? This front will drop my area down to Normal for 2 days, we have been running 8 to 12 degrees above normal and approaching 60 days with no rain, this dry windy front will make Fires a huge concern and difficult to control this weekend. High Fire alert for South Central Texas.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:


Just needs convection and maybe a little more spin/wind. Nothing too hard with a good amount of shear;)
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Lake Michigan water temperatures are mostly in the 70s (and still warming), and even Lake Superior's waters range from the mid-60s to around 70. I suppose things could rapidly cool in the next two weeks, but I'm willing to bet that Chicago will see no September snow this year.




I don't think we would get a Chicago-Detroit September snow event. I was in Traverse City in late August, the waters were still warm.
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Quoting VR46L:
Here is a report of the weather in Republic of Ireland this past summer it was unprecedently cold wet and dull... Sounds like Global warming to me .....

Link


Being in the UK, many of the GW articles I've read, obviously have to do with weather here. In a great deal of them, the UK gets colder in general due to GW. Mainly as a consequence of Greenland/arctic ice melt interferring with the warm ocean flow that keeps the UK temperate. So GW doesn't always mean 'everywhere' is hotter. I'm not saying I believe in manmade GW, just saying that it doesn't necessarily make everyplace warmer if it happened for whatever made it happen
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

How silly of me to forget. XP

That GFS super long range run was crazy thought with the blizzard, cat20 hurricane, and the super big outbreak XD. Just kidding by the way.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Lake Michigan water temperatures are mostly in the 70s, and even Lake Superior's waters range from the mid-60s to around 70. I suppose things could rapidly cool in the next two weeks, but I'm willing to bet that Chicago will see no September snow this year.





But with warm water temper at there lakes we could see. One heck of a lake effect snow event if the temper are right at the time of the rain turning to snow
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Quoting wxchaser97:

You forgot the massive severe wx/tornado outbreak but everything else is good.

How silly of me to forget. XP
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Lake Michigan water temperatures are mostly in the 70s (and still warming), and even Lake Superior's waters range from the mid-60s to around 70. I suppose things could rapidly cool in the next two weeks, but I'm willing to bet that Chicago will see no September snow this year.



Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13549
Quoting 1900hurricane:

I hate to be the fun-killer, but even if the 540 dm 1000-500 thickness line were to drop that far south, I doubt that would be measurable snow. Temps in Chicago have been in the 80s and even with extremely low heights like that, the low level/ground temps would probably still be warm enough to melt any snow before it hit the ground. I would take an extraordinary event for Chicago to see snow in the middle of September. Not to mention that this is very deep into GFS fantasy land... :P

*EDIT to fix terrible sentence structure.

...And this confirms my thoughts.

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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Probably a category 20 hurricane tracking into the NEUS in response to a super-trough producing a blizzard in Texas. :P

You forgot the massive severe wx/tornado outbreak but everything else is good.
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I wounder if that planed out if we will. See. Hurricane season shut down in a hurry this year
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162. VR46L
Quoting jascott1967:


Sensible? Wash and I got into a debate on Isaac, she finds out she can block email messages from other members of this site, sends me a curse email about sniping at her and then continues to snipe at me while blocking me? Weak.


I know nothing about that guess there are people that Just do not get on and I know nothing of your disagreement... but she is sensible as regards to her attitude to smoking
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Quoting jascott1967:


I did because I quit on my own terms, not because someone made me or tried to scare me.



So what were your terms in the end?

That it was stupid, expensive and going to kill you? All valid reasons to quit. I understand having an emotionally contrary nature since I have one as well. But in this case, as you know from experience, throwing out good advice because you don't like the manner of its delivery is stupid.

Yet you persist in reacting the same way and calling the people who give you advice Liberals, etc.. Seems you are living not on your own terms but on the terms of a childish ego.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
The GfS tends to over do troughs and this is some 300+ hours out.I wonder what the 1000 hour GFS depicts for this upcoming fall.Lol.

Probably a category 20 hurricane tracking into the NEUS in response to a super-trough producing a blizzard in Texas. :P
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Ah, I see it now... As TA said, more of a wintry mess, it's not easy to get snow in September.

That would be crazy for the area, if that happened where I'm at I would go nuts. Could there be a wintry mix in Detroit if that happened?
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Even if the 540 dm 1000-500 thickness line dropping that far south, I doubt that would be measurable snow. Temps in Chicago have been in the 80s and even with extremely low heights like that, the low level/ground temps would probably still be warm enough to melt any snow before it hit the ground. I would take an extraordinary event for Chicago to see snow in the middle of September. Not to mention that this is very deep into GFS fantasy land... :P




Snow can stick too things like the cares. The grass gardes cans and other colder how evere the road may stil be a little to warm all so I have noted that the gfs has been showing this for the pass. Few runs so will have too see if other mode runs start picking this up


If this dos plan out all so look for a major severe weather out beark a head of this
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Quoting washingtonian115:
The GfS tends to over do troughs and this is some 300+ hours out.I wonder what the 1000 hour GFS depicts for this upcoming fall.Lol.

lololololol
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The GfS tends to over do troughs and this is some 300+ hours out.I wonder what the 1000 hour GFS depicts for this upcoming fall.Lol.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
348 hours:



yep, Autumn's commin a wee bit early this year!!!:)
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Quoting aislinnpaps:
Really nasty storm heading into western KY and TN

Yep, that complex been leaving quite a bit of damage behind it.



Funnel clouds have also been sighted with it but no confirmed touchdowns and no current tornado warnings.
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owall Statistics for Chicago
First Snowfall

Trace or More
Average Date: October 30th
Earliest: September 25, 1942 (Trace)
September 25, 1948 (Trace)
Latest: December 5, 1999 (0.1 inches)

Measurable (0.1 inches or more)
Average Date: November 16th
Earliest: October 18, 1989 (0.7 inches)
October 18, 1972 (0.2 inches)
Latest: December 16, 1965 (0.3 inches)
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
NO, WOW BIG Snow for CHICAGO!!!


I hate to be the fun-killer, but even if the 540 dm 1000-500 thickness line were to drop that far south, I doubt that would be measurable snow. Temps in Chicago have been in the 80s and even with extremely low heights like that, the low level/ground temps would probably still be warm enough to melt any snow before it hit the ground. I would take an extraordinary event for Chicago to see snow in the middle of September. Not to mention that this is very deep into GFS fantasy land... :P

*EDIT to fix terrible sentence structure.
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Really nasty storm heading into western KY and TN
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But September!!
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

More of an icy..snowy..rainy mess.
Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4671
Quoting SFLWeatherman:
The 540 line is 100% in Chicago!!!


Ah, I see it now... As TA said, more of a wintry mess, it's not easy to get snow in September.
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Has it ever snowed in Chicago in Sept. though? To me if it hasn't then the trough being depicted by the GFS is overdone.
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
NO, WOW BIG Snow for CHICAGO!!!


More of an icy..snowy..rainy mess.
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The 540 line is 100% in Chicago!!!

Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Not in Chicago though, unless I'm looking at the map wrong or looking at the wrong map.
Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4671
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Told y'all 90L is something to not worry about...
Famous last words! lol
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Quoting Tazmanian:



no he is right the 534 line dives S wish gives them a lot of colder air too play with
Quoting SFLWeatherman:
No that a 540 so that is 32 so that is Snow lol!!

Not in Chicago though, unless I'm looking at the map wrong or looking at the wrong map.
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Quoting wxchaser97:

So there is a strengthening storm and a trough over the Great Lakes, how cool would I get if that happened?
Not a good pattern in relationship to the placement of the trough. Trough would have to be on the East Coast for this to recurve safely away from the CONUS. Someone talked about 2004 and how the troughs that year were over the Great Lakes and well we know what happened. It will be interesting to see when the ensembles come out as the operational run is further west this run.
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
Quoting jascott1967:


143

6 Sigma Black Belt

Guess what you can do with the standard deviation of 15? Painful number going in sideways, I imagine.

Keep working at your Green Belt.



Uh huh.


So if it's not stupidity it's just plain foolishness, right?

Why else would you continue abusing a poisonous substance that costs you hundreds, even thousands of dollars per year and greatly increases your chance of an early death?

The score of 143 does not count if it came from one of those tests in a search ad.


Are you saying that's a timed Raven's Squares result?

By the way, I.Q. tests are designed and scored in such a way that 100 is always average, and the standard deviation is roughly 15.

When modern IQ tests are devised, the mean (average) score within an age group is set to 100 and the standard deviation (SD) almost always to 15, although this was not always so historically.[1] Thus, the intention is that approximately 95% of the population scores within two SDs of the mean, i.e. has an IQ between 70 and 130. - Wikipedia


Want to try again, 143?


How can you be allegedly so intelligent and so irrational at the same time?
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting VR46L:


Sensible Lady Wash , I wish I could say the same ... but I tended always to take risks and usually there is a price to pay .


Sensible? Wash and I got into a debate on Isaac, she finds out she can block email messages from other members of this site, sends me a curse email about sniping at her and then continues to snipe at me while blocking me? Weak.
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See see!!:)
Quoting Tazmanian:



no he is right the 534 line dives S wish gives them a lot of colder air too play with
Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4671
No that a 540 so that is 32 so that is Snow lol!!
Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Lol, that wouldn't bring any snow, just some rain... If it were three or four months from now we'd be talking about big snow with that.
Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4671
Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Lol, that wouldn't bring any snow, just some rain... If it were three or four months from now we'd be talking about big snow with that.



no he is right the 534 line dives S wish gives them a lot of colder air too play with
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
NO, WOW BIG Snow for CHICAGO!!!


Lol, that wouldn't bring any snow, just some rain... If it were three or four months from now we'd be talking about big snow with that.
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When is this expected storm going to materialize anyway?.People been talking about it for days now and models seem to love it.
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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.