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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E=MC Hammer


That was ROFL worthy for sure!
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1083. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting bappit:

"The Medieval period is found to display warmth that
matches or exceeds that of the past decade in some regions, but which falls well below recent levels
globally. This period is marked by a tendency for La Niña–like conditions in the tropical Pacific.
The coldest temperatures of the Little Ice Age are observed over the interval 1400 to 1700 C.E.,
with greatest cooling over the extratropical Northern Hemisphere continents. The patterns of
temperature change imply dynamical responses of climate to natural radiative forcing changes
involving El Niño and the North Atlantic Oscillation–Arctic Oscillation."


Thanks~ I had remembered that backwards..La Nina, positive AMO & PDO made medieval warm. This time ENSO is averaging warm too.

Crazy chart in there looking at the last ~1500 years how positive everything suddenly is.
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Quoting goosegirl1:


You cannot state what you know to be untrue order to support a fallacy. It doesn't follow, and no one will take you seriously. Peace.

If it will make it easier, suppose I encounter someone who says that they believe E=MC Hammer and I go with the more scientific equation. Are both beliefs equally valid or is the one supported by the known facts superior?
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1081. lavinia
Quoting 954FtLCane:


actually this is Dr Master's blog, many times he does include global warming topics so discussing global warming is not off topic.


True...but religion and politics ARE off topic.
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1080. VINNY04
Quoting SrChiefFan1:
Ya'll have fun today. It looks like a beautiful day here in the Panhandle of Florida and I think I'll go enjoy the beach. Have a super weekend and enjoy life and don't sweat the little things...
sounds like a plan
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Ya'll have fun today. It looks like a beautiful day here in the Panhandle of Florida and I think I'll go enjoy the beach. Have a super weekend and enjoy life and don't sweat the little things...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting seer2012:
It is time for you blog cops to start enforcing the rules!!!Global warming,natl. politics,and religion are great topics to discuss,just not here.I hold strong opinions on each but I come here for tropics weather,nothing else.You are ruining the blog!!


actually this is Dr Master's blog, many times he does include global warming topics so discussing global warming is not off topic.
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It seems that the models they use are more accurate for the North atlantic and adjecent areas, but as you can see in the diagrams in that article the pacific was also affected, but as they say in the article, the models are more north atlantic based. The reality is that the climate is changing, but to say it can only be caused by one thing(humans) seems irresponsible to me, knowing that all we have to compare with are models. Which we know are not nearly always accurate. Furthermore, even if the "greenhouse effect is responsible, how do we know that all that CO2 came from humans,it could have come from various other sources. Im not saying that you are wrong, you are not. Im just saying that without questions there would be no science.
Quoting Skyepony:
Quoting nyhurhunter:
So what caused the other record low sea ice extent 1,450 years ago, Humans?


It was more a local warming event at the time due to a certain alignment in the North Atlantic Oscillation–Arctic Oscillation & El Niño. Here is some more on it..
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
So I guess nobody cares that the GFS got another upgrade.... :(

Its supposed to fix the cooler and moister bias the GFS has in hot drought summers, making the input of how much humidity should exist in a drought actaully shine through in the model, should help forecast highs and troughs.
This is more of a "tail wagging the dog' type of upgrade rather than a upgraded physics model. Minor improvements to MOS output verification and small mesoscale moisture improvement, but probably not much of an effect on the synoptic scale, IMO.
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1075. VINNY04
Quoting masonsnana:
What is going on this morning? This blog is for tropical weather!!
its been like this all day
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Quoting bappit:

"Catering to the demands of viewers can mean intentionally running the risk of making forecasts less accurate. For many years, the Weather Channel avoided forecasting an exact 50 percent chance of rain, which might seem wishy-washy to consumers. Instead, it rounded up to 60 or down to 40. In what may be the worst-kept secret in the business, numerous commercial weather forecasts are also biased toward forecasting more precipitation than will actually occur. (In the business, this is known as the wet bias.) For years, when the Weather Channel said there was a 20 percent chance of rain, it actually rained only about 5 percent of the time."


even at the NWS here a 20% chance of rain either materializes into a 40% or a 5-10% chance of rain.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
It is time for you blog cops to start enforcing the rules!!!Global warming,natl. politics,and religion are great topics to discuss,just not here.I hold strong opinions on each but I come here for tropics weather,nothing else.You are ruining the blog!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1071. bappit
Quoting intampa:
"in god we trust" is that abrahams god, yawheeh, zuez, sheeba, buhda, posieden,mohammed, jesus the son of "god",hercules and the other greek gods etc etc etc.... just which god do we trust

Basically I think it says we don't trust ourselves.
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1070. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting A4Guy:
Seems odd that we are going into the peak of the hurricane season, and we may not have any active storms (pending the wave coming off Africa this weekend). With such a busy pre-season, I wonder if the trend will continue, or if things will be quiet. Seems like the cool fronts are starting early which should keep CV stroms away...but any Carib storms could move in our general direction.
peak is monday then we be on the downslope
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54639
Quoting masonsnana:
What is going on this morning? This blog is for tropical weather!!


Nah, it's a romper room, now. Who manufactures Ritalin? I think I'll buy shares in the company.
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Quoting Birthmark:

Sure they do. Facts are frequently modified by new information.


You cannot state what you know to be untrue order to support a fallacy. It doesn't follow, and no one will take you seriously. Peace.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
So I guess nobody cares that the GFS got another upgrade.... :(

Its supposed to fix the cooler and moister bias the GFS has in hot drought summers, making the input of how much humidity should exist in a drought actaully shine through in the model, should help forecast highs and troughs.

Current settings allowed for excessive
transpiration and plant-extraction of soil moisture from deeper
soil layers, which caused the lower atmospheric boundary layer to
become too moist and cool.
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1066. yoboi
Quoting Birthmark:

I always go with the god that has the best hat. Currently, that is Thor, imo.



sounds like the syfy channel is your information underground????
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1065. bappit
Quoting AussieStorm:
The Weatherman Is Not a Moron




Link

"Catering to the demands of viewers can mean intentionally running the risk of making forecasts less accurate. For many years, the Weather Channel avoided forecasting an exact 50 percent chance of rain, which might seem wishy-washy to consumers. Instead, it rounded up to 60 or down to 40. In what may be the worst-kept secret in the business, numerous commercial weather forecasts are also biased toward forecasting more precipitation than will actually occur. (In the business, this is known as the wet bias.) For years, when the Weather Channel said there was a 20 percent chance of rain, it actually rained only about 5 percent of the time."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1064. intampa
"in god we trust" is that abrahams god, yawheeh, zuez, sheeba, buhda, posieden,mohammed, jesus the son of "god",hercules and the other greek gods etc etc etc.... just which god do we trust
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FL1980:


Yeah its too bad Al Gore didn't have this agenda while he was vice-president. Oh that's right, he couldn't make millions off of it while being VP. This is the biggest scam of all time. How can anyone buy into this garbage.
Al Gore’s venture capital firm invested $6 million in a software company that stands to make billions of dollars from cap-and-trade regulation — further fueling controversy that Gore lied about his profiteering from cap-and-trade to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee...

Link
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1062. VINNY04
Quoting yoboi:



or the 16 trillion in debt we are....i wonder how much of the 16 trillion was used to study climate change...
dont know. i would have to reasearch that.
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Quoting Birthmark:

Actually, "In God we trust" has only been our national motto since 1956. Prior to that "E Pluribus Unum" was the national motto. (I like the old motto better.)

My name is also Doug and I approve *this* message. :)


Thank you for the clarification. I learn something new most every day!
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What is going on this morning? This blog is for tropical weather!!
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Too many kids on here these days. I suppose that's why so many mature minds have left.
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1055. A4Guy
Seems odd that we are going into the peak of the hurricane season, and we may not have any active storms (pending the wave coming off Africa this weekend). With such a busy pre-season, I wonder if the trend will continue, or if things will be quiet. Seems like the cool fronts are starting early which should keep CV stroms away...but any Carib storms could move in our general direction.
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GFS Fix Released on September 5, 2012

Change in land surface model in global forecast system and associated cool and moist bias in near surface temperature and moisture fields


Technical Implementation Notice 12-42
National Weather Service Headquarters Washington DC
330 PM EDT Tue Sep 4 2012

Beginning with the 1200 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) model
run on Wednesday, September 5, 2012, the National Centers for
Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Central Operations will implement
a fix to the Land Surface Model used to drive the Global Forecast
System (GFS). This correction is expected to improve the cool
and moist bias in the near surface air temperature and moisture
fields during the warm season.

Starting in mid-June 2012, NCEP confirmed a problem with the GFS
near-surface temperature and moisture simulations. The model was
not verifying in the late afternoon over the central United
States when drought conditions existed. Specifically, users noted
a significant 2m cold and wet bias in both the MOS and GFS
gridded products. The NCEP Environmental Modeling Center (EMC)
traced the problem to a look-up table used in the land surface
scheme that modulates evapotranspiration based on vegetation type
and root zone depth. Current settings allowed for excessive
transpiration and plant-extraction of soil moisture from deeper
soil layers, which caused the lower atmospheric boundary layer to
become too moist and cool.

This summer, EMC conducted a parallel test of the GFS with
corrected land surface parameters. EMC found the change to the
land surface model significantly reduced the cold/wet bias over
and improved the 0-3 day precipitation forecasts. An analysis of
the parallel test results can be viewed here:

www.emc.ncep.noaa.gov/GFS/ppt/gfs_lsm_analysis_09 0412_final.pptx

In addition, the Meteorological Development Lab (MDL) evaluated
the GFS MOS guidance generated from the GFS parallel output. MDL
concluded the corrections in the GFS parallel output had the
desired effect of reducing the cold/wet bias resulting in
improved bias and error scores in the GFS MOS temperature and
dewpoint guidance. Slight improvement was also noted in the GFS
MOS probability of precipitation guidance generated from the GFS
parallel output..............
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Quoting VINNY04:
doug for president!


Might as well have him run....his information that he presents is wrong...
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Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4724
Quoting PensacolaDoug:




Yet oddly enough our national motto has always been "In God we trust".

My name is Doug,and I approved this message.


Actually that isn't true. The motto first was placed on coins in 1864 and then signed into law in 1956 by President Eisenhower
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:




Yet oddly enough our national motto has always been "In God we trust".

My name is Doug,and I approved this message.


who's god are we trusting? which one?
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:




Yet oddly enough our national motto has always been "In God we trust".

My name is Doug,and I approved this message.
That phrase, along with 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance was added by the Eisenhower Administration.
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RTSplayer:
Is there a way to search for all posts you have ever made on the blog, for a specific comment or sentence?!

I may need to look up something I said a few weeks ago, due to an ironic sequence of present-day events.


Google it if you have an idea of how the words went.
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:




Yet oddly enough our national motto has always been "In God we trust".

My name is Doug,and I approved this message.

Actually, "In God we trust" has only been our national motto since 1956. Prior to that "E Pluribus Unum" was the national motto. (I like the old motto better.)

My name is also Doug and I approve *this* message. :)
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Quoting greggebhardt:
You weather people blew it when you cooperated with Gore. No one believes what you or the government says anymore!


Al Gore is very genuine in his concern about global warming. Environmental science formed part of his studies at college. He knows a lot about the subject, and those who deride him as a political bandwagonner with ulterior motives are pretty ignorant.
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1037. VINNY04
Quoting PensacolaDoug:




Yet oddly enough our national motto has always been "In God we trust".

My name is Doug,and I approved this message.
doug for president!
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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