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 reedzone:
Not to mention that I added (if you believe the word of God). Wasn't forcing anything on anyone. Some people are just so ignorant on here.. but that's ok.


Unfortunately ignorance doesn't just stem from those who do not believe in God. In fact, it is with a degree of sadness that I have found some of my fellow Christians to be the most ignorant of all.
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Dr. Masters!!!!!!! A new blog post please!
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Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
Reed that was the best post of the day of what you belive.Seems now days the only people who have rights in this country are the one's who are anti-christian, or anti conservative.People constantly quote the constitution about leaving religion out of any disscussion.Well these folks that say this, seem not to read the whole purpose of what the founding fathers believed.They believed in the separation of church and state.They also said in closing if God was taken out of the country the country would cease to exist.Somebody asked about what happened to Ike and a lot of the old bloggers? Todays arguing and posts is what ran most of them off.Used to be a great tropical blog sad.One poster that seems to thrive on GW and stirring up arguments has caused most of the trouble, and has no objectivity what so ever.Good Day and proud to say God Bless you, and god bless America.

Not to stir the pot... but there is a reason "God" is never cited in the Constitution. And there is that whole "Freedom of Religion" thing. (that freedom of religion thing entitles people to believe what they want, without having it forced on them)
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Quoting jeffs713:
What is missing in there? Well, a lot. there is no direct connection between man and increased CO2. Conjecture, yes. But no die-hard direct link.

There is indeed a direct link. The isotopic makeup of the atmospheric carbon shows that old carbon is increasing in the atmosphere. Old carbon that is found in oh, say fossil fuels.

Maybe you (or someone else) knows where all this old carbon is coming from if it's *not* from fossil fuels? If so, please share.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting StormHype:


1004 mb system? Is that a high pressure system? lol
Well it is the Canadian Model which is notorious for spewing up nonsense. Had the remnants of Helene at one time regenerate and strike NOLA as a hurricane and had Isaac recurving well out to sea.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Dennis thinks the front might clear the area by Sunday afternoon. What is your thoughts about that? I'm thinking a couple of less humid nights.



I actually don't buy that the front will clear through until I see it. It might happen yes. However it's going to be close either way. I think a front stalling north of the area with continued showers and thunderstorms is closer to reality. However, as the front dissipates drier and more comfortable air will filter down with time. I just don't think it's going to plow through on Sunday. Rather I expect a stalling then a slow drift south as it dissipates with higher pressure pushing drier air slowly into our area.
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Quoting jeffs713:
Well, good for you on being willing to explain your own personal religious beliefs - but as someone who isn't Christian, I really don't care, and this isn't exactly the time or place to be proselytizing your faith... especially unsolicited.


Wow .... "Obama's 2016" came early.
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1200
Not to mention that I added (if you believe the word of God). Wasn't forcing anything on anyone. Some people are just so ignorant on here.. but that's ok.
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Quoting LargoFl:
............gee wish some of these temps would filter down here,even just for a few days.
yah i wouldnt mind a 46 or a 37 or a 28.....ok 28 is pushing it.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Last nights run of the Canadian Model shows a 1004 mb. system heading towards Texas:





1004 mb system? Is that a high pressure system? lol
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1200
Quoting Grothar:
I thought the "Dark Ages" was caused by less sunlight and everything got dark for a long time. That is why people stopped reading and writing. When the "Enlightenment" came it got lighter and people could read again.
Well this post sure enlightened me :)
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Quoting jeffs713:
Well, good for you on being willing to explain your own personal religious beliefs - but as someone who isn't Christian, I really don't care, and this isn't exactly the time or place to be proselytizing your faith... especially unsolicited.


Again, sharing my idea on the topic of the blog, which has some "faith base" to it. Just staying on topic.
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Quoting reedzone:
Well, there are people in here (very few) that are Christian Conservative like me who believes in Global Warming, but is not caused by man. Scientists have proven that GW is real, but I believe it is an aging/natural issue as the world gets older in time. If you think this is bad, read the book of Revelations, the world is going to get worse in time (if you believe in the word of God)


I believe in GW. I don't believe enough data exists to pin it solely on man-kind, or that man-kind can reverse it or significantly affect it. If the earth was only marginally stable, and now sea floor methane is really coming out of solution (which is 22 times more potent than CO2 regarding green house effects) it is headed to be unstable even if every human were to go Jim Jones by the end of the weekend.

I think proposing a carbon tax is a sham and a insincere move motivated by those looking to capitalize on GW fears. It will solve nothing, but open new flows of money to those with cronies in DC. Some things never change in DC... and it's party neutral.
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1200
............gee wish some of these temps would filter down here,even just for a few days.
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Reed that was the best post of the day of what you belive.Seems now days the only people who have rights in this country are the one's who are anti-christian, or anti conservative.People constantly quote the constitution about leaving religion out of any disscussion.Well these folks that say this, seem not to read the whole purpose of what the founding fathers believed.They believed in the separation of church and state.They also said in closing if God was taken out of the country the country would cease to exist.Somebody asked about what happened to Ike and a lot of the old bloggers? Todays arguing and posts is what ran most of them off.Used to be a great tropical blog sad.One poster that seems to thrive on GW and stirring up arguments has caused most of the trouble, and has no objectivity what so ever.Good Day and proud to say God Bless you, and god bless America.
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Quoting Grothar:
I thought the "Dark Ages" was caused by less sunlight and everything got dark for a long time. That is why people stopped reading and writing. When the "Enlightenment" came it got lighter and people could read again.
Yes, it is self-explanatory. ;-)
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Quoting hydrus:
All El-Nino events are different, and this one ( if it ever officially forms ) will be no exception.
True the 1969 and 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Seasons were both active and didn't ironically end until November 30 and both were weak El-Nino's years.
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good one Gro! still smiling over that one.
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Quoting Grothar:
I thought the "Dark Ages" was caused by less sunlight and everything got dark for a long time. That is why people stopped reading and writing. When the "Enlightenment" came it got lighter and people could read again.

I thought it was some great being in space closing and then opening the window shades...
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Quoting Grothar:
I thought the "Dark Ages" was caused by less sunlight and everything got dark for a long time. That is why people stopped reading and writing. When the "Enlightenment" came it got lighter and people could read again.


LOL!!!
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Quoting reedzone:


I was just explaining my theory on the issue based on my beliefs as a Christian and what is to come.
Well, good for you on being willing to explain your own personal religious beliefs - but as someone who isn't Christian, I really don't care, and this isn't exactly the time or place to be proselytizing your faith... especially unsolicited.
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Quoting Grothar:
I thought the "Dark Ages" was caused by less sunlight and everything got dark for a long time. That is why people stopped reading and writing. When the "Enlightenment" came it got lighter and people could read again.
i like that!!!!!!
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Quoting Autistic2:
I have been studding global warming lately.


i suggest you keep studying but this time try to read the actual science and not right wing blogs
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Quoting Skyepony:
I did call this amount of melt back in late winter...

Here's a like minded forecaster..
Good one, Skye. Sometimes we really need to fall back on humor just to keep on level.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Last nights run of the Canadian Model shows a 1004 mb. system heading towards Texas:



I saw that this morning. A sign that a U.S. September landfall is certainly possible, even with the troughs currently re-curving storms. October should be interesting for sure.
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...and just like that, NOAA 42 concludes its figure-4 pattern into Leslie, and heads for home.

To repeat - it found peak flight level winds of 67kts, peak surface level SFMR winds of 54kts, and central pressure rising from 981 to 982.5 by the time it left. Leslie's one immense, sprawling, disorganized, reasonably strong Tropical Storm. But this morning, at least, it ain't no hurricane.
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I thought the "Dark Ages" was caused by less sunlight and everything got dark for a long time. That is why people stopped reading and writing. When the "Enlightenment" came it got lighter and people could read again.
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Quoting elvette:


It would appear to be ...where do the tropical weather folk hang when these rows go on ?... Sorry kinda new here but I did see a climate change blog but no distinct Tropical weather blog...


.
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Quoting jeffs713:
Yep, but I can also see evidence of 3 separate circulations at the low levels, too.


Is a bit elongated...
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Quoting Jaevyn:


Let me say as a Christian that other Christians are a little too ready to put their views across to others who simply aren't interested. There is a time and a place, this blog is not such a place.


lol, the blog is about Global Warming and I am sharing my view on it... That's all.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
LOL I don't know what has been delaying the onslaught of El Nino, there has been talks about the AMO and PDO which may be stronger than anticpated and pushing the warm waters in the eastern pacific towards the central pacific in a modiki fashion, I'm still optimistic the season will shut down at some point, definitely don't see it this month, maybe next month or not.
All El-Nino events are different, and this one ( if it ever officially forms ) will be no exception.
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Last nights run of the Canadian Model shows a 1004 mb. system heading towards Texas:



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Quoting reedzone:


I was just explaining my theory on the issue based on my beliefs as a Christian and what is to come.


Let me say as a Christian that other Christians are a little too ready to put their views across to others who simply aren't interested. There is a time and a place, this blog is not such a place.
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Quoting WxLogic:
Funny how 90L is trying to fire up again after being ranked down:

It does look like 90L is trying to wrap up some convection, but it still has a lot of dry air and shear to contend with.
Maybe some (including me) called RIP too soon?
We will see...
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799. Skyepony (Mod)
I did call this amount of melt back in late winter...

Here's a like minded forecaster..
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
If you want I can change that real fast and go on a image blitz. Already got model images and satellite images all lined up ready to go.


LOL.... by the looks of it, on your own head be it

but I will be brave and post one...

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Quoting WxLogic:
Funny how 90L is trying to fire up again after being ranked down:

Anything and everything in the gulf should be watched this time of year...In 1986, I watched a couple of thunderstorms move out into the gulf from the west coast of Florida, the next day they named them Bonnie.
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Quoting WxLogic:
Funny how 90L is trying to fire up again after being ranked down:

Yep, but I can also see evidence of 3 separate circulations at the low levels, too.
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Quoting CloudGatherer:
Absolutely the post of the morning. Tough to believe that Angela failed to include the Book of Revelations in her explanation, right?


I was just explaining my theory on the issue based on my beliefs as a Christian and what is to come.
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Quoting hydrus:
Boy that damn El-Nino makes fore a lackluster season...Somebody boil some seawater or something.
LOL I don't know what has been delaying the onslaught of El Nino, there has been talks about the AMO and PDO which may be stronger than anticpated and pushing the warm waters in the eastern pacific towards the central pacific in a modiki fashion, I'm still optimistic the season will shut down at some point, definitely don't see it this month, maybe next month or not.
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Quoting LargoFl:
yeah vinny, its going to be an interesting weekend as that front sort of stalls out over us
should be good for pictures then. its been kinda hard to get them the last month or so.
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Quoting CloudGatherer:
Absolutely the post of the morning. Tough to believe that Angela failed to include the Book of Revelations in her explanation, right?
Angela knows this is a blog about Tropical Weather, not the Bible...:)
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1018 AM EDT THU SEP 6 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIAMI HAS EXTENDED THE

* FLOOD WARNING FOR...
CENTRAL PALM BEACH COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA...

* UNTIL 1030 AM EDT FRIDAY

* AT 1015 AM EDT ALTHOUGH FLOODING CONDITIONS HAVE IMPROVED, THE
PALM BEACH COUNTY EMERGENCY OPERATION CENTER INDICATED THAT SOME
ROADWAYS WERE STILL IMPASSABLE DUE TO STANDING WATER.
THEREFORE...THE FLOOD WARNING FOR EAST CENTRAL PALM BEACH COUNTY HAS
BEEN EXTENDED UNTIL FRIDAY MORNING. ADDITIONAL RAINFALL TODAY COULD
LEAD TO ANOTHER HALF OF AN INCH TO AN INCH WITH LOCALLY HIGHER
AMOUNTS WHERE THE RAINFALL BECOMES CONCENTRATED.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR OCCURRING.

&&

LAT...LON 2685 8038 2684 8021 2669 8021 2669 8038

$$

GARCIA
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Quoting VINNY04:
now thats what i like! thanks Largo
yeah vinny, its going to be an interesting weekend as that front sort of stalls out over us
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Quick question:

If Sea Ice is "blown" around by the Alaskan storm, is it no longer sea ice? Or is it not counted as part of the mass?

I realize that the potential for melt increases, but do the satellites account for unattached ice? The figures we see are usually rounded so much no one can tell (i.e. 1,000,000 sqkm)
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Quoting reedzone:
Well, there are people in here (very few) that are Christian Conservative like me who believes in Global Warming, but is not caused by man. Scientists have proven that GW is real, but I believe it is an aging/natural issue as the world gets older in time. If you think this is bad, read the book of Revelations, the world is going to get worse in time (if you believe in the word of God)
Absolutely the post of the morning. Tough to believe that Angela failed to include the Book of Revelations in her explanation, right?
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Quoting LargoFl:
THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR WEST CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST
FLORIDA.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT.

...THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS WILL BE POSSIBLE ACROSS THE AREA MAINLY
THIS AFTERNOON WITH THE BEST CHANCES INLAND. MORNING SHOWERS NEAR
THE COAST WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING WATERSPOUTS. THE MAIN
THREATS FROM ANY STORMS WILL BE GUSTY WINDS...DANGEROUS CLOUD TO
GROUND LIGHTNING...AND LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL THAT COULD CAUSE
MINOR FLOODING OF LOW LYING AND POOR DRAINAGE AREAS.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...SATURDAY THROUGH THURSDAY.

...THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED EACH DAY THROUGH MID-WEEK WITH
BEST CHANCES OVER THE WEEKEND AS MOISTURE INCREASES ACROSS THE
STATE AHEAD OF A WEAK LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM AND COOL FRONT. GUSTY
WINDS AND HEAVY DOWNPOURS WILL LIKELY BE THE MAIN THREAT WITH THIS
ACTIVITY.

...RIP CURRENT IMPACT...
AN INCREASE IN SOUTHWEST FLOW MAY LEAD TO AN INCREASED RISK OF RIP
CURRENTS ALONG AREA BEACHES OVER THE WEEKEND.

...WIND AND SEA IMPACT...
WINDS AND SEAS WILL BE INCREASING TO NEAR ADVISORY LEVELS FOR
EARLY NEXT WEEK. SMALL CRAFT OPERATORS SHOULD MONITOR CONDITIONS
THROUGH THE WEEKEND.

.SPOTTER INFORMATION STATEMENT...

SPOTTERS SHOULD MONITOR THE WEATHER AND SELF ACTIVATE IF NEEDED.
now thats what i like! thanks Largo
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
It seems to be the most likely scenario, but it is not wise to make an absolute prediction.


This season is so boring...the storms that we have close to the caribbean stay weak...
The interesting hurricanes stay on the ocean...
How do you want to stay interested to weather???
The only thing we want is an intersting storms on the caribbean...
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Quoting elvette:


It would appear to be ...where do the tropical weather folk hang when these rows go on ?... Sorry kinda new here but I did see a climate change blog but no distinct Tropical weather blog...
If you want I can change that real fast and go on a image blitz. Already got model images and satellite images all lined up ready to 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.

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