One third of Arctic ice cap now missing; Midwestern floods; tropical update

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:46 PM GMT on August 24, 2007

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Sea ice in the Arctic continues its record decline, thanks to unusually cloud-free conditions and above-average temperatures. For August 21, the National Snow and Ice Data Center estimated that fully one third of the Arctic ice cap was missing, compared to the average levels observed on that date from 1979-2000. Sea ice extent was 4.92 million square kilometers on August 21, and the 1979-2000 average for the date was about 7.3 million square kilometers. Arctic sea ice has fallen below the record low absolute minimum of 4.92 million square kilometers set in 2005 by about 8%, with another 3-5 weeks of the melting season still remaining. Reliable records of sea ice coverage go back to 1979.


Figure 1. Extent of the polar sea ice on August 21, compared to the average for the date from the 1979-2000 period (pink line). Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

With one third of the Arctic ice cap already gone, and another month of melting to go, we need to consider what effect this will have on weather, climate, and sea level rise. Well, we don't need to worry about sea level rise, since the polar sea ice is already in the ocean, and won't appreciably change sea level when it melts. However, the remarkable melting of the ice cap will likely lead to unusual weather patterns this fall and winter. The lack of sea ice will put much more heat and moisture into the polar atmosphere, affecting the path of the jet stream and the resultant storm tracks. Expect a much-delayed arrival of winter to the Northern Hemisphere again this year, which may lead to further accelerated melting of the ice cap in future years.

Last week, I remarked that the most recent images from the North Pole webcam show plenty of melt water and rainy conditions near the Pole. It turns out that was misleading, since the webcam is on a ship that was headed towards the pole, but had not reached it. There have been rainy conditions at the Pole this summer, and there is some open water there, but this is not uncommon in summer. Shifting ice frequently opens up leads (cracks) with open sea water at the Pole. It was one of these open leads that British swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh swam in for 18 minutes this July to draw attention to global climate change.


Figure 2. Total rainfall from August 10-22 as estimated by NASA's TRMM satellite.

Midwest flooding
To get an idea of the magnitude of the flooding that has hit the Midwestern U.S. during the past ten days, take a look at the total amount of rain from August 10-22 (Figure 2). We can blame Tropical Storm Erin for the rain in Texas and Oklahoma (up to 11 inches), and for the nine flooding deaths that occurred in those states. However, the unbelievable rain amounts in excess of 20 inches in Minnesota and Wisconsin were primarily due to a frontal system--with the help of some copious moisture pumped northwards by the counter-clockwise circulation around Erin while it spun over Oklahoma.

Tropical update
There are no threat areas in the Atlantic to discuss. Two of our four reliable forecast models, the NOGAPS and ECMWF, are predicting that a tropical depression could form off the coast of Nicaragua on Sunday. The models forecast that this system would move inland over Nicaragua and Honduras by Monday.

I'll have an update on Saturday morning.
Jeff Masters

After Hurricane Dean (sprinter)
Bulldozer trying to clear sand and debris from Norman Manley Highway(Airport Road)
After Hurricane Dean
Findlay Ohio flood (prairieview)
The flood is over, now the cleanup
Findlay Ohio flood

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547. seafarer459
11:49 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Sceerdycat...

I do believe in global warming..Not so sure it is human caused..

As for the riding around in an suv waaay off base there. I drive a 98 Saturn,26 mpg.

Maybe i can go the Al Gore route $1,200 per month power bill. Globe trotting in a private jet Riding in a limo...

Go ahead and flame on me.

But until I see all the power players on the GW band wagon tone down thier waste, than I may consider using only one sheet of TP,Cheryl Crow Support wind mills ,ala, Bobby Kennedy jr.
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546. weatherwonderer
12:06 AM GMT on August 25, 2007
nash, cycles happen. In microbiology, cycle exist everywhere. In fact, without their contributions in cycling CO2, sulfur and many other elements you surely wouldn't be alive. There wouldn't be oxygen in the first place. Nobody is telling you how to live, that is up to you. All I'm saying is that it doesn't hurt to be prudent. Hell, even the best of us waste, just a matter of being conscience about it and trying not to do things that may hurt somebody else.

sceerdy, exactly. I live in the "show me state:" should be the "show off state" at least in St. Louis. There are many people that have huge houses that can't even afford to have furniture.
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545. nash28
12:05 AM GMT on August 25, 2007
And no offense, but these "ice melting" blogs really give me the red ass because it is once again pumping down people's throats that we should be ashamed for being human and advancing in our technologies, as if it is our fault.

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543. sceerdycat
7:02 PM EST on August 24, 2007
You said it, Franck, "methane emitters." We're all full of it!
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542. nash28
12:03 AM GMT on August 25, 2007
Cut back on what??? Electricity? Driving to work? Passing gas???

I really am interested in knowing "how" we can cut back. If you are inferring we as a population are responsible, then how are we to change our lives?
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541. nash28
12:01 AM GMT on August 25, 2007
Nothing wrong with debate.

But there is something wrong with those who say "we're at fault".

How ridiculous can people be to actually believe ALL OF A SUDDEN we, as a people, are totally responsible for a CATASTROPHIC global warming???

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540. sceerdycat
7:01 PM EST on August 24, 2007
No, incorrect. No one denies the earth warms and cools. It's called a cycle. It's called nature. It's called the sun. It's called a phenomenon that cannot and will not be corrected or controlled by man, period. Drop it. This is man's attempt to be greater than mother earth, and quite frankly, that's laughable at best.

So for those of you who feel "guilty" about the earth and rise in temperatures, then knock yourselves out!!! Have your feel good, feel important moment.

As for me, I am going to continue to live my life the way I always have, without a guilt complex. I do not litter. I do not desecrate the land. Therefore, I have nothing to feel guilty over. And I am SICK AND TIRED of being told how I should live my life by elitists who think we can control mother nature. Get a grip.

Rant over.


Well, enjoy your life. I am sick of the politics, too. However, technological advances and CO2 emissions have affected mother nature.It's easy to dismiss the data and deny what's happening, but it is real. If everyone would try to cut back, it would make a difference.
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539. extreme236
11:59 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
where is my 8:05 TWD!! lol
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
538. weatherwonderer
11:52 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Baha, agreed. No body is going to change anyones mind (generally speaking). Life experiences are about the only thing that truly changes people. I have learned a lot about the tropic on this site in past few years. Debating, especially in "down times" is OK. I've been corrected before on tropic issues and I am open minded enough to take it. I hope I never get to cynical to change that.
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537. sceerdycat
6:56 PM EST on August 24, 2007
Posted By: weatherwonderer at 6:51 PM EST on August 24, 2007.
sceerdy, gas prices are already helping to mitigate that problem. LOL


You are absolutely right! Remember the "Tonka Toys" from the 70's embargo? Still, I think there's some personal responsibility. Where I live, it's a statement to drive a gas hog, "I can afford it, get out of my way!"
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536. BahaHurican
7:51 PM EDT on August 24, 2007
I agree with that, 236. In the long run, we need to cut down on the pollution.

Meanwhile, are we considering the effects of large-scale use of electrical sources of energy? Just because the effects are not immediately obvious doesn't mean they don't exist at all . . .
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535. nash28
11:50 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
No, incorrect. No one denies the earth warms and cools. It's called a cycle. It's called nature. It's called the sun. It's called a phenomenon that cannot and will not be corrected or controlled by man, period. Drop it. This is man's attempt to be greater than mother earth, and quite frankly, that's laughable at best.

So for those of you who feel "guilty" about the earth and rise in temperatures, then knock yourselves out!!! Have your feel good, feel important moment.

As for me, I am going to continue to live my life the way I always have, without a guilt complex. I do not litter. I do not desecrate the land. Therefore, I have nothing to feel guilty over. And I am SICK AND TIRED of being told how I should live my life by elitists who think we can control mother nature. Get a grip.

Rant over.
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534. AinFLA
11:52 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Posted By: BahaHurican at 11:32 PM GMT on August 24, 2007.
AinFL,

If we are here blogging away when there is ABSOLUTELY nothing tropical in the WORLD, you should already have a clue about us. Getting a life has no relevance in this blog.

Some of us have a sense of humour. Some of us respond badly to sarcasm. Take your pick.


OK, I'm sorry to have to agree with you on 2 points..maybe no life but some sense of humor. But looking for sarcasm where none exists is your problem. No sarcasm intended. Nothing's going on. That's the point. Relax a little.

I'm on this blog to get what I thought was somewhat informed. If I wanted cut and dried charts, statistics and other mundane stuff, there are a thousand other places to go.

Most of you sound like you know what you're talking about, so some of it is extremely interesting. To me anyway.

But when there is absolutley positiviely diddly squat to discuss, (at the moment)you just have to ask yourself, geez,, lighten up a litle. That's all. I think your anger is somewhat misdirected. There is still Sept, Oct, and Nov.

But beware, if nothing of note happens during those months, we will be on the prognosticators like white on Elmers Glue.
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533. franck
11:50 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Thas it sceerdycat. Don't be sceerd of 'em.
They're just a bunch of carbon dioxide emitters, methane emitters too.
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532. weatherwonderer
11:51 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Not that I like the prices mind you...
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531. BahaHurican
7:44 PM EDT on August 24, 2007
[bowing repeatedly to lengthy imagined applause] Ten-q, ten-q, ten-q!

Bashing someone's views is OK with me; bashing them because they are alive is not the same thing. . . .

BTW, even our local met (for whom I have a lot of respect) dismissed all the current waves going "no clouds", "no spin", "no development". Even the one over the Bahamas got dissed. . . Took him about 30 seconds to discuss the entire tropics - and call all the high temps for the whole Bahamas.

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530. extreme236
11:50 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
the point about GW is, that we all pollute the enviroment. whether GW is an issue that is natural or not, we should stop polluting everything. we can all agree on that
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
529. weatherwonderer
11:49 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
sceerdy, gas prices are already helping to mitigate that problem. LOL
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528. sceerdycat
6:49 PM EST on August 24, 2007
Why are so many people in denial about global warming? I guess you don't think about it as you're driving around in your SUV or Hummer.
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526. weatherwonderer
11:36 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Baha, LOL!
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523. BahaHurican
7:28 PM EDT on August 24, 2007
AinFL,

If we are here blogging away when there is ABSOLUTELY nothing tropical in the WORLD, you should already have a clue about us. Getting a life has no relevance in this blog.

Some of us have a sense of humour. Some of us respond badly to sarcasm. Take your pick.
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522. weatherwonderer
10:47 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Texas, I think I have noticed a couple of surface lows in that area. I think the highest probability of storm formation in that area right now. Wouldn't be surprised if the next tropical cyclone forms there.

Among scientists there is very little debate on whether global warming is occurring, it whether this one in influenced by Man. There a few, but not many, that would debate GWing but the main debate is whether we can do anything about it.
Since this belief is nearly universal >90%, it would be prudent to take heed and take measures that may reduce it or measures to mitigate it.
The biggest problem is that uneducated politicians on environmental topics have made this a political nightmare. There are probably many things that can be done that doesn't bust the budget that may help with the problem and many other things that can be done in phases to help. This country in particular is "high" on the wealth it produced and wants it to continue. Its similar substance abuse on mass levels. Denial will only make things worse. The best thing to protect yourself from the collapse of our economy is elect officials who believe in keeping manufacturing jobs in this country. Eventually, the only thing this country will offer is R&D and hamburgers. Right now, I think we are frightfully short in candidates, in either party, that can take on the task of providing good leadership with the global economy, both from an environmental standpoint and from a domestic one. Since I too, am a scientist ( a microbiologist) I am involved in a different political battle. The fight on what to do with the drug resistant bacteria problem. Scientist can only provide a warning it up to the others to pay heed. I believe many posters in this blog are young. Remember, what we do today will dictate, to an unknown degree, the future you live in.
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521. BahaHurican
7:25 PM EDT on August 24, 2007
ULLs, u are welcome to the party.

Unless this means the storms later this season will be weally, weally bad . . . .
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520. AinFLA
11:26 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Posted By: Chicklit at 7:55 PM GMT on August 24, 2007.
AinFLA, if you are admitting humans have caused global warming, then your argument is flawed for obvious reasons.


Huh ?...............

Two thing wrong with that statement.

1. My point was, any warming is caused cyclic phenomena. Warm-cold-Warm-cold....get it ??

2. Not, repeat, it is NOT caused caused by humans.

With one exception, if Fidel Castro is dead, Al Gore did it. Or else, GW had something to do with it. Round up the usual suspects, Catalina Eddy and Off-shore Flo.

God you people, get a life or get a sense of humor. Or both.
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519. BahaHurican
7:11 PM EDT on August 24, 2007
Again, how far back do our global records go?

These "inhaling" periods, even in August", may be fairly natural.

One thing this GW debate has done for me is to make me consider the thoroughness and accuracy of our records. Especially when one considers that European "conquerers" made a practice of destroying the records of whatever peoples they encountered as they moved around the world, (though I guess in the history of the world they are not particularly unique in that) lots of what we "may" have known about weather, climate change, and human interation with it has been lost. Even where records survived, our ability to interpret them may be limited.

So we still have a lot to learn about how our earth works. An example for me is the building of levees in LA, which was seen by its originators as a way of "saving" the land from flooding. 100 years later, their great-grandchildren have realized that levee-building has actually done much to destroy the land.

I don't know who is right about the GW debate (I'm agnostic :o) but I do believe we can do a lot to reduce emissions of both greenhouse and other gases. I don't think that would hurt. And for those who believe "little ole man" can do little to change what happens on the earth, consider the increased rate of extinctions of species in the last 100 years. The best statement I've heard about the debate asks us to consider not whether the Earth will survive our efforts - likely it will - but whether HUMANITY will survive our efforts. We assume dinasaurs became extinct because of something outside their control; but do we KNOW? Our own recordkeeping is pretty skimpy.
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517. scCane
11:25 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
wondering why its so quiet the answer look at all the upper level lows

cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic/real-time/atlantic/movies/g8wv/g8wvjava.html
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515. extreme236
11:20 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Were already above average in the atlantic. Im thinking that the conditions just need to ripen up a bit more for development. The MJO pulses in the atlantic arent favorable right now, which is helping to cause the subsidence. Although the MJO might become favorable again by the end of the month. Right now, the only actual things i see having potential to develop is that wave at 50W, but only if it continues to persist into tomorrow
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
514. extreme236
11:15 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
well in the western pacific they do have an invest that may develop. the JTWC says that 90w is a bit more impressive today, so maybe that will develop
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
510. BahaHurican
7:02 PM EDT on August 24, 2007
Posted By: intunewindchime at 6:29 PM EDT on August 24, 2007.

Fidel castro=

I can't find anything on the web saying he is dead, except for CIA hoaxes from 1981... are you sure?


I heard it on a local "ahem" 'news station' (FL). Talk about wishcasters . . .

Must be the dearth of tropical weather news. "Too calm in the tropics - Castro must have kicked it". You know.
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509. extreme236
11:05 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
the twave at 50W looks fairly good. the appearance of the wave looks better than it has all day. it is more concentrated in one area instead of the spread out way it looked earlier
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
507. zoomiami
11:02 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
slightly weather related :} - has anyone used the new hurricane panels that look like screens yet? We were thinking of using them to close in patio during storms.
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506. intunewindchime
11:02 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
will check back late tonight, have to go take care of my strom sensitive dog
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504. kmanislander
11:01 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Here is the QS from this morning. Nothing at the surface other than some curvature in the wind field indicating the presence of a Twave

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503. intunewindchime
10:59 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Ok Kamainislander, will stand down for now....lol I thik this weather watching thing is addictive. You never stop learning.
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500. kmanislander
10:56 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Before anyone gets too excited about the swirl near 50W let's see what the quikscat pass this evening shows. The pass from this morning DID NOT show anything at the surface in the nature of a low. That means either what we are seeing today is in the mid levels only or that after the pass this morning something spun up at the surface. It will be about 3 hrs before the pass from this evening is downloaded
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499. latitude25
10:52 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
"Posted By: MichaelSTL at 10:48 PM GMT on August 24, 2007.
Trends over a longer period are also more significant than shorter term trends."

True

But if you follow that reasoning you have to take it to it's logical conclusion.

It's like the global warming models. There are no negative feedback loops figured in. We don't know enough about climate to do that.

So if you take the long term trends of the global warming models to their logical end. The earth will burn up.

And all global warming models come with the same caveat - "if the trend continues".
Member Since: August 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3654
498. intunewindchime
10:50 PM GMT on August 24, 2007
Hmmn that blob does not look too promising for development.... anyone else?
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.