Antarctic iceberg sinks cruise ship

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:39 PM GMT on November 27, 2007

Share this Blog
4
+

The November 2007 sinking of the cruise ship MS Explorer after it hit an iceberg in Antarctic waters is a reminder that the Antarctic is a dangerous place to sail. Ever since British explorer Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance met its end when it become trapped and crushed in pack ice near Antarctica, the Antarctic waters have been a notoriously dangerous place for boats. For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Shackleton's ill-fated expedition, I highly recommend a reading of The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. The book details the most mind-blowing tale of survival and courage I have ever read. Shackleton's phenomenal leadership skills saved the lives of all of his men. Shackleton refused to sleep for over 30 consecutive days while leading his men in an arduous months-long trek over the treacherous Antarctic sea ice. His voyage to find help using an open boat in winter on the storm-tossed Scotia Sea may rank as the greatest navigation feat of all time.


Figure 1. Antarctic sea ice (purple colors) at the time the MS Explorer hit an iceberg and sank. Summer is approaching in the Southern Hemisphere, leading to melting and break up of the sea ice and plenty of icebergs. Image credit: University of Illinois Cryosphere Today.

Why talk about Antarctic sea ice?
You hear a lot of talk about Arctic sea ice, but not about Antarctic sea ice. That's because Antarctic sea ice is relatively unimportant to the Earth's climate. Antarctica is a huge continent that rises thousands of feet above the ocean. It holds about 90% of the world's fresh water, locked up in its massive ice cap. The presence of such a titanic block of ice at the bottom of the world completely dominates the weather and climate of the region, and the year-to-year fluctuations of sea ice don't have a lot of impact on temperatures there.

The other reason to ignore Antarctic sea ice is that it hasn't changed much over the historical record. A look at the sea ice coverage since 1978 (Figure 2) shows very little change. Climate skeptics have pointed out that Antarctic sea ice has been near its maximum area the past few winters. However, this is not considered statistically significant, and there is no overall trend apparent in the data.

However, Antarctic sea ice may be important because of its ability to insulate and buttress glaciers and semi-permanent ice shelves along the coast. Recent melting of sea ice due to warming temperatures along the Antarctic Peninsula allowed warming ocean waters to penetrate close to shore, triggering the collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002. This Rhode Island-sized chunk of ice had been around thousands of years, and disintegrated in just three days. Any decline of Antarctic sea ice in coming decades might cause a speedier retreat of the continent's glaciers and ice shelves.


Figure 2. Antarctic sea ice area as observed via satellite since 1978. The maximum area in winter has ranged between 14-16 million square kilometers, about the same amount of ocean that the Arctic ice covers in winter. However, the Antarctic sea ice almost entirely melts away in summer, something the Arctic sea ice does not do (yet). Image credit: University of Illinois Cryosphere Today.

Antarctic cooling
What is significant is the fact that most of Antarctica cooled in recent decades (Figure 3). For example, the surface temperature at the South Pole cooled 0.05° C between 1980 and 1999 (Kwok and Comiso, 2002). However, the majority of Antarctica has shown no statistically significant warming over the past 50 years (Turner et al., 2005)--the cooling has just been over the past 25-30 years. In the period 2004-2007, much of the Antarctic warmed (Figure 4). Why did Antarctica cool between 1982 and 2004 if there was global warming going on?

Well, the globe, on average, has warmed about 1.1° F (0.65° C) in the 50 years ending in 2005 (IPCC, 2007). Given that there is a lot of natural variability in the climate, it should be expected that some areas of the globe would not see warming, given the relatively modest magnitude of global warming thus far.

Figure 3. Antarctic surface temperatures as observed via AHVRR satellite measurements between 1982 and 2004. Much of Antarctica cooled during this period. Image credit: IPCC The Physical Science Basis, Figure 3.32.


Figure 4. Antarctic surface temperatures as observed via AHVRR satellite measurements between 1981 and 2007. Note that the cooling trend observed from 1982-2004 has reversed, thanks to warming in the past few years. Image credit: NASA

In addition, the weather of the Antarctic is dominated by a strong band of westerly winds that blow around the pole. This circumpolar vortex extends from the surface to the stratosphere, and can attain very high wind speeds, thanks to the absence of large land masses to slow it down. This vortex tends to isolate Antarctica from the rest of the globe, keeping global warming from influencing Antarctica weather, and allowing the surface to cool. The Antarctic Peninsula, which sticks out from Antarctica towards South America, frequently lies outside the vortex. This has allowed the peninsula to warm significantly, compared to the rest of Antarctica (Figures 3 and 4). The Antarctic circumpolar vortex has strengthened in the past 25-30 years, forming an even stronger barrier than usual. Tree ring records (Jones and Widman, 2004) suggest that the circumpolar vortex has shown similar strengthening in the past, so the current cooling trend in Antarctica may be partly a natural cycle.

Another possibility, favored by climate modelers, is that the strengthening of the circumpolar vortex and recent cooling in Antarctica are primarily due to a combination of the recent increase in greenhouse gases and the opening of the Antarctic ozone hole. The ozone hole opened up at about the same time as the recent cooling began. Ozone absorbs UV radiation which heats the atmosphere around it, so the absence of ozone has led to cooling in the stratosphere over Antarctica. This cooling has been about 10° C in October-November since 1985 (Thompson and Solomon, 2002), and has acted to intensify the circumpolar vortex, leading to surface cooling. If the climate modelers are right, the circumpolar vortex will weaken as the ozone hole diminishes in coming decades. This will allow the Antarctic to begin warming with the rest of the globe.

References and resources

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2007, The Physical Science Basis.

Jones, J.M., and M. Widman, "Atmospheric science: Early peak in Antarctic oscillation index," Nature 432, 290-291 (18 November 2004) | doi:10.1038/432290b; Published online 17 November 2004.

Kwok, R., and J.C. Comiso, "Spatial patterns of variability in Antarctic surface temperature: Connections to the Southern Hemisphere Annular Mode and the Southern Oscillation", GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 29, NO. 14, 10.1029/2002GL015415, 2002.

Thompson, D.W.J., and S. Solomon, "Interpretation of Recent Southern Hemisphere Climate Change", Science 3 May 2002: Vol. 296. no. 5569, pp. 895 - 899 DOI: 10.1126/science.1069270.

Turner, J. et al., 2005, "Antarctic climate change during the last 50 years", International Journal of Climatology, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 279-294.

Arctic sea ice

"Antarctic cooling, global warming?" RealClimate.org post, 3 December 2004.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 496 - 446

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10Blog Index

496. lightning10
3:37 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
ITs raining in So Cal today. Storm system that had been expected to move over AZ has taken a more northern track bringing more rain into So Cal.

First rain since October 13th in most areas. Some areas you have to go back to September.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 41 Comments: 630
494. ShenValleyFlyFish
2:39 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
No mail in my box Beachfox
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
493. ShenValleyFlyFish
2:37 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
New Blog Up
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
492. txag91met
2:35 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Also note that Antarctica is surrounded by cold water, which takes a lot longer to heat up than land which surrounds the Arctic. This could be another possibility why the Antarctic has not warmed...
Member Since: January 30, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 749
491. ajcamsmom
2:33 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Happy birthday Bonedog! And many more :)
490. Bonedog
2:30 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Thanks STL :)

Also thanks for reminding us about the UKMETs forcast. Guess you cant argue with climotology :)
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
488. Bonedog
2:05 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
yea Foxx kinda cold up here today.

31 degrees with a 10 mph wind gust to 20. Thats what i woke up to at 4am :o/

Now its 32 and winds are 12mph gusting 21
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
487. Beachfoxx
2:04 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Bonedog
yea kinda obvious. Thats what 135knt winds do to clouds

Puts a chill in my bones!
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 29384
486. Bonedog
2:01 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Thank you Star :)

yea kinda obvious. Thats what 135knt winds do to clouds
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
485. Starwoman
1:59 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Bonedog,
also from me happy birthday and all good wishes for your new year!

And yes, I think I can see the jetstream *s*
Member Since: September 11, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 196
484. Bonedog
1:43 PM GMT on November 30, 2007


can anyone spot the jet stream in this image?
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
483. Bonedog
1:38 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
I know Pat. Just ashame in my mind thats all.
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
482. Bonedog
1:36 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Thank You Foxx for both the well wishes and the link. I will try it this summer
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
481. Patrap
1:36 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Will be hard to forget Calamity on The Scale of 05. There will always be 10 percent anywhere who just dont Get it Bonedog. It's like that in every endeavor mostly. Nature of the Beast.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127927
480. Beachfoxx
1:35 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Shen,

You've got WU mail.
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 29384
479. Beachfoxx
1:34 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Bonedog! Happy Birthday to you!

Here is a link to the MARIGOLD SPRAY. My friend sprays it on her arms, when the flies are bad.
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 29384
478. Bonedog
1:33 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Thank you Shen.
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
477. Bonedog
1:32 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Glad the Gulf has been spared along with the rest of the coasts so you all can rebuild in realative peace BUT I also feel sadened because this will set up complacancy and forgetfulness. Hopefully folks will still contiue to be vigil and take all necessary precautions and preperations well in advance of the season and also listen and heed the Offical watchs warnings and evac orders.

They say storm surge and freshwater runoff kills the most in these storms I say its complacancy that kills more.
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
476. ShenValleyFlyFish
1:31 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Good morning all:
Best Wishes of the day and many happy returns Bonedog
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
475. Patrap
1:28 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
More Good News too..

$255 million coastal restoration plan gets federal OK
Posted by The Times-Picayune November 29, 2007 7:30PM

Link


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127927
474. Patrap
1:26 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Season's Over..Just Humberto took a wack at the Gulf.Another year of lackluster impacts in the US. Thats a Very good thing. The Rebuilding along the Gulf Coast has been blessed with no threats for 2 seasons now.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127927
473. Patrap
1:24 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
U should see my other non weather related stuff. But that would be another entry.Not in here.LOL!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127927
472. Bonedog
1:23 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
hehehe Well you are the DiVinci of cool mpegs and jpegs found on the net. Thats my opinion so take it how you wish LOL ;o)
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
471. Patrap
1:21 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
If ya ever need a image here. Just Google Patrap Images..you'll find something.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127927
470. Bonedog
1:20 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
LOL Pat. You are definatley the master when it comes to cool images :)

Thank you for the Bday wish
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
469. Patrap
1:15 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Happy B-day Bonedog..

Busy with this freaking cake,Phew!

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127927
468. Bonedog
1:12 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Thank You StormW, Sir.
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
465. Patrap
1:06 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
The Gulf Coast escaped a busy storm season again as forecasts fizzled.

Link


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127927
464. Bonedog
12:20 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
thankyou Leftovers :)
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
462. Bonedog
12:13 PM GMT on November 30, 2007


wave height from a buoy off the irish coast

this is self updating
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
461. Cavin Rawlins
12:08 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
460. Cavin Rawlins
12:05 PM GMT on November 30, 2007
ur welcome
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
459. Bonedog
11:56 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
456 thanks for the Bday wishes :)
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
458. Bonedog
11:55 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
mmmm waves. Look very rideable :)
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
457. Bonedog
11:54 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
morning folks I have update my blog with my take on this weekends system.
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
456. Cavin Rawlins
11:17 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
The waves have started ahead of the storm. Web cam shot of the Atlantic Coast of Ireland.





Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
455. Cavin Rawlins
11:01 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Happy B Day Bonedog
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
454. Bonedog
10:43 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
oh wow *blushes*

Thanks listnerVT :)

First thing I saw when I logged in this morning :)
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
453. listenerVT
7:06 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
pottery...

Glad you made it through.
It sure was a big earthquake!!

Sad to see at least one death and buildings down so many places.
Just so glad it was as deep as it was.

Take care through the aftershocks. ♥
Member Since: July 11, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5500
452. listenerVT
6:59 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
. . . . . . . . . .() . .() . () . () . .() . () . () . () . () . .() . () . () . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .||....||....||....||....||....||....||....||....||....||....||....|| . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . ~~~~~~~~~~>> H A P P Y <<~~~~~~~~~ . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . ~~~~~~~~>> B I R T H D A Y <<~~~~~~~ . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . ~~~~~~~~>> B O N E D O G! <<~~~~~~~ . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . .(_______________________________) . . . . . . . .
Member Since: July 11, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5500
451. Tazmanian
6:19 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
watch out SEATTLE you got a 75kt wind storm comeing your way


AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
920 PM PST THU NOV 29 2007



LONG TERM...THE LATEST GFS IS SIMILAR TO PREVIOUS RUNS AND
CONSIDERING THE DRAMATIC PATTERN CHANGE OF UNDERCUTTING THE BIG
RIDGE I AM SURPRISED HOW CONSISTENT THE MODELS HAVE BEEN. BY SUNDAY
EVENING THERE IS DEEP LOW PRESSURE OUT AROUND 40N/140W AND SOMETHING
AROUND A 960MB LOW WILL TRACK TO THE CHARLOTTES MONDAY. MORE DETAILS
REVEALED IN THE ISSALLOBARS...BUT AT THIS LEAD TIME SUFFICE TO SAY
WINDY AND WARM. STRONG SLY FLOW ALOFT WILL TAKE A GOOD 24 HOURS TO
WORK THRU WRN WA SUNDAY NIGHT AND MONDAY. WINDS AT H850 OVER THE
INTERIOR OF WRN WA PROBABLY WILL AROUND 75KT FROM 06Z MON TO 00Z TUE
(PERHAPS HIGHER BASED ON SOME OF THE NAM SIMULATIONS) AND WINDS
ALONG THE COAST ARE IN EXCESS OF 100KTS SUNDAY NIGHT AND MONDAY
(110KTS IN THE NAM). WOW. A TYPICAL STRONG FRONTAL SYSTEM HAS A 50
OR 60KT PLUME AT H850. 24 HOUR RAINFALL AMOUNTS OFF OF THE 12Z MM5
EXTENSION HAD SOMETHING ON THE ORDER OF 5-10 INCHES FOR THE OLYMPICS

(WHICH DOES NOT SEEM AS HIGH AS IT COULD BE W/ 100KT FLOW OVER THE
RIDGES) AND PRECIP OF 1.5 TO 3 INCHES CASCADES. THE HYDROLOGY OF THE
EVENT WILL BE COMPLICATED IN THE CASCADES BY MOSTLY SNOW HAVING
FALLEN IN THE MOUNTAINS ON SUNDAY FOLLOWED BY SOUTHERLY FLOW WHICH
ISN`T PARTICULARLY WET FOR THE CASCADES. MM

WOW is right LOL



oh and this


MARINE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
440 PM PST THU NOV 29 2007

PZZ150-153-156-170-173-176-010000-
/X.NEW.KSEW.MA.S.0003.071130T0040Z-071201T0000Z/
COASTAL WATERS FROM CAPE FLATTERY TO JAMES ISLAND OUT 20 NM-
COASTAL WATERS FROM JAMES ISLAND TO POINT GRENVILLE OUT 20 NM-
COASTAL WATERS FROM POINT GRENVILLE TO CAPE SHOALWATER OUT 20 NM-
COASTAL WATERS FROM CAPE FLATTERY TO JAMES ISLAND 20 TO 60 NM-
WATERS FROM JAMES ISLAND TO POINT GRENVILLE 20 TO 60 NM-
COASTAL WATERS FROM POINT GRENVILLE TO CAPE SHOALWATER 20 TO
60 NM-
440 PM PST THU NOV 29 2007

...HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ARE POSSIBLE ACROSS THE WASHINGTON COASTAL
WATERS EARLY NEXT WEEK...

A POWERFUL CYCLONE WILL DEVELOP OVER THE EASTERN PACIFIC THIS
WEEKEND AND THEN RAPIDLY DEEPEN TO 945 MB SUNDAY NIGHT AS IT
RACES TOWARD BRITISH COLUMBIA. WINDS WILL RISE TO STORM FORCE
SOUTHERLY BEHIND THE STRONG WARM FRONT SUNDAY NIGHT AND PERSIST
INTO MONDAY BEFORE GRADUALLY EASING. THERE IS THE POTENTIAL FOR
GUSTS TO REACH 70 KNOTS OVER THE AREA DURING THIS PERIOD.

IN ADDITION TO THE WIND...SEAS ARE EXPECTED TO BUILD TO AS HIGH
AS 36 FEET
ON MONDAY. DUE TO THE CHAOTIC NATURE OF THE SEAS IT
WILL BE DIFFICULT TO DISTINGUISH THE SWELL AND WIND WAVE
COMPONENTS UNTIL AFTER THE COLD FRONT PASSES AND WINDS EASE



WOW 36 foot sea


any one that lives in SEATTLE needs to start geting thing that they need for this storm and get redy for HURRICANE FORCE WINDS POSSIBLE move loss thing in doors


this storm is going to be a big one
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114971
450. KRL
6:07 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Thank you Dr. Masters for your blog and great forecasts this year.

The season flew by so fast.

Happy Holidays to everyone!
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 231
449. pottery
3:56 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Good evening. Had to sweep-up some broken pots around here today, after that quake shook us up. Felt like about a mag.5 equivalent here in Trinidad. Not nice.It is the noise that the building makes is the most disconcerting thing. Plus the fact that you cannot walk a straight line .............
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24265
448. westernmob
3:25 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Sorry if Been Posted before.


Congrats Jeff on making the big newspaper:

Link
Member Since: April 6, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 74
447. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
2:30 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
T-MINUS 21HRS 30MINS GMT remain of the
2007 ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53620
446. taistelutipu
1:19 AM GMT on November 30, 2007
Well, happy birthday then Bone and happy surfing. Here in Finland it's already 3:16 am on November 30th so I can congratulate already.

I set the limit auf 5.0 world wide and I've gotten one mail so far, so no problem and I think that 1 GB is quite hard to fill up quickly. :) I'll be off now, good night everyone and see you later today for the last day of the Atlantic hurricane season 2007.
Member Since: August 20, 2007 Posts: 12 Comments: 639

Viewing: 496 - 446

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10Blog Index

Top of Page

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.