Monday, August 3, 2015

Arctic Sea Ice Collapse Threatens - Update 3

The image below is based on a nullschool.net forecast for August 6, 2015, run on August 2, 2015. It shows temperatures as high as 26.4°C (or 79.4°F) in the north of Canada (green circle). The inset, based on a Climate Reanalyzer forecast for that date, shows that this is as much as 20°C (or 36°F) higher than temperatures that were common in the area only recently, i.e. from 1979-2000.


The satellite image below, captured on August 2, 2015, shows a close-up of the area, with the green circle in the same location as on above image.


Above image shows that there still is some solid ice present to the right of the green circle. This ice may not be able to survive such high temperatures for long. Furthermore, above image shows what looks like smoke plumes from wildfires to the left of the green circle, another sign of the high temperatures in the area and another feedback that will accelerate decline of the snow and ice cover.

Disappearance of sea ice thicker than 4 meters is now taking place north of Canada and Greenland. It looks set to virtually disappear soon, as shown by the 30-day Naval Research Laboratory animation below, ending with a forecast up to August 10, 2015.


In my experience, sea ice thickness hasn't looked this bad for this time of the year since records began, especially when taking the loss of multi-year ice into account. Until now, the thicker multi-year sea ice used to survive the melting season, giving the sea ice strength for the next year, by acting as a buffer to absorb heat that would otherwise melt away the thinner ice. Without multi-year sea ice, the Arctic will be in a bad shape in coming years. Absence of thick sea ice makes it more prone to collapse, and this raises the question whether a collapse could occur not merely some years from now, but even this year.


Above image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic on August 2, 2015.

Greenland's dramatic loss of ice mass over the past few years and the subsequent meltwater may have caused the sea ice to be larger than it would otherwise have been.

Nonetheless, this has not halted the overall decline of the sea ice. As the image on the right shows, sea ice area now is about as low for the time of the year as it was for the three lowest years on record. Furthermore, thick sea ice is shattered if not gone altogether in many places. Meanwhile, ocean heat is at a record high and there's an El Nino that's still gaining strength.

In conclusion, Arctic sea ice looks set to take a further battering over the next few weeks and could end up at a record low around half September 2015. If things get really bad, sea ice collapse could occur and the remaining pieces of sea ice could be driven out of the Arctic Ocean altogether by storms, resulting in a blue ocean event as early as September this year.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan.



Arctic sea ice area on July 31, 2015.
Posted by Sam Carana on Sunday, August 2, 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Arctic Sea Ice Collapse Threatens - Update 2

The image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic on July 30, 2015.


Due to warm ocean waters and to heatwaves on land that extended over the Arctic Ocean, while warming up rivers ending into the Arctic Ocean, the sea ice has taken a battering over the past few weeks, as illustrated by the images below.


Above image shows the last bit of thick (5 m) sea ice in the Canadian Archipelago, which became dislodged on July 8, 2015. It looks set to be virtually gone by August 7, 2015, according to the 30-day Naval Research Laboratory animation below, and as also discussed in greater detail in a recent post.


The situation at the north-eastern tip of Greenland doesn't look much better, as illustrated by the image below.


The comparison image below also shows the north-eastern tip of Greenland on July 5, 2015 (top), and on July 31, 2015 (bottom). The bottom image shows water in many places, pushing the last pieces of thick ice into the Wandel Sea and Fram Strait .

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Until now, the thicker multi-year sea ice used to survive the melting season, giving the sea ice strength for the next year, by acting as a buffer to absorb heat that would otherwise melt away the thinner ice. Without multi-year sea ice, the Arctic will be in a bad shape in coming years. 

[ click on images to enlarge ]
What caused the dramatic melting of this thick ice? The left panel of above image shows temperatures. On July 29, 2015, temperatures as high as 23.1°C (or 73,7°F) were recorded on the north coast of Victoria Island, in the Canadian Archipelago (green circle where the arrow points at). The satellite image on the right, captured that same day, shows that hardly any ice was left in the waters surrounding the area.


So, will the sea ice collapse this year? Consider the following four points:

Volume - The image on the top right shows sea ice volume as calculated by PIOMAS at the University of Washington. It shows that in June, volume was less than 2015 in only four years, i.e. 2010 through to 2013. The situation has deteriorated much in July 2015, and looks set to deteriorate even further.

Thickness - Volume is calculated by looking at both thickness and extent. Thickness is looking much worse than it did in the years 2012 through to 2014, as illustrated by above image.

In my experience, sea ice thickness hasn't looked this bad for this time of the year since records began, especially when taking the loss of multi-year ice into account, as also illustrated by the full-width above image.


Extent - Sea ice extent on July 31 was only outside the 2 standard deviations (shaded area) in the years 2007, 2011 and 2012, as illustrated by the image mid right. The dark blue line marks the 2015 extent, with the dot indicating extent on July 31, 2015.

Area - Similarly, Arctic sea ice area is illustrated by the image on the right. For a description of the difference between extent and area, view this NSIDC FAQ page. The bottom right image marks Arctic sea ice area as on July 30, 2015. The yellow marker indicates the situation for the year 2015 on this date. The only years with less sea ice area at this time of the year were 2007, 2011 and 2012.

Also consider that 2015 features very high sea surface temperatures and an El Niño that is still gaining in strength. Thick sea ice appears to be shattered, as illustrated by the satellite images. In conclusion, sea ice looks set to take a further battering over the next few weeks and could end
up at a record low thickness, extent, area and volume around half September 2015.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the image below.


Above image shows a trendline (shaded area) based on satellite data from 1979-2014, with annual minimum volume figures calculated by PIOMAS. The shaded area points at a total disappearance of the sea ice as early as September 2018. The width of the shaded area reflects natural variability, but natural variability could be wider than that, as illustrated by the fact that minimum volume in the years 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012 was lower than the shaded area. In other words, disappearance of the sea ice could occur even earlier than September 2018 and if things get really bad, collapse could even occur as early as September this year.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan.



Will the sea ice collapse this year? Firstly, consider that sea ice volume now hasn't been this bad for any day in July...
Posted by Sam Carana on Friday, July 31, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Storms Over Arctic Ocean

The image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies over the Arctic on July 27, 2015.

departure from 1961-1990 temperatures, click on image to enlarge ]
The image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies on July 28, 2015.

[ departure from 1971-2000 temperatures, click on image to enlarge ]

There is a growing chance that the sea ice will collapse over the next few weeks, due to heavy melting and storms speeding up the flow of sea ice out of the Arctic Ocean into the Atlantic Ocean.

An example of such storms is shown on the animation below. This is a forecast for July 31, 2015, showing cyclonic winds at the center of the Arctic Ocean, with strong winds moving sea ice down Fram Strait.


The above situation alone is not likely to trigger sea ice collapse. It is more likely to be short-lived. However, there is a growing possibility for such storms to emerge and drive the melting sea ice out of the Arctic Ocean into the Atlantic Ocean.

As the situation in the Arctic further deteriorates, feedbacks can be expected to kick in with growing strength.

One of these feedbacks is the growing amount of heat (due to both latent heat and albedo changes) that will have to be absorbed by the Arctic Ocean as the sea ice disappears, and that will accelerate warming of the water of the Arctic Ocean.

Another feedback is a changing jet stream, as illustrated in above animation. This, in combination with the presence of more open water, can be expected to cause increasingly intense storms over the Arctic to emerge. Such storms can bring more heat into the Arctic Ocean, especially during heatwaves over North America and Russia. Such heatwaves can further cause surface heat to be mixed down to the seafloor, especially in the many places where the Arctic Ocean is very shallow. This can in turn cause destabilization of hydrates, resulting in huge amounts of methane to be abruptly released from the seafloor.

Methane itself is yet another feedback that will accelerate warming in the Arctic, in turn threatening to trigger further methane releases in a spiral of self-reinforcing positive feedback loops.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action as discussed at the Climate Plan.



Sea surface temperatures over the Arctic on July 27, 2015. There is a growing chance that the sea ice will collapse over...
Posted by Sam Carana on Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Arctic Ocean Temperatures Keep Rising

People's emissions are causing the planet to heat up and more than 93% of this heat goes into the oceans.

People have measured ocean temperatures for a long time. Reliable records go back to at least 1880. Ever since records began, the oceans were colder than they are now. NOAA analysis shows that, on the Northern Hemisphere, the 20th century average for June is 16.4°C (61.5°F). In June 2015, it was a record 0.87°C (1.57°F) higher.

Back in history, there have been times when it was warmer. The last time when it was warmer than today, during the Eemian Period, peak temperature was only a few tenths of a degree higher than today, according to the IPCC. In those days, there was huge melting, accompanied by extreme storms and sea levels that were 5 to 9 m higher than today.


In many ways, the situation now already looks worse than it was in the Eemian. "The warm Atlantic surface current was weaker in the high latitude during the Eemian than today", says Henning Bauch. Furthermore, as illustrated by above image, contained in ocean temperature data from 1880 for the Northern Hemisphere is a polynomial trendline that points at a rise of almost 2°C by 2030. This indicates that temperatures across the Arctic Ocean could soon be even higher than the peak temperature was back in the Eemian Period. Indeed, the Arctic Ocean temperature is rising at a terrifying pace, the more so given that there seems to be no end in sight soon for this rise. 


This rise of almost 2°C by 2030 is not limited to the month of June. As above image shows, it applies to the 12-months period from July 2014 to June 2015 as well.

In some places, the Arctic Ocean is already very warm. Sea surface temperatures around North America have increased to very high levels and they are threatening to further raise the temperature of the Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic sea ice is on the verge of collapse, as discussed in earlier posts such as this one and this one. This dramatic decline of the sea ice in 2015 is the result of a combination of factors, including:
  1. High levels of greenhouse gases over the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the screenshot below showing high carbon dioxide concentrations over the Arctic (from NASA video).



    Furthermore, methane levels are very high over the Arctic. An earlier image showed methane levels as high as 2512 parts per billion on July 17, 2015, with high methane levels north of Greenland that also showed up on an earlier image at this post.

  2. High levels of ocean heat in the North Atlantic, as illustrated by the image below showing high sea surface temperatures off the east coast of North America; much of this ocean heat will be carried by the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean over the next few months.


  3. High sea surface temperatures in the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below.

  4. High air temperatures over North America and Russia extending over the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below showing a location well inside the Arctic Circle where temperatures as high as 37.1°C (98.78°F) were recorded on July 2, 2015. (green circle).


  5. Wildfires triggered by these heatwaves resulting in darkening compounds settling on snow and ice, making it more prone to melting, as illustrated by the image below showing smoke reaching high up into the Beaufort Sea on July 22, 2015.


  6. Very warm river water running into the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below, showing sea surface temperatures as high as 19°C (66.2°F) off the coast of Alaska on July 19, 2015. 
The danger is that collapse of the sea ice will further accelerate warming in the Arctic, as sunlight that was previously reflected back into space and heat that previously went into melting then will all be absorbed by the Arctic. Furthermore, more open waters will increase the possibility of storms that can mix surface heat down to the bottom of the seafloor, and destabilize sediments that contain large amounts of methane in hydrates and free gas.

Such feedbacks are further discussed at the feedbacks page, including the danger that further warming of the Arctic Ocean will unleash huge methane eruptions from the Arctic Ocean seafloor, in turn driving temperatures up even higher and causing more intense wildfires, heatwaves and further extreme weather events.

The image below shows a non-linear trend that is contained in the temperature data that NASA has gathered over the years, as described in an earlier post. A polynomial trendline points at global temperature anomalies of over 4°C by 2060. Even worse, a polynomial trend for the Arctic shows temperature anomalies of over 4°C by 2020, 6°C by 2030 and 15°C by 2050, threatening to cause major feedbacks to kick in, including albedo changes and methane releases that will trigger runaway global warming that looks set to eventually catch up with accelerated warming in the Arctic and result in global temperature anomalies of 16°C by 2052.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan.



People's emissions are causing the planet to heat up and more than 93% of this heat goes into the oceans. People have...
Posted by Sam Carana on Saturday, July 25, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Thick Sea Ice Dislodged

As the comparison image below shows, the last bit of thick sea ice has become dislodged from its location in the Canadian Archipelago and is forecast to be floating along with the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The left panel shows the situation on July 19, 2015, while the right panel shows a forecast for July 31, 2015, run on July 23, 2015.


One reason for this development is of course the heavy melting that has taken place in this area. But what has made this thick sea ice move so strongly? The reason for this is a combination of wind, sea currents and meltwater running off the coasts of North America and Greenland. This has been persistently pushing this thick ice in this direction, as illustrated by the Naval Research Laboratory animation below.


The Naval Research Laboratory animation below shows sea ice thickness over a 30-day timespan, including a forecast up to 31 July, 2015, run July 23, 2015.


The screenshot below from arctic-io shows the sea ice on July 23, 2015, with an inset showing a rotated outcut from a Naval Research Laboratory ice thickness map for that date.
[ click on image to enlarge ]
The animation below shows a 5-day forecast of ice speed and drift up to July 27, 2015, starting from and run on July 23, 2015.


Furthermore, there has been a lot of smoke from wildfires in North America for some time. The image below shows smoke reaching far into the Beaufort Sea on July 22, 2015.



When smoke settles on snow and ice, it decreases albedo and makes it more prone to melting.

Seismic activity could also have contributed to this development. As the snow and ice cover on land disappears, isostatic rebound occurs, i.e. the land moves upward. Furthermore, an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.6 on the Richter scale was registered in Baffin Bay on July 22, 2015.


Above animation shows the last bit of thick sea ice becoming dislodged from its location in the Canadian Archipelago, from July 21, 2015, through to July 24, 2015.


Albert Kallio comments: "The more ice moves, the more heat it can pick up from the ocean - and melt. Also, the overturning of sea water in the ocean increases in the increasingly open sea areas - bringing heat up to the surface - and into contact with ice that then melts faster."

[ hat tip to Patrick McNulty for contributions to this post ] 



The last bit of thick sea ice has become dislodged from its location in the Canadian Archipelago and is forecast to be...
Posted by Sam Carana on Friday, July 24, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ocean Temperatures At Record High

Of all the excess heat that results from people's emissions, 93.4% goes into oceans. Accordingly, ocean heat has strongly increased over the years.

NOAA analysis shows that, for the oceans on the Northern Hemisphere, the June 2015 sea surface temperature was at a record high 0.87°C (1.57°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), as also illustrated by the graph below.


The most recent 12-month period, July 2014–June 2015, also broke the record (set just last month) for the all-time warmest 12-month period in the 135-year period of record. 


As the above image shows, sea surface temperature anomalies around North America are very high, threatening to further raise temperatures of the Arctic Ocean, which already has very high sea surface temperatures, as also illustrated by the image below. 


As the image below shows, sea surface temperatures as high as 19°C (66.2°F) were recorded in the Bering Strait on July 19, 2015.



The snow depth comparison below shows the situation on July 20, 2015, on the left and a forecast for July 27, 2015, on the right. The green lines indicate areas where sea ice is at melting point. Note the decline of snow cover on Greenland and the Himalayas.


As the continued snow decline on Greenland also illustrates, high temperatures can be expected to keep causing further decline of the snow and ice cover for many weeks to come, given that the minimum sea ice extent is typically reached about half September.

As the image below shows, sea surface temperatures as high as 10.1°C (50.1°F) were recorded in Baffin Bay, off the west coast of Greenland, on July 20, 2015.


The danger is that these high temperatures will cause the Arctic sea ice to collapse and unleash huge methane eruptions from the Arctic Ocean's seafloor, in turn driving temperatures up even higher and causing more extreme weather events, wildfires, etc. 

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan



For the oceans on the Northern Hemisphere, the June 2015 sea surface temperature was at a record high 0.87°C (1.57°F)...
Posted by Sam Carana on Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Arctic Sea Ice Collapse Threatens - Update 1

The image below compares the Arctic sea ice thickness (in m) on July 15, for the years from 2012 (left panel) to 2015 (right panel), using Naval Research Laboratory images.

Click on image to enlarge
The image below compares the Arctic sea ice concentration (in %) on July 18, for the years from 2012 (left panel) to 2015 (right panel), using Naval Research Laboratory images.


Above images show the dramatic decline of the sea ice in 2015, both in thickness and in concentration.

In terms of thickness, sea ice has been reduced by more than one meter in many places, such as north of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago, all in the time span of just one month.

The dramatic fall in sea ice concentration also becomes apparent when comparing recent sea ice concentration (July 18, 2015, above right) with sea ice concentration back in May 2015 (image right, May 1, 2015).

This dramatic decline of the sea ice in 2015 is the result of a combination of factors, including:

  1. High levels of greenhouse gases over the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below, showing that on July 17, 2015 (pm), levels as high as 2512 parts per billion were recorded at 6,041 m (19,820 ft) altitude, while mean methane levels were 1830 parts per billion at this altitude.
  2. High levels of ocean heat, as illustrated by the image below showing high sea surface temperatures off the east coast of North America; much of this ocean heat will be carried by the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean over the next few months.
  3. High air temperatures over North America and Siberia extending over the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below showing a temperature of 23.1°C (73.7°F), recorded on July 19, 2015, at Banks Island, in the Canadian Archipelago (green circle).
  4. Wildfires triggered by these heatwaves resulting in darkening compounds settling on snow and ice, as illustrated by the image below showing smoke covering a wide area on July 19, 2015, from the east Siberia over North America to the southern tip of Greenland.
  5. Very warm river water running into the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below, showing sea surface temperatures as high as 19°C (66.2°F) off the coast of Alaska on July 12-15, 2015.
The image below shows the already very high sea surface temperature anomalies as at July 18, 2015.

The Climate Reanalyzer image below shows the high sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific Ocean, and where water enter the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait, on July 19, 2015.



With still two months of melting to go before the sea ice can be expected to reach its minimum for 2015, the threat of sea ice collapse is ominous. The Arctic-News Blog has been warning for years about the growing chance of a collapse of the sea ice, in which case huge amounts of sunlight that previously were reflected back into space, as well as heat that previously went into melting the ice, will then instead have to be absorbed by the water, resulting in a dramatic rise of sea surface temperatures.

More open water will then come with an increased chance of storms that can cause high sea surface temperatures to be mixed down all the way to seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, which in many cases is less than 50 m (164 ft) deep. This is the case for the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, where experts estimate that huge amounts of methane are contained in subsea sediments. Already now, sea surface temperatures as high as 10°C (~50°F) are recorded there, as illustrated by the image below.


Massive amounts of ocean heat will be carried by the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean over the next few months. The combined result of high sea surface temperatures being mixed down to the seafloor and the ocean heat entering the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans can be expected to result in dramatic methane eruptions from the Arctic Ocean seafloor by October 2015.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan.



Arctic sea ice thickness on July 15, compared over the years 2012 through to 2015. Already virtually all the thick sea...

Posted by Sam Carana on Thursday, July 16, 2015