Tag Archives: Arctic Sea Ice

An Update on the Arctic Sea Ice

As we pass through Spring on the way to summer, the sea ice in the Arctic is starting to melt. The ice usually peaks by the end of the first week in March or so, then slowly declines for a few weeks, then by about mid-May is heading rapidly towards its likely September minimum.

With global warming the ice has been reaching a lower winter maximum, and a much lower summer maximum. This is caused by warm air and water, and it contributes to global warming. The more ice on the sea for longer, during the northern Summer, reflects away a certain amount of sunlight. With less ice, less sunlight is reflected away. This is called a “positive feedback” but it is not a “positive” thing. It is a negative thing. (But it is not a “negative feedback,” that’s something different!)

We have seen a steady, but mostly recent, decline in sea ice. For years, climate science deniers have been telling us not to worry, the Arctic ice would come back.

But it hasn’t, and it is not going to.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center keeps track of the amount of sea ice on the Arctic. They have a nifty tool that you can use to plot the data from 1979 to the most recently available information, which is generally a today or yesterday. I used that tool to make a series of graphics I’d like to share with you here. Read the captions to get the key interpretations. The bottom line: Arctic sea ice reduction has accelerated and is not showing any sign of stabilizing.

I’m reminded of a saying allegedly uttered by thoracic surgeons. The bleeding always stops. Eventually. In a similar vein, I assume the reduction of Arctic sea ice will eventually stop. Then the Dinosaurs can live in the Arctic again!.

The chart with no year by year data shown. The grey line is the "baseline" which is usually a 20 or 30 year period against which to measure each year.  The grey area is the range over which almost all years occur in this baseline. Since it is two standard deviations that is about 95% of the years within the baseline period. Any year outside of that line is a significant anomaly.
The chart with no year by year data shown. The grey line is the “baseline” which is usually a 20 or 30 year period against which to measure each year. The grey area is the range over which almost all years occur in this baseline. Since it is two standard deviations that is about 95% of the years within the baseline period. Any year outside of that line is a significant anomaly.
These are the first ten years of available data. Notice that during this period, essentially, the 1980s,  all the years are above the average for most of the year.
These are the first ten years of available data. Notice that during this period, essentially, the 1980s, all the years are above the average for most of the year.
As we shift to the next ten year period, 1990 to 1999, the total ice cover throughout the year is less, close to the baseline average.
As we shift to the next ten year period, 1990 to 1999, the total ice cover throughout the year is less, close to the baseline average.

This trend continues in more recent years, with almost all years being below the baseline average.  Remember that second graph above where all the years were above average? That shows that the baseline is set during a period of actual warming, so it is an underestimate of how much ice should be there. And now, during the period 2000 - 2009, all the years have much less ice than this.
This trend continues in more recent years, with almost all years being below the baseline average. Remember that second graph above where all the years were above average? That shows that the baseline is set during a period of actual warming, so it is an underestimate of how much ice should be there. And now, during the period 2000 – 2009, all the years have much less ice than this.
Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 7.50.55 PM

This is the third year in a row that maximum sea ice has broken a record for being low.

Climate change is real, it is a problem, and it is getting worse

The year 2016 was messy and expensive and full of climate change enhanced weather disasters. There were, according to Jeff Masters and Bob Henson, over 30 billion dollar disasters last year.

This is the fourth-largest number on record going back to 1990, said insurance broker Aon Benfield in their Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report issued January 17 (updated January 23 to include a 31st billion-dollar disaster, the Gatlinburg, Tennessee fire.) The average from 1990 – 2016 was 22 billion-dollar weather disasters; the highest number since 1990 was 41, in 2013.

The frequency of flood disasters in Europe have doubled over 35 years.

The number of devastating floods that trigger insurance payouts has more than doubled in Europe since 1980, according to new research by Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company.

The firm’s latest data shows there were 30 flood events requiring insurance payouts in Europe last year – up from just 12 in 1980 – and the trend is set to accelerate as warming temperatures drive up atmospheric moisture levels.

Globally, 2016 saw 384 flood disasters, compared with 58 in 1980, although the greater proportional increase probably reflects poorer flood protections and lower building standards in the developing world

As I’m sure you’ve heard, he year 2016 was the hottest year on record, and 2017 is also going to be hot. (I personally doubt 2017 will be hotter, but then again, I was thinking that 2016 might not break the 2015 record.)

Mark Bgoslough as an interesting piece here on how global temperature records are made, analyses, and reported. I recommend reading that. Here, I want to use a graphic he made for that item to point something outI’ve added the green lines. I’ll just leave it here without comment.


People in the northeastern US should be about 50% more concerned about global warming than everyone else, because new research suggests that this region will warm about 50% faster than the globe in coming years.

The fastest warming region in the contiguous US is the Northeast, which is projected to warm by 3°C when global warming reaches 2°C. The signal-to-noise ratio calculations indicate that the regional warming estimates remain outside the envelope of uncertainty throughout the twenty-first century, making them potentially useful to planners. The regional precipitation projections for global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C are uncertain, but the eastern US is projected to experience wetter winters and the Great Plains and the Northwest US are projected to experience drier summers in the future.

John Abraham summarizes and interprets the results here.

Regardless of the so-called temperature target, what this study shows is that even if we do keep the globe as a whole to a 2°C temperature increase, some regions, like the Northeast United States will far exceed this threshold. So, what is “safe” for the world is unsafe for certain regions.

A recent poll tells us that 90% of rural Australians are concerned about the impacts of climate change. Most were concerned about drought and flooding. Fewer than half this coal fire power stations should be phased out.

I think that if you did a similar poll in the US, you would find that most rural Americans don’t are about climate change, and even fewer think coal should be phased out. Since all rural people, Australians or Americans and everyone else, have already been affected to at least some degree by climate change, and since the science strongly suggests that things will get much worse for them in the future, all of these folks should be concerned and all of them should be for doing something about it. The good news is that the cognitive dissonance we see in the Australia between climate change and concern may be a harbinger for future changes in American attitudes. Australia has probably been affected by severe weather caused or enhanced by climate change to a much larger degree than has Rural America. In short, I expect disdain for coal to catch up to concern about climate change in Oz, while in America, eventually, people will get more and more on board with both.

Americans are more concerned about not offending farmers than they are about saving them. In American farmlands, we expect climate change to reduce staple crop production substantially by the end of the century. The farmers need to get on board more quickly if they want their grandchildren to be able to be farmers too.

A question on everyone’s mind: “Is the California Drought over and what does this mean?”

It looks over. Reservoirs are filling, snow is piling up in the mountains, everything is wet.

However, there are several things still to consider. For one, the recharging of water supplies is not complete, and if near-zero-rain conditions return right away, the drought will slowly return. This is of course always a concern, but right now we have a slightly different question to ask for California. Is it the case that the conditions that led to the California drought are the “new normal” (a phrase I’m not really happy with) I the sense that from now on, there will be less snow pack, less rainfall, etc. In other words, is it the case that the future of California is generally much dryer all the time with the occasional drenching rainy season, because of climate change?

We don’t know yet, but there is one fairly obvious area of concern: Snow pack. Snow pack plays a role in watering California. Snow pack forms during the rainy winter, and slowly melts thereafter. If that precipitation wasn’t temporarily stored up as snow, the winter rains would be more flooding, and there would be less water retained in the system for the rest of the year. Increasing warmth, due to global warming, has caused more of the precipitation that falls in the mountains to be rain rather than snow, and it has caused the snow to melt more quickly.

Warmer temperatures also mean more evaporation, so getting everything all wet and squishy for a few months during the Winter may mean less a few months later when a warm and dry atmosphere starts to drunk the moisture out of the ground and off the reservoir’s surfaces at an accelerated rate.

This piece by Andrea Thompson at Climate Central does a great job of summarizing the current situation in California.

I have been noting for years (well, for a couple of years) that the best available paleo data suggest that the current levels of CO2 and/or temperature, protracted over a reasonable amount of time, should be associated with sea levels of about 8 meters. In other words, if you are worried about sea level rise, and you should be, the amount of sea level rise that we are currently locked into is enough to inundate much of Southeast Asia’s rice growing land, large parts of various US states such as Louisiana and Florida, and to cause retreat from many of the world’s most densely settled cities.

Over recent months the interface between the scientific research and journalism has started to squeeze out the occasional example of this startling fact, one we’ve known for years but have been afraid to say about else we be considered non reputable. From the Independent:

The last time ocean temperatures were this warm, sea levels were up to nine metres higher than they are today, according to the findings of a new study, which were described as “extremely worrying” by one expert.

The researchers took samples of sediment from 83 different sites around the world, and these “natural thermometers” enabled them to work out what the sea surface temperature had been more than 125,000 years ago.

How long will this take? Nobody knows. This depends on how fast the major glaciers melt.

Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami, is already rolling up his pants:

“Let’s be clear, sea-level rise is a very serious concern for Miami-Dade County and all of South Florida,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the crowd Wednesday morning at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center during his annual State of the County address. “It’s not a theory. It’s a fact. We live it every day.”

Read more here.

The British Antarctic Survey is abandoning its Halley Base, in Antarctic, because the ice shelf on which it is located had developed a huge crack, so it is no longer safe to be there. They’l be out by the end of March. The crack is known as the “Halloween Crack.” Here’s a short video:

In the Arctic, sea ice growth so far this year is below any previously observed year. From the National Snoe and Ice Data Center:
Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 12.08.19 PM

About Bangladesh:

Along the coast lies Kutubdia, an island in the Bay of Bengal where lush green rice fields give way to acres and acres of flat fields. Consisting of small rectangles of varying hues of brown, they are salt fields. The encroachment of saline water from rising tides has made rice farming impossible.

They now “farm” salt. That is not euphemism for farming in salty conditions. They take salt out of the water. That is not a business that will have a lot of future when everybody else along the coasts of low lying countries are doing it as well.

At the end of 2015, it looked like the negative effects of climate change were accelerating. That turned out to be true, and acceleration of the effects continues. This is probably not a good time to official deny the reality and importance of climate change, but that seems to be what we are doing in the United States.

Are we witnessing an Arctic Sea meltdown, right now?

The Arctic Sea freezes over. The Arctic Sea melts. This happens every year. The average date for the maximum extent of Arctic Sea ice, based on a period of 1981-2010, is March 12. The minimum extent is reached, on average, about September 15h.

Every year for the last several years, the minimum ice has been much lower than average in extent, and many years in a row have seen record minima. This is considered to be the result of global surface warming caused by human release of greenhouse gas pollution.

It is said that we can’t use the maximum ice cover to predict the minimum ice cover very accurately, because a lot of things can happen to affect the total ice cover during those many months of melting. However, the maximum ice amount for, say, 1979-1988 (the first ten years for which we have really good data on this) was high compared to the last ten year period, and correspondingly, the minimum extent was greater for that first ten year period than the most recent ten years, so there is a correlation. Still, the date of the maximum extent has tended to not move around much, and the same is true for the date of the minimum extent.

Bt maybe not this year. This year’s maximum Arctic Sea ice extent seems to have flatlined at a record low value, as shown in the graph above, from here. The current sea ice extent is that red line all by itself down near the bottom.

It may well be the case that the sea ice will start to re-freeze, and this line will go up again over the next two weeks or so, and max out near the historical average. The next week or so should be below freezing across much of the Arctic Sea, but there is a warm intrusion near Greenland and Europe, with above freezing air, expected to persist for that entire time. Overall, warm air and ice-breaking-up storms have invaded the Arctic repeatedly this winter. The sea ice extent may recover over the next several days, but I get the impression that most experts are quietly thinking it won’t.

This is not terribly surprising, given that the Earth’s surface temperatures are increasing, and sea ice is decreasing. This year, a El Ninño is adding fuel to the fire, as it were, and making these conditions even more extreme.

A concerning possible outcome is this: The Arctic Sea ice helps cool the planet by reflecting away sunlight. It is a reasonable assumption that during summers with much less ice, there is much less cooling. This can have impacts on the longer-lived fast ice* that is also melting in the arctic, and on nearby glaciers in greenland, and the planet overall. This is what is known as a “positive feedback” which is a somewhat misleading term, because this is not an especially “positive” event.

*CORRECTION: My friend and colleague Tenney Naumer, who watches both the weather and the Arctic very closely, contacted me to let me know that the “fast ice” is long gone. She told me, “In 2012, the ice in the channel between Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Island (to the south of Ellesmere) melted out — that is the place where the ice had existed for more than 10,000 years. The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf broke off in 2002. The Ayles Ice Shelf broke off in 2005. In 2007, I watched (here) the ice break away from most of the Arctic side of the archipelago, and it has been all downhill since. It’s all gone now.”

The Arctic is Hot: New minimum sea ice cover for the date

… and not in a good way.

The Arctic has, of course, been warming in step with anthropogenic global warming, plus more. This phenomenon has probably increased disruption to global weather systems, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, over the last decade or so.

But something somewhat novel is happening this year, presumably as a result of global warming combined with a strong El Nino. Storms are bringing extra warm conditions to the Arctic. A few days ago, the North Pole was above freezing, and over the next few days we are expecting more warm conditions in the Arctic Circle. See this post by Eric Holthaus.

Figuring that interesting things might be happening in the Arctic, I had a look at the National Snow and Ice Data Center interactive graphic showing Arctic Sea ice cover now and over time. The graphic is at the top of the post. It turns out that Arctic Sea ice is at an historic low for this date, and in fact, looks to be flatlining, at least for now. I presume the ice will expand again shortly when the current influx of warm air to the region subsides, but it will be interesting to see if we end up with a new minimal maximum of sea ice.

Weather, Climate Change, and Related Matters in 2015

I had considered writing an accounting of all the outlandish weather events of 2015, but that project quickly became a tl:dr list of untoward happenings which is both alarming and a bit boring, since it is so long. So, I decided to generate something less comprehensive, focusing more on the context and meaning of the diverse and impressive set of outcomes of anthropogenic global warming, an historically strong El Niño, and, well, weather which is already a pretty whacky thing.

See: Highlights of Climate Change Research in 2015

It should be noted right away that 2015 is the last year in which any human alive will see CO2 levels dip below 400 parts per million.

What is the biggest single weather related news of 2015?

Floods, probably. Around the world, there were a lot of floods, and a lot of them were very damaging and deadly. Also, many of these floods appeared with little warning, even in places like Texas, where the meteorology is pretty good. Those Texas floods were of special note, as were the floods in the Carolinas. But outside the US there were major floods in Asia, especially Vietnam and Myanmar, as well as Yemen. Alaska, Oklahoma, Atacama in South America, also saw severe floods.

Why were there so many floods?

I’m pretty sure it is accurate to say that there was more flooding, and more severe flooding, than typical for, say, 20th century climatology. We had many 1,000 year flood events, too many to assume that these events remain as 1,000 year events.

See: Global Warming Changing Weather in the US Northeast

There are probably two or three reasons for increased flooding, which of course is caused by increased and concentrated rainfall along with other factors such as land use changes that cause rainfall to result in more flooding. One is the simple fact that a warmer atmosphere, due to global warming, contains more water, and thus, we get more rain. How much more? Not a lot, but enough to make a difference. If you put together a bunch of weather data and plot the annual precipitation rate over the last century or so, and fit a line to the data, the line will look flat. It isn’t really flat, and in fact, a properly fitted line on good data will show a statistically significant upslope. But still, the total amount of extra precipitation is a small percentage of the usual amount of precipitation, so the slope is not impressive unless you draw it out using heavy-handed graphing methods.

A few other places are doing end of year reviews. Inside Climate is doing a series of 2015 retrospectives. Skeptical Science has an overview of the year. Environmental health news has a wish list pivoting on 2015 and a year in review. And Then There’s Physics summarizes 2015. Critical Angle takes a critical look at 2015 here. If you see any more out there in the wild, let me know. Media Matters has “The 15 Most Ridiculous Things Conservative Media Said About Climate Change In 2015.” Media Matters also has 5 New Year’s Resolutions For Reporting On Climate Change. HotWhopper has The Fake Sceptic Awards for 2015 here.

A second factor is a set of changes in how, when, and where the rain falls. Normally, in the temperate regions, rain storms move along with trade winds, guided or influenced by jet streams, fairly quickly. But if the jet streams slow down, the storms slow down, so we may see 4 inches of rain fall in one place that normally would have been spread out over a larger area, never exceeding half (or less) of that amount in any given area. The jet streams have slowed down and also become curvier, which both increases the amount of rain that falls in a give area but also may transfer moisture from and to places that are normally not involved as much in such a process. For example, the storm we are expecting today in the upper Midwest and Plains is not a typical Canadian Clipper, but rather a Gulf Coast storm related to the deadly blizzards and tornado swarms we’ve seen over the last few days to the south.

See: Does global warming destroy your house in a flood?

This clumping of rain in smaller areas also means that other areas that would normally have received some rain don’t, causing what my colleague Paul Douglas refers to as “flash droughts.” These are dry periods that don’t last long enough, and are not severe enough, to register on any official drought-o-meter, but nonetheless stress local water systems (such as farming) enough to be a nuisance.

A third factor is sea surface temperature. This really relates to, and is probably one of the main causes, of the first factor (increased precip overall), and feeds into the second factor (clumping of rain) but deserves its own consideration. Elevated sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic off the US coast last winter caused a lot more moisture than normal to feed into nor’easter storms, which in turn have become more common (because of increased sea surface temperatures and other factors), thus dumping large quantities of snow in the US Northeast. The same thing dumped lots of extra snow in a region that normally gets very little snow, the US Southeast, the winter before.

See: A selection of books on climate change

These changes have been happening for decades, and are due to global warming. The warming caused by the human release of extra greenhouse gasses, and other human effects, increase the warmth, thus the evaporation, thus the precipitation. Part of this warming trend involved increasing the warmth of the Arctic at a much higher rate than most of the rest of the planet. This, in turn, seems to have caused the jet stream to become wavy and slow down. The jet streams and trade winds are ultimately caused and controlled by the Earth spinning, which has not changed, and the temperature differential between the warm equator and the cold poles, which has changed quite a bit.

See: Weather Whiplash Is Like My Old Broken Sprinkler

But what about El Niño?

Didn’t El Niño cause these changes, and thus, aren’t these weather events unrelated to global warming?

No, and for two reasons.

First, many of these events happened during the first half of the year, before the start of the current El Niño, which is in fact the strongest El Niño so far observed directly, and possibly the strongest El Niño in millennia.

The second reason is that the heat released by the El Niño (the release of heat stored in the Pacific Ocean is what an El Niño is, in functional terms) is added to an already warmed world. It may even be that the extra severity of this year’s El Niño is upscaled by anthropogenic global warming. In any event, any records we set during the current El Niño exceed earlier El Niño years because the El Niños we experience are shorter term warming events on top of a steadily increasing global warming phenomenon.

We had a lot of fires

Last year and this year, or really, the last few years, have seen excessive, above normal rates of forest and brush fires in various regions. We have seen major fires in Australia, North America, and Southeast Asia during this period, with North America breaking several recent records this year.

See: Forest fires in Indonesia choke much of south-east Asia

These fires are caused by a combination of factors, but ultimately heat increasing evaporation, prior rainy years increasing available fuel, and warm winters increasing tree death to parasites (thus increasing fuel), all have contributed.

North America, in the old days, had much more fire-heavy years than anything recent because we were busy cutting down the forest, piling up “slash” (left over tree parts) and running sparky old fashioned coal-driven railroad engines up and down between the slash piles, catching them on fire. In addition, just burning the slash on purpose contributed to the overall amount of fire, especially when the slash fires got out of control.

We also saw some pretty impressive fires a couple of decades ago because of what we now know were bad fire management practices, which had actually grown out of those earlier decades of logging related fires. In other words, the frequency and distribution of forest and brush fires is complex. During aridification, probably global warming related, in Africa during the 70s and 80s, vast areas started to burn more regularly than usual. In those days, I would fly at night over Libya, Chad and the Sudan a couple of times a year, and could observe the entire region was burning all the time, easily visible from 26,000 feet.

The bottom line: The frequency and extent of fires is variable and chaotic, but anthropogenic global warming seems to have contributed significantly to us having more of them.

Were there more storms in 2015?

Record breaking tropical storms occurred in 2015. All of the tropical cyclone/hurricane basins saw interesting activity, with the Atlantic being the most quiet, and the Eastern Pacific, possibly, being the strangest.

There were 22 Category 4 or 5 storms this year in the Northern Hemisphere, a record number. The last record year was recent, 2004. Studies have shown overall that the total energy that forms up in tropical cyclones has increased with global warming, though the actual total number of storms is highly variable.

It is reasonable to expect an increase in the frequency and severity of tropical storms with global warming, while at the same time, in some areas, smaller storms may become less common. This is partly because smaller storms are more readily abated by some of the global-warming related changes in weather systems such as increased wind shear and increased dust in the tropical atmosphere. At the same time, extremely high sea surface temperatures, and also, high water temperatures as depth (100–200 meters) increase the potential strength of storms that do get past that initial formation.

Hurricane Patricia, in the Eastern Pacific (landfall in Mexico) was an especially important storm. It was a physically small storm, but had more powerful winds than ever seen in a tropical storm. The storm went from nothing to a full hurricane in several hours (instead of several days).

The significance of this can not be underestimated. We have a situation where the conditions that might cause a hurricane to form are extreme, because of global warming (and this year, more so because of El Niño). So, when when these conditions are in place, a hurricane can form faster, and get more powerful, than normal. Consider the prospect of a land falling Category 5+ storm forming offshore from an area with low lying terrain (not like where Patricia struck land) with a high population density (not like where Patricia struck land) and moving on shore immediately. Like for instance, an Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico version of Patricia making landfall near Miami or NOLA.

Most of the really large hurricanes of this year were in the Pacific basin, distributed across the entire region, but Hurricane Joaquin, which was a very large and powerful storm in the Atlantic, did have us on the edge of our seats for a while when some of the better weather predicting models suggested it might make landfall. Also, nearly unprecedented tropical storms formed near the Arabian Pennensula.

This was a hot year

Other than February, which was merely hot rather than really hot, globally, every month so far this year has broken or nearly broken one or more records, depending on which database one uses. The running 12-month average of surface temperatures started to break records before El Niño kicked in, and continued to do so since. This will continue for several more months, even if the El Niño phenomenon itself stops soon, because it takes several months for surface temperatures to show the El Niño effect.

More specifically, there were killer heat waves in the Western Cape of South Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Australia recorded its hottest day ever. North America experienced numerous record breaking days, in the US and Canada. Cherry trees thought it was spring and bloomed last week in Washington. I saw birds building a nest outside my house in Minnesota two weeks ago, and our lawn was green(ish) through last weekend.

Ocean Oddness and Other Events

Let us not forget the Great Blob of Hot Water in the northern Pacific. This non El Niño phenomenon, which has been going for a couple of years no, has had El Niño like effects in the region, and probably relates to the non normal weather in along the western coast of North America, including record breaking heat in Alaska, major storms in or near Alaska, and of course, the California Drought.

A Haboob-Nado in China involved some of the strongest winds ever seen in the region, and may have, very unusually, contained an embedded tornado. We had a mild tornado season in the US, in Tornado Alley, until a few days ago when a not-very-seasonal tornado season sprung up and killed close to 50 people in just a few days. The American southeast does get winter tornadoes, but Michigan does not. But this year, there was a first ever recorded December tornado in that state.

The Arctic Sea ice has been diminishing in its minimum extent for a few decades now, and this year we saw the third lowest amount. The volume of Arctic sea ice continues to shrink.

You all know about the Syrian Refugee crisis. This is the latest chapter in the collapse of the Syrian state, which in turn happened because of long term drought in that country killing off the agricultural system and forcing farmers into the cities, where many became involved in the Syrian Civil War, which opened up the opportunity for the Islamic State to take a large amount of territory in the region. And so on. The Syrian refugee crisis is likely to be an early version of more of the same to come over future decades. And, I quickly point out, this is not likely to have been the first climate refugee situation, just much worse than prior events related to the spread of deserts in North Africa and drying out in West Asia.

Research on Climate Change

This year saw some interesting research in climate change.

One team studies major oscillations in climate that relate to oceans (of which El Niño is a shorter-term smaller part). This research suggests that the last couple of decades have seen less warming than we might expect over the long term, and further suggests that an uptick in the rate of warming is in our medium term future.

Related research also shows that accelerated melting of northern glaciers, especially Greenland, could alter Atlantic currents, so while the Earth generally warms due to increased greenhouse gasses, weather may change to a colder regime in Europe, some time over the next few dedades.

We are seeing an increased rate at which climate and weather experts are attributing bad weather to global warming. This is partly a shift in thinking and methods among the experts, and partly because of an actual increase in such events.

There has been interesting research in the Antarctic. We are seeing increased concern about, and evidence for, destabilization of huge inland glaciers that could start to fall apart and contribute to sea level rise at any time in the next several years. At the same time we saw one study that seemed to suggest that Antarctic is gaining ice, rather than losing it. If that is true, than recent decades of sea level rise are partly unexplained. Alternatively, the research, which has some known flaws, may simply be wrong. Look for some interesting results related to Antarctic glacier during 2016.

The famous #FauxPause in global warming, claimed by many climate change deniers to be a real thing (no warming in X years, etc.) was already known to be Faux, but this year saw several independent nails being driven into that coffin. Rather than a pause that disproves global warming, we have a better understood series of changed in the long term warming in the planet’s surface temperature.

See: In a blind test, economists reject the notion of a global warming pause

Sea floor biotic diversity was shown to be threatened by warming, coral bleaching is more likely and in fact happening at a higher rate, and probably mostly due to El Niño, there has been some odd ocean animal migrations.

The planting zones, the gardening and agricultural zones we use to decide which crops to plant and when, have over the last several years shifted in most places in North America by one or two zones. This year, the people who make the zone maps came out with a new one.

Sea levels continue to rise, and the rate of rise is rising. Rare nuisance flooding in coastal areas, most famously but not only Miami, have become regular events. Sales in waterproof shoes are expected to increase.

Communication and Politics

Across meteorology we see the graph and chart makers scrambling to find new colors for their maps showing heat. Y-axes are being stretched everywhere. We seem to be stuck with a five level category system for tropical cyclones/hurricanes, but we are seeing so many storms that are way stronger, bigger, more destructive than earlier Category 5 storms that talk of adding a category is no longer being responded to with angry mobs of pitchfork wielding weather forecasters who came of age with the older system.

See: How to not look like an idiot

There has been a great deal of significant climate change related activism, and COP happened, with a strong message to address the human causes of climate change sooner than later. Climate change has actually become an issue in US elections. For the first time a major world leader, President Obama, has faced off with the deniers and told them to STFU. Major news outlets such as the Washington Post and the Guardian have started to take climate change seriously. The idea that reporters must give equal weight to the “two sides of the story” (science is real, vs. science is not real) is disappearing.

Denial of climate change and climate change science reached its high water mark over the last 12 months. It will now fade away.

And that is a short and incomplete summary of weather and climate in 2015.

A note for my regular readers: Yes, I chose the burning Earth graphic to annoy the denialist. Check the comments below to see if that annoyed anyone.

Arctic Sea Ice in 2015

Every year the sea ice that covers the northern part of the Earth expands and contracts though the winter and the summer. The minimum extent of the sea ice is usually reached some time in September, after which it starts to reform.

Human caused greenhouse gas pollution has increased the surface temperatures of the earth, as measured on the land at about heat height with thermometers, and on the sea at the surface, mainly with satellites. Warming of the surface has continued apace for several decades, though with some expected squiggling up and down in how fast that is happening.

Greenhouse gas, mainly CO2, causes warming because of its heat trapping properties, and this warming (and the CO2 itself) set in motion a number of feedback systems that either push against warming or increase warming. Most of these feedback systems, unfortunately, are what we call “positive” feedbacks, though they are not “positive” in a good way. They are effects that increase the amount of warming beyond what would happen from just the CO2. One of the biggest global effects is an increase in the amount of water vapor carried by the atmosphere. Since water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, more CO2 -> more greenhouse effect -> more water vapor -> more greenhouse effect.

One of the bad effects of greenhouse warming is the melting of more ice in the Arctic during the summer. On average, less and less ice is left by the end of the melt season in September. Again, this amount squiggles up and down a bit, but it is a persistent downward trend. Since ice reflects sunlight away from the earth, a decrease in ice cover in the Arctic means more warming. This has both regional effects (such as an increase in melting of land-based Greenland glaciers) and a global effect. The regional effect is very important, because this has resulted in a phenomenon known as Arctic Amplification. This refers to the fact that of all the different regions of the earth, the Arctic is warming more than most other regions. The large scale systems of air movement that make up much of our climate, and thus control much of our weather, are shaped and driven in large part by the redistribution of heat form tropical areas (where the sun has a stronger warming effect) outward towards the poles. This redistribution shapes trade wind patterns and determines the location and strength of the jet streams. The relatively warmer Arctic has changed the basic shape and pattern of these major climatic features in ways that have caused significant changes in weather. The drought in California is caused in part by the persistence of a large jet stream meander caused, almost certainly, by Arctic Amplification and other changes in heat distribution in the northern latitudes. Another change is the increase in large scale precipitation events. Here in the twin cities, for example, the frequency of 3″ plus rainstorm over the year has changed from about one every two years to one every year, on average. Rainfall events of between 1 and 2 inches, and between 2 and 3 inches, have also increased.

There are two major properties of Arctic ice that should be considered. One, just discussed, is extent. Extent matters because of its direct effect on albedo, the reflection of sunlight back into space. Less ice extent, caused by warming, means even more warming. The other property is ice volume. Ice volume builds up over time. Thick ice includes ice from previous years that didn’t melt. The system is complex and dynamic, but a healthy Arctic ice ecosystem has a good amount of thick high-volume ice that persists through the melt season and forms the anchor against which annually re-freezing surface ice forms. The less ice volume, the less stable the Arctic Sea ice is, and the more difficult it becomes to reform. Exactly how this effect works depends on exactly which part of the Arctic one is in.

Over the last several decades, the volume of Arctic Sea ice has reduced by something like 80%. This is not good.

Andy Lee Robinson has made an amazing and highly instructive graphic showing the decline in Arctic Sea ice volume over the years. Here is the most updated version showing data up through this year, based on these data:

From Andy’s YouTube page:

Published on Oct 4, 2015

This is an animated visualization of the startling decline of Arctic Sea Ice, showing the minimum volume reached every September since 1979, set on a map of New York with a 10km grid to give an idea of scale. It is clear that the trend of Arctic sea ice decline indicates that it’ll be ice-free for an increasingly large part of the year, with consequences for the climate.

The rate of ice loss in the Arctic is staggering. Since 1979, the volume of Summer Arctic sea ice has declined by more than 80% and accelerating faster than scientists believed it would, or even could melt.

Based on the rate of change of volume over the last 30 years, I expect the first ice-free summer day in the Arctic Ocean (defined as having less than 1 million km² of sea ice) to happen between 2016 and 2022, and thereafter occur more regularly with the trend of ice-free duration extending into August and October.

(The music for the graphic was also composed and played by Andy.)

By the way, those interested in computer technology will note that Andy’s graphic is produced on the most powerful and stable operating system, Linux, using OpenSource tools.

I produced the animation using hand-written perl and php code to create povray scripts, and scheduling task distribution using MySQL between 7 linux servers working in parallel to render 810 frames at 1920 x 1080 resolution. The “farm” renders 22 frames simultaneously taking between 1-2 hours per frame. On completion, ffmpeg combines the individual frames and music into a high quality mp4 video.

So, that’s cool.

Anyway, Andy has also created the now famous Sea Ice Death Spiral graphic, showing Arctic Sea ice volume since 1979, in a particularly helpful graphic style. Notice that the sea ice volume is fairly stable for several years, then starts to decline rapidly and continues to do so thereafter.


Sea ice extent has followed a similar pattern. Let’s have a look at this year in relation to the last several decades. First, this graphic made using the interactive graphing tool at the National Snow and Ice Data Center shows this year’s ice in relation to the average and standard deviation since 1979. Here we see that the ice extent has been following the lowest end of the two standard deviation spread. The lowest extent shown here is the fourth lowest since records began:

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 7.57.05 AM

To add even more perspective, the next to graphics show the first ten years in the NSIDC data set, followed by the last ten years. In both cases, the thick black line is the average for the entire data set. This comparison clearly indicates that things have changed in the Arctic:

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 7.56.23 AM
Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 7.56.46 AM

One of the things that people who wish to deny climate science usually start whinging about at this point in the discussion is that the Antarctic has had an increase in sea ice, and that somehow this all evens out. Let me briefly explain why this is incorrect.

There has been an increase in the extent of sea ice in the Antarctic, but there are at least two (maybe three) reasons for this. First, there has been a major increase in winds in the southern hemisphere caused by climate change. This includes winds coming off the Antarctic continent. These winds break up the sea ice and blow it around, opening areas between blocks of floating ice, which then freeze quickly. This causes an increase in extent of the ice. The other is the increase in fresh water entering the sea around Antarctic because the glaciers are melting. This fresh water allows the sea to freeze at a higher temperature, causing more ice. There may be other reasons having to do with currents of both air and water, and rainfall, also caused by climate change. So, climate change causes these changes in sea ice at both poles.

The increase in maximum sea ice in the Antarctic does not increase albedo because it happens in the dark. So the decreased global albedo in the Arctic is not offset by changes in the Antarctic. All of the regional ecological changes affecting sea life and so on can not be offset between the Arctic and Antarctic, because they are on opposite ends of the planet. Also, note, that this year we did not see an increase in Antarctic sea ice. Overall it is expected that global warming will turn around the Antarctic sea ice amount, and also, we are expecting Antarctic glaciers to begin melting at a higher rate over the next decade or so. It will be interesting to see what eventually happens. In any event, keep in mind that the Arctic and Antarctic are very different geographical regions. The Arctic is a sea surrounded by continents. The Antarctic is a continent surrounded by sea. We could not possibly expect the same things to happen in these two areas. The comparison often made by climate science contrarians is absurd.

Arctic Sea Ice Minimum: Achievement Unlocked

The National Snow & Ice Data Center has declared that the Arctic Sea ice extent has reached its annual minimum and is now starting to expand. I was thinking that it was too early to say this, since in past years what looks like a minimum can sometimes be reversed by some additional melting. But they are the experts, so I suppose we should go with it for now.

If this is the case, then this is the fourth lowest minimum in the good data set covering the last several decades.

They do hedge a bit. Here is what they say:

On September 11, Arctic sea ice reached its likely minimum extent for 2015. The minimum ice extent was the fourth lowest in the satellite record, and reinforces the long-term downward trend in Arctic ice extent. Sea ice extent will now begin its seasonal increase through autumn and winter. In the Antarctic, sea ice extent is average, a substantial contrast with recent years when Antarctic winter extents reached record high levels.

Please note that this is a preliminary announcement. Changing winds or late-season melt could still reduce the Arctic ice extent, as happened in 2005 and 2010. NSIDC scientists will release a full analysis of the Arctic melt season, and discuss the Antarctic winter sea ice growth, in early October.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent Is Not Extensive

September is when the melt of the Arctic Sea Ice stops, and the re-freeze starts. We are probably not at the minimum yet, but the amount of melting is starting to level off so we can see where we are. The above graphic, made here (go and play with the interactive graph) shows the first ten years of ice freezing and remelting in the data set to use as a baseline for comparison, and the present year. Yes, there is much less sea ice on the northern end of the planet than usual.

This version of the graph shows the years with less ice, so far, than the present year. This includes the famous 2012 when the ice melted a lot lot more than usual, instead of merely a lot more. 2007 probably had less ice than this year will see, but we can’t be sure yet. 2011 and the present year are almost the same. Again, we’ll see but currently 2011 had a tiny bit less sea ice extent.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 11.25.31 AM

So, 2015 will end up being the second or third most ice free year on record. Keep in mind this is only surface, not volume. Still, surface is very important because it is part of a feedback system; the more surface ice the more reflection of sun’s energy back into space, the less surface covered with ice, the more the Arctic sea is warmed by the sun during the summer.

Arctic Sea Ice Decline in 2015

The surface ice in the Arctic has been melting to historic low levels every year for the last several years. The graph above shows the first ten years in the National Snow & Ice Data Center records, meant to indicate what Arctic Sea Ice “normally” does as it melts off during the northern warm months. The thick black line is the average over 1981-2010, and grey shaded area shows two standard deviations above and below that line. The blue line tracking along the lower end of the 2SD shaded area is the ice extent this year. During the period when sea ice is at its maximum, this year’s ice was low. This does not reliably predict the ultimate September minimum, but it is interesting that the sea ice extent is following an extreme course.

I’m reluctant to say anything about what will happen this year. The melting rate could slow, storms that may play a role in diminishing sea surface ice in the Arctic may not play a big role. Or, the rate of melt could increase and all the various factors that determine a year’s minimum could drive the ice off the sea to the extent that we have a record low. It would be very hard to beat the 2012 minimum extent, as that was an extreme year. But, that extreme year, show on the figure below, was not as low at the present time as the current extent.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 12.22.18 PM

The volume of sea ice is in some ways more important than the area it covers, because this reflects the overall Earth’s surface heat imbalance resulting from the human-induced greenhouse effect. Volume includes both new ice (formed over the previous winter) and old ice that does not melt at all in a given year. This old ice probably serves the role of keeping some of the new ice stable so it melts less, so there is a feedback. The more the volume reduces, the more the surface area may reduce, depending on various conditions.

Andy Lee Robinson has created, and regularly updated, an amazing graphic showing the change over time in Arctic sea ice volume.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent

Arctic Sea Ice extent continues to be a problem. This year, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, ARctic Sea ice reached its lowest extent this year on September 17th, which is about the sixth lowest extent on record, following a multi-year trend of decline. There is variation from year to year. This year’s minimum was almost exactly the same as last years. With the exception of 2001, minimum extent has been below the climatalogical average every year since 1998.

Dana Nuccitelli has a post on this with excellent discussion and some nice graphics, and he has also produced a new version of the animated “How ‘Skeptics’ View Arctic Sea Ice Decline” graphic, which I reproduce here:


How Melty Was The Arctic Sea This Year?

The Arctic Sea is covered with ice during the winter, and some of it melts off every summer. Over recent years the amount of melt has been increasing. This is the time of year we may want to look at Arctic Sea ice because by late September it has reached its annual minimum and is starting to reform.

Looking at JUST surface area, which is one indicator of how warm the Arctic has become with Global Warming, we can see (above) that this years march of melting has been extreme, hugging the two standard deviation limit for all of the data from 1979 to 2010 (almost the present).

Here you can see that 2014 is distinctly different, with much more surface area loss, than the first ten years of this data set, from here.
Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 2.42.54 PM
And here you can see that 2014 is pretty much in the middle of the range for the “new normal” as represented by the most recent ten years:

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 2.43.33 PM

So, in answer to the question above, 2014 was a very melty year in the Arctic, though over very recent years there have been worse years. This year is about the sixth lowest minimum extent since 1979 or before.

More Research Linking Global Warming To Bad Weather Events

A new paper advances our understanding of the link between anthropogenic global warming and the apparent uptick in severe weather events we’ve been experiencing. Let’s have a look at the phenomenon and the new research.

Climate Change: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

It is mostly bad. Sometimes it is ugly. I was looking at crop reports from the USDA and noticed an interesting phenomenon in Minnesota, that is repeated across much of the US this year: Fewer acres are in crops but among those acres that are planted there is a high expected per-acre yield. The higher yield will make up for the lost acreage this year. Unfortunately, that is about as good as it gets.

The lost acreage, at least in Minnesota as I understand it, comes from a late spring followed by a wet early summer. And holy crap was it wet, and fairly cool. My own tomatoes were utterly confused. One plant produced a single tomato that ripened a month and a half early, then waited for weeks to make its next move. I think organisms do that sometimes; when they think they are about to die they reproduce desperately, which for a tomato plant, is producing one premature tomato and then trying to not be noticed for a while. In any event, many Minnesota farmers live with an interesting conflict. There are parts of their farms they can’t plant in a given year because it stays too wet too long, and that varies from year to year. The rest of the farm is irrigated much of the summer. This year, it seems that there has been enough extra rain to increase productivity of the irrigation season, but acreage was lost between the encore of a sort of Polar Vortex mimic and a lot of rain.

The extra productivity was a lucky break, and is limited in its effects. The same weather phenomenon that made June nearly the wettest month ever in the upper plains has contributed significantly to a longer term drought in California, which is on the verge of ruining agriculture there. Severe flooding or extreme dry can do much more damage to agriculture than is accounted for by minor increases in productivity because of the extra water vapor provided by Anthropogenic Global Warming.

And the floods can be downright dangerous. I was talking to my friend and former student Rusty several months ago about the flooding in Colorado. I asked her about how her husband was doing (they both happen to be climate scientists by the way).

“Oh he’s probably fine but I’ve not heard from him in three days. His cell phone battery is probably out. I imagine he’s clinging to some high ground up on the Front Range about now.”

He is a volunteer first responder and had headed up into the canyons year boulder during the big floods there. Which were like the big floods in Calgary. And Central Europe. And the UK. And that rainy June here. And the flooding that just happened in several parts of the US.

All of it, all of those floods, and some significant drought, and the Polar Vortex that hit the middle of North America last winter, all caused, almost certainly, by the same phenomenon.

Wildfires are probably enhanced by recent weather phenomenon as well, with extreme rains causing the build up of fuel, followed by extreme dry providing the conditions for larger and more frequent fires.

On the more extreme end of effects for severe weather is the Arab Spring phenomenon. It is one thing to have a bad year for corn because of a wet spring. It is worse to have a multi year drought that could seriously affect our ability to buy almonds, avocados and romaine from California. But what happens when an agricultural system fails for several years in a row, the farmer abandon the land and move to the cities where they become indigent, a civil war breaks out, and next think you know a Caliphate is formed, in part on the wreckage of one or two failed regimes, failed in large part because of severe weather conditions caused by human induced climate change?

I’ve discussed this at length before. (See: Linking Weather Extremes to Global Warming and Global Warming and Extreme Weather) The relationship is pretty simple, to know how it works all you have to do is remember one word:

AGWAAQRaRWaWW. Rhymes with “It’s stuck in my craw, paw!”

Let me parse that out for you.

AGW -> AA -> QR-RW -> WW

AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming

Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is caused mainly by added CO2 in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuel. By definition, the burning of fossil fuels is the release of energy by separation of carbon previously attached to other atoms by biological processes typically a long time ago, and over a long period of time. We humans are spending a century or two releasing tens and tens of millions of slow storage of Carbon, all at once in geological time, causing the chemistry of our atmosphere to resemble something we’ve not seen in tens of millions of years.

AA – Arctic Amplification

The CO2 by itself would warm the Earth to a certain degree, but it also produces what are called positive feedbacks. Which are not positive in a good way. For example, added CO2 means there is more water vapor in the atmosphere (because of more evaporation and ability for the atmosphere to hold water). Water vapor is, like CO2, a greenhouse gas. So we get even more warming. In the Arctic, there are a number of additional positive feedbacks that have to do with ice. The Arctic, with its additional positive feedbacks, warms more than other parts of the planet. This is called Arctic Amplification.

QR-RW – Quasi-resonant Rossby waves

Jet Stream Cross Section
Cross section of the atmosphere of the Northern Hemisphere. The Jet Streams form at the highly energetic boundary between major circulating cells which contain the trade winds near the top of the Troposphere.
Normally, heat from the equator makes its way towards the poles via air and sea. Giant currents of air are set up by a combination of extra equatorial heat and the rotation of the earth. Part of this system is the so-called “trade winds” (winds that typically blow in a typical direction) and the jet streams.

What the jet stream is supposed to look like.
What the jet stream is supposed to look like.
The jet streams occur at high altitude between major bands of trade winds that encircle the earth. The trade-wind/jet stream systems are typically straight rings that encircle the earth (a bit like the bands on the major gas planets) and the jet streams move, normally, pretty straight and pretty fast. But, with the warming of the Arctic, the differential between the equator and the poles is reduced, so all sorts of strange things happen, and one of those things is the formation of quasi-resonant Rossby waves.

A Rossby wave is simply a big giant meander in the jet stream. Quasi-resonant means “almost resonant” and resonant means that instead of the meanders meandering around, they sit in one place (almost).

What the jet stream looks like when it is all messed up.
What the jet stream looks like when it is all messed up.
It appears that Quasi-resonant Rossby waves set up when there is a certain number (roughly a half dozen) of these big meanders. When this happens, the jet stream slows down. The big bends in the jet streams block or stall weather patterns, and the slow moving nature of the jet stream contributes to the formation of either flash droughts (as Paul Douglas calls them) where several weeks of nearly zero rain menace a region, or extensive and intensive rainfall, like all the events mentioned above.

WW – Weather Whiplash

That’s the term that refers to dramatic shifts between the extreme weather events created by Quasi-resonant Rossby Waves, the result of Arctic Amplification, caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming.

And that’s how you get yer AGWAAQRaRWaWW. Rhymes with “It’s stuck in my craw, paw!”

Quasi-resonant circulation regimes and hemispheric synchronization of extreme weather in boreal summer

Which brings us to Quasi-resonant circulation regimes and hemispheric synchronization of extreme weather in boreal summer. This is the title of a paper by Dim Coumou, Vladimir Petoukhov, Stefan Rahmstorf, Stefan Petri, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. Here is the “for the people” abstract of the paper:

The recent decade has seen an exceptional number of boreal summer weather extremes, some causing massive damage to society. There is a strong scientific debate about the underlying causes of these events. We show that high-amplitude quasi- stationary Rossby waves, associated with resonance circulation regimes, lead to persistent surface weather conditions and therefore to midlatitude synchronization of extreme heat and rainfall events. Since the onset of rapid Arctic amplification around 2000, a cluster of resonance circulation regimes is ob- served involving wave numbers 7 and 8. This has resulted in a statistically significant increase in the frequency of high- amplitude quasi-stationary waves with these wave numbers. Our findings provide important new insights regarding the link between Arctic changes and midlatitude extremes.

The effects of climate change have occurred (and will occur) on a number of time scales. Over a century we’ve had a foot of sea level rise, which is showing its effects now. Storminess, in the form of changes in tornado regimes and tropical storms, has probably been with us for a few decades. But Agwaaqrarwaww has probably only been with us since about the beginning of the present century.

I blogged about this before. In “Global Warming And Extreme Weather” I described an earlier paper produced by the same research team, in which they presented this graphic:


Followed by this graphic, which I made, with the intention of more clearly showing the trend in QR events:

I sent that to one of the authors, which may have inspired the production of a different graphic but showing the same trend, for the current paper:


Look how recent this phenomenon is. It is now, current, happening at sub-climate time scales. We don’t know enough about it, and we need to address it.

I asked Stefan Rahmstorf, one of the paper’s author and the scientists I was exchanging graphics with, to elaborate on the signficance of this recent study and to explain why it is important. He told me, “Previous studies have failed to find trends linked to global warming which could explain the recent spate of unusual extreme events. For example they have looked at trends in the occurrence of blocking or in the speed of the jet stream. But you need to know what you are looking for in order to find it. The planetary wave equation reveals what the resonance conditions are which make the waves grow really big, causing extreme weather. So we knew what trends to look for.”

I also asked him if severe weather events post dating the end of his study period conform to expectations as Rossby Wave events. “I can’t say for sure because we have not done the analysis for the very latest data yet – studies like this take time,” he told me. “But I suspect there have been more resonance events. They are not necessarily constrained to July and August either. The record flooding in May/June 2013 in Germany of the Danube and Elbe rivers, for example, was associated with large planetary wave amplitudes. Dim Coumou has assembled a young research team now that will work on further data analysis.”

Damian Carrington has written up this research at the Guardian, and notes:

Prof Ted Shepherd, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, UK, but not involved in the work, said the link between blocking patterns and extreme weather was very well established. He added that the increasing frequency shown in the new work indicated climate change could bring rapid and dramatic changes to weather, on top of a gradual heating of the planet. “Circulation changes can have much more non-linear effects. They may do nothing for a while, then there might be some kind of regime change.”

Shepherd said linking the rise in blocking events to Arctic warming remained “a bit speculative” at this stage, in particular because the difference between temperatures at the poles and equator is most pronounced in winter, not summer. But he noted that the succession of storms that caused England’s wettest winter in 250 years was a “very good example” of blocking patterns causing extreme weather during the coldest season. “The jet stream was stuck in one position for a long period, so a whole series of storms passed over England,” he said.

I’m not convinced that the seasonality of Arctic Amplification matter much here, and I note that we’ve not looked closely at the Antarctic. Also, “blocking patterns” and QR waves are not really the same exact thing. They may be different features of the same overall phenomenon, but QR Rossby Waves are a more general phenomenon, and a “blocking” is something that happens, probably, when that phenomenon interacts with certain kinds of storms.

It occurs to me that there is a huge difference between Agwaaqrarwaww happening randomly in space vs. blocking and steering waves setting up for long periods of time over the same place, and appearing in those places typically. Like Godzilla. We know that over time Godzilla will usually destroy Tokyo and not London, because Godzialla, while sometimes random, is usually geographically consistant. Can we expect Rossby Waves to usually causae drought in California, flooding on the Front Range or Rockies, and drenching rains in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Region, for example? I asked Stefan about that as well.

“We have not looked at this aspect yet, but the recent paper by Screen and Simmonds has indeed found such a preference of the wave troughs and crests to sit in certain locations.

Ruh Roh.

Arctic Emergency: Scientists Speak

Lots to talk about here:

Published on Aug 1, 2014
Arctic Emergency: Scientists Speak On Melting Ice and Global Impacts (1080p HD)

This film brings you the voices of climate scientists – in their own words.

Rising temperatures in the Arctic are contributing the melting sea ice, thawing permafrost, and destabilization of a system that has been called “Earth’s Air Conditioner”.

Global warming is here and is impacting weather patterns, natural systems, and human life around the world – and the Arctic is central to these impacts.
Scientists featured in the film include:

– Jennifer Francis, PhD. Atmospheric Sciences
Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University.

– Ron Prinn, PhD. Chemistry
TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

– Natalia Shakhova, PhD. Marine Geology
International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

– Kevin Schaefer, PhD.
Research Scientist, National Snow and Ice Data Center.

– Stephen J. Vavrus, PhD. Atmospheric Sciences
Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison

– Nikita Zimov, Northeast Science Station, Russian Academy of Sciences.

– Jorien Vonk, PhD. Applied Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University

– Jeff Masters, PhD. Meteorology
Director, Weather Underground

Current Status of Arctic Sea Ice Extent

As it does every summer, the Arctic Sea ice is melting off. Over the last several years, the amount of sea ice that melts by the time it hits minimum in September has generally been increasing. So, how’s it doing now?

The graph above shows the 1981-2010 average plus or minus two standard deviations. Before going into more detail than that, you should look at the following graphic.

The top chart shows the march of Arctic Sea ice melt for first ten years of the baseline data set only, and the bottom chart shows the last ten years of the same data set. This tells us that the two Standard Deviations for the period 1981-2010 hides an important fact. Since Arctic Sea ice is melting more and more every year, a proper baseline might be the first several years of this period, not the entire period.

Now refer to the graphic at the top of the post. This is the current year’s ice extent. Notice that it is tracking right along the lower edge of the 2 Standard Deviation zone. In other words, the present year is exhibiting what we have been seeing all along: An Arctic with much less ice.

Now look at the years that post date the baseline period, 2011 through the present, including the wildy extreme year of 2012 when a record melt was set.

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 12.04.56 PM

Here we see that collectively, the last three full years and the present partially documented year exist at the lower end of, or lower than, the 2 Standard Deviation zone. This suggests that the current trend is an extension of the previous couple of decades. More melting on average over time. One would hope this would level off, and maybe it will. But we certainly can not make that claim at this point.

Note that it is very hard to predict the ultimate minimum for a given year, even at this point. (Even so, I did it here way at the beginning of the season). We’ll have to wait and see.