Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

Discovering Global Environmental Interconnections

Posts Tagged ‘sea ice

Killer Heat Waves and Floods Linked to Climate Change

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More than 5 million affected by flooding in Pakistan Sept 2011 - a repeat of 2010.

More than 5 million affected by flooding in Pakistan Sept 2011 – a repeat of 2010.

“The first law of humanity is not to kill your children.”

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 27 2013 (IPS)

Killer heat waves, floods and storms are increasingly caused by climate change, new research reveals.

Scientists in Germany say they have found how greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are helping to trap the jet stream, resulting in extraordinary weather such as the 2010 Pakistan flood and the 2011 heat wave in the United States.

Human-driven climate change repeatedly disturbs the flow of atmospheric waves around the globe’s Northern hemisphere, said lead author Vladimir Petoukhov of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany.rossby.waves1_

Giant atmospheric waves called Rossby waves are meanders in the strong, high-altitude winds known as jet streams and have a major influence on weather. These wave movements are caused by the difference in temperatures between the cold air from the Arctic and hot air from the tropics.

When the waves shift north, they suck warm air from the tropics to Europe, Russia, or the U.S., and when they swing down, they do the same thing with cold air from the Arctic, said Petoukhov.

“During several recent extreme weather events, these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks,” he said. “So instead of bringing in cool air after having brought warm air in before, the heat just stays.”

This unnatural pattern is due to human heating of the climate through emissions of greenhouse gases that result from burning fossil fuels, according to the study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

However, this heating of the atmosphere is wildly uneven. The Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the global temperature rise of 0.8C and that affects the Rossby waves and is slowing the jet stream.

“(Our research) complements previous research that already linked such phenomena to climate change,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a co-author of the study. Read the rest of this entry »

80 percent of Arctic Ice Lost Compared to 30 Years Ago

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arctic-sea-ice-min-volume-comparison-1979-2012-small

[This is my first exclusive blog post - virtually everything else on this site are my published articles. Not sure if I'll have time to do more. Let me know what you think - Stephen ]

A new study released Feb 13 revealed that the volume of Arctic sea ice is declining rapidly. Ice volume in September 2012 had fallen 80 percent compared with the volume of ice in September 1980 according to the latest data from European Space Agency satellite, CryoSat-2. As the Arctic heats up Most of the ice loss has been in recent years. Between 2003 and 2012 the volume declined a whopping 36 percent. Summers with a sea ice-free Arctic are only a few years away, scientists now agree. This will have significant and permanent impacts on weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.

My previous article  Ice-Free Arctic Is “Uncharted Territory” documented last September’s one year record area decline of 18 percent. Here’s what this means:

The impacts are already being felt across the entire northern hemisphere. The loss of sea ice in recent years has been affecting weather patterns, recent research has shown. The all-important jet stream – the west-to-east winds that are the boundary between the cold Arctic and the warm mid-latitudes – is slowing down, moving north and become more erratic.

When continent-sized areas of the Arctic Ocean flip from the all-white ice to dark blue, tremendous amounts of heat are absorbed from the 24-hour summer sun. When the bitter cold Arctic winter sets in over the next few weeks, all the heat in the ocean must be released into the atmosphere before ice can form again.

The Arctic will be ice-covered in winter for decades to come but what’s fundamentally changed is that every fall, unprecedented amounts of heat and water vapour will be released into the atmosphere.

“The polar meltdown shows we’re teetering on the brink of climate change catastrophe,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.

As the sea ice declines, Arctic temperatures increase, thawing more and more permafrost, which will release more climate-heating carbon and methane. Permafrost is frozen soil, sediment and rock spanning 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe. It has twice the carbon that the atmosphere currently holds.

A Swedish study released Feb 17 has found a link between sea ice declines and increases in methane emissions. Methane has 40x the warming of carbon. This is may lead to an even faster meltdown of the Arctic risking the release of huge amounts of permafrost carbon and methane.

US Climate Rally Draws “Line in the Sand” on Keystone Pipeline

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The tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Credit: howlmonteal/cc by 2.0The tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Credit: howlmonteal/cc by 2.0

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 16 2013 (IPS)

The largest climate rally in U.S. history is expected Sunday in Washington DC with the aim of pressuring President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Activists are calling Keystone “the line in the sand” regarding dangerous climate change, prompting the Sierra Club to suspend its 120-year ban on civil disobedience. The group’s executive director, Michael Brune, was arrested in front of the White House during a small protest against Keystone on Wednesday.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is part of the carbon infrastructure that will take us to dangerous levels of climate change,” said Simon Donner, a climate scientist at the University of British Columbia.

To permit the pipeline would represent a heartbreaking acquiescence to climate change on the part of President Obama and our national leaders.

“By itself, Keystone won’t have much of an impact on the climate, but it is not happening on its own,” Donner told IPS.

Carbon emissions are increasing elsewhere, and the International Energy Agency recently warned humanity is on a dangerous path to four degrees C of warming before the end of this century. Children born today will experience this. Preventing that dire future is inconsistent with expanding tar sands production, Donner said.

arctic-sea-ice-min-volume-comparison-1979-2012-smallA new study released this week revealed that the volume of Arctic sea ice is declining rapidly. Ice volume has fallen 80 percent since 1980, according to the latest data from European Space Agency satellite, CryoSat-2. Summers with a sea ice-free Arctic are only a few years away, scientists now agree. This will have significant and permanent impacts on weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Keystone XL is the key to opening up the expansion of the tar sands industry,” said Jim Murphy, senior counsel with the National Wildlife Federation.

“By rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, we can keep this toxic oil in the ground,” Murphy said in a statement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wild and Weird Weather Getting Worse

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New York City flooding

New York City flooding

It doesn’t have to be this way – typical family could reduce their energy use 60 to 75 percent

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 29 2013 (IPS)

Weird is the only way to describe January temperatures whipsawing between record warm and arctic cold over a span of a few days. Experts say that is what climate change looks like: weird, record-shattering weather.

Here’s a fact that goes beyond weird to astonishing. Anyone who is 27 years old or younger has never lived through a month that was colder than the global 20th century average. In other words, we’ve had 334 consecutive months with above average temperatures, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Arctic sea ice extent. Area of ocean with at least 15 percent sea ice as of Sept 12, 2012. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Arctic sea ice extent. Area of ocean with at least 15 percent sea ice as of Sept 12, 2012. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Last summer, the Arctic sea ice shrunk to half of what it used to be during summers only three decades ago. Our planet’s weather is driven largely by the two cold polar regions and the warm tropics. With the Arctic defrosting, it should be no surprise our weather is getting weird. And that it’s not going to get better.

Our planet is heating up because we each year put thousands of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil, and natural gas. CO2 acts as heating blanket keeping the planet warm by trapping some of the sun’s heat.

The amount of extra heat-energy being trapped is like exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year, calculates James Hansen, a climate scientist who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Cautious scientists like Hansen are terrified of what’s coming. Conservative institutions like the World Bank and accounting giant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) have warned we’re on a path to heating the entire surface of the planet by an average of four or five degrees C before 2100. That translates into eight to 12 degrees C hotter in places like Canada.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ice-Free Arctic Is “Uncharted Territory”

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Arctic sea ice extent. Area of ocean with at least 15 percent sea ice as of Sept 12, 2012. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Arctic ice half of what it was 30 years ago. Now affecting weather patterns

Heading for +4C and catastrophe – CBD

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 20 2012 (IPS)

The melt of Arctic sea ice has reached its lowest point this year, shrinking 18 percent from last year’s near-record low.

Summer ice this year is half what it was 30 years ago and is now affecting weather patterns. The massive declines in ice in recent summers have shocked scientists and Arctic experts. Some predict that in just a few years we will witness an event that hasn’t happened in millions of years: the complete loss of summer ice.

“We are now in uncharted territory,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Colorado.

“Few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur” as a result of the burning fossil fuels that are warming the planet, said Serreze.

“We could see an essentially ice-free Arctic ocean in late summer by the year 2030,” he told IPS.

Not long ago experts thought the soonest the Arctic would be ice-free was 2070. Now it’s anywhere from four to 18 years away.

The impacts are already being felt across the entire northern hemisphere. The loss of sea ice in recent years has been affecting weather patterns, recent research has shown. The all-important jet stream – the west-to-east winds that are the boundary between the cold Arctic and the warm mid-latitudes – is slowing down, moving north and become more erratic.Measurement of CO2 levels in atmosphere

“Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic,” said James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States.

“In future, cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception” in these regions, Overland told IPS in Oslo in 2010.

The summer’s record loss of Arctic sea ice may mean a cold winter for the UK and northern Europe, Jennifer Francis, a researcher at Rutgers University, told the Guardian last week.

The region has been prone to bad winters after summers with very low sea ice, such as 2011 and 2007, Francis said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Stephen:

This is an analysis piece from 2011. I will be interviewing experts around the world for a new article on this year’s record breaking melt of Arctic ice. — Stephen

Originally posted on Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist:

Rapidly warming planet biggest threat to all nations

Military budget more than enough to convert USA to 100% renewable energy

Analysis by Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 15, 2011 (IPS)

All the analysis and commentary about safety and security on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 ignored by far the biggest ongoing threat to global security: climate change.

Just days before Sunday’s commemoration of the attacks, German scientists pointed to yet another smoking gun of climate change: the Arctic sea ice reached a new historic minimum ice extent.

The rapidity with which the planet is losing its northern ice cap continues to astonish experts. The defrosting northern pole is one of the prime drivers of Earth’s climate system and is changing global weather patterns in unpredictable ways.

The Arctic ice melt is also accelerating the rate of climate change beyond what humanity is doing with every barrel of oil, tonne of…

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Record Arctic Ice Melt Threatens Global Security

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Rapidly warming planet biggest threat to all nations

Military budget more than enough to convert USA to 100% renewable energy

Analysis by Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 15, 2011 (IPS)

All the analysis and commentary about safety and security on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 ignored by far the biggest ongoing threat to global security: climate change.

Just days before Sunday’s commemoration of the attacks, German scientists pointed to yet another smoking gun of climate change: the Arctic sea ice reached a new historic minimum ice extent.

The rapidity with which the planet is losing its northern ice cap continues to astonish experts. The defrosting northern pole is one of the prime drivers of Earth’s climate system and is changing global weather patterns in unpredictable ways.

The Arctic ice melt is also accelerating the rate of climate change beyond what humanity is doing with every barrel of oil, tonne of coal or cubic metre of gas burned.

On Sep. 8, researchers at the University of Bremen in Germany reported that the Arctic ice melt bettered the previous minimum of 2007. Other research centres using different satellite and analysis tools say the extraordinary decline of ice in 2007 has not yet been exceeded this year and 2011 remains a close second.

Sea Ice Extent 2003-2011

“We think it will end up a little bit short of the record – not that it really matters,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the U.S. city of Boulder, Colorado.

“What is extraordinary this year is that there was no weird weather pattern that created the perfect conditions for the record melt in 2007,” Serreze told IPS.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

This year, the summer weather was normal and yet it the ice vanished in similar amounts to 2007.

“That tells us the sea ice is too thin now to hold up under normal weather conditions,” he said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Arctic Ice Busts Yet Another Record – Lowest Ever For February

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Since December of last year the Arctic sea ice has been breaking records with the lowest ever ice cover – lower than the shocker melt down of ice in 2007. This is the latest update from NOAA’s National Snow and Ice Data Center. It shows that the seasonal extant of Arctic sea ice at the end of February, 2011, stood at a record low, well below the prior record set in 2007 and almost 3 million square kilometers below the average for that winter date, when sea ice is usually within days of its greatest seasonal extant for the year.

I’ve written several articles on the latest arctic science and how the decline in sea ice affects weather in the northern hemisphere:

Arctic Melt Down Is Bringing Harder Winters and Permanently Altering Weather Patterns

Arctic Defrost Dumping Snow on U.S. and Europe

Arctic Sea Ice Record – New Satellite Image

Arctic Ice in Death Spiral, Thaws Permafrost — Risks Climate Catastrophe


Written by Stephen

02/03/2011 at 12:05 pm

Arctic Sea Ice Record – New Satellite Image

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Temperatures of +21C above normal in Dec/Jan in the eastern Arctic. Parts of Hudson Bay remain unfrozen

This NASA image shows average Arctic sea ice concentration for January 2011. Blue indicates open water; white indicates high sea ice concentrations; and turquoise indicates loosely packed sea ice. The yellow line shows the average sea ice extent for January from 1979 through 2000.

The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has reported that Arctic sea ice was at its lowest extent ever recorded for January (since satellite records began).

I’ve written about why this is happening and the consequences several times in recent weeks — Stephen

Arctic Defrost Dumping Snow on U.S. and Europe

Arctic Melt Down Is Bringing Harder Winters and Permanently Altering Weather Patterns

East Coast Blizzard and Europe’s Snowmaggddon Reveal Fingerprints of Climate Change

Arctic Hits Bottom – Lowest Jan Sea Ice Cover Ever*

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1.27 million square kilometers below avg

 

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported wednesday that the Arctic sea-ice extent averaged just 13.55 million square kilometers, the lowest January ice extent since satellite records began in 1979 (*and likely the lowest in thousands of years- SL). That’s a whopping 1.27 million square kilometers below the 1979 to 2000 average.

No surprise given the absurdly warm Arctic temperatures of +21C above normal in Dec/Jan.

I’ve written about why this is happening and the consequences several times in recent weeks:

Arctic Defrost Dumping Snow on U.S. and Europe

Arctic Melt Down Is Bringing Harder Winters and Permanently Altering Weather Patterns

East Coast Blizzard and Europe’s Snowmaggddon Reveal Fingerprints of Climate Change

The Arctic summer’s sea ice melt will likely be another record low pushing the world to an ice-free Arctic one summer in the new future. FYI weather-related records will continue to fall faster than dominos without drastic cuts to our fossil fuel emissions. And frankly I’m tired of writing about it. — Stephen

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