Ice-Free Arctic Is “Uncharted Territory”

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. Continue reading

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

Coldest Christmas on Record on the UK -18C

In Oslo last June climate researcher’s told me the melting Arctic ice will likely produce colder winters in the eastern United States and Europe. Looks like they were right. Winter freeze up in the sunless Arctic ocean was two months late this year because of a near record ice loss last summer that is expected to continue if not accelerate in future years.

Several research programs have been studying the impacts of this huge loss in Arctic sea ice and presented their findings for first time at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference. My summary from 15 June:

Climate change has warmed the entire Arctic region, melting 2.5 million square kilometres of sea ice, and that, paradoxically, is producing colder and snowier winters for Europe, Asia and parts of North America.

“The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010 in 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.

Thanks to support from readers and the organizers of the conference I was able to attend that polar science conference. No media/publication would front any travel money to help me get there. I was one of a small handful of jurnos there and the first to write a piece documenting the link between global warming and bitter winter weather.

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My full article from Oslo is here: Arctic Melt Down Is Bringing Harder Winters and Permanently Altering Weather Patterns


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

Last year’s cold and snowy winter directly connected to warmer Arctic new research reveals

By Stephen Leahy

OSLO, 15 June 2010 (IPS)

Last winter’s big snowfall and cold temperatures in the eastern United States and Europe were likely caused by the loss of Arctic sea ice, researchers concluded at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference in Norway in June.

Climate change has warmed the entire Arctic region, melting 2.5 million square kilometres of sea ice, and that, paradoxically, is producing colder and snowier winters for Europe, Asia and parts of North America.

“The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010 in 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.

[[UPDATE Dec 29 2010 – Winter of 2010-11 appears to follow same pattern, see new post with northern hemisphere temp map for 20 Dec:  Arctic Hothouse Turns Europe into an Icebox]]

Scientists have been surprised by the rapid warming of the Arctic, where annual temperatures have increased two to three times faster than the global average. In one part of the Arctic, over the Barents and Karas Seas north of Scandinavia, average annual temperatures are now 10 degrees C higher than they were in 1990.

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Overland explains the warming of the Arctic as the result of a combination of climate change, natural variability, loss of sea ice reflectivity, ocean heat storage and changing wind patterns, which has disrupted the stability of the Arctic climate system. In just 30 years, all that extra heat has shrunk the Arctic’s thick blanket of ice by 2.5 million square kilometres – an area equivalent to more than one quarter the size of the continental U.S.

The changes in the Arctic are now irreversible, he said. Continue reading