Arctic sea ice at a record low again; a warmer February for the U.S. coming

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 13:42 GMT le 08 février 2011

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Arctic sea ice extent for January 2011 was the lowest on record for the month, and marked the second consecutive month a record low has been set, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Most of the missing ice was concentrated along the shores of Northeast Canada and Western Greenland. Relative to the 1979 - 2000 average, the missing ice area was about twice the size of Texas, or about 60% of the size of the Mediterranean Sea. Hudson Bay in Canada did not freeze over until mid-January, the latest freeze-up date on record, and at least a month later than average. The late freeze-up contributed to record warm winter temperatures across much of the Canadian Arctic in December and January. Bob Henson of the National Center for Atmospheric Research has a very interesting post on this, noting that Coral Harbor on the shores of Hudson Bay had a low temperature on January 6 that was 30°C (54°F) above average--a pretty ridiculous temperature anomaly. He quotes David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, who discussed the lack of ice near Canada's Baffin Island: "The Meteorological Service of Canada was still writing marine forecasts as of 7 January, well beyond anything we have ever done." Henson also writes:

"The extremes have been just as impressive when you look high in the atmosphere above these areas. Typically the midpoint of the atmosphere's mass--the 500-millibar (500 hPa) level--rests around 5 kilometers (3 miles) above sea level during the Arctic midwinter. In mid-December, a vast bubble of high pressure formed in the vicinity of Greenland. At the center of this high, the 500-mb surface rose to more than 5.8 kilometers, a sign of remarkably mild air below. Stu Ostro (The Weather Channel) found that this was the most extreme 500-mb anomaly anywhere on the planet in weather analyses dating back to 1948.

Farther west, a separate monster high developed over Alaska in January. According to Richard Thoman (National Weather Service, Fairbanks), the 500-mb height over both Nome and Kotzebue rose to 582 decameters (5.82 km). That's not only a January record: those are the highest values ever observed at those points outside of June, July, and August."



Figure 1. Monthly January sea ice extent for 1979 to 2011 shows a decline of 3.3% per decade. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The warm temperatures in Canada and record sea ice loss in the Arctic were also due, in part, to a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO). The Arctic Oscillation and its close cousin, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) are naturally occurring pressure patterns in the Arctic and mid-latitudes. A negative AO and NAO results when we have weaker than normal low pressure over the Arctic, and weaker than normal high pressure over the Azores Islands. This fosters an easterly flow of air off the warm Atlantic Ocean into the Canadian Arctic, and also weakens the winds of the polar vortex, the ring of counter-clockwise spinning winds that encircles the Arctic. A weaker polar vortex allows cold air to spill southwards out of the Arctic into eastern North America and Western Europe. Thus, the strongly negative AO and NAO the past two winters have been largely responsible for the cold and snowy winters in these regions, and exceptionally warm conditions in the Arctic. I described this pattern in more detail in my December post titled, Florida shivers; Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern is back. It is possible that Arctic sea ice loss is largely responsible for the unusual Arctic Oscillation pattern we've observed during the past two winters, as well as for the record-strength ridges of high pressure observed over Greenland and Alaska this winter. It should not surprise us that Arctic sea ice loss would be capable of causing major perturbations to Earth's weather, since it is well known that changes from average in sea surface temperatures over large regions of the ocean modify the jet stream, storm tracks, and precipitation patterns. The El Niño and La Niña patterns are prime examples of this (though the area of oceans affected by these phenomena are much larger than what we're talking about in the Arctic.) Another example: Feudale and Shukla (2010) found that during the summer of 2003, exceptionally high sea surface temperatures of 4°C (7°F) above average over the Mediterranean Sea, combined with unusually warm SSTs in the northern portion of the North Atlantic Ocean near the Arctic, combined to shift the jet stream to the north over Western Europe and create the heat wave of 2003, the deadliest heat wave in history with 30,000 - 50,000 deaths in Europe.

References
Feudale, L., and J. Shukla (2010), "Influence of sea surface temperature on the European heat wave of 2003 summer. Part I: an observational study", Climate Dynamics DOI: 10.1007/s00382-010-0788-0


Figure 2. The 6-10 temperature forecast issued by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center calls for an above-average chance of warm temperatures across most of the U.S. by mid-February.

A warmer forecast for February
Over the past two weeks, the Arctic Oscillation has undergone a major transition, changing from negative to positive. This means that low pressure over the Arctic has intensified, which will act to speed up the counter-clockwise spinning winds (the polar vortex.) This spin-up of the polar vortex will tend to keep cold air bottled up the Arctic, leading to more Arctic sea ice formation and warmer winter conditions over the U.S. This warm-up is reflected in the latest 6 - 10 day temperature outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (Figure 2.) Could it be the groundhog was right, and we have only three more weeks of winter left? Time will tell--we have little skill predicting what may happen to the Arctic Oscillation more than about two weeks in advance.

Jeff Masters

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Bord Dallas calling 11 Thursday AM, but Houston calling 26. If that 11 pans out Houston should be at least 21
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
And why is it called an Arctic outbreak or Arctic Blast in the lower 48? isn't the Arctic already gone by now?! if it's warming so much why in the hell we calling it Arctic air?
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Well for some, they already believe the Arctic IS the tropics.

Relax. What happens in the larger hemispheric weather patterns affects the temperate zones and the tropics, plus our friends in S FL or Rio Grande Valley :D
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Every scientist has a different graph, everybody on here can find different graphs......... nobody has a clue of what's going on, lol
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Isn't the Arctic the complete opposite of the Tropics?? why isn't there an Arctic blog, we have this Tropics blog, but doesn't make sense talking about the Arctic?
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Can someone please educate me? I learned in my intro meteorology class that the global circulation patterns generate HIGH pressure in the Arctic and Antarctic, yet all of the discussion of the NAO refers to Arctic LOW pressure. Thanks; I learn a lot from you guys even though I don't post much.

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Quoting RitaEvac:
Graphs are not reality, nature doesn't work on graphs nor does it care nor does it follow

IOW: "Don't confuse me with facts." Gotcha... ;-)
Member Since: 8 novembre 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13301
Houston/Galveston NWS

Special Weather Statement
Statement as of 6:14 AM CST on February 08, 2011


... Arctic cold front will usher in much colder weather Wednesday
afternoon and night...

An Arctic cold front will sweep across southeast Texas on
Wednesday... bringing widespread rainfall ahead of the front and
much colder temperatures in its wake. Temperatures will reach into
the 50s during the morning... and then fall into the 30s over the
inland areas and into the lower 40s at the coast during the
afternoon. Most inland counties will then experience freezing
temperatures by or shortly after sunset. Overnight lows will
likely range from the mid and upper 20s inland to around 30 at the coast


Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Quoting RitaEvac:
11 degrees?! they coming down more since then?

Today: Mostly sunny, with a high near 53. Southeast wind between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

Tonight: Rain before 3am, then rain, snow, and sleet. Low around 24. East wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow and sleet accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Wednesday: Snow, mainly before noon. Temperature falling to around 20 by 5pm. Wind chill values between 7 and 17. Windy, with a north northwest wind between 15 and 25 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Wednesday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 11. Wind chill values between zero and 5. North northwest wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 31. North northwest wind around 5 mph.
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MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0095
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1011 AM CST TUE FEB 08 2011

AREAS AFFECTED...CNTRL AND WRN KS...SE CO...NE NM...OK
PANHANDLE...NW TX PANHANDLE

CONCERNING...HEAVY SNOW

VALID 081611Z - 082215Z

HEAVY SNOW WITH HOURLY RATES OF 1 INCH PER HOUR WITH LOCALLY UP TO 2
INCHES PER HOUR WILL CONTINUE THIS AFTERNOON ACROSS CNTRL AND SRN
KS. FURTHER WEST...SNOWFALL RATES SHOULD INCREASE ACROSS NE NM...THE
NW TX PANHANDLE AND THE OK PANHANDLE LATE THIS AFTERNOON WITH 1 INCH
PER HOUR RATES LIKELY ESPECIALLY TOWARD EARLY EVENING.

A BAND OF HEAVY SNOWFALL IS CURRENTLY ONGOING FROM NEAR GOODLAND AND
DODGE CITY KANSAS EWD TO SALINA AND WICHITA KS LOCATED ALONG A ZONE
OF STRONG ISENTROPIC ASCENT. THIS SLAB OF ASCENT IS FORECAST TO
REMAIN IN PLACE AND SAG SLOWLY SWD THIS AFTERNOON INCREASING
SNOWFALL RATES ACROSS SRN KS NEAR THE OK STATE-LINE. IN ADDITION TO
THE HEAVY SNOW...SFC TEMPS IN THE SINGLE DIGITS AND SFC WINDS FROM
THE NORTHEAST AT 20 TO 30 MPH WILL CREATE WIND CHILLS IN THE -20 TO
-30 F RANGE.

FURTHER TO THE WEST... A BAND OF HEAVY SNOW EXISTS FROM NEAR
TRINIDAD EWD TO NEAR LAMAR CO. THIS BAND IS BEING SUPPORTED BY
STRONG LARGE-SCALE ASCENT ASSOCIATED WITH A VORTICITY MAX IN SE CO.
THIS VORTICITY MAX WILL MOVE EWD THIS AFTERNOON AS VERY COLD AIR
ADVECTS SWD INTO THE TX PANHANDLE. LIFT WITH THIS FEATURE SHOULD
RESULT IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF HEAVY SNOW ACROSS NE NM...THE NW TX
PANHANDLE AND THE OK PANHANDLE WITH THE START TIME ESTIMATED IN THE
19Z TO 22Z TIMEFRAME.

..BROYLES.. 02/08/2011


ATTN...WFO...TOP...ICT...OUN...GID...DDC...GLD...AMA...PUB...
ABQ...

LAT...LON 36510103 35770431 35780548 36310575 36860527 38000231
39190052 39479975 39499867 39139718 38579617 37869571
37409608 37299676 37249769 37169855 36849965 36510103
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11 degrees?! they coming down more since then?
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
One more real good shot of Arctic air for the DFW Metroplex Wed-Thurs, before "normal La Nina Weather" returns. We are forecasting a low of 11F on Thurs AM:
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Only 1 or 2 years is moot compared to large scheme of things
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Graphs are not reality, nature doesn't work on graphs nor does it care nor does it follow
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Easy for warm air to warm the poles than cold air to cool the lower lattitudes,
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Thanks Jeff...great update
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Anytime you are 30 degrees cooler than average down in the lattitudes which is closer to the equator is more impressive and ridiculous than near the poles and 54 degrees above average. Why? cuz it's almost near the tropics!!
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Quoting fireflymom:




Thanks! Good info.
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Darn, all those warm anomalies in NE Canada... you'd think the NFL would wise up and consider relocating the SuperBowl up there... instead of such a harsh, brutally uncomfortable, cold / snowy location like Dallas TX...
;)
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Reason for warmth at North pole

Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
22. Skyepony (Mod)
Excellent blog Dr Masters..

Baffin/Newfoundland Bays are still way behind..


This is showing Hudson Bay~.08sq million km short of froze over..but pretty close.
Member Since: 10 août 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36157
Keep an eye on Iceland-
fresh eruption
by ClickGreen staff. Published Tue 08 Feb 2011 14:45, Last updated: 2011-02-08
Recordings show increased activity at Iceland's second largest volcano
Recordings show increased activity at Iceland's second largest volcano

Geologists on Iceland are warning of the increased risk of a fresh volcanic eruption after measuring an increased swarm of earthquakes around the island's second largest volcano.

Páll Einarsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, says the area around Bárdarbunga is showing signs of increased activity, which provides “good reason to worry”.

He told the country's national TV broadcaster Rúv a shortage of seismometer measuring devices is making it more difficult to determine the scale and likely outcome of the current shifts.

But he said there was “every reason to worry” as the sustained earthquake tremors to the north east of the remote volcano range are the strongest recorded in recent times and there was “no doubt” the lava was rising.

The geologist complained that the lack of coverage of measuring devices means he cannot accurately detect the depth and exact location of the increased number of localised earth movements.

“This is the most active areas of the country if we look at the whole country together,” he told Rúv News. “There is no doubt that lava there is slowly growing, and the seismicity of the last few days is a sign of it.

“We need better measurements because it is difficult to determine the depth of earthquakes because it is in the middle of the country and much of the area is covered with glaciers.”

Respected volcano watcher Jón Frímann, said on his volcano watch blog: “After the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in the year 2010 it seems that geologists in Iceland take earthquake swarms more seriously then they did before.”

He explained the Icelandic Met Office had on Sunday warned of the increased risk of a eruption in north-west side of Vatnajökull glacier due to the high earthquake activity in the area, and added: “It is clear that only time is going to tell us if there is going to be a eruption in this area soon or not.”

The last recorded eruption of Bárdarbunga was in 1910, although volcanologists believe its last major eruption occurred in 1477 when it produced a large ash and pumice fall-out. It also produced the largest known lava flow during the past 10,000 years on earth.

It is the second largest volcano on Iceland and is directly above the mantle plume of molten rock.

By comparison, Bárdarbunga dwarves the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which shutdown most of Europe's airspace last year after its ash cloud drifted across the continent's skies.
Member Since: 5 juin 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 574
Quoting Neapolitan:

*Shrug* away. But it would be better if you were to back up those assertions with scientific citations. While you are retrieving those, I'll tell you this:

A) The sum total of all CO2 outgassed by active volcanoes amounts to about 1/150th of anthropogenic emissions. That's less than seven parts in a thousand.

B) While bovine emissions of methane contribute a significant portion of GhGs, in no way do those emissions come close to being the leader. The highest estimates put the cow/fossil fuel ratio of contributed GhGs at roughly 1/4. A lot, but not "a hell of a lot more". (And as good a reason as any to become a vegetarian, or at least convert to grass-fed beef.)
Interesting post. I thought that volcanoes would crank out more GhG,s than that. Some years are much more volcanically active than others. That could change that numbers a bit.
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<
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Quoting yacoub:


Apparently one decent-sized volcano erupting or all the cows doing their daily farting of methane does a hell of a lot more than humans when it comes to so-called greenhouse gasses. *shrug*

*Shrug* away. But it would be better if you were to back up those assertions with scientific citations. While you are retrieving those, I'll tell you this:

A) The sum total of all CO2 outgassed by active volcanoes amounts to about 1/150th of anthropogenic emissions. That's less than seven parts in a thousand.

B) While bovine emissions of methane contribute a significant portion of GhGs, in no way do those emissions come close to being the leader. The highest estimates put the cow/fossil fuel ratio of contributed GhGs at roughly 1/4. A lot, but not "a hell of a lot more". (And as good a reason as any to become a vegetarian, or at least convert to grass-fed beef.)
Member Since: 8 novembre 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13301
It's on the warm side of things because that cold air is being dumped elsewhere around the globe into regions that are supposed to be mild.
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Quoting Neapolitan:

True. What's most telling, however, is that more and more of those "major temperature swings" have been to the warm side of things.


True, now it's time to see how long the swings continue
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Not before one more big ice and snow storm for the USA and N TX :D
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Arctic is able to have major temperature swings, just ast Levi states

True. What's most telling, however, is that more and more of those "major temperature swings" have been to the warm side of things.
Member Since: 8 novembre 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13301
Arctic is able to have major temperature swings, just as Levi states
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Quoting Neapolitan:
A temperature anomaly of 54.F? Yes, that definitely qualifies as "ridiculous". ;-) It seems fairly apparent that as we continue to pump billions of tons of GhGs into the atmosphere each year, we'll read more and more of such extreme weather patterns. To paraphrase the old saying goes, it's not nice wise to fool with Mother Nature....


Apparently one decent-sized volcano erupting or all the cows doing their daily farting of methane does a hell of a lot more than humans when it comes to so-called greenhouse gasses. *shrug*
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Sweet, more Northwest/Northeast Passage action! w00t!
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World is a lot bigger than that one location
Member Since: 14 juillet 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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