Friday, April 3, 2009

Current Sea Ice Report 2009

I really hate it when report writers pick and chose data points and ignore the forest. Of course, we are all guilty of that one way or the other. What this item is showing us is that the sea ice collapse that began well in summer of 2007 was halted that winter and the process of claw back has begun. The open waters are allowing higher heat absorption so the claw back is necessarily slow. Right now, we can expect another incremental increase over last year because we have had a cold winter and the new sea ice will be much thicker than the past two years.

We lost a lot of ice this time around, so there is a good chance that when the next wave of solar inspired warming hits in two years, it will quickly reassert the collapse of the sea ice. I expect another winter as cold as the one we just had for 2010, but after that we should catch a warming trend again with significant and accelerating declines every year.

This report certainly suggests that a lot of surplus heat has remained in the arctic undischarged. How true that is should become clear this year. I always get nervous when reports state 5 degrees over five years. That often hides a recent precipitous decline.

I am including the link to my most useful current sea ice map here for future reference. It usually updates every week or so and the lower map is a comparison map. Make for a great reality check.
Or alternately their new web page for this. Updating is also lagging as of June.

"Study: Arctic sea ice melting faster than expected"
(Source: AP, 4/2/09)
WASHINGTON Arctic sea ice is melting so fast most of it could be gone in 30years. A new analysis of changing conditions in the region, using complex computer models of weather and climate, says conditions that had been forecastby the end of the century could occur much sooner.
A change in the amount of ice is important because the white surface reflectssunlight back into space. When ice is replaced by dark ocean water that sunlightcan be absorbed, warming the water and increasing the warming of the planet.

The finding adds to concern about climate change caused by human activities suchas burning fossil fuels, a problem that has begun receiving more attention inthe Obama administration and is part of the G20 discussions under way in London.

"Due to the recent loss of sea ice, the 2005-2008 autumn central Arctic surfaceair temperatures were greater than 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit)above" what would be expected, the new study reports.

That amount of temperature increase had been expected by the year 2070.
The new report by Muyin Wang of the Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphereand Ocean and James E. Overland of the National Oceanic and AtmosphericAdministration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, appears in Friday'sedition of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

They expect the area covered by summer sea ice to decline from about 2.8 millionsquare miles normally to 620,000 square miles within 30 years.

Last year's summer minimum was 1.8 million square miles in September, secondlowest only to 2007 which had a minimum of 1.65 million square miles, accordingto the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The Center said Arctic sea ice reached its winter maximum for this year at 5.8million square miles on Feb. 28. That was 278,000 square miles below the1979-2000 average making it the fifth lowest on record. The six lowest maximumssince 1979 have all occurred in the last six years.

Overland and Wang combined sea-ice observations with six complex computer models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to reach their conclusions. Combining several computer models helps avoid uncertainties caused by natural variability.
If you believe that is anything other than a direct admission that our models are unreliable, then I have this wonderful stock picking program for sale. Oh well.

Much of the remaining ice would be north of Canada and Greenland, with much lessbetween Alaska and Russia in the Pacific Arctic.

"The Arctic is often called the Earth's refrigerator because the sea ice helps cool the planet by reflecting the sun's radiation back into space," Wang said ina statement. "With less ice, the sun's warmth is instead absorbed by the openwater, contributing to warmer temperatures in the water and the air."

The study was supported by the NOAA Climate Change Program Office, the Institutefor the Study of the Ocean and Atmosphere and the U.S. Department of Energy.

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