Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Our Miner's Canary - the Arctic

Do you remember how balmy temperatures were in the high Arctic last winter? No? Well it's a safe bet that most have probably forgotten all about it. That too is our new normal.

Conditions got so warm that a northern cyclone was spawned last December, thinning the sea ice by 4 inches.  Since the sea ice has been thinning for years in the now warmer Arctic that meant an earlier ice melt this summer, even warmer water temperatures and, now, a longer delay in winter ice reforming.

Residents of the Alaskan city of Barrow (due to change its name to Utqiaġvik on 1 December) would normally be looking out across a frozen harbour by now, but this year the sea is reluctant to freeze.

Barrow’s average temperature for October 2016 was a balmy -1C, significantly warmer than the long-term average of around -8C. And over the North Pole the air has been a full 10C warmer than average of late.

Much of the reason for these warm temperatures and the sluggish rate of sea-ice formation is the exceptional summer sea-ice melt that occurred this year. By 10 September the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that Arctic sea-ice had shrunk to an area of just 4.14m square kilometres – tying with 2007 for second lowest sea-ice extent on record, and some 740,000 square kilometres short of the record set in 2012.

The rapid melting of this ice earlier in the season gave plenty of time for the surface waters of the Beaufort, Chuckchi, Barents and Kara Seas to warm up, and it is these warm waters, combined with persistently warm dry weather blowing up from the south, that have boosted air temperatures and slowed the progress of fresh sea-ice formation.

It's complicated but the growing loss of Arctic sea ice and the warming of the Arctic Ocean and land mass are said to be causing the Polar Vortex that's been hitting eastern North America and parts of Europe.

And now a few words from Katharine Hayhoe, Canadian born, evangelical Christian, climate scientist living in Texas.

1 comment:

Toby said...

Trudeau and McKenna are blowing wind. As long as Canada continues to subsidize carbon I cannot believe that the government is serious about climate change.

Having endured the beetle kill of pine trees, nobody in BC should have the slightest doubt about global warming.