Arctic Sea Ice

Alongside a string of record high world temperatures it shouldn’t be a surprise to see a reduction on Arctic sea ice, especially as the north is warming disproportionately more than the southern hemisphere.

ArcticSeaIceExtent

There was a record minimum in 2012 so 2016 is tracking to break new records.

How Melting Arctic Ice Contributes to Global Warming

Kristina Pistone of NASA’s Ames Research Center…

“The Arctic is a region that’s probably seen some of the most dramatic changes over the past few decades. And I think possibly one of the most iconic images is the decline in the Arctic sea ice.”

She says melting Arctic sea ice is not only a symptom of global warming, it’s also an important contributor because of the “albedo effect.”

So when Arctic sea ice melts, the underlying ocean water absorbs more of the sun’s energy, and heats up. That, in turn, melts more sea ice.

Since 1979, more than 600,000 square miles of winter sea ice has disappeared – an area more than twice as big as Texas.

Pistone says that rate of loss could lead to ice-free summers in the Arctic within the next two decades.

Fractures seen in rapidly melting Arctic sea ice, and it’s only May

Even accounting for the accelerating pace of Arctic climate change, sea ice loss in the Far North is running well ahead of schedule. This may signal a near record or record low sea ice extent to come in September.

Fractures in the ice cover are evident north of Greenland, which Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, told Mashable are “quite unusual” for this time of year.

In general, the Arctic has warmed at about twice the rate of the rest of the world, due largely to feedbacks between melting sea ice and the ability of newly-open ocean waters to absorb more heat, and then melt more ice.

So far, the ice is melting at a far faster pace compared to the record sea ice minimum that occurred in 2012.

Arctic sea ice set a record low seasonal maximum in March, and a relentless series of weather systems have pumped unusually mild air into the Arctic as well as milder than average ocean waters

Many studies have shown that the Arctic may be seasonally ice free within the next few decades.

Even for the fast-melting Arctic, 2016 is in ‘uncharted territory’

We’re in record breaking territory no matter how you look at it,” says Jennifer Francis, an Arctic specialist at Rutgers University who has published widely on how Arctic changes affect weather in the mid-latitudes. “The ice is really low, the temperatures are really high, the fire seasons have started earlier,” she says.

Indeed, NASA and other keepers of planetary temperatures have documented staggering warmth in the region this year — not just 1 or 2 degrees Celsius above average, but more than 4 degrees above average across much of the Arctic during the first quarter of this year:

giss-jan-march-2016-temps

So in sum: Scientists fear northern wildfires could be not only worsening, but also accelerating loss of permafrost from frozen northern and Arctic soils — which in turn would amplify global warming. And 2016, they think, could be a banner year for this process.

Granted, the atmosphere (and ocean) always deliver surprises, and as all of these researchers will tell you, there is no crystal ball to tell us what will happen in the Arctic as full summer nears. We only know that this year, five months in, is standing out for dramatic levels of warming, melting — and hints of early burning.

So there is plenty of cause for concern, especially in the northern hemisphere.

In the meantime our run of unusually mild weather seems to have come to an end with temperatures dropping 5+ degrees over the last day or two and a forecast of 10 degree highs through next week, more typical of late autumn.

But that’s irrelevant in the whole scheme of things. Record planet wide temperatures and record low Arctic sea ice extent are causing considerable concern in the climate change world.

Whale Oil cites a social anthropologist as a climate change expert

Cameron Slater continues his anti-climate change agenda at Whale Oil, yesterday posting TURNS OUT THE POLES AREN’T MELTING, NOT THAT OUR MEDIA OR GOVERNMENT WILL SAY ANYTHING.

He quotes from an article featuring claims by Dr Benny Peiser from Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF). Does Peiser sound like a well educated climate scientist?

Sourcewatch claims:

Benny Peiser (b. 1957) is a UK social anthropologist and AGW denier listed among the Heartland Institute “Global warming experts” despite having no evident expertise in climate science or policy.

Peiser was educated in West Germany and studied political science, English, and sports science in Frankfurt.

Although Peiser is described by Local Transport Today as a ‘climate policy analyst’, it is unclear what academic expertise Peiser brings to bear on his climate policy analyses.

According to a search of 22,000 academic journals, Peiser has published 3 research papers in peer-reviewed journals: Sports Medicine, 2006; Journal of Sports Sciences (2004); and, Bioastronomy 2002: life among the stars (2004). None of these studies are related to human-induced climate change.

Peiser also runs CCNet (network) to counter ‘doomsday scaremongering about the possible effects of climate change’.

Slater would ridicule someone with Peiser’s lack of relevant scientific credentials if they were on the other side of the argument. Ironically he concludes:

I can’t wait for the global fraud trials to begin…if you did in business what these so-called scientists have done you’d be sharing a cell with Bernie Madoff or David Ross.

I doubt if he means Peiser as a “so-called scientist”.

And what about whether the poles are melting? It’s not hard to find alternate more scientific views to Dr Benny Peiser and Cameron Slater.

Smithsonian: Ice Melt at the Poles

It’s confirmed: both Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice—around 350 billion tons each year—and, as a result, sea level has risen 11.1 millimeters worldwide since 1992. This photo shows a summertime channel created by the flow of melted ice, which ultimately carries the water away from the glacier to the sea.

It’s not easy to measure melting ice. But by using data from 10 satellite missions, an international team of 47 scientists put together the most accurate estimate of ice melt to date. Ice melt doesn’t just affect sea level, however: the influx of fresh water could change the salinity of the North Atlantic enough to alter weather patterns in North America and affect ocean organisms.

National Snow and Ice Data Center – Artic Sea Ice News and Analysis

Arctic sea ice extent for November was the 9th lowest in the satellite record. Through 2014, the linear rate of decline for November extent over the satellite record is 4.7% per decade.

Antarctic sea ice has continued to decline at a faster-than-average pace (approximately 122,000 square kilometers, or 47,100 square miles per day through the month of October, compared to the average rate of 112,000 square kilometers or 43,200 square miles per day), and is now about 650,000 square kilometers (251,000 square miles) below the level for the date recorded in 2013. Currently ice extent remains about 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 square miles) higher than the 1981 to 2010 average for this time of year.

But what would they know? They aren’t social anthropologists or agenda promoting bloggers.

But an alternate view has been allowed to counter Slater’s claims. See the thread started by Mythrandir.

Another comment, by Gaynor, remains unchallenged:

What would be so wrong with ice free poles? Don’t we need more land for our growing population?

An ice free north pole (Arctic) would not provide more land, there is no land there.

An ice free Greenland would raise sea levels by about 7 metres.

An ice free Antarctic would raise sea levels by about 61 metres.

That would flood a huge amount of land in more habitable parts of the world.

Source: If the polar ice caps melted, how much would the oceans rise?

If the rising temperature affects glaciers and icebergs, could the polar ice caps be in danger of melting and causing the oceans to rise? This could happen, but no one knows when it might happen.

The main ice covered landmass is Antarctica at the South Pole, with about 90 percent of the world’s ice (and 70 percent of its fresh water). Antarctica is covered with ice an average of 2,133 meters (7,000 feet) thick. If all of the Antarctic ice melted, sea levels around the world would rise about 61 meters (200 feet). But the average temperature in Antarctica is -37°C, so the ice there is in no danger of melting. In fact in most parts of the continent it never gets above freezing.

At the other end of the world, the North Pole, the ice is not nearly as thick as at the South Pole. The ice floats on the Arctic Ocean. If it melted sea levels would not be affecte­d.

There is a significant amount of ice covering Greenland, which would add another 7 meters (20 feet) to the oceans if it melted. Because Greenland is closer to the equator than Antarctica, the temperatures there are higher, so the ice is more likely to melt

Of course it’s very unlikely all the world’s ice will melt in the forseeable future. But a metre or two of sea level rise would cause far more problems than it would help.