This is what I meant when I said 'flash melting' yesterday:
Now it's there on the Uni Bremen sea ice concentration map, the next day, poof, it's gone. Mind you, not all of it is gone, the sensor is thrown off a bit due to that crazy cyclone downstairs, but it ain't exactly good for the ice if you catch my drift.
Here's the culprit:
Read yesterday's blog post to see what a cyclone like this can do to the ice. And it looks like this is only the beginning. Here's the forecast for the coming days:
Tomorrow will be like today: huge (pardon my scientific reticence). Wednesday and Thursday are going to be massive. Friday will just be big. Fortunately, these forecasts can change from one day to the next, so there's a chance the winds will not be as strong. But below 970 mb sea level pressure? Mamma mia!
If we forget about the dreadful effects of this storm on sea ice for a second, we soon realize that it is also going to cause some major coastal erosion. Here's an excerpt from a great 2011 article on the subject on Yale Environment 360:
The gale and the wall of water that swept over the low-lying land along the Yukon shore [in the summer of 2000, N.] were typical of a growing phenomenon in the Arctic, one with important environmental and social implications: As Arctic Ocean ice disappears and waves build over ever-larger stretches of open water, the Arctic coastline is being buffeted by more intense gales that are driving storm surges onto the land and into freshwater river deltas. Among the consequences are not only the accelerating erosion of Arctic coastline, but the destruction and transformation of parts of some freshwater ecosystems because of saltwater intrusion.
A recent study conducted by Benjamin Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey found that a 40-mile stretch of Alaska coastline along the Beaufort Sea retreated an average of 6.8 meters (22 feet) per year between 1955 and 1979; over the next 23 years, that rate increased by another six feet per year. The low-lying coastline then lost 28 feet of land per year between 2002 and 2007, and 45 feet between 2008 and 2009. These extreme losses are due not only to greater exposure of the land to storms from an increasingly ice-free Arctic, but also to melting permafrost that hastens crumbling of the coastline.A study published last month showed another insidious impact of the growing number of Arctic storm surges. Canadian scientists researched the effects of a massive surge of seawater from the Beaufort Sea that in 1999 pushed 12 miles inland along the Mackenzie River delta in Canada’s western Arctic, flooding lakes, streams, and hundreds of square kilometers of tundra vegetation. The effect of that influx of seawater into the delta transformed the affected areas, killing nearly 90 percent of the alders, which shriveled in the now-salty soil. In addition, scientists documented a dramatic increase in a salt-loving algae — Navicula salinarum — in one inland lake, suggesting that the freshwater system affected by the flooding was being transformed into a new, more saline ecosystem.
Here's the webcam at Barrow:
Doesn't look spectacular yet.
Many questions for the time being:
- How will this reflect on the sea ice area and extent numbers? I don't expect an effect straight away, things happening now take a couple of days to get registered. And besides, it's crazy down there, what with all the waves, winds and clouds that aren't making the sensors' job any easier.
- How much will unflash when this storm is over? I'd say not much.
- Will we see large patches of sea ice get detached from the main ice pack? That's something I haven't seen yet.
- How much warmer, saltier water from lower layers is this storm going to pump up? What will this entail for the remainder of the melting season?
- How will this affect local communities? And the permafrost?
Answers will come pouring in one by one in days/weeks to come...
DMI sea ice extent chart is showing a big drop, but this could be a fluke (happens every once in a while):
The IJIS sea ice extent numbers are updated every day at 11 PM CET. It's 11:40 PM now, no update. That could be a sign that sensors have trouble making sense of what goes on below.
It's below 975 mb right now.
The rowers that row from Alaska to Siberia seem to be in a safer spot:
10 miles north of the town of Barrow (although still south of Point Barrow, I’m told) is a lagoon that’s protected somewhat from the open water of the Arctic. They pulled in there, and are currently anchored about 300 feet from shore, in 5 or 6 feet of water, where they intend to ride out the remainder of the storm that is currently wreaking havoc on the area. This provides them protection from the ice that’s being blown toward shore, and also some shelter from the high seas that follow from super strong winds. The storm is predicted to bring wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour. To put that in some perspective, 50 mph winds are considered strong enough to blow over a grown man, so the team isn’t expecting to enjoy what’s coming. That said, the threats they’ve been facing are largely neutralized by being in the lagoon, which is also allowing them to preserve their non-stop status. So we’re no longer concerned that they could be forced out of the water.
Sailwx, a website that allows one to track ships, also has a map with sea level pressure info:
976 mb. I guess this is another buoy on the other side of the storm as the CRREL buoy in update 2.
National Weather Service discussion for Northern Alaska (via americanwx forum):
UPPER AIR...A DEEP LOW NEAR 78N 160E EAST WILL CONTINUE TO DEEPEN TO OVER THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT TRACKS TO THE NORTHEAST AND JUST SOUTH OF THE POLE. ALL OF THE MODELS ALL HAVE AN ANOMALOUSLY DEEP SUB 510 DM LOW AT 500 MILLIBARS BY 12Z TUE. A LOW THIS DEEP IN AUGUST IS INDEED A RARE EVENT.
At Cryosphere Today the sea ice concentration map has been updated:
I ask again: Will we see large patches of sea ice get detached from the main ice pack?
A satellite image from Environment Canada's Weatheroffice showing the low-pressure area in full glory:
Another National Weather Service discussion for Northern Alaska (via Lodger):
SFC...A 965 MB LOW WHICH IS AN UNUSUALLY DEEP LOW FOR ANY TIME OF THE YEAR IN THE ARCTIC OCEAN IS NOW VERTICALLY STACKED UNDER THE LOW ALOFT. THE LOW WILL ONLY VERY SLOWLY FILL THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE WEEK BUT WILL STILL BE A FORMIDABLE 980 MB LOW ON WEDNESDAY.
According to this weather map from Environment Canada SLP in the heart of the storm has been as low as 962 mb today (click for a larger map):