Two days have passed since the previous update, and in those two days the storm re-intensified, bottomed out at 971 hPa (slightly higher than the first lowest central pressure of 968 hPa), as can be seen on the image on the left, provided by Environment Canada. It quickly weakened after that, but lo and behold, the image on the right shows it has re-intensified again and is currently at 971 hPa as well!
Just like that, as if it's nothing. Which brings us to the first of three questions (there were two in the previous updates, but now there's a third one at the end of this blog post):
1. Is this a Great Arctic Cyclone?
I'm still not entirely sure how this storm will rank, compared to previous storms. Remember the quote from Simmonds and Rudeva paper I mentioned in update 1:
The plot shows that AS12 was at the tail of the distribution and, at 966.38 hPa, was the lowest in our record, beating the previous deepest (966.94 hPa) (for a storm at 06UTC 7 August 1995) by 0.56 hPa. The next lowest central pressure, 969.23 hPa, was associated with a cyclone at 06UTC 22 August 1991, followed by the fourth lowest storm central pressure in the earlier part of that month 00UTC 7 August 1991 (970.47 hPa).
But it's definitely a very powerful storm, and even if it doesn't boast the lowest central pressure, all these re-intensifications will probably have it score high in other requirements for GAC nomenclature. And that reminds me of something I wrote back in 2012, following a quote that is highly relevant today:
“This past week’s storm was exceptional, and the occurrence of Arctic storms of extreme intensity is a topic deserving closer investigation,” noted Walsh. “With reduced ice cover and warmer sea surfaces, the occurrence of more intense storms is certainly a plausible scenario. The limitation at present is the small sample size of exceptional events, but that may change in the future.”
That last bit is the reason I'm hesitant calling this the Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012, or Arcticane, or some such. What if we see a similar cyclone in 2013 or 2014? We'll run out of names.
Mind you, I don't want to downplay the importance and magnitude of this storm, it's by far the biggest thing I have seen in the Arctic since I started the blog, but to me this whole event isn't about the storm itself, but about a possible new regime - a new aspect of the new abnormal - with big summer storms in the middle of the Arctic.
I called it the new abnormal at the time, but if this becomes 'normal' (compare coverage of this storm to 2012, for instance), then what cachet does the name 'Great Arctic Cyclone' still have?
"In The Legend of Lightning and Thunder, a traditional legend that has been told in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut for centuries, two siblings resort to stealing from their fellow villagers, and inadvertently introduce lightning and thunder into the world. This beautifully illustrated traditional legend weaves together elements of an origin story and a traditional cautionary tale, giving young readers an accessible window into centuries-old Inuit mythology that is specific to the Kivalliq region of Nunavut."
In the Arctic, the harbinger of climate change, anthropogenic global warming is causing another natural phenomenon to occur more frequently (besides coastal erosion, permafrost degradation, wild fires, etc), especially along the northern coasts. In the past, sea water would keep air temperatures too cool for thunderstorms to develop, but this is obviously changing.
Below are excerpts from a blog post by blogger/commenter Apocalypse4Real (who keeps a close eye on methane readings in the Arctic):
Iced Lightning - Lightning Strikes at 80 North
On July 8 and 9, 2016 the National Weather Service published special weather statements regarding the potential for thunderstorms in Barrow, Alaska and on the North Slope. There was not a thunderstorm reported in the media, although on July 10, 2016 there was a cloud to ground strike 15 miles from Barrow.
Curious, I decided to research the background of Arctic Coast or Arctic Ocean thunderstorms, starting with Barrow and Wainwright, Alaska.
Here's what I found, and what came at the end made my jaw drop in regard to lightning strikes and thunderstorms over the Arctic Sea Ice - and the massive changes in the last 16 years of increasing thunderstorm activity over the Arctic Ocean.
Some of you may already have heard about how this year a cruise ship called Crystal Serenity is going to sail the Northwest Passage with more than 1000 guests. Prices range from $22,000 to $121,000 dollars per passenger (drinks included). Here's how the journey is being advertized:
Follow in the footsteps of intrepid explorers as you sail through unparalleled landscapes of grand glaciers, stunning fjords, and rare wildlife sightings as you learn the Arctic culture and its fascinating people.
1000 people who are eternally desperate to inflate their egos and reduce their boredom, will follow in the footsteps of McClure, Parry, Amundsen and Larsen. From their top-deck jacuzzis they will observe the blueness of that which once was white. Maybe they'll take helicopter flights to Jakobshavn Glacier and hope for a good calving, make selfies on Beechey Island in front of the Franklin crew graves, leave some trash behind. 'Look, honey, that's where the Gjøa was stuck in the ice. Can you pass me the shrimp-o-naise?'
In short, they're going to check personally the result of their actions. With great wealth comes great responsibility. Tell the grandkids.
I'm trying to stay polite here. Someone who is more successful at staying polite and explaining the problems of this slap-in-the-face example of disaster tourism, is Suzanne Goldenberg, perhaps the best reporter on Arctic matters at the moment. Here are the final paragraphs of her latest column on The Guardian, but the stuff preceding it, is well worth reading as well:
I think this winter is going to get studied like crazy, for quite a while. It’s a very interesting time. Jennifer Francis, Washington Post
The extraordinary temperature anomalies in the Arctic since the start of the year haven't gone unnoticed in quite a few media outlets, and I apologize for not having joined the fray of actuality. On the other hand, context trumps actuality, as we need to compare to previous years and get a feel for what this prelude to the melting season may mean. In that sense, I'm early with this year's winter analysis (compared to last year).
Let's start studying like crazy, shall we?
It's a lot of text and images, so if you're feeling a bit tl;dr-ish today, skip to the conclusion at the bottom of the page.
Surface air temperature
Here are the monthly temperature graphs for November-February in the Arctic Circle, from 2005/2006 to the past winter, based on the NCEP reanalysis dataset:
Last November saw the highest average monthly temperature in the 2005-2015 record, followed by a lower December, relatively speaking. Things then get a little bit crazy after the turn of the year, with the January 2014 record getting broken by almost 3 °C! February isn't far behind either, almost 1.5 °C higher than the already 'warm' February of 2014. This is unprecedented.
To see where temps were least low, I've created average temperature maps using the Daily mean composites page from NOAA's Earth Science Research Laboratory website, comparing the 2015/2016 freezing season to those preceding the years with the lowest minimums on record (click for a larger version):
Giant metaphor crashes through the ice in Canada’s North
An 80-thousand pound metaphor crashed through the ice in the Northwest Territories Saturday in the form of an off-white Western Star fuel tanker.
The CBC reports that the tanker was carrying heating fuel to Deline, a town of about 500 near the Great Bear Lake. The accident happened just three days after the territory’s transportation department raised the allowable weight on the Great Bear Ice Crossing from 10,000 kilograms to 40,0000 [you have got to be kidding; N].
The truck is currently semi-submerged in the top portion of the ice, which one official estimates to be between 100 and 120 centimetres thick. No one was injured in the incident.
The symbolism of a fuel truck trapped in the ice in Canada’s north will not be lost on anyone who follows news from the scientific community about climate change.
Recent data from the NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirms that global warning is particularly intense in the Arctic —a phenomenon referred to as “Arctic amplification”. In January, scientists confirmed a record low level for Arctic sea ice. And the data for January was particularly worrying.
It's a good question, albeit a rhetorical one. The authors argue that a "robust definition of ice-free may reduce confusion in the community and amongst the public", and start by asking what the exact definition of ice-free is.
We consider four plausible definitions of the date of an ‘ice-free Arctic’. We apply the commonly-used threshold, for which northern hemispheric sea ice extent (defined as the total area of ocean with a sea ice fraction greater than 15%) is less than 1 million km2. The threshold of 1 million km2, rather than zero, is used because ice can be expected to remain for some time along the northern coast of Greenland, whilst for navigational purposes the central Arctic is ice-free. The ‘first ice-free year’ is then defined as:
A. The first year that at least one day is ‘ice free’. B. The first year when the September mean is ’ice free’. C. The first time the final year of a 5 year running mean of September monthly mean extents is ice-free. D. The final year of 5 consecutive September monthly means which are ’ice-free’.
The question is an interesting one to ponder, and not just from a scientific perspective. Still, discussing the exact definition of ice-free may itself become a smoke screen that shrouds a more important issue, and thus cause even more confusion. Fortunately, the authors seem to be aware of this when they state in their paper's final paragraph:
As discussed in the comment section of the Global sea ice area minimum record blog post, data provided by the NSIDC shows that the Global sea ice extent record has been broken as well:
Over on The Great White Con Jim Hunt has published this graph showing the long-term trend, still down it seems:
The old minimum record was reached in 2006 and stood at 16.766 million km2. As of today NSIDC Global SIE stands at 16.707 million km2. That's a 59K difference, and given the forecasts for the Arctic, Global SIE could go even lower.
So, that's it for the two daily Global sea ice data products (Cryosphere Today Global SIA, NSIDC Arctic SIE + Antarctic SIE). If there are any other out there, let me know. The record is probably being broken there too, if it isn't already. And also let me know if a climate risk denier outlet reports this.
It's not easy to see, but 2016 has dipped below the 2006 record minimum of 14.391 km2, and currently stands at 14.365 million km2, which is 25K km2 lower. It will probably go up a bit in coming days, but the final 2016 minimum might go even lower after that.
Edit: Here's a graph from the Great White Con website showing the long-term trend for Global sea ice area minimums:
Remember, as I said, this measure doesn't tell us all that much about the health of either Arctic or Antarctic regions, if only because the seasons move in opposite directions (nevertheless, the Global sea ice trend is down). It's just an interesting statistical factoid.
However, climate risk deniers often use the Global sea ice metric as an argument that nothing is wrong and AGW is a hoax. In other words, the recent growth in Antarctic sea ice offsets the loss of Arctic sea ice (it doesn't), even though the poles are literally worlds apart and are pretty much incomparable (except for the sea ice bit).
Using this logic, it would seem that this new record minimum means there is something wrong with sea ice and AGW isn't a hoax. I wonder how they will spin this one. If they report it to their loyal readers, that is.
Now we move our eyes to the Arctic and keep an eye out for the upcoming maximum. Plenty interesting too, and not just for statistical reasons.
This post is about global sea ice area, the simple addition of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice area. As a statistic it's somewhat interesting, but it doesn't convey all that much information about the individual health of both polar regions, let alone their sub-regions.
Despite this fact, or probably because of it, it's often being touted by climate risk deniers as proof that global warming is a scam and all is well, because Arctic sea ice loss is compensated by a growth in Antarctic sea ice. Even if this were true - it isn't, as this Skeptical Science article explains - it's like saying there is no hunger in the world because there are so many obese people.
But anyway, we're approaching that time of year when global sea ice area as calculated by and presented at Cryosphere Today is going to hit its minimum, or lowest amount of sea ice cover. And currently the number is quite low, as can be seen on this graph from Piotr Djaków's Pogoda i Klimat website:
According to the data 2016 is already 4th lowest at 14.73 million km2, just behind 2007's minimum, and almost 350K behind 2011 and record holder 2006 (14.39 million km2, the grey trend line just below the 2011 green trend line). Below I'll discuss the factors that will determine whether a new record is in the books.
An absolute prerequisite for a new record is for Antarctic sea ice area to go low. Whereas it's freezing in the Arctic right now, it's summer in the Southern Hemisphere and so the Antarctic melting season is slowly moving towards its apogee. If we look at the NSIDC sea ice extent graph for March, for instance, we can see some fairly large swings, with record years 2006 and 2011 standing out with their distinct dips: