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While we are waiting to see what happens with the storm, it seems to be a good time to ask this (most probably stupid) question which has bugged me for some time which I can't find the answer to. Assuming an ice-free arctic ocean in the future what will the track of Arctic lows be? The simple model I have in my head says that the track of an LP mainly depends on three factors:

1) Heat energy. The low needs energy (mainly from surface water) to continue to keep itself alive. This means the lowest pressure tends towards areas of highest energy (warmest water)

2) High-level winds can drag the top of the LP and the lower (in height) parts of the LP follow: I always picture a tornado leaning over with the top leading the surface part of the funnel. Scale this up and a similar process happens in an LP. By high level winds I mean the global circulations e.g. jet stream

3) rotation of the earth. Don't know exactly the impact of this but I would have thought this must have an effect either via Coriolis effect or indirectly via (2)

Taking all of the above at the north pole 2) and 3) will be roughly zero. Does this mean that if enough energy is provided an LP could be located at the north pole indefinitely and never move?

PS: Great blog Neven. I have watched and learned for 3 years. Now seems the time to come out of the shadows.


Anthropocene comes out of the shadows. How appropriate and ominous. ;-)

Thanks and welcome.


Testing; new poster.


wind blowing from open water toward the ice edge will bring warmed surface water to it, and waves will also form, which will tend to break up the ice and expose more surface area to melting conditions. Winds blowing from the ice towards open water will carry melt away from the edge along with near surface water, which will cause upwelling of deeper, saltier, and warmer water. (In the Arctic Ocean, the positive salinity gradient with depth wins out over the positive temperature gradient with depth, maintaining a positive density gradient with depth and stable stratification under permanent ice. With larger ice free areas subject to wind mixing, I will confidently predict this is changing, but I haven't seen any published results on this.)
How effective is this Eckmann transport of thermal energy from the depths at melting ice? Cooling ~80 meters of seawater 1 degree C will provide enough energy to melt 1 meter of ice; winds can cause mixing of sea surface to hundreds of meters depth, and the Arctic ocean is thousands of meters deep. I wonder if this could provide an amplifying mechanism when the ice edge is over deep water, compared to shallower continental shelves, where wind driven upwelling wouldn't have a massive heat reservoir to tap?


Interesting blog; my first post.

The dire ice situation in the Arctic, coupled with the broad spectrum of extreme events that have taken center stage in the last few months, seem to follow a pattern. The observations tend to be worse in most cases than the worst case model predictions. This suggests to me that the coupled positive feedback loops and their associated nonlinear dynamics have started to kick in, and are not fully being covered by the models.

I'm also concerned that the modelers are like the Doctor who looks at the patient's lab results, sees he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, but tells him that everything is under control and to continue with treatment. Have we passed the point of no return in reality, and no one is willing to admit the truth to themselves and the larger public? Or, are we near the tipping point, as Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre proposes, and the CO2 reductions required to avoid the bullet are so drastic relative to the increased emissions of recent trends that for all practical purposes we have effectively crossed the tipping point?


i posted about this storm at wunderground a few days ago. for as excited as the folks at wunderground get at a 980 mb hurricane, they didn't comment very much on this storm.

i can't say too many bad things about wunderground, its a great blog and how i got turned into this site back in Feb.

i believe there was a post Nevin made about how the lack of sea ice in Kara/Barents was an ominous sign for the upcoming year.

oh the things I have learned since then.


Superman is here! We're saved! ;-)

Welcome to you all.

Paul Klemencic

Lots of things to consider here. First, dabize, yes, the heat ends up in the troposphere. Thats how heat engines work, they have heat source (warm water, warm moist air) and a heat sink (cooler upper level troposphere). The net flow of heat is transferred to the lower enthalpy state (gaining entropy), and can't move back.

In the storm, warm air rises and begins cooling, but cooling is reduced as moisture condenses out releasing the heat of vaporization and keeps the air warmer that would expanded dry air, so it keeps rising. Eventually the air gets to a level in the troposphere where it displaces air already there. The air displaced moves out and sinks down somewhere around the periphery of the storm.

The storm can keep going as long as the thermal feed is available, and the "conveyor" exists.

However, I believe R. Gates is correct. Once the storm sets up, the warmer moist lower troposphere air being drawn into the storm should supply far more heat than picked up from the Arctic waters. And so actually there should be a net increase in available thermal energy in the storm region.

Which now, leads to another interesting speculation:
Unlike a hurricane or tropical storm that draws its heat from the hot water and warm moist air heated by the water (but that eventually run out of thermal feed), these Arctic cyclones likely feed on the surrounding lower latitude warmer moist air masses, and as fast as it pulls the warm air, there should even more warmer air drawn in. These storms could last a long time, even just sitting in one location. The Arctic ocean would have the coldest air around, and pulling in lower latitude air would give these storms an almost unlimited thermal energy supply.

No wonder one of the articles suggest that these storms last for 20-30 days. Once the system is set up, it can just keep spinning. I am clearly not the expert on this, but this could be one result.

R. Gates

This paper by Tanaka et al. is unfortunately behind a paywall, but it is fairly recent (April 2012) and provides a comprehensive study of specifically the issue of AGW, reduced sea ice and summer Arctic cyclones:


The abstract reads as follows:

"In this study, three-dimensional structures and the life-time behavior of arcticcyclones are investigated as case studies, using reanalysis data of JRA-25 and JCDAS. In recent years, arctic region has undergone drastic warming in conjunction with the reduced sea ice concentration in summer. The rapid reduction of the sea ice concentration is explained, to some extent, by a pressure dipole of the arctic cyclone and Beaufort high over the Arctic Ocean. This paper presents some case studies for the structure of the arcticcyclone.

It is found by the analysis of this study that the arcticcyclone indicates many differences in structure and behavior compared with the mid-latitude cyclone. The arcticcyclones move rather randomly in direction over the Arctic Ocean. The arcticcyclone has a barotropic structure in the vertical from the surface to the stratosphere. The arcticcyclone detected at the sea level pressure is connected with the polar vortex at the 500 hPa level and above. Importantly, the arctic cyclone has a cold core in the troposphere and a warm core around the 200 hPa level. The mechanism of the formation is discussed based on the analyzed structure of the arctic cyclones."

This research appears to have some excellent graphs and diagrams and would prove most interesting in light of this current storm.

If anyone knows of a non-paywalled version of this, please pass it on to others here.

Paul Klemencic

Now some comments on some of the great articles on Arctic cyclones:
First, one article on Polar cyclones linked to earlier was written by Kerry Emanuel, one of the most famous hurricane and climate scientists. Another presentation linked to, was put together by Steve Vavrus, the co-author with Jennifer Francis on the papers and video "Does Arctic Amplification Fuel NH mid-Latitude Extreme Weather Events?". These are top notch guys, whereas we are mere amateurs.

What are top guys doing spending time and effort on researching Arctic cyclones? They are either interested in the same peculiar phenomenon (not likely), or they believe these storms are important, and that their behavior might change. (Do they have a worrisome scenario they are trying to address?)

Secondly, the really severe Arctic cyclones happen in winter, and generally at lower latitudes near the ice pack edge (Bering, and Greenland seas). From Vavrus presentation, there seemed to have been only one summer cyclone (JJA), and that happened within the last ten years.

This storm is different, and could be the harbinger of things to come.


Another resource : http://www.theweatherprediction.com/basic/pressuretypes

The arctic cyclones are cold-core low pressure systems where an upper-level cold air mass gets over warm water. They are very difficult to forecast.


Here we are witnessing an unscripted and uncontrolled experiment in one of the world's most inhospitable and inaccessible laboratory environments. We didn't write the test plan. We don't have the right instrumentation to collect all of the data available.

If Mother Nature had been kind enough to tell us that she was going to conduct this experiment 200 years ago, we might have instituted different policies regarding GHG emissions and land use. She didn't and subsequently we didn't.

Therefore, with our varying degrees of understanding and knowledge about the multitude of feedback mechanisms involved in this experiment we can, at best, only guess about the final results of this experiment.


HA! Tin hats will have a field trip : http://kubby.com/GlobalStorming/polarcyclones.html

Paul Klemencic

oops, correction to my comment: I stated that Vavrus showed one JJA summer Arctic cyclone. One my second viewing, that was a model result, not an actual occurrence.

Account Deleted

RE: Tanaka et al.2012 - Neven has a copy ;)



Sounds like they may have gotten into the Purple Owsley.



Ahh...good old 60's.... Probably expired one...


All jokes aside, Neven are you prepared for the traffic? Your blog is the hit of the summer!! At least in my opinion (worthless as it might be...)

Account Deleted

And in the interest of improving our scientific discourse/collaboration - let me know if there are other papers Neven should have a look at.


From : http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/future/heat.html

Sea ice retreat contributes to Arctic cyclone generation

The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe, due to the decrease in Arctic sea ice. With less sea ice cover, the ocean absorbes more heat from the sun during summer, increasing the temperature contrast between the warm ice-free ocean and cold ice surfaces in autumn. The large temperature contrast contributes to the generation of Arctic cyclones. In the late September 2010, Japanese Research Vessel Mirai observed the explosive generation of an Arctic cyclone, shown in Figure 6.4

Scientists analyzing observations from the Mirai concluded that this is an invaluable example of the fact that sea ice retreat contributees to polar amplification of surface air temperature increase and that cyclone generation is important in the transfer of the excess heat from the ocean into the atmosphere.4 ...


Another find :


Arctic cyclogenesis at the marginal ice zone: A contributory mechanism for the temperature amplification?

Key Points
Using a meteorological research vessel, we caught an Arctic cyclone at ice edge
The cyclone had the identical life-cycle to a mid-latitude one
The cyclone is essential for meridional and air-sea heat exchanges in the Arctic

Jun Inoue
Research Institute for Global Change, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, Japan

Masatake E. Hori
Research Institute for Global Change, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, Japan

Rapid sea-ice retreat over the Arctic Ocean has a leading role in Arctic amplification. The sea-ice extent dramatically recovers during every freezing season, so despite the recent summer sea-ice retreat, there must be extraordinary heat exchange between the lower atmosphere and upper ocean. However, the underlying mechanisms for this remain uncertain. Here we show that autumn frontal cyclogenesis is a crucial event in the Arctic air-sea coupled system. Our shipboard Doppler radar and intensive radiosonde observations at the marginal ice zone detected an explosive frontal cyclogenesis, with coupling between upper and lower tropospheric vortices. The thermal contrast between ocean and ice surfaces is likely favorable to cyclogenesis with an identical life-cycle to that at mid-latitudes. This suggests a northward shift of meridional heat transport. The 1.5 K temperature decrease in the upper ocean after the cold front has passed reveals that a large amount of heat is transported into the atmosphere. This is an invaluable example of the fact that sea ice retreat contributes to polar amplification of surface air temperature increase.

* emphasis mine


From the Naval Postgraduate School in California:

Arctic Cyclones and Marginal Ice Zone Variability



Synoptic Activity in the Arctic Basin, 1979–85

Mark C. Serreze and Roger G. Barry
CIRES and Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado


Sorry for the barrage...

The Summer Cyclone Maximum over the Central Arctic Ocean


The last paper has a ton of information and time series for summer cyclone formation!! Happy reading....

Will keep me occupied...


All jokes aside, Neven are you prepared for the traffic?

Nope. This storm really screwed up my programme. :-(

And while we're at it, how about this paper (published August 4th 2012):

Air-sea interactions during an Arctic storm

The impacts of increased open water in the Beaufort Sea were investigated for a summer Arctic storm in 2008 using a coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean model. The storm originated in northern Siberia and slowly moved into the Beaufort Sea along the ice edge in late July. The maximum wind associated with the storm occurred when it was located over the open water near the Beaufort Sea coast, after it had moved over the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The coupled model system is shown to simulate the storm track, intensity, maximum wind speed and the ice cover well. The model simulations suggest that the lack of ice cover in the Beaufort Sea during the 2008 storm results in increased local surface wind and surface air temperature, compared to enhanced ice cover extents such as occurred in past decades. In addition, due to this increase of open water, the surface latent and sensible heat fluxes into the atmosphere are significantly increased. However, there were no significant impacts on the storm track. The expanded open water and the loss of the sea ice results in increases in the surface air temperature by as much as 8°C. Although the atmospheric warming mostly occurs in the boundary layer, there is increased atmospheric boundary turbulence and downward kinetic energy transport that reach to mid-levels of the troposphere and beyond. These changes result in enhanced surface winds, by as much as ∼4 m/s during the 2008 storm, compared to higher ice concentration conditions (typical of past decades). The dominant sea surface temperature response to the storm occurs over open water; storm-generated mixing in the upper ocean results in sea surface cooling of up to 2°C along the southern Beaufort Sea coastal waters. The Ekman divergence associated with the storm caused a decrease in the fresh water content in the central Beaufort Sea by about 11 cm.

I came across it a couple of hours ago and asked the authors for a comment.


Go to SLEEP!! :)


No time for sleep, unfortunately (just had a half hour nap though). :-)

I just flicked through the Serreze paper, didn't understand most of it of course, but this towards the end was interesting:

While there have been no trends in the strength or persistence of the summer cyclone pattern over the period of 1958–2005, it is natural to speculate on its future behavior. Climate models are in near-universal agreement that Arctic warming in response to greenhouse gas loading will be especially strong. Results from the present study suggest that, at least in part, the summer cyclone pattern owes its existence to differential atmospheric heating between the Arctic Ocean and snowfree land. If patterns of differential heating change substantially, such as through earlier springtime loss of snow cover over land, or through changes in the presently strong summer net surface heat flux over the Arctic Ocean as the sea ice cover disappears, this may invoke changes in the summer circulation.

Earlier springtime loss of snow cover over land?


Looks like Serreze knows a thing or two about the Arctic. Who would've guessed?

Steve Bloom

Per Kerry Emanuel, hurricanes do happen from time to time in the Arctic. What makes them that is their warm core, similar to tropical cyclones, although other characteristics vary. OTOH the storms he's tagged as hurricanes have been relatively small.

Anyway, is it possible that this storm is warm core? I have no idea how to tell.

Paul Klemencic

Steve Bloom: According to the hurricane experts, a clear signal that the core is warm is that the higher level low is stacked directly over the lower level (surface) low. Cold core cyclones (like most of the Arctic cyclones discussed in these papers) must have the upper low to the side of the lower level low to get the circulation.

This is the very first thing that Jeff Masters at Wunderblog jumped to; he noted immediately that in this storm the lows were stacked. This was his way of saying the core seems to be warm.

Chris Biscan



I thought a warm-core system had an upper-level high pressure stacked over the surface low?

Paul Klemencic

Earlier someone put up a link to simple drawings from a meteorologist explaining this.

Paul Klemencic

The Arctic Mosaic shows a lot of the pack near the eye of the storm has been pretty well broken up. We can see broken up ice within 600 km of the NP along 180 longitude, and although closer ice is covered with clouds, within 400 km of the NP along 90E.

Peter Ellis

DMI freefall continues...

Glenn Tamblyn

Earlier, folks had asked the question "When would the MSM take an interest?"

Answer. When the North Pole is essentially Ice Free. The Arctic doesn't have to be but the Pole does. What they will respond to is visuals. Images from ships or planes at the Pole showing no Ice.

"The Year Santa Drowned!"

Give the that and the MSM will be all over this like a rash.

So as the melt season proceeds, if that starts to look like even a modest possibility, start getting the word out. Your local politicians, Media, social networking sites.

Peak melt season is 6 weeks before the US Presidential Election. If Mother Nature obliges by giving us a spectacular collapse (what a sad world it is where one might hope for that as a spur to action on climate change), we all need to be ready to prime the MSM/Politicians to be aware of it.

Kevin McKinney

You are right, IMO, Glen--both about the politics, and about the general pathos of society needing such a wake-up call.

Paul K, thanks for that useful link to the system classifications.

And I note that the DMI freefall is mirrored by JAXA/IJIS, who are in with an early value of 5,576,250 km2. Maybe that will be revised upwards... but then, I thought that the 5.7 k yesterday might be revised upwards, so...

Espen Olsen

Joekelbugt / North East Greenland.

I just spoke to some "insiders" regarding North East Greenland (DMI and DTU Space), because I was curious to the fact that the massive ice just outside Joekelbugt do not move, although the ice along the bay "shore" inside is disintegrating, the reason is "probably" it is stuck to the ground or reefs in some places there is no more than 10 - 15 meters, there is a reef south of Tobias Ø stretching at least 50 km south.


Mesdames et messieurs, a new post is up: Arctic storm part 3: detachment

Please continue there...


Paul, the diagram in your link for the warm core system isn't complete - it only extends up to 500mb. At a higher altitude over warm-core systems, you normally get a high pressure system where air flows away from the center of the surface low.


Have a look at figures 9 and 12 here http://www.newmediastudio.org/DataDiscovery/Hurr_ED_Center/Hurr_Structure_Energetics/Hurr_Struct.html

Charles Longway

Paul, Just a note on cold core cyclones inspired by your hand drawn diagram on Monday. Cold lower and upper core cyclones have an unstacked slanted core with a southern arm feeding in warm air and a northern arm feeding in cold air. Since Geegii is over the pole the warm arm is spread around a 360 circle feeding a northern arm at the pole. This circular symmetry is different than extra-tropical cyclones. Given the polar location our current cyclone has the same dynamics and when it is displaced from the pole we should see the core slant with the top displaced north and the bottom south. I hope this is what we have and not some new, undocumented, monster.

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