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"Will the next one be called the Similarly Great Arctic Cyclone of XXXX, or worse, the Even Greater Arctic Cyclone of XXXX?"

Something similar happened in the global war of 1914. It was simply called the Great War. But then another great war came and they decided to call them World Wars I & II.

Ac A

Hello, not exactly Arctic, but interesting too:

"there were 362 all-time record highs logged in the U.S. in 2012 but ZERO all-time record lows..."



Nightvid Cole

An article just appeared in the New York Times titled, "Light Absorption Speeding Arctic Ice Melt"


Sorry it's a bit OT , but when a major news outlet has a story relating to Arctic sea ice at such a time of year, it shouldn't be missed!



I don't think it is a coincidence that the map shows the largest temperature anomalies in the center of the U.S., furthest from the moderating effects of the oceans.

I also think that simply tracking record highs does not tell the real story. It would be far more intersting to map the low temperature anomalies. Chicago just had its lowest temperature recorded this winter last night, 15F. This is ridculously higher then the lows we use to record.


Just a gut feeling but looking at sea ice extent, sea ice area and sea ice thickness, I would not be surprised if Arctic Sea Ice Monitor needs to modify its Y axis for the new minimum next melt season. The minimum is currently 2 million square kilometers.

Also, I feel that the SIE maximum this year might shock everyone as well.


I would not be surprised if SIE maximum struggles to hit 13 million square kilometers.

Aaron Lewis

The link between low ice conditions and the storm is the problem. In theoretical physics, a theoretical model can be published - no data required, as long as the models produces testable predictions. The culture of climate science does not allow this. In climate science, they want models validated against real climate data. That is a problem when the climate is changing as fast as the Arctic Climate is changing.

The Arctic cyclone models were validated against sea ice conditions. However, they were not validated against the unusual weather conditions of 2012.

My gut feeling is that the GAC 2012 was much more different from past Arctic cyclones than Sandy was different from past Atlantic hurricanes. These days we have new atmospheric circulation patterns and none of our conventional cyclone paradigms are going to successfully predict the behavior of these new classes of storms.

Given the pattern of hurricanes Issac, Irene, & Sandy, I do think that GAC 2012 is part of series. We may have missed some storms of this class, but I expect that there will be future storms of this class to study. My sea ice estimates are based on this expectation.

Aaron Lewis

And there is something going on right now: look at the CICE speed and drift (http://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/hycomARC/navo/arcticicespddrfnowcast.gif )

Something is pushing the ice in a spiral. If it is wind, it is a very big cyclone. If it is water currents . . . . Or some combination?


Doesn't the sea ice drift change alot from day to day or week to week? How long has this spiral lasted?

Isn't the direction of this spiral opposite the usual circulation pattern?



There is a massive, blocking high pressure over the Russian side of the CAB. It has been there about two weeks.

To see the high pressure, wind pattern and surface temps modeled, see the OSU Polar Met Group animation at:



In some ways, instead of a Beaufort Gyre, we have had a "Laptev Gyre" for the last few weeks.

We will see how long this lasts.


Sorry it's a bit OT , but when a major news outlet has a story relating to Arctic sea ice at such a time of year, it shouldn't be missed!

Nightvid Cole, I'll be posting about this phenomenon this weekend. It's extremely interesting.

Yes, a very big high over the Central Arctic Basin for a while now.


Neven typed:

Yes, a very big high over the Central Arctic

Yes indeed.

However, temperatures in that region are on average or a tad above average.

Just one weirdness more on top of all the others ...


This is completly of topic, but I hope that's not a problem.
For the last couple of weeks a quite large body of open water has appeared in an area west of the Antarctic Penisula and north-east of Pine Island, along the shores of West-Antarctica. The opening of large bodies of open waters along the antarctic coastline during spring and summer, doesn't apear to be anything unusual. But this particular mass of water seems, unlike the others, to be abnormally warm. According to the DMI-maps, ocean temperatures are some places up to 4 degrees celsius warmer that usual.

Although it has become quite clear that both the West Antarctic continent and the oceans surounding Antarctica, are warming, I find this four degrees temperature rise quite staggering. So my question basicly is, what is this really? Is it an event that has become quite regular over the past years as a result of a changing climate both localy and globally (like the warming of the Barent sea), is it perhaps just a quite insignificant event that happens from time to time because of some local weather phenomenon or something else that basicly has little to do with global warming, or is this some kind of freak event that we previously have expected to see in the future, but have not really seen before?


I've just run across a new resource, but may be one others are familiar with.

The US National Ice Center creates kml and kmz files held in a 14 day archive for the Arctic and Antarctic.

The kml's are not only saved as "filled" imagery, but also "lined imagery." In other words the outline only of the sea ice edge is provided.

For those who calculate the sea ice area and extent during melt, this might be helpful.



re: ice movement vectors. the longer this ice movement goes this way, the more it might act to decrease the chance of a collapse of the ice in the east sib. sector like in the last season. This must act to increase ice thickness in the Laptev, which is usually the source region for the transpolar drift. There has been no sight of the flaw polynya in the Laptev recently, whereas there has been a flaw polynya at Barrow apparently. So this ice movement (driven by the winds) might be rather a good thing in the interest of the ice.

OTOH for the Kara Barents region it is clearly not good.

my hope is on what the weather forecasters say.They are talking about the splitting polar vortex, bringing a part-vortex to Siberia. That could mean an east to west stream later (end january into Feb) across the arctic into Kara-Barents, allowin ice cover to recover there and giving it time to grow. (I dont like the cold they promise us to get from that, but rather a bit of freeze here than no ice growth up there).


Enno, long range weather forecasters have a very hard time in forecasting right. The split vortex either in the stratosphere or troposphere means a weaker winter, and is usually a preamble for their destruction by wave dynamics. A single huge vortex has much colder temperatures at its core.

There is a Low pressure Cyclone of about 960 mb East of Greenland, there from a series of waves of Cyclones slowing down the freeze-up of Barents and Kara seas. The entire Polar look is like winter but under assault in the European quadrant. The ceaseless waves of Cyclones coming from the Oceans especially lingering over open Arctic water have as an effect to increase the over all temperature of the Arctic, A high pressure Anticyclone as existent over the Arctic Basin is a response to the never ending presence of Lows which replace themselves continuously. Again we see winter much diminished in extent, but unlike last year the warm zone seems to be over NW europe for a while, until the dynamics cited change. But there is much less winter to go around, and that is from the lack of average thick multiyear ice covering a much wider area. The waves of Lows reaching the deepest areas of fortress winter have the usual expected result. But this doesn't mean it is not cold somewhere, the overall picture needs be looked at. The lingering aspect of the Cyclones has been underestimated before, the world does not operate like a static average text book, but is very dynamic.


Somehow the high pressure over Greenland got lost the last days (http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/cgi-bin/seaice-monitor.cgi?lang=e), strange thing. It looks like the north atlantic drift is crawling north together with the lows. Maybe Svalbard becomes the new Iceland and Greenland becomes the new Newfoundland weather-wise? The thin sea ice will melt anyway next summer - but if the north atlantic drift could make it to the north pole, where could multi-year ice survive in future? The whole thing does not look stable anymore.

R. Gates

Glad to have some claim to fame in 2012 for the naming of GAC-2012. I do feel this is only the first of many such intense summer cyclones for the Arctic, as the combination of lower sea ice with more energy available for such storms both from the ocean and through advection in the atmosphere from sub-polar latitudes will fuel future GAC's. As this represents a new summer dynamic for the Arctic (at least in modern times) a new classification probably needs to be given to such intense summer Arctic storms. Also, in that GAC-2012 may represent a regime change in terms of summer Arctic weather patterns, we may look back in a few years and see GAC-2012 not as a black swan event, but as a dragon-king event or first in a series in a new regime for the summer Arctic.

In regard to the current pressure systems influencing the NH, I would note with interest that a mild Sudden Stratospheric Warming event is currently underway, with Stratospheric temperatures shooting up some 20C in just a day or two at around 35km up in atmosphere:


The high pressure anomaly in the extreme NH runs from the troposphere all the way up to the top of the stratosphere:


The result of all this is to of course shunt the cold air from the Arctic to lower latitudes, with the slight displacement of the polar vortex (from the SSW event) favoring the Siberian side versus the Canadian.

R. Gates

Related to the current mild SSW event occurring in the NH, we are also seeing the related slowing and anomalous arctic vortex winds:


These SSW's, when strong enough (like 2009) effect the course of weather for the rest of the winter into spring. This current mild one doesn't portend that effect, but it will be interesting to see to what degree the currently disrupted vortex can reform before spring wind patterns begin to emerge.


These Sudden Stratospheric Warming events occur every year at about this time in the Northern Hemisphere like a sort of Earth burp. In the Southern Hemisphere at the South Pole, they occur in July.

It would be interesting to see a comparison of these annual events over time.


"Doesn't the sea ice drift change alot from day to day or week to week? How long has this spiral lasted? Isn't the direction of this spiral opposite the usual circulation pattern? "
This is a very unusual pattern (especially the intensity of the High pressure system centered near the NP) - but actually is similar to the pattern that dominated the arctic basin thru much of NOV (though the high pressure ridge 'axis' extended from just NE of Greenland to the Bewring Sea and led to the ice flow into the northern cost of AK by the last week of NOV.



Re: "Everybody is eying the ice free Arctic for a shipping route"

Will this be even feasible with ice free conditions?

Because of multiple problems to navigate through (storms, not entirely ice free, wave height...)

An explanation for some of the disappearances has focused on the presence of large fields of methane hydrates (a form of natural gas) on the continental shelves. Laboratory experiments carried out in Australia have proven that bubbles can, indeed, sink a scale model ship by decreasing the density of the water http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bermuda_Triangle#Methane_hydrates

R. Gates


SSW's of some scale, from very minor to major, do occur every winter, and the size of them is related to the size and intensity of the tropospheric wave that breaks on the tropopause and transfers that energy into the stratosphere. The size and intensity of the wave seems to have complex relationships to the mode of planetary wave, the phase of the MJO, the QBO and other teleconnected components, as the energy for these tropospheric waves comes from the sub-tropics and is advected toward the pole and upward from troposphere into the stratosphere.

Generally, as more energy overall on this planet is advected toward the NH pole versus the SH pole from the tropics, we see that the scale and frequency of NH SSW events is greater than the SH SSW events.

R. Gates

And as we're talking about the stratosphere and ocean currents, sea ice, etc., some may want to refer back to articles like these:



With the associated research here:


Ac A

Great Arctic Cyclone made it also here:

50 doomiest images of 2012 ...


Ac A

link here: http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2013/01/50-doomiest-images-of-2012.html


Looks like a stronger SSW one may be taking place now, more like the one last year:


You can sort of "see" them in these satellite photos.


Main SSW event still ongoing and you can see it here, but I'd imagine by tomorrow it will be over:


Artful Dodger

wayne | January 05, 2013 at 15:57 wrote:

"A single huge vortex has much colder temperatures at its core."

Yes Wayne, it's as if the cold-north-pole has shifted from the Central Arctic basin to the summit dome of the Greenland ice sheet. The thermodynamics driving Arctic weather are profoundly altered. More heat is moving North, and more quickly.

I wonder where we could read more about this cold-north-pole? ;^)



Confirmation of current ongoing SSW here:



It is as if the poles belch out water vapor every winter:


R. Gates


You are right about the current SSW' intensifying, and this is confirmed both in the temperature chart you linked to as well as the wind chart:


The polar vortex is rather weakened and disorganized. But this SSW is likely to linger and certainly it's effects will be felt for the remainder of the winter into spring all the way down to the troposphere. It's so far not an extreme SSW event like we saw in 2009, but it's doing a good job of disrupting the polar vortex and bringing a couple of masses of cold air down-- one on each side of the NH where it is much colder now over lower latitudes than over the North Pole itself.


Thanks Neven for the kind words. I read your blog regularly, and have picked up many story ideas here. Keep up the good work!



Thanks, Andrew. Feel free to get inspired here, and then I'll copypaste what you write. ;-)

Susan Anderson

More ClimateCentral, and fun (for me) with html: never posted an image before! Article has much more:


Thanks, Susan.

Shell Oil was fortunate to get its beached rig out of the way of this storm.

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