Sunday, June 5, 2016

High Temperatures In Arctic

0-2000 m Global Ocean Heat Content
Ocean heat content is rising, as illustrated by the image on the right. Where the sea ice declines, this is causing high air temperatures in the Arctic.

This year (from January to April 2016) on the Northern Hemisphere, oceans were 0.85°C or 1.53°F warmer than the 20th century average.

The image below illustrates that temperatures look set to be high in Siberia for the coming week. The panel on the right shows anomalies at the top end of the scale in Eastern Siberia on June 5, 2016, while the panel on the right shows a forecast for June 12, 2016.

These high air temperatures are causing feedbacks that are in turn further speeding up warming in the Arctic.

Warmer Rivers

Temperatures as high as 28.9°C or 83.9°F were recorded over the Mackenzie River close to the Arctic Ocean on June 13, 2016, at location marked by the green circle.

Below is a satellite image of the Mackenzie River delta on June 11, 2016

The image below shows that temperatures as high as 36.6°C or 97.8°F were forecast for June 13, 2016, over the Yenisei River in Siberia that ends in the Arctic Ocean.


Earlier this month, temperatures in Eastern Siberia were as high as 29.5°C (85°F). This was on June 5, 2016, at a location close to the coast of the Arctic Ocean (green circle).

High air temperatures come with increased risk of wildfires, as illustrated by the image below showing carbon monoxide levels as high as 2944 ppb on June 4, 2016 (at green circle).

The satellite image below zooms into the area with these high carbon monoxide readings, showing wildfires on Kamchatka Peninsula on June 3, 2016.

Albedo Loss

The image on the right shows that, this year, April snow cover on the Northern Hemisphere was the lowest on record. The added trend points at a total absence of snow by the year 2036.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, says: “My prediction remains that the Arctic ice may well disappear, that is, have an area of less than one million square kilometres for September of this year.”

Warming due to Arctic snow and ice loss may well exceed 2 W per square meter, i.e. it could more than double the net warming now caused by all emissions by people of the world, Peter Wadhams calculated in 2012.

Seafloor Methane

Peter Wadhams further co-authored a study that calculated that methane release from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean could yield 0.6°C warming of the planet in 5 years (see video interview of Thom Hartmann with Peter Wadhams below).

Combined Impact Of Multiple Feebacks

In conclusion, high air temperatures in the Arctic are very worrying, as they can trigger a number of important feedbacks, i.e. the ones discussed above and further feedbacks such as:
  • Changes to Jet Streams. As the Arctic warms more rapidly than the rest of Earth, changes are occurring to the jet streams. As a result, winds can increasingly bring hot air far to the north, resulting in further loss of the Arctic snow and ice cover, in turn further warming up the Arctic.
  • Warmer Rivers. High air temperatures cause warming of the water of rivers that end up in the Arctic Ocean, thus resulting in additional sea ice decline and warming of the Arctic Ocean all the way down to the seabed.
  • Wildfires. High air temperatures set the scene for wildfires that emit not only greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, but also pollutants such as carbon monoxide that depletes hydroxyl that could otherwise break down methane, and black carbon that, when settling on ice, causes it to absorb more sunlight (see under albedo loss), besides being a climate forcer when in the atmosphere.
  • Soil destabilization. Heatwaves and droughts destabilize the soil. Soil that was previously known as permafrost, was until now held together by ice. As the ice melts, organic material in the soil starts decomposing, resulting in emissions of methane and carbon dioxide, while the soil becomes increasingly vulnerable to wildfires.
  • Buffer Loss. Arctic snow and ice cover acts as a buffer, absorbing heat that in the absence of this buffer will have to be absorbed by the Arctic Ocean, as discussed in earlier posts such as this one
  • Albedo Loss. Arctic snow and ice cover make that sunlight is reflected back into space. In the absence of this cover, the Arctic will have to absorb more heat.
  • Seafloor Methane. As sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean warm, hydrates contained in these sediments could be destabilized and release huge quantities of methane.

How much warmer could it be within one decade?

The two feedbacks mentioned by Peter Wadham (albedo and seafloor methane) are are depicted in the image below.

for further discussion, see the feedbacks page
The combined global temperature rise over the next decade due to these two feedbacks (albedo and seafloor methane) alone may be 0.4°C or 0.72°F for a low-rise scenario and may be 2.7°C or 4.9°F for a high-rise scenario.

Additionally, as temperatures rise, further feedbacks will kick in more strongly, further accelerating the rise in temperature, as also discussed in earlier posts such as this one.

When also including further feedbacks, warming could exceed 10°C (18°F) within one decade, assuming that no geoengineering will take place within a decade, as discussed in earlier posts such as this one.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described at the Climate Plan.


• Climate Plan

• Feedbacks in the Arctic

• East Siberian Heatwave

• Wildfire Danger Increasing

• Albedo changes in the Arctic

• Three kinds of warming in the Arctic

• Arctic could become ice-free for first time in more than 100,000 years, claims leading scientist

• Greenhouse gas levels and temperatures keep rising

• Arctic Methane Release: "Economic Time Bomb"

• February Temperature

• September 2015 Sea Surface Warmest On Record


  1. Mostly open water albedo in September will warm the Arctic Ocean, so that next year we should expect a full month of blue. 2018, expect 2, probably 3 months open water. By 5 years out, say 2021, the Arctic Ocean will be blue instead of white year around. That alone doubles green house gases global rate of warming. The Arctic should be expected to generate extreme storms. Thermoclines will break down, so nearly fresh water at the surface will mix. That ice cover will not return, methane will thaw, and the jet stream will nearly disappear.

    Forecasts of 8 billion humans on Earth are unreasonable, because agricultural production should be expected to decline. Storms will deluge slowly and irregularly in limited zones.

    We must shade the Arctic now.

  2. Mr. Carana,
    What is your opinion of this article?

    Specifically this paragraph:
    Howarth told the group Earth’s atmosphere is on target to raise the average atmospheric temperature by 1.5 degrees C in the next 10 to 15 years and by 2 degrees C within the next 35 to 40 years. “The only way to slow this rate of warming and meet the COP21 target is to reduce methane emissions,” he said. “Although we should reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reducing carbon dioxide alone will not slow global warming on the time scale of the next few decades. The climate system responds much more quickly to reducing methane emissions.”

    1. What Rob Howarth says makes sense, considering that this was part of briefing the White House on cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. Note also that Rob is a co-author of this study. The above post (High Temperatures In Arctic) highlights feedbacks that could make things a lot worse, concluding that more action is needed than emission cuts alone, as described in the Climate Plan.