Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Unfolding Arctic Catastrophe

On January 1, 2018, methane levels as high as 2764 ppb (parts per billion) were recorded. The solid magenta-colored areas near Greenland indicate that this very high reading was likely caused by methane hydrate destabilization in the sediments on the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.

The state of the sea ice is behind this. On January 1, 2018, Arctic sea ice extent was at record low for the time of the year. The smaller the extent, the less sunlight gets reflected back into space and is instead absorbed in the Arctic.

At this time of year, though, hardly any sunshine is reaching the Arctic. So, what triggered this destabilization? As the image below indicates, year-to-date average Arctic sea ice volume has been at record low in 2017, which means that there has been very little sea ice underneath the surface throughout 2017.

Warm water will melt the sea ice from below, which keeps the water at greater depth cool. However, when there is little or no sea ice underneath the surface, little or no heat will be absorbed by the process of melting and the heat instead stays in the water, with the danger that it will reach sediments at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below.

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[ image from: Warming is accelerating ]
The image on the right shows warm water from the North Atlantic arriving near Svalbard. How warm is the water beneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean? The image below gives an indication, showing how much warmer the water was from October 1, 2017, to December 30, 2017, at selected areas near Svalbard, where warm water from the North Atlantic dives under the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, carried by the Gulf Stream.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
In 1981-2011, temperatures were gradually falling by more than one degree Celsius from October 1 to the December 21 Solstice, then started to rise again in line with the change in seasons (blue line). In 2017, temperatures were rising in October. On October 25, 2017, the sea surface was as warm as 17.5°C or 63.5°F, i.e. a 14.1°C or 24.5°F anomaly. On average, it was 12.96°C or 23.35°F warmer during the period from October 1 to December 30, 2017 (red line), compared to the same days in 1981-2011.

The images below further illustrate the situation. Surface temperature of the atmosphere near Svalbard was as warm as 7°C or 44.5°F on January 13, 2018 (at green circle, left panel). The sea surface near Svalbard was as warm as 15.9°C or 60.8°F on January 12, 2018, compared to 2.4°C or 36.4°F on January 12 for the period 1981-2011 (at green circle, center panel). Waves as high as 13.04 m or 42.8 ft (at green circle, right panel) batter the North Atlantic along Norway's coast all the way to Svalbard on January 15, 2018.

The image below shows that waves as high as 16.01 m or 52.5 ft are forecast to batter the North Atlantic on January 16, 2018 (green circle, left panel). 100% relative humidity is recorded over the Arctic Ocean on January 15, 2018 (green circle, center panel). The Jet Stream reaches speeds as high as 426 km/h or 264 mph on January 15, 2018 (green circle, right panel).

Similar extreme weather patterns can be seen elsewhere in the Arctic. The image below on the left shows that temperatures as high as 18.5°C or 65.3°F were recorded on Jan. 14 and 15, 2018 in Metlakatla, Alaska. The image below on the right shows that surface temperatures as high as 7.4°C or 45.2°F were reached on January 16, 2018, in Yukon Territory, Canada (at green circle).

[ click on images to enlarge ]

In conclusion, as the Arctic is warming up faster than the rest of the world, Jet Streams are getting more wavy, resulting in more extreme weather events. Wind speed accelerates over warmer oceans, pushing more heat into the Arctic Ocean, threatening to cause eruptions of huge amounts of methane from the Arctic Ocean seafloor.

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


• Climate Plan

• Warming is accelerating

• Feedbacks

• 10°C or 18°F warmer by 2021?

• Abrupt Warming - How Much And How Fast?

• Accelerating growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere

• High methane levels over the Arctic Ocean on January 14, 2014

• Extinction

• Methane Erupting From Arctic Ocean Seafloor

• 2015 warmest year on record

• Accelerating Warming of the Arctic Ocean

• Arctic Ocean Feedbacks

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade

1 comment:

  1. Sam,

    Where is the next data points fon the Monthly Mean Surface Temperature Anomaly Graph please?

    Is anyone paying attention to the drivers for the recent Californian fires?

    Or the very hot days in southern Australia?
    And isn't about time the Met. Bureau started publishing ground surface temperatures?
    I'm measuring 65C on the pavement and the road.

    Lez . . . Melbourne, Australia.