Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low for Time of Year

As temperatures keep rising, should the IPCC raise the alarm?

Some 1,750 jurisdictions in 30 countries have now declared a climate emergency, according to this post dated July 8, 2020. The United Nations does acknowledge the Climate Emergency, but its description is sourced from the IPCC Global Warming of 1.5°C report that was approved back in 2018. A lot has happened since, as described in many posts at Arctic-news. When a state of emergency is declared, doesn't one expect such a declaration to result in action, complete with updates on the effectiveness of the action?

Described below are some events taking place right now.

Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low for Time of Year

Arctic sea ice looks set to reach an all-time record low in September 2020.

In an earlier post, Paul Beckwith describes a Blue Ocean Event (BOE) and some of the consequences of the changes taking place in the Arctic. A BOE occurs when sea ice extent gets below 1 million km², which is important regarding the amount of sunlight absorbed/reflected in the Arctic (albedo feedback).

[ from earlier post ]
Arctic sea ice extent on July 20, 2020, was well below the minimum of the 1979-1990 average (the orange line among the blue lines on the image below).

If it continues on its current trajectory, Arctic sea ice may well be gone altogether in September 2020.

A BOE is one of the many tipping points that threaten to get crossed in the Arctic.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
As illustrated by the image on the right, sea ice is getting very thin, which threatens the latent heat tipping point to be crossed, meaning there is no buffer of sea ice left underneath the surface of the sea ice to absorb ocean heat.

Furthermore, the temperature rise in the Arctic is accelerating and the Arctic Ocean is getting very hot, threatening that the methane hydrates tipping point will get crossed.

The animation below run on July 20, 2020, shows the fall in sea ice thickness over 30 days (last 8 frames are forecasts for July 21-28, 2020).

The combination image below illustrates the speed at which Arctic sea ice is disappearing, with sea ice thickness shown in meters from left to right at June 1, June 18, July 1 and July 18, 2020.

Meanwhile, fires and smoke are visible at a distance of as little as 1970 km or 1224 miles from the North Pole.

The image below shows open water on the edge of the sea ice, north of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago, where the thickest sea ice used to be located.

Alarming acceleration of heating continues

The image below shows the global temperature rise through to June 2020.
[ click on images to enlarge ]
The red trend supports fears that the 2°C above preindustrial threshold has already been crossed this year, while loss of the aerosol masking effect and an emerging El Niño could trigger a huge further temperature rise.

Global temperature anomalies are typically lower in June (yellow circles) than the annual anomaly. The Copernicus image below shows twelve-month averages of global-mean surface air temperature anomalies relative to 1981-2010.

The shape of current anomalies is very similar to the peak reached around 2016. This is alarming because the peak around 2016 was reached under El Niño conditions, whereas the current temperatures are reached under conditions that are leaning toward La Niña, as illustrated by the images below.

In conclusion, one may wonder how much stronger the temperature rise will be once El Niño conditions do arrive.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Furthermore, one may wonder how much current temperatures are elevated by a decrease in emissions due to COVID-19 restrictions, which in turn makes one wonder how much higher the temperature will be when the aerosol masking effect will fall away even further as the world phases out coal-fired power plants, bunker oil for shipping, etc. Guy McPherson concludes that a 1°C rise in global-average temperature will occur within a few days or weeks after industrial activity is reduced by as little as 20%.

Very high sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic Ocean

Sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic Ocean are very high. As discussed in a recent post, sea surface temperatures in the Bering Strait were as much as 15.1°C or 27.2°F hotter than 1981-2011 on June 20, 2020 (in Norton Sound, Alaska, at the green circle).

As the image below shows, the sea surface temperature at green circle used to be 0.3°C (32.6°F). It was 12°C (53.6°F) on July 18, 2020.

Much of the Arctic Ocean is quite shallow, making that the water can warm up very quickly during summer heat peaks and heat can reach the seafloor, which comes with the risk that heat will penetrate cracks in sediments at the seafloor. Melting of ice in such cracks can lead to abrupt destabilization of methane hydrates contained in sediments.

Very high peak methane levels

Ominously, as the 2020 Siberian heatwave continues, very high peak methane levels show up over the Arctic Ocean. The NOAA 20 satellite recorded a peak methane level of 2728 ppb at 399 mb on the afternoon of July 16, 2020.

The MetOp-1 satellite recorded a peak methane level of 2726 ppb on the afternoon of July 16, 2020. Also, a mean methane level of 1897 ppb was recorded at 469 mb and a mean methane level of 1908 ppb at 293 mb.

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


• Arctic Data archive System

• Polar Portal - sea ice volume

• Fast Path to Extinction

• NASA Worldview

• Surface air temperature for June 2020

• ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions - NOAA, July 6, 2020

• Arctic Hit By Ten Tipping Points

• The Myth of Sustainability - by Guy McPherson

• 2020 Siberian Heatwave continues

• Climate Plan

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