Showing posts with label Bering Strait. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bering Strait. Show all posts

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rain Over Arctic Ocean

It's raining over the Arctic Ocean and the rain is devastating the sea ice. What are the conditions that led to this?

As has been known for a long time, energy is added to Earth due to emissions by people and this translates into a warmer troposphere with more water vapor, warmer oceans and stronger winds.

Warming is hitting the Arctic particularly hard, due to numerous feedbacks, as illustrated by the sea surface temperature anomalies image on the right.

On July 6, 2017, cyclonic winds lined up to create a 'perfect storm'. As a result, an Atmospheric River of moisture was driven through Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean, as shown on the images below.

On July 6, 2017, 1500 UTC, winds in Bering Strait were as high as 58 km/h (36 mph) at surface level (green circle on above image left), and as high as 82 km/h (51 mph) at 850 mb (green circle on above image right).

On July 6, 2017, surface temperatures of the air in Bering Strait were as high as 8.1°C (46.5°F) (green circle on image right).

Another indication of the strength of the wind driven through Bering Strait is wave height. On July 6, 2017, waves were as high as 3.35 m or 11 ft in the Bering Strait, at the location marked by the green circle on the image on the right.

The relatively warm and moist air driven through Bering Strait by strong winds is causing rain to fall over the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, as shown on the video and images further below.

On July 7, 2017, high air temperatures were recorded over land and over the water.

The image below shows temperatures recorded at two locations over the Mackenzie River, one of 32.6°C or 90.8°F at the mouth of the Mackenzie River and another one of 34.7°C or 94.5°F further inland. Warm water from rivers can substantially warm up the sea surface and thus melt the sea ice.

Temperature of the surface of the water was 10°C or 50.1°F where the water was pushed into the Bering Strait, while temperatures as high as 46.9°C or 116.3°F were recorded over California.

The combined impact of high temperatures, strong winds, high waves and warm river water, rain water and melt water looks set to further devastate what sea ice is left in the Arctic Ocean.

Rain can be particularly devastating. The very force at which rain strikes can fracture the sea ice where it's weak, while pools of rainwater and meltwater will form at places where the sea ice is stronger. Where fractures appear in the sea ice, warm water can reach further parts of the ice and widen the cracks.

The video below shows rain over the Arctic Ocean. The video was created with forecasts from July 3, 2017, 18:00 UTC to July 17, 2017, 00:00 UTC.

Arctic sea ice is in a terrible shape. Sea ice volume is at a record low, as indicated by the Wipneus image below showing volume anomalies from 2002.
The image below, by Torstein Viddal, shows how low the 2017 year-to-date average sea ice volume is.

An additional danger is wildfires. Due to high temperatures, wildfires have broken out near the Mackenzie River, as illustrated by the satellite image below.

Wildfires come with a lot of emissions, including soot that darkens the surface when settling down, thus further speeding up warming.

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

Friday, August 7, 2015

Record High Methane Levels

[ click on images to enlarge ]
As the top image shows, sea surface temperature anomalies in the Bering Strait on August 4, 2015, were as high as 8.7°C (15.6°F). Such high anomalies are caused by a combination of ocean heat, of heatwaves over Alaska and Siberia extending over the Bering Strait, and of warm river water run-off.

As the image on the right shows, sea surface temperatures in the Bering Strait were as high as 20.5°C (69.1°F) on August 4, 2015.

As warm water flows through the Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean, it dives under the sea ice and becomes harder to detect by satellites that typically measure water temperatures at the surface, rather than below the surface.

The image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies from 1971 to 2000, for August 6, 2015, as visualized by Climate Reanalyzer.

Climate Reanalyzer applies a mask over sea-ice-covered gridcells, reducing anomalies in such cells to zero.

Below is a NOAA image, for August 5, 2015, also with anomalies from 1971 to 2000.

Below is another NOAA image, showing anomalies for August 6, 2015. Because the base period is 1961 to 1990, the anomalies are higher. Nonetheless, the yellow areas that feature around the North Pole on above image do not show up on the image below.

In other words, looking at sea surface temperatures alone may lead to underestimations of the temperatures of the water underneath the sea ice. Keeping that in mind, have a look again at the high anomalies on the image below.

The danger is that further decline of the sea ice will lead to rapid warming of the Arctic Ocean, while the presence of more open water will also increase the opportunity for strong storms to develop that can mix high sea surface temperatures all the way down to the seafloor, resulting in destabilization of sediments and triggering releases of methane that can be contained in such sediments in huge amounts.

The image below shows that global mean methane levels as high as 1840 parts per billion (ppb) were recorded on August 4, 2015. Peak methane levels that day were as high as 2477 ppb.

This peak level of 2477 ppb isn't the highest recorded the year. As the image below shows and as discussed in a previous post, methane levels as high as 2845 ppb were recorded on April 25, 2015. The average of the daily peaks for this year up to now is 2355 ppb. Very worrying about the above image are the high levels of methane showing up over the Arctic Ocean.

As above image also shows, the mean methane level of 1840 ppb is in line with expectations, as methane levels rise over the course of the year, to reach a maximum in September. This mean level of 1840 ppb is higher than any mean level since records began.

The image below shows all the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) annual means that are available, i.e. for the period 1984 through to 2013.

As above image shows, a polynomial trendline based on these WMO data (for the period 1984 through to 2013) points at a doubling of mean global methane levels by about 2040. The added NOAA data are the highest mean in 2014, i.e. 1839 ppb recorded on September 7, 2014, and the above-mentioned level of 1840 ppb recorded on August 4, 2015.

As said, mean global methane levels last year reached its peak in September and the same is likely to occur this year. In other words, this new record is likely to be superseded by even higher levels soon.

The image on the right shows the steady rise of the highest mean daily methane levels that have been recorded recently, indicating that a continued rise can be expected that would put another highest mean level for 2015 on the trendline of above image soon.

Again, the danger is that a warming Arctic Ocean will trigger further methane releases from the seafloor, leading to rapid local warming that in turn will trigger further methane releases, in a vicious cycle of runway warming.

As illustrated by the image on the right, at a 10-year timescale, the current global release of methane from all anthropogenic sources exceeds all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions as agents of global warming.

Over the next decade or so, methane emissions are already now more important than carbon dioxide emissions in driving the rate of global warming, and this situation looks set to get worse fast.

Unlike carbon dioxide, methane's GWP does rise as more of it is released. Higher methane levels cause depletion of hydroxyl, which is the main way for methane to be broken down in the atmosphere.

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

The image shows all the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) annual means that are available, i.e. for the period...
Posted by Sam Carana on Friday, August 7, 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fracturing of the Jet Stream

Earlier this month, the jet stream was forecast to move over the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia on July 8, 2015, 12:00 UTC, in one, strong, long stream of wind, as discussed in the previous post and depicted below.

The situation has meanwhile been adjusted in a more recent forecast. This recent forecast shows the jet stream getting fractured over Siberia on July 8, 2015, 12:00 UTC, resulting in a sequence of vertical wind streams. This is a new development, rather unknown to the forecasting model that works on the basis of the jet stream flowing horizontally in one strong and narrow stream around the globe.

A further forecast has been added in the bottom panel, i.e. for July 12, 2015, 12:00 UTC, showing the jet stream moving well over the Arctic Ocean in two places, over the East Siberian Sea and over the Canadian Archipelago.

Fracturing of the jet stream and alignment along longitude, rather than latitude, is a worrying development. It is the most extreme form of what is described at Feedbacks in the Arctic as the "Open Doors" feedback or feedback #10, a feedback that makes it easier for warm air to move into the Arctic and for cold air move out of the Arctic, each of which will further contribute to a smaller temperature difference between the Equator and the North Pole, thus further changing the jet stream, in a self-reinforcing spiral.

The jet stream used to act as a barrier, keeping cold air in the Arctic and keeping temperate air in the temperate zone. As the jet stream fractures, more extreme weather - including more intense heatwaves - can be expected.

The result is further acceleration of warming in the Arctic, due to direct sunlight, due to warm wind carried north as the jet stream changes, due to warm water from rivers flowing into the Arctic Ocean, due to soot from wildfires settling on the snow and ice, causing their further demise, etc.

The image below illustrates the impact of warm river water. Off the coast of Anadyr, in East Siberia, waters reached a temperature of 15.4°C (59.7°F) on July 5, 2015, a 9.2°C (16.6°F) anomaly.

The image below also shows the impact of warm water from rivers in Alaska. Major melting took place on St Lawrence Island, as evident by the low sea surface temperatures around the Island on July 2, 2015 (left panel), while by July 6, 2015, much of this colder water had mixed with the warmer water moving up the Bering Strait from the Pacific Ocean and with the warm river water from Siberia and Alaska.

The Naval Research Laboratory's 30-day animation below illustrates the dramatic fall in sea ice thickness.

The image below shows sea surface temperatures in the Arctic as at July 7, 2015.

With ocean heat at very high levels, the danger is that, as temperatures keep rising, further methane hydrates will get destabilized and further amounts of methane will be released in the Arctic. High methane levels have already been showing up for years over the Arctic Ocean, indicating that methane releases from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean are already taking place.

Above image shows that, on July 6, 2015, high methane levels show up north of Greenland (yellow oval). This could be a result of the heavy melting that is taking place on Greenland, exposing methane hydrates contained in the ice there. Hydrate destabilization on Greenland is discussed as feedback#21 at Feedbacks in the Arctic. Loss of ice mass on Greenland has fallen dramatically over the years and looks set to get even worse, as illustrated by the image below.

Dramatic ice mass loss on Greenland looks set to get even worse. See also discussion at the Controversy page.
Over the next few months, waters in the Arctic Ocean can be expected to further warm up and sea ice to further decline, all making that the situation can only be expected to worsen.
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan.

Sea surface temperatures in the Arctic as at July 7, 2015.
Posted by Sam Carana on Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Accelerated Warming in the Arctic

Warming in the Arctic is accelerating. On June 25, 2015, high temperatures hit North America. Temperatures as high as 30.3°C (86.54°F) were recorded where the Mackenzie River is flowing into the Arctic Ocean.

June 25, 2015 - High temperatures over North America, close to the Arctic Ocean

On July 1, 2015, temperatures are forecast to be as high as 111.4°F (or 44.1°C) near Chico, north of San Francisco. Temperatures are forecast to be high over most of North America and Eastern Siberia, threatening to further warm up waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Forecast for July 1, 2015 - High temperatures over North America, close to the Arctic Ocean

The image below shows that on June 27, 2015, temperatures of well over 40°C (104°F) were recorded in Europe and in Pakistan, where temperatures earlier this month had reached 49°C (120.2°F) in some places. The heat wave reportedly killed 1233 people in Karachi alone. This in addition to the 2500 people killed earlier in India by high temperatures.

June 27, 2015 - High temperatures over Russia, close to the Arctic Ocean
High temperatures at such locations are very worrying, for a number of reasons, including:
  • They are examples of heatwaves that can increasingly extend far to the north, all the way into the Arctic Ocean, speeding up warming of the Arctic Ocean seabed and threatening to unleash huge methane eruptions. 
  • They 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).
  • They 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 seabed. 
June 24, 2015 - Smoke from wildfires in Alaska - from:
The image below shows increased sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic. Note the warming in the area of the Beaufort Sea where the Mackenzie River is flowing into the Arctic Ocean.

Very warm water is also flowing from the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean.  As the image below shows, the water that is flowing into the Arctic Ocean from the Pacific is much warmer than it used to be, as much as 6.1°C (10.98°F) warmer.

View the flow of the water on the animated version of above image at
As said above, warm water flowing from rivers into the Arctic Ocean is a major contributor to these sea surface temperature anomalies. As also illustrated by the NOAA image below, rivers carrying warm water into the Bering Strait include the Kobuk River, the Naotak River and the Yukon River that flows all the way from British Columbia, Canada, through Alaska and ends in the Bering Strait. Sea surface temperatures near the coast of Alaska were as high as 19°C (66.2°F) from June 21-24, 2015.

Sea surface temperatures near the coast of Alaska as high as 19°C (66.2°F) from June 21-24, 2015
The Naval Research Laboratory animation below shows changes to Arctic sea ice thickness. Sea ice thickness (in m) down to zero where the Mackenzie River flows into the Arctic Ocean and in the Bering Strait where warm water from the Pacific is entering the Arctic Ocean.

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


- Gulf Stream brings ever warmer water into Arctic Ocean

- High Temperatures in the Arctic

- Heat Wave Forecast For Russia Early June 2015

Sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic. Note the warming in the area of the Beaufort Sea where the Mackenzie...
Posted by Sam Carana on Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Persistently High Methane Concentrations over Beaufort Sea

High methane concentrations have been showing up over Beaufort Sea over the past few days, as shown on the image below. This follows the recent high methane concentrations over the East Siberian Sea.

The persistent character of these very high methane concentrations over the Arctic Ocean indicates that methane has started to erupt from clathrates under the seabed, triggered by very warm water reaching the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

Methane eruptions from hydrates in sediments under the Arctic Ocean helped mean methane levels reach new records, with mean global methane readings as high as 1835 parts per billion recorded at several altitudes on August 17, 2014.

The very high sea surface temperature anomalies that show up on above image give an idea of the inflow of warm water from the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait. This is further highlighted by the combination image below.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Arctic Ocean is turning red

The Arctic Ocean is turning red, as sea surface temperatures (SST) rise. The NOAA maps below, dated August 12, 2013, show sea surface temperature anomalies across the Arctic Ocean of up to 5°C (9°F). Virtually all areas were the sea ice has disappeared are now colored scarlet red.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The (updated) animation below shows SST anomalies from June 3 to August 26, 2013.

For a full-size animation, see

Locally, the situation can be even worse. The NOAA map below, dated August 13, 2013, shows that areas where the sea ice has disappeared in the Arctic Ocean can be exposed to sea surface temperature anomalies higher than 8°C (14.4°F).

[ click on image to enlarge ]
These anomalies are very high, even when compared to some of the recent years, when the decline of sea ice extent didn't look as bad as it appears now.

Many people may only look at the sea ice, assuming that things are fine as long as there is no dramatic decrease in sea ice area or extent (see Cryosphere Today image right).

However, there are many other things to consider, as described in the earlier post Cyclone raging over thin ice. Most importantly, sea surface temperature anomalies this high are very alarming!

For comparison, the image below shows August sea surface temperature anomalies in 2007, 2010 and 1011.

These high sea surface temperature anomalies are firstly caused by higher sea and air temperatures as a result of global warming. Additionally, there are many feedbacks that accelerate the temperature rise in the Arctic, as discussed at the post Diagram of Doom. Local conditions can further accelerate the temperature rise in specific areas, such as where warm water from rivers flows into the Arctic Ocean.

As the map below shows, a number of large rivers end in the Kara Sea, where high temperatures have been recorded for some time.

map from:
Another large river is the Mackenzie River, which ends in the Beaufort Sea, where sea surface temperatures of about 20°C (68°F) are currently recorded, as the image below illustrates.

Similarly, the NOAA image below shows that sea surface temperatures of up to 18°C (64.4°F) were recorded in the Bering Strait on August 12, 2013.

Note that the melting season still has quite a while to go. Arctic sea ice volume minimum is typically reached around halfway into September, which is more than one month away. On September 12-13, 2011, temperatures of 6-7°C were reached over East Siberian Arctic Shelf, and up to 9°C along the coast of Alaska.

The danger of this situation is that this dramatic rise in temperature anomalies will not remain restricted to surface waters, but that heat will penetrate the seabed which can contain huge amounts of methane in the form of hydrates and free gas in sediments.

Submarine pingoes: Indicators of shallow gas
hydrates in a pockmark at Nyegga, Norwegian Sea -
Hovland et al., Marine Geology 228 (2006) 15–23
At the moment, a cyclone is raging over the Arctic Ocean, and this causes warm surface waters to be mixed down, in many places all the way down to the seabed, due to the shallow nature of many of the seas in the Arctic Ocean.

As shown on the image right and also described at the FAQ page, there can be all kinds of fractures in the sediment, while there can also be conduits where methane has escaped earlier from hydrates, allowing heat to penetrate deep into the sediment and causing methane to escape.

Methane is kept stable inside hydrates as long as the temperature remains low. Since methane expand some 160 times in volume, compared to its compressed frozen state inside the hydrate, warming of even a small part of a hydrate can cause destabilization across the entire hydrate. It may take only a small rise in temperature of a single conduit in the sediment to set off a large abrupt release of methane, which subsequently threatens to cause further releases elsewhere in the Arctic Ocean and trigger runaway global warming, as described at the methane hydrates blog.