Showing posts with label Kara Sea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kara Sea. Show all posts

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.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Warm water keeps flowing into the Kara Sea

The image below, from, shows methane levels at 1950 and higher in yellow, for the period of July 17 to July 23, 2013.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The temperature map below, for July 26, 2013, from Wunderground, shows that high temperatures are still prominent in Russia, at much the same location where most of the methane in above image shows up.

High temperatures warm up the water flowing into the Kara Sea, as shown on the image below for July 26, 2013, from the Danish Meteorological Institute.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Open Water at North Pole

Images from the North Pole Environmental Observatory are now showing large areas with open water at the North Pole. The image below is from Webcam 2, dated July 22, 2013.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
Furthermore, the number of spots with methane readings of over 1950 ppb appears to be rising. See related posts below to compare. Particularly worrying are the large number of spots over the Kara Sea. Also note the spot over Greenland in the top-left corner of the image below.

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The webcam shows water at the North Pole. Clearly, there still is some ice underneath the water, as is evident from the stakes that have been put into the ice to indicate the depth of surface water.

Surface water can build up as a result of melting as well as due to rain.

As the image on the right shows, the ice is getting very thin. In between the North Pole and Siberia, a wide corridor has developed where the ice is between zero and one meters thick.

Surface water could extend over this corridor, all the way to edge of the ice, in which case it effectively becomes part of open water.

The presence of water in areas close to the North Pole has been discussed in a number of earlier posts, such as this one.

The image below, from the Danish Meteorological Institute, gives some idea of the extent of the sea surface temperature anomalies that have been particularly prominent in the Kara Sea for some time.

Meanwhile, more water has appeared around Webcam2. Below are four later images, the top two images captured on July 24, 2013, the third one captured on July 25, 2013, while the bottom one was captured on July 26, 2013.

Note that the buoy associated with Webcam2, while originally positioned at the North Pole, has meanwhile moved away substantially from that location, as indicated by the image below, from

Ice thickness image run July 26, valid July 27, 2013
for scale, see image further above. Buoy data up to July 28, 2013, buoy position: 84.87 N, 4.29 W.

On the animation above right, the track is shown against a sea ice thickness map, showing sea ice at webcam2's current position that is two meters thick.

So, while satellite images may indicate that the sea ice is still several meters thick in many locations, huge amounts of surface water may be present on top. The albedo of water is far lower than ice, so less sunlight is reflected back into space and a lot more heat is absorbed by the water, further accelerating the sea ice melt. This spells bad news for the remaining sea ice, since the melting season still has quite a bit of time to go.

Let's end with a video uploaded at youtube by covering the period from April 16 to July 25, 2013.

Related posts

Open Water In Areas Around North Pole (posted June 22, 2013)
Watching methane over Arctic Ocean (posted July 20, 2013)
Heat, Fires and Methane (posted July 20, 2013)
High methane readings over Kara Sea (posted July 18, 2013)
Methanetracker (posted July 9, 2013)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

High methane readings over Kara Sea

Arctic sea ice extent 2013 (brown line on NSIDC-image below) is more and more following the same path it did last year (dashed line), when extent reached a record minimum, and in 2007 (blue line), the previous record minimum.

Even more worryingly, sea ice is very thin, as the Naval Research Laboratory animation below shows; large areas with a thickness of 1 meter to zero persist close to the North Pole, as discussed in an earlier post; the image below, from the North Pole Environmental Observatory shows lots of water and that it's raining at the North Pole.

The above animation also shows the retreat of sea ice from the Kara Sea, north of Siberia, over the past 30 days.

As can be expected, high sea surface temperature anomalies show up in areas where the sea ice has retreated, as shown by the DMI image below.

Most worryingly, high methane readings appear over the Kara Sea, as shown on the image below.

[ click on image to enlarge ]

Monday, February 4, 2013

Overview of IASI methane levels

Dr. Leonid Yurganov kindly shared an overview of his analysis of IASI methane levels over the years.
The overview shows a marked difference between methane levels in the Arctic and methane levels at lower altitudes, i.e. between 40 and 50 degrees North. Furthermore, the overview shows a steady increase in methane levels over the years, both at high latitudes and at lower latitudes. Over the Arctic, mean levels of well over 1900 ppb are now common.

The overview gives the mean values for methane levels. Peaks can be much higher. Levels of up to 2241 ppb were registered above the Arctic at 742 mb on January 23, 2013 (see earlier post). Moreover, high levels are registered over a wide area, particularly over the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea, which are currently free of sea ice (see earlier post), indicating worrying releases of methane from the seabed in that area.

How much extra methane is released to account for this rise in methane levels? Dr. Yurganov explains: “this may be a relatively slow process, 7 ppb per month for the area between Norway and Svalbard means only 0.3 Tg per month. But in a longer time scale (at least several years) and inclusion of the autumn Kara/Laptev emissions it might be very important both for the methane cycle and for the climate. Further discussion promises to be fruitful”.

Dr. Yurganov plans to update his overview on completion of further analysis of existing data of IASI methane levels for earlier periods, and complemented with further periods in future as the data come along.

Meanwhile, we'll keep a close eye on methane levels in the Arctic, particularly given the prospect that large areas of the Arctic Ocean (Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea) will soon become free of sea ice. Further people analyzing methane levels are invited to also comment on the situation in the Arctic.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Temperature anomalies continue in the Arctic

Much of the Arctic is showing huge temperature anomalies at the moment. The image below shows the anomalies for February 24, 2012.  

Locations in the Arctic have been showing temperature anomalies of over 20 degrees Celsius since late 2011

As the above image illustrates, the anomalies are centered around the 60 degrees East longitude, and they are most prominent between latitudes 75 North and 80 North, i.e. the area between Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, as shown on the map below. 

Not surprisingly, there's little sea ice in the area. The image below shows the sea ice as at January 15, 2012.

The animated image below, from U.S. Naval Research Lab showing the sea ice's thickness in February 2012, illustrates the retreat of the sea ice between Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land in February 2012. 

The animation also illustrates that much of the sea ice is moving along with the sea current, flowing out of the Arctic Ocean along the edges of Greenland into the Atlantic Ocean. Click on Read more if you don't see the animation. The animation is a 800 kb file that may take some time to fully load.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Methane venting in the Arctic

Above chart, based on historic NASA land-surface air temperature anomaly data (see interactive map at the bottom of this page), shows that the average temperature anomaly rise in the Arctic (latitude 64 and higher) looks set to reach 10°C within decades. 

These anomalies are based on annual averages that are also averaged over a huge area. The NASA image on the left shows temperature anomalies of over 10°C for the month December 2011.  

More detailed analysis shows that, over December 2011, the highest average temperature anomaly (12.8933°C) was recorded in the Kara Sea (latitudes 79 - 81 and longitudes 73 - 89).

NOAA daily data show even more prominent anomalies, especially for the area from the Kara Sea over Franz Josef Land to Svalbard (see Wikipedia image left). 

NOAA temperature anomalies for January 31, 2012, seem typical for the over 20°C anomalies that this area has experienced over the period December 7, 2011, to February 11, 2012. 

An animated image with the full data over the period December 7, 2011, to February 11, 2012, is displayed in an earlier post at this blog, temperature anomalies over 20 degrees Celsius. (Note: this is a 4.7MB file that may take some time to fully load.) 

How is it possible for this specific area to show such huge temperature anomalies? 

1. Rivers?

Could it be that warm water from rivers flows into the Kara Sea and is transferred to the atmosphere in this area? This seems unlikely, given that it is winter, while the mainland does not appear to be suffering similar temperature anomalies. The NOAA map below with anomalies for water temperatures (at surface level) also shows no particular anomalies for the Kara Sea.

2. Warm water from the Atlantic Ocean?

Above image shows that the water surface temperature anomalies are most prominent just north of Scandinavia. The reason for this is that thermohaline circulation is pushing warm water from the Atlantic Ocean into the Arctic Ocean, as evident when looking at actual water temperatures (image below). 

As above image shows, warm water from the Atlantic Ocean hasn't (yet) penetrated the Kara Sea, which makes sense in winter. Therefore, this also seems an unlikely candidate to explain the over 20°C air surface temperature anomalies in the area stretching from the Kara Sea over Franz Josef Land to Svalbard. 

3. Methane? 

A third possibility is that methane is venting from hydrates in the Arctic and is spread by the wind around the Arctic. This would explain the record methane level of 1870+ reached in the Arctic for January 2012, as shown on the image below. 

Particularly worrying is that this methane continues to rise. In the past, methane concentrations have fluctuated up and down in line with the seasons. Over the past seven months, however, methane has shown steady growth in the Arctic. Such a long continuous period of growth is unprecedented, the more so as it takes place in winter, when vegetation growth and algae bloom is minimal. The most obvious explanation for both the temperature anomalies in the Arctic and above image is that the methane is venting from hydrates in the Arctic.

See animation of methane levels July 2011 - January 2012 

Temperature anomalies over 20 degrees Celsius

The area of the Kara Sea, Franz Josef Land and Svalbard shows temperature anomalies of over 20 degrees Celsius. How can such anomalies be explained?  

Above animation is a 4.7MB file. It may take some time for the animation to fully load. It covers the period December 7, 2011, to February 11, 2012.

Continue reading at: Methane venting in the Arctic