Showing posts with label NSIDC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NSIDC. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Update on Arctic Snow and Ice

Above image, adapted from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), shows that Arctic sea ice extent has roughly followed the same path it did in 2012 when it reached a historic record low. Highlighted on above image is the highest extent the sea ice reached in 2013, i.e. 15,113 million square km on May 14, 2013.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Glaciers cracking in the presence of carbon dioxide

Northern Hemisphere snow and ice map , October 14, 2012 (credit: NSIDC, NOAA)

Snow covers more than 33% of lands north of the equator from November to April, reaching 49% coverage in January. The role of snow in the climate system includes strong positive feedbacks related to albedo and other, weaker feedbacks related to moisture storage, latent heat and insulation of the underlying surface, which vary with latitude and season (IPCC, 2007a8).

Albedo or reflectivity of surfaces
Ice caps and glaciers cover 7% of the Earth—more than Europe and North America combined—and are responsible for reflecting 80–90% of the Sun’s light rays that enter our atmosphere and maintain the Earth’s temperature7. They are also a natural carbon sink, capturing a large amount of carbon dioxide7.

Snow and ice on the Northern Hemisphere has a cooling effect of 3.3 watts per square meter, peaking in May at ~ 9 watts per square meter. Snow and ice on the Northern Hemisphere has declined over the years and is now reflecting 0.45 watts less energy per square meter than it did in 1979 (Flanner, 2011). As discussed in Albedo change in the Arctic, this compares to warming of 1.66 watts per square meter for the net emission by people (IPCC, 2007b9).

A recent press release7 announced that researchers from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology have shown that the material strength and fracture toughness of ice are decreased significantly under increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide molecules, making ice more fragile and making ice caps and glaciers more vulnerable to cracking and splitting into pieces.

“If ice caps and glaciers were to continue to crack and break into pieces, their surface area that is exposed to air would be significantly increased, which could lead to accelerated melting and much reduced coverage area on the Earth,” said lead author of the study Professor Markus Buehler.

Buehler, along with his student and co-author of the paper, Zhao Qin, used a series of atomisticlevel computer simulations to analyse the dynamics of molecules to investigate the role of carbon dioxide molecules in ice fracturing, and found that carbon dioxide exposure causes ice to break more easily.

Notably, the decreased ice strength is not merely caused by material defects induced by carbon dioxide bubbles, but rather by the fact that the strength of hydrogen bonds—the chemical bonds between water molecules in an ice crystal—is decreased under increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide. This is because the added carbon dioxide competes with the water molecules connected in the ice crystal.

It was shown that carbon dioxide molecules first adhere to the crack boundary of ice by forming a bond with the hydrogen atoms and then migrate through the ice in a flipping motion along the crack boundary towards the crack tip.

The carbon dioxide molecules accumulate at the crack tip and constantly attack the water molecules by trying to bond to them. This leaves broken bonds behind and increases the brittleness of the ice on a macroscopic scale7.

A drop of as little as 1% in Earth’s albedo corresponds with a warming roughly equal to the effect of doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which would cause Earth to retain an additional 3.4 watts of energy for every square meter of surface area (NASA, 200510; Flanner et al., 2011b6).

Below, a video by Dr. Peter Carter4, showing loss of snow and ice albedo on the Northern Hemisphere from 1997 to 2009, using NOAA images, and also showing the relationship to global food security and Arctic methane.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NSIDC calls record 2012 low

This NASA satellite image shows how the Arctic sea ice extent, on Sept. 16, 2012, compares to the average
minimum extent over the past 30 years (in yellow). Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio.
Arctic sea ice cover likely melted to its minimum extent for the year on September 16, says the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), adding the note that this number is preliminarychanging weather conditions could still push the ice extent lower.

Sea ice extent—defined by NSIDC as the total area covered by at least 15 percent of ice—fell to 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles), now the lowest summer minimum extent in the 33-year satellite record.

NSIDC adds that this minimum is 49% below the 1979 to 2000 average, as illustrated by the table below.

Table 1. Previous minimum Arctic sea ice extents
20074.171.61September 18
20084.591.77September 20
20095.131.98September 13
20104.631.79September 21
20114.331.67September 11
20123.411.32September 16
1979 to 2000 average6.702.59September 13
1979 to 2010 average6.142.37September 15

NSIDC adds that the six lowest seasonal minimum ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the last six years (2007 to 2012). In contrast to 2007, when climatic conditions (winds, clouds, air temperatures) favored summer ice loss, this year’s conditions were not as extreme. Summer temperatures across the Arctic were warmer than average, but cooler than in 2007. The most notable event was a very strong storm centered over the central Arctic Ocean in early August. It is likely that the primary reason for the large loss of ice this summer is that the ice cover has continued to thin and become more dominated by seasonal ice. This thinner ice was more prone to be broken up and melted by weather events, such as the strong low pressure system just mentioned. The storm sped up the loss of the thin ice that appears to have been already on the verge of melting completely.

NASA says that this year, a powerful cyclone formed off the coast of Alaska and moved on August 5 to the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it churned the weakened ice cover for several days. The storm cut off a large section of sea ice north of the Chukchi Sea and pushed it south to warmer waters that made it melt entirely. It also broke vast extensions of ice into smaller pieces more likely to melt.

“The storm definitely seems to have played a role in this year's unusually large retreat of the ice”, said Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “But that exact same storm, had it occurred decades ago when the ice was thicker and more extensive, likely wouldn't have had as prominent an impact, because the ice wasn't as vulnerable then as it is now.”

In the press release, NSIDC lead scientist Ted Scambos said that thinning ice, along with early loss of snow, are rapidly warming the Arctic. “But a wider impact may come from the increased heat and moisture the warmer Arctic is adding to the climate system,” he said. “This will gradually affect climate in the areas where we live,” he added. “We have a less polar pole—and so there will be more variations and extremes.”

The image below, from Arctic Sea Ice Blog, shows Arctic sea ice observations (in red) against the backdrop of models used in IPCC AR4 (2007) for projection of sea ice up to the year 2100.

The image below, from NSIDC sea ice news, shows the observed September sea ice extent for 1952-2011 (black line) against a backdrop of projections used by IPCC AR4 (blue) as well as proposed for use in IPCC AR5 (red).

Note: The record low value for 2012 still has to be added on this image. Credit: NSIDC, Stroeve et al.
The image shows that the recently observed decline in sea ice extent is steeper than the CMIP3 models with a “business as usual” SRESA1B greenhouse gas emissions scenario (blue line), as used by the IPCC in AR4.

It is also steeper than the more recent CMIP5 models using a RCP 4.5 scenario (pink line) that are proposed to be used by the IPCC in AR5.

RCP 4.5 is a scenario in which the global temperature rise would would soon exceed 2 degrees Celsius. Since the Arctic experiences accelerated warming, such a scenario would clearly be catastrophic. Looking at sea ice volume, rather than extent, would show this even more clearly.

Below, a NOAA animation showing sea ice decline in 2012 and a NASA animation showing the Arctic cyclone.

Monday, August 27, 2012

NSIDC: Arctic sea ice breaks lowest extent on record

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reports that Arctic sea ice has broken the previously lowest extent on record, which was in 2007.

Arctic sea ice extent fell to 4.10 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles) on August 26, 2012. This was 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) below the September 18, 2007 daily extent of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles).

NSIDC scientist Walt Meier said, "By itself it's just a number, and occasionally records are going to get set. But in the context of what's happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it's an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing."

According to NSIDC Director Mark Serreze, "The previous record, set in 2007, occurred because of near perfect summer weather for melting ice. Apart from one big storm in early August, weather patterns this year were unremarkable. The ice is so thin and weak now, it doesn't matter how the winds blow."

"The Arctic used to be dominated by multiyear ice, or ice that stayed around for several years," Meier said. "Now it's becoming more of a seasonal ice cover and large areas are now prone to melting out in summer."

With two to three weeks left in the melt season, NSIDC scientists anticipate that the minimum ice extent could fall even lower.

NSIDC: Arctic sea ice breaks lowest extent
NSIDC Media Advisory: Arctic sea ice breaks lowest extent on record
NSIDC: Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis

Friday, August 24, 2012

Arctic sea ice extent update

The image below shows sea ice extent as calculated by the Polar View team at the University of Bremen, Germany, updated August 25, 2012.

The image below, edited from the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC), shows the situation according to the NSIDC updated at August 23, 2012. It's clear that Arctic sea ice extent looks set to reach the 2007 record low within days, if it hasn't been reached already now.

For updates, see the daily images produced by the NSIDC. Note that, to calculate extent, both the NSIDC and the Univeristy of Bremen include areas that show at least 15% sea ice. In the image below, from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), areas with ice concentration higher than 30% are included to calculate ice extent.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sea ice extent update August 14, 2012

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado has released an update. Excerpts follow below, for the full post, see A summer storm in the Arctic.

Arctic sea ice extent during the first two weeks of August continued to track below 2007 record low daily ice extents. As of August 13, ice extent was already among the four lowest summer minimum extents in the satellite record, with about five weeks still remaining in the melt season.

Arctic sea ice extent as of August 13, 2012. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
The average pace of ice loss since late June has been rapid at just over 100,000 square kilometers (38,000 square miles) per day. However, this pace nearly doubled for a few days in early August during a major Arctic cyclonic storm, discussed below.

Unlike the summer of 2007 when a persistent pattern of high pressure was present over the central Arctic Ocean and a pattern of low pressure was over the northern Eurasian coast, the summer of 2012 has been characterized by variable conditions. Air tempertures at the 925 hPa level (about 3000 feet above the ocean surface) of 1 to 3 degrees Celsius (1.8 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981 to 2012 average have been the rule from central Greenland, northern Canada, and Alaska northward into the central Arctic Ocean. 

Cooler than average conditions (1 to 2 degrees Celsius or 1.8 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) were observed in a small region of eastern Siberia extending into the East Siberian Sea, helping explain the persistence of low concentration ice in this region through early August.

August 6, 2012, 06:00 GMT surface weather analysis, showing a very strong cyclone over the central Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. The isobars (lines of equal pressure) are very tightly packed around the low pressure system, indicating strong winds. Greenland is on the right side of the figure, Canada at the bottom. Credit: Canadian Meteorological Centre
A low pressure system entered the Arctic Ocean from the eastern Siberian coast on August 4 and then strengthened rapidly over the central Arctic Ocean. On August 6 the central pressure of the cyclone reached 964 hPa, an extremely low value for this region. It persisted over the central Arctic Ocean over the next several days, and slowly dissipated. The storm initially brought warm and very windy conditions to the Chukchi and East Siberian seas (August 5), but low temperatures prevailed later.

On three consecutive days (August 7, 8, and 9), sea ice extent dropped by nearly 200,000 square kilometers (77,220 square miles). This could be due to mechanical break up of the ice and increased melting by strong winds and wave action during the storm.

The image below, from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), shows that sea ice extent took a huge dive early August and has consolidated since, as the winds settled down.

Credit: Centre for Ocean and Ice, Danish Meteorological Institute
Note that, to calculate extent, DMI includes areas with ice concentration higher than 30% (NSIDC includes areas that show at least 15% sea ice).