Showing posts with label Pacific. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pacific. Show all posts

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ocean Heat Overwhelming North Atlantic

Arctic sea ice extent on June 19, 2016, was at a record low for the time of the year, as the (updated) image below shows.

[ image from JAXA ]
Not only is Arctic sea ice extent at record low for time of year, the sea ice is also rapidly getting thinner, more fractured, lower in concentration and darker in color. 

[ Cracks in sea ice north of Greenland on June 19, 2016, created with Arctic-io image ]
On the morning of June 20, 2016, strong methane releases were recorded over the water north of Greenland, as well as east of Greenland, as illustrated by the image below.

The image below shows that on the morning of June 20, 2016, mean global methane levels had increased be several parts per billion over a large altitude range, compared to the two previous days. Methane levels at selected altitudes on days in July 2015 and December 2015 are added for reference.
[ click on images to enlarge ]
Temperatures in the Arctic are rising, as illustrated by the image below, showing that on June 19, 2016, temperatures were as high as 31.4°C or 88.4°F over the Mackenzie River (green circle) which ends in
the Arctic Ocean (and thus warms up the Arctic Ocean there).

On June 20, 2016, the Sun will reach its highest point (Solstice), and the Arctic will have 24 hours sunlight, i.e. on the Arctic Circle (latitude 66.56° north) or higher. The Arctic is about 20,000,000 square km (7,700,000 square miles) in size and covers roughly 4% of Earth's surface. Insolation during the months June and July is higher in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth, as illustrated by the image below, by Pidwirny (2006).

Sea surface temperature near Svalbard was as high as 55°F (or 12.8°C, at the green circle) on June 14, 2016, an anomaly of 19.6 °F (or 10.9°C) from 1981-2011, as illustrated by the image below.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Above image, created with, further shows that the cold lid that had been growing so prominently in extent over the North Atlantic over the past few years, has shrunk substantially. By comparison, the cold area over the North Pacific has grown larger. This is further confirmed by the image on the right, created with NASA maps and showing ocean temperature anomalies for May 2016.

Plenty of meltwater has run off from Greenland in 2016, as illustrated by the image on the right. The run-off from Alaska and Siberia into the Pacific seems less by comparison than the run-off into the North Atlantic. So, how could it be that the cold area in the North Pacific has grown larger than the cold area in the North Atlantic?
[ click on images to enlarge ]

Could there be another factor influencing the size of these cold areas in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific?

The image below, created with NOAA images, gives a comparison between the situation on June 1, 2015 (top), and June 1, 2016 (bottom), showing anomalies from 1961-1990.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Antarctica linked to Arctic

Waters in the Arctic Ocean continue to warm up. Very warm waters from the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean are invading the Arctic Ocean.

Waters in the North Atlantic and in the North Pacific are very warm, due to a number of reasons.

What is happening in the oceans is very important in this respect. As discussed in earlier posts, most of the extra heat caused by people's emissions goes into the oceans.

The great ocean conveyor belt (Thermohaline Circulation), brings warm water from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere.

The Gulf Stream is the North Atlantic leg of the great ocean conveyor belt, and it brings dense, salty water from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean.

Saltier water is denser than fresher water because the dissolved salts fill interstices between water molecules, resulting in more mass per unit volume.

Very dense ocean water can be found in the North Atlantic because the North Atlantic has high salinity, due to high evaporation rates, while salty water is also coming from the Mediterranean Sea.

As also discussed in an earlier post, this dense, saltier water sinks in the North Atlantic, accumulating in deeper water.

By contrast, much of the Arctic Ocean has low salinity, due to ice melt and river runoff.  As it enters the Arctic Ocean, the warm and dense water from the Atlantic thus dives under the under the sea ice and under the less salty surface water in the Arctic Ocean.

In conclusion, much of the heat resulting from people's emissions accumulates in the North Atlantic and also ends up in the Arctic. This partly explains why surface temperatures are rising much faster at the poles, as illustrated by the NOAA image below.

There are further reasons why surface air temperatures elsewhere (other than at the poles) are rising less rapidly than they did, say, a decade ago. As also discussed by Andrew Glikson in the post No Planet B, the increased amounts of sulphur emitted by the growing number of coal-fired power plants and by the burning of bunker fuel on sea is (temporarily) masking the full wrath of global warming.

Another reason is the growth of the sea ice around Antarctica, as illustrated by the CryosphereToday image on the left.

Melting takes place both in the Arctic and on Antarctica, but more so in the Arctic. Recent research of CryoSat-2 data reveals that Greenland alone is now losing about 375 cubic kilometers of ice annually, while in Antarctica the annual volume loss now is about 125 cubic kilometers.

Currents also distribute ocean heat in ways that make the Arctic warm up more than twice as rapidly as the Antarctic. In a recent paper, John Marshall et al. further suggest that ozone depletion also contributes to this.

All this makes that, while the jet streams on the northern hemisphere are circumnavigating the globe at a slower pace, jet streams on the southern hemisphere are getting stronger, making it more difficult for warm air to enter the atmosphere over Antarctica, while the stronger winds also speed up sea currents on the southern hemisphere. This makes the sea ice around Antarctica grow, and as the sea ice spreads further away from Antarctica, temperatures of surface waters around Antarctica are falling.

Growth of the sea ice around Antarctica makes that more sunlight is reflected back into space. There now is some 1.5 million square kilometers more sea ice around Antarctica than there used to be. The albedo change associated with sea ice growth on the southern hemisphere can be estimated at 1.7 W/sq m, i.e. more than the total RF of all CO2 emission caused by people from 1750 to 2011 (IPCC AR5).

The rapid growth of sea ice on the southern hemisphere alone goes a long way to explain why, over the past three months, surface air temperatures have not been much higher than they used to be, both globally and in the Arctic, as illustrated by above NOAA image. What has also contributed to warmer temperatures around latitude 60 on the northern hemisphere is the fact that methane has accumulated in the atmosphere at that latitude, as discussed in earlier posts.

Arctic SST far exceed anything ever seen in human history
So, does the sea ice on the southern hemisphere constitute a negative feedback that could hold back global warming? It doesn't.

It may temporarily keep surface temperatures close to what they used to be, as the sea ice reflects lots of sunlight back into space, but at the same time ocean temperatures are rising strongly, as the sea ice also prevents heat from radiating out of the waters around Antarctica.

The latter also helps explaining the colder surface temperatures over those waters.

Much of this additional ocean heat has meanwhile been transported by the great ocean conveyor belt to the northern hemisphere.

No time before in human history has such a huge amount of ocean heat accumulated in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. This heat is now threatening to invade the Arctic Ocean and trigger huge temperature rises due to methane eruptions from the seafloor.

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