Arctic Sea Ice Update
By Paul Homewood
Along with the brouhaha about warm weather in the Arctic, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth about Arctic sea ice extent, which is just below 2012 levels at the moment.
Naturally it is easy to conflate the two, but it is not as simple as that.
For a start, the area of “super heat”, between Canada and Siberia, is still well below freezing.
Secondly, the principle area where ice is below average is not where that “super heat” is, but in the Barents and Kara Seas.
As even Mark Serreze admits:
The sea ice is at a record low right now, for this time of year, that’s one thing. And why it’s so low — again, there’s so much heat in the upper ocean in these ice-free areas, the ice just can’t form right now. The ocean’s just got to get rid of this heat somehow, and it’s having a hard time doing so.
There is actually no secret about this. Some of us have been explaining this phenomenon for the last year or so.
But what has caused it? Is it simply “global warming”, as we often told?
In fact, we need to go back to September 2007 for a clue. NSIDC, in their Arctic Sea Ice News of September 10th, had this to say about one of the reasons for the record low ice that summer:
In the August 22 report, we explained that another part of the 2007 story is “memory” of the sea ice to changes that have been unfolding over the past few decades. Our focus there was on the apparent transition to younger, thinner ice since the late 1970. As discussed, factors contributing to this thinning involve a general rise in air temperatures, and changing winds that have transported fairly thick ice out of the Arctic Ocean into the North Atlantic. An issue that we haven’t addressed, yet, is changes in ocean circulation.
One prominent researcher, Igor Polyakov at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska, points out that pulses of unusually warm water have been entering the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic, which several years later are seen in the ocean north of Siberia. These pulses of water are helping to heat the upper Arctic Ocean, contributing to summer ice melt and helping to reduce winter ice growth. Another scientist, Koji Shimada of the Japan Agency for Marine–Earth Science and Technology, reports evidence of changes in ocean circulation in the Pacific side of the Arctic Ocean. Through a complex interaction with declining sea ice, warm water entering the Arctic Ocean through Bering Strait in summer is being shunted from the Alaskan coast into the Arctic Ocean, where it fosters further ice loss.
Many questions still remain to be answered, but these changes in ocean circulation may be important keys for understanding the observed loss of Arctic sea ice.
In short, pulses of warm water from the Atlantic had entered Arctic waters. But note the comment:
“which several years later are seen in the ocean north of Siberia”
That is precisely what we are seeing now. This warmer water does not disappear down a plughole, but will hang around in the Arctic basin for several years before it either moves back out on the gyre or simply cools down eventually.
And, of course, there is absolutely nothing new about this phenomenon. It was exactly what occurred in the 1920s:
Meanwhile, the longer this water takes to ice up, the more heat escapes from the ocean into the atmosphere, and ultimately into space.
This is actually the way the Earth works, as NASA explains:
The net heating imbalance between the equator and poles drives an atmospheric and oceanic circulation that climate scientists describe as a “heat engine.” (In our everyday experience, we associate the word engine with automobiles, but to a scientist, an engine is any device or system that converts energy into motion.) The climate is an engine that uses heat energy to keep the atmosphere and ocean moving. Evaporation, convection, rainfall, winds, and ocean currents are all part of the Earth’s heat engine.
What we are seeing is a perfectly natural event, which has nothing to do with “global warming”.