Friday, March 06, 2015

Update on the Arctic — Record Maximum Low?

We all know that Republican politicians who are well-funded by very rich right wing conservatives have found it convenient to deny the reality of global warming. That denial is loaded with enormous risk.

The Arctic ice in 2015 is not exactly robust. The area of the ice is about 2 million square kilometers below what it was in 1979. And in 1979, the Arctic ice was already considerably smaller than what it was in the 19th century. The Arctic is shrinking and this fact is having consequences. One of the consequences appears to be that the jet stream is much more unpredictable and variable than it was even twenty years ago. The other consequence is that the general warming of the world is becoming more evident and the consequences are getting much harder to ignore.

Now no one knows exactly what the ice is going to do in the next few months. But this is the time of the year when the Arctic reaches its maximum size in area. As of now, the Arctic appears to be reaching its Lowest Maximum since we have been keeping any kind of records. After a long dark winter, this is the time of year when the Arctic reaches its maximum. Most of the time, the Arctic reaches its maximum between now and the end of March. In 2010 and 1999, the maximum ice area occurred in early April but at a much greater area than we are now measuring. See:

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

And:

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/

Right now, the Arctic is the smallest it's been since we started measuring the MAXIMUM deep winter size in area. The Arctic is a volatile region. It varies from year to year. Of course, it reaches its smallest area in late August or September. And it reaches its maximum area in March or early April.  But clearly, the Arctic has been dramatically losing area since 1979. The simple reality is that on short time scales of days and weeks, the area of the Arctic is often difficult to predict. The Spring is particularly unpredictable from year to year until the melting is well underway.

Nevertheless, given that the weather in the Arctic for the next week will be warmer than usual, and also volatile, it is highly probably the lowest maximum will be reached.

Of course, this begs a question: Will the record for the lowest minimum area occur this year? We don't know. But multiyear ice seems to be disappearing. More fragmented ice that is almost slush-like is becoming more evident. More ice in the Arctic Sea is impregnated with salt. It is highly probable the next lowest minimum will occur in the next ten years. The Arctic is becoming increasingly unstable and there is no way to reverse what is happening on any kind of reasonable time scale.

It has been evident for some time that we need to do what we can to avoid things getting even worse.

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