Temperature and Arctic ice update

Back in Climate Clippings 7 I posted some images on how the temperatures for 2010 were going. In this post we looked at whether the cold winters of Europe would continue. In this post I’ll put up some relevant images that bear upon and update those posts.

According to the NASA GISS record, November turned out to be the hottest on record. Here’s the graph for 2010:

Figure 1: Temperature anomaly graph 2010

Via a post at Climate Progress, or more particularly comment 5, we now have a Met Office map for December 1-20:

Figure 2: Temperature anomaly December 1-20, 2010

You have to remember that the Met Office have cut off the polar regions on this map and eventually assign them the value of the world average. NASA GISS fill them in from the value of the nearest land stations. Whichever way you go it’s not shaping up as a record month, so 2010 will probably end a statistical dead heat with 2005 in the GISS record.

Here’s the GISS map for January-November 2010:

Figure 3: GISS temperature anomaly Jan-Nov 2010

Comparing the year to date with December to date in Figure 2, the cold air cuts a different line across North America and Asia. In particular the northeast of the US is cold in December, but warm for the rest of the year. This shows the myopia of those who call the end of global warming because of a snow storm, or two, in New York. According to Tom Peterson, chief scientist at the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration’s National Climatic Data Center:

“Weather events are pixels in the climate picture. Some are indicative of changes we are experiencing; some simply reflect the variability of weather and climate. As the world continues to warm, heat waves are an example of the former,” he said, while adding that extreme winter weather events are “examples of the latter.”

Memories are short in New York. Again from the Climate Progress post, here is the NOAA representation of November 2010:

Figure 4: NOAA temperature anomaly Nov 2010

Turning to Arctic ice, the following images were all captured from Greenleap’s Arctic Watch. First the AMSRE sea ice extent:

Figure 5: AMSRE sea ice extent 28 Dec, 2010

The departure from the mean is seen more starkly on this graph:

Figure 6: Arctic sea ice extent 28 Dec, 2010

Two comments here. First, there is about 3 million square kilometres of ice missing compared to the 1979-200 average. Secondly, 1979-2000, the period of the satellite record, was itself in constant decline, so the baseline would have been significantly below say 1960-1980.

Still, there is a nice patch of open sea above Norway and Russia, as you can sea from this image:

Figure 7: Arctic sea ice map 29 Dec, 2010

The Potsdam theory is that you are more likely to get a nice clockwise high pressure system developing over the warm sea, which is about 20-30c warmer than the ice would be. And you can see from this map how a clockwise system would spin Arctic air over northern Europe and how it could even reach North America. That’s the mechanism involved in the Potsdam thesis. But then look at this map:

Figure 8: Arctic sea ice map 28 Dec, 2010

On this map the missing ice is mostly from between Greenland and Canada. And some in the North Pacific.

I’m not sure where this leaves the Potsdam thesis. I think one would have to look exactly at what they are saying and exactly how the Arctic and North Atlantic systems work. Both are beyond my ken.

Update: Climate Progress has a post on December sea ice being the lowest on record. Here’s the graph:

December Arctic sea ice extent

This map shows the temperature anomalies with incredible warmth in parts of Canada:

December 2010 temperature anomalies for Arctic region

22 thoughts on “Temperature and Arctic ice update”

  1. I don’t think that the location of missing sea ice invalidates the Potsdam thesis. It’s pretty well known that the coldest temperatures in the polar regions occur when a nice large high pressure system forms. I think (from memory) that the coldest temperatures ever measured at Vostok occurred during one of these stable highs. From that point of view the dudes at Potsdam are simply invoking a known phenomenon to explain the cold weather.

    I’m not sure what effect the loss of sea ice above Canada does to the weather systems there though. I wonder whether the high-latitude ice line over an entire hemisphere would stabilise the high pressure systems for a longer period of time, allowing them to intensify. That’s pure speculation though, and I’d love to hear from someone who knows more about atmospheric dynamics than I do.

  2. Jess, your second paragraph is exactly along the lines I was thinking. It’s how the whole system works and how it interacts with neighbouring systems that matter, I so I’d suspect. You’d think these factors would be captured in the models.

  3. I’ve been thinking about how lot of the commentary generally in Australia (and elsewhere) about disastrous winter weather in the northern hemisphere ignores how _higher_ winter temperatures can be responsible for catastrophes.

    I watched a fascinating doco on ABC a few months back about freezing rain bringing down the Quebec power grid a few years back (1998?). As the temperatures at ground level plunged, the rain continued to fall. Unlike snow, the rain formed a growing hard frozen coating (‘glaze’) on everything it touched – limbs were stripped from forests of trees, roofs collapsed, and kilometres of high tension power lines came down along and their pylons rendered into scrap metal. Roads became impassable by anything but tracked vehicles, and the glaze ice could not be removed by snowploughs. As the power grid came down, Quebec’s citizens began to die in increasing numbers, freezing to death in unheated homes and flats, crushed under collapsed roofs and in vehicle accidents.

    Events like this are, however, caused by warm air aloft trapping cold air on the ground. Clouds in the warm air mass form rain drops, which are then supercooled in the last 500 metres or so of their descent. The point being that what is perceived as a cold weather disaster is actually caused by the anomalous presence of a mass of warm air, in the American continent typically originating in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Similarly, snow becomes relatively easy to handle at cold temperatures – dry and pliable. An anomalous thaw, or a series of fluctuations in temperature as unstable weather systems pass over, changes the dry powder into a substance with the consistency of concrete, able to be removed only by jackhammer. If thaw water pools and then refreezes it forms a surface similar to that on a skating rink. A disaster similar to the freezing rain event can result. I’ve actually stayed in Moscow over this time of year and the Muscovites all rejoice when the temperature falls below minus 10 and getting around becomes easier.

    The point of all of this is that it’s actually quite easy to misperceive the symptoms of global warming as signs of cooling. Disastrous winter weather can often be attributed to warming.

  4. Dust Study Raises Questions Concerning Warming Models. Jason Mick Blog…. Daily Tech Science .Dec 29th 2010 Questions Concerning Warming Models. My imported report for this day.Perhaps google,there are no Russian Jew families being criticised there.Australian dust gets mentioned.

  5. Thanks, Brian!

    One of the many nasty features of freezing rain is that it brings down aircraft, as the ice glaze forms on wings, props, turbines and rotors. The doco recounted real scenes reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow, where Quebec power utility workers were trapped in their vehicles freezing to death as rescue helicopters fell out of the sky. A large modern city was for some days cut off from the rest of the world with dwindling stocks of fuel and food. A few more days and the loss of life would have equalled or surpassed the Hurricane Katrina devastation a few years later. And all caused by anomalous warm air in the middle atmosphere.

  6. Brian: Keep in mind that “ice extent” treats an area with 15% ice as ice. Given the reduction in ice volume the % of ice extent area the is really loose ice sloshing around in water may be increasing. Sloshing ice would have a surface temp of about 0deg C. Steady ice would have a much lower temperature.

  7. John D I knew about the 15% of course, but that’s a really good point in relation to temperature.

  8. Brian,

    Pretty certain you will delete this, standard practice on this site. However, given that the “the cold weather is caused by AGW” meme is contrary to everything we have been told for the last two decades, don’t you feel that this is sort of a “we are at war with Eurasia, and we have always been at war with Eurasia”, type moment?

    That the last three winters have been unusually cold indicates a trend, not variability; for over a decade now Gaia has failed to cooperate with the primary models the UN refers to. How many times, in how many ways, over how many years, will the predictions have to fail before you are able to acknowledge that the IPCC AGW hypothesis for an explanation of observed global warming has been falsified, and that the policy proposals being put forward to deal with it are not just worthless but are deadly to the poorest in every society?

  9. I’m feeling generous tonight, CountingCats, but, no, three years doesn’t equal a trend and your misreading both the data and the story, IMHO.

  10. Ahh, I’ve always suspected deniers reading comprehension must be broken. And no finer example than CountingCats.

    Brian was referring to the Potsdam Institute’s computer climate model prediction, published prior to 2009 Euro severe winter, predicting that cold winters for parts of Euro will have higher odds of becoming more colder as arctic ice was lost.

    Deniers – I’m not so sure. Stupids may be closer.

    And for a secondary proof of global cooling as far as CC’s ilk go, we have forum moderation. Funnily enough it cuts both ways – I’ve tried on many denier sites to propose a proof, for deniers to put a finger in front of a CO2 laser to prove that CO2 is IR inert. It always never escapes moderation. The denier puppet masters are not that stupid I guess.

  11. Brian,

    Thanks for allowing the comment. While I stand by the validity of what I said here a couple of years ago I do acknowledge that I was a bit, shall we say, forceful, in saying it. I’m sorry if I was too annoying.


    I am perfectly at ease with the Potsdam idea that warming can cause cooling, but this is still, regardless, contrary to the IPCC predictions – if Potsdam is right then IPCC is wrong, and if IPCC is wrong, what value the policy proposals derived from them?

    The point about all the fuss is the IPCC claim that the warming is not a natural function but is driven by CO2 – as we all know. That warming is occurring is not denied by anyone who knows history. After all, it is a century and a half since the last ox roast on the frozen Thames – to deny warming is absurd. As is the insulting attempt to link those who question the validity of the IPCC models output with holocaust deniers.

    One is an insulting denial of historically verifiable data, the other is scientifically trained people doing what scientifically trained people are taught to do, and questioning the data, procedure and conclusions. I did not refer to anyone as a climate hysteric or an ecofascist, but you step right in and seek to insult me regardless – for no better reason than I question the IPCC predictions against real world observations.

    As to deleting contrarian comments, I am not aware that any of the sites I visit do any such thing. We certainly don’t. In fact, they generally welcome people who can make a case for an alternative viewpoint. That is, after all, an excellent way to expand knowledge and learn.

    If you can give me reasoned arguments to change my interpretation of the real world observations and accept the validity of the IPCC claims then great; that is a win/win for both of us, but if all you can offer is insults then you have lost, from word one.

  12. CC we aren’t a science site as such and if you want to argue the science you’d best do it on sites that are set up for that purpose. Experience shows that if we get into a long discussion which rakes over old coals our usual readers disappear.

  13. CC, when you and you’re ilk aren’t sending death threats to climate scientists or even reporters (I was 1/2 surprised to hear even ABC science reporter Robyn Williams gets your threats), then it’s all let’s be nice and treat other opinions with respect. I don’t buy your olive branch for 1 sec

    Get you assertion published in a journal such as Nature or Science – that’s where I get my science from.

    If you cannot get your rot published then pardon me for not respecting those opinions as scientific facts but rather treating it with disdain that barely holds a candle to your mob’s treatment of science and scientists.

    Apologies Brian – I promise not to feed the concern troll any longer

  14. Dave McRae.

    That is a neat thread on your website, there. It fits in with something that I have deduced recently. When I had a look to see which phase change materials required (stored) the most energy it turned out to be water. I hasten to add that this is deduction on my part and there could well be another explanation. Water is H2O, so why does it take so much energy for it to change its state. It seems to be the hydrogen, with its single low orbit electron. This also explains why CH4 has many times the energy trapping properties of CO2. So H2O is a pretty incredible substance and its hydrogen is what makes our world so stable.

    But it also explains why steam power is so inefficient. Had Watts first thermal engine used some other compound in place of water it would been more efficient and been called the vapour engine.

    The reason why I was looking at this is that I imagined that other materials would hold more phase change latent heat, but no. So eutectic salts for energy storage are used not because of superior energy storage capacity, but for the temperature of liquifaction. And further, I don’t know whether this is true, but I suspect that some solar thermal systems are not using water as their energy transfer medium, but some other liquid with a lower boiling point. And I am happy to be wrong about all of this please correct me if I am wrong, but that is my theory so far.

  15. Apologies Brian – I promise not to feed the concern troll any longer

    Appreciated, David @ 17. If we go any further down that track it amounts to thread derailment.

  16. That is really significant, Brian.

    Here in Emu Plains it felt like summer in September, then drifted into this cold and rain with just one week or two of heat. I am expecting it to warm again towards May as it did last year before diving off into a mild winter.

    As they say global temperature rise is more evident in the average night time temperature where the heat retention of the CO2 is doing the damage.

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