A classic case of WACCy weather in the northern hemisphere, seen here in a map from the excellent Climate Reanalyzer site, prompts me to discuss the 2013 global temperature numbers, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and what sea ice loss is doing to northern hemisphere weather patterns in my post at The Daily Blog this week. We live in interesting times…
The dramatic loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic has prompted a lot of research interest in the way that this is affecting weather patterns around the northern hemisphere. The latest contribution is Influence of Arctic sea ice on European summer precipitation, by Dr James Screen of the University of Exeter [PhysOrg]. In this “video abstract”, he explains how reductions in Arctic sea ice affect the position of jetstream — the ribbon of winds winding around the planet that guides weather systems — bringing more summer storms to Western Europe, and a recent run of record-setting wet summers to the UK. But as he points out, the effects are planet-wide:
The impacts are not just over northwest Europe. Actually in the model, what we find is that whilst the sea ice loss increases rainfall over northwest Europe, we actually find drier conditions over Mediterranean Europe. Also the jet steam shifts over North America, which can have implications for the weather there too.
Dr Screen’s study underlines a point that I have been making for some time: rapid climate change is not something theoretical that will happen in the future — it’s happening now and we’re feeling the effects. Warming in the Arctic is driving sea ice loss, and the atmospheric consequences are changing the shape of the weather right round the northern half of the planet.
It’s worth noting that an especially vigorous jetstream directed and helped to intensify the recent huge European storm that hammered the UK, Germany and Denmark, killing 16 people and causing huge amounts of damage. Christopher Burt at WeatherUnderground provides a handy overview of the storm that has four names — St Jude, Christian, Simone and Carmen. The storm centre moved 2,000 km in 26 hours, a remarkable pace of 77 kph.
We’re running a bit late with this one: recorded last week before the big wind left Gareth powerless for six days (a bit like Glenn’s PC), John Cook ruminates on the result of the Australian election, the boys marvel at the Mail’s myth making about Arctic sea ice, and look forward to the release of the first part of the next IPCC report. And much, much more. Show notes below the fold…
Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.
Stephen Sackur took the BBC’s HARDtalk programme on the road in Alaska in a climate change episode screened a few days ago. It was the kind of aware and intelligent journalism one hopes to see on the topic, and deserves plaudits. Not that it exceeded what we have a right to expect from major mainstream television, but it was all the more welcome because the medium so rarely tackles the climate change question. It also represented a considerable advance on the Sackur interview I discussed on Hot Topic a couple of years ago when he attacked Rajendra Pachauri and the IPCC on spurious grounds.
Sackur began in the coastal Inuit village of Kivalina, whose days are numbered as sea ice disappears and storm surges are unimpeded. (I reviewed Christine Shearer’s book on Kivalina in 2011.) The programme was stark in its Alaskan juxtapositions. On the one hand it detailed some of the impacts of climate change on Inuit communities. Kivalina is not alone. Retreating ice, slowly rising sea levels and increased coastal erosion have left three Inuit settlements facing imminent destruction, and at least eight more at serious risk. The town of Barrow depends on bowhead whale and seal hunting which is now affected very badly by the early breakup of sea ice.
Reading this press release about a new paper in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology spoiled my day. It might not be obvious to a casual reader just glancing through the morning news — but a couple of paragraphs leapt out at me:
Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations recently reached 400 parts per million for the first time since the Pliocene Epoch, three million years ago. During this era, Arctic surface temperatures were 15-20 degrees Celsius warmer than today’s surface temperatures.
Ballantyne’s findings suggest that much of the surface warming likely was due to ice-free conditions in the Arctic. That finding matches estimates of land temperatures in the Arctic during the same time. This suggests that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of 400 ppm may be sufficient to greatly reduce the spatial extent and seasonal persistence of Arctic sea ice.
In other words, losing Arctic sea ice brings huge warming to the lands around the Arctic Ocean. This is extremely bad news for a number of reasons: