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The beach like boundary with open water at 89° north shows the thinness of the ice. Polar sea ice melt ponds are common in July but open water is not. Source: NOAA PMEL

 This photograph from the north pole webcam shows a very large melt pond in the foreground caused by high pressure, warm winds and episodes of bright sunshine. Open water, an uncommon feature in north pole webcam pictures, has opened up over the past week in In the middle distance. In the distance topography is provided by an ice ridge that has been present since the webcam was installed.

Warm June weather in the Arctic has triggered rapid sea ice melting of already thin ice, leading to a record low volume anomaly at the end of June. Source:

Warmth in the Siberian Arctic caused massive sea ice melting in Siberia's Kara Sea.

Warmer than average temperatures continue

Air temperatures for June were 1 to 4 degrees Celsius (2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than average over most of the Arctic Ocean, except in the Beaufort and Greenland seas, where temperatures were near normal or slightly below normal. High pressure dominated most of the central Arctic, with the highest pressures over the Beaufort Sea. The monthly averaged pressure field shows a circulation pattern somewhat similar to a pattern known as the dipole anomaly, with unusually high pressure over the Beaufort Sea and unusually low pressure over central Siberia. Similar patterns have become common in recent summers.

The present sea ice area is tied with 2007 and 2010 for the minimum for this July 7 but, because the ice is thinner this year than it was in 2007, ice will thin more quickly this year given similar weather conditions. This year's meltdown is on track to produce a record low volume and record low sea ice extent in September.

A large high pressure area has filled the Arctic from Alaska to Siberia with low pressure north of Norway. This weather pattern favors export of ice away from Alaska and Siberia, out of the Arctic through the Fram strait and into the north Atlantic along the coast of Greenland. If this weather pattern continues, and forecasts for the next week indicate it will, sea ice extent and volume will continue to drop rapidly. The Navy's PIPS model show how sea ice was transported out of the Arctic over the past week.

Scientists with the U.S. Navy thought that something was wrong with their model because it was opening up a hole in the sea ice near the north pole.

Since late April/early May 2011, PIPS 2.0 has developed an unrealistic opening in the North Pole region. On 22 May 2011, PIPS 2.0 stopped running because of a numerical instability. Since that time, we have been carefully trying to diagnose this problem (checking for anomalous atmospheric forcing, initial fields, boundary conditions, assimilated satellite ice fields, etc). During this process, the system's ocean model time step was reduced and the system is currently running again. The unobserved opening near the North Pole is still present and can be seen in the ice concentration and ice thickness fields.

However, the picture on top shows that openings are forming and the ice is apparently very thin near the pole. Them model is forecasting something that has not been seen before - an ice free hole near the north pole. We will soon see if that forecast verifies. Analysis of satellite imagery by the University of Bremen and the University of Illinois has indicated that the concentration of sea ice is dropping rapidly in ice covered areas near the coasts of Alaska and Siberia. Moreover, they have occasionally shown the possibility of holes near the pole.

The University of Bremen's analysis of sea ice extent shows both Arctic and Antarctic ice extents at record lows for today's date. Warmth in the Arctic is not balanced by cold in Antarctica. The oceans are warming rapidly at around 100 meters depth in the polar regions.  A report in Science magazine this January showed warm Atlantic ocean water is now being transported into the Arctic faster than any time in the past 2000 years.

The Arctic is responding more rapidly to global warming than most other areas on our planet. Northward-flowing Atlantic Water is the major means of heat advection toward the Arctic and strongly affects the sea ice distribution. Records of its natural variability are critical for the understanding of feedback mechanisms and the future of the Arctic climate system, but continuous historical records reach back only ~150 years. Here, we present a multidecadal-scale record of ocean temperature variations during the past 2000 years, derived from marine sediments off Western Svalbard (79°N). We find that early–21st-century temperatures of Atlantic Water entering the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented over the past 2000 years and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming.

The transport of warm ocean water into the polar seas is melting polar ice from below leading to the record low levels we see today.

The recent combination of El Nino and La Nina moved an enormous amount of heat stored in the tropical and subtropical oceans poleward. The sub-Arctic  north Pacific has an extremely high sea surface temperature anomaly and the sub-Arctic north Atlantic is anomalously warm. Exceptionally warm water entering the Arctic will accelerate the melting of Arctic sea ice this summer.

Originally posted to Ocean Advocates on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 05:27 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, SciTech, and Climate Hawks.

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