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My partner and I live in suburban Maryland. In spite of 104°F temperatures and a wicked derecho that came through here at about 10:30 Friday night with 70 mph winds, we're fine.  We didn't even lose power, though the lights flickered numerous times, even before the wind started.  That wind was even scary to me, a weather junkie! For more on Friday's derecho, check out Weatherdude's diary from last Saturday.  Many folks in the Baltimore-DC-Richmond area are still without power with the heat continuing, though at a somewhat less extreme level (mid-90s is bad enough, believe me!).

Now for the subject at hand. Here's what Barrow AK looked like at about 6 a.m. Alaska time on Sunday 1 July 2012 .  There's floating ice away from the immediate coast, and the near-shore is either ice-free or that's one heckuva melt pond!  It was a pretty much normal 34°F at the time of the webcam photo.


More below the orange cloud of doom.

Current State of Arctic Sea Ice

Arctic sea ice extent as of 30 June 2012 was very low. either the lowest or among the lowest since the beginning of satellite records in 1979, when we began getting decent remote sensing of sea ice extent. The values are a 5-day running mean of the area covered by at least 15% ice, in square kilometers (km2), so they tend to lag the actual value for the day plotted by a little bit.  See the National Snow and Ice Data Center's explanation of how they come up with the chart I've reproduced below.


The National Snow and Ice Data Center won't be coming out with a report for June 2012 Arctic sea ice until the end of this week or perhaps early next week.  My attempt to estimate the number of km2 of area coverage lost during the month can be seen above:  about 3.7 million plus or minus about 30 to 40K.  From what I understand (though I am not certain), that may be a record in loss of sea ice extent for any June, since the satellite record began in 1979.

The first two days of July have shown no slowing in the rate of sea ice loss so far, as can be seen below.  It appears that over 200,000 km 2 of sea ice extent was lost those two days alone.


Sea ice area is the total amount of ice on the sea surface, as opposed to the sea ice extent which measures the area with at or greater than 15% sea ice coverage. It's a little more problematic to get a good handle on sea ice area during the melting season because of melt ponds atop the ice appearing to be open water.  Regardless, the sea ice area since the beginning of the satellite record, one line color for each year from 1979 to the present, is shown next (2012 through 30 June only).


There's nothing inconsistent with the notion of rapid sea ice loss in this particular graphic.

Coming up in the short range for Arctic sea ice

On average this year, ice has been tending to move toward the Fram Strait, east of Greenland. This results in older, thicker ice exiting into the North Atlantic where it then melts in the warmer waters of the North Atlantic Drift current (a northeastward extension of the Gulf Stream).  This can be seen in animations of satellite imagery and in the drift of research buoys as they are tracked in the Arctic Ocean basin.  The latter can be seen in the next graphic, which I've annotated with the general direction of the buoys this year.


The NOAA north pole webcams and weather instruments have tracked along the green line, their ending position indicated by the tip of the green arrow.  Temperatures recorded by the NOAA instruments have been running near freezing for the last several days.  A picture from one of the webcams for 1 July is shown below.


More recently, melt ponds have become evident in photos taken from the webcams, as you can see here.

Short range forecasts for the coming seven days indicate that conditions will become more conducive to ice melt during this period, with high pressure and more solar insolation than during the last couple of weeks.


I was asked in the comments from the last diary to talk about the Greenland Ice Sheet and have begun to look at some stories and journal articles about recent research as to its state and potential future.  Look for a diary on that in the next week or two.

Originally posted to billlaurelMD on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:54 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech, Climate Hawks, and Community Spotlight.

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