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Extraordinarily warm water, as much as 10°F above normal, has entered the Barents sea on the Atlantic side of the Arctic. Sea ice is melting in February in response to the incursion of warm water that originated in the Gulf Stream.
Storm after storm has pounded England and western Europe, smashing the coastline with massive waves and flooding, making this the stormiest winter in the long English weather records which go back to 1766. But there's something happening in the ocean that's even more disturbing than the destruction to Europe. The extreme wind field across the Atlantic this winter is literally driving water that originated in the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean causing sea ice extent on the Atlantic side of the Arctic ocean to decline in the middle of February. Water temperatures reported by NOAA are far above normal from the coast of north America, to the Labrador and Greenland seas, extending all the way into the Arctic ocean. The sea surface temperature anomaly maps are shocking. Water temperatures are more than 10°F above normal near Svalbard in the Arctic ocean. Likewise, Gulf Stream temperatures off of the east coast of North America are stunningly hot.
Sea surface temperatures in the Gulf Stream are greater than 10°F above normal off the east coast of North America
The Norwegian Atlantic current carries hot Gulf stream water mixed with cool water from the north Atlantic, up the coast of Norway. The current then flows north towards Svalbard, in the Arctic, or east towards Murmansk, Russia depending on the storms and winds. This winter, the much stronger than normal winds across the north Atlantic and in the Greenland sea, have spun up the Norwegian Atlantic current to higher than normal speed, driving warm water rapidly  towards both Svalbard and Murmansk.

Temperatures near the north pole were 35°F (20°C) above normal on February 13.

Central Arctic temperatures were about 35°F (20°C) above normal on February 13, 2014, melting ice in the Arctic while the Carolinas were hit by a devastating ice storm.
Surface winds were much stronger than normal across the Atlantic from Nov. 1, 2013 through Jan. 31, 2014. Moreover anomalous cyclonic winds spun up in the Nordic seas, spinning up the warm Norwegian Atlantic current up the coast of Norway and the cold Greenland current down the east coast of Greenland. These winds hastened the export of sea ice from the Arctic and the import of warm Atlantic water into the Arctic.
Northern hemisphere surface vector wind anomalies Nov.13 - Jan.14
Much stronger than normal surface winds across the north Atlantic, and in the Nordic seas between Greenland and Europe, have spun up the ocean currents in the north Atlantic.
The whole Barents sea, the large Arctic sea north of Norway and Murmansk, Russia, is much warmer than normal. This warm water, and warm southerly winds have driven high temperatures above freezing for much of the past week at the Svalbard airport. The average temperature has been about 0°C for a week when the normal temperature is about -16°C. That's an average temperature almost 30°F above normal.
Svalbard temps last 30days 15Feb14
High temperatures reached above 40°F at Svalbard airport, in the high Arctic, this week. Temperature anomalies averaged more than 16 Celsius, almost 30°F above normal, for the week.
The intrusion of warm water and warm air has caused the sea ice to melt and retreat in the Barents sea in the middle of February. If there's no strong recovery in the next few weeks, the area of sea ice in the Barents sea will hit an all time record low this winter.
Barents sea ice area & anomaly. 15Feb14, ice melting.
The area of sea ice in the Arctic Barents sea has started a stunning decline in February, 2014 from a level that was below the record minimum low area for the Barents sea.
Unusually warm weather in Alaska earlier this winter slowed the build up of sea ice around Alaska. The combination of a warmth in Alaska and warmth on the Atlantic side of the Arctic has caused the Arctic sea ice extent to drop to a record minimum for mid-February. Although there was a strong sea ice recovery last summer, because very little ice was exported from the Arctic and the weather was cool, that recovery appears to have been short-lived. Warm pulses of salty Atlantic water flow under the light cold surface layer and melt the ice from below. These warm pulses can increase melting from below for two or three years as the water flows into the Arctic basin 300 to 1000 feet (100 to 300 meters) below the surface. This warm pulse may bring about the collapse of late summer sea ice in the Arctic over the next 2 to 3 years.
Arctic sea ice extent 15Feb14
Arctic sea ice has melted and retreated on the north Atlantic side of the Arctic in response to the intrusion of warm Atlantic water. The Arctic sea ice extent is tied with 2011 for the record low level for February 15.
Last summer's sea ice recovery appears to have been short lived. Japan's accurate JAXA IJIS measurement shows the sea ice extent at an all time low for mid-February.
Japan's JAXA IJIS highly accurate measurement of Arctic sea ice extent shows that recent melting and retreat on the Atlantic side of the Arctic has driven the extent to a record minimum for mid-February.

Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 12:48 PM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and SciTech.

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