This Week in Ice: Dec. 24, 2017 – Jan 6, 2018

Ok, so this is not a week in ice, it’s This Fortnight in Ice. A combination of the holidays and, quite frankly, distress over what is clearly a wide-spread, vigorous, and alarming effort to misinform the public about Climate Change required me to take a breather.

Yes, it has been cold. No, it doesn’t disprove that Global Warming is real.

Here are some links to share with your misinformed uncle that explain why the extreme weather we’re experiencing in the US only supports that we are in the grip of anthropogenic Climate Change. (I’ve included some more general links, too.)

Turns out, loss of polar ice affects the jet stream.

polar-vortex-illustration-780_noaa

The polar vortex is an area of low pressure and cold air over the polar regions. When winds that keep colder air over the Arctic become less stable, cold air can dip farther south. Credit: NOAA

Of course, while we have been shivering in the eastern US, most of the planet has been experiencing warmer than average temperatures. Here’s today’s global map showing the temperature anomaly. Most parts of the world are warmer than average.

anom

Credit: ClimateReanalyzer.Org, University of Maine, Climate Change Institute

This includes the Arctic.

temp
This plot shows the departure from average air temperatures (at the 925 hPa level) in degrees Celsius for December 2017. Yellows and reds indicate higher than average temperatures; blues and purples indicate lower than average temperatures.
Credit: NSIDC courtesy NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory Physical Sciences Division

 

Sea Ice

ARCTIC

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that Arctic sea ice extent for December was the second lowest on record (satellite data 1979 to present).

decline

Monthly December ice extent for 1979 to 2017 shows a decline of 3.7 percent per decade.
Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Kevin Pluck has incorporated December’s data into another great visualization:

While the satellite data only extends back to 1979, using maps, ship reports, and other records, NOAA has published monthly estimates of sea ice extent from 1850 to 2013.

longer

This figure shows departures from 1850 to 2013 calendar-month averages of Arctic sea ice extent as a function of year (x-axis) and calendar month (y-axis). The color bar at the right shows magnitudes of departures from the average.
Credit: J. E. Walsh, F. Fetterer, J. S. Stewart, W. L. Chapman. 2016. Geographical Review; after a figure by J. Stroeve, National Snow and Ice Data Center

This image brings it home:

worlds

These sea ice concentration maps compare the lowest September minimum Arctic sea ice extents for the periods 1850 to 1900, 1901 to 1950, 1951 to 2000, and 2000 to 2013.
Credit: F. Fetterer/National Snow and Ice Data Center, NOAA

Current conditions:

Capture
Credit: NSIDC

arc

Credit: NSIDC

ANTARCTIC

Antarctic December sea ice was the fourth lowest on record.

ant

Credit: NSIDC

arc

Credit: NSIDC

And here’s another animation by Kevin Pluck showing the global sea ice anomaly and comparing it to countries of similar size.

Icebergs & Ice Shelves

NASA has provided a stunning new shot of the iceberg formerly known as B-44, which has now broken into numerous smaller bergs. B-44 calved from the accelerating Pine Island Glacier back in September and quickly broke up.

NASA glaciologist Chris Shuman says that warm water in the polynya (open water in an area of sea ice) likely caused the speedy breakup of the iceberg.

pig

Dec. 15, 2017                                                                     Credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Landsat 8

Schuman estimates the iceberg is about 315 meters (1005 feet) thick, with approximately 49 meters (about 160 feet) above the water’s surface.

Here’s the breakup in action:

pineisland_oli_2017271_353_anim

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory, from 5 Landsat 8 images over the last 4 months.

Iceberg A-68A nudged up against the Larsen C ice shelf, from which it (A-68, a slightly larger berg) calved back in July. A-68A is about the size of Delaware.

Watch a short video about the Larsen C ice shelf http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/content/view/embedjw/493291” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>here.

I am very excited about the British Antarctic Survey’s upcoming expedition to the Larsen C ice shelf to explore the benthic diversity (the variety of fauna on the sea floor) in an area that, up until the calving of A-68, was covered by the thick ice shelf. I cannot wait to see what they find! If you’re interested, you can follow using hashtag #LarsenCBenthos on Twitter.

Two other polar news stories worth your time:

And lastly, during the holiday, I began a series of sea ice watercolor sketches:

IMG_7258

I am tweeting as I finish each one, with info about sea ice. Here’s the link if you’d like to follow my ongoing Sea Ice Sketch project:

I would like to wish all of you a safe, peaceful, and Happy New Year! Thank you for reading POLAR BIRD.

This is truly a labor of love, but if you’d like to support my work, please visit my Patreon page.

As always, I am not a scientist but a writer/illustrator and science communicator passionately in love with sea ice. I welcome input and corrections from and connections with polar scientists as I learn more about this remarkable and vital part of our planet and bring this knowledge to a wider audience. 

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