NOAA: “New and Different Climate State” for the Arctic
The 2010 update of Arctic Report Card of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is out: J. Richter-Menge & J.E. Overland (eds.), Arctic Report Card 2010 (NOAA: 2010) (compete report in pdf file). Its conclusion in a sentence: “Return to previous Arctic conditions is unlikely.”
Central among the problems is the loss of ice cover. A permanent ice cap reflected solar energy back into space. A dark ocean or land mass in its place, by contrast, absorbs the solar energy and heats the surrounding atmosphere. The warmer atmosphere in turn melts more ice cover.
Average temperatures again reached record levels. This was the warmest year in Greenland generally and the capital, Nuuk, recorded its warmest year in at least 138 years, when record-keeping began in 1873. (p 55.) Permafrost temperatures have continued the warming trend of the last several decades in Alaska, northwest Canada, Siberia and Northern Europe, “with a significant acceleration in the warming of permafrost at many Arctic coastal locations during the last five years.” (p. 29.) Snow cover continues to decrease: “A combination of low winter snow accumulation and warm spring temperatures created a newrecord low spring snow cover duration (SCD) over the Arctic in 2010, since satellite observations began in 1966.” (p 43.) “Glaciers and ice caps in Arctic Canada are continuing to lose mass at a rate that has been increasing since 1987 …” As a result significant ice-shelf breakups continue. (p 48.)
The warming of the arctic seems to have reversed prevailing wind patterns that separate cold arctic climate from mid-temperate regions. Higher pressures over the arctic seem to have eliminated the previously normal west-to-east jet stream which provided a barrier between the arctic and temperate zones in the northern hemisphere. As a result, there is now a new connectivity between the arctic climate and northern temperate climate:
“This allowed cold air from the Arctic to penetrate all the way into Europe, eastern China, and Washington DC. As a result, December 2009 and February 2010 exhibited extremes in both warm and cold temperatures with record-setting snow across lower latitudes. Northern Eurasia (north of 50° latitude to the Arctic coast) and North America (south of 55° latitude) were particularly cold (monthly anomalies of -2°C to -10°C). Arctic regions, on the other hand, had anomalies of +4°C to +12°C. This change in wind directions is called the Warm Arctic-Cold Continents climate pattern and has happened previously only three times before in the last 160 years.” (p 13.)
You can read the report for yourself, but the snippets I provided ought to be a sobering call to action to a society that operates to preserve its own welfare. If our rulers take any of this into account, however, they are more likely to be heartened by how much cheaper it will be to drill in ANWR in warmer temperatures. In fact, the push for drilling is considered by a “grass roots organization” as the perfect way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its wildlife refuge status.