Remember the Arctic cyclone that busted up sea ice in 2012? It seems such storms are more common than previously thought

News media back then seemed to think this was a new thing, and downplayed the role of the cyclone is breaking up sea ice, preferring to attribute it to the omnipotent global warming. Apparently it’s just business as usual for the Arctic.

From the Ohio Supercomputer Center

Weather data at the Ohio Supercomputer Center reveals in new study hundreds of smaller storms that had previously escaped detection

From 2000 to 2010, about 1,900 cyclones churned across the top of the world each year, leaving warm water and air in their wakes – and melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

That’s about 40 percent more of these Arctic storms than previously thought, according to a new study of vast troves of weather data that previously were synthesized at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC).

A 40 percent difference in the number of cyclones could be important to anyone who lives north of 55 degrees latitude – the area of the study, which includes the northern reaches of Canada, Scandinavia and Russia, along with the state of Alaska.

The finding is also important to researchers who want to get a clear picture of current weather patterns, and a better understanding of potential climate change in the future, explained David Bromwich, Ph.D., professor of geography at The Ohio State University and senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center.

The cyclone study was presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in December, in a poster co-authored by his colleagues Natalia Tilinina and Sergey Gulev of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Moscow State University.

“We now know there were more cyclones than previously thought, simply because we’ve gotten better at detecting them,” said Bromwich, who amassed the weather database and consulted on the cyclone study.

Cyclones are zones of low atmospheric pressure that have wind circulating around them. They can form over land or water, and go by different names depending on their size and where they are located. In Columbus, Ohio, for instance, a low-pressure system in December would simply be called a winter storm. Extreme low-pressure systems formed in the tropical waters can be called hurricanes or typhoons.

How could anyone miss a storm as big as a cyclone? You might think they are easy to detect, but as it turns out, many of the cyclones that were missed were small in size and short in duration, or occurred in unpopulated areas. Yet researchers need to know about all the storms that have occurred if they are to get a complete picture of storm trends in the region.

“We can’t yet tell if the number of cyclones is increasing or decreasing, because that would take a multi-decade view. We do know that, since 2000, there have been a lot of rapid changes in the Arctic – Greenland ice melting, tundra thawing – so we can say that we’re capturing a good view of what’s happening in the Arctic during the current time of rapid changes,” Bromwich said.

Bromwich leads the Arctic System Reanalysis (ASR) collaboration, which uses statistics and computer algorithms to combine and re-examine diverse sources of historical weather information, such as satellite imagery, weather balloons, buoys and weather stations on the ground. ASR provides researchers with high-resolution information against which researchers can validate climate prediction tools.

“There is actually so much information, it’s hard to know what to do with it all. Each piece of data tells a different part of the story – temperature, air pressure, wind – and we try to take all of these data and blend them together in a coherent way,” Bromwich said.

To generate the complex visualizations, the ASR group accessed thousands of cores on OSC’s HP-Intel Xeon “Oakley Cluster” and IBM 1350 Opteron “Glenn Cluster” over the last few years to run the complex Polar Weather Research and Forecasting model (Polar WRF). Polar WRF was created by the Polar Meteorology Group of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State and is a modification of the Weather Research and Forecasting model widely used by researchers and most federal agencies.

The ASR group analyzed 17 surface variables, 71 forecast surface variables, 13 forecast upper air variables and 3 soil variables. The data accumulated for and generated by the model filled hundreds of terabytes of disk space on the center’s IBM Mass Storage System. The combined data are made publicly available to scientists.

Two such scientists are cyclone experts Tilinina and Gulev, who worked with Bromwich to look for evidence of telltale changes in wind direction and air pressure in the ASR data. They compared the results to three other data re-analysis groups, all of which combine global weather data.

“We found that ASR provides a new vision of the cyclone activity in high latitudes, showing that the Arctic is much more densely populated with cyclones than was suggested by the global re-analyses,” Tilinina said.

One global data set used for comparison was ERA-Interim, which is generated by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. Focusing on ERA-Interim data for latitudes north of 55 degrees, Tilinina and Gulev identified more than 1,200 cyclones per year between 2000 and 2010. For the same time period, ASR data yielded more than 1,900 cyclones per year.

When they narrowed their search to cyclones that occurred directly over the Arctic Ocean, they found more than 200 per year in ERA-Interim, and a little more than 300 per year in ASR.

There was good agreement between all the data sets when it came to big cyclones, the researchers found, but the Arctic-centered ASR appeared to catch smaller, shorter-lived cyclones that escaped detection in the larger, global data sets. The ASR data also provided more detail on the biggest cyclones, capturing the very beginning of the storms earlier and tracking their decay longer.

Extreme Arctic cyclones are of special concern to climate scientists because they melt sea ice, Bromwich said.

“When a cyclone goes over water, it mixes the water up. In the tropical latitudes, surface water is warm, and hurricanes churn cold water from the deep up to the surface. In the Arctic, it’s the exact opposite: there’s warmer water below, and the cyclone churns that warm water up to the surface, so the ice melts.”

As an example, he cited the especially large cyclone that hit the Arctic in August 2012, which scientists believe played a significant role in the record retreat of sea ice that year.

ASR is a collaborative effort involving Ohio State, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Colorado-Boulder. It is funded by the National Science Foundation as an International Polar Year project.

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34 Responses to Remember the Arctic cyclone that busted up sea ice in 2012? It seems such storms are more common than previously thought

  1. 1957chev says:

    Alarmists have never been the type, to let reality stand in their way….

  2. Sweet Old Bob says:

    Another “Inconvient Truth” ?
    More (karma) please!

  3. Jimmy Haigh. says:

    In the fairly near future,at the end of all the madness, when no one ever believed in CAGW anyway, and after countless trillions of dollars have been wasted needlessly, the “science” will have evolved to the position that those of us with any common sense had 25 years ago: That CAGW is a total crock of shit.

  4. Leon Brozyna says:

    What an amazing concept … there are powerful storms in the Arctic instead of it being a winter wonderland … whoda thunk.

  5. Lessee. TSi has an unexpected effect, clouds have an unexpected effect, there are hundreds more Arctic cyclones than they thought, the “#spititofmawson Antarctic ice was unexpected…

    I’m glad the science is settled, or the planet might explode in a burst of sheer chaos.

  6. Alan Robertson says:

    A preliminary report on this information was given at the Fall AGU meeting and reported on here at WUWT:: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/12/12/ice-melting-arctic-cyclones-more-common-than-previously-thought/

  7. Paul Pierett says:

    It would be interesting if they could build hypotheses into the Ice Age with their research.

  8. ossqss says:

    The statement of the upwelling melting the ice, while certainly true, is misleading. The transport of ice to lower latitudes from larger storms is significant. I remember a quiet press release several years ago,,,,,,,,,

    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/quikscat-20071001.html

  9. Bob Greene says:

    If they had let the sentence about not having historical data end without discussions of rapid Arctic changes, it would have been an excellent report. As it is, I’m still happy to see that some of the billions dumped into climate research end up with possibly useful information.

    Warmer, less dense, water below colder (denser) water in the Arctic??? Layering due to lack of mixing?

  10. yam says:

    Do tropical cyclones get as large as the pictured storm?

  11. Katherine says:

    Alan Robertson says:
    January 16, 2014 at 6:25 pm
    A preliminary report on this information was given at the Fall AGU meeting and reported on here at WUWT:: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/12/12/ice-melting-arctic-cyclones-more-common-than-previously-thought/

    Thanks. I thought claims sounded familiar and was about to go looking for that post.

  12. Mark says:

    The supposed experts missed these storms, but we’re supposed to believe their predictions. I don’t think so.

  13. Henry Clark says:

    The distortion effect of near-random storms on sea ice is maximized by the bulk of arctic ice reporting being through cherry-picking a single month minimum alone per year. In contrast, the annual average of ice extent is more informative, as visible 3/4ths of the way down in http://img250.imagevenue.com/img.php?image=45311_expanded_overview2_122_15lo.jpg

  14. SIG INT Ex says:

    A bad day for ‘The’ Tren[d]berth.

    And a bad day for the 1998 equatorial Pacific ocean temperatures: a combination of instrument change, calibration mismatch and administrative change artifacts from TOA (US) to TRITON (France) to JAMSTEC (Japan). I.e. another ‘inch to millimeter conversion debacle’ and the “NASA probe flies off into the uncharted heavens at taxpayer expense yet again.”

    Ha ha

  15. Brian H says:

    They should turn Eureka! loose on all that data they don’t know what to do with.

  16. 4TimesAYear says:

    Why am I not surprised?

  17. MattS says:

    “Cyclones are zones of low atmospheric pressure that have wind circulating around them. They can form over land or water, and go by different names depending on their size and where they are located. In Columbus, Ohio, for instance, a low-pressure system in December would simply be called a winter storm.”

    If it were compact enough and in June instead of December it might be called a tornado.

  18. Steven Mosher says:

    Huh. These are model results. These models rely on physics that skeptics deny.

  19. M Courtney says:

    “We can’t yet tell if the number of cyclones is increasing or decreasing, because that would take a multi-decade view. We do know that, since 2000, there have been a lot of rapid changes in the Arctic – Greenland ice melting, tundra thawing – so we can say that we’re capturing a good view of what’s happening in the Arctic during the current time of rapid changes,” Bromwich said.

    Sounds like proper science to me; observations, interpretation and recognising the limits of the findings.
    Let’s not be too cynical here.

  20. James Bull says:

    If you want to stop the heat under your porridge from making it stick or worse burn you stir it and so spread it throughout and some escapes at the top, so is is with the climate.
    Willis, Bob and others have done some great posts about the movement of heat from the tropics to the poles and out to space and this system doesn’t need anyone to stir it, it does it itself. How COOL is that?

    James Bull

  21. mark H says:

    BBC Hardtalk,Sat and Sunday,1630 and 1930 GMT.Interview with Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo.A quote from the trailer “we will find that Arctic ice is the lowest ever recorded in human history”.Should be fun to watch.

  22. mark H says:

    Sorry,tomorrow 18th and 19th of January.

  23. asybot says:

    I am not a scientist, ( these guys are not enhancing that name btw) So why didn’t any of them do this little bit of math?:
    2000 to 2010, 1900 “cyclones”. If my math is correct that is 190 “cyclones” each year, that means there was at least a “cyclone” every second day, (okay, even slightly less then 2 days). What really bothers me is the fact that this David Bromwhich Phd. has people supporting this. Are his co-authors or supporters not allowed to question each other? (let alone their boss?).
    We have had: Global Warming, Climate Change, Polar Vortexes. And now hundreds of cyclones every year, I am trying to find a new money sucking word as I speak. I am sure these guys have many , many more people working on that “project” alone and have morning meetings to find out if there is a new word of the day. (have they used blocking high’s, jet stream permutations and a fart in a wind storm yet? just asking). This is beyond ridiculous. BTW, there are as all of you know standards to get to before the word “Cyclone” is designated. (just in case D.B. is reading this).

  24. Bloke down the pub says:

    Off the top of my head, I can’t remember the correct term for the effect but what I see here is a gradual reduction in ice cover leading to the remaining ice being more susceptible to disruption by storms. Once there is enough open water, a storm will lead to greater mixing of the thermal layers which leads to a net loss of energy(warm surface water losing energy quicker than cold water). The more energy released to the atmosphere, the more storms. When enough energy has been lost, the surface ice returns to its normal extent and the whole cycle starts again.

  25. philjourdan says:

    5 per day? I guess they are small in nature, but when there are no wind breaks, even a small breeze can make changes.

  26. NotAGolfer says:

    This model is screwed up, because the thermodynamic equations for a radiative energy balance (Beer-Lambert) include any back radiation effects. It’s a bulk equation, which requires no additional terms. But in every paper I read, they try to add that effect in again.

  27. daveburton says:

    “…vast troves of weather data that previously were synthesized at the Ohio Supercomputer Center…”

    Synthesized?

  28. Phil. says:

    Bob Greene says:
    January 16, 2014 at 7:35 pm
    If they had let the sentence about not having historical data end without discussions of rapid Arctic changes, it would have been an excellent report. As it is, I’m still happy to see that some of the billions dumped into climate research end up with possibly useful information.

    Warmer, less dense, water below colder (denser) water in the Arctic??? Layering due to lack of mixing?

    Cold, fresh water over denser, warmer salt water.

  29. Gail Combs says:

    “they found more than 200 per year in ERA-Interim, and a little more than 300 per year in ASR.”

    That is about one a day or at least a couple a week of decent sized ones. Pot really gets stirred up there doesn’t it?

    I wonder if some of these are as small as the dust devils I see whipping up my farm lane on occasion. Large open flat area, ‘warm’ open water, ice and a few active volcanoes mixed in. Yes I can see a bit of wind developing.

  30. Jimbo says:

    As an example, he cited the especially large cyclone that hit the Arctic in August 2012, which scientists believe played a significant role in the record retreat of sea ice that year.

    Then in September 2013 Arctic ice extent and volume was up around 50%
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25383373

    Q) Shouldn’t Arctic amplification (darker water, absorb heat, more melt spiral etc.) have meant less extent and volume in September 2013? Serious question.

    2013
    “Daily mean temperatures for the Arctic area north of the 80th northern parallel, plotted with daily climate values calculated from the period 1958-2002.”
    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/plots/meanTarchive/meanT_2013.png

  31. Gail Combs says:

    Jimbo, what is interesting is the DMI temperature graph. During the summer it was consistant and cooler that normal. In winter you get wild swings compared to the average. Looks like water was moderating the temperature and is a bit cooler.
    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php
    (click on year 2013 if needed)

  32. Jimbo says:

    Gail Combs,
    I have had a look at all the years previously and 2013 summer was the coldest on the DMI record since 1958 as per the area of description. It really does make me wonder about how soon Arctic amplification will kick in.

    Guardian – 17 September 2012
    This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates“.
    [Professor Peter Wadhams - Cambridge University]

    FT Magazine – August 2, 2013
    “It could even be this year or next year but not later than 2015 there won’t be any ice in the Arctic in the summer,” he said, pulling out a battered laptop to show a diagram explaining his calculations, which he calls “the Arctic death spiral”.
    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/4084c8ee-fa36-11e2-98e0-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2qgxXbRoj

    Arctic sea ice extent and volume up around 50% in 2013 on 2012. He may still be right. :-p
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25383373

  33. Jimbo says:

    Anthony,
    Pierre reports on global sea ice.

    “Recovery! In 2013 Global Sea Ice Extent Was Above Average For First Time In 9 Years – Now Similar To 1986!”
    By P Gosselin on 17. Januar 2014
    http://notrickszone.com/2014/01/17/recovery-in-2013-global-sea-ice-was-above-average-for-first-time-in-9-years-now-similar-to-1986/

  34. Caleb says:

    I think their definition of “cyclone” must include even the smallest low pressure system. I have a hobby of watching arctic weather, and full fledged gales are not all that common. I should have taken better notes, but my guess would be that, at most, you might get one decent storm every two months, out on the Arctic Sea proper. If you include gales at the very edge of the Arctic Sea you would have a higher number, especially at the boundery with the North Atlantic.Gales tend to ride along the edge of the ice, and to weaken once they are not over “warm” water. (During the winter there is big difference between surface temperatures over water and over ice, at times as much as sixty degrees; minus thirty versus plus thirty.)

    At the end of a warm summer there is a strip of open water along the Siberian coast, and as the winter darkness descends storms ride along that open water along the coast. Then, as the coastal waters freeze over from east to west, you notice the storms loose their strength earlier and earlier as they travel east. Once the Laptev Sea is frozen over, that is where they weaken. Once the Kara Sea is frozen over, that is where they weaken. I imagine during a cold AMO, when a lot of the Barents Sea is frozen over, they would weaken even further east.

    The storms that remain strong as they veer north over the Pole itself are more rare, and need to bring along a large pocket of warm and moist air to fuel themselves, while clashing with cold air. It would be interesting to study such storms in detail. One occurred last February, causing some major cracking of the sea ice in the Beaufort Gyre, at the time the air temperatures over the pole were at their absolute lowest. Rather than “melting” the Arctic Sea it seemingly cooled it significantly.

    It would also be interesting to have better data on the temperatures at various levels under the ice. I think it varies quite a bit. The largest inflow is northern tendrils of the Gulf Stream, which is salty water, however some of the world’s largest rivers discharge into the Arctic Ocean, (Mackenzie River in Canada, and the Ob, Yenisei and Lena Rivers of Russia,) which discharge fresh water. I imagine when we read of heat waves in Russia the water in such rivers is warmer, (and even a few tenths of a degree matters, in terms of melting sea ice.) Also, when we read of milder winters as opposed to severe winters in Alaska and Canada, the river waters would be effected. (Some of the largest temperature variations on earth occur in those northern lands that swing between 24-hour-daylight and 24-hour-darkness; in eastern Siberia the swing is between as high as hundred above and as low as eighty below.)

    In the end, I think ice-melt is determined more by the water under the ice than by the air above the ice. The reason the summer gale of 2012 melted more ice than the gale during the summer of 2013 was because the water under the ice was warmer, in 2012. Or that is my opinion. In actual fact we have a great scarcity of data, concerning temperatures at various levels under the ice, and how those temperatures change.

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