By WUWT regular “Just The Facts”
In making a couple upgrades to the Sea Ice Page, I made a few observations, and a few questions arose.
Firstly, several weeks ago the following exchange occurred on a Sea Ice News thread:
Just a suggestion for a site improvement, Anthony. Could you put a map of the Arctic on the Sea Ice Page that indicates the various seas that make up the Arctic Ocean? I think that would be useful given the volume of traffic you get and the many times that various seas are referred to by name in the comments. I just spent several minutes Googling the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas and never did get to a map that had the full layout of both seas. Thanks for considering this. (And if it’s already on the site somewhere, could someone will post its location?–If it is on the site already, moving it to the Sea Ice Page, or duplicating it there would seem logical, by the way.)
[REPLY: I find this one helpful, myself. -REP]
As many of you know, WUWT moderator Robert Phelan, aka REP, passed away less than a week later. It is with honor and appreciation that I’ve added the map Bob suggested to the WUWT Sea Ice Page at the head of the Northern Regional Sea Ice section and tagged it accordingly. Thank you for your many contributions REP.
Secondly, I’ve added the following Northern Hemisphere Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly map;
to the Sea Ice Page and noted that there are some quite large Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in the Arctic at present. They appear to centered in four primary areas, the coasts of the Beaufort, Laptev and Kara Seas, as well as the middle of Baffin Bay. There are a multitude of potential explanations these anomalies, let’s take them individually.
1. There’s Less Sea Ice in these areas at present. Both Arctic Sea Ice Extent:
and Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Area;
are currently at their lowest points on the 34 year satellite record. Any areas that were partially or completely were covered with sea ice in prior years, and have now become ice free, would be more likely to have positive Sea Surface Temperature anomalies. It is not clear from the NOAA/ National Weather Service National Centers for Environmental Prediction Sea Surface Temperature website what the base period for the Real-Time Global (RTG) Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies show above is. Bob Tisdale notes that, “NOAA uses the base period of 1971-2000 for sea surface temperature anomalies for its ERSST.v3b and Reynolds OI.v2 data.” If you know what base period is used for the Real-Time Global (RTG) temperature anomalies, please post a link to it in comments below. Base period aside, viewing this Arctic Sea Ice animation;
it appears that most of the areas with large anomalies, were reasonably ice free during this time-frame in the majority of years of the 34 year satellite record, however there are places like the Kara Sea;
which appears bereft of Sea Ice this year. Per the animation above, sea ice clearly encroached much more into many of these areas in prior years, and thus the decrease in Arctic Sea Ice is likely a factor in the current large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies.
2.An “Unusually Strong Storm” that;
“formed off the coast of Alaska on August 5 and tracked into the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it slowly dissipated over the next several days.”
“Arctic storms such as this one can have a large impact on the sea ice, causing it to melt rapidly through many mechanisms, such as tearing off large swaths of ice and pushing them to warmer sites, churning the ice and making it slushier, or lifting warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean.
“‘It seems that this storm has detached a large chunk of ice from the main sea ice pack. This could lead to a more serious decay of the summertime ice cover than would have been the case otherwise, even perhaps leading to a new Arctic sea ice minimum,” said Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist with NASA Goddard. “Decades ago, a storm of the same magnitude would have been less likely to have as large an impact on the sea ice, because at that time the ice cover was thicker and more expansive.'” NASA
Interestingly, Beaufort Sea Ice Extent;
appears to have dropped precipitously between August 14th and 19th, and Chukchi Sea Ice Extent;
appears to have dropped precipitously between August 25th and 28th, both drops being the steepest in the very brief 5 year record. This lends some support to the potential influence of the storm. However, Beaufort Sea Ice Area;
and Chukchi Sea Ice Area;
appear to have experienced a reasonably precipitous summer decline each year of the prior decade, casting doubt on the degree influence of the 2012 storm on the precipitous declines it the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Regardless an “unusually strong storm” that was “tearing off large swaths of ice and pushing them to warmer sites, churning the ice and making it slushier, or lifting warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean” is likely a factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies we currently see.
3. Albedo Feedback is another possible factor in the large Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in the Arctic:
“Viewed in its simplest sense, initial warming will melt some of the Arctic’s highly reflective (high albedo) snow and ice cover, exposing darker underlying surfaces that readily absorb solar energy, leading to further warming and further retreat of snow and ice cover. This feedback can work in reverse whereby initial cooling leads to expansion of the Arctic’s snow and ice cover, leading to further whereby the loss of high albedo/solar energy reflective sea ice exposes low albedo/solar energy absorbing sea water.”
“However, as developed below, Arctic amplification as is presently understood has a suite of causes, operating on different temporal and spatial scales. Prominent among these are expansion or retreat of the Arctic sea ice cover altering vertical heat fluxes between the Arctic Ocean and the overlying atmosphere (Serreze et al., 2009; Screen and Simmonds, 2010a,b), changes in atmospheric and oceanic heat flux convergence (Hurrell, 1996; Graversen et al., 2008; Chylek et al., 2009; Yang et al., 2010), and changes in cloud cover and water vapor content that affect the downward longwave radiation flux (Francis and Hunter, 2006) arising from processes either within the Arctic or in response to alterations in atmospheric energy flux
convergence (Abbot et al., 2009; Graversen and Wang, 2009). Other studies point to impacts of soot on snow (Hansen and Nazarenko, 2004) and of heat absorbing black carbon aerosols in the atmosphere (Shindell and Faluvegi, 2009). Different processes can work together. For example, a change in atmospheric heat flux convergence that leads to warming may result in reduced sea ice extent that furthers the warming.” Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: A research synthesis – Mark C. Serreze and Roger G. Barry
Regardless of the other factors involved in Arctic Amplification, Albedo Feedback is likely a factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in the Arctic.
4. Anthropogenically Warmed River Discharge is another potential factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in the Arctic. For example, a portion of the Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly in the Beaufort Sea;
appears to be coincident with the Mackenzie River delta. A satellite image from June 13th, 2012;
shows tendrils of runoff from the Mackenzie River reaching out into the Beaufort Sea. It is possible that River Discharge from the Mackenzie River has been warmed by anthropogenic influences, e.g.;
“As of 2001, approximately 397,000 people lived in the Mackenzie River basin”
“the heaviest use of the watershed is in resource extraction – oil and gas in central Alberta, lumber in the Peace River headwaters, uranium in Saskatchewan, gold in the Great Slave Lake area and tungsten in the Yukon.”
“Although the entire main stem of the Mackenzie River is undammed, many of its tributaries and headwaters have been developed for hydroelectricity production, flood control and agricultural purposes.”
“The river discharges more than 325 cubic kilometres (78 cu mi) of water each year, accounting for roughly 11% of the total river flow into the Arctic Ocean. The Mackenzie’s outflow holds a major role in the local climate above the Arctic Ocean with large amounts of warmer fresh water mixing with the cold seawater.” Wikipedia – Mackenzie River
“Oil and gas development is already extensive in the basin, primarily in the Alberta and BC portions, and much more is expected in the future. For example, a proposal to develop the vast natural gas reserves that are found in the Mackenzie Delta is currently being evaluated. This will require the development of a pipeline along the Mackenzie, which will also facilitate development of gas resources in NWT (GNWT 2007). Perhaps the most significant current fossil energy development at this time is the oil sands (also known as the “tar sands”) in Alberta, near the City of Fort McMurray (Figure 1). An estimated 300 billion barrels of recoverable fossil energy is found in these deposits (MRBB 2003). Development is proceeding rapidly. At the end of 2009, four mines were in operation, with three additional mines approved or under development. In 2008, these projects were producing 1.3 million barrels/day. Production of 3 million barrels/day is expected by 2018, with 2030 production levels reaching 5 million barrels/day by 2030 (Holroyd and Simieritsch 2009; Government of Alberta 2010).”TRANSBOUNDARY WATER GOVERNANCE IN THE MACKENZIE RIVER BASIN, CANADA – Rob C. de Loë –
It is also of note that;
“The Beaufort Sea contains major gas and petroleum reserves beneath the seabed, a continuation of proven reserves in the nearby Mackenzie River and North Slope. The Beaufort Sea was first explored for sub-shelf hydrocarbons in the 1950s and estimated to contain about 250 km3 (60 cu mi) of oil and 300,000 km3 (72,000 cu mi) of natural gas under its coastal shelf. Offshore drilling began in 1972; about 70 wells were set up by 1980s and 200 wells by 2000.” Wikipedia – Beaufort Sea
In terms of the Laptev Sea
“The mighty Lena River, with its great delta, is the biggest river flowing into the Laptev Sea, and is the second largest river in the Russian Arctic after Yenisei. Other important rivers include the Khatanga, the Anabar, the Olenyok or Olenek, the Omoloy and the Yana.”
“The Laptev Sea is a major source of arctic sea ice. With an average outflow of 483,000 km2 per year over the period 1979–1995, it contributes more sea ice than the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, East Siberian Sea and Chukchi Sea combined. Over this period, the annual outflow fluctuated between 251,000 km2 in 1984–85 and 732,000 km2 in 1988–89. The sea exports substantial amounts of sea ice in all months but July, August and September.”
“Most of the river runoff (about 70% or 515 km3/year) is contributed by the Lena River. Other major contributions are from Khatanga (more than 100 km3), Olenyok (35 km3), Yana (>30 km3) and Anabar (20 km3), with other rivers contributing about 20 km3. Owing to the ice melting seasoning, About 90% of the annual runoff occurs between June and September with 35–40% in August alone, whereas January contributes only 5%.”
“The sea is characterized by the low water temperatures, which ranges from −1.8 °C (28.8 °F) in the north to −0.8 °C (30.6 °F) in the south-eastern parts. The medium water layer is warmer, up to 1.5 °С because it is fed by the warm Atlantic waters. It takes them 2.5–3 years to reach the Laptev Sea from their formation near Spitsbergen. The deeper layer is colder at about −0.8 °С. In summer, the surface layer in the ice-free zones warms up by the sun up to 8–10 °С in the bays and 2–3 °С in the open sea, and remains close to 0 °С under ice. The water salinity is significantly affected by the thawing of ice and river runoff. The latter amounts to about 730 km3 and would form a 135 cm freshwater layer over the entire sea; it is the second largest in the world after the Kara sea. The salinity values vary in winter from 20–25‰ (parts per thousand) in the south-east to 34‰ in the northern parts of the sea; it decreases in summer to 5–10‰ and 30–32‰ respectively.”
“Sea currents form a cyclone consisting of the southward stream near Severnaya Zemlya which reaches the continental coast and flows along it from west to east. It is then amplified by the Lena River flow and diverts to the north and north-west toward the Arctic Ocean. A small part of the cyclone leaks through the Sannikov Strait to the East Siberian Sea. The cyclone has a speed of 2 cm/s which is decreasing toward the center. The center of the cyclone drifts with time that slightly alters the flow character.” Wikipedia – Laptev Sea
“Ye et al. (2003) and Yang et al. (2004) recently studied the effect of reservoir regulations in the Lena and Yenisei basins. They found that, for instance, because of a large dam in the Lena River basin, summer peak discharge in the Vului valley (a tributary in the west Lena basin) has been reduced by 10%–80%, and winter low flow has been increased by 7–120 times during the cold months. They also reported that, because of influences of large reservoirs, discharge records collected at the Lena and Yenisei basin outlets do not always represent natural changes and variations; they tend to underestimate the natural runoff trends in summer and overestimate the trends in both winter and fall seasons. Operations of large reservoirs may also affect annual flow regime particularly during and immediately after the dam construction (Ye et al. 2003; Yang et al. 2004).Discharge Characteristics and Changes over the Ob River Watershed in Siberia
In terms of the Kara Sea;
“The Ob and Yenisei Rivers in north-central Russia are among the larger rivers that drain into the Arctic Ocean, though past research suggested that they do not necessarily carry as much organic matter and sediment as other rivers. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite acquired this image of the rivers as they dumped tan sediments and dark brown dissolved organic material (DOM) into the Kara Sea on June 29, 2012.” River Outflow to the Kara Sea
“is the largest river system flowing to the Arctic Ocean. It is the central of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean (the other two being the Ob River and the Lena River).”
“The upper reaches, subject to rapids and flooding, pass through sparsely populated areas. The middle section is controlled by a series of massive hydroelectric dams fueling significant Russian primary industry. Partly built by gulag labor in Soviet times, industrial contamination remains a serious problem in an area hard to police. Moving on through sparsely-populated taiga, the Yenisei swells with numerous tributaries and finally reaches the Kara Sea in desolate tundra where it is icebound for more than half the year.”
Wikipedia – Yenisei River
“The Sayano–Shushenskaya Dam is located on the Yenisei River, near Sayanogorsk in Khakassia, Russia. It is the largest power plant in Russia and the sixth-largest hydroelectric plant in the world, by average power generation.”
Wikipedia – Sayano–Shushenskaya Dam
Another tributary, the Tuul passes through the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator while the Egiin Gol drains Lake Khövsgöl (500 km) downstream, where the 124 m (407 ft) dam built in the 1960s produces 4500 MW. The resultant reservoir is nicknamed Dragon Lake because of its outline. The tributary Oka and Iya rivers, which rise on the north slopes of the Eastern Sayan Mountains, form the ‘jaws’ and 400 km (250 mi) of the Angara forms the ‘tail’. There are newer dams almost as large at Ust-Ilimsk 250 km (155 mi) downstream (also damming the tributary Ilim river) and Boguchany a further 400 km (250 mi) downstream (not operational). Further dams are planned but the environmental consequences of completely taming the Angara are leading to protests which may prevent funding.
Angarsk, the center of the expanding Eastern Siberian oil industry and site of a huge Yukos-owned refinery, lies 50 km (31 mi) downstream of Irkutsk. A major pipeline takes oil west, and a new one is being built to carry oil east for supply to Japan from the Sea of Japan port of Nakhodka. The exact potential of Eastern Siberia is unknown, but two new major fields are the Kovyktinskoye field near Zhigalovo 200 km (125 mi) north of Irkutsk and the extremely remote Verkhnechonskoye field 500 km (310 mi) north of Irkutsk on the Central Siberian Plateau.Wikipedia – Yenisei River
The Ob is used mostly for irrigation, drinking water, hydroelectric energy, and fishing (the river hosts more than 50 species of fish).
The navigable waters within the Ob basin reach a total length of 9,300 miles (15,000 km). The importance of the Ob basin navigation for transportation was particularly great before the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway, since, despite the general south-to-north direction of the flow of Ob and most of its tributaries, the width of the Ob basin provided for (somewhat indirect) transportation in the east-west direction as well. Until the early 20th century, a particularly important western river port was Tyumen, located on the Tura River, a tributary of the Tobol.”
“The Trans-Siberian Railway, once completed, provided for more direct, year-round transportation in the east-west direction. But the Ob river system still remained important for connecting the huge expanses of Tyumen Oblast and Tomsk Oblast with the major cities along the Trans-Siberian route, such as Novosibirsk or Omsk. In the second half of the 20th century, construction of rail links to Labytnangi, Tobolsk, and the oil and gas cities of Surgut, and Nizhnevartovsk provided more railheads, but did not diminish the importance of the waterways for reaching places still not served by the rail.
A dam was built near Novosibirsk in 1956, which created the then-largest artificial lake in Siberia, called Novosibirsk Reservoir.”Wikipedia – Ob River
Lastly, in terms of Baffin Bay , it is an;
“arm of the North Atlantic Ocean with an area of 266,000 square miles (689,000 square km), extending southward from the Arctic for 900 miles (1,450 km) between the Greenland coast (east) and Baffin Island (west). The bay has a width varying between 70 and 400 miles (110 and 650 km). Davis Strait (south) leads from the bay to the Atlantic, whereas Nares Strait (north) leads to the Arctic Ocean. A pit at the bay’s centre, the Baffin Hollow, plunges to a depth of 7,000 feet (2,100 m), and the bay, although little exploited by humans because of its hostile environment, is of considerable interest to geologists studying the evolution of the North American continent.” Wikipedia – Ob River
The lack of apparent River Discharge and human influence on Baffin Bay Sea Surface Temperature aside, Anthropogenically Warmed River Runoff is likely a factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies seen along the coasts of the Beaufort, Laptev and Kara Seas.
5. Northern Polar Lower Troposphere Temperature Anomalies;
have increased by .343K/C per decade, and Lower Troposphere Temperature Anomalies appear to have been more than a degree K/C warmer than average for much of this year’s melt season. However, heat exchange between cold dense ocean water and a warmer much less dense atmosphere, would occur at slow pace, and it is inconceivable that a degree C or so anomaly in Atmospheric Temperatures could result in 6, 7 and 8 degree C Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies. With this said, increased Lower Troposphere Temperature Anomalies are likely a factor in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies.
6. Tundra Vegetation Feedback. Bhatt et al. “Circumpolar Arctic Tundra Vegetation Change Is Linked to Sea Ice Decline (2010)”;
“show that pronounced warming has occurred along Arctic coasts between 1982 and 2008. The terrestrial warming, argued as a response to removing the regional chilling effect of sea ice and expressed in terms of a summer warmth index, has had an impact on tundra vegetation as demonstrated by increasing values of the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). NDVI represents the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation absorbed by the plant canopy. There has been a 10–15% increase in maximum NDVI along the Beaufort Sea coast of northern Alaska where sea ice concentrations have strongly declined during 1982– 2008 (Fig. 10). Note that altered vegetation may itself contribute to Arctic warming through impacts on surface albedo and the sensible heat flux (Foley et al., 1994; Levis et al., 2000). Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: A research synthesis – Mark C. Serreze and Roger G. Barry
Tundra Vegetation Feedback, is likely a minor factor, if one at all, in the large Arctic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies, though interesting to think about.
Beyond the conjectures above, can anyone offer further factors that might explain the large Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies currently seen in the Arctic, as well as the precipitous declines in Sea Ice Extent that occurred the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas during August? Also, if you can offer any evidence that supports or refutes the possible factors posed above, please present them in comments below, preferably with links/data in support.
For more information visit the WUWT Sea Ice Page and other WUWT Reference Pages. If you have have any suggested additions or improvements to any of the WUWT Reference Pages, please let us know in comments below.