New research first to relate Antarctic sea ice melt to weather change in tropics

Diminishing sea ice translates to warmer ocean, more rain, and stronger trade winds

University of California – San Diego

 Pancake ice in Andvord Bay, Antarctica Credit: Maria Stenzel

Pancake ice in Andvord Bay, Antarctica Credit: Maria Stenzel

Arctic and Antarctic ice loss will account for about one-fifth of the warming that is projected to happen in the tropics, according to a new study led by Mark England, a polar climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, and Lorenzo Polvani, the Maurice Ewing and J. Lamar Worzel Professor of Geophysics at Columbia Engineering, England’s doctoral supervisor.

While there is a growing body of research showing how the loss of Arctic sea ice affects other parts of the planet, this study is the first to also consider the long-range effect of Antarctic sea ice melt, the research team said.

“We think this is a game-changer as it shows that ice loss at both poles is crucial to understanding future tropical climate change,” England said of the study funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation. “Our study will open a hitherto unexplored direction and motivate the science community to study the large effects that Antarctic sea ice loss will have on the climate system.”

The years 2017 and 2018 set records for minimum sea ice extent in Antarctica. England and colleagues from Columbia University’s School of Engineering, Colorado State University, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado used computer simulations to see what scenarios play out near the equator if that decline continues through the end of the century. They found that Antarctic sea ice loss combines with Arctic sea ice loss to create unusual wind patterns in the Pacific Ocean that will suppress the upward movement of deep cold ocean water. This will trigger surface ocean warming, especially in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Warming there is a well-known hallmark of the El Niño climate pattern that often brings intense rains to North and South America and droughts to Australia and other western Pacific countries.

As that surface ocean water warms, it will also create more precipitation. Overall, the researchers believe the ice loss at both poles will translate to a warming of the surface ocean of 0.5? (0.9?) at the equator and add more than 0.3 millimeters (0.01 inches) of rain per day in the same region.

This study joins several new analyses of the global impact of polar ice loss, including a January analysis by Scripps Oceanography physicist Charles Kennel suggesting that shrinking Arctic ice might change key characteristics of El Niño in the future.

###

From EurekAlert!

Advertisements

46 thoughts on “New research first to relate Antarctic sea ice melt to weather change in tropics

    • Thank you, Paul. My thoughts exactly.

      When climate researchers want to confirm their beliefs, they program a computer model to do so.

      Regards,
      Bob

      • Bob, “New research first to relate Antarctic sea ice melt to weather change in tropics”

        Didn’t they know before now that that’s how a heat engine works? The polar regions are the radiators of the tropical heat received. They appear to mean that ice melt causes the tropics to heat up. Gee whiz totally wrong-headed, that’s how the tropics cool, duh!

        If they mean heating up the radiators causes the engine to run warmer that wouldn’t qualify as a new discovery. But, to ‘heat up the radiators’ on earth requires melting all the ice first, which in polar winters replenishes itself. This why the tropics basically remain about the same over centuries. Don’t they teach these new sociological climate scientists about enthalpy.

        Don’t they also know that the tropics are cooling right now and both poles are expanding sea ice.

    • They “used computer simulations to see what scenarios play out near the equator if that decline continues through the end of the century”. Poor computers! Do they ever get a good simulation to work on?

      • Engineering models are good because a) they are validated to ensure they model accurately and b) if they are wrong all sorts of sh&t would happen with people probably dying – ask Boeing.

  1. “we think”, “computer simulations”, “the researchers believe”, guess what I believe? OK, you guessed it, I believe Greta can see unicorn farts.

  2. My thoughts are that with less sea ice there is more warm water moving the bottom of the ocean and a warming of the northern areas with higher levels of expression of radiative energy at the poles and which would increase the velocity of water currents which cause a warming and an Atlantification of the Arctic that is occurring and eventually a rapid cooling as the warm waters get exhausted and we move towards a rapid cooling trend as has happened through time. My 2cents.

  3. “warming that is projected to happen”
    “this study is the first”
    “game-changer”
    “computer simulations”
    “researchers believe”
    “suggesting that … might change … in the future”(one of these days)

  4. So this is all based on computer models. Do they have any DATA from the last 30 years or so that correlate changes in tropical weather to sea ice loss in the Arctic or Antarctic? Do they have any data from under the sea to show that cold water upwelling in the tropics is slower in seasons with low sea ice?

    The WUWT page has lots of data showing the temperature profile of the area above 80 degrees north latitude as a function of Julian date for decades into the past. While there is great year-to-year variation in November through April, the temperatures seem to always reach a plateau of 3 to 4 C from June through September every year, with very little year-to-year (or even month-to-month) variation.

    As long as the Arctic Ocean is completely ice-bound, there is very little evaporation or precipitation, and the temperature can vary wildly (but always below freezing) due to alternate advection of warmer air from oceans the south, or colder air from Siberia. But when part of the Arctic Ocean becomes open water in summer, there is increased evaporation, and clouds and precipitation tend to keep the temperatures near the North Pole near the freezing point, year after year.

    The Antarctic is mostly land south of 70 degrees south latitude, and inland temperatures never reach the freezing point. Melting sea ice near the Antarctic coast in summer will tend to increase evaporation and precipitation, but since much of the Antarctic ice cap is over 1,000 meters above sea level, this precipitation will be as snow, even during the summer months.

    From March to September, part of the Arctic sea ice melts, while the Antarctic sea ice increases in area northward; from September to March, the Arctic Ocean nearly completely freezes over, while some of the sea ice near Antarctica melts.

    In the tropics, thunderstorm activity (and tropical storms) move north of the Equator in Northern Hemisphere spring and summer, and south of the Equator in Southern Hemisphere spring and summer. As Willis Eschenbach pointed out a few weeks ago, when ocean surface temperatures exceed about 26 C, thunderstorms tend to form, which brings colder air (and water) down into the ocean, tending to cool the ocean.

    Even if there was somehow less upwelling of cold water from the tropical depths (supposedly due to lack of sea ice near one of the poles), wouldn’t any warm water tend to generate more thunderstorms and tend to cool the surface water in the tropics?

    • Just because you do a linear progression with fudge factors on a computer doesn’t make it a computer calculated model any more than shoving rods through six rows of 12 computers then using that abacus to do the calculations does.

  5. > “We think this is a game-changer as it shows that ice loss at both poles is crucial to understanding future tropical climate change,” England said of the study funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

    I can only hope that the NASA “funding” consisted of an accounting convenience for providing satellite data and not actual NASA money. Regardless, it is refreshing to see the ivory tower types at Scripps admitting that what they do is indeed “a game.” Equally refreshing the admission that we do not understand climate processes.

  6. Curious that while Antarctica apparently warms and melts, at the same time cold downwelling and the strength of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) cold deep currents has been increasing for more than a decade? And that this together with strengthening of the deep cold Humboldt current flowing from Antarctica along the west coast of South America, suggests a general cooling of the AABW? The AABW is 35% of the world’s ocean volume.

    https://ptolemy2.wordpress.com/2020/03/15/somethings-stirring-in-a-deep-atlantic-trench/#comments

  7. … used computer simulations to see what scenarios play out…

    Can we please stop playing computer games and calling it “research”? This team, I’m sure, approached this seriously and constructed the best possible model, and this is an exercise I believe should be pursued. It might even tell us something. But it’s not research. Can we come up with a better name for it? Maybe a publication devoted to such exercises? Of course publish all the assumptions and code and give everyone a chance to tear it apart, if it survives that it may indicate the model outputs tell us something useful. But still, it’s not research.

  8. They are not letting facts get in the way of “modelling”.
    That was a short read. Now back to sleep.

  9. WTHeck 2 years make a long term trend? I squeaked through statistics in college as a History Major. Never wanted to repeat that experience again but I did enjoy and admire the professor. He was the most tweedy Englishman imaginable. Right out of Mr. Chips. First meeting he explained the math intensive nature of statics which caused many liberal arts majors to drop. He also explained the uses and misuses of statistics and gave some interesting examples. The latter made me want to stay. History is full of prestigious BS. Thought it would help if I understood how this was accomplished in the modern era.

    also thought about the raging ego of scientists who do an unrepeated study and call it a game changer. That’s pure bunkum.

  10. And all along I was taught that when ice melts it remains at a CONSTANT temperatures (usually 0 C for pure water at sea-level pressure) while it is absorbing energy from an external source. It is only after all the ice in a given control volume has melted that the control volume can start warming on average.

    Reading the above article, one would think that disappearing (i.e., melting) ice contributes to global warming, to wit: “Arctic and Antarctic ice loss will account for about one-fifth of the warming that is projected to happen in the tropics.” Note the phrase “account for one-fifth of the WARMING”.

    Climate alarmism in rewriting basic thermodynamics of phase change. Good grief!

  11. Fork in the road for climate research? How many forks in the last 2 billion roads?

    Was the big bang a fork in the road?

  12. So, melting ice causes warming.

    For their next study, they’ll show a “link” between ingestion of (untainted) water and death.

      • MJ, please note that the article specifically states ““Arctic and Antarctic ice loss will account for about one-fifth of the warming that is projected to happen in the tropics . . .”

        I wasn’t aware that the albedo associated with ice was that much a factor in calculating future surface air temperatures in the TROPICS, as opposed to the temperate and polar latitudes.

        Perhaps I was misinformed?

        If so, doesn’t that mean that Arctic and Antarctic ice loss will therefore account for much more than one-fifth of warming projected to happen in latitudes away from the tropics?

  13. “…this study is the first to also consider the long-range effect of Antarctic sea ice melt, the research team said…”

    Really? The absolute first? Every other long-range study on future temperature change ignored Antarctic sea ice melt? How is that possible?

  14. When I saw the title of this post I thought that it was going to be another one of those warmening makes it colderer deals. But no! this is something entirely new, the warmening induced coldening is gonna make it hotterer! Thousands of miles away! Phew! Who knew science was so complex?

  15. “As that surface ocean water warms, it will also create more precipitation. “ OK, I agree with that, but I think the “ice loss…. causing warming” part is probably mostly backwards….

Comments are closed.