Video: Climate, Arctic Death Spiral and Weather Whiplash

The biggest story of our time is the collapse of Arctic sea ice and its impact on our extreme weather (see “CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed“).

“Death spiral” is the right visual metaphor, as the latest monthly update of sea ice volume by creative tech guru Andy Lee Robinson shows:

If recent volume trends continue, many experts say we will see a “near ice-free Arctic in summer” within a decade.

Recent research finds that may well usher in a permanent change toward extreme, prolonged weather events “such as drought, flooding, cold spells and heat waves.

For more the link between the death spiral and weather whiplash, here’s Peter Sinclair’s latest video, featuring interviews with Dr. Jeff Masters and Dr. Jennifer Francis:

Related Posts:

61 Responses to Video: Climate, Arctic Death Spiral and Weather Whiplash

  1. kca says:

    For a film that nicely evokes what we are up against, see Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia.” The plot: a planet that was hidden behind the sun threatens to collide with earth, ending all life. The scientists who are warning about the imminent collision refer to the event as the “dance of death” between the planets — not unlike “death spiral” here.

    Also in the film Keifer Sutherland plays a character who parallels today’s climate change deniers. He tells his family that the planets will not collide, “all the real scientists say so,” and those who say otherwise are simply alarmists. He tells them that they should all just sit back, relax, and enjoy Melancholia’s pass-by as pure spectacle. When it becomes clear that those “real” scientists were wrong, that the end of the world is indeed at hand, Sutherland’s character selfishly steals and takes all the sleeping pills his wife had laid in for group suicide, thus leaving her and his son in the lurch. One imagines some of our most prominent climate contrarians behaving in a comparable fashion when the SHTF.

  2. BBHY says:

    Not only are we heading for ice free summers, but in just a few years the yearly maximum will be equal to (or less than) the yearly minimum of 1979.

  3. prokaryotes says:


    Veli Albert Kallio: Due to a constant thinning of the Arctic Ocean ice cover it has become sensitive to shearing by ocean wave penetration, winds and ocean currents. As a result of this weakening, a relatively small but persistent storm that centred over the North Pole managed to shatter 75%, or three quarters of Arctic Ocean’s ice cover into free ice floes.

    Because of the earth’s spin, winds and ocean currents, the North Pole immediacy saw vast leads opening in colossal numbers, lots of broaken ice has migrated towards the Atlantic Ocean via the Fram Strait, the Barents and Kara Seas.

    The situation is opposite on the Pacific Ocean end of the Arctic Ocean where ice cannot escape further south due to Eurasian and North American land barrier blocking further southward ice movements. These areas have seen densification of sea ice as the broken ice has packed against the Arctic Ocean’s perimeter coastlines.

    The Arctic Ice Cover break up is a dangerous situation because the insolation (sunlight amount) and heat carryover from the continent (currently snow free) is the greatest on perimeter in far south (the Bering Strait).

    The 06/06/2013 situation is suggestive that:

    (1.) The high Arctic Basin will face aggressive melting as sunlight pours into the open leads of dark water, leading to opening of this part of the ocean early.

    (2.) The compaction zone in Alaska will later follow the suit as the ice gets pushed against the warm coastal seas.

    (3.) Despite good (near 100%) ice cover, on the compaction zone, the ice will melt also here as the heat carry over from the continent (south) is here the greatest.

    (4.) The sunlight amount and the length of the annual melt season are the greatest in the far perimeters of the Arctic Ocean (around the Bering Strait).

    (5.) The brokenness of sea ice cover into countless ice floes increases its three dimensional surface area in water which helps the transmission of heat from the sea water into ice. Sea water retains large thermal inertia (capacity to store heat. This melts ice when the warm sea water gets in contact with sea ice’s frozen surfaces).

    (6.) Where leads occur within ice, a strong vertical mixing of sea water also increases melting.

    (7.) The brokenness of North Pole’s ice cover and its reduced ice amount reduces the sea ice congestion (gridlock) making it much easier to escape to the Atlantic Ocean via the Fram Strait, the Barents and Kara Seas.

  4. Brooks Bridges says:

    This plot gives curve fit extrapolation of Sept ice volume average going to zero in 2015; Oct and Aug going to zero in 2016

    Another version of Sept plot showed 95% confidence bounds around curve fit of a bit more than 1 year. Suggesting zero could happen next year.

    I would think that the fact that the best models were decades off on this milestone would be a poster child for waking everyone up to fact that even the 97% have been grossly underestimating the rapidity of climate change. Unless, of course, reasons are now known and this miss has nothing to do with other predictions.

  5. There are many tipping points related to climate change but most of them are long term and uncertain. The loss of Arctic sea ice is the one that is very imminent. The science is known and proven and you can see the results today. If we get down to 1 million square kilometres of sea ice in, sy, five years there will be a big disruption to the weather which will seriously affect food production.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The albedo loss is pretty stomach-tightening. All that extra heating, equivalent to the effect of all the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. That is the killer, surely. No albedo restoration means rapid and extreme climate destabilisation.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Add on top of the albedo loss .. How persistent will future weather patterns become? Or how much will polar air intrusion mess with seasonal weather in the northern hemisphere?

    For instance the Moore tornado from last month was in part so destructive because it went so slow, grinded very long. And that was in parts because of the Jet Stream set up that day! See image and more on that here

    Or take the recent Europe flood / weather when a system was just sitting there fetching moist air from the south and creating precipitation in central Europe.

  8. John Paily says:

    Global research should lead us from complexity to simplicity such that Nature, her Master and their Truth is comprehensible to all not few scientist and Spiritualist. We are all responsible for the world. We are pushing her to her limits

  9. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    It is probably a little over twenty years until we see no winter sea ice. How much faster will the waters warm with no ice to melt? Too extreme? look at the data, look at the trends. The trends are in no way linear.

    Then again there is a lot of ice to melt quite nearby, the Greenland ice sheet.

  10. h4x354x0r says:

    There’s an extensive amount of climate research which indicates the climate has gone through changes before, naturally.

    What’s different this time? The Delta. We’re currently on track to drive the same changes in 300 years, that we’ve only ever been able to detect the earth has done naturally in about 15,000-20,000 years.

    A lot of people mistake the human-scale slowness of the global warming pipeline, for a lack of power. Nothing could be further from the truth. The energy stored in the AWG pipeline dwarfs it’s stunning (from a historical perspective) speed. Still takes nearly a human lifetime to manifest, but inexorably brutal, and mercilessly crushing.

    Here, kids. You can thank us later.

  11. Jack Burton says:

    The interesting thing to know would be the calculations of how much extra heat is added to the arctic seas as the sea ice cover decreases, this would show a non-linear result as a tipping point where the feedback goes ballistic and tips the balance quickly to a zero sea ice arctic, except for some small recovery in winter.
    We saw this with Lake Superior, which now almost never forms winter sea ice. In was not gradual, we had sea ice decrease for some decades, and then it flipped to a zero ice cover in winter. This is now the rule, with only the very odd event where a little ice can form. I expect the arctic is now in the phase where it keeps shrinking and then suddenly it will flip, just like Lake Superior did.
    As a child in the 60’s I saw this huge lake freeze heavily every winter, some winters completely. By the 80’s ice was rare, by now it is almost never formed and last year the summer water temperature peaked at an all time never before seen record warmth.
    Of course the climate change denial industry is still pumping out lies and using it’s control of all media to either sideline the news and evidence, or, as at FOX, simply tell giant lies every day. Either way, the mass of evidence is kept from getting out to the general public and the vast majority of Americans think climate change is an issue for the 22nd century, when in fact, we are already in a new unstable state. The scientific community now aids and abets the deniers by their constant claims that events will only unfold in the second half or end of this century. Many of their press releases down play the entire global warming issue, and make the public believe everything is good for a long time to come. The reason nobody in the general public is concerned is because they are either lied to by media or are given comforting reports by science that the issue is a long way out and anyways, all we need do is reduce emissions and we can mitigate the worst of it.
    Future generations will look back on the history being made in this decade and wonder at the insane greed and self satisfaction of the human race. The global climate races towards the cliff and the people and leaders are mostly concerned with getting more economic growth from the high energy auto based system.

  12. Jeff Poole says:

    Here you go Jack. From the scientist who’s been measuring this from British nuclear subs for decades.

    He’s firmly of the view that there will ice free days by 2016.

  13. Paul magnus says:

    Most mesmerizing arctic death spiral video u will see…

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The unknown, unforeseen, unknowns will be horrific.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Nature has no ‘Master’. That is a patriarchal ego-projection. Nature is Her own Mistress. But I do see, and appreciate, that your heart is in the right place.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Greenland will go far quicker than the most pessimistic forecasts. I feel that in my water, and I’m 60% aqueous.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    300 years seems way optimistic. We are changing the planet in ways that cannot be reversed for millions of years at a speed unprecedented in planetary history, and we are accelerating the carnage, some looking on like brainless toads, others exulting in the destruction of a Nature they fear and despise and others relying, in their pathetic hubris, on ‘human ingenuity’ and technology. And the Chaos that will ensue when The Collapse becomes undeniable hasn’t even set in yet.

  18. David Goldstein says:

    Yes, I REALLY enjoyed that movie, for all of the reasons that you cited.

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Imagine a blocking high like we had last summer, which broke records all over the country, in 10 years time. I like it hot but…ME

  20. Merrelyn Emery says:

    As a 77% aqueous systems thinker, I know you’re right, ME

  21. Superman1 says:

    “The reason nobody in the general public is concerned is because they are either lied to by media or are given comforting reports by science that the issue is a long way out and anyways, all we need do is reduce emissions and we can mitigate the worst of it.” That may be true for some, but for most, their addiction to the high energy lifestyle enabled by the availability of ‘cheap’ fossil fuels outweighs all considerations for the future.

  22. Superman1 says:

    Lest we forget, there is also a substantial volume of warm water flowing into the Arctic from the Atlantic, and it will deliver the final blow to the ice. How do we mitigate this warm Atlantic water influx?

  23. fj says:

    Yes, an ice-free Arctic as soon as 2016 is something predicted (I believe) by Naval Postgraduate and covered by Climate Progress a couple of years ago.

  24. fj says:

    The big question for Obama must be why he is not informing the public of this extreme emergency and acting on it with unprecedented urgency it demands.

  25. fj says:

    And, this must include the immediacy of the six trillion dollar fossil fuel bubble . . .

  26. fj says:

    On a global scale we must transition immediately to net zero transport and building stock . . .

  27. fj says:

    And, we must seek out every possible way to use natural systems to reduce humanity’s planetary foot print to the lowest possible value.

  28. fj says:

    And, we must seek out every possible way to use natural systems to restore the stable natural services required for civilization to prevail . . .

  29. prokaryotes says:

    Despite a slow decrease in extent and area in the past two weeks, caused by clouds and cold air temperatures over large parts of the Arctic, the ice is taking a beating from the shifting cyclone and it’s not sure yet what the damage from internal bruising will be.

    The cyclone itself has grabbed its 15 minutes of fame by refusing to go down. I initially called it the Small Arctic Cyclone of 2013, but fellow-blogger Robertscribbler has already given it a more appropriate name: Persistent Arctic Cyclone of 2013. Rocky Balboa would be a good name too.

    With the forecast of an atmospheric set-up that is more conducive to ice melt, compaction and transport, it looks like extent and area numbers are going to drop off the Cliff (as it’s called on the Forum). In fact, this seems to have started already.

  30. prokaryotes says:

    Yes, why is everybody shy to speak about it?

  31. prokaryotes says:

    Consideration for the future “eco-friendly” are ignorantly ignored – when it comes to consumer decisions, by a huge fraction of the population.

  32. fj says:

    As the modern day equivalent of the death trains to Dachau and Treblinka the world’s coal trains and fossil fuel pipelines must stop to avert a continuum of soon to start horrors of unimaginable scale.

  33. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    And perhaps, Mulga, that is the reason we don’t hear our leaders talking about it all that much. In a modernized version of Newspeak, denial in all its manifestations has become newhope in all its gradations – for as long, at least, as the obvious remains unobservable to the hoi polloi, all-the-while we here at CP are cast as the newextremist groupthinkers. Black Sabbath, indeed.

  34. fj says:

    The people of the world cannot truly smile upon the extraordinary pleasures of their families, friends and children without knowing that this must be so.

  35. fj says:


    Good question.

    Perhaps, very public forums must start immediately on this.

    We cannot trust the leadership to know what it is doing.

  36. fj says:

    Very public discussions and forums must expose the true climate information blackout.

  37. fj says:

    Stop the climate information blackout.

  38. Absolutely. That’s the deepest and most galling irony of the entire situation. Those who have protested most loudly that climate change is a “hoax” will be those who form vigilante groups looking for someone to hold accountable when TSHTF.

  39. That is precisely the premise of my novel. I picked the year 2018, but it could be sooner, per comments above.

    There’s a nexus between a sudden collapse of agriculture brought on by the disappearance of the ice cap and the exponentially ramping domestic security apparatus that I’ve never seen remarked upon. Except in my novel.

  40. The summer ice is liable to go much sooner than 20 years.

  41. The disaster of the ice cap is simply beyond their imagining. To the extent they get a glimmer, it is 180 degrees from their idea of a beneficent God. It is simply unacceptable.

    A challenge to faith like this is psychically lethal, and to be avoided at all costs.

  42. I’m trying to get my Congressperson to write a letter to the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff asking them what they are advising the President about the imminent collapse of the ice cap. His office is working with me, but I’m starting to feel like I’m getting the go-slow treatment.

    The idea is to flush this issue out of the dark corners and into public debate. Surely the CIA must have analyzed this risk, and surely the President must know.

  43. Which could be before the next Presidential election cycle, or the one after. Who will the parties nominate in that scenario? When crop failures lead to a severe slowdown in the economy, and it becomes inescapable that climate disruption is not only real, it’s just starting, and will only get much, much worse?

    Imagine the despair and the challenge to people’s fundamental belief in a beneficent Christian god.

    In some people’s mind’s it won’t be God’s fault, but the fault of those who don’t believe in Him. It will be the Sodom and Gomorrah model. We will have offended God mightily, and He will be visiting His displeasure upon us.

    And then the sides will be chosen: Are you with God, or against Him?

  44. prokaryotes says:

    The stuck jet stream pattern also caused record May heat in northern Finland and surrounding regions of Russia and Sweden, where temperatures averaged an astonishing 12°C (21°F) above average for a week at the end of May. All-time May heat records–as high as 87°F–were set at stations north of the Arctic Circle in Finland.

  45. prokaryotes says:

    Maybe we should a disclaimer under each news item?

    Media Misses Extreme Weather/Climate Connection

  46. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    That is definitely coming. Religious fundamentalist fanatics, of every type, Islamic, Christian, Judaic, Hindu, Shinto even Buddhist, are proliferating like corpse flies as the Collapse gathers pace. They are, in my opinion, a real danger, a global Fifth Column who will act with horrific savagery once unleashed by their mind controlling hierarchies. The growth of hard Right ‘Christian’ fundamentalist hatred of environmentalists, long vilified as ‘Nature worshippers’, ‘Green pagans’ etc , who ‘put Nature before human beings’ is a very sobering prospect.

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I was going to say, ‘You drip!’, but that’s unforgivable. Perhaps I’ve just become a ‘dessicated coconut’.

  48. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Let them eat Hope-then one another!

  49. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Éither because they do not care, putting their power, wealth and privilege (all buttressed by fossil fuel tens of trillions)before humanity, or because they want the Collapse to happen, which I believe must be considered a very real possibility, given the state of knowledge and the ruthless refusal to act to forestall catastrophe.

  50. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Misses’ my posterior! ‘Suppresses’!!!

  51. Merrelyn Emery says:

    You’re right actually. I must have remembered it wrongly or perhaps I am all brain? ME

  52. They know already – There was a major Arctic policy meeting last month on the scope of Arctic ice and ecosystem change and how to respond.

    The results have been published, and it seems that they are aware of the ‘profound’ risks and consequences for the climate, but want to exploit the Arctic anyway:

    National Strategy for the Arctic Region

    See pdf file referenced on the page.

  53. Superman1 says:

    PART 1. “Surely the CIA must have analyzed this risk,” I’ve worked with these communities in the past. I have no doubt that they have collected copious data and analyzed this problem far more than anything we have seen reported in the literature. I also have no doubt the President and other major leaders have been informed about what to expect.

  54. John McCormick says:

    Yes, prokaryotes, its all about the jet stream and we will learn a great deal about the part it plays in the lives of we 7+ billion folk.

  55. Raul M. says:

    I think his Presidential Library will be of a new style, one more able to protect the library holdings.

  56. John McCormick says:

    Superman1, You said what many of us harbour deep inside.

  57. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Erring in memory?

  58. Superman1 says:

    Note that Part 2 was removed. And, we have the Chutzpah to criticize the MSM!