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Arctic Death Spiral Watch: (Cryosp)here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The record lows for Arctic sea ice area and volume are generally set in mid- to late September.

But as Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice Blog reports, we’re already starting to see those September minimum records being broken in mid-August. Cryosphere Today, for instance, reports that the Arctic has just dropped below its lowest sea ice area on record:

We are all but certain to set the record low volume this year. In fact the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 probe confirms what the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) at the Polar Science Center has been saying for years: Arctic sea ice volume has been collapsing faster than sea ice area (or extent) because the ice has been getting thinner and thinner.

In fact, the latest satellite CryoSat-2 data shows the rate of loss of Arctic sea ice is “50% higher than most scenarios outlined by polar scientists and suggests that global warming, triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions, is beginning to have a major impact on the region.”

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A key point is that the thinner ice is much more vulnerable to winds and Arctic storms, like this month’s “Arcticane” (see “Massive Storm Batters Melting Sea Ice”).

That is the true death spiral, and I’ll do a separate post on volume shortly.

For Americans, the latest science suggests the loss of Arctic ice is already making our weather more extreme — and further losses will likely accelerate the trend (see Arctic Warming Favors Extreme, Prolonged Weather Events ‘Such As Drought, Flooding, Cold Spells And Heat Waves’). I’ll do a separate post on this shortly, too. Indeed, Climate Progress will be reporting regularly on the record Arctic ice loss — and what it means for the nation and the world — for the duration of the melt season.

Here is more from Neven on Cryosphere Today’s new record low sea ice area:

There are several scientific organisations that keep an eye on the Arctic sea ice cover and put out graphs to inform us of the amount of ice that is left. You can see most, if not all, of them on the ASI Graphs webpage. I expect the record on most of these graphs to be broken in weeks to come.

After Uni Bremen sea ice extent and Arctic ROOS sea ice area another big domino has fallen with Cryosphere Today sea ice area….

And the close-up:

Here are the numbers of all the minimums since 2005:

  • 2005: 4.09 million square km
  • 2006: 4.03 million square km
  • 2007: 2.92 million square km
  • 2008: 3.00 million square km
  • 2009: 3.42 million square km
  • 2010: 3.07 million square km
  • 2011: 2.90 million square km
  • 2012: 2.88 million square km (and running)

As usual, Jim Pettit has the details:

“Though it happened 23 days earlier than it did last year, today’s CT SIA value is already 27,281 km2 lower than last year’s record (which itself only edged out the 2007 record by fewer than 15k km2). 17 days elapsed last year between the date the 3 million km2 mark was passed and the record was set; this year, that only took four days.

“Over the course of the record — 1979–2011 — the average CT area loss from this day to minimum has been 521k km2. Based on a straight extrapolation from prior years, 2012 SIA would/could/almost certaionly will end up somewhere between 1.92 million and 2.77 million km2, with a mean minimum of 2.36 million km2.”

Stay tuned to this channel!

NOTE: The pun in the headline is from a recent post by Tamino, “(Cryosp)here today, gone tomorrow,” which notes that a new blog of “showing maps of Arctic sea ice concentration and thickness, called apocalypse4real … shows that all the ice thicker than 6m is gone from the Arctic”:

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