The Arctic sea ice melt vigil has begun. Arctic melt is of great importance because it affects the climate of the planet in general and the weather of the northern latitudes in particular. You can keep up to date at the National Snow and Ice Data Center -- the extent of ice is updated daily and major updates appear approximately monthly.
Annual maximum extent reached
NSIDC - On March 15, 2013, Arctic sea ice extent appears to have reached its annual maximum extent, marking the beginning of the sea ice melt season. This year’s maximum extent was the sixth lowest in the satellite record. NSIDC will release a detailed analysis of the 2012 to 2013 winter sea ice conditions in early April.
On March 15, 2013 Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 15.13 million square kilometers (5.84 million square miles). The maximum extent was 733,000 square kilometers (283,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average of 15.86 million square kilometers (6.12 million square miles). The maximum occurred five days later than the 1979 to 2000 average date of March 10. The date of the maximum has varied considerably over the years, with the earliest maximum in the satellite record occurring as early as February 24 in 1996 and as late as April 2 in 2010.
This year’s maximum ice extent was the sixth lowest in the satellite record. The lowest maximum extent occurred in 2011. The ten lowest maximums in the satellite record have occurred in the last ten years, 2004 to 2013.
Of particular interest this season will be just what effect the ice fracturing will have on the rate of melt and thus the overall extent. In the last couple of weeks of February an arctic storm fractured some of the arctic ice.
So Why Should I Care
The Arctic is said by many to be the climate canary in the coal mine. It is here that climate temperature changes are magnified as opposed to lower latitudes. It is here that scientists have determined that the amount of melt influences climate in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Scientists link frozen spring to dramatic Arctic sea ice loss
THE GUARDIAN - Melting sea ice, exposing huge parts of the ocean to the atmosphere, explains extreme weather both hot and cold
Climate scientists have linked the massive snowstorms and bitter spring weather now being experienced across Britain and large parts of Europe and North America to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.
Both the extent and the volume of the sea ice that forms and melts each year in the Arctic Ocean fell to an historic low last autumn, and satellite records published on Monday by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, show the ice extent is close to the minimum recorded for this time of year.
"The sea ice is going rapidly. It's 80% less than it was just 30 years ago. There has been a dramatic loss. This is a symptom of global warming and it contributes to enhanced warming of the Arctic," said Jennifer Francis, research professor with the Rutgers Institute of Coastal and Marine Science.
While the Arctic ice itself adds little to sea levels, it does have an effect on the melting of ice and glaciers in Greenland, Northern Canada, Europe, and Siberia. In addition, further temperature rises are atrtibutable to both melting permafrost that adds methane to the atmosphere and more dark waters to absorb the sun's energy..
Weather Extremes: Atmospheric Waves And Climate Change
THINK PROGRESS - Normally, an important part of the global air motion in the mid-latitudes of the Earth takes the form of waves wandering around the planet, oscillating irregularly between the tropical and polar regions. So when they swing northward, these waves suck warm air from the tropics to Europe, Russia, or the US; and when they swing southward, they do the same thing with cold air from the Arctic. This is a well-known feature of our planet’s atmospheric circulation system.
However, during several recent extreme weather events these planetary waves almost froze in their tracks for weeks. So instead of bringing cool air after having brought warm air before, the heat just stays. And stays. And stays.
Melting Arctic: Assessing the Global Impact
In this short video Dr. Julienne Stoeve, a research scientist with the National Snow & Ice Data Center, explains why arctic melt is important and how it impacts climate.
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