Did you see the release by NOAA of the Arctic Report Card this week?
No surprises in many ways. Record low sea ice extent in 2012. Accelerating melt of Greenland ice sheet. The cryosphere is telling us the world is changing and doing so much, much quicker than any of our models, science etc. has suggested. Of course, our GHG emissions are growing at a faster rate than the worst case scenario presented in IPCC . So, we aren’t just changing the climate … we are doing it at a rate even faster than we thought we would!
One thing that is interesting in 2012. There were few places in the Arctic during 2012 that were exceptionally warm — it was kind of a typical year albeit with more warm than cool periods but without any extreme anomalous conditions. Notwithstanding that, the melting of sea and glacier ice was record setting — the environment has kind of been ‘pre-conditioned’ over the years so the ocean is warming and the ice is thinner and …. So, even near ‘normal’ years weather wise can have significant melts. Essentially, it is further evidence that we are fundamentally changing the system — our actions over the past decades will continue regardless of whether we reduce emissions.
It will be interesting to see what impact the changing Arctic has on our winter this winter. There are suggestions that the changes in the Arctic are enabling more substantial and stable incursions of cold air south in the winter — creating the kind of winter cold that Europe saw last year. Here is western Canada, we have had an early start to winter and the two seasonal predictions I have heard on the radio speak of the expectation of a cooler than normal winter.