Sunday, 15 July 2018

The rapid disappearance of Arctic ice and latent heat

Disappearance of Arctic Sea Ice

13 July, 2018

The image above shows sea surface temperatures on July 6 for the years 2014 to 2018 at a location near Svalbard (at 77.958°N, 5.545°E), with an exponential trend added based on the data.

The combination image below shows sea surface temperatures on July 6 for each of these years, with the location highlighted by a green circle:
2014:  -0.8°C or 30.6°F
2015:   6.2°C or 43.2°F
2016:   8.3°C or 47.0°F
2017: 14.4°C or 57.9°F
2018: 16.6°C or 61.9°F

The situation reflects the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice over the years.
[ click on images to enlarge ]

The image above shows the sea surface temperature on July 13, 2018, at that location. It was as warm as 16.9°C or 62.5°F near Svalbard.

This compares to a sea surface temperature of 4.9°C or 40.9°F in 1981-2011 at that location (at the green circle).

The images illustrate why sea ice has fallen dramatically in volume, especially so where sea currents push warm water from the Atlantic Ocean underneath the sea ice.

As the image below shows, Arctic sea ice volume on July 10, 2018, was at a record low for the time of the year.
The animation above shows a fall in volume of some 1 meter over most of the sea ice, over the period from June 21 through July 12, 2018, with a further eight days of forecasts added.
The animation illustrates the huge amount of melting taking place from underneath, due to an inflow of heat from the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and from warm water from rivers that end in the Arctic Ocean. Meanwhile, sea ice extent doesn't fall very much at all.

When only looking at sea ice extent, the dramatic fall in sea ice volume may be overlooked.

Complete disappearance of Arctic sea ice in September 2018 is within the margins of a trend based on yearly annual minimum volume, as illustrated by the image on the right.

Latent heat can make such disappearance come abruptly and - for people who only look at changes in extent - rather unexpectedly.

Latent heat is energy associated with a phase change, such as the energy absorbed by solid ice when it changes into water (melting). During a phase change, the temperature remains constant.

Sea ice acts as a buffer that absorbs heat, while keeping the temperature at zero degrees Celsius. As long as there is sea ice in the water, this sea ice will keep absorbing heat, so the temperature doesn't rise at the sea surface.

The amount of energy absorbed by melting ice is as much as it takes to heat an equivalent mass of water from zero to 80°C.

Oceans take up over 90% of global warming, as illustrated by the image below. Ocean currents make that huge amounts of this heat keep entering the Arctic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Once the sea ice is gone, further ocean heat must go elsewhere, i.e. it will typically raise the temperature of the water. The atmosphere will also warm up faster. More evaporation will also occur once the sea ice is gone, which will cool the sea surface and warm up the atmosphere (technically know as latent heat of vaporization).

As temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than at the Equator, the Jet Stream will change, making it easier for warm air to enter the Arctic. More clouds will form over the Arctic, which will reflect more sunlight into space, but which will also make that less outward IR radiation can escape into space over the Arctic, with a net warming effect.

Meanwhile, El NiƱo is getting stronger, as illustrated by above image on the right. A warmer Arctic comes with stronger heat waves, forest fires and associated emissions, and rapid warming of water in rivers that end in the Arctic Ocean, all of which will further warm up the Arctic Ocean. Forest fires have already been burning strongly in Siberia over the past few months and methane recently reached levels as high as 2817 ppm (on July 8, 2018, pm).

One huge danger is that, as the buffer disappears that until now has consumed huge amounts of ocean heat, and the Arctic Ocean keeps warming, further heat will reach methane hydrates at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, causing them to get destabilized and release methane. 

[ The Buffer has gone, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page ]
Additionally, disappearance of the sea ice will come with albedo changes that mean that a lot more sunlight will be absorbed, instead of getting reflected back into space as occurred previously.

Similar albedo changes are likely to take place over land in the Arctic soon thereafter. Adding up all warming elements associated with disappearance of the sea ice can result in an additional global warming of several degrees Celsius.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the 
Climate Plan.

• Can we weather the Danger Zone?

• How much warmer is it now?

• Feedbacks

• Latent Heat

• How much warming have humans caused?

• The Threat

• Extinction

• Climate Plan


The people (the majority) simply do not understand (or refuse to understand) the basic principles in this article.

To wit:

And yet, Arctic sea ice coverage is currently 8.397 million square kilometers (2018 July 13 value). This is more ice cover than in 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2007, at this date in the summer. So how do doomers explain this fact? There is currently more sea ice extent than eight of the past 10 years. Download the data and see for yourself if you don't believe me.

Are they trying to say that sea ice extent is more important even if the ice is only half-a-metre thick (as it is now) or ten centimetres thick when, as Sam Carana clearly illustrates, the sea ice volume is going down year-by-year.

If you have done an experiment with a cube of ice or heating frozen peas it takes a lot of energy to reach the phase change. It may seem like nothing is happening but when it does it happens very,very quickly.

It may be that we may appear to dodge the bullet again this year. As Jennifer Hynes has said, there is a lot of entropy in the system and so once again the mainstream might once again be able to point to a sea ice extent that is short of the record year of 2012.

This would be meaningless if the ice is only paper-thin.

What I expect this melt season is that all sorts of sophistry and misinterpretation will be used to hide the reality. No one will want to admit that the game is up.


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