The Great Arctic Flush

The Great Arctic Flush

By Paul Beckwith

A massive cyclone is forecast to develop in the Arctic, as shown on the image below, from the Naval Research Laboratory.

Within 2 weeks the Arctic Ocean will be completely transformed. The cyclone that appears 6 days out on both the US and European ten day forecasts will massacre the sea ice in what I call “The Great Arctic flush”.

The image below is a forecast for speed and drift on July 27, 2013. More images, including animations, on Arctic sea ice can be viewed at http://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/hycomARC/arctic.html
Last August, a massive cyclone formed over the Arctic Ocean and destroyed 800,000 square km of ice in about a week. The predicted cyclone looks to be as strong as the one in early August, 2012. Problem is, the ice is much weaker, thinner and fractured this year; including all the ice just north of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago that is 4 or 5 meters thick; this ice is mobile, broken, fractured ice piled up into ridges; it is not multiyear ice (MYI) at all.
Above image, from the Naval Research Laboratory is a prediction of ice speed and drift a week from now, showing the motion of the ice, the darker and redder the faster, the ice is being set in motion by the cyclone above. Since the Coriolis force flings things to the right, the ice is all sent to the outside of the rotation, into the warmer surrounding water as well as the Atlantic Ocean. The storm surge of a foot or two over the entire basin (highest near the cyclone eye) will draw in warm water from the Pacific via the Bering Strait and from the Atlantic via the Fram Strait. It will also mix the fresh water on the surface from melting ice with warmer saltier water from below. It will also generate lots of churning and grinding of the ice and waves several meters high. Warm and smoky air that is filled with ash and black carbon from burning fires in the far north will drop the albedo of the ice and increase the solar absorption.
When I forecast zero sea ice at the end of the melt season this summer, I fully expected at least one or more of these massive cyclonic storms. Last year it occurred in early August, and lasted for about 8 days. In the rest of the melt season last year no other huge cyclone developed, although several small ones did. Perhaps the cyclone disturbed the ocean conditions enough to prevent subsequent ones occurring. We shall see this year…

Paul Beckwith is a part-time professor with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology, department of geography, University of Ottawa. He teaches second year climatology/meteorology. His PhD research topic is “Abrupt climate change in the past and present.” He holds an M.Sc. in laser physics and a B.Eng. in engineering physics and reached the rank of chess master in a previous life.

The Arctic is melting, it’s the most obvious in your face large scale climate change symptom, hell, it’s unimaginable, yet here we are as a species trying to carry on as if  it’s just some pain in the ass prank,  as if we wake up tomorrow and the nightmare is gone.
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8 responses to “The Great Arctic Flush

  1. Disturbing account, Paul. Will these Arctic cyclones now become a standard feature of the new Arctic climate? How much will they speed up the arrival of a permanent, ice-free Arctic? What will they do to the Greenland ice cap? Psst – have you mentioned anything about this to those people in the Langevin Block?

  2. Do you have any idea of how much this will increase the release of methane gas in the Arctic? Did anyone measure the levels before and after last year’s cyclone?

    • That’s the one thing no one is really paying attention to – governments and corporations are too busy planning shipping routes, ports and where to dig for all the gold and diamonds and oil they think is under there.

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