Arctic Sea Ice Is Being Increasingly Melted From Below By Warming Atlantic Water

Arctic Sea Ice Is Being Increasingly Melted From Below By Warming Atlantic Water Denis Burdin / shutterstock

Each September, scientists like me look out for the point when the Arctic’s meagre summer fizzles out and sea ice begins to grow once more. This point is known as the annual sea ice minimum extent. It has declined consistently over the past 15 years, and 2019 was the second lowest after 2012 in 42 years of continuous satellite records. This year’s minimum is imminent, and there is already even less ice coverage than last year.

What’s causing this decline in minimum sea ice extent? The short answer is our changing climate. But the more specific answer is that Arctic sea ice is increasingly being thinned not just by warm air from above but by ever-warmer waters from below.

Arctic Sea Ice Is Being Increasingly Melted From Below By Warming Atlantic Water Arctic sea ice today (white) is covering a much smaller area than in 1980-2010 (orange line). National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CC BY-SA

In fact, in a recently published scientific study my colleagues and I looked at why sea ice was melting in the eastern Arctic Ocean and showed that the influence of heat from the interior of the ocean has now overtaken the influence of the atmosphere.

While atmospheric heat is the dominant reason for melting in the summer, it has little influence during the cold dark polar winter. However, the ocean warms the ice from below year-round. Our new research shows that this influence has more than doubled over the past decade or so, and is now equivalent to the melting of nearly a metre thickness of sea ice each year (For comparison, at the North Pole the ocean is usually only covered by a couple metres of ice).

Arctic Sea Ice Is Being Increasingly Melted From Below By Warming Atlantic Water 2020 will have the least Arctic sea ice ever – aside from 2012. National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CC BY-SA

This warm water, sometimes referred to as the “heat blob”, originates in the Atlantic and heads northwards via an extension of the Gulf Stream, entering the Arctic Ocean around Svalbard, an archipelago halfway between Norway and the North Pole. The blob has already resulted in the disappearance of winter sea ice off the northern coast of Norway and north-west Russia.

Further to the east, this warm water has been isolated from the sea surface, and so sea ice, by a layer of colder, fresher water. However, as the heat blob is getting warmer and moving closer to the surface its influence is now spreading eastwards through the Arctic.

In a second scientific paper we showed that currents in the upper Arctic ocean were increasing which, when combined with declining sea ice and the weakening of the boundaries between layers of warm and cold water, was potentially stirring more warm water from the heat blob towards the surface. The combined impact is a new back and forth relationship between sea ice and ocean heat which could lead to a new ocean climate state in the eastern Arctic Ocean.

All this may be feeding into ever more extreme climate change in the Arctic. Throughout summer 2020 the Siberian heatwave continually shattered temperature records, including eastern Arctic sea surface temperatures. And while sea ice reflects much of the sun’s rays back into space, open water is dark and absorbs the sun’s heat. So as the sea ice retreated the surface water is warmed, which in turned further warms the atmosphere above, quite apart from the influence of increasing greenhouse gases.

There is still much more to learn about the link between the eastwards spread of the influence of Atlantic heat, and the reduction in sea ice it brings, and knock on effects on severe weather at lower latitudes. But it is clear that the Arctic – already warming faster than anywhere else on Earth – could be in the process of transitioning to a “new” state.The Conversation

About The Author

Tom Rippeth, Professor of Physical Oceanography, Bangor University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know

by Joseph Romm
0190866101The essential primer on what will be the defining issue of our time, Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know® is a clear-eyed overview of the science, conflicts, and implications of our warming planet. From Joseph Romm, Chief Science Advisor for National Geographic's Years of Living Dangerously series and one of Rolling Stone's "100 people who are changing America," Climate Change offers user-friendly, scientifically rigorous answers to the most difficult (and commonly politicized) questions surrounding what climatologist Lonnie Thompson has deemed "a clear and present danger to civilization.". Available On Amazon

Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future second edition Edition

by Jason Smerdon
0231172834This second edition of Climate Change is an accessible and comprehensive guide to the science behind global warming. Exquisitely illustrated, the text is geared toward students at a variety of levels. Edmond A. Mathez and Jason E. Smerdon provide a broad, informative introduction to the science that underlies our understanding of the climate system and the effects of human activity on the warming of our planet.Mathez and Smerdon describe the roles that the atmosphere and ocean play in our climate, introduce the concept of radiation balance, and explain climate changes that occurred in the past. They also detail the human activities that influence the climate, such as greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions and deforestation, as well as the effects of natural phenomena.  Available On Amazon

The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course

by Blair Lee, Alina Bachmann
194747300XThe Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course uses text and eighteen hands-on activities to explain and teach the science of global warming and climate change, how humans are responsible, and what can be done to slow or stop the rate of global warming and climate change. This book is a complete, comprehensive guide to an essential environmental topic. Subjects covered in this book include: how molecules transfer energy from the sun to warm the atmosphere, greenhouse gases, the greenhouse effect, global warming, the Industrial Revolution, the combustion reaction, feedback loops, the relationship between weather and climate, climate change, carbon sinks, extinction, carbon footprint, recycling, and alternative energy. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

EVIDENCE

UK Land Now Stores 7% More Carbon Than 300 Years Ago And What That Means For The Environment
UK Land Now Stores 7% More Carbon Than 300 Years Ago And What That Means For The Environment
by Victoria Janes-Bassett and Jess Davies, Lancaster University
Limiting global warming to 1.5°C and avoiding the worst effects of climate change will take more than eliminating…
Why Rising Carbon Emissions Might Not Make The Earth Uninhabitable
Why Rising Carbon Emissions Might Not Make The Earth Uninhabitable
by Laura Revell, University of Canterbury
Even with all humanity’s carbon emissions to date, there’s a lot less carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere than Venus,…
Emissions Of Methane Are Rising Dangerously
Emissions Of Methane Are Rising Dangerously
by Pep Canadell, CSIRO; et al
Fossil fuels and agriculture are driving a dangerous acceleration in methane emissions, at a rate consistent with a…
Antarctica's Ice Shelves Are Trembling As Global Temperatures Rise – What Happens Next Is Up To Us
Antarctica's Ice Shelves Are Trembling As Global Temperatures Rise – What Happens Next Is Up To Us
by Ella Gilbert, University of Reading
Images of colossal chunks of ice plunging into the sea accompany almost every news story about climate change. It can…
Why Huge Volcanic Eruption Didn't Cause Climate Change And Mass Extinction 140 Million Years Ago
Why Huge Volcanic Eruption Didn't Cause Climate Change And Mass Extinction 140 Million Years Ago
by Joshua Davies, Université du Québec à Montréal et al
Mass extinctions are times in Earth’s past when large proportions of life suddenly and catastrophically died. These…
Tree Rings And Weather Data Warn Of Megadrought
Tree Rings And Weather Data Warn Of Megadrought
by Tim Radford
Farmers in the US West know they have a drought, but may not yet realise these arid years could become a megadrought.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Why We Can't Blame Climate Change On Solar Activity
Why We Can't Blame Climate Change On Solar Activity
by Gareth Dorrian and Ian Whittaker
The past decade (2010-2019) was the hottest on record and five of the top 10 warmest single years have all occurred…

LATEST VIDEOS

The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
by Anthony C. Didlake Jr
As Hurricane Sally headed for the northern Gulf Coast on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, forecasters warned of a…

LATEST ARTICLES

The US Electric Power Sector Is Halfway To Zero Carbon Emissions
The US Electric Power Sector Is Halfway To Zero Carbon Emissions
by Bentham Paulos, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory et al
So far 17 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have adopted laws or executive orders setting goals for…
Hydrogen Is One Future Fuel Oil Execs And Environmentalists Could Both Support As Rival Countries Search For Climate Solutions
Hydrogen Is One Future Fuel Oil Execs And Environmentalists Could Both Support As Rival Countries Search For Climate Solutions
by John Ballantine, Brandeis University
The 2015 Paris Agreement was a groundbreaking diplomatic effort – 196 countries committed to prevent average…
Climate Change Threatens Coffee – But We’ve Found A Delicious Wild Species That Could Help Save Your Morning Brew
Climate Change Threatens Coffee – But We’ve Found A Delicious Wild Species That Could Help Save Your Morning Brew
by Aaron P Davis, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The world loves coffee. More precisely, it loves arabica coffee. From the smell of its freshly ground beans through to…
Competition Heats Up In The Melting Arctic, And The Us Isn't Prepared To Counter Russia
Competition Heats Up In The Melting Arctic, And The US Isn't Prepared To Counter Russia
by Rockford Weitz, Tufts University
For decades, the frozen Arctic was little more than a footnote in global economic competition, but that’s changing as…
Global Farming Feels The Impacts Of Global Heating
Global Farming Feels The Impacts Of Global Heating
by Tim Radford
Global heating has already set back farming around the world, and wiped out seven years of steady advance.
Interstate Water Wars Are Heating Up Along With The Climate
Interstate Water Wars Are Heating Up Along With The Climate
by Robert Glennon, University of Arizona
Interstate water disputes are as American as apple pie. States often think a neighboring state is using more than its…
As Extreme Fires Transform Alaska's Boreal Forest, More Aspen And Birch Are Coming In And That Can Slow Fires And Their Climate Impact
As Extreme Fires Transform Alaska's Boreal Forest, More Aspen And Birch Are Coming In And That Can Slow Fires And Their Climate Impact
by Jill Johnstone, University of Saskatchewan et al
Fire is a hot topic these days, particularly when it comes to the boreal forest, the vast expanse of trees that…
Would A Carbon Tax On Imports Be The Climate Solution Officials Expect?
Would A Carbon Tax On Imports Be The Climate Solution Officials Expect?
by Timothy Hamilton, University of Richmond
The European Union is considering a new tax on imports as it tries to fight climate change, and the U.S. is raising…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.