Saturday, August 23, 2014

Arctic Circle Observations Indicate Immense Cold Air Available

Observations of Arctic temperatures and sea ice indicate quite a plethora of very cold air in the region.

The image above shows a history of sea ice coverage by millions of square miles, recording coverage from present day (black line) to 2005. As the chart shows, we are currently near the upper envelope of sea ice coverage, when compared to the last ten years of sea ice records. The black line even seems to resemble the sea ice coverage from this time in 2013, as the dandelion-yellow line shows. The availability of this sea ice is beneficial to those of us hoping for a cold winter ahead. Such a swath of sea ice enables cold air to sustain itself in near the North Pole for a longer period of time. After all, you can't have a cold winter if there's no cold air up north to begin with.

The chart above shows a record of temperatures in the far north Arctic since January 1st of this year, with benchmark days on the bottom legend. The red line on this graphic depicts observed Arctic temperatures, while the green line indicates average temperatures for a given time of year. The constant blue demarcation is the temperature of 273 degrees Kelvin, the equivalent of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Celsius; the freezing temperature. Just eyeballing this chart, we find that temperatures have only risen above average twice this entire summer, with the first occurrence only lasting one or two days. The ongoing above-average anomaly appears a bit stronger, but does not outweigh the general below-normal trend in temperatures for the summer, reflected well in the above normal sea ice anomalies.

Similar to last year, Arctic sea ice is running above normal, while temperatures are running below normal. These two factors are likely to play some role this winter, though to what degree is unknown. What we can gather at this moment, however, is that there is a vast reservoir of cold air available up north; a positive sign for those wishing for a repeat of this past winter.



Anonymous said...

Do you think big snows in the lake effect snow belts this winter?

Shawn said...

Yes! That is awesome!

Anonymous said...

At the same time there is a chance to get a strong jet because of higher temp. difference north-south and to have a mild winter.
So the cold arctic region may inhibit cold outbreaks.

WeatherIntel said...

With all due respect (and I hate that this is my first comment since visiting your site) - the mean ice coverage and even arctic regional Temps are NOT good indicators for the winter that follows. (The arctic summer as it relates to ice coverage is controlled by many variables, including ice loss through Fram Strait and overall cloud cover and winds. In addition, Arctic sea ice is NOT above normal! The 'Normal' POR is from 1981-2010, not from 2005-2013 or whatever you actually used. Extent is currently running around 1.5 Standard Deviations BELOW 'normal'. In addition, ice volume (which is difficult to ascertain (though some new techniques including in-situ measurement like 'Ice Bridge' are helping a lot in the last few years, while not a record - are very low, and when looking at latent heat release during 'prime' freeze-up season (mainly in SEP-OCT)can have a huge influence on the 'initialization of winter'.

Many of the other indicators you are referencing for your Prelim winter outlook (SST's for example)are relatively good metrics when taken together - but ice extent is not. Looking at the rate of ice growth in the fall,(more important than summer arctic temps)and primary storm tracks in the arctic & sub-artic(above 60N) and resulting snow depth in Siberia by late OCT are FAR better indicators of winter Temps in North America.


Andrew said...

Anonymous at 6:39: I doubt it, considering the lakes are so cold due to this past winter.

Anonymous at 8:37: Yes, that's also a possibility.

Andrew said...

Steve: Thanks for taking the time to comment, though I have a few corrections to make:

- I did not state Arctic sea ice was above normal; it is common knowledge that we are running well below normal.

- I used the year range I used intentionally, to compare ice levels to recent years, not overall. This ties in to my above comment.

I appreciate your comments and concerns, but I'll retain sea ice & arctic temps as some of my factors to analyze this winter.

WeatherIntel said...

Your very last paragraph starts off with:

"Similar to last year, Arctic sea ice is running above normal, "

I realize you intentionally used the most recent years as 'Normal' but that is not really serving anyone's interest in using this as an 'indicator' for the upcoming winter weather. Far more powerful indicators have already been determined from long term records - and this just isn't one of them.