Last week’s arctic cyclone might be what has ice extent crashing.

A Senior scientist writes me he believes we will hit a new low extent well before the ice even bottoms out.

As August turns to September, all eyes on the arctic.


Arctic sea ice extent during the first two weeks of August continued to track below 2007 record low daily ice extents. As of August 13, ice extent was already among the four lowest summer minimum extents in the satellite record, with about five weeks still remaining in the melt season. Sea ice extent dropped rapidly between August 4 and August 8. While this drop coincided with an intense storm over the central Arctic Ocean, it is unclear if the storm prompted the rapid ice loss. Overall, weather patterns in the Arctic Ocean through the summer of 2012 have been a mixed bag, with no consistent pattern.
Arctic sea ice extent on August 13 was 4.90 million square kilometers (1.9 million square miles). This is 2.81 million square kilometers (1.08 million square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average extent for the date, and is 450,000 square kilometers (173,745 square miles) below the previous record low for the date, which occurred in 2007. Low extent for the Arctic as a whole is driven by extensive open water on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, the Beaufort Sea, and—due to rapid ice loss over the past two weeks—the East Siberian Sea. Ice is near its normal (1979 to 2000) extent only off the northeastern Greenland coast. Ice near the coast in eastern Siberia continues to block sections of the Northern Sea Route. The western entrance to the Northwest Passage via McClure Strait remains blocked.

Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent for August 13, 2012 was 4.90 million square kilometers (1.9 million square miles), 450,000 square kilometers (173,745 square miles) below the same day in 2007. The orange line shows the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that month. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. Sea Ice Index data. About the data



Reuters, via NewEnergyNews:

“Texas set new records for wind-power output…using a new transmission analysis tool that allows more wind to flow on power lines from west Texas to power-consuming cities hundreds of miles away…The amount of electricity produced from wind on [Wednesday night, March 7] set a record at 7,599 megawatts, up 196 MW from the previous day, which eked past a 7,400-MW record set last October, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said…

“…Electricity was being produced by more than 77 percent of the 9,838 MW of ERCOT’s installed wind capacity, well above the average 30 to 40 percent of nameplate electric capacity that wind farms typically produce…[and ERCOT had just begun using] a new tool…to calculate day-ahead and real-time limits on power lines from west Texas to the Dallas-Fort Worth area…[and analyze] real-time conditions every 30 minutes…”

“With more than 9,800 MW, Texas leads the nation in carbon-free electric capacity from wind turbines. More than 7,500 MW are located in west Texas, where the wind generally blows the strongest during the evening hours and in the spring and fall months when power demand is low…Recent wind-farm additions, now totaling nearly 2,100 MW, or 21 percent, have been built closer to the Texas coast…where wind patterns differ from west Texas…About 13 percent of the record 7,599 MW produced March 7 came from the coastal wind farms…

“At the time of the latest record, wind generation accounted for 22 percent of the power demand of 34,318 MW…Wind farms expanded rapidly in Texas until 2009 when production began to overwhelm the existing transmission capacity…Texas is building more than 2,300 miles (3,700 km) of high-voltage transmission in a $6.5 billion plan to expand the grid by late 2013 to accommodate wind-farm growth of up to 18,500 MW…Current wind-farm construction has slowed…[but developers] are studying the addition of 18,000 MW…down from 34,000 MW of wind last fall.”


Nine of the top ten warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000. Last year was another one of them, coming in at 9th warmest since 1880.

The map above shows temperature anomalies, or changes, by region in 2011; it does not depict absolute temperature. Essentially, the map shows how much warmer or cooler each region was in 2011 compared with an averaged “base period” from 1951–1980. The line plot shows yearly temperature variations (from the base period average) for every year from 1880 to now. (For more explanation of how the analysis works, read World of Change: Global Temperatures.)

On January 19, 2012, researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) released their annual analysis of global temperatures, noting that Earth’s land and ocean surfaces continue to experience higher temperatures than several decades ago. The global average temperature for 2011 was 0.92 degrees Fahrenheit (0.51 Celsius) higher than the mid-20th century baseline.

“We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting,” said GISS director James Hansen. “So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Niña influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the ten warmest years on record.”

It is important to note that during La Nina years like the current one, although the planet continues to absorb more heat than it emits, cool waters upwelling in the Pacific suck a lot of that heat out of the atmosphere – affecting weather around the globe, and causing thermometer readings to dip.  This year was, however, the warmest la nina year in the record, as the graph below (from NOAA) shows.


Despite a strong La Nina event cooling the Pacific Ocean, 2011 was about the 10th hottest year on record, scientists have found. “It’s clear over time the El Niño years tend to be the warmer years and the La Niña years tend to be the cooler years,” said Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “This year the La Niña-related temperatures for 2011 were as warm as anything we’ve seen in the past, very close to the year 2008.” Every year since 1976 has been warmer than average, according to NOAA. While 2011 was the coolest year in the 21st century, it was tied with the second-warmest year of the 20th century, notes Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman.

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It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination. Look at the American cities that are considered the most dynamic, exciting, and alluring, especially to the talented young professionals that every region seeks to attract. They all have been working hard to create alternatives to auto-based transport, to grow pedestrian friendly, human scale neighborhoods, and downtowns that offer something of a refuge from the traffic-choked aggravation that we’ve associated with city centers for generations now.

Add in the tight social networking of a new generation raised on the internet, the increasing availability of hybrid/electric cars, and you can understand why Exxon now predicts that gasoline use in the US has already peaked. 


Recent research suggests many young Americans prefer to spend their money and time chatting to their friends online, as opposed to the more traditional pastime of cruising around in cars.

But with money tight in many households, and the cost of gas and insurance soaring, some youngsters are having to choose between buying a car and owning the latest smartphone or tablet.

In a survey to be published later this year by Gartner, 46% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they would choose internet access over owning their own car. The figure was 15% among the baby boom generation that grew up in the 1950s and 60s – seen as the golden age of American motoring.

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Lester Brown/Earth Policy Institute:

Between 2007 and 2011, carbon emissions from coal use in the United States dropped 10 percent. During the same period, emissions from oil use dropped 11 percent. In contrast, carbon emissions from natural gas use increased by 6 percent. The net effect of these trends was that U.S. carbon emissions dropped 7 percent in four years. And this is only the beginning.

The initial fall in coal and oil use was triggered by the economic downturn, but now powerful new forces are reducing the use of both. For coal, the dominant force is the Beyond Coal campaign, an impressive national effort coordinated by the Sierra Club involving hundreds of local groups that oppose coal because of its effects on human health.

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NOAA Climate Extremes Index graph – via Nick Sundt:

Self explanatory. Hit the link to go play with the functions.

Rolling Stone:
It’s snowing in October – so, sorry, that pretty much sews up the case against climate change. How could the planet be warming if it’s getting colder? Thus, the logic of Fox News Eric Bolling, who tweeted as follows on Saturday, as snowflakes blanketed the Northeast: “Hey, Al Gore … earliest snowfall in NYC since the Civil War … where’s your global warming now, see?” Bolling followed this up with a segment on his Fox Business show gleefully citing the snowstorm as evidence that climate change is bogus. There’s a lot to be said about this, but let me just quote Andrew Freedman over at the Washington Post, who writes:

“Snowtober” occurred during a year in which the U.S. has already suffered a record number of billion dollar weather disasters, including Irene; spring flooding along the Mississippi River, and the ongoing Texas drought. Scientific evidence continues to mount that certain types of extreme weather events, including heavy precipitation events (both heavy rain and snow) are becoming more common and severe due to global warming.

According to Wunderground’s Burt , although early and late season snowfalls should decrease as the world warms, “the climate models also predict that we may see an increase in the intensity of the strongest winter storms, like the Nor’easter that dumped the record October snows over the Northeast on Saturday, and it is important to realize that snow is not the same thing as cold. Temperatures in the Northeast U.S. were quite cold on Saturday, but no observing station there broke a record for coldest temperature for the day on October 29, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Our climate is still cold enough in October to give us the occasional early-season record snowstorm.

From AGU Blogosphere:

There’s a lot to ponder in this table. It strikes me as an important document – a compilation of one of humanity’s most tragic miscommunications.

You can click on it to make it bigger – large enough that you could embed it in a PowerPoint slide to discuss with your students or peers, if you so opted.

From Clean Technica:

Solar power in some markets is already cost-competitive with power from fossil fuels or nuclear energy. It’s expected to take over more and more markets in the very near future as its costs continue to decline and the costs of other antiquated energy sources continue to rise.

Nuclear, coal, even natural gas — even if you don’t take into account externalities (public health, environmental, and national security externalities that you really should take into account), probably won’t be competitive with solar soon (marking important crossovers in the history of our planet).

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As I noted in a recent post, Arctic Sea ice has not been cooperating with denialist’s insistence on a “recovery”.

Real Climate had a nice post earlier in September, before we had the minimum number. Dirk Notz wrote –

A rainy summer might be one reason for an apparent lack of public attention with respect to the ongoing sea-ice loss. Another reason, however, is possibly the fact that we scientists have failed to make sufficiently clear that a major loss of sea ice during the early summer months is climatologically more important than a record minimum in September. This importance of sea-ice evolution during the early summer months is directly related to the role of sea ice as an efficient cooling machine: Because of its high albedo (reflectivity), sea ice reflects most of the incoming sunlight and helps to keep the Arctic cold throughout summer. The relative importance of this cooling is largest when days are long and the input of solar radiation is at its maximum, which happens at the beginning of summer.

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National Snow and Ice Data Center sheds light on an often asked question – what do we know about arctic sea ice before satellites?

Scientists have pieced together historical ice conditions to determine that Arctic sea ice could have been much lower in summer as recently as 5,500 years ago. Before then, scientists think it possible that Arctic sea ice cover melted completely during summers about 125,000 years ago, during a warm period between ice ages.

To look back into the past, researchers combine data and records from indirect sources known as proxy records. Researchers delved into shipping charts going back to the 1950s, which noted sea ice conditions. The data gleaned from those records, called the Hadley data set, show that Arctic sea ice has declined since at least the mid-1950s.  Shipping records exist back to the 1700s, but do not provide complete coverage of the Arctic Ocean.  However, taken together these records indicate that the current decline is unprecedented in the last several hundred years.