Friday, October 05, 2007

Wind Power

Lubos Motl has a piece up on the unprecedented thinning of Arctic Ice. He points to this paper which claims the cause is a shift in sea circulation patterns.

The extent of Arctic perennial sea ice, the year-round ice cover, was significantly reduced between March 2005 and March 2007 by 1.08 × 10E6 km2, a 23% loss from 4.69 × 10E6 km2 to 3.61 × 10E6 km2, as observed by the QuikSCAT/SeaWinds satellite scatterometer (QSCAT). Moreover, the buoy-based Drift-Age Model (DM) provided long-term trends in Arctic sea-ice age since the 1950s. Perennial-ice extent loss in March within the DM domain was noticeable after the 1960s, and the loss became more rapid in the 2000s when QSCAT observations were available to verify the model results. QSCAT data also revealed mechanisms contributing to the perennial-ice extent loss: ice compression toward the western Arctic, ice loading into the Transpolar Drift (TD) together with an acceleration of the TD carrying excessive ice out of Fram Strait, and ice export to Baffin Bay. Dynamic and thermodynamic effects appear to be combining to expedite the loss of perennial sea ice.
The Arctic Ice is not very thick.
Antarctica’s ice shield is thick down to 3000 meters; the Arctic sea ice is 5 meters/17 ft at the most. This is the old ice, which has survived two or more summer seasons. At the end of the winter, most of the ice is only around 2 meters/6 ft, down to an inch thin. The ocean movement breaks up the thin ice and piles it up.
AccuWeather has more:
Anyway, in a news release from NASA Monday, a group of scientists have determined that unusual winds caused the rapid decline (23% loss) in winter perennial ice over the past two years in the northern hemisphere. This drastic reduction is the primary cause of this summer's fastest-ever sea ice retreat in recorded history which has lead to the smallest extent of total Arctic coverage on record.

According to the NASA study, the perennial ice shrunk by an area the size of Texas and California combined between the winter of 2005 and the winter of 2007. What they found was the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia and Alaska was dominated by thinner seasonal ice that melts faster compared to the thicker ice confined to the Arctic Ocean north of Canada. The thinner ice is more easily compressed and responds more quickly to being pushed out of the Arctic by winds.

"Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic," said Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and leader of the study. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters.

What about these unusual wind patterns. Well, the article does not go into that too much, but I must believe some of this is due to changes in the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) which are large atmospheric circulations which have major impacts on the weather in certain parts of the world.
Now lest we all forget, weather is not climate.

Arthropolis has a nice picture of Transpolar Drift (TD).

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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