Friday, December 23, 2016

Accelerating Warming of the Arctic Ocean

Stronger Winds causing further Warming of the Arctic Ocean

Warming is accelerating in the Arctic. On December 22, 2016, the Arctic was on average 3.33°C or 5.99°F warmer than it was in 1979-2000.

Within the Arctic, the Arctic Ocean is warming most rapidly. The image below gives a snapshot of the situation on December 22, 2016 at 06:00 UTC. The Arctic as a whole was as much as 3.34°C or 6.01°F warmer than in 1979-2000. At the same time, temperatures over much of the Arctic Ocean were at the top end of the scale, i.e. as much as 30°C or 54°F warmer than in 1979-2000 (pink color at 90°N latitude).

The temperature in the Arctic (north of 80°N Latitude) is also illustrated by the image below. The red line of the temperature for 2016, up to December 22, 2016. The green line is the 1958-2002 temperature.

Over the entire year 2016, warming was most profound over the Arctic Ocean, which was more than 2.5°C or 4.5°F warmer than 1981-2010, as illustrated by the image below.

The animation below illustrates how this anomaly developed over the past few years, each time showing a 365-day period, starting in 2014 and each time shifted by roughly one month.

These high temperatures over the Arctic Ocean reflect warm water of the Arctic Ocean, with heat added from the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The image below shows ocean warming, with temperatures rising particularly rapidly on the Northern Hemisphere.

[ Ocean warming, from earlier post ]
Warmer water of the Atlantic Ocean is pushed by the Coriolis force toward the Arctic Ocean. The huge amounts of energy entering the oceans translate not only into higher temperatures of the water and of the air over the water, but also into higher waves and stronger winds.

Above image shows winds on December 29, 2016.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
As above image shows, waves were as high as 7.65 m or 25.1 ft in between Norway and Svalbard on December 29, 2016.

Sea surface temperatures west of Svalbard were as high as 14.6°C (58.2°F) on December 29, 2016. Sea surface temperature went up at the end of December at this spot, while the longer-term average went down in line with the change in seasons.

Underneath the surface of the North Atlantic, the water is much warmer than at the surface, and this temperature difference increases as winds get stronger and cause stronger evaporation, which has a cooling effect on the sea surface. This is illustrated by the image below, showing both the North Pacific and the North Atlantic on November 28, 2016.

The fact that the North Pacific shows a huge cold area, while the cold area in the North Atlantic has virtually disappeared, suggests that the cold area in the North Pacific is not the result of melt-water. The path of the cold areas and the low temperatures over the continents at higher latitudes, give further indications that strong winds are causing such cold areas. The image below shows that a cold area reappearing in the North Atlantic as it gets hit by strong winds (see video further below).

Above images and the image below, from an earlier post, illustrate how stronger evaporation and the resulting precipitation, at times in combination with melt-water, could create cold freshwater lids on both the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. The situation in the North Atlantic is very dangerous, as such a lid can cause much more heat to get carried into the Arctic Ocean underneath the sea surface of the North Atlantic, due to reduced heat transfer to the atmosphere from water on its way to the Arctic Ocean.

The image below, from an earlier post,  shows the depth of Barents Sea, which is relatively shallow around Svalbard.

As the image on the right shows, this spot warms up due to a sea current that brings warm water from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean.

Above images give an indication of the temperature of the water in the Atlantic Ocean underneath the sea surface, as the water comes to the surface near Svalbard, as also illustrated by the plot on the right.

The Arctic Ocean is now warming underneath the sea ice due to the inflow of warm water from the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

The Arctic Ocean is also warming due to feedbacks such as increased levels of water vapor in the atmosphere, warmer river water running into the Arctic Ocean and soot from wildfires that can settle on snow and ice, resulting in further albedo changes.

Further feedbacks of global warming include warmer air temperatures, higher waves and stronger winds that all speed up the demise of snow and ice.

Stronger winds are pushing warm water from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean. Why are these winds getting stronger? As the Arctic warms faster than the rest of the world, the temperature difference between the Arctic and the Equator decreases, making the Jet Stream wavier, with longer loops extending to the north and to the south. At the same time, the temperature difference between the oceans and the continents (Europe, Asia and North America) is increasing, speeding up the Jet Stream as it travels, e.g., over the North Atlantic towards the Arctic Ocean.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
The above 14.6°C SST on December 29, 2016, near Svalbard is the result of warm water being pushed from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean. The situation is illustrated by the above combination image that shows that the Jet stream is forecast to reach speeds as high as 319 km/h or 198 mph in between North America and Greenland on December 31, 2016 (left panel). At the same time, surface winds are forecasts to reach speeds as high as 95 km/h or 59 mph (center panel) and waves as high as 8.96 m or 29.4 ft in between Norway and Svalbard (right panel).

The situation is further illustrated by the video below, showing winds over the North Atlantic from December 27, 2016 to January 3, 2017, as forecasts by

The fact that this is not a one-off event is also illustrated by the image on the right, showing that the Jet Stream reached speeds of 384 km/h or 239 mph over the Pacific Ocean on December 27, 2015. At the same day and time in 2015, the Jet Stream reached speeds as high as 430 km/h or 267 mph as it moved over North America on its way over the North Atlantic.

In conclusion, increasingly stronger winds are causing huge amounts of heat to enter the Arctic Ocean from the North Atlantic, and also from the Pacific Ocean. As the water of the Arctic Ocean keeps warming, the danger increases that methane hydrates at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean will destabilize.

The danger is illustrated by the two images above and below, recorded by the MetOp2 satellite on the afternoon of Christmas eve and Christmas.

Continued warming could trigger huge abrupt methane eruptions leading to mass destruction and extinction.

Potential warming by more than 10°C or 18°F by 2026 (from: Climate Plan Summary, see also: the extinction page)

The image below shows the associated temperature rise from preindustrial to 2026, with figures discussed in more detail on the Temperature page.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action as described at the Climate Plan.

Two videos complement this. Have a look at the video entitled Abrupt Climate Disrupting Arctic Changes: Part 2 of 2 by Paul Beckwith, in particular the segment from 8:30 to 12:00 minutes where Paul discusses how wind patterns are changing over the Arctic.

For further thoughts on the situation, also have a look at the video below in which Jennifer Hynes interviews Peter Wadhams.


• Climate Plan

• Climate Plan summary

• Feedbacks

• Extinction

• Temperature

• The University Centre in Svalbard: UNIS

• Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI)

• Monthly CO₂ not under 400 ppm in 2016

• Methane's Role in Arctic Warming

• Gulf Stream brings ever warmer water into Arctic Ocean


  1. Thank you so much for this. You are making yourself a target by sharing this information, but it is absolutely invaluable and important. Ask sure does look like the blue ocean event is coming this summer eh? If not earlier it's so funny - we know what to do, we know what must be done, but we simply aren't doing it. You have done a beautiful service to all of humanity by telling the truth, and I thank you deeply from my soul. We do have a right to know. The team behind this blog - which I check every day - are fucking heroes. Now, I know it is impossible to know if sure, but few are as well positioned as this group to make an educated guess. What do you think the percent chance is of the first fifty gigaton burst happening this summer? Thank you so much for all you do. Love you fellow human. And happy new years!

    1. Thanks Robert. I think we can just count ourselves lucky that larger methane releases from the Arctic Ocean haven't eventuated yet. Hopefully, there will be more support for the Climate Plan in 2017.
      Sam Carana

    2. You are welcome. And you are totally right - just phenomenally, incredibly, astronomically lucky it hasn't happened yet! It's so weird to be counting methane in parts per million eh? Have a great day - like Mcpherson says, be here now.

  2. Always facinating to understand the science.

    Just like to add a link here to a site that hopes to engage with the inner altruist within ourselves - and a piece regarding the threat of wildfire loss to boreal forests now increasing:

    Have a look!

  3. Thank you for your lucidity Sam, may it spread wider and further in 2017.

    Please take care