Confirmed: 2023 set to be the warmest year on record
Colossal Antarctic iceberg, five times larger than New York City, breaks free and drifts away from region
On November 24th, scientists from the Bristish Antarctic Survey (BAS) were astonished to observe an iceberg measuring around 4,000 square kilometers (more than twice the size of Greater London) drifting away from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The iceberg is not only massive in its area but also has a thickness of 400 m (about 1312.34 ft), which is higher than the London Shard – the tallest skyscraper in Europe with a height of 310m (about 1017.06 ft).
The iceberg is named ‘A23a’ and was first dislodged in 1986 from the Filchner Ice Shelf, after which it has remained grounded on the Weddell Sea floor. Now, after 35 years it has begun its meandering journey driven by ocean winds and currents towards the Southern Atlantic Ocean with a probability of grounding again at South Georgia Island. If the iceberg finds a home in the South Georgia Island, it could block feeding routes for millions of seals, penguins, and seabirds that live on the island, thus disrupting the island’s wildlife and ecosystems.
All icebergs go through a cycle of freezing, formation to withering away and melting over time. However, climate change, which warms ocean waters, has accelerated this process, causing large chunks of ice to float away and melt faster than usual, further increasing the global sea level. So even though it might have been time for A23a to melt away, it is a warning that we might have much larger iceberg calving events in the polar regions in the future, bringing devastating floods worldwide and sinking many coastal populations. If the Antarctic sheet ice melts, it could displace over 230 million people who currently live within three feet of the high tide line.
Climate change has indeed woken up the Antarctic ice giants, and we must be prepared.
Find out more about the global risks of Polar warming HERE.
Photo credit: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-1 imagery
World surpasses critical warming threshold for the first time
On November 17th, global temperatures reached 2.07°C above pre-industrial levels for the first time on record.
Preliminary data revealing the temperature spike was shared on X by Dr. Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Provisional data for November 18th showed temperatures at 2.06°C above the pre-industrial levels.
These record-breaking global average temperatures are not indicative of permanent warming above 2°C – temperatures would need to consistently surpass this threshold for extended periods before scientists considered it breached. However, this is a clear signal of an increasingly warmer planet that is moving steadily to a future where reversing the impacts of climate change will be difficult, if not impossible.
“Mother Nature has sent yet another worrying message that the Earth is unwell. While this is a short-term breach, the path we are on is a clear sign that we must act quickly and boldly to slash carbon emissions if we are to avert this level of warming becoming the norm, which we can already see is causing more costly and deadly extreme weather, accelerated sea-level rise through faster ice melt, and disrupted ecosystems,” said Dr. Jennifer Francis, a Senior Scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center and a member of Arctic Basecamp’s Science & Global Risks Advisory Team.
“The science is clear: if it were not for human activities, mainly burning fossil fuels and deforestation, the Earth would now be cooling, not warming. The longer we wait to act, the more diseased is the planet we leave for our children,” she warned.
The Arctic acts as the Earth’s cooling mechanism, but loss of ice and snow amplifies the risk of global heatwaves, meaning more intense heat stress in parts of the world that are already hot.
Find out more about the global risks of Arctic warming HERE.
Unexpected disintegration of ice shelves in North Greenland
Alarm bells ringing as rapid disintegration and weakening of ice shelves in North Greenland is observed!
Glaciers in North Greenland have, until now, been considered relatively stable. This stability has been important, as 2.1m of potential sea level rise is held within this part of the island—a sizable percentage of the estimated 7.4m held within the entire ice sheet.
However, new research, released on 7 November 2023 in Nature Communications authored by scientists from the CNRS as well as their Danish and American colleagues, casts a dark shadow. The ice in this part of Greenland is supported, or buttressed, by smaller glaciers, which in the past 45 years have lost 35% of their volume. The majority of this thinning is due to the rise in surrounding ocean temperatures, which causes the glaciers’ floating extensions to melt. These ice shelves play an essential role in regulating the amount of ice discharged into the ocean by acting as huge frozen “dams.”
Although Greenland has already contributed to over 17% of the current rise in sea levels from 2006 and 2018, any weakening of these barriers may have even more dramatic consequences for the stability of Greenlandic glaciers. This could lead to an increase in the amount of ice released, further accelerating sea level rise and associated global risks.
Figure 3(e) from this publication (attached above) shows cumulative Greenland ice sheet ice mass loss changes related to glacial basal melting, glacial calving and glacial SMB (Surface Mass Balance – calculated by subtracting ice sheet surface ice losses from snowfall gains) for the five remaining Greenland ice shelves. They are all in decline.
Source article is available HERE.
Three Icebergs break off West Antarctica’s most Endangered Glacier
Images recently posted in the Arctic Sea Ice Forum reveal three significant breakups, or calving events, in mid-October on Pine Island Glacier’s floating ice shelf in West Antarctica.
Pine Island Glacier (PIG) is Antarctica’s fastest melting glacier, and therefore the region’s greatest contributor to sea level rise. PIG is increasingly fragile due to thinning caused by heightened ice shelf melting and an increase in calving events, in which masses of ice break off into icebergs and make the glacier even more vulnerable to potential collapse.
PIG and its neighboring Thwaites Glacier are located in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, a large reservoir of frozen water, the release of which could result in a staggering surge in global sea levels if both glaciers collapse. Thwaites is known as the Doomsday Glacier because its collapse could take all of West Antarctica with it.
Olivia Rosane of Ecowatch has noted that Pine Island Glacier has already lost 25% of its ice shelf. PIG contains approximately 180 trillions of ice, equivalent to 0.5 meters or 1.6 feet of global sea level rise. Together, the rapid melting of Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers could cause global sea levels to rise by four feet.
While iceberg calving from Antarctic ice shelves is a natural process, calving events such as this most recent one appear to be happening more frequently and is likely exacerbated by global warming.
Read more about committed melt on both poles HERE.
Storm Ciarán set to hit UK and Europe
Storm Ciarán is expected to hit the UK, France and the Iberian Peninsula on Wednesday night and into Thursday with gusts of 160 km/h (100 mph) off the west coast of France before the winds filter through the Channel. Southern England, the Channel Isles and Brittany could experience winds of around 130 km/h (80 mph).
Torrential rain, flooding and coastal inundation are expected across the UK, France, and the northern Spanish and Portuguese coasts.
Flood warnings are in place across England, Scotland and Wales and amber rain warnings were issued for Northern Ireland.
Less than two weeks ago, Storm Babet swept through England and Scotland, leaving a death toll of seven and submerging entire fields of potato and cereal crops. Forecasters warn that the still-saturated grounds in certain areas in the UK could increase the risk of flooding from Ciarán.
Rapid Arctic warming is amplifying the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and storms such as Ciarán and Babet. A warmer Arctic leads to a wavier jet stream due to reduced temperature contrasts between the Arctic and the more southerly latitudes that drive hemispheric air circulation. This wavier pattern can result in intensified and persistent weather events, including storms and flooding.
Read more about the global risks of a rapidly warming Arctic HERE.
Sea Level Rise – Committed Melt Now On Both Poles
If all of Antarctica were to melt, global sea level rise could rise about 58m. Some of this, we now know, is unavoidable, even without further emissions–and if we succeed in keeping global temperatures under 1.5C.
As global temperatures continue to rise, it is essential to determine how much sea level rise is already locked-in, and what adaptations may be necessary under different emissions pathways.
A new study in Nature by researchers at the British Antarctic Survey and Northumbria University, looks at committed melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). This study is released on the back of a record-low sea ice extent in Antarctica, during which an area the size of Mongolia failed to freeze.
The main driver of this committed melt stems from the warming waters of the Amundsen Sea off the WAIS, which holds the equivalent of 5.3m of sea level rise. The WAIS largely comprises glaciers that are grounded beneath the ocean–meaning that warm water is melting them from underneath.
The researchers simulated how future warming in the Amundsen Sea could affect ice shelves in West Antarctica. They show that the Amundsen Sea has become exponentially warmer in recent decades, and the trajectory of that warming is unlikely to change in this century, even if all emissions were cut. Thus, the WAIS will continue to melt from within.
Floating ice shelves play an important role in holding back the ice sheet on land and their thinning causes increased flow of ice into the ocean, raising sea levels.
The new model simulations suggest that we are already committed to rapid ocean warming in the Antarctic over the 21st century, and the irreversible collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is likely, even if we meet our most ambitious climate goal and stay under 1.5°C.
Committed melt in both poles can only be a driver of more intense action to mitigate further melt. With each centimetre of sea level rise, the effects become more deadly. We still have the opportunity to get our emissions on track and prevent more devastation.
COP28 must acknowledge the global risks stemming from polar melt, and, in particular, the wide-reaching impacts of sea level rise on our food systems, cities and extreme weather.
Although achieving our emissions targets can help to slow the rate of sea level rise and avoid the collapse of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, policymakers should be preparing for multi-metre sea level rise, now also amplified by locked-in sea-level rise from melting Greenland ice.
Read more about Greenland locked in sea level rise HERE.
Read more about the global risks of sea level rise HERE.
Tropical Storm Ophelia takes on New York
Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Declared
The National Snow and Ice Data Center has just announced that the 2023 minimum Arctic sea ice extent occurred on 19 September and is the 6th lowest on record. With 2023’s peak in the books, we are adding another stripe to our Arctic sea ice stripes!
Why does Arctic sea ice matter?
Planetary warming will exacerbate by 25-40% if we lose Arctic ice and snow cover. With another year of record emissions, this is the path we are currently taking. However, the loss of Arctic sea ice is directly related to global CO2 emissions (Stroeve & Notz, 2018), which means the sooner we cut emissions, the more ice we can save.
On our current trajectory, we can no longer expect a future with summer sea ice in the north. In fact, it could melt nearly completely by the 2030s—roughly a decade earlier than previously projected.
Our Chief Science Officer, Professor Julienne Stroeve, captures this trajectory: “While record high temperatures were occurring across large parts of the planet, the Arctic Ocean had a relatively average to slightly cooler-than-average summer. However, despite a late start to the melt season over the central Arctic Ocean, the overall ice extent reached 6th lowest. This reflects the fact that even if summer weather patterns are not extremely favourable for large amounts of ice loss, the thinner ice pack today compared to the 1980s is too thin for much of it to survive summer.”
Find out more about Arctic sea ice here – Arctic Sea Ice
The World Above 1.5°C: Flooding Disasters from Libya to Hong Kong
Global temperatures have slightly decreased after a summer with 36 consecutive days above any previous record, a phenomenon not seen in at least 125,000 years. However, the two consecutive months above 1.5C provided a glimpse into future warming that will soon be commonplace if we do not cut emissions urgently. The Paris Accords were designed to safeguard the conditions for human survival—that is, to keep us within life-sustaining planetary boundaries, including the key warming threshold of 1.5C above preindustrial levels.
However, just two months above +1.5C has unleashed a cascade of global disasters, highlighting that even the widely accepted limit set in the Paris Agreement is not a universally safe space for hundreds of millions of people around the world.
In early September, Storm Daniel struck Libya, triggering the deadliest flooding event in Africa since 1900. According to the WHO, 3,958 people are confirmed dead with as many as 9,000 still missing. The torrential rains that struck Libya were only one facet of the deadly impact of the climate crisis and highlight the cascading consequences of extreme weather. A year’s worth of rain within 24 hours caused two already weakened dams to collapse, precipitating the flooding. The country’s low-lying coast makes it vulnerable to flooding, but its weak infrastructure and fragmented disaster preparation and response systems heighten community risk.
Libya is just one area in the world that saw catastrophic flooding recently. Ten regions saw devastating flooding in just 12 days. Before hitting Libya, Storm Daniel became one of the strongest systems to touch down in Greece, according to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Streets turned into rivers; cars were washed into the sea. Nearby, people died in flooding in Türkiye, Bulgaria and Spain. In Asia, typhoons Haikui and Saola washed through southern China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, flooding metro systems and trapping drivers in their vehicles.
In the United States, a hyperactive Atlantic cyclone season and jet stream blocks have brought flooding to parts of the East Coast, including New England and New York. In the west, Nevada’s Burning Man festival was turned into a giant mud pit. In South America, flooding in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul earlier in September was the state’s worst natural disaster in 40 years.
These global parallels are not random. We know that for each degree (centigrade) that the atmosphere warms, it can hold seven percent more moisture. We know that unprecedented ocean temperatures are driving storms. Many of these global weather patterns are influenced by the warming Arctic, which can alter precipitation and jet stream patterns. Like the flooding in Libya, which swept so many people away whilst asleep, those who bear the brunt of the climate crisis have often contributed the least to the global emissions responsible for it. Learn more about how global risks are associated with Arctic climate change here.
Polar Tipping Points Hub in WEF Global Collaboration Village
The Arctic Ocean will soon be ice-free during the summers, even with significant cuts in global carbon emissions. There are major implications that arise from this: amplification of global warming by 25-40%; increase in climate-related disasters worldwide – especially in climate vulnerable regions; increase in risks to local wildlife and Indigenous communities; and rise in shipping-related environmental risks.
This week, the Polar Tipping Points Hub was launched in the Global Collaboration Village, a metaverse built by the World Economic Forum in partnership with Accenture and Microsoft, with scientific support from Arctic Basecamp. The Hub aims to help drive leaders to take collective urgent action in the real world.
Read more on how metaverse technology is catalysing action on polar ice tipping points and/or see the promo VIDEO.
Arctic Basecamp Plays Significant Role in New Polar Metaverse by World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum (WEF) launched the Polar Tipping Points Hub, a groundbreaking virtual reality experience in collaboration with Accenture and Microsoft, yesterday at UN Climate Week in New York City. Arctic Basecamp played a crucial scientific role to make this hub come to life. Their team of Arctic experts and scientists have provided valuable scientific data and insights that have been instrumental in the development of the hub and used to guide people through the experience. Additionally, a substantial number of data visualisations from the Arctic Risk Platform (that curates the latest data and science to show how the world is affected by climatological changes in the Arctic) have been incorporated into this immersive experience.
Read more – WEF Press Release
Mind-blowing alarm bells need to be ringing: Antarctica’s ice remains well-below any previous record
“Almost mind-blowing.” That’s how Walter Meier of the NSIDC describes the records Antarctica has set this year. By mid-September, the sea ice around the southern pole should be reaching its maximum extent. So far, however, the seventh continent is missing 1.5 million sq km of sea ice compared with the average for this time of year, a number well below any previous record. To put this in perspective, an area the size of Mongolia has effectively failed to freeze.
Antarctica’s vast size means that it is critical for the temperature regulation of the entire planet. The white snow and ice reflect the sunlight back into space, and the ice cools the water beneath it. It is, thus, like a giant refrigerator for the planet. Its size has also meant that, for many years, Antarctica was assumed to have some natural resistance to melting. Indeed, until 2016, the continent’s winter sea ice had been steadily gaining ice mass.
Three of the past seven Antarctic summers have seen record-breaking minima. In March 2022, when ice should have been refreezing, eastern Antarctica was pummelled by a heatwave that drove temperatures 40C above normal. Rather than being the planet’s largest refrigerator, a melting Antarctica could become a radiator, as it could absorb heat through exposed ocean rather than repel it.
Reflecting on the heatwave of March 2022, Professor Martin Siegert of the University of Exeter emphasises the assumed immunity of the ice continent: “When I started studying the Antarctic 30 years ago, we never thought extreme weather events could happen there.”
While the relative lack of data makes it hard to know exactly what is happening with Antarctica long-term, Professor Anna Hogg at the University of Leeds says that the current trends are highlighting that the worst-case scenario for Antarctica might be ravelling. Professor Siegert asks whether [we are] “awakening this giant of Antarctica.” If so, it would be “an absolute disaster for the world.”
Land ice from Antarctica has contributed 7.2mm of sea level rise since 1990, placing it behind Greenland in terms of global contribution. However, even a small increase in melt would escalate storm surges and saltwater intrusion, and thus would be devasting for millions of people around the world, especially those in coastal and low-lying communities.
Image source: Amanderson2, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A rare northern hurricane continues to make records
Hurricane Lee is preparing to slam into northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes. While parts of Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are under a hurricane warning, a tropical storm warning extends from Connecticut through Newfoundland and Labrador, highlighting the vast size of this storm. The reach of the storm surge is greater still, with flooding likely throughout the mid-Atlantic states, and deadly rip currents are affecting the entire eastern seaboard.
The sheer size of this storm is not the only thing notable about it. Hurricane Lee first popped onto the radar as an anomaly last week when it underwent rapid intensification. Within just 24 hours, the storm went from a largely disorganized system to a powerful Category 5 storm with sustained windspeeds exceeding 165mph/265kph. The storm has since lost significant power upon reaching the colder northern waters, where it is now a Category 1 storm with sustained winds at 85mph, but its longevity and earlier intensity have been fueled by the exceptionally warm waters of the North Atlantic.
Rapid intensification is when a storm’s windspeed increases by at least 35mph within a period of 24 hours. In Lee’s case, winds strengthened by 85mph in 24 hours. Only two Atlantic cyclones have had bigger jumps in speed, according to NOAA’s John Kaplan. Just a week prior to Lee’s jump in speed, Hurricane Idalia gained 55mph in wind speed within 24 hours before pummeling central Florida as a Category 4 storm and displacing 10,000 people.
According to NOAA’s hurricane database, 20% of North Atlantic Category 5 storms have occurred since 2016, with Lee being in the eighth in the past seven years. This year had been expected to be a relatively normal year for tropical cyclones. However, we are finding ourselves in unchartered territory with the combination of El Niño and rocketing Atlantic ocean temperatures this year, and there is a lot of uncertainty as to how this might affect weather patterns this year.
Maine’s governor, Janet Mills, has preemptively declared a State of Emergency, enabling the Maine Emergency Management Agency to activate in response to Lee’s impacts. Are you in the path of Lee or other critical weather? While evacuations are currently optional, everyone can be prepared with basic needs to get through this storm as safely and comfortably as possible.
Biden cancels Arctic oil leases!
The Biden Administration’s monumental decision to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has led to the cancellation of 7 Trump-era oil and gas leases. It also prohibits drilling in more than 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve, which lies left to the Refuge. President Biden said that his Administration will “continue to take bold action” on climate change. His action on ANWR is especially pertinent given his earlier approval of the Trump-era Willow Project last March, also in the National Petroleum Reserve.
For Gwich’in on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, it’s viewed as a major victory. ANWR is an important breeding ground for the Porcupine caribou herd (named for the nearby Porcupine River), which has inherent cultural, spiritual, and ecological values and provides food for many communities.
Not all Indigenous communities are celebrating President Biden’s cancellation. Nagruk Harcharek, the President of the Voice of Arctic Iñupiat, has stated that the supposed protection of 13 million acres of their ancestral homelands – where the National Petroleum Reserve is located – flies in the face of their region’s wishes and self-determination. For Harcharek, local petroleum drilling has become a much-relied upon revenue source to help North Slope communities.
The Arctic is warming 4 times faster than the global rate. Arctic sea ice is retreating, shores are eroding, glaciers are shrinking, permafrost is thawing, and insect outbreaks and wildfires are becoming more common in the Arctic. The impacts of these changes have global consequences from more intense storms and heat waves to food insecurity and vector-borne disease. Therefore, the protection of the Arctic isn’t just in the interest of the Gwich’in, Iñupiat and other northern Indigenous communities, but for people far away.
Image source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Torrential rain and winds slam Southern Brazil
Southern Brazil has been hit by torrential rain and winds caused by a cyclone, leading the governor of one of the most impacted areas, Rio Grande do Sul, to call it the state’s worst-ever weather disaster. More than 300 mm of rain hit Rio Grande do Sul in less than 24 hours. This triggered floods and landslides, with more flooding being expected in the next days. So far, thousands have been forced to leave their homes, at least 21 people have died and there are still people missing. The little town, Mucum, with 5,000 inhabitants, has been hit especially hard with over 85% of the town being flooded and multiple people found dead.
While many factors contribute to this flooding, a warming atmosphere as a result of climate change makes heavy rainfall events more frequent. Although it is far away, Arctic warming can also increase temperatures globally, which can impact global atmospheric systems, including patterns of moisture. When these moisture-rich air masses interact with other weather systems, such as cold fronts or low-pressure systems, it can result in more significant and prolonged rainfall events.
Drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is needed to mitigate climate change, including a rapidly warming Arctic with global consequences. Such action can help prevent or lessen the severity of extreme weather events, protecting vulnerable communities like those affected by the recent disaster in Brazil.
Do you want to know more about the Artic’s influence on South America? Read more here.
Hurricane Idalia: the fingerprints of the Arctic climate crisis
As of 11am local time, Hurricane Idalia is barreling toward Florida as a Category 1 storm but is expected to intensify into a Category 3 cyclone before it slams into the state’s Big Bend region.
Idalia is particularly threatening for several reasons. One, is that it tracks in some of the same footsteps as last year’s Hurricane Ian, which became the most expensive climate disaster with a price tag of US$118bn and led to 149 deaths as it ripped through Cuba and central Florida. Counties, such as Sanibel, are still reeling from infrastructure and housing loss, making the area more vulnerable to further damage from Idalia.
Two, like Ian, Idalia has the fingerprints of climate change. Idalia is primed for what is known as rapid intensification, which means the storm’s winds increase by at least 35mph within 24h. This increases the likelihood that the storm makes landfall at a higher intensity than for what people have prepared. Consequently, a lack of sufficient preparedness can yield higher death tolls and damages.
As typical with hurricanes, water damage is expected to have the most significant impacts with Idalia. Rainfall may amount to 8 inches, and along the Floridian coasts, storm surges could reach 7 feet in Tampa Bay and up to 12 feet farther north.
One main reason for this rapid intensification forecast? The Gulf of Mexico is boiling—almost! In late July, water off the Florida Keys tipped 101.19F/38.43C with other areas also measuring above 100F. To give perspective, NOAA reports the average water temperature in these parts to be between 73F and 88F (23C and 31C). Such excessively warm waters are key to the rapid intensification of more powerful storms.
Although hurricanes may originate in the tropics, Arctic warming is one of the main contributors to their power. As the Arctic absorbs more solar radiation and loses snow and ice coverage, it loses the ability to act as a core component of the planet’s cooling system. For each degree (Centigrade) that the planet warms, the atmosphere can hold 7% more moisture. This moisture, especially when combined with warmer oceans, drives stronger tropical cyclones (IPCC AR6 WG1, 2021). Learn more about the Arctic and global risks, such as extreme weather here.
Twitter.com/NWSTampaBay is tracking the storm with updates in English and Spanish.
Twitter.com/NWSTampaBay está rastreando la tormenta con actualizaciones en inglés y español.
Image credit: The National Guard, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
From one extreme event to another: heat domes and landslides.
Much of Europe has been dominated by a historic heat dome, leading to the falling of both daytime and nighttime temperature records. On August 23, for example, France shattered its all-time record as the town of Siran recorded 44.4°C. Numerous Swiss cities toppled records the following day, including in Geneva, which reached 39.3°C. In Greece, the on-going heat has fueled more wildfires, which have so far displaced more than 21,500 people.
For many of those caught in the extreme heat, relief from the weakening of the blocking pattern in the jet stream that has maintained the heat dome has been short lived, as they are thrown into the grip of another extreme weather event. The now-faster jet stream combined with hotter-than-normal water temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea is a dangerous combination. Enhanced wind shear, unstable air masses, increased humidity and warm waters are prime conditions for supercells, which can yield strong tornadoes, thunderstorms, hail and damaging winds.
On Sunday, the Spanish island of Mallorca (Majorca) was hit with a sudden thunderstorm, one of several in the Balearic Islands. Gusts exceeded 120kph/75mph. In some scary footage of the event, the Britannia, a P&O Cruises ship based out of Southampton, broke free of its tether and collided with a freighter. One British holiday-goer described the experience to the BBC as feeling like she “was in the Wizard of Oz.”
This windstorm in Mallorca is amongst extremes throughout southern Europe, as torrential rain has led to landslides and flooding, affecting businesses, transportation and utilities in the area. In Germany, 150 houses were damaged from flooding in the Straubing region, and more than 100 residents in the Aichach-Friedberg region were evacuated and 12 were injured. In Graz, Austria, hail measuring 9cm was reported. Flash floods are especially concerning in areas in northern Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland, which were hit badly earlier this month with flooding and landslides.
Did you know that the rapidly warming Arctic is one of the leading causes for blocking patterns to form in the jet stream, leading to both the heat dome and the extreme weather following its release? At its most basic, the jet stream maintains its speed through being sandwiched between cooler Arctic and warmer tropic air masses. When the Arctic heats up, the large air current can be disrupted and is prone to patterns that can lead to lingering heatwaves and unstable air masses. Learn more about the Arctic and global risks, such as extreme weather here.
These storms are expected to continue at least through Wednesday.
Image credit: Dani Torres (@jumpcarey)
GREENLAND HEATWAVE ARRIVED AS PREDICTED
As predicted by our Pan-Arctic Alert System, on Tuesday, 22 August 2023 a significant heatwave hit Greenland, which brought rainfall and temperatures that were abnormal for this time of the year. As a result, we observed a sharp increase in ice sheet melt. This heatwave is just the latest tangible indication of a rapidly warming Arctic. We will keep monitoring the forecasts and the live weather station data from Greenland for any future temperature anomalies.
Want to know more about Greenland’s ice melt and why it matters? Read more.
Greenland Heatwave Forthcoming
Our Pan-Arctic Alert System is ringing…
On Tuesday, 22 August 2023, a significant heatwave is predicted to hit Greenland, bringing rainfall and temperatures that are abnormal for this time of the year. As a result, the ice sheet is expected to melt near its highest elevations, further accelerated by the rain. This heatwave is just the latest tangible indication of a warming Arctic. We will keep monitoring the forecasts and the live weather station data from Greenland to see how this event unfolds.
Want to know more about Greenland’s ice melt and why it matters? Read more.
Hilary – California’s first-ever tropical storm warning
New Antarctic extremes ‘virtually certain’ as world warms
A newly published study calls for urgent action as increasing extreme events in Antarctica have catastrophic global effects.
In their new paper, the authors reviewed evidence of extreme events in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, such as ocean heatwaves and ice loss. In March 2022, Antarctica saw the world’s largest recorded heatwave: 38.5℃ above the average. At present, winter sea ice formation is the lowest on record. Due to ongoing global warming, these extremes will almost certainly become more and more severe.
According to the study, “it is well documented how extreme Antarctic weather leads to catastrophic events worldwide: flooding, heatwaves, wildfires, drought and water/flood shortages and episodes of intense cooling.” Prof. Siegert commented: “There’s a real danger, I think, in the years coming ahead that Antarctica starts to behave in a way that looks a lot more like the Arctic… that it stops acting as a refrigerant for the planet, and it starts acting as a radiator.”
“Reducing greenhouse gas emission is our best hope of preserving Antarctica, and this must matter to every country – and individual – on the planet” – Prof. Siegert warns. “Nations must understand that by continuing to explore, extract and burn fossil fuels anywhere in the world, the environment of Antarctica will become ever more affected in ways inconsistent with their pledge.”
Image source: Prof. Martin Siegert
Indigenous youth are the climate leaders we need
Around the world, tensions in climate discussions and solutions stretch between the young and old, the Indigenous and non, those most affected and the greatest emitters. Ahead of next Wednesday’s 24-hour virtual dialogue, Global Indigenous Youth Summit on Climate Change, Indigenous youth are staking their claim to be at the centre of discussions around their future.
Despite being responsible for only a very small percentage of global emissions, Indigenous Peoples are at the frontline of the climate crisis. Their identities and livelihoods have been built traditionally on the land, which is now experiencing the consequences of rapid polar climate change. They also bring solutions, a holistic approach and a legacy of sustainable stewardship.
Through our Youth Ambassador programme, Arctic Basecamp is proud to bring global young people into spaces where decisions are made. We stand with Indigenous youth and encourage you to listen to their leadership.
To learn more about why Indigenous youth are the climate leaders we need, check out https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-02480-1
To learn more about our Youth Ambassador program, visit arcticbasecamp.org/youth/
NEW STUDY FOUND: Possible collapse of AMOC earlier than expected
One of the Earth’s climate system’s tipping points that is of major concern is the collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). AMOC is part of the ocean’s thermohaline circulation system—that is, the global “conveyor belt” of currents that bring warm water away from the tropics and cold water from the poles. A collapsed AMOC would have huge, devastating consequences for all life on Earth, including the Arctic ecosystem. Until now, the implications of this tipping point and when it will occur have likely been largely underestimated by standard climate models, such as those used by IPCC reports, which had estimated a collapse might occur around 2300 in a high emission scenario.
A newly published study by Ditlevsen and Ditlevsen (2023) comes with shocking results, estimating the timeframe for collapse to be between 2025 and 2095, with a central estimate of 2050, if global carbon emissions are not cut. Evidence of past AMOC collapses stemming from glacier melt during the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago indicates temperature changes of 10°C within a few decades. Other scientists stated that the assumptions about how a tipping point would unfold and the uncertainties in the underlying data are too significant for a reliable estimation of the timing of the tipping point. However, they all agreed that the prospect of an AMOC collapse is extremely concerning and should prompt a rapid reduction in carbon emissions.
According to Stefan Rahmstorf (Head of Earth System Analysis at PIK): “Standard climate models probably underestimate the risk. There are two reasons for that. One, they largely ignore Greenland’s ice loss and the resulting freshwater input to the northern Atlantic which contributes to weakening the AMOC. And their modelled AMOC is likely too stable.”
The loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet is one of the 6 tipping points closest to tipping. Recent research showed that in the first half of July 2023, daily melt estimates have reached a staggering 15 billion tons per day, equivalent to 6 million Olympic swimming pools. If the Greenland Ice Sheet were to melt entirely, it would cause sea level rise of approximately 7.4 metres. Currently, it is the largest contributor to global sea level rise, with a committed 27cm of average sea level rise due to the destabilisation of the ice sheet. The rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet poses a severe threat to communities worldwide, and is a significant contributor to the weakening of the AMOC.
Fresh water from Greenland is pouring into the northern Atlantic Ocean, where traditionally the warm, salty Gulf Stream mixes with the colder Arctic water and sinks before heading south. With the influx of freshwater, however, the warm currents become less dense, thereby slowing the overturn. Consequently, less salt is brought into the region, further decelerating the AMOC. This process is known as the salt advection feedback.
If the freshwater input exceeds a critical threshold, the circulation system can become too slow to be effective or stop entirely. This critical point is referred to as the AMOC tipping point. A collapse of this system would have catastrophic consequences worldwide, reaching as far as the Amazon Rainforest and the ice caps of Antarctica. It would lead to severe disruptions in the rainfall patterns that billions of people in India, South America, and West Africa rely on for their food supply. It would result in an increase in storms and lower temperatures in Europe, as well as sea level rise along the east coast of North America. In the Arctic, the entire ecosystem stands to be affected, from the phytoplankton that form the base of the food chain to the communities relying on a consistent climate for hunting and fishing.
Important to realise is that all tipping points are connected, such as how the melt of the Greenland ice sheet is leading to the slowdown of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Moreover, the tipping of one is likely to amplify others. We realise the results of this new study are very scary and far from comforting. However, it stresses the necessity of immediately cutting our carbon emissions. Businesses, governments as well as individuals. Your actions count. Your actions could help protect all live on Earth.
If you want to know more about tipping points and its consequences, watch our founder Gail Whiteman ‘unpack the polar crisis’.
North American heat melts Greenland
According to Prof. Jason Box, the new Arctic Basecamp “Pan-Arctic Alert System” (PASS) and field data have round the clock melting in Greenland at high elevations on the southern part of the ice sheet and that’s very abnormal. 2023 Greenland surface melting is at record high for the southern ice sheet and overall is currently ranked 2nd after the record ice loss year 2012.
The melting is connected to the 2023 North American heat wave. The jet stream is dragging extreme heat from North America and picking up additional heat from record high North Atlantic sea surface temperatures.
For more information on the global risks associated with rapid Arctic warming visit arcticrisk.org
Meltdown Alert: Greenland’s Ice Sheets, a cause for alarm!
Late June brought significant weather changes to Greenland, leading to a record pace of melting, especially in the southern part of the ice sheet known as the South Dome. Air temperatures have been above average, rising by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the south and over 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) in the north-central area.
Changing air pressure patterns have led to higher-than-average pressure in both the southwest and the northeast of the island. This pattern has brought a series of warm air pulses across the island from the southwest, intensifying surface melting and runoff. During the first half of July, estimated daily melt totals reached 15 billion tons, with melt run-off at about 10 billion tons per day, both significantly higher than average. Throughout June 27, July 6 to 7, and July 11, there have been several widespread melting events, covering about 800,000 square kilometers (302,000 square miles) or up to 50 percent of the ice sheet. The total number of days with melting has surpassed the average, with the southern and southwestern portions experiencing 5 to 15 extra melting days and the northern flank experiencing about 10 additional days of melting. In terms of total melt-day extent, this season now ranks sixth highest overall, and the southern ice sheet is currently experiencing a record high for the 45-year satellite record.
“Heat domes such as what has been happening over northwest Africa and southern Europe can also happen over Greenland. During the first half of July, high pressure over Greenland brought in warm winds from the south and clear skies that have led to significant melting.” [Julienne Stroeve, Chief Scientist Officer at Arctic Basecamp and Arctic Climate Scientist].
Negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) conditions are expected to persist until the end of July, resulting in even more melting. In fact, it is projected that the total runoff at the South Dome during July will surpass the previous record years of 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2019. The southern and northeastern areas experienced below-average snowfall and frequent rainfall, pre-conditioning the surface for further melting, especially near the coast with exposed ice-covered ablation areas.
The sudden shift to southern heat requires close monitoring, as this rapid melting will have serious implications for global sea levels and climate patterns. Let’s not forget that melting ice sheets mean higher seas and that the Greenland Ice Sheet contains the equivalent of 7.4 metres of sea level rise. It is now the largest contributor to global sea level rise at up to 1.4 mm per year and Greenland’s increased rate of ice melt will massively disrupt coastal communities and economies across the world.
Every alarm bell on Earth is ringing
According to Prof Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, without human-caused climate change, we may have had balmy days and thunderstorms. With, however, we have deadly heat waves and disastrous flooding.
By layering a northern hemisphere summer and an El Niño year on top of climate change, the entire hemisphere is screaming. “We’re seeing temperatures exceed those that can support life,” said Dr. Jennifer Francis, a scientist with Arctic Basecamp and the Woodwell Climate Research Center.
Death Valley has been primed to break the highest confirmed temperature of the modern era as the heat dome over the American southwest continues to intensify. Off the American southeastern coast, ocean temperatures around Florida are reaching hot tub levels, sparking fears of coral and marine ecosystem die-offs. In southern Europe, the ‘Cerberus’ heatwave has pushed temperatures toward the all-time continental record of 48.8C set in Sicily in 2021. Morocco and Algeria recorded the hottest temperatures in northern Africa, with the Moroccan city, Benni Mellal, clocking 47.5°C, and Biskra, Algeria topping out at 48.0°C. Farther east, China has opened air-raid shelters to serve as cooling centers, as heat waves affect the fourth continent in the northern hemisphere.
Other areas of the planet, such as those caught in some of the low-pressure systems, however, might be wishing for some of this dry heat–in moderation. The Northeastern United States has been gripped in torrential downpours, which have led to deadly flooding in places like Vermont. In Europe, the low pressure systems have so far spared the UK from smashing many of its temperature records and led to flood warnings throughout Scotland.
Meanwhile, eastern Canadian wildfires are still spewing toxic smoke into the atmosphere and creating hazardous air throughout much of North America and into the atmosphere of Europe. Fires throughout Siberia have triggered a state of emergency. Forests around the world are transitioning from being carbon sinks to carbon emitters. The past 12 days have been the hottest in at least 125,000 years. The last eight years cumulatively have been the hottest on record, and June 2023 was 2.5F warmer than June of 150 years ago.
Penn State scientist, Dr. Michael E Mann, recently compared the jet stream to a Van Gogh painting–a parallel capturing the chaos of our planetary systems. The air current’s wavy pattern is blocking weather systems, forming lasting heat domes and torrential downpours. One of the key drivers of this wonky jet stream is an exponentially warming Arctic, where temperatures are increasing four times the global average. This is because the jet stream gains its strength, in part, by being sandwiched between colder polar air and warmer tropical air.
While this summer’s weather might feel extreme, if we continue to pump record levels of emissions into the atmosphere, what seems extreme this year will seem moderate next. Check out our Solutions page to find out what we must do to respond.
Image: This image was originally posted to Flickr by Pierre Markuse at https://flickr.com/photos/24998770@N07/52913795290. It was reviewed on 21 May 2023 by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.
Significant melting expected in Greenland
A second heating event and significant melt is predicted for Greenland during the first week of July. This melting will be felt especially across the northeastern part of the ice sheet and is expected to be associated with remarkable meltwater runoff as a result of coming on the back of the season’s first major melt just a few days ago.
On June 26, we forecasted an extensive melt for Greenland, especially throughout the island’s higher elevations. Indeed, this melt happened, affecting 816.88km^2, which is significantly more than the multidecadal average of 297.5km^2 for late June. As a result of such a large melt area and rate, the ability of the winter snowpack to absorb additional meltwater has been compromised, meaning that this expected melt is assumed to bring significant runoff as the water cannot be retained.
Given that this season’s warming has already led to abnormally bare areas, and with extensive melts in the forecast, we can expect significant ice loss in parts of Greenland by summer’s end.
BREAKING NEWS – GREENLAND HEATWAVE FORECASTS EXTENSIVE SURFACE MELT
BREAKING NEWS – Greenland heatwave bringing uncommon melt conditions across the northern ice sheet – very high temperatures in Greenland (anomalies of ~+10°C) means we are expecting the 1st peak of huge surface melt of the Greenland ice sheet on 27 June 2023.
This alert was identified through our Pan Arctic Alert System and refined by Professor Jason Box, Arctic Basecamp Science Advisor.
MORE TO FOLLOW…
Hear more from Professor Jason Box in the video below.
Canada still on track for most severe wildfire season ever recorded
ALERT UPDATE: Canada is still currently on track to have its most severe wildfire season ever recorded, with an unprecedentedly intense wildfire season. Air pollution continues to surge in Quebec, Canada, where 81 forest fires are raging, 25 of which are out of control. This has resulted in Montreal having the worst air quality (>200 US AQI) in the world according to IQAir’s ranking of major cities, which is unprecedented.
The fire season is now lasting longer than before due to climate change. As wildfires continue to burn, cities can expect more smog warnings and poor air quality, which can lead to short and long-term health problems. In fact, significant smoke from these Canadian wildfires is crossing the Atlantic and predicted to reach Western Europe shortly.
Do you want to know what makes wildfire smoke in your area worse? Read it here.
North Sea’s Alarming Temperature Rise Sparks Storm Warnings
After we issued a warning about sea surface temperatures in the Northern Atlantic Ocean last week, temperatures in parts of the North Sea are now over 6°C warmer than usual as well. NOAA’s Marine Heatwave Watch has called a Category 4 (extreme) marine heatwave in relation to this situation. Mika Rantanen, researcher at the Finnish Meteorological institute calls this heatwave “currently the strongest on Earth” (CNN, 2023).
In April and May, global sea surface temperatures reached previously unseen records with June also being underway to reach record heat levels (The Guardian, 2023). According to the Met Office, the current El Niño weather phenomenon is likely to keep these unheard-of temperatures.
With 70% of our planet being covered in oceans, these temperatures affect sea ice melt on both poles and are also linked to extreme weather such as storms. This week, several severe storm warnings were issued in much of Western Europe with heavy rainfall, large hail and strong winds.
Want to know more? View the latest data on global risks here.
Record breaking temperatures in Iceland
Iceland, it’s known as the land of Fire and Ice–but usually the ‘fire’ refers to volcanoes not the roasting temperatures.
For the past couple days, several towns in eastern Iceland have seen record-breaking temperatures. In both Egilsstaðaflugvöllur (27.9°C) and Hallormsstaður (27.8°C), temperatures were the hottest ever recorded before the solstice. A persistent high-pressure system just south of Iceland has been pumping warmer air into the country’s east, prompting the Iceland Monitor to predict “better weather” in Iceland than in the Canary Islands. However, while good for bikinis and flip flops, such heat anomalies in Iceland have an icy side. Warming in the region has led to the rapid loss of glaciers in the country, affecting Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. This has led to changes both in local ecosystems and in wider planetary ones.
Find out more about how Arctic change affects climate vulnerability in Europe HERE.
Why is the 2023 El Niño forecast to be ‘different’?
[Desplázate para traducción en Español]
We asked Dr. Jennifer Francis, an Arctic Basecamp Science Advisor and Senior Scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center, about this year’s forecast El Niño and why she feel this is very different to what has gone before:
So we find ourselves heading into what looks like is going to be a strong El Niño. We haven’t had a strong one in a while since 2016 was the last really strong one. But the conditions that we find ourselves in with this El Niño are quite different from any other one we’ve ever seen. And that is because there’s a lot going on in the climate system right now that’s connected to the climate crisis.
And so a typical El Niño, and the opposite of that is La Niña which we’ve been in for the last three years or so we understand pretty well what the weather patterns look like associated with those two phases of El Niño and La Niña, but I think it’s going to be very different this year. So what’s so different this time?
Well, in addition to this strong El Niño, which I should add, when we have strong El Niños, we often set new global high temperature records. So we’re pretty sure we’re going to see in the next year to potentially breaking that threshold of of 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming that has been this target. It will probably be temporary, though. I mean, this will be a blip that is associated with El Niño. But I think that’s important. But even along with that, we also expect to see some pretty extreme and unusual weather conditions that always occur with a strong El Niño. But this year will be different.
The reason is going to be different is because we have a lot of other things going on that are concerning all by themselves. So one factor that I think is going to contribute to a very unusual El Niño situation and the weather that it usually would would cause is that we have a huge pool of much above normal ocean temperatures in the North Pacific. It’s been there for a while. And that pool of very warm water has a big influence on what the jet stream does. The jet stream is this strong current of wind high up in the atmosphere that really creates the weather that we feel across North America across Eurasia. So anything that affects the Jetstream is going to have an influence our weather systems and that that pool of warm water we call an oceanic heatwave is undoubtedly already having a big impact even before El Niño gets here.
Another factor that we’re looking at is the fact that most of the Atlantic Ocean right now is also much warmer than normal. I like to call it the Atlantic is running a fever, so one of the things that is usually associated with an El Niño is a relatively quiet hurricane season in the North Atlantic. And here we are right at the beginning of hurricane season right now. And because there’s so much more water in the Atlantic Ocean, most people are expecting it to not be a very quiet hurricane season even though we’re looking at this El Niño. So there’s another very interesting factor to keep keep an eye on what’s going to happen with the hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.
So one of the things so another factor that we’re always watching is what’s going on in the far north in the Arctic. And once again, we’re seeing the amount of sea ice up there for this time of year running at very low levels. It’s in terms of the real estate it covers, but also in terms of the thickness of that sea ice. That’s very thin. It’s much thinner than it used to be 30-40 years ago, which is a blink in time really. And so when the ice gets very thin, it’s also much easier to melt it it’s much easier to push it around with unusual wind patterns which we expect to have this this summer. So it there’s a really good potential for some, perhaps record breaking sea ice conditions this summer. But also the Arctic is running very warm as well. And we know that when the Arctic is warming much faster than the globe as a whole. It also has an impact on the Jetstream which in turn affects our weather patterns all around the northern hemisphere.
So we’ve been seeing the oceans global warming steadily. And every year for the last several years pretty much it’s set new records for the global ocean temperature and how much heat has been absorbed by the global oceans. When we go into an El Niño is a bunch of heat gets released back into the atmosphere. So the greenhouse gases that we’ve been dumping into the atmosphere, ie about 90% of that goes into the oceans only 10% into the air. And but as El Niño comes along, that regulates how much of that ocean he transferred between the ocean and the atmosphere. So in an El Niño year, we tend to see more of that heat coming out of the ocean into the air and this tends to cause a spike in global average temperatures. El Niños usually don’t last more than a year or two. And so we expect this to be a spike not a big shift in global average surface temperatures. But it’s certainly concerning, because it does indicate that there’s just this reservoir of heat in our oceans that is, is going back into the atmosphere. It’s causing the atmosphere generally to increase but we also see these spikes from time to time and it’s very likely that we’re going to see that threshold of 1.5 degrees C, which is the Paris Agreement target being crossed, but most likely we’ll come back down below it again for a little while, at least. But the trend is, you know, warmer and warmer.
So unless we stopped emitting these heat trapping greenhouse gases, we need to expect to see that global temperature continued to rise in a general way. So a silver lining, if you will, to that linear that we’re potentially going to see develop in the next couple of months is that people are now familiar with that term, El Niño. They know that it means unusual weather they’re already thinking about, Oh dear, you know, this could be bad this year. So it’s an opportunity it’s capturing the imagination is capturing the attention of the public and this connection with climate, the climate crisis, the connection to ocean heat waves elsewhere, the connection to extreme weather events and their increase in those in various parts of the world. In fact, there are very few places where they aren’t seeing an uptick in extreme events and the connection to what’s happening in the Arctic.
All of these factors coming together is a complicated story for the public to digest. But it also is, I think, fascinating for the public. And it’s a great opportunity for us to communicate bits of climate information that people can help it can help people understand how the climate crisis is playing out even in the face of these natural changes like El Niño, but also these oceanic heat waves that are certainly not completely natural.
¿POR QUÉ SE PREVÉ QUE EL NIÑO DE 2023 SEA “DIFERENTE”?
Así que nos encontramos adentrándonos en lo que parece ser un fuerte El Niño. No hemos tenido uno fuerte desde 2016, pero las condiciones en las que nos encontramos con este El Niño son bastante diferentes a cualquier otro que hayamos visto. Esto se debe a que hay mucho sucediendo en el sistema climático en este momento, y está relacionado con la crisis climática. Un El Niño típico, y su opuesto La Niña, de los cuales hemos estado en los últimos tres años más o menos, entendemos bastante bien cómo se ven los patrones climáticos asociados con esas dos fases de El Niño y La Niña. Pero creo que este año va a ser muy diferente.
Entonces, ¿qué es lo que es tan diferente esta vez? Bueno, además de este fuerte El Niño, que debo agregar, cuando tenemos fuertes El Niño, a menudo establecemos nuevos récords de temperatura global máxima. Así que estamos bastante seguros de que veremos en el próximo año o dos, potencialmente superando el umbral de 1.5 grados Celsius de calentamiento global, que ha sido el objetivo. Probablemente sea temporal, aunque quiero decir, esto será un pico asociado con El Niño. Pero también, junto con eso, esperamos ver condiciones climáticas bastante extremas e inusuales. Eso siempre ocurre con un fuerte El Niño, pero este año será diferente.
La razón por la que será diferente es porque tenemos muchas otras cosas sucediendo que son preocupantes por sí mismas. Entonces, un factor que creo que contribuirá a una situación de El Niño muy inusual y el clima que normalmente causaría es que tenemos una gran acumulación de temperaturas oceánicas muy por encima de lo normal en el Pacífico Norte. Ha estado allí durante un tiempo. Y esa acumulación de agua cálida tiene una gran influencia en lo que hace la corriente en chorro, que es esta fuerte corriente de viento en la alta atmósfera que realmente crea el clima que sentimos en América del Norte, en Eurasia. Entonces, cualquier cosa que afecte a la corriente en chorro tendrá una influencia en nuestros sistemas climáticos. Y esa acumulación de agua cálida, a la que llamamos una Ola de Calor Oceánica, sin duda ya está teniendo un gran impacto incluso antes de que llegue El Niño.
Otro factor que estamos observando es el hecho de que la mayor parte del océano Atlántico en este momento también está mucho más cálido de lo normal. Me gusta llamarlo que el Atlántico tiene fiebre. Entonces, una de las cosas que generalmente se asocian con un El Niño es una temporada de huracanes relativamente tranquila en el Atlántico Norte. Y aquí estamos, justo al comienzo de la temporada de huracanes en este momento, y debido a que hay tanta agua caliente en el océano Atlántico, la mayoría de las personas esperan que no sea una temporada de huracanes muy tranquila, a pesar de que estamos viendo este El Niño. Entonces, hay otro factor muy interesante en el que debemos estar atentos: qué sucederá con los huracanes en el océano Atlántico.
Entonces, otro factor que siempre estamos observando es lo que está sucediendo en el extremo norte, en el Ártico, y una vez más estamos viendo que la cantidad de hielo marino allí para esta época del año se encuentra en niveles muy bajos, tanto en términos de la superficie que cubre como en cuanto a su espesor. Pero es muy delgado, mucho más delgado de lo que solía ser hace 30 o 40 años, lo cual es un parpadeo de un ojo en términos de tiempo. Y cuando el hielo se vuelve muy delgado, también es mucho más fácil de derretir y empujar con patrones de viento inusuales que se atiende tener este verano. Por lo tanto, hay un gran potencial para condiciones de hielo marino quizás récord este verano, pero también el Ártico se encuentra muy cálido, y sabemos que cuando el Ártico se calienta mucho más rápido que el resto del globo, también tiene un impacto en la corriente en chorro, lo que a su vez afecta nuestros patrones climáticos en todo el hemisferio norte.
Hemos estado viendo que los océanos se están calentando gradualmente a nivel mundial y cada año, en los últimos años, han establecido nuevos récords en la temperatura global de los océanos y en cuánto calor ha sido absorbido por los océanos globales. Cuando entramos en un El Niño, una parte de ese calor se libera nuevamente a la atmósfera. Los gases de efecto invernadero que hemos estado emitiendo a la atmósfera, aproximadamente el 90 por ciento de ellos se van a los océanos y solo el 10 por ciento queda en el aire. Pero cuando llega el El Niño, regula cuánto de ese calor oceánico se transfiere entre el océano y la atmósfera. Por lo tanto, en un año de El Niño, tendemos a ver más de ese calor saliendo del océano hacia el aire, lo que provoca un aumento en las temperaturas promedios globales.
Los El Niños generalmente no duran más de uno o dos años, por lo que esperamos que esto sea un aumento temporal y no un gran cambio en las temperaturas superficiales promedio globales. Sin embargo, es preocupante porque indica que hay una reserva de calor en nuestros océanos que está volviendo a la atmósfera, lo que provoca un aumento general en la atmósfera. Pero también vemos estos aumentos esporádicamente, y es muy probable que veamos que se cruce el umbral de 1.5 grados Celsius, que es el objetivo del Acuerdo de París, pero es probable que volvamos a estar por debajo de ese umbral por un tiempo al menos. Pero la tendencia es que cada vez sea más cálido, a menos que dejemos de emitir estos gases de efecto invernadero que atrapan el calor. Debemos atender que la temperatura global siga aumentando de manera generalizada.
Por lo tanto, un aspecto positivo, por así decirlo, de este El Niño que potencialmente vamos a presenciar en los próximos meses es que las personas ahora están familiarizadas con ese término “El Niño”, saben que significa un clima inusual y ya están pensando ‘¡Ay, querido, sabes que esto podría ser malo este año!’ Es una oportunidad, está captando la imaginación y la atención del público. Esta conexión con el clima, la crisis climática, la conexión con las olas de calor oceánicas en otros lugares, la conexión con eventos climáticos extremos y su aumento en varias partes del mundo. De hecho, hay muy pocos lugares donde no se están observando un aumento en eventos climáticos extremos. Además, la conexión con lo que está sucediendo en el Ártico. Todos estos factores se combinan en una historia complicada de digerir para el público, pero también creo que es fascinante para el público. Es una gran oportunidad para nosotros comunicar fragmentos de información climática que puedan ayudar a las personas a comprender cómo se desarrolla la crisis climática, incluso frente a estos cambios naturales como El Niño y las olas de calor oceánicas que ciertamente no son completamente naturales.
The Atlantic is running a fever
Over the weekend, a viral chart by Prof. Eliot Jacobson depicting sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean based on data from Climate Reanalyzer revealed a significant spike of nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average since 1982. This warming is occurring amidst other climate challenges like severe wildfires in Canada, diminishing sea ice in both poles, and unusually warm temperatures worldwide.
According to UCLA climate scientist, Dr. Daniel Swain, human-caused climate change underlies these events. Additionally, potential contributing factors include the early onset of El Niño, the recent eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano and new sulphur aerosol emission regulations. Swain said: “The North Atlantic is record-shatteringly warm right now. There has never been any day in observed history where the entire North Atlantic has been nearly as warm as it is right now, at any time of year.”
Anomalous warmth extends across the Atlantic basin, encompassing the Irminger Sea, the western Mediterranean Sea, and the tropical regions from Africa to at least the Caribbean. Anomalous warming is not isolated to the North Atlantic, sea surface temperatures globally are reaching anomalous warm records.
However, you may still wonder: why should I care?
The warming Atlantic is directly linked to polar and sub-polar tipping points, including ocean currents and the melting of sea and land ice. For example, the warmer temperatures of the North Atlantic can prevent or delay the formation of sea ice by pushing the warmer waters into the Arctic Ocean. This in turn, has consequences for the global climate, and the loss of Arctic sea ice has even been linked to the on-going 2023 wildfires throughout Canada.
Beyond the Arctic, did you know that 70% of our planet is covered by oceans? When they warm, people and ecosystems around the world suffer. For example, warmer oceans are linked to more extreme, frequent and intense storms, and leads to sea-level rise that in turn leads to coastal erosion, increased flooding, and the displacement of coastal communities. Changes in ocean health have cascading effects throughout the marine food web, ranging from coral bleaching (another global tipping point) to impacting the lives of nearly half of the global population (3 billion people) directly dependent on marine ecosystems—key to SDG 14 (Jurkschat, 2020).
It is important to note that these consequences are interconnected and can amplify each other, leading to more complex and severe impacts on both the environment and human well-being. Addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to mitigate these consequences and protect our oceans and the ecosystems they support, including human life.
A record low for Antarctic sea ice
Antarctic sea ice, the frozen seawater that surrounds the Antarctic continent, has been shrinking rapidly since 2016 due to warmer ocean temperatures and changing wind patterns. This winter, it has reached a new record low, which is currently 2.2 million km2 below the long-term average. This means that an area of sea ice larger than Saudi Arabia is effectively “missing”.
We cannot yet say whether this dramatic decline is the result of natural variability or human-induced climate change because satellite observations only go back four decades. However, this trend is consistent with what climate models project for a warmer world.
Although Antarctica may seem like a faraway and isolated place, what happens there has serious implications for the whole world. Antarctic sea ice acts as a buffer zone for the continent’s ice sheet, keeping it cool and its ice shelves stable. Without this protection, the ice sheet would melt faster and the rate of sea level rise would increase, threatening coastal communities and infrastructure around the globe.
The sea ice also plays a crucial role in the ocean currents that distribute heat and nutrients around the world. When the seawater freezes, it pushes out some of its salt, making the water more dense. This increased density causes the water to sink to the depths of the ocean and drive the currents that regulate the Earth’s climate. With less sea ice, these cold currents would weaken. As a result, not only would this allow warmer water to reach the ice sheet and further accelerate its melt, but also it would have far-reaching effects on the world’s weather patterns, and increase the risk of extreme weather, such as droughts, floods and storms.
Worse Than People Could Have Ever Imagined
Eastern Canada and North-Eastern US are currently experiencing severe air quality due to smoke coming from wildfires in the provinces of Quebec and Northeastern Ontario.
Canada is currently on track to have its most severe wildfire season ever recorded. Canada’s wildfire season has started off with an unprecedented intensity, surpassing expectations. The amount of acres burned so far is more than 1400% higher than the usual levels for this time of year. While wildfires are not caused by climate change, the conditions amplifying their intensity and severity, such as heatwaves and prolonged droughts, are closely linked to human-induced changes in the climate. According to Canada’s natural resources agency, climate change may double the acreage burned yearly by wildfires by the end of this century.
A recent study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed that heat-trapping emissions from the 88 largest fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers worldwide can be linked to approximately 19.8 million acres of burned forest land. This accounts for 37 percent of the total area scorched by forest fires in the western United States and southwestern Canada since 1986.
Since May, the fires have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. The smoke generated by these fires has travelled hundreds of miles, reaching the United States and causing increasingly poor air quality. According to Ashwin Vasan, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the air quality in New York City on Tuesday was the most severe it has been since the 1960s. Currently, the US East coast air quality ranges from unhealthy to hazardous in places like New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Based on air quality tracker IQAir, New York City currently even ranks among the world’s cities with the poorest air quality.
Dr. Jennifer Francis, member of Arctic Basecamp Science Advisory Team and Senior Scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center explains, “The heavy smoke along the Eastern Seaboard is a symptom of a very wavy jet-stream pattern across North America that is creating a lot of abnormal weather — cool and showery in California, hot and dry in central Canada that’s fueling the wildfires, and a wind flow from the fires south-eastward into the eastern U.S. This basic jet-stream pattern has been in place for much of the winter and spring, creating the persistent storminess along the west coast along with drought in the upper Midwest. Is there a fingerprint of climate change in this unusually wavy pattern? Very possibly. A large oceanic heatwave in the North Pacific Ocean tends to pump the Jetstream northward (ridge) in that area, which leads to a southward dip downstream (eastward) along the west coast, along with another ridge east of that. A very warm Arctic may be amplifying this pattern further, increasing its persistence. The role of the emerging El Nino in all this is yet to be determined, as this combination of factors has never been observed. Buckle up — it could be a wild ride!”
Image from Climate Lab.
PIRE QUE CE QUE L’ON AURAIT PU IMAGINER
L’est du Canada et le nord-est des États-Unis connaissent actuellement une qualité de l’air préoccupante en raison de la fumée provenant des incendies de forêt dans les provinces du Québec et du nord-est de l’Ontario.
Le Canada est actuellement en passe de connaître la saison des feux de forêt la plus grave jamais enregistrée. La saison des feux de forêt au Canada a démarré avec une intensité sans précédent, dépassant les attentes. Le nombre d’hectares brûlés jusqu’à présent est supérieur de plus de 1400% aux niveaux habituels pour cette période de l’année. Si les incendies de forêt ne sont pas dus au changement climatique, les conditions qui amplifient leur intensité et leur gravité, telles que les vagues de chaleur et les sécheresses prolongées, sont étroitement liées aux changements climatiques provoqués par l’homme. Selon l’Agence canadienne des ressources naturelles, le changement climatique pourrait doubler la superficie brûlée chaque année par les incendies de forêt d’ici la fin du siècle.
Une étude récente menée par l’Union of Concerned Scientists a révélé que les émissions de piégeage de la chaleur des 88 plus grands producteurs de combustibles fossiles et fabricants de ciment du monde peuvent être liées à environ 19,8 millions d’acres de terres forestières brûlées. Cela représente 37% de la superficie totale brûlée par les incendies de forêt dans l’ouest des États-Unis et le sud-ouest du Canada depuis 1986.
Depuis le mois de mai, les incendies ont forcé des dizaines de milliers de personnes à évacuer leur domicile. La fumée générée par ces incendies a parcouru des centaines de kilomètres, atteignant les États-Unis et provoquant une détérioration croissante de la qualité de l’air. Selon Ashwin Vasan, commissaire du département de la santé et de l’hygiène mentale de la ville de New York, la qualité de l’air à New York mardi était la plus mauvaise depuis les années 1960. Actuellement, la qualité de l’air sur la côte est des États-Unis va de malsaine à dangereuse dans des endroits comme New York, Philadelphie et Washington D.C. D’après AirQ, un outil de suivi de la qualité de l’air, la ville de New York se classe même parmi les villes du monde où la qualité de l’air est la plus médiocre.
Jennifer Francis, membre de l’équipe consultative scientifique d’Arctic Basecamp et scientifique principale au Woodwell Climate Research Center, explique: “Les fortes fumées le long de la côte est sont le symptôme d’une configuration très ondulée du courant-jet à travers l’Amérique du Nord, qui crée beaucoup de conditions météorologiques anormales – fraîcheur et averses en Californie, chaleur et sécheresse dans le centre du Canada qui alimentent les incendies de forêt, et un flux de vent des incendies vers le sud-est dans l’est des États-Unis. Cette configuration de base du courant-jet a été en place pendant une grande partie de l’hiver et du printemps, créant des tempêtes persistantes le long de la côte ouest ainsi qu’une sécheresse dans le haut du Midwest. Y a-t-il une empreinte du changement climatique dans cette configuration inhabituellement ondulée? Très probablement. Une importante vague de chaleur océanique dans l’océan Pacifique Nord a tendance à faire remonter le courant-jet vers le nord (dorsale) dans cette région, ce qui entraîne une plongée vers le sud en aval (vers l’est) le long de la côte ouest, ainsi qu’une autre dorsale à l’est de celle-ci. Un Arctique très chaud peut amplifier encore ce schéma, en augmentant sa persistance. Le rôle de l’El Niño naissant dans tout cela reste à déterminer, car cette combinaison de facteurs n’a jamais été observée. Attachez vos ceintures – ça risque d’être une course effrénée!”
Image de Climate Lab.
New record: Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise
Scientists from NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego reported that carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory reached a peak of 424 parts per million in May. This marks a continuation of the upward trend, taking us into territory that hasn’t been witnessed for millions of years.
NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory collected data on carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, revealing an average of 424.0 parts per million in May. This is the month when CO2 levels typically reach their highest point in the Northern Hemisphere. Compared to May 2022, there was an increase of 3.0 parts per million, making it the fourth-largest annual increase recorded by NOAA’s Keeling Curve. Scripps, an institution maintaining an independent record, also calculated a May monthly average of 423.78 parts per million, showing the same 3.0 parts per million increase compared to their average from May 2022.
This year, NOAA’s data were gathered from a temporary sampling site atop the nearby Mauna Kea volcano.
Carbon dioxide levels are now more than 50% higher than they were before the onset of the industrial era. “Every year we see carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere increase as a direct result of human activity,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “Every year, we see the impacts of climate change in the heat waves, droughts, flooding, wildfires and storms happening all around us. While we will have to adapt to the climate impacts we cannot avoid, we must expend every effort to slash carbon pollution and safeguard this planet and the life that calls it home.”
CO2 is a greenhouse gas that captures and retains heat emitted from the Earth’s surface. This prevents the heat from escaping into space, resulting in an intensification of extreme weather events.
The Earth’s climate system has 16 critical tipping points that govern the safe space for humanity. Among these tipping points, nine are located in the polar regions. These are all reactive to rising emissions and temperatures. It is projected that five Arctic tipping points will be tipped when global temperatures reach +1.5°C to +2°C (Armstrong McKay et al 2022).
Arctic sea ice plays a crucial role in maintaining a cooler global climate by reflecting a significant portion of the sun’s energy back into space. However, as the planet warms and more ice melts, the Arctic Ocean is able to absorb more solar energy, thereby causing further ice loss (a key feedback loop). The power of the Arctic snow and ice to moderate global temperatures is such that, without it, scientists estimate global warming will intensify by 25-40%.
There are other critical changes in the Arctic as well, such as the rapid acidification of the ocean, which is happening four times more rapidly than in other global oceans. The loss of sea ice is promoting the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide by the ocean, making the water more acidic. This acidification has drastic implications for all marine life, including the phytoplankton and zooplankton at the base of the entire global good chain.
We need to cut emissions by at least half by 2030 and stop investing in fossil fuel projects. Read more on our solutions page.
Image source: UCSandiego and Scripps Instituion of Oceanography
Extreme heatwave in Siberia
A current extreme heatwave in Siberia is bringing new record temperatures daily. Heat records are being broken daily. In some places, like Kurgan, temperatures exceeded 38°C. Above the Arctic Circle, temperatures surpassed 24°C.
Above-average temperatures in this particular region are worrying because they can lead to further thawing of permafrost, which is the frozen ground that covers a significant portion of Siberia. Permafrost thaw releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere, further contributing to the greenhouse effect. By trapping more heat in the atmosphere, these emissions thus amplify global warming, leading to more frequent and severe heatwaves in the region and beyond.
Thawing permafrost can lead to infrastructure damage, causing buildings and roads to crumble as the land gives way underneath. Thus, the loss of permafrost can significantly alter the landscape and affect local communities that rely on the land for agriculture, transportation, and traditional practices.
We will keep monitoring the forecasts and the live weather station data from Siberia to see how this event unfolds.
UPDATE Greenland Heatwave
The early warning we issued on May 25th for the first heatwave in Greenland has occurred on May 31st to June 1st with a temperature anomaly event and high ice melt conditions. Temperatures were expected to reach +15°C (+59°F) above average in the south low-elevation regions of the ice sheet and surface melt and weather station data showed melt at elevations as high as at 7000 feet (2133.6 metres). This heatwave signals the beginning of the Arctic melt season. We will continue to monitor the forecasts and the live weather station data from Greenland to see how this melting period unfolds.
This heatwave is still relatively early in the season and, as such, is a strong indicator of ongoing climate change and its impacts. Greenland and the Arctic region are highly sensitive to global warming, and these events provide further evidence of the increasing temperatures and changing climate patterns.
The early onset of the melt season in the Arctic can lead to accelerated ice melt, particularly in Greenland. As temperatures rise, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets can contribute to the overall rise in sea levels. This poses a significant threat to coastal communities around the world, as sea-level rise can lead to increased coastal erosion, flooding, and the displacement of populations. Greenland is currently the largest single contributor to global sea level rise. A 2022 study shows that we have destabilised Greenland’s ice sheet so much that we have irreversibly committed a minimum of 27cm of global sea level rise even with no further emissions.
NEW – Near Real-time Pan-Arctic Alerts (ARP-PAAS)
The Arctic Risk Platform has a new Pan-Arctic Alert System (PAAS) using operational weather forecasting, satellite and ground observations to deliver updates of a real-time view of unfolding climate extremes. This is based on deviations from historical patterns.
For example, above the Arctic Circle, the far north of Canada today has 80 F (27°C). So it’s not just Quebec and Nova Scotia that are feeling unseasonable heat. And a few days earlier, the Greenland melt season started with a heatwave bringing unseasonable melt up to 6500 feet [1981 meters] altitude. These and the coming Arctic Alerts are now being monitored real–time by the Arctic Risk Platform.
Subscribe today to receive our most important updates and alerts based on summer melt season anomalies.
GREENLAND HEATWAVE FORTHCOMING
The first heatwave is forecast for Greenland around June 1, 2023. Expected temperature could reach +15°C (+59°F) above average in the south low-elevation regions of the ice sheet. We do not yet know if this will mark the expected start of the 2023 Arctic melt season (Danish Meteorological Institute has not called it yet) or if it will possibly be a repeat of the extreme heatwave resulting in record setting glacial ice melt from September 2022 (see our forecast and melt alert). We will continue to monitor the forecasts and the live weather station data from Greenland to see how this event unfolds.
Image from Karsten Haustein’s NCEP GFS forecast.
One of Greenland’s largest glaciers is actively melting from beneath
Below the surface, the Petermann Glacier, one of Greenland’s largest, is actively melting–from beneath. Researchers at UCI and NASA’s JPL have discovered that the glacier’s grounding line–that is, the point where the glacier leaves its bed of land and extends into the ocean, responds to the tide. Surges in tide force warming water further into the glacier’s base between 2-6km, accelerating its melt rapidly. Consequently, between 2016-2022, the grounding line has retreated 4km inland. This research is significant as it shows that glaciers terminating beneath the ocean surface are not resistant to melting, as previously believed.
Dr Helen Millman, the new WEF Hoffmann Fellow on Polar Issues, highlights some of the catastrophic significance. According to Millman, “Projections of sea level rise from ice sheets could double as study shows that tidal action causes melt rate to increase dramatically. This means that we may be heading for the worst-case scenario for global sea level rise and hundreds of millions of people could be displaced by the end of this century.”
To learn more, check out this article.
Image was captured by NASA’s AQUA satellite in July, 2012.
Global Temperature expected to rise above 1.5°C within 5 years
Scientists expect that the global temperature will rise above the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold within the next five years.
The World Meteorological Organization has indicated that, due to a combination of fossil fuel emissions and an impending El Niño warming event, it is now probable that the global temperature will surpass the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for the first time. It is likely that global temperatures will reach unprecedented highs within the next five years. More specifically, it is highly likely (98%) that at least one in the upcoming five years (2023-2027) will set a heat record.
“This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5°C level specified in the Paris Agreement which refers to long-term warming over many years. However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5°C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
The report also highlights the disproportionate warming temperatures of the Arctic. For example, over the next five extended northern hemisphere winters, the temperature anomaly in the Arctic region is expected to be more than three times greater than the global mean anomaly, relative to the 1991-2020 average.
The +1.5°C threshold of the Paris Agreement isn’t just a number. It is a key tipping point, beyond which there will be significant increases in extreme events such as floods, droughts, wildfires, and food shortages. The Earth’s climate system has 16 critical tipping points that govern the safe space for humanity. Out of this total, nine are within the polar regions and five Arctic tipping points are expected to be crossed between +1.5°C to +2°C of warming (Armstrong McKay et al., 2022). This includes almost complete loss of Arctic summer sea ice, increased rate of permafrost degradation leading to increased GHG (i.e. methane) emissions and increased Greenland ice sheet melt leading to global sea level rise.
The Paris limit is not broken: There is still hope. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is crucial, and we need to do a lot more. It is important that we hold countries accountable for not acting upon the Paris Agreement. We need Climate Action NOW!
Image: WMO Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update Target years: 2022 and 2022-2026
Canada heatwave spreading into Northwestern USA
The extreme, yet early season, heatwave that has gripped much of Canada over the past two weeks is showing no signs of abating, and is spreading into Northwestern USA. This heatwave is the result of an abnormally strong high pressure system that is effectively blocking normal atmospheric circulation patterns. Anomalously warm Arctic temperatures are one of the driving factors creating this system. Temperatures in British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon could rise +18°C above the average highs for this time of year–temperatures usually seen at the peak of the summer in July and August. Heat warnings are also issued for western Washington and Oregon, which are predicted to face similar temperatures.
29,000 people have already been forced to evacuate from wildfires in Alberta, and this furthering heat will bring more challenging fire-fighting conditions. The perpetuating heat, in addition to continued drought, is priming fodder for further fires. In addition to fire, this heat accompanies health risks, especially for young children and older adults, outdoor workers and marginalised communities. Health impacts are magnified by poor air quality as a result of the wildfires–particulate matter of which has now reached across the continent.
Climate Central’s analysis shows this North American heatwave is 5x more likely as a direct result of human emissions.
Many of the extreme heat events we are seeing globally would be virtually impossible without human-driven climate change. Former Arctic Basecamp research fellow, Maja Vahlberg, co-authored a piece published this week finding that the excessive heat throughout the Iberian Peninsula and northern Africa was also a consequence of anthropogenic climate change.
Canadian Heatwave expected with temps +10°C above normal
A significant heatwave is expected throughout much of Canada next week bringing temperatures more than 10°C above normal. This heatwave is notable for several reasons—notably that it is occurring so early in the season and during a year in which we are expecting an El Niño shift.
El Niño periods are associated with global heating, meaning that the planet is likely to see a new highest temperature later this year or in 2024 as El Niño continues to develop. Professor Adam Scaife of the Met Office highlights that climate change is increasing the power of El Niño events: “You put those two things together, and we are likely to see unprecedented heatwaves during the next El Nino.”
Whilst the May heatwave is unlikely to set new national records, it’s a primer for what could be a very hot summer. Extreme heat sets the stage for hospitalisations, wildfires and crop failures. British Columbia is still reeling from the effects of the 2021 Western North American heatwave, which was the deadliest weather event in Canada during which nearly 1,500 people died . Damage to crops led to an increase in food prices globally, and a new national record was set in the small town of Lytton, BC, which saw the mercury climb to 49.6°C (121.3°F). The following day, 90% of the town was decimated in a wildfire that was fuelled by the hot, dry conditions. The town is still in the process of achieving permissions to rebuild.
This record—the highest in any part of the world north of 45°N–was notably set in the midst of La Niña, a period of global cooling.
Image: Climate Reanalyzer, projection for 03 May, 2023
Thailand breaks 45.5°C in mid-April.
April and May are usually Thailand’s hottest months of the year. Halfway through April, this year is proving to be no exception. On April 15, the Asian country set a new national record of 45.5°C (114°F), surpassing the 44.6°C set at the end of the month in 2016. At 15°N, Thailand is one of a dozen Asian countries currently experiencing their worst spring heatwave in which real-feel temperatures are pushing the limits of human survivability.
Beyond human health, however, this heatwave has implications for all sectors of the regional and global economy with tendrils extending into education, agriculture and food security, heat stress and productivity, and energy use.
After the devastating heatwaves across India and Pakistan last summer, the World Weather Attribution group cited the heatwaves as “a glimpse of the region’s future”. A year later, and this future is solid. Why? Despite global commitments to the contrary, 2022 marked another year of record greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere. These gases insulate the earth and trap solar radiation, leading to global heating. In the Arctic, this effect is amplified by the melting of sea ice, which exposes dark [ocean] surfaces that absorb more radiation. This is at the core of one of the feedback loops driving planetary warming.
Last month saw the second-lowest polar sea ice extent and was also the world’s 2nd warmest month on record (NOAA). March was the 529th straight month with higher-than-normal temperatures (Copernicus), meaning that anyone younger than 44 has never lived in a month below the long-term average.
Meteorological offices throughout the world, in the United States, UK, Australia and Japan, have all indicated the likelihood of an El Niño event this year. El Niño patterns are associated with warmer periods, which could further shatter records and give a pronounced glimpse into the planet’s future. Thailand’s 2016 high temperature record was set during an El Niño period, and 2016 remains the Earth’s warmest year to date.
Are you curious about the global threats, like heat stress, coming from Arctic warming? Find out more – GLOBAL RISKS
It’s now or never – IPCC 6th Assessment Report released today
Today the final synthesis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 6th Assessment Report cycle was released. This synthesis report restates that it is “now or never” to act, and that we are well on the path to irreversible climate catastrophe.
While 5/6 of the tipping points that will still be crossed even if we stay within the Paris Agreement temperature limits are in the poles, the effects are global. Emissions have continued to grossly rise even as governments around the world make pledges to stay in line with targets agreed back in 2015.
The world is clearly off-track, and this is our Moonshot moment. With the Willow oil drilling project in in the Arctic having been given the go-ahead just last week this report highlights the urgency for positive action.
We have solutions to curb the crisis if we act now. We need policy leaders, decision makers and global executives to stop waiting for someone else and some other time, but to take drastic and urgent action immediately. Want to know what you can do? Check out our solutions page.
A world past 1.5C or even 2C is not a safe world.
Key insights from the report:
Read the IPPC’s Synthesis Report HERE.
Arctic sea ice maximum extent likely 5th lowest on record
Arctic sea ice has likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.62 million square kilometres (5.64 million square miles) on March 6, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. The 2023 maximum is the fifth lowest in the 45-year satellite record.
NSIDC scientists stress that the Arctic sea ice extent number is preliminary—continued winter conditions could still push the ice extent higher.
We spoke to our Chief Science Officer, Professor Julienne Stroeve about this year’s maximum and what this might mean for the summer sea ice this year. Watch the video below.
Why is sea ice important? Arctic sea ice is an indicator of climate stability. Today, there is about 40% less sea ice coverage at the end of the melt season than existed in the 1980s. The ice area shrank by almost half the size of the entire European Union. What was left was smaller than at any time in at least 1,000 years. But sea ice loss also worsens warming. White ice cover reflects much of the sun’s energy back out to space. But as ice disappears, the dark ocean is exposed, absorbs more of the sun’s energy, and warms, helping to melt more snow and ice. Estimates suggest that the loss of Arctic sea ice together with reductions in snow cover over the boreal land areas will exacerbate global warming by 25 – 40%. CLICK TO SEE THE DATA.
The NSIDC’s formal announcement will be at the beginning of April with full analysis of the possible causes behind this year’s ice conditions, interesting aspects of the growth season, the set up going into the summer melt season, and graphics comparing this year to the long-term record. Read the NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis page for more details and images.
Record-breaking cyclone brings further decimation to world’s #1 climate vulnerable country
Tropical cyclone Freddy is set to make more international records–including possibly one for the longest-lasting storm, later this week. Having already decimated more than 1,000 houses in Madagascar, all of this is bad news for Mozambique. According to the most recent data from German Watch, Mozambique is currently #1 amongst countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate disasters.
Having formed off the northern coast of Australia in early February, Freddy has broken an 8,000-km (5,000-mile) path to eastern Africa, bringing with it the highest accumulated cyclone energy of any storm to strike in the southern hemisphere. Not only is Freddy amongst the 5% of SW Indian Ocean cyclones that make landfall in southern Africa, but it is doing so for the second time. Instead of fizzling out over the continent, however, Freddy made a rare 360 back into the Indian Ocean and is now coming at Africa again.
Freddy’s first landfall impacted an estimated 226,000 people in Madagascar and 166,600 in Mozambique, according to ReliefWeb, where more than 28,300 homes were damaged or destroyed. Currently, Save the Children is reporting more than 900,000 people, half of whom are children, are in the path of Freddy’s anticipated track when it makes landfall again on Friday. The storm will come with sustained winds at 160kph and gusts to 190kph, as per Mozambique’s National Institute of Meteorology.
Mozambique is particularly vulnerable due to its low-lying and non-resilient infrastructure, and the reliance on natural resources, which are directly impacted by the worsening climate crisis. Drought, sea level rise, salt water intrusion, floods and rising temperatures are amongst the consequences that are facing the nation and devastating livelihoods and ecosystems.
Mozambique’s position as the most climate vulnerable country in the world is also a huge concern for climate justice. Its global share of emissions is 0.21% with a GDP per capita of 448.84USD, which means that it is being directly impacted by damages from worldwide emissions, the overwhelming majority of which it did not cause. For this reason, not only do we need to cut emissions immediately, but wealthy countries absolutely must come through with international finance pledges to help those like Mozambique justly face the crisis for which they are paying but did not cause.
To learn more about how the Arctic directly impacts vulnerable countries in Africa and around the world, check out https://arcticrisk.org/climate-vulnerable/
Flip-flops in Greenland?
We’ve been following a warming spell in Greenland for a while, alerting about its strengthening last week and also touching upon it earlier this week in conjunction with the freeze in northern Europe. It has only gotten worse, and this has significant repercussions for the entire globe.
It’s not even the Arctic melt season and temperatures have already soared more than 50F above normal in some parts of Greenland. The capital, Nuuk, saw temperatures peak at 59.4F (15.2C) last Sunday – far warmer than the city’s average high of 23F (-5C) for this time of year, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute. Temperatures in the northern part of the country, however, are where the even scarier anomalies have appeared – there it has been between 30-50F (17-28C) above what is expected for this time of year.
Why is this occurring?
This warmth is actually related to the same reason that the UK is currently in snow warnings! What is occurring is a phenomenon commonly known as a ‘Greenland block’, an area of high pressure that hangs over Greenland and causes the air below it to warm. This block is the result of an earlier disruption to the polar vortex, known as a sudden stratospheric warming event (SSW). This same SSW that is leading to flip-flop weather in Greenland is causing parka weather in the UK.
So what does this mean for the summer melt season? For the climate crisis?
Not only are shoulder-season warming events indicative of the worsening climate crisis, but such pre-season warming can “precondition for earlier melts [because] if the temperature of the existing snow is higher than it would otherwise be, there is less heat required to bring it to the melting point” according to Arctic Basecamp Scientist and Greenland specialist, Jason Box. Although not on scale with a mid-season melt, it is the largest melt episode for this time of year in more than 20 years.
A strong winter snowpack is one of the best precautions against summer melt on the island that is currently the largest contributor to global sea level rise. As its snow and ice melt, its ability to reflect incoming solar radiation is reduced, thereby more heat is absorbed and ultimately trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere. Even if all emissions were to cease immediately, Greenland is still expected to lose 3% of its mass, leading to a global average of 27cm (10”) of sea level rise.
Can you kayak around Svalbard? In March?
We’re rapidly approaching the sea ice maximum for the Arctic Ocean, and yet, it’s almost possible to kayak around Svalbard?
With the warming Arctic, we no longer have the degree of sea ice here. At the beginning of the month, sea ice around Svalbard is 270,192 sq km, or 117,691 sq km below the 1991-2020 average.
When the ice is thin and weak, wave action and winds further can prevent it from consolidating into the fast/pack ice that traditionally envelops the archipelago. According to Norwegian Meteorological Institute (sat data from Copernicus), the recent prevailing winds have been southerlies, but they are swinging around, which may help the drift ice strengthen–either way, at a time when Arctic ice should be at its strongest, it’s consequentially absent.
This is coming at the same time as the climate crisis is holding tight onto the other pole. Two weeks ago, Antarctica hit its lowest recorded sea ice extent.
Check out our page on global risks to get a good idea about how climate change in the polar regions spells disaster for the entire world: https://arcticrisk.org/global-risks/
Image source: Norwegian Meteorological Institute
Yellow weather warnings throughout the UK
The climate crisis is usually associated with overall planetary warming, but in some areas climate disruption brings abnormal colds. If you’re in the UK, there’s a good chance you’ve been pulling out that winter coat and possibly shovelling a bit of snow!
The coldest temperature in the UK this year was -10.4°C in Drumnadrochit (on the western shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands) on January 19. That number, however, is expected to be obliterated as temperatures may hit -15°C tonight. This is about six degrees colder than last March, when the mercury bottomed out at -9.1°C in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire.
Maybe you remember Anticyclone Hartmut in 2018, more familiarly known as the “Beast from the East”? Although the Beast from the East event was the confluence of storms, the initial event was the same type of polar disruption currently over the UK. Normally centred over the poles when strong, polar vortices are large counter-clockwise flows of low pressure. This vortex can be weakened by events such as sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs), during which the temperature in the stratosphere can warm up to 50°C after the slowing and/or reversal of winds in the stratospheric polar vortex. In this current case, the SSW was triggered following a large high-pressure blocking event over Greenland. This system disrupts the polar vortex, causing the frigid polar air to spill south, in this case, unleashing an Arctic blast south over the United Kingdom and continental Europe.
Disruptions to the polar vortex have been happening more frequently and with greater intensity in recent years, in part due to the greater climate crisis. Two of the main contributors include the moderation of the temperature differential as the Arctic warms exponentially. This polar warming is associated with a weaker vortex that is more prone to disruption, and thus, southerly dips. Similarly, the warming Arctic is also associated with a less stable jet stream, which gives rise to more extreme weather.
The Met Office warns that the polar air and potential icy conditions will continue through the weekend and are likely to cause various degrees of travel chaos and uncertainty, as well as electrical outages that could isolate more rural communities. Keep some food, water and warm kit in your car if you need to head out on the road in the event of travel disruptions!
Do you need a place to stay? Find a spot near you at https://www.warmwelcome.uk. With the cost of heating being up 96% compared with last year, a warm place to live is beyond the reach of an increasing number of Britons. Luckily, there are more than 4000 warm banks around the country where you can have a warm place to stay without any cost–and some with wifi and food available (sometimes at a cost). Worried about a four-legged friend in this cold spell? The RSPCA is full of tips to keep your feathered and furry friends safe!
Are trees a climate “time bomb”?
Trees: many of us plant them as a way of engaging in climate action; others purchase carbon ‘offsets’ in the form of protected forested areas. Whatever your relation to them, trees are a widespread symbol of a healthy planet. What happens, however, when they burn and release all the stored carbon that makes them such great carbon sinks?
Satellite images have shown that wildfires in boreal forests, those at high latitudes, have increased significantly over the past two decades. Wildfires in these regions have typically comprised 10% of the planet’s terrain fires, but in 2021 the number skyrocketed to 23%. Worryingly, these northern forests are also 10-20 times more carbon-dense than other ecosystems, This increase is largely kindled by other aspects of the climate crisis, including drought and heat waves that are ravaging the northern regions and priming conditions to burn. And burn they do. According to Steven Davis, a professor of earth sciences at UC Irvine, “Boreal forests could be a time bomb of carbon.”
With record emissions pumped into the atmosphere in 2022 despite pledges to the contrary and record temperatures this winter throughout much of the Arctic, this coming fire season is one to watch.
Check arcticrisk.org to understand how the northern regions are so sensitive to warming, and also why the rest of the world pays the price for Arctic fires. To know what you can do to change a future of these carbon time bombs, look at https://arcticrisk.org/solutions/
🔥 GREENLAND IS OVERHEATING 🔥
We may still have several weeks of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, but the extended shoulder season warming that led to significant melt spikes and temperature anomalies in Greenland last year is already returning–and early.
Longer shoulder seasons in which unseasonable temperatures and melt events can occur are hallmarks of the worsening climate crisis. Although current temperature anomalies are most extreme over the Greenland ice sheet, the entire Arctic is currently 3.74°C warmer than the 1979–2000 average.
Authors of a recent article in Nature (Hörhold et al 2023) recently confirmed through ice cores that temperatures in central-north Greenland are greater than at any point in the last millennium.
What does this mean for the summer melt season? We’ll be tracking how this season develops at arcticrisk.org/alerts/
Image: Karsten Haustein, karstenhaustein.com
Los Angeles Blizzard Warning
Arctic Circle Temperature Anomaly
As a whole, the Arctic is warming 4x faster than the rest of the planet, but this warming isn’t uniform, some areas are warming faster. Warmth has been focussed around the Barents Sea region including Svalbard. Svalbard, for example, is approximately 7x faster. Svalbard’s main town, Longyearbyen, may even be the fastest warming city in the world right now (Norwegian Polar Institute), with this past year extending that trajectory.
The average temperature last summer was 7.4°C, up from the 5.5°C average from 1991-2020. In November, temperatures in the northern archipelago at times exceeded those in Norway’s capital, Oslo. In 2015, an avalanche hit Longyearbyen, leading to the islands’ first two deaths attributed to the climate change.
Today, the town remains on edge with some residents feeling unsafe in their homes—not because of the region’s infamous polar bears but from climate events that have spun beyond control (personal interviews).
Around Svalbard, and throughout the Arctic, we are rapidly losing sea ice. In the past 40 years, summer sea ice has lost 75% of its volume. This loss of sea ice though doesn’t just impact Svalbard or even the Arctic. By the end of this century, the loss of summer sea ice associated with just a 3°C warming is expected to contribute to US$70trillion in global disasters around the world.
To understand how this fragile region is the world’s control centre, check out the Global Risks page.
Visual: Zachary Labe @ZLabe (Twitter)
UN Secretary General warns of mass exodus of entire populations
UN Secretary General, António Guterres, is again not mincing words when he spoke about the ‘torrent of trouble’ facing a billion people that could yield ‘a mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale’ when he addressed the UN Security Council this week.
Our failures to act on the climate crisis have triggered a trajectory of sea level rise that is greater than anything in several thousand years. This rise has already rendered places uninhabitable and more low-lying regions are being consumed for good. We’re already seeing conflicts over increasingly scarce resources, and tensions over migrations. It’s not just about losing land and fresh water, though. It affects everything we know. Just looking at the social implications, Prof Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary General concludes that “sea level rise imposes risks to economies, livelihoods, settlements, health, wellbeing, food and water security and cultural values in the near to long term.”
While the Pacific islands might be the first thing that comes to mind when pondering sea level rise, the Arctic is the key driver. Did you know that Greenland is currently the largest contributor to global sea level rise and contains the potential of 7.4m (>24 feet) of rise? Antarctica is the proverbial sleeping giant, starting to wake. Research published in Nature by Arctic Basecamp scientists highlights the destabilization of Greenland caused through the continued pumping of emissions into our atmosphere that has committed a minimum average of 27cm of heightened water levels.
We have the power for this not to be our future. We must cut emissions urgently. Beyond emissions, however, we need to look at the SDGs. Did you know that the Arctic’s global climate influence means it is pivotal to achieving the SDGs? Gender, poverty, education, food security, they are all key to surviving the Incoming Tide.
Check out Arcticrisk.org to understand how these all link up! Especially our new work on climate vulnerable countries and SDGs.
Image credit: Wikimedia
Cyclone Gabrielle making landfall in New Zealand
Although Cyclone Gabrielle is just making landfall in New Zealand’s North Island, one-third of the country’s population is already under a state of emergency by this once-in-a-century storm. The impacts of this storm will peak tonight aligning with the midnight high tide.
In January, this region was hit by what is considered the ‘biggest climate event’ in New Zealand’s history, as per the Guardian. New Zealand’s new Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, has warned that ‘Extreme weather event has come on the back of extreme weather event,’ magnifying the impacts.
In addition to the high tide, New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research warns that this storm will be a ‘record’ storm surge of 0.7m on top of waves reaching 12m. ‘Red’ warnings from MetService have also hit a record with winds topping 150-160km.
But New Zealand, a polar country? Not geographically, but is it becoming so environmentally? A southern hemisphere country, New Zealand is far from the Arctic–but the presence of the northern pole is still felt in the land of the Silver Fern. Warming four times faster than the rest of the planet, the Arctic is a driving force for warming globally. The current New Zealand summer has brought unusually warm waters, which fuel more powerful cyclones. Part of this warming also stems from La Niña, the increasing effects of which are a concern with Antarctic heating.
So what? Although several factors are in play, what is important to note is that the stability (and instability!) of the polar regions affects the entire planet. A warming Arctic is a warning to all. These storms are going to become norms rather than records as polar impacts heighten global risk unless emissions drop radically and immediately.
Photo by Brett Phibbs for the NZ Herald
Arctic Temperature Alarm
Air temperature in the Arctic was -20.89°C on 2023-01-05. This is 0.42°C higher than 90th percentile of climatology period 1981-2010.
A “meteorological hammer” drops on the USA
Europe is already in the wrath of an Arctic blast, but a “meteorological hammer” is about to drop on the USA as well, gripping all but the westernmost regions in days or weeks of below-normal temperatures, supercell thunderstorms, blizzards and nor’easters.
All this extreme winter weather is because the jet stream is in an extremely amplified pattern, with huge swings north and south. Those southerly kinks allow Arctic air to plunge far southward, fueling storms that feed on temperature contrasts and bringing snow to wide swaths of land areas. These amplified jet-stream patterns are expected to occur more often as the Arctic warms much faster than elsewhere, and Mother Nature seems to be on board.
If you’re in the USA and need a warm place to stay, text SHELTER and your ZIP code to 43362.
The Arctic doesn’t just spell cold for the Northern Hemisphere but amplifies risks around the world. For more information on global risks from Arctic warming look HERE.
Record temperatures in northern Alaska
The most northern town in Alaska, Utqiaġvik (71°N) reached 40°F/4.5°C on Monday, more than 37°F above the average high temperature for this time of year. Monday’s temperature not only surpassed the previous #December record (34°F) set in 1932 but also exceeded the temp on any date from October 30-April 22 since 1920.
This extreme weather is the result of several conflating factors that are directly related to the rapidly warming northern regions. The volume of sea ice in the #Arctic has reduced by 75% since the 1980s, leading in part to the amplification of Arctic warming. This week’s high is also the result of a strong storm that rapidly compressed southerly winds causing 2m temperatures to skyrocket from 25°F to 40°F in 30 minutes.
This December record is now the fifth all-time record in five separate months since 2015.
This weather has global impacts. To understand these wide-reaching consequences, explore the Arctic Risk Platform.
To check current conditions in Utqiaġvik, visit the NOAA meteorological station website.
Temperatures in Europe have increased at more than twice the global average
Temperatures in Europe have increased at more than twice the global average over the past 30 years – the highest of any continent in the world. This rapid warming contributes to exceptional heat, wildfires, floods and other climate change impacts that affect society, economies and ecosystems, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The State of the Climate in Europe report states, “Temperatures over Europe have warmed significantly over the 1991-2021 period, at an average rate of about +0.5 °C per decade. As a result, Alpine glaciers lost 30 meters in ice thickness from 1997 to 2021. The Greenland ice sheet is melting and contributing to accelerating sea level rise. In summer 2021, Greenland saw a melt event and the first-ever recorded rainfall at its highest point, Summit station.”
The report continues “In 2021, high impact weather and climate events led to hundreds of fatalities, directly affected more than half a million people and caused economic damages exceeding US$ 50 billion. About 84% of the events were floods or storms.”
Whilst the EU has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 31% between 1990 and 2020 this does not protect them from the affects of climate change. Specifically rapid Arctic warming amplifies global risks around the planet.
Climate vulnerability discussions often focus on unpreparedness and nations who struggle to fund adaptation and mitigation measures, but this report highlights that even the most prepared regions cannot escape the effects of a rapidly warming planet:
“Europe is also one of the most advanced regions in cross-border cooperation in climate change adaptation, in particular across transnational river basins. It is one of the world leaders in providing effective early warning systems, with about 75% of people protected. Heat-health action plans have saved many lives from extreme heat.
Read more about the global risks from rapid Arctic warming HERE.
Devastating floods in Nigeria claim over 600 lives
The BBC reports today that “Recent flooding in Nigeria has become an “overwhelming” disaster, and many states were not properly prepared for them despite warnings.”
Intense floods like those inundating Nigeria in recent weeks are expected to become more frequent as the globe continues to warm under a thickening blanket of greenhouse gases.
The Arctic is warming four times faster than the globe, which is melting ice and snow at a rate never-before seen. This loss of white, reflective surfaces means more of the sun’s energy is absorbed, which exacerbates global warming, and in turn increases evaporation from warmer oceans and land into a warmer atmosphere.
That extra moisture is fuelling all storms, including those in Nigeria, making devastating floods more likely.
Flooding in 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states has claimed over 600 lives in “the worst flooding the West African nation has seen in a decade. Some 1.3 million people have been displaced, and more than 200,000 homes have been destroyed.”
This “worse than usual” seasonal flooding has resulted in evacuations, damaged farmland and worries about increased spread of disease and disruption to food supplies.
This disaster comes amidst record inflation levels and an inability for many people to relocate from high risk areas.
For more information on this story visit the BBC.
Explore the Global Risks from Arctic change HERE.
Image – TUBS, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Greenland 8°C warmer in September
06.10.2022, Greenland. In what would be the start to a series of anomalous temperature spikes in the autumnal shoulder season, the temperature at Greenland’s highest point was above freezing on Sept 3–the first time ever recorded in September. At this time, more than one-third of Greenland’s ice sheet (~600,000 square kilometers) was in melt and meltwater runoff peaked at 12bn tons per day. New data from Copernicus now shows that temperature anomalies in Greenland exceeded 8°C for the entire month of September (based on 1981-2010 data). This is significant because–even in an otherwise relatively ‘normal’ year for melt–we are seeing notable warming spells extend well into the post-season, indicative of how Arctic warming is strengthening and prolonging melting periods that will have global consequences, such as increased sea level rise. This follows on the heels of a paper by two Arctic Basecamp scientists, Drs Jason Box and Alun Hubbard, which highlights a committed 27cm of sea level rise from Greenland’s meltwater even if all emissions were cut immediately.
ARCTIC OCEAN ACIDIFYING 4X FASTER
30.09.2022, Arctic Ocean. In August, it was confirmed that the Arctic is warming 4x faster than the planetary average. Yesterday researchers from China and the US established that the Arctic Ocean is also acidifying 4x faster than other oceans.
The rapid melting of sea ice means the Arctic Ocean is particularly vulnerable to acidification. Normally, the alkalinity of the ocean offers some protection, but melting ice is diluting this buffer and causing the Arctic Ocean to acidify rapidly.
Our addiction to fossil fuels means that the ocean covering 71% of Earth’s surface is no longer a stabilising force for the environment but is becoming an acid bath. Some of the effects of this acidity are well known–for example, it reduces carbonate ions that form coral skeletons or oyster shells. However, some effects are not yet fully understood but are expected to have toxic impacts–not just on marine life but on humans and entire planetary systems.
Our planet is screaming in every way it can that we cannot continue to burn fossil fuels.
To learn more about how the Arctic is at the epicenter of many of these global phenomena, head HERE for more information on the global risks from Arctic change.
Read the full study in Science HERE.
Read the Guardian article HERE.
HURRICANE IAN MAKES LANDFALL IN FLORIDA
28.09.2022, Florida. Having already knocked out power throughout Cuba, Hurricane Ian is crashing into the western coast of Florida with its disastrous extreme trifecta of storm surges reaching 18 feet, torrential rains unleashing up to 24 inches, and winds just 1-2mph shy of being a Category 5 storm with gusts to 190mph.
Each of these extremes is life-threatening in itself but is catastrophic when together, especially when it has experienced “rapid intensification,” and residents are not able to adequately prepare. The gravity of this storm is the direct result of climate change. Normally, storms ease as they barrel toward the US coast, but Ian was able to strengthen from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane within 3 days due to the excessively warm water temperatures that power the storm. This process has been occurring more frequently in recent decades as the water continues to bake. Warmer air is also able to hold more moisture, contributing to more powerful cyclones.
Additionally, as this part of the world is vulnerable to sea level rise, which amplifies the effects of flooding and storm surges. As Greenland melt is the world’s largest contributor to sea level rise, and Arctic amplification is forcing temperatures to rise world over, mitigating change in the Arctic is paramount to controlling future catastrophes around the world. To understand how climate change in the Arctic drives global risks and shares significant responsibility in disasters like Ian, see https://arcticrisk.org
Click HERE for more information on the global risks from Arctic change.
GREENLAND EARLY-SEPTEMBER HEATWAVE DARKENS THE SNOW AND ICE
27.09.2022, Greenland. Like in 2021, the Greenland melt season has been extended by new extremes of heat. The exceptional heat episode during the first week of September 2022, that brought melting over more than a third of the ice sheet, when it’s normally hardly melting, has darkened Greenland snow and ice. This effect is sustaining melt conditions even after the heatwave passes through the so-called albedo feedback.
Click HERE for more information on the global risks from Arctic change.
Read a related ARTICLE by Arctic Basecamp Science Team member Prof. Jason Box
Alaska’s newest lakes are belching methane
23.09.2022, Alaska. Heat spells this year have filled the news with drying lakes and rivers. In Alaska, however, heat is meaning that new lakes are being born. This is not the only anomaly between these new thermokarst lakes and others around the world. Thermokarst lakes are the result of thawing permafrost that collapses in on itself. Microbes in the thawing permafrost digest organic matter, releasing greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide. When released, these gases make their way through the more permeable ground and then bubble up through the water. The result? Belching lakes!
Click HERE for more information on the global risks from Arctic change.
Read the ARTICLE
Climate-crisis-fuelled tropical storms wreak havoc!
Fiona, Merbok, Nanmadol — OH MY!! Three climate-crisis-fuelled tropical storms have wreaked havoc this week, continuing a summer of record-smashing extreme weather events. These three storms have already racked up billions of dollars in damages and ruined thousands of lives, and they aren’t done yet. While all three were born in the tropics, their destruction has also affected or will affect high-latitude areas not accustomed to receiving many inches of rain over a matter of hours. A warmer Earth along with a moister atmosphere — thanks to a thicker blanket of greenhouse gases and vicious cycles involving the loss of Arctic ice and snow — make these storms juicier, more powerful, and allow them to stay strong as they head northward. Higher sea levels, also accelerated by a warming Arctic, expand the reach of storm surges. If we do nothing to curtail the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, expect to see more of these monster storms.
Click HERE for more information on the global risks from Arctic change.
Read the ARTICLE
UPDATE – anticipated Greenland melt a reality
SIGNIFICANT GREENLAND MELT FORTHCOMING IN EARLY SEPTEMBER
Although Arctic temperatures usually start to cool down towards Autumn, unusually warm temperatures for this time of the year are currently forecasted for Greenland. Expected temperature could reach +15C (+59 F) above average in the central high-elevation regions of the ice sheet. According to regional climate model forecasts, these unusually warm temperatures may result in significant melt and could be accompanied by significant precipitation. If this precipitation falls as rain, it will further enhance the melt. Greenland ice sheet mass loss is expected at least through September 5, with peak melt on or around September 3.
MAJOR SEA-LEVEL RISE CAUSED BY MELTING OF GREENLAND ICE CAP IS ‘NOW INEVITABLE’
We now know that Greenland’s contribution to global sea level rise is significantly greater than models have forecasted and is primed for catastrophic coastal flooding for more than a billion people around the world–the vast majority of whom are unprepared. “It’s an understatement that the societal stakes are high and the risk is very real going forward,” glaciologist Alun Hubbard notes. Hubbard, along with lead author Jason Box, are esteemed members of our Arctic Basecamp Science Team.
This breaking research of Box, Hubbard et al shows that Greenland’s ice sheet is being dismantled both internally and externally by a variety of simultaneous processes. The two decades of direct measurements that comprise this study enable precision calculation of the ice sheet’s future in ways we have yet not previously understood.
Read full study @ Nature.com
The Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the globe since 1979
NEWS JUST IN! The Arctic IS warming faster than we thought. In fact FOUR times as fast as the global average. A report published today in the scientific journal, Nature, states that between 1979 and 2021, the Arctic has warmed an average of 4 times the global average, which has generally not been captured in model datasets, usually showing only 2-3 times warming. This increased rate, reaching 7 times faster in some regions in the Barents region and well known to be a result of Arctic amplification, has been picked up through several observational datasets. Critically, the heightened pattern of the last 43 years indicates that the models traditionally used to calculate the climate around the world are unable to account for the full effects of Arctic amplification and underestimate the changes happening in this critical part of the world. Arctic change has ramifications far beyond the Arctic Circle and the effects can be felt around the globe.
Read the full article on Nature.com
RECORD HOT DAY IN SIBERIA
Source: Extreme Temperatures Around the World on Twitter.
Heat Wave: 29 July was another record hot day in Siberia. The village of Segen Kyuel at lat 64N jumped to 36.1C its hottest day on records. Very hot also in other famous winter cold spots: Curapca (62N) 36.3C,Batamaj (63N) 35.7C and Yakutsk (62N) 35.0C.
Alterations in the jet stream can create persistent and intense heat domes. One such heat dome over Siberia has triggered record temperatures throughout the territory. Not only are residents dealing with the effects of heat stress, but the heat accelerates thawing permafrost, which leads to outbursts of methane gas and billions of dollars of infrastructure devastation.
Read about the global risks from Arctic change HERE.
SVALBARD CUMULATED MELT RUNOFF TWICE AS LARGE AS PREVIOUS RECORDS
Source: Xavier Fettweis on Twitter
Svalbard is experiencing unparalleled ice loss with this summer’s cumulative melt being twice previous records. This is, in part, due to a temperature anomaly of +5°C (average from 1 June), contributing to the warmest summer ever in the archipelago in an area already melting 5-7x faster than the planetary average (citation from Norwegian Meterological Office).
Read about the global risks from Arctic change HERE.
Unprecedented Blazes Envelop Alaska
Numerous large-scale wildfires have been burning in Alaska since the beginning of June. Some of these fires have been inside the Arctic Circle. The impacts of the fires have been to significantly degrade air quality across the state and some thick smoke plumes have been observed crossing the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean as far as northern Greenland.
Warming Arctic temperatures, associated both with early snowmelt, increased vegetation, drought and also increased vapour in the atmosphere associated with increased lightning storms, have primed Alaska for an exceptional fire season, which so far is on track to surpass the record 2004 season that saw 6.5m acres burned. Adding fuel to the fire is that brown carbon from the wildfires drifts toward the polar regions, where it accelerates Arctic warming.
This article from The Guardian tells you more about the impact on the region.
Read about the global risks from Arctic change HERE.
Heat records broken in the Canadian Arctic
Inuvik, NWT (68.3°N) exceeded 30°C three days in a row for the first time on record.
Another week, another parade of simultaneous heatwaves around the Northern Hemisphere, and the normally chilly Arctic is not immune. Much-above-normal temperatures are roasting eastern Scandinavia/western Siberia, far northeastern Asia, and northwestern North America. The Arctic is warming at least 3 times faster than the globe as a whole, fueling tundra fires, speeding the melt of land ice and sea-level rise, and accelerating the thaw of once permanently frozen Arctic soils. Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, due mainly to burning fossil fuels, is the underlying disease causing these symptoms. We have the tools and power to slow this change, but what we lack is time. Actions must be swift and substantial to avert a worsening epidemic of extreme weather events.
What are the risks? Find out HERE.
Unprecedented 32.5C in the Arctic Circle
Norway’s Meteorological Institute has warned the high temperatures are a clear signal of climate change. Average temperatures in Banak, in Norway, for June typically stand at 13C (55F), currently above 30C (86F).
This article from Sky News highlights the extremes of weather experienced globally in June 2022.
Extraordinary global heating in the Arctic
Rapid warming and sea-ice loss in the Barents and Kara Seas area are an unmistakable consequence of increasing greenhouse gases. The monumental changes in this region will have devastating impacts on local marine life and humans, and may also be causing more frequent disruptions of the stratospheric polar vortex. When the vortex becomes disrupted, a variety of extreme weather events are observed around the Northern Hemisphere. While the research on this complex linkage is still unfolding, remarkable changes such as this should ring everyone’s alarm bells.
Read more in The Guardian
Dry, hot summers put Dutch dikes at risk
Council consortium intent on driving down emissions
To stop risky developments in floodplains, we have to tackle the profit motive
Extreme heat in Spain hits olive, avocado harvest
How wildfires start and what we can do to fight them
Europe, USA, Australia are burning: What can we do to prevent wildfire?
Disasters Like Hurricane Ian Pose Extra Risk for Fragile Older People
The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.
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