Posted by: climatewonk | April 24, 2008

This just in — Arctic Ice

Arctic ice disappearing at an alarming rate, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.

Ice was the last thing David Barber was worried about when he and an international team of scientists made plans last year to have their research icebreaker frozen into the Beaufort Sea for the winter.

But when the Amundsen sailed into the western Arctic in November, the ice that normally begins to take hold in October hadn’t even begun to gel.

“Even by mid-December, the southern Beaufort Sea was still wide open,” said Barber, a University of Manitoba sea ice physicist and chief scientist aboard the Amundsen. “That’s over a month longer than the time freeze-up normally occurs.”

Barber and his colleagues got an even bigger surprise when they sailed north into M’Clure Strait, the main channel connecting the Northwest Passage to the western Arctic. The strait is legendary as a gateway for thick, rock-hard, multi-year ice that piles in from the Beaufort Sea, but Barber and his colleagues found nothing but clear sailing.

“It was surreal,” he said. “The weeks spent on the ship were some of the most remarkable of my career. The multi-year pack ice had migrated about 150 miles (240 kilometres) north from where it has traditionally been located. So the ice-associated, high-pressure system that traditionally forms over the southern Beaufort at this time of year was displaced.

“All that cyclonic activity that was drawn in by the warm, open water not only made for some rough sailing, it also put more heat into the air, keeping the local climate warmer than usual

Deniers will point to this and argue that the models didn’t predict this much warming and so the loss of ice must be due to factors other than AGHGs. Certainly climate science does not understand the complexities of ocean circulation and all the other factors involved in arctic climate perfectly. However, this should not give us any cause to lollygag. Quite the opposite.

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