‘Hurricane’ Schwartz’s Blog Post: Record Arctic Ice Melt & You

photo

Philadelphia NBC10 Meteorologist Glenn ‘Hurricane’ Schwartz, probably the city’s most prominent TV weathercaster, explains his views on ‘shocking’ Arctic ice melt.

One of the most amazing and shocking records has fallen.

But it’s thousands of miles between here and the Arctic, so why should we care about it?

First, let me show you some images that have wowed scientists worldwide.

And I’m not just talking about what some people have called “climate alarmists”.

This is kind of alarming.

As you can see, sea ice peaks in March and reaches its minimum in September. That much hasn’t changed. But look at just how far below this year is compared to the average of the 2000’s. And notice that the four years with lowest ice are all since 2007! This is no coincidence. Here’s what it looks like just in August.

By the way, the area in green is considered the Arctic:

WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

1. THE WORLD GETS WARMER, FASTER

While warming over most of the globe has had some ups and downs in the past 15 years, that has not [been] the case for the Arctic. It’s been warming steadily and rapidly since around 1980. More and more ice has melted, and the temperature is rising.

It’s the same reason you get hotter when wearing a black shirt rather than a white shirt on a sunny day. More heat is reflected off the white shirt. The same is true of ice. Pure, white ice reflects nearly 90% of the sun’s rays, while the darker ocean reflects much less. This reflection factor is known as “albedo”. Ice has a very high albedo.

So if we lose a lot of ice, more heat from the sun is absorbed in the ocean that has replaced the ice.

That warms the air near the ground. And that melts more ice. Which then causes more warming …..this is called “Arctic Amplification” and is the reason for more rapid changes there.

Aside from melting ice changing the albedo, look at what’s happening to some of the ice up there — in this case, in Greenland. This is ice?

Look at what’s happened to the albedo over Greenland in July:

So, whatever the cause, the lower albedo adds to the melting AND warming.

2. SEA LEVEL WILL RISE FASTER

Melting ice in the Arctic does not affect sea level. It’s the same as a melting ice cube in a glass of water doesn’t make it overflow.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that places like Greenland are seeing more and more melting due to the warming and albedo effect. And because the ice is over land, eventually, that will lead to more and more sea level rise around the world. And, of course, Greenland isn’t the only place with melting ice.

Warming oceans also cause sea level to rise due to “thermal expansion”. And look at how much ocean warming has occurred compared to recent decades:

Could it be that we’re already seeing a sharper increase in sea level?

This is important for us since we live so close to the water. Higher sea level will threaten our beaches if this trend continues. And storms that hit will cause more flooding than before due to the higher starting point. Oh, and it will flood more often.

3. MORE AND MORE EXTREME WEATHER AS PATTERNS CHANGE

I’ve already addressed our recent incredible stretch of weather extremes in the past 3 years in a previous blog:

The records include:

FROM WINTER 2009-10

  • Snowiest winter ever recorded (since 1880s)
  • Snowiest February ever recorded
  • Snowiest month ever recorded (Feb.)
  • Snowiest winter ever recorded
  • 2nd and 3rd biggest snowstorms ever recorded

FROM 2010

  • Hottest summer ever recorded
  • Hottest June ever recorded
  • 3rd Hottest July ever recorded
  • Most 90+ degree days ever recorded
  • 4th Hottest Sept. ever recorded
  • Wettest March ever recorded

FROM 2011

  • Hottest July ever recorded
  • Wettest August ever recorded
  • 3rd Wettest September ever recorded
  • Wettest Aug/Sept ever recorded (any 2 months)

This doesn’t even include 2012, when, as you recall, more freakish, record weather has occurred.

There have been many heat records, rainfall records, and snowstorm records recently, and not just around here. I’m sure you’ve heard the news from many parts of the world.

Recently, more research is connecting extreme weather patterns with what has been going on in the Arctic. Click here for a good, recent explanation by a Rutgers researcher who just published a major paper on this. Feel free to look at that paper and others to see how this happens.

Now, here’s what happens as a result:

  • More extremes of heat, drought, and storminess
  • The extremes last longer than they used to
  • Most of world warms, but extreme winter weather can hit some areas and last for a month or more (this has happened in Northern Europe in recent winters).

AND TO MAKE THIS WORSE…

No computer model or organization has come close to getting this ice melt predicted right. The IPCC, the international group that has put out regular reports on the state of the climate, has been WAAAAY too conservative in Arctic sea ice forecasts:

Notice that the current trend is MUCH lower than ANY of the IPCC models. This could also be true for their sea level rise, since their most recent report didn’t include ice melt contributions. I would expect the next IPCC report in the next year or two will have a much different forecast for ice melt and sea level rise due to this recent evidence.

SUMMARY

The world is warming, especially in the Arctic. Ice is melting at a rapid pace. If this trend continues, a nearly ice-free Arctic in summer could be 5-15 years away (as opposed to the 2007 IPCC forecast of late in the century). Weather patterns, which have shown an increase in extremes in recent years, are likely to become even more extreme.

Reprinted with permission of NBCphiladelphia.com. See original article.

Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to ‘Hurricane’ Schwartz’s Blog Post: Record Arctic Ice Melt & You

  1. Your report is crucial to the current understanding. The IPCC reports – carried valid conclusions only for the moment they were authored (not published) – so the 2007 report was assembled in 2005 maybe – and may have been correct for that moment.

    And more important to remember, the IPCC is made up of scientists and representatives of nations and agents for energy companies – their report is product of concensus.

    With such a structure and our rate of change, reports should be delivered almost monthly. Till then, your report is excellent.

  2. Charles Mac Arthur says:

    The weight of Greenland ice, accumulated slowly over 110,000 years, has pressed its cental plateau almost 8000 feet down to near sea level, I would ASSUME that much of the solidified rock mass may have been absorbed by melting into the magma. Nevertheless, without the ice to hold it down, it could rise, and precipitously. Suppose then that a fracture occured around its edges.
    The Fukushima earthquake and tsunami may have been caused by a fault about 200 miles in length. What then would come from one 4400 miles long? The Netherlands and Florida, both, could see unprecedented tidal waves?

  3. Mark Chopping says:

    “Philadelphia NBC10 Meteorologist Glenn ‘Hurricane’ Schwartz, probably the city’s most prominent TV weathercaster, explains why his views on ‘shocking’ Arctic ice melt”

    There is something wrong with this sentence. It ends without qualifying the “why”, viz.:

    “why his views on ‘shocking’ Arctic ice melt…” are important? are changing? are not that shocking? are in line with mainstream science?

    Please don’t leave a brother hanging!

  4. Mark Chopping says:

    “More heat is reflected off the white shirt.”

    Not quite. More light is reflected from the white shirt — and more would be absorbed by a dark shirt. The Earth is heated by sunlight but it’s amazing how easy it is to forget this simple fact and use “heat” incorrectly (even for experts who should know better).

  5. Mark Chopping says:

    Ditto: “So if we lose a lot of ice, more heat from the sun is absorbed in the ocean that has replaced the ice.”

    That should read something like:

    “So as we lose a lot of sea ice cover, much more light from the sun is being absorbed by the ocean that has replaced the ice. [This heats the ocean, more than offsetting the increase in outgoing radiation that is possible without the insulating effect of the ice]“

  6. Nullius in Verba says:

    I realise it’s difficult when getting graphs from external sources, but it would help if the axis on the graphs went down to zero. That they don’t stands out, and gives a negative impression.

    The linear trend overlaid on the second graph is also a bad idea. It’s statistically invalid – the data does not consist of linear trend plus iid Gaussian noise – and it leads the eye to interpret the data in line with the algorithm’s assumptions. Again, for anyone who recognises the technique it gives a bad impression.

    The fourth graph of arctic temperature change uses a technique discussed here: https://sites.google.com/site/globalwarmingquestions/howtheipccinventedanewcalculus

    Time series with strong autocorrelation, like weather data, have the property that short segments show apparent systematic offsets and trends, even when no such offset or trend exists. It can be very misleading to present such trend calculations without also calculating and showing error bounds that take into account the statistical structure of the data.

    Anyone looking at the graph would also ask what happened from 1940 to 1960.

    And anyone knowing a bit about how such data is collected would also ask how many thermometers in the Arctic were used to generate this data at each point in time, especially back in 1880. How accurate is it?

    The discussion of albedo is not quite correct. While a black surface absorbs more energy than a white one, it also emits more radiation than a white one. For an ideal ‘grey’ body, the two effects cancel. The effect actually arises from having different emissivities at different wavelengths – snow is white to visible light but black in the infra-red, while open water is black at both wavelengths.

    That more energy is absorbed by water than ice is true, but the effect is not as strong as you might expect from that since the Arctic is 80% cloudy during the summer. Clouds reflect sunlight whether there is ice or water below them.

    The bit about warming air near the ground which melts the ice is incorrect – it gets the causal arrow the wrong way round. Sunlight shines through the water and is absorbed in the top 100 m, the warmer water rises to the top, this melts the ice, and also warms the air. Air has very little heat capacity with which to warm water – the entire atmosphere contains only as much heat as the top few metres of the oceans.

    I’m not sure what the story behind the Greenland photo is but it isn’t representative. The graph that follows (again, not showing the 0-100% range that would put it in context) shows a drop to 66%. That picture looks more like 5%. It looks more like the margins of the ice sheet where glacial ice has retreated, exposing eroded sediment.

    The map of sea surface temperature anomaly was interesting for how localised the warm spots are – are there intense vortices of CO2 concentrated over those spots do you think? Most of the oceans were at the average or cooler. Apart from not being an equal-area projection, I’m not criticising it though.

    The question about a sharper increase in sea level is asked – I presume it isn’t answered because then you’d have to say wiggles over a couple of years weren’t climate.

    Whether it’s important for us depends on a range of local factors – coastline dynamics is complicated. But I’d expect the normal cycles of deposition and erosion will continue to be the most important factors.

    The next section trying to say weather-is-climate and cherrypicking records I’m not even going to bother with. Nature recently published an editorial discussing how bad an idea this sort of thing is.

    The comparison of the Arctic ice behaviour with the IPCC projections is a good one, but the conclusion that the IPCC has therefore been conservative is not. The usual model of climate change is of long-term trends with short-term natural fluctuations imposed on top. That’s why you have to look at very long periods to discern trends from the natural background. That’s why the past 15 years with no significant rise in global temperature doesn’t mean anything. So when looking at the Arctic ice decline, and remembering the fluctuations 1900-1960 in it, you first have to determine how much of that is natural variation, and given that the IPCC have calculated that global warming shouldn’t be having much of an impact yet, the possibility that this is still mostly natural noise has to be considered. It takes considerable statistical finesse to tell the difference.

    This is particularly the case when we consider the record-breaking ice you didn’t mention down at the other end of the world. The Antarctic sea ice was recently at a record high for the time of year. I don’t think you can deduce anything from that ridiculously cherrypicked figure, either. But if you want to be a scientist about it, you would show the graphs for both, the comparison with the IPCC projection for both, and draw conclusions the same way from both.

    Apart from that, not bad. Plenty of science to look at; much better than the usual appeals to authority. I’ll look forward to the revised version. :-)

    • John Garrett says:

      I once heard a comment on the subject of “religious faith.” Given the current state of human understanding of “climate change,” I believe it is apposite.

      For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who do not, none is possible.

  7. John Garrett says:

    …meanwhile the Antarctic sets a record for sea ice extent:
    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/S_timeseries.png

  8. John Garrett says:

    In the very week that an editorial in Nature warns against attributing extreme weather events to “climate change,” Mr. Schwartz does just that.

    Better models are needed before exceptional events can be reliably linked to global warming.
    http://www.nature.com/news/extreme-weather-1.11428

    Also, see:
    http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/my-comment-on-the-nature-article-extreme-weather-better-models-are-needed-before-exceptional-events-can-be-reliably-linked-to-global-warming/

    • Larry says:

      Except that a 30 year decline in Arctic sea ice extent is not an “extreme weather event”, so Mr. Schwartz did no such thing.

      • Nullius in Verba says:

        Could you perhaps re-read for me the section starting “3. MORE AND MORE EXTREME WEATHER AS PATTERNS CHANGE” and then explain to me why you think Mr Schwartz is not connecting extreme weather to climate pattern changes? Because I’m mystified.