Variable week – Thursday Thunder – The Arctic Breaks up Fast and Early

It will be mostly cloudy and dry this week but it should stay pleasantly warm.  We should get some sunny breaks this afternoon and then back to cloud Wednesday.

On Thursday things get a little more interesting as there appears to be a chance for some thunderstorms in the afternoon.

The first indication is afternoon rain on the model:


Then looking at the vertical velocity (the atmosphere moving up and down) shows increased activity at the same time:


When you see red and blue directly beside each other that is a good sign of convection in a thunderstorm.

And finally, the model prediction for actual Convective Potential.


Shows some dots of activity on the Alberni Inlet and in between the Alberni and Comox Valley.

So we should be prepared for that.  This could also trigger some wildfire activity as well.  The current wildfire rating is Moderate though it is forecast to increase to High today and tomorrow.  It is nice to see no wildfire activity currently on the Island after the long weekend.

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Early Arctic Breakup gives potential for record low

When I’ve had time I’ve been trying to keep an eye on what has been happening in the Arctic this year.  Why?  Well certainly one reason is because the Arctic is the fastest warming place on earth when it comes to climate change/global warming and those rapid changes are being linked as drivers for other changes like a slowing, super wavy jet stream, the blob, and early onset of drought causing increased Peace River and Alberta fire activity including around Fort Mac.

From “the blob” link above:

In September 2012, after massive cyclones, there was the lowest sea ice pack ever recorded in the Arctic and, with more ocean exposed, heat was absorbed into the Arctic Ocean.

It delayed the freezing of the Arctic. The Arctic vortex was very weak and small, so there was no northern boundary to the jet stream and [that allows] the jet stream to go into huge meanders,” Dewey said.

And a wandering jet stream means wacky weather.

The Blob is not driving the weather, the weather is driving The Blob,” Dewey said.

The implication is that meandering allowed for the Aleutian Lows that normally spin in the NE Pacific to be taken further north, and thus more calm, air to sit there instead, heating the ocean and creating a great repository of heat.

So now, we come to this year’s Arctic sea ice situation:

First a look at the current graph for sea ice coverage.  We can see it is tracking quite a bit below previous years including the year of the last record low in 2012.


The primary focus has been on the Beaufort region above Alaska, Yukon and the North West Territories.

NASA released this comparison a few days ago of the breakup in April over the past 3 years.


I went to the EOSDIS Worldview webpage for the TERRA Satellite that shows high resolution imagery of the globe.  The orientations of the satellite camera changed over time so I put a star in the same location on each image so you can get your bearings.  The scales are the same.

Here is a shot from May 23, 2012:

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And here is one from Yesterday (May 23, 2016)

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You can see the ice has nearly completely melted from the coast this year compared to 2012 when there was still a significant shelf at this time.  The ice that is there looks just as fractured and broken up in 2012 and as it is in 2016.

Of course, this is just one part of the Arctic so what does the picture for the whole Arctic look like?

My favourite animation is from the US Navy thickness chart.  Here is the month of May so far.  Notice the lower area of the Beaufort clearing out.  Also notice the general clockwise rotation in that area. That is known as the Beaufort Gyre.


Also notice the very small sliver of black at the top of the Canadian Archipelago and the general lack of yellow and reds of thicker ice.

Now check out the same month of May (up to the 23rd) in 2012:


Now you should see the dramatic difference.  Even though 2012 ended up the lower sea ice cover in September ever recorded, it started, at this time of year, with far more old, thick ice than we have this year.

This is obviously a concern and an indicator of a potential new low. Whether that happens will be determined by the immediate weather over the next few months.  If it is unusually cloudy and cool, the decline might level off.  If it is abnormally clear and warm, then watch out.  We could be in for a new record come September.  And that will have implications for our weather down here on Vancouver Island.

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