What's New Archive
Right from the beginning of 2016 new records have been set in the Arctic: warmest air temperature on record in both January and February, and the lowest sea ice cover in February. The average temperature anomaly has reached a record of 5.8°C (10.4°F) for January and 4.56°C (8.2°F) for February. This is the warmest period in the Arctic for these two consecutive months since 1948. The Arctic sea ice extent for February 2016 averaged 14.2 million square kilometers (5.5 million square miles), the lowest February extent in the satellite record. Once Arctic scientists at PMEL put this past January and February into historical perspective, they saw that this unusual warmth is unprecedented in both months. This unprecedented warmth is mainly due to the large positive temperature anomalies in the Arctic Ocean and over the North American continents. This year’s record high temperature and low sea ice cover increases concerns about what will happen next in the Arctic and globally.
Read the full story on NOAA Arctic theme page.
This map shows the timeframe (year) in which the anthropogenic trend becomes distinguishable from internal climate variability. The darker red indicates earlier emergence of the trend while the orange/white areas show emergence later on. The blue stars indicate current ocean carbon sampling locations.
The ocean absorbs a significant fraction, about 40%, of carbon released by fossil fuel burning, thereby reducing climate warming. However, natural climate variability makes it difficult to directly observe trends in the amount of anthropogenic carbon the ocean is taking up with time. PMEL scientist and collaborators utilized a modeling approach to separate out the ocean carbon trend due to man-made carbon emissions from this variability. This separation illustrates the timeframe over which we may expect to observe human driven change in carbon uptake in different ocean regions. The results show that these trends are largely not detectable at present, but may begin to emerge in certain regions between 2020-2050. The Southern Ocean and Atlantic region are projected to show this uptake first, while the latest emergence occurs in the Pacific and Indian subtropical regions.
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In 2015, Arctic sea ice reached a maximum extent on 25 February, 15 days earlier than average and the lowest value on record (1979-present). Minimum ice extent in September was the 4th lowest on record. Sea ice continues to be younger and thinner than it was 30 years ago. Changes in sea ice alone are having profound effects on the marine ecosystem (fishes, walruses, primary production) and sea surface temperatures.
Melting occurred over more than 50% of the Greenland Ice Sheet for the first time since the exceptional melting of 2012, and glaciers terminating in the ocean showed an increase in ice velocity and decrease in area. Terrestrial vegetation productivity has been decreasing since 2011.
Citizen scientists have a new opportunity to help reconstruct past climate by transcribing data from whaling ship logs. A massive collaboration among government and university scientists, archivists and museum curators, has unveiled Old Weather: Whaling, a sister project of Old Weather that is focused on the Pacific Arctic whaling industry that began in 1849. Volunteers mine massive amounts of sea-ice and weather data from the ship’s logs -- along with amazing stories of the Arctic whalemen. These data are fed to state-of-the-art retrospective analysis (reanalysis) systems and provide ground-truth for sea-ice and climate models, all contributing toward better understanding of the Arctic climate of the future.
The NOAA PMEL Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration (ITAE) program is investigating innovative technologies for US Arctic oceanographic research.
Four novel platforms were launched during the spring/summer of 2015 to better study the marine ecosystem and the rapid change that is occurring. Through these new platforms, ITAE also tested a variety of sensing technologies. Novel sensing technology was deployed on an ITAE buoy in the Chukchi Sea, including, a microfluidic nitrate sensor ‘Lab-on-a-Chip’ (NOC -Southampton) and the Profiling Crawler or PRAWLER, for dramatically improved vertical resolution of data collection (NOAA/PMEL).
The autonomous wind-powered and remotely-controlled Saildrone tested data collection in the Arctic with on-board oceanograhic data collection equipment during the summer 2015 mission to the Eastern Bering Sea. Follow the Saildrone in this YouTube video.
Together, the ITAE developments helped to assess important and previously inaccessible aspects of the sea ice melt season. Read more at http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/itae/
Al Hermann and Wei Cheng, PMEL/JISAO researchers with EcoFOCI are part of a new NOAA-funded study to project large-scale environmental changes in the US Arctic through the process of dynamical downscaling. This process uses the most recent set of global climate models (CMIP5) to simulate regional events in the Bering Sea. Paired with upper trophic level and management models, the project will provide a variety of projections of the Bering Sea ecosystem with varying fishing and climate scenarios.
The CLIMate project seeks to understand how large-scale changes in the atmosphere and oceans will manifest themselves in the Bering Sea, how such environmental changes will affect commercially important fish and other species, and how management strategies could be beneficially modified in the face of anticipated changes in mean conditions, variability, and the likelihood of extreme events.
The State of the Climate in 2014 report, published in July 2015 as a Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society supplement, highlights records in sea level, ocean heat content, and sea surface temperature, also documenting ocean climate variability including the borderline El Niño, the warm-water “Blob” in the Northeast Pacific, and a transition to the warm phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. The cover features a PMEL Argo float, deployed in September 2007 and still active in July 2015. PMEL scientist Gregory Johnson co-edited the Global Oceans chapter of the report, composing haiku to summarize 2014 ocean variations:
Not quite El Niño, | North Oceans’ fluxes, warmth shift, | dance with weird weather.
and longer-term changes:
Seas warm, ice caps melt, | waters rise, sour, rains shift salt, | unceasing, worldwide.
Several PMEL, JISAO, and JIMAR scientists are section authors.
More than 100 Arctic scientists and local experts have completed a multidisciplinary synthesis of marine ecosystem science in the Pacific Arctic to better understand recent, extreme changes in the region’s biophysics. The Synthesis of Arctic Research (SOAR) project, led by NOAA scientists Sue Moore (NOAA/Fisheries) and Phyllis Stabeno (NOAA/OAR), and supported by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, uses completed and ongoing research to capture the conditions of the ‘new state’ of the Pacific Arctic.
Synthesis findings are published in a special issue of Progress in Oceanography available July 13th, 2015, comprised of 17 papers on topics ranging from ocean physics to whales (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00796611/136). Four of the special issue papers are open access, including the preface to the special issue by Moore and Stabeno (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079661115001147).
SOAR website: https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/soar/
Alaska currently has one shellfish hatchery in the state, but the industry is expected to expand to more than $1 billion in the next 30 years as demand for seafood increases. A new study, published in PLOS ONE, is a collaboration between NOAA/PMEL, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward, AK. This study is the first continuous monitoring of seawater conditions at an Alaska shellfish hatchery and it illustrates the potential vulnerability to ocean acidification in this industry. Under current conditions there is a 5-month window of favorable growing conditions for shellfish each year, but this window will shrink and may ultimately close as early as 2040 as water quality declines due to carbon dioxide. Hatcheries and natural shellfish populations will both be vulnerable to these declining growth conditions.
In April, PMEL and JISAO scientists and engineers teamed up with Saildrone, Inc. to test two Saildrones in the harsh environment of the Bering Sea for the first time. The unmanned instruments sailed from Dutch Harbor, AK on April 22. They have traveled over 2,000 miles each since then, taking over 40 million measurements as they sail north following the ice retreat. With the Arctic environment changing rapidly, the success of these vehicles couldn’t come at a better time. The measurements taken across the eastern Bering Sea have the potential to provide a comprehensive picture of the changes that occur in the late spring environment when the ice is retreating.