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Climate Change in the Barents Sea – June 21st, 2013

70.2N 50.8E

June 21st, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day VIIRSSuomi-NPP

Russia – June 21st, 2013

Visible on the right side of this image is the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, part of Russia, between the Barents and Kara Seas. Recent data over the last decade show an Arctic wide temperature increase consistent with model projections of global warming rather than showing regional warming patterns which would have been caused by natural variability as occurred in previous Arctic warming episodes such as the 1930s.

While a major surprise was the nearly 40% loss of September sea ice extent in 2007, the major change is that in every year since then sea ice has been below 30% and that much old, thick sea ice has disappeared. Extensive forest fires are another major Arctic change. These shifts seem to be rapid and occurring 20-30 years earlier than expected by steady processes in climate forecast models.

The Arctic is normally dominated a very stable “Polar Vortex” of counter-clockwise circulating winds surrounding the North Pole which traps the cold Arctic air mass at high latitudes. However, during early winter of 2009-2010 the Polar Vortex weakened due to higher geopotential heights over the Arctic, allowing cold air to spill southwards and be replaced by warm air moving poleward, a warm Arctic –cold continent climate pattern. One
indicator of a weak Polar Vortex is the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index which in December 2009 through February 2010 had its most negative value (weak vortex) in 145 years of record.

Meteorological attribution to these sub-Arctic events is difficult. Certainly random chaos in the development of weather patterns can produce such extreme events. There is a potential impact, however, from Arctic regions where heat stored in the ocean in sea-ice-free and thin ice areas has been released to the lower atmosphere during autumn. One would not expect a sub-Arctic impact in every year or the in the same locations every year. The Barents Sea seems to be part of the Arctic wide warming pattern, while northern Europe is in the subArctic high climate variability zone (click here for more information).

Arctic Sea Ice by Russia and Climate Change Issues

69.8N 163.3E

June 18th, 2013 Category: Climate Change MODISTerra

Russia – June 18th, 2013

Since 1979 the Arctic region has been extensively monitored by satellites. They detect the ice surface area, the extent of the area covered with ice and also the total amount or volume of ice. The results of these observations are startling. For example, sea ice area and the amount of perennial (multi-year) ice has decreased dramatically over the past 3 decades. In 2012, the September average ice extent dipped below 4 million km², which is about half of what it was in 1979. Ice volume shows a comparable rapid decrease (click here for more information).

The Role of Bering Strait in Regulating the Global Climate

65.4N 169.9W

June 18th, 2013 Category: Climate Change AVHRRMetOp

Russia and USA – June 17th, 2013

Alaska’s Bering Strait may play a critical role in the regulation of the global climate — including a knack for maintaining the Atlantic Ocean “conveyor belt” that bathes northern Europe in sultry currents and warm wet weather.

But squeeze shut the 53-mile-wide narrows between the Pacific and Arctic oceans off the western tip of Alaska — something that occurred during the last ice age when continental ice sheets locked up much of the world’s fresh water — and the oceanic engine that stabilizes the home planet’s climate becomes much more likely to go on the fritz and stay that way for a long time.

These resulting shutdowns have previously stalled the Gulf Stream and triggered abrupt swings between warmer and frigid climates, what scientists call Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich events. These jarring shifts struck the North Atlantic as many as 25 times between 80,000 and about 11,000 years ago, all during moments when the Bering Land Bridge blocked all flow between Pacific and Arctic oceans.

The flow of the Gulf Stream and other elements of the global ocean circulation system deliver warm salty water to the North Atlantic, where it cools, grows denser, and sinks. At depth, this dense salty water starts flowing south. It then keeps rolling, eventually crawling into other hemispheres along a network of deep ocean currents that meander the globe over hundreds of years while equalizing the climate.

But introduce massive amounts of less dense fresh water into the mix, and the North Atlantic sinking starts to sputter, slowing the deep currents to the point where they temporarily die. The paradoxical result can be a chilldown of northern Europe and perhaps the entire northern hemisphere. Thus, smooth functioning of the Atlantic ocean “conveyor” becomes a “critical link” in keeping the world’s climate from making these wild swings (click here for more information).

Environmental Issues for Volga River, Russia – June 16th, 2013

46.0N 49.2E

June 16th, 2013 Category: Image of the day, Rivers MODISAqua

Russia – June 16th, 2013

Draining most of western Russian, the Volga is the largest river in Europe. From its source in the Valdai Hills north east of Moscow the river flows east and south east to the Caspian Sea. This thumbnail images focuses on its delta at the shores of the Caspian Sea, while a larger portion of the river’s meanderings can be seen to the north upon opening the full image.

A large number of tributaries make up the Volga river system the delta where the river enters the Caspian is composed of hundreds of channels and lies 28 m below sea level. For three months of the year the river is frozen for most of its length, the presence of a large number of dams has improved navigation but has reduced the river’s flow.

Consequently the river is suffering from pollution compounded by the fact that it flows through some of the most populated area of the country and includes an important agricultural area. Half of all river freight in Russia uses the Volga, which is connected to the Black sea via the Don river and canals (click here for more information).

Russian Shores and Rapid Melting of Arctic Sea Ice

69.3N 161.2E

June 16th, 2013 Category: Climate Change MODISAqua

Russia – June 15th, 2013

Strong warming in the northern high latitudes is causing Arctic sea ice to rapidly melt. It’s one of several changes in the Arctic region, including increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet and permafrost in northern Russia and Alaska, which pose serious risks for the world as a whole. This image focuses on ice along the northern shores of Russia.

The area and thickness of Arctic sea ice fluctuates from year to year, and is affected by weather patterns, ocean circulation and other natural influences. However, the ice on the surface of the Arctic Ocean has been diminishing for the past 30 years, in both area and thickness. Over the past 10 to 15 years, it has begun to disappear faster. Recently, it has fallen to a record low (the previous record being in September 2007). Since 1980, the ice has roughly halved in area, and the volume of ice has dropped to just a quarter of what it was.

White ice reflects much more sunlight back to space than does ocean water, which absorbs incoming sunlight readily. As the area of sea ice decreases and the area of exposed ocean water increases, more sunlight is absorbed, heating the surface of the water and the atmosphere above it. This strengthens the Arctic region warming trend – average temperatures of the high northern latitudes are rising at double the global average temperature increase.

The Arctic sea ice is declining much more quickly than scientists expected only a decade ago. It is very likely that, with the continued decline in sea ice that has occurred over several decades, we’ve already crossed the point of no return and that we’ll have an ice-free Arctic Ocean during summer at some point in the near future. Scientists now consider this could happen by 2030 or even earlier (click here for more information).

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