There is a big change in the weather today but the thing everyone is talking about is the smoke from the Minnesota wildfire. Tony mentioned it in a blog post recently and here is a link to an animation showing some of the smoke. Wildfires are quite typical in Canada and the Western U.S. every year and we do observe some of that smoke from time-to-time but most times it is not close enough to smell. The Pagami Creek fire ongoing in Minnesota is close enough that is smells like a campfire is burning right here in the office. It makes me want to take a vacation camping in the woods – just not in a spot with a wildfire. The cold air advection behind the cold front (that moved through last night) is also keeping the smoky air closer to the surface. The wind will turn more westerly this afternoon and early evening so that should take the smell away, but later tonight and tomorrow the wind will be out of the northwest again and might usher the smoke straight through our area.
Besides wildfires, hurricanes, and blasts of cool air dominating the headlines this time of year, another item that catches attention in September is the amount of arctic sea ice. It has been predicted the arctic sea ice will disappear during the Summer within the next decade or two – due to anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and it will be devastating to the arctic region, and it will eventually mean the end of the biosphere, and many more bad things. Because of the various predictions, people watch the amount of ice quite closely to see if it keeps getting lower. 2007 was the year with the lowest amount of ice measured since 1979, when comprehensive instrumental monitoring began. There is other evidence, human and natural records, indicating that the arctic has been substantially ice free in the recent past (since the last ice age).
According to the NSIDC, this year will probably end up tying the recent record (2007) for the lowest extent of arctic sea ice. Prior to this year, the amount of Summer ice had been staying at or slightly above the 2007 record. If the gradual trend of warmer temps continues (whether by AGW or other natural forces) then I would expect the sea ice extent to get a little lower each year.
In other ice news, at least one ice expert was shocked at how much ice melted from a notable glacier in northwest Greenland. You can see the before and after pictures here. Apparently the area within the picture is quite large and to see it in person would be much more impressive. The pictures probably do not do it justice. Anyway, I wasn’t too shocked by the pictures, although I think it would be cool to see it in person. I have never been to Greenland.
While many glaciers around the world are in retreat, it does not mean they do not grow or advance from time-to-time. Take a look at how dramatic the movement of the Medvezhiy glacier in Tajikistan has been. It has moved more in the last couple months than in the last 22 years.
Whether more ice is melting or not, the effect are not always what one might assume. As I noted a couple weeks back, the global sea level actually went down by quite a bit last year. It is likely a short term drop, but it reminds us that things do not always proceed in a linear fashion.
In any case, research has shown that sea levels can change quite abruptly while responding to cues from the climate, so the future will likely continue to surprise.
Have a good Tuesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on September 13, 2011