El Nino Collapses - Global Sea Ice Makes A Strong Comeback
North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures Back To 1980s Levels
Global temperatures spiked during the last half of 2015 as a result of the strong El Nino and were still at very high levels relative-to-normal as recently as last month. In addition, global sea ice appeared to be impacted by El Nino as it took a steep dive during much of 2015 and remained at well below-normal levels going into this year. In the past couple of months, however, El Nino has begun to collapse and will likely flip to a moderate or strong La Nina (colder-than-normal water) by later this year. In rather quick fashion, global temperatures have seemingly responded to the unfolding collapse of El Nino and global sea ice has actually rebounded in recent weeks to near normal levels. --Paul Dorian, Vencor Weather, 11 April 2016
That cold blob in the North Atlantic just keeps getting bigger. For the last couple of years, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have been tumbling and are now back to 1980 levels. --Paul Homewood, Not A Lot Of People Know That, 11 April 2016
As the largest economy in the world, I believe that this climate change issue should not be a subject of a political debate. -- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, The Wall Street Journal, 12 April 2016
On Earth Day, April 22nd, President Barack Obama plans to sign the Paris Climate Agreement along with representatives from about 130 other countries. It is the position of the Obama Administration that the Paris Agreement is not a formal treaty requiring Senatorial advice and consent, so issuing an executive agreement is supposed to be enough to commit the U.S. to abiding by its provisions. For a would-be president who aims to force Mexico to build a border wall, the consequences of ignoring the Paris Climate Agreement would be pretty small potatoes. Consider what happened to countries - Canada and Japan - that violated their solemn treaty obligations to cut greenhouse gases under the "legally-binding" Kyoto Protocol. Nothing. --Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, 12 April 2016
Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are accelerating the growth of B.C.’s forests by one to three per cent a year, enough to cancel out the impact on the climate from the mountain pine beetle outbreak by 2020, according to a new study from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. The effects of global warming — rising temperatures, higher rainfall, and an atmosphere richer in carbon dioxide — have created a “fertilization effect” which has accelerated the growth of trees, especially in the high-latitude forests that cover much of Canada, Russia and Europe. --Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun, 11 April 2016
Global temperatures have seemingly responded to the unfolding collapse of El Nino and global sea ice has actually rebounded in recent weeks to near normal levels.
El Nino strengthened significantly during 2015 and peaked in December as one of the strongest such episodes in the past fifty years. Even though El Nino is a phenomenon characterized by unusually warm water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, it can have ramifications around the world. In fact, global temperatures spiked during the last half of 2015 as a result of the strong El Nino and were still at very high levels relative-to-normal as recently as last month. In addition, global sea ice appeared to be impacted by El Nino as it took a steep dive during much of 2015 and remained at well below-normal levels going into this year.
In the past couple of months, however, El Nino has begun to collapse and will likely flip to a moderate or strong La Nina (colder-than-normal water) by later this year. In rather quick fashion, global temperatures have seemingly responded to the unfolding collapse of El Nino and global sea ice has actually rebounded in recent weeks to near normal levels.
Global temperature anomalies (black) since 2014, tropics temperature anomalies (red); courtesy Dr. Ryan Maue, Weather Bell Analytics
Global temperatures and global sea ice
The plot above shows global temperature anomalies from the latter part of 2014 through April 11, 2016 using NOAA’s Climate Data Assimilation System (CDAS). As El Nino began to strengthen dramatically during 2015, global temperature anomalies (black line) climbed significantly and that climb lasted right into early 2016. In recent weeks, however, as the collapse of El Nino has begun, global temperature anomalies have apparently responded by dropping rather sharply (indicated on plot above with arrow).
Daily global sea ice anomalies versus 1979-2008 mean; data courtesy University of Illinois “cryosphere“
Meanwhile, global sea ice which had hovered relatively close-to-normal from 2013 into 2015, dropped sharply during the second half of last year to well below-normal levels as El Nino strengthened and global temperatures spiked (as indicated by left arrow on above plot). The plot of daily global sea ice anomalies (red) shows that in recent weeks global sea ice has surged back to near normal as the collapse of El Nino has unfolded [right arrow on above plot].
Looking on a longer-term horizon, the plot above shows global sea ice area over the period of 1974-2015 using the “Hadley Centre Sea Ice and Sea Surface Temperature Dataset” (HadISST). 1974 is a reasonable starting date for showing global sea ice levels as it is the first year with complete data for both polar regions. Data for the Antarctic was not available before the advent of satellite-based imagery in 1973.
To understand the variations in the global sea ice area, the signal was “decomposed” by removing the repeating seasonal component of the data. It was determined that the trend was equal to -0.02+/- 0.19 million square kilometers per decade (p-value=0.367) which led to the conclusion that “there is no significant trend at all in the 40+ years of satellite data”. In fact, in an interesting twist, the recent analysis found that the global ice area remained stable throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, while temperatures climbed suggesting “the global sea ice area is not particularly a function of the global average surface temperature.” [Source: Willis Eschenbach/"Watts Up With That" web site]
Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Anomalies; courtesy University of Illinois “cryosphere“
Northern Hemisphere sea ice
The northern hemisphere sea ice areal extent is still below-normal relative to all years going back to 1979 although it is well above the lowest point set during 2012 and even above levels seen earlier this year. The northern hemisphere sea ice areal extent is currently around 1 million square kilometers below-normal using the base period of 1979-2008 for comparison. The directional shift in the sea ice areal extent trendline that developed during the mid 1990’s in the northern hemisphere correlates quite well with a northern Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperature cycle that is tracked by meteorologists through an index called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Indeed, Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperature anomalies play a critical role in the overall northern hemisphere sea ice areal extent. The AMO index flipped in phase during the mid 1990’s (indicated by arrow on above plot) from negative (cold) to positive (warm) and the sea ice areal extent trendline changed direction right around that point in time. In the time period before the mid 1990’s, the sea ice areal extent was generally above-normal dating back to 1979.
Resiliency of Arctic sea ice
In the last ten years, the Arctic sea ice has actually shown great resiliency albeit at below normal levels. The Arctic sea ice extent has been on a sideways trend (above) in the last ten years or so.
Arctic sea ice volume anomaly and trend from PIOMAS; courtesy University of Washington, PIOMAS, Zhang and Rothrock, 2003
In addition to sea ice extent, an important climate indicator to monitor is sea ice volume as it depends on both ice thickness and extent. Arctic sea ice volume cannot currently be observed on a continuous basis as observations from satellites, submarines and field measurements are all limited in space and time. As a result, one of the best ways to estimate sea ice volume is through the usage of numerical models which utilize all available observations. One such computer model from the University of Washington is called the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) and it is showing an upward trend in Arctic sea ice volume since the low point was reached in 2012 following a long downtrend (circled area above).
On Earth Day, April 22nd, President Barack Obama plans to sign the Paris Climate Agreement along with representatives from about 130 other countries. According to the text of the Agreement, it "shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession."
It is the position of the Obama Administration that the Paris Agreement is not a formal treaty requiring Senatorial advice and consent, so issuing an executive agreement is supposed to be enough to commit the U.S. to abiding by its provisions.
Since 130 countries are going to sign on April 22, the 30-day clock for coming into force could begin ticking and the Agreement could come into force as early as June. In other words, the U.S. could well be committed to honoring the Agreement before the election of the next president, be the winner Trump, Cruz, Sanders, Clinton, or Johnson.
Once the Agreement is in force, according to Article 28: "At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification to the Depositary." Furthermore, the official withdrawal can take place only after waiting an additional year. That means that U.S. commitments could last through 2020.
The Washington Postnotes:
Any attempt to abandon or withdraw from the Paris agreement — either before or after its entry into force — would likely create international uproar.
“Entry into force does in a sense create a higher hurdle in terms of reversing course essentially. But the political consequences are there under any circumstances,” says David Waskow, who directs the international climate initiative at the World Resources Institute.