Climate Tipping Points – Arctic

The term “tipping point” is often applied to a moment of critical change in human history. In ecology, tipping points describe small changes that, over time, force an irreversible change. Yearly lows of sea ice and a startling increase in permafrost thaw in a warming climate signal that the tipping point has already been crossed. We have already lost the frozen Arctic.

At this critical moment of loss, we must use the Arctic tipping point as a hard lesson — as ecosystems worldwide approach tipping points…

As ice and snow are lost, the warming climate makes it difficult to recover. Sea ice that is only a few months old covers gaps in the Arctic Ocean, with yearly loss of old ice greater than the annual gain. In 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that just 1 percent of the Arctic Ocean ice older than four years old remained. A warming atmosphere and sea prevent ice growth, leading to an ice-free Arctic Ocean…

The rapidity of Arctic change has surprised researchers and the public alike. Until recently, climate change models failed to identify that the combination of fire, ice loss, and land clearing would force tipping point thresholds. In many cases, these small-scale, discrete events expand across the landscape to create enduring change.

This has begun to take effect in my neck of the prairie. Though I hadn’t looked northward until I saw this article.

Folks [including me] frequently quote the average changes in Earth’s climate as being a few degrees…and lament the results. Fact is, the change in wintertime here in the Southwest are parallel to the Arctic change. While year-round averages have risen 2-3 degrees F., winter temps are up 8-10 degrees F.

Scientists say warmer Arctic probably permanent

In an international assessment of the Arctic, scientists from the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark and other countries said, “Return to previous Arctic conditions is unlikely…”

“Winter 2009-2010 showed a new connectivity between mid-latitude extreme cold and snowy weather events and changes in the wind patterns of the Arctic, the so-called Warm Arctic-Cold Continents pattern,” said the report, issued by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…

Normally cold air is “bottled up” in the Arctic during winter months but in late 2009 and early 2010, powerful winds blew cold air from north to south instead of the more typical west to east pattern, said Jim Overland, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

Overland saw this as a direct link between a warmer Arctic with less sea ice and weather in the middle latitudes, and he suggested it was likely to become more common as Arctic sea ice melts over the next 50 years.

This pattern has occurred only three times in the past 160 years, Overland said at the briefing.

“It’s a bit of a paradox where you have overall global warming and warming in the atmosphere (that) actually can create some more of these winter storms,” Overland said. “Global warming is not just warming everywhere. … It creates these complexities.”

“There’s now really no doubt that glacier ice losses have not just increased but have accelerated,” said Jason Box of the Byrd Polar Research Center. “Sea level rise projections for the future will again need to be revised upward.”

Reporting on this inexorable process continues, week-by-week, month-by-month. I don’t expect most people – especially in the United States – to pay much attention. First off, it’s science. Not as interesting as NASCAR or the NFL. 2nd, climatology requires understanding of time measured in quantities longer than 2 quarters of Wall Street reporting.

Those who ignore peer-reviewed study for the mumbo-jumbo of junk science designed to reinforce the status quo for an oil-based economy – aren’t even up to that level.

The report is over here.