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Will there be Arctic sea ice left in September 2023?

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The above image is from a recent analysis by Karina von Schuckmann et al. and shows that the Earth is heating up, as outgoing radiation is suppressed. More and more extra heat is kept captive on Earth and gets stored mainly in oceans (89%), with smaller proportions getting stored on land (6-5%), in the cryosphere (4%) and in the atmosphere (1-2%). The image also shows another change: 1% more heat gets stored in the atmosphere while 1% less gets stored on land for the period going back to 1971, compared to the period going back to 2006.
What could cause that change? Most heat on land is stored in the ground (90 %), with inland water bodies accounting for 0.7 % and permafrost thawing accounting for 9 %. This raises fears that water that was previously present in the ground, is increasingly moving into the atmosphere, as a warming atmosphere holds more water vapor (7% more water vapor for every 1°C warming).

An atmosphere that sucks up more water vapor increases the atmospheric vapor pressure deficit (VPD). A 2019 study warns that increased VPD reduces global vegetation growth: “VPD greatly limits land evapotranspiration in many biomes by altering the behavior of plant stomata. Increased VPD may trigger stomatal closure to avoid excess water loss due to the high evaporative demand of the air. In addition, reduced soil water supply coupled with high evaporative demand causes xylem conduits and the rhizosphere to cavitate (become air-filled), stopping the flow of water, desiccating plant tissues, and leading to plant death. Previous studies reported that increased VPD explained 82% of the warm season drought stress in the southwestern United States, which correlated to changes of forest productivity and mortality. In addition, enhanced VPD limits tree growth even before soil moisture begins to be limiting.”  

More water vapor in the atmosphere further amplifies the temperature rise, since water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas and it also constitutes a tipping point, the Land Evaporation Tipping Point, that gets crossed when water will no longer be available locally for further evapotranspiration from the soil and vegetation, with the rise in land surface temperatures accelerating accordingly. 
[ click on images to enlarge ]
Loss of ice constitutes several further tipping points. About a quarter of the 4% heat consumed by the cryosphere goes into melting glaciers. Disappearance of glaciers could be coined the Glaciers Tipping Point, since from that point heat can no longer go into melting the glacier and will instead go elsewhere. 

Similarly, about a quarter of the 4% heat consumed by the cryosphere goes into melting Arctic sea ice. Loss of Arctic sea ice also constitute a  tipping point, since incoming heat will from that point on instead go into the Arctic. 

So, will there be Arctic sea ice left in September 2023?  Current conditions make that the outlook is grim. 

El Niño

Ominously, November 2023 temperature anomalies are forecast to be at the top end of the scale for a large part of the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below.

Note the high temperature anomalies forecast on the above image for the equatorial Pacific, indicative of an El Niño.
[ click on images to enlarge ]
Sea surface temperatures

The image on the right, adapted from NOAA, shows ocean heat moving toward the Arctic along the path of the Gulf Stream.

Vast amounts of ocean heat are moving toward the Arctic, especially in the North Atlantic, threatening to cause rapid and massive melting of Arctic sea ice and thawing of permafrost. 

As discussed in a recent post, the world sea surface temperature (between 60°South and 60°North) has been at 21°C or higher for as many as 38 days. Such temperatures are unprecedented in the NOAA record that goes back to 1981. 

The images above and below show the situation up to May 8, 2023. 

The sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic is critical in regard to melting of the Arctic sea ice. The above image shows that the sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic was high on May 8, 2023, significantly higher than on the same day in 2022, while it reached a record high of 24.9°C in early September 2022.
The sea surface off the North American coast was as much as 9°C or 16.2°F (green circle) hotter than 1981-2011, as illustrated by the image on the right. The blue colors reflect melting of sea ice and runoff from land, as well as strong wind in the path of the Jet Stream. The high temperatures of the North Atlantic makes the outlook for sea ice grim and the blue colors could soon be overwhelmed by ocean heat.
Arctic sea ice loss

Rising temperatures of the water in the Arctic Ocean threaten to trigger massive loss of sea ice.

Arctic sea ice is still extensive, but sea ice concentration is already getting lower in many places, as illustrated by he image on the right. 
As illustrated by the satellite image below, adapted from NASA Worldview, the sea ice has many cracks and there is open water in the Beaufort Sea. 
[ click on images to enlarge ]

The satellite image on the right also shows many cracks in the sea ice just north of the northern tip of Greenland. 

Conditions are dire, i.e. greenhouse gas levels are high, an El Niño is on the way and sea surface temperatures are high, all contributing to the threat of Arctic sea ice loss.

On top of that, there are developments that could make things even worse. Loss of Arctic sea kice comes with loss of the latent heat buffer and loss of albedo that threaten to trigger subsequent eruptions of methane from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, as has been described many times before, such as in this post, in this post and in this post.

Consequently, a huge temperature rise threatens to unfold soon.
Climate Tipping Points and further Events and Developments

An earlier post discussed the Terrestrial Biosphere Temperature Tipping Point, coined in a recent study finding that at higher temperatures, respiration rates continue to rise in contrast to sharply declining rates of photosynthesis, which under business-as-usual emissions would nearly halve the land sink strength by as early as 2040.

A 2021 study on oceans finds that, with increased stratification, heat from climate warming less effectively penetrates into the deep ocean, which contributes to further surface warming, while it also reduces the capability of the ocean to store carbon, exacerbating global surface warming. An earlier analysis warns about growth of a layer of fresh water at the surface of the North Atlantic resulting in more ocean heat reaching the Arctic Ocean and the atmosphere over the Arctic, while a 2023 study finds that growth of a layer of fresh water decreases its alkalinity and thus its ability to take up CO₂, a feedback referred to as the Ocean Surface Tipping Point.

[ from Blue Ocean Event 2022? – click on images to enlarge ]

The above image depicts only one sequence of events, or one scenario out of many. Things may eventuate in different orders and occur simultaneously, i.e. instead of one domino tipping over the next one sequentially, many events may occur simultaneously and reinforce each other. Further events and developments could be added to the list, such as ocean stratification and stronger storms that can push large amounts of warm salty water into the Arctic Ocean.

Loss of Arctic sea ice is often recognized as a tipping point that accelerates heating up of the Arctic through albedo loss and loss of the latent heat buffer. Loss of Permafrost in Siberia and North America is often regarded as a tipping point that could trigger huge emissions of greenhouse gases. Similarly, loss of Antarctic sea ice, loss of the snow and ice cover on Greenland, on Antarctica and on mountaintops such as the Tibetan Plateau could each also be seen as tipping points, since further melting could trigger destabilization of local hydrates resulting in eruption of vast amounts of methane. 

In conclusion, and as discussed in various earlier posts, there are many tipping points that could get crossed soon, including:
– The Glaciers Tipping Point (discussed above)
– The Seafloor Methane Tipping Point (destabilization of sediments)
– The Clouds Tipping Point (at 1200 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent)
– The Terrestrial Biosphere Temperature Tipping Point (discussed above)
– The Ocean Surface Tipping Point (discussed above)

In the video below, Guy McPherson gives his views. 


• Heat stored in the Earth system 1960–2020: where does the energy go? – by Karina von schuckmann et al. 

• UNEP Foresight Brief 025

• Increased atmospheric vapor pressure deficit reducesglobal vegetation growth – by Wenping Yuan et al.
Discussion at:

• Extinction



• Uni of Bremen – sea ice concentration and thickness

• Climate Reanalyzer – Daily sea surface temperatures

• Cold freshwater lid on North Atlantic
• NASA Worldview

• Climate Plan