Saturday, August 23, 2014

Arctic Circle Observations Indicate Immense Cold Air Available

Observations of Arctic temperatures and sea ice indicate quite a plethora of very cold air in the region.

The image above shows a history of sea ice coverage by millions of square miles, recording coverage from present day (black line) to 2005. As the chart shows, we are currently near the upper envelope of sea ice coverage, when compared to the last ten years of sea ice records. The black line even seems to resemble the sea ice coverage from this time in 2013, as the dandelion-yellow line shows. The availability of this sea ice is beneficial to those of us hoping for a cold winter ahead. Such a swath of sea ice enables cold air to sustain itself in near the North Pole for a longer period of time. After all, you can't have a cold winter if there's no cold air up north to begin with.

The chart above shows a record of temperatures in the far north Arctic since January 1st of this year, with benchmark days on the bottom legend. The red line on this graphic depicts observed Arctic temperatures, while the green line indicates average temperatures for a given time of year. The constant blue demarcation is the temperature of 273 degrees Kelvin, the equivalent of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Celsius; the freezing temperature. Just eyeballing this chart, we find that temperatures have only risen above average twice this entire summer, with the first occurrence only lasting one or two days. The ongoing above-average anomaly appears a bit stronger, but does not outweigh the general below-normal trend in temperatures for the summer, reflected well in the above normal sea ice anomalies.

Similar to last year, Arctic sea ice is running above normal, while temperatures are running below normal. These two factors are likely to play some role this winter, though to what degree is unknown. What we can gather at this moment, however, is that there is a vast reservoir of cold air available up north; a positive sign for those wishing for a repeat of this past winter.