Friday, July 29, 2011

Tundra Burning

This is an amazing story from the Arctic tundra which I had not heard before. Reported on NPR this morning with the long story in the magazine "Nature." Image by Alaska Fire Service.

"The Arctic tundra has been relatively thunderstorm-free for 10,000 years. But conditions are changing in the far north, and in 2007 a lightning strike caused the biggest wildfire ever recorded on the North Slope of Alaska. The tundra is normally a carbon sink, but scientists report in the journal Nature that that single fire released more carbon into the atmosphere than the entire Arctic tundra absorbs every year."

Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 Arctic Summer Ice Melt

As with recent summers past, the Arctic is continuing to warm and it looks like the cycle is repeating itself again this summer with huge losses of ice coming up and maybe even nearing the record loss of ice in the 2007 season when we made our transit of the NW Passage from east to west on Cloud Nine.

The National Snow and Ice Center is one of the foremost "legitimate" data collectors in
the ice business and here is their most recent report as of today:

Early sea ice melt onset, snow cover retreat indicates rapid 2011 summer decline. NSIDC

Arctic sea ice extent declined at a rapid pace through the first half of July, and is now tracking below the year 2007, which saw the record minimum September extent. The rapid decline in the past few weeks is related to persistent above-average temperatures and an early start to melt. Snow cover over Northern Eurasia was especially low in May and June, continuing the pattern seen in April.

This will be an interesting summer and early fall to track and I will keep you posted here. No doubt there will be a record number of small boats again trying for the "ice-free" Northwest Passage.