Open Mind

Polar Time

September 29, 2007 · 7 Comments

We are currently in the early part of the International Polar Year (IPY). It’s actually two years, from March 2007 to March 2009, devoted to scientific study of the polar regions. This is especially relevant to the issue of global climate change, because the arctic appears to be warming much more rapidly than the rest of the planet.


So this week’s temperature record of the week is: the Arctic. I’m especially interested in what’s been happening recently, to get an idea what may be found during the IPY, so I’ll concentrate on the time period from 1995 to the present. I looked at both the global historical climate network, and the European Climate Assessment & Dataset Network, for temperature data from stations north of the arctic circle, with data going well into the 2000’s. I selected the 25 northernmost stations to include.

First let’s look at the top ten (the 10 northernmost stations). All 10 stations indicate warming, and despite the extremely short time span, 6 of the 10 trends are statistically significant:


The northernmost station has been warming, since 1995, at an astounding rate of 0.34 deg.C/yr, over 3 deg.C per decade! In fact the average warming rate of the top 10 stations is a whopping 0.188 deg.C/yr, more than 10 times faster than the global pace.


Save my habitat! Please!

If we include the top 25 stations, we have:


The average warming rate for the top 25 stations is 0.107 deg.C/yr, just about 6 times as fast as the global rate.

We can also, of course, look again at the decline in northern hemisphere sea ice which set a new record this year (polar bears need that ice):


The evidence from the arctic is clear: not only is it getting warmer, it’s doing so much faster than the globe as a whole. The current global warming rate is about 20 times faster than the sustained warming rate during a reasonably rapid deglaciation. The current warming rate in the far north is about 10 times faster than that, or about 200 times faster than a deglaciation. The IPY will offer an excellent opportunity to view the impact of global warming close-up.


Categories: Global Warming · climate change

7 responses so far ↓

  • Roger // September 29, 2007 at 2:12 am

    Hang on, what about the near-record levels of ice accretion in the Antarctic? I read on FT’s Denier series that the Antarctic is bucking the GCM projections. Is it fair to say that the Antarctic trend “makes up” in some way for the Arctic trend, or is this another denialist talking point?

    In short, can you say what the consequences of all this are for us unwashed masses? (BTW, you’re doing a great job; keep it up.)

  • Roger // September 29, 2007 at 2:21 am

    Oops, I just checked for responses to a comment I left to one of your previous posts, and found that my question has been answered. J’s comment extremely useful. Gotta love it when actual climate scientists blog, else how to counter the noise machine?

  • Sb // September 30, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for the bears. I liked them. Pity that future generations might not have the chance.

  • Ian Hopkinson // October 1, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Is there a trend prior to 1995?

  • Hank Roberts // October 1, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    “… After analyzing 20 years of satellite data, scientists have concluded that persistent melting—melting that lasts for at least three daytime periods or one consecutive day and night—has been occurring increasingly farther inland and at higher altitudes over the past two decades….”

  • Hank Roberts // October 2, 2007 at 12:04 am

    And — unlike the Arctic, where at least the US and former USSR navy files will have long detailed records of sea ice thickness (and perhaps will declassify them, we can hope) — the Antarctic sea ice thickness is just being investigated now.

    ———— excerpt below———

    “The ultimate aim of the helicopter altimetry, combined with surface measurements taken by scientists on the ice, is to help validate measurements from satellites. These can then be used to estimate Antarctic sea ice thickness over large areas.

    Voyage leader Dr Tony Worby said that to date relatively few measurements of Antarctic sea ice thickness have been made, meaning that any variations related to recent climate change may have been going unnoticed.

    “While laser altimetry has been used in the Arctic, it is the first time it has been tested in the Antarctic.

    ‘The lasers provide a direct estimate of how much ice and snow is above the water level and, combined with the surface measurements, the data will help us validate and improve satellite measurements of Antarctic sea ice thickness over large areas.

    ‘We are collecting excellent data which we expect will considerably improve our knowledge of sea ice in this region of Antarctica, and it should give us the tools to monitor whether Antarctic sea ice is changing over coming years,’ Dr Worby said. …”

  • danny bee // October 8, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Dear Editor,

    Many experts and scientists studying global warming and climate change
    around the world are also participating in International Polar Year
    (IPY). It’s actually two years, from March 2007 to March 2009, devoted
    to scientific study of the polar regions. This is especially relevant
    to the issue of global climate change, because the Arctic and the
    Antarctic regions appear to be warming much more rapidly than the rest
    of the planet. The IPY is also a good time to introduce the idea of
    “polar cities” to the world, sustainable polar retreats where humans
    might have to take refuge in 500 years or so if global warming makes
    living in the central and mid-central areas of the world humanly

    So what’s a polar city look like? An artist’s rendition of what a
    model polar city might look like can be seen here:

    – Danny Bloom

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