Bigger than Texas: Size of new Arctic Sea ice record; MN weather roller coaster

76F High temps at MSP Airport Wednesday (at 1:25pm)

45F forecast low in many metro areas Thursday morning

39 mph Peak wind gust at MSP Airport Wednesday

Pea sized hail in Duluth Wednesday

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#1 International Falls America’s “most changeable city” for overnight low temps in 2011? – Details below

1.32 million sq miles New record low Arctic Sea ice coverage reached Sunday

Roughly 50% of average ice cover from 1979-2000

300,000 sq miles – Size of ice free zone in the Arctic Ocean compared to previous record low in 2007.

286,000 sq miles – Size of Texas

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Source: NASA

NASA: New Arctic Sea Ice record low bests previous record by the size of Texas

Here’s another twist from NASA on the story I’ve been covering this year on the new record low coverage in Arctic Sea ice.

The frozen cap of the Arctic Ocean appears to have reached its annual summertime minimum extent and broken a new record low on Sept. 16, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has reported. Analysis of satellite data by NASA and the NASA-supported NSIDC at the University of Colorado in Boulder showed that the sea ice extent shrunk to 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million square kilometers).

The new record minimum measures almost 300,000 square miles less than the previous lowest extent in the satellite record, set in mid-September 2007, of 1.61 million square miles (4.17 million square kilometers). For comparison, the state of Texas measures around 268,600 square miles.

Arctic sea ice cover naturally grows during the dark Arctic winters and retreats when the sun re-appears in the spring. But the sea ice minimum summertime extent, which is normally reached in September, has been decreasing over the last three decades as Arctic ocean and air temperatures have increased. This year’s minimum extent is approximately half the size of the average extent from 1979 to 2000. This year’s minimum extent also marks the first time Arctic sea ice has dipped below 4 million square kilometers.

“Climate models have predicted a retreat of the Arctic sea ice; but the actual retreat has proven to be much more rapid than the predictions,” said Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “There continues to be considerable inter-annual variability in the sea ice cover, but the long-term retreat is quite apparent.”

This year, a powerful cyclone formed off the coast of Alaska and moved on Aug. 5 to the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it churned the weakened ice cover for several days. The storm cut off a large section of sea ice north of the Chukchi Sea and pushed it south to warmer waters that made it melt entirely. It also broke vast extensions of ice into smaller pieces more likely to melt.

“The storm definitely seems to have played a role in this year’s unusually large retreat of the ice”, Parkinson said. “But that exact same storm, had it occurred decades ago when the ice was thicker and more extensive, likely wouldn’t have had as prominent an impact, because the ice wasn’t as vulnerable then as it is now.”

In other words, some of the projected climate changes in the IPCC Reports are happening much faster than previously projected. An ice free Arctic Sea by 2050 was reviled as “panic” by some climate change critics. Now some are saying we could see an ice free Arctic in summer by 2025…or even as early as 2015.

We’re literally in uncharted waters here. We just don’t know what the climate implications of an ice free Arctic Ocean will be in future years.

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September: Minnesota’s favorite weather “roller coaster”

You can’t please all the people all of the time…but you can come pretty close in Minnesota in September.

Want summer? How about 95F in the metro and 99F in Madison, MN on September 11th?

Longing for that fall or winter feeling? Take 20F in International Falls Tuesday morning.

Our weather roller coaster continues this week. After a mild (and very brief) summery 76F at MSP Airport at 1:25pm Wednesday…temps crashed behind the next cold front.

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Source: NOAA

We wake to temps a full 30+ degrees colder Thursday morning with 30s up north and 40 south.

Minnesota: Weather “change” capitol of the USA?

We’ve all heard the narrative that Minnesota is one of the most “changeable” weather places on earth.

There’s some truth to that…and a new look at just how changeable various U.S. cities are puts Minnesota on top in some categories.

Forecast Advisor crunched the numbers for “changeable” USA weather cities for 2011. The study ranked a total of 787 cities.

International Falls came in at #1 as the most changeable location for overnight low temps from day to day. Hibbing was #3, Park Rapids #17 and Baudette #20.

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Source: Forecast Advisor

As for day to day changes in precip, Duluth came in at #3 and Grand Marais was #16.

The Twin Cities ranked #275 for high temps, #116 for low temps & #72 for precip variability.

As you would expect, places like Arizona & California showed the least day to day change with many New England and Midwest locations showing the highest variability.

My dad used to say our frequent weather changes “build character.” If that’s true, Minnesotans must have plenty of excess “character” to give the rest of the nation.


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