NOAA: Arctic no longer “reliably frozen”, Wednesday morning Clipper

Climate and weather.

The two are still often misunderstood by many. Climate? Your personality. Weather? Your mood today. Climate: The clothes in your closet. Weather: What you’re wearing today.

So when we talk about weather and climate events it’s good to know how to separate the two. A cold or snowy day in December does not tell us anything about climate change. Warmer than average temperatures in the Twin Cities 23 of the past 25 months might. Winters 5 degrees warmer than in 1970 shows a distinct trend.

NOAA’s latest 2017 Arctic Report Card documents come alarming trends. Arctic climate is warming more rapidly than any place on planet Earth. Atmospheric scientists are seeing growing evidence that changes in the Arctic may be affecting weather patterns where we live.

The headline subtext is eye opening.

“No sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.”

2017 Headlines

Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.

Despite relatively cool summer temperatures, observations in 2017 continue to indicate that the Arctic environmental system has reached a ‘new normal’, characterized by long-term losses in the extent and thickness of the sea ice cover, the extent and duration of the winter snow cover and the mass of ice in the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic glaciers, and warming sea surface and permafrost temperatures.


  • The average surface air temperature for the year ending September 2017 is the 2nd warmest since 1900; however, cooler spring and summer temperatures contributed to a rebound in snow cover in the Eurasian Arctic, slower summer sea ice loss, and below-average melt extent for the Greenland ice sheet.
  • The sea ice cover continues to be relatively young and thin with older, thicker ice comprising only 21% of the ice cover in 2017 compared to 45% in 1985.
  • In August 2017, sea surface temperatures in the Barents and Chukchi seas were up to 4° C warmer than average, contributing to a delay in the autumn freeze-up in these regions.
  • Pronounced increases in ocean primary productivity, at the base of the marine food web, were observed in the Barents and Eurasian Arctic seas from 2003 to 2017.
  • Arctic tundra is experiencing increased greenness and record permafrost warming.
  • Pervasive changes in the environment are influencing resource management protocols, including those established for fisheries and wildfires.
  • The unprecedented rate and global reach of Arctic change disproportionally affect the people of northern communities, further pressing the need to prepare for and adapt to the new Arctic.

Here’s more on NOAA’s Arctic Report Card for 2017.

The latest disturbing data point

People who know my work know I report and assess climate news and data with a measured approach. There are plenty of climate change drama queens out there.

But the atmospheric changes we are observing and measuring on earth are increasingly alarming. We’re literally changing the chemistry of the atmosphere at the fastest rate in human civilization. We’ve literally pumped more CO2 into the atmosphere in the past 150 years, than natural cycles took thousands of year to accomplish in the past.

NOAA/Climate Central

The scary truth? The atmosphere we studied in weather school is changing weather patterns, and we don’t know exactly how this is going to turn out.

Wednesday morning Clipper

Get ready for our next minor Clipper Wednesday morning. Snow slides south through Minnesota overnight. The snow bands arrive in the Twin Cities just in time for the Wednesday AM rush hour.

NOAA via tropical tidbits.

The storm track continues to feed systems across Minnesota from northwest to southeast. That puts the heavier snow bands across northeast Minnesota and northern Wisconsin once again. It’s a mix of lighter snows, freezing drizzle and gusty winds across the southwest half of Minnesota.

Milder weekend

Temps rebound this weekend. Monday still looks like the mildest day in sight.

NOAA via Weather Bell
  • C.M. Jones

    Paul, you are anything but a “climate change drama queen.” As a rule, I’m not fond of reading online, preferring the vintage, tactile feel of books over the synthetic character of computer monitors, and I generally avoid blogs at all cost, owing mostly to their penchant for careless commentaries and untutored exchanges, but I visit your domain on a regular basis because its content is finely crafted and driven by fact. Far too many climate change discussions are tainted by pernicious political subtexts that obscure the vital data we should be assessing without partisan prejudice. I appreciate your balanced presentation of information. It’s a nice departure from the dubious tactics many bloggers employ.

    “We’ve literally pumped more CO2 into the atmosphere in the past 150 years than natural cycles took thousands of years to accomplish in the past.”

    And anyone who rejects the premise that astonishing concentrations of carbon are imposing deleterious effects on our climate is either dwelling in an alternate intellective stratosphere or is so stridently steeped in denial that the most conspicuous dictates of logic can do nothing to alter his or her perspective. I expect matters to worsen significantly before even marginally improving. Most people are fond of doing nothing until dire circumstances spur them into action. We might not have the luxury of waiting in the war against climate change. The numbers point increasingly to a grim and formidable landscape.

  • Joel Eckman

    Excellent, though depressing article. I love the Updraft blog. Thank you.

  • Philip A. Rutter

    It would be worth testing, at this point, where “people often don’t understand the difference between weather and climate” is a true statement, or not.

    It’s not that hard to grasp. But it’s part of the “republican” tribal belief system that climate change is fake – even though a great many of those folks know what they profess- is not true. They know it. But- you have to prove you are loyal to your tribe.

    Easy explanation: Is it raining today? Weather. Do you expect it to be warm, or cold, 6 months from now? Climate. And we all understand it.

    The warped fantasy is that “it’s too complicated for anyone to know” is commonly buttressed by “no one knows the difference between weather and climate” – fully aware that both statements are untruths.

    Predicting the weather next week is an ancient human capability – one necessary for survival in fact. We know. They know. They are just pretending they don’t; and they even know they are just pretending.