Sea Ice South (2): Another Brick in the Wall

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 2:26 AM GMT on May 19, 2011

Share this Blog
4
+

Sea Ice South (2): Another Brick in the Wall

My previous entry was setting the foundation for understanding the differences between sea ice in the northern and southern hemispheres. It focused on the physical geography of the Earth. Specifically, the distribution of land and ocean are different at the two poles; hence, there is no reason to expect one pole to behave like the other pole - beyond perhaps, they both get very cold in the winter.

This entry will focus on the basics of the physical climate needed to understand sea ice. As summarized in Spencer Weart’s excellent history, we have known for a long time that water vapor and carbon dioxide are ingredients of the atmosphere that are important to our ability to live on the planet. Specifically, based only on the amount of energy coming from the Sun, the temperature of the surface of the Earth should be about zero degrees Fahrenheit. It is the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that holds heat close to the surface for a while, leading to an average temperature closer to, say 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

When thinking about the climate, it is important to remember that the Earth is always cooling to get rid of the energy that comes from the Sun. A good way to experience this cooling and the effects of greenhouse gases is to spend a summer night in Death Valley, CA, and another summer night in the Everglades, FL. Because of the lack of water after sunset it cools down much faster in Death Valley. I like to think of this tendency to cool as a thermal spring always pulling the Earth towards zero degrees.

We have to remember another fact of the Earth, which is the tilt of the axis of rotation that is responsible for the seasons. As a result of this tilt, the solar energy that is directly received at the poles goes through huge cycles every year. In winter it is dark, and there is no direct solar heating of the pole. In the summer there is continuous light, but the heating is weak because the Sun is low in the sky. As a result of this tilt, far more energy comes into the Earth in the tropics than at the poles.

Interestingly, when we look at the energy leaving the Earth, on an annual average basis, there is not a huge difference between the poles and the tropics. What that means is that the “excess” of energy entering the Earth in the tropics is moved towards the poles, where there is a net loss of energy to space. This energy is carried from the tropics to the poles by the oceans and the atmosphere. Without transport of energy to the poles, in winter, when the Sun is not present at the poles, the temperature would drop to 100s of degrees below zero. That does not happen, but it still gets cold – cold enough to make ice.

That’s what the oceans and the atmosphere do. They are fluids that move to even out the distribution of energy – or effectively, heat. Therefore, the role of the atmosphere and ocean is pretty straightforward; they are not random and chaotic and unconstrained. They respond to heating and cooling through well understood physical mechanisms – like gravity and pressure. Another important force is due to the rotation of the Earth (see link at bottom).

One of the interesting things about transport is that it occurs in, let’s say, events or features. A useful metaphor on people’s minds this week is the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin. The Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers carry a LOT of water in a channel to the Gulf of Mexico, where it immediately spreads out of the channel. You might say that it fans out, but it really doesn’t just diffuse into the Gulf. It moves as distinct features, as seen in this 2001 figure of sediment from NASA’s Earth Observatory.



Figure 1: Sediments in the Gulf of Mexico from Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers.


The water is channeled by the river basins; it is not like a shallow film of water spread out between Brownsville, TX and Homestead, FL. The water is channeled, and big events, like the spring runoff are responsible for a large portion of the transport. The atmosphere and oceans behave in the same way - heat is transported, preferentially, in certain places, for example in ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream and atmospheric storm tracks.

Let’s focus on the ocean. If a current like the Gulf Stream brings a lot of warm water to Greenland, then what keeps all of that water from piling up in the Arctic? There has to be a return flow, and that return flow takes cold water back towards the tropics. The Earth’s weather is just part of mixing warm and cold.

Okay, it’s time to pull together this information. The temperature at the poles, especially in the winter, is largely determined by oceanic and atmospheric transport of heat. Alternatively, the heating and cooling at the winter pole is not day-to-day determined by the radiative energy from the Sun and greenhouse gas concentrations. The heat transport occurs in preferential locations, and return flow takes cold air and water back towards the tropics in preferential locations. Fluctuations in the preferential locations mean that warm and cold regions move around. Given the information from the previous blog, the North and South Poles are different. Hence sea ice behavior is different.

Sea ice – I am setting the foundation for sea ice. From two blogs ago, one on the Northern Hemisphere, there was a number associated with the melting of the Arctic sea ice. That number is 1 watt per square meter. The melting of the Arctic sea ice that has been observed over a certain amount of time, say a decade or two, is consistent with a sustained, change in the energy balance of 1 watt for every square meter – that’s about a square yard – 3 feet by 3 feet. How much energy does this represent? Let’s go to an iconic figure of the radiative balance the Earth updated by Trenberth et al. in 2009.



Figure 2: The global annual mean Earth’s energy budget for the Mar 2000 to May 2004 period (W m–2). The broad arrows indicate the schematic flow of energy in proportion to their importance. (from Trenberth et al. , 2009)

I am mainly interested in sizes. The amount of energy at the top of the atmosphere from the Sun is about 341 watts per square meter. Ultimately, that is also just about the amount of energy that goes back to space. In the various ways that energy is absorbed and reflected and transported there are numbers in the figures that are 10s watts per square meter. Down at the very bottom of the figure is the amount absorbed by the Earth – in this figure 0.9 watt per square meter. (Very close to 1, I note.)

If we look at the energy that is transported to and away from the poles as well as that associated with energy from the Sun and emitted back to space, then there are several paths that deliver or take away 10s of watts per square meter. A change of 1 watt per square meter can be realized in several ways. And if we get right down to sea ice it gets more complicated. What happens if there is more fresh water in the ocean because of more rain, more snow, more melting of ice sheets? Fresh water freezes at a higher temperature than salt water. So could it in fact get warmer and freeze more ice in the ocean because the water is less salty? Plausible, I assert – it would become a matter of measurements, and numbers, and untangling the many different paths that energy is provided to and taken away from the surface of the sea.

Next time I will get a little more specific about the southern ocean and its sea ice.

r


(If you want to see cool movies that show how rotation organizes flow go to MIT and look at these movies.)


Useful links
Recent sea ice trends
Sea ice data
Rood’s Blogs on Ice

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 233 - 183

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7Blog Index

Quoting cat5hurricane:

Ummm...maybe it has something to do with the popularity of the subject dwindling just a bit.

Just think in a few days, Rapture will be back to being nothing more than a crappy Blondie song again...


You mean something that is going to cost us more than 30 trillion dollars is losing popularity? WOW!
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Not until we get those tunnels, we will be saved. But we still have some work to do until then.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Quoting cyclonebuster:


It is both.

Not for long...
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Quoting eddy12:
I agree the temperature has risen my point is why is it all man made or are natural cycles causing it or a combination of the two that is the question. while the north pole loses ice the south pole gains more ice if it is all man made shouldn't they both be losing ice


It is both.

Once the North melts out then you will see the South melting quicker.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting cyclonebuster:
I guess they finally realized the planet is warming due to man.

Climate Change (CLOSED)
This forum contained discussion about Climate Change, but is now closed. Discussion can continue on the AccuWeather.com Global Warming blog at http://global-warming.accuweather.com/
Forum Led by: WeatherMatrix, Moderator, SuperModerator

Link

Ummm...maybe it has something to do with the popularity of the subject dwindling just a bit.

Just think in a few days, Rapture will be back to being nothing more than a crappy Blondie song again...
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
I agree the temperature has risen my point is why is it all man made or are natural cycles causing it or a combination of the two that is the question. while the north pole loses ice the south pole gains more ice if it is all man made shouldn't they both be losing ice
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
I guess they finally realized the planet is warming due to man.

Climate Change (CLOSED)
This forum contained discussion about Climate Change, but is now closed. Discussion can continue on the AccuWeather.com Global Warming blog at http://global-warming.accuweather.com/
Forum Led by: WeatherMatrix, Moderator, SuperModerator

Link
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting cyclonebuster:


You must have went to Evelyn Wood speed reading to go through those links so fast.

Nope. Already seen them before.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Sure Cyclone, let's believe everything we are spoon fed.

Another serving? I'll wash the dishes...


You must have went to Evelyn Wood speed reading to go through those links so fast.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting cyclonebuster:
Here are a few graphic reasons that support climate change from Noaa, Nasa, Nsidc and the Cryosphere Today . It may take some time to go through the links but please go through all of them they are all important to us all.

Link

Sure Cyclone, let's believe everything we are spoon fed.

Another serving? I'll wash the dishes...
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Here are a few graphic reasons that support climate change from Noaa, Nasa, Nsidc and the Cryosphere Today . It may take some time to go through the links but please go through all of them they are all important to us all.

Link
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
where are you at boys or did the price of poker just go up
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Quoting McBill:

Yep, Denialism 101 - all temperature plots shall start from 1998. See also cherry-pick [cher-ee-pik]



Look at the context to the post I was responding to. Cat5 was talking about surface based temperatures from weather stations over the past decade, I showed satellite data and compared with the surface temperatures over the past decade.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
giovanna by the way mcbill said if wishes were horses beggars would ride i pointed out wishes are horses and I am riding all the way to the bank
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
giovanna i used your own graph to. Maybe you could show me the rapid warming the last several years
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Quoting eddy12:
mcbill you have to admit my comment to your if wishes were horses comment was a good burn

It might have been, but that doesn't make you right. If you would like to continue the argument along more scientific lines instead of the same old, anecdotal observations and non-peer reviewed evidence, let me know. I'll be standing by. Until then, cest la vie...

Member Since: May 14, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 78
mcbill you have to admit my comment to your if wishes were horses comment was a good burn
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Quoting GiovannaDatoli:

Yippee. Steve Goddard. Oh, I had such aspiring hopes for you to at least bring something to the table worthwhile to discuss as opposed to unsubstantiated, mendacious garbage.

Oh well, we'll just go and try again. Big Energy might even be able to help you in your quest. ;-)

Sure. Big Energy bias. Sure, it failed the first time. Now come back. Rigggghhhhttttt.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
your graph
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Hmmm. More snow or less snow? Yep, as your probably guessed, not exactly a foundation alarmists would want to stand upon...at least not for too long.

Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Quoting eddy12:
So if the same question were posed in 1918 you would have claimed ice age about to set in?

On what basis?

Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 422
Quoting cat5hurricane:
Cool looking climate models, eh?


Yippee. Steve Goddard. Oh, I had such aspiring hopes for you to at least bring something to the table worthwhile to discuss as opposed to unsubstantiated, mendacious garbage.

Oh well, we'll just go and try again. Big Energy might even be able to help you in your quest. ;-)
Member Since: May 14, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 78
Quoting RustyShackleford:

Next time you call me Nicky provide me with proof that I am this so called Nicky or that is another lie by you.

Fair enough. I'm sure that you will abide by the same rules.

Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 422
Cool looking climate models, eh?

Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Quoting Patrap:
Be careful how you tread with such nonsense and innuendo.


I was a blogger long before a portlight volunteer.


Banter ya gams all ya want about me.


Be dont beat up a fine thing that does much for many with little.,cuz you have a groove against me.



Cartoon characters,no men,no faith,..nothing but words.

Faith without works is what it is.

Nothing.


Enjoy your squabbles .


Global Climate Change Indicators
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Climatic Data Center




Carbon dioxide concentration (parts per million) for the last 800,000 years, measured from trapped bubbles of air in an Antarctic ice core. More information: Climate Change Impacts on the U.S.

You too, Big Guy. Thanks for the overwhelming proof. Just another link for ze ole rapture...um, i mean "repertoire". LOL

A different look, but ze same ole BS.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Quoting Patrap:
Be careful how you tread with such nonsense and innuendo.


I was a blogger long before a portlight volunteer.


Banter ya gams all ya want about me.


Be dont beat up a fine thing that does much for many with little.,cuz you have a groove against me.

i still like you.Your'e alright :-]
Member Since: March 20, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 84
He is easy just ask a specific question he will not answer and leave too
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Be careful how you tread with such nonsense and innuendo.


I was a blogger long before a portlight volunteer.


Banter ya gams all ya want about me.


Be dont beat up a fine thing that does much for many with little.,cuz you have a groove against me.



Cartoon characters,no men,no faith,..nothing but words.

Faith without works is what it is.

Nothing.


Enjoy your squabbles .


Global Climate Change Indicators
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Climatic Data Center




Carbon dioxide concentration (parts per million) for the last 800,000 years, measured from trapped bubbles of air in an Antarctic ice core. More information: Climate Change Impacts on the U.S.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
Quoting eddy12:
I guess old mcbill and giovanna gave me the eric cartman "screw you guys I'm going home"

Oh don't worry, Neapolitan will be signing in shortly. He ain't gonna forget 'bout you.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
I guess old mcbill and giovanna gave me the eric cartman "screw you guys I'm going home"
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Quoting RustyShackleford:


I think he does. That's why he has the bigger head. But to be honest they all do it on here. Then again they don't realize they do it at all.

True. When you have that many posts and pride yourself on it (and boy I tell you he does get rather gasconade about it), I guess it becomes part of you...

Perhaps when he it turns over at 100,000, he'll regress a bit. Who knows. Who cares.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Pretty much. I just don't understand the constant name calling, condescending tone, the patronizing, and all the garbage that comes with it (ie: the same links). I sure hope he doesn't justify his behavior with a free pass, just because of his involvement with a charitable organization.


I think he does. That's why he has the bigger head. But to be honest they all do it on here. Then again they don't realize they do it at all.
Member Since: May 10, 2011 Posts: 15 Comments: 1297
Quoting RustyShackleford:


Who? Oh yea the guy who I have poofed and IMO should not be working for Portlight I will never give any of my money to them because of him.

Pretty much. I just don't understand the constant name calling, condescending tone, the patronizing, and all the garbage that comes with it (ie: the same links). I sure hope he doesn't justify his behavior with a free pass, just because of his involvement with a charitable organization.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Quoting cat5hurricane:
195. If one has to resort to name calling, my experience is that their argument has probably gone down the crapper. Take Patrap, for example...


Who? Oh yea the guy who I have poofed and IMO should not be working for Portlight I will never give any of my money to them because of him.
Member Since: May 10, 2011 Posts: 15 Comments: 1297
195. If one has to resort to name calling, my experience is that their argument has probably gone down the crapper. Take Patrap, for example...
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
oh and by the way i did wish on a horse today in the preakness and I am riding all the way to the bank lol
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Quoting eddy12:
So if the same question were posed in 1918 you would have claimed ice age about to set in?

GREAT point. Nailed it.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
So if the same question were posed in 1918 you would have claimed ice age about to set in?
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Quoting McBill:
We have multiple, independent lines of evidence pointing in the same direction. I don't see the problem. Maybe you can give us an example or two of the "combining" that you object to.


Well how do yall get those graphs from years before satellites?

Quoting McBill:
I'll make you a deal Rusty, you don't try and tell me what I know and I won't try and tell you what you know. It is funny that a guy who claims he's never heard of Tony Watts is getting his info from surfacestations.org. But, what you got there is a bunch of pictures showing less than ideal siting for some surface stations. No analysis demonstration that the siting issue has influenced the accuracy of the surface temperature record and certainly no evidence of some "warm bias." Sorry, but you're going to have to do a lot better than this.


I never said I never heard of Watts big difference. That's a straight lie and I want proof of it. There is analysis on the page and pictures of this stations that you people think are not warm biased.

Quoting McBill:
I don't think so.


I do think so.

Quoting McBill:
Sounds like selling your soul to the devil.


You got all of that from me saying Urban Meyer time. Interesting.

Quoting McBill:
Bingo! And the significant point here is that if he picked another year beside 1998, that "cooling" would disappear. The very definition of cherry-picking. Thanks Nicky!




Starting from 1979 when the data is actually (well kinda) not biased is the best rather than starting in 1922 or whenever yall start or try to start.

Next time you call me Nicky provide me with proof that I am this so called Nicky or that is another lie by you.
Member Since: May 10, 2011 Posts: 15 Comments: 1297
Quoting eddy12:
Has to start somewhere and several years could be a start is all i am saying

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 422
How much you all wanna bet that this is what the they will be using to justify the next little warming bump that we may see?

It never fails. Simply priceless...



Link
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Has to start somewhere and several years could be a start is all i am saying
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Quoting eddy12:
Giovanna your own graph show rapid warming is not taking place. Several years of basically flat line perhaps we are at the tail end of the warming not sure where you still get warming rapidly your own posting proves otherwise

Thing is, eddy, we're talking climate here - long term change. We reach a point where the most recent decade is cooler than the preceding decade, we may want to rethink. Until then....


Photobucket


Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 422
Giovanna your own graph shows rapid warming is not taking place. Several years of basically flat line perhaps we are at the tail end of the warming not sure where you still get warming rapidly your own posting proves otherwise
Member Since: February 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
Quoting McBill:
We have multiple, independent lines of evidence pointing in the same direction. I don't see the problem. Maybe you can give us an example or two of the "combining" that you object to.


I'll make you a deal Rusty, you don't try and tell me what I know and I won't try and tell you what you know. It is funny that a guy who claims he's never heard of Tony Watts is getting his info from surfacestations.org. But, what you got there is a bunch of pictures showing less than ideal siting for some surface stations. No analysis demonstration that the siting issue has influenced the accuracy of the surface temperature record and certainly no evidence of some "warm bias." Sorry, but you're going to have to do a lot better than this.

I don't think so.


Sounds like selling your soul to the devil.



Bingo! And the significant point here is that if he picked another year beside 1998, that "cooling" would disappear. The very definition of cherry-picking. Thanks Nicky!


i'm a strong beleiver in climate change, but actually you could have picked the year 2002 and 2004 and it still would be warming.Not that that means antything.We are still warming, and humans are responsible.
Member Since: March 20, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 84
Quoting GiovannaDatoli:
Meanwhile as the denialists are still running through the street screaming "the alarmists are here!"; the planet continues to warm up, and warm up rapidly. As long as the burning of fossil fuels continues and the Big Energy interests are hard at work deceiving the masses and infiltrating our political system with their bias, there is no way out of this mess.

Whatever.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Meanwhile as the denialists are still running through the street screaming "the alarmists are here!"; the planet continues to warm up, and warm up rapidly. As long as the burning of fossil fuels continues and the Big Energy interests are hard at work deceiving the masses and infiltrating our political system with their bias, there is no way out of this mess.
Member Since: May 14, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 78
Quoting Snowlover123:


And if you look from the satellite data, it even shows cooling occuring.


Yes it does. Even more proof that what we are seeing now is just the tail end of another warming spell.

The anthropogenic "alarmists" may need the rag to wipe the egg off their face sooner than I thought. That's okay, I'm sure the Rapture predictor guy will be done with it by then. Although I we can at least grace them with a brand new one. We can give them that much. Maybe.
Member Since: August 17, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 6939
Quoting RustyShackleford:
First...
You said we have data from multiple sources so I'm assuming to get a theory of man made global warming they combined the data.
We have multiple, independent lines of evidence pointing in the same direction. I don't see the problem. Maybe you can give us an example or two of the "combining" that you object to.


Quoting RustyShackleford:
Second...
I know you know this and I know this. But sadly surface stations are horrible.
I'll make you a deal Rusty, you don't try and tell me what I know and I won't try and tell you what you know. It is funny that a guy who claims he's never heard of Tony Watts is getting his info from surfacestations.org. But, what you got there is a bunch of pictures showing less than ideal siting for some surface stations. No analysis demonstration that the siting issue has influenced the accuracy of the surface temperature record and certainly no evidence of some "warm bias." Sorry, but you're going to have to do a lot better than this.

Quoting RustyShackleford:
Third...
There's your proof.
I don't think so.

Quoting RustyShackleford:
Fourth...
Not really I want him gone Urban Meyer time Baby!!!!!!!

Sounds like selling your soul to the devil.


Quoting RustyShackleford:
Fifth...
To show that since then it has been cooling because right now we are "warming" but cooling over the past few years.

Bingo! And the significant point here is that if he picked another year beside 1998, that "cooling" would disappear. The very definition of cherry-picking. Thanks Nicky!


Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 422
We'll try this again:

Member Since: May 14, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 78
Quoting McBill:

Who's combining the data from multiple sources, Rusty? We talking Mann and the original hockey stick? If so, that's ancient history. Not really sure what you getting at here?

Also, where do you get that "surface temperature records aren't very accurate at all mainly warm biased?" First, surface temperature records come from direct measurement rather than the indirect measurements from satellites. Second, I haven't seen any evidence to back up claims of a "warm bias" in the surface temperature record. What's your basis for this claim?

Finally, I''m guessing that this whole Jim Tressel thing must be really upsetting for a big Buckeye fan like you. How you holding up?

BTW - Why do you think that someone would use 1998 as a starting point on a temperature plot?


The big question remains: Was there ever a "warm bias" at all? This outlandish claim falls nothing short of fabricated, orchestrated nonsense.

But, that's about what I would come to expect from a typical denialist. You can show them empirical, highly credible evidence that stands up to the strongest of tests--and they will still shut the front door on you and leave you out in the cold. So much for science ;-)
Member Since: May 14, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 78

Viewing: 233 - 183

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7Blog Index

Top of Page

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.