Hi there! This is a busy time of year for followers of Arctic sea ice, as we are quickly approaching the annual minimum sea-ice extent. This year’s minimum will probably be set sometime in the next week or so, and I will touch more on it in my blog for next month.
Instead, my blog for August’s ‘climate viz of the month’ will be short and highlight a comparison of the midnight sun in the Arctic and polar night in the Antarctic. Of course, this also relates to the importance of the seasonal cycle in polar regions, like for sea ice and the surface energy budget.
This particular animation is subtle, so watch closely – it shows a view of incoming solar radiation taken at the same time every day (12:00 UTC) from March 21 to September 21. You can clearly see the differences in sunlight for the opposite hemispheres. In fact, we will be approaching the annual maximum sea-ice extent in just a few weeks or less as the austral winter comes to an end. Although most of my graphics focus on extreme events or long-term climate trends, sometimes I think it’s equally as important to step back and just appreciate visualizations showing the seasonal cycles of climate variables. This always helps me better understand the interconnected nature of the Earth system.
While most of my research is related to computer programming – either through climate models, machine learning, or using other statistical tools – I did have the opportunity to visit the Arctic for a summer field school in graduate school. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life, and I will never forget the moment I saw Arctic sea ice for the first time on our icebreaker the R/V Lance. But I must admit, experiencing 24 hours of sunlight was one of the strangest things I’ve ever encountered. I suppose you eventually get used to it, and I am sure it didn’t help that my dorm room had bright red curtains (that were not darkening either) in Tromsø, Norway 🥴. But I can’t wait to go back.
That’s all for now! You can always find my older blogs from this year at https://zacklabe.com/blog-archive-2022/ and the associated climate data rankings at https://zacklabe.com/archive-2022/. Overall, August 2022 was another pretty quiet month in the Arctic compared to some extreme years in the last decade. The largest air temperature anomalies were in the vicinity of the Barents, Kara, and Laptev Seas region, which is likely related to the unusually early sea-ice decline that has become so common anymore in those areas. In fact, in preparing for this year’s Arctic Report Card (which will come out in December 2022), we observed near-record high sea surface temperatures in the Barents Sea this August. Unsurprisingly, the thickness of Arctic sea ice remained well below the 1981-2010 average according to PIOMAS. It will be interesting to extend the new CryoSat-2 summertime observations of sea-ice thickness for this summer. More on this very exciting new research and data product later!