Here is a pic that shows how rapidly things are changing in the Arctic (source: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/…g/PIA11086 ). Over the span of 2 days, a dramatic amount of new melting ice became visible to NASA's QuikScat satellite scatterometer. Here's what NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has to say about the above image:



"There has been considerable interest in the recent state of Arctic sea ice for scientific research and for operational applications especially along the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. This pair of sea ice maps was derived from radar data from NASA's QuikScat satellite scatterometer on September 2, 2008 (left panel) and September 5, 2008 (right panel).



QuikScat's unique features make it a powerful tool for mapping sea ice and accurately identifying sea ice conditions. It can distinguish sea ice from open water, differentiate different classes of ice, and compensate for effects of strong winds on ocean surfaces and effects of melt on ice.



In the above images, red areas denote sea ice that was undergoing active melting on the ice surface, magenta areas show sea ice with reduced melt, cyan areas are refrozen sea ice that had some residual wetness from earlier melting, and white areas represent sea ice that had been refrozen for 10 or more days. Ocean areas with less than 15 percent ice cover on the surface are blue, while land surfaces are shown in brown and missing data are depicted in black."



They go onto explain that the red areas on the right are from "Warm air transported by northward winds" that caused: "extensive areas of active melt (red) over a larger region extending from the Barents Sea across the Kara Sea to the Laptev Sea on September 5. That melt event was so large that some parts of it reached as far north as the vicinity of the North Pole."



PLEASE NOTE: The original caption for the image also explains that: "The sea routes may be opened or closed rapidly by transient weather events. Such unstable sea ice conditions in the passages can cause a significant navigation risk."



So, I post this not as "The sky is falling and it's because of Climate Change!" kind of post but rather a post that says: "Whoa, that's some serious flux! A bit of warm air and voila, instant Arctic Sea Routes--that's kinda scary that it can happen so quickly." Still a sign of Climate Change, but it's not the sign you might expect.



I almost think it's more important to note that instability is sometimes worse than stability regardless of the effect. In this case, we don't know what's going on up there. At least, that's what it seems like to me.
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