Thursday, January 27, 2011

Creating a Climate for Change: Public lecture and webcast tonight

Alex Clapp from Simon Fraser University and I are presenting at a free public event tonight in downtown Vancouver sponsored by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, a research consortium run by the area universities. For those not in the lower mainland, there should be a live webcast as well.

This event Creating a Climate for Change will explore scientific and social factors that influence the public's uncertainty about climate change, including socio-cultural barriers such as long-held beliefs that weather is beyond human control.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Open waters around Baffin Island this New Year

At a casual meal on the weekend, I met a couple in town from Iqualit. The capital of Canada's northern Inuit territory of Nunavut is located on Frobisher Bay in southern Baffin Island.

They told me that when they left home in mid-December, the ice on Frobisher Bay was not frozen. I almost coughed up my food; that can't be possibly be typical for December. According to the visitors, the Bay is normally frozen a month or two, or more, before Christmas, allowing people to head out on the ice for hunting, celebrating, etc.

The upper chart is the ice thickness as of December 27th, according to the Canadian Ice Service (for all you sea ice junkies who follow the NSIDC's daily updates on the Arctic, CIS has a great and I suspect underused site). The southern half of Baffin Island is on the upper right. Frobisher Bay is the more southern of the two long bays on the right, the one that is entirely blue (i.e. water). Iqualit is at the very northwestern tip of the Bay.

The bottom chart shows the ice thickness "anomaly" - the departure from normal thickness (click on it for full size) - for mid-December. Normal is based on a multi-decade average. You can see that Frobisher Bay and the surrounding waters are all in the red - they are owed some ice.  Some of the bay has frozen since these images were prepared.

The low ice thickness across the Arctic is part of a long-term trend. The current low in the SE Arctic has also been driven by the prevailing weather conditions over the past couple months. As was reported in the CBC News yesterday, a lingering high pressure system has held temperatures well above normal and limited ice formation.  That is the same weather pattern that directed the cold Arctic air masses to east coast of North America and to western Europe and caused the huge early winter snowfalls. So when you hear scientists say that record snowfalls could be related in part to climate warming and the melting Arctic, this is what they mean.