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Historic Melting of the Arctic

Exceptional warmth for this time of year continues across the Arctic. Temperature at North Pole is forecasted just below the melting point today. This delay in cold temperatures across the basin means reduced ice thickening with implications for thin ice at the start of next year’s melt season. Unless there is some major pattern change, we may see an ice-free Arctic Basin in the next few years, not decades. Siberia seeing record or near record cold in places as a result of the circulation. See Today’s Weather Maps at Climate Reanalyzer.

Temperature maps show anomolies in northern and southern hemispheres.

Record early-October warmth across the Arctic

The first half of October 2016 was likely the warmest across the Arctic for this time of year since at least 1948, says Maine’s state climatologist.

In the Arctic — 65–90 degrees north latitude — on Oct. 7, 2016, the mean daily temperature averaged a balmy minus 3.5 C (25.7 F), a value that’s 6.6 C above the 1951–2000 historical mean, says Sean Birkel, who also is a research assistant professor at the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.

This temperature departure from average, or anomaly, exceeds the previous record daily temperature anomaly of 5.7 C set Oct. 14, 2007.

For comparison, prior to 2000, the highest Arctic-wide temperature anomaly for early October prior was 2.9 C, which was attained Oct. 2, 1948.

These temperature anomaly estimates are based on output from a widely used climate reanalysis model developed by the National Center for Environmental Prediction and National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Climate graph
This time series plot shows Arctic-wide (65°N-90°N) daily mean temperature departures, or anomalies, of 1951–2000 climatology for the first 15 days of October from 1948–2016. A record-warm temperature anomaly registered at 6.6 C on Oct. 7, 2016. Other notable extremes are labeled for reference. The bold black line represents 15-day averages for each year. These temperature anomaly estimates are based on output from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the National Center for Atmospheric Research Reanalysis. Unprocessed data files are obtained from NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research/Earth System Research Laboratory, Physical Sciences Division, Boulder, Colorado (

Reanalysis models assimilate station, weather balloon and satellite data to reconstruct the state of the atmosphere across the globe or a region at regular time intervals.

This is particularly valuable for estimating conditions across areas of the Earth for which few observations are available, including across the Arctic Basin, says Birkel.

Record warmth in the Arctic has increasingly become the norm, he says, as feedbacks between declining snow/ice cover, the atmosphere, and the ocean have been observed.

Unusual warmth this time of year is diagnostic of changing season length: Arctic summers are warmer and longer than they used to be, while winters are warmer and shorter.

In turn, this year’s September minimum sea-ice extent tied that of 2007 as second-lowest in the satellite era. The record minimum was attained in 2012, says Birkel.

The current October warmth results in large part from open water over broad areas historically covered by ice this time of year, he says.

A steep decline of sea-ice cover has been linked to changing weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere, including in Maine and New England, he says.

Climate map
This map shows average temperature anomalies from Oct. 1–15, 2016 across the Northern Hemisphere. The anomaly values are relative to a 1951–2000 climate baseline. Estimates are based on output from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the National Center for Atmospheric Research Reanalysis. Unprocessed data files are obtained from NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research/Earth System Research Laboratory, Physical Sciences Division, Boulder, Colorado (

Rapid warming of the Arctic has reduced the mean temperature difference between the equator and pole, which some researchers suggest has slowed the westerly jet stream, says Birkel.

This process leads to greater likelihood for the development of atmospheric blocking patterns that can cause heat waves, cold waves and extreme rainfall events in the middle latitudes, he says.

On Oct. 3, Birkel and CCI director Paul Mayewski were part of a UMaine contingent attending the Maine-Arctic Forum in Portland, Maine, which focused on the Arctic’s changing climate and resulting economic opportunities and geopolitical concerns.

To learn more about local and worldwide weather and climate, visit the Climate Reanalyzer.

Birkel maintains the platform with support from the CCI, UMaine and the National Science Foundation. Also, a general overview of Maine’s climate is in the 2009 and 2015 Maine’s Climate Future documents produced by the UMaine Sea Grant and Climate Change Institute.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Gulf of Maine Significant Events and Climate Overview: June–August 2016

Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook recently published Significant Events, Climate Overview and Regional Impacts for June–August 2016, and Regional Outlooks for autumn 2016. Parts of the region saw well below normal precipitation this summer. Five Nova Scotia sites had their second driest June on record. Boston, MA and three sites in southwestern Nova Scotia, including Yarmouth, had their driest summers on record. The lack of rain contributed to
drought conditions across the region. Read the entire report (PDF).

Summer of 2016 across northern and eastern Maine

The National Weather Service has posted a Summer 2016 northern and eastern Maine seasonal climate narrative. Overall, northern and eastern Maine for summer (June 1st -August 31st) 2016 experienced above normal temperatures, with decidedly above normal rainfall across the north and significantly below average rainfall over downeast portions of the region. Read the entire narrative.

Quarterly Climate Impact – Gulf of Maine, September 2016

Click here for the updated Gulf of Maine Climate Impact Report for summer 2016. This two page NOAA/NIDIS publication summarizes significant events in the region, a climate overview, and regional impacts and forecasts.


Climate updates for other US regions can be found here.

Quarterly Climate Impact – Gulf of Maine, June 2016

Read the most recent Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook publication, focused on the Gulf of Maine. This is a two page NOAA/NIDIS publication summarizing significant events in the region, a climate overview, and regional impacts and forecasts.

Quarterly reports for other US regions, including the Northeast can be found here.


Research: Shifting ecosystems in the Falkland Islands

Read transcript

University of Maine researchers, including Kit Hamley, explore how extinct and introduced animals affect the Falkland Islands and seek to help farmers, sheep, tussock grass, tourists and penguins coexist in light of competing interests, sea-level rise and erosion.

Hamley helped develop the 4-H Follow A ResearcherTM program at UMaine, which connects K–12 students with graduate research.

A news release on her trip to the Falkland Islands is online.

Maine Sea Grant’s work with lobstering communities featured in U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has highlighted work by the Maine Sea Grant College Program at the University of Maine in the U.S. Government’s Climate Resilience Toolkit.

The project, which was led by Esperanza Stancioff of Maine Sea Grant and University of Maine Cooperative Extension and funded by NOAA’s Climate Program Office, focused on the state’s lobstering communities.

The study gathered lobstermen’s understanding of biology, markets, environment and expenses and translated the insights into a systems dynamics model to evaluate ways to improve industry-wide management options, especially during ocean heat wave events.

More information about the project is on the Maine Sea Grant website.

Something is Amiss as a Warm Wave Reaches the North Pole

Is this downstream propagation of the wave what caused record warmth to eastern North America last week? Check out Sean Birkel’s Climate Reanalyzer blog post “Rare December Melt at the North Pole” to understand what is happening.

December 30, 2015 forecast models showing warm air over the Arctic

September Climate Outlook Predicts Warm Autumn

Fall foliage reflected in lakeThe Gulf of Maine Council’s Climate Network is pleased to share the September issue of the Gulf of Maine Region Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook (PDF) — reporting on weather events in the past three months and looking ahead to what the Fall may have in store. There was wide variability throughout the summer season in terms of temperature and precipitation, and several localized severe storms. For the coming months, meteorologists are predicting warmer than normal temperatures and below-normal hurricane activity.

This regional bulletin is collaboratively produced by meteorologists and marine scientists from a wide array of participating organizations and agencies.

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