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Overheating Canada helps freeze Europe

NASA says that 2010 has been the hottest year recorded so far, and November was the hottest November in their 131 years of records. Canada, the Arctic and Siberia have been overheating the most, causing eco-disruptions across these landscapes.   

Hotspot: Hudson Bay

Our planet has warmed 0.8 C in the last century. Our Hudson Bay region warmed 10 C (ten degrees!) in the last month compared to normal. It was so abnormally warm that instead of being mostly frozen over, the bay ended November almost completely ice free. Last spring saw ice melt a month early. Now in the fall ice is re-forming nearly a month late. Ecosystems and many animals can’t survive such dramatic climate shifts for long.

This satellite image from the end of November shows the unusual, nearly ice-free conditions in Hudson Bay, parts of Baffin Island and far up the coast of Greenland. 

CTV recently reported on polar bears struggling with this lack of ice in the bay. University of Alberta researcher Andrew Derocher said: "This year's been pretty challenging on the population. They were early off the ice and now they're late getting on. Some of these bears have had a very long on-land period. A lot of the bears are just running out of steam. If you're a mother that's nursing cubs, if you run out of energy you stop producing milk. Your cubs then have to rely on their own fat stores and because cubs have such low fat stores it eventually means they're going to die. One of the things that was observed this year is that in at least some family groups the mothers stopped nursing and the cubs died on land. We don't usually see that."

A new study just published in the journal Nature says polar bears have a chance of surviving in the long term if humans make big enough cuts in CO2 emissions over the next twenty years. This should preserve enough Arctic sea ice for polar bears to hang on.

Pushing open the freezer door

This incredible warming in Canada and the Arctic has helped shove open the Arctic’s “freezer door” for the second year in a row. For more than a month now, frozen Arctic air has been escaping down into Europe, creating cold misery there.

Several studies are linking the rapid warming and the increasing loss of sea ice in Canadian and Arctic ocean waters to these unusually strong outbursts of Arctic cold onto Europe, Asia and North America in the last two years. It has been dubbed the “Warm Arctic, Cold Continents” phenomenon.  Here’s how.

STEP 1: SEA WATER WARMING IN SUMMER:

 

The Canadian and Arctic sea waters are gaining heat. As the NASA images above makes clear, sea ice is disappearing rapidly during the height of summer.  This dramatic increase in open water has allowed more of the heat from the summer sun (which shines nearly 24/7) to be absorbed into the ocean.

STEP 2: SEA WATER WARMER THAN SEA ICE:

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