Berkeley Lab scientists identify new driver behind Arctic warming

November 3, 2014
Mosaic of images of the Arctic by MODIS. Credit: NASA

Scientists have identified a mechanism that could turn out to be a big contributor to warming in the Arctic region and melting sea ice.

The research was led by scientists from the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). They studied a long-wavelength region of the called far infrared. It's invisible to our eyes but accounts for about half the energy emitted by the Earth's surface. This process balances out incoming solar energy.

Despite its importance in the planet's energy budget, it's difficult to measure a surface's effectiveness in emitting far-infrared energy. In addition, its influence on the planet's climate is not well represented in climate models. The models assume that all surfaces are 100 percent efficient in emitting far-infrared energy.

That's not the case. The scientists found that open oceans are much less efficient than sea ice when it comes to emitting in the far-infrared region of the spectrum. This means that the Arctic Ocean traps much of the energy in far-infrared radiation, a previously unknown phenomenon that is likely contributing to the warming of the polar climate.

Their research appears this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Far-infrared surface emissivity is an unexplored topic, but it deserves more attention. Our research found that non-frozen surfaces are poor emitters compared to frozen surfaces. And this discrepancy has a much bigger impact on the polar climate than today's models indicate," says Daniel Feldman, a scientist in Berkeley Lab's Earth Sciences Division and lead author of the paper.

"Based on our findings, we recommend that more efforts be made to measure far-infrared surface emissivity. These measurements will help better simulate the effects of this phenomenon on the Earth's climate," Feldman says.

He conducted the research with Bill Collins, who is head of the Earth Sciences Division's Climate Sciences Department. Scientists from the University of Colorado, Boulder and the University of Michigan also contributed to the research.

The far-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum spans wavelengths that are between 15 and 100 microns (a micron is one-millionth of a meter). It's a subset of infrared radiation, which spans wavelengths between 5 and 100 microns. In comparison, visible light, which is another form of electromagnetic radiation, has a much shorter wavelength of between 390 and 700 nanometers (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter).

Many of today's spectrometers cannot detect far-infrared wavelengths, which explains the dearth of field measurements. Because of this, scientists have extrapolated the effects of far-infrared surface emissions based on what's known at the wavelengths measured by today's spectrometers.

Feldman and colleagues suspected this approach is overly simplistic, so they refined the numbers by reviewing published studies of far-infrared surface properties. They used this information to develop calculations that were run on a global atmosphere climate model called the Community Earth System Model, which is closely tied to the Department of Energy's Accelerated Climate Model for Energy (ACME).

The simulations revealed that far-infrared surface emissions have the biggest impact on the climates of arid high-latitude and high-altitude regions.

In the Arctic, the simulations found that open oceans hold more far-infrared energy than sea ice, resulting in warmer oceans, melting sea ice, and a 2-degree Celsius increase in the polar after only a 25-year run.

This could help explain why polar warming is most pronounced during the three-month winter when there is no sun. It also complements a process in which darker oceans absorb more than .

"The Earth continues to emit energy in the far infrared during the polar winter," Feldman says. "And because ocean surfaces trap this energy, the system is warmer throughout the year as opposed to only when the sun is out."

The simulations revealed a similar warming affect on the Tibetan plateau, where there was five percent less snowpack after a 25-year run. This means more non-frozen surface area to trap far-infrared energy, which further contributes to warming in the region.

"We found that in very arid areas, the extent to which the surface emits far-infrared energy really matters. It controls the thermal energy budget for the entire region, so we need to measure and model it better," says Feldman

Explore further: The mysteries of Antarctic sea ice

More information: Far-infrared surface emissivity and climate, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1413640111

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Water_Prophet
2.5 / 5 (8) Nov 03, 2014
And yet the answer is in thermodynamics. Blackbody radiation and heat transfer. I hate to drone on, but what have I been saying about heat (cold) reservoirs, where are they?

(Hint, they sink "waste" heat from fossil fuels, and they are where the ice is.)
teslaberry
not rated yet Nov 03, 2014
if you examine the history of space remote sensing of radiation of the disc of the moon and the disk of the earth-------black body radiation -----------

we are not even precisely certain how much radiation the earth emits into space . it is accepted that radiation is the primary method through which an astromomical body loses energy into space and yet---we don't even have precise knowledge of this primary statistic.

why ? because it's more complex to measure this on a real time 3d basis over a period of time than you think.

to undertand the radiation from any sphere, you have to measure the sphere in many ways at many times.

we can measure the moon easily from earth (not the dark side though , and not the parts of the moons radiation absorbed or otherwise influenced by the earth ) ---the earth radiation is much more difficult to study and is only truly possible by going to space (also methods exist of actually studying earth radiation reflected to us off the moon)
Sean_W
2 / 5 (4) Nov 03, 2014
So now open water is better insulated than ice-covered water. Isn't that kind of a radical change?
mooster75
4.4 / 5 (7) Nov 03, 2014
I would think this would be obvious (ice is more reflective than water), but then, if obvious was what mattered, we wouldn't bother with science.
Wake
1.3 / 5 (13) Nov 03, 2014
What they are saying is that ice reflects heat because it's white.

So what is the next reason the earth is dying that will come from the Media?

Sea levels have been monitored in the US since the Civil War and every single year the ocean levels have risen. This implies that the glaciers have been melting since the 1600's when they formed.

Where was all of this warming coming from then?

The fact is that the irregularities in the orbits of the Sun, Earth and Moon and to a far lesser extent (effecting the earth) from the other planets AND the sunspot cycles will coincide and cause another Little Ice Age and while that is occurring the same media reports will be for the death of a planet from man-made global freezing.
Returners
1.4 / 5 (11) Nov 03, 2014
"Based on our findings, we recommend that more efforts be made to measure far-infrared surface emissivity. These measurements will help climate models better simulate the effects of this phenomenon on the Earth's climate," Feldman says.


blah, blah...

Critical information here is that you also need to update your models of past climate, seeing as how you guys have been ignorant of these facts.

In particular, you need to use this to properly post-dict the Little Ice Age conditions via computer model. I think you'll find some interesting facts which some of us more moderate on these issues have said all along...much of the melting is the same as it ever has been...a few hiccups here and there, no big deal.

Multi-meter sea level rises have haved just a few thousand years ago without man to blame for mass industry.

There a coral reef on land in florida meers above sea level. Been there since before tool making. Water is probably going back again one day...
paul_cherubini_3
1.3 / 5 (13) Nov 03, 2014
Whole article is just another plea for grant money by the climate scientists; e.g. they said: "Based on our findings, we recommend that more efforts be made to measure far-infrared surface emissivity." Measuring takes money. Big money. Career sustaining money.
gkam
4.2 / 5 (19) Nov 03, 2014
Once again, somebody reveals his own ethics in criticizing scientists. Unlike the field of many here, science demands honesty, with hordes of folk waiting to challenge any study. In science it has to be verifiable, repeatable, predictable. In Business, finance, religion, politics, and the other fields we invented, we can and do change the rules to suit ourselves. Not in science.

Lying is de rigeur for business, but fudging is death in science.
dustywells
2 / 5 (8) Nov 03, 2014
In the Arctic, the simulations found that open oceans hold more far-infrared energy than sea ice, resulting in warmer oceans,
Where is Stumpy when you need him?

Maybe he can point to dozens of studies that explain why open water is warmer than ice.
dustywells
2 / 5 (8) Nov 03, 2014
Once again, somebody reveals his own ethics in criticizing scientists. Unlike the field of many here, science demands honesty, with hordes of folk waiting to challenge any study. In science it has to be verifiable, repeatable, predictable. In Business, finance, religion, politics, and the other fields we invented, we can and do change the rules to suit ourselves. Not in science.

Lying is de rigeur for business, but fudging is death in science.
Business, finance, religion, politics, sounds like you are describing AGW
nevermark
5 / 5 (12) Nov 03, 2014
gkam, I agree, the predictable mindless dismissal of science by commenters who think sarcasm and repetition give them credibility, reflects ignorance and fear.

Exxon and other large oil companies acknowledge climate change is caused by CO2 emissions. If they think its settled, its settled. They also continue to keep civilization supplied with energy while replacement forms of energy are coming on line slowly.

But the intellectually dishonest commenters here don't know how to integrate information even from big oil that doesn't tell them what they want to hear.
DonGateley
5 / 5 (8) Nov 03, 2014
I would think this would be obvious (ice is more reflective than water), but then, if obvious was what mattered, we wouldn't bother with science.


I seem to remember that emissivity (what this article is concerned with) and reflectivity are inversely related. I'm sure I'll be corrected if I remember incorrectly. :-)
altizar
1.3 / 5 (12) Nov 03, 2014
So basically all climate change models assume that the earth's surface reflects all the sunlight back out into space. . . That right there's enough proof that they're all nut jobs trying to get your money by scaring your governments . . .
zz5555
4.6 / 5 (11) Nov 03, 2014
"Sea levels have been monitored in the US since the Civil War and every single year the ocean levels have risen."

That, of course, isn't true, although the trend has been up. What's most concerning is that the rise is accelerating.

"This implies that the glaciers have been melting since the 1600's when they formed."

The glaciers formed in the 1600s? That ought to be a surprise to the melting glaciers that are over 100000 (some are over a million) years old ;).

"The fact is that the irregularities in the orbits of the Sun, Earth and Moon and to a far lesser extent (effecting the earth) from the other planets AND the sunspot cycles will coincide and cause another Little Ice Age"

Well, no. The orbits are already working to cool the earth, but we continue to heat up. And the small change in solar output from another Maunder Minimum wouldn't slow down the warming much - so forget about cooling.
Earth Scientist
1 / 5 (6) Nov 03, 2014
A convenient omission! Dirty ice of which there is a lot in summer has reflective indices (Albedo) which range from high to lower than open water. Dirty ice is caused by dust, soil rock incorporation, Bacteria and algae growth and Bear, Bird, Eskimo, Dog and Seal poop.
StrangiatoZ
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 03, 2014
Very interesting now they should expand the research and understand "why" the warmer ocean (atlantic) is having a greater effect on the Arctic Ice. I'll give you a hint: "When calculating the mass of the Atlantic and it's radiant heat point (average temperature) don't forget to change the mass of the Atlantic to match it's mass for which year your calculating. Many seem to forget that the Atlantic is expanding (getting larger in width) 1 to 3 inches per year. That might not be much but when you add the cubic volume increase of the entire ocean (not just surface but depth too) there is a very large amount of increase of the Atlantic's volume year upon year. With that increase in volume there is an increase of heat energy actively moving to the Arctic Ocean via the currents.
Gaby_64
5 / 5 (11) Nov 03, 2014
wow so many people dont know the difference between reflection and emission

the article is talking about thermal emission, a warm body emitting radiation
they are not talking about reflectivity.
nevermark
5 / 5 (11) Nov 04, 2014
wow so many people dont know the difference between reflection and emission


Nor do they know the difference between their own uneducated opinions and scientific research. The less people know, the less they are aware of how little they know, and the more disrespectful they are of anyone who is actually shedding light on anything important.
runrig
5 / 5 (11) Nov 04, 2014
So basically all climate change models assume that the earth's surface reflects all the sunlight back out into space. . . That right there's enough proof that they're all nut jobs trying to get your money by scaring your governments . . .

Trolling bollocks ... and demonstrates you're stupid as well.

If GCM's did what you say then their modeled world would be in a permanent IA, in fact would be getting towards the Earth's BB temp of -18C. (as no solar energy would be absorbed by the climate system and re-emitted as IR, to be back-radiated by water vapour and other GHG's ) Only SW warming of the atmosphere.
FFS squared, save us (mankind) from this ignorance.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (7) Nov 04, 2014
There is science and then there is the AGW Cult's (un)settled "science".
thermodynamics
5 / 5 (11) Nov 04, 2014
So basically all climate change models assume that the earth's surface reflects all the sunlight back out into space. . . That right there's enough proof that they're all nut jobs trying to get your money by scaring your governments . . .

Trolling bollocks ... and demonstrates you're stupid as well.

If GCM's did what you say then their modeled world would be in a permanent IA, in fact would be getting towards the Earth's BB temp of -18C. (as no solar energy would be absorbed by the climate system and re-emitted as IR, to be back-radiated by water vapour and other GHG's ) Only SW warming of the atmosphere.
FFS squared, save us (mankind) from this ignorance.


Run, it is even worse than you state. If all of the sun's energy was reflected back into space, the earth would move toward 0K, not -18 C. Actually, probably toward the microwave background (around 4K).
zz5555
5 / 5 (9) Nov 04, 2014
So basically all climate change models assume that the earth's surface reflects all the sunlight back out into space


No. You have to actually read the article. Only a very tiny part of sunlight (far infrared) was taken as emitting (not reflecting) 100%. Globally, I'm not sure how much effect this will have. Hopefully, it will help to improve the modeling of ice melt in the Arctic, since the models always seem to under predict that a lot.
clocker007
1 / 5 (8) Nov 04, 2014
So, Ice is colder than water? Who would have guessed.
dunce
1 / 5 (10) Nov 04, 2014
Some scientists are finally admitting that their computer model predicting global warming is flawed, this is real news. The emissivity of various parts of the globe has not changed, so why would it be part of climate change??
Enviro Equipment Blog
5 / 5 (7) Nov 04, 2014
Wow, I don't think I've ever seen too many articles on phys.org that generated as many comments as this one.

In any event, I just hope that climate change deniers are not empowered by this study as that would be tragic. However, it does go a long way in explaining why polar ice is melting at the North Pole but increasing at the South Pole.
supersoundandvideo
4.6 / 5 (10) Nov 04, 2014
The computer models might be flawed but this just points out some refinement of the existing problem. Denial is Genocide in AGW. And those who refer to it as Climate Change (which means nothing) have been fooled by the Bush Sr. administration renaming of Global Warming just before the Kyoto protocol, which the US did not sign, with the excuse that China and India would not sign. Well if we just pumped out 1000 times the amount of solar and wind energy systems along with electric mag lev trains, electric/hydrogen cars and buses and trucks we would go a long way to solving our employment problems and our dependence on fossil fuels. We would also stop empowering nation/states that repress their societies by eliminating their pipeline of capital.

Water absorbs 1000 times the heat energy as air.

Until the Republicans get a spine and admit that AGW is real we are ALL going to make future generations suffer the curse of this ignorant denial. Is it worth destroying your progeny ?
horns4ever
1 / 5 (7) Nov 04, 2014
I'm happy that all of you are monitoring this situation. All of the pros and cons. Mother Earth has been here a long time. She has healed much worse scars than we humans could ever inflict. This includes hydro carbons as well a nuclear scars.
You must be flexible and just adjust to it. Being aware of changing conditions do give you the chance to decide how to adjust and when.
Mother Earth will be fine millions of years after the last human in gone, just ask the dinosaurs.
Oops... they weren't able to adjust as fast as it was necessary.
May-bee being aware of incoming meteors and having a way to prevent them from entering our atmosphere might be the better way to insure our existence. The failure of humans to learn from what we know of the history of the planet and plan for it will be a catastrophic event.
supersoundandvideo
4.6 / 5 (11) Nov 04, 2014
The earth is heating up and the white icy reflective surfaces on the planet are being replaced by darker water non-reflective surfaces, which lowers the Albedo of the planet and actually accelerates GW. This decrease in Albedo along with the proof that the non reflective surfaces tend to trap the far infrared heat waves more than the reflective surfaces also makes sense. The Ice is always cool and draws heat away from the water and as it disappears, it no longer can do that. Water can be any temperature (more or less) above freezing and so it tends to be a higher surface temperature to begin with. If this is correct then it does not bode well for our future. Water traps about twice as much heat as ice.

Water's heat capacity vs air vs ice
Water 4.18 Ice 2.03
Air 1.01 (depends on amount of water vapor)
Gold 0.13
Glass 0.84 Concrete 2.90

I just wonder what Republicans think they will lose if they actually admit that this is happening.
supersoundandvideo
4.5 / 5 (8) Nov 04, 2014
The values of some specific heat capacities are given in the following table.

The units of thermal capacity are joules per kelvin (J K-1) and those of specific heat capacity joules per kilogram kelvin (Jkg- 1K-1). Therefore:
Heat energy = mass x specific heat capacity x temperature change

Jkg-1K-1
Material Specific heat capacity

Water 4200
Copper 385
Ethanol 2500
Lead 126
Paraffin oil 2130
Aluminium 913
Turpentine 1760
Sodium 1240
Hydrogen 14 300
Iron 106
Air 993
Steel 420
Helium 5240
Concrete 880
Oxygen 913
Polypropylene 1800-2000
Granite 820
Marble 2100
Beryllium 1970
Glass 600
supersoundandvideo
4.4 / 5 (7) Nov 04, 2014
The various calculations I added previously, are to understand more about heat absorption and capacity. My 1000 times value of air over heat was to create controversy or out FOX you, it was a ruse, as all you deniers want to make it seem like a 'scam', if you get what I mean. But really, non-humidified air can absorb much less heat than water about 1/45th of the capacity of water.

So we are storing huge amounts of heat in our oceans right now and that will continue to increase the chaos of evaporation from the water to the air in forms of hurricanes, typhoons etc.

I got a purple heart for every Republican that turns their back on denial and joins the enlightened believers. Come on, it's not like I am telling you to convert to Islam or die...well
sort of, your great grandchildren will definitely suffer.
mbee1
1 / 5 (6) Nov 04, 2014
This is all very interesting but for the doom and gloom crowd there is a problem. the ice low has increased above the 81-2001 average for the last two years so the arctic is getting colder. Aside from 2012, a warm summer, the arctic ice low has been fairly stable since 1996 after decreasing from 1979. There are no measurement before than so nobody actually knows what the arctic ice looked like before than aside from incomplete 1960's photos from the old nimbus satellites. NASA latest study on ocean warming out in august shows the oceans are not warming and not storing heat as claimed by one poster, that claim is simply a hypothesis by several researchers and the IPCC to try and blah away the fact the world has not warmed for at least 16 years as they admit.
mbee1
1 / 5 (6) Nov 04, 2014
When you post a bunch of unrelated data you really should show how that relates to both present climate and past climate. If you think the melting ice is causing heat buildup than you have to explain why the glacier periods occurred and ended and a bit closer to home the medieval warm period and the little ice age unless of course you are Mann and just claim those never occurred. If it was hotter in 900-1000 AD than today all that ice melted so it should have stayed warmer or gotten hotter yet somehow a few hundred years later we had a little ice age which we have been coming out of for 400 plus years. None of those changes had anything to do with CO2 levels yet somehow they occurred. The only thing possible is changes in solar gain from changes in the solar output which last time I checked Man is unable to influence.
mbee1
1 / 5 (6) Nov 04, 2014
The news that hurricanes, typhoons etc is increasing is news to the inter insurance report out this year. Per the guys who pay the bills when weather happens claims are down from average two years running so what happened to the weather?
tadchem
1 / 5 (9) Nov 04, 2014
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nikkiswims32
1 / 5 (6) Nov 04, 2014
This observation will have a similar impact as the cosmic ray - cloud formation experiment done at CERN, that CO2 has less relative impact to global warming than other phenomena from what is the non-consensus "consensus".

We know that climate models overpredict temperature. If the models assume perfect emissivity, but observations determine it is less, then part of the winter atmospheric warming is through the increased ocean temperatures than the models predict, then it means less is due to the greenhouse gas effect of CO2. But because the climate models already overpredict atmospheric temperature, then effect from CO2 is reduced even further.

Slowly pieces are coming together to show that the assumptions and simplifications in the climate models have to be rejected in favor of more comprehensive science if there is any hope of getting accurate predictions.
runrig
5 / 5 (11) Nov 04, 2014
This is all very interesting but for the doom and gloom crowd there is a problem. the ice low has increased above the 81-2001 average for the last two years so the arctic is getting colder. ........

Bollocks my friend....

http://nsidc.org/...ure3.png
runrig
5 / 5 (10) Nov 04, 2014

We know that climate models overpredict temperature. If the models assume perfect emissivity, but observations determine it is less, then part of the winter atmospheric warming is through the increased ocean temperatures than the models predict, then it means less is due to the greenhouse gas effect of CO2. But because the climate models already overpredict atmospheric temperature, then effect from CO2 is reduced even further.



Actually we know that GCM's cannot predict the ENSO cyscle and so periods of La Nina (predominant this last 16 yrs) has meant that they have over estimated the atmospheric heat content.
Have you looked at the heat stored in the oceans in that time. Silly question - of course not.....

http://www.skepti..._med.jpg
Water_Prophet
1 / 5 (5) Nov 04, 2014
Wow, ... this one.


It is amazing what happens without banal disruption.

In any event, I just hope that climate change deniers are not empowered by this study as that would be tragic. However, it does go a long way in explaining why polar ice is melting at the N Pole but increasing at the S Pole.

If you'll humor me, I think I have a few explanations-I can't promise they're right:
1. It was Winter there.
2. The N Hemisphere was colder throughout the year with the "Polar Vortex." (Well this is contentious.)
3. It was wetter/snowier there than normal.

So dynamically, what may have happened is the N Hemisphere drew more heat than normal from the equator, via common weather cells, to make up for it's being cooler.
This made it colder in the Antarctic.
That it snowed more is relevant.

It is really another example of how nature buffers extremes, if so.

Keeping in mind the differences between N. & S. the next season should be interesting.
dobermanmacleod
1 / 5 (6) Nov 06, 2014
Luckily, there is a very cheap and simple way to immediately cool down the Earth: just add a little (more) sun dimming pollution to the air. If you don't like the results, just stop, and it will wash out shortly.
Water_Prophet
1 / 5 (1) Nov 06, 2014
@doberman, you are kidding right, of course soot, etc., warms the local...
antigoracle
1 / 5 (4) Nov 08, 2014
Wow, I don't think I've ever seen too many articles on phys.org that generated as many comments as this one.

In any event, I just hope that climate change deniers are not empowered by this study as that would be tragic. However, it does go a long way in explaining why polar ice is melting at the North Pole but increasing at the South Pole.

Wow!!
Glad to see you're still a true believer in your AGW Cult's dogma.
Here I was thinking all that evil CO2 hadn't yet reached the south pole.
Mike_Massen
3.9 / 5 (7) Nov 09, 2014
dustywells doesnt need dozens of studies
In the Arctic, the simulations found that open oceans hold more far-infrared energy than sea ice, resulting in warmer oceans,
Where is Stumpy when you need him?
Maybe he can point to dozens of studies that explain why open water is warmer than ice.
Its called logic dustywells, open water is warmer because its NOT ice, it is warmer as one of the properties of water it forms a liquid at temp >0 deg C. Sort of obvious logic - isnt it !

Ice is a reasonable insulator & its often white & being at a lower temperature too radiates less than water...

Couple this with latent heat of fusion, which works both ways, then you might have an understanding dustywells that in an atmosphere, which is chaotic in terms of wind patterns, integration still shows more heat, then you should be able to make a scientific conclusion.

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