the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

The Arctic Temperatures and Multidecadal Oscillation in recent research

Posted by Jeff Id on September 25, 2009

A guest post by Dr. Arnd Bernaerts on the subject of Arctic warming.  Dr. Bernaerts was one of a couple of people who responded to my offer to put up work by those who are not skeptics or who don’t share my viewpoint.  Of course nobody knows what I think, so any good post has to have a shot.  He’s done a short referenced piece here on warming in the Arctic.


The West Spitsbergen Current (WSC) is getting more attention, but only with regard to recent years. For modern science the Arctic warming 90 years ago is still a non issue, although one could learn so much from it. For example: Piechura et al.(2009)[1] discuss the influence of a warmer WSC on the sea ice conditions north of Svalbard with the main conclusion, that it is primarily the heat transport to the Arctic Ocean (AO) by ocean currents, the West Spitsbergen Current (WSC) in particular, that is playing a significant role in the process of Arctic warming. Actually their investigation focused on the short warming period from 2004-2006.

>>NOTE: The graphic “Svalbard Luft”  indicates a warming from 1980 until 2006, and decreasing annual temperature mean since 2007<<

Other researcher concluded already earlier that “the Atlantic inflow is the primary source of heat to the Arctic Ocean (2007)[2], respectively that the fluxes from the North Atlantic through Fram Strait affect the heat budget in the Arctic Ocean (2003)[3]. Although Chylek et al.(2009)[4] acknowledge that the warming early last Century proceeded at a significantly faster rate than the current after app.1970, the previous warming is ignored.

This applies particularly to Chylek et al which suggest that the Atlantic Ocean thermohaline circulation is linked to the Arctic temperature variability on a multi-decadal time scale, based on the assumption that the Arctic had been warming from 1910 to 2008 interrupted by a significant cooling period from 1940 to 1970, and that the changes are highly correlated with the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO). One can only wonder that they come up with a start of the warming in 1910 when the IPCC (2007:WGI) sets the date in the year 1925, and the IPCC-Report (1990, p. 228) mentions 1920, which is also confirmed by Polyakov et al.(2003).

>>NOTE: The graphic “Arctic-Winter” indicates the hot-spots in the 1920s, at Spitsbergen , +3,4°C, and West-Greenland, +3°C<<
A little historical research would have lead the researchers to the fact that the warming started in winter 1918/19 (HERE)[5]. By such a variety of dates more efforts may be needed to come up with convincing timing before talking about “multi-decadal” AMO. Even more questionable is the ignorance of previous IPCC conclusions. The first IPCC report  (1990:228) states that “Stronger westerlies over the Atlantic, do not, therefore, account for the Arctic warming of the 1920s and 1930s on their own: in fact they preceded it by 20 years”. If that is now regarded as wrong it needs to be said and explained.
More attention to the early Arctic warming that occurred 90 years ago, which had been subject to the last Hot Topic (26th June 2009), would have provided more insight in the functioning of the Arctic during the last decades, than one can learn from the papers mentioned.
___Svalbard Temp-Graphic; Source: NASA/Giss (download: Sept.2009).
___Arctic Winter Temp-Deviation, Source: Scherhag 1936.


ArndB/23 Sept.09

[1] Piechura, Jan, Walczowski, W.; 2009, Warming of the West Spitsbergen Current and sea ice north of Svalbard , Oceanologia 2009, no. 51(2), pp 147-164; viewed 20 Sept. 2009,

[2] Cokelet, E. D., N. Tervalon, and J. G. Bellingham (2008), Hydrography of the West Spitsbergen Current, Svalbard Branch: Autumn 2001, J. Geophys. Res., 113, C01006, doi:10.1029/2007JC004150.

[3] Fahrbach, E., A. Beszczynska-Möller , E. Hansen , J. Meincke , S. G. Rohardt , U. Schauer ,A. Wisotzki (2003?), How to measure oceanic fluxes from the North Atlantic through Fram Straits?  Poster, visited on 20 September 2009:

[4] Chylek, P., C. K. Folland, G. Lesins, M. K. Dubey, and M. Wang (2009), Arctic air temperature change  amplification and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L14801, doi:10.1029/ 2009GL038777.

[5] Chapter 7 of the book: “Arctic Heats Up” (2009),

9 Responses to “The Arctic Temperatures and Multidecadal Oscillation in recent research”

  1. Andrew said

    Interesting work. If I understand correctly, you argue that the first Arctic warming in the early twentieth century happened suddenly in 1918 and mostly in winter at a particular location, and propagated out in time and space from there?

  2. ArndB said

    Yes that is correct. The winter 1918/19 saw a big trend change that started started at Spitsbergen. Only three years later (2nd November 1922), The Washington Post published the following story: “Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish, and Icebergs Melt”. The corresponding report in the Monthly Weather Review of November 1922 (Ifft, 1922) had also stated that the ice conditions in the Northern North Atlantic were exceptional; in fact, so little ice has never been noted before. Few years later the Spitsbergen data were published with the accompanying text saying that it is “Probably the greatest yet known temperature rise on earth (Birkeland, 1930). See for example a figure by Gordon Manley (1944) (redraft):

  3. timetochooseagain said

    Just a thought, but the shift happens to coincide with the recently estimated 1918 El Nino:

    So it was certainly an interesting period for weather and climate.

  4. ArndB said

    A good point. El Nino is a proven source for sudden changes at distant locations, but the early Arctic warming 90 years ago was likewise based on a change of SST. According Weikmann, (1942), the sea water temperatures at Spitsbergen and Barents Sea had been unusual high in summer 1918 (see Chapter 5, at: While such information should be used with caution (as the material used by Giese et al. for modeling the 1918-El-Nino event), the available air temperatures at the few available northern stations indicate that the warming at Spitsbergen had been earlier and more pronounced than at other places e.g. Kandalaska (Russia), Andeness and Vardo (Norway) and Angmagssalik (East-Greenland), see various images at:
    Annual Temp:
    Winter Temp.(J/F/):
    An assumption that a 1918 El Nino could show an effect at first at Spitsbergen before expending to other regional locations is barely convincing. Furthermore, the 1918 El Nino could not have sustained the early Arctic warming for more than a couple of months, and never for two decades. Any temperature change of the West Spitsbergen Current is as good for a climatological variation/change as any temperature change in the Equatorial Pacific.

    In full agreement with the notion that: it was certainly an interesting period for weather and climate, one can only wonder that it has received so little interest until now.

  5. Kenneth Fritsch said

    I was doing some Arctic temperature analyses and thus thought I would look at the temperatures for 78.1N and 13.6E. What I found was pretty startling.

    The temperatures came from the KNMI link listed below and the winter (DJF) and summer (JJA) temperature series for 1912-1947 and then again for 1947-1975 and are depicted in the chart linked below.

    The upward swing for the DJF temperatures from 1918 to 1940 is there, but more surprising is the flat no trend for the JJA temperatures and the relatively much smaller year to year fluctuations than with those for the DJF months. I suppose one could question the measurements, but seeing the same patterns before and after the break (1941-1946 and apparently for WWII) in the series would tend to indicate otherwise.

  6. Kenneth Fritsch said

    I am going to attempt to get the chart mentioned above linked in this post.

    img src=

  7. Kenneth Fritsch said

    One more attempt to link the chart:

  8. William said

    JAXA artic sea ice is flatlining and heading straight for 2007/2008 levels!

  9. DeWitt Payne said

    William said,

    Well, no. Arctic sea ice extent (JAXA) is running very close to the 2003-2008 average. As the rate increases, the different years appear to converge to similar values. The same thing happens in July on the way down. And extent was up today by about 50,000 km2, about average for this date. Even though the extent has declined significantly over the years, the daily rates remain about the same in any given year. Well above average rates will always be followed by well below average rates.

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