Usually watching ice melt in the arctic is a serene occupation, but the odyssey of the good ship Northabout has made it unusually exciting this year. What they began as a lazy cruise, to demonstrate how ice-free the arctic is, has become an epic struggle against sea-ice that shouldn’t be there, (according to some), and also a battle against storms.
The storms are something I’ve been trying to point out are the real news. They are also something that (according to some) shouldn’t be there. They also involve a delicious irony, for certain people who yearn to see the sea-ice vanish yearn for a storm like we had in 2012. They have had their dream come true, for we have had a whole slew of storms, but the results are not the same as they were in 2012.
Rather than naming all the impulses of low pressure that attacked the Pole I decided to skip the bother, and name the conglomeration “Ralph.” Those who bother to look at this notebook know I have stretched credulity on occasion, to keep Ralph alive as an entity, but I hope my point has been made: We have seen low pressure whirling at the Pole a lot more often than usual.
In order for Ralph to survive he had to be reinforsed by bundles of juicy air from the south, which I have numbered, starting with R1, (which stands for “Reinforsement One.”) This has spared me the bother of naming individual lows. (I am getting lazy in my old age.)
In my last notebook I described how Ralph, who seemed to be fading away in the Canadian Archipelago, avoided extinction by slipping across the Pole to the combining R11 and R12, who revived Ralph and made him a gale to be reckoned with:
After giving the good ship Northabout a hard time, Ralph once again began to run out of gas and look about for reinforcements. (These temperature maps may be the last summer-warmth we see.)
At this point I missed some maps. Though you may have doubts, I do have a life besides watching ice melt, and midst my personal soap opera I had a marriage, a divorce, and a business to attend to. When I turned my attention back to the Pole I saw Ralph has created subfreezing temperatures, and was looking for a R13. R13 was probing north from Scandinavia.
As R13 pushed north to reinforse Ralph he kicked a zipper-storm, R14, to cross Barents Sea and threaten the good ship Northabout from the west.
As R14 became a nasty little gale plaguing the Northabout in the Kara Sea, Ralph urged it to swing north and reinforce him at the Pole. The Northabout first saw sea-ice moved from the shore by south winds, and then saw sea-ice pushed south by north winds.
Never satisfied, even as Ralph absorbed R14 he called out for further reinforcements, and R15 began to cross Barents Sea, to threaten the Northabout with another gale from the west. Lots of warm air has been dragged into the R15 warm sector, with lots of subfreezing air to the north, so R15 could be a doozey.
In the final temperature map above you can see far more subfreezing air than we started with, and if you have my imagination you can see, in the middle, a mouth, and it is wide open and hollering, “Temperatures at the Pole have dipped below freezing earlier than normal!”
Hopefully I will add to this notebook tomorrow, but I wanted to at least use these maps to make a single point, and make a single difference clear.
In 2012 conditions were much calmer, and the storm that occurred was a loner. This year has seen storm after storm after storm. To try to compare the two years is to compare apples with oranges.
ANOTHER POLAR GALE
Over at the Weatherbell Site, Dr. Ryan Maue’s portrayal of the Canadian Jem model shows R15 growing intence and throwing storm forse winds towards Northabout (and likely driving sea-ice south in the Laptev Sea) by tonight.
By tomorrow night the energy is absorbed north and Ralph again stands triumphant, king of the mountain on the Pole.
The GFS model (which insists on being upside down) shows the same thing tomorrow night.
I expect there to be a hubbub about this gale at Alarmist sites (where I silently lurk.) All eyes will watch to see if the churned sea-ice will melt like it did in 2012. I myself don’t expect it will.
For some reason I am having trouble accessing the Naval Research Lab maps. The best I can do is show the DMI modeled thickness map.
This model may have some problems, because the fellows at DMI have been messing with their manner of collecting data, tweaking and fiddling with something that wasn’t really broken and didn’t really need fixing, (unless you define “fix” in a negative way.) Also it blends lots of individual bergs into an average which looks like a solid body of ice, when the sea-ice is in fact pulverized, after so many storms. However it may be correctly showing us that the individual bergs are all thicker than last year.
MONDAY MORNING –RALPH TO EXPLODE INTO POLARCANE
Hunkered down in a safe anchorage on the west side of the Laptev Sea in a gale, the good ship Northabout is reporting temperatures of 63° (17° C), which demonstrates some warm juice is being sucked by R15 into the rebuilding of Ralph.
In 24 hours the gale will be peaking right over the Pole , with pressures down at 969mb and an eye-like feature at its core.
I was curious if warmth would get sucked north. According to the Canadian model, the warmth must all be aloft, for it looks cold at the surface in 24 hours.
(Note that the Northabout will not be getting the balmy winds any more. Temperatureres should be near freezing for them.)
My guess is that some freezing rain may be mixed in, with temperatures milder aloft, but also wet snow will fall from this Polarcane, making the sea-ice situation highly complex. Snow falling and melting in seawater uses up heat, as the heat becomes latent heat as the snowflakes turn into liquid water. The melt-water pools will freeze, as they are fresh water, (which actually releases latent heat, though likely to the air and not the sea,) and the pools will be dusted with snow, which will allow satellites to “see” more ice. However the issue of the bottom-melt, aided and abetted by the storm’s churning, is the real thing to watch.
In 2012 the summer had baked the ice and turned it into thinner “rotten” ice, and also the water beneath the ice had stratified due to calmer conditions. Colder water managed to float above warmer water, because the colder water was fresh melt-water, and the warmer water was denser because it held more dissolved salt. Therefore the 2012 gale was able to churn up slightly warmer water and mix it with more fragile ice, and a huge area of ice faded from the maps with astonishing speed.
My theory is that this year’s conditions are different. The water is more churned, and though storm after storm has smashed up the ice, the chunks are thicker and not “rotten”, and therefore the melt will not be so astonishing, unless you were expecting it to melt like 2012, in which case you will be astonished….unless I am wrong, which will not be all that astonishing.
I could not ask for a better test of my ideas.
The melt-season is running out of time, as the days are swiftly growing shorter, and the area of the midnight sun is shrinking up towards the Pole. Barrow, which did enjoy the midnight sun in July, now has its streetlights on during the wee hours, though days are still longer than nights.
North of there, up at 76.5° north latitude, O-buoy 14 is seeing the sun dip very low:
With the sun getting so low, it is hard to keep temperatures above freezing.
O-buoy 14 is on a large floe drifting in waters that are fairly open, and I still think we may see bottom-melt exploit a weakness in the ice right under our noses, and witness the drama of a lead opening and separating the two buoys. However I have been expecting this for a month now, and am a bit surprised at the resistance of the ice. (Maybe I can hex it, by saying that.)
TUESDAY —I DID HEX THAT BUOY–
The second buoy makes a final appearance in the distance a bit later.
These buoys can float even without ice, so we’ll continue to get reports.
CraigM350 informed me Ryan Maue tweeted about the Polarcane:
Ryan states the storm is now cut off from warm air avection and is snowy. It has no clear surface fronts and therefore no strong, ice-bashing surface winds; just a steady circle of breezes creating an anti-Beaufort Gyre.
Some upper-air streamers may be sort of like pipelines of occlusion, feeding into the storm, but for the most part I think the gale has used up its fuel and now will weaken and fill….(until a R16 appears?)
Over in the Laptev Sea the Northabout should have clear sailing, for the Polarcanes initial inflow created strong southwest winds which pushed the ice offshore. (Lena River Delta on central right margin.)
WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE –Polarcane’s Hangover–
“Ralph” is starting to weaken. The winds were mostly a strong breeze rather than a gale, so I probably shouldn’t have named it a “Polarcane”, (but I do like to start hubbubs when I can), (and also it did have a sort of “eye” of calm winds, if not clear skies).
The long range models show Ralph will be in no hurry to leave the Pole, and after wobbling about may even restrengthen a week from now, which seems different from other years (especially 2012). However at the moment I’m interested to see if the sea-ice was decreased, like it was in 2012.
One thing is clear is that the sea-ice was pushed towards the Pole, giving the Northabout clear sailing towards the Lena Delta.
It’s still cloudy further north, but, if the recent past is anything to go by, the Central Arctic Basin will see sea-ice increase, not decrease. It makes sense. Push the coastal ice north, and at the Pole the ice-pack will get more packed. (As was pointed out by “ren” over at Tallbloke’s site.)
Tony Heller also produced a graphic to show how the ice is more solid at the center, by masking out all ice thinner than 1.5 meters, and comparing the current situation with 2012.
That comparison is a week old, but yesterday’s thickness map shows no huge decrease.
This is not to say the ice isn’t still thinning at the edges. Down at 76° in the Beaufort Sea O-buoy 14 shows our yellow buoy has drifted away.
I assume a bear then visited. I don’t think the winds were strong enough to rip the top off the Mass Balance Buoy.
The edges haven’t melted enough to cause a decrease in the sea-ice extent anything like 2012. The decrease in 2012 was so impressive I thought some glitch must be involved, or that the ice was piled up in a small area, and it wasn’t until I received an email from a researcher who had actually flown over the open waters that I conceded the ice had vanished so swiftly.
At this point it seems unlikely we will set a new record for minimum extent this year. Surface melt is basically over.
The 62 hour map of the JEM model is showing the coldest temperatures since last June.
Those who were celebrating an ice-free Pole this year, back in June, now have a hangover I fear.
“TROPICAL TIDBITS” WEBSITE’S 11-DAY-POLAR-ANIMATION SHOWS RALPH DOESN’T QUIT, AND EVEN INTENSIFIES TO RECORD LOW PRESSURE.
I continue to think the persistence of Ralph is the real news. My hunch is that a serious imbalance is involved, and hunching further I’d guess the cause is a “cold signal” clashing with a “warm signal”. Hunching way too far (for a layman), to a point where my head is dangerously close to passing between my knees, I’d say that the “cold signal” is the “Quiet Sun”, and the warm signals are the lagged after-effects of a big El Nino, a “warm blob” spoke in the PDO, and a long running warm AMO (though it may be about to go “cold”).
Compared to this big stuff, the sea-ice is like pedestrians on the crosswalk. (When a bunch of Mac Trucks experience road rage, the pedestrians scatter this way and that, but have little effect on the trucks).
However, as I am a sort of sea-ice junkie, I’ll post the Bremen Concentration map:
If I were an Alarmist I might delight to see that the Polarcane’s wrenching of the Transpolar Drift into an antidrift, and wrenching the Beaufort gyral flow to an antigyral flow, has caused some ice to pile up pressure ridges, (which does not show on a concentration map because such maps do not involve thickness), and also has caused leads to open up, (which shows up dramatically on a concentration map because such maps do involve open water.) A new Laptev Notch has not only appeared, but in a sense extends past the Pole on the Siberian Side. Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!
In my opinion, as an English major and not a scientist, this complex system of opening leads should not be called a polynya. (They likely will, for scientists delight in mangling the English language), but I feel the definition of a polynya is based on Antarctic situations, and involve open water appearing beside something firm, either land or fast ice. Because nothing is firm in the middle of the Arctic Sea, this opening-up deserves a different noun, and I think it should be called a “rift”. In this particular case it should be called “Ralph’s Rift.”
I also should hasten to add that the Bremen maps miss ice, at times. For example, the above map makes the Beaufort Sea look rather empty, yet the Canadian Ice Service sees ice they are blind to. (Upper left of map below).
Be that as it may, Ralph’s Rift will be a feature to be reckoned with, in coming days, and likely will be the title of my next post.