ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ice Traps Narwhals–

One thing that has fascinated me, in my study of sea-ice, is how swiftly vast areas can freeze over. This is apparent from many sources.

The captains of whaling ships, tempted north by whale’s habit of hunting in the rich ecosystem that exists at the very edge of the ice, sometimes appear like cowards for turning tail and fleeing the refreeze far before the whales chose to depart. (You might think whales would know best when to depart, for they suffocate when trapped under ice). However this choice does not seem so foolish once you understand larger whales could break up through a foot of ice, (with smaller beluga whales following and using the air-holes big whales created), while, without a strong following wind, a sailing craft could be bogged down and halted by a skim of ice only an inch thick. And despite all precautions, the ice formed so swiftly some years that whaling ships, and sometimes entire fleets of ships, were caught by the ice, resulting in some remarkable stories of survival.

The O-buoy cameras captured the refreeze on several occasions, and it always was remarkable how quickly it occurred. One day the buoy would be bobbing in open water, and then suddenly there would be a lot of slush swiftly transformed to solid ice.

The refreeze happens so swiftly I’ve taken to calling it a “flash freeze”.  The phenomenon is particularly striking in the vast but relatively shallow waters of Hudson Bay.  Several times I’ve made Alarmists look silly by drawing them into a sort of a trap, pointing out the open waters of Hudson Bay in late November and getting them to claim the open water is a sign of Global Warming; then the entire bay freezes over even as the discussion continues, (because some debates go on and on and on, for days, at some websites.)

Last year the jet stream resulted in south winds, and the freeze was late on Hudson Bay, but this year sees north winds (caused by the same looping jet that results in less ice in Bering Strait). Below is a comparison of the ice on the two years, with the lilac hue representing ice roughly a foot thick, which is enough for polar bears to walk on. (2016 to left; 2017 to right).


To me a change in the first formation of sea-ice by weeks doesn’t mean much. Back in the early history of the fur trade there are records of years when the sea-ice formed very late, followed by years when the Hudson Bay post could not be resupplied, for the ice was so thick and the summer so cold that the sea-ice never melted.  The change of the past two years is merely indicative of natural variation. However for some Alarmists the fact that the ice formed earlier this year causes deep depression, for they feel the change should be in one direction to be a true “Death Spiral”. Instead they see a dead spiral.

Slinky tangled 8532040475_67e4f48a27_b

A depressed human mind clicks into problem-solving mode, which in some cases turns Alarmists into Skeptics, but in other cases causes Alarmists to look further afield to seek verification of their belief.

One “verification” I have heard involved the suggestion that such variations have increased, due to Global Warming, and this is proven by the fact that narwhals, which are adapted to the Arctic, are “now being trapped” by the “changed” formation of ice. I haven’t yet heard the claim this fall, but fully expect it, because the formation of ice in Hudson Bay was “ahead of normal” while the formation of ice in Foxe Basin to its north was “later than normal”. To have waters in escape-routes freeze before waters further north creates the conditions that cause entrapment.

Narwhal 3 hudson-bay-weekly-departure-from-normal-2017-nov-20

In actual fact, the cause of below normal ice-formation to the north is likely not because the ice didn’t form ahead of schedule, but rather because howling north winds blew the newly formed ice away from shore, forming a polynya of open water. It is unlikely whales could even get to such open water, not only because sea-ice lies in the way, but also because they aren’t stupid. (Also polar bears are not endangered by such polynyas; they simply ride the sea-ice, when it blows away from shore, though mothers with cubs are more prone to keep their cubs on shore. Also some older males, who are usually first to move out to sea, perhaps are savvy to gales, and in no hurry to head out when winds howl from the north.)

Whales do become entrapped, despite their natural wisdom, and it usually involves a field of pack-ice that formed in the north moving south across the mouth of a bay.  As Narwhals live to be fifty, likely the older whales know enough to avoid such entrapment, but even they can be trapped by once-every-hundred-year conditions they’ve never seen before. Old reports tell of a thousand narwhals being entrapped in Disko Bay in 1915 (which is too early for Global Warming to be a cause).

All the same, an entrapment of narwhals does tend to excite the Alarmist media, leading to claims Global Warming is to blame. Here is a Canadian article from two summers ago:

Rather than becoming upset by such blather, I have found it rewarding to simply do the fact-checking that the editors used to do, but now seemingly are too lazy (or politically invested) to do. Often I find myself going on voyages from my armchair, seeing sights I’ve never seen before, and learning wondrous things. The photographs alone can be strikingly beautiful.

Narwhal 4 narwhal

While there is an unspoken insinuation, in the above article, that the narwhals  in the above picture are entrapped, I can find no statement that they actually were. Apparently is was a picture “from files”. Narwhal are superbly adapted to life among ice floes, and there is no indication their populations are endangered. However the researcher in the above study wanted to learn more about the narwhal’s horn. (And who will pay for such study? Not most businessmen. However there are heaps of money spent on Global Warming, as long as you promote its reality.)

The narwhal’s “horn” is actually a single tooth, usually seen only in males, but also in 15 % of females (in a few cases they have two). Like most teeth they have a nerve in the middle. In the narwhal’s case the nerve is highly developed. What is it sensing? Some have suggested it may amount to a sixth sense, able to detect salinity (which increases and decreases as sea-ice freezes and thaws). What is even more interesting is the idea (which could be balderdash) that when male narwhal tap their horns together it has nothing to do with male rivalry, but rather is a way of exchanging information gathered by this sixth sense.

Do you see what I mean about the wondrous ideas you can chance upon from an armchair? I also learned that Vikings could make a fortune by harpooning a narwhal, because, a thousand years ago, the horns were worth more than their weight in gold. (This alone justifies the existence of the Greenland colony, even when the farms became unprofitable. )

To return to the subject of entrapment, they do occur, and are a boon to those who stand to profit. That tends to be polar bears, who can grow so fat from clawing and hauling the whales up onto the ice and gorging on them that their bellies drag on the ground. Also men stand to profit. During the entrapment of 2008 off Pond Inlet, the bureaucrats involved were smart enough to see the whales were doomed and going to die whether they were “harvested” or not, and waived ordinary quotas of around 130 narwals, allowing over 200 extra whales to be harvested from the entrapment. (As the local population of narwhal was 20,000, this did not constitute serious over-hunting.) This boon was shared with others in the Inuit community, (though I imagine some tree-huggers to the south were horrified, and felt an ice-breaker should have been deployed to free the whales), (unless they themselves had to pay for such a rescue).

Though such entrapment is awful, if you are a narwhal, they are apparently a fact of life, like car crashes on super-highways are for humans.

Narwhal 6 A_polar_bear_(Ursus_maritimus)_scavenging_a_narwhal_whale_(Monodon_monoceros)_carcass_-_journal.pone.0060797.g001-A

The pity is that Alarmist media cannot seem to educate the public, and doesn’t do a little reading-up on the subject, but rather seems determined to horrify. Horror is not helpful, unless your intent is to herd people with a sort of bullying. To paraphrase FDR, in truth we have nothing to be horrified about but horror itself.

In some cases I don’t blame some scientists for promoting their own area of interest by making it seem more important than it actually is. However when scientists hurt other scientists for bringing up points which suggest their area of interest is not as important as they suggested (as may very well be the case with Global Warming) I think they are stepping over the line, and have left the bounds of civilized behavior.

This was recently the case when a group of scientists attacked Susan J. Crockford, suggesting she had no business talking about polar bears. In actual fact she is a highly qualified zoologist who has long studied and written about arctic wildlife, including polar bears. One scientist who attacked her was Michael Mann, who hasn’t studied polar bears very much at all, beyond their status as a political icon, yet who has himself written papers containing data that caused them to be soundly debunked. He needs to clean up his own work before criticizing others.

A fine example of Susan J. Crockford’s work actually involves the entrapment of narwhals, and can be found here:

Narwhal and beluga ice entrapment is natural – not caused by global warming

One thing I notice about Susan’s posts is how careful she is to give references for every point she makes, and all data she uses. She is a good example of fact-checking which puts me to shame, and should put the media to even greater shame.

Another thing I notice is that in her posts “comments are closed”. I think she doesn’t want to spend time moderating the comments likely to appear, or to deal with internet “trolls”, whom I know, from personal experience, can be nasty, and can draw you into debate that is fairly useless because they have no real interest in what you are saying. (I myself sometimes get a sort of pleasure in battling such trolls, but I can understand anyone who doesn’t have time for it.) Susan gets enough grief from climate scientists, and has no need to seek extra grief from trolls.

A last thing I note is that her posts do have a tab for “tips and notes”, and I know that if I write a polite letter I will get a polite response. (In my case she kindly has pointed out my factual blunders, which I am grateful for.  The pity is that her fellow scientists are not equally grateful for her sterling work.)

In the end it is likely we will not often receive the kindness we crave, from our fellow man. Such kindness is a beautiful rarity on this planet, and if I don’t receive any on a gloomy day I try to give some. Also I find that if I simply go out and study what our Creator has created I see beauty, and that gift is a beautiful kindness I don’t feel I’ve earned, and I accept it with gratitude. There are Christmas gifts all around us.

Narwhal 5 Pod_Monodon_monoceros







We are locked into a pattern where an anti-Ralph dominates the Pole, with some interesting consequences, but, before I go into the consequences I’m observing, I’d like to observe a few things about the simple fact I am seeing everything in terms of “Ralph”, and in a sense have become a Ralphist practicing Ralphism. I am locked into a prison of my own making.

This points out something interesting about holding a bias. Bias has a certain usefulness, as long as you are aware of its limitations.  The problem with Global Warming, as a bias that sees everything under the sun (except the sun) as being caused by CO2, is that it’s proponents not only fail to recognize its limitations, but get hopping mad if you point them out. In this manner it resembles a religion.

Religions often speak of their followers as “the Elect”, which suggests that A.) They have been selected by the Almighty, and B.) they have accepted the gift they are given, even if it involves discipline.  Likewise, in terms of science, the “gift” is a light-bulb going off in your head, and the “discipline” is holding that thought, in the face of an onslaught of distractions.

It is interesting that two words related to “Elect”, namely “Eloquent” and “Elegant”, describe clarity of expressed ideas, with “Eloquent” suggesting power, and “Elegant” suggesting simplicity. When an idea occurs to us, and we say “hold that thought”, we are being “Eloquent” by displaying the power to grip an idea even in the face of adversity, (objections and exceptions-to-the-rule that occur to us, or that are pointed out to us by others). The objections come because the idea is “Elegant”, (which is just a nice way of saying it is a gross oversimplification).

The simple fact of the matter is that everything is a gross oversimplification, when you are dealing with something as chaotic, involving as many variables, as our magnificent planet’s weather. This is not to say we shouldn’t dream up ideas about how things work. We should just be humble when we do so.

Even to use the words “El Nino” to describe the phenomenon we witness in the Pacific is fraught with humbling variability, because no two El Nino’s are alike. Before we know it, we come up with a subspecies, and invent the words “El Nino Madoki” to describe the subspecies we notice. (I really like the Japanese word “Madoki”, which I understand means “the same but different.” It seems a handy concept to have in meteorology, where even snowflakes are legendary for being “the same but different”.)

In terms of Arctic Sea-ice study, an initial elegant idea I employed was the idea that our atmosphere’s circulation formed a system of cells.

Polar cell UHCaxa7

The problem with this elegant idea is that it presupposes high pressure at the Pole. Low pressure (“Ralph”) is an exception to the rule. It turns me to a second elegant idea, called the Arctic Oscillation (AO).

Arctic Oscillation articoscillation

The problem with this elegant idea is that it presupposes a zonal flow when low pressure exists at the Pole.  “Ralph” was low pressure at the Pole associated with a very loopy, meridonal flow, which brought milder air up to, and sometimes right across, the Pole. This turned me to a third elegant idea, namely “Ralph”.

At this point I should be able to clip and paste a nice graphic for you to look at, but I haven’t been able to draw one. I have two competing concepts in my brain. One has a fourth circulation cell appear and disappear  at the Pole like the hole in a  doughnut, and another has feeder bands spiraling up to the pole like the chocolate in fudge-swirl ice-cream. These competing concepts, (the doughnut and the fudge-swirl concepts), haven’t yet crystallized into a nice, neat illustration, likely because they make me hungry and I head for the refrigerator.

It seemed obvious I needed to study further, but this need was frustrated because “Ralph” has largely disappeared, as a phenomenon, and we have returned to a situation that largely verifies the elegance of the “Polar Cell” and “Arctic Oscillation” ideas. At this point I suppose I could curse reality, for frustrating me, but perhaps I can be more grateful, and see what is now occurring as a chance to look at an old situation in a new way. I will create a discipline for myself, by looking at the Pole as a Ralphist.

When we last looked, on November 28, the situation was about as opposite last year’s as you can get. Rather than mild surges heading north past Svalbard from the Atlantic, a surge of colder air was streaming down into the Atlantic. On the Pacific side isobars suggested the Canadian arctic was being robbed of some of its cold by a cross-polar flow into Siberia. There were no clear “feeder bands” of milder air into the arctic, though I suppose some milder air was moving north up the west coast of Greenland and through the Canadian Archipelago. The formerly impressive high pressure over the Pole had been weakening and flattening.


Rather than fading, over the next four days the anti-Ralph over the Pole strengthened. Low pressure transited over Greenland (what I call “morphistication”). This low pressure pulled some Atlantic air past Svalbard to north of Greenland, though it was nothing like last year’s surges of air from the Azores. It was air greatly modified by transits over east Europe, or north Atlantic air, (basically arctic air modified by sitting over cold waters).








By December 2 a “feeder band” began to become apparent in the isotherms of the temperature maps, poking north between Greenland and the Pole. As a Ralphist I was watching to see if it fed any sort of low pressure that perhaps would push the anti-Ralph off the Pole, and allow a Ralph to return.  Towards the Pacific a cross-polar flow seemed to continue to rob Canada and feed East Siberia, though Pacific air continued to intrude north through Bering Strait, (though it never penetrated very far north.)


Rather than pushed off the Pole, the anti-Ralph strengthened.




By December 5 the “feeder-band” north of Greenland was losing its heat to the perpetual darkness, but, as a dedicated Ralphist, I did note a minuscule dot of Low Pressure just north of Greenland. Not much to write home about, and nothing I would have even noticed before I became a Ralphist, but that is the best Ralph can manage, this autumn. Yet perhaps it does suggest processes, which I was blind to before I became a Ralphist, still are occurring.



On December 7 the somewhat dull weather in the North Atlantic was enlivened by a big gale crashing into Norway, however it contained no surge of mild air from the Azores, and stalled without coming north. I am now watching to see if a new feeder-band is established north of Greenland, but it actually looks like a cross-polar-flow is developing from Siberia to Canada on the Atlantic side, even as the Canada-to-Siberia flow continues on the Pacific side.




(Afterthought: I am adding this evening’s maps, as they perhaps show a developing battle. On one hand an Atlantic-side cross-polar-flow is starting to look like it is transporting bitter blobs from Siberia back to Canada. [Joe Bastardi honors a mentor who I will likely dishonor by misspelling his name, but “Cairn’s connection” warns us about extreme cold afflicting Canada and the USA when high pressure over the Caspian includes an isobar extending across the Pole to Canada].  Yet, on the other hand, there are signs of another weakly-warm wedge again appearing north of Greenland, which, if it fueled any sort of “Ralph”, would cut the “Caspian connection”. This may be one of those meteorological moments when all balances on the point of a hair, and things can change with the flap of a butterfly’s wing. It will be interesting to watch, (and misery to forecast).)

At this point I check the map of Europe to see if much mild air is being pulled north by the gale by Norway.

UKMet 20171208 60706518

The warm front extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea may eventually manage to transport some mild air to the arctic, but it will be modified by crossing over so much snow. It is nothing like last year’s surges up through Scandinavia, which at times made Finland milder than Egypt, (as a cold “backwash” afflicted the Mideast.) Also, while the air behind the warm front is making central Europe 3-5 degrees above normal, the air behind the cold front is making Britain 5-7 degrees below normal, and this cold air will cycle into central Europe. Below is a Weatherbell-Dr.-Ryan-Maue map showing us whether temperatures are above or below normal.

Europe 20171208 gfs_t2m_anom_eur_1

It looks like the gale will stall by Norway, only slowly weakening and sinking south, as the next low travels along its cold front and stays well south, perhaps hitting France south of the English Channel. Winds will swirl-and-mix in the North Atlantic, without allowing surges to the Pole.

I was personally glad to see the anti-Ralph rob cold from Canada and export it to east Siberia, as I tend to think that flow keeps Canadian cold from heading south to my house in New Hampshire, however the amount of cold that the flow has has built up in east Siberia makes me a bit nervous, for it may come back to bite me. (The pink area of the map is at the magic temperature, -40°, where Fahrenheit and Celsius agree.)

Siberia 20171208 gfs_t2m_asia_1 That bitter cold in Siberia has a way of sneaking across to North America. It can come over the top of a ridge that makes Alaska warm, or it can scoot under the belly of Aleutian gales, in which case it is especially sneaky, for the milder waters of the Pacific warm its lowest layers, making the cold less apparent on temperature maps, even as the higher layers remain bitter cold. So far I, in New Hampshire, have been spared, as the bitter cold Siberian air has dumped southeast into the Pacific or leached back west towards Europe. An anomaly map of the Pacific shows the cold pouring off Asia and crossing the Pacific to the south, even as a ridge pumps warmth up the west coast of Canada to Alaska and Bering Strait. The pattern is quite loopy.

Pacific 20171208 gfs_t2m_anom_npac_1

The warmth in Alaska always makes me nervous, because a ridge in the west of North America always seems to dump a trough in the east, bringing cold to the east of the USA. Even with the cross-polar-flow seeming to rob Canada, enough home-grown Canadian cold has made it south to bring snow right down to the gulf coast of Texas this morning. I don’t like to think of how cold it can get if you add some Siberian cold to the mix, yet Joe Bastardi and Joseph D’Aleo at Weatherbell (week free trial available) are suggesting that analogs are suggesting that is exactly what we will see happen. It will be fascinating to watch the Pole, to see how the changes occur, but I confess I can’t yet comprehend how it will be engineered.

The current temperature anomaly-map of the Pole shows far less “white heat” (temperature more than 15° above normal) than we saw last year, especially at the Pole itself. Some “feeder-band” inflow is indicated north of Greenland, and through the Canadian Archipelago, and in Bering Strait, while the cold is exported to east Siberia, Eastern Europe, Iceland-and-Britain, and (of most interest to me), down to Hudson Bay.

Arctic 20171208 gfs_t2m_anom_arctic_1

That cold pouring down through Hudson Bay could be the start of an increasing flood of bitter cold for the USA. So far we’ve been largely spared the worst, as storms have tended to go north. A couple days ago a storm taking the northern route got a bit too rowdy, passing south of Hudson Bay. I say “too rowdy” because when they get too big they tend to pull down too much cold on their west sides, and following storms are shunted south:

20171205 satsfc

In the above map you can see a stationary front extending from the central USA up through Canada. That front separates the really bitter arctic air, currently completing the flash-freeze of Hudson Bay,  from air that is less cold, and sometimes is made balmy by Chinooks pouring over the Canadian Rockies. In our more merciful winters that front has no problem coming east and we even get a hint of a Chinook on the east coast of the USA.  What I am worried about is seeing that stationary front backing west to the Canadian Rockies, whereupon cities like Calgary see balmy Chinooks give way to temperatures down near -40°. When the arctic is most cruel, the cold air even pours west over the Rocky Mountains, and the west coast gets a taste of true winter; (there can even be flakes in the air in San Diego).

Currently that front isn’t backing west, and a little low on it is even pushing a warm front east:

20171208 satsfc

The problem is that that little low isn’t tracking northeast like the huge gale that preceded it, but rather is dipping south. Any progress that warm front makes to the east will be undone by the cold front pushing west behind that little low. Further little lows (sometimes called “Alberta Clippers”) may follow, each bringing another blast of arctic air. And the arctic air that comes south in December isn’t moderated like arctic air is in March. The sun is too low. For example, the stale arctic air that came south behind that big Hudson Bay gale is now lingering along the Gulf coast, and, rather than being moderated by the south, it has kept its chill and snow is now falling in Houston Texas, where years can pass without people seeing snow.

Now, in case you are wondering what this has to do with sea-ice, I should remind you we do have sea-ice here in New England. It may not be included in the sea-ice extent-graph, but it forms. I remember the winter of 1976-1977 saw drought and fires and heat in California, and warmth in Alaska, in the west, but in the east we saw sea-ice right down to Virginia. Here is a picture of me writing on sea-ice in January of 1977, in Maine. I’ve been writing on sea-ice for forty years. Photo Credit: Joe Nichols)

Harraseeket Sea Ice 1 img-seaice-maine-1977008

You’ll notice I said I was writing on sea-ice. I didn’t say I was writing about sea-ice. (I likely was writing blues about how a certain beautiful woman should pet me, and not my dumb dog.) But I did spend time on sea ice, and therefore did actually do a sort of field study, which I wrote about here:

A Retrospective: Fun With Sea-Ice

In any case, here is the current extent graph, showing more ice than last year:

DMI5 1207 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

And here is the temperature-north-of-80°-north-latitude graph, showing we are still getting minor surges of warmth, though nothing like last year’s:

DMI5 1207 meanT_2017

It will be interesting to watch and see of we can get a major mild surge to the Pole this December, such as we saw in 2013, 2015 and 2016. (2014 saw a plunge to below-normal). It is interesting not only due to the fact I’m a Ralphist, and desire to see a surge I can study, but also because when such surges occur the Alarmist media always manages to produce incredible schmaltz , regarding Santa Claus’s house melting on the North Pole, and Rudolf the red-nosed-reindeer drowning, (irrespective of how this news freaks out children). (It doesn’t trouble Alarmist Media to freak out children; they’ve been doing it for decades, and why? “For the children.”) I’m always eager to see if the media can outdo itself.

Lastly there is the thickness-map to study.

Thickness 20171208 Attachment-1 The flash freeze of Hudson Bay is nearly complete, whereas last year it was barely started in the north.

The cold air pouring into the Pacific has allowed the ice in the sea of Okhotsk to catch up and pass last year’s.

It looks like strong east winds has pushed ice away from the north of Svalbard, and against the east coast of Franz Joseph Land. Last year a calm between surges allowed Franz Joseph Land to briefly be surrounded, and ice to be closer to the north coast of Svalbard, but as I recall the next dramatic surge then negated all that growth, last year.

Bering strait continues to have less ice than last year.

Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –Old Man Winter–

Norman Rockwell 1937-christmas-gramps-in-snow

As I get older I seem to look forward to winter less. I’m not as hot-blooded, and where I once threw snowballs without gloves and saw my hands glow a ruddy red, my hands now turn blue at the slightest excuse. Not that I still don’t hope for a white Christmas; I just hope we get around an inch at daybreak, and it melts away by Christmas afternoon.

It was said, back when I was young, that the Indians called an old man “one who has seen many winters.” I’m not sure how true that statement is, in terms of history, but it says something about how winters tax a man.  Like the taxes of a greedy government, winters sap you, and take so much out of you that you get tired of paying. However, for the poor, there is no escape to Florida, and therefore the mind has to adopt some sort of strategy, in order to endure the coming insult to our physical forms. After all, if you believe in evolution, we are jungle monkeys, at home in a Garden of Eden, and not upon tundra.

Even if you don’t believe in evolution, it has been a long, long time since we dwelt in Eden. Even if you don’t believe in evolution, perhaps we have been bred like dogs into certain breeds. Even if you don’t believe in evolution, it seems obvious that people to the north have whiter skin than people to the south, as sunshine is necessary, to produce Vitamin D,  but you can get too much of a good thing, in which case sunshine causes skin cancer.  God does amazing things to protect His children, and white skin allows people to get enough vitamin D where sunshine is low and weak, while dark skin prevents skin cancer when the sun is high, hot, and burns.

I have started to wonder if there are some other traits which have been imparted to northern people, that help them deal with winter. Because I run a Childcare, it seemed a good place to study the way the young react to the change in seasons, to see if they have any behaviors that seem northern in nature.

My study seemed especially insightful because modern children live lives so insulated from the outdoors, as do their parents. Parents chose our Childcare because they believe the outdoors is good, in theory; in actual fact they work indoors and only a few get out for hikes on the weekends. Therefore the children, who unknowingly were about to become subjects of my highly scientific study, were pure, and not corrupted by earlier experience of the outdoors. I could see responses that were fresh, and showed primal instincts.

One thing that became clear was that “shelter” became abruptly more important, as days swiftly grew shorter.

Not that children don’t build structures in the summer, but these are largely “forts”, and are built for warfare. “Warfare?” you ask? Yes, sad to say, but children do have a less than harmonious side, and build all sorts of forts that display sexism (“girls only” and “boys only”) and ageism (“big-kids-only” and “little-kids-only”) and even status-ism (“cool-crowd-only” and “uncool-crowd-only”), and then they steal sticks from each others forts and then rage about the robberies. You’d be amazed by how much time I have to spend overseeing the ownership of sticks. We have no toy guns at our Childcare, but over and over I hear either, “He keeps aiming his stick at me!” or “He stole my stick!”  Sometimes I can muster the wisdom of Solomon, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do; I’ll break the stick in two and give you each half,” but other times the only escape is to get away from the forts altogether, by going on a hike.

It was on hikes I first noticed the sudden interest in shelter. During summer rains I have a hard time getting children to bother with raincoats, and often wind up carrying raincoats they shed, as they delight in becoming drenched. However, as the sun sank lower in the southern sky at noon, the rain-clouds darkened, and suddenly the children wanted not only raincoats, but umbrellas, though the wind was from the south and rain wasn’t all that colder. As I happened to have seven umbrellas, I handed them out to the children, taking notes, for my highly scientific study, of this sudden interest in shelter.

Shelter 1 FullSizeRender

The rain then stopped, and you might think I’d then wind up carrying seven umbrellas. In actual fact I only wound up carrying five, because some sort of greed kicked in, and two umbrellas became some sort of status symbol. I had to break up fights, and teach “sharing”, and have them “take turns”. However it was when we entered the forest and were beneath the shelter of trees that I got a surprise. They all demanded their umbrellas back. It wasn’t because the rain had started again. It was because they wanted to build a shelter. I took a picture, for my highly scientific study.

Shelter 2 FullSizeRender

When we returned from our hike and I collected the umbrellas, (slightly the worse for wear), I became aware of a second attribute seen in northern children, which seems unlikely and only was revealed due to a mistake I made when I first opened the Childcare ten years ago. Back then I thought kids might be interested in old fashioned stuff, which is basically Neanderthal by modern standards: I showed them how to split wood with an ax and lay a campfire.

Big mistake. There is nothing more exhausting than having to oversee children swinging axes, and children by a campfire is nearly as bad. However the activity was incredibly popular, and the older children infected the younger with the desire to wave axes and feed fires. Any hope the interest would die away as the older children moved on from Childcare to more formal schooling, and I ceased to actively promote the activity, was dashed by the children who remembered the year before, and pleaded, “Please, please, Puh-leese can we chop wood and have a fire?”

To some degree it is gratifying to watch a boy grow from barely being able to lift an ax to becoming proficient at reducing a fat log to kindling. At times I think the Neanderthal were on to something. Rather than Ritalin they gave boys axes, and rather than drugged faces they saw faces that shone with pride:

Shelter 3 FullSizeRender

But there is no getting around the fact I have to work pretty hard to teach a boy to split wood with a Neanderthal implement. Some might say it is easier to just send them off to fight Arabs, so we can be lazy and just spin the dial of a thermostat, heating our homes with Arab oil. Never mind that the back yards of some homes are forests full of dead trees and fallen wood, (which is great for the local populations of woodpeckers, but represents an increasing forest fire danger during droughts).

Never mind that. That is a loaded subject for some future post. Instead let us face the fire-danger wood-stoves present us with. The poorer people in this area are still Neanderthal, and still burn wood, and fires do escape stoves, and houses do burn down, which means the fire department needs to educate children about what to do in a fire.

One thing that upsets children is that a fully dressed fireman looks, and even sounds, like the evil Darth Vader of Star Wars movies. Firemen entering homes to save children have seen them take one look at their rescuer and run the other way. Therefore they come to my Childcare and show that they are smiling, nice people,  before they dress in scary-looking gear. Even though the children have seen the nice people put the gear on, they still tend to be scared once it is on.

Shelter 4 FullSizeRender To be accurate, as a reporter, I should add it is somewhat amazing I was even able to take the above picture, because the Darth Vader appearance of the firemen completely freaked-out a two-year-old, who was wailing in my arms. He wouldn’t let go, even when they took off the costumes and let the other children experience the sublime joy of sitting in a firetruck.

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Perhaps what the two-year-old was trying to tell me was that, no matter how amazingly nice firemen and fire-women may be, something scary is involved in the subject.

For that matter, something scary is involved in the subject of fire, and even in the subject of winter. Both freezing and burning are scary.

Children are not as stupid as some seem to believe. (For that matter, neither are adults.) It is futile to gloss over reality with an insipid belief we can be spared a very real thing: Old Man Winter is coming, and will turn turf into tundra, and unless you befriend the dangerous realities of fuel and fire, you will die.

Some seem to believe children should be buffered in over-heated classrooms, with nature only seen on video screens, and spared knowing of the bitter winds that bluster and buffet outside. It likely a heresy for me to say this, but I think such mollycoddling harms, for the results of my highly scientific study suggests children are happier, healthier, and smarter when allowed to learn what their northern, Neanderthal genes already yearn to learn about, which is not the subjects of grammar, “social studies”, and algebra, but rather the subjects of shelter, fuel, and fire.

The sun is low at noon, and by four o’clock
The west is aflame: the sun is a fire
In the boughs of pines that bitter winds rock,
And their trunks send long shadows across mire
Turned to stone tundra. It’s north we’re heading.
The farm pond skims with ice too thin to tread;
There is no skating, no snow for sledding;
But the west grows dark with approaching dread
And the children aren’t fools. They want a fire.
I have solar lights that cast blue firefly
Dimness, but they want orange to inspire
Dancing and warm mirth. Should I not try
To teach fire is something other than danger?
Winter’s too cold when fire’s a stranger.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Sea-ice Madoki–)(Updated)

“Madoki”, as I understand it, means “the same but different” in Japanese, and is used to describe an El Nino that is displaced away from Peru into the central Pacific. I thought I might as well use the same word to describe arctic temperatures this autumn. They are “the same” as 2016 because they are consistently above normal, with spikes. They are “different” because they are consistently cooler than last year. (2016 left; 2017 right.)


My own take on the winter mildness at the Pole (if you can call temperatures far below zero “mild”), is that it is indicative of warmer seas. There is always a lag between when sea-surface temperatures start to be cooled and when they actually drop and effect the temperature of the air above. In fact, though we are a decade into a “Quiet Sun”, we likely are still seeing the effects of an extremely “Noisy Sun” during the last century. In the shorter term, we likely are still seeing the lagged effects of the 2015 “super” El Nino and last summer’s “failed” El Nino. That much is the “same”. What is “different” is that the difference between the warm tropics and cold Pole is fading.

Last year, when the difference was greatest, the flow north seemed to me to be like when it is coldest outside and you have a fire. The “draw” of the chimney is especially good, and the fire doesn’t smoke in the house even when you haven’t bothered have the chimney swept. (It is when it gets warmer outside that the stove starts to smoke, and you have to get out your chimney-sweeper brush.) In fact the “draw” of the Pole was so great last year that it made for fascinating surges of mild air north, and the anomalous low-pressure I dubbed “Ralph” appeared at the Pole. This year is more boring; though there are spikes in the above graph they are nothing likes the amazing spikes in 2016.

The rushes of milder, moist air up from the North Atlantic were so great that sea-ice was pushed north from Svalbard in Barents Sea, and slow to form in Kara Sea, and Alarmists got excited when the extent actually dropped briefly, during its yearly rise. This year we have seen no such excitement. (2016 light blue; 2017 black and red.)

DMI5 1127 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

When we compare the sea-ice thickness maps, we see that same-but-different in terms of temperature can lead to huge differences in terms of how the ice is reforming. (It tends to always reform over the entirety of the Arctic Sea by March, with the yearly variations only out on the edges, but where it reforms, and whether it reforms early or late, can mean a lot in terms of where the jet-stream is most comfortable setting up, and where arctic outbreaks will afflict people, to the south.) Here are the (new style) NRL maps. (2016 left; 2017 right).



The only place for Alarmist to look, in hope of seeing increased sea-ice melt, is on the Pacific side. Ice has been slower to form in the Sea of Okhotsk (north of Japan) and north of Bering Strait. But this likely is either caused by (or causing) (it is a chicken-or-the-egg situation) a loopy jet stream that can make (at its most extreme) Alaska warmer than Florida. Last year we saw the same sort of extreme when the Atlantic surges made Finland warmer than Turkey. But this year, though there are still Atlantic surges, it is the same-but-different. Last year the North Atlantic lows sometimes traveled straight north to merge with Ralph at the Pole, and the entire north Atlantic had southwest winds that continued on to curve to the Pole itself. This year North Atlantic lows are more well-behaved, and head east to northern Scandinavia, and though much of Europe can be in the southwest winds, the waters north of Europe get northeast winds, which is quite the opposite of last year, resulting in a very different reformation of sea-ice in that area. (2106 left; 2017 right)


Note there is far more ice in the north of Kara Sea, Franz Joseph Land is ice-bound, Svalbard has far more ice to its north east, and sea-ice is surging and forming southwards in Fram Strait. Fram Strait is particularly interesting because a “wrong-way” flow during the summer had less-than-normal ice there. Now Denmark Strait is nearly filled, (which has me holding my breath, for, though it is very rare, sometimes the ice jams up and it is possible to walk from Greenland to Iceland), (though I wouldn’t advise it, because a single North Atlantic storm could wipe out such a bridge in a matter of hours. One December (2014?) a bridge had nearly formed, and then a gale blew up in mere hours, and all the ice crunched against the coast of Greenland in a day. Sea-ice collapses like an accordion, when winds reach hurricane force.)

With jet-stream winds looping north in the Pacific they swoop back south over Hudson Bay, bringing cold air south, and its yearly flash-freeze is ahead of last year’s. (2016 left; 2017 right.)


As I pointed out in my last post, Dr. Susan Crockford stated that residents of Churchill, on the west coast of Hudson Bay, said the reformation of ice there was one of the earliest since 1979, and polar bears were already starting to head out to sea to start their autumn hunt. (For it to be colder-than-normal south of the Pole, when it is warmer-than-normal at the Pole, seems a normal response to loopy jet streams.)

This brings up an interesting sidetrack, involving the fact more sea-ice may be bad for polar bears. Why? Polar bears eat seals, and seals require air holes to breath through, and must pup on top of the ice. If the sea-ice gets too thick, with too few areas of open water, seals (and walruses, not to mention whales and porpoises), must move south or starve, if not suffocate. Dr. Crawford has documented declines in in seal and polar bear populations associated with excessive sea-ice, which tends to shoot Al Gore’s weepy prediction of drowning bears in “An Inconvenient Truth” all full of holes. Since Gore produced that movie plenty of evidence has surfaced showing that less sea-ice actually increases the numbers of seals, and consequently polar bears. (Likely conservationists preventing over-hunting has also helped increase populations, but people who live in the north should be allowed to hunt in a sensible manner, and not prevented from earning a living in a very harsh landscape by sentimental fools to their south insisting non-endangered species “endangered”.) Dr. Crawford is fairly scornful of the unscientific side of Alarmist publicity, calling it “polar bear porn”, and has produced this excellent exposè.

A final area that interests me is the Canadian Archipelago. (2016 left; 2017 right.)


Usually the “Beaufort Gyre” has sea-ice moving as the current high pressure is moving it, clockwise on the Pacific side of the Arctic Basin.

Drift 20171127 Attachment-1

What “Ralph” did over last winter, spring and summer was to slow this flow, and even reverse it to a counterclockwise flow. Apparently this change altered the flow of sea-ice north of the Archipelago, and rather piling up along the coast, it jammed directly into the coast and went squeezing between the larger islands. During the summer it was fascinating to watch thick sea-ice, like toothpaste in a tube, come oozing down the east side of Melville Island, across Parry Channel, and south down McClintock Channel east of Victoria Island. I am wondering if this thicker ice may continue down to Victoria Strait towards the Canadian Mainland, and become a block to people attempting the Northwest Channel next summer.

I had never seen sea-ice move south through the Archipelago like this before, and it was a sort of revelation to me. There are odd events in what arctic explorers describe (or don’t describe, as in the case of the ill-fated Franklin expedition), that may be explained by massive north-to-south flows of sea-ice through the Archipelago.

At the very least this southward movement of sea-ice through the Archipelago should awaken people to how mobile even the thickest sea-ice is. Originally I myself had the preconception sea-ice was fixed and motionless, or at least as slow to move as a glacier. It was only through observation I became aware it moves about with far more speed than some Alarmists give it credit for. In fact, if the Pole were to become largely ice-free, it would be more likely to be due to a massive discharge of sea-ice into the North Atlantic (as apparently happened 1816-1817) than be due to slight variations in temperature and summer melting caused by CO2.

Hopefully I’ll find time to go through the daily maps later. The huge high pressure over the Pole faded, but now is being replaced by another high pressure. “Ralph” is not the character he was, last year.

In case I don’t have time to go through the maps I should quickly pop in this current map of the USA which seems to counter many of my assumptions:

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With less ice north of Being Strait I’ve been buying extra firewood, expecting Alaska to be warm like it was in the winter of 1976-77, which was the coldest I recall in New England, and saw sea-ice grow right down the east coast of the USA (sea-ice which, by the way, never gets added to the “extent” graphs). However the above map shows a mild surge right up the center of the USA, making a sort of mockery of my analog.

What seems to be happening is that the loopy jet still hasn’t “locked in”, and still is in a state of flux. I’m going to stand my ground, thinking it will “lock in” later. (In 1976-77 it had already locked in, and it seemed the wind was bitter cold and from the north nearly every day from November until February.) I’ve noticed that the computer models are flipping around like a net full of fish. I think every time an upper air trough rambles across the continent they recalculate, first having cold “lock in” on the west coast and then on the east.

One reason I’m not flipping around myself is because the Weatherbell Site isn’t flipping around. Where I just use one analog they utilize over ten, and Joseph D’Aleo has created what he calls his “Pioneer Model” that combines the analogs. It has been showing cold in the northeast of the USA since summer, without all the flip-flopping about the super-computer models do.

In any case, though I may be wrong where the loops “lock in”, I’m thinking the jet will have those loops, allowing influxes of milder air up to the Pole, until exactly February 13, and then the pattern will go zonal and the Pole will get cold. I figure that, if a blind squirrel intends to get a nut, he’d best go way out on a limb.

Stay tuned.


I don’t have free time, but do have insomnia.

My last post ended with an impressive high pressure forming an anti-Ralph at the Pole.




This huge high drifted towards Kara Sea, as an Aleutian Low snuck north and brought warm north through Bering Strait.  The flow in the North Atlantic was opposite last year’s. A low over Hudson Bay began bringing milder air up Baffin’s Bay, to the west of Greenland.





The anti-Ralph was prevented from entering Kara Sea by an Atlantic gale that stalled north of Norway, but kicked ahead a “kicker” low that strengthened south of Kara Sea. In the Pacific Side a new Aleautian low came north.  Mild air began to leak north either side of Greenland, as the anti-Ralph weakened.







As the anti-Ralph collapsed to a ridge, this is the closest I see to a “Ralph” forming, on the Pacific side of the Pole.




Rather than this “Ralph” moving to the Pole, it was displaced towards Siberia as a new high pressure was pumped towards Canada. The Atlantic and Hudson Bay lows weakened as a new Aleutian low crossed East Siberia.



The first Aleutian low retrograded in east Siberia as a new Aleutian low pounded Alaska south of Bering Strait, and mild air came north through the Strait. Things were quieter on the Atlantic and Hudson Bay side, but milder air that came north from the Atlantic earlier formed an interesting swirl on the Pacific side of the Pole, in the temperature map. This swirl was opposite last year’s swirls, clockwise rather than counter-clockwise, but it showed our planet is still sending heat north to be lost to the arctic dark.


The final maps show the next Aleutian low failing to get north of Bering Strait, a new Hudson Bay low, low pressure malingering over Europe, and the new anti-Ralph failing to get as strong as the last one and failing to cross to Asia, but rather falling back as a ridge towards Canada. Most striking is that the isobars suggest a flow from the Pole straight down towards Europe.




This Pole-to-Europe flow ought make things interesting across the Pond.

What is striking is that the Pole-to-Europe flow is so opposite last year’s.  The next north Atlantic gale will not come north with Azores juice, but will likely be that Hudson Bay low on the wrong side of Greenland, undergoing what I call “morphistication” as it transits Greenland’s 10,000 foot icecap.  The Baltic low will crawl east, perhaps producing an interesting secondary on its cold front, as the front reaches the Mediterranean. It looks like low pressures will swirl around Europe, hopefully giving folk a white Christmas and not rain, and high pressure will remain king-of-the-mountain at the Pole. Definitely very different from what produced “Ralph” last winter.

Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –Thanksgiving For The Unrecognized–

Recently my wife and I took a weekend off, and basically turned off our cell phones so we would not need to face the people who demand our time, often without gratitude. Why are they not grateful? I suppose it is because people tend to be a bit egotistical, and feel we should feel privileged to even be dealing with them. For example, think of a little child agonizing about not making a grade school team. From their perspective making-the-team is important, and well worth our attention. If you are not careful, knowing about too many of these “important” issues, and arching your eyebrows in a sympathetic manner for each of them, can completely burn you out, so we took a break. Simply taking a weekend away was a sort of spiritual retreat, but there is a problem with such retreats: They must end. You must go back and face your worldly responsibilities.

I am always reluctant to return to humdrum reality, no matter how restful a spiritual retreat may have been. The simple fact of the matter is that a lot that is “worldly” is also petty. Pettiness is not merely in little children who agonize about things that will not matter, in the long run, but also pettiness is in supposedly adult people, like preachers and politicians, and in supposedly adult institutions, like churches and the U.S. government.

If I had my druthers, I druther would write poetry. When I look back to my school days, I see I was more interested in the clouds out the window than the chalk on the blackboard. The interests of schoolmarms were never as interesting to me as the interests of schoolboys.

Look at it this way:  If heaven is the goal of life, why should our focus be on the non-heavenly things called “the worldly”?

The people in the world who I am most thankful to meet are those who have a certain light in their expressions that suggests they are seeing something heavenly. True, in some cases the light is merely due to them thinking they are seeing an end to pain. For example, a poor person may buy a winning lottery ticket, and their face may then shine, because they think their problems are solved. But soon their eyes cease beaming, as they discover filthy lucre is not an end to problems, and often increases them.

The light I like more, in people’s faces, is more lasting, and is not associated so strongly with worldly desires for wealth, sex, power, popularity, and intellectual achievement. Instead it simply recognizes heaven as a reality that exists even if you are poor, sexually frustrated, powerless, ignoble, and suffering intellectual writer’s-block.

There are simply some people who see a higher Truth, and whose moods are not controlled by the worldly circumstances of their lives. Sometimes they are saints like Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta, but sometimes they are people who you might think are entrapped by material success, but can be famous and wealthy without seeming to deny heaven exists.

Back in the early and mid Twentieth Century some of these people made decent livings as commercial artists for magazines. They produced the covers. Although it is true that “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, the editors of books and magazines knew a good picture could interest the general public, and sought artists talented in that respect.

One of the greatest was Norman Rockwell. I’ve praised him often. But another great artist, when it comes to sketching heaven, was Maxfield Parish. Norman Rockwell actually idolized Maxfield Parrish, when young.

Maxfield Parish became rich, simply portraying mortal humans during the most heavenly moments of their lives. (From a box of chocolates:)

Maxfield Parish 1 ap25lgrubyrectfrd1

His pictures were so beautiful that, as a commercial artist, he was an incredible success. At a time when a new house cost $2000, he made $100,000 a year. However all the money the public paid him apparently didn’t make him fond of the public. How can I say such a thing? Because, while his earlier pictures show a fondness for humans and their human nature, about the time he reached my age he stopped painting humans, and focused entirely on the beauty of landscapes. After around 1935 he painted landscapes which, in my humble opinion, have an amazing beauty, (surreal without Dali’s distortion), and yet they portray a world devoid of humanity. He painted right up to his death in 1966 at age 95, but did not seem to think humans were beautiful and worthy of being subjects within heavenly landscapes. He seemed to forget the way he saw when he was fifty years younger, in 1906, and painted “The Lantern Bearers” for Collier’s Magazine.

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It should be noted, as an alternative, that Norman Rockwell did not retire from humanity, even though he too was wealthy in his old age. He did seem to become less romantic, and more concerned with social issues of the time, such as school integration (retaining a hint of Romanticism).

Norman Rockwell Intergration The-problem-we-all-live-with-norman-rockwell

Which brings me around to the topic of myself. Which way will I go, as I approach retirement age?

When I was in my early twenties, and first noticed the difference between what Maxfield Parish and Norman Rockwell painted in their old age, I vowed I’d never become fed up with humanity. I would forever be optimistic, and never fail to see the beauty in my fellow man.

Well, I have failed. The first time I failed I was still in my early twenties, and I confess I have failed on multiple occasions since then. I have looked upon you, my fellow man, and seen nothing but rapscallions and self-serving mongrels posing as pure-blooded priests.  I mean, look hard at yourselves. Are you any reason I should feel especially hopeful about the future of humanity?

And do you know what saves you, more often than not? It is the fact I become aware I am looking in a mirror; I am projecting; the reason I am such an expert in bad behavior is because I practice it.

That isn’t any reason for hope. Rather it diminishes my faith in myself even as I lose faith in the world. What on earth is there left to have faith in? Am I not a complete pessimist? I, the very same man who once vowed to become an eternal optimist! Which brings me to the 1922 Maxfield Parrish cover for “Life” magazine:

Maxfield Parrish Rouge Indeed ori_268_2121346856_1137844_He_is_a_Rogue_Life_Cover

There was a contest to name the picture on the “Life” cover, and the winner was, “He is a rogue indeed who robs life of its ends, fostering doubt.” (Get it? “Life” becomes “If”.)

As a young man first learning this history I wondered if Maxfield Parish had such a trick in mind, as he painted the picture, or whether it was an accident, or perhaps subconscious. In any case, the winning title stuck with me, and any time I find myself becoming excessively pessimistic I think of the rogue in the picture above.

For the fact of the matter is that, even when we botch perfection, and all those we know botch perfection as well, there is a third Thing that you can have faith in, neither our self nor other humans.  Call “It” what you will, “It” saves us from plunging to complete ruin. Without “It” there would be no reason to call foul behavior “inhumane”, because in many cases foul behavior is very human. Whatever “It” is, “It” redeems us.

And how do we recognize “It”? We see “It” in what we call “heavenly”. “It” is in humor that allows us to laugh at our mistakes rather than curse. “It” is in the joy that lets us walk singing in the rain.

Gene Kelly, and Maxfield Parish, and Norman Rockwell, made very nice amounts of money simply hinting at the heavenly. However the people who have really been a great blessing in my life, and at times even have been life-savers, never charge the price of admission. They simply had, and have, joy in their hearts, and made me, and make me, smile on the gloomiest day.

More than money, more than sex, more than power, more than acclaim, more than inspiration, I value the smiles such people begrudge from my grouchy old face. For all the other things come and go, but remembered jests still make me smile even after fifty years. Those jesters, even if long lost,  are joys to remember, and be Thankful for, on Thanksgiving.

In the End of Ends a simple smile will crush the mighty, and defeat death itself.

Owen wrote, “I, too, have seen God in mud”
About the gruesome trenches, when men died
Like flies, (’cause two men, who shared royal blood,
King and Kaiser, saw war as sport, and tried
Out their new toys: Sputtering machine guns
And poison gasses).
                                         How could Wilford Owen
Write such guff? When Chlorine greened the sun’s
Rays and men writhed like sprayed wasps, men
He’d laughed with moments before, how could he
See God?
                    I suppose it was because God
Is everywhere. There is nowhere to flee
In life where Life isn’t. Beneath the sod
We do not know, until we go, but here
We delve no dark mines devoid of men’s cheer.

LOCAL VIEW –Hollywood Goes Prudish–

One odd coincidence my wife and I share is that our best friends were both born on November 21. Her friend is still alive, but mine passed away a decade ago. I always pause to remember him on November 21.

The day I first noticed him I knew he was a force to be reckoned with. It was in fifth grade, and teachers had decided we should be trained at an earlier age to avoid the old-fashioned idea of a “home room”. I’m not sure what was wrong with having a home, but instead some advantage was to be gained from marching from room to room to study different subjects. Not that the teachers were all that more skilled at different subjects. But likely they enjoyed teaching certain subjects more than others, and they thought such joy might infect the students. Wrong.

The simple fact of the matter was that my homeroom teacher was a beautiful young woman who I think was deeply in love (the next year her last name was different, and by June she was very pregnant.) By her very attitude she made learning be a joy. She could have taught a subject she knew nothing about, perhaps automobile mechanics, from an antiquated Model-T textbook, and the students would have been so enchanted they would have learned more than they would have learned from the most skilled automobile mechanic. I had the feeling her classroom was a cloud of love, and don’t think a single student disliked her; most seemed enchanted.

No other teacher stood a chance, and to be ripped from the presence of this joyous young woman, and placed in a classroom taught by a somewhat embittered old lady, who deeply resented that her favorite subject “history” was to be called “social studies”, was a very uncomfortable experience for me, as was the fact I was among students who I didn’t know, but whom were supposedly “at my level.” The old lady did catch my attention when she backslid and taught “history”, but when she attempted “social studies” it was apparent the subject was Pig Latin to her, and the entire classroom was confused, and my attention wandered.

For some reason these radical changes were not enacted at the start of the school year, but in late March or early April, when students are first hit by spring fever. Traditionally school ended at around this time, for children were needed back at the farm for spring planting, and all the wild energy would be put to good use. Instead, at this time, there was an attempt to “channel” the vital energy of youth in some sort of theoretically “socially constructive” manner. Eventually, decades later, they gave up and decided it was better to drug the dickens out of wild children, somehow thinking that frying their brains was better than tanning their hides, but, back when I went to school, education created a time-warp between corporal punishment and drug’s mind-control, when permissiveness and freedom ruled.

At this time my parents were still married, and I was an “untroubled” child, fairly obedient in my way, and making good progress in school. I hadn’t become the outlaw I later became (though I was no saint). As a good boy, I did stay away from the banned part of the playground in early April, where the mud was deep. However, as my attention wandered during Social Studies class, I saw the shoes of a boy who had broken this rule.

The shoes were so muddy they appeared about twice as large as they actually were. It was a most amazing spectacle. The mud was drying in the overheated classroom, and clods and flakes were shedding from the shoes. There was already enough dirt to plant carrots around the feet, and the shoes had only started shedding.

At this point the feet started moving about, as feet do when they are stared at for an overly long period of time. Instinct told me to glance up at the face the feet were attached to, and I met the glaring, challenging eyes of a boy just daring me to call him a pig. I didn’t. The thought didn’t even cross my mind. Instead I thought the eyes were as interesting as the huge feet. And, as I thought this, the eyes changed. When, rather than judgmental, I looked curious, they shifted from anger to surprise.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, though it was a stormy one. The fellow was never ordinary, but perhaps being born on the cusp of a water sign and a fire sign makes for billowing clouds of steam and thunderheads, and I’ve always thought thunderheads are beautiful.

He always tended to be more daring, while I was more prudish. At that time the “frontier” young men challenged involved the dangers of sex and drugs, and he paid a heavy price for being daring. I probably would have followed in his footsteps and paid the same price, had my stepfather not tricked me into attending a school about as far away from sex and drugs as it was then possible to find.  (Dunrobin, in northern Scotland.)

One thing we were always able to share was our minds. It is difficult to say exactly how we did this, other than to say our talks involved a lot of symbols, or images, or gestalts. At times a most rudimentary image would communicate more than you might think possible. We’d be talking about some esoteric topic and he’d say, “You mean, sort of like salsa?” and I’d reply, laughing, “Exactly!” An outsider would have no clue what we were talking about, yet we could talk for hours in a strange sort of complete understanding that also involved vehement disagreement.

Looking back, I think one thing he liked about me was that I could tell him what it was like to do what he had chosen not to do. I could tell him what it was like to be a virgin and still date the-girl-next-door. I could tell him what it was like to be off drugs for months in northern Scotland.

In terms of drugs, I was a prude compared to him. He had a zest for the entire world of hallucinations and unusual perceptions. I did too, but also had the sense we were on dangerously thin ice. But I will say this: If you are foolish enough to take such vile substances, don’t do it with small minds. Don’t do it with people who can say little more than, “Yowza. Am I ever wrecked.” Rather do it with a mind who can describe in great detail the various avenues it is going down. To “trip” with this individual was truly a journey so enjoyable that, were it not for the Grace of God, my brains would have become as fried as his became, because I enjoyed talking and laughing with him more than anything else.

When I went to school in Scotland he went to school in Boston, and, (in those primitive times before the internet), we exchanged two or three letters a week. Mine described a mind off drugs, plunged into the English literature necessary to pass “A” levels, and his blearily traced the wild scene in Boston, involving many women and parties and running a college newspaper even after he stopped attending classes. Then there was a horrible postal strike in England, and we couldn’t communicate.

When we reunited after a year we were able to compare our minds in a way, and on a level, that most people can’t. In a way most people can’t imagine I think he saw I had, by sheer luck, come out ahead.

It seemed unfair. He’d had more guts, was more daring, but wound up damaged, in some mental way difficult to describe. Call it frustration, for that describes it best. My mind was clear and produced answers, while his was muddy and produced frustration. However his honesty expressed where he was at. I liked his amazing poetry, though he produced less and less:

“When you’re in the mud
All you see is mud.”

I think one of the most awful tragedies of my generation was that the better minds were crippled. Hallucinogens were described by one Native American, (who left the Peyote Church), as “a trickster.”  They promise to expand consciousness, but retard it.

I can say this now, at retirement age, because I saw the danger and backed away from that frontier, like a person backing away from a volcano’s crater because he sees the expedition’s leader succumbing to poisonous gasses.  Not that I didn’t inhale and suffer some damage myself. But I survived.

People tell me, “I never quit and I can still do what I could do.” At age sixty-four that seems to me to be a terribly sad statement. It is like Beethoven at the end of his life stating, “I can still write the First Symphony.”  A mind is suppose to grow, and reach a Ninth Symphony.  To stay the same is to stay stuck, and involves a constant frustration, which eventually breeds a subtle antipathy.

I faced that antipathy in my childhood friend, especially when I renounced our adventure into the world of hallucination and turned to God. (And there can be no denying I was a naive pain, when I first sought a different “high”.) Yet we stayed in touch, despite the distance that had grown between us. I suppose, when minds have been as close as ours were, there is always a curiosity about what the other is seeing, and where it is going.

Eventually it became obvious to my friend that drugs indeed were a trickster, but his brains were by then only a shade of what they once were. He then accepted his predicament with class, and even dignity, though to think as a “straight” person was an exercise in frustrating futility. He actually sought to stop thinking, by doing a Yoga that made his mind blank, and it seemed to do him good. Nor did he ever stop believing in the “high” things he’d seen as a mere teenager blitzed on acid, even when he couldn’t see them any more.

He died of cancer of the esophagus, which cut him down in a matter of weeks. One thing I’ll always regret is that we never had a final talk. I hope he didn’t think I’d tell him, “I told you so”, or some such useless thing. Probably not. I think many who die without telling many friends just don’t want to cause others pain. I knew many artists who died of AIDS in the 1980’s who vanished without saying any good-byes.

What would I have liked to talk about, during a final talk with a dying friend? I think it would be the beauty we saw together, even in the process of making the wrong choices. If you focus too much on the wrong choices you only become bitter.

This brings me around to the peculiar agony currently afflicting the so-called “beautiful people” of Hollywood and Washington D.C.  Their raging seems downright demented to me, and a sort of spasm of guilt and a paroxysm of shame, manifesting as disgust and bitterness. Apparently being “beautiful” is not so beautiful, after all.

Harvey Weinstein was seemingly the pebble that started an avalanche.  Behavior which once was seen as “sophisticated” is now called what it always was, “sleazy”.

When I went drifting through California more than thirty years ago I found most people felt the ideas now manifesting were prudish. I know this for I expounded such ideas, and was told I was prudish, wasn’t a realist, wasn’t sophisticated, was naive, didn’t know how the world worked, would never get anywhere, was behind the times, wasn’t hip, and was in fact ugly. I wasn’t one of the “beautiful people.”

What changed things? I think the actual pebble that started the actual avalanche was the election of Donald Trump. Popularity means a lot, (and at times everything), to the Hollywood mindset, and such a mindset is horrified to see popularity shrink in any way, shape or form. To have Hillary Clinton lose,  (despite some glaring voter fraud assisting her), was a message no amount of explanation could deny. What was the message? “You are not popular. You are not seen as beautiful. You are not admired, envied, marketable.”

It is the strangest thing to see the facade crumbling. In some ways it looks like one of those “swings of a social pendulum” you read about, where people run like indecisive lemmings from one cliff to another, basically brainless and merely following the mob. However in other ways it seems like common sense rising up in “flyover country” to inform Hollywood and Washington nobody is really buying their bull.

I think our world has paid a terrible price due to the “trickster” of sex, drugs and greed. It is easy to become bitter, thinking of the pain and the people hurt, like my old best friend. However perhaps it is better to remember that, before the trickster tricked, people were speaking of “Love, Truth and Understanding”, and those things were and are and always will be beautiful things.

What will be interesting to watch is whether people behave like witless lemmings, running from extreme to extreme, or whether they have actually learned anything. For there is such a thing that people develop called “discernment”. I would like to believe that the 48 years since the “Summer Of Love” in 1969 has actually taught the USA a thing or two, and we are moving from producing a First Symphony to producing a Ninth.

In any case, Happy Birthday, to my old friend in heaven.


ARCTIC SEA ICE –An Anti-Ralph–

Even back when we had sea-ice cameras, they tended to go dark this time of year, as did the visual satellite, but even despite that darkness this was (and is) a fascinating time of year at the Pole. The darkness is at its most complete, and we enter sixty days when twilight recedes to the Arctic Circle.

The diurnal effect of temperature, rotating clockwise around our arctic maps, for a time all but vanishes. Even at the edges of the circular maps, where the sun does rise, the sun is so low and the days are so brief that the diurnal rise is slight. In fact Siberia and arctic Canada are better at losing heat than the Pole (because the heat of the ocean radiates up through the sea-ice) and are often colder. Even when a zonal flow keeps air “locked up” at the Pole, frigid air masses can be generated independently over Siberia and Canada, and sweep south to catch the unwary off guard.

Because we are free of diurnal temperature we can become fascinated by other diurnal effects, such as tidal or Barometric effects. (Or at least I can.) For example, what happens to the tidal effect of the sun when it is below the horizon? Does the sea-ice rock to the east and west with tides up at the top of Fram Strait as much in the winter as it does in the summer? If it rocks less does it freeze better?

Having the sun never rise makes it easier to see if warm air is invading from the south. You don’t get fooled by sunshine because there is none. (There are not many times in life it is so easy to subtract the influence of such a major effect.)

Last year I called these influxes “feeder bands” because they seemed to fuel the persistent area of low pressure I dubbed “Ralph”. This year is proving different.  I find it somewhat annoying, because all the nice, neat ways I had of viewing things are made a shambles. But I’ll get over it, for change has a better side: It is fascinating.

We recently had a nice influx of milder air up into the areas above 80° north latitude. While it is nowhere near as impressive as last year’s record-setting plumes, it still shows up nicely on the DMI graph.

DMI5 1120 meanT_2017

Therefore, though I am very busy in other areas of my life, I was of course curious to see if “Ralph” would reappear. In theory the mild air, rising, would create low pressure at the surface.

When I last had time to post on November 14 the “feeder band” extended up through Scandinavia and right across the Pole, curving towards Greenland (seen in the temperature map.) A “Ralph” was forming north of Greenland.


Last year (perhaps due to more potent, milder impulses as an after-effect of the 2015 super-El-Nino) Ralph would have bullied the high pressure off the Pole, but this year the high pressure pushed back. Ralph was squashed west across the Canadian Archipelago, as Atlantic Gales were repressed along their usual west-to-east route, and an Aleutian Low came further north than usual and crossed west-to-east from Siberia to Alaska north of Bering Strait (which seemed to be a pattern this autumn.)

By November 17 the feeder band has broken down, and though the milder air is over the Pole it is cooling quickly.

By November 18 Ralph is a pathetic blip on the Canadian side of the Pole, and the high pressure is expanding. The influx of milder air is still clear in the temperature maps, but cloud-cover maps showed fewer clouds than I’d expect, and very clear skies towards Greenland.

By November 19 the clear skies moved towards the Pole, and the high pressure was pumping up. Where last year the Pole likely lost much heat through uplift and latent heat being released as moisture precipitated out as snow, this year clear skies are allowing radiational cooling. The mildness of the “feeder band” is all but gone from the temperature map. The high pressure is so strong that the next west-to-east Pacific low is crossing Bering Strait further south. (Last years such lows sometimes came right north to the Pole, and I dubbed them Hula-Ralphs.)

By the  20th the high pressure at the Pole is one of the strongest I’ve seen. (Blue is above 1050 mb).

And this morning has me shaking my head. This is about as opposite a “Ralph” as you can get. The clockwise winds on the Atlantic side are effectively cutting off all Atlantic moisture from getting to the Pole, and though mild air is coming north through Being Strait, it is being swept east as an easterly flow that likely will cause the next Pacific storm to take a wrong-way route, along the Siberian coast east-to-west rather than west-to-east.

The current situation is fascinating for a number of reasons. Closest to home, when a high pressure like this has a lobe over Greenland it can breed storms on the east coast of the USA. (Those of you who insist upon using old-fashioned maps, that look at the earth sideways, know such high pressures as “blocking highs”.)

Another switch from earlier pattern is that sea-ice will be pushed down the east coast of Greenland, even as ice forms along the coast due to cold winds. Considering such sea-ice is basically leaving the Arctic to enter the Atlantic, any spike in sea-ice extent it causes is artificial, as the ice will melt by June. (However, if enough goes down the coast, it can cool the Atlantic, which I suppose influences sea-ice extent in some future time.) Ice extents remain well above last year’s.

DMI5 1120 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

It appears that while winds will push ice from around Svalbard and Barent’s Sea southwest into Fram Strait, winds north of the Strait will not be so helpful, and will keep ice from coming south.

A comparison of NRL maps shows much more sea-ice in the north of Barents Sea, and Kara Sea nearly full of sea-ice, which is indicative of the lack of southern surges that made last year so interesting (and pushed so much sea-ice north.) (2016 left; 2017 right)


There continues to be less ice on the Pacific side, but Hudson Bay has started its freeze earlier. It can freeze over with astonishing speed. Susan J. Crockford at reported that the people of Churchill stated the coastal freeze-up was one of the earliest since 1979.

W Hudson Bay freeze-up one of earliest since 1979, not “closer to average”

Lastly, the big high pressure at the Pole will offer me a chance to study the Polar Easterlies, which tend to be ephemeral and elusive, especially when Ralph is around.

Perhaps a good (although simplistic) way to think of the Polar Easterlies is to think of the track of a long lived hurricane. In the tropics it heads east-to-west, in the Trade Winds, but then curves and heads west-to-east in the Westerlies. Usually it transitions to a gale as it comes north, but if that gale gets far enough north it curves back to the west (often preforming a sort of loop-de-loop). That curve back to the west is the Polar Easterlies.

A lot of the time these east winds just seem to be the northern sides of Atlantic or Pacific storms in the Westerlies, but at other times they carry storms along with them (as seen in the case of the very weak version of “Ralph” in the above maps, and also in the Pacific storm which like will move east-to-west on the East Siberian coast this week.)

Also I keep thinking I glimpse some impulse or force moving against the Westerlies at high latitudes. I forget the name I gave it last winter, but I seemed to notice the “feeder bands” that fed Ralph rotated around the Pole in a clockwise manner.

I’m very unsure what I am seeing (or even if it is real) but I am going to keep myself entertained by continuing to scrutinize maps for it, (even if it is a mythical Bigfoot). I think it will be accented by the current Anti-Ralph at the Pole.

(In case you think it foolish to call a high pressure an “Anti-Ralph”, I must confess I have always though it was foolish to call a nice, sunny day an “anticyclone”.  It always seemed sort of like calling sunshine “anti-rain”.)

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and stay tuned!