ARCTIC SEA ICE –Roaring Ralph–

In my last post I showed how low pressure came north right over Greenland, surprising me by retaining its strength despite passing over an icecap 10,000 feet tall. Now the entity I dubbed “Ralph” has reformed over the Pole, and again is surprising me, for despite being cut off from feeder-bands of fuel it is going to retain its identity for a week, according to models. (Usually Ralph’s incarnations fade fairly quickly, or slide south. If the models are wrong it will be because secondary and tertiary lows, forming towards Russia, will tug Ralph in that  direction.) Here is a quick recap of the storm coming north:

The lowest I saw the pressure get was 958 mb, though I was busy on the 18th and it may have dipped lower. WUWT reported two Russian icebreakers were waiting out extreme ice conditions (likely caused by the compression of pressure ridges) in the eastern entrance to Laptev Sea

Russian Icebreakers Stuck in the Arctic Global Warming

I am a bit worried the storm will so mess up the ice that it will be hard for the Russians to find a good location for their blue ice airstrip and their yearly Barneo camp.

Here are more recent maps of Ralph doing what Ralph does, which is to swirl milder-than-normal at the Pole during the coldest and darkest days of the year, where it will be lost to outer space. In the temperature maps you can see Ralph’s “signature”, a distinctive hook of milder air to the Pole.

Of course this makes a spike in the temperatures-north-of-80°-north-latitude graph. (A lot of the cold in Canada is south of 80°).


Ralph’s roaring will also compress the ice north in Barent’s Sea, reducing the “extent” of sea-ice. Between “mild” temperatures and reduced extent the Alarmists will have a lot to make a hoopla about, but what I keep an eye on is how quickly the heat is lost to outer space. (Extra heat is released during the phase changes from vapor to liquid and from liquid to snow.)

To watch the heat be lost (according to the best guess of the GFS model) I like to turn to Dr. Ryan Maue’s maps over at the Weatherbell site. I look at the temperature anomaly maps for the Pole. You can see the anomaly starts out as white heat (actually well below freezing) and then the heat fades, and even some blue below-normal begins to reappear. (These are from yesterday’s GFS, and represent the anomalies yesterday, tomorrow, Monday, and next Thursday.





Perhaps you can see why I describe the heat as “squandered”. It basically gets up there too cooled to do any melting, and then vanishes. This is not to say the sea-ice isn’t getting clobbered. It will be interesting to see what things look like when the light returns. However it does seem our planet is in the mood to lose heat.

Another thing I look for in these maps is where the heat is aiming north; where the “feeder-bands” set up. The second map seems to show one in the Canadian Archipelago, and the last map seems to show Alaska has warmed. The most effective feeds come up through the North Atlantic, but that highway looks effectively closed now. I’d expect Ralph to be starved and fade away, which is why I’m surprised to see Ralph persisting at the Pole in some computer models for over a week. We’ll have to watch that, to see how it pans out.

If work allows I’ll add a few ice-extent maps later.

LOCAL VIEW —Plastered—


Joe Bastardi warned his listeners that the January Thaw might be, to the north, what he calls a “Heck-of-a-way-to-run-a-thaw Thaw”, and Joe was right. I awoke this morning to five inches of the sort of wet snow that sticks to everything in sight, and which settles right before your eyes, becoming ever denser and harder to move. Therefore it it best to move, though your body may not want to budge from bed.

It is better to snowblow five inches of sticky fluff than it is to snowblow three inches of crud that can clog a snowblower. So, before daylight, I was clearing the drive and parking lots of the Farm-childcare, feeling very grateful that the local small-engine-repair fellow did such a fine job repairing the blades of the snowblower the day before.

(I’d hit a fair number of Tonka Trucks with the blower; and bound the blades in miles of kite string, and so and so forth, until the blades were so badly distorted that two actually moved the snow the wrong way, and only a feeble stream got thrown from the blower. My repairman had to heat one blade with a torch, to bend it back to the correct position, but this morning was a hallelujah moment, as the heavy snow arched to a landing twenty yards away.)

By the time I was finishing the night was giving way to the slate blue of a snowy dawn, with the world completely plastered. The wires coming into the Childcare were made, by snow, as thick as my arm:


And every tree was transformed to poetry:


But I was having a bit of a hard time being poetic. The main roads were well treated and merely wet tar, but the side roads were what is best described as “slithery”, with packed snow surfaces, and school was cancelled, which makes for a madness at my Childcare.

It takes a while to figure out who is coming and who is not. Parents who are teachers get to stay home, but nurses have to show up at work at hospitals, and some Dad’s make extra money plowing, so Childcare remains important even when school is cancelled. (In ten years we have only been been closed once, by an ice-storm that knocked out power for ten days and, the first day, made roads completely impassable due to fallen trees.)

One member of the staff texted me from a well-earned vacation in Florida to tell me she missed the beauty of snow. I bit my tongue. For me what is most poetic (at times) is not snow, but rather is the help of my fellow men and women. However I suppose that just makes me a crass capitalist. So be it. I’ve held a lot of jobs in my time, and “crass capitalist” is just one more feather in my bonnet.

After a brief panic, when I feared we’d have too many children, we started getting phone calls from parents in neighboring towns, where two-hour-delays were turning into all-day-cancellations of school, and heard more and more children would be staying home. In the end we only had eight. I decided I’d put them to work rolling snowballs, and we’d build an igloo.

But wouldn’t you just know it? As sticky as the snow was, it simply refused to roll good snowballs. Heck if I can figure out the science involved, but they crumbled to pieces, and it put me in a bad position. As a crass capitalist I’d plotted to put the innocent children to work as serfs, but, as I had foolishly promised them an igloo, it turned out I had to do all the work, with a snow shovel. Apparently I am not only a crass capitalist, but also a stupid capitalist, because, if there was a serf in the situation, it was me.

In any case, when offered a shovel-ready-job I actually know how to handle a shovel, (unlike an outgoing president I will not flatter by naming, who made a hilarity of a “photo-op” where he actually held a shovel, and made it painfully obvious he was uncertain of which end to use.) Also my creative juices get flowing when building any sort of sand castle, though tides (and thaws) have erased all my majestic artworks. I had to deal with an interruption or two, but was getting exercise better than any gym can provide. The interruptions were two distractions.

The first was the kids. I sort of forgot my job was not building an igloo, and rather was caring for kids, so the children felt it was only incumbent on them to dent my consciousness by knocking down the igloo as fast as I could build it.  This forced me to pause, and be a guru giving a spiritual discourse on the difference between “Makers” and “Breakers.” Even after this highly spiritual lecture I faced a problem, because the children then knocked the walls down being “helpful”, and then trampled the bits of fallen wall down inside the igloo to such a degree that the floor of the igloo was rising nearly as fast as the walls. My solution was to kick the children out as I went in, and, by cutting sections of the inner floor and using then as blocks for the wall, we soon had a lower floor, and a higher wall, and a nearly completed igloo.


The second distraction had nothing to to do with snow or winter, but instead had to do with a subject important to children, namely “being first.”

Of course, we have long attempted to teach children it isn’t always best to be first, but kids tend to jam the doorways irregardless, rather than being prim and proper gentlemen and gentleladies, saying, “After you, Alphonse.” In fact, when the roof of the igloo was nearly closed, there was such a battle about who was going to be first to stick their head out the small, remaining hole in the roof, they collapsed part of the roof.

My muscles were starting to ache at that point, so I hope I can be forgiven for not giving any sort of spiritual discourse beyond this one: “Grrrrr.” The kids caught my drift, and gave me some space to finish the roof, but I was thinking maybe I should have been more articulate and poetic than “Grrrr.” Lord Jesus would have said something far more profound than “Grrrr,” something like, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first,” and I confess I was feeling a bit guilty that the best I could manage was, “Grrrr.” And just then a member of my staff pointed out an amazing, second distraction.

One of the most awful and greedy pests in my springtime garden is a worm called the “cutworm.” It is especially annoying because it is so wasteful. All it takes of your plant is one bite, but it is at the very bottom of the stem, and then, “timber!” The entire plant topples over and dies. What a waste!


In actual fact the cutworm is not seen at the surface after committing his crime, as is shown in the wonderful picture above.  (Photo credit: The University of Rhode Island.) You have to dig about in the dirt around your destroyed plant to find the culprit. And, after you locate the worm, you are glad to crush the %#@&, *%@#%  @*%$$@.

I suppose cutworms have their place in the bigger picture of the Creator’s scheme, (called “ecology”,) but, begging the Creator’s pardon, I am not fond of them or their “place in ecology”. They are in some ways the epitome of an attitude that thinks, “The first will be first.” They are in such an immoral hurry they only take one bite, before they duck back down to hide in the dirt. There is some sort of ecological niche for this wasteful strategy. It must pay off, if you are a worm, but, most of the time, I am not a worm.

In any case, I am glad to be able to tell you that sometimes it does not pay for a greedy cutworm, eager to be first, to be first. They can get fooled by a January Thaw. They think they are climbing up through April’s chilled soil, but actually it is January’s wet snow. Then, when they arrive at the surface, they look around for green shoots to bite, but there is nothing to eat. They have made a mistake, and are doomed.

I suppose I should feel sorry for the poor, itty bitty cutworms. I should curse Global Warming, caused by crass capitalists, for depleting the population of cutworms by awaking them too early. Indeed, cutworms perhaps should now be called an “endangered species” and protected.

However, as a crass capitalist, when a member of my staff pointed out that, on the surface of the new-fallen snow, there were cutworms, my response was not politically correct. Rather it was, “Bwah-ha-ha-ha! It serves you right, you stupid, little, selfish cutworms!” And, to confess how sinful I am, I was glad, exceedingly GLAD, that the desire-to-be-first killed those greedy cutworms, and next spring’s garden may be an be ecology devoid of such stinking, little killers.

Of course, I did not mention this to the children. They should be protected from the rabid foaming of a crass capitalist.  Instead I merely competed the igloo by lunchtime.


At this point I figured my shift was done. I went indoors as the children ate lunch, and was amazed (as I usually am) by the trickery of my staff, who had the place completely silent, by instituting a who-can-be-quiet-the-longest competition. Then, as the children settled down to nap, I eyed the clock and, at exactly 12:30, headed home for chicken noodle soup and a nap of my own.

However my siesta was interrupted by the fact a close and elderly friend chose just then to drop dead shoveling a path to his woodpile. My wife, and other loving and caring women, hustled to console the man’s beautiful wife, and I went back to the Childcare to watch the kids. As I watched them I did not oppress them with my grief.  For, though I will surely miss my good friend, I was wryly congratulating him on an excellent exit, and didn’t feel all that much grief.

Just last Sunday, after church, I was prodding the old fellow with questions, hoping for a good tale, and I got one.  He spoke of days when the population of the town was not 5500, but 800, and everyone, even the chief of police, was in bed by nine. This meant a young hotrodder could drive his vehicle at politically-incorrect speeds without much worry of hurting anyone but himself, testing his reflexes and ability. While coming through the center of town at an unspecified speed he had noted that there is a slight rise in the road, which one usually does not notice, but which, under certain conditions, can allow a car to be briefly airborne.

I crossed the same stretch of highway tonight, with temperatures dropping below freezing and in a drizzle of freezing mist, at around fifteen miles an hour. To me it seems incredible one could be airborne at such a place, but I did note there is a slight rise in the highway. I will take my old friend at his word: It is possible to be airborne through the center of town.

In the case of this sort of scientific experiment, “peer review” would involve me replicating the experiments of a hotrodder of the 1950’s. I might be persuaded to try it, but unfortunately our police chief doesn’t go to bed at nine any more.

In like manner, my old friend did all sorts of other experiments that amazed me.  In like manner, they cannot be scientifically replicated. He was one of a kind, as unique as a snowflake.

A day will come when we all must depart, and political correctness will not matter a hill of beans. Accepting that grim fact, where would you chose to die? Grunting during sex? Grunting on a toilet? In a hospital bed with tubes in your arms?

I’d rather die like my old friend. I want my boots on. I want to be out doors, in my own driveway, holding a shovel, looking at plastered trees:







ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ralph’s Recurrent Currents–

Sometimes my ego rears its head, when watching an incredibly beautiful sunrise, and I behave as if I am the one who created it. Usually I am attempting to capture the beauty I am witnessing, and feel I am doing a darn good job, with my poem or watercolor, and a sense of joy and well-being comes over me. Then, even though the sunrise fades away, I feel I have captured it on a sheet of paper. Or I feel that way until I show my work to some practical person who hasn’t yet had their first cup of coffee. Often that person brings me down to earth with a thud in short order, with comment such as, “That was a perfectly good piece of paper until you dirtied it up with all your dratted ink.”

It used to really upset me, when people didn’t see what I could see, but gradually, over the years, my ego grew so punctured it couldn’t puff up so much and be such a problem. Gradually I realized I myself didn’t create the beauty of the sunrise, and, what’s more, even the ability to appreciate the beauty was a gift given to me, and not really mine. Lastly, I realized that my artwork was like a scrawl on tracing paper, a rough facsimile of what I was attempting to copy, and once the sunrise was gone the tracing paper I was left with could never remotely approach the beauty it attempted to match.

In a sense I feel science resembles art, once we are dealing with a subject such as meteorology,  which involves so many variables that we soon are dealing with chaos beyond the ability of even computers to calculate. There are times when, midst the chaos, amazing beauty is revealed to us. Even in the destructive swirls made by a gigantic storm which gathers into concentrated power out of amorphous chaos, beauty appears, and this is especially true when we see a sort of logic and reason in the chaos. We glimpse a simplicity in what is complex, an elegance in what seems random and reasonless,  and it is when a forecaster gets such glimpses he is able to foretell the future. However even his best efforts are like a piece of tracing paper with a scrawl, and is but a crude facsimile of the beauty weather actually is.

Of course, I am seeing meteorology through an artist’s eyes. I simply loved to watch the clouds out the classroom window, and seldom attended to the blackboard. Looking back, I  actually preferred Science class to English class, but there was only a single science teacher in twelve years of school who ever made the blackboard as interesting as clouds. If I have any aptitude towards science at all, it is due to his class, a River Jordan I crossed as a Freshman in high school. If I’d had that teacher for further classes it might have been a fork in my road, and I might have developed different disciplines than I did. As it was school went back to being an exercise in monotony until an English teacher made a blackboard as interesting as clouds, when I was a senior. But what mattered most was the clouds.

As I take notes on what is happening up in the arctic I don’t pretend to be a true scientist. Hopefully I entertain scientists, with my observations, by sketching on tracing paper the beauty which astonishes and refreshes me. What is going on reveals the magnificence of our Creator, and all I am doing is going, “Oh Wow” like a lamebrained hippy. But, sometimes, simply by saying, “Oh Wow”, even the weary and jaded look to see what is worth the fuss, even if they only look to have the fun of belittling it.

I’m fairly certain wise meteorologists, if only they had the capacity to utilize the English language, could do a far better job of explaining what is occurring at the Pole this year, but few do. Therefore, in my mischievous way, I jot down my observations.

I noted a persistent swirl of low pressure lurking around the north Pole, even when the AO was negative, and dubbed the swirl, “Ralph.” Then I nourished a bias that allowed me to focus on where Ralph lurked, even when he was shoved off the Pole, (and even, some would say, he didn’t exist at all.) (A bias is a great toy.)

I also noted Ralph needed pulses of milder and moister air to feed him, and for a time dubbed these “Reinforcements”, and numbered them. Once I got to R-22 or so, I got tired of the math, and just called them “feeder-bands”.

Lastly, I noted these feeder-bands didn’t always come north at the same place, and it began to occur to me that they rotated around the Pole in a clockwise manner, as if they were in the polar easterlies, and amounted to a sort of portal, or hole. I’ve dubbed this portal the “Arcticorf”, (for the “Arctic Orifice”), and am currently nourishing an enjoyable bias which allows me to to see the Arcticorf,  even when it is more or less invisible, and an element of my imagination.

When I last posted the Arcticorf had entered its invisible phase. As it crossed Bering Strait it could send Pacific air north as a “Hula-Ralph”, but then it had to swing clockwise across the vast expanse of Siberia, which has zilch to offer in terms of the warmth and moisture necessary for any sort of decent feeder-band. The power of Ralph continued to try to draw air north, but, lacking any help from the Arcticorf, it split the difference, and you got two feeble attempts, one Pacific and one Atlantic. Then, as the Arcticorf approached Europe, the Atlantic input increased, but the heat leaned towards the coast of Eurasia, and also the storms developed down in the Atlantic and used up heat off the coast of Norway:


(Missed 12z maps)

By January 14 the Arcticorf had managed to create a weak “Ralph” by the Pole, but the gale off the coast of Norway had stolen a lot of the northbound mildness, and therefore the Atlantic “surge” was nothing like the two prior “surges”, as the Arcticorf crossed the Atlantic. In fact the gale off the coast of Norway brought a sort of anti-surge south, and Iceland had its coldest air of the winter.

But here is where it gets interesting. As the Arcticorf completed its crossing of the Atlantic, seemingly blowing its chance to fuel a third “surge” feeder-band,  an amazing storm took an impossible route, right over Greenland, from south to north. We are talking about a massive obstacle, when we talk of Greenland, with a lot of Greenland’s icecap over 10,000 feet tall. However the amazing storm didn’t give a bleep, (obviously due to help from the invisible  Arcticorf):

Now what are we left with? A new incarnation of Ralph, basically fed by a feeder-band that took an impossible route, coming the wrong way up through Fram Strait, and creating a gale with pressures below 960 mb.

I seem to remember that last summer, when we saw a gale with pressures around 960 mb, there was a lot of talk about how it might be the “strongest ever” or “second-strongest ever.”  Well, the current GFS “initial” map shows a dual centered gale with one center down to 958 mb.


And will you look at the winds?  The sea-ice is being shoved and crunched and ground up and pulverized by winds between 20 and 40 knots, over a vast area.

I’ll update this post when I get time, and talk about what satellites can see of the sea-ice in the pitch dark, but for now I feel I should just tap a few shoulders and say, “Hey fellas, I know I’m sort of a clown and buffoon compared to you Oh-so-wise authorities, but maybe you should take my nonsense a bit more seriously. Ralph is back, and he’s back with teeth.

What I would ask you to consider is this: Do you think the current derangement of the sea-ice situation at the Pole is due to a difference of a few molecules per million, between this year and last year, in terms of CO2? Or do you think maybe we should consider the possibility the giant star, that heats the whole bleeping planet, has gone quiet?


LOCAL VIEW –Boys and Mud–

Moths are drawn to light. Boys are drawn to mud.
It really makes me wonder at men’s reasons
For delight. You can sample people’s blood
And study chromosomes, blame the seasons,
Suspect treason, scowl at boy’s hormones
And still you find your logic hits a wall,
For boys find comfort in oozy, brown zones
That are not really comfortable at all.

Don’t I always warn them, “Do not go there”,
But does mischief ever wisely listen?
They sneak to the mire. Mud-balls fill the air.
I shake my head, wondering what I’m missing.

Soon they’re cold and wet, punished for desire,
And must be bathed clean, and warmed by a fire.

I, as a so-called “Child Care Professional”, (AKA “Babysitter”), am suppose to have the patience of a saint, and will never publicly admit I am otherwise. After all, I might lose my customers if I allowed little children to cause me to bust a blood vessel. Instead I smile as if all is sweetness and light. Some parents become downright indignant if they hear their little angel is a little bastard, and the State?  Well, I would lose my licence. Therefore, in public, I am such a saint that I am sometimes surprised I don’t levitate right up into the clouds. But it all a pretense.

When I want to be more honest about my true feelings, I go to church. This surprises some people, who think church itself is a place of pretense. Many people think church-goers are the snooty hypocrites, with holier-than-thou attitudes, but church involves this thing called, “confession of sin.” It springs from the first chapter of the first letter of Saint John, where he states, “If we say that we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  John goes on to state that if we pretend we are perfect we are basically calling Jesus Christ a liar, and that is no way to score points and gain benefits, spiritually.

Therefore, if you are doing church right, you are in essence standing before God naked, with all your hidden blemishes glaringly obvious, and that includes the fact that, although Jesus stated we should “suffer the little children”, there is a secret part of me, (if not you), that deems them little bastards and wants to throttle them.

Not that I can match the animosity of WC Fields towards children. He was famous for his line, “Go away kid, Ya bother me”,  (later used by Bugs Bunny), and he must have touched a nerve the public recognized, for the public roared with laughter as he behaved like the worst “Child Care Professional” imaginable. Here is an example of him caring for his nemesis, “Baby Leroy”, when what he really wanted to do was play golf.


WC Fields might now be arrested for child abuse. Legend states he once grew so frustrated with Baby Leroy throwing tantrums, as they were trying to film, that he put gin in the child’s baby-bottle, (and that the child performed superbly afterwards). I hate to think what would happen to any modern Child Care Professional who tried such a remedy, (though people do currently turn a blind eye, when children get drugged.)

Those were harder times, as may be seen by thinking about the following testimonial to WC Fields by  Leo Rosten in 1939: “The only thing I can say about Mr. W.C. Fields, whom I have admired since the day he advanced upon Baby LeRoy with an icepick, is this: Any man who hates dogs and babies can’t be all bad.

This is complete and utter blasphemy, in the modern world of a Child Care professional. It just goes to show you that Hollywood was back then as it is now, (IE: inhabited by people who will clap and cheer at statements that will make people slightly ill, outside that particular, Hollywood, space and time).

In any case, I do like dogs and babies, which I suppose proves I can’t be all good. However, as is the case with all affection, there are thorns on the roses. Lord Jesus would not have said we should “suffer” the little children if the little angels didn’t sometimes make you want to scream.

For example, just focus on the fence rail in the background of the picture below:


I replaced that rail today, (you can dimly see the pressure-treated replacement rail on the ground), and I think it is the twentieth rail I have replaced. I made a mistake, when we opened our Farm-Childcare, because I thought the Childcare would be a brief episode in the farm’s history, as we paid our way towards being a farm that focused on organic produce and goat’s milk. Therefore when I built the fence for the playground I bought the cheaper, untreated rails, though I bought pressure-treated posts. It saved me five hundred dollars back then, and would have been a good idea if we only ran the childcare three or four years, but now it is a decade later and a  major problem, because pine that is not treated with chemicals does not stand up well to rot. (The rails are sound except at the place where they join to the post. That is where the rot sets in.)

Now, despite the weakness of the rails, the rails would hang in there a lot longer if children would obey the rules, and not climb them. They have all sorts of climbing toys, and I also let them climb trees out in the woods more than my wife likes, but when it comes to the rails of the fence, I stand like Moses and command in a deep, booming voice, “Thou shalt not climb the rails!”

But there is one young fellow who doesn’t care a hoot about Moses. He has some gene that makes him inclined to climb fence rails, no matter what. He did so, and broke three rails, at age three. He did so, and broke five rails, at age four. Furthermore, for every time he was reprimanded for actually breaking rails, there are countless times when he was sternly reprimanded for climbing rails when they didn’t break.  Let’s call it 207 times, for the sake of this discussion.

After the first hundred times or so I got a bit exasperated, and the young fellow was punished with a “time out”, especially when the rails actually broke. He was undeterred. The young fellow seemed to figure the odds were against the rails breaking, because they only broke 8 times and didn’t break 207 times. The odds were with him, as he played this Russian roulette, until the rail pictured above broke, and he hurtled backwards and slammed his innocent skull on the frozen ground.  Then his wailing woke the bears.

At this point I think one is expected to rush up and say, “Oh deary me, did the itty bitty boy get a boo boo?” But I am more inclined to walk up with a grim face, and to hold the tearful child’s cheeks in my palms, and to check to make sure the pupils are not crossed or unequally dilated, and, once I am certain there is no brain damage, to ask an amazingly politically incorrect question, namely, “How many times have I told you not to climb those rails?”

What I actually said will remain a mystery, for I don’t want any lurking lawyers to see an opportunity for a lawsuit. I figure I’d lose a lawsuit, as a lawyer would insist I was to blame for not having a perfect fence. Such lawyers think they are a benefit to society by making people find remedies to potential hazards, but I think they are a benefit to insurance companies. Life has more hazards than before, because such lawyers are a hazard, and people are poorer after paying liability insurance, and can’t afford to fix fences.

In the real world, I am eye to eye with a young male who is recognizing I am a worthy adversary, who actually teaches there is such a thing as “accountability”.  There is such a thing as reaping-what-you-sow, such a thing as action-and-reaction, and such a thing as slamming your head on the frozen ground if you ignore the advice of tiresome grown-ups.

Many parents do not agree with my ideas about “accountability”. They make babies and hand them to me, because they have no time to raise their own children. Both parents must work long hours to pay for huge houses they seldom inhabit, to purchase wide-screen TV’s they seldom watch, to buy two amazing cars that commute ten thousand miles a year just to pay for the vehicle, and, lastly, to afford downloading their children onto a cantankerous old coot like me, who actually does like children and dogs.

The hypocrisy involved in the above paragraph is, to me at least, beyond surreal. It is downright splendid.

To return to the subject: In the above photograph, besides the busted fence-rail in the background, you may notice some mud in the foreground. That mud happens to be what, year after year, I work to make lawn, and which, year after year, I tell small children not to tread upon, when conditions become muddy, and which, year after year, children turn into a quagmire that kills the turf I have labored long and hard to establish.

Not that I really care all that much about lawns. I’ve made a lot of money caring for other people’s lawns, but have little time to fuss about my own. But this small area, at the entrance to my place of business, is important not only in terms of my image, but also because if it becomes a quagmire all sorts of slop gets tracked indoors, and my staff has to work overtime cleaning.

Therefore I not only lecture small children to take the long-way-around the area, but I erect barriers of stakes and tape to protect those few square feet of turf, but children are children, and “the shortest distance between two points breaks the law”.  I got tired of being upset all the time, and now take it for granted that the turf will be destroyed on a yearly basis.

Usually that happens in Mud-Season, which is in late March or early April, in New Hampshire.  However this year we are experiencing a full-blown “January Thaw”, which creates a short mud-season in the dead of winter.

A full-blown “January Thaw” makes me nervous, because in my long experience it means winter will come roaring back with a vengeance. [As a teen (in the 1960’s) I recall taking my shirt off to sunbathe by a reservoir in late January, while walking home from school, and then, when I got home, complaining to my mother’s “cleaning lady” about the lack of snow. I still recall the way the wise woman turned and spoke with great authority: “This sort of thaw breeds big snows.” And she was right. We got clobbered that February.]

Therefore I should be repairing my snow-blower and moving firewood onto the porch, making ready for feet of snow, and the last thing I want to spend my time doing is to remind little children over and over and over to stay out of the soft turf by the walkway.

But, of course, kids are not as far-sighted as I am.  They see mud as interesting stuff.  I mean, look at it, by the walkway:


Don’t you just want to dig your hands into it and make a mud-ball?

Probably not, because you are old and stodgy. But, if you were a boy, you would, even if it was forbidden.

The above picture was far darker a day earlier, as the warm air streamed north and the rain poured down. Darkness was already deepening as the children poured off the school bus at my Farm-Childcare. The above mud was wetter, and more oozy.

My job, at that point, was to stand in the screen-porch and intercept certain children, predominantly boys, who should not go indoors. They had already spent far too much time indoors in rows of desks in classrooms, listening to a droning teacher, and could not have possibly withstood it for six hours without being drugged, but now the medication was wearing off.

To take such children indoors is an exercise in insanity, in my humble opinion.  If you attempt it, you see them bounce off the walls and things get broken. Therefore I make them don proper rain-gear, and we go out into the downpour, and they go wonderfully nuts.

Unfortunately there are certain parents who utter limp-wristed statements such as, “I never thought you’d go outside in today’s rain.”  How the heck they can say this, after enrolling their child in an “outdoors oriented” childcare, which uses the old Swedish motto, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” is beyond me. In any case, some kids arrive in summer dry-weather clothing, and I have to dress them in “loaner” clothing before we can go out to do the neat stuff we do in rainy weather.

This creates a brief gap between the time the children get off the bus, and the time we head out. During this time I am identifying the children wearing short sleeve shirts, and hustling indoors to find them a “loaner” raincoat.  Each time I leave the children unsupervised is likely grounds for a lawsuit, for they sure as heck are up to mischief.

I zipped indoors to grab a raincoat for a whining boy who complained “I have no jacket”. Upon my return I witnessed an amazing thing you cannot see, in the above picture of the attractive mud by the entrance to my Childcare. What I saw was boys wearing mittens scooping up mud.

I likely blurted some dumb question such as, “Didn’t I say to stay out of that mud?” An eight-year-old who likely will grow up to be a lawyer replied, “You said we could not walk on it, but we are not using our feet.”

I was in a hurry, and didn’t have time to think up a profound response, and merely growled,  “I don’t care. Stay away from the mud!” Then I rushed in to find “loaner” boots for a child who arrived in sneakers.

I swear it was less then a minute before I returned to find the children who obeyed me were plastered by mud thrown by the ones who disobeyed.

This mud-ball fight likely has symbolic significance,  for it shows that those who obey wind up muddy, while those who disobey get the pleasure if hurling mud. I may write a sonnet using that theme. However I had no time for sonnets. Instead I had seven wailing children who all wanted to go in and get washed.

There was no way I was allowing the little slobs in my nice, clean Childcare. Instead we headed away into the purple day, where fog we call “a snow-eater” was streaming above the shrinking snow-pack. I figured that if they kept wailing we’d turn back, but once we got moving the wailing ceased as if a switch was clicked. Wet snowballs began flying. At first the snowballs were a bit brown, but very quickly the weather and play cleaned the mud off the boys.

The only person who seemed at all cold was me. In the woods I had cut some pine boughs, and the boys hauled them about constructing a shelter of sorts, as the day darkened to a purple evening, and then my cellphone began chirping, as the staff texted me that parents were arriving. We all went trooping cheerfully back, washed by the rain, and more mellow than before, now that the pent-up energy was expended.

Of course, when we got back to the mud at the front walkway, one lad just had to impress his young mother by taking a big jump dead center into it, splashing some mud onto the legs of her fashionable pants.  All she did was speak his name in a pained voice, and then turn to me and sigh, “His medication is wearing off.”

I wanted to say, “Mud makes a better medicine.”

Instead I said, “Moths are drawn to light. Boys are drawn to mud.”

And that is how a sonnet began.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Greenland Anomaly–

One very interesting aspect of the floods of milder air surging up to the Pole the past fall involves the fact that on the western side the winds have often been south on the east coast of Greenland, where winds are usually north. This creates all sorts of confusion, in the contentious world of sea-ice debates, as the south winds have effects counter-intuitive to what I would initially expect,  (which is that south winds are warm winds and lead to less ice.)

It is undeniable that a lot more mild air headed up to the Pole than we have ever seen, since records began to be kept in 1958. The temperatures-north-of-80°-latitude is quite impressive, in terms of warmth as winter approached.


There was a lot of Alarmist hoopla about this warmth, as there should be, as it represents a change in usual patterns. I have talked about how the Quiet Sun might be the cause, rather than CO2, in prior posts, but prefer to think in new directions in this post.

One graph I would like to see produced is a graph of temperatures between 70° and 80° north latitude, as well as one for temperatures between 60° and 70° north latitude. The trouble with the above graph is that it is focused in the center of the Arctic Sea, and many times this past autumn the coldest temperatures were around the edges. In fact the coldest temperatures, well below normal, were south of 70°, especially in Asia, where records for cold were set. Therefore the above graph is not seeing the big picture.

However the above graph does demonstrate an “unpresidented” (since 1958) surge of milder-than-normal air was brought up to the Pole. (When  we say “mild” we need to remember “normal” on the Arctic Sea is -30°C, and therefore temperatures can be twenty degrees above normal, and still cold enough to form sea-ice.)

The primary cause of reduced sea-ice extent has not been the lack of ice forming, but rather that the thin skim of ice at the edges has been smashed north by the strong south winds both in Barents Sea and in Bering Strait. (At times those winds have been above freezing when they first arrive at the Pole, but the primary reason for the retreat of the ice is that it is smashed north. After all, when the ice first forms it is only inches thick, and we are talking about gales with waves 15-25 feet tall.) As soon as the winds shift to the north the sea-ice expands south with remarkable speed, amounting to many miles each day, but then it just as swiftly retreats north again when winds turn south again.

It is good fun to watch those who cheer the growth of ice and those who cheer the reduction of ice, because their mood swings can be tremendous in such situations. I guess you could call them bipolar (Ha ha).

In actual fact the “surge” creates all sorts of changes that are somewhat hideously complicated, involving changes in the amount open water, the structure of that water, the currents of that water, and the structure of the ice atop that water when it at last forms. Allow me to quickly list some, as they occur to me, off the top of my head.

A.) Open water loses more heat than ice-covered water, and therefore the water may be at a lower temperature when it is finally frozen over.  This means a lot, for most melting comes from beneath, the following summer, and waters even a half degree colder will melt the ice more slowly.

B.) Protected waters are able to stratify, and layers of milder but less saline water can move considerable distances north, to hasten the melt the next summer. However wind-churned waters are less able to stratify, not only due to turbulence at the surface, but also because when the wind shifts to a frigid direction and the water is cooled and frozen with great speed, plumes of saline, super-cooled water sink.

C.) Regarding the sinking waters, if they are sinking in areas where not much sinking usually occurs, (for example further north when water is open further north), it disturbs the ordinary flow, and makes a mess of my nice, neat charts.

D.) Regarding the flow and my nice, neat charts, having water exposed to strong winds allows surface waters to, at times, move opposite to the ordinary flow of more usual currents. On occasion this can transport ice as well, and if the ice melts it cools the water in its new location, as well as making the water less saline. (A good example occurred last winter in Fram Strait, where usually a cold current drives south, carrying ice down the east coast of Greenland, as a warm current drives north on the east side of the Strait, keeping the west side of Svalbard ice-free. However last winter unusual west winds shifted masses of ice across Fram Strait, from the cold west side to the warm east side, where the ice swiftly melted, reducing the sea-ice extent but greatly cooling the warmer current, even to a point where sank beneath northern waters further south than usual.)

E.) A final effect of the “surge” is increased precipitation, which is almost always snow during the winter. The Pole is described as a “desert”, and often sea-ice has very little snow on top of it. Increased snow has contrary effects, making the ice less-thick during the winter because the snow insulates the sea-water under the ice and keeps the ice from thickening, but during the summer snow reflects the sunshine and slows the thinning of the ice, (and also, even when it finally turns to slush under the 24-hour-sunshine, it uses up a lot of available heat, turning it into latent heat during the phase change from solid to liquid.)

F.) I’m sure there are other complexities I’ve forgotten. (Evaporation on open waters springs to mind.)

It is the subject of increased precipitation that has grabbed my interest today. I’ve read several Alarmist posts about how mild it has been up in Svalbard, and how the waters around the island are all but ice-free, but I’ve read little about the effect all the moist air, and its result snow, will have.

For one thing, any snow that falls on land seems to be dismissed from most Alarmist calculations, concerning the albedo of ice and its ability to reflect sunlight during the melt season. Currently there is no or very little sunlight to reflect to the north, and to the south above-normal snows are reflecting a lot of sunshine, but I see no calculating being done on how this could be cooling the planet.

Secondly a great deal of stress is put on Greenland’s icecap melting away, by some Alarmists. The “surge” is not having that effect.

The “surge” has at times extended to the east coast of Greenland,  and this indeed does reduce the ice-extent graph, for the southbound current on Greenland’s east coast is slowed or even briefly stopped (at the surface) by southerly gales. The sea-ice that flows down that coast is slowed, and this reduces the “extent”. However that leaves more ice to the north to make extent’s higher next summer. (I should note that the “surge” has also been mild enough to slow the growth of “home grown ice”, which does not come from the northbut grows in place, along Greenland’s east coast.)

However the “surge” has also blown huge amounts of moisture inland in Greenland. Wven south winds accomplish this, but the passage of gales up the coast (part of the surge) has turned those winds southeast and even due east. The snowfall over southeast Greenland has greatly increased the amount of the “icecap”.


In fact, just as the mild temperatures at the Pole are “unprecedented”, so too is the yearly increase of mass atop Greenland accumulated at an “unprecedented” rate.


I should mention Greenland is shaped like a bowl, and the icecap makes it like an overfilled bowl. Ice cannot “slide” off Greenland any more than ice can “slide” out of a bowl of ice-cream (unless you mistakenly fill your bowl when it is upside down). Most ice escapes Greenland’s bowl because it is heaped up to over 10,000 feet high, which creates such pressure that it is squeezed between the mountains around the edge as massive glaciers that reach the sea.

Judging from the above graph Greenland is in no danger of melting. If anything it is increasing, and the glaciers around the edge will be exuding more and not less ice. The only hope the Alarmists have is to point out places where the ice extends out to sea, for if the ice is exuded faster then more great icebergs will break off, and Alarmists can point at them and draw the wrong conclusions.



ARCTIC SEA ICE –A Third Surge–(With Updated Update late Thursday night.)

I should begin by mentioning the sun has gone spotless for 31 days, using the “layman’s count”, (which doesn’t include sun-specks that would not have been visible with older telescopes.)


Although for years I have heard Alarmists state that the variations in the sun’s output are not enough to cause variations in our weather here on earth, I have seen too many  studies that suggest otherwise, to swallow the idea that the only thing influencing our weather is CO2.  (Exhibit A is the coincidental matching up of the Maunder Minimum with the Little Ice Age).

I should also state I do not think we really understand the engineering involved. It seems hideously complex to me, and to involve a lot more than visible light. The number of cloud partials created by cosmic rays changes, the chemistry of Ozone in the upper atmosphere is effected by shifting levels of infrared radiation (or is it ultraviolet?), and even the frequency of volcanic eruptions at high latitudes increases (due to things I can’t fathom.)

In some ways a Quiet Sun is a wrench in the works of our efforts to comprehend various actions and reactions we thought we were starting to get a handle on. Various cycles and oscillations now are liable to go out of sync,  with the addition of a new factor. (For example, I’ve been waiting patiently for the AMO to move into the second half of its sixty year cycle, where it switches from “warm” to “cold”, but I confess to a certain unease, because the Quiet Sun may mess it all up.)

It was while straining to get my little mind around the enormity of the factors involved that I found myself becoming increasingly aware what a small factor CO2 is, in the totality of the scheme of things. Water is by far the most dynamic and vital greenhouse gas, and is so quick to respond that it likely erases any effect a slight alteration of a trace gas like CO2 has.

However the trivial effect of a rise of  four molecules per million of CO2 in the atmosphere is not trivial in the minds of Alarmists. Sometimes it seems they see absolutely everything as being caused by CO2. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, CO2 is to blame. And therefore, even if CO2 doesn’t effect the physical atmosphere, it sure does effect the mental atmosphere of science and art and politics and even Superbowl parties.

Therefore I am nervous about the hoopla likely to arise when the effects of the Quiet Sun start to manifest, for, as certain as winter follows fall, every cotton-picking thing the Quiet sun causes will be ascribed to CO2. The Alarmists simply will not be able to help themselves. They have been expecting things to go haywire, and therefore when things do go haywire they will congratulate themselves and feel certain they know the cause, when they  don’t. (It is a bit like the mother of ten who stated she knew the cause of pregnancy was pink champagne.)

In any case 31 days without a sunspot is something to sit up and take note of. The sun is most definitely going “Quiet”.

One effect of less energy coming from the sun may be less energetic winds, which produces an effect quite contrary to  what one might expect, namely: Warmer waters.  It is when the Trade Winds get strong that the warmer surface waters get pushed west to Australia, and there is up-welling from the cold deeps off the coast of Peru, and we see the cooler temperatures of a La Nina. When those winds weaken the milder surface water sloshes back east towards Peru and we get the warmer temperatures of an El Nino. Considering the last El Nino was warmer than expected and the current La Nina is not as cool as expected, the Trade Winds would seemingly be the culprit and be weaker, but of course Alarmists immediately blame CO2, not the Quiet Sun.

Then, as soon as you have warmer tropics against a general background of a cooler planet, you can get some rip roaring winds going, further to the north, and also the jet stream may become more loopy, to transport the excess heat north and bring things towards the elusive balance the planet can never achieve (because the sunhine keeps seasonally flipping back and forth from Pole to Pole.) (They haven’t blamed CO2 for that…….yet.)

The loopy (meridional) jet stream has brought a lot of mildness up to the Pole this year, including two remarkable “surges” I have described in these notes, and now it looks like a third is trying to set up.

When I last posted the general area of low pressure I called “Ralph” has at long last been pushed off the Pole by high pressure I dubbed Fred.  The question was whether Fred could hold his ground, and allow some cold air to build over the Pole, or would a new incarnation of Ralph manifest with more mild air rushing north to be squandered to the depths of the arctic night. Right off the bat a pacific “Hula-Ralph” appeared and drew a feeder-band north of Alaska, and Fred slowly backed towards western Russia and weakened.


Fred did manage to keep a north Atlantic gale from coming north, but as that storm sank southeast through Scandinavia it pumped high pressure in its wake, and that high pressure slid swiftly to Scandinavia and, on its west side, south winds began to create a new “surge”.  In that surge low pressures began to pop up.

Meanwhile very strong high pressure grew on the Pacific side, and between that high and what was left of Hula-Ralph and the new Atlantic lows a strong cross-polar-flow began to develop from Siberia-to-Canada. This was a complete reversal of the Canada-to-Siberia flow of only a few days earlier.

By January 7th some purple can be seen on the coast of the Laptev Sea, in the temperature map, representing -50°C air pouring off the Tundra. Close to the surface this air is swiftly warmed, for the Arctic Sea is at -1.9°C, just the other side of ice only around 5 feet thick, and compared to -50°C that is like a warm radiator. However not much higher up the air is not warmed much, and it is never good news for North America to see purple in the Laptev Sea and a cross-polar-flow.

Today’s map shows a string of Atlantic lows feeding into the Pole, plus some new Pacific air coming in from the other side. Ralph is back, and the planet continues to squander its reserves of warmth.

The pause between surges did allow temperatures in the Central Arctic to dip with five degrees of normal, but now we shall see if this surge can raise them, and generate more Alarmist hoopla.


The extent graph shows a new dip, caused by the erosion of ice in Bering Strait due to the invasion of Hula-Ralph.


Between now and the maximum the ice that forms is outside the Arctic Sea, and is fleeting stuff that never lasts very long into the spring. The place most interesting to watch will be Barents Sea. The Atlantic surges have made it hard for ice to expand south there, and Svalbard is experiencing a nearly ice-free winter so far. (I’ve seen Alarmist headlines focusing there.)


While there is likely to be all sorts of hoopla about the edges of the ice, and how that effects the extent graph, what I am interested in is whether the “surges” will cause the ice to be thinner.  To me it seems only logical that the imports of milder air should make the ice thinner, (though it might increase the depth of the snow on top of that ice.)

Below is a comparison with last year, at this date. 2016 is to the left and 2017 to the right.

The ice definitely looks thinner on the Pacific side and north of the Canadian Archipelago (except right by the shore), but there is a tongue of thicker ice this year from the Pole towards the New Siberian Islands that is a bit of a surprise to me. I’ll need to think about that.

In earlier posts I’ve commented that when a surge rushes up to the Pole a sort of “backwash” occurs further south. The “Ice Age Now” site is a gold mine of stories about the current “backwash”.

I like this picture of Istanbul, Turkey:


I’ll likely update later, after I research the Sahara. What is a sea-ice post without a mention of the Sahara? I did notice the cold front marking the edge of the “backwash” was getting down that way, a couple days ago:


Notice in the above map it is warmer in Scotland than in Sicily. Scotland is in the “surge”, and Sicily in the “backwash.”









Across the Pond, in North America, a record-setting cold wave has broken, with the arctic outbreak surging all the way to the Carolina’s with sub zero temperatures (-17°C), only, like a big wave followed by a big undertow, to be followed by a surge of mild air up the east coast of the USA. This “January Thaw” is likely the next “surge” headed up to the Pole, as the pattern remains meridional.


Temperatures where I live in New Hampshire have risen from -2°F (-19°C) two days ago to 41°F (+5°C) this morning. As the warm air pushed north we had a brief blast of heavy wet snow, and the roads were treacherous last night, but this morning it is sunny and breezy and the wet roads are nearly blinding when you need to drive into the low sun. I am enjoying the mildness while I can, because I don’t trust this back-and-forth weather at all. I can recall two winters back when I was a teenager (1960’s) when we had January Thaws so mild I was able to take off my shirt and sunbathe, and both were followed by major snowstorms in February. (One being the “Hundred Hour Snow”.)


I’ve had to attend to “important stuff”, which basically boils down to worldly responsibilities (yawn) that one cannot neglect without spiritual repercussions and even spiritual harm. So only now can I stay up late and try to catch up on the cloud-watching I have missed. It amounts to dreaming, so I don’t think it will hurt me all that much if I miss a little sleep.

The “backwash” is a huge distraction. I am suppose to be focused on Sea-ice but the snows that have fallen on the islands of Greece are amazing. Postpone your vacation there, until further notice.

There is other interesting “backwash” news as well, which you can study if you visit the “Ice Age Now” site. But I need to grit my teeth and discipline my mind to focus on the Pole.

The problem is that, though this post is suppose to be about a “third surge”, so far the surge has been a bit of a dud. To really generate sensationalist headlines you need arctic temperatures (in places) thirty degrees above normal, but the best we can seem to manage (so far) is a lousy seven degrees above normal.


In case you are wondering why seven degrees above normal is no big deal, you should understand the green line in the above graph describes more ordinary and “zonal” conditions at the Pole, when conditions are basically windless and cold air can sink and pool as high pressure. As soon as it gets more windy the air gets more “mixed” and temperatures jump. Therefore to be seven degrees above normal when, rather than “zonal”, conditions are “meridional”, is nothing to write home about. In fact it is a bit boring.

How could this happen to me? I am being embarrassed by this unruly weather!  Here I go to all the trouble of posting a blog with a sensationalist headline, and the weather can’t even bother to do the decent thing, and obey me? What gives?

To find out, I suppose I should look at the maps.

When I began this post we had a lovely train of Atlantic lows training up in what I call “Ralph’s signature hook” to the Pole:

What I failed to notice was in the temperature map. The relatively mild air was not heading straight up to the Pole, but was deflected east along the shores of Siberia.

(Missed Map)

The above map shows a low exploding off the coast of Norway, which involves more heat not making it to the Pole.

In order to visualize the warmth being used up off the coast of Norway, and not making it up to the Pole, it is helpful to look at the UK Met map:


All the pink fronts in the above maps are “occlusions” which are, in the simplified world of North American weather, basically the warm sector of our tidy weather systems lifted off the ground. Across the Pond, they seldom have tidy weather systems, which likely explains why their better forecasters never have time to comb their hair and look slightly demented. (I call the above map more of a mess than a map.) All I can deduce is that a heck of a lot of milder air never made it to the Pole, and instead is wound up in occlusions off Norway’s coast.

Also the above maps show that the North Atlantic lows have established a more normal north-to-south flow in Fram Strait, and sea-ice can finally progress down the east coast of Greenland.  As was pointed out by the blogger “Fred4d” in the comments of this post, truly cold air is finally getting down to Iceland.


However the cold is transient, and just as temperatures where I live went from -2°F to 55°F, the slug of mild air passing over me now will reach Iceland by Sunday:


While this mildness is coming north over the Atlantic, the actual center of the low will crash into Greenland, and transit the over-10,000-foot-tall icecap through what I call “morphistication”, and continue on to be the next incarnation of “Ralph” at the Pole. (If you can believe computer models, that is.)

If this actually happens, it will add to the unreal, “unprecedented” snows they’ve been having on Greenland, which had been experiencing a lull:greenland-1-20170112-accumulatedsmb

Furthermore, it will add to my wonder: I’m puzzled by the fact some of these surges make no headway, and wind up as a tangle of occlusions off the coast of Norway, while the next surge finds the 10,000-plus icecap of Greenland no problem whatsoever and (if the models are correct) traipses right up to the Pole.

Some talk of “blocking high pressure”, but my imagination is thinking about something that doesn’t allow a block, and rather offers an opening. I decided it needed a name, and decided to dub this figment of my imagination an “Arcticorf”. (Short for “Arctic Orifice”.)

Now, we are accustomed to think of storms moving west to east, in the Westerlies, but when they get far to the north we notice over and over they screech to a halt and do a little loop-de-loop, before they fade and our attention is diverted to the south, to a secondary on their cold front. However why do they screech to a halt?  I assume it is because they have left the Westerlies, and are into the rather tenuous Easterlies that irregularly rotate clockwise around the Pole.

The “Arcticorf” is a nebulous opening rotating clockwise around the Pole in the Easterlies (in my imagination) that allows storms to penetrate the Easterlies and reach the Pole, or even continue right across the Pole.

How to test this theory out? Well, lacking the fabulous amounts of money granted to people who are politically correct, I merely keep track of when and where the “feeder bands” of warmth, (in a meridional pattern) make it north to feed the next reincarnation of “Ralph”.  And indeed, the “feeder bands” seem to rotate clockwise around the Pole (and run into problems when crossing the vastness of moisture-less Siberia, but then reappear once they reach the Atlantic).

I am fully aware of how bias will cause me to see what I want to see, but feel I should note that, while the “Arcticorf” was crossing Siberia, the “surge” could not penetrate to the Pole, however, (if computer models are correct), the next surge will have no problem, just when the “Articorf” reaches the Atlantic and makes it possible.

Just sayin’.




LOCAL VIEW –Sweeping the Flue–

One thing I learned early, seemingly by osmosis, was how to lay a fire and have it burn cleanly, with a minimum of smoke. I could differentiate between tinder and kindling and biscuit wood and logs before the age of five, and came close to burning the house down on two occasions by conducting experiments in the back yard. (In other words, I also learned how NOT to lay a fire.)

In learning how to lay a fire correctly, and during the punishments I received after laying fires incorrectly, I caught tidbits of advice that likely were hundreds of years old, dating back to when white men were the minority in New England.

I had five male ancestors aboard the Mayflower, (four Pilgrims, and a member of the crew who decided to stay).  That is a fairly good percentage, considering there were only 102 people who came, and only 52 survived the first winter. Many of the skills they brought from Europe were useless in the harsher environment of New England, and were it not for the help of Squanto, (an Indian who had actually lived in London and spoke English well), they likely would have perished. Among many other things, they learned how to lay a fire and have it burn cleanly.

One important reason for a smokeless fire was that the Indians had various feuds going on, despite the fact a pandemic had horribly reduced the local population by some 90%. Because of these feuds it was unwise to let anyone know where your camp was. A smokey fire would let a foe far away see exactly where you  were camped.

(The very first treaty the Pilgrims made, with the Indians who helped them, included a clause which stated the Pilgrims would side with those Indians, in any war with neighbors. So it is wrong to say Europeans brought war to New England.)

In any case, in four years it will be 400 years since that group landed, and can you guess how many Americans can now find a person who was on the Mayflower in their family tree? Estimates range between 20 and 30 million, (of all races). It just goes to show you how a small group of determined people, willing to sacrifice everything for the Almighty, can have enormous repercussions.

Of course, by the time I was a young boy all sorts of decadence had crept in, and much of the fierce determination that the Pilgrims (and the following flood of Puritans) called everyday, natural, normal and even habitual,  was deemed laughable. However odd echoes came to me down through the long hallways of time, and one of these was that a cleanly burning fire hid the location of your camp from your enemies.

I think I was around five or six when I learned this. It is an odd thing to be learning, in 1958 or 1959, when the greatest threat was A-bombs falling from the sky. A cleanly burning campfire offers little protection, in such cases.  All the same, I learned how to make a fire burn cleanly.

One thing you learn during this education is that smoke is basically fire which hasn’t ignited. A cleanly burning fire is a fire which ignites all it’s smoke.

Smoke can therefore be seen as a waste of potential fire. Any smoke going up your chimney is fire that could have heated your home, but instead is being wasted. Because wasting anything was an anathema to my Pilgrim and Puritan ancestors, their frugality demanded fires burn cleanly. (Even 150 years later Benjamin Franklin was inventing an afterburner for chimneys, on the second floors of houses, to burn the smoke from the downstairs fire.)

Lastly, any smoke that rises up your chimney will only remain gaseous at high temperatures.  As it cools it condenses to liquid tars and then solidifies to creosote. Where this is most likely to happen is where the inner wall of the chimney goes from warm, inside the house, to cold, where it pokes up into the bitter blasts of winter gales.

At that point, where the inner wall of a chimney turns from warm to cold, deposits of creosote can build a sort of collar of glassy black shapes, sometimes strange and intricately formed, ever inward, slowly choking the amount of smoke that can rise up the chimney. This greatly increases the danger of a chimney fire, (where the creosote catches fire inside the chimney) and also can make the stove smoke inside the house, but the worst sin of a clogged chimney is that it reduces the fire’s “draw”, which makes it harder for the fire to burn cleanly and efficiently.  It becomes a vicious cycle; the more the chimney is clogged the worse the fire’s draw is, which makes the fire smoke more, which clogs the chimney more.

As I said, I learned all this stuff by a sort of osmosis as I grew up, even though for most of my youth my parents were very wealthy, and I lived in an affluent suburb.  Early on I think I just owned the super-sensitivity of the very young, and was hearing Puritan echoes my parents didn’t even know they were transmitting, and then later on I think I was catching some of their anxiety about the possibility of a nuclear war. They had the urge to be self-sufficient when the bomb fell and the deliveries stopped.  They built a coal-bin beside the back door and filled it with coal, (in case we couldn’t get heating oil), and had a large garden in the back yard, and cabinets with stores of vegetables in glass canning jars my mother filled, and they even planned a bomb shelter in the basement (but never built it). (I found this all very exciting and could hardly wait for the war to start.)

My mother even went so far as to have the three big chimneys of the rambling,  three-story Victorian mansion swept, because they likely hadn’t been swept once, since the house was built after the Civil War, (because its original wealthy owners used it as a summer house (it had no insulation) in “the Weston hills”, and went trotting twenty-five miles back to Boston when the weather grew wintry.) I recall my fascination over the fact that the sweep’s modern (for 1961) equipment included a vacuum cleaner to suck cinders up the chimney as they swept, and it was so powerful it practically moved the furniture in the rooms below.

Then we abruptly we were poor, as my parents separated and went through a fight about money that basically ruined them both, but made psychiatrists and lawyers fatter. During that time I cut wood with my older brother in the yard, in an attempt to lower the heating bills by heating the huge home with wood. It was a hopeless situation, and I suppose I should have been embarrassed about what the neighbors might have been saying about us, but I actually thought it was sort of neat to chop wood and have fires blazing in all our fireplaces. As I split wood I sung lumberjack songs in the shrill voice of an eleven-year-old.

Then my mother remarried and we were rich again,  and heating with wood should have become a thing of the past, but it didn’t. I was not as wealthy as my father or stepfather, and was in fact very downwardly mobile. Also the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970’s made heating-with-wood a topic all young liberals became conversant in, and, because I was so downwardly mobile, I tended to be the guy who stacked it, and occasionally even the fellow who cut it.

I continued downward because, as a young artist, it was my duty to scorn materialism, put art first, and never work a Real Job unless I absolutely had to, but perhaps I took this to an excess even for an artist. I felt the more I suffered the richer I’d someday be, and horrified friends and family by sleeping in my  car in the winter, and living in campgrounds during the summer. Of course living in campgrounds furthered my education, concerning heating and cooking with wood, though being so impoverished never did make me rich. It also made me a bad prospect, as a husband, and, because I had no stomach for one-night-stands, I became a lonely man, who sat around campgrounds reading and scribbling, awaiting the day my genius would be discovered and I’d become fabulously wealthy.

Because I read so much I learned something disconcerting. Some very good artists were never “discovered” until after they died. I was willing to suffer a lot for art, but dying seemed like going a bit too far for me. (I wished someone had made this clause in the unwritten-contract-of-art clearer, back in the beginning.) I found my mind was starting to cast about, looking for alternatives.

All alternatives seemed a bit like selling-out, but I gritted my teeth and started working more Real Jobs; I figured that as long as they were not repulsive jobs, (such as being a lawyer or politician or climate scientist), I wouldn’t be immediately struck dead by lightning.

My art did suffer when I had less time to spend on it, but I figured it served the World right. If the World was too stupid to recognize what a genius I was, then the world would get what it paid for: Lots of clean dishes and clean stables and clean bathrooms and clean canneries and clean so on and so forth.

Though I never completely quit on my art I did become practical and pragmatic to a degree where a woman mistook me for a sensible man, and before I knew what hit me I found myself married to a woman who already had three small children, and we promptly made two more. She was also a genius, but the world was too stupid to recognize it, so we made a perfect pair, because we were perfectly impractical and perfectly broke. This was fine during the rosy days of summer, but when we faced our first winter it quickly became apparent we could not afford the necessary propane to fuel the old, roaring heater in the field-stone cellar of our 250-year-old house.

Fortunately the government offered something called “heating assistance” for imbeciles like us, so I set off one day to get myself some of the free heating.  I figured I’d just sign some paper and that would be that, but I had no idea of the capacity of bureaucrats to rustle papers like crazy and accomplish nothing.

It is over a quarter century ago and my memory is dim regarding many details, but I recall I wasted at least an entire day, and perhaps two weeks, becoming increasingly exasperated and disgusted.

One requirement sent me around and around in circles, and the requirement  was to have my employer verify that my stated income was correct. When I informed them I was a handyman who did odd jobs,  they stated my customers were my employers and that I should go to each and every customer and get a signed statement. This was a lot of people, some of whom likely had moved or wouldn’t even remember me.

I can’t remember how I hurtled this obstacle,  but fear I was less than what bureaucrats would have deemed “correct”. I decided I was my own boss, and employer, and made up some name for myself like “Handy Man Incorporated”, and wrote and signed a statement affirming that I did work for that entity. Bingo. I satisfied the bureaucrats, and received my free money, but after all the effort I had to put in, the “heating assistance” hardly seemed free. Nor was it all that much money. It was enough money to buy enough propane to heat my home for around ten days in January.

At this point, being a genius, I did a bit of counting on my fingers, and compared the time it took to to get that propane with how much firewood I could have cut in the same amount of time. I had spent roughly two weeks on and off sitting outside offices, only to be told to go sit outside other offices, and the result had been ten days worth of heat. If I had spent those two weeks cutting wood I could have gathered at least 14 pick-up truck loads, and heated my home for the entire winter. Then, at that point,  I had decide something: Which was better: To be a welfare-dependent, or to be self-reliant.

(I think one thing that helped me decide was to look around at the others waiting outside offices as I waited, and to realize many were old and infirm, while I was hale and hearty. They couldn’t go out and gather wood, while I not only could, but also found cutting wood fun. I felt a sense of shame, but by that point I’d spent so much time in those blasted offices I wasn’t going to quit.)

In any case, while I indeed was a welfare-dependent for ten days during the first winter I was married, I was self-reliant the rest of the time, and I must confess I found that being self-reliant was much more fun, and easier, and that it involved more fresh air and exercise, and that lastly it was much better for my sense of self-esteem, than having anything to do with blasted bureaucrats and their blasted offices.

That began a love-affair with gathering my own fuel that lasted a quarter century. The old, clunky propane furnace in my house broke down, and I simply never had the time nor money to repair it.  Repairing that furnace  was always on my “list”, but towards the bottom, and never worked its way to the top, because any time it threatened to rise like cream some other thing would shove it back down to bottom of the list. And you would be amazed how often the new thing on my “list” involved free firewood.

Of course, there is really no such thing as “free” firewood. You must always lift the logs, and that is work.  However some people pay to go to gyms to lift weights, but I often got paid for lifting my weights. For example, a person might not like how shabby the woods behind their house looked, and might hire me to remove all the dead wood and tidy up the trees, and I’d bring home several truckloads of free heat, and charge them for it. (One lady even paid me to remove a woodpile from her lawn, when she moved into a new house; the birch was indeed quite rotten, but the oak was hard and dry as a bone; It was a great deal for me; I charged a hundred to bring home two hundred dollars worth of prime oak firewood.)

People always wondered how I could raise five children on such a low income without resorting to welfare. It helps if the cost of heating your home through a freezing cold, New Hampshire winter is basically zero, (though it likely cost me a couple hundred to buy gas and bar-oil for my chain saws, and a file to sharpen the blades, and for chainsaw repairs.)  It also helps if you spend so much time outside that your health is excellent and you never have to pay for doctors, or for work-outs in gyms.  It is ironic that I have known bureaucrats who made ten times as much as me at better-paying jobs in offices, with good pensions (I have none), who grew so fat and flabby that they never collected their pensions.

Another irony involves the iron of wood stoves. I eventually had four in my house (and three in my yard) because they went out of fashion, and, because I was strong, I could be paid to haul them out of people’s houses.  I never bought a stove, but did sell many over at the scrap-metal-place, and made some side-money, back when scrap-metal prices were high.

A few years ago it began to occur to me that maybe I should get the propane furnace in my house fixed, because I was approaching my sixtieth birthday and hauling wood and iron wood stoves wasn’t getting any easier. I got a friend, who happened to be in the business of repairing and installing propane heaters, to come by my house, and, when he saw my propane furnace, he had a good laugh. It was hopelessly out of date, and barely 50% efficient, which meant that 50% of the heat it produced went up the chimney. Times had changed, my friend stated, and he then attempted to seduce me into buying some modern gadget that was so amazingly efficient that it didn’t even need a chimney. Instead the modern propane gadget had a “vent”,  where the air going-out warmed the air coming-in, so that, by the time the air exited the side of your house, it was below room temperature, and only puffed a little steam, on days when it was very cold.

Now, because I am old and conservative and don’t hold with newfangled gadgetry, I expressed my doubts. There was no way, you probably think, I’d ever spend the money for a new furnace. But I did. Why? Because it made sense. I think even Ben Franklin would have bought that furnace, (but maybe not, because he would have had a hard time locating propane).

So now, as I get old, I can just sit by a floor register and enjoy the heat rising up, and skip all the work of hauling wood. But do I? No. Not yet. For there is no comparison between sitting by a floor register and sitting by a wood stove.

(Hopefully, when I get too old to haul wood, someone will love me enough to do the lugging for me.)

In any case, that is pretty much the end of my story, concerning my love of burning wood, and also concerning the sense of self-reliance that comes from burning wood.  In fact, now that I have lived so long, I see something astounding. In some cases I have grown the very two-foot-thick logs I chainsaw up for firewood. How? Because when I first set foot on what became the “family-farm” in 1968 the oaks were only acorns, and now they  are pasture-oaks nearly fifty years old, which have been nourished by plenty of manure.  What could be more self-reliant than to actually grow your own heat?

Now let me get all conservative on you, and tell you that there are some who do not approve of such self-reliance. Instead they approve of welfare-dependence. Their very livelihood depends on it.

For example, some bureaucrats became aware that people like I was, a quarter century ago, had very bad experiences in their heating-assistance offices,  and wasted so much time becoming welfare-dependent that they decided, as I decided, that it simply wasn’t worth it. This was a bad thing for them, because they, as public servants, need a subservient public, and every self-reliant citizen puts them one step closer to being out of a job. Therefore, to avoid the experience I went through, they invented a new job, the “Heating Assistance Facilitator”.  This person is educated in colleges to make sure a person like I once was, walking into their office, never walks out in disgust and learns to be self-sufficient. To keep this from happening, the “Heating Assistance Facilitator” takes the novice by the hand and guides him through the steps necessary to become a welfare dependent, and a drain upon society.

(This is not to say such a facilitator isn’t valuable and pleasing to God, when a frail old person wanders into the Heating Assistance Office, but when someone who is perfectly able walks in, any help they offer turns ability into inability.)

In MOGO,  (IE My Old, Grouchy Opinion), bureaucracy would be better served by simplifying, so that they didn’t need a “Heating Assistance Facilitator” in the first place. I think it downright cruel to take the generous nature of the young, and to put that eager, bright-eyed willingness-to-be-helpful into some musty bureaucratic niche designed to further and increase the pathos of people sitting around in offices accomplishing nothing. Rather than sitting around in an office, that young, generous person would be better off outside gathering wood, lugging it into an elder’s abode, and keeping the oldster’s wood stove cherry-red in January.

Sadly, the woods around here are increasingly littered with fallen trees which, in the old days, would not have been wasted. Even only 25 years ago there was such a thing as “wood poachers”, who might steal a dead tree from your back yard when you were away at work. Now people are more interested in pellet stoves, if they think of wood at all, as a source of heat.

In MOGO, the osmosis that taught me the value of wood has failed, even in my own family. My own children don’t seem to understand that living in New England at this time, with so much dead wood laying about,  enables one to achieve “energy independence.” There is no need for Arab Oil, or Wind Turbines, or Solar Panels, (for at least as long as it would take to clean up the dead wood laying in the woods. All that wood currently does is to create an increasing forest-fire danger). (Also rotting wood can create methane, which I have been told is a worse greenhouse-gas than CO2.)

But perhaps the osmosis has not completely failed. Perhaps it has to some degree manifested in the lone case of one daughter, who is a genius, just like I and her mother were geniuses. She did catch our impracticality, without us needing to teach it. She is educated to an excess, when it comes to knowing how to keep your body fit in a gym, and what diet is best for your body. (When she was young she wouldn’t touch the kale I grew in my garden, but last summer I couldn’t grow enough.) However when it comes to wood stoves, I was a complete failure to transfer my knowledge.

I can’t see how this happens. You’d think that growing up in a house heated by four wood stoves would have allowed her the time to watch me, but I guess I should have included her more, as I worked.

This fall she and her boyfriend moved into the loft of a converted barn heated by a wood stove, and, as her boyfriend was from Brazil and knew nothing about bitter cold and heating with wood, she hinted she could use some advice. I practically fell over on my face. (Why? Because, [like me], my daughter is such an insufferable genius that she never requires another’s advice.) However I managed to avoid standing with my jaw dropped to the floor, and instead casually inquired, (as if her asking-for-advice wasn’t an earth-shaking event), what she needed to know. She said her wood-stove no longer was working as well as it had. I said I’d drop by and take a gander at it.

When I opened the door of the wood stove the first thing I noticed was that there was hardly any room to put any wood in. The ashes were nearly up to the roof of the stove. In fact, how they managed to fit any wood in at all was beyond me.

I am obviously a failure. I neglected to teach my daughter that at some point you need to remove ashes. To hide my shame, I had to find some way to be very casual about teaching her, at this late date. “Hmm…” I said, “Looks like a mistake many make. Not many understand fires can have too many ashes…”  Then I quickly changed the subject to how much I like ashes, for not only are they great for my garden, but can be used for making soap….and so on.

Removing the ashes was going to present us with a problem, because as soon as the door was opened to see the ashes the stove belched smoke, and it was obvious very little smoke was going up the chimney. The flue was obstructed, due to smokey fires building up creosote. The chimney needed to be swept.

Fortunately the weather was mild, for December, so they could let the fire die down, (though we couldn’t afford to wait for it to go all the way out).  I obtained a brush from a friend:sweep-3-img_4235

The bush is made of stiff strands of steel, and you screw it onto a four-foot wand, which you screw on to a second wand, and then to a third wand, [and even a fourth, if necessary],  and then you plunge the wand up and down the chimney to clear the creosote from the chimney’s liner.

I had my own ladder, but next I had to decide where to position the ladder to work on the chimney. I decided the best place would be the second-story porch:



At age 63, I may be getting a bit old for this nonsense, but I also enjoy it more, for I know my days of teetering on rooftops are numbered. I got up on that roof, and rammed the bush up and down the chimney, and knocked all sorts of stuff loose, but it basically fell and then got caught by stuff further down the chimney. As I plunged the brush up and down, increasingly further down the chimney, I could feel it was getting harder and harder to make headway. Finally I could push no further. I had the sick feeling that rather than cleaning the flue, I had totally blocked the flue.

I didn’t want to act out my feelings, for that would have involved running around in circles screaming. The young boyfriend from Brazil was watching, and it would have been a discredit to America and Americans to utterly freak. Instead I remained calm and pretended the disaster was quite normal and natural, as I climbed down the ladder, went into the barn, and saw the smoke was pouring from every chink and orifice of the stove. What to do? I opened all the doors and windows. Then I removed the stove pipe from the brick chimney by the wall, and clawed out a five-gallon bucket’s worth of cinders, with smoke slowly oozing from the stove pipe. I could feel the chimney was still obstructed above where I could reach, so, still calmly whistling between clenched teeth, I went out and back up the ladder and rammed the brush back down the chimney, only to find the brush could not break through the obstruction that my sweeping had created.

Bleep. What to do now?

What I did was to unscrew the brush and just poke the pole down the chimney. That pole was pointed enough to puncture the obstruction, and I could feel, as I continued to poke, the obstruction was crumbling and falling away. Then I calmly went back down the ladder and removed another five gallon pail of glassy creosote clumps, put the stovepipe back into the wall, and the stove no longer leaked a bit of smoke. The draw was excellent and there was enough room to put wood in.  I was a hero.

Unfortunately my daughter had to leave for work, earlier, and wasn’t there to recognize my genius and heroism, but fortunately her Brazilian boyfriend was there, and wonderfully appreciative. He is still mastering his English,  but I had fun communicating. Apparently in Brazil not many old men rush up and down ladders whistling through their teeth, and therefore he thought I was special. He also became very intent and strove very hard to comprehend when I tried to convey that if a fire burned cleanly there would be no further problems with creosote build-up in the flue.

Of course, explaining that smoke liquefies to tar and then solidifies to creosote is hard enough with people who have spoken English from birth. Many just don’t get it that the crud in their chimney is basically smoke, and smoke is basically fire that never caught:


Explaining it to a fellow from Brazil who’s English is improving is harder, but the fellow was obviously impressed by my eccentric behavior, and asked questions, which not many fellow American do, (as they prefer to back out of the room anxiously nodding when I get manic and enthusiastic). And amazingly, the fellow seemed to suddenly grasp what I was driving at.

I’m not sure what I did that made my point. I did put the creosote pictured above into the stove to show him it was smoke that could fiercely burn, given a chance, but he looked perplexed by that demonstration. Instead it was when I pointed at a thermometer and said that below a certain temperature the creosote would form in the chimney, and above it wouldn’t, and above-that-above the chimney might burn like the clump of creosote in the fire, that suddenly he got it. Such a dawning broke on his face!  It made me understand why some might want to be teachers.

The pity is that the American government doesn’t get what the guy from Brazil got, about cleanly-burning wood fires. Instead the EPA basically wants to have the power to intimidate people who burn wood with the threat of jail time, if they don’t burn wood correctly, and their chimney’s smoke too much. Their sternness seems aimed at discouraging wood-burning altogether, and socially their effort is like killing a mosquito on your nose with a hammer.

Obama’s Parting Gift: EPA to fine Alaskans who Burn Wood to Stay Warm

In MOGO, the government’s bluster towards folk who burn wood in Alaska proves they don’t really want to teach, (as I taught the young man from Brazil), the art of being self-reliant and efficient. Instead they want to make people more and more welfare-dependent, as this makes government more and more important.

This is not acceptable, if we are truly a Land Of The Free, where people who yearn for freedom flee to. We are not a land that wants people dependent. We are a land that wants people free.

Our president-elect has stated he wants to “drain the swamp” in Washington, but I think we need to “sweep the flue”.

You see, much of the false logic and even false science of liberalism is built upon the sound premise of generosity. Generosity is beautiful and good, but it needs a certain spark, or it is like smoke that never lights, and instead clogs the chimney until even a fire below is impossible.

Shakespeare wrote of the hazards of generosity when he wrote “Timons of Athens,” however Timons is, in modern political nomenclature, what is dubbed a “useful idiot”.

The real danger we face involves those who, unlike Timons, are not willing to give to the point where they lose, but rather seek to use “giving” as an excuse to gain. Where Timons gave because his naive heart was generous to a fault, people like the Clintons create their “generous” foundations for political purposes, (to bribe and to accept bribes). In other words to “gain”, (even to the degree of grotesquely offending the very definition of charity, when millions suffered in Haiti).

It seems we should understand, as a people, that the word “generosity” does not involve any material gain for the giver. It is a vile joke to say you “give”, when you wind up richer after you have given, especially when the poor wind up poorer.

The true gain of generosity occurs when the poor wind up richer.  To see that smacks of satisfaction. And that only occurs when the poor who are welfare-dependent wind up self-reliant.

When generosity works like that, smoke bursts into flame, and nothing but heat rushes up the chimney, and we can enjoy a warm hearth without worry about the flue.