Arctic Rowers Paul-in-ice-small


Some prayers might be in order for four young men who are attempting the Northwest Passage in a rowboat. They haven’t reported since yesterday.

Theirs is just the sort of stunt I would have pulled when young.  You are sitting around, contemplating how boring it would be to work a real job in the summer, and then someone comes up with the idea to make some sort of social statement, and avoid working a real job.  Usually such ideas never come to fruition, but some youth actually carry out the dream.

In the dream it is sunny, pleasantly cool,  and gulls wheel and cry in the arctic sky, as whales and seals cross blue waves dotted with a few, but not too many, icebergs.

In reality a particularly nasty summer storm has blown up and persisted for days, the sky and water are always grey, and the young men are running into bad sea ice.  While the storm is finally weakening, the temperatures remain around freezing.

Arctic Rowerer Storm mslp_latest.bigArctic Rower temp_latest.big

The young men have no engine, and must depend on their sheer strength and stamina at the oars to get themselves out of jams.  They recently lost their anchor.

I am praying this is merely one of those tests young men get themselves into, that teaches them of strength within themselves that they did not know existed, and that they can look back on the experience in the future as, (in the words of a Navajo friend,)   “one of those things it is good to do only once in your life.”

LUNCHTIME UPDATE:  Apparently their sense of humor is OK.  They saw a formation of ice, and decided in was the “Hand of Franklin.”  (Franklin was an arctic explorer who vanished 150 years ago and has never been found.) Posted the picture on Twitter around noon.

It’s amazing people these days can be so in contact, even when actually far from help.

JULY 31 UPDATE: They still appear to be hunkered down on a small island that doesn’t appear on all maps, awaiting better weather conditions.

Follow on Facebook @

Apparently they are aware of publicity, noting that the story of their voyage made the Vancouver Sun:

I’m not sure they are aware a more caustic view of their shenanigans is expressed by people who don’t exactly share their political views, over at Steve Goddard’s site:

I ventured the following comment over there:

“It looks like the gap in their GPS record covers a time period between 7:57 PM and 8:51 AM. Thirteen hours. There are also earlier gaps in the record.

I wonder if GPS is a gadget they need to activate, perhaps hitting a button to see where they are. If one member of the crew is really compulsive about their progress, and the rest less interested in the minute by minute details, you could get a watch on deck with a lot of reports followed by watches with few or none.

Their decision to hunker down and wait for more favorable conditions sounds a bit like learning from the school of hard knocks, to me. Or the school of hard bergs. Their battle with ice doesn’t sound like a picnic, and in some ways they are lucky to be alive. (They can’t be airlifted out if they are dead.)

More than 40 years ago, when I was young, liberal, and something of a “useful idiot,” it was the school of hard knocks that snapped me out of my delusions and woke me up. Not all useful idiots remain stuck in their naivete forever. Don’t lose faith in the young, even if they do seem like dopes.

AUGUST 1 UPDATE — They are OK, but it sounds like one called “Kevin” is homesick, posting about his daughters.  Daughters?  For some reason I thought these fellows were younger.  (He left a time capsule for his daughters to read in the future: 

Arctic Rowers August  1b

He is worried the arctic will be changed, when his daughters get up their to see his time capsule.  Actually he should be worried that his daughters will have changed before he gets back.  Kids grow up too fast, and every moment you spend with them is more valuable than you dream. Fortunately he likely can chat over the web.

He guesses the site is a “Dorset Site.”  The Doset culture lived in the warmth of the Medieval Warm Period, and was stressed out by the same Little Ice Age that stressed out the Vikings.  The Inuit were better adapted.

There are some sites of stone that are long and thin,  just about the right size to be roofed by a Viking ship dragged out of the water.  The round sites may be Dorset, but they also can be from the “Independence I Culture,” who were the first people to explore the arctic (that we know of) after the Ice Age.  It was much warmer, and the Arctic Ocean likely was ice-free, and higher due to more ice-melt of mountain glaciers and Greenland’s Ice cap. Geologists can see the wave-made beaches created by these higher seas, (which are quite different from the beaches made by grinding chunks of ice,) and in the sand and cobbles find bits of driftwood that come from trees all the way across the arctic ocean.  However there is far less driftwood than you would expect to find, and one reason there is much less driftwood is because the Independance I Culture apparently burned it for fuel, as well as building parts of their homes of it.  (Even though it was warmer, the winter nights were just as sunless.)  In any case, when they first arrived in the arctic the shores may well have been heaped with hundreds of years of driftwood, but they burned it all up over a couple hundred years.  Then it got colder and they likely headed south.

In any case, the not-so-young man “Kevin” ought not worry about the arctic changing.  It already has changed, and will change again.  If one must fret, there are better things to worry about.

UPDATE AUGUST 4—They got out of the last trouble, and made it to Paulatuk.  However they did not do the wise thing, which would be to be airlifted out, and instead headed back out again.  So of course people who care are worried again, and praying again.  I noted seven “hits” on this old post in the time since they left.  So I figured I should update and simply state I know no more than is shown on their GPS map, which can be seen at .  We shall have to wait to see why they chose the meandering route the GPS shows.  It is sheer speculation to say anything about sandbars or headwinds or ice floes.

I don’t think they should expect milder weather.  They may get lucky, but this has not been a benign summer, as arctic summers go.  It has been colder than normal, overall, and also the weather tends to get colder in August.  The midnight sun still is up, but too low, and people who have served in the military up there describe how water containers start freezing over in August, despite the endless daylight.

They are tough, but need to face facts at some point.  They are tough, but not as tough as tough luck can be up there.  I’m not talking about the tough luck of chosing a cold summer to try to make a political point about Global Warming, either.  At some point politics don’t matter, sponsors don’t matter,  all that matters is those you love and getting out alive.

In any case, I don’t think they were wise to head back out, but neither was I, when I was their age.  I wish them luck, though I don’t think they will prove much, in terms of politics, if they make progress.  What they are proving now is more in terms of mule-headed, male prowess.  May the Good Lord watch over them as He watched over me, 42 years ago, when I was young, over my head, and far out to sea.

AUGUST 6 PM UPDATE—I see 12 hits on this site today, so I guess I should post an update, although I am no authority.  Their GPS shows them making decent progress along the coast, hugging the coast (which seems wise.)  No Facebook posts. 

Below (if it works) is a map with how far they have come in red and how far they have to go in blue.

AUGUST 8 MORNING UPDATE—It looks like they are serious about making progress, but may have stopped for a breather. Last GPS position was at around 11:00 PM, after making some serious headway, rowing east southeast, hugging the coast.  They are on the south side of a high pressure, and back at Palatuk temperatures are in the 60’s with a light east 6 mph wind, which would be a wind they’d have to row against. The big arctic storm is on the other side of the high pressure and not effecting them at the moment.  

Temperatures should remain mild through the weekend.  They’d best get going while the going is good.

AUGUST 13—Decent progress, but not yet halfway.

The best information is from their own site at  When they are moving they seem too busy to post, but later a southerly gale forced them to pause gave them time to post some updates.


satsfc (3).gif July 29, 2013(CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE)


As a layman, just looking at the above map, I’d say New England will be all abuzz about a hurricane next weekend.  Just look at that feature north of Puerto Rico.  It is the ghost of Dorian, and it sure looks like it has a tropical swirl to me.  Second, look at that nice, refreshing Canadian high pressure area, pushing the front off our coast.  By the weekend it will have passed over us and will be blending into the Bermuda High off our coast, and perhaps strengthening that high, which would then keep Dorian from curving out to sea. Whether or not Dorian swerved inland would depend on the trough following the high, a feature that doesn’t really even exist yet.

Having said all that, I need to hasten to add I am just a layman, and the experts seem less worried than I.  The National Hurricane Center gives Dorian only a 30% chance of redeveloping:

Dorian 2 July 29 atl1

I can’t but help look at that picture and shake my head. It sure looks tropical to me.  So I next go to WeatherBELL to see if Joe Bastardi has posted.  He has, but seems far more concerned about a cool August than this little whirl of clouds. About Dorian he says:

” Dorian is fighting but not pulling the mid level center with the low level center. There were some west winds on the recon, but east of the mid level center, which instead of coming along with the low level, breaks down then reforms as convection reforms, This pulsing is not an intensification sign. Its as if the dry air keeps getting in and stopping the storm from coordinating the low mid and upper features needed to sustain this. However with 46 kt winds reported ne of the niche that might be a low level center, the system bears watching. The nam remains in line with on track, though it appears overdone. In any case its Friday at 06z map

Dorian July 29 nam_mslp_uv10m_se_29

So there you have it, even when the Nam Computer Model sticks a storm off Florida he barely bats an eye.

Me? I am batting an eye. But maybe I’m just scared of ghosts.

UPDATE JULY 30 — The low level center, more of a wave than a spinning storm, got out ahead of the convection over night, and ran into some “sheer” ahead of the mid-level center, so that rather than more organized the entity is more disorganized. The mess is likely to move up into the Bahamas and then drift about. I imagine it is so disorganized that, if it redevelops, they will give it a new name.  Call it, “The reincarnation of Dorian.”

UPDATE 2 JULY 30 11:00 — Did that pretty looking swirl of clouds get crushed, or what? It looks like I was scared of ghosts.


At this point the qualified meteorologists look good, while I, the old geezer stroking his jaw while looking at the sky, look like a dope.  Score one point for science and zero for intuition.

Not that I’m not sensing something or another that will become apparent by the weekend, but in the short term it can be definitely stated that I was wrong. Is that such a bad thing?

There are all too many people these days who like to mock and scorn forecasters, without ever daring make a forecast themselves. If they dared do it, they’d see how good the guys they laugh at actually are.

  Also there are far too many who make forecasts that are wrong, these days, who don’t just say, “My forecast was wrong.”  Instead they shift the goal posts. For example, when warming doesn’t occur the stop talking about “Global Warming” and start talking about “Climate Change.”

Well, if that insignifigant smudge of cloud fades away, and there is nothing off Florida this weekend, tune back here and you will see me say, “I was wrong.”  I doubt I’ll drop dead or turn into a frog, or any such dire thing.  In fact I’ll likely stand stronger.

For pride comes before the fall, and it is better to stand corrected than to fall unimproved.

Saturday, August 3 Update—Well, it’s Saturday, and the National Hurricane Center upgraded Dorian to something called a “Post Tropical Cyclone,” and has issued a couple  advisories.  The most recent:

500 PM EDT SAT AUG 03 2013


LOCATION...31.7N 77.6W





You might think I am off the hook, and don’t have to admit my old-geezer intuition was wrong, however look at the faint swirl of clouds: (click to enlarge)

Dorian August 3 vis0_lalo(3)

Dorian is not that bright area of clouds east of Florida, but rather that faint swirl east of Georgia.  New England is not concerned about it, and, as my intuition was that “New England will be all abuzz about a hurricane next weekend,” I am wrong both about the hurricane and the buzz.  (I am also wrong about the pattern steering this swirl, as it will likely curve sharply out to sea, and not come up the coast.)

However, as there is still another day until the weekend is over, I don’t have to admit defeat until tomorrow, and I might get lucky and break a leg before then.

Sunday, August 4—  I was wrong.




One odd aspect of writing is that you spend long periods of time just staring.  In the old days it was time spent staring at ink on paper, and now it is time spent staring at type on a computer screen, but in both cases it might as well be tea leaves.

Years ago I was a friend with a Navajo who did not learn to write until rather late in life, and he told me that when he was young print reminded him of chicken tracks and scratchings, and confessed that when young he had wondered why people spent so much time looking at such illegible things.  I confessed I had been reading since age three, and still I wondered the same thing.

After all, writing doesn’t involve your senses.  Music you can hear, and painting you can see, but writing?  You are just staring at senselessness.

People make a big deal of the fact Beethoven made supurb music when he couldn’t even hear, but, for writers, a sort of Helen Keller deafness and blindness is their every day fare.  Why on earth do writers do it?  They could be elsewhere, seeing the green beauty of summer and hearing the symphonies of birdsong, but prefer to basically stare at a blank wall, called paper.

For me paper is a sort of crystal ball.  I am never sure what I will see when I look into the whiteness.  However I do see things, just as Beethoven heard things.  It is a glimpse into a world beyond the physical word, involving a heaven far above my head.  It is a world that is engrossing, absorbing, enchanting, and yet you cannot scientifically prove it even exists.

So engrossing is the enchantment that I can forget to eat, and walk about disheveled and distracted, and long periods of time can pass without my noticing it, and I want to ask odd questions, such as, “Did the apples bloom this year?”

In many ways the enchantment resembles the addiction of an addict, however there is no real physical basis for it. In fact, writing often can result in ruined relationships, lost jobs, genuine poverty and all sorts of physical suffering.  Therefore you get all the problems of drug addiction without even the satisfaction of a physical buzz.

In conclusion, writers are basically airheads, but that definition always bothered me. I didn’t want to be some sort of pathetic beggar with a tin cup, whining for help, and early on, as a young writer, I became determined that I would never beg.  Mooch maybe, but always mooch in a manner where I mowed lawns and did dishes enough to feel I was paying my way, even if I had no money.  And now forty years have passed, and I have run the race and the finish line is not so far ahead, and I’ll be darned if I haven’t gone and done what I set out to do.  I have proven that just because one is an artist doesn’t mean one is incapable of hard work, and being an airhead doesn’t mean you can’t be a pragmatic airhead.

In fact, to brag a bit, I’d say honest labor makes you a better writer, and being a writer makes the job a lot more fun for the people you are working with, even if you yourself do get fired more often than most, (especially when you are young,) for being a blasted airhead.  All in all, I’d recommend pragmatic airheads to bosses, stressing that a pragmatic airhead’s a good thing to have about, because the little you lose, in terms of efficiency, you make up for, in terms of workplace morale.

I assume my wife agrees with me.  After all, she did marry a pragmatic airhead, and has stood by me, and seen me work very hard to bring home the bacon. However she does worry, from time to time, that I am missing the green of summer, and the symphony of birdsongs, because I’m off in my clouds of enchantment.  (She also worries I might forget to pay the electricity bill.) Therefore she does very nice things, so I won’t miss life, lost in my enchantment.

I can’t say I have always appreciated her concern.  After twelve-hour shifts in a nail factory, all I wanted to do was slump and contemplate the crystal ball of a blank sheet of paper.  I was not all that interested in the fact the baby had learned to say “goo.”  However she insisted I come and see, and the pragmatic side of being a pragmatic airhead forces you to go see. However sometimes the artist in me would stand up and rave, “Woman!  Why do you bother me with these pettifogging details!”  Usually I’d wind up apologizing, for the pettifogging detail would turn out to be something I had forgotten that was important, like Christmas.

To be frank, if our paths hadn’t crossed I think I would have died young.  Lots of my fellow artists did exactly that.  I can hardly blame them, for the best things this world has to offer pale in comparison to the other-worldly music physical ears can’t hear, but Beethoven heard clearly. However my wife made this world worth staying in.

Recently she disturbed my idea of a perfect weekend, (sitting around looking at a blank sheet of paper,) by informing me I had agreed to do something I never agreed to.  She’s always doing this to me.  I say something like “maybe,” or “might be interesting,” or, most often, “ugh,” and it is like I have signed some contract with my blood.  No use protesting.  Before I know it, I’m heading off to do something other than look at a blank sheet of paper.

This time I had agreed to something absolutely absurd.  After a long and hard workweek I had agreed to drive for an hour and a half on a Friday night, to watch people run a marathon, and then drive an hour and a half home.  Can you believe it?  I mean, running might be fun for the runner, but when it comes to boring sports, anyone who gets excited watching runners should be kept away from watching cricket or baseball, for they would likely have a heart attack.

However it was my daughter-in-law running the marathon, which was amazing, as she only started running four months ago.  What could I say?  I had to go.

As usually happens when my wife talks me into incredibly boring events, I wasn’t bored.  Sometimes it is my fault the event isn’t boring, but it wasn’t my fault this time. I didn’t have to lift a finger to make things interesting.

First, a strange weather pattern has tropical proto-hurricane blobs zooming up the east coast, even as cold air sets records in Ohio.  Therefore as we drove we moved from a sunny late afternoon towards a looming purple wall of coastal clouds.  Just before we arrived at the site of the marathon, by Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, Massachusetts,  fat raindrops came plunking down.  As I got out of the vehicle, and my eldest son greeted me, I told him the end of the rain was near, as roads were dry two miles away.  He told me the roads had been dry two miles away all day, but the clearing only tantalized and never inched any closer, and the rain kept falling.  Then he handed me an umbrella. I thought to myself, “I could be dry and warm at home, looking at a most enchanting blank sheet of paper,” but instead I bit my tongue, and attended to my son as he explained his plan.

The route of the Marathon was eight circuits of Lake Quannapowitt, a circuit being roughly 3.2 miles.  My son’s plan was that, each time my daughter-in-law passed, a different and larger crowd would cheer her on.  What a good guy!  However this happened to mean I had to hide, at first.  Rather than cheering her, (or staying warm at home, looking at a blank sheet of paper, plotting the Great American Novel,) I had to hide from my own daughter-in-law, under an umbrella in platting rain, by a huge pond with the bizarre name of Quannapowitt.  I shot my wife an accusatory glance, as this was not my idea of whooping-it-up on a Friday night.

But I got over it.  It occurred to me that people who run marathons are doing something that makes little sense, much like writers staring at the white wall of a sheet of paper.  Perhaps they make even less sense, for a writer at least has a slight chance of producing a decent ditty, but all a marathon runner gets is: A way of walking funny, for a week afterwards. As incredible as it sounds, they make even less sense than writers do!

They are cousins to writers because, as they run by, they are looking at a wall others cannot see.

As the runners finished the first 3 miles the sun sank in the west, and peeked out from under the skirts of the purple cloud, sending amber beams into the silver rain, and slowly a majestic rainbow arose against the deep purple cloud bank to the east. Because the sun was so low, the rainbow towered, and then a second, dimmer rainbow appeared above the first, and grew as bright than the first had been, as the first grew amazingly brilliant.

The runners heading away from the rainbow looked over their shoulders from time to time, but the others looked giddy and euphoric, for either they ran with a rainbow moving stride for stride beside them, or they ran towards it, as if they could run under a most beautiful arch.

The rainbow shone brilliantly in the east for an amazing hour, as the sun slowly set and created a spectacular sunset to the west. I’ve never seen a rainbow last so long. It stood like a monument to the east, only lifting and fading as the sun set.  You hardly knew which way to look, unless, like me, you were most interested in the beauty of the idiots running a marathon.

It is seldom a writer can observe anyone more impractical and airheaded than the face he faces in the mirror each morning, and therefore I found solace in the spectacle of marathon runners. Furthermore, because the circuit took them around and around the lake, I did not see them pass once, but over and over.

I was, of course, most interested in my daughter-in-law, and was somewhat startled by how changed she was, each time she passed.  Each time she was a different daughter.  At first she was awed,  fearful of the twenty-three miles that still lay ahead.  Then she was hopeful.  Then she was cramped yet determined. Then she was manic and euphoric.  Then she was grim and so focused on the road ahead she could hardly be bothered recognize anyone.

Then it was late, and I left.  It was dark, and the rainbow seemed a mere dream. My wife and I had a 90 minute drive, even to lie down at midnight.  So I left the final nine miles for my good son to oversee, in the deep dark of night.

My wife was glancing around with an odd look, as we walked beneath the streetlights to the car, trying to avoid the runners coming the other way.  When a train passed, and the gate came down on a side street, with red lights flashing and the ding-ding-ding sound, it was a very evocative experience, for she had spent her earliest childhood in a house only five blocks away.  In a way Lake Quannapowitt was where she began the marathon called life.

My daughter-in-law kept going. Even after my wife and I had driven home and collapsed into bed, our daughter was fighting her way ahead to the finish.

She finished so weary she was walking, around 1:00 AM.

I haven’t finished my own marathon, as a writer, yet.  In my own way, I likely will be walking, in the dark after midnight, when I see the finish line of mine. However I will hopefully have the class of those who finish more worldly marathons.

Strangely, I think all people know life itself is a sort of marathon, even if they don’t write. And even if they don’t run.  It is something we all know from the starting line. How else could I have written this couplet, back when I was only nineteen?

“The last mile is hardest,” said the delta to the sea.                                                                 “The last mile is hardest,” said the marathon to me.

If heaven existed on earth, we might have it easier as we get older, however as things stand, Bette Davis was right, and “Old Age ain’t no place for sissies.”

And Yogi Berra was right, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

“LAKE NORTH POLE” VANISHES (July 28-August 6, 2013)


There has been a bit of an uproar about a large melt-water pool which appeared directly in front of North Pole Camera 2.  The pool has now drained through a weakness in the ice, and the “lake” has vanished. (Click the pictures to expand and get a much better view.)

BEFORE (July 26)

NP July 26 npeo_cam2_20130726072121

AFTER (July 28)

NP July 28 npeo_cam2_20130728131212

If you want to get an idea of the sensationalism made of the temporary meltwater pool, here is an example:

I registered at the above site so I could make a comment, but it wan’t printed.  I’m not sure why.  You would think they would at least explain why they snipped your comment. All I did was explain that melt-water pools are not all that uncommon, up where days are 24 hours long and the average temperature is above freezing from late May to early August.

It has actually dipped below freezing at times by the camera, which was drifting south but recently has been blown a little ways back north by strong south winds from a big storm to the east.  (You would think south winds would be warm, but I think they curved across the frozen icecap of Greenland before coming back north.)  Here’s the recent data:

The view from Camera 1, taken in the other direction, must have been taken twelve hours earlier or after, as the sun has circled all the way around on the horizon.  You can see a few melt-water pools in the distance.

NP July 28 npeo_cam1_20130728140633

All in all, the ice still looks pretty solid.  It can get pretty slushy up there, this late in the year, and I expect to see that happening during the next 30 days.

UPDATE:  Six hours later, and it looks like they’ve had a dusting of slushy snow:

NP July 28 npeo_cam2_20130728191144.jpg B

If you click the image to enlarge it, you can see what may be a crack from the lower right of the picture, in a straight line to behind the buoy. Perhaps a lead could open right beside the camera, which would be a North Pole Camera first.  It also likely would shorten the lifetime of the camera.  If the lead widenened, salt spray and choppy waves would effect the camera, and perhaps crumble the edge of the floe and drop the camera into the brine.  On the other hand, if the sides of the lead clapped together again, the camera could be engulfed in a jumble of ice chunks as a pressure ridge formed.  In either case, maybe we could hope for a few spectacular pictures, before the end.

But then what am I going to do with my spare time, if I can’t sit around and watch ice melt?


A very nice picture from camera 2 this morning.

NP July 29 npeo_cam2_20130729071817

Steve Goddard has noted the melt-water pool vanished as well, at his site at Real Science.

I notice Eric Simpson left a link on that site to this site, and people are visiting.  Hi.  This post is a continuation of an earlier post about sitting around watching ice melt, with pictures going back to late June.

The comings and goings of this particular melt-water pool is a microcosm of what goes on all over the Arctic Sea.  I think such pools cause trouble when they try to measure the extent and area of the ice-cover, because the satellite radar can be “fooled” into thinking such pools, or even slush, is open water.  Then, when a summer storm dusts a large area with snow, the satellite is no longer “fooled,” and the extent and area of the ice cover can show an upward blip on the graph.  Or at least that is my explanation for such blips, such as today’s. (click to enlarge.)

NP July 29 Area Graph ssmi1_ice_area_small

UPDATE:  Another good post about the vanishing lake has appeared on Watts Up With That:

Lunchtime picture from Camera 2;  snow squall coming?

NP July 29 npeo_cam2_20130729131748.jpg 2


Here’s the latest picture.  Nothing much has changed, but temperatures have dipped below freezing.  It looks like they might be getting some freezing fog.

NP July 29 npeo_cam2_20130729191719.jpg 3

While nothing much has happened up by camera 2, since the water drained away, my little website has enjoyed a flood of visitors.  Usually I get ten or twenty visitors a day, however (for the second time in a week,) I’ve had over three hundred.  Obviously I should skip other subjects, for watching ice melt is the way to become famous.

167 viewers came over from “Watts Up With That.” 89 viewers came from Steve Goddard’s site “Real Science.” 47 came from the Huffington Post. A few more came from Accuweather via Facebook.  Add in a few others, and a total of 337 people had read this post (or at least looked at the first two pictures) by 9:09 on this Monday evening.

I am not used to having so many join me, as I watch ice melt, but I hope you have enjoyed the experience, and thank you for coming.

UPDATE—JULY 30  It still looks dull and grey up there this morning, while down here in New Hampshire it is sunny and refreshing.  I suppose they can manage the melting without me supervising.  I’d rather be out mowing the green grass in sunshine.  (We’ll see the white stuff soon enough, and summers always seem too short.)

NP July 30 npeo_cam2_20130730071850

Evening Update—Slightly Interesting

We’ll start with the Camera 2 picture, which is only slightly interesting, for it suggests a change in the weather, and that the dull, grey, featureless fog may lift:

NP July 30 npeo_cam2_20130730191253.jpg 2

Now, when there is not much to see on Camera 2, the practiced ice-melt-watcher can either sit back and enjoy the serenity, or he can sake his thirst for wild excitement by delving into other data, regarding Camera two. How soon can we hope to see the typical melting resume? Where’s the slush? And that is where it gets a bit interesting, this year.

First, in April the buoy is initially placed as near the ninety-degree-north point, (also called the North Pole,) as possible, and then it typically drifts down to where the ice breaks up, which in September is roughly around the eighty-degrees-north latitude line, in Fram Strait.  The further south you get the slushier things get, and even when puddles start to freeze in September you get the sense you are far from the Pole, and the break-up of the ice is nigh. However this year some wrench is in the works, and the progress is halting. If you look at the “drift map” at:

What you see is that Camera 2 (The green line) got hesitant about crossing the 86-degrees-north line, and even retreated slightly back to the north.  After it got over this hesitation, it progressed nicely south past 85-degrees-north, but now has become hesitant all over again, again retreating slightly north.

We are not talking huge distances here, but on July 24 the buoy had gotten down to 84.736 degrees, and yesterday it was at 84.848 degrees, north of where it had been.  Today it has resumed its southerly drift, and is down to 84.808 degrees, but it will have to hurry to get as far south as was a week ago, tomorrow.

While it is true the buoy has drifted 300 miles from the Pole, I don’t like it dawdling the way it does. How am I to see ice melt if it fritters away the summer like this?  The summer is short in the arctic, and if the buoy doesn’t get its rear in gear there’s a chance it won’t get to Fram Strait in time, and will get locked up in the winter freeze.

This brings me to another interesting thing that happened yesterday.  Temperatures dropped below freezing, and have now been below freezing by the buoy for 27 hours. How am I to watch ice melt if it is below freezing?

Even more interesting is that for at least twelve hours today temperatures were below minus 1.7 degrees (C), bottoming out at minus 2.7 degrees (C). At these temperatures it is not just the relatively fresh water on top of the ice that refreezes, but also the salt water of the sea beneath that freezes.

Even though the change in the weather has popped temperatures back up to minus 0.5 (C) I have a sense things are colder than expected, up there.  I’m not yet willing to say this is more than a blip in the averages, however I’m starting to look at my calender, for we are running out of time before the Big Refreeze typically starts.

Did you ever think that watching ice melt could involve so much suspense?!

UPDATE JULY 31 — Eric Simpson alerted me to the fact the DMI graph just dipped to freezing for the entire area above eighty degrees north. This is very unusual, in the arctic in July. (Click to enlarge)

DMI July 31 mean temp

EARLY LUNCH UPDATE—Just looking at the pictures, and judging by using my northern eyes, the slush looks refrozen today, as do the distant melt-water pools in  both camera 1’s view and Camera 2’s view

Camera 1:NP July 31 npeo_cam1_20130731140545

Camera 2:NP July 31npeo_cam2_20130731131126

CORRECTION:  If you look at the small print at the top of the of the above pictures you will notice they were taken roughly an hour apart.  For the sun to be in the same part of the sky, they must be pointed in the same direction.  I incorrectly stated earlier they were pointed in opposite directions.  In fact they are located around 900 feet (“three football fields”) apart.  “Lake North Pole” was only 100-200 feet wide, which is why it only appeared in the view of Camera 2.

Here is a discussion of “Lake North Pole” by the people who actually operate the camera:

If you really want to study the subject of ice melting, Anthony Watts has compiled a wonderful collection of sites to visit from all over the world, called the “SEA ICE PAGE.”  I think it is the best place to go, to see a variety of graphs, views, and measurements, with a minimum of hype, so you can decide things for yourself. 


Gorgeous day up there, 350 miles south of the pole.  There were drops on the lens earlier that have dried up.  The camera has resumed its southward drift. Still awaiting temperatures, but yesterday the temperature rose above freezing, up to 1.2 (C) before dropping back down to 0.2.  Oddly, when the sun is this low on the horizon, clear weather and sunshine doesn’t always make it warmer.

NP Aug 1 18


It seems significant that the camera, after getting south to 84.715 earlier today has shifted back north to 84.734.  There is some sort of lag, and when winds shifted to the south it moved against the wind, yet now, just as it starts to move with the wind, winds have shifted more to the north and it is moving against the wind again. To have the ice moving north and south the way it is doing, on the ice highway down towards Fram Strait, surely must result in fender benders.  Ice is grinding and bumping and banging and crunching and making a peculiar squealing noise you have to have lived by to understand.  When the ice going north meets the ice coming south, you wind up with the pressure ridges you see in the background.  The sun has moved around, and shadows make the pressure ridge in the right background look like a mountain range. (click picture to enlarge.)

NP August 1 npeo_cam2_20130801190901.jpg 2

With the sky so clear, we might as well also look down from outer space. Again, click to enlarge.)

NP Sat Aug 1Arctic_r03c03.2013213.terra.1km

Our camera is located towards the upper right corner of this picture.  Please notice our pressure ridge no longer looks like a mountain. In fact, you can’t even see it, or any of the other pressure ridges in the ice.  I think this may represent a problem. The good men striving to make sense of the arctic look at this picture and see chips of ice, and areas of open water, but not the considerable volume of ice all crunched together to form a narrow and somewhat invisible pressure ridge.

The satellite view shows us the arctic is not a solid sheet.  It is made of plates, chips, and crumbs of ice, all colliding and clinking like ice cubes in a giant, swirling glass of ginger ale. However, unlike ice cubes, they don’t just bump together.  The size of what looks like little chips in the satellite view is actually enormous, and when they so much as nudge it is like a northbound freight train meeting a southbound freight train.

Look back at the shadowed pressure ridge in the right distance of the most recent picture from camera 2.  How tall would you guess it is?  It’s smaller than it looks, but I’d say it is a big ridge, maybe fifteen feet tall.  Because it is an iceberg, and because nine-tenths of an iceberg is under water, that means there is an unseen 135 feet sticking down.

In other words, all the chips of ice seen from outer space are not created equal.  If the Arctic is flushing as it did in 2007, all the so-called “baby ice” remains thin chips, as it is flushed down past Fram Strait. (By “thin,”  I mean three to nine feet thick.)  However, if there are winter storms, and a summer pattern that plugs Fram Strait, and these “chips” are not flushed out, then the so-called “baby-ice” starts to include pressure ridges.  No longer is it only 3-9 feet thick, and instead can be over a hundred feet thick in places where the bergs include pressure ridges.

In conclusion, what we may be seeing is the process wherein “baby-ice” becomes “old ice,” right before our eyes.

I hasten to add this is only a theory.  However if this theory is correct the ice is very sneaky, because from outer space the plates, chips and crumbs of ice look the same, but in fact they are like the 98-pound-weakling who has been secretly lifting weights: They have muscles that are not apparent, and if we, (as the “bully” in this analogy,) try to treat the weakling as we once did,  (kicking sand in its face,) we may get thrashed.

In any case, it is very interesting, watching the ice melt this summer, even if the danged stuff won’t get around to properly melting.  Even though temperatures warmed to 1.2 (C) above freezing by camera 2 today, they then turned right around and sank to 1.2 (C) below. They then crept up to 0.5 above, but are now sinking.


NP Aug 2 17

AUG 3 AFTERNOON —  I’m just back from a trip out of town, and can’t say it looks any warmer up there.

NP Aug 3 npeo_cam2_20130803190735

I just checked the temperatures at camera 2, and they are currently just below freezing.  For the last week they have spent more time below freezing than above. Remember, this is 350 miles south of the pole.

A southward drift has resumed, but not until it drifted north to 84.767 degrees north.  It is now down to 84.703, which is as far south as it has reached all summer.  This sort of hesitation before getting south of 84 degrees north was seen in 2006. (Black line on map below.) (Click to enlarge)

NP Drifts_thru_2006


The camera has resumed its southerly movement, sinking from 84.703 degrees north when I last posted to 84.626 north.  The ice is not being helped by the wind, which has been from the southeast, south and now southwest for nearly two days.  In essence the ice is moving into a headwind, and I’d expect it to be slowed down and even shoved north again, if these winds keep up.  Also the southwest winds are off Greenland’s cold icecap, which may explain the fact temperatures have remained below freezing for over a day and a half, and even hit minus 3 (C), which is below the freezing point of salt water.  At last report they are still at minus 2.4 (C) so I’m not expecting any melt-water.

NP Aug 4 npeo_cam2_20130804130606

ASIDE— Steve Goddard has noted that the “volume” of the ice is up 19% from this time last year.  I confess “volume” is something I doubt “the experts” understand, and know darn well I don’t understand.  It seems it would be extraordinarily hard to account for the volume of pressure ridges.  I think there are more pressure ridges now than most authorities assume, but have no facts nor figures to prove it.  It is just a sense I get, watching the behavior of the ice.  However, because I know I don’t know, I’m attempting to educate myself at this site, run by people attempting to measure the “volume” of the arctic ice:



NP Aug 5 npeo_cam2_20130805065710


NP last year Aug 5 npeo_cam1_20120805201206

It looked a lot slushier last year, with more melt-water pools. However if you squint at the horizon of this year’s picture, you notice a dark line beyond the peaks of the distant pressure ridge.  There may be a lead (open water) forming out there.  Hopefully the sun will pop out over in that direction, and we’ll get a chance to see if that dark area shines like open water.


The sun popped out just for a while, before a gray overcast returned:NP Aug 6 12NP Aug 6B18MORE THOUGHTS ON VOLUME—One thing I noticed while comparing the pictures of this year and last year, yesterday, was that this year’s picture has more pressure ridges.  I  assume this suggests that the same area of ice has a greater volume. because in places it is thicker.

Much of what I notice cannot be called “scientific,” because I’m just using my eyes, but  I don’t feel my lack of science should cause me to be discredited.  After all, who would you rather have playing in the outfield in a baseball game: A non-scientific guy who just uses his eyes, and sprints to where the ball flies, and catches it, or a scientist who uses a slide-rule or computer keyboard, and is so busy calculating that the ball bounces off his head? However it would be nice to have a few numbers at my finger-tips, just so I could look a little bit scientific, even if I’m not.

One thing I’ve been paying attention to is the drift of the ice.  It is generally south towards Fram Strait, but this year it keeps pausing and backing up.  Try this on the south-bound lane of a freeway, and I bet you’ll gather scientific evidence of a pile up.  That is what a pressure ridge is, in my eyes.  A pile up.

Recently the ice sped up and for six hours and was moving along at a 0.2 miles per hour.  How did I figure that out?

In my youth I sailed, and they measured things in miles, and also a degree of latitude was devided into sixty “minutes,” and, because a degree of latitude is sixty miles, each minute was a mile.  Nice and simple, but they they went all decimal on me.  Now you need to know a tenth of a degree is six miles and a hundredth of a degree is six tenth of a mile. (You figure out the kilometers, if that is your cup of tea.)

By looking at the data at I can see that between 1200z on August 4 and 300z on August 5 the camera was moving south at a hundreth of a degee latitude every three hours.  If you devide that 0.6 by three, you get 0.2 miles per hour.  However then it slowed, and the last available data (yesterday’s) shows it is only moving three thousandth of a degree ever three hours, or a thousandth of a degree per hour, or 0.06 miles per hour.

Ice chunks tend to tailgate on the ice highway, and because they do not allow for a proper braking distance, when one brakes then up the highway there has to be some sort of pile up.

Longitude is a real pain, especially up near the pole.  For example, if you are standing a stride from the pole, a single stride to the side will cover 90 degrees longitude, but if you are standing two strides from the pole, the exact same stride will cover only 30 degrees.  Therefore I’m not even going to try to give measurements in miles.  However I feel it is noteworthy that the ice at Camera Two was moving west, came to a screaming halt, and now is heading east.  This business of changing lanes without the proper use of turn-signals has got to cause pile ups to either side, on the Ice Highway to Fram Strait.

Besides the figures we have for Camera Two, we have another Buoy located roughly 79 miles to the north northeast, called “PAWS Buoy ID 975420.”  Located on a separate plate of ice, it represents another vehicle on the ice highway, and it is interesting to compare its smashing and crashing with the smashing and crashing of Camera Two.

Ignoring the sideways lane-changing of longitude for the moment, it can be seen that both slammed on the breaks and went in reverse between 600z on August 1 and 1200z on August 2.  However Camera Two backed up .052 degrees of latitude, while the northern bouy only backed up .039 degrees.  In terms of latidude, the distance between the two narrowed by .013 degrees.  I make that to be .78 miles.

Now, if we were dealing with latitude alone, you would have a situation where, on the ice highway, PAWS Buoy ID 975420 blared his horn, swore like a Boston driver, there was a crash, and he had a tremendous rumple in the hood of his car.  You take .78 miles of ice and crunch it into a pressure ridge, and that is one heck of a pressure ridge.

Of course we need to add in the sideways motion of longitude.  PAWS Buoy ID 975420 likely changed lanes like a Boston driver.  However there was likely some serious bumping going on, and some pressure ridges were built, (as well as gaps and leads opened up.)

I will leave it to those more scientifically inclined to figure out the distances involved in longitudinal motions.  My point is that, as I pointed out in an earlier post, not all plates of ice are created equal.  Some plates are “baby ice,” nice and flat and between three and nine feet thick.  But other plates include pressure ridges, and can be as much as a hundred feet thick where those pressure ridges are located.  If you simply look at a picture from outer space, and use some sort of standard area-based equation to determine the volume of the collected plates, chips and crumbs of ice you can see, you are ignoring the fact that different plates have different histories.  If you bang about “baby ice” long enough it starts to include pressure ridges, and is no baby any more, and perhaps deserves a new name, perhaps “Boston driver ice.”

I am aware we have maps that portray the thickness of arctic ice, such as the Navy map at, however the problem with such maps is that a pressure ridge is too thin to show up.  It would be thinner than a hair on such a map.  In fact it would be as thin as the flagellum of a bacteria, and the map would require one heck of a zoom feature to even see the darn thing.

Therefore I just use my eyes, and notice the pressure ridges seen from Camera 2, that were not so common last year.

Before I close, I would like to gloat about something just a bit.  You see, last spring I faced some friendly derision for predicting the sea ice extent would only get down to six million square kilometers.  I claim to have used no science, and only to have used my eyes.  Now, (perhaps only for a brief time,) there seems to be a small chance I could actually be right.

If, against all odds, I turn out to be right, I will be like the outfielder who caught the ball.  Some scientists, far better at math than I, will be rubbing their heads because they didn’t use their eyes.


(Just as this post began with sensationalism, so will my next continuation, as some radical polar bear of unknown politics visited camera one and knocked it over.  49 views in 18 hours,  as my “art” gets two or three views, if I am lucky. Hmm.  Anyway, the continuation is at


July 28, 2013 satsfc

A warm morning, with our shot of cool weather replaced by a warm southerly flow ahead of the next front.  This flow always makes me look south, and a small low with a hook showing on radar off Cape Hatteras makes my brow quirk.

July 28 rad_ec_640x480

However that blob of clouds in the lower right of the map catches my eye most.  That is the ghost of Dorian, and I doubt she is truly dead and done.July 28 Dorian Screen shot 2013_07_28 at 7_20_48 AM


Al Capp bio.jbtfsplk


After the long heat wave, it is deliciously cool at daybreak.  A thrush is singing in the pure blue of the dawn dusk, and the day should be dry, partly cloudy and brisk.  There is absolutely no reason to fret and frown, but I’ll manage, just a bit, due to the lore of the weather-wise Yankee kicking about in the back of my mind.

“When the sky is feckless blue; rain or snow in a day or two.”

(It’s an odd use of the word “feckless,” when you think of it.  We don’t usually think of a blue sky as “unproductive and inefficient,” but I suppose the old farmers often looked heavenwards for rain.)

In the winter a brilliant blue sky is sometimes described as a “weather maker,” due to the fact it can often be followed by a storm.  Likely this is because the high pressure must be strong, to drive all clouds from the sky, and extremes breed extremes.  A wishy-washy sky leads to wishy-washy weather.

“Mackerel sky; Mackerel sky; Never long wet; never long dry.”

 In the summer, especially towards the end, a refreshing breeze from the northwest often makes me glance south for trouble.  It is counter-intuitive to think a high could attract a hurricane, however if you look at the maps of the situation just before Carol bicected New England  in 1954 you see a nice “protective” high pressure that you’d think would surely protect New England, even 36 hours before the storm hit.

The meteorologist Joe Bastardi, (who loves to play with puns based upon the titles of pop tunes,) often speaks of a “ridge over troubled waters,” and scrutinizes the area under summer highs, especially a “Newfoundland Wheel.”

In any case, if you are walking whistling down the road because the sun is shining, you really should be ashamed of yourself.  A true worry wart would walk under a personal cloud like the Al Capp character Joe Btfsplk. (Pictured above.)

Glancing at the map we see just such a high pressure shoving a cold front off the east coast.

satsfc.gif July 25, 2013

However, when you look for hurricanes, the closest tropical worry is Dorian, closer to Africa than us, and not likely to be worth worry until the weekend has passed.

Dorian 083911W_NL_sm

However do not despair. If you look back at the cold front moving off the coast, you can see a low developing on it.  With the waters off the east coast so warm, you can fret about a nor’easter, especially if you are vacationing off Cape Cod.

On the other hand, you can not worry and be happy, and practice whistling down the road.  I plan to at least give it a try.