This is the continuation of a long series of posts, the last of which can be found at

I began this series over a year ago, partly because I simply like studying the North Pole’s icecap, and partly because I had become convinced the media was doing a stunningly badjob of fact-checking, when it came to the subject of the icecap.  If anyone is interested in how I came to this conclusion they can read past posts. (It basically was due to a hobby I had of studying everything I could find about the Greenland Vikings, and the fact I knew the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than current times.)

I decided to study the icecap seriously for a year, and my year will be up in June.  If you look back you will see I have made mistakes, and admitted them.  It is all part of learning.

Once my year is done I’d really like to drop the subject of ice like a hot potato.  There are more interesting things in life than watching ice form and melt (though few things are more relaxing and serene, under ordinary circumstances.)

I’d rather write about the extraordinary circumstances we are living through, where politicians can make such a farce and fraud out of an ice-cap. It has to do with the collective psyche of my generation, and how it came to be basically deranged. If I describe what I’ve witnessed over the past fifty years I’ll likely offend nearly everyone I know, but it will be refreshing for people who thirst for truth. Also I intend to write about it in a way that will make people laugh, for that is more fun than weeping.

The only problem is that the North Pole is behaving oddly this year.  It has a grip on me. Therefore rather than suspending this series in June, as I had originally planned, I’ll likely continue it in a reduced form as the summer progresses, because I myself am very curious about what we will see.

What I have seen so far is somewhat predictable,  if you subscribe to the theory that the level of sea-ice is not controlled by CO2, but rather by the PDO and AMO. (The Pacific Decadeal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadeal Oscillation.)  We only began having satellite views of the Pole when I was a young man in my twenties, and both cycles were in their “cold” phase.  As the cycles moved into their “warm” phases, the ice in the arctic shrank, as one would expect.  Then the Pacific switched back to “cold,” and we have seen the ice grow back on the Pacific side, again as one would expect.  The level of ice on the Atlantic side remained very low, as the Atlantic remained in the “warm” phase of its cycle.  However here is where the surprise happens.

If you go back and look at the old records, as I have done, it becomes clear the AMO and PDO do not work like clockwork.  They have variations, and rather than saying they alternate over a period of exactly sixty years you need to say they alternate over a period of around sixty years.  Also you notice odd quirks and blips in the record, where right in the middle of a “warm” period a cycle may spike “cold,” and right in the middle of a “cold” period a cycle may spike “warm.”

That is what is occurring right now. The PDO, which was settling into a “cold” cycle, has spiked “warm,” while the Atlantic, which has roughly five years of a “warm” cycle to finish, has spiked “cold.”  This makes total mincemeat of expectations, if you deal in generalities. It also makes mincemeat of a neat and tidy sequence of events, which one would expect to see if the weather was ever neat and tidy.  It isn’t. You learn to expect the unexpected.

The general view is that, because the Pacific is so much bigger, it tends to boss the Atlantic around. When the Pacific turns “cold” the Atlantic can only stay “warm” so long before it comes into compliance with the stronger pattern.  However, during the time they are at odds, they generate a sort of clash that ruins a neat and tidy jet-stream called “zonal,” which describes a neat and tidy circle around the Pole. Instead the jet-stream dives far to the south and then rebounds far to the north, in a manner Dr. Tim Ball calls “meridianal” and I call “loopy.”  This is what we’ve seen the past winter, when North America froze as Europe enjoyed mildness, and saw the previous two winters when the roles were reversed.

The effect of a “loopy” jet stream on the Pole is twofold.  Big blobs of milder air surge north to replace the colder air surging south, and the Pole is far more windy.  What Alarmist focus on is the temperatures above normal, and the big cracks that the wind forms in the sea-ice, thinking it indicates the icecap is weakened and melting away. The opposite may be true.

First, the planet only has so much warmth, and when you bring more of that warmth to the Pole in the dead of winter when the sky is perpetually dark, it is lost to outer space.  It doesn’t melt the ice, for it is still well below the freezing point of salt water.  Even if it is fifteen degrees above normal, (which is extreme), it is at minus twenty rather than at minus thirty-five, and it is still perfectly capable of flash-freezing salt water.

Second, the more the ice cracks the more the water is exposed, and this does two things:

A, it chills and churns the water, both cooling the Arctic Sea and preventing any stratification in terms of salinity, which would allow warmer, saltier water to slip in under the colder, less-salty surface water.  The slight heat of the cold water steams up in the frigid air, losing extra heat to outer space, and also adding to the snows on top of the ice.

B, it is amazing how swiftly the open water flash-freezes.  A lead can freeze over thick enough for a 1600 piund polar bear to walk on it in a matter of hours when the winds are at thirty-below. This indicates ice forms six inches thick when, if that water was protected from the wind by three feet of ice, at best only an inch would have formed on the underside of the ice.  Get it? Six times as much ice has formed, in that area where the water is open.

Thirdly, besides the ice cracking apart and forming “leads,” the ice comes smashing together again,  building a mini-mountain range called a “pressure ridge.”  Many are small, only an obstacle a couple feet tall,  however you need to remember nine tenths of an iceberg is under water.  If it sticks up two feet then it sticks down fourteen feet.  Nor are all pressure ridges small. Some stick up thirty feet, which suggests they stick down two-hundred-seventy.

As winter night ended and the North Pole began its time of the midnight sun, I was eager to see what the ice looked like. Not only did last winter have the loopy pattern you see when one ocean is “warm” and the other “cold,” but both oceans had flipped during the fall and winter, from “warm” to “cold” in the case of the Atlantic and from “cold” to “warm” in the case of the Pacific. (The reason I put “warm” and “cold” in quotes is because the oceans are not warmer or colder as a whole, but rather the warmer and colder parts of each ocean change their positions.)

Not only was the pattern loopy, with strong winds sweeping over the ice as “cross-polar-flows,” but actual whirling gales tracked up over the ice.  (There have been four over the past month or so, and may be a fifth next week.) I had a hunch the ice would be especially fractured and piled up.

This is exactly what the people crazy enough to ski up there for the fun of it are reporting. (You can check out my last post for the details.)

As I described above, up until now the effect of the crack-up of the ice has been to chill the water more and to build up the volume of the ice.  However now the sun starts to get higher in the sky.  When the sun hits snow-covered ice it is reflected, but when it hits darker areas of open water or black ice it is absorbed and can melt ice and warm water. Therefore the question becomes, will the warming and melting effect out-weigh the cooling and freezing effect?

There is little doubt the Pole is pulverized, but much mystery about what the effect will be, by September.  STAY TUNED!!!


DMI May 13 mslp_latest.bigDMI May 13 temp_latest.big (1)


NP1 May 13 9NP2 May 13 18


(You can left-click these pictures to enlarge them, or right-click and open-to-a-new-tab if you are into multi-tabbing) (which is much like multi-tasking.)

To my eyes it looks foggy and perhaps milder up there. No snow is on the buoy, so I doubt it is snowing. The temperature data doesn’t get posted until afternoon, but Buoy 2014E: which is nearby is reporting  -13.88 C, which isn’t really milder. 

For all the talk about “albedo” and the reflective qualities of white snow versus open water, its hard to get excited when the sun never shines.  (Maybe by saying that I can jinx it into shining.) I wonder if there is available research about sunny summers as opposed to cloudy summers, and the effects of cloudiness on the ice.


DMI May 13B mslp_latest.bigDMI May 13B temp_latest.big (1)

For the time being the rapid springtime warming of the Arctic Ocean has stopped. The same thing happened last year.

DMI May 13B meanT_2014 (click to enlarge)


UK Met May 13 FSXX00T_00 (1)UK Met May 13B 14533430 (CLICK MAPS TO ENLARGE)

What is left of Tornson is strengthening as it departs the Baltic and heads up for the arctic coast, and perhaps the Pole. In its wake north winds Scandinavia, but a nice high pressure moving up over England may extend a kindly arm north and shift winds to the south in Scandinavia by Thursday.

In the meantime this pattern is not helping the Gulf Stream get any warmth up Norway’s coast. There are some signs another blocking pattern may develop.


Yesterday it made it up to 85, but today it was 50 at dawn and still fifty in the afternoon, with a cold drizzle from time to time. You can see the backdoor front, really a glorified sea breeze, has pushed all the way west to the middle of Pennsylvania.

A battle 213 satsfc (3) (click to enlarge)

On his WeatherBELL blog Joe Bastardi posted this excellent Dr. Ryan Maue map of the cold temperatures flooding west across New England.

A battle 213 Screen_shot_2014_05_13_at_6_06_12_PM (click to enlarge)

I don’t want to talk about it.  I’m pretty stiff and sore from pretending I’m a farmer at age sixty-one.  I likely should admit my dream of making the farm better is defeated, as I seem to spend as much time leaning on the end of my hoe’s handle as hoeing.  However I’m too stubborn.

What I need to do is make some money writing,  so I can hire a couple of hands and teach them what I know.  However it is a sorry state of affairs when you have to pay others to learn. No one paid me. Grumble-grumble-grumble….

Don’t mind me; it’s just the weather.


DMI May 14 mslp_latest.bigDMI May 14 temp_latest.big (1)

Weak lows are rotating around the Pole. The one to watch is “Tornson”, over Finland.

MAY 14 —North Pole Camera Shots; Still grey and cloudy—

NP1 May 13B 9NP2 May 13B 18

(click to enlarge)

The Camera 2 picture (with the buoy) is six hours later than the first. The time stamps are at the very top of the picture, when you enlarge them.  The second picture is just before midnight, “Camera Time”, which I think is Greenwich Mean Time.


This surprises me, especially on the Siberian coast (top right) where the ice was 15 feet thick only a few weeks ago.  The ice didn’t melt as much as it was blown away from the coast. However when the PDO goes into its “warm” phase the area does get warmer. (Alaska is to the lower left, and Siberia to the upper right.)


DMI May 14B mslp_latest.bigDMI May 14B temp_latest.big (1)


For the moment the map is reletively placid, with weak lows cycling around the Pole. (I’m calling the low northeast of Finland “Tornson,” although it has gone through restructuring as it passed through the Baltic, because I’ve run out of names and deserve to be lazy after working hard at the farm the past few days.) Tornson seems likely to be the most notable storm in the near future, however the high pressure building behind Tornson is the real story.  As it continues to build the northwest flow over Scandinavia could swing right around to the southeast, and rather than winds from the Pole they might get (greatly modified) winds from the Sahara.  In any case, changes are coming.

The Pole itself remains around ten below zero, with the cold air swirling around and staying up there. With the air at -10.0 and the freezing point of salt water at -1.7, it is obvious the pulverized icecap is still chilling any water that is exposed or barely skimmed over by thin ice.  The melting is at the edges.


NP1 May 14 9NP2 May 14 17


(Click to enlarge)  The sky is showing signs of clearing, but it still looks mighty cold. The lead to the right of Camera One”s view is showing ni signs of reopening, and the skim of ice on it looks thicker. The wind has slackened but the drift continues to the south, to 86.579°N, 10.600°E. The air temperature at noon was -11.4°C.


UK Met May 14 14559391 (Click to enlarge)

The map shows Tornson exiting Scandinavia, with a cold north flow behind it, and a high pressure system building over England. Once again the high is stalling low pressure south of Greenland, (“Tornzclip,”  as it formed from bits and pieces of clippers that swung around “Torn”).  Once again a low is stalled in the Mediterranean.  Looks like a block is again forming, so we look to Dr. Ryan Maue’s supurb WeatherBELL maps, (free week trial available,) to see what is going on upstairs, at the 500 mb level.  The next five days are very interesting. (These maps can be double clicked to fully enlarge them)

THE CURRENT MAP            Block 1 gfs_z500_sig_eur_1  

TWO DAYS FROM NOW      Block 2 gfs_z500_sig_eur_9  

THREE DAYS FROM NOW Block 3 gfs_z500_sig_eur_13 

FOUR DAYS FROM NOW   Block 4 gfs_z500_sig_eur_17 

FIVE DAYS FROM NOW     Block 5 gfs_z500_sig_eur_21

The upper air trough that extends down to the Mediterranean gets cut off, as a high bridges over the top, and then a second trough digs down to the west of the high pressure and connects with the low pressure remaining on the Mediterranean, ending with a new cut off low southeast of England. A block may be involved, but it is by no means a static pattern.

To refer back to air from the Sahara heading for Scandinavia, if you follow the isobars in the final map they suggest a flow from the Sahara around the eastern side of the Mediterranean and then back to the northwest towards Sweden.  It is a long, long road, but it gets you there.

LOCAL VIEW —The high, hot sun—

A battle 214 satsfc (3)  (click to enlarge)

The map shows the backdoor cold front still stalled back in Pennsylvania.  In fact the glorified sea-breeze even got down to Washington DC.  There seemed little chance warm air could get to us today.

A battle 214 rtma_tmp2m_conus__8_(1)

However it was only ocean air, and just as the fog burns off on the coast on a hot summer day, the sun evaporated the gloomy overcast, and suddenly we had a bright sun and mild temperatures. The air wasn’t the muggy, thunder-breeding stuff that had been halted to our west.  It was delicious, perfect air.

I had the sense things were looking up.  My mood had been so foul that I was doing a good job of making bad things worse. One thing I did was fry the solenoid on the starter of my rider lawnmower, attempting a jump start from my car. (Highly risky, but I’d gotten away with it before. However I forgot my old truck now had a new battery, with a much stronger charge.) (ZAP!!!)

After ruining my mower I was about ready to kick walls and spit snakes, but somehow managed to plod about figuring out the problem, purchasing a new solenoid, and getting the old piece of junk running. (It is 25 years old.)  Once the Childcare grounds were mowed life didn’t look so bad.  (The grass is about the only thing that has grown, this cold spring.)

I suppose I should give myself a lecture about abstaining from foul moods, but sometimes nothing makes me lose my temper faster than being told I should keep it.


DMI May 15 mslp_latest.bigDMI May 15 temp_latest.big (1)


DMI May 15B mslp_latest.bigDMI May 15B temp_latest.big (1)



DMI May 16 mslp_latest.bigDMI May 16 temp_latest.big (1)


“Tornson” continues to thrash across the Kara Sea, swinging its predecessor (I forget what I named it) up towards the Pole, along with some slightly milder air over the East Siberian Sea. Weak low pressure west of Greenland will collapse towasd the Pole, as even weaker low pressure southeast of Svalbard also moves towards the Pole west of Svalbard, strengthening.  All these lows will gather around the Pole as a weak (990 mb) storm that persists over the Pole until next weekend. As long as it sits there it does not bode well for sunshine, or major invasions of thawing air.  The DMI temperature graph is interesting, when you compare it to last year: (This year’s graph is to the left; last year’s to the right.)

DMI May 16 meanT_2014DMI May 16 meanT_2013 (1)

(Click graphs to enlarge)  Both years show the air above the arctic ice was above-normal as it was cracked and smashed by storms and cross-polar-winds, but right at this time of year it dips below normal.  If it follows last year, and continues below-normal until the sun sets in the fall, it suggests (to me) the water up there is colder. I suppose it also could suggest the sunlight is weaker (IE: The Quiet Sun).  However it hasn’t happened yet, and the temperatures could jump back above normal.  It is just something to watch.

The graphs also show that the temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude remain well below the freezing point of salt water. Any water exposed by storms continues to be chilled. It can be chilled down to -1.7 Celsius before it freezes, (even if it is a bit brackish due to the ice holding fresher water (but some salt) as salt is extracted by freezing). Then, if it is very cold water, it keeps the air very cold during the start of the summer melt season.  The 2m air temperatures never stray much from the temperature of the sea it crosses over.

The Navy ice-thickness map gives a picture of how crushed, riven and pulverized the ice is up there:

DMI May 16 arcticictnowcast


To really get a feel for the motion it is best to watch the animation at:

Unfortunately this animation will update, and if you are reading this a month from now you will see the animation of conditions a month from now.  You will miss the way the colors change, as the ice gets crushed together and then spreads apart. (Not the red (thick) ice down at the bottom of Hudson Bay, and a sort of “wave” of thick ice moving east along the north coast of Alaska.) The speed at which ice thickens and thins, as temperatures remain fairly constant and below freezing, shows that wind is a much greater factor than temperature and melting.


NP1 May 16 9


This is an amazing picture, when you compare it with earlier pictures. The “lead” of open water that was to the right, that I suggested had frozen over, has seen its sides come clapping together, and all the new ice that formed was crushed into the long, straight jumble of ice called a “pressure ridge.” I can never recall seeing this happen so clearly before, through the eyes of the North Pole Camera.

Having this active fault-line in the ice puts the camera in danger, as the ice may open and close over and over during the summer, but hopefully we will continue to get amazing pictures before the camera is toppled by a jumble of ice, or tipped into the drink.

When looking at the pressure ridges to the right, darker because they are more of a silhouette, remember that nine-tenths of an iceberg is under water.  They stick downwards nines times as far as they stick up.  If there is significant melting beneath, the part we can see will stick up less and less.

Nice interlude between storms, up there. The camera is now drifting more to the east than south, at 86.551°N, 11.132°E at noon yesterday, with temperatures back then -12.5°C.  Camera two also has a lovely, if less exciting, view:

NP2 May 16 17

You can click these pictures to get clearer and larger views. (What I like to do is to open the most recent picture to a new tab, and also open an older picture to a new tab. Then, by clicking back and forth between the two tabs, you can detect changes in the pictures which otherwise might escape your notice.)


I am glad the solo skier, and the trio called “Expedition Hope,” were safely plucked up from the ice by the daring pilot named “Troy.”  I was worried they would get hurt up there, with the ice so active this year, but I will miss their amazing photographs. From now on we are stuck with the static shots from the drifting cameras.

Here is the report from the excellent website

North Pole season closed down with last flight
(By Correne Coetzer)    Kenn Borek Air’s Twin Otter reached Bengt Rotmo about 2pm on May 13 and Eric Philips, Bernice Notenboom and Martin Hartley 17h30 on the way back, reported Lars Ebbesen at the Norwegian home base to ExWeb. Bengt’s position on May 12 was at approximately 88-87ºN, 062ºW and the Philips team at 84.8ºN, 77.1ºW. 

The pilot, well-know Troy, had a short weather window yesterday to pick up the skiers as weather was going to deteriorate. Eric Philips described their pick-up, “A cloud bank engulfed us an hour before the plane banked over us. We thought we were condemned to the ice for another week as the forecast was for continued bad weather and watched from a pressure ridge as Troy the pilot made at least ten passes in the distance before finally landing. We packed quickly and skied 45 minutes to the plane.”

They stopped at Cape Discovery, their intended end point, to refuel and continued to Eureka Weather Station to spend the night there. 

Wrap-up Canada to 90ºN teams

The season started off with 5 teams attempting to ski from Canada (Cape Discovery, Ellesmere Island) to the Geographic North Pole and two from The North Pole to Canada. 

 Gathered in Resolute Bay with 4 other teams, Italian solo skier, Michele Pontrandolfo, went home before the start due to Search and Rescue insurance money issues. Irish duo, Clare O’Leary and Mike O’Shea and solo Japanese skier Yasu Ogita started at Cape Discovery on March 7. On March 16 at N83.7, W077 the Irish team were injured when getting over a big blog of pressure ice, which overturned, and asked for a medical evacuation. Yasu Ogita, who prepared food for 50 days, realised that he was going to ran out of food on Day 42 when he asked for a pick up at 86º 16’43.8”N, 63º 38’43.8”W. 

 Both unassisted unsupported, the Norwegian and American teams started at Cape Discovery on March 15. On Day 1, Lars Flesland and Kristoffer Glestad aborted their expedition due to frostbite on their feet. Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen are the only team whocompleted the full route successfully this year; by skiing, snowshoeing, swimming, paddling and crawling to the Pole. It took them 53 days to cover the 770 km (distance in a straight line; no drifting, sled relays or detours around pressure ridges and open water added).

I wonder if they will now talk about how “weak” the arctic ice was, and how much open water there was, and how this all points to Global Warming.  If they do so they will have to focus on the leads, and turn a blind eye to the amazing pressure ridges, which they noted had become a much greater obstacle than during prior adventures.  That was what struck me, as I looked at their excellent photographs. 

THE LOCAL VIEW  —Time off for a son’s graduation—

A battle 215 satsfc (3)

I don’t know why they plan graduations just when I am busiest with spring planting. Not that I am making much progress. I am really feeling my age, and the going is embarrassingly slow. However that makes me all the more determined to turn this website into a money-producing “cash cow,” brimming with wit and things that lure the unsuspecting into buying eBooks holding my old poetry. If that dream succeeds I can afford to hire hands to help me farm.  That seems really important to me, though I’ll admit a quick trip to a graduation ceremony would be nice.  After all, I’m proud of my middle son.

However, besides the farm and writing, there is a third thing I like to do, and that is to keep my wife happy.  And my wife would not be happy with a quick trip to a graduation ceremony.  She’s only happy when she makes something that could be short, sweet and simple into a humongous “event.”

Therefore I will likely have little time to post the next few days.  Nor will much get done in the garden.  However rest assured that somewhere a wife is happy, and somewhere a husband is going along with it.


DMI May 16B mslp_latest.bigDMI May 16B temp_latest.big


DMI May 17     DMI May 17

This is a test. I’m down in Gloucester, Massachusetts, with the rain poring down and the wind howling, attempting to use a tablet I am unfamiliar with to make a post.


DMI May 17B mslp_latest.bigDMI May 17B temp_latest.big

I gave up on the tablet, and am now using an older laptop.  At least I can post some pictures.


MAY 19  —Some quick notes while I can’t post pictures—

I still haven’t figured out how to use this new “Surface” gizmo, but it gets on line while other more geezer-friendly laptops are having trouble. I am restraining a strong desire to “touch” the screen with my fist, rather than my finger. It is hard for an old dog to learn new tricks.

I am just going to put down a couple headlines, and hopefully can add pictures later.


While the low pressure is weak, it is a continuation of the pattern that is bringing low pressure up over the pole, along with (I imagine) less sunshine and stronger winds.


NP! May 18 npeo_cam1_20140518232733NP1 May 19 npeo_cam1_20140519052938 (Click pictures to enlarge)

The pressure ridge to the right of Camera One’s view is again open water.  The two sides of the lead which clapped together to form the pressure ridge have spread apart again. Having open water so near our temperature sensors should raise temperatures, but currently the wind must be “off shore,” (blowing towards that water rather than from that water),  for temperatures have dropped from a high of -5.2C down to -12.8C. That should be cold enough tallow a skim of ice to form on the water.  It should make for some interesting observations.

later view shows a skim of ice forming close to the near side of the lead, but that the far side of the lead is now barely visible:

NP1 May 19B npeo_cam1_20140519112641

The latest view  shows the inshore skim of ice seeming to expand, and a fog or light snow descending upon the stage.

NP1 May 19C 8

It will be interesting to see if this lead gets any press, as the summer progresses.  Last summer there was a great deal of hoopla about “Lake North Pole,”  which promptly drained away as soon as people turned to look at it.  In the same manner hoopla might be made about “open water at the Pole,” however, as we have already seen, these leads can close and crunch up a mountain-range of ice called a “pressure ridge” in a matter of hours, when the wind shifts.  It would be humorous if this happened this summer after the media made a fuss about open water, but we shall have to wait and see.

At noon today our camera had drifted south and east to  86.366°N, 11.902°E.  If it drifts much further east it might pass north of Svalbard, and miss the connection to Fram Strait. I’ve never seen this happen.  

Temperatures have slowly risen from a low of  -13.2°C at 1500z yesterday to -10.1°C at noon today.


DMI May 19B mslp_latest.bigDMI May 19B temp_latest.big (1)

I’m finally back home at my old computer, singing “Back in the Saddle Again.”  It is going to be hard work, getting my self up-to-date.

The low will sit over the Pole, with strong winds blowing around the Pole rather than down into Fram Stait, , even as the low weakens towards the latter half of the weak.  Warmer air has moved up over Scandinavia, and may make some progress towards the Pole as a low travels over Scandinavia to the west Siberian coast of the Kara Sea by Friday.

My “dead reckoning” approach tells me a lot of the ice that was jammed towards Canada during the winter is now being dispersed back towards Eurasia, rather than being flushed south through Fram Strait.  At this point the Navy map is still showing some flushing going on:

DMI May 19B arcticicespddrfnowcast


DMI May 20 mslp_latest.bigDMI May 20 temp_latest.big (1)


DMI May 20B mslp_latest.bigDMI May 20B temp_latest.big (1)

“Tornson” continues to sit over the Pole. Milder air has worked its way north over Scandinavia, and especially Finland, however the area north of 80 degrees latirude remains slightly below normal, even while warming.

During the summer the bright reds now seen over Finland’s arctic coast should appear on other areas of the arctic coast, as temperatures inland rise into the 70’s and even 80’s, Fahrenheit.

CAMERA ONE PICTURES —The lead story—

NP1 May 20 1NP1 May 20B 9 (click these pictures to enlarge)

If you open these two pictures (roughly six AM and six PM) on another two tabs, and then click back and forth between the two pictures, you’ll better see the minor changes.

One thing you don’t see is the sun shining. If this gloom from keeps up it will make many of our discussions about the albedo of arctic ice look foolish.  Rather than discussing how much sulight the ice bounces away into space, we should have been discussing the effects of cloud cover.

One thing you can see is the far side of the lead has come closer, and the lead continues to freeze over. I went to the site at to get these pictures, and they have more. They take around four at roughly two minute intervals, four times a day. If you put the pictures taken at 1722 and 1729 on seperate tabs, and click between the two, you can detect the ice on the far side of the lead is moving from right to left.

Wow! I just went back to recheck something, and the latest pictures are in, from midnight, LCT (local camera time.) The midnight sun is shining.

NP1 May 20C 8 (Click for clearer, larger picture.) This picture shows us that the lead has frozen over, and some ice is situated on the far side, but further off an new lead seems to have opened and to be exposing darker water.

The temperature likely has dropped a degree or two, despite the sunshine, as the sun is still fairly low and the temperature often responds downwards to the lack of a blanket of cloud cover (until the sun is at its highest, from mid June to early August.) Back when the earlier pictures of gloom and fog were taken the temperature had slowly risen from -10.1°C at noon yesterday to -7.1°C at noon today. This is still below the freezing point of salt water, so the break-up of ice you are witnessing isn’t due to thawing.  It is likely due to winds, which got up to a strong, steady breeze of 22 mph yesterday.  Our camera was pushed more east than south, to 86.232°N, 12.692°E.

Here is the picture from Camera Two, which can’t be the lead story as it pictures no lead. NP2 May 20 18 (click to enlarge)

You can’t get a screaming headline of “North Pole Melting” from this camera, so my guess is the media will ignore it. I’d guess they’ll focus on Camera One, and we’ll see the headline around a month from now.

O-buoy #9, which sits on ice across the Pole but is drifting towards the Pole, may be at the Pole when they are looking for a screaming headline, and though the ice around it currently looks solid, they may have a hope.

webcam(1) (Click to enlarge.)

O-buoys have time-lapse movies you can watch:

A lot of this buoy’s movie has a snow-covered lens, but if you watch around 3:15 in the movie you can see how smoothe the ice was last autumn. The pressure ridges in the distance of the current picture all appeared during the winter. However between 8:22 and 8:23 of the movie you can see an abrupt crack appear nearly beneath the orange thing in the near distance.  If that opened to as lead it could make headlines, especially if it happened as the ice drifted over the Pole in July, when it is just above freezing and leads don’t freeze over.

It is likely leads opened near O-buoy 9 in the dark of winter, when this camera was closed down, and then they clapped shut to make those pressure ridges we see in the distance, that were not there in the autumn. Leads are not a sign of melting, as the temperature when the current crack formed near O-bouy 9 was minus ten. Leads are a sign storms such as “Tornson” are pulverizing the Pole, and my hunch is that having many leads in the ice chills the Arctic Sea more than it warms it, with the possible exception of a brief seven week window between mid June and early August.


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(click pictures to enlarge)  The sunshine didn’t last long, up there.


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“Tornson” seems to starting to dissipate, as a new low cruises into the Kara Sea and absorbs it.

What is interesting (to me) to watch is how quickly the Pole warms, this time of year.  The minus-twenty isotherm has vanished as the minus-five becomes more common.  Though the Pole is warming, it remains a bit below normal.

DMI May 21B meanT_2014 (Click to enlarge)


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The picture to the left is from around noon, and the picture to the right is from six PM.  Winds are dying down. The camera has drifted south, and stopped moving east and shifted west, winding up at 86.137°N, 12.678°E, at noon. Temperatures did drop briefly to -8.3°C as the sky cleared yesterday, but when the clouds came back the rise resumed and temperatures were at -6.6°C at noon.  It remains cold enough to freeze over the lead to the left.


You can click on these pictures to make them larger and clearer.

Camera One shows the sky has cleared, and the midnight sun is shining. Despite the sunshine the temperatures apparently have dropped a degree or two, which often happens when the sun is still low in May and late August.  More heat is lost by the lack of blanketing clouds than is gained by the low sun’s rays.

Also it can be seen that the lead to the right continues to freeze over. Despite the sunshine the “melt season” hasn’t truly begun. The snow can get sticky on the surfaces tilted towards the sun’s rays, as some salt is mixed in it, and also the ice can be melted from beneath by sea-water.  The temperature of the sea-water is crucial to such melting-from-beneath, and is something scientists seek to better understand. A small difference in temperature, mere tenths of a degree, can make the difference between ice thinning or ice remaining relatively unaffected. (Because the ice exudes its salt, it is fresher than sea-water, and melts at a higher temperature. The water can be colder than the ice, though that may sound counter-intuitive. The salt water can be at 29.9 as the ice is at 31.5.)

The visibility is excellent, and one can see the far side of the lead in the far distance. The water must be very cold to freeze over so quickly at temperatures which, for the arctic, are not all that cold.  There may be a strip of open water on the far side of the lead, though it is difficult to tell, yet most of the lead appears to have a skim of thin ice.  If the winds shift and the lead closes up, all that thin ice will be crunched up as a pressure ridge. Then, if the winds shift yet again and the lead reopens, the pressure ridge will remain as a sort of wall at the edge of the lead. A minor example of this can be seen along the near side of the current lead. The adventurers who ski the Arctic Sea described how they had to clamber over pressure ridges just to get to the leads they crossed.

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Camera two shows the “stasrugi” drifts of snow formed by the persistent winds.  These drifts are stiffer and more starchy than one expects snow to be. The adventurers liked skiing with it and disliked skiing across it.  When I compare this picture with a picture from May 10 I can see the scouring winds have shifted the positions of individual drifts of stasrugi, despite its stiff nature.

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One interesting thing about stasrugi is that it contains some powdered salt.  As the leads first freeze over the salt is extruded as “flowers.” Here is an excellent picture of some, taken by Martin R. Hartley of “Expedition Hope.” (April 22)

Hope salt flowers image6

These “flowers” can form because salt loses its ability to melt ice at around a temperature of 20 degrees. (-7 Celsius).  As long as temperatures remain lower, the salt can be blown around with the snow on top of the ice.  It creates an odd situation where the snow on top of the ice can be saltier than the ice beneath, and, if circumstances are perfect, you can even have small drifts of pure salt. However, as soon as temperatures rise above 20 degrees, the salt starts melting the snow and ice.  (This can happen at lower temperatures if a block of ice is angled towards the sun in such a way that it catches the rays and creates a micro-climate that is superficially warmer.)  One reason stasrugi is stiff and starchy involves embedded salt briefly making the snow sticky, before it refreezes. (Another is that windblown snow becomes “packed powder”.)

As temperatures rise above 20 (-7 Celsius) at the Pole, the windblown salt becomes pockets of brine, drilling down through the ice.  It would be interesting to test the salinity of the melt-water pools that form during the summer thaw. Some would be fresh water, but I imagine some would be surprisingly salty, especially at first.


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“Tornson” continues to dwindle on the Pole, as “Karablow” brews up over the Kara Sea.

Once again high pressure is building over the top of the Atlantic, and the ice seems to be blown across the top of Fran Strait, rather than down into the strait.

The Navy map indicates the ice is cracking up some, towards Siberia, as the color-code indicates areas of 80% ice and 20% water.  The storms have had their effect, and the Pole is pulverized, (Click for larger, clearer version.)

Extent May 22 arcticicennowcast (1)


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“Tornson” is fading away over the Pole, as “Karablow” strengthens over the Kara Sea. To the east of Karablow a weak southerly flow is bringing the first above freezing temperatures we’ve seen all spring to the shoreline of the Laptev Sea. Even a month ago a south wind would bring cold off Siberian snows; the warming of that wind is indicative of the snow-cover melting away.  However this map shows that area at the end of a long arctic day. Themperatures likely will still dip below freezing during the short arctic night.

High pressure is forming a ridge up the middle of the Atlantic, bringing north winds to the coast of Norway even as the rest of Scandinavia is milder.  To the other side of this ridge weak south winds are wafting north into Fram Strait, and likely the southward flow of ice will grind to a halt and perhaps even back up to the north a little.


I’ll start with pictures from lunchtime.  These two pictures are taken eight minutes apart.

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If you enlarge these onto a new tab, and then click back and forth between the two tabs, you can see the ice on the right horizon (across the lead) is moving from right to left, which is a reversal in how it was moving a couple days ago.  I’m not sure, but I also think the far-side ice may be closer.

Temperatures did drop when the weather cleared last midnight, down to -9.0°C, but as the clouds rolled back in temperatures rose to -5.5°C at noon.  This may not only be due to cloud-cover, for, although the sun never sets, we have drifted over 200 miles south of the Pole, and the sun is somewhat higher at noon, which should lead to some diurnal variation. Thirdly, there is some milder air swirling around all the way from the Pacific along the Canadian coast. Whatever the reason, this is the warmest we’ve seen all spring, and the windblown salt can start melting ice.

By noon the camera had drifted souith, north, east and west,  in an irregular manner despite the facts the winds apparently remained northwest. We wound up at 86.050°N, 12.962°E, which is a little further south and east, but barely a mile.  

The next picture is from six hours later:

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The far side of the lead to the right may be reopening to right, but the inshore part of the lead is definitely whiter, perhaps due to some light snow.  I could detect no motion of the ice across the lead, but its top does seem lower, and that an even more distant lead may be glimpsed past it, and perhaps even another ice floe at the horizon.  I wish the lighting was better.

The coldest temperature I can find reported by a buoy is from Buoy 2013F: over towards Bering Strait, which is reporting  -8.40 C. 


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Probably a stupid bear got curious.


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High pressure is taking over the Pole. “Karablow” is stalled and getting squashed south in the Kara Sea,  as an interesting feature I’ll call “Nor” is north of Norway.  It is stalled, as is the low off the east coast of Greenland, and another low off the map over England.  Everything has ground to a halt as a high is going to build right, smack, dab at the top of the Atlantic, and block the eastward progress of storms.  Currently a front lies down the spine of Norway’s mountains, and it is milder over towards Finland, but it looks like the north winds on the east side of the blocking high will battle to take over Scandinavia, as south winds work up the east coast of Greenland, and perhaps even push ice the “wrong way” in Fram Strait, north instead of south. (We saw this last summer.)


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If you right-click the two images above, and open them to a new tab, and then click between the two images, you can see the jumble of ice arising in the upper center, (which used to be the horizon to the left, before our camera toppled).

I am so bummed out about this camera falling over I can’t find the right swears. Hasn’t anyone a spare hundred grand laying around, to pay someone to helicopter up there and prop it back up?

It had to be a bear.  There’s no reason for it to fall.  There’s no thawing and slush, as temperatures were stable, and dropped only slightly to  -6.4°C at noon yesterday.  The strongest winds were only around 16 mph, and had dropped to around 4 mph by noon.  

I suppose there might have been some sort of ice-earthquake, as the floe was getting jostled.  Although it did move slowly south to 85.966°N by noon, it stopped moving east and jerked back west, arriving at 13.137°E at 1800z Thursday, and then moving back to 12.994°E by noon yesterday. Judging from the jumble of ice in the distance, such changes in direction can’t be completely smooth, So maybe there was some sort of earthquake that caused the knock-down. (But I bet it was a bear.)

It is driving me nuts to have stuff going on, and to be getting a crick in my neck trying to view it.  I want to stand up, but I’m reduced to viewing the distance like a man with one cheek on the snow.


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If you enlarge and compare these pictures from yesterday (left) and today(right), you will spot the crack apear towards the horizon, dead ahead. It slants towards us, to the middle right margin.  It is an old crack that never “healed.”  Maybe it will open up, and we’ll get another chance to study the formation of leads and pressure ridges.

This does hint at how pulverized the ice up there is, after the stormy winter.  Keep in mind the air temperatures have been below the freezing point of salt water. No thawing from above can be involved.  Nor is much sunshine involved, as the skies remain predominately gloomy. I doubt the crack is caused by melting-from-below, for a quick check of nearby Buoy 2014E: shows the ice is actually getting a little thicker.  The culprit is the winds.

The two above photographs are 24 hours apart.  It is interesting the darker clouds are in the same place. Coincidence? Or are arctic adventurers correct, (at least some of the time), when they state darker clouds show where wider leads of open water lie?


This shows not only the ice cracking, but the ice “healing.”  (A hat-tip to “Just The Facts.”)


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Well, at least we don’t have a storm over the Pole.  It looks like the high pressure, centered just south of Svalbard but ridging over the Pole, will persist until midweek, gradually sliding towards Norway. Computer models suggest that the next storm to charge at the Pole will be coming straight north from west of Hudson’s Bay, of all places. (So I’ll call it, “Valplaces,” if it happens.)

Despite the building high pressure, it is still cloudy at the camera.

Temperatures are rising rapidly at the Pole, which is typical for this time of year.  There is no night over a larger and larger area, expanding to the entire area within the arctic circle on the first day of summer. If there is no night, there is no chance to escape the warming sun.  What is odd is that the temperatures are rising more slowly than normal. This is exactly what happened last year.

This perks up my ears, for, when dealing with weather, things almost never happen the same way twice.  Any sign of similarity whets interest.

NORTH POLE CAMERA PICTURE  —Amazing lack of change—

I’m going to skip Camera One, as looking at it gives me a crick in the neck.  The only change is that the snow in the foreground has slumped slightly. (Even this is interesting, for a guy like me, because with temperatures below minus-six and no sunshine, the only way snow can slump involves some salt being mixed in.)

After the excitement of the crack appearing yesterday, there is no change in Camera Two, but this is odd, because not even the dark cloud straight ahead changes, though the pictures below are from midnight, 10:30 AM, and 4:45 PM.  (Ther first is a duplicate of one I posted this morning.)

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Clouds don’t stand in the same place like that unless some physical feature is causing them to exist. As there are no mountain ranges in the Arctic Ocean, I tend to think the arctic explorers are correct, and open water creates dark clouds (when circumstances are correct).

Hmm. Selah. (Pause, and consider that.)

Because our Pole has been pulverized, there has been more open water, even if it swiftly freezes over.  If there is more open water, there could be more clouds.  In the short term, clouds keep heat from escaping and warm temperatures by a degree or so, but in the long term they deflect the 24-hour-sunshine, and prevent those beams having the effect they ordinarily have, (which, according to some, is to greatly warm the open water.)

It does seem odd that the clouds persist, even though pressures have steadily risen and at noon were at 1031.0 mb.  

Another theory, (Svenmark’s), states the clouds are due to the Quiet Sun and to cosmic rays.  Maybe that theory is also true, and we have two things contributing to increased cloudiness.

However my theory (and perhaps I should simply call it my wondering) thinks that the pulverized Pole creates open water, which create more clouds. The reason the Pole is pulverized is because the AMO and PDO are out of sync, and rather than zonal the flow is loopy (meridianal).

Perhaps, when things get back in sync, the sun shall shine again. Again the ice will melt. Again we shall enjoy a Medieval Warm Period, and the permafrost of Greenland will turn to soil we can plow and grow barley for beer, as the Greenland Vikings once did.

But then is not now. Now we are witnessing a world out of sync.

(Isn’t it amazing what my imagination can get out of three pictures that show, basically, nothing happening?)

Our camera’s southerly drift has slowed as its easterly drift has resumed, and at noon it stood at 85.951°N, 13.213°E. Winds have been light, mostly less than 5 mph. Temperatures have shown a slight diurnal variation, nearly 250 miles south of the Pole, dropping to -7.4°C before midnight and then rebounding to -6.5°C at noon.

LOCAL VIEW  —The arctic retreats—

A battle 216 satsfc (3)A battle 216 rad_ne_640x480_08

I originally put these “local view” segments into my sea-ice posts to demonstrate how the North Pole was effecting the weather of New Hampshire.  However that was just a thinly veiled excuse to talk about something other than the North Pole.  After all, I did not start this blog to watch ice melt.

The “local view” segments described how the hard winter was effecting other areas of my life, which can be divided into my business, (Childcare), the farm, my family, and my writing.  It was fun squeezing all these topics onto a post about arctic sea-ice, but recently it is becoming difficult, as there is less and less arctic to deal with in New Hampshire, in May.

The above maps show we are in a stubborn northerly flow, and a front is having a hard time getting across New England, (just as a front in Scandinavia is having a hard time getting across Norway.) Day after day we hear of warm weather to our west, but it never gets here. However the vegetation got tired of waiting, and spring busted out and our world became lush and green. The last memory of ice is melting even from Lake Superior:A battle 216 lice_00__26_(1)

Therefore, because the “Local View” will have next to nothing to do with arctic sea-ice for months, I’ve decided to discontinue it until next winter, (which looks like another hard one.) However it turns out a few people actually like the “Local View” more than all my notes about sea-ice. Hmm.  What should I do?

What I’d like to do is revamp this site into a site with several sub-sites.  There will be a sort of entrance hall, where you can chose what door you want to go through. If you are more interested in sea-ice you can go through that door, but if you are interested in bad poetry you can go through the bad-poetry door. (Or the childcare or farming doors.)

Until I figure out how to construct such a site, (and I don’t have much free time,) what I think I’ll do is have “Local View” posts intermingled with “Sea-ice” posts, and when you arrive at the home page of this site you will have to scroll down to find the thread you are most interested in. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


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It looks like a feeler of mildness is groping north between the Pole and northeast Greenland, which may explain the gray weather our camera is seeing, as such air would be moist Atlantic air.

NORTH POLE CAMERA   —Max™ makes an interesting point—

The view from camera 2 is the same, including the dark cloud on the horizon.

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In the comments below the blogger “Max™” raises an interesting point: “Could it simply be that the open water is darker, lending a darker tone to the clouds above it?”

Upon reflection, I think this may well be the case.  Lots of water-color painters slyly use this technique, tinting the undersides of clouds over red sandstone buttes red while clouds over nearby forested hills are tinted slightly green, for that is what you actually see, gazing over desert landscapes in the American southwest. Of course you also see clouds grow dramatically more purple as they load up for a thunderstorm, however, as these clouds have sat on our horizon for two days, (and it hasn’t thundered yet), I think they may merely be reflecting darker water.

The crack in the distance has “healed” and is less obvious.

Over at the crick-in-the-neck camera (camera 1) the distant pressure ridge seems a bit larger, on its left (upper) side.


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The news is that big high blocking the top of the Atlantic Ocean, and ridging over the Pole.  It is stalling storms in the Atlantic, and what is left of those storms have to take a more southern route.  The high is bringing colder air south over Scandinavia as slightly milder air heads fro the Pole up the east coast of Greenland, pushing ice back north a little in Fram Strait. Even as this high slowly moves east over Scandinavia it looks like a western extention will continue to block the north Atlantic. A general pathway of low pressure will set up south of Scandinavia, through the Baltic and up to the coast of Siberia, however storms will be sluggish and may even adopt a retrograde motion, in this pathway.

With the Atlantic entrace blocked, “Valplaces” will move north through the Canadian Archipelago and out onto the Arctic Ocean, on the Bering Strait side of the Pole. When a storm replaces the so-called Beaufort High in this manner it’s isobars oppose the ordinary flow of ice in both the Beaufort Gyre and the Transpolar Drift.

It is too early to tell if this is a mere quirk or a summer pattern, but last year storms over on the Canadian side prevented the flow of ice down through Fram Strait, and last year’s North Pole Camera crossed latitude 84 eleven times before finally moving south in September.

Something is causing the NOAA CFS V2 model to see less ice being flushed from the Pole.  I don’t trust models, but Joe Bastardi pointed out these graphs, which show the ice only decreasing to 6 million km2, (bottom graph,) which would be a change from ice -0.7 of normal to ice +0.3 of normal. (Top graph.)

DMI May 26 sieMon

If this model is even close to correct it will be a shock to many Alarmists. It is hard to talk about a sea-ice “death spiral” and an “ice-free-Pole” when you have more ice than normal.  (At this point I think we may approach normal, but being above normal would surprise me.)

There is a post about the above graphs, with a great discussion involving more than 200 comments, at:

NORTH POLE CAMERA  —Still no sunshine—

The crick camera (Camera 1, which gives you a crick in the neck as you have to look at everything sideways) has the new pressure ridge nicely highlighted by purple clouds on the distant horizon.

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Camera 2 shows two interesting changes in an otherwise dull scene:

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First, the dark cloud straight ahead looks smaller, which may indicate open water is closing up. (See the interesting comment by Richard Smith, below, to gain first-hand-experience of such skies.)

Second, the crack looks different. It is hard to see it clearly in the dull light, and I wish a stray sunbeam would shine and make the contrast of shadows,  but I think the edges are starting to crumple and perhaps build a very small pressure ridge.

Our camera drift halted its southward progress just before the noon report, yesterday, and even moved .001°N degree north. (I thinks that’s around six hundredths of a mile.) Also the eastward drift stopped at 13.282°E at 0300z, and it started drifting back west. The noon position yesterday was 85.936°N, 13.248°E. Winds remained light. Temperatures ignored diurnal variation, hitting a high of -5.8°C at midnight and dropping back down to -7.1°C at noon.


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“Valplaces” continues north, bumping against the high pressure ridge over the Pole and creating a “wrong-way” flow north in Fram Strait.  Temperatures continue to rise, but continue to rise a little more slowly than normal.

NORTH POLE CAMERA  —Is this any way to run a high pressure system?—

I’ve been hoping for high pressure, thinking it would give us fair weather and we might get some good camera pictures, but the pressure crested at  1032.9 mb yesterday, and we didn’t even get a sunbeam. Now, although it has only fallen a little, to 1026.6mb at noon today, we’ve got glop on the camera lens.  I tell you, this year’s camera is not the best behaved one I’ve known.

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Winds are still fairly light, and are camera is heading north and east, to 85.950°N, 13.427°E at noon today.  Temperatures bottomed out at -7.7°C at six yesterday evening, and then slowly rose to -6.0°C today.

NORTH POLE CAMERA MAY 27  —Worse and worse—

Freezing fog, anyone?

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Well, lets look on the bright side:  At least the sun is out.


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There looks to be a pretty decent wrong-way-flow, pushing ice back north in Fram Strait.  That is not the way to reduce sea-ice.  However it is also bringing milder temperatures up towards the Pole. The thaw is not far away.

Asd this post is getting pretty long, and is threatening WordPress’s capacity to hold pictures and data, I should continue this notebook with a new post, which I guess I’ll call,   “The Approaching Thaw.” You can link to it here:



  1. Back again!

    I like to use the mousewheel click to open an image in a new tab (though as I use a Logitech USB game controller for a mouse I just hit A for middle click, B for left click, X is Ctrl and Y is right click, but I digress) though I do also make use of right click > open in new tab for non-link images.

    You mentioned the expedition with the map showing their plans and progress so far:

    That is the 2007 minimum >.>, rather shameless “look how bad things are” ploy there.

    What got me thinking about how the ice was doing was the combination of seeing an image from the new cameras earlier today and the fact that it got down to 48 F (8~9 C) the other night and is currently 54 F (12 C) here.

    Why is that worth mentioning?

    I’m in Memphis, TN, and it’s May 17th!

    Anyways, glad to see you’re still updating your fun to read posts, good luck on spring making it to you, it seems it went on early vacation here.

    • Hi Max!It is good to see you survived the school year. Its been a long, hard winter, which just adds to the stress of a long, hard school year. However summer is now peeking in the windows. Hallelujah!

      I agree it was a rather shameless ploy to show the 2007 minimum on their map, however they sent back many pictures of the 2014 April ice, and you could see they were blown away by the size of the pressure ridges. There is an increase in multi-year ice that is difficult to deny, especially if you have to clamber over the stuff.

      I’d like to thank you folk down in Memphis for warming the air with your southern sunshine, before it curves up the coast and comes our way. Often the coldest blasts have been far to our west, this past winter and spring, and the air is to some degree moderated before it gets to us. We’ve been below normal, but not as much as places like Chicago.

  2. Your excellent posts have made you my “sea-ice expert”! You probably are already aware, but that is MUCH better than anything with “Nobel” on it. 🙂

    Anyway, I have a question or two, as you get time:

    1) What is the definition of “ice-free”, or “open” in the Arctic? That is, does “ice-free” actually mean there will be NO ice, anywhere? And, does “open” mean a ship could get through narrow openings in the sea ice, or does it imply much more?

    2) By any definition, it appears to me that the Arctic has not been “ice-free” since satellite tracking. Yet, I have found references that indicate the Arctic was ice-free numerous times in the past. What does your research indicate about historical “ice-free” events?


    • Thanks for your kindly comment. I’m pleased you enjoy my observations, but nervous about being called an “expert.” If you look back through these posts you’ll see I’ve made my share of mistakes. I’m learning as I go.

      There are some good fellows working hard up in the arctic who have more knowledge about sea-ice in their little finger than I have in my entire skull, and for the most part I think they try to avoid the politics as much as they can. (I doubt it is easy, and they are not independently wealthy and do require funding.) I think I am a better writer than they are, but it is still worth wading through their papers, if you can find them.

      I’ll answer your questions as best I can.

      An “ice-free” arctic would be exactly what it states: Water without any ice. However then you get to all sorts of waffling, as there is always the chance of the water holding a stray iceberg that calved off Greenland or a northern Canadian Island. Should those bergs count, considering they are not sea-ice? (Often they contain stones, from the peaks where they were born.)

      In terms of the graphs that measure the “extent” of the ice, the cut-off point is 15% ice and 85% water. The sea is somewhat arbitrarily called “open” even if it is 14% ice-covered. This can cause blips in the graph, when the wind spreads ice out and then condenses it all together again. Also there can be situations involving ice overlapping the borders of a “grid.” A big ice-floe, that might make a single grid be 30% ice-covered, could conceivably lie over the four-corners of four grids, and because no single grid held more than 10% ice, that water might be called “ice free.” Anyone sailing up there has to take care, and I believe there is a person in the Canadian Ice Service whose job is to carefully scan satellite pictures and advise sailors where to expect the stray bergs.

      At the end of a cold and calm winter the ice is fairly flat and solid, however even then it has cracks that open and close. After a stormy winter like the past one the ice is much more broken up. There are big plates, smaller chunks, little chips, and areas where the ice is basically floating slush. Even where a map shows 100% ice the ice may not be anything you’d like to stroll across, and this break-up gets worse as summer passes, with larger areas of open water appearing between the chunks and plates. In my opinion the ice is especially smashed up this year. I do not think this necessarily means it will melt faster, as the melt has a lot to do with the temperature of the water the ice floats in.

      I’m not actually sure what “open” means. I think it may refer to the waters close to the coasts that tend to become ice-free in the summer, as land temperatures soar up into the 70’s and even 80’s. “Open,” in terms of sailors attempting the Northwest Passage, means they can sail without fear of slamming into ice. “Open” likely means something different for a tanker chugging along behind an icebreaker.

      During the warmest periods, such as the Medieval Warm Period, the ice-free waters along the coasts may have extended far out towards the Pole during the summer. There is debate about whether the center of the Pole ever completely thawed during the Medieval Warm Period, but it may have thawed in earlier warm periods. There is geological evidence of liquid waves washing areas of Greenland’s north coast that are always ice-bound now, and those geological features contain chips of driftwood from trees that live up rivers in Siberia, on the far side of the Pole. Therefore it is likely the Arctic Ocean did thaw more, during the summer, but it likely refroze during the winter, though not to the degree it now does.

      Having open water up there in the autumn would greatly change the weather. Until the water froze over, the coastal areas would enjoy a maritime climate, despite the lack of sunshine. It would be like Ireland, which is as far north as Hudson Bay, or it would be like Ireland until the Arctic Ocean froze over. Then it suddenly would be like Canada. However with the bitter part of winter much shorter, the Vikings were able to farm where we cannot farm today.

      In conclusion, I don’t think the arctic has ever been entirely ice-free, but also that it very seldom is solid ice. After all, it is an ocean, with tides and currents and storms and surging waves.

  3. My First Class Midshipman cruise, back in 1961 was on the USS Atka, AGB 3, back when the Navy had two icebreakers and the Coast Guard two. 1961 was a light ice year, according the the old timers on the crew. We Midshipmen joined the ship in Sonderstromfiord, Greenland in early June and left it in Thule near the end of July. We did have a chance to break some ice in Baffin Bay and were taught how to locate leads by looking for “water sky”, the dark underside of clouds you see in the photos. There was also the opposite, ice blink, that denoted the presence of ice when you were approaching from open water. We were taught that these were techniques that the early Arctic explores learned from the Eskimo. By then we were relying more on Helo’s to find the leads though. Useless trivia, icebreakers were the first destroyer sizes ships to have a helo flight deck and regularly deploy with them.
    Thanks for continuing to keep us up to date on the ice.

    • Thanks for sharing a window back to 1961. There is something about first-hand-experience that has always meant a lot to me.

      Back when I was a drifter and sleeping in my car, I used to work a lot of dull jobs, and often found myself working beside gruff characters who often considered me a twerp, and who were sullen and bitter. I had a sort of gift of getting them to talk, by being cheerful, laughing when insulted, and respectfully bombarding them with questions. (If they wouldn’t answer my questions I’d suggest ludicrous answers with my most innocent face, which often forced them to correct me.) In this manner I got great stories.

      (I may have developed this gift even before I had a car to sleep in, when I used to hitchhike a lot. I figured that, if a person was decent enough to give me a free ride, I ought to initiate polite conversations, and learn to listen.)

      First-hand-stories were so interesting that I developed a thirst for them. I wasn’t faking my interest, when I got a gruff old guy talking. Even when these were men who were currently down-on-their-luck, they often had been through amazing adventures, (especially because back then there were still lots of veterans of WW2 alive.) Sometimes they were full of BS, but if I asked a lot of questions I could usually determine if they were pulling my leg in any way, and now I can check the veracity of what I was told on the web, and often learn that the most outlandish episodes were truth. Occasionally a chance conversation would lead to a friendship, as I’d meet the same character often on the streets. One of my favorite characters was a guy who had been a farmer in Kansas, who was full of tales of what the Dust Bowl was like. Few text books really capture the reality of that time like first-hand-stories do.

      Now that I myself have become the gruff old man, I hope to match the story-telling I have enjoyed over the years. In any case, thanks for sharing your tale, especially the information about “water sky” and “ice blink.”

      You likely should write or tape-record your memories, or at least find a young twerp who likes to listen. It is not vanity to suggest our skulls hold information Wikipedia lacks, and in in some way it is the duty of old-timers to teach where the schools fail.

    • You are welcome. It is always refreshing to be told I am nice, especially because I know I sometimes get pretty grumpy.

      If you have the time, I’d like to hear what you liked.

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