POLAR GALE TO SMASH SEA ICE?

Things have been quiet up at the Pole recently, which has allowed to cold air to stay up there. I approve of it staying up there. Who needs it down here? We get enough cold created by the tundra of Canada, and Europe gets enough from the tundra of Siberia, to make life quite miserable enough for any man. The last sting I want to see is a storm to go crashing up there and disturb the peace.

DMI2 0201B meanT_2015

DMI2 0201 temp_latest.big

Unfortunately models are now seeing a big rush of Atlantic air heading into the arctic and feeding the formation of a fairly large gale over the Pole. By Friday the Canadian model shows a 961 mb storm bringing winds over 50 knots over a large area of sea-ice.

DMI2 0201B cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_19

(click to enlarge)

This storm has a a sort of front trailing down to the Atlantic, with a sort of secondary low on that front, (though it is a little dangerous to see polar storms as obeying the rules of lower latitudes.) Even as the primary low wanders over towards Alaska it looks like the secondary will spin off and head down towards the Baltic Sea in Europe, replacing a storm that currently sits there. In between the two Baltic storms the north winds over western Europe may be replaced by east winds, but the sourse region of those west winds is waters off Greenland and not the Azores, so the relief will not be great, nor should people in western Europe drop their guard, for it looks like the respite will give way to a return of the north winds, once the second storm parks over the Baltic.

Models do a poor job of handling cross-polar-flows, so it is a time it is worth watching arctic maps carefully, to see how the models abruptly change their minds.  (These polar maps are Dr Ryan Maue’s, from the Weatherbell site.)

However it does seem the calm will end over the Pole, and any sort of gale up there does two things.

First, it tends to dislodge the cold air I would be glad to see just remain up there.  Be on the watch for some amazing arctic outbreaks.

Second, it can cause some leads, which ordinarily would be perhaps fifty feet across, open to fifty miles across. I personally think the creation of such wide areas of open water, at a time the sun isn’t even shining and the wind is coldest, causes the sea-water to become colder than it would be if sheltered by ice. Even though these leads freeze over with astonishing speed at the low temperatures, the water continues to lose heat until the ice is able to become thicker. Furthermore the fifty miles of ice that are shifted aside by the howling winds has to go somewhere, and it tends to pile up as jumbled pressure ridges against the north coast of Canada. Even though who think the sea ice of the Pole is in a “death spiral” tend to get excited by the appearance of open water in the dead of winter, because no melting occurs it represents an increase in volume, for more ice is created and none is melted. Lastly, the churning of the sea-water by gale force winds, before it swiftly refreezes, mixes the water and wipes out the stratification of warmer water beneath.

It will be a while before daylight returns to the Pole, and we can get visual pictures from satellites of the damages done by such gales, the cracks and expanding leads show up in the infrared pictures, so seek them out over the next fortnight. I have a hunch some cracks should appear.

 

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