Here is a picture of Obuoy 9 last August 2, with a narrow lead widening behind it and melt-water pools forming. That lead soon snapped shut, but the far side of the lead did shift back and forth through the rest of the summer. The melt wasn’t impressive, and snows hid all signs of it by September.
Here is the current view (April 17) from the same camera.
The milder air over the Pole hasn’t made it to the area north of the Canadian Archipelago where Obuoy 9 drifts. The temperature is at -19° (-2° Fahrenheit) and the winds are whistling by at around 25 mph. It looks like the lead of last summer has sealed up and become dormant, but the pressure ridge behind it may have done some grinding during the darkest days. Of greater concern is the small pressure ridge in the foreground, which wasn’t there last autumn. If it becomes active it may tip over our camera.
The best way to experience the journey’s of these cameras is by watching a movie made up of all the pictures.
Obuoy 10 is located further west, in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. It was of interest last summer as a melt-water pool formed in the foreground, and then repetitively drained, refilled, froze over, was drifted over by blowing snow, and refilled again with rain. All in all the summer was colder than I’ve usually seen, with more snow and refreezing. Here is a picture of the situation on July 15 after a rain, when things were more ordinary and slushy.
There was another slushy period around August 25, but early in September snow covered the scene, and by the time the winter darkness fell most of the yellow on the buoy was hidden by deepening snow. Now, in the dawning light of spring, we can see most of the black is covered as well, though snow actually isn’t as deep as it was last year.
Currently winds are at 13 mph and the temperature is -17° (+1.4 Fahrenheit).
The Army buoy 2013F is “co-located” with this buoy, and shows that the snow is less than last year, but the ice is thicker, at roughly 6 feet thick.
Most of the melting of sea-ice comes from below, and even when the refreeze has started on the upper surface I’ve seen ice break up due to melting from underneath. Watching this buoy this summer may tell us a lot about how much slightly milder water is surging north through Bering Strait due to the current “warm spike” of the PDO.
We also have two new Obuoys north of Alaska to watch. Obuoy 11 is to the east of Obuoy 10, and, with winds at 11 mph and temperatures of -15° g, sends us this view:
Further to the west and south, down closer to Bering Strait (and therefore more likely to see the ice break up) is new Obuoy 12, which unfortunately has its lens covered with snow at the moment. It is missing a stark scene with temperatures down to -25° (-13° Fahrenheit) and winds nearly calm.
The Obuoys are showing how cold it is on the North American side of the Arctic Ocean, even as a storm sweeps milder air up over the Pole. A tongue of that mildness is actually reaching around and south between Obuoy 9 and Obuoy 10, which is shown by this polar temperature map produced by Dr. Ryan Maue from GFS data over at the Weatherbell site.
One film worth watching is the adventures of Camera 7, which unfortunately didn’t survive the winter of 2013-2014. The film includes a glimpse of polar bear fur (don’t blink) and the camera very slowly tilting over until it is looking off the the edge of ice into water, and then the camera falls in, bobs about the open sea for a while, before it is engulfed by the refreeze. It is a great way to get your mind around the process of thawing and refreezing that occurs every year. Here it is: http://obuoy.datatransport.org/monitor#buoy7/movie
I am thinking I might start a “Polar Camera Post” during the summer, including the pictures from these Obuoy cameras with the pictures from the North Pole Camera. If I do so I am going to try very hard to avoid all discussion about the so-called “Death Spiral,” as I feel that idea has been thoroughly debunked, and to go over the same arguments seems an exercise in futility. The real and undeniable beauty of these pictures and the natural processes they reveal gets lost, if you indulge in the itching of politics. Therefore, if I get that itch, I’ll succumb to the exercize in futility in a separate post.