One way I managed to stay out of trouble as a teenager was to burn off all my adolescent energy by playing ice-hockey until I was crawling. A neighbor had installed floodlights over a backyard pond, and we could play well into the night. We also played well into the spring, as some of the smoothest ice came when a day’s thaw refroze. However like all teens we tested limits, and this involved playing when the ice became so slushy we were all drenched, and the puck refused to slide. (So we learned to roll it.)
Once we enter July, the sea-ice reminds me of the sloppy ice we used to play hockey upon, with increasing puddles, until even we had to quit ice hockey, and turn instead to appearing in police reports, (usually as “unknown persons”.)
I am going to try to keep fond recollections of being young, and being able to be hot even when drenching wet, in mind as we enter the serious thaw of the Arctic. Talking politics too much just spoils the appreciation of the beauty.
(All pictures in this post can be clicked to enlarge. Better yet, they can be opened to new tabs, which often allows you to click between tabs to compare.)
As we begin, you’ll have to forgive me for naming storms. (I’m not good at Math, and numbering them causes me problems.) In the map below “Follower” is pushing north from Canada, nosing high pressure off the Pole. That high pressure had weak low pressure systems circling the Pole over the past few days. Northeast of Finland “Baltson” is brewing up and headed for the Kara Sea, in the Laptev Sea. “Balt” is merging with “Folfol”. Over towards Bering Strait “Folfolzip” is coming north and entering the picture.
More interesting is how the below-freezing temperatures up at the Pole follows the storms. It is interesting to note that most of the subfreezing temperatures are south of Latitude 80°, and therefore not included in the DMI graph of temperatures north of 80°. While that graph shows the thaw, it states temperatures are slightly below normal, for the moment.
In theory the Pole should have a slight increase of energy at this time of year, with the sun up 24 hours a day, and therefore it interests me when temperatures decline. A commentator suggested the chilling might be due to evaporative cooling as rain falls through the arid air, until it drops below freezing and becomes snow. I increasingly agree this plays a part, but suspect some sort of other stuff involving the tropopause is involved, however I don’t want to go there tonight. Talking that way makes me sound sciency and pretentious. Actually I’m just a guy with fond recollections of slush.
O-buoy 11 has made its own melt-water pool to sit in, by catching and reflecting the sun as the sun travels around and around and never sets, and other melt-water pools are also forming.( A lead of open water hides behind the pressure ridge in the mid distance.) The most impressive melt-water pools were seen by Mass Balance Buoy 2015A, but it has gone on the fritz, so now we have to turn to O-buoy 12 to see an impressive pool, to the left. The edge of the pools are sometimes lighter because they are shallower, and sometimes because blowing snow has slush floating there. The centers of such pools are sometimes darker because they are deeper, and sometimes because particles of windblown dust and soot collect in such low places, in which case they catch sunlight and make the low places lower, in which case the water-filled dent may become a hole to right through to the sea, in which case the water drains down and the ice rises up slightly, which is something I like to witness.
All things considered, the melting atop the ice is only a significant factor close to the land and the hot summer tundra, where much higher temperatures can blow out over the ice. Away from land most of the melting comes from beneath, or because the ice is transported south into warmer waters.
Such a transport may well be the fate of our oldest camera, at O-Buoy 9, which is currently grinding eastward along the north coast of Greenland. A glance at it’s view speaks a thousand words. Sunlight may be wilting the snow a little, but the real factor we are witnessing is transport.Anyone care to guess what that black object left of center might be?
One interesting factor we have seen so far is the failure of Faboo to be transported south. I’ll continue to report on the progress of Faboo, as well as the progress of the thaw, with updates.
Faboo has continued slowly southwest to 87.051°N, 3.779°W, which is 2.97 miles to the southwest. Winds have slacked off and are nearly calm, and the sun has been shining brightly. Temperatures peaked at +2.0°C at 1500z yesterday, which is the warmest we’ve seen so far this summer, and then fell back a little to +1.1° at 2100z. Temperatures may have dipped, for the last picture seems to show ice-fog forming, with a snow-bow arcing in the distance. What do you find at the end of a snow-bow? (A pot of cold.)
Judging from the time stamp, shadows, and the location of the sun, we are looking a little east of north. You can’t really go by compass up there, as the Magnetic Pole is near and moves, in relation to where you are. Also the berg you sit on tends to spin, so what was north yesterday may today be west. It pays to learn to tell direction by the shadows, what time it is, and your latitude. Otherwise you can make some embarrassing mistakes, which I won’t bother tell you about.
The Mass Balance Buoy Site still isn’t reporting. I miss it, but maybe the guy needs a week’s vacation. It is summer, after all, and students think you get time off. It is quite a shock to get out of college, and find out you work most of the summer.
It is grayer over in The Beaufort Sea, where O-buoy 11 has seen temperatures either side of freezing. And over towards the Chukchi Sea O-buoy 12 reports temperatures just below freezing and gray conditions.
“Follower” has nudged the high pressure towards Fram Strait, and the other Lows orbit it. Old “Klyuchi” is down in Hudson Bay, “Laggard” just spins its wheels and goes nowhere south of Iceland, “Baltson” enters the Kara Sea, “Balt” and “FolFol” are a weak merger over the Laptev Sea, and “Folfolzip” is crossing Bering Strait. All are weak. Call it a merry-go-round. I suppose the closest thing to front page news would be Follower heading for the Pole. This time of year the North Pole has to import cold air from the south, and it looks like Follower might be doing that.
QUICK TUESDAY MORNING REPORT
I have to attend a class today, but wanted to quickly report the Mass Balance Buoy site is up and running. An unofficial report from Faboo holds a surprise. Temperatures have plunged to -2.21° C! (I thought that last picture looked colder, yesterday.) The more recent pictures show the gray returning. The map shows “Fillower” is weak, but still attempting to be king of the mountain and stand on top of the earth. Likely it is pulling the clouds north over Faboo. (I can’t check out O-buoy 9 down that way, for this morning the O-buoy site is on vacation.)
Follower has knocked the high pressure down to Fram Strait where it seems to be weakening, and therefore Follower, despite weakening himself, is creating a weakness over the Pole which may allow an attacker up from Siberia.
In central Siberia Balt and Folfol have arranged a merger and formed a hybrid I guess I’ll call “Baltfol”, and some models show it wobbling up towards the Pole in a few days. The other lows remain weak and unambitious. Folfolzip stalls over Bering Strait, Klyuchi sits over Hudson Bay, Laggard lags south of Iceland, and Baltson nudges east through Kara Sea, perhaps wanting to join the conglomeration hybrid of Baltfol (To be pronounced much like “Bashful”). Baltfol likely will involve all sorts of parts and pieces which I doubt I’ll have time to do justice to, so instead I’m going generalize in a most shameful manner. I’m pretty sure there is some climate-scientist jargon for doing that. Oh yes, I remember, “Homogenization.” What I call “Baltfol” is the homogenization of something that actually intricate and fascinating, and well worth the study of Siberian students of meteorology. The cold temperatures hitting Faboo don’t show up much in the DMI temperature map. Let me check the Canadian JEM model, which tends to highlight, if not exaggerate, cold.Yikes! I’m totally distracted by sub-freezing temperatures down over Hudson Bay, which is getting too darn close to my tomato plants. But what do tomato plants have to do with arctic sea ice? I’m off topic….or am I? If sea-ice in Hudson Bay effects New Hampshire, I’m not off topic. But let me get back to other topics.
The cold in Fram Strait is verified by Buoy 2015E: which is reporting -1.44° C, even way down at 79° latitude.
The cold air in central Siberia clashing with warmer air looks capable of supplying Baltfol with some power.
Over on the noontime side of the Pole all the temperatures are just above freezing, ranging from +0.33° to +0.83° C, with the hotspot being Buoy 2015A: , right up against the coast of baked Alaska, which is coming in at a toasty +5.96° C (I wish they’d get that camera up and running; the melt-water pools must be draining by now, and perhaps the ice has begun breaking up as well, right along the coast.)
And that’s the news for now.
MONDAY EVENING UPDATE —Faboo shivers—
The official update is in. Faboo drifted southwest and then southeast 2.39 miles to 87.018°N, 3.572°W. (The most westward position was at 0300z yesterday at 3.828°W.) However the real news was the plunge in temperatures. At 1500z on Sunday we touched our warmest temperature of the summer at +2.0°C, yet 12 hours later were down to -0.8°C, and 12 hours after that were down to -1.7°C, and the final data from 2100z last night has us at -2.4°C.
This kind of sharp drop, when the pattern looks fairly benign and bland, always causes me to sit back and just scratch my head. This is especially true when the DMI map shows no below freezing air near the Pole or Faboo.
However this morning’s map, which is closer to the final official 2100Z report, did show a little island of sub-freezing air by Faboo. (See morning update above). So perhaps this was just a small bubble of cold. So I look at the two latest pictures from Faboo. It looks to me as if the melt-water pools are lighter and smaller, as if they might be freezing rather than thawing. (This is a good time to open the pictures to new tabs, and then click to and fro between the two pictures, and decide for yourself).
So next I cheat, and go to the unofficial reports (lacking a time stamp) from the co-located Mass Balance Buoy, and discover temperatures have only warmed to -0.82° C. Of course, without time stamps there is always the chance they warmed above freezing and then fell back down again. I’ll have to be patient and wait until tomorrow’s official figures, though I am not known for my patience.
My hunch is that Faboo is experiencing no small pool of sub-freezing air, but rather a great lake. We have seen small pools of cooler and milder air recently, and I have joked how the temperatures bounce from below freezing to above (alarmists cheer) and dip back below (alarmist become dead silent) two or even three times a day. However this time the fall was slow and continuous, lasting at least 18 hours (as of the last official report), and likely longer. I should mention winds gradually rose from nearly calm to around 10 mph, so this isn’t a small pool developing due to radiational cooling in a calm isolation. Lastly, it was not a mere degree of drop, but 4.6°. It seems likely a significant area of cold has been created, yet is unseen by the DMI map. Why?.
The answer is likely that there are few data points. In the old days a meteorologist would draw the isobars and isotherms between isolated weather stations, but now computer models draw the lines for us. However, just as a meteorologist in the old days might draw an isotherm incorrectly, because he had no idea cold air was being created, computer models can only draw as they have been told to draw by some programmer, and that programmer might also not know cold air was being created. In fact, we might be the only ones who know about this event. How about them apples!!?
There are no other pictures, as the O-buoy cameras are still not reporting.
Over towards the Pacific side I assume night has fallen in the Mass Balance reports, for on the coast of Alaska Buoy 2015A: has cooled to +2.82° C, and the only other buoy above freezing is Buoy 2014I: at +0.24 C. In the Beaufort Sea Buoy 2013F reports -1.15° C, and Buoy 2014F reports -1.60° C, while further west towards the Chukchi Sea Buoy 2015B: reports -0.93° C and just north of it Buoy 2014G: reports -1.60° C.
These colder temperatures may be in part created by the weakening of the flimbsy low “Folfolzip”, but I attribute much of the cold to diurnal variation. Even though the sun may stay up 24 hours a day, once you get down towards 75° the sun dips low at midnight, and midnights are generally colder than noons. (You’d be surprised how often people fail to calculate for this.) To be sure temperatures are truly cooling or truly warming you need to compare noons with noons, and midnights with midnights. (This makes time-stamps all the more important on the Mass Balance reports.)
And that’s the news for now, though I should add I’m fonder than ever of Faboo. With every other camera on the blink, Faboo keeps reporting. However the July 4th weekend is coming up, and even the slaves and servants of Faboo need a day at the beach after so much time looking at ice, so it would not surprise me if they missed a shift or two this next week.
Oh, I forgot the weather map. “Follower” may have won the throne on the very top of the Planet, but it looks like it has cost him his life. He will now supply a path for whatever the hybrid Baltfol mutates into. Baltfol will likely absorb the faint recollection of “Folfol” hiding on the New Siberian Islands, as well as Baltson, just entering the Laptev Sea, and what appears to be Baltthree south of the Laptev. Laggard continues to lag south of Iceland, blocked by high pressure to the north that Follower knocked off the Pole. Klyuchi stagnates just north of Hudson Bay.
WEDNESDAY MORNING MAPS
(Click on maps to expand.)
The main center of activity is central Siberia, where “Baltfol” continues to get his act together. Things look calm over Faboo, and the unofficial Mass Balance report states the cold spell is over and thawing has resumed, with temperatures at + 0.14° C. While Faboo has drifted south of 87° again, unofficially to 86.99° N, 2.92° W, down in Fram Strait Buoy 2015E: has made it back north to 79° at 79.00° N, 2.36° W, and is reporting out coldest temperatures at -1.46° C.
Even though thse coldest temperatures are south of 80° latitude and therefore not included in the DMI graph, the graph shows even when thawing the Pole is a degree below normal. The view from Faboo continues gray and bleak.
Wednesday Evening Update —Faboo Thaws Out—
The only things consistant about Faboo have been they gray skies, and the motion slowly but steadily south and east, to 86.997°N, 3.002°W, which is 2.51 miles in 24 hours. Temperatures slowly rose, finally breaking freezing around 1400z and cresting at 1800z at +0.7°C, before starting to fall again. The thaw should be helped along by a bit of drizzle.
I’ll go over maps in the morning.
THURSDAY MORNING —Gray Thaw—
In the above map it is midnight in Fram Strait and noon in Bering Strait. Slight diurnal variation seen, with cooler temperatures around Svalbard, and warmer in Chukchi Sea. Pool of sub-freezing air over East Siberian Sea even as the sun gets high. “Baltfol” is the biggest storm, in Laptev Sea, with pressure at 990mb and breeze at 20 knots. The only othe breeze is a west wind along the coast of Alaska, up to 20 knots, created by the contrast between warm land and cool sea. The weak 1003mb storm “Folfolzip”, now moving east northeast of Bering Strait, is the only other low wirth noting. For the most past summer calm has decended.
Faboo continues to drift slowly south and east, according to the unofficial Mass Balance report, with temperatures just below freezing at -03° C, though the camera lens still shows unfrozen water.The melt-water pool to the tight is expanding, which is typical for the summer thaw. It would be interesting to see what the media would do if we got another “Lake North Pole.”
The O-buoy site is up and running, and all cameras show gray skies and conditions near freezing. O-buoy 9 shows the lead in front of it has closed up, and there is melt-water in the crack to the lowest left. The buoy has drifted back west and south a little, which I didn’t expect.O-buoy 11 shows slushy conditions. Co-located Buoy 2014I: reports a very mild + 2.12° C, which is a heat wave for the Beaufort Sea. Further west at O-buoy 12 the co-located Mass Balance thermometer is reporting +0.23° C, but its own thermometer may be more recent and seems to show temperatures have dipped below freezing. 44.1 miles south of there Buoy 2015B: is reporting -0.01 C, and if you go 466.4 miles south-southeast to Buoy 2015A: l right on the coast of Alaska, temperatures are a toasty +5.07° C.
We should be able to sit back and watch the melt-water pools expand for another 45 days. Temperatures up in the arctic seem to have nudged back to normal. What is more unusual are summer snows and freezes, as we had last year. Also I’m on the watch for continued grayness and gloominess, which I tend to blame on cosmic rays, as Svenmark suggested a Quiet Sun might allow more cosmic rays to strike Earth, making more clouds. In fact, whenever it is gray around here, in New Hampshire, I am known for scratching my grizzled jaw, scowling up at the sky, and muttering, “Durn Cosmic Rays”.
THURSDAY EVENING —Lake Faboo Enlarges—
Faboo continued on its merry way southeast to 86.930°N, 2.547°W, speeding along at an impressive quarter mile an hour, and covering 4.91 miles. (In comparison, during the Autumnal Gales these buoys typically move around 20 miles a day, and I’ve seen 50.)
Of interest was the fact the official record shows no temperatures below freezing, while the Mass Balance buoy did. Officially we hovered between 0.6°C and 0.4°C, finishing at 2100z at 0.4°C. Winds were steady but light, around 8 mph.
The big headline item is the expansion of the meltwater puddle to the center right. To preserve tradition, I’ve decided to call the puddle a lake. It will be “Lake Faboo”, and I expect it to gobble up the two puddles in the central distance soon. The light rain is very helpful, when it comes to thawing, as often the air aloft is milder and the falling drops are relatively warm. Currently the thaw is more active on the Atlantic side than the Pacific side, which has not been the rule and is not what I expect.
However over towards Bering Strait Buoy 2015B: is coming in at -1.47° C and O-buoy 12 at -1.08° C. The view hasn’t changed much from this morning.Sun finally out at O-buoy 11, with temperatures +0.40° C FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE —Durn Cosmic Rays—
Faboo continues its slow drift southeast, with the unofficial thermometer again showing a dip below freezing to -0.57° C. The gray skies persist, despite an attempt at brightening earlier. O-buoy 9 had a beautiful view of the lead reopening and widing, which I should have saved, but I put coffee first, and by the time I returned to the view (which updates every 15 minutes or so) the clouds had rolled back in. The lead has likely reopened because our westward movement ceased, and we are progressing east again. Temperatures have returned to just above freezing, after yesterday’s brief spikes.Over in the Beaufort Sea O-buoy 11 is reporting a thaw at +1.67° C, the gray skies have returned, and the yellow trash can fell over with a tremendous crash.Meanwhile further west towards the Chuckchi Sea O-buoy 12 os reporting a slighter thaw at + 0.23 C with the Mass Balance buoy, which may be outdated, as the buoy itself looks like its back below freezing. Here too the gray weather persists.
The mildest temperatures are over on the coast of Alaska, where Buoy 2015A: is peaking at +7.01° C. This one bears watching, as some cold air may be headed their way.
I’ll talk about the maps later, but all these pictures of gray weather have me craving blue skies, so I’m stepping outside, as the cosmic rays aren’t bad ’round here, today.
FRIDAY EVENING UPDATE —Blue Faboo—
Aster all my grousing about gray weather this morning I suppose I’m now being shamed into admitting it always isn’t gray in Faboo’s neighborhood. The clouds rolled away, likely moments after I made my pronouncement. (That seems to be a hazard weather forecasters of all sorts face.) The amazing thing is the immediate effect the sunshine had on the sea level. Unprecedented melting brought the grey slush more than half way up the lens of the camera. For the life of me I don’t see why the media isn’t reporting this! I think I have a scoop here!In regard to more mundane matters, Faboo continued its slow southerly drift to 86.880°N, 2.577°W, which is another 3.45 miles towards Fram Strait. Our eastward movement stopped at 2.526°W at 0300z, and since then we’ve been nudging back west. At 0300z we also touched our high temperature of +0.7°, and then readings slowly fell, remaining above freezing until our final report at 2100Z, which was -0.3°C. Winds remained light, at around 7 mph.
550 miles south of there in Fram Strait Buoy 2015E: has its warmest reading of the summer, at +2.95° C, and roughly 250 miles northwest of there O-buoy 9 continues east, with temperatures right at freezing and winds dropping to a near calm (after peaking at around 12 mph earlier). Conditions continue gray, and the wide lead makes me nervous about the safety of the camera. A mere 1300 miles further west (as the crow flies) on Beaufort Sea, O-buoy 11 is seeing some blue, but for some reason it is the ice and not the visible sky. Perhaps the sky above is blue, but in that case I would expect the puddles to be blue as well. There is only one other possible solution: The water beneath the ice has become Caribbean! Oh, wait. The lead peeking over the ice along the horizon is not so blue: In fact it is the battleship gray of the North Sea in winter. Hmm. Maybe that ice just turned blue because it is feeling sorry for me, after all my grousing about gray skies. Temperatures are just above freezing, with co-located Buoy 2014I: reporting +0.46° C.
Things are colder 400 miles further west, where Buoy 2015B: is reporting -1.44° C. Around 40 miles north of it Buoy 2014G: reports -1.19° C, and co-located O-buoy 12 gives a hint of …..blue! Ah! Blue at last!Winds have been breezy, around 16 mph, and earlier the melt-water puddle to the left, (which we will henceforth call “Lake Chukchi,”) had definite ripples on it. Now there are no ripples. Has the wind died, or has Lake Chukchi frozen?
Now here’s a bit of trivia for you. Is lake Chukchi fresh water? The standard answer is “Yes”, because it is known that when the saltwater freezes the salt is exuded, or rejected, (or whatever the proper word is.) Often it concentrates as super-cooled brine that bores down through the ice, and which can even form a sort of icicle as it touches the less salty sea-water beneath. In fact there are cool pictures from Antarctica of these brine icicles reaching the bottom and freezing passing starfish in their tracks. Then, because the brine removes the salt, it is assumed the ice above is fresh or nearly fresh, so the melt-water pools must be fresh. (Buzzer) Wrong! Why?
Well, the salt is not always exuded downwards as brine. Sometimes, especially in cases of flash freezing, it is rejected upwards, and can form rather pretty “flowers” of salt crystals on top of the ice. These delicate formations are broken by even modest winds, and then become dust in the wind which, because temperatures are extremely cold, don’t have the power to melt ice that salt ordinarily has. I’ve seen such salt dust blowing across sea-ice with my own eyes, as far south as the coast of Maine, and therefore expect the amounts of salt blowing around with the snow can .become considerable, especially during winters when many leads open and are flash frozen. However, as soon as temperatures rise past a certain point in the spring, the salt loses its ability to be dust in the wind, and starts melting the snow. Therefore, I conclude, if the circumstances are right, the first melt-water pools that form are not fresh water, and may actually be especially salty at first. This may explain the ability some pools have, at first, to stay unfrozen even when temperatures are below freezing, and also their ability, (which seems a bit uncanny at times), to eat downwards through the ice.
Of course eventually, as the salt works through, and as more and more freshwater ice melts, and even some rain falls, the melt-water pools become more fresh water, until explorers can drink it. However when I scrutinize Lake Chukchi, I wonder if it is still a bit salty.
I still haven’t discussed this morning’s and afternoon’s maps, but I’m in the mood to procrastinate. I’ll just post them for you to scrutinize, as I become a lazy old dog and practice snoring.
The maps show high pressure nosing back up to the Pole, as Baltfol spins its wheels in the Laptev Sea, oddly without breaking up the sea-ice much. Weak Folfolzip is tiptoeing about the Beaufort Sea, apparently generating some cold air in Being Strait that isn’t fluctuating in the normal diurnal manner, and is moving along to the coast of Alaska. Lastly Laggard lags south of Iceland, but apparently is kicking a zipper storm ahead into Europe, to end the heat wave in Paris and perhaps give the dry south some rain, but apparently not managing to get some heat up to Finland, where the summer has been cool and wet.
It is an interesting pattern, with basically three storms in the Northern Hemisphere, but we may be about to get a boot in the backside. The Pacific is going haywire down in El Nino land, with a major SOI crash just concluding, and a MJO spike right off the charts.The first effect of this will likely be to explode some super typhoons in the West Pacific, but I’m expecting a big stir down there will eventually stirs things up here.
In the meantime Faboo is lollygagging south, with the unofficial temperatures down below freezing at -0.90° C, despite brilliant sunshine raising the sea levels halfway up the lens. (With the sun dead ahead just past midnight, on the meridian, we are looking north towards the Pole.)Proof that the gray area at the bottom is due to the rising sea is supplied by the fact that as soon as the temperatures drop below freezing and the clouds return the sea sinks….(either that, or maybe the solar panels can’t handle too much sun, and overcharge or something.) In any case, we are back to our typical drabness, Despite the sub-freezing temperatures Lake Faboo is expanding, flooding the central mid-distance, which makes sense when you consider the freeze is not even a full degree below freezing, and the sunshine was intense and non-stop. (Think of a sunny day in March, when the roads start to melt off long before temperatures get above freezing.) Down in Fram Strait the thaw is over, as Buoy 2015E: is back down to -0.15°, but just north of Greenland O-buoy 9 sees slight thawing continue, as the lead starts to close. Lets hope it closes gently (winds are still light) for too great a crunch might bury our camera in rubble.Over in the Beaufort Sea Buoy 2014I: and O-buoy 11 are reporting continuing thaw at +0.40° C, with the lead in its distance looking a little wider.Further west towards the Chukchi Sea it is freezing, as Buoy 2015B: reports -0.13° C and Buoy 2014G: with O-buoy 12 report -0.36° C. The Mass Balance reports lack a time stamp, but I think these are from the “warm” part of the slight diurnal swing, which makes their sub-freezing status a little more significant. Down along the coast of Alaska Buoy 2015A: has dropped nearly 4° to +3.49°.
The DMI temperatures are only a hair below normal north of 80° latitude, And for the most part the slush season seems to be progressing in a normal fashion to me, however the extent graph continues to show a reluctance to fall at the normal precipitous rate.It is still too early to state whether this means anything much, but both the Laptev Sea and Hudson Bay have more ice than last year. In fact I think I’ll conclude this post, and write a brief post about that item, attempting to make it sensational news.