In my zest for finding sensationalist headlines during a very quiet time of year up at the North Pole, even I have to confess it is darned quiet up there. It usually is. In fact my original reason for studying the views from the North Pole Camera, (back when it was THE camera), was because it was so serene, and my life isn’t.
Last year was a bit more exciting than usual, as the winter’s storms had done a good job of smashing up the ice, so we could dub it “The Pulverized Pole,” yet even by June 21 there was little sign of thaw. (The freezing-over lead to the right kept slamming shut, building a jumble of ice which in July buried our poor camera, and ended our ice-watching early)
Even the year before, (which brought this dog his day because I happened to be a reporter-on-the-scene when the media made a lot of hoop-la about “Lake North Pole” forming), there was no sign of thaw on June 29. (Open lead on far left horizon; pressure ridge on far right horizon) (Click all illustrations in this post to clarify and enlarge) (Original post about “Lake North Pole” was here: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/north-pole-ice-melt-watching-the-summer-thaw/ )
Therefore, to keep readers interested, I must look into the future seen by computer models to find storms which may merely be figments of computerized imagination, but qualify as hoopla until they vanish. I especially like low pressure systems that defy the textbooks, which state air should be descending at the Pole, and high pressure should sit on the Pole, at the center of the Polar Cell. When a low with its rising air sits on the Pole it grinds the gears, by turning the Polar Cell backwards, unless you do what I do, which is to insert a fourth counter-clockwise cell into the above illustration, at the very left, which I decided to give the grandiose name, “Superpolar Cell”. (I was thinking of calling it the “Caleb Cell”, but that seemed grander than grandiose.)
We had one of those interesting little storms last week, but things have gone back to their more normal, flabby, summertime state, where winds die down and ice doesn’t move much and nothing much happens except things slowly get more slushy. It is all very serene, but doesn’t generate many hits on this site,
because it is boring because serenity doesn’t sell.
Therefore I was glad to see the GFS model showing a weak storm east of the Ural Mountains, over the small city of Klyuchi, which was forecast to wander up to the arctic coast and meander east for a week before penetrating in to the Pole. This seemed news-worthy, but it had vanished from the GFS model this morning. In a sort of desperation I checked the other models, and Lo! The European saw Klyuchi heading north from Siberia on Saturday: (Greenland upper right) The Canadian model was even better, having Klyuchi swing up from Bering Strait and cross the Pole heading for Fram Strait by next Tuesday: (Greenland lower left)
Of course, the Canadian Model always is more imaginative, when it comes to storms, I think because it somehow always creates colder air. For example compare today’s 6z GFS map (Lower left, with Greenland to upper right) with today’s 6z Canadian (Lower right, with Greenalnd to lower left).
The Canadian has stripes of pinker, colder temperature over the Pole where the GFS is blandly blank, so of course the Canadian will likely imagine us up some better storms. And if nothing else, this difference in the models, only 6 hours into the future, will give us something to make a hubbub about, even if Klyuchi never becomes a “superpolar cell.”
Not that there is anything wrong with quietude, but on the other hand sometimes it is fun to give them something to talk about.
TUESDAY EVENING REPORT —News from the Pacific and Polly’s ghost—
The map shows the situation is fairly sluggish over the Pole, which is as it should be, it being June. Klyuchi is entering stage right, just appearing on the coast of the Kara Sea. It is the big frog in the pond at the moment, though a weakling by winter standards, with it’s lowest pressure inland and barely below 990 mb. However he is the fellow to watch.
Also of interest is the ghost of Polly the Polar Storm, which is that weak 1003 mb low north of the New Siberian Islands and the Laptev Sea. She is suppose to have croaked, but like most ghosts she refuses to lie flat in her grave, and is managing to import enough of a feed of Siberian energy to expand isobars that have deflected the inflow of Pacific air away from any sort of cross-polar-flow, and instead to reroute it along the coast of Alaska.
Therefore, if you thirst for thaw, you should go to Buoy 2015A: , which is right on the Alaskan coast and reporting a balmy +3.89° C. With all the tundra-dust on the ice, and on the bottoms of melt-water pools, it is a case where most of the melting is occurring from the top down, rather than the more normal bottom-up melting we see in other areas. The Mass Balance Buoy, situated right in a pool, is reporting the bottom of the pool is sinking quite swiftly, and therefore is reporting ice thinner than the ice at the edges of the pool.
Northeast of there Buoy 2015B: continues a precarious existence, at the edge of a floe. One day it shows a vast area of open water, and the next the ice crushes together. We have separated from the Mass Balance Buoy, which has wandered off Lord knows where, floating in the water between bergs. (I’m not sure whether the GPS is attached to that buoy or our camera.) Temperatures are colder, but still thawing in the inflow of Pacific air, at +0.98° C.
It might seem that in a jumble of shifting ice like this it would be easy to determine if the ice was thinner, but it is more complicated than it would appear. For one thing, before it took a dive into the brine on June 9, the Mass Balance Buoy was reporting that, while this chunk of ice was starting to melt from the bottom, it was actually still 11 cm thicker than it was when the buoy was put in place back on March 26. But you can see the open water, and also some thinner ice in the near distance made atop a lead’s open water back when it was very cold. We need some sort of average, but the average must also include the ice-atop-ice in the lower right, which is a bit of what is left of a pressure ridge that was heaped up when the ice slammed together.
So at this point one might turn to a satellite’s thickness-map, which might seem to do the job of averaging for us, however we are then presented with another problem. The blasted camera will not stay in the same place, but instead insists upon drifting. In this case it has gone crunching north.
Just to show you how mentally tough it is to grasp “thickness”, I’ve drawn little circles around the approximate location of the above camera on a thickness map from March 29 and June 16. (Open to new tabs so you can click back and forth and compare.)
What these maps seem to demonstrate is that, even with much of the ice melting in Bering Strait and along the Canadian coast, our camera has been crunched into a mass of ice which is, on average, thicker, (as is a lot of the ice in the East Siberian Sea).
These jumbles of ice are a real pain, when it comes to figuring out the extent of the ice, as while they are jumbled they cover a small area, but when the wind shifts they can be spread out like a pat of butter over bread, and cover a larger area with thinner and more widely spread ice, causing up-ticks in extent, even when temperatures are above freezing. (In fact I think this has just happened in Hudson Bay: All the ice was jammed down to the southeast by winds that were Northwest all winter long, but recently shifting winds have spread some of the ice back to the Northwest, making the extent of ice on the bay show an uptick.)
In any case, the extent graph is liable to have a reluctance to shrink as fast this year, because the ice towards the Pole is more jammed-up and thicker.
However I think the NWS/NECP/CPC model is overboard, when it predicts above-average extent by August. (It predicted this last year, and it never happened.) (Click to clarify and click again to enlarge.)
North of 2015B the camera at O-buoy 12 has a lovely view of the Pacific thaw, with air temperatures at +0.91° C.
It’s thermometer still works, and hints the thaw may be ending, with co-located Buoy 2013F: reporting -0.30° C.
However what really interests me is that the new pool is not forming in the same place as it did last year. Here’s how it looked last August 1: What this suggests to me is that what was a weakness last year, a dent full of water, is now a frozen-solid strength and high-place on the ice. (I sure hope they can get that camera working again, so we can watch the thaw proceed there.) However the other thing to notice is that the ice looks far more solid, further north and east.
Anyway, that’s the news from the ghost of Polly, and the Pacific side.
QUICK WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE
First, another picture from Buoy 2015B over towards Bering Strait. Officially this picture is included to demonstrate how the ice piles up, but the secret reason is because it is just plain beautiful. (Open it to a new tab and compare it with the picture above to see how the ice piled up, remembering this same camera pictured a wide lead of open water only a few days ago.)
Second, a quick glance at the DMI pressure map shows the ghost of Polly showing remarkable persistence, as “Klyuchi” coasts eastward along the shores of the Kara Sea. Polly will likely supply the weakness that allows Klyuchi to cut left out towards the Pole.
Lastly, our faithful North Pole Camera continues to watch dull, drab, gray skies, with most of the below freezing air over on the Atlantic side of the Pole. The buoy actually did something rare yesterday, which was to stand still for six hours. After reaching its most southerly position of the summer, 87.105°N at 1500z on June 14, it dawdled back north to 87.115°N at noon on the 15th, but this morning has set a new record drifting back down to 87.09° N. This continues to be roughly 2 degrees north of where we were at this time last year. “Polly” pushed it as far east as 3.296°W on June 12, but it has drifted back west to 5.032°W at noon on the 15th, hesitated back east to 5.008°W at 2100z, but this morning has it creeping west again to 5.12° W. We’ve rebounded from a freeze back to a thaw, at +0.41° C, yet it is down to -0.79° C down south of there at Buoy 2015E: , which has just crossed 80° latitude and is heading through Fram Strait at 79.86° N, 0.13° E, likely to its doom.
THURSDAY MORNING REPORT —More Quietude—
There was a reason the invasion of Europe was planned in June, back in 1944. It is suppose to be calm. God blessed the attackers in 1944 with a gale, which caused the Germans to lower their guard. A more normal situation would be like today’s, where the closest thing to a North Atlantic gale is a weak low over Iceland with a pressure of 1002 mb.
Klyuchi continues east along the arctic coast, and now is moving along the coast of the Laptev Sea. For the most part it only has breezes, but it has a small area of south winds up to 30 mph ahead of it, bringing some warm air from the sun-baked Tundra up to the ice pack. It is the strongest storm on the polar boundary between the Ferrel and Polar cells, with its pressure down to 984 mb. The lobe of low pressure behind Klyuchi is the faded memory of Karabar, and it is interesting to note that once again the fading of a polar storm holds the coldest air over the arctic. The lobe of low pressure north of Klyuchi is the faded memory of Polly the Polar Storm, and we are now reaching the moment of truth, where we will see if Klyuchi veers to the north into the weakness made by the remnant of Polly, and attempts to stand on the Pole as a “superpolar cell” as Polly did.
Conditions over towards Fram Strait remain quite calm, and the movement of ice has slowed greatly.
Our North Pole Camera is nearly where it stood yesterday, at 87.08° N, 5.08° W.
Temperatures did dip below freezing, down to -0.6°C at 2100z on the 15th, but got back above freezing at noon yesterday, and are currently at +0.92° C.
As melt-water pools start to form, especially on the Pacific side where it has been warmer, there may be a sharp drop in extent graphs, as the satellite apparently can have trouble differentiating between a pool on top of ice and open water.
Our North Pole camera has looked out over a gray scene, with little warming sunshine, but Gray has a beauty all its own.
Thursday Evening Comments —Textbook out the window—
I managed to find some time to just wander the web this afternoon. There’s a lot of interesting information about sea ice in the comments after a brief post by “Steve Goddard” at
Real Climate Real Science, here: https://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/summer-2015-shaping-up-to-be-a-complete-disaster-for-alarmists/#comment-526620
This evening’s map shows Klyuchi starting to take the turn towards the Pole, which makes a mess of our neat textbook idea of a nice neat boundary between the Polar Cell and the Ferrel Cell at 60 degrees latitude.
I was trying to get my mind around an imagination that the center of the Polar Cell had shifted towards Iceland, and storms were orbiting the planet as if the planet was wearing a beret at a stylish slant. However it didn’t quite work, because a storm is about to cross the Bering Sea from Siberia to Alaska. That storm is on the boundary between the Polar Cell and the Ferrel Cell, and you can’t have a second boundary to the north, unless…
A Spiral. Maybe the storm track could spiral in to the Pole, starting south of Bering Strait, crossing Alaska, Canada, Greenland, all the time trending more and more north, until it gets north of Siberia and swings up to the Pole, at which point it is north of the same storm track south of Bering Strait. A Spiral.
If course, that doesn’t fit the textbook either. And what happens at the center of the spiral? Wouldn’t it create a situation that is impossible, using the simplified scheme of atmospheric cells I illustrated at the start of this post? And, even if it did not create what I dubbed a “Superpolar Cell”, what the heck would you call that central point?
Obviously this is too deep for a rustic like myself to figure out on a weekday evening, when my muscles are all aching from work. Therefore, rather than pretending I am a brilliant scientist, I think I’ll slump back to the more comfortable role of being a witness, and just observing the quirks of the quietude. (Hmm. That may be a good title for my next post; “Quirks of the Quietude”.)
I saved some nice pictures, as I zoomed past my computer today, only briefly pausing to snatch glimpses of what the cameras were showing. The first is from the most southerly camera, Buoy 2015A: , which is down at 70° latitude on the coast of Alaska, and which has experienced Pacific air and some serious thawing, with temperatures up close to +4° Celsius.
This shows you that, even with a midnight sun, the sun does get low enough at 70° to stop baking the tundra and melting the dirty ice. Also the water is not absorbing the sunlight. When the sun gets this low and the water is glassy, water actually has a higher albedo than grimy snow. You can almost feel the reflected heat from the water in your face, (if you have ever fished at dawn, or sunset, and have first-hand experience of such situations).
Still, you would not much want to go tramping across such ice. It qualifies as “rotton ice”, and the high places likely would be deep slush, and I would not trust the bottoms of the melt-water pools at all. When the sun gets high at noon the dirty bottoms of such pools do absorb sunlight (that is reflected when the sun is as low as pictured above) and eventually the melt-water bottoms may break through the ice, and abruptly become “bottomless.” The Mass Balance Buoy in this picture is measuring the sinking bottom of the pool it is in.
Winds, which were from the snowless Tundra to the south, are swinging around to a sea breeze, and temperatures dipped slightly to +1.76° C when the sun got low. As the sun got high they rose to +2.69 C, which is still a degree cooler than it has been. But the thaw proceeds, close to land.
Well northeast of there, past 76°,Buoy 2015B: experienced its warmest temperatures of the summer, +0.94° C even when the sun was low, but then temperatures didn’t rise swiftly as the sun did, though they did rise and now stand at +1.04° C.
Due north of there, at 77°, Buoy 2014G: has seen temperatures drop with the rising sun, from +0.79° C to +0.39 C. It is co-located with O-buoy 12, which gave us this view, showing the melt-water pool to the left has nearly regained the size it was before it froze over and was covered with snow back around June 8.
Seemingly we are lucky to be situated on top of a pressure ridge and not in a pool, which might cause the camera to slouch and examine its toes. (I saw O-buoy 7 do this for a solid month, two summers ago.) We are also lucky the pressure ridge didn’t topple our camera.
It looks like the yellow trashcan they put up there (for polar bears to deposit seal bones in) is starting to tip. They just had a dusting of snow. What this picture cannot convey is how active the ice is just beyond the pressure ridge in the the mid-distance. Big bergs have surged back and forth, and occasionally the lead has widened into an expanse of open water. In order to gain an idea of this action you need to take a couple minutes to watch the end of the movie made of these individual camera shots, available at: http://obuoy.datatransport.org/monitor#buoy11/movie The entire movie takes seven minutes to watch, but if you slide the bar at the bottom of the screen to the right and watch the final three minutes you’ll see what I mean. Also notice how the melt-water pool to the lower left keeps refreezing.
Then there are sadly no cameras for a long stretch, until we arrive north of Greenland at faithful, old O-buoy 9, (which at one point was closer to the North Pole than the North Pole Camera was, but now looks doomed to enter Fram Srait and face its eventual demise.)
Over here on the Atlantic side the temperatures have grown colder.
Quick Friday morning update
Look how temperatures have risen at O-buoy 9 overnight.
The snow looks like it is softening in the picture. This could be the start of a trend, as ot looks like weather will be fair for as long as ten days, as high pressure parks to the east of Fram Strait. This may make the surface of the ice slushy, but very light winds, often from the south, will slow the export of ice south through Fram Strait.
As the Atlantic side warms, we’ll watch to see if “Klyuchi” chills the Pacific side at all, as it weakens and drifts across to the Canadian Archipelago by Monday.
The North Pole Camera is reporting a very slight and slow drift to the southeast, to 87.05° N, 4.62° W this morning, with temperatures gradually falling from +1.2°C at 0900z on the 17th to +0.14° C this morning.
The summer thaw is setting in and all buoys are reporting above freezing temperatures, with one strange exception. Way down in Fram Strait Buoy Buoy 2015E: is reporting -3.30° C. Go figure.
There was a pretty picture from the North Pole Camera this morning, before it all went drab and gray again.
Klyuchi has turned north and is heading towards the Pole north of the New Siberian Islands.
Klyuchi is at peak strength, and as it weakens I’ll be watching for cooling like a hawk. However I’m not sure Klyuchi qualifies as a true “superpolar cell.” Rather the situation looks a bit like there are two polar cells, one centered over the North Atlantic and one over East Siberia, and Klyuchi is riding a stream between the two highs. Stoll, it throws the textbook idea of a polar high out the window.
The temperature map still shows warmth in the Bering Strait, even though it is midnight in the map below, and cold in Fram Strait, even though it is noon there.
The map also shows some below freezing temperatures around the edge of Klyuchi. On the coast of Alaska, Buoy 2015A: even dipped below freezing for the first time in days:
The warmest temperature I can find is northeast of there, in the inflow of warm air fueling Klyuchi, where Buoy 2015B: is reportiung +1.58° C. The snow looks like it is getting a little soft and slushy in the picture. It is rather neat how seamlessly a floe of ice has nestled against our floe, to the left, but the open water to the right makes me a little nervous. I am under no illusions about the life-expectancy of this camera, if that lead decides to slam shut, and the high clouds of Klyuchi are approaching from the upper left.
Across the Pile from here our faithful North Pole Camera has seen it’s recent thaw give way to below freezing temperatures. As recently as 0600 on the 18th it was at +1.1°C, but the slight rise of the sun that far north brought no heat, as by 1500z it had dropped to -0.6°C. The current reading (date stamped tomorrow, June 20, as they are near the meridian), is -0.51° C.
It is not surface melting that wipes out that ice, but rather getting flushed south into the North Atlantic, and we are not making much progress in that direction. We moved from 87.094°N, 5.114°W at midnight on the 17th (which was as far west as we got) to 87.049°N, 4.649°W at 2100z on the 18th, which is 3.51 miles in 45 hours. That is about the speed a turtle walks. (The latest report puts us at 87.04° N, 4.50° W, (on the 20th, without a time stamp) which is only eight tenths of a mile further southeast.) We are not likely to be flushed south until some sort of decent gale gets going, and that seems unlikely in the next week.
SUNDAY MORNING SUMMERY —Klyuchi Crossing—
As Klyuchi drifted across from Siberia towards Alaska and weakened, things remained very quiet in the Atlantic side. The North Pole Camera drifted southeast all of 0.57 miles, moving from 87.049°N, 4.649°W at 2100z on the 19th, to 87.044°N, 4.506°W on the 20th, and then proceded to get reluctant, and backed up to 87.047°N, 4.511°W at 2100z, which reduced our progress towards Fram Strait to 0.49 miles. At this rate we’d get to the Strait in around a year, but I don’t suppose we’ll stay at this turtle’s pace.
Interestingly, temperatures rose from -0.5°C to + 0.9°C as we headed southeast, but sank back to -0.8°C as we headed back northwest. (I would have thought the more northerly winds would have been colder, but we are talking about very light airs, and likely small pockets of colder and warmer air.
The North Pole Camera’s thaw was accompanied by a bit of blue sky and sunshine
Then things grew gray and foggy as it chilled, and this morning sees obscured sunshine, with temperatures down to -1.80° C. The summer continues very gray up there.
I’ll get to the Pacific side later. It was very warm on the coast of Alaska, as air was drawn north to Klyuchi from the land. Right on the coast 2015A was up over +7.0 Celsius.
Klyuchi continues to fade away, with a very weak secondary swung around in its wake, and also a trailing storm that zipped up from Central Asia (“Trailor”) also following in its wake, but likely to be swung around further south and to pass over to North America closer to Bering Strait.
“Trailor” may swing around along the coast of Alaska and then head out into the Beaufort Sea for a while, however it looks like the next real assailant of the Pole may come up through the Baltic Sea towards the end of the week. In the meantime things look like they will stay fairly dull and calm, so I will conclude this post and begin a new one, which I think I’ll call “Quirks of the Quietude.”
Klyuchi hasn’t created any significantly colder air, though small pools of sub-freezing air continue to appear, despite the 24-hour-sunshine and the sun being as high as it can possibly be.
Our North Pole Camera continues to dawdle up well north of Fram Strait, arriving at 87.036°N, 4.080°W at 2100z yesterday, which is only 1.71 miles to the southeast in 24 hours. Winds have picked up slightly to 11 mph, and the temperature appears to be currently nudging above freezing after bottoming out at -1.6°C at noon yesterday, and climbing back to -0.7°C at 2100z.
The real thaw is occurring on the coast of Alaska. Buoy 2015A: had temperatures above 7° C. and though it recently dropped back to +1.04 C it looks like the ice may be getting thin at the bottom of the melt-water pools, around 18 inches. The Mass Balance Buoy even seems to have a very slight tilt. If its hole supplies a channel, the melt-water may drain down and the ice rise up a little, which would be interesting to see.