This is a continuation of observations of the sea-ice melt of the summer of 2015, with as little reference to Climate Science as possible, for I figure I can make a fool of myself quite well without help from experts.
I’ve been watching ice melt for years, as a form of escape, much the same way I once watched clouds out the window during Math classes. It was by sheer accident that I discovered that, rather than the faceless rejection slips I received for my other writing, all I needed to do was share my honest observations about the shrinking and growing of sea-ice, and I could get paragraphs upon paragraphs of detailed response. This was so much better than rejection slips that I didn’t mind it a bit that a lot of the paragraphs were unflattering.
Originally these discussions began at the Accuweather “Global Warming” site, beginning around 2005, for the site wasn’t well moderated, and in some ways resembled a glorious barroom brawl. Unfortunately it became more strictly moderated in 2007 and turned into a sort of echo chamber of parrots, and I became a refugee. I tended to lurk at sites such as Climate Audit, well aware most of my comments would be too rude to be acceptable. Fortunately a new site called “Watts Up With That” appeared at that time, and allowed ruder conversations, and became not only a place where I could comment, but a place that published a few of my writings. Finally in December 2012 I started this site, mostly as a place to talk about things other than the weather and climate. I’d average 10 to 20 views a day, which was fine with me, because that is better than a rejection slip. Then, in July 2013, I wrote a single post about sea-ice, and abruptly received 500 views.
I suppose a sort of law of supply and demand kicked in. Also some very nice people asked me to continue to post about sea ice. I have done so, and am now well into my third summer. (I still post other stuff, which tends to get 20-40 views).
I do not claim to be any sort of authority. I am merely a witness, and these posts are a sort of notebook, holding my observations and some doodles. Of course, if you carefully observe sea-ice for years you can tell when a person who has not observed it much is talking through their hat, but that doesn’t make me an expert.
The North Pole Camera was my original window to a new world, and continues to be my favorite, because it starts so close to the Pole and is often the only camera that can be called a “Central Arctic” camera, as most of the others wander about the perifery of the sea-ice. I’ve nicknamed this year’s camera “Faboo”, and the secondary camera is nicknamed “Fabootwo”.
This camera has always drifted south to Fram Strait, summer after summer. Last summer might have been an exception, for the ice the camera was on took off to the southeast as if it might pass around the east side of Svalbard, but unfortunately the camera was crushed by a pressure ridge before its destination could be determined.
This year the camera has been far more hesitant to come south. We nearly crossed 86° latitude two weeks ago, but then retreated north, and are now giving heading south another try. (We get our official data a day late, so I will always be reporting yesterday’s movement and temperatures, unless I report the data from the co-located Mass Balance Buoy 2015D, which I call “unofficial data” because it has no time stamp.)
Yesterday Faboo drifted south and west in slackening winds 3.89 miles to 86.112°N, 6.987°W. Temperatures were quite cold, considering we are still officially in the period of the summer thaw. Our low was -2.1°C at 0300Z, and we were only up to -0.7°C at noon. A spike followed that I distrust a little, as the buoys are micro “Urban Heat Islands” and sit in small pools of melt-water of their own making, and spikes in temperature are often seen when winds become calm, but officially we did hit a high of +0.2°C at 1800Z in calm conditions. By the next (and final) report at 2100Z a gentle breeze of 5 mph was blowing, and temperatures were back down to -0.9°C.
Today’s unofficial reports show Faboo’s drift is to the west and temperatures are still below freezing at -0.36°. despite the fact the camera has shown moisture moving in.South of Faboo, at the northern entrance of Fram Strait, O-buoy 9 has run into a slushy situation, heading southeast to 4° longitude, and finally getting down to 80° latitude. Winds are 7 mph and the temperature is a hair above freezing.
Across the Pole, down in Beaufort Sea, O-Bouy 10 is not transmitting data, and O-buoy 11 reports s slight thaw and light winds, and transmits this foggy pictureTo the west O-buoy 12 is experiencing sub-freezing temperatures and more breezy conditions of 12 mph. The slush forming on the salt water now appears gone.I’ll likely post some maps and pictures tomorrow but won’t have time to comment, as my youngest son is graduating from college. Here are today’s DMI maps. The area of subfreezing temperatures in the arctic is expanding.
SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE
SUNDAY NIGHT REPORT
Yesterday Faboo headed south to 86.106°N, and then once again turned tail and retreated north, winding up the day 2.5 miles WNW of where we began, with our final position at 86.116°N, 7.519°W. The north winds pushing us south were colder than the south winds pushing us north, so the temperatures bounded about as well, reaching yesterday’s low of -1.7°C at 0300Z, and then yo-yoing upwards until we finally achieved thaw, with the day’s high of +0.2°C reached at 1800Z and held to the end of the reporting period.
Today’s unofficial reports make it look like we are continuing to retreat the “wrong way,” in south winds that continue the thaw. The clash between the cold north winds, likely associated with the weak low “Beaucat”, and the south winds, likely associated with west side of the weak “Pohi” ridge, have made it cloudy and gloomy. It’s hard to take advantage of a thaw and melt ice like mad, when there is no sunshine. Our new melt-water pools are but puddles on the frozen surfaces of July’s more robust pools.
Last year a freeze in the middle of slush season was followed by a thaw, and a slighter version seems to be replaying this year, for our other buoys are, if not thawing, less cold.
Obuoy has made it past 3.5° longitude and south of 80° latitude. Because it heads south as Faboo heads north, open water appears between the two, without a bit of melt being necessary. Temperatures have been thawing for a day now, and the breeze has been gusty, between 5 and 15 mph.
I’ll comment on the other buoys and the DMI maps in the morning.
MONDAY MORNING UPDATE
This morning’s maps show “Pohi’s” high pressure being warped into a dumbbell shape as it ridges across the Pole, as the remains of “Beaucat” on the Eurasian side and “Chuck” in the Canadian Archipelago act like pincers in the middle. Beaucat is cut off from its original energy, but is being infused by energy from central Asia related to the old storm “Verge.” Even though the new incarnation is largely of Asian origin, I’m going to keep the name “Beaucat” for the resultant storm, because this is my blog and one of the few places I get to be boss. In like manner, the weak impulse moving east along the north coast of Greenland will be “Chuck”, even though it has dubious origins. The new incarnation of “Pohi” is splitting like an Amoeba, and the part over Scandinavia will be “Hiska” (for High Pressure Scandinavian) while the one on the Pacific side will become “Hichuk” (for “High Pressure Chukchi Sea)”. In conclusion the current ridge over the Pole looks unstable and likely to transition into a new scheme. Although you can trace the 1016mb isobar from the Azores to the Pacific side of the Pole, there’s no way air from the Azores is going to get that far. The milder air seems to to be home-grown over Europe rather than imported, and seems to have trouble staying down at the surface once it gets to Svalbard. However it does seem this is the last hurrah of slush season. It remains to be seen how strong it is, and whether it has the ability to endure beyond the official end of slush season. We are reaching the point where the average temperatures at the Pole dip below zero. However this is not to say we couldn’t have a year like 1964, and see slush season extended more than a week. Faboo is seeing a slight thaw, and gloom as the milder air brings moisture and clouds. It is moving northwest, the “wrong way.”Considering the ice stopped spreading south and was compressed back north I found it difficult to explain the uptick in yesterday’s extent graph. Perhaps it spread south somewhere else, but I couldn’t locate it.
MIDDAY MONDAY UPDATE
It is scorching hot here in New Hampshire, so I’m escaping north to look at some ice. Down at the north entrance of Fram Strait O-buoy 9 has been experiencing breezy conditions, with winds up to 18 mph though currently down to 10 mph. I was expecting that we’d be blown back north, judging from the isobars, but saw no sign of any northward progress. However we sure are heading east.I suppose I should give up hope of more pictures of the coast of Greenland, and look east to Svalbard. (Which it is highly unlikely we’d reach, as we’d have to cross 13 degrees of longitude without moving south.) However I’m always on the lookout for exciting possibilities.
I did check back at Station Nort in Greenland, and saw the winds were south there, and at three stations in Svalbard, and saw winds were fairly light because they are still at the center of the Pohi ridge, but are forecast to become south. Therefore it seems peculiar our buoy is not heading north. A strong southerly current? A local front or micro-system? A large whale has become attached to our buoy?
Over the top of the Globe and down south of 80° our Beaufort Buoys are seeing more normal and slushy conditions, if I judge with my eyes, though temperatures are still a bit cold. O-buoy 10 was showing melt-puddles atop frozen metlwater pools for a while, but now it looks more like the entire pools are melting at least at the top. Winds are around 10 mph and temperatures around -1.0°, and we continue to drift south towards an area the ice can spread out, but the ice hasn’t yet broken up.O-buoy 11 is in the area where the ice can spread out, which has become such a notable feature I’ll give it a name and call it “The Slot.” It is causing a bit of a buzz among sea-ice nerds because extent maps with low resolution show it as open water in the Beaufort Sea. The Canadian Ice Service map, with a grid of higher resolution, shows it as well, but suggests it is not completely ice-free, but holds as little as 1/10th ice and as much as 7/10th ice. (Upper left of map below.)What our lying eyes have been witnessing through O-buoy 11 tends to agree with the Canadian map. We’ve seen water that looks practically ice free, and then suddenly are midst a traffic jam. During the recent cold wave the ice looked fairly solid, but now it’s more broken up again. The water had an oily look earlier, despite a 9 mph breeze, which might suggest the drop in temperatures at that time to around -2.5°C had the water thinking of freezing, but temperatures have since perked up towards freezing, and above the freezing point of salt water, so the slick look is a style forgotten. “The Slot” extends all the way west to O-buoy 12, which also has been showing open water some times and then traffic jams of ice other times. It has been heading south to 77.5° latitude and consistently experiencing subfreezing temperatures above the freezing point of water, around 1° currently, and the breeze has been fairly brisk at 10-15 mph. Unfortunately the lens is obscured, I think by fog but perhaps by wet snow.
Yesterday’s report from Faboo has come in, and shows we drifted 4.01 miles northwest. The breeze ranged from 11 to 18 moh, and temperatures hit a low of -0.2°C at 0300Z and achieved the high of +0.9°C at the final report at 2100Z.
The fact this ice is moving northwest while O-buoy 9 has headed southeast should theoretically create a second “Slot” of opening water, in theory at least.
Ron Clutz runs an excellent site at https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/arctic-ice-stays-the-course-august-15-summary/
I snipped this chart to show the August 15 comparison between 2014 and 2015. If you have the time you can compare the numbers on this chart with earlier charts on his site, and see exactly where the ice grows and where it shrinks (usually growth where the ice “spreads out”, at this time of year.)
Breakdown for day 227 of ice extent in the various NH seas.
|Day 227 Comparison||2014||2015||2015-2014||% of 2014|
|% of NH Maximum||0.405||0.418|
TUESDAY MORNING REPORT
Pohi has split into Hiska, which is warming Barents Sea, and Hichuk which is warming the Laptev Sea. Chuck has reformed north of Greenland, though its original trough drapes back to Beaufort Sea, and it’s southerly east side winds are bringing thaw up to Faboo, and continuing to shove the ice Faboo is upon north and west. Faboo is seeing sprinkles of rain and an unofficial temperature of +1.21°, which is slush-season stuff. Hope to get to O-buoys at lunch time. Busy, hot day ahead.
TUESDAY EVENING UPDATE
Yesterday fairly strong and steady southeast winds shoved the ice Faboo is on 6.63 miles to the northwest, winding us up at 86.239°N, 9.213°W. The breezes are mild, and we are seeing a decent thaw without sunshine. Yesterday’s low was +0.7°C at midnight, and the high was +1.0°C at noon, until we had a spike at the final report at 2100Z to +1.5°.
Today’s unofficial Mass Balance reports suggest this movement has continued, backing to the west as the winds became more easterly and temperatures fell slightly. Faboo shows a return to July slush-season conditions without the benefit of sunshine. The level of Lake Faboo to the right has increased, and there are even some hints a slushy estuary that extended to the lower, left corner of our image in July might reappear. (My view was that the estuary drained when the level of Lake Faboo was lowered by a outflow channel out of view, or by percolation downwards through cracks or “rotton ice”, but perhaps the recent cold snap froze up those outlets.)
I’ve seen such late-season thaws before, but I need to keep in mind those cameras were far further south, and in some cases already entering Fram Strait. Faboo is far further from the Atlantic’s relative warmth, so I need to be a little more impressed by thaw than I’d be further south.
However I’m far more impressed by the “wrong way” movement of nearly 7 miles. I’ve seen triple the daily movement in the other direction, to the south, especially once the North Pole Camera is in heading down the east coast of Greenland, however in such cases there is open water both to the south and east, and all the ice is moving the same way like cars on a freeway. When you are heading north it is as if you are in bumper to bumper traffic.
In fact that might be a good way to comprehend the power displayed by Faboo today: Imagine you were in bumper to bumper traffic that was at a standstill, and were seven miles from home, and got very impatient. Then imagine you crept forward until your bumper touched the car in front of you, and then you stamped on the gas and started pushing that car forward against its will, until it pushed the car in front of it, and so on and so forth, until you were pushing seven miles of traffic like a train pushing a lot of boxcars. (Before you try this out, next time you are in a hurry to get home, you should think about the phenomenon of pressure ridges. A pressure ridge of rush-hour traffic is not something you want to see, especially because the other drivers can be less than understanding about your fascination with sea-ice. Or at least that has been my experience.)
The amazing thing about Faboo is that this small buoy is not merely pushing seven miles of traffic, but hundreds of miles of traffic. The entire stylish beret of white worn by our planet is shifting from last years style (tilted down on Svalbard) to this years style (to be determined). Who would believe such a small pebble could create such an avalanche of change in the world of polar fashion?
Of course the beret does not shift from tilting left to tilting right in a straight line. Ice hardly ever moves in a straight line. If you study aerial views of glaciers you’ll see they are all curves and only rarely straight. Straight lines are reserved for slapstick scientists, who call them “trend lines.” However today’s NRL map of ice-speed-and-drift shows Faboo part of an unnaturally straight beeline of ice from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The difference this year seems to be that the Beaufort Gyre has taken over, and the Transpolar drift is AWOL. However in both examples there is a nice, textbook clockwise flow around the polar high pressure centered on the Pacific side of the Pole, which is a nice textbook pattern the Pole laughs at when it creates summer gales, as it did in both the summers of 2012 and 2013. Those gales turned the Polar high into a doughnut, with a hole in the middle.
In any case, I like to simplify, and to think in a crude manner well beneath the dignity of reality, though not quite as simple and straight-line as slapstick science. (I take a straight-line approach, but expect to be wrong.) My simpleton approach wonders if, when we see Faboo shift 7 miles north on the Atlantic side, we should expect to see our Beaufort O-buoys shift 7 miles south in the Pacific side. And, well, there is some sort of correlation, but surely nothing could be that simple.
And surely it isn’t. If you look at the above NRL Spreed-and-drift map you’ll notice that while Faboo might be in a nice, neat straight-line drift, that drift begins in chaos in Fram Srait and ends in chaos in Beaufort Sea. Furthermore, both areas have witnessed “slots” of open water this summer.
These sort of “slots” were important to the crazy guys who used to sail up their hunting whales. It is hard for us to comprehend, but they saw all the hardship they endured as “easy money.” I guess it shows you how hard life was back home on the farm.
The guys who became rich enough stayed home, but they commanded the captains of the whaling ships to keep accurate records of where the “slots” were. When the various captains came home the ship-owners would pour through the logs of their various ships, plotting the following years voyages. And they likely were as puzzled by the antics of sea-ice back then, as we are today.
However they did not make the mistake slap-stick science now makes, and assume ice close to Alaska meant solid ice lay between that point and the Pole. How could they? They would read the log one captain who found it hard to sail along the coast of Alaska, due to sea-ice, yet another captain far to the north sailed in open waters, as he had found a “slot”.
Sometimes, as I look at the views of the O-buoy cameras, I like to pretend I am the captain of a whaler, and trying to decide if I should sail on or turn back. Is this a slot that will persist? Or is this the jaws of a bear trap about to slam shut?
If I was down in Fram Strait by O-buoy 9 I think I’d take my money and run south. The calm conditions and patches of open water we used to see seem to be filling in, and winds were pretty high, even if they are now dying down. In theory, with Faboo heading away and the ice here not heading north, there should be more and more open water, but I just don’t trust the look of the sea and the sky.
Because the ice at O-buoy 10 hasn’t yet broken up, it isn’t ice a whaling captain would sail midst, so I wouldn’t need to worry about it. It’s below freezing with light winds at O-buoy 10. A captain might sneak into the slot O-buoy 11 jostles about in. After the freeze of last week he’d likely be busting his butt to get out now, while the going was good, though he might be tempted to pause to grab a whale or two, if they got too close.
If I can, I hope to locate, for you, a fabulous collection of reports from the logs of old whaling ships, and also the ships that resupplied the Hudson Bay fur-trader trading-posts. I will be doing so at great risk to myself, because I’ll be very tempted to lose hours upon hours rereading the work. However the thing that flabberghasts me is that slap-stick science refuses to accept the painstaking observations kept by these old captains, when they map past conditions.
If you look at modern renditions of what the past looked like, you will notice that if the edge of the sea-ice budges down towards Barrow, then all the area between that edge and the north pole is solid ice. There is never a “slot”. In fact, the slot we are seeing this year is the first slot that ever occurred since the beginning of time (or so you might think). And the best picture of the Beaufort Slot (and even, to a small degree, the Greenland Slot), is provided by the NSIDC map below:
The possible reasons for such slots are many, but I personally think it merely is a reflection of the fact that systems in the Ferrel Cells have been progressive while the Polar cell has been stable and even stagnant. (Call it a “zone of discordance”, of you will.)
The interesting (and frightening, if you were captain of a sailing ship), thing about a “slot” is that it can slam shut in a hurry, like the jaws of a bear trap. I’m watching this situation with interest.
WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE
For the time being I am seeing “Hichuk” as the Polar High, with all the weather of the world rotating about it, to the south in all directions. This makes “Hiska” a high-pressure feature of the Ferrel Cell. Both “Beaucat”, reinvigorated in the Laptev Sea, and “Chuck”, weak in the Greenland Sea, are lows rolling along the line of demarcation between the Polar Cell and the Ferrel Cell. This handy, textbook way of looking at things works when it works, and the rest of the time you need to toss the textbook out the window.
A quick glance at Faboo shows it is continuing its wrong-way cruise to the northwest, but the thaw is chilling back down towards freezing. Lake Faboo looks like it may hold slush, in this morning’s gray and gloomy picture, and it’s level seems lower, as if its outlet has reopened.
South of there O-buoy 9 has seen a calm descend, and its drift has slowed to a near standstill around 79.9° N and 2.5° W. With the sea-ice to the north heading away, it should be in a slot of increasing open water. Air temperatures are a hair below freezing, likely because that is the temperature of the salt water. Rather than a urban-heat-island effect it is a sort of polar-seawater-cold-island effect, when winds get calm.
O-buoy 10 is seeing temperatures a degree below freezing and light winds, and continues to head south upon ice that stubbornly refuse to break up. O-buoy 11 also is heading south on winds decreasing towards calm, with temperatures dipping towards -2°C, which is past the freezing point of salt water.O-buoy 12 also heads south, and also sees temperatures dipping to -2°C, but breezes have been stronger for the past 3 days, in the range of 10-15 mph. Unfortunately all we can see is a smear. The Polar Smear-monster has apparently migrated west.
Another hot and humid day is forecast for us here in New Hampshire, so when I come dragging in after work today I’m not sure whether I’ll want to write. Sometimes I don’t want to do more than look at the ice.
WEDNESDAY EVENING UPDATE
Yesterday’s official data confirms what we suspected: that Faboo crunched another 8.71 miles northwest, winding us up at 86.302°N, 10.896°W, which puts us back where we were in early July. This movement was assisted by a strong breeze of 15-20 mph, with temperatures declining from a day’s high of +1.5°C at midnight to a low of +0.5°C at noon, and also for our final reading at 2100Z.
I’m not sure I can believe today’s unofficial reports, which show we stopped heading north but continued west, and also that our thaw ended with a thump as temperatures fell to -4.19° C. We’ll have to see if that stunning plunge verifies in tomorrow’s official report. In the gray and gloomy pictures Lake Faboo does look like it may have again frozen over.
Temperatures crashing to -4° is worthy of a new post, so I will conclude this one with the following profound thought:
Slapstick science attempts to slap ideas against a wall and hope they stick, but when the wall is melting ice it is too slippery and no known glue works. Only when the melting ice freezes do things stick to it, and what sticks to slapstick scientists, when temperatures drop to -4° in mid-August, is that the concept of an ice-free Pole is slapstick comedy.