This post will be about the approaching sea-ice minumum, as temperatures start their yearly plunge at the Pole, as ice starts to form at the surface faster than it can be melted from beneath. Already the extent graph is starting to flatten out, before its eventual rise. It can be seen we are extremely unlikely to come close to 2012’s minimum, which emphasizes the fact the so-called “Death Spiral” simply isn’t happening. I suppose one could attempt to redefine the word “Spiral”, but then one would have to adjust the entire logic of cause-and-effect that explained the spiral, until things became ludicrous. After all, one can try to redefine a knife as a sort of fork, but the knife does not become a fork as much as you yourself become an ass.
It is far more interesting to accept things as they are, and to focus on the many reasons the ice-extent was low this year, and the reasons it wasn’t as low as 2012.
The AMO, which has been wobbling towards its “cold” phase the past two springs, swung back into its “warm” phase:
Far more interesting is the PDO, which has been in a “warm spike” during its “cold phase”, but is refusing to get back into its “cold phase.”
This has little to do with the El Nino (which is also quite warm) but a lot due to what is affectionately called “The Blob” and has been a major feature in the north Pacific for going on three years. It built a ridge of high pressure which kept the western USA warm and dry, but caused a trough to dig deeply to its east, delivering arctic air into the eastern USA. It was self perpetuating, for the high pressure allowed extra sunshine to keep The Blob’s waters warm. However on his excellent Blog at Weatherbell this morning Joseph D’Aleo pointed out The Blob is developing new features. It has a couple of creases in it, and a map of Pacific anomalies shows multiple layers rather than a single blob. (The lowest layer is the El Nino).
My suspicion is that these “seams” will allow storms to penetrate the Blob, ending the self-perpetuation of sunshine and stirring up colder waters, and messing up winter forecasts based on the idea the Blob will remain firm. The last time we saw such a “warm spike” in a “cold” PDO was in the 1950’s, and back then we had neither satellite views nor Dr. Ryan Maue’s excellent maps. So we are seeing things for the first time.
The blob was forsing typhoons west, when they came north from Japan, and they were winding up off Kamchaka on Russia’s Pacific coast. Only recently did a typhoon find one of these “seams” and take the more normal El Nino route to the Gulf of Alaska. It gives me the feeling storm tracks will be erratic and weather patterns will vary a lot this winter.
When the typhoons were taking the more western track their western sides sucked cold air down over east Siberia from the Arctic Ocean. I was oblivious of this until south winds from east Siberia onto the sea-ice were not as balmy as I expected, so I checked to see what the score was. I saw sub-freezing temperatures in August. I immediately suspected a freak snowfall, but even now there is only snow on peaks up that way.
Despite the lack of snow, when I checked the forecast for temperatures at dawn at that part of the world, Dr. Ryan Maue’s map showed it to be surprisingly cold today. This is not what I expect at all. You can see the Arctic Sea is warmer than the land at the coast, and I don’t expect this until the solstice, when the nights swiftly grow longer than the days. Up until then I expect south winds off the tundra to be off a sun baked landscape swarming with mosquitoes breeding in warm pools atop permafrost that has thawed several feet down. It seems those pools have frozen over early this year.
Joseph D’Aleo must also be noting the cold up there, for today (to my great delight) he featured an article about an early season storm that will prowl eastward across that tundra next week, giving early season snows not merely on the coast, but quite far south in Central Siberia.This will force me to adjust my thinking, when I notice winds are from the south off Russia. (It also shows you how, when you are focused on sea-ice, you can wind up in Mongolia.)
Forgive me for reprinting the above map again below, but I like the snow-extent map because it gives a truer idea of how small the arctic is. Most maps stretch the North Pole, which after all is just a dot, across the entire top, and make it look as long as the equator, and the result is a map that makes Greenland look bigger than Australia. (It isn’t.) The map below gives a truer idea of how small the area of ice people are up in arms about is, compared to the amazing vastness of Siberia. (The ice itself is orange).
The above map is also interesting because it clearly shows “The Slot” in the sea-ice north of Alaska, which also shows, albeit less clearly, in the NRL map of ice extent:This “slot” doesn’t even show on other maps, which completely erase the southern edge of its ice, (I think because floating slush and “pancake” ice is seen as open water.) If this area truly exists, bounded on all sides by ice, it could freeze over with surprising speed, now that temperatures are plummeting.
The reason has to do with the fact salt water differs from fresh water, in that cold fresh water floats on top of warmer fresh water, once it gets below 35 degrees, but colder salt water always sinks. This makes it hard to freeze the top of truly open salt water, because it sinks before it gets cold enough to freeze. The only way the arctic ocean freezes at all is because tiny seed crystals of ice somehow form from snow or spray or bubbles on the water, and even when they are minute they do float, and form a basis for further freezing.
Because the “slot” has so much more slush available to act as seed crystals, the ordinary process of freezing up the arctic sea could be sped up in that area. Unfortunately all three O-buoy cameras we had in that area have stopped sending pictures, so we can’t see what the water looks like and how much slush is about.
The area took quite a battering, first from a storm I dubbed “Ruckus” which came up from the Pacific and rattled the Beaufort Sea before sinking back down towards Hudson Bay, and second from a storm I dubbed “Crosschuk” which can be seen being flung from Siberia to Alaska before fading in the sequence below.
(Also of interest in these maps is an eddy of low pressure that formed off the east coast of Greenland and moved towards Svalbard, (called “Famja”), which could grow to a gale, as it is fed by mild air from the high over Iceland (“Notaz”) clashing with very cold air developing over the Pole. But that is news for later.) (The east-side north winds of “Notaz” delivered a shot of cold air to Scotland, giving them snow on the peaks.)
Although these storms battering the sea ice may not have reached the size of the 2012 storm, they did stir the ice and sea up, and the ice did not melt in the swift manner it melted in 2012. In 2012 the swift melt was likely due to a layer of warmer water under the ice, but this summer’s ice behaved more like the ice did during the 2013 summer gale, when it was broken and churned but didn’t melt as much. This suggests the water is colder, and that there is either no layer of milder water, or it is much deeper down and beyond the reach of turbulence.
It fits in with what I witnessed all summer, which was seldom open water being warmed by bright sunshine, but instead was more often gloomy weather, and waters chilled even to the degree where they sometimes skimmed with ice. In essence it was a battle between warmth from the warm PDO below and cold from an unknown source from above.
The Atlantic side is seeing less dispersing of ice and more compression, but I’ll have to wait to describe that tomorrow.
TUESDAY MORNING SNEAK PEAK AT FABOO —Midnight Sun Sinking—
(“Faboo” is my nickname for the North Pole Camera.) After a mild spell the cold is definately arriving, with temperatures down to –11.46° C. The buoy has been drifting steadily southeast, but still is well northwest of where most North Pole Cameras have wound up, in September, at 85.43° N, 12.93° W.
FABOO’S PROGRESS REPORT
On Saturday the 5th Faboo progressed 13.76 miles southeast on 10-14 mph winds, seeing a brief thaw and brief sunshine at midnight, when temperatures reached +0.4°C, and then clouds, snow and a flash freeze at noon, when temperatures fell to -6.6°C, before they rose back to -1.5°C at 2100Z.
On Sunday the 6th Faboo continued another 4.2 miles southeast as winds slacked off and temperatures fell steadily to -7.6°C.
On Monday the 7th Faboos progress slowed to 2.13 miles southeast as winds dropped to calm and temperatures crashed to the coldest we’ve seen since May. The high was -7.3°C at midnight, and by 0600Z had plummeted to -13.7°C, bouncing around after that to as high as -7.5°C at 1800Z, but back down to -12.1°C at 2100Z.
On Tuesday the 8th Faboo sped up to 5.54 miles southeast, so winds likely picked up a little, but apparently both the wind vane and anemometer were crusted up with hoarfrost and not reporting. Temperatures remained below -10°, with a high of -10.1°C at 0600Z and lows of -12.4°C at 0300Z and -11.4°C at 1800Z.
The average temperature north of 80° is crashing, and thaws are increasingly unlikely when to be above average is still well below freezing.We will have to watch Faboo to see if he can get down to Fram Strait, where is where the action is. If you locate 79.5° north and 9.5° west on the above map, between Greenland and Svalbard, you have the rough location of O-buoy 9, which has been drifting slowly north and east even as Faboo has labored south and west. Somewhere between the two the ice must be getting crunched up. O-buoy 9 has also seen cold temperatures and fresh snows, and, as winds are currently light, may experience a freezing-up of the icepack, even while being eventually flushed south.
O-buoy 10 reports in.
The polar lows Ruckus and Crosschuk have taken a terrible toll on our buoys, including some of the Mass Balamce buoys that lack cameras, and I feared O-buoy 10 might be another casualty, however so far it is a survivor. (It seems ironic that the older buoys survived, while the newer ones bit the dust.)
It really doesn’t matter to me all that much whether this is called open water or not, as long as the people doing the measuring measure in the manner they measured in prior years. It would be quite a different matter if they called this ice-covered, even 30% ice covered, in prior years and now call it ice-free. However to suspect that is to venture into the surreal landscape of paranoia, and even if modern governments make such surrealism everyday, I’m not in the mood to go there tonight. I’m just going to pretend we are comparing apples with apples, and the manner of measuring hasn’t been changed.
Rather than quibbling about the km2 of the sea-ice that remain, I am interested in the open water and what is happening to it. I actually think the better scientists are the same. They likely smile and nod with slightly pained expressions, when dealing with the people one must flatter to get a grant, but once the money is safely pocketed they likely hurry north to study reality, which is far more fascinating than fiction.
Reality exposes a major blemish in the “Death Spiral” theory, which suggests that open waters absorb more sulight, for when we use our lying eyes we realize by the time the ice finally breaks up the sun is too low to warm much. Down at 76° north it already spends time below the horizon, and when above the horizon it often hits the water at such a shallow angle that water reflects better than ice does. Furthermore, with temperatures plummeting, and with open waters exposed to the cold in a way ice-covered water isn’t, and stirred by winds in ways ice-covered waters aren’t, one becomes acutely curious about what is actually occurring to the water; IE Reality.
I am sure true scientists strive to avoid having preconceptions, and to strictly govern their speculations to actual data they now are gaining with water profiles we never before had, which shows how water behaves when ice-covered and when open. However until this data is published in a manner accessible to a bumpkin like myself I simply note how the ice behaves in the year after there is a lot of open water, such as 2007 and 2012. To a bumpkin it looks like the ice acts as if was sitting in water that is colder. It is more reluctant to melt.
Therefore, even as we watch this year’s minimum, I’m thinking about next year’s. Among other things, I’m watching to see how long the water remains open and exposed, and what sort of cold it is exposed to. I’m thinking that if “The Beaufort Slot” freezes over swiftly, it may actually protect “warm” PDO waters from being cooled. Pondering what that might mean leads me into landscapes of wonder.
What happens next is a wonder-filled thing called reality.
WEDNESDAY DMI MAPS
“Framja” has done well for was was basically an eddy off the coast of Greenland, and is developing a secondary in the Kara Sea which will kick east and perhaps be in the Bering Strait in a week, causing the snows in Siberia Joseph D’Aleo alerted me to and I talked of, above.
The low at the southern tip of Greenland is not an eddy, but a Labrador low loop-de-looping into a stall, blocked by the high pressure “Notaz” yet bumping Notaz east to become a major feature over Scandinavia this week. I’ll call the Labrador low “Dorga” (short for Labrador Gale) as it is fed by various secondary and tertiary lows and wobbles its way across the Atlantic. For a while the southerly flow between Dorga and Notaz will be impressive, though it likely will be swung east towards Barents Sea rather than invading the high arctic.
The high pressure across the Pole towards east Siberia, “Hisib”, seems to have been delegated the duty of being the new, official, textbook center of the “Polar Cell”, with lows rotating around it. It should direct some of the very cold air north of Greenland back west towards Bering Strait.
THURSDAY EVENING REPORT
Faboo did not send out its official report, but the associated Mass Balance buoy indicated temperatures remain very cold, and it continues to drift south and east. The camera shows increasing clouds and the gloom we have seen so much of this summer, as “Framja” pulls moisture (and perhaps milder temperatures soon) to the Pole.
To Faboo’s south O-buoy 9 has stopped sending pictures, which is a big loss. Hopefully it only a glitch, and can be repaired. The GPS and weather station still function, and show that the bouy is drifting south in light winds and cold temperatures between -5° and -9°.
Further south they may have fixed the thermometer on Mass Balance Buoy 2015E, which is reporting -4.27° C at 76.22° N, 14.20° W. The track of this buoy is interesting for it shows how sluggish the flow down Greenland’s coast has been, which explains why there is less ice than usual. Although this lessens the sea-ice extent totals, it actually represents more ice remaining up at the Pole, and less being flushed south to melt.
Across the Pole in Beaufort Sea O-buoy 10 is experiencing light winds and temperatures between -2° and -3°, and we are starting to see the water take on the oily look it has when it first starts to think of freezing. The short nights are rapidly lengthening, and in less than two weeks will be longer than the days.
The above pictures also appear to show fresh snow, which tends to cause an upward blip in extent totals, and may account for what seems to be an early upturn to the ice-extents. I’ll post the DMI maps, but think I’ll catch up on my sleep, and postpone discussing them until the morning.
The eastern side of “Framja” and “Framjason” have drawn relatively milder air north over the Pole, as the western side delivers cold air to western Siberia, even as Europe enjoys a spell of warmth beneath the high pressure “Notaz”, which extends into the upper atmosphere as a “Rex Block”, keeping the various incarnations of “Dorga” from progressing across the Atlantic. The surprise to me is the strength retained by Framja over the Pole, and the failure of the high pressure Sibhi to take charge and direct traffic, as it looks meek over towards Being Strait. Even as warmth moves up to the Pole we are seeing the minus-ten isotherm make its first appearance of the late summer north of Greenland.
An excellent post by Joseph D.Aleo over at Wearherbell includes 21 Dr. Ryan Maue maps, and discusses the Rex Block over Europe. Most interesting to me is the growth of snow over Siberia during the next ten days, east of Europe’s warmth.
Snow is fairly common in September in Siberia, in a spotty way, but this seems more general than usual, especially in the first half of the month. It is usually October before the snow really gets going. It creates land that encourages radiational cooling to the south of a band of milder coastal water on the Arctic Sea, with sea-ice that encourages radiational cooling to the north. The band of mildness and the resultant uplift of air seems to create a storm track along the arctic coast, west to east, until the coastal waters freeze.
NEW O-BUOY GETS OLD NAME
I think it was a mistake to call this new buoy O-buoy 8, which was a great old buoy who’s name deserves to be retired. However I’m glad and grateful for the pictures, from roughly 83° north and 128° west. O-buoy 8 has experienced temperatures down to -7° at the start of the week but now are experiencing temperatures back up near freezing in a stiff breeze if 22 mph from Framja.
FRIDAY FABOO FUNDAMENTALS
Faboo continued his(her?) steady progress southeast, travelling 5.01 miles Wednesday to 85.296°N, 12.151°W, and 4.43 miles Thursday to 85.267°N, 11.453°W, Unofficial reports show this motion continued on Friday, with a turn to the east-southeast. Temperatures crashed to the lowest levels we’ve seen since May, reaching -17.7°C at 2100Z on September 19, and despite the nearness of Framja’s mild plume of air, only recovering to -8.3°C at 2100Z on September 20. Even more surprising (to me at least) was the fact Framja didn’t bury Faboo in murky, gloomy weather, and instead the sun burst out. The drying conditions seemed to sublimate away the hoarfrost from both lenses and the anemometer, even before winds picked up to a brisk breeze of 20 mph. Framja obviously has a cold and dry side, and unofficial reports show Faboo’s temperatures crashing again, rather than undergoing the rise I expected.
BRIEF 9-11 EDITORIAL
Looking at the above picture, would you call the Pole ice-free? Why not? Lying is profitable, so why don’t you join the club?
Communist Russia had a long history of regarding Truth in cynical manner, freely maiming It and warping It into atrocious propaganda. They regarded even friends, supporters and allies as “useful idiots”. Across the Caspian, Persia (Iran) had to battle this superpower, and the Shah had to battle his own young college students who were useful idiots, and in the end both he and the students lost. The winner, if downfall can be called victory, was a perverted form of Islam which seemingly takes a specific clause of the Koran, meant to apply only to certain situations involving flagrantly wicked Byzantine corruption and Gestapo-like cruelty, and make it into the clause, “It is acceptable to lie to infidels.”
Wrong. Truth cannot be taught by telling lies. Not that we in the west are saints, as many of our businessmen believe it is acceptable to lie to customers, and many of our politicians believe it is acceptable to lie to voters, and Madison Avenue makes a profitable business out of such lying.
However Truth does not need to be told to be True. It is. It stands alone, like the sea ice in the above picture, and not all the racket of yammering nincompoops can deny it.
At some point we all face a choice. Do you believe in a government of the people and for the people, or do you believe in self-serving self-interest? Do you believe in telling the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, or do you swear on the Bible with your fingers crossed? Will you lie for a buck (or for a word that rhymes)?
So look again at the above picture of a sunset. Would you call that Arctic Sea ice-free?
SATURDAY O-BUOY UPDATES
The surviving O-buoys give an interesting glimpse of the warm and cold sides of the polar low I call “Framja”.
O-buoy 8-the-second is in the warm air, and experiencing near-thaw conditions. Fortunately it is experiencing nearly calm conditions, as it was placed rashly, and could well be destroyed swiftly and have one of the shortest lives of any O-buoy. I don’t mean to be a prick, but I do wonder at the decision-making involved. I even wonder if, by naming it O-buoy 8 rather than O-buoy 13, they hoped it would escape scrutiny, and allow them to gather some crucial tidbit of data despite a high cost. In any case, O-buoy 8 seems to show that despite the relative mildness, snow is falling and the seas are slushy.
O-buoy 10 is further south and west, and avoiding the warm feeder-band of Framja, and in fact is starting to get hit by some home-grown cold on the Pacific side of the Pole. Though less dramatic than the cold hitting Faboo, it is bouncing between -4° C and -6° C, and is cold enough to slick up the exposed salt water in the nearly calm conditions. The first and last pictures both show the stage-two pancake-ice in the foreground, stage-one slick-ice further away, and then the open water further off. The last picture’s open water is most interesting, for you have to wonder if it is warmed by the low sunshine as much as it is chilled by the -4° C air.
Lastly we have O-buoy 9 at the mouth of Fram Strait, nearly stationary in light winds but just starting to edge south. Its thermometer states it is definitely on Framja’s cold side. Sadly, we still have no new pictures, and I am fearful O-buoy 9’s camera’s lens may have been smashed by a berg. It is a real pity, for this camera deserves some sort of award for the wonderful pictures it has sent us.
This patch of very cold air in Fram Strait is interesting, for not only is it assaulted by Framja’s plume of warm air, but a warm flow in the Atlantic between the high pressure “Notaz” over Scandinavia and the low “Dorga” by Iceland would seem to assault it from the south, yet it is holding its own.
It should be noted that a new Mass Balance buoy was placed on the far side of the Pole in mid August. Buoy 2015F: is currently at 81.10° N, 173.11° E, on ice a little more than 3 feet thick. It’s motion has described a small circle the past month, but it is very close to where it started and demonstrating the ice in the Central Arctic isn’t in a hurry to go anywhere. Temperatures there are currently -3.66°.
It also should be noted that the USCG Icebreaker Healy is heading back after a remarkable trip past the Pole and about the Central Arctic. You can study the ice they experienced by going through the archives of their webcam at: http://icefloe.net/Aloftcon_Photos/index.php?album=2015.
The two things that stand out to me is how little sunshine they experienced, and how few leads they encountered. I would expect the ice to have been more broken up, this late in the summer, and after some decent summer storms. In some places it looked like the leads were already refreezing. In any case, the archive is a feast for lying eyes. Here’s the most recent picture, heading south in the northern Beaufort Sea, heading home. This particular lead is definitely refreezing.
SATURDAY FABOO REPORT
Yesterday Faboo continued his/her progress south and east 7.73 miles to 85.217°N, 10.241°W, with the progress assisted by a strong breeze that faded from 20 mph to 10 mph. Despite the nearness of Framja’s mild injection, temperatures fell from a high of -8.1°C at midnight to a low at the end of the period of -13.0°C. More recent unofficial reports indicate Framja’s mild plume may be wrapping around, and most recent images indicate moisture from that plume is murking up the pristine, blue skies. However it remains quite cold, at -9.36° C.
Of interest in the pictures below is a fog bank on the horizon, lighter in the second pocture and darker in the third. This likely indicates an area of open water, likely a wide lead, over the horizon.
The above maps show Framja weakenbing and filling over the Pole, as Framjason takes over and lumbers east along the Siberian coast. The high pressure Notaz over Scandinavia and the low Dorga southwest of Iceland have created a southerly flow up towards the Pole, but it is diverted east by the coldest air of the late summer, including the minus ten isotherm, which is also diverted east and south, and into the cold flow behind Framjason. A new area of cold air is building on the Pacific side of the Pole beneath the high pressure Sibhi, which is quietly strengthening as Framja weakens. Another weak frammerjammer low is forming off the east coast of Greenland, and will have to be watched, to see if it copies Framja.
I have a hunch we have reached the minimum, and will conclude this post here.