As the darkness descends at the Pole, spreading out from 90° latitude like a black hole in the visible satellite views, the cameras start to shut down one by one, and we enter a period where our lying eyes cannot be fed with actual views. Instead we become dependent on various interpretations of satellite data, which are not always as accurate as they might be, due to biases that enter the interpretations. I won’t be too critical, for I myself could not do the amazing things scientists do with satellite data, however I do confess to being puzzled when the dame data produces differing maps.
For example, there are only so many weather stations that gather data, and the various computer models are all starting out with the same data, yet even the “initial” maps, which are the starting point and (one would think) involve no theories about how heat should be handled, differ from each other. You would think they could agree about their starting point. After all, in theory even a butterfly flapping its wings can make a difference down the road. Obviously, if the initial map is different, the forecasts will be different.
In like manner there are differences which even a bumpkin like myself can see in the measure of the thickness of sea-ice, where the leads and pressure ridges are, and even in which direction the ice is moving. It is for that reason it is good to double check with ones naked eyes, but from now until April we are basically blind.
Rather than griping, I try to be thankful for the information I receive, aware none of this was possible back when I was a young man in my twenties. I’ll keep up my sea-ice reports, though they are necessarily less informative. Also it is less soothing to contemplate sea-ice when more snow and ice than I care for can be seen out my own window, which will all to soon be the case, here in New Hampshire. (Our ski areas could get their first snow this coming weekend.)
My main focus is the DMI maps of polar temperature and pressure, which are in some ways simpler than other maps, yet give one the gist of what is going on. Then I occasionally peruse the NRL maps of concentration, thickness, and ice-movement. There is a time in February when the sea-ice reaches its maximum extent that is always interesting, and then there is the opening of the Russian base at Barneo in late March which also is amusing, as besides soldiers and scientists it holds a fair number of slightly crazy tourists, all paying over $10,000.00 apiece just to go to the Pole and be pompous on Facebook. Then, in April, the frost melts from the lenses of the surviving cameras, and we can start watching ice melt again.
One other event in the winter darkness is the demise of the North Pole camera, which I have dubbed “Faboo” this year. Ordinarily it is down in Fram Strait by now, and either picked up by an icebreaker or lost between crushing bergs. The weather buoy continues to report, albeit with erratic data as it hammered by Atlantic storms, and one year we followed it all the way to the north coast of Iceland, where it grounded.
This year “Faboo” is behaving differently, as is O-bouy 9, which is further south. There has been a delay in the transport of ice down through Fram Strait to Denmark Strait, along the east coast of Iceland, and the buoys are dawdling to the north. On other years I’ve seen buoys flushed south at a rate exceeding 20 miles per day, but (so far) this year the buoys can’t even manage twenty miles a week, and at times have headed north on “wrong way” ice. (If you click the overview of O-buoys at http://obuoy.datatransport.org/monitor#overview/gpstracks you can see the location and GPS tracks of various buoys, and the map has a feature that allows you to zoom in on the track of O-buoy 9 off the northeast corner of Greenland, and see what an amazing, looping snarl of procrastination its track describes.) I’m expecting these buoys to head south through Fram Dtrait shortly, but have been expecting it “shortly” for over a month, and it has been interesting to watch the ice hesitate.
The “official” data from Faboo isn’t posted until it is a day old, and it tells us that on Saturday Faboo drifted 5.01 miles southwest on winds that decreased to around 4-7 mph, as temperatures achieved a high of -3.2°C at 0300Z, a low of -8.7°C at 0900Z, and finished the 25 hour period (which ends at 2100Z for some reason) at -8.0°C. (The briefly milder temperatures were associated with a slight wind-shift and drop in pressure connected to the passage of a very weak low I dubbed “FG6.”) Unfortunately Faboo’s camera has frosted up again, and we currently only get views like this:The frost on the lens seems thinner this time, and I’m hoping it may sublimate away in cold, dry air, and allow us our finally views. For the most part all you see is darkness, and the noontime dark (the opposite of midnight sun) arrives.
Roughly 315 miles south of Faboo O-buoy 9 is wandering southwest in a brisk but decreasing breeze of 13 mph, with temperatures down to -8.0°C after a thaw late last week. When looking at the picture remember that the buoy was drifting about in a Polynya of wide open water in late August, and made it as far south as 79.4° latitude. The last storm blew it north of 80°N, and now it’s just crossed 80°N heading south again.
Despite the fact the ice is moving en mass, it looks increasingly solid. If you have any spare time, you should watch the time lapse movie made up of these pictures at http://obuoy.datatransport.org/monitor#buoy9/movie. Around the 24 minute mark you can start to see Greenland in the distance, and around the 30.30- 31 minute mark you can see Greenland a final time. Then the battering this buoy survives in the sea ice is amazing. Also of interest is how dirty some of the sea-ice is, due to soot, volcanic ash, and algae that grows on the bottom of the ice.
O’ll hopefully cover )-buoys 8b, 13, 14 and 15 later, but they are in darkness now. I have to be on my toes to capture their pictures now, as daylight dwindles. It is interesting that the dark isn’t immediate, for there are long periods of twilight and dusk.
Lastly here are the recent DMI maps, which I hope to find time to cover later.
SUNDAY EVENING DMI MAPS
MONDAY MORNING DMI MAPS
(I know some get annoyed when fellows like me name storms, but you will have to forgive me; long ago I was an English major, and not good with numbers, and old habits die hard.) (I am started to number storms a little.)
“Nairzeetoo” continues to weaken in the East Siberian Sea, with its inflow from the Atlantic now stretching over a thousand miles, shaped like a question mark, north to Svalbard and then to Franz Josef Land and then along the Siberian coast and then curving north and into the center of the low. Most of this mildness is over on the Wurasian side of the Pole, as the North American side grows quite cold in the wake of Nairzeetoo’s passage, with the minus-twenty isotherm appearing in Nares Strait. “Nuhi” is the high pressure growing behind the storm, separating Mairzeetoo from “Stukky”, which is curving northeast from Iceland to Svalbard.
What will be intersting to watch is the southwest flow behind Nuhi, as it shifts east. Some models see it extending down into Fram Strrait and another “wrong way” flow developing by next week. What models do not see (which surprises me) is this southwest flow clashing with the very cold air in place north of Greenland, and developing a third Nares Strait Storm, like Nairzy and Nairzeetoo.
“Looter” continues to mill around south of Bering Strait, as what is left of the high pressure CPR hangs tough over Scandinavia.
THE SLOT THICKENS
“The Slot” was my name for a sort of “lagoon” of open water that formed in the Beaufort Sea late last summer, largely bounded to the south by a long “reef” of sea-ice between it and the open waters along the shores of Alaska and Canada. To have this open water existing as a separate entity must have thrown a wrench in the ordinary flow of water between the warmer coast and the colder, ice-covered Pole, though I have no data to support any of my surmising.
The ice-models persistently predicted the reef would melt away within five days, but the reef persistently persisted. When it did vanish in places the refreeze was already underway, and it seemed to be dispersed by strong winds more than melted. I was keeping a careful eye out to see if it reappeared, which would suggest it never entirely vanished. Why would it suggest this? Because sea-ice doesn’t like to form in truly open waters, and prefers to extend out from the edge of preexisting ice. (In the cases of flash-freezing the “edge” can be as tiny as a fleck of frozen spray landing and floating on the surface, acting as a sort of deed-crystal. Without such an “edge” the chilled water simply becomes denser and sinks out of contact with the chilling air.) This early in the season temperatures are not cold enough for much flash-freezing, and therefore the reappearance of the “reef” would indicate bits of slush and small chunks of ice remained, unseen as ice-above-15%-concentration, but a “reef” all the same.
And here’s where it gets interesting, because the NRL lab did not see the reef reappearing as the lagoon froze over as of October 10, while as of October 12 the Canadian Ice Service map did see the reef reappear, (upper left of their map.) So I guess you can chose whichever map best serves your particular politics.
In any case, I hypothesize that the “lagoon” represented a large area of water subjected to not unnatural warming sunshine, but rather to unnatural cooling, this summer. I suggest this because our lying eyes could see from now-defunct buoys that it was seldom sunny, and that the salt water skimmed with ice during cold spells even in July.
The greatest loss was O-buoy 10, which last reported from roughly 75.1° N, 140° W, which some maps showed as open water, when our eyes could see plenty of bergs and slush. In fact its last picture showed no open water at all, except in the far upper left distance.The NRL map now shows that same area of the former-Slot now covered with between six to twelve inches of thin “baby ice”, but I suspect there is a fair amount of thicker ice mixed in. But then, I am a suspicious sort of fellow, at times.
It doesn’t matter how thin the ice is. Once it is dry enough to be seen by the satellites it is included in the ice extent graph, which can be seen growing with great swiftness, despite the rushes of thawing air towards the Pole on the Atlantic side. Likely a lot of this growth is due to The Slot filling in, in the Beaufort Sea.
You can see how quickly it happened in this Canadian Ice Service animation (currently showing Oct 3-12, though it may automatically update and show something different a week from now.) (“The Slot” is to the upper left).
Faboo continued southwest another 8.18 miles to 84.419°N, 3.786°W. A light breeze gradually stiffened from 8 mph to 19 mph, as temperatures fell from a high of -8.0°C at the start of the period to a low of -13.6°C at 0900Z and then -13.6°C again at the very end. The camera was having trouble transmitting pictures.
I have been calling the buoys over towards Bering Strait “The Beaufort Buoys”, but they more accurately should be called the “Basin Buoys”, as they are north of the somewhat vauge boundary between the various “Seas” and the “Central Arctic Basin”. (Also I was confused at first by O-buoy 8b, as I thought it was at 140°W when it was at 140°E.) The four buoys currently functioning over there are strung like pearls on a necklace, all between 78°N and 82°N.
Furthest east is O-buoy 13 at 140°W, north of Canada and west of the Canadian Archipelago. It’s starting to get stuck in winter cold, with temperatures between -10°C and -20°C, and winds currently light. It’s been hard to save a daylight picture, as days are swiftly becoming quite short, and I’m usually working when it is day there.
O-buoy 14 is further west, and a little north, at 147°W, which places it north of Alaska. Currently it is experiencing light winds and temperatures crashing below -20°C. Despite its relative closeness to )-buoy 13, the weather can be quite different, as was the case recently with lows passing over the Pole to Siberia.
We pass the dateline to arrive at O-buoy 15, which is at 171°E, which places it north of Wrangles Island, and the boundary between the Chukchi and Eat Siberian Seas. For some reason its camera tints everything a bit blue, it seems. Sunday it experienced a “warm up” to -5°C (if you can call that warm), but since then has seen temperatures fall back to -15°C. A stiff breeze is blowing at 22 mph, with snow or ice fog, likely associated with “Nairzeetoo”.
MONDAY EVENING DMI MAPS
Srukky weakened swiftly over Svalbard, allowing winds to slacken in Fram Strait.
TUESDAY MORNING DMI MAPS
Nuhi dominates the Pole. Stukky drifting east, much weakened. Southerly flow down in Denmark Strait but disorganized flow in Fram Strait, with east-to-west flow just north of it.
O-BUOY 9 REPORT FROM FRAM STRAIT
Light winds and temperature dipping to -10°C. Ice is not moving much, except east to west and back with the tides.
There are still no updates from the Mass Balance Buoy 2014D co-located with Faboo, so we are doomed to be a day behind. Yesterday Faboo resumed a “wrong way” drift slowly to the northwest, ending the period at 84.424°N, 5.755°W, which was 5.29 miles the wrong way, if we intend to get down into Fram Strait. Temperatures were relatively mild, with a low of -8.7°C at 0600Z and a high of -5.4°C at 1800z . Breezes continued to slack off, from around 10 mph early to around 5 mph late.
And, because the lens of our faithful camera continues to be blinded by frost, that is all the news we have to offer.
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON DMI MAPS
“Fling” continues to hug the coast of Greenland, which keeps the southeast flow going in Fram Strait. As soon as Fling makes a move towards Svalbard, winds will swing around to the north and ice will move the “right way” in Fram Strait.
THOUGHTS ABOUT FRAM STRAIT
As we have watched O-buoy 9 this summer and fall it has been obvious less ice than normal is being flushed south through Fram Strait. In fact one might be tempted to say no ice has been flushed south at all, however in the NRL extent map it appears ice has been moving down the coast towards Constable Point at Scoresbysund, where the east coast of Greenland bends southwest towards Denmark Strait.
Ordinarily the sea-ice would be already sweeping past Scoresbysund, and on some years it extends all the way down to Cape Farewell at the bottom of Greenland. This year is is slow to progress south, and much of that progress is an illusion, as can be seen when you look to see how thick the ice is.The fact much of the ice is tinted lilac means it is less than a foot thick, and in fact is home-grown baby-ice, like the ice we have seen grow about O-buoy 9 even as it failed to move south. Despite the south winds we have seen surge north by O-buoy 9, there has been enough cold air about to grow ice, and this same phenomenon occurs close to the coast further south. The ice is not in fact moving south, but is forming along the shore and extending outwards. It may contain a few larger bergs that calved off east-coast glaciers, and perhaps a bit of thicker sea-ice from the north that sneaked past the blockade that has captured O-buoy 9, however for the most part it is thin baby-ice.
What this means is that once the more normal winter flush of ice southward begins, (as I suspect it must), the initial ice will be thin and, when exposed to Atlantic gales, prove to be frail and easily demolished and turned into swiftly melting slush. It will not travel too far south as ice, obeying the laws of ice, but rather will become water, and obey different rules.
Once we are talking about water of differing temperatures and different levels of salinity, it becomes possible, (or is within the realm of possibility), to create a model that can guess how the water will stratify into various layers, and which water will rise and which water will sink. As a rule colder water sinks unless it is nearly fresh water. Arctic water is somewhat less saline, but tends to sink, according to models and some observations, at various places off Greenland’s east coast. However this is not something you can depend upon, because you cannot depend upon the water always arriving in its liquid state.
If the water arrives as ice it can merrily go bobbing over the place where the models state the cold water should sink, and continue south on the surface. This utterly screws up the models. Once you have ice heading far south of where cold water is suppose to be, at the surface, then you have surface water being chilled by that ice far south of where surface water is suppose to be chilled, This creates places where cold water may decide to sink far south of where it is suppose to sink, and all the nice, neat maps of ocean circulation need to be rewritten.
On one occasion, (I think it was in 1817), so much ice was flushed south of Fram Strait that the Arctic Sea was ice-free in places that usually have ice, but the North Atlantic was dotted with bergs where bergs are usually never seen. Ice even grounded on the coastline of Ireland, and the Atlantic was so chilled by all this ice that Europe experienced “a year with no summer”.
While I expect no such drama, as the “warm” AMO shifts to a “cold” AMO, it does occur to me that we should not expect the ocean’s circulation patterns to remain stagnant, as if they were written on stone, but rather should be on our toes, and be ready to see the variations one might expect in a pattern that is not a straight line, but rather a cycle.
O-buoy 9 has seen night descend, and the camera sees only black, Temperatures are dipping below freezing after touching thaw briefly yesterday, when winds roared up to 35 mph for a time, before falling back to 10 mph now. The ice did not seem to move north much, and may now be moving south again.
O-buoy 13 has seen a brief daylight of bitter cold, with temperatures level at -20° and winds dropping to so slow that the anemometer may have been frosted to a halt by hoarfrost that now nearly covers the camera lens.
O-buoy 15 is further west and sees a later sunrise, and also has seen very cold temperatures struggle to get above -20°C, though the breeze is stronger, and in the 10-20 mph range. O-buoy 8b is so far west it is it is in the other side of the planet, and I cannot catch its brief daylight unless I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Unfortunately even when I make these midnight efforts, the lens is obscured with frost. It has seen temperatures struggle up to -13°C in a breeze of around 10 mph.
All in all the buoys suggest that, despite mild Atlantic air pouring north, the polar cold is building.
THURSDAY MORNING’S DMI MAPS
Fling hasn’t moved towards Svalbard, and instead seems to be filling and weakening. The flow in Dram Strait seems to be east to west. Mini-low is north of Nares Strait. Nuhi is weaker, over northern Kara Sea with weak ridge extending towards Canada, which promotes cross-polar-flow from Svalbard to Canadian Archipelago, and also export of cold air down into Russia on the other side. Over in East Siberian Sea Nairzeetoo continues to slowly weaken, and has kicked a weak low east north of Alaska.
All in all everything looks weaker and less dynamic, as if the weather is pausing and thinking up the next surprise.
O-BUOY 9’S REPORT FROM FRAM STRAIT
I imagine the winds are swinging around to the north, as they slowly pick up from 5-10 mph to 10-20 mph, because the temperatures have steadily dropped to around -8°C. However the camera is giving me no help, as I’m nit sure what to make of these pictures. I was wondering if the buoy had fallen over and was looking at the sky, but the features it sees don’t change as clouds would. Hopefully some sunshine will cast some light on the subject.
Faboo drifted steadily west, and as far north as 84.483°N at 1500Z yesterday, before wavering south slightly and finishing the period at 84.481°N, 6.137°W. This moved us the “wrong way” another 4.68 miles, and placed us as far north as we were a week ago.
Winds were light, between 2 and 5 mph, throughout the period, and the temperatures continued mild, considering the late date and how far north we are. Our high was -4.4°C at midnight, and our low was -9.3°C at 1500Z, rising back to -7.5°C at the end of the period.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON DMI MAPS
FRIDAY MORNING DMI MAPS
TGIF. It’s been a true work week, with true work, which means there is not much left of my brains when I get home. Or perhaps I should say my brains are there, but in a sort of delirium of exhaustion wherein I make all sorts of highly inventive and creative mistakes no true meteorologist would ever make, such as having high pressure systems rotate counter-clockwise in my my mind’s eye. After looking at maps in this manner for about five minutes last night I threw up my hands and went to bed, which is where brains belong when they are that dreamy.
This morning I have the feeling I have missed something, which is likely the truth. A true meteorologist makes maps his primary concern, and likely has a hard time taking time off for his or her honeymoon, because he or she doesn’t want to miss anything. However for me srudying maps is, I suppose, a hobby, even if it is a bit obsessive at times. So I do miss things, and often face maps with a sense I am being baffled.
“CPR” has slouched to a banana high, oriented east-west over Europe, with Europe concerned with snows and cold in the east winds to the south of the high, which is off our map. We only see the north side, and west winds over the top of Scandinavia, which is a situation which can make the north coast of Norway milder than the Mediterranean mountains of Italy. Meanwhile the second high pressure, “Nuhi”, has cruised across the Pole to Severnaya Zemyla, (which are the islands separating the Kara and Laptev Seas.) Between these two highs the low “Fling” has reintensified east of Svalbard, yet there is not the northerly flow I expected behind this storm in Fram Strait (or not as much) because no strong high pressure built over Greenland. Instead the low pressure extends through Greenland to a second low I’ll call “Flingson”, which Fling left behind when it transited Greenland. North of Fling and Flingson is a cross-polar-flow from Siberia to Canada.
This flow is interesting to me because it is liable to wind up in my backyard. The weak ridge of high pressure extending behind Nuhi to Alaska attaches to high pressure extending up the Rocky Mountains of western North America, and the east side of that ridge is bringing cold air south from the Pole. In other words, the exports of Arctic air have shifted from down into Siberia (and then east into Europe) to down into North America. This shows up clearly when I cheat a little, and break my own rules about sticking to surface maps, and peek at the 500 mb map of North America. The ridge in the west and trough in the east clearly has a flow from northwest down to my last surviving tomato plants.
Fortunately these superb Dr. Ryan Maue maps from the Weatherbell site have an option that allows you to peer ahead into the future, (or at least into what the models think the future will be), and it seems the pattern isn’t going to lock in. In the winter of 1976-1977 a pattern like the above map’s locked in early, and didn’t relent until February, and gave us a brutal winter. The current pattern will give us a brutal blast, but then the trough will lift out. The pattern is transitory. One interesting thing the GFS model foresees is that the transitory nature of the pattern will completely erase the mild flow over the top of Norway six days from now, and dig a deep trough down into Europe, delivering cold Maritime air from Svalbard, rather than the cold air from Siberia.
With these outbreaks robbing the Pole of its banked cold, the Pole will likely continue to be milder than normal. What will be interesting to watch is whether the imports of milder air continue to delay the exports of sea-ice down through Fram Strait.
O-BUOY 9’S MORNING REPORT FROM FRAM STRAIT
Winds are light and temperatures are crashing below -10°C. The ice is drifting due south, and has made it back down to 79.5°N . The days are swiftly getting shorter, and even at 9:00 AM the sun isn’t up. (Hopefully there will be enough sun to clear the fogged camera lens, later)
FABOO’S FRIDAY REPORT ABOUT WHAT IT DID THURSDAY
Yesterday Faboo continued its slow drift the “wrong way”, though he/she showed some signs of hesitation at the end. Faboo reached 84.507°N at 1500Z ,before backing WSW slightly to end the day at 84.506°N, 6.742°W, which was another 4.36 miles away from Fram Strait. Winds were light, and the anemometer may have frosted up at the end. Temperatures rose from -7.5°C to a first high of -2.3°C at 0600Z, then fell to a low of -7.9°C at 1500z before rising again to -3.2°C at 2100Z, to end the report. This odd little ripple in temperatures suggests a polar micro-front wafted by, as does the change in ice-movement.
FRIDAY EVENING DMI MAPS
SATURDAY MORNING AND EVENING DMI MAPS
Sorry I forgot to click the “Update” button and post the morning maps, and haven’t had much time to focus on the arctic. The arctic is here in New Hampshine, with wet snow falling this Saturday evening, and I’ve had to do some hustling.
However now I have time to look at the maps, and right off the bat notice the low pressure just north of Nares Strait, right where I was thinking a low might form, earlier in this post. However I can’t truly take credit for a correct forecast, because the mechanics of that lows formation are a mystery to me. I merely felt the warm air could not be driven against the cold air, noeth of Greenland, without a low forming, however the engineering of this event has taken twists and turns that basically baffle me. To some degree the low pressure left behind in Baffin Bay, when “Fling” underwent morphistication and transited Greenland, seems to have oozed north and added enough enegy to the mess north of greenland to form a low. Therefore, because I called the left-behind low “Flingson”, I guess I should say Flingson has moved north and is now north of Nares Strait.
It is part of an odd wall of low pressure expending all the way through Svalbard to Nova Semyla (which is the extention of the Ural Mountains out into the Arctic Sea, and separates Barents Sea from the Kara Sea.) This trough is different, in that usually there is a gale center and a high pressure that create a strong flow south though Fram Strait, but instead we are continuing to see light winds that are often “wrong way” winds.
I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to look more closely at Fram Strait, as our cameras have obscured lenses, and Faboo is failing to update its meteorological data. O-buoy 9 has stopped drifting south and now drifts east, and little can be learned from its blurry view.The Pacific side of the Pole is starting to show little effects of the current surge of relatively mild Atlantic air over the top of the Earth, as temperatures remain cold and winds light. The only decent picture comes from O-buoy 14:
I likely will conclude this post and start a new one tomorrow.
SUNDAY MORNING DMI MAPS
Fling has been flung across the Atlantic to the southeast corner of Barents Sea, as Flingson is left behind and mills about north of Greenland, apparently inducing a light “wrong-way” flow in Fram Strait. Down between Iceland and Greenland in Denmark Strait a weak low is forecast to be the first of several that take a northern route across the Atlantic, between Svalbard and Norway into Barents Sea. This should get the northerly flow going in Fram Strait, but I’ve been saying that for over a month now, and one way or another the flow in Fram Srait has remained weak and confused. The long range maps make it appear the northly flow should get going, but I’m going to keep watching Fram Strait carefully, as I think the models are based on a “norm” that simply isn’t happening.
The high pressure at the very bottom of the map is what is left of CPR, now greatly modified, and seemingly on its way to merging with the Azores High. It seems ironic that high pressure that began over the Pole might wind up part of a high pressure known for balmy breezes.
“Nuhi” continues to sit over the Laptev Sea, and the gradient between it and Flingson is drawing above average “warmth” up over the Pole. (“warmth” means -10°C, which may be ten degrees above normal but still freezes salt water.) This spear of mildness is turning the colder temperatures into a sort of horseshoe shape, and we are witnessing a situation where the temperatures north of 80° latitude are warmer than those between 75° and 80°.
I think it has been the failure of ice to be exported south through Fram Strait that is causing the PIOMAS vilume anomally graph to turn up from its yearly low at a higher level, for the third straight year.
DMI SUNDAY EVENING MAPS
No reports from Faboo. I’ll start a new post soon.