In the relentless dark of the arctic night I’ve been losing my reporters, one by one. Faboo, (the north Pole Camera), last reported on November 23, and the weather station that was attached to O-buoy 9 went silent on November 30. This occurred during an impressive southward surge of sea-ice into Fram Strait and down the east coast of Greenland.
During November 27 and 28 O-buoy 9 was experiencing a roaring gale with winds of 50 mph, and there is no way sea-ice is going to stand still in such circumstances. The weather station had traveled rapidly south all the way to 72.5° north, while crunching west towards the coast of Greenland to nearly 20° west, traveling roughly 290 miles in a week, or over 30 miles a day. Meanwhile the Mass balance buoy co-located with Faboo, Buoy 2015D: , also was blown south and west to 86.76° N, 7.05°, which is a lesser 82.25 miles south into the mouth of Fram Strait, during the same general period, ending on December 1.
Simple arithmetic might seem to suggest a wide lead must have formed between the northern ice and the southern ice, if the southern ice moved 200 miles further south, but that fails to account for the squeezing going on in Fram Strait, and the fact the air temperature is averaging around -20°C, and new ice is constantly being formed on any and all open water that appears, and, lastly, that some of the ice entering Fram Strait is coming from north of Svalbard, and even further east, right to Franz Josef Land.
I am impressed by the density of the ice in Fram Strait this year. If you compare a map from this time last year to this year, one thing that jumps out at you is how little ice there is east of Svalbard this year, compared to last year, when several buoys (including perhaps the wreckage of the North Pole Camera) were swept to that side of Svalbard. This year the ice has been held north, and then, when it came south, it was pressed west towards the coast of Greenland.
It is interesting to contemplate the differences this may make in how the North Atlantic is chilled, this winter. Obviously there is less ice in Barents Sea, so if you only look at the ice extent graph you will see less ice, and if you chose you can state that is indicative of greater warming. To me it seems indicative of a very different pattern of winds, and also, because Barents Sea is less protected by ice, the waters are more likely to be churned by winter winds and cooled to a greater depth. Perhaps it is even part of the process that flips the AMO from “warm” to “cold”, (though I am guilty of sheer surmise as I wonder that).
I also wonder at the cold north winds hugging the east coast of Greenland so much. Two years ago the ice was held north, though not as long, and then surged south, but as it came south there were often intrusions of much milder Atlantic air. This year the “mild” spells up near freezing have been more rare, as the ice has come south. Although there have been milder southerly surges across the Atlantic towards Norway, the drain of cold air down the coast of Greenland has been striking, and likely effects waters down towards Iceland.
Two years ago the surge of ice south came as a big clot that got me all excited, for on rare, once-every-hundred-year occasions a bridge of ice can briefly jam up between Iceland and Greenland, and I thought I might actually see it with my own eyes, but then a howling easterly gale crushed all the ice back towards Greenland and I looked a little foolish for even suggesting the possibility.
BARENTS SEA ICE NOVEMBER 29, 2013In 2013 the ice was much more loosely packed, perhaps due to the way the winds swung so much from north to south and from east to west. This year the winds have been more steady, once the ice started south, and the ice seems more packed. The way the O-buoy 9 weather station moved west all the way to 20° longitude would indicate a great deal of “baby-ice”, over a foot thick already, (especially with temperatures so cold), has been piled up into a jumble of slabs along the coast. (O-buoy 9 was at the border between the new baby-ice and the multi-year-ice). Therefore the “clot” of ice coming south, later this year than in 2013, is likely far more solid and firmly packed. I am not going to be so foolish as to even suggest the possibility of a jam-up down in Denmark Strait, but the back of my mind will entertain the possibility.
By the way, the above maps came from Susan J. Crockford’s excellent site, http://polarbearscience.com/ . As a zoologist she is more focused on seals, whales and polar bears than sea ice, but one thing she appreciates is the dangers creatures up there must face, and how very adaptable the survivors must be. For example, a mother polar bear cannot just stubbornly plan to dig a nursery-den right on the coast of Svalbard, as obviously some years have sea-ice and some years don’t. In like manner, any whale or porpoise still lingering in Hudson Bay is likely doomed, for the escape route to the north has now closed, and there will be fewer and fewer places for them to surface and breathe.
On a whim I just checked, and discovered Faboo has at long last been updated. So here’s a week’s worth of
On November 22 Faboo moved 13.69 miles SSE to 81.965°N, 4.050°W as winds again rose to gale forse peaking at 31 mph at 0300Z. Temperatures rose from the low at the start of the period of -19.3°C to a high of -14.3°C, again at 0300Z, after which they fell slightly but remained fairly flat, finishing the period -15.7°C.
On November 23 the strong breezes slowly faded, from 22 mph to 4 mph, as temperatures slowly fell to -23.4°C at the end. The ice continued 8.1 miles SSE, finishing at 81.851°N, 3.849°W.
On November 24 Faboo continued to 81.741°N, 3.881°W. 7.59 miles SSE, but towards the end of the period began to swing around and move SSW. Wind picked up to 12 mph as temperatures rose to -16.0°C and then fell back to -20.1°C.
On November 25 temperatures continued to fall to -29.2°C at the end, as winds became light. Faboo continued 5.17 miles SSW to 81.668°N, 3.998°W.
On November 26 temperatures slowly but steadily climbed to -22.0°C, as winds slowly picked up to 18 mph. Faboo swung SW 9.61 miles to 81.547°N, 4.473°W.
On November 27 temperatures peaked at -19.7°C at 0300Z as a low passed and pressures began rising. Breezes were strong at 25 mph, as temperatures slowly fell to -24.4°C. The ice moved to 81.316°N, 5.435°W; 18,74 miles further SW.
On November 28 the breezes renained strong until the very end, when they slackened slightly to 16 mph. Temperatures remained flat, with a low at midnight of -24.6°C and a high at the end of -21.7°C. Faboo moved 17.1 miles SW to 81.101°N, 6.244°W.
On November 29 the breeze again became strong, reaching 22 mph, and temperatures rose to -16.7°C in the noontime darkness before falling back to -19.2°C. The buoy proceeded 14.93 miles southwest, to 80.899°N, 6.744°W.
On November 30 Faboo swung southeast for a while, as winds picked up to 25 mph, with pressures remaining high. Temperatures fell to a low of -24.9°C at 1800Z before rising to -24.0°C at the end. The final position was at 80.676°N, 7.044°W, 15.73 miles SSW.
In December 1 the breeze touched gale force at 29 mph, as the buoy headed southwest (with a little southeast wiggle at mid-morning), to 80.413°N, 7.376°W, 18.52 miles further SSW. Temperatures rose to -18.1°C at 1500Z, and then fell back only slightly to -18.4°C.
It should be noted (to demonstrate the protective quality of the ice) that despite the constant bitter wind chills the ice has not thickened at this location, though the snow is apparently 2 feet deep.
Also it should be noted the winds this far north didn’t equal the blasts associated with the end of O-buoy 9’s weather station. Those winds were up near 50 mph, though interestingly the station survived the worst, and winds were ebbing when the ice flipped, or crunched, or a whale ate it, or…we never will know.
Here are the DMI maps for the past week, which I hope to discuss tomorrow.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 6 UPDATE
Well, I hoped, but didn’t. For some reason my body has been inclined to spend all my spare time sleeping, lately. Likely it is due to the cold I had, and I need to simply recover. In any case, some interesting switches have occurred in the flows of air over the Pole as I’ve snoozed.
Back on November 23 the winds were seemingly attempting to recreate the former pattern, where relatively mild east winds blew from Scandinavia along the Siberian Coast to Bering Strait, and colder east winds blew along the Alaskan and Canadian coast from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Between the two was a trough of low pressure, wide on the Atlantic side but narrowing to a point towards the Pacific.
Before this pattern could reestablish itself it was in some ways the author of its own demise, as a pool of very cold air and high pressure built in East Siberia, and began to come north on its western side, pouring north into the easterly fetch. This cut off the pipeline of “fuel” to the Pacific side of the trough, and low pressure there filled in, as the Atlantic side continued to be fueled. By November 26 the temperature map shows the pipeline curling around the Pole, and the pressure map shows low pressure there, but high pressure building on the Pacific side.
I have called this high pressure building north from the extreme cold of East Siberia “The Snout of Igor” in the past, so I guess I’ll call the building high pressure “Igor2”.
After missed maps (due to Thanksgiving gluttony), we see the November 28 map showing Igor2 building, and powerful low pressure between Iceland and Svalbard, which I’ll call “Tip”. as it is a “typical” North Atlantic monster. The low north of Greenland is filling in, with cold air once again apparently appearing out of the blue and part of the filling process. Temperatures plunge over the Pole by November 30, and temperatures are actually at normal for a change, north of 80 degrees latitude. A cross-polar flow develops from Siberia to Canada, between Igor2 and Tip.
As December starts Tip is sagging southeast and weakening. It’s east side has given Europe a south flow, but its west side has brought roaring cold down into Fram Strait, and that cold air is starting to make it to Europe, somewhat modified by its passage over the Atlantic, but still as cold as Atlantic air ever gets, due to its pure arctic origins.
“Tip2” appears south of Greenland, and as it moves across the North Atlantic it swings the residue of Tip’s “mild” air north, as the cross-polar-flow starts to involve European air and not so much super-cold Siberian air. By December 2 there are signs of a new pipeline, and a new trough of low pressure nosing north from the Atlantic towards the area north of Greenland.
During the past few days Tip2 has brought a new wave of Atlantic “fuel” to the pole, causing temperatures at the Pole to become “above normal”. Meanwhile Igor has held his ground. The cross-polar-flow is again shifting west and again starting to bring super-cold air north towards the Pole. Some models suggest much of the air over east Siberia will come north over the coming week, bringing relief to areas of China that have been suffering from that cold.
The Arctic Sea, even when covered with six feet of ice, has a warming effect on air masses, and temperatures seldom get far below -30°C, but models hint temperatures could drop below -40°C over the Pacific side of the pole next week. Perhaps due to a clash between this cold and Pacific warmth, there are some signs in models we will see some Pacific systems come north, which we haven’t seen much this autumn.
Tip3 is now rampaging northeast past Iceland, as Igor2 only slightly weakens.
Here is the DMI graph of temperatures north of 80°, showing the crash of temperatures to normal, and the rebound as the current Atlantic pulse comes north.
GFS SEES EAST SIBERIAN COLD DISPLACED
In the three maps below the Atlantic is to the top and the Pacific is to the bottom (opposite the DMI maps) and temperatures are in Fahrenheit. The very cold air in East Siberia reaches shades of pink, which is down around -50°F. Strong low pressure is moving along the Arctic coast of Europe and then Asia, and beneath it strong west winds are driving a wedge of relatively milder air right into the heart of Siberia. Shaded a rusty red, these temperatures are still below freezing, but are likely moister, and the “mild” invasion may actually increase the Siberian snow-cover, which is already above normal.
Where the temperatures drop the colors change to deep purple and then, when temperatures drop blow zero Fahernheit, (-17 °C), abruptly turn light gray. Notice this area is larger in the first map (Monday) and smaller in the second (Friday) and, (while starting to re-chill in central Siberia) smallest in the third map (A week from Monday).
This does not represent the very cold air being warmed as much as it represents it being displaced. Much pours west out over the Pacific, greatly chilling those waters (and increasing the ice close to shore) and more is pressed north over the Arctic Sea, where it is warmed some close to the surface, but represents a reservoir of very cold air lurking (and to a degree oozing down towards Hudson Bay).
MONDAY DECEMBER 7 FRIDAY DECEMBER 11 MONDAY DECEMBER 14
(These maps are produced by Dr. Ryan Maue from GFS data and are available at the Weatherbelle website, along with thousands of other maps from a wide variety of models. A free week trial is offered, after which accessing the treasure trove will coast less than a cup of coffee a day.)
If the GFS solution is correct the cold air draining out over the Pacific may shift the position of the Aluetian Low west, which in turn may open the gates for arctic outbreaks south into North America.
FURTHER FABOO UPDATES
On December 2 Faboo experienced strong breezes up near gale force (27-29 mph) for much of the day, before winds weakened to 11 mph towards the end of the period. The ice shifted southwest as far as 7.500°W before it started southeast, finishing at 80.145°N, 7.339°W, which was another 18.48 miles into Fram Strait. Temperatures reached a high of -19.1°C at midnight and at 1800Z, and fell to a low of -20.3°C at the end of the period at 2100Z.
On December 3 winds were lighter, in the 5-10 mph range, as Faboo traveled another 12.9 miles SSW to 79.962°N, 7.114°W. Temperatures fell from a high of -20.3°C at midnight to -25.5°C at 1500Z, before recovering a bit to -23.2°C at the end.
On December 4 winds picked up to the 10-15 mph range, shifting the buoy another 16.12 miles SSE, to 79.734°N, 6.818°W. Temperatures rose from a low of -22.8°C at midnight to a high of -16.1°C at the end.
There have been no further reports, but the co-located Mass Balance Buoy indicates we are continuing south, with a shift back to the west, and also that we are far enough into Fram Strait to get a taste of Atlantic air, as it reports temperatures have soared to -3.14° C, even as pressures have fallen to 982.30 mb.
I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping the ice doesn’t break up, for as we travel south we are approaching, if not actual sunshine, a low enough latitude where noon can have enough twilight to allow a decent picture. If the ice melts from the lens, Faboo might even give us some December pictures from Fram Strait, which I’ve never seen before, as the camera usually sinks or is rescued by an icebreaker, by this point.
Our swift progress south was something I was expecting much earlier, but I looked like something of a fool as I awaited it back in September and early October, and we dawdled. The ice now pushing south seems especially dense and un-fragmented to me. Here is a map of our drift. (The kink in the track up towards the inner circle is where we got stuck until quite recently, and explains why the ice didn’t get broken up, while only a year earlier the ice was way down towards Svalbard and breaking up in July.)
MONDAY FABOO UPDATE
On December 5 Faboo continued SSE until noon, when it reached 6.728°W and then began veering back to the SSW, finishing the period at 79.416°N, 6.904°W, which was 21.95 miles further down into Fram Strait. The winds rose and became strong, in the 22-27 mph range, as the mildest air we’ve seen in a long time lifted temperatures from a low of -16.1°C at the start of the period to -6.7°C at the end.
On December 6 winds rose to gale force, peaking at 38 mph at 0900Z, as the ice was blown to 79.146°N, 7.903°W, which was another 22.6 miles SSW through Fram Strait. Temperatures peaked at -2.0°C at midnight, before falling, slowly at first but then more rapidly, finishing at -19.5°C. The pressure bottomed out at 980.0mb at the start of the period and had risen back to 1001.1mb by the end.
Although it doesn’t show up as a low pressure area on the maps, a sort of warm entity passed heading north during this period, even though the surface winds never shifted to the south.
MONDAY DMI MAPS
The “warm entity” can be seen as a slot of milder temperatures above Greenland, and seems to be nudging Igor’s high pressure to the asian side of the Pacific side of the Pole, as Tip 3 kicks ahead along its occluded front as a “zipper”, skirting the northern Scandinavian coast and then plunging into northwest Russia.
Weak high pressure has built behind Tip3, and Tip4 is barely visible south of Iceland. It will become another sub 950mb gale, but the high pressure will block it and force it to loop back towards Greenland. Here are some UK Met maps of its forecast path up to Iceland.
These monster North Atlantic gales, (and the even larger gales in the north Pacific), do not get the same press as hurricanes, but the power involved is greater. Rather than a small area of strong winds around the core the strong winds extend out hundreds of miles.