ARCTIC SEA ICE –Warming Ice–

One dynamic that will cross your eyes, if you should have the time to spend attempting to contemplate all its intricacies, involves the warming of the sea-ice before it starts to even think about melting. In fact it is still freezing and getting thicker, as it first starts to warm. That alone sits one backs onto their heels. How can the ice be getting warmer if it is getting thicker?

It is rather simple, when you think that ice at the surface can be down to around -60°C when the bitterest cold howls off Siberia in the deepest dark of January. It is obvious that, should that ice “warm” to -59°C, there is not going to be much melting going on. In fact it can warm and warm and warm, all the way up to -1.9°, and the ice will blithely ignore all the warming and go right on getting thicker.

In fact the words, “warm”, “warming”, and “warmer” can be handy tools, if you own a cruel streak and wish to agitate Alarmists.   Just make your eyes round and clasp your hands and say the ice is heating up, and you’ll get to watch them rush around like chickens after corn.

However I am a kindly old man, and don’t torture people more than I have to, and if I am going to cause anyone a headache I prefer to do it to myself, simply by trying to get my mind around the complexities of what boils down (poor word choice) amounts to an ice-cube melting in a glass of water.

The warmth is coming from both the top and the bottom.  Assuming the ice “remembers” the winter’s cold, and has been chilled to -25°C , you have that temperature sandwiched by “warmer” air of -15°C above, and “warmer” seawater of -1.9°C below.

Keeping that sandwich in mind, it then pays to remember the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

A bit of thought makes it clear that the most warming of the ice comes from below, and in fact has been radiating up all winter, even as the ice has been growing thicker, and continues to grow thicker. Not only does this heat come from the water, but latent heat is released from the water as it freezes. (That’s a hard thing to get your mind around. When water is freezing one seldom extends their palms to feel the warmth radiating from the phase change.)

Eventually the ice, at the bottom, will reach its melting point, and we’ll then discuss the opposite phase change, which gobbles up available heat, turning it back to latent heat. But before we reach that point we run into a few other small problems. First, as the salt water freezes it exudes the salt, which involves a further heat exchange. Then you wind up with fresh water ice sitting in salt water. How is this a problem? Well, the melting point of fresh water is 0°C and the water is at -1.9°C. So how can the ice ever melt?

I’m getting a headache.

In any case, as you look at the maps below please keep all the above in mind.

When we last looked a “Swirl” was laughing at textbooks and sitting on the Pole. Apparently this irritated the high pressure towards Canada, who believes in doing things by the book, and it has been making a noble effort to sit on the Pole.

Now we have nearly achieved the state where high pressure sits on the Pole, and all is as it should be, according to the book.

Polar Cell cells_mod

The only problem is that the low north of Norway looks like it is going to be rude and head straight to the Pole. Besides exporting a lot of cold down towards Europe, (Joe Bastardi at the Weatherbell site points out by April 27 snow might be seen down in France and Germany),

Europe April snow ecmwf_tsnow_europe_41(15)

but also this will make life interesting for the tourists up at the Barneo camp. So far the skies remain blue and the huts have been set up.

Barneo 7A 13002551_985838608151955_7676097520744859055_o164

The airstrip hasn’t cracked lately, and the jets are landing on schedule.

Barneo 7B 13047949_985838741485275_258960100589539753_o171

Winds are light, and temperatures, which made it up to -15°C, have dipped back to -23°C, as the base drifts slowly towards Fram Strait, and the various cross country skiers, helicoptered to various points on the Russian side of the Pole, hurry to get to the Pole before the storm comes north.

Barneo 7C 13002590_985838818151934_4180146684063629281_o167

Things could get interesting up there towards the weekend.

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2 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –Warming Ice–

  1. “I’m getting a headache.”

    That caught me totally off-guard. I was studiously absorbing everything, then wham!

    You should issue a “spitting coffee on the keyboard” alert, so that we’re prepared.

    (Not that it would help me.)

    🙂

    • Half of the fun of meteorology is that it is so amazingly complex. The old joke goes: “I was going to be a weatherman but meteorology is over my head.”

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