ARCTIC SEA ICE –A Cloudy Pole–

When I last posted on June 20 the storm I dubbed “Ralph” was getting a second wind (ha ha) and I was expecting gales over the Pole. This gale did grow as expected.

Even as Ralph began to elongate and weaken he was still reversing the Beaufort Gyre, and spreading the ice packed towards East Siberia back into the formerly ice-free areas of the Beaufort Sea. The storm also seemed to cool temperatures at the Pole, and sub-freezing temperatures rode around and around the Pole in a clockwise manner. (The 00z maps have noon at the top and the 12z maps have noon at the bottom.)

Judging from isobars, The rising air created by Ralph created an inflow of south winds north through Bering Strait, and to a lesser degree north from the North Atlantic. This also would tend to push sea ice in towards the Pole again, condensing it rather than spreading it out.  High pressure builds in the wake of Ralph, creating a sort of trough-split and two Ralphs, which I will call Greenland Ralph and Laptev Ralph.

(June 24 12z Image missing) What is interesting to me is that the high pressure stopped building over the Pole, and Laptev Ralph swung around in a counter-clockwise manner to rejoin Greenland Ralph.

So once again  we have Ralph , in a weakened state, sitting towards Canada in a manner that reverses the Beaufort Gyre. (Some purists may say I should rename the storm, and it is a different low pressure, but this is my blog and if I want to call a storm “Ralph” I’ll darn well do it.)

What I notice is the persistence of low pressure over the Pole. On Tony Heller’s site the blogger “ren” posted a graphic that shows this occurring increasingly, from the upper atmosphere down, as spring passes and summer starts.

Low pressure at Pole time_pres_HGT_ANOM_AMJ_NH_2016

There was an interesting discussion about how this low pressure might be caused by the solar wind at that site, but I prefer to be simple minded and simply say low pressure tends to involve more clouds, and more clouds should make it cooler. And it is a bit below normal at the Pole.

DMI3 0626 meanT_2016

I actually was expecting the temperatures to be a hair above normal, at least during the start of the summer, due to the lagged effect of last winter’s El Nino, but I was wrong.

There has been some hubbub because the onset of the La Nina slowed, and even briefly reversed in places. It would be quite a surprise to me if the La Nina didn’t happen, but during the 1950’s there was apparently an El Nino that just shifted to neutral, rather than swinging from one extreme to another. On a whole the oceans seem to be cooling more than warming. Here is a graphic showing whether the seas warmed or cooled during the week before the first day of summer.

SST Anomally 0621 Ocean-surface-temps-18Jun16-672x372

The only camera we have, O-buoy 14,  is fairly far south, at 77.5 degrees north latitude, and its image shows snow showing the first signs of becoming slushy. (Also the darker clouds along the horizon , especially to the left, are often made darker because they reflect dark, open water hidden from view by a pressure ridge.

Obuoy 14 0626 webcam

A single camera is a very small “sample”, but O-buoy 14  has shown cloudy day after cloudy day. Tony Heller posted an interesting (and slightly sardonic) thought-experiment wherein he did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much ice could be melted if there were no clouds.  (It is a bit absurd to do this, as of course there are clouds, but apparently some computer models don’t include the effect of clouds.) In a summer where the skies were a constant, brilliant blue, a surprising six feet of ice might be melted from the top down, which would open large areas of the Arctic Sea. Nothing like this happens, and in fact most of the melt comes from the bottom up, which points out what a difference clouds make. In any case we have reached the brief period of time when the Pole actually gains energy. Most of the year it loses energy like a chimney (or like an unemployed in-law), however some are surprised to learn that when the 24-hour-sunshine is at its highest it is as if the unemployed in-law got a job, and is bringing home some bacon. (Don’t be in any hurry to look north for heat waves, because nearly all the heat is expended melting ice, but it is interesting to contemplate what the planet might be like if there was a flat, low island at the Pole.  Would it get as hot as Siberian Tundra, or be an ice-cap?)

The Pole’s thawing season can be measured by degree days above freezing. There is always at least a little thawing , but there can be quite a range in thaws. It is all over by the end of August.

Poles thawing season arctic_925mb_ddt_2016

It is obvious to me that clouds can make a big difference in the amount of surface thawing we see. To have Ralph hanging about the Pole is a wrench in the works of many models. It is yet another example of how disobedient the weather is. Last year I decided to give it a good talking to and told it to stop being impossible. (See June 12, 2015 update.) (That old notebook is also interesting, because it observes the effect of last June’s Polar Gale.)

However the weather never listens to me. I must be doing the wrong rain dance. So this year I’m just going to sit back and watch.


19 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –A Cloudy Pole–

  1. Good post Caleb. You likely noticed it already but DMI is suspect with a very flat plot for several days now …. I first noticed it yesterday and it is continuing to look like it is off line and just plotting the last value each new day.
    I wish the sea ice (got it correct this time 🙂 plots weren’t all FUBAR since that was the main attraction at this time of year but many don’t plot and those that do are suspect IMHO.
    Things will get interesting as the various arctic sailing expeditions seem to be underway and hopefully we get some reports and photos of the north ice.

    • I wonder if Tony Heller got any good photographs last Saturday? I also wonder if Ralph is headed down into the US Midwest? A double cold front is currently sagging South, bringing unseasonable cold down from Canada with no associated thunderstorms as often precede cold fronts. It is already in the mid 60’s in the Minneapolis metro area, and forecast lows for Chicago and N. IL are in the 50’s. The atmosphere here(N. IL) is already noticeably less humid, and highs by Wed, are supposed to be in the low 70s. All the storminess has also been pushed down into the Gulf coastal area.

      • I am afraid it was cloudy for Tony over Hudson Bay. He did post a picture of Greenland glimpsed through clouds. plenty of ice up there, of course.

        The cold air you are getting is from Hudson Bay, which still has ice. It is one of those 500 mb upper air troughs that are smaller in the summer. It was over Hudson Bay this morning but will dig and deepen right down to Indiana by tomorrow, and then lift up through NY state Wednesday. The wave-length is so short that you stay in the NW flow and New England stays in the SW flow. Then it looks like another short wave comes digging down to get you on Thursday.

        Enjoy the refreshing coolness while it lasts. I think it is going to get very hot in the core of the summer. The cool weather will get locked up at the Pole (I think).

      • Especially important is the speed of the solar wind. Currently operate coronal holes.

      • I liked the blast that could be seen ejecting wraiths of red above the horizon even though the source was on the hidden side of the sun.

        I need to study up on this stuff. Would an increase in solar wind reduce cosmic rays? Would that reduce the amount of clouds?

        What really intrigues me, though I don’t claim to understand it, is the idea the sun can increase the low pressure at the Pole. The long range is seeing low pressure persist up there.

      • I can’t recall a pattern of so much low pressure persisting at the Pole. It seems a sort of hybrid mix between meridional and zonal, with lows swinging north (mostly from East Siberia) and then hanging around at the pole and filling. The swinging north seems meridional, and the hanging around and filling seems zonal.

        High pressure can’t get established; the two high centers over Beaufort and Kara Seas are the most the pattern has been able to muster recently, and both look like they will get shrugged south as low once again is “king of the mountain” this weekend.

        What sort of maps do you think the blocking pattern might lead to?

        June 29 was the sixth straight spotless day, by the layman’s count. It looks like the solar maximum is over and done and we are in for something like the Maunder Minimum.

    • Thanks. I think the low pressure will return, at least in the short term. It looks like reinforcements are going to wobble north from East Siberia to re-strengthen “Ralph” over the weekend, and then more reinforcements will come up from the North Atlantic to reinforce Ralph on Monday.

      Joe D’Aleo had a good post at Accuweather summarizing the various things the sun does. I hope to steal a bit of it and comment on it this weekend. But one thing he did mention is that the models have a hard time handling solar extremes, because they assume a steady-state solar background.

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