ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Revival of Ralph, an Anti-gyral Gale–

According to my computer’s spell-check, there is no such word as “gyre”, let alone “gyral”, which suggests I am getting started off on the wrong foot. Or maybe it is the right foot. At times it seems that to have anything to do with Global Warming involves you in stuff that does exist in reality, but not in computer models, or that exists in computer models and not in reality.

The reality is that a “gyre” is a swirl, but scientists were too scientific to use an ordinary word like “swirl”, so they resorted to obscure Latin, when it came to naming huge, oceanic swirls. For the most part they are permanent features, formed by the Easterlies, the Westerlies, and the Coriolis Force, and represented by nice and neat circles drawn onto maps when in fact they are wobbly, irregular and messy. Just for example, the Gulf Stream is portrayed as a current moving in a straight line across the Atlantic, but it is about as straight as an old hippy.

Gulf Stream images

If this is true for the gyres in the major oceans at lower latitudes, where the Coriolis Force is forceful, it is even more true for the Pole, where the Coriolis Force is perplexed  because all directions are south. Still, a nice, neat gyre is drawn onto the map.

Transpolar Drift 360px-BrnBld_ArcticCurrents.svg

The above drifts of sea-ice is more of a generality than a specific reality. It is based upon a general pressure pattern with a Polar high pressure displaced slightly towards Canada, with its clockwise winds spinning the ice. A wrench in the works is to place a low pressure with anti-clockwise winds where theory states there should be a high pressure.

This sort of low pressure, which I’ve somewhat facetiously named “Ralph”, has seemingly happened a lot this spring and summer, and the “gyre” has not behaved in a nice circular fashion, but rather has agitated all the world like the “wash” cycle of a washing machine.

Back on July 13 Ralph seemed to be filling and weakening on the Pacific side of the Pole, as a ridge of high pressure, “Ridgeway”, made an effort to obey the textbooks and be high pressure at the Pole, keeping “Scandy” trapped over Scandinavia.

However by July 14 Ralph was up to his tricks again. Even as he weakened towards the Canadian Archipelago an appendage I called R-8 swung over to the coast of Siberia and became the new Ralph.

The new Ralph sucked in energy and began to strengthen, as Ridgeway remained weak and Scandy looked towards Iceland for reinforcements.

I missed a couple maps here, but Ralph moved north and grew impressive, involving an impressive band of sub-freeing temperatures. Ridgeway and Scandy both were hardly visible, though the reinforcements from Iceland were moving up towards northern Norway and Barents Sea.

On July 17 Ralph was centered right over the Beaufort Gyre, swirling it in the exact opposite manner (counterclockwise) to what textbooks state (clockwise.)

Today Ralph weakens, but the winds continue counterclockwise. A new Ridgeway has formed, walling a new Scandy off in the North Atlantic.  Models now suggest that rather than the weak low over Siberia moving to Ralph, Ridgeway will build north over the Pole and Scandy will at long last move east along the coast of Siberia, as Ralph is reinforced by R9 from Hudson Bay and whirls over the Canadian Archipelago. This would be a more textbook-like pattern, with high pressure at the Pole and lows cycling around it, so I’m a bit nervous about it failing to happen. The models seem to be by the book, and reality has thrown the book out the window a lot, the past  month.

At this point one wonders what the shenanigans of Ralph have done to the Beaufort Gyre. Judging from the GPS of O-buoy 14, the ice has been backed up to the position where it was last December.

Obuoy 14 0718 longitude-1year

Of course, if your in the mood to argue you can always say it didn’t back up, it looped, and state the Beaufort Gyre functioned, in a sort of flat and southward-displaced manner.

Obuoy 14 0718 latitude-1year

In any case, it is back where it was in December, which tends to suggest that the sea-ice involved, moving east, would crunch up against the ice in the Transpolar Drift. Indeed when we look at our only other buoy, Mass Balance Buoy 2015F, we see it jarred left, away from the Beaufort Gyre.

2015F_0717 track This suggests the ice at that part of the Arctic Sea should be piling up and forming pressure ridges, which makes me puzzled by the NRL maps, which show it roughly three feet thinner in the past 45 days (which uses up a heck of a lot of heat.) (June 1 to left, July 17 to right.)

I wonder if the data is confused by the melt on the top of the ice, as when I look at our lone Mass balance buoy I do not see three feet of ice gone, and in fact that the bottom melt has barely begun.  Most of the melt is at the top.

2015F_0717 thick

The top-melt is at its peak  now, and in fact temperatures start to fall from now on, though imperceptibly at first.

DMI3 0717 meanT_2016

At O-buoy 14, which is south of 80 degrees latitude and therefore not included in the above graph, Ralph seems to have brought about a refreeze, temporarily ending the surface thaw.

Obuoy 14 0718 temperature-1week

Besides the chill, (perhaps like the cool downdrafts from a summer thundershower), Ralph brought something O-buoy 14 has seen little of this summer: Patches of blue sky. Who would expect a storm to do that?

Obuoy 14 0717 webcamObuoy 14 0717B webcamObuoy 14 0718 webcam

Notice the frost or snow build-up, on the right side of the larger yellow buoy to the left. Ralph was a cold storm.

In any case, I should end with that beauty, for that is what attracted me to the North Pole Camera years ago, before I got involved in the splendid bickering. However, in the cause of that bickering, I suppose I should end with the sea-ice”extent” graph.

DMI3 0717 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

According to my guess, made back in April, now is when we should start to part from the blue line of 2012, staying closer to the pink line of 2013.  The next few weeks will tell me how much humble pie I’ll have to eat.

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12 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Revival of Ralph, an Anti-gyral Gale–

    • I will seriously consider your suggestions. After all, a sign of a true professional is to utilize jargon that leaves non-professionals baffled.

  1. The last plot in the most recent PIOMAS update hasn’t been getting much attention but shows that this year’s strong grye and weak transpolar drift have been consistently keeping the ice contained in the Basin and away from melting doom through the Fram Strait.

    If this trend persists for the summer an increase in the MYI can be expected. Particularly after the build up of thicker ridged ice between Barents and the pole.

  2. This seems like a very atypical year for sea ice. During April/May it looked like the bottom was going to fall out and the alarmists were jumping with unrestrained joy. Now it seems like the ice has more or less returned to the pack and the melt season is going to be a yawn.

    It appears that the alarmists are going to have a few days to howl at the moon around this weekend as a major heatwave is going to grip much of the US in 100 degree weather. Probably too little and too late to have much affect on the corn crop, as the first half of July has been quite cool and wet in the Midwest.

    • The old time farmers used to say the heat waves of July were days to “sit back and watch the corn grow.”

      What you really hope for is water, with corn. If nature is generous with the thunder showers, the hotter the better. It is amazing how a little stem of grass so soon is thicker than your thumb.

      The Pole has been very interesting to watch. Too bad the watching gets spoiled by politics.

      However, like watching corn grow, we can sit back and watch the pseudoscience get sillier and sillier.

  3. Satellite Products
    The ice surface temperature strongly affects heat exchange between the surface and the atmosphere and the rate of ice growth. In order to perform proper forecasting of weather and sea-ice conditions, it is essential to obtain accurate surface temperatures.

    A sparsely distributed observational network, consisting of drifting buoys, cannot resolve the surface temperature variations in the Arctic sufficiently but satellite observations can fill in the gaps of the traditional observational network.

    The DMI ice temperature product (IST) uses three thermal infrared channels from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on board the Metop-A satellite to calculate the surface temperatures in the Arctic.

  4. I looked at the recent GFS model and saw an extraordinarily deep and cold upper vortex just north of NW Canada . It is supposed to move slowly east along the north coast of Canada over the next several days. It should produce unusual cold and even a snow cover for the sea ice north of Canada. You would also think that would slow the melt to 0 in that region during the time when ice is usually melting rapidly.

    You would think that would be great news, but back in August 2012 I thought the same type of vortex was present, but the alarmists claimed that it broke up the sea ice and caused a huge plunge in its area. So what you think is logical does not always go as you would expect.

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