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