ARCTIC SEA ICE –Storm After Storm) (Concluded)

Usually watching ice melt in the arctic is a serene occupation, but the odyssey of the good ship Northabout has made it unusually  exciting this year. What they began as a lazy cruise, to demonstrate how ice-free the arctic is,  has become an epic struggle against sea-ice that shouldn’t be there, (according to some), and also a battle against storms.

The storms are something I’ve been trying to point out are the real news. They are also something that (according to some) shouldn’t be there. They also involve a delicious irony, for certain people who yearn to see the sea-ice vanish yearn for a storm like we had in 2012. They have had their dream come true, for we have had a whole slew of storms, but the results are not the same as they were in 2012.

Rather than naming all the impulses of low pressure that attacked the Pole I decided to skip the bother, and name the conglomeration “Ralph.” Those who bother to look at this notebook know I have stretched credulity on occasion, to keep Ralph alive as an entity, but I hope my point has been made:  We have seen low pressure whirling at the Pole a lot more often than usual.

In order for Ralph to survive he had to be reinforsed by bundles of juicy air from the south, which I have numbered, starting with R1, (which stands for “Reinforsement One.”) This has spared me the bother of naming individual lows. (I am getting lazy in my old age.)

In my last notebook I described how Ralph, who seemed to be fading away in the Canadian Archipelago, avoided extinction by slipping across the Pole to the combining R11 and R12, who revived Ralph and made him a gale to be reckoned with:

After giving the good ship Northabout a hard time, Ralph once again began to run out of gas and look about for reinforcements. (These temperature maps may be the last summer-warmth we see.)

At this point I missed some maps. Though you may have doubts, I do have a life besides watching ice melt, and midst my personal soap opera I had a marriage, a divorce, and a business to attend to. When I turned my attention back to the Pole I saw Ralph has created subfreezing temperatures, and was looking for a R13. R13 was probing north from Scandinavia.

As R13 pushed north to reinforse Ralph he kicked a zipper-storm, R14, to cross Barents Sea and threaten the good ship Northabout from the west.

As R14 became a nasty little gale plaguing the Northabout in the Kara Sea, Ralph urged it to swing north and reinforce him at the Pole. The Northabout first saw sea-ice moved from the shore by south winds, and then saw sea-ice pushed south by north winds.

Never satisfied, even as Ralph absorbed R14 he called out for further reinforcements, and R15 began to cross Barents Sea, to threaten the Northabout with another gale from the west. Lots of warm air has been dragged into the R15 warm sector, with lots of subfreezing air to the north, so R15 could be a doozey.

In the final temperature map above you can see far more subfreezing air than we started with, and if you have my imagination you can see, in the middle, a mouth, and it is wide open and hollering, “Temperatures at the Pole have dipped below freezing earlier than normal!”

DMI3 0813 meanT_2016

Hopefully I will add to this notebook tomorrow, but I wanted to at least use these maps to make a single point, and make a single difference clear.

In 2012 conditions were much calmer, and the storm that occurred was a loner. This year has seen storm after storm after storm. To try to compare the two years is to compare apples with oranges.


Over at the Weatherbell Site, Dr. Ryan Maue’s portrayal of the Canadian Jem model shows R15 growing intence and throwing storm forse winds towards Northabout (and likely driving sea-ice south in the Laptev Sea) by tonight.

Polar2 1 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_5

By tomorrow night the energy is absorbed north and Ralph again stands triumphant, king of the mountain on the Pole.

Polar2 2 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_9

The GFS model (which insists on being upside down) shows the same thing tomorrow night.

Polar2 3 gfs_mslp_uv10m_arctic_9

I expect there to be a hubbub about this gale at Alarmist sites (where I silently lurk.) All eyes will watch to see if the churned sea-ice will melt like it did in 2012. I myself don’t expect it will.

For some reason I am having trouble accessing the Naval Research Lab maps.  The best I can do is show the DMI modeled thickness map.

DMI3 0813 CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20160813

This model may have some problems, because the fellows at DMI have been messing with their manner of collecting data, tweaking and fiddling with something that wasn’t really broken and didn’t really need fixing, (unless you define “fix” in a negative way.) Also it blends lots of individual bergs into an average which looks like a solid body of ice, when the sea-ice is in fact pulverized, after so many storms. However it may be correctly showing us that the individual bergs are all thicker than last year.


Hunkered down in a safe anchorage on the west side of the Laptev Sea in a gale, the good ship Northabout is reporting temperatures of 63° (17° C), which demonstrates some warm juice is being sucked by R15 into the rebuilding of Ralph.

Polar2 5 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_1

In 24 hours the gale will be peaking right over the Pole , with pressures down at 969mb and an eye-like feature at its core.

Polar2 6 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_5

I was curious if warmth would get sucked north. According to the Canadian model, the warmth must all be aloft, for it looks cold at the surface in 24 hours.

Polar2 7 cmc_t2m_arctic_5

(Note that the Northabout will not be getting the balmy winds any more. Temperatureres should be near freezing for them.)

My guess is that some freezing rain may be mixed in, with temperatures milder aloft, but also wet snow will fall from this Polarcane, making the sea-ice situation highly complex. Snow falling and melting in seawater uses up heat, as the heat becomes latent heat as the snowflakes turn into liquid water. The melt-water pools will freeze, as they are fresh water, (which actually releases latent heat, though likely to the air and not the sea,) and the pools will be dusted with snow,  which will allow satellites to “see” more ice. However the issue of the bottom-melt, aided and abetted by the storm’s churning, is the real thing to watch.

In 2012 the summer had baked the ice and turned it into thinner “rotten” ice, and also the water beneath the ice had stratified due to calmer conditions. Colder water managed to float above warmer water, because the colder water was fresh melt-water, and the warmer water was denser because it held more dissolved salt. Therefore the 2012 gale was able to churn up slightly warmer water and mix it with more fragile ice, and a huge area of ice faded from the maps with astonishing speed.

My theory is that this year’s conditions are different. The water is more churned, and though storm after storm has smashed up the ice, the chunks are thicker and not “rotten”, and therefore the melt will not be so astonishing, unless you were expecting it to melt like 2012, in which case you will be astonished….unless I am wrong, which will not be all that astonishing.

I could not  ask for a better test of my ideas.

The melt-season is running out of time, as the days are swiftly growing shorter, and the area of the midnight sun is shrinking up towards the Pole. Barrow, which did enjoy the midnight sun in July, now has its streetlights on during the wee hours, though days are still longer than nights.

Barrow 0815 03_22_26_70_ABCam_20160815_111900

North of there, up at 76.5° north latitude, O-buoy 14 is seeing the sun dip very low:

Obuoy 14 0815 webcam

With the sun getting so low, it is hard to keep temperatures above freezing.

Obuoy 14 0815 temperature-1week

O-buoy 14 is on a large floe drifting in waters that are fairly open, and I still think we may see bottom-melt exploit a weakness in the ice right under our noses, and witness the drama of a lead opening and separating the two buoys. However I have been expecting this for a month now, and am a bit surprised at the resistance of the ice. (Maybe I can hex it, by saying that.)


Obuoy 14 0816 webcam

The second buoy makes a final appearance in the distance a bit later.

Obuoy 14 0816B webcam

These buoys can float even without ice,  so we’ll continue to get reports.

CraigM350 informed me Ryan Maue tweeted about the Polarcane:

Ryan states the storm is now cut off from warm air avection and is snowy.  It has no clear surface fronts and therefore no strong, ice-bashing  surface winds; just a steady circle of breezes creating an anti-Beaufort Gyre.

Some upper-air streamers may be sort of like pipelines of occlusion, feeding into the storm, but for the most part I think the gale has used up its fuel and now will weaken and fill….(until a R16 appears?)

Over in the Laptev Sea the Northabout should have clear sailing, for the Polarcanes initial inflow created strong southwest winds which pushed the ice offshore.  (Lena River Delta on central right margin.)

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE  –Polarcane’s Hangover–

“Ralph” is starting to weaken. The winds were mostly a strong breeze rather than a gale, so I probably shouldn’t have named it a “Polarcane”, (but I do like to start hubbubs when I can), (and also it did have a sort of “eye” of calm winds, if not clear skies).

Polar2 8 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_1

The long range models show Ralph will be in no hurry to leave the Pole, and after wobbling about may even restrengthen a week from now, which seems different from other years (especially 2012). However at the moment I’m interested to see if the sea-ice was decreased, like it was in 2012.

One thing is clear is that the sea-ice was pushed towards the Pole, giving the Northabout clear sailing towards the Lena Delta.

Polar2 10 36

It’s still cloudy further north, but, if the recent past is anything to go by, the Central Arctic Basin will see sea-ice increase, not decrease. It makes sense. Push the coastal ice north, and at the Pole the ice-pack will get more packed. (As was pointed out by “ren” over at Tallbloke’s site.)

Central More 20160817 r11_Central_Arctic_ts_4km

Tony Heller also produced a graphic to show how the ice is more solid at the center, by masking out all ice thinner than 1.5 meters, and comparing the current situation with 2012.

Thickness 20160810 IceThickness-2012-2016

That comparison is a week old, but yesterday’s thickness map shows no huge decrease.

Thickness 20160816 CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20160816

This is not to say the ice isn’t still thinning at the edges. Down at 76° in the Beaufort Sea O-buoy 14 shows our yellow buoy has drifted away.

Obuoy 14 0816C webcam

I assume a bear then visited. I don’t think the winds were strong enough to rip the top off the Mass Balance Buoy.

Obuoy 14 0817 webcam

The edges  haven’t melted enough to cause a decrease in the sea-ice extent anything like 2012. The decrease in 2012 was so impressive I thought some glitch must be involved, or that the ice was piled up in a small area, and it wasn’t until I received an email from a researcher who had actually flown over the open waters that I conceded the ice had vanished so swiftly.

DMI3 0816 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

At this point it seems unlikely we will set a new record for minimum extent this year. Surface melt is basically over.

DMI3 0816 meanT_2016

The 62 hour map of the JEM model is showing the coldest temperatures since last June.

Polar2 9 cmc_t2m_arctic_15

Those who were celebrating an ice-free Pole this year, back in June, now have a hangover I fear.



Ralph Aug 15-22 6a0133f03a1e37970b01b7c887e097970b-800wi (1)

 I continue to think the persistence of Ralph is the real news. My hunch is that a serious imbalance is involved, and hunching further I’d guess the cause is a “cold signal” clashing with a “warm signal”. Hunching way too far (for a layman), to a point where my head is dangerously close to passing between my knees, I’d say that the “cold signal” is the “Quiet Sun”, and the warm signals are the lagged after-effects of a big El Nino, a “warm blob” spoke in the PDO, and a long running warm AMO (though it may be about to go “cold”).

Compared to this big stuff, the sea-ice is like pedestrians on the crosswalk. (When a bunch of Mac Trucks experience road rage, the pedestrians scatter this way and that, but have little effect on the trucks).

However, as I am a sort of sea-ice junkie, I’ll post the Bremen Concentration map:

Polar2 12 sea-ice-concentration-8.15.16

If I were an Alarmist I might delight to see that the Polarcane’s wrenching of the Transpolar Drift into an antidrift, and wrenching the Beaufort gyral flow to an antigyral flow, has caused some ice to pile up pressure ridges, (which does not show on a concentration map because such maps do not involve thickness), and also has caused leads to open up, (which shows up dramatically on a  concentration map because such maps do involve open water.) A new Laptev Notch has not only appeared, but in a sense extends past the Pole on the Siberian Side. Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!

In my opinion, as an English major and not a scientist, this complex system of opening leads should not be called a polynya. (They likely will, for scientists delight in mangling the English language), but I feel the definition of a polynya is based on Antarctic situations, and involve open water appearing beside something firm, either land or fast ice. Because nothing is firm in the middle of the Arctic Sea, this opening-up deserves a different noun, and I think it should be called a “rift”. In this particular case it should be called “Ralph’s Rift.”

I also should hasten to add that the Bremen maps miss ice, at times. For example, the above map makes the Beaufort Sea look rather empty, yet the Canadian Ice Service sees ice they are blind to. (Upper left of map below).

Polar2 13 CMMBCTCA

Be that as it may, Ralph’s Rift will be a feature to be reckoned with, in coming days, and likely will be the title of my next post.


29 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –Storm After Storm) (Concluded)

  1. Re: if you have my imagination you can see, in the middle, a mouth ……. okay u got to let us know what u r smoking and where we can get some 😉

    • I had to quit smoking. Doctor’s orders. So I can only plead brain damage. But….

      ….If you look at the temperature map you can see a circle of above-freezing temperature just to the Canadian side of the pole, and it has a thing dangling down which reminds me of the thing dangling down in the back of a throat…

      …definitely brain damage.

  2. “They also involve a delicious irony, for certain people who yearn to see the sea-ice vanish yearn for a storm like we had in 2012. They have had their dream come true, for we have had a whole slew of storms, but the results are not the same as they were in 2012.”

    How true.

    But, Warmists are repelled by the light of “truth”.

    It makes for great comedy.

    • I think this trip will be possible, but less comfortable than many imagine. The chill starts to grow, as does the twilight. Of I had ten thousand to blow, I’d prefer a Russian Icebreaker in late June, when the sun is highest.

  3. It would appear to my naked eye that Ralph is swirling a strong westerly gale across the solid thick ice at high latitudes, ice that should prove to be indestructible.

    The 2012 storm had more of an up and down flow, that was far better suited to destroy the thin ice along the edges. Do you agree with that assessment?

    • Pretty much. The 2012 Gale was more towards Bering Strait, and just the way it moved north tore the ice more. But also I am fairly certain the ice was more slushy, more “rotten”. I have no data, but that is my distinct impression.

      My source was always to go look at the Navel Research Lab maps, but I think everyone in Washington is paranoid about hackers. I can’t access them any more.

      How about you? Are you deleting your emails? Should I delete all your comments? Oh….I forgot. We are honest, blunt, and not steeped in deceit. That probably explains why we have some free time, and can do an actual day’s work.

      Forgive me. I should not speak so rudely of your home city. Let us pray that the cream rises as well as the scum.

      • I’ve been overwhelmed with evens in my “real” life for the last week and apologize for not getting back sooner. No I have not been deleting emails and I am basically harmless.

        If sea ice is at the mercy of short term weather events, then the final low total in any given year is not that important, because it is largely a matter of pot luck. Maybe the average over 10-20 years is meaningful, because the effect of short term weather events is canceled out.

        In any event, I hope this year’s storms adds rather than subtracts to this year’s final minimum total, if for no other reason that I don’t like alarmists.

      • It is an odd situation: We hope for more ice because Alarmists are politically unwise, and we don’t want their foolishness to get any support. However less ice would be better for the planet, and be a “climate optimum”, rather than a “death spiral.”

      • Thanks again. I’ll include ren’s observation. (Also visit Tallbloke as soon as I have time.)

        Where did you hear they will put out more buoys? My fear was that they were going to see their funding cut.

      • I saw the info in passing but have found again:

        “No web cams were deployed in 2016, due to funding constraints, however deployments are planned for Spring 2017.

        The 2015 North Pole web cams were deployed in mid-April 2015 by the University of Washington and images are available from the North Pole Environmental Observatory website for Web Cams 1 and 2. See links to animations below each web cam image below. The last clear image was received from Web Cam 1 on September 28, 2015, and from Web Cam 2 on September 16, 2015.”

        Hopefully gets the go ahead

      • Yes I fully support what they do. There are some great scientists there. Like most workplaces management and politics could be an issue. CAGW is also a cash cow. Sadly, a mini iceage may be a harder environment to garner funding despite the importance. We’ll know soon enough. The next 5-10 years could be quite a roller coaster.

  4. U got ur Obouy wish and she is all broke up … it is kind of sad to see it go after watching for so many months. The view is not so north pole like any longer.

    • Yes, that was the first thing I went to this morning. I hexed it by mentioning how surprised I was the berg was so solid. It could keep sending interesting pictures even if it bobs around in open water. O-buoy 10 showed us lots of smaller clusters of ice last summer in an area that all other sources said was ice-free. It is an opportunity ti use our “lying eyes”, until it sinks, is crushed, or is picked up by an icebreaker (though I think these fellows are losing their funding.)

  5. Pingback: ARCTIC SEA ICE –Storm After Storm | ajmarciniak

  6. Interesting that there are no strong winds and to quote Ryan breezes blowing about in the reverse of the Beaufort gyre. For some reason I had the thought that this may be more of an upper level feature without much expression at the surface (perhaps wishful thinking on my part to piss off the warmists / alarmists 😉 ) Anyway I was happy to see Ryan confirming my idea as I had gone looking for info and came up empty …. thanks for digging up the info and posting it.
    Various alarmist tools, such as Grif over at Real Science were calling it a hurricane … I find Grif to be beyond annoying and an obvious troll at Tony’s site.
    Serenity now, serenity now!!

  7. Caleb – note also all the ice that Bremen misses in the east portion of the Parry Channel and to the south of the Parry Channel. What bugs me about this ice blindness is that Bremen is a warmist site and so the ice blindness is deliberate and provides fodder for more “it is worse than we thought” angst.
    On to the new thread …. good work!!

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