The real news, (or at least the news to me), this summer has been the persistence of the general area of low pressure I dubbed “Ralph”, at the Pole. According to the general theory of atmospheric circulation, which has Hadley, Ferrel and Polar Cells neatly arranged between the equator and the poles, the North Pole should be an area of descending air, and air pushing down makes high pressure.
It doesn’t make sense to have low pressure , indicating rising air, sitting in the middle of a cold, ice-covered sea surrounded by hot, sun-baked tundra. Yet it continues to happen. How can it be? Shouldn’t the air be rising over the hot places and sinking over the cold?
All I can do is watch and observe, for one thing I have come to understand is that the weather will not bow to me, and is not cowed by the brilliance of my bright ideas.
When I last posted, Ralph was filling in over the Pole, awaiting his next shot of reinforcing juice, which I dubbed “R13”, (which stands for 13th reinforcement). This impressive glob of energy was pulling mild air into the Kara Sea, and the good ship Northabout was reporting mild winds with temperatures up over 60 ° F at the western edge of the Laptev Sea. They were hunkering down to wait out a storm that was forecast to brew up, as this mild air mixed with the sub-freezing air to the north.
Indeed on the 14th R13 became a tight little low in the Kara Sea.
Then I missed some maps due to other storms, (in my life), and by 12Z on the 15th Ralph had gathered in R13 and was turning into the 4th largest summer gale since 1979. The warm air involved had risen and surface temperatures were below freezing in the middle of the storm. There was hope among those-who-want-to-see-ice-melt that this storm would be like the gale of 2012, and huge amounts of ice would melt, but this didn’t seem to happen.
As Ralph whirled at the Pole it seemed to be cut off, and to lack fronts and the intense winds and wind shifts which are near fronts. Ryan Maue mentioned it lacked warm air avection, but it looked like several streamers piped in some energy aloft, the most clear of which shows (in the temperature maps) as above freezing temperatures funneling around north of Greenland, and getting temperatures above freezing at the Pole at 12z on the 16th. I might as well call that R14, but it wasn’t enough to fuel Ralph, and he started to fill and fade, and to look around for more reinforcements by the 17th.
Then I had to deal with another personal storm, and missed some more maps. Ralph continued to weaken, but R15 was coming through Bering strait to the rescue.
R15 grew to be quite tight and strong, and in the old days I would have called it a secondary and named it “Ralphson”, but, because I am boss here, I’m allowed to change the rules when I feel like it, and I’m just going to do what I’ve done all summer; and that is to state the Ralph was glad to get the reinforcements, and absorbed them to fuel his next incarnation. He was a tight and powerful little low now, over the thickest sea-ice in the Arctic Sea, that is piled up against the Canadian Archipelago. Clouds hid what happened to the ice, but I imagine it got churned, like all the ice has been churned this summer.
By the 21st Ralph was again fading, but a nice juicy surge of energy was being drawn up into Barents Sea and a weak low was rotating around Ralph, crossing over Svalbard. Say hello to R16.
24 hours later R16 and Ralph were joining hands and forming a big and enlongated area of low pressure from the Pole to the Kara Sea.
This quickly becomes the next incarnation of Ralph, moving into the Laptev sea. The cold over the Pole was intensified, and early on the 23rd we see the first small spot of the minus 5° isotherm appear, this side of summer. However milder air is being pumped north from Siberia to the east, even as Ralph pumps the first frosty blast south into Siberia to the west.
By the 24th Ralph has started to weaken again, and the weak secondary in the west of Kara Sea lacks the juice necessary to really be a reinforcement. It is too cold.
Also a strange thing is appearing off the coast of Alaska, and south of Svalbard. In case you can’t remember, it is called high pressure. Indeed it looks like Ralph is starting to be squeezed. Could this be it? Is Ralph at long last doomed to fade away?
The only hope for a R17 lies in the fact warmth has been drawn up into the East Siberian Sea, and a triangle of low pressure pointing southeast from Ralph over the New Siberian Islands may hint of hope in that direction. But the hope seems slim.
Twelve hours later Ralph is fading fast. But hark! Is that the sound of the cavalry’s bugles, from the East Siberian coast? (In case yuh yungstahz doan know dis, bugals iz wut our coppers had afore our police cars had sirens. I tink duh sirens wuz too loud, an skared de horses.)
Yes! R17 is riding to the rescue from East Siberia, even as Ralph is going down for the third time. However the sinister forces of anti-Ralphism are building in the Beaufort Sea, north of Canada.
And this evening, as we conclude this highly scientific examination of maps, we see the Ralphist forces lined up on the Eurasian side of the pole, as the anti-Ralphist interlopers rally north of the Canadian Archipelago.
Who will win this epic battle? And will the howling Pacific-to-Atlantic winds between the armies blow all the Pole’s sea-ice into the Atlantic through Fram Strait?
Tune in next week, to the next exciting installment of, “Watching Paint Dry, Ice Melt, And Other Things More Exciting Than Doing The Dishes.” Either that, or else….
….cheat. Flip ahead in the book and read the ending. How? By looking at the computer models.
The current Canadian JEM model (interpreted by Dr. Ryan Maue, with a free week trial of his art available at the Weatherbell site), shows both the unseasonable blast of cold, which Ralph shot down into West Siberia, but also the milder source-region for R17 in East Siberia, with temperatures between 40°F and 60°F.
What does the northward surge of R17 do? Gosh. Big surprise. Ralph is again resurrected, and in three days sits over the Pole as a 978 mb gale.
Is Ralph a warm storm, full of thawing?
Looks pretty cold to me, but maybe where the wind is strongest in the Beaufort Sea there may be a slot of temperatures a hair above freezing. For the fun of it, let us focus on the arctic waters in that “thawing” slot.
Are those areas of open waters between bergs warmed by winds a hair above freezing? Probably not. Why? Because those waters are two hairs above freezing, and therefore the winds are cooling them. Furthermore, the waters are likely warming the winds, as heat is robbed from the open seas.
Then there is the matter of “phase changes”. When ice becomes water, or water becomes vapor, the phase changes of ice-to-water or water-to-vapor involves available heat turning into latent heat. (That is why your wet skin feels so cool in a breeze, after a swim.) And this same cooling occurs to arctic waters when the roaring wind induces evaporation.
But how about the phase change from solid to liquid? This occurs when snowflakes fall into salt water. (That is why your icecream-maker works, when you mix ice with salt; the melting sucks up heat.) In other words, when Ralph drops any precipitation as snow (which O-buoy 14 has seen a fair amount of) it has a cooling effect, as flakes melt in open waters.
But what about the sunlight shining into the open waters? Does not that warm things?
What sunshine? Ralph tends to be cloudy.
In other words, using the “extent” of sea-ice, and assuming it is a good metric for how much the polar waters will be warmed, might be a decent tool when high pressure sits over the pole, and there is a lot of sunshine. It is then that the talk about the “albedo” of white snow versus the “albedo” of blue waters makes sense. However Ralph makes a mockery of that logic.
The fact of the matter is that we are facing a new situation here. If you want to live in the past you can look back to 2013 in my notebooks, when the boss of the Pole was in some ways high pressure systems, including one I dubbed “Igor”. (Those old posts are so full of ignorance they make me cringe, but even when high pressure dominated the Pole I found plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the simplistic “albedo” theory.) Here is the map of August 19, 2013 to show that high pressure played a bigger role back then than it played this August 19.
Considering I could spot reasons to doubt the “albedo” theory even when high pressure made a situation conducive to belief, and even when I was a novice, just imagine the levels of my doubt now, when “Ralph” makes a situation which makes such blind belief look like a three-year-old’s, and I am slightly less naive.
As far as I’m concerned, anyone who currently believes in the “albedo” theory has failed to pay attention. Like a heroin addict, they have figured out ways to lie their way around facing facts. They live in a bubble.
If you look at the above maps, you will see that the one place, where Ralph’s effects fail to reach, is the Northwest Passage. If you wanted to avoid facing what Ralph demonstrates, all you needed to do was shell out around $20,000.00 for a berth in some fancy liner cruising the Northwest Passage this year. I think floating bubble is called the “Fistula Surgery”. (I could be wrong.)
People aboard that boat haven’t a clue about what is occurring further north, above their heads.
Me? I just observe, and post some charts and maps.
Despite the summer-long churning of the sea-ice, it has refused to melt away to record levels:
This is a wake-up-call. Back in early May, when the above graph showed the “extent” was extremely low, the people-who-want-ice-to-melt were hoping for just one storm like the storm of 2012, to set a new record. Ralph’s persistence has been like getting what they wished for, timed ten. The various incarnations of Ralph, according to them, should have set a new record.
All the storms should have have created much open water. That in turn should increase temperatures at the Pole. Look how warm the period after the end of the melt season was in 2012.
I would expect the same this year, with the sea-ice pulverized, and crisscrossed by leads of open water from end to end. Is it happening?
No. This is not to say we might not see the open areas make air temperatures above normal later, as all that water freezes over, (for freezing releases the latent heat that thawing sucked up), but even if it happens, it is different this year.
The difference is something that even those-who-want-ice-to-melt should recognize, from within their bubble. The albedo theory is essentially trashed. Time to concoct a new one.
Me? Oh, I’ll concoct some humorous theory, but be well aware Infinity laughs at me, when I box it with my mind.