ARCTIC SEA ICE –Is This Water Warming?–(Updated September 9)–Entering Parry Channel–

If you are one-who-wants-the-sea-ice-to melt, is somewhat relieving that O-buoy 14 stopped showing a sea of slush where maps said there was open water, and has busted free into an area of open water.Obuoy 14 0824B webcamObuoy 14 0827 webcamObuoy 14 0827B webcam

According to theory, these open waters, being darker than the ice, are absorbing a lot more sunshine.  Hmm. Anyone see a problem with this idea? Hint:  It is cloudy.

The problem is the rascal Ralph, once again roaring away to the north with its pressure again down to 969 mb. The winds are even beginning to pick up a little down here, at O-buoy 14. Maybe they aren’t gale force, like up north, but they are a steady breeze over 10 mph. And are they warm winds?

Obuoy 14 0828 temperature-1week

Hmm. Steadily at freezing or below. Gosh Toto, we’re not in July anymore. But at least it isn’t snowing…

Obuoy 14 0828 webcam

Rats. I’m going to have to think about this. I’ll update after church.


WELL-WELL-WELL?  What have we here?

Obuoy 14 0828B webcam

There’s just enough sunlight to clear the lens, with winds around 15 mph, and temperatures a hair below freezing.

I need to zip over to the Weatherbell site and peruse Dr. Ryan Maue’s maps. (Free week trial available.) Be right back.


I clicked over to the Canadian JEM model because I just like it in the short term. (Back when we had more buoys, and I could double-check, the GFS initial maps seemed a bit too warm). The Canadian model is very interesting to watch, map after map, in six hour installments out to 240 hours from now, because it can make the most wonderful storms. True, they usually don’t happen, but cheap thrills are hard to find these days. And the Jem has been right about Ralph’s reincarnations.

In any case, here is the “initial” map, now a bit outdated, from 00z last night. Ralph is roaring and at his strongest. The winds actually look stronger than the last gale.

Ralph4 1 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_1

The next map shows Ralph 6 hours later. This one of Ryan’s cool maps shows how much water fell in the last six hours. Remember, the arctic is basically a desert. Therefore 0.2-0.3 inches is a lot, (and is likely falling as 2-3 inches of snow.)

Ralph4 2 cmc_precip_mslp_arctic_2

This map is actually messing with my head more than you’d imagine. You see, I am trying out a new manner of seeing things, and, as is usually the case when I try to box Infinity and organize chaos, it does not take kindly to being packaged, and the only boxing going on is of my ears.

I’m trying to see everything in terms of blobs of cold air departing the Pole at low levels. When this air departs it leaves low pressure behind. Fronts, frontal low pressures, and jet streams all form in relation to the blob of cold air heading south. It is an elegant idea, and works in a way. For example a big blob of cold air just dove down in Siberia, and in its wake we have Ralph swirling at the Pole. But the problem with the idea of Ralph being a sort of vacuum left by a departing high is that air should not merely swirl in horizontally, but vertically. This would make uplift and clouds and precipitation unlikely, but the above map shows it is happening. Oh well. Back to the old drawing board.

The source region of the moister and milder air was western Siberia, which was actually fairly mild a couple days ago. It likely had a Pacific element. Now it is pulled right around to the Alaskan side. The Jem model’s temperature map, concurrent with the above map, is below:

Ralph4 3 cmc_t2m_arctic_2

I suppose one could suggest that rain might be mixed in with the snow in Ralph. (The freezing line is where the lightest pink turns to lightest blue, with pink  freezing and blue above-freezing). It is a pity we don’t have more cameras. (I keep hoping they will regain contact with O-buoys 8b, 13 and 15, as they melt free from the piles of ice that knocked them off the air, but no luck so far.)

What is quite interesting is the blast of cold air down in Siberia. The days are still longer than the nights, but the nights are quickly getting longer. The above map is from when the sun is high. Check out the 18z map below, when the night is having its effect in Siberia,(actually right about now, but this maps from a  forecast run 00z last night).

Ralph4 4 cmc_t2m_arctic_4

That little spot of white in the middle of the blue in central Siberia represents below zero temperatures. (Fahrenheit. Below -17°C). That makes me shake my head a bit. After all, it is still August.

School starts around here tomorrow, and I have to get cracking to prepare our Farm-childcare for all the changes. I’ll update if and when possible, but I imagine Ralph has really stirred the sea-ice, and there will be another dip in the “extents”.  But I’m also wondering how much colder the water is.


Obuoy 14 0828C webcam

 Wind 15 mph and Temperature 32°F. (0°C)  Looking south. Notice pieces of ice haven’t changed their position since the last picture, despite winds. Likely they are cemented together by a refreeze, and not a slop of slush.

As an aside, if the above picture shows waters with less than 15% ice, it appears as “ice free” on some maps.


Obuoy 14 0828D webcam

Wind 15 mph temperature a hair below freezing. Hopefully just a passing squall.


Obuoy 14 0829 webcam

Don’t worry. Nights are still shorter than days, and the sun soon will be back. Wind has slackened to 10 mph and temperature is -1°C.

The subtle colors in the sky sure are beautiful.


It’s hard to be sure, without the orb of the sun to refer to, but I think the buoy might have swung right around and be looking north.  Wind 11 mph temperature -1°C.

Obuoy 14 0829B webcam


Obuoy 14 0829C webcam


Obuoy 14 0829D webcam

Even as the sun has risen it has chilled slightly to -2°C, with the breeze at 16 mph.


Temperatures slowly rose back up to a hair below freezing, with winds at 10-15 mph, during the afternoon and evening.

Of concern to me is a berg hidden at the left of the camera, by our left shoulder, that is taller than the camera. I was hoping it would drift away and get lost, but you can see it is still there, just peeking in from the left in the third picture below.

 Obuoy 14 0829EwebcamObuoy 14 0829F webcamObuoy 14 0829G webcam


Obscured lens. Now is when we really hope most for sunshine. Temperatures are down to -3°C with winds around 12 mph. I suppose it could even be freezing spray, as temperatures are dipping below the freezing point of salt water, but I’m hoping it is what the fishermen in Maine call “sea smoke”, a particularly thick fog caused by the sea steaming like a soup in the cold.

Obuoy 14 0830 webcam


Obuoy 14 0830C webcam

 Temperature -3°C, wind 5 mph.


Obuoy 14 0831B webcam

 Obuoy 14 0831C webcamTemperatures slowly rose to freezing, as the winds died to 2 mph. (Notice sun shining off distant, calm sea, rather than being absorbed. Second picture is early afternoon, local time, and camera is looking south. My guess is that the ice to the right is sticking up 4 feet. If  9/10 of a berg is under water, it could stick down 36 feet, though likely the mass is more spread out.


In June such a sun would lead to thawing, as the sun rolled around and around the horizon, but it is now September and this happens instead:

Obuoy 14 0901 webcam

Winds have picked up to a breeze of 18 mph, as temperatures slipped back down to -1°C. Is the water warming yet?

Winds 20 mph temp up to 0°C —Rocking and rolling

Obuoy 14 0901C webcam

winds peaked at 22 mph; temp back down to -1° —Ice free foreground

Obuoy 14 0901E webcam

September 2 —winds slacken to steady 10-12 mph–temp to -2°c then steady -1°C

Can’t tell of that is ice or fog in distance.

Obuoy 14 0902 webcam

September 3 Open waters–south to 75°N–Sea-ice in distance; temps to -3°C as winds slacken

Obuoy 14 0903 webcam (1)Obuoy 14 0903B webcamObuoy 14 0903C webcam

 September 4 –BIG BERG BASHES CAMERA–  –Final picture–

Obuoy 14 0904 webcam

Winds were briefly calm, then rose back to 10-12 mph. Temperatures dip to -4°C.

September 5 –still getting wind and temperature reports.

No Pictures, but buoy reports temperatures up to -1°C and then back down to -4°C, with winds a steady breeze of 10 mph. That could start to freeze the water, which makes missing the camera all the more of a painful pang.

Considering my posts about sea ice were based around using my lying eyes to double-check what the satellites and models were reporting, having no camera makes me feel a bit pointless.

The question remains: Did it look like these waters were warming, when the maps reported them as ice-free?  (How embarrassing for O-buoy 14: To be knocked out by no ice.)

September 6 —Camera is back!–


O-buoy 13 couldn’t bear the embarrassment, and staggered back up. Looking a little bleary, and also as if there is a fair amount of ice about. That is odd, for winds, picking up to 15 mph,  have blown us south to 74.6° N, where the water should be more free of ice.  The coldest temperatures of the fall so far have blown by, down to -4°C, have blown by, and now temperatures are back up to -1°C.




We are roughly at 74.5°N, 135°W, and my tired eyes seem to see the NRL map as showing that as being on land.  Bed time for this bozo. (We lost our weather station for a while today, but it is back and shows -1°C and winds getting up there, 15-18 mph.)


Curiosity made me look more carefully. It looks like we are being blown into the mouth of Parry Channel. If we get clear weather we might see land!






Winds dropped to 10 mph, as temperatures fell to -6°C.  It makes me nervous when the thermometer and anemometer keep going silent. The buoy is getting battered, I fear.obuoy-14-0908-temperature-1week

SEPTEMBER 9  –Into Parry Channel–





13 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –Is This Water Warming?–(Updated September 9)–Entering Parry Channel–

  1. When you write: “According to theory, these open waters, being darker than the ice, are absorbing a lot more sunshine. Hmm. Anyone see a problem with this idea?” I assume you’re implication is that there’s no sunshine. This is of course mistaken. It’s light. There’s sunshine – unless the camera has a really, really, really good flash.

    What you mean is there’s no direct solar radiation, but indirect solar radiation is still reaching the ice and water. Scientists do study this stuff, ya know. They actually measure and quantify the differences. Woods Hole is one of the many organizations that are studying the effects.

      • You have probably explained this long long ago, but I wonder about these maps you present. Somewhere there is some kind of program that takes inputs and uses them to make the maps, and I am assuming the inputs include a) satellite photos of cloud cover? b) buoy temperature readings c) readings from northern communities and d) readings from ships in the area. I am assuming further there must be some kind of agreement among nations (yes?) that shares the data among countries, so the data from Russia (Siberia) and Canada and the US and Denmark and possibly Norway and Iceland is merged. But I am starting to have a nagging thought that these maps which appear so….definitive…surely must be amalgams of data points with all the many ban spaces between assumed and projected. Just like the climate models, no?

        The arctic is an enormous area. Do you know for example, how many specific data points are there north of the landmasses upon which these maps are drawn? Is it in the thousands? Hundreds? Tens? I am guessing the tens.

        I think, for sure, the data we have today must be far far superior to that available even forty years ago. We have more satellites, better ship communications, gps, etc etc. But… it, really? Or are we possibly seduced by the technology to believe we can do more with this data than we can?

        I spent a decent portion of my life as a commercial fisherman off New England and Nova Scotia and then a merchant sailor around the world and believe me the weather was a very big deal. The thing about living and working in latitude 40s is the weather travels west to east (mostly) and with all that land to my back off New England we knew what was happening thousands of miles away. Then with satellites we could watch the systems. But….BUT….even today, for god’s sake, there seems to be no way to anticipate or predict the huge rushes of arctic air which sometimes sweep down from the north and cause chaos. “Clear nor-westers” we called them, because they weren’t marked with clouds and could not been seen from the sky, and often weren’t reported because they came down across Quebec with few settlements. Point being, even today with all the satellites these things still startle. Now you are reporting the arctic, north say of 60 degrees north, where there are few communities, hardly any satellites looking, fewer ships…..

        This is a way too long comment to confirm your noble effort to make sense of something which remains mysterious, and I just wanted to offer the gentle comment that just as the climate models the “alarmists” use to predict doom may and surely are dead wrong, so perhaps these neat maps someone creates using scattered data points might be a little misleading also….

        Having said that, however, I see the Serenity’s bridge cam shows not an ice cube in sight, they are having a clear run through the Passage, it seems, and I know when they emerge into the Baffin Strait the alarmists will all stand up and shout, see I told you so, the arctic is clear. And who knows maybe they are right?

        I, for one, cannot believe it, for three overall reasons. First, it baffles my mind how a trace gas like CO2 can cause such a worldwide climate shift by changing its proportion from two parts in 10,000 to, say, 5 parts in 10,000 (I think that is the right proportion; .02 % or 200 ppm to say .05 % 500 ppm). It just seems ridiculous. Second, and much more significant, according to the last two million years and a glacial age every 100,000 years , with (roughly 10,000 year warm times between) we are reaching the end, not the beginning, of the current warm period. Third, our knowledge of history and past climate is very poor, based on indirect references, with constant efforts to back-project the latest technology, and seems to me surely based on the human tendency to believe that what we think we know right now must be correct.

        Don’t forget it wasn’t so long ago people were burned at the stake for saying the earth was not flat….

      • I’m pretty busy. Liked your comment.

        I will say there are a lot of blank spaces filled in by various means in the arctic, and much debate about whether the “infilling” is close to reality or not. The reason I really like the O-buoys is that they double-check the infilling, and have shown the infilling has imperfections.

        The worst infilling uses land temperatures to infill out over the arctic waters.

        Hopefully I’ll have time for a longer reply this evening.

    • indirect solar radiation

      Anybody who has actually enjoyed the daytime “indirect solar radiation” at 80’N around September 1 can tell you what is the problem. The problem is the incidence angle is so low the Sun won’t do much anything. Four weeks later you can hardly see the Sun at the horizon at the North pole. Those who live at midlatitudes just don’t get this. Only in the middle of the summer dirty ice may melt because of the sunshine, and after that, the top layer water heat content may rise a little bit. And then, the Sun sets for good and all the heat is lost, until the sea freezes. After freezing, it will not loose so much heat. There is a pretty straightforward stabilizing feedback due to the polar night and properties of water. Should the Arctic not freeze during winter, that would be a different case. However, we are now rather talking about how much of it melts during the summer.

  2. The latest snow cover charts show an area of snow cover well down into central Siberia. I don’t have long term records, but I imagine that is very rare in August. I wonder if in any way if that is indicative of what kind of winter we are setting up for.

    Also, I don’t know if you have seen the long range GFS, but around September 11th, they are showing what appears to be a major hurricane wiping out every city from DC to Boston. Probably will never happen, but great eye candy for weather nuts.

    • Thanks for the heads up. was right on top of it, as is often the case. It wasn’t just in central Siberia, but even in Magadan Province in the far east Pacific coast.

      My guess is that the snowcover is too early to last. Images show trees still have leaves. But it does indicate a loopy pattern, and perhaps it is a warning shot across the bow, regarding winter.

      I recall tales of hard winters that began with a warning snow or freeze, but then were followed by a lulling, mild Indian Summer.

      Every year I worry about an east coast hurricane. The general public is oblivious as to the damage that occurred in 1938, or 1954, 1955, or 1960. And the situation looks ripe this year, with warm water off the USA east coast, and the Caribbean really torrid. But what can I do? Hold out my palm and say, “Halt?” I don’t think the weather is inclined to listen. But maybe if I buy a curly light bulb….

    • I am busy, but yes. I see it. Especially in the view to port.

      They are actually still south of where I thought they’d first see ice.

      Thanks for alerting me.

      • Look at the wild dance they are doing on the tracker. At first I thought they were looking for a path through and found it but now it appears they are circling and wondering how to proceed. Interesting.
        The Russian snows are interesting but as u pointed out the leaves are still on the trees and that sure messed us up 2 years ago. Out back is still a disaster of Charlie Brown like trees that are missing half their branches and stumps / no tree where I had a beautiful forested green space. I will be dead before it recovers 😦

  3. From the website it looks like they were just bear watching and it was a nice big fat one. They are off at a steady pace to the north and the way was ice free last I looked. As u said that ice looked to be to early from the satellites (although today is too cloudy to see anything) and so they may have a free run to Pond Inlet.

  4. Pingback: Week in review – science edition | Climate Etc.

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