The persistence of low pressure, which I have dubbed “Ralph”, up at the Pole is starting to amaze me. I am wondering if I am the only one noticing it, as no one else seems to be fussing about it much. Or perhaps it is a pattern that meteorologists who have more experience than I have seen before. I can only observe what I observe, which is that I have seen lows roll up to the Pole before, but they seemed more like exceptions to the rule, whereas Ralph behaves like he owns the place.
I have been thinking we might see a change in the pattern as the midnight sun sinks to the horizon and gives way to noontime darkness, and for a time it did seem Ralph was fading away. After two remarkable gales in August, the low pressure faded and sulked down in the Canadian Archipelago, and it seemed Siberian monster high pressure might start to dominate, bulging north as low pressure resumed its usual stance in the North Atlantic, with weak pieces moving east along the Siberian coast like dimples in the Siberian High Pressure. To my surprise the Siberian high pressure didn’t bulge north very far, and a weaker version of Ralph drifted about in Beaufort Sea. When we last left off, Ralph was being reinforced by R21 up through Hudson Bay, and R22, an Icelandic low escaping up the east coast of Greenland, sucking a sort of feeder-band of milder Atlantic air north over Svalbard. Even through Ralph was very weak, north of the Canadian Archipelago, he still owned the Pole more than Siberian high pressure did.
Although R21 developed lower pressure north of Baffin Bay, R22 brought above-freezing temperatures nearly to the Pole, and seemed to be the predominate feeder of Ralph, who one again reincarnated right on top of the North Pole.
As the reinvigorated Ralph drifted away from the Pole towards Beaufort Sea he grew surprisingly strong. In essence his winds were twisting the sea-ice in a manner exactly the opposite of the way the Beaufort Gyre is suppose to turn. It looked like high pressure north of Scandinavia might build behind Ralph, but then yet more Atlantic juice came up the east coast of Greenland as R23, yet another wrong-way-flow up through Fram Strait. (It is still early, but usually north Atlantic Gales combined with high pressure on Greenland’s icecap create strong north winds and flush sea-ice south through Fran Strait in the autumn.)
(Missing AM map)
(Missing PM Map) At this point there is a cross-polar flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Above-freezing temperatures again have nearly reached the Pole.
(Missing PM Map) The next temperature map is of interest, for it shows a curl of milder temperatures right at the Pole. This sort of curl or whirl is very much associated with Ralph. Call it a Ralphism, if you will. To me it seems a sort of bathtub-drain is wide open at the Pole, and the planet’s heat is being sucked up into a cold black hole in space. Poetic, but not very scientific. Mostly an impression, as I keep observing it, over and over again.
As R23 headed over the Pole to fuel yet another reincarnation of Ralph, the usual suspects observed what supported their bias, and utterly ignored other evidence. For example, feeder-band flow of R22 and R23 created two warm spikes in polar temperatures, so of course that got noted. Also the wrong-way-flow meant that, rather than sea-ice crunching up against the north coasts of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago, where it can form pressure ridges 15-20 feet thick, all that heaped-up ice was pushed away from shore and polynyas of open water appeared right along those coasts, so of course open water where ice is usually 15-20 feet thick was noted. But there was dead silence about the situation over in Barrow.
In Barrow the wrong-way-flow meant the usual east winds turned to west winds, which should be Pacific winds and mild, and should not bring sea-ice, because the maps the usual suspects like to use showed those waters to the north and west of Barrow were “ice-free.” The maps the usual suspects don’t like to look at did show there was ice in those waters, and sure enough the sea-ice came grinding up to the beaches and sand bars of Barrow. Nor was it new “baby-ice,” but rather the big bergs of multi-year-ice.
It should be noted that the above picture also shows Barrow’s first snowfall melting away, for R24 is starting to develop as the next reinforcement of Ralph, coming from the Pacific this time, somewhat moderated by some of it passing over Alaskan mountains. Ralph needs to turn to the Pacific for fuel, for he has moved so far away from the Atlantic that the Atlantic feed is gradually getting pinched off.
Somewhat amazingly, some computer models are showing that R24 will bring enough juice to allow Ralph to again be a sub 975 mb gale crossing over the pole. We’ll see about that. I should also say that the same models see Ralph fading down into Siberia, and in Ralph’s wake, around September 30, there may actually be high pressure at the Pole. (!) We’ll see about that, as well.
For the time being, Ralph is back in the news, and looks like he will be the headline for another week. He seems to be a sign our planet is in a hurry to get rid of heat. You can see R22 and R23 surging past the Pole in the temperature graph.
It might seem that the planet’s hurry to get rid of heat suggests it is in a hurry to be rid of Global Warming’s effects. It has occurred to me that is not what the planet would try to do. What the planet would try to do is even things out. If the planet was milder, it would be less inclined to even out that mildness by getting rid of heat. But if the planet was colder (perhaps due to the “Quiet Sun”), then there would be a greater urgency to get rid of leftover heat from past conditions, (perhaps a “Noisy Sun”.) What this would mean is that, once the planet gets rid of the heat, Ralph will lose his reason for being, and fade from the scene.
Just an idea.
In terms of the “Death Spiral” this past summer has been, at best, a “Death Flat Line”, for it hasn’t fed upon itself and resulted in ever-decreasing ice. Despite all the events that should have reduced the ice, (El Nino, Polar Gales, etc.), it is about what it was last year.
In any case, this is the last day of summer. Tomorrow the sun sets at the Pole. There is no way for open water to gain heat once the sun sets. It can only lose its heat, both through evaporation and through radiation, and also through having snow fall into the water, as long as the snow melts. (Sometimes snow just sits on the water, because the flakes are fresh water and the salt water can be chilled below the freezing point of fresh water. Obvious this creates treacherous conditions for unwary explorers.)
For six months now, the only way the Pole can get heat will be feeder bands of warm, moist air, which would be just the thing to keep Ralph spinning. So that is what I’ll sit back and watch for.
Rarely will these feeder bands be above freezing, so the best those-who-hope-the-ice-will-melt can hope for is that the feeder-bands will keep the ice from getting as thick as it otherwise would. The problem is that a continuation of Ralph would continue to smash and crash the ice, which builds more and thicker pressure ridges, and also rips open leads, which allows open water to freeze where it otherwise would be sheltered by a roof of ice.
Besides the thawing of snow in Barrow, the Pacific “feeder-bands” of R23 can also be seen as an after dark blip of thaw (fairly rare) in O-buoy 14’s thermometer-graph.
The mass of sea-ice O-buoy 14 is with continues to be pushed east through Parry Channel. We even could see some distant mountains to the northeast around September 17-19.
Since then the camera has swung around to look to the southwest, tilting and risking destruction in the process. We are lucky this sturdy buoy still survives. We apparently have lost the anemometer, but I give credit to the builder all the same.