ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Displaced Cold–

Yesterday’s (Thursday’s) morning maps showed a more traditional and textbook situation, with a roaring North Atlantic “Icelandic” low on one side of the Pole, and another roaring North Pacific “Aleutian” gale (displaced north) on the other. In terms of isobars, “Ralph” is a mere shadow of himself, north of the Canadian Archipelago.

dmi4-1027-mslp_latest-bigHowever I have grown partial to “Ralph” over the past three months, and intend to avoid scientific objectivity and instead display unabashed bias, and to seek to see Ralph even when the evidence is scanty. Therefore I turn to the temperature maps, and, lo and behold! The Icelandic Gale’s east side seems to be sucking a nice juicy plume of milder air up over the Pole, to swirl into the diminished Ralph. This curl of mildness, seen over the Pole on and off for nearly a year now,  can even be called Ralph’s “signature”.


It is interesting to note the Aleutian Low also sucked milder air up through Bering Strait to the Arctic Sea, but that low is more greedy, and sucked the mildness back into itself as a curl in East Siberia, (which is rather far north for the Aleutian Low to lodge), rather than sharing a plume with Ralph at the Pole.

In any case, this pattern is different from the more ho-hum patterns of other years. During other autumns, until the coastal waters of the Arctic Sea were frozen, they warmed the air, which tended to rise,  as meanwhile the tundra was covered with fresh snow and tended to generate cold air in the swiftly diminishing daylight, and that air  sank. The cold air over the tundra became a “land breeze” that moved out over the ocean, replacing the air that had risen, and also (because, unlike most south winds, it was frigid), speeding the coastal refreeze. The areas of rising air over the open coastal waters of the Arctic Sea also created environments friendly to low pressure systems, which  tended to roll east along the coasts, assisting the “land breeze” in front of them, and slowing or reversing it to their lee.  As the coastal waters froze these little lows found less support, and because the waters tended to freeze first to the east, you would first notice the lows weakened over the East Siberian Sea, and later they’d weaken over the Laptev Sea when that sea refroze, and then weaken over the Kara Sea when it too froze, until they usually didn’t progress far beyond Barents Sea, once winter had deepened and the coasts were frozen solid. But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.

This year’s pattern has been different. It has involved  north-rushing intrusions of mild air from both the Atlantic and Pacific, and with air rushing in at one point it must be escaping somewhere else, either aloft or in a way that messes up the frigid “land breezes”.

If the air over the Pole contains air from the Atlantic and Pacific, rather than air from tundras, it will of course be milder, and the result of this will be that Alarmists will be as pleased as punch, and jump up and down. (This has been verified by study after after study, and has entered the lexicon of meteorologists as a weather-related phenomenon known as JAS. [Jumping Alarmist Syndrome] If you notice JAS, it is milder at the Pole. )

In terms of whether the Pole is above-normal or below-normal, Pacific and Atlantic air will cause the Pole to look white hot (though the above map reminds us it is in fact below freezing.) An anomaly map is below, so you can see the white heat:


Besides JAS, there are other weather-related thingies to contemplate, and one involves thinking of the above map as an infrared picture of your house. In such infrared pictures white is not a good thing to see, because it means you have lousy insulation and the heat that should be staying in the house is escaping. In like manner, (OK, I admit it, it is only remotely alike),  the white in the above map hints at far above normal amounts of heat escaping our planet into outer space.

I’m not exactly sure what units are used to measure heat-lost-to-space. It doesn’t really matter. It could be “filberts” for all I care. The important thing is that it is a variable, and we are at an extreme. If an ordinary year saw 6.35 filberts escape, this year we would be pegging the dial at an unheard of 19.92 filberts, or some such thing. It is causing a lot of JAS, and shows up clearly in the DMI temperatures-above-80°-north-latitude-graph.


You can compare the above graph with prior DMI graphs clear back to 1958 and you will see no autumn remotely as warm. This means one of two things. First, it may mean they are “adjusting” the data in the incredibly foolish manner Gavin Schmidt is adjusting the USA temperature data. (Foolish because Gavin’s falsifying is so blatantly obvious that, eventually, someone will have to pay the piper.) Or, second, it may actually be the warmest autumn the Pole has seen in the past 58 years, and warmest by far.

Assuming the latter is the case it is likely this event will be a wrench in the workings of the models. I am assuming this, but I deem it likely that, among the multitude of variables such models are attempting to grasp, there are some they don’t bother with. From my reading I know there are some mighty huge variables they either ignore, or handle as if they are fixed figures which do not vary at all. I imagine that a small thing, such as the heat-lost-to-outer-space by the waters north of Bering Strait and north of Fram Strait, is either a fixed number, 6.35 filberts, or else is deemed to be so meaningless that it might as well be a fixed number.

I would like to suggest it is a major event that should be getting more press than Hillary, (and that I should get a scientific grant for saying so, for even though I am not a scientist, I do qualify as a publicist, which is really all Mark Serezze amounts to.  If he gets six figures, why shouldn’t I?)

I would like to suggest it likely indicates a major event is on the table, for two reasons.

First, you cannot squander so much heat without it showing up in the so-called “energy budget.” True, the “Quiet Sun” may have reduced trade winds, and other winds as well, which may reduce the amount of cold up-welling, which may allow more warm surface waters to influence surface air temperatures, but a budget is still a budget, and even if you double your income you can’t ignore it, if your in-laws are tripling your expenses. Even if things average-out over the entire planet, in the local area of the Pole squandering such unprecedented amounts of heat to outer space is bound to eventually result in a local chill. Or so I think, and wonder about.

Second, though the heat may be lost to outer space, the air isn’t, and with so much mild air sucked north there must be a return flow of air, that was resident over the Pole, southwards. Even if the air was “above normal” north of 80°N, it will not be called “above normal” once it gets south of 70°N. And here is where the anomaly maps get interesting, for to the south they show no white heat.

The area of the entire Arctic Sea is only slightly larger than the land area of Europe, and the cold over Europe nearly equals the mildness over the Pole.


However this cold only represents the tip of the iceberg that lies in Asia. Asia is huge, much larger than the Arctic Sea and Europe combined, and the cold that has concentrated is like nothing I recall ever seeing before in October, and is worthy of the abused word “unprecedented”.


(It should be noted that the cold seen in the above map is not a brief “cold spell”,  but rather represents a lasting pattern the people of Central Asia are likely sick to death of.)

If this pattern holds, Europe is in for a winter so cold that, next spring, the population of Syria will likely have quadrupled. Not only will all the the Syrians have decided Europe is a bad deal, and have gone home, but a lot of Swedes,Danes and Finns will have decided Syria sounds cozy. It will be interesting to see what a complete mess the UN will make of the new situation….if it occurs….which it likely won’t.

It likely won’t, because we are likely seeing a meteorological extreme (even if everyone seems determined to ignore it) and such extremes provoke backlashes. Every action has a reaction, and so on and so forth.

What exactly the reaction will be I can’t say. I find it hard to trust models at all, in such unusual situations, because they trend towards averages, and nothing about the current situation is average. However one interesting solution they are seeing is that faithful old “Ralph” will get utterly wiped off the map, at least in the short term, as a gargantuan high pressure abruptly builds over the Pole.

That may just be the models trying to make things get back to average. However, even if it happened, the return-to-average would be very abrupt. And, if I have learned anything in my days of watching clouds, it is that abruptness does not lead to tranquility.

Stay tuned.

Post Script

One interesting side-observation involves the swift refreeze of the Laptev Sea, over the past week to ten days. What is unusual and interesting is that the refreeze is not due to the cold air of the tundra pushing north as a “land breeze”, but rather  due to the cold air over the Pole needing an escape route, with so much Pacific air rushing north on one side, and Atlantic air rushing north on the other. Usually the Laptev Sea is a northward exporter of ice and cold, but this autumn it is the importer of winds from the Pole, which in turn  has fed the cold in central Asia.


Besides being a wonder to me, I should also be humble and confess this is shattering some of my pet theories about “how things are suppose to happen.” I’ll have to revise that to “how things happen some years”, for this year is definitely different.

With the frigid tundra’s “land breezes” replaced by incursions of Atlantic and Pacific air, I’d expect the growth of sea-ice to be retarded, but I never expected the Laptev Sea to be the first sea skimmed by ice. It is a sign things are not as usual. Usually the first coastal sea to get ice is the East Siberian Sea. However that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.






4 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Displaced Cold–

  1. Thanks Caleb, you are doing a great job. Sort of looks like Corbyn/Wilde ‘wild jetstream’ stuff from a quieter sun. We’ll see. I await Humlum’s next Argo chart of the Barents inflow temps soon. With trepidation, because it is snowing over parts of NZ in the SH late Spring and cold overall. Clear sunny sky, bitter south wind. Who needs it?

    • It’s better to have summer around the corner than winter. I envy the Southern Hemisphere in November.

      I’m interested in watching the SST, as a lot of cold air has been pouring off Siberia into the north Pacific even as Pacific air surges up through Bering Strait. The “Warm Blob” may fade away if this keeps up. (So far the Atlantic hasn’t been chilled much, except over towards Europe. Later on, if the east winds continue over Europe, we’ll watch to see if Barents Sea chills.)

    • I think you are quite right. The thing of it is that the business of the “Quiet Sun” gives me the sense we should not be trusting the past, when it comes to recognizing patterns. Or not the past 200 years. Instead we should be looking for what we don’t recognize, a new pattern.

      It is possible to see “Ralph” as merely a “negative AO” and dismiss poor old Ralph as history repeating itself. But every time I try history fails. For example, I thought the “Warm Blob” was matching up with a spike in the PDO seen back in the 1950’s, and confidently awaited its demise, and waited, and waited. After so long confidence dwindles. Either that or you are like the forecaster who says, “rain tomorrow”, through a thirty day drought, and then claims he is right when it finally rains on the 31st day.

      In any case, I decided I might as well have a sense of humor about being wrong all the time, which is why I dubbed the mild swirls at the Pole “Ralph”. However in another way I am dead serious. Or, well, I’m not exactly walking around frowning, but I do think that when the sun behaves in a manner we haven’t seen in recent times we should expect the weather to act in a manner we haven’t seen in recent times.

      I think it’s rough on even the best old-school forecasters. How does one forecast the unforeseen?

      Seat of the pants. Focus on current ingredients, not past maps.

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