ARCTIC SEA ICE –Forecasting the Unforeseeable–

One thing I feel the over-focus on the trace gas CO2 does is to make people blind to the blatantly obvious. The computer geeks are so busy trying to tweak the models to correctly hindcast the effect of CO2, that they neglect the glaring light of the sun.

I’ve listened to all sorts of arguments over the past ten years about how the sun’s heat doesn’t vary enough to have any influence, but such arguments always seem a bit lame when, at the exact same time, the same people are attempting to measure the infinitesimal effects of trace gasses measured in parts per million or parts per billion.

It is nearly ten years since I first heard the comment, “It’s the sun, stupid”; but I think it still applies. Not only may the sun’s variations effect the temperature via cosmic-ray-created cloud-particles, there is even some evidence it effects the movement of the earth’s plates, and influences volcanoes. (Don’t ask me how.) And the volcanoes in turn may influence the temperatures. (Don’t ask for data.)

Perhaps the most glaring fact about the current “Quiet Sun” is that we haven’t really seen it before, using our modern instruments. It resembles (so far) the Dalton Minimum, which was between 1790 and 1830, at which time our satellites were horse powered. Also there was no weather bureau, so statistics were horse drawn as well. Fortunately one kind of horse they had back then was called a “proxie”,  and due to the fact these proxies had a habit (sadly lacking in modern horses) of scrawling notes, (leading to the expression “horse drawn”), we are able to derive some idea of what the weather was (providing you can read Horse Spelling.) (Sometimes abbreviated as HS).

The problems with the proxies from the Dalton Minimum is that they fail to draw out the individual, day-to-day surface maps of the North Pole.  We have absolutely no idea how the weather patterns may have changed. Therefore there is no way to refer back to old maps, to see what happened the last time the sun went quiet.

It is said that, “There is nothing new under the sun, except the history you haven’t studied yet.” We me be facing a case, created by the Quiet Sun, where we cannot study the history, because most of our older weather stations only have surface records going back to 1870, and our upper atmosphere records don’t reach back nearly as far. We quite literally have no real record of the Dalton Minimum, let alone the much more intense Maunder Minimum, which occurred between 1645 and 1715.

What can a man do, when he lacks history?  Seemingly he would have to fall back on his understanding of how weather works, how troughs dig and how ridges pump, the mechanics of weather. And, in this respect, models should have a theoretical advantage, if, (and only if), they are based on sound physics, and sound mechanics. In theory they need no history at all, because they so understand the dynamics that you only need give them the ingredients of today, and they can run with it.

Alas, Horatio, there is more contained in these models than conceived by your philosophy. And model’s chief culprit is “hindcasting.” Rather than forward-looking, hindcasting is examining its posterior. To be honest, it is a gross misuse of history, for the primary intent seems to be to cover up past failures, rather than to guarantee future success. Hindcasting seems more along the lines of excusing undone homework, than along the lines of actually doing the homework.

In any case, I have already put forward the hypothesis that the (recent) past is useless, because we are seeing what we have not seen in the past 200 years. To look backwards is more or less futile. Hindcasting is mostly useless code, complicating a program that is already stressing the limits of human intelligence with its complexity.

At this point it might be interesting to contemplate what an old-school forecaster who worked before the days of computers would do, in such a situation. Or imagine a young forecaster waking one morning to discover a computer virus had mangled all the computer models, and all he had were the current maps.

Seemingly he would have to fall back on his understanding of how weather works, how troughs dig and how ridges pump, the mechanics of weather. Though slower than a computer in some respects, he’d attempt to see things based on sound physics, and sound mechanics. In theory he’d need no history at all, because he’d so understand the dynamics that you’d only need give him the ingredients of today, and he could run with it.

I do not put it past certain meteorologists to display such skill, for I have seen others make immediate, short-term decisions that seem more on the level of reflex than science, that prove to be amazingly accurate.

For example, take the example of an outfielder in the World Series responding as the bat hits the ball 300 feet away. He is moving even before the sound of the bat hitting the ball reaches him. He is making a forecast of where that ball is going, even though he has nearly no experience of October air temperatures, October humidity, and October winds. (Hindcasts based on July conditions are useless). Displaying amazing athleticism, using every fiber of muscle he has,  he extends himself to make an amazing catch. It is also an amazing forecast of where the ball would come down.

I believe the same capacity exists in meteorologists. Call it “reflex” or call it “intuition”, we mere mortals are capable of amazing deeds. Of course, just as athletes train like hell, so too must meteorologists train like hell.

In the case of an athlete, training is merely catching a ball over and over and over, under a variety of conditions, and a lot of the learning is seemingly instinctive, but also due to repetition. The Hall-Of-Famer, Carl Yastremski, said he could tell by the sound a ball made, as it hit the tin sheathing of the “Green Monster” in left field in Fenway Park, whether it was hitting in the center of a tin plate or on the girder the tin plate was riveted to, and this made a huge difference in how the ball bounced off the wall. If it hit in the center of a tin plate it hardly bounced at all, and dropped down nearly vertically, but if it hit a girder it sprang away from the wall nearly horizontally. Simply from the sound, Yastremski adjusted, and fielded the ball so cleanly that he often was able to throw the batter out at second base. Batters feared his skill, and many batters would crush a ball that would be a home-run in any other park, and settle for a single. However visiting outfielders, playing the same outfield, had no idea where the ball was going to go when it hit the “Green Monster”, and ran about after the erratic rebounds like chickens.

So how might a meteorologist train, doing the same thing over and over to gain Yastremski wisdom, in such a manner?

To me it seems to involve a hindcasting that is different from what the computer modelers are doing.  The old-school forecasters were not modern modelers who are trying to make a model work. They were simply seeing what happened. They were simply like an outfielder watching the ball, and noting how it moves.

This does involve some things the modelers see, digging troughs and pumping ridges, and how a digging here teleconnects to digging there,  but where modelers attempt to quantify such things, as this “variable” or that “variable”, I think old-school forecasters didn’t quantify so much and accepted more. Not that they got all Zen, and painted little red spots on the center of their foreheads,  and sat cross-legged and chanted “Aummmm”, but they did work more on a level of “that-which-Is”, rather than “that-which-can-be-measured-and-quantified”.

(There is a lot of talk these days about robots replacing humans, but this only can happen when the “variables” are limited. I’ve worked on an assembly line, and remember the variables were few, and even before robots were invented I felt like one. However Fenway Park in October involves a greater number of variables, and at this point an athlete who never did well in math can still beat a robot built by genius mathematicians. And meteorology? It involves even more variables than baseball.)

In any case, it looks to me like we are being thrown, like it or not, into situations where using past maps will not be enough. Just as ball-players in the World Series play under October conditions baseball is almost never played in, forecasters are being asked to forecast under conditions they are never asked to forecast under. In many ways, the Quiet Sun will separate the mice from the men.

The best evidence things are different is the DMI temperature map for areas north of 80°N.  There has never been anything like this autumn. The mildest falls I can find are 1972, 1985 and 2007



But not even 2007 can match this year:dmi4-1031-meant_2016

To me this is indicative of an unforeseen situation. How could we foresee it? In the past 200 years, it is utterly new. If you imagine the past 200 years as June, July, August, and the first 2/3 of September, this is like the last week of September, when suddenly nights are longer than days, and lawns suddenly are frosted. It is not what we expected, based on a very short history.

This new pattern involves copious amounts of Pacific and Atlantic air being sucked up to the Pole, creating what I have called “Ralph” up there. At this point it does not melt any sea-ice, though it may slow the growth of sea-ice. Rather it represents a colossal loss of planetary heat to outer space.  In terms of the “heat budget”, our orb is spending like a drunken sailor. In terms of whether temperatures are above-normal or below-normal, the subfreezing temperatures at the Pole are so above normal they look like white heat.


Nor does this seem a short-term event.  Not that I trust models, but they see no building cold at the Pole; just more imports of Atlantic and Pacific air. Here is the GFS view of the white heat at the Pole ten days from now:


Of course you cannot import such copious amounts of heat north without the action breeding a reaction, and this has been seen in record-setting cold pushed south into Asia:


The sea-ice crowd tends to ignore lower latitude cold, but it should be noted that the area of Asia is many times larger than the Arctic Sea. It also should be noted this cold wave has been going on for a month. Poor suffering Mongolia looks like it will at last get some relief, as the mildness in Iran is pushed northeast, but the cold over Mongolia doesn’t just vanish. Some gets shoved into waters north of Japan (cooling Pacific SST, including the “Warm Blob”) but a lot retrogresses west towards Europe, or even Iran, which is mild in the above map but chilled in the map below, for 3 days from now, where Mongolia gets a break.


It also should be noted that the mildness moving into Mongolia in the above map is about to crash into a new mass of significantly colder air in East Siberia.

All the mildness from the Atlantic and Pacific rushing to the Pole may make the Pole milder, but it is a subtraction from the Atlantic and Pacific. They can not give all this heat north, to be lost to outer space at the Pole, without their wallets becoming thinner. What’s more, a sort of backwash from the Pole spilling off the east of Asia, and to a lesser extent off the east of the USA, will cool the waters further.

I’m not making predictions. I’m just watching the event as it occurs. But I was especially interested in my own neighborhood, because even though most of the export of arctic air is into Asia, little blurbs of cold are starting to swing down and just nip the most northeastern part of the USA. These blurbs are not big news, as most of the eastern USA seems to be part of a huge southwest flow that pours all the way up the east coast of Greenland to the Pole itself.  The news is how warm the eastern USA is. I ignore that because we get some sharp frosts from the little cold blurbs.

In any case I’m interested in both the general warm flow fueling “Ralph” up north of Greenland, and also the cold blurbs poking into this warm flow, and freezing my tomatoes. While I was studying the two, contrary events I saw something that made me take a step back.

Below is a imaginary map dreamed up by the GFS model for six days from now, of the North Atlantic. You can see the enormous Asian chill has spilled east all the way to the east Atlantic, as on of the little blurbs I was talking about is leaking off the east coast of the USA into the west Atlantic. Between them an enormous flow of nice warm air is headed north to fuel “Ralph” at the Pole. But what really made me step back was the top of Greenland.


The top of Greenland is 20 degrees above normal, in the above forecast. This does not indicate, to me, any shrinking of Greenland’s icecap may occur, because to be 20 degrees above normal at 10,000 feet in November is still well below freezing. In fact the mildness may suggest heavy snow and an increased icecap. However what struck me was how much heat must be being lost to outer space.

If you wanted to cool a soda, would it not be smart to put it atop an icecap at 10,000 feet? In like manner, if our planet wanted to lose heat in a hurry, why not put it at 10,000 feet on an icecap?

In conclusion, I see a lot of heat being lost in a hurry. At the Pole, and atop Greenland. I cannot imagine the result will be a warmer winter.







13 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –Forecasting the Unforeseeable–

  1. It reminds me of my old mother who would suddenly say ” I think it is getting a bit warm in here dear, so it is time to open a window”! It would appear Gaia has opened a window at the pole to cool the planet down. Now I wonder what the switch for that is?

  2. Commenting mostly on the programs and proxies. You used the letters of HS for “horse speaking,” and of course we know there is another two word combination of “horse” that also fits those two letters. And the problem, as I see it, with proxies is, really, are they more than HS?

    We have a “scientific measurement ” history of a few hundred years, really, and an “anecdotal history” of a few thousand. What I find wrong with “proxies” is that they are “things” that are “calibrated” by our scientific measurement window and found to be a fair “approximation” when checked against our anecdotal history window. As such, they are then applied to the history of the planet as if they can effectively measure historical “reality.” I dropped my belief in the infallibility of “proxies” when I discovered an article sighting a “proxy” that allowed them to determine what the historical record of temperature was at 700 meters below the surface of the ocean.

    With a true “window” of only a few hundred years of data, there is no way of knowing, for example, what influence on a proxy – usually an isotope count – the known magnetic reversals might have had on it. Nor is there any way of determining if the area of galactic space, and anomalies in it, through which the solar system has been traveling might have had for an impact. Or, perhaps, what a supernova “somewhere” might have had as we passed through the expansion of its outer sheath. In other words, we are saying that because we know what happened in the past 300 years, so to speak, it can be applied to all history, all the way back to the beginning of time. Not.

    We are living in a different window of weather. We can’t be sure that we can predict what weather is likely to be a year from now, 6 months from now, or even a month from now with great certainty. Our capacity to predict climate is even worse because we really do NOT know what past climate was beyond a few hundred years, and that is not a long enough period of time to hope to actually know what lies in the future. Sadly, too much of science is now based on “guesses,” such as proxies, with those same questionable proxies being treated as “hard data,” and in the case of the programs, harder data than the actual data we have collected.

    • Thanks. A good discussion of the problem.

      The best “anecdotal history” we have involves ancient Egypt, and some surrounding nations that had the good sense to write on clay that lasts. They actually have a year-by-year time-line that seems fairly accurate.

      One of my favorite stories involves the fact that at some point someone decided to radiocarbon-date some of the old papyrus documents, and the dates didn’t match up. You can imagine the consternation! As I recall they had to adjust the radio-carbon dates, due to some surge caused (they think) by a solar flare or volcanic eruption, (I can’t remember exactly what it was.) But rewriting the radiocarbon dating scheme messed up some of my favorite history theories. (As I recall, Stonehenge got kicked back in time, and went from being a sort of after-effect of Egypt’s Old Kingdom to being a precursor.)

      Proxies can’t be trusted when they get too exact and specific, but they can be trusted in a more general way, especially concerning how much warmer the Medieval Warm Period Was. Trying to erase the MWP was a really obvious political ploy, and a truly huge and embarrassing scientific blunder.

    • Good link. Thanks.

      I think a main “feeder band” for Ralph has been up the east coast of Greenland, leading to a lot of extra snow dumping to the southeast of Greenland. There’s no guarantee the pattern will stay stuck, but the “mass balance” of snow and ice on Greenland is off to an exceptional start. However what will matter to us mere mortals is the displaced cold, which will likely clobber both Europe and Eastern North America, if the pattern remains remotely like it is now.

  3. Caleb for interest sake look at Obuoy 14 and the temp recently …. often down at -25. Then look at the DMI graph and where -25 would fall for this day of the year. I see maybe a couple of degrees below average. I wonder if DMI is showing warmth that is “never before seen” because it is fudged as never before? Something smells rotten in all this IMHO.
    Great posts recently.

    • If you look at the DMI temperature map it shows -15 at the area where the O-buoy thermometer has dipped to -25. I’ve noticed this discrepancy several times. It does look suspicious, but is likely due to how the satellite reads the surface temperatures, as opposed to our old buddy the Buoy.

      It is a pity so many O-buoys and Mass-Balance-Buoys got trashed last summer, for they always acted as a reporter-on-the-scene and gave us data that often countered the view from outer space.

      Not that they might not be fudging the data as never before. However if they are, they will only succeed in shooting themselves in the foot that is in their mouth. Scientific subterfuge always backfires in the end.

    • Thanks for that link. A lot of information at that site.

      I never liked April baseball this far north, because unless you hit the ball on the “sweet” part of the bat your hands would sting like crazy. Baseball is suppose to be a warm weather sport. I think they got too greedy, having so many play-off games, and having the World Series extend later and later.

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