There have been some interesting developments up at the Pole, where the low pressure I dubbed “Ralph” has reappeared in a new guise. When I last posted Ralph had slumped down into the Canadian archipelago, as high pressure dominated the Pole.
I was even thinking of renaming Ralph “Archie”, ( short for “archipelago”), because he seemed different; completely cut off from the Atlantic moisture that had fed him for so long. However Ralph would not be denied. If he couldn’t be fed up the east side of Greenland, then he’d develop a sneaky flow up the west side, through Nares Strait and the islands of the Archipelago.
At first the “warm sector” of the new Archie-Ralph was hidden down in the islands of the archipelago, and further south towards Hudson Bay. Anyway, nearly all eyes were more focused on the other side of Archie-Ralph, which was starting to transport bitter cold Siberian air across Bering Strait, and develop a mean-looking pool of cold over Alaska, that glowered south towards at Canada and the USA (and eventually made such threatening faces that it even made the Drudge Report, without the cold actually doing anything.) Only truly dedicated sea-ice fanatics payed attention to the warm side of Archie-Ralph.
By November 29 the first sign of Ralph’s “signature” began to appear north of the Archipelago out on the Arctic Sea, in the temperature maps, as Archie-Ralph gnawed away at the high pressure over the Pole.
By November 30 an obvious point of milder temperatures appears in the temperature map north of the Archipelago
Today the high pressure seems to be giving up. Perhaps it is time to reassess the forecasts of a building negative Arctic Oscillation.
While the AO remains negative, it did not achieve the depths some thought it would plunge to, and I think Ralph is largely to blame. One way or another he keeps transporting mild air to the Pole, where it rises and creates low pressure at the surface. I’m not certain how much of the mild air aloft is directly attributable to Ralph and Archie-Ralph, for I’m a down-to-earth fellow, and like to stay clear of 500 mb maps, and 10 mb maps are way over my head.
To be quite honest, even the AO mystifies me, for as best as I can tell it is the average pressure north of 65° north latitude minus your postal code times the amount the home team lost by on Sunday, (though I may have gotten a few of the details wrong.) To me it blends all the interesting details away by averaging. For example, a negative AO suggests high pressure rules the Pole, but the map shows Archie-Ralph sitting there.
Furthermore, Archie-Ralph has a most definate Ralph-signature now, in the temperature maps.
Once Ralph starts slurping, the whirlpool seems to start to draw in air from other sources. Looking at the above map I wonder if a little Atlantic air might be getting sucked in north of Greenland, so I jump ahead 24 hours, to see what the model sees in its crystal ball.
At this point it looks a little like the Atlantic might be trying to join in with Hudson Bay, as a feed for Archie-Ralph, but the headlines will all be about the south side of Archie-Ralph, towards Bering Strait. Although it looks “warm” there that is because the water is open (though rapidly freezing) or the ice is thin (though rapidly thickening) and therefore is able to warm a thin level of air right at the surface, despite it being bitter cold as it streams off Siberia. As soon as it reaches Alaska the thin layer gets mixed and the true nature of the air mass again shows its face. I wonder if all this cold air will cut Archie-Ralph off from mild sources, to I jump ahead 24 more hours:
Mild air has definitely pushed over the Pole, even as the Pacific side shudders. Check 24 hours further:
Now we are definitely seeing Ralph’s signature. 24 hours further?
And there we have it, another finger of Atlantic moisture and “mildness” (well below freezing, of course,) again swirling on top of our planet. At this point we are out at the edge of model reliability, but the map looks like this:
Likely the news will be the cold air pouring south through Canada, or that big gale over Norway, but if you are a sea-ice fanatic like me you’ll notice Ralph again sits on the Pole. Likely there will be another spike in the DMI temperature graph, which currently has paused its plunge:
It will be interesting to watch the next spike, as I think it is indicative of how much heat our planet is squandering, even before the first day of winter. Among my fellow sea-ice watchers there will likely be some dismay, as the ice will be slower to thicken to the north, and slower to skim over in some places to the south, but it should be remembered that winter hasn’t even started, and also that mildness to the north usually means cold is displaced south. Usually we don’t get the rare pictures of the sun-baked deserts of Saudi Arabia being dusted by snow until late December or January, but here are some pictures from last week, (when it was still November:)
(I have to run to work and then a meeting, but hope to further update this post this evening.)
A quick glance at the NRL maps shows that the ice continues to grow at the Pole, despite all the fuss about warmer temperatures up there. “Warmer” is a relative term, and, as the above maps show, “warmer” can involve temperatures that are below zero Fahrenheit, (-17° C), which can grow sea-ice in a hurry, and even faster than colder temperatures, if wind is involved.
With the cold air making Drudge Report headlines, blasting its way from Siberia to Alaska, we can expect to see Bering Strait freeze over swiftly. Further south, other cold, Siberian air spilling out over the Pacific has started growing ice in the Sea of Okhotsk. The falling temperatures over the Arctic continues to grow ice in the eastern Kara Sea. But what interests me most is not growing ice, but the lack of ice, in Hudson Bay. This shows the path of the feed of milder air north, in that area, which refueled “Ralph”.
Although the sea-ice ended the summer thicker than normal up at the Pole, “Ralph’s” appetite for streams of milder air has slowed the thickening of ice to a point where the sea-ice up there is much thinner than normal.
However thinner ice, and even ice-free waters, are not warmed by sunshine, for the sun doesn’t even rise above the 70° N latitude circle in the above map. (The second circle out from the Pole.) The DMI temperature graph (see above) only includes temperatures within the 80° N latitude circle, (the smallest circle), and by referring to above maps you’ll see the coldest temperatures along both the Alaskan and Siberian coasts are completely missed by that DMI graph.
Considering all areas north of 70° N experience noontime starlight, and will continue to do so until February, the issue of “albedo” doesn’t apply. In fact Saudi Arabia will reflect more sunshine, (with the albedo of snow covered sands), in the six hours it takes for the snow to melt, than the Pole will reflect in the next 60 days.
What thinner ice (and ice free waters, until they skim over), will allow is for the waters of the Arctic Sea to lose more heat than they would, if they were sheltered by a thicker igloo of sea-ice. Consequently, because the water has lost more heat, the water should become colder. Then, because ice largely melts from beneath, it may not matter that the ice is thinner above, if the melting is slower below, next summer. But that is a long way ahead, and we still don’t even know how much thicker the ice will get once winter actually begins. We may be witnessing the water being chilled in the fall, before the ice gets thicker in the winter.