ARCTIC SEA ICE –Zephyr Ralph–(updated)

It seemed a doomed dawn, cold and without wind
Or birdsong, as I stood by a chilled pond
In the dregs of autumn. Had summer sinned
To earn this fate? Some dark wizard’s wand
Had struck the branches bare. The pond’s teeming
Life was gone, and the dark waters lay still.

Then the first beams awoke the dreaming
And came slanting amber from a distant hill
And lit merry mists playing on water.
Without a wind the tiny zephyrs swirled
And darted, lit veils of life beyond slaughter,
Motion without reason, beyond this world.

Even when cold and calm seem they’re complete
Life’s zephyrs laugh of what defies defeat.

To be more prosaic, I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to watch mists play across the surface of water when the air is absolutely still and the water is absolutely still, but it is fascinating to witness how active the mists are. They form small jets and whorls that have surprising speed.

The only conclusion I have derived from such study is that bosses are not very understanding when you explain why you were late to work.  Don’t they understand there are more important things in life than producing widgets?

Because I have taken the time to practically hypnotize myself watching such shifting mists, (never quite teetering face-first into the water), I see a similarity between that microcosm of a pond and the macrocosm of the seas and atmosphere. In the macrocosm there are two large areas, above and below, which, if not calm, are in a fairly steady state. Between the two is a remarkably thin area of shimmering activity. It is so thin we likely would pay it no mind, were it not the area where we happen to live and where our weather is.

The bulk of the ocean doesn’t change very much, and has an awesome inertia. One doesn’t need to go very deep before one reaches waters that don’t change whether it is hot or cold at the surface, or whether it is blazing sunshine or pouring rain. This can foster the impression that the ocean is indifferent and has no effect, but the sea’s surface can change radically and has a huge effect on the planet’s weather.

It really hasn’t been all that long since few but fishermen cared about the radically shifting SST (Sea Surface Temperatures) of the ocean.  Back in the 1800’s a bureaucrat of the English Empire noted monsoons in India seemed related to temperatures and pressures in the Pacific, but he was likely deemed an eccentric crackpot and stuffily ignored. A few Navy meteorologists were starting to tune in during World War Two, and brought their ideas home from the Pacific after the war. But during my boyhood the average person had never heard of an El Nino. It is only recently that you can talk with a taxi driver about the topic.

Besides the El Nino  and La Nina, (which many now discuss with all the authority of professors), we are starting to have things such as “The Warm Blob” enter our vocabulary. With so much political falderal about Global Warming flying about, people worry their taxes might go up if SST rise, and pay closer attention to distant seas, and are increasingly aware how swiftly things change, and of how fickle the skin of the sea can be. Not long ago humanity would have been oblivious to the rapid cooling of the North Pacific we witnessed this fall, but now it is discussed in laundromats.

The actual temperature of the sea’s surface varies a lot from summer to winter, but what grabs people’s attentions is whether the warm-surface-water-of-summer is warmer or colder than normal, and whether the cold-surface-water-of-winter is warmer or colder than normal. Therefore we wind up with the “anomaly maps” which shows above-normal as cherry red (even if it is cold water) and which shows below-normal as blue (even if it is tropical water you’d love to swim in.) The maps below show how the North Pacific was above normal in September (left) but is below normal now (right).


Whether the seawater is above-normal or below-normal does effect the atmosphere, but the atmosphere effects the temperatures of the sea. It is a chicken-or-the-egg type thing. One can get into arguments about which came first, (which are largely a waste of time). What really matters is what both are showing, together, hand-in-hand, which is called the “Pattern”.

Personally I think the colder North Pacific was created by the warm air pushing north to the Pole to create the swirl of low pressure I call “Ralph”. Ralph nudged the cooler air that wanted to sit about and be lazy on the Pole aside, and the cooler air was bumped down to Siberia, where it created early and expansive snow-cover, which efficiently bounced away sunshine and radiated away heat at night, creating a monstrous area of cold air that both expanded west towards Europe and spilled to the east to chill the Pacific. That is my best guess of the cause-and-effect of the “Pattern”. I like to see things in terms of cause-and-effect, in a Rube Goldberg sort of mechanical way, but it remains a mystery to me what got the “Pattern” going in the first place.

Over at the Weatherbell site Joe Bastardi is big on “Pattern Recognition”, and Joseph D’Aleo has devised an ingenious “Pioneer Model” which recognizes various ingredients to a “Pattern”, (over 20), and then predicts what “Pattern” we are likely to see generated by the conglomeration of inputs. I am impressed how well it often does. It seems to do better in the long term than the dynamic models such as the GFS. I am also humbled, because it makes me realize how few inputs (less than 20) (and sometimes only 1) I use. The cold water in the north of the Pacific is but one of the inputs the Pioneer Model uses.

Once one is able to recognize the “Pattern” one can leap ahead, and leave the dynamic models in the dust, in terms of seeing the future, because dynamic models are still working with the nuts and bolts of cause-and-effect, belaboring every step and, because there are so many variables involved, often seeing Chaos flap a butterfly’s wing in such a way that they get everything wrong. Meanwhile, because one has recognized the “Pattern”, one is able to make somewhat outrageous assumptions, and be right. If a layman recognizes a “Pattern” he can out-think a computer that cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a sense one is then like a skilled outfielder in a baseball game who begins dashing at the crack of the bat to where the ball is heading. A more ordinary person would have to watch the flight of the ball for a while to guess where it was going, but the skilled outfielder dashes to the correct place and makes an amazing catch, because he saw the “Pattern” and “recognized” it.

This brings up an idea that I suppose will be disconcerting to some: Namely, that “Pattern recognition” is not entirely scientific, in the old school definition of the word “science”. The old school definition of science involves “showing your work”, and being able to detail all the little steps of cause-and-effect in meticulous detail. I imagine this would be like asking a baseball outfielder to explain every little step involved in his instantaneous decision to leave the balls of his feet and spring off like a rocket in a certain direction. The athlete can not explain how he does it; he just does it.

Meteorologists may be a bit more scientific; they can explain some of the steps. With the “Pioneer Model” Joseph D’Aleo may even be able to explain well over twenty of the steps. Still, I am a bit awed he chose the steps he chose; why chose a particular block of the North Pacific as one area to watch?  Why not shift the borders to the north or south or right or left? To me his choices seems to involve the same inexplicable understanding an Athlete displays when he leaves his feet at the crack of the bat. One knows where to watch, what to watch for, and what to expect, due to “observation”. This “observation” is discipline called “practice” if you are an athlete or a pianist, and is called “study” if you are an old school meteorologist, who has scrutinized and continues to scrutinize weather maps by the thousands.

And what about me? The poor old layman? An athlete may make good money with his study, and a meteorologist may make some money with his study, but what about poor old me? All my study has ever earned me is scoldings. When I studied mists out the classroom window I got “detentions” (IE: I had to stay after school.) When I studied mists on my way to work I’d get my pay docked or even be fired. And the insult of all insults, when I now am an old patriarch and deserve far more respect than Rodney Dangerfield, my wife interrupts my study of mists on the internet with a request I take out the trash, and then, just because I stop on my way to the dumpster to study zephyrs on a puddle, and take fifty minutes to do the task, she has the audacity to roll her eyes at me. At me!

Some have accused me of lacking discipline, but I tell you few have displayed the discipline I’ve shown by studying mists all these years. For it takes discipline to stick to such study when everyone gives you a hard time for it. I’m a hero (in my own mind) and deserve accolades, (or a least a fat government grant or two.) However never mind all that. The reward is in the doing. Also, just as athletic outfielders are rewarded for all their practice with the ability to make an amazing catch in the World Series, (Perhaps the best ever was made by Dwight Evans in Game Six of the 1975 World Series), and just as meteorologists are rewarded for all their study with times they foresee with seemingly supernatural clarity, (Perhaps the best ever was when Joe Bastardi watched a tropical low off Africa and advertised “Houston, We have a problem” a full ten days before Rita struck Houston), so I too will be rewarded.

(I’m just not sure my reward will be on this side of heaven.)

However even if no one cheers me for my observations, there is a sort of reward in just telling all the politically correct people, who seem to have an idea we lack eyes and need to be told what we are seeing, to go to hell give me the space to see for myself. For then one can see the beauty, the majesty, and the awesome wonder of things as they actually are. After all, it is politically incorrect to even mention the word “God”, but, given the choice, what would you rather see?  Those things that the politically correct deem allowable? Or God?

Not that I can see God. I don’t even like using the word “God” because I recognize my incapacity, when it comes to conceiving or defining such an Infinity. I prefer to use the more humble word “Truth”, because we usually can tell the difference between being-honest and bullshitting.

I’ll dispense with all further talk about religion, because it would be bullshit. Instead I’ll simply share a few things which have crossed my mind, as I’ve watched the mists play across weather maps. These things have nothing to do with Global Warming, or with being an Alarmist or a Skeptic. It is just what you see, when you spend a lot of your time watching stuff that seems more fascinating than doing 48 Algebra problems, or arriving at work on time to make widgets, or taking out the trash.

Besides watching mists, and clouds out the window, I have had a lifelong fascination with whirlpools. When I wasn’t getting in trouble as a boy making waves in the bathtub, I was playing with opening the drain and then studying the size of the whirlpool when the drain was wide open, opposed to how big it was when I stuck a few toys down the drain, opposed to how big it was when I stuffed my mother’s shower cap down the drain. This scientific study, (which Mom didn’t appreciate), has given me an unusual perspective on the phenomenon of what I call “Ralph”, whirling at the top of our planet.

Do not dare doubt my authority on the subject. I may not have submitted peer-reviewed papers on the subject, but that is Mom’s fault. Furthermore, I have continued my study in other settings. I don’t know if you have ever noticed the oars of a rowboat make whirlpools, but if you have ever noticed an odd fellow rowing in circles, it was likely me, more interested in the whirlpools oars made than in where I was going. Therefore don’t doubt me. I am an authority on odd subjects which have little to do with getting anywhere.

To put my vast wisdom into a nutshell, if you throttle the bathtub drain too much with your mother’s shower-cap you will get no whirlpool at all, on the surface you can see. If the drain is wide open you will get an obvious and slurping whirlpool at the surface you can see. However if the drain is partially obstructed by Legos, you get weak whirlpools, or even two or three whirlpools at once, barely able to keep themselves going.

I have my doubts our planet could become so imbalanced that we’d see an obvious and slurping whirlpool at the Pole. However the antics of “Ralph” for nearly a year now does resemble a partially obstructed bathtub drain, and suggests an imbalance might exist.

My mind leaps to Rube Goldberg cause-and-effects, which are likely hopelessly human and fail to grasp the majesty of Truth, but for what its worth I’d like to postulate this:

The “Quiet Sun” had an effect few foresaw, increasing warmth at the tropics even while opening the drain at the Pole.

How might the lessening of energy from a “Quiet Sun” not make it cooler in the tropics?  Well, most see less energy as cooler temperatures, but energy translates to things other than thermometers. For example: Wind. And, if less energy brought less wind to the tropics, then the Trade Winds would slow west of Peru, and there would be less up-welling of cold water by the coast of Peru to be sent west towards Australia, and therefore all the warm water pushed west would have a chance to surge back east. In other words, less energy from the sun would cause an El Nino. Less energy would not make the planet colder but warmer.

Besides energy increasing at the tropics, due to the decrease caused by the Quiet Sun, there is also the primary exit region of earthly energy to think about; Namely the Poles.

I surmise the Quiet Sun has slightly opened the drain. I haven’t a clue of the dynamics involved. However it looks like the Noisy Sun of the past had more stuff in the way, and the Quiet Sun has reduced the amount of stuff in the way. How else to explain the absence of Ralph in the past, and his current persistence?

Tomorrow, if I have time, I’ll add to this post to show how persistent Ralph is. Even when cut off off from one direction Ralph has the power to draw in a new “feeder band” from a new direction. What is the power? If the “feeder bands” truly fed Ralph,  then he would have ceased to be, long ago, when he was cut off from his feed. The fact he persists should suggest something else is feeding him.

I’ll leave it at that, tonight. Tomorrow I’ll add the maps that show we do not know as much as some of us presume.


OK.  Here are some maps.

When I ended my last post “Ralph” was finding a way to draw Pacific air in through Bering Strait. (I started a post about the Pacific air called “Hula Ralph”, but trashed it because it became too absurd. Sometimes my humor gets out of line.)

The Pacific mildness generated blobs of low pressure which moved west along the Siberian coast towards blobs of low pressure coming east from the Atlantic, but at first it seemed these lows would hug the coast, and high pressure would succeed in knocking Ralph from his king-of-the-mountain stance atop our planet.

Ralph would not stand for such uppity behavior on the part of high pressure, and flung a following blob of Pacific mildness towards the Pole as the new Hula-Ralph.  In the process the huge high over northern Canada was dislodged south and began to pour bitter cold south towards the USA.

In the process of his reconquest of the Pole, Hula-Ralph was the author of his own demise, for he build high pressure in his wake, and cut himself off from his Pacific feeder-band. His last gulp of Pacific mildness was greatly weakened by a passage over the bitter wastes of East Siberia, and indeed the same south winds that once brought mildness now began to pour extreme cold north, further cutting Hula-Ralph from nourishment.

Finally Hula-Ralph was so cut off we might have expected him to fade away and for high pressure to build over the Pole, but Ralph would not be denied. If you cut off the Pacific he just turns around and looks to the Atlantic.  Even as the fading Hula-Ralph completely blocked off the Pacific with a cross-polar-flow transporting the next bitter blasts from Siberia towards North America, a little gale down by Iceland decided it won’t be a good North Atlantic Storm and head east to Norway, but would zip north to Fram Strait, surging thaw up towards Svalbard.

(Blast. I was so busy writing last night I forgot to save the maps).

That brings us to today, where we see Ralph’s Pacific “signature” largely erased from the temperature map’s isotherms, but what looks to be a new Atlantic “signature” poking north to the Pole.

A quick glance at the DMI graph for temperatures north of 80°N latitude shows a mild spike when Hula-Ralph visited, but no new spike for the next Atlantic attack.


To see if the attack does develop I zip over to the Weatherbell Site and check out Dr. Ryan Maue’s maps. (A week free trial is available.) The GFS temperature-anomaly map for the Pole shows, in three days, Ralph’s signature is very apparent up there.


The above map also shows that the Pacific isn’t done with us. Bering Strait has reloaded with mild air due to a 958 mb Aleutian Low which is backed north into the Strait (while also discharging bitter blasts into the Pacific to its southwest.) But that is another story for another post.

The main purpose of this post is to postulate the idea of the slurping drain at the Pole, activated by the “Quiet Sun”. Likely it is a crack-pot concept, but one never knows. (The idea of continents that drifted also sounded pretty crazy, at first.)

In the comments below Wim Rost pointed me in the right direction. I should study all the maps of the past. I’ll get right on it, once I receive funding. I figure that, if the none-too-soon-to-become-former president could fund so many crack-pots, President Trump should be allowed to fund at least one; namely me.

(Once I receive funding the only problem will be deciding who is going to tell my wife I’m going to spend more time looking at maps than I already do. )

Stay tuned.


10 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –Zephyr Ralph–(updated)

  1. “Even when cut off off from one direction Ralph has the power to draw in a new “feeder band” from a new direction. What is the power?”

    WR: [Relative] Warmth causes low pressure area’s. Much ice on the North Pole is whether thin or not fully closed leaving relatively warm water near /at the surface. This might be the cause of the relative warmth that is starting the low pressure area’s that in turn attract more warm air: the “feeder bands”.

    A question to you, Caleb/Ralph: It is clear that since 1958 (beginning of the Danish temperature graphs) autumn has never been that warm at the North Pole. But, is there evidence that low pressure area’s did not exist [that much] at the North Pole at this time of the year in the past? Was the standard high pressure at the North Pole that dominant and persistent that we wouldn’t see [that much] low pressure area’s?

    • Wim Röst,

      Thank you for your input. You gave me fun things to think about during a rough day at work, with arctic winds blasting into my part of the world. My job involves dealing with small children in an outdoor setting, and they are not at their best when it gets cold.

      I think you are correct when you suggest that we should look to past weather maps. I confess I am only going on subjective impressions gleaned from a minimum of objective study. Forgive me for that, and please understand I am unpaid and only can study in my spare time. (Not that I would study more if I received a million. Money cannot buy my muses.)

      One problem is that we don’t have that much history, when it comes to the Arctic. Even the present tense has some glaring Terra Incognitos, some places that a truly honest map-maker would leave blank. We do not leave these areas blank, because we have models. Think about that.

      You are also wonderfully correct when you point out the relative warmth of the Arctic Sea, and how that warmth can provide uplift (and therefore low pressure) at the top of our planet. This is a vital and important dynamic. The simple fact of the matter is that even when the ice is six feet thick the warmth of the ocean still leaks through, and minus fifty air moving north from the tundra is “warmed” to only minus forty over the ice, and in relative terms this warmth can create uplift.

      And indeed such uplift can perhaps draw in “feeder bands” at the surface. I think this can and does happen, and is part of what is manifesting at the Pole. However please see I used the tricky, political word “part”, in the previous sentence.

      An opposing party suggested counter-ideas to your valid suggestions. However you don’t need to worry about attracting the opposition’s wrath. What they really dislike is the low pressure I call “Ralph”.

      First, a certain party likes the idea of the atmosphere being governed by “cells” called “Hadley”, “Ferrel” and “Polar”. According to this idea the “Polar” cell should have air descending at the Pole. I think you can see what trouble having a Ralph, with rising air, at the Pole, might cause such a party.

      Second, another party subscribes to the idea of the governor being something called the “AO” (Arctic Oscillation.) According to this idea when the AO is “negative” high pressure should rule the Pole. I think you can imagine the trouble pesky Ralph, as low pressure, causes when he twirls about the Pole when the AO is negative.

      Lastly, I should confess I am just throwing out ideas to see if they fly, when confronted with things that don’t add up. Many of my ideas are lead balloons.

      Let me give you an example of a lead balloon idea I had, which I continue to contemplate even though it is largely dismissed.

      The most obvious and logical reason for the up-welling of cold waters off the coast of Peru is the Trade Winds. They push the surface waters west, so water must replace the pushed-west waters, and it comes from below. However is that the ONLY thing pushing up waters from below? Even if Trade Winds are 99.9% of the reason, shouldn’t we be cognizant of the 0.1% powers, just in case a situation arose when all else was balanced on the point of a hair, and the “tipping point” between an El Nino and La Nina was not determined by the Trade Winds?

      For this reason I postulated that 0.1% of up-welling was not caused by winds above, but by forces below. Cold water was in some way squeezed up like toothpaste from a tube, by deep sea powers. I thought this idea had merit, but because it was wrong 99.9% of the time, it got hammered and shredded.

      In like manner, I am postulating 0.1% of the changes we are seeing at the Pole is coming from above, from the “Quiet Sun”. Because 99.9% of the causes are more lowly, I expect my idea will get hammered and shredded. Fortunately I have Ralph on my side. As long as he keeps spinning away up north, I retain a slight shred of credulity.

      The thing I fail to understand is how people who focus on even more obscure attributes of the climate than I do get so much more press and money and accolades and free trips to Bali. After all, CO2 in all its glory amounts to much, much less than 0.1% of any forecast.

  2. The main cause of convection in the atmosphere over the sea is not “warmth” per se – it is evaporation. That is because, after transient effects, a mixture of water vapor and dry air is LESS DENSE than dry air on its own and starts to rise. Then, water vapor condenses and releases latent heat which warms the parcel of ascending air so that it continues to rise.

    (See “Heat” by Thomson and Poynting, page 57.)

    Air above ice, or even above liquid water at low temperatures, is pretty dry. Thus the usual situation at both poles is descending air, high pressure, and outward flow. Low pressure can only exist while some air from lower latitudes has temporarily swept in with an already low pressure.

    The usual statement that “temperature difference between equator and poles drives the convective system” is loose, at best. After all, in the Ferrel cells air rises and heads back towards the equator.

    • Thanks for the input. I’ll have fun stuff to think about at work.

      Some models see a really strong “Ralph” moving up to the Pole from the Atlantic in a week.

  3. In response to Caleb and Nigel:

    nigel on December 15, 2016 at 3:10 am said:
    “The main cause of convection in the atmosphere over the sea is not “warmth” per se – it is evaporation.”

    WR: Nigel, you are right. It is not ‘ “warmth” per se’. It is ‘light air’ that makes low pressure area’s Low Pressure Area’s. And air is light when it is whether warm, or humid or some combination. Water vapour molecules are lighter than the gas molecules they replace.
    In case of the present NP water vapour will play a role because the ice is ‘not closed’. See ‘Daily’ and ‘Concentration’ at Besides wind patterns evaporation will play it’s role in creating ‘light air’.

    The model of the “Ferrel Cells” dates from 1856. Who looks at the blue lines (move the image) however sees long lines with ‘water vapor’ from the equator to the poles:,26.36,466 I think the model needs ‘an update’. Also when you use the ‘nullschool’ tool to see the different wind patterns at the different levels (click ‘Earth’, Air and after that the different ‘heights’) you see that wind patterns and air streams are much more complex than the old ‘cell’ model predicts. But those models were a good start and for that time very enlightening.

    More water vapour at the North Pole will have an influence at the temperature as well. See yesterdays post at WUWT Water vapour is a strong back radiating gas. Therefore a more humid air at the NP will raise it’s temperature. “Less ice” will have it’s consequences and will make weather patterns change. My compliments for Caleb to have noticed the changing weather patterns at the North Pole that early.

    I myself took the easy way to ask you, Caleb, for factual information about past weather patterns. Perhaps someone else can give some insight in the facts about the past. I think it is important to know those facts, to judge the changing patterns well.

    This post, Caleb, had another right observation: the one about the baseball player. To observe ‘patterns’ like the skilled outfielder does when he observes the ball – with all it’s experience and without knowing exactly ‘which vector plays which role’ – can give a perfect result. That baseball player with all his qualities uses every thing he could use to predict a mostly good result. The difference with ‘models’ is that ‘models’ have a very limited input, depending on ‘who puts what’ into the model. Therefore they all give different results and no one model really predicts when it is about a longer period. If it is about weather, after one or two weeks it is more like guessing. And climate is the average of 30 years’ weather, not to talk about ‘a century ahead’. Many surprises might develop, like ‘Ralph’.

    Therefore observing is a good thing. Which brings me to a question to end with. At,77.49,3000/loc=5.618,77.738 next to West and South East Svalbard I see already a long time two green dots, indicating very high SST which are also visible at the SSTA map. Differences with nearby waters up to 12 degrees C. I checked, it is probably no bug in the Nullschool software. What could it be? Are they visible elsewhere as well?

    • Thanks for the input. I’ll have to check out the WUWT article when I get a break.

      “Ralph” looks like he’ll get a lot of Atlantic reinforcements and may become a polar gale.

  4. Are you in denial about human activities raising CO2-levels rapidly? During the holocene-optimum temperatures were high but CO2 wasn’t nearly as high as today, so temperature of the oceans is not the cause.

    • Here are two problems with your statement.

      First, the CO2 measurements from the Holescene are from bubbles in ice, and the formation of those bubbles is not year-to-year like tree rings, but contains blended air from a period of 50-100 years. All the ups and downs of a AMO cycle are mixed into a single bubble. The bubble being encapsulated in Greenland ice this year contains not merely this year’s air, but perhaps air from 1916 as well.

      Second, during the Holocene the environment was different and it likely effected CO2 levels. Think of the entire Sahara being green. How much CO2 would those grasslands gulp? Think of the Arctic Sea being largely ice-free during the summer. How much CO2 would be dissolved into those cold, open waters that cannot be dissolved now, as the water is largely ice-covered? And so on and so forth. There is a lot of interesting stuff to think about.

      So, to answer your question, “No”.

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