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.



My Real Job involves a certain sort of Farm-Childcare wherein, rather than incarceration, children get to run free and wild in the great outdoors, exploring and testing their limits in a way I feel is far more normal and natural than the Teacher’s Union approves of.

Personally I despised the stultifying limitations of school, a half century ago, and things have seemingly only gotten worse since I was a boy. “Risk” may now be a four-letter-word, but I loved to play around with risk as a boy, whereas children now are protected to a degree where their movement is all but bubble-wrapped. At my Childcare children are allowed to scrape their knees taking risks, and daring “dares”, because I figure that learning about risk is an important part of life, and the ones who dare initiate great things as adults are the ones who are not afraid of risk.

Of course, that is a grand philosophy to have, but I am forced to eat my words as soon as the ponds start to skim over in the fall. I have had bad experiences with thin ice in my life, and in fact would be dead if I were not watched over by merciful angels who take pity on fools. (I’d tell you the tales, but it would take too many  paragraphs.)  My experience has coalesced into an old man’s wisdom, which boils down to my behaving like a clucking mother hen, when it comes to small children and thin ice. I allow no risk-taking whatsoever. The water is off-limits until I can walk on it, jump on it, and can run a three-hundred pound snow-blower over it. I am adamant and belligerent and ferocious to a degree the Teachers Union likely frowns at, when it comes to commanding small children, “Thou Shalt Not Even Walk Near The Pond.”

Of course some little boys and girls merely  see my ferocity as a new and interesting limit they can test. When I say “stop” such children merrily laugh and run faster. (You’d be amazed how fast I can still run, when I have to, even at age sixty-three.)

This is especially true of the spoiled children who have touchingly patient and kind parents who never say, “Because I said so,” and who especially never say “Because if you do that I’ll smack your butt.” Rather than a true limit drawn in the sand, such a child usually gets a question, such as, “Would you like to reconsider  walking out onto thin ice?” When the child then responds, “No, I like walking out on thin ice”, the parent responds, “Do you want to fall through the ice?” When the child responds “Yes!” the parent responds “But have you considered the possibility that the water might be over your head, and, as you do not yet know how to swim, that…” When the child then responds, “Arrgh! Blub…blub…blub” I’m not sure what kindly parents do. They likely never are exposed to such real life crisis’s, because they live indoors, but, because they read in some magazine it was good to send their child to a Childcare that allows the outdoors, they drop the child off on my doorstep and say, “You handle my little darling.”

By law I am not allowed to smack such little darlings on the butt, no matter how much they might benefit from the experience, however I am allowed to “physically restrain” them, especially if they will die falling through thin ice if I don’t.

You’d be amazed how much children who have no experience of parental guidelines resent physical restraint. They thrash, kick me, bite me, claw my face, break my glasses, and then have the audacity to screech at the top of their lungs, “You are hurting me!” (though in fact I am amazingly gentle, considering how expensive eyeglasses are).  But I don’t allow them out on the thin ice, and they don’t drown. In some cases this teaches them zero. They merely scowl at me, and are all the more determined to go out and test the limits of that thin ice, as soon as my back is turned.

One such boy, (I am not allowed to use his real name, so let me simply call him “Adolf”), waited until I was off duty to test the ice. I was repairing a fence two pastures away, and noticed my staff was dealing with a collision between two sleds that had resulted in four wailing children, and with far sighted eyes I could see that Adolph was well aware my staff were distracted, and, tugging a slightly shorter disciple by the sleeve, was making a beeline for the pond, where the ice was an inch thick at its thickest. I may not be a mind-reader, but I knew what Adolph planned, and I immediately began running much faster than a man my age is supposedly able to run, and hurtled a fence that men of my dignity aren’t suppose to leap over.

I am known for the power of my voice, which can travel like a trumpet over half a mile and paralyze many children in their tracks, but I knew that bellow didn’t work on Adolph. He was one of the boys who only runs faster when you say, “Stop.”  I also could see I that if I yelled at my staff that, by the time they realized what Adolph was up to, he’d have reached the pond. My one chance to help the risk-taking boy was to swoop silently, and to arrive at the pond shortly after he did,  before he got in over his head.

It was a smart move. Adolph was so involved with telling his disciple not to be such a coward that he slowed down. He was moving out over the ice sideways, sliding his feet in a sidestepping manner, and busily stating, “See? It is safe! Don’t be such a chicken!” (He obviously wasn’t doing the math, and wasn’t calculating that ice that can hold the 50 pounds of one small boy might not hold the 90 pounds of two.) I could see the ice bending down with every step he took. He was out where the water would be up to his waist when he fell  through, but three more side-steps would take him out over his head, for the bottom falls off steeply at that side of the pond.

Then he heard my running feet, and looked up, and saw me coming. I didn’t have to say anything. Perhaps it was the expression on my face. He scurried for shore and then proceeded to adopt his amazing “innocent expression”. I couldn’t say anything.  I was too winded. I merely stepped out onto the ice myself, and showed them how it broke; (I weigh 175 pounds, and on that day was wearing water-resistant farmer boots-up that came up to my knees). Adolph seemed to notice the ice was less safe than he thought, but actually seemed more concerned by the shrill voices of my staff, who had noticed what was going on, and were ordering him back to the group to get the schoolmarm treatment. I left him to his fate. Usually I try to protect boys from schoolmarms, but Adolph deserved it.

This sort of exercise may keep me young, for they say that, if a good fright doesn’t kill you, it has the effect of a tonic. However I don’t want to stay young. I want to kick back in a soft chair by a fire and do what old men do, which is to be garrulous and make short stories take a long time to tell.  Unfortunately I took my retirement when I was young. Because I sat around in soft chairs so much back then, I have no pension and no savings, and I’ll likely die with my boots on, chasing small boys in my old age.

Still, the sooner the ice gets thick the better. I hate the mild winters when the ice never gets really thick, when you read all too many tales in the papers of boys falling through the ice. I prefer the winters when the ice is thicker, and you read of Flatlanders from Massachusetts falling through the ice when they drive their motor homes out onto lakes. However my favorite winters are those where the ice gets four feet thick, and you can drive a cement truck onto the ice without fear. Why?  Because then I don’t have to worry about small boys thinking they are like the Lord, and can walk on water without fear.

It looks like I’ll be spared the purgatory of watching the shores of my farm pond like a hawk for more than ten days, this year. Such arctic blasts are coming south it looks like the lakes will freeze solid in a hurry. The ice is already over an inch thick, and the children are only beginning to register the fact it is there. By the time it occurs to them to do some “risk-taking”, and “test limits”, the ice may already be four inches thick and safe. I can’t tell you what a relief that would be to me.

However, even as I say that, I feel a need to confess that back in my boyhood the definition of “safe” allowed boys to go on far thinner ice. (I have told this tale in other posts, but if you heard it before forgive me; garrulous old men do get repetitive.) Back when I was a boy a few old-timers allowed boys out on ice only an inch thick, in shallow waters, to practice the art of “stunning.”

What is “stunning”? Well, when ice is only an inch thick it is usually black-ice, and so transparent that you can see right through it. It also moans and dents down as you walk on it, but, when you weigh less than eighty pounds, it does not break. You can walk above the creatures that live below the ice, holding a stout club, and when you see a fish or mammal beneath you, you can clout the ice with your club, and stun the creature. It makes a spiderweb of cracks on the ice, and then, taking care, you smash the ice a little bit more so you can reach through a hole and retrieve the fish or mammal.

Why on earth would a boy want to do such a thing?

Well, you need to understand the old-timers who instructed me grew up in the Great Depression. In the Great Depression money was in short supply. People had to scrimp to get by, and dinners could be meager, especially in terms of meat. Therefore when a small boy or girl came home with a fish, it was no small matter.  If the child came home with a muskrat he was a double hero, for he not only supplied meat, but the fur had value. On the rare occasions when a child stunned a beaver or even an otter, the pelt alone was worth what a bumpkin family might make in a week. Therefore it was “worth the risk” to go out onto thin ice and smack the very ice that supported you.

Now, it was an understood fact, in the art of stunning, that you might club the ice with too much vigor, and so compromise the surface you walked upon that you plunged through. That is why the professors of this art stressed it should only be practiced in waters so shallow you could see the bottom through the black ice. Even so, one wasn’t a hero when they plunged waste-deep in icy waters. Rather they were the focus of much hilarity from onlookers on the shore. But that was part of the risk one took. As one floundered back to shore the onlookers (who didn’t go out on the ice because they knew very well the ice could barely support a single person) reached out to help, and laughed affectionately, for they knew the risk-taker was doing his daring deed for a high and noble cause, namely: to bringing home meat for the family table.

There is no need for such heroism on the part of modern children, and I am sad to say I do not teach the art of “stunning” at my Childcare. Parents would utterly freak out if I tried.  They prefer their children to have no use, and no value, and to be a sort of bubble-wrapped accessory of being an adult. I think this is sad because I feel that, in a healthy society, all contribute, even the children. However the Teacher’s Union would likely call valuing the efforts of children “exploitation”.

Back in the Great Depression there were children, up here in the hills of New Hampshire, who were heroes for picking berries. In the past I met old men who bragged they could pick ten gallons of blueberries in a day, as a boy, and those berries were in the pancakes and muffins of rich Bostonian households up on Beacon Hill the next morning, for a person came north to buy the berries from farm families. And the jingling silver the farm families then had made a great difference, in the Great Depression. The child could swell his chest in pride.

Compare this, if you will, with how parents now respond when a child has caught a big fish at my Childcare. It doesn’t matter if I gut the fish, clean the fish, and fillet the fish, and present the parent with a pound of bone-free meat. They wrinkle their noses, as if free meat is yukky, gross, and repulsive. They inform their child they would be far happier if they would not bring home such disgusting stuff, and give me a glance of disapproval.

There are times I am so irate about the behavior of parents that my wife tells me to go mend fences in far pastures, because she is far more spiritual and diplomatic that I am, and also doesn’t wan’t to lose customers. It is said that that the customer is always right, but I sometimes feel the customers are complete idiots.

They have no idea of the simple truths that can be made apparent when so-called “economics” are tweaked by reality, and this thing modern Americans don’t admit is possible, called “Famine”, rears its head.

The Great Depression was just such a tweak of “Economics”, only two or three generations ago. People were brought back to the basics, and one reason no big famine occurred was because people were practical, and valued a child’s ability to pick berries and catch fish. It wasn’t “exploitation”.  It was “getting by.”

In comparison, what is a child worth, to most parents today? What is a child but a drain on the family budget? Hard working parents must pay me to watch their ungrateful brats. But how can a child be grateful, when parents give them no reason for pride, and typecast them as “a drain on the family budget”?

I think that the the only way I might get it through my customer’s thick skulls that their children are valuable would be to, rather than presenting them with a pound of raw fish, to take things a step farther and to cook the fish. The kids can also grow the potatoes and onions, and milk the goats, and then present their parents with a delicious fish chowder. Only then might certain parents see their own prodigy as something other than a “drain.”

However accomplishing this sure is a drain on me.  In the process of showing parents how amazing their children are I must keep their risk-taking kids from falling through thin ice and drowning.  I tell you, it is exhausting. The kids are exhausting, and the parents are worse.

I am glad the arctic is freezing the ice so quickly this year, and the time I must spend worrying about thin ice will likely be brief. For I have a different sort of thin ice to tread upon.

I need to trespass over the thin ice of political correctness. I need to tell the customer they are not always right.

The bitter blasts are helpful, for they help make a mockery of the political correctness called “Global Warming”.  However that is a battle that I think has been already won. The general public has become jaded, and cynical, and scorns the people who state the world is threatened by warming when it is damn cold outside. I fought that foolishness for over a decade, and I’m tired of arguing with corrupted and defeated scoundrals who have already lost. I’d far rather fight with sincere parents who have lost their children, but could regain them.

And that is the thin ice I am now eyeing like a little Adolph.

LOCAL VIEW –Drenching’s Lesson–

There is an old “weather-saw” that states, rather cynically,

When the sky is crystal blue
Rain or snow in a day or two.

(Actually the original version of this saw did not use the word “crystal”, but rather used an old and local word which would require explaining and defining, and that I begin this post with a sidetrack, and, as I was taught back in school to never begin with a sidetrack, and instead to launch directly to the point, I’ll skip telling you what the old and more effective word was.)

(Oh, all right, if you insist, the word was “fectless”. Now, may I get on to my point?)

(What do you mean, there is no such word?  Just because it didn’t make your dictionary doesn’t mean it didn’t make the Yankee weather-saws, that old Yankee farmers used back when I was young.)

(OK, OK, if you insist, I’ll explain the word to you, as I understand it. But I warned you, it will be a sidetrack.)

(Take the second syllable of the word “effect” and you have a new word, which I think was coined by the Scots, which is synonymous with power. If you were a shaper and mover then you were a fellow with “fect.”  [Of course, some dictionaries say there is no noun “shaper”, [for “a person or machine that shapes”], so how can they have the noun “fect”?]  But, to return to the subject, a fellow with “fect” was a person who had an effect, a real doer, and conversely a real do-nothing was a “fectless” person.

Therefore the word “fectless” was different from the word “feckless”, for “feckless” involves a moral judgement. The word “feckless” implies irresponsibility and a lack of character, and avoiding feckless behavior was preached by fellows who didn’t work, but instead pontificated from the pulpit with no calluses on their hands. The fellows who did work and who had hardened palms could care less about moralistic blabber. All they cared about was your production. If you worked and produced you had “fect”, [and if you were creative and inventive as you did so, and could swiftly learn without a teacher, you were “thefty”], [but if you whined a lot you “girned”,] and if you produced nothing you were “fectless.”

Therefore a sky that produced nothing was “fectless.”  It may not be a particularly poetic word for a blue sky, but it isn’t judgmental either. It is a rather matter-of-fact observation, and, like most elements of the “Puritan Work Ethic”, was surprisingly non-judgmental, (unlike most who comment about Puritans and the Puritan Work Ethic, who tend to look at bygone Puritans and to judge like crazy.) (In truth the Calvinist Puritans, if they judged, judged judgement was God’s business.) Anyway and in conclusion, a blue sky was nothing to wax poetic about or to rhapsodize about, but rather was a sky that produced nothing, and therefore the word “fectless” was a superb word to chose, for a practical weather-saw, utilized by practical Yankee farmers.

Sheesh! Do you see how dangerous it is to get me off onto a sidetrack? (And I didn’t even start about how the word “saw” in “weather-saw” is related to the Viking word “saga”.)

Let me start over. Monday the sky was not “crystal blue”, but “fectless blue”, so, allow me to correct myself and be historically accurate, and to put down the proper poem:

When the sky is fectless blue
Rain or snow in a day or two.

The sky was spotless and superb, in its vivid blueness, which immediately put me on guard, due to the old weather-saw. (There are other weather-saws having to do with how slowly the clear weather develops, which foretells how slowly clear weather will depart.) I knew the clarity had come on quickly, and more modern meteorological ideas told me the high pressure was not the sort that was going to stay. At this latitude, and at this time of year, things can move swiftly.

It is a bit odd to look up at a beautiful sky and scowl about it, so I didn’t. I just looked up at a total absence of signs of storm and thought “rain or snow in a day or two.” There is no judgement in that. No scowling. It is merely an acceptance of the cards as they are dealt. (To be honest, there is a fatalistic side to the Puritan Work Ethic more Buddhist than Buddhists, and more Zen than Zen.)

Actually I liked looking at the bright sky, for I had a couple of dark deuces dealt to me to start my week, which I would have avoided if possible. They involved the people many like least to deal with: Doctors and lawyers.

Yesterday, when the skies were blue, I had to go see the young fellow who removed my cancerous kidney last Christmas, and, today, as the weather went downhill to downpours, I had to obey a summons to go to court to testify about a young fellow I pity, but who broke the law. Largely it was a huge waste of my time, spent sitting about with people I’d ordinarily avoid.

If I am going to have anything to do with doctors I’d most like to sit about in a maternity ward, where life is new, and hope is like champagne. It is far less inspiring to sit about with a bunch who all have, (or have had), cancer, where hope is like dishwater.

In like manner, if I am going to have anything to do with lawyers I’d most like to sit about in the company of reformers who seek to reduce legislation [even if it means fewer laws for lawyers to play with], and who seek to create laws that are down to earth and which, (rather than justifying lame excuses), seek deal with practical matters, like the Puritan Work Ethic does. It is far less inspiring to sit about for what feels like forever, watching the legal system as it currently exists.

I really like the young doctor who saved my life, but visiting him was to see him pushed to the limit. The current system drives doctors to see too many patients each hour, and I couldn’t help but feel like a widget passing before the young man on an assembly line. I did slow everything down, by telling him a humorous tale (far shorter than the start of this post). I think it totaled 90 seconds. But he laughed, and I think I improved his Monday.

However the experience, for me, was not so hurried as it was for the doctor. I think “waiting rooms” should be renamed. They should be called “waiting and waiting and waiting rooms”. And the crowd I was waiting midst was not the most optimistic bunch I’ve ever met. It was a chance for me to tell them humorous tales as well, and to improve their Mondays as well, but I flunked that chance at spirituality. All I could pray was, “God, get me the heck out of here.” Rather than caring for the cancerous, like Mother Theresa, all I could think was that I’d rather be out under the fectless sky, for I have better uses for the little time we all have, here on our planet. And there is something about cancer that makes the time seem too brief.

It is not an example of the Puritan Work Ethic to spend an entire morning (when you include the time driving to and from the city) arriving at a diagnosis I could have arrived at on my own: “It is wise to have a yearly chest X-rays.”  I could have done that on my own. The young doctor could have been free to spend more time on his next patient, but some threat of malpractice forced him to see me even though it wasted time, and that threat is a good segway to the following day’s disdain of lawyers and judges, who also waste time.

Tuesday morning the weather was rapidly worsening, but the waste of my precious time was a gloom even worse. I had to obey a summons and show up at a court room to testify, but the prosecution and the defense huddled “off the record”, and the case was “continued” until January 17, due to “new evidence.”  (In other words, the young fellow had broken a few more laws since the last court-date, which muddled up the math involved in the plea-bargaining.)

The fellow I pity-but-must-testify-against was dressed in his cleanest clothing, but never even entered the courtroom for his “day in court”.  Various “cease and desist injunctions” and “restraining orders” did their best to prevent witnesses from meeting the accused, and we were compartmentalized into separate areas, and even left the courthouse at separate times. There was some brief eye-contact, but all I could think was that we spent an entire morning never talking, and never accomplished a blasted thing. The Puritan Work Ethic was rolling in its grave.

The judge and prosecution and defense likely felt they were busy and industrious, huddling and discussing correct procedures, but they reminded me of Union Workers following the principle, “do not kill the job”. Since they get paid for dealing with laws it pays to make more and more of them, until it seems they have so many rules and regulations to juggle that nothing will ever get done.

Of course, (because my stepfather did teach at Harvard Law School), I do have a little pity for lawyers and judges. During the the four hours I sat in the courtroom accomplishing nothing I got to see a slew of other cases: All sorts of other silly domestic altercations, which had escalated absurdly, sometimes due to obstinate and nonspiritual hardheartedness, but mostly due to booze and drugs.

A large case-load was handled by a very haggard and weary-looking judge. He wore a drab, black robe and had impeccably styled hair parted in the middle to curling waves by each graying temple, nearly as fashionable as the white wigs the English judges wear. Among other things, he had to deal with a surprisingly large number of irresponsible people who were so irresponsible they failed to show up. A lot of the work had been done beforehand by the prosecution and defense, and the judge was then merely a harried clerk noting down the pre-agreed-upon sentences. Many long sentences were greatly shortened, provided the culprit avoided getting back into the same trouble during the following weeks, or months, or in one case two years. The judge avoided any sort of editorial comment, besides raising an eyebrow slightly from time to time. To one side a fat man stood quietly, a revolver bulging beneath his coat, and his only job seemed to be saying, “All rise” when the judge entered. A stenographer busily typed at a computer terminal, and answered a few questions the judge asked her about defendant’s “priors”. The entire time there was not a single raised voice, and there were long silences as the judge studied papers, and during these silences the lawyers would whisper with each other, and defendants would look concerned to see their lawyer quietly chuckling with the prosecution.

The only interesting case was a fellow who was led in by a State Trooper. The accused wore steel handcuffs chained to a steel chain around his waist, so he had to stoop to scratch his nose or sign a paper, because he couldn’t raise his hands. This man had been on some sort of wonderfully wild bender, and his case was difficult because he had broken laws in three separate counties in New Hampshire, and he had cases pending in Massachusetts and Vermont as well.  The entire courtroom awoke from its drowsy indifference when the legal difficulties were discussed, but then sank back in disappointment when it became apparent that none of the juicy details were going to be discussed. (I thought the poor fellow looked like he couldn’t remember what a great time he’d had, breaking all those laws.) The case was so complicated, involving so many jurisdictions, that the fellow had already spent over two months in jail as bureaucrats tried to figure out the legalities of exactly where he should be tried first.

For the most part the judge wanted to painstakingly note which of the many sentences, which the man had to serve in the future, that the seventy-one days he’d already served would be applied to, and which sentences would be “concurrent” and which would be “consecutive”, and which jail he’d await his next hearing in, and what county or state that hearing would be held in. Legally every “T” was crossed and every “I” was dotted, with dreary and methodical slowness. I muttered to the person next to me I would have preferred some sort of brawl, for that would have settled things much faster.

Or would I? I’m an old man, and no Clint Eastwood, and think I would come out on the losing end, if the judge told me, and the young-man-I-was-to-testify-against, to go out in the parking lot and settle things man to man. But in some ways I think I might have preferred a black eye and bloody nose, to the idiotic extension of misery that the pedantic laws everlastingly perpetuate. The laws seemed intended to keep lawyers busy, and little else.

Back fifty years ago, when I was young, it was a little less politically-correct to brawl, and I got my nose bloodied and my eye blackened on a few occasions.  The teachers and authorities were horrified, but afterwards me and Bob and Chuck and Dave and Brian were on a first-name basis. If not best-buddies, we were far more respectful towards each other after our brawls than we ever dreamed we could be beforehand. Apparently, with boys at least,  contact is better than separation, and intimacy has value, even it involves fists.

If young teens can be so much smarter than lawyers, when it comes to resolving things, just imagine, if such a thing were possible, how much more swiftly a mastermind like Lord Jesus might resolve things. Theoretically He could solve disputes without everyone wasting so much time. Likely He could heal without so much time being wasted in doctors offices, and so much blasted paperwork.

As a writer, I likely shouldn’t belittle paperwork. But I do know of its hazards. I fell in love with paperwork to a degree where weeds grew in my garden, because I was too busy scribbling to weed. Consequentially I know all about the ways paperwork can reduce the crop one would expect, if one obeyed the Puritan Work Ethic.  It is only an obvious extension of this first-hand knowledge to state that others, such as doctors and lawyers, who allow paperwork to overrule the common sense of the Puritan Work Ethic, should expect reduced crops as well.

I could go on, but won’t. I think I’ve traced the borders of an idea which larger minds can grasp, and I’ll leave it up to larger minds to fill in the larger gaps.

As for me, I was just a tired old bumpkin who had to deal with his Monday and Tuesday largely wasted. The days are at their shortest now, and if you are stuck indoors during the heart of the day the dark is already growing as you escape, even when the sky is fectless blue. When the rain is drumming down it is dark even at noon, and it is evening before three in the afternoon.

What a difference a day made! Monday the sky was fectless blue, but Tuesday dawned with a rain so cold that ice was on the windshields. Up in Maine the cold brewed snow.


But fortunately the storm was well west, and that snow could only be driven away by south winds.


Even though we didn’t get snow, the above map shows the warm front stayed south of us, and we received the coldest rain you can get, without it being snow. Miserable stuff. But the real gloom was a sort of hangover I felt, from being plunged into the worlds of doctors and lawyers. It put a bad taste in the flavor of my own job as a “child care professional”, for I am the police, judge, jury, prosecution, defense, doctor and nurse all rolled into one, as soon as I step in the door. It doesn’t help matters when one has developed a strong sense that such people are all somehow misinformed, when you must promptly join the club. I was in a bad mood as I drove from the courtroom to work through the driving rain.

As the windshield wipers swiped the smearing purple view I wondered if I’m just getting old. The doctors and lawyers are younger than me, and in some cases seem hardly able to shave. I tend to think they are less wise than me, for where I was schooled by old Yankees who dealt with practical jobs, they studied bureaucracy and all its idiocy and paperwork. Where I learned an archaic language, they learned legalese. Where I learned the Puritan Work Ethic they learned how to waste exorbitant amounts of time and taxpayer’s money accomplishing zilch. But does this make me wise, or merely an anachronism?

Because I deal so much with youth, I have to admit there is something fresh and new manifesting. The One who created me young and bursting with new ideas and bundles of energy long ago does not weary, and fresh waves of youth are created by the Creator even as I get old and do get weary.

Some of my ideas are not due to wisdom, but due to weariness. I saw this made clear a week ago when I had to face a task I’d have done in a day, a decade ago, but found I was putting off, at age sixty-three.

A member of my staff had fretted about a big, old, dead paper-birch by a trail. Dead trees do fall in strong winds, but the fact it is highly unlikely they will fall just when a small child is passing did not make the good woman fret less, so, because I valued her heart even if not her worry, I cut the tree down and cut the trunk into a bunch of round logs, the largest as big around as a small car’s tire. Then I let those logs sit there. Operating a chain saw makes me a bit achy, but humping a bunch of big logs into the back of my truck makes me very achy. My choice was dictated by my age.

The children at my Childcare wanted those logs moved 200 yards away, for two old-fashioned reasons.  First, we have a old-fashioned campfire 200 yards away. Second, despite the fact they can barely lift the old-fashioned maul, they delight in the old-fashioned art of splitting logs. (More modern people either use an gasoline-powered, pneumatic woodsplitter, or have a pellet or propane stove, rather than a campfire.)

I was in no mood to please the whining children. If humping big logs into my truck makes my body hurt, supervising boys (and a few girls) wielding a maul to split wood makes my brain hurt. These children are aged three to nine. I have to watch them like a hawk. They do learn and become amazingly proficient in an ancient art, just as children did in the past, but I lose around five pounds of sweat for each child I teach. Therefore I hit upon a way I thought might get the kids to forget about the birch logs 200 yards away. I told them that if they wanted to split logs, I would teach them, but my truck was unavailable, so they would have to roll all the logs to the campfire.

They promptly embarrassed me. Where I looked at those big logs and cringed at the thought of moving them, they all ran off to gleefully roll them. Nor did they merely roll one or two logs. They rolled an entire tree’s worth of logs. It took them less than an hour, and this particularly put me to shame, for I’d managed to make the same job take three months (by putting it off) and hadn’t even started it. What really rubbed the shame in was they were not achy at all, after moving such a load of wood. To be honest, the cluster of kids looked rather invigorated by the exercise. Then they all clamored for chances to split the logs.

The shame. The shame. Old Yankees like me take pride in our ability to work, but I’d been outdone by boys aged five, six and seven. What could I do? I had to watch like a hawk as they attempted to spit the logs. Only a few could actually split a log, (I can still beat them in that respect), but they loved the chance to smash a log, (likely because they usually get in trouble for smashing stuff), and all went home with healthy appetites, likely had no trouble falling asleep, and likely became more muscular.

The benefit to me? Well, of course I do get paid for this stuff. I got the logs moved without paying for it. And parents do praise me because their kids are more mellow when exhausted, and less inclined to smash things at home. However I think the best benefit was that they taught me the young see differently than the old. That should be obvious, but sometimes I need things made blatant.

As I drove from the courthouse to the Childcare, squinting through the windshield at a purple world smeared by swiping wipers,  I took my revelation and applied it to doctors and lawyers. Is it possible that they too have the superabundance of energy youth owns, and all their bureaucratic paperwork is actually a useful thing I am simply too old and worn out to appreciate?


First of all, dealing with the extra work created by a dead birch is a different thing from dealing with a bureaucracy’s extra work. The first is physical whilst bureaucracy is mental, and the first creates a useful product (firewood) while the second mostly wastes time. The only similarity is both involve dead wood, which was one reason I was delightfully surprised when the president-elect suggested that a new rule be instituted wherein, from now on,  an old regulation would have to be abolished before a new one could be instituted.

Second, though I am older physically, and jobs that once were invigorating now are painful, I am still mentally sharp, and in fact better at grasping concepts than I was when I was young and easily befuddled.

However I didn’t have time to think deeply about all this stuff, for I was arriving at the Childcare, and had to not only deal with kids cooped up indoors in a driving rain, but also with an overworked staff who had to cover for me as I ditched them to skip off to deal with doctors and lawyers and paperwork galore.  I might not feel I’d had a break, but the staff needed a break from being the police, judge, jury, prosecution, defense, doctor and nurse all rolled into one. And, as soon as I stepped in from the purple day to the bright yellow light of the Childcare, deep thought had to cease. Working with small children involves having around fifteen seconds to think about a problem, before the child chirps up with the next one, (and if you have twelve children you have twelve voices chirruping questions).

After around a half hour of directing young attentions away from havoc towards more constructive play, and arbitrating disputes, I heard the low moaning of an engine approaching out on the street, and looking out the window into the purple day saw a yellow school-bus approaching and slowing to a stop, and start disgorging a small crowd of”older” children, (aged six to ten.) Glancing at the sign-up sheet I understood some of the smaller children, who should have been picked up already, were staying late because parents were delayed by the driving rain and slow traffic down towards Manchester or Boston. We would have more children than usual. I stifled an oath and instead said, “Goodness!” (which is a word that hasn’t yet been prohibited by bureaucrats).

My focus was immediately the boys exiting the bus, because they are completely full of pent up high spirits, and as they get out of school they are a bit like goats released into a spring pasture. They want to bound and skip and frolic.  It is best to immediately assert some command and power, because if you lose control it is hard to get it back, and they would disturb and infect the smaller children with their wild exuberance.

As the boys exited the bus, I ordered them inside, because the weather was so rotten it seemed a kindness. However after six hours having to obey rules at school they were bouncing off the walls, inside. What does “bouncing off the walls” mean? Well, it means I could either get all legalistic, and forbid throwing things no sane person would think of throwing, and forbid running atop furniture no sane person would think of running atop of, or I could skip the whole bother of pretending I was a lawyer and judge of the indoors, and just order them outside. (Actually I obeyed the bureaucrat’s protocol, and asked them if they would “like to” go outside, but I used a certain growl that hints there is no option.) (I also asked the girls, to prove I’m not a sexist, but rather than bouncing off the walls they were huddled together plotting and scribbling, and simply looked at me, and then out at the driving rain, with incredulous expressions that wordlessly stated, “Are you nuts?”

The boys didn’t hesitate, and I had to collar them even to get them to put on raincoats. After all day pent up in classrooms, boys don’t want to stay in. Nor do I, after time spent pent up in doctor’s and lawyer’s offices. So we went out, and lasted around twenty minutes.


You may think I am exaggerating, but as a so-called “child care professional” I tell you it makes a huge difference if you allow boys a bit of time getting drenched by miserable weather before they decide, on their own volition, that inside is better.

There is something about the “outside” that teaches better than I can. The boys exploded out the door and ran about and got drenched. They had a blast, and then slowed, and seemed to conclude, “this isn’t fun any more.” When they came in they payed quietly with legos, until the girls attacked them.

Now, despite the fact I have noticed there is a difference between the sexes, I attempt to be politically correct. I have mentioned I did offer the girls the chance to go outside with the boys. They had no interest, for, freed from school, they were choosing to bounce off different walls. It caused no trouble at first, because they huddled and plotted and jotted on paper. In fact it seemed harmless, until I got my personal slip of paper. It read:

Top Secret! Private!!!! Mr. Shaw your invited!

Day: Tuesday, Dec 6

Time: 4:07

Where: The farm

Why: Charlotte, Maya, and Brooke invited you!

Please come!

I am old and wise enough to understand that this is not an invitation. It is an order. And it presented me with certain problems. I had a preschooler to deal with just then, and politely said I might be a little late to the party.

When the boys-off-the-bus received their invitations, they made no effort to be polite. Rather than appreciating the invitations they received, they seemed to take offence. Immediately they began turning legos into weaponry. If the girls were going to interrupt their play with invitations, they would counterattack by interrupting the girls’ party with Lego light-sabers, jet airplanes, bazookas and spears. They were very small versions of such weaponry, but they made an amazing amount of noise.

The girls immediately began making a counter din, saying how horrible boys are and bursting into tears and telling me to order the boys to be “polite” and to comply with their orders, and to pretend to sip tea at a party with their pinkies raised. The boys announced they would rather die.

Now I am certain you, as an outsider, know exactly how you would deal with such a rainy-day conflict. You know exactly what to say to girls who invite boys to places they do not want to go. You know what to say to boys who respond to invitations with light sabers. But me? I was just glad that parents half my age started arriving just then, and I didn’t have to deal with it.

To be quite honest, there are times that my wife and I are involved in the exact same disagreement. She is inclined to go to a party, when I am more inclined to play with my Legos, (or construct a sonnet,) (basically the same thing.)

How do my wife and I deal with this problem? Well, to be frank, that is our business, and how you deal with this problem is your business. (It does seem to be a rather eternal problem, mentioned in classic literature and even the Bible.) (The Bible suggests that one way of handling it is to turn water into wine, but I must not be a very good Christian, for I haven’t got that part down right…..yet.)

But one thing that does seem unwise is to legislate. Do not make a one-size-fits-all rule, because not only does one size fail to fit all, but bureaucratic legislation spoils the fun of figuring things out for yourself.

Not that you can’t make certain rules that outlaw certain options, such as, “Thou shalt not poke another with any weaponry”,  or even “Legos shall stay in room 1, and teacups in room 2”, but forbidding certain options is not the same thing as prohibiting Freedom itself.

And to conclude this ramble, that is what the children taught me on a gloomy, rainy day.



ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Long Arm of the Ralph–Updated Friday Morning

Ralph is back at it at the Pole, fed by feeder bands of milder air brought up by the loopy jet stream. The most typical feeder band comes up from the Atlantic, but now I am starting to see signs of more unusual sources, taking more difficult routes. Also I am starting to notice it is not only the milder air that is drawn in, but colder streams are pushed around too, along with their accompanying blobs of high pressure.

It is very interesting to take the high view, and see the planet from the top down. I’m sure some see what occurs at the Pole as mere side effects of greater events further south, but I prefer to see Ralph as the boss and supreme controller of all weather, (even if I am seeing the tail wag the dog).

When I last posted we had seen the feeder band come up through the Canadian Archipelago, holding very moderated Atlantic air that came via the still unfrozen waters of Hudson Bay. Though chilled and I imagine somewhat dried, this air still managed to fuel the latest incarnation of Ralph, which weakened the high pressure over the Pole into a mere ridge. The flow was still largely north to south in the North Atlantic, preventing reinforcements of Ralph from that direction, but reinforcements did come north through the Archipelago.

By the next day the reinforcements arrived, rebuilding Ralph towards the Pole, and pushing the high pressure ridge further towards Scandinavia.

By afternoon the flow in Fram Strait was reversing, to south to north, and Atlantic reinforcements could sneak up the east coast of Greenland as a wrong-way-flow. Ralph was starting to draw mild air up from the Atlantic at the same time he was pulling very cold air off Siberia out over the Arctic Sea, and developing a cross-polar-flow from Siberia to Canada.

The next morning saw the cross-polar-flow pulling a large mass of cold air (high pressure) across Bearing Strait. The open waters there warmed a thin layer at the surface, but most of the cold crossed unscathed and the cold began building in Alaska.  The flow was still south-to-north in Fram Strait but north-to-south over Scandinavia. The cold pouring across from Asia is starting to cut off the supply of mild air through the Archipelago, but a new Atlantic stream was developing. A weak low was developing north of Iceland, but headed east and not north.

By the next day the weak low in the North Atlantic was starting to mess with Ralph’s supply of Atlantic air, but enough of that air had penetrated to create Ralph’s “signature” in the temperature map, (mildness hooking up towards the Pole from the Kara Sea). This milder stream is running side by side with bitter cold being drawn off Siberia by the cross-polar flow, and the clash between the two temperatures feeds Ralph. So much cold is pressing down over Alaska that it is pumping up high pressure.

Today the high pressure over Alaska has become so powerful it no longer is an effect of the pattern, and instead is starting to effect the pattern in a new and interesting way. The Pacific storms cannot move east into Alaska due to that high pressure, and instead are deflected north and then west, first up through East Siberia, and then backwards along the Eurasian Arctic coast. This may be the next feed for Ralph.

What is odd about this situation is that, if the Pacific storms send weak impulses west along the Eurasian coast, and Atlantic storms send weak impulses east along the same coast, somewhere in the middle you are going to have a complete mess. I’ll leave it to European meteorologists to figure it out. They seem good at figuring out maps that to me look like a hopeless tangle of fronts, troughs and occlusions.

Actually today’s UK Met map is remarkably simple. The above map shows the flow has switched back around to north-to-south in Fram Strait, and this is bringing a nice, neat cold front south in the North Atlantic.


However if you follow that cold front west you notice it becomes a warm front over Iceland. A weak low will form in that area and ripple across to Norway, to join the low stagnating over Sweden. Meanwhile the official Icelandic Low will spin its wheels far to the south of Greenland, but all the fronts associated with it will get kicked across the Atlantic and look like a bad hair day over Europe by Thursday.


Now this is a more typical European map, and is why European meteorologists are sometimes found writhing about on the floors of their offices in abject frustration.

I’ll simply over-simplify, as I find it makes life a whole lot easier.

For the time being the Icelandic low is going to wobble where it is, making it very hard for mildness from the Azores to stream north. Meanwhile a unnamed fixed-low will wobble to and fro between Scandinavia and the Kara Sea. On the far side of the Planet the fixed Aleutian Low won’t even be allowed east to the Aleutians, but rather looks like it will wobble back west to the Pacific Coast of Siberia, sending blobs of mildness north across East Siberia on one side, and pouring cold out over the Pacific on its southern side.

It will be interesting if mildness streams north over East Siberia, as that is often the coldest part of Asia. The anomaly maps will show cherry red, for in East Siberia temperatures of -10°C are still thirty degrees above normal. (The usual suspects will seize upon such cherry red maps, so be forewarned.)

What I will be watching for is these blobs of Pacific mildness to roll the wrong way, west along the Eurasian Arctic coast, and then perhaps to even swing north to the Pole as future incarnations of Ralph.

The headlines will be about that tremendous cold in Alaska heading south to afflict Canada and the USA, and I suspect I myself will soon be too busy removing snow to focus much on sea-ice. It looks like the true winter will arrive here in the Northeast of the USA next weekend.

Even if I don’t post I’ll be watching to see if our planet continues to squander its warmth via Ralph, which I see as a big drain at the top of the planet.

The last influx of heat, squandered via the Canadian Archipelago, only resulted in a slight spike in the DMI temperature graph, but that is because the temperature is so much above normal to begin with.  If the graph spiked up to current levels from the green line of normalcy it would give a quite different impression than the current graph’s plunge gives. The simple fact is our planet has brought a lot of mildness north, where it can do nothing but be lost to outer space.


If I have time I’ll update with maps of ice extent later.


I felt I should include today’s DMI maps, for they show the theory came true, and a blob of Pacific influence is moving the wrong way (west) along the Siberian coast to a rendezvous with a mess of low pressure milling around between Scandinavia and the Kara sea and Ralph, up at the Pole.

Despite the “signature” of Atlantic influence at the Pole, the Atlantic flow is very balked, not only by the position of the Icelandic Low well southeast of Greenland, but also by the small low scooting east towards Norway, right in the entrance region of flows from the Atlantic into the Arctic. However the “signature” does show some mildness did sneak past the barricades, and create an uptick in the DMI graph of temperatures north of 80 ° N latitude.


Of course one reason it can get milder at the Pole is because the cold has been exported elsewhere, and the above maps make it obvious the cold is pressing down, (because cold air is dense and sinks), and is creating an intimidating high pressure over Alaska and northern Canada. I use the word “intimidating” because the bitter cold might head south and bring misery to my neck of the woods. However I have a shred of hope it will all spill east, south of Greenland, and chill Atlantic Waters, rather than my humble life.

I should be more manly about the coming onslaught of winter. However I confess often I’d rather skip winter’s challenge to the status-quo. I find it rather upsetting when a tropical paradise like Hawaii has weather reports of three feet of snow, up at the tops of its volcanoes. I thought volcanoes were suppose to be hot!


However some status-quos deserve to be challenged. For example, Turks are beautiful and Kurds are beautiful, but rather than sitting about admiring each other’s beauty, they feel compelled to obey a status quo where they slaughter each other. I am rather glad to see such military operations balked by unexpected snows, displaced far south of normal by Ralph, up at the Pole.


Fifty years ago I used to trot off to school, where a nice fellow like myself ran up against an ugly status-quo wherein I got sneered at a lot, because I was not a star athlete nor a star scholar. I didn’t care a bit what the stars thought, nor what the teachers and coaches, who seemed to fawn ingratiatingly at star juveniles, thought. But I did care what the cheerleaders thought. When these big-bosomed women, a foot taller than I was at that time, sneered at my smallness, and preferred dopey athletes and dopey intellectuals to the marvelous wit of yours truly, I was deeply depressed, and wanted snow to shut things down. Back then, when snow cancelled school, it was a gift from God. I was freed from my daily humiliation, made unexpected coins by shoveling snow, and rather than a fool at school I was the neighborhood hero (because in my neighborhood most children were younger than I) by building the best igloo.

It is amazing what a difference a half-century makes. Now I run a Childcare, so now I am the guy who runs the school. Now I don’t want school cancelled, because it involves my income. Now I have to clear the snow away so the children can come to school. Once I loved snow, but now I hate it.  About the only thing that is the same is that, even after all these years, I am still the guy who builds the igloo. (But even that has changed, because now building igloos makes me sore from head to toe, where a half century ago it was about as hard as building a sand castle, and invigorated me.)

In any case, I wish the cold would stay up at the Pole, where cold belongs. I wish Ralph would just quit his whirling, and have the decency to fade quietly away.  No such luck, so far, this Autumn. But hopefully, when Winter comes, Winter will be different.

I am hinting at something, as I make the above comment. I am hinting that the politicized concept of Global Warming matters about as much to working people as a flea to an elephant, (when the flea is on the elephant’s toenail and can’t bite his hide). Real people have real stuff to deal with, and Global Warming is last on their list.

I have now spent over a decade debating Global Warming fanatics. Increasingly it seems a complete waste of my time. Increasingly it becomes obvious they don’t really care what is actually happening, up at the Pole, and down at lower latitudes, and in terms of snow-cover, and in terms of sea-ice. Such things are wonderful, but they don’t care about what is wonderful, and prefer not to deal with the world of wonder. They have their minds made up. Science is settled. They have the universe figured out. Einstein was stupid, compared to their certainty.

What complete dopes. The scam has been obvious since Climategate. This cartoon is from 2009.


In any case, here are the maps of sea-ice concentration and sea-ice thickness. Despite Ralph’s appetite for inflows of mild air, the sea-ice goes right on expanding. Bering Strait grew ice swiftly when the cold was streaming from Siberia to Alaska, but I expect the ice-growth to slow there, now that Ralph seems hungry for Pacific air. Hudson Bay was protected by a former inflow, but I expect it to rapidly skim over because of the enormous high pressure of bitter cold building over Canada. (Until Hudson Bay does freeze over expect to see crimson on temperature anomaly maps over its waters, which will be warming a thin layer of air at the surface.)

Kara Sea is swiftly freezing up, and Franz Josef Land, which was completely surrounded by water when Ralph’s mild feed was heading north there, is now completely surrounded by ice.





This morning’s map shows the “official” Ralph fading away north of Greenland, but his “signature continuing to be very apparent, hooking up over the Pole. (Keep in mind that the “milder air” just over the Pole is between -15°C and -20°C.) However what is most interesting to me is what I suppose I should call a “Pacific Signature”, poking north (down) through Bering Strait. Some models show this surge of mild air fueling a second wrong-way storm, moving west along the north coast of Siberia, in the coming days.  It will be interesting to watch this polar invasion, though I think the media will largely be focused on that bitter cold over Canada sending arctic outbreaks south into the USA for the next 15 days.


Things are getting so interesting that I might see if I can find the time for a new post, in which case this is just notes for that post.

The most noticeable feature on the map is the enotmous high pressure that has built over Canada, and has bulged a ridge all the way south to Texas. (That is why ranchers in the northern plains of Texas brag, during a “blue norther”, “There’s nothing between here and the North Pole ‘cept a couple of stands of barbed wire.”) However it makes the Pole warmer to export that arctic blast, in this case because a mild “feeder band” is being drawn north through Bering Strait, along with weak bulges of low pressure, which interest me because they seem to be becoming the next “Ralph” at the Pole.  In the map below one has weakened, but dents the isobars by the Pole, and a second is bulging north on the coast of the East Siberian Sea.

This morning’s shows little change. Very cold air is venturing north in the Laptev Sea, clashing with the Pacific air coming in through Bering straight, which should fuel a path for the second Pacific low. The real culprit at this point is the Aluetian Low, at about 1:00 on the edge of the map. It has been suppressed west by the huge high over Alaska, and is actually slightly inland in Asia.

The mild air being pushed north through Bering Strait is below freezing, but far above the usual frigid temperatures seen in East Siberia. It shows up very nicely in the temperature anomaly maps produced by Dr. Ryan Maue over at the Weatherbell Site. The anomaly is so great it is not merely “cherry red”, or even “white hot,” but downright peachy.hula-1-gfs_t2m_anom_arctic_1

Now watch where that “heat” heads in the next two maps, (24 hour forecast and 48 hour forecast.)


You can see a “Ralph signature” swirl starting to show, so lets switch over and look at Dr. Maue’s surface-pressure-and-wind maps for, 24, 48, 74 and 96 hours. Does Ralph reappear at the Pole?




Well bust my sprockets!  Thar he blows!  But actually I’d expect a low to form with so much heat transported to the cold Pole. What could the air do but rise? (And consequently lose all that heat to outer space).

For those of you who are more interested in the boring subject of weather further south, notice what happens behind Ralph. The isobars stop coming north through Bering Strait and instead indicate a cross-polar-flow crossing from Siberia to Canada. (To me this indicates the current blast of cold afflicting North America will not be a one-shot-deal, but will involve a second blast.)

I’m more interested in what becomes of Ralph once the Pacific winds stop rushing north through Bering Strait. He will be cut off, and likely have to stop dancing about in that ridiculous hula skirt he wears, when Pacific air is involved. Will he simply fade away? Or will he pull off another reincarnation?

Stay tuned.


The high pressure over northern Canada is disgorging its cold south. This will rob the Arctic of its reservoir of cold, and that high pressure indeed looks weaker, from our top-down view. The Aleutian feeder-band, sucked around the top of that  band, has made it all the way to the shores of the Canadian Archipelago, and as it clashes with cold air lodged there it seems a surprise version of “Ralph” is forming. This took me by surprise, as I’ve been watching that low rolling west along the Siberian Coast.

Besides this important stuff, up where nobody lives, there is the small matter of the arctic air pouring down from the Canadian Archipelago to Texas and effecting hundreds of millions of folk. This only concerns us sea-ice fanatics because the Arctic is being robbed blind of its cold air.


I suppose this blast is of interest, as it rushes over Hudson Bay which is not yet frozen, though it it starting to freeze at the top. Last year it was nearly more than half frozen at this date. (2015 to left, 2016 to right.)

It is interesting to note that, while Hudson Bay is refreezing more slowly than last year, the cold air pouring into the Pacific from Siberia has the Sea of Okhotsk freezing more swiftly.

As Hudson Bay chills it swiftly warms the arctic air passing over it, with further heat robbed via the process of evaporation. This warms areas downwind of the Bay, and also the Great Lakes, as can be seen in this Dr. Maue map of temperatures.


While this warming effect may concern a few millions in the Northeast of the USA, a true sea-ice fanatic is primarily concerned with Hudson Bay’s rate of refreeze. I am particularly concerned because I stuck my foolish neck out and bet a nickle it would be frozen by Christmas.


By next Wednesday the robbery of arctic cold will have bone-chilling air pouring into the USA. (This is a anomaly-map of temperatures next Wednesday a bit higher up in the atmosphere, at the 850 mb level.)


Of interest in this map is not the records being set in boring old USA, but the counter flow roaring up towards the north of Hudson Bay. (I suppose I should be interested because that warm flow seems to pass over my house and keep me from the chill, at least until Thusrday). Also of interest is the warmer-than-normal air persisting up towards Bering Strait.

This seems a continuation of the topsy-turvy pattern where the Pole may be milder than normal, but lower latitudes get their socks frozen off.

When the arctic surges south on the American side, Europe often gets a break, and indeed the Dr. Maue temperature-anomaly map of Europe shows them milder than normal, except to the southeast:


However despite the mildness in Europe and East Siberia, plenty of arctic air lurks in the center of Asia, especially in Western Russia. If I was European I’d keep an eye on the cold over Russia, and keep my guard up.  Winter hasn’t officially even started yet, and I have a hunch this could be a winter when both sides of the Northern Hemisphere get hammered. Here is a Dr. Maue map showing how far below normal the temperatures are over Western Russia:


Of course, Europe doesn’t matter much to a true sea-ice fanatic. Keep your eyes peeled for feeder-bands heading north to Ralph, for Ralph is the real “polar vortex”, (no matter what you may hear about the big arctic trough hitting the USA next week).



ARCTIC SEA ICE –Archie-Ralph–

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.

Stay tuned.