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.