ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Greenland Anomaly–

One very interesting aspect of the floods of milder air surging up to the Pole the past fall involves the fact that on the western side the winds have often been south on the east coast of Greenland, where winds are usually north. This creates all sorts of confusion, in the contentious world of sea-ice debates, as the south winds have effects counter-intuitive to what I would initially expect,  (which is that south winds are warm winds and lead to less ice.)

It is undeniable that a lot more mild air headed up to the Pole than we have ever seen, since records began to be kept in 1958. The temperatures-north-of-80°-latitude is quite impressive, in terms of warmth as winter approached.


There was a lot of Alarmist hoopla about this warmth, as there should be, as it represents a change in usual patterns. I have talked about how the Quiet Sun might be the cause, rather than CO2, in prior posts, but prefer to think in new directions in this post.

One graph I would like to see produced is a graph of temperatures between 70° and 80° north latitude, as well as one for temperatures between 60° and 70° north latitude. The trouble with the above graph is that it is focused in the center of the Arctic Sea, and many times this past autumn the coldest temperatures were around the edges. In fact the coldest temperatures, well below normal, were south of 70°, especially in Asia, where records for cold were set. Therefore the above graph is not seeing the big picture.

However the above graph does demonstrate an “unpresidented” (since 1958) surge of milder-than-normal air was brought up to the Pole. (When  we say “mild” we need to remember “normal” on the Arctic Sea is -30°C, and therefore temperatures can be twenty degrees above normal, and still cold enough to form sea-ice.)

The primary cause of reduced sea-ice extent has not been the lack of ice forming, but rather that the thin skim of ice at the edges has been smashed north by the strong south winds both in Barents Sea and in Bering Strait. (At times those winds have been above freezing when they first arrive at the Pole, but the primary reason for the retreat of the ice is that it is smashed north. After all, when the ice first forms it is only inches thick, and we are talking about gales with waves 15-25 feet tall.) As soon as the winds shift to the north the sea-ice expands south with remarkable speed, amounting to many miles each day, but then it just as swiftly retreats north again when winds turn south again.

It is good fun to watch those who cheer the growth of ice and those who cheer the reduction of ice, because their mood swings can be tremendous in such situations. I guess you could call them bipolar (Ha ha).

In actual fact the “surge” creates all sorts of changes that are somewhat hideously complicated, involving changes in the amount open water, the structure of that water, the currents of that water, and the structure of the ice atop that water when it at last forms. Allow me to quickly list some, as they occur to me, off the top of my head.

A.) Open water loses more heat than ice-covered water, and therefore the water may be at a lower temperature when it is finally frozen over.  This means a lot, for most melting comes from beneath, the following summer, and waters even a half degree colder will melt the ice more slowly.

B.) Protected waters are able to stratify, and layers of milder but less saline water can move considerable distances north, to hasten the melt the next summer. However wind-churned waters are less able to stratify, not only due to turbulence at the surface, but also because when the wind shifts to a frigid direction and the water is cooled and frozen with great speed, plumes of saline, super-cooled water sink.

C.) Regarding the sinking waters, if they are sinking in areas where not much sinking usually occurs, (for example further north when water is open further north), it disturbs the ordinary flow, and makes a mess of my nice, neat charts.

D.) Regarding the flow and my nice, neat charts, having water exposed to strong winds allows surface waters to, at times, move opposite to the ordinary flow of more usual currents. On occasion this can transport ice as well, and if the ice melts it cools the water in its new location, as well as making the water less saline. (A good example occurred last winter in Fram Strait, where usually a cold current drives south, carrying ice down the east coast of Greenland, as a warm current drives north on the east side of the Strait, keeping the west side of Svalbard ice-free. However last winter unusual west winds shifted masses of ice across Fram Strait, from the cold west side to the warm east side, where the ice swiftly melted, reducing the sea-ice extent but greatly cooling the warmer current, even to a point where sank beneath northern waters further south than usual.)

E.) A final effect of the “surge” is increased precipitation, which is almost always snow during the winter. The Pole is described as a “desert”, and often sea-ice has very little snow on top of it. Increased snow has contrary effects, making the ice less-thick during the winter because the snow insulates the sea-water under the ice and keeps the ice from thickening, but during the summer snow reflects the sunshine and slows the thinning of the ice, (and also, even when it finally turns to slush under the 24-hour-sunshine, it uses up a lot of available heat, turning it into latent heat during the phase change from solid to liquid.)

F.) I’m sure there are other complexities I’ve forgotten. (Evaporation on open waters springs to mind.)

It is the subject of increased precipitation that has grabbed my interest today. I’ve read several Alarmist posts about how mild it has been up in Svalbard, and how the waters around the island are all but ice-free, but I’ve read little about the effect all the moist air, and its result snow, will have.

For one thing, any snow that falls on land seems to be dismissed from most Alarmist calculations, concerning the albedo of ice and its ability to reflect sunlight during the melt season. Currently there is no or very little sunlight to reflect to the north, and to the south above-normal snows are reflecting a lot of sunshine, but I see no calculating being done on how this could be cooling the planet.

Secondly a great deal of stress is put on Greenland’s icecap melting away, by some Alarmists. The “surge” is not having that effect.

The “surge” has at times extended to the east coast of Greenland,  and this indeed does reduce the ice-extent graph, for the southbound current on Greenland’s east coast is slowed or even briefly stopped (at the surface) by southerly gales. The sea-ice that flows down that coast is slowed, and this reduces the “extent”. However that leaves more ice to the north to make extent’s higher next summer. (I should note that the “surge” has also been mild enough to slow the growth of “home grown ice”, which does not come from the northbut grows in place, along Greenland’s east coast.)

However the “surge” has also blown huge amounts of moisture inland in Greenland. Wven south winds accomplish this, but the passage of gales up the coast (part of the surge) has turned those winds southeast and even due east. The snowfall over southeast Greenland has greatly increased the amount of the “icecap”.


In fact, just as the mild temperatures at the Pole are “unprecedented”, so too is the yearly increase of mass atop Greenland accumulated at an “unprecedented” rate.


I should mention Greenland is shaped like a bowl, and the icecap makes it like an overfilled bowl. Ice cannot “slide” off Greenland any more than ice can “slide” out of a bowl of ice-cream (unless you mistakenly fill your bowl when it is upside down). Most ice escapes Greenland’s bowl because it is heaped up to over 10,000 feet high, which creates such pressure that it is squeezed between the mountains around the edge as massive glaciers that reach the sea.

Judging from the above graph Greenland is in no danger of melting. If anything it is increasing, and the glaciers around the edge will be exuding more and not less ice. The only hope the Alarmists have is to point out places where the ice extends out to sea, for if the ice is exuded faster then more great icebergs will break off, and Alarmists can point at them and draw the wrong conclusions.



34 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Greenland Anomaly–

  1. Greenland has still been losing mass after the “monster” mass-loss during 2012:

    (altimetry and Input-Output Method (IOM) give similar results, in case one wants to “deny” gravimetric measurements)

    …one thing to consider in the Arctic is that the warmer Atlantic Waters (AW) might start getting mixed into the colder sweet surface waters due to increased churning (made possible by retreated ice). What do you think of the possibility that this is a positive feedback on sea-ice melt?

  2. Nice try.

    First, I’m not talking about last year; I’m talking about this year.

    Second, records that only go back to 2002 cover less than a quarter of the 60 year AMO cycle.

    Third, glaciers have a slow response time, and at the seaward edge where most ice-loss occurs we are likely seeing responses to events that occurred decades ago at higher elevations inland.

    Fourth, smaller glaciers retreating on the colder, eastern side of Greenland are exposing the stumps of brush that grew there in the Medieval Warm Period, but no longer live there. (Greenland may have looked green back then, approaching from the east.)

    Fifth, there are ruins on the eastern side from the Dorset People, who were less adapted to arctic conditions than modern “Thule” Inuit, but managed to survive a while, before the cold moved them out, just as cold moved the Vikings out. As I recall the most recent ruins date from the Roman Warm Period. Thule hunters passing through the area found it uninhabited. It wasn’t resettled until the 1700’s.

    This suggests there was less ice in the recent past.

    Open water likely has some characteristics that might be described as a “positive feedback”, but there are just as likely other characteristics that might be called “negative.” It is the interplay between the various forces that lead to oscillations such as the AMO’s 60-year-cycle. What I enjoy thinking about is the mechanics of the oscillations, the engineering.

    If you can describe your idea of a positive feedback in an A-leads-to-B-which-causes-C-and-consequently-D sort of way, I’d really enjoy considering it. I love contemplating that sort of stuff.

    • I should note that some think that what caused the downfall of the Dorset people was not cold, but the mildness of the Medieval Warm Period. This theory suggests they were superbly adapted to hunting seals, by sitting patiently by holes in the ice, and the Medieval Warm Period made waters so ice-free there were no holes to sit by.

      Other theories state it may have been contact to European diseases via the Vikings, and Asian diseases through the Thule Inuit, that led to their downfall.

      A third theory states that there was genocide involved, although the Thule Inuit legends only state they “chased away” a “giant people.”

      All I am certain of is that the east coast of Greenland supported people, in the past, but became an uninhabited wasteland by the start of our more modern histories. (roughly the year 1500).

  3. Marine-terminating glaciers can actually have an amazingly fast response-time (years) if their underwater-geometry makes them vulnerable to (grounding-line) retreat. Many big ice-streams in Greenland have accelerated by quite a lot in the recent years, for example Jakobshavn Isbrae which is the fastest ice-stream in the world:

    In Greenland both melting (Surface Mass Balance = SMB) and Discharge (D) via ice streams have contributed to relatively rapid mass-loss, here’s a low quality image of what has happened recently:

    Regarding the positive sea ice feedback the process would be:

    Loss of sea ice cover and thinning of ice -> greater fetch for storms with waves penetrating deeper into Central Arctic Basin during storms -> increased churning leading into warm Atlantic Waters being brought into surface -> loss of sea ice cover and thinning of ice

    • I have seen such a mix of satellite pictures of Greenland glaciers both advancing and retreating, with such a slew of contrary ideas, that I can’t think of a short reply (and I have a meeting to run to in half an hour.)

      I think your idea of a positive feedback may have been what happened during the summer gale of 2012. I was amazed by how so much ice vanished so fast. In fact I doubted the data, and had some wonderful email exchanges with government scientists who persuaded me that most of the ice had melted, due to the stirring up of warmer “Atlantic” water beneath the colder surface “freshwater lens”.

      However the following summer there was another gale, and it didn’t have the same effect. My guess was that, because the stratification had been disturbed the summer before, the underlying layers of warmer “Atlantic” water had been in a sense “used up.”

      This coming summer may be a test of this idea, for there has been so much open water that the underlying warmth should be “used up.” If ice is thinner but does not melt as fast it will seem to prove my guess has merit.

      Anyway, live and learn, and keep your eyes sharp. Much that we are seeing has never been observed before with modern devices.

      • Many Greenland outlet ice-streams have accelerated considerable after the mid-nineties or so. There’s no controversy about this.

      • Sounds interesting. I’ve studied the major Russian Rivers draining into the arctic a little, but not the Greenland streams. Do you have links to the studies?

        I am curious where the streams are located and whether they flow in the winter.

        I’d expect the summer flow to increase since the 1990’s with the AMO moving into its “warm” phase.

        It remains to be seen if the Quiet Sun has any sort of deranging effect on the AMO.

        One deranging effect seemingly were the eruptions of two super-volcanoes in 1810 (unknown location; perhaps Andes) and in 1815 (Tamboro in Indonesia). The flow became so extremely meridional that a very large amount of the arctic sea-ice was flushed down into the North Atlantic, with icebergs grounding on the shores of Ireland even as whalers found ice-free waters to the northeast of Greenland. Some think the chilling of the Atlantic caused “The Year With No Summer” in Europe.

        I think there is still plenty of controversy, if you look for it.

    • @styrge on January 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm: Only if you are blind. We have snow to 800m or so near 46S most weeks this summer, and much of Eurasia has been frozen since mid- Autumn. Now it all is, nearly, plus further south.
      To an old man like me, that is inside the normal range, more or less. To people with an agenda, it is ‘unprecedented’, and must be connected with CAGW, somehow. The fresher meltwater is too minor to change the AMO/C(read the research), which is now happening. As we predicted, not hard if one is not trying to marxify history.

      • Brett,
        I often tell those of fewer than 25 years that nothing is stable. When I was a boy in the 1950s there was virtually no oilseed rape grown in the UK, nor were there any Limousin or Charolais cattle.
        Equally within the time that there has been humanoid life the world has been colder, warmer, wetter, drier, windier, less windy, the sea level has been higher and lower. In which case the climate is within previously experienced limits for humanoids and any minor changes should be treated like changes in agriculture – interesting but nothing to lose sleep over.

    • Styrge,

      Besides temperatures, the sun’s energy translates as winds. Less wind means less up-welling in the ocean, especially off the coast of Peru, where a lessening of the Trade Winds brings about El Nino conditions, which apparently effects the entire planet. Therefore, at the beginning at least, a “Quiet Sun” is a case where less energy creates more warming, (which I myself did not expect nor predict).

      That graph you posted seems to end before the recent spell of 35 sunspot-free days. TSI should show more of a downturn at the end. Furthermore, TSI is not the only influence. The upper atmosphere is effected by either ultraviolet or infrared (I’m too busy to go look it up) and the changes are bigger when the sun gets quiet. Then there is the fact a Quiet Sun does a poorer job of protecting our planet from cosmic rays from distant parts of the galaxy, and the increased bombardment has effects much debated by Svenmark and others.

      The current Quiet Sun resembles the fifth recorded cycle, #5, which began around 1798 and was associated with low TSI on your graph.

  4. Nice post Caleb! Finally tying the Greenland anomaly to the weird arctic warming which I think was somewhat related to Ralph ( may he RIP). Had an unusual amount of rain down here a few weeks ago and the Andes were a glorious snow covered sight. Pretty unusual for the equivalent of ‘July’ down here. 90 here today so back to summer. Stay warm!

    • We are not coming out of an ice age but slowly moving towards an ice age due to changes in insolation. The recent increase of mass-loss from Greenland is very abrupt.

      • Nice try again.

        There is no measure of “mass-loss” beyond very recent records. We are not comparing apples with apples; we are comparing apples with the unknown.

        Secondly, as you would supply no links to back up your statements about the outflow of streams increasing, I started to poke into the subject on my own. There too the data is very sparse, and what they can get involves amazingly complex ways of gauging the flow involving things such as the the light reflected from streams measured by satellites, involving models. Also the “high rates” seem to involve the period after the rare thaw of July 11-13, 2012, which ice cores show is a once-every-fifty-year-event. Lastly the actual waters measured coming out from under the glaciers was less than the models suggested, which may suggest there is some form of “storage” such as a lake, or may suggest the models are just plain wrong.

        This is not to suggest that fellows haven’t been doing some very difficult work. I admire their efforts, and the ingenuity displayed in order to derive useful data from sparse facts. However to suggest sparse evidence is “overwhelming” evidence is taking things a bit too far.

    • Well yes, I do have the rates of ‘loss’ in my files. There is the change as we come out of the LIA,(possibly easing); the normal melting rates from being a stranded giant ice massif block of sub-continental size, which will almost certainly be fairly unchanged when the next glaciation arrives. Size counts here, and altitude, is that not so? Also, the normal pressure-related and simple gravity flows.
      All pretty insignificant when compared with the vast vollume involved, and its continual additions at great height and cold. Currently these are increasing.
      Which reminds me, we must never forget the plain stupidities of the AGW mob, as they fizzle out: From Tallblokes blog –
      “Climatism says:
      January 16, 2017 at 12:27 pm
      Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
      Year 2000 : According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.
      “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

      Climate change alarmist dud-prediction #1,324,567 and counting…

      LOL ❄️😂❄️ “


    This is a 250mb current wind pattern here. Getting the classic hexagonal stabilising pattern, but with about 6 (funny, that) polar cyclone-sort of vigourous churners keeping the outflows of frigid air going over midsummer. Replacemment warmer air is also being drawn in here and lower down. A good pictorial synopsis, I think, of the southern end, for informed comparisons. Climate having its global nature…..

    By the way, Joe at Weatherbell advises that a mighty SSW is striking you northerners, and colder hell even than you are getting seems on your way. Right around the NH, step by step. Check it out, even you, styrge. Weather not climate of course, unless it persists.

    Thanks for your comment, Ben. Similar this end of the empire :)..

    • Ah styrge, you wish to repeat that lie too. Mickey Mann pseudo -science, wiped out by Wegman, M+M, etc..I see you are not seriously interested in learning, just destroying. You could show us your proof in real data…..same for mass balance, and include error margins in all things. or stay home.

      • I am always amazed by the blind-spot revealed by those who simply can’t accept the Medieval Warm Period was warm. I can’t see why anyone would want to be blind to such a significant reality, let alone so much wonderful history.

        It seems very important to give the Medieval Warm Period its proper weight, if we are to understand the various gives and takes of how the complexity of climate works. To ignore it is like removing a crucial foundation stone. All that is built above is at risk.

        I can only suppose that some want to have their research seem more important, more worthy of headlines, more earth-shaking and vital, (and more worthy of money), by making it look like they are seeing something never-before-seen. Therefore they pooh-pooh the Medieval Warm Period as a mere blip, compared to their GIGANTIC observations.

        What makes it all a bit of a joke is that we all may indeed be witnesses to something never-before-seen, (with modern instruments), but rather than Global Warming it is the Quiet Sun.

        If this is the case it is important we quit the bias, and get down to real science, if science is to be useful and help mankind face what could be quite a crisis.

  6. Pastings from Erl’s blog (West Australia) and Rob’s post on it re Westland, NZ South Island.

    “erl happ says:
    January 14, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Here in Margaret River it appears that the vines are 2-3 weeks later than normal. Could be a vintage like 2006 where we struggled to get flavour ripeness.

    Last week we had a front move through yielding an inch of rain….very rare for summer. Surface pressures for December in the near Indian Ocean rate amongst the lowest half a dozen years in the last seventy. Intensified polar cyclone activity in both hemispheres gives rise to wide swiings in the jet stream.


    Rob R says:
    January 16, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    We sure have had a very long line-up of rain-bearing fronts being dragged along in an almost continuous westerly to southwesterly wind flow. I can’t count the number of times people have said to me that they really do want a bit of global warming to kick in. Its been fairly cold here as well. Temp struggling to break through 18C and commonly down around 14 to 15C.”
    A nasty outbreak is expected today over all NZ. We are all “waiting for summer”. More snow in the hills.

    I would suggest to the likes of styrge that this blog is a study of what is happening, especially in the Arctic sea ice area. Not sure what pushing belief systems re computer models of the far future has in the way of relevance.

  7. I’m more interested in observations of the arctic sea ice, which show unprecedented loss of volume, area and extent. Now that the icepack is so small and weak just one “bad” summer could lead to very low ice records in the north.

    • You are back to square one, by calling the record “unprecedented”, citing a single paper that ignores lots of other evidence.

      I think you have made your point. If you want to hammer it over and over again, maybe you should start your own website.

      • It’s unprecedented in the satellite record, and unprecedented according to proxies for centuries or longer. Do you deny observations and proxies or what is the deal around here?

      • Its is not unprecedented in the Nimbus satellite records that extend beyond 1979, which show very low ice in the early 1970’s. It is not unprecedented using a number of proxies discounted by the lone proxy you favor.

        I get your point. You are dedicated to believing that there were no spells where there was a lot of open water in the Arctic Sea until this recent spell. Never mind subs surfacing in open water at the Pole in 1959 in the month of March…and so on and so forth…yaadayaadayaada…

        I have been bringing up historical examples of low ice in the Arctic Ocean for over ten years now, only to be asked by people like you, ” Do you deny observations and proxies or what is the deal around here?”

        I can only tell you this is getting old. What is the use of showing you that it is not unprecedented when you refuse to budge from a proxy that utterly ignores evidence, history, and the hard work of scientists who I feel are true scientists, and not bought by politicians?

        I ask you, is there any evidence that could pry you from your insistence? I mean, the turf was so thawed in Greenland they could work it with medieval plows, grow barley for their beer, dig graves by hand, and now it is permafrost as hard as iron, and yet you think it is warmer now? To me it seems you are the one who denies observations.

        In any case, I am tired of arguments when they reach a childish “It is-It isn’t-It is- It isn’t” level. If you want to see examples of precedents, look through my older posts and you’ll see them. Seek and you shall find.

        I have better things to do with my time than to reiterate reiterations. The current Polar “warm spell” is fascinating for reasons other than you seem interested in, and that is what I wish to focus my attention upon.

        We are embarking upon a true “climate change” which I believe is going to be brought about by the Quiet Sun. It is a new frontier. I don’t want to miss it, arguing about whether or not the Viking grew barley in Greenland 1050 years ago.

  8. Yes Caleb, these trolls are tiresomely stupid. When I started chasing up why my plant science was telling me that AGW was incorrect, I dug into NZ and worldwide university records, as real scientists should. These delineated the likes of previous warmer and colder periods, incuding MWP and LIA. In NZ we have superb vulcanism-dated lakebed pollen and plant sequences which help prove it was worldwide. It is up to these trolls to refute this Null hypothesis or shut up. That is Science. The hockey schick is dead, pull the other leg….
    Back to our subject, it looks more and more interesting, if uncomfortable. Which is what teaches us, if nothing else will. Please keep observing. Trolls tend to be rich enough to warm burning money (ours). We must chop and saw, but we warm twice,aye. .

  9. The medieval warm period was warm at least in Europe where we have the most observations. However for global estimates one should not overweight measurements in one area. If the proxies show that it was less warm elsewhere on the planet so be it.

    The Nimbus-quote is a total lie, sea-ice volume in the 70s’ wasn’t even close to where it is now. If you have a peer-reviewed paper saying otherwise please post the reference.

    If the quiet sun does not cause a clear cooling we can call that idea falsified. How many years should we wait and see? Will the cooling show up by 2020 or 2025? Some people on skeptic blogs shouted cooling at 2010 – didn’t happen.

  10. “Here, we introduce a new millennial ensemble reconstruction of annually resolved temperature variations for the Southern Hemisphere based on an unprecedented network of terrestrial and oceanic palaeoclimate proxy records. In conjunction with an independent Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction ensemble, this record reveals an extended cold period (1594–1677) in both hemispheres but no globally coherent warm phase during the pre-industrial (1000–1850) era. The current (post-1974) warm phase is the only period of the past millennium where both hemispheres are likely to have experienced contemporaneous warm extremes.”

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