It has been two weeks since I’ve posted on Sea-ice. Plenty of distractions inflict me as I attempt to squeak by, running a Farm-childcare, not the least of which is the tantrums and accusations and threats. And no, I’m not talking about the children. I’m talking about Washington DC. (When voters demand the swamp be drained, leeches that live in the swamp will feel threatened, and will fight for their lives, claiming they are protected species in protected wetlands.) I find it all disconcerting, like the rumbles of thunder over a distant horizon. If my government is going to dissolve into civil war I had best know about it, especially as some on the left have suggested Climate Change Skeptics should be executed.
More than ever I need to get away to gaze at clouds and sea-ice. I do so with a wistful feeling, for two reasons, the first being that I have a sense funding for arctic research will dry up. There may be no cameras this summer. The left no longer needs to do a bad job of being coy, as it promotes balderdash, and arctic scientists, having served their purpose as useful tools, will abruptly be cast aside. The debate will likely shift from whether the world is threatened by Climate Change to whether the world is threatened by Donald Trump, who looks like he wants to make the left stop hiding its cards. If the situation disintegrates arctic sea-ice will be of far less importance. (A bit like having a holiday at a summer cottage on the beach was more important in 1938 than in 1940, when the beach faced the English Channel.) And that is the second reason I am wistful. There comes a time to put away our joys the same way we put away our toys.
Winston Chruchill wrote,
“HAPPY ARE THE PAINTERS, FOR THEY SHALL NOT BE LONELY. LIGHT AND COLOUR, PEACE AND HOPE, WILL KEEP THEM COMPANY TO THE END, OR ALMOST TO THE END, OF THE DAY.”
but he had to put away his brushes in 1939. Apparently only once, during the duration of the war, did he find time to paint, and even that was, perhaps, politically motivated. In 1943, in Marrakesh, he sat down before an empty canvas to paint something for FDR.
And here is his lone wartime painting:
My life is far less grandiose, but there have been times simply surviving took priority. During my drifting days it seemed every winter involved long months when I simply put my small, portable typewriter away in its case, and didn’t see it until spring. If course, eyes go right on seeing the beauty of Truth and the vulgar ugliness of falsehood, but at best you can only scrawl notes on the back of an envelope. Most of your brain gets used up by more mundane stuff.
I have a melancholic sense we may look back at our days of looking at sea-ice with wistful nostalgia. Hopefully I worry too much. In any case, I look north with the special relish one has, when one feels they may be doing something for the last time.
When I last posted on February 20 Ralph (the persistent low pressure at the Pole), had gone on vacation, and the calm had allowed the cold to build to normal levels for the first time all winter.
I am just going to publish the maps, and hopefully find time for analysis later. The main things to note are that the high pressure on the Pacific side never positioned itself in a way that tore ice away from the north coasts of Alaska and Canada (as it did last year), and so far no polynya has formed offshore of the Mackenzie Delta, and instead ice has been crammed into that entrance-region of the Northwest Passage. (This does not bode well for our intrepid adventurers, this summer, though there is still time for a polynya to form.) Second, despite the fact there has been no true “surge” there has been a sort of “seep”, creating very weak versions of Ralph, as well as Ralph’s “signature” on the temperature maps. Third, the extreme cold towards the Pacific has thickened the ice over there a lot. (I hope to add comparison maps later.) Fourth, there have been lulls in the extreme snows over Greenland, but also whopper-storms, (I hope to add a graph later).
With any luck I’ll update this afternoon, but now it is time for church. Bitter cold here, after nice thaws last week. Down to 1° F (-16°C) at daybreak.
For some reason I can’t access the Nanal Research Lab maps, buy using the most recent maps I’ve saved you can see how swiftly the ice has thickened up towards Bering Strait, even two weeks ago. (January 20 to the left, February 20 to the right.) In average it is three feet thicker.
Here is more recent the DMI “modled” thickness map.
We now can get some visible satellite imagery from those waters, and they seem less broken up than recent years, which I find a bit surprising, considering some incarnations of Ralph were fairly powerful gales. If you zoom in to the limit you can see some leads that have frozen over, but these are minor compared to the hundred-mile-wide leads seen other years.
The Barrow webcam at the top of Alaska see motionless fast-ice along its shoreline.
It is still early, but I have the sense the ice, even if not thicker, is more rigid than last year, and so far is without the polynyas of open water along the shores.
The ice has been more active in the Laptev Sea. The older the ice is the whiter it looks in the image. The whitest lobe at the top is not land, but land-fast ice, with a narrow polynya of open water at its edge. However the polynyas are minor, compared to some years, when constant off-shore winds from Siberia make the Laptev the greatest contributor of exported ice that crosses the Pole and piles up on the Canadian Archipelago coast, but leaves the Laptev with nothing but a skim of baby ice at the start of the summer melt.
The “surges” that fed Ralph did a good job of smashing the ice up to the northwest of the Kara Sea, off Novaya Zemlya, but it has constantly been refreezing.
The most mobile ice is the ice streaming south along the west coast of Baffin Bay and out to sea along the coast of Labrador. Some of this ice even starts up in the thick ice along the north coast of the Canadian Archipelago, and gets squeezed through Nares Strait, the narrow channel between the Archipelago and Greenland. Although this ice contributes to the dynamics of Atlantic currents, especially the cold Labrador current, it will nearly all be gone by September.
The “seep” of milder air that shows up in the temperature maps also shows up in the temperature graph as a slight spike upwards, nothing like the earlier “surges”. It remains very cold up there despite the increasing daylight. The night is still constant at the Pole, and at the Arctic Circle the nights are still longer than the days, and when the sun is up it is still low.
Last but not least, there is the extent graph that tended to generate a hubbub this time of year, especially as it is at low levels, largely due to the “surges” repressing growth in Barents Sea. Personally I don’t think it matters much, for a lot of the ice is fleeting and in places like the Gulf of Saint Lawrence or the Sea of Okhotsk, where it never lasts long into May. However the hubbub can be entertaining, (largely due to the people involved), so, stay tuned!
P.S. If anyone becomes aware of any new drifting buoys, with or without cameras, I’d be interested in hearing about them.
The Navy maps are back on line. Here is a comparison of January 20 (left) with March 5 (right).
Comparison with last year’s map. (2016 to left and 2017 to right). Besides the obvious thicker ice last year, (yellow on Canadian side of Pole), notice thin ice ( as little as six inches) northeast of Mackenzie Delta in Canada, and Northeast coast of Alaska, and west coast of Hudson Bay, in 2016, that is 2-6 feet thicker this year.