Barring any last minute peaks, it looks like the sea-ice has reached its yearly maximum.

DMI4 0322 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

This maximum is about the same as last year, but, because it is among the lowest in the satellite record, I suppose those still involved in the battles with Alarmists should step back and allow the Alarmists a period of rejoicing. I have never exactly seen the reason for their rejoicing, considering they believe low sea-ice signifies the immanent demise of the planet, but I don’t like to spoil their fun.

I personally don’t think these slight variations matter as much as Alarmists do, and am far more interested in the effects of the Quiet Sun. Therefore I have retired from the Climate Wars. However, for those of you still involved, I recommend that, if the celebrating of Alarmists gets too in-your-face and overbearing, the eyebrow-approach should be utilized.

This involves listening and nodding, but with overly sympathetic eyebrows. Towards the center your eyebrows should be very high, and then each should dip very low to the side. (My dog wears this expression when I play sad violin music on the radio in my truck.) If necessary you may reach forward and gently pat the back of their hand.

Being so sympathetic makes people lose their cocky attitude, and start to worry a little. They feel you are seeing something they don’t. Eventually they are forced to ask ,”What!?”

Then you have them. What you say is, “I’m sad to inform you, but this is exactly what we expected.” (Not that we did expect it; much involving the Quiet Sun is being seen for the first time, and no one predicted it.)  However all is fair in love and the climate wars. Even if they only are uneasy for a moment, you get the satisfaction of seeing them like the monkeys who get the graph wrong in the Superbowl commercial.

The “death spiral” I have been watching doesn’t involve the sea-ice as much as it does the number of sunspots. At the beginning of March it looked like things might pick up, as a string of tiny spots crossed the face of the disc.

Max 3 20170301

However these specks soon faded away, and were followed by 18 straight days of a spotless sun. Now at long last a single tiny speck is rotating into view from the left.

Max 2 20170322

The problem is that these specks are so small they likely would not have been seen by the weaker telescopes they used in the past, and therefore likely should not be counted. Our figures for modern times may be inflated. In any case, even with the possibility of inflated numbers, the current cycle is far weaker than we have seen in the recent past, and we are heading towards the rock bottom of a new low-point in the 10-15 year cycle.

Max 4 Screen_Shot_2017_03_23_at_6_52_09_AM

What does this have to do with sea-ice? Well, if you have the time I suggest you read an interesting overview of the effects of the sun’s cycles that Joseph D’Aleo put together, available on his Icecap site.

Click to access Solar_Changes_and_the_Climate.pdf

He produced a quicker summery on his blog on the Weatherbell site, but, if you are a hectic fellow like myself, most succinct of all is this simple chart he made:

Max 1 Screen_Shot_2017_02_08_at_9_53_42_AM


Besides the stronger hurricanes, which I don’t think we have seen, the chart seems to describe a lot of what we have seen happening up at the Pole. This in turn does effect the sea-ice.

The “amplified meridional flow” has caused the “surges” from the Atlantic and Pacific up to the Pole, acting as feeder-bands for the persistent feature I have dubbed “Ralph,” and these surges have in many ways prevented the growth of sea-ice, for three main reasons.

1.) Whereas a tight “zonal” flow traps the cold up at the Pole, a “meridional” flow allows the cold to escape south as arctic outbreaks. The cold cannot grow as much sea-ice to the north, if it escapes south.

2.) The air that has rushed south must be replaced, and this leads to the surges rushing north, holding milder air. This also makes sea-ice slower to thicken. Furthermore, because it tends to be moister, it can lead to increased snows, which act as insulation on top of the ice so that, when it does get cold, it slows sea-ice growth.

3.) The surges to the north push the southern edge of the sea-ice north, and can also push waters from the south to the north.  This slows, halts or even reverses the extension of new “baby-ice” to the south.

Of course, one must always say, “on the other hand.” A meridional flow also does do some things that can lead to increased sea-ice.

1.) A stormier pattern at the Pole smashes and cracks up the ice more, leading to more leads and pressure ridges.  This in turn

—–A.) Exposes the water in the dead of winter, which cools the water more.

—–B.) Exposes  the water in the dead of winter, which negates the insulating effect of the snow and allows more ice to form.

—–C.) Heaps up the ice as pressure ridges, which is extra sea-ice that doesn’t show in extent graphs, and is hard to measure in volume graphs, especially when it is heaped up by coastlines.

2.) Increased snow on top of the ice increases the albedo of blue ice, and slows the melting once the sun does return.

The thing about the on-the-other-hand items is that they  are all but invisible during the sea-ice maximum. This is what led to so many being surprised both during the summer of 2012 and the summer of 2013. In 2012 more ice melted than most expected, and in 2013 less ice melted than most expected.

The greatest unknown seems to be the temperature of the water under the ice. Most of the melt comes from beneath. Second greatest is how much ice is piled up in pressure ridges, which are difficult to see from outer space, but can web the ice like wrinkles on an old man’s face.

The issue of “albedo”, that is so prominent in the “death spiral” arguments, comes in a distant third, but it too is effected by increased storminess at the Pole. Deeper snows atop the sea-ice not only reflect more sunshine than windswept stretches of blue baby-ice, but they slow the growth of melt-water pools, basically because deeper snow takes longer to melt (as more available heat must be turned into latent heat during the melting process.)

Melt-water pools absorb much more sunlight than white snow, especially when they have black bottoms due to soot, volcano ash, and algae. They only have a short window to do their top-down damage, roughly six weeks. They tend to appear in June and be freezing over in early August (after which most melt occurs bottom-up, and can occur even when surface temperatures have dipped well below freezing.) Anything that slows the appearance of melt-water pools, even by one week, significantly alters the melt-equation. Cooler summers, such as we have seen recently, and most-especially mid-summer snows caused by a summertime version of “Ralph”, tend to do a lot to negate the albedo argument.

However none of this stuff will become apparent until summer. For that reason I tend to find the sea-ice maximum a little boring, even as others jump about exclaiming about slight deviations in the extent graph. The deviations mostly involve the edges of ice far from the Arctic Sea, for example in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence or the Okhotsk Sea. Big deal. I’d rather focus on the Arctic Sea itself.  But at this point the game hasn’t really started. It is as if we are scanning the maps and graphs before the Big Game, comparing the players on each side.

I haven’t done a very good job staying up to date with the maps, partly because it is a little boring. Also I had to deal with a blizzard, due to the meridional flow bringing the arctic howling down to New Hampshire. Then I had the prior post’s ideas whirling about in my head, like a different sort of blizzard. Lastly I’ve got taxes looming, and, despite the fact everyone tells me it would be easier if I upgraded to computers, I persist with my tablets of clay. In any case, the maps I did manage to save showed what follows:

When I last posted DMI maps on March 5 we were coming to the end of a time when Ralph had gone on vacation down in west Siberia, allowing a rare high pressure to build over the Pole, and allowing the cold to build to nearly normal levels, (down close to -40°).  In fact all-time records were set for cold in the Canadian Archipelago, (which of course did not get mentioned in the mainstream media). Yet, despite the dominance of this high, a new incarnation of Ralph appeared, in a nearly uncanny way managing to pull up a feeder band first on the west side, and then on the east side, of Greenland. The “signature” hook of milder temperatures can be seen just north of Greenland in the temperature map below. The fact this feature managed to pierce the wall of frigid cold demonstrates what a stuborn old coot Ralph is.

This version of Ralph was never able to establish the sort of huge Atlantic surge we saw earlier in the winter, and instead was squeezed across the Pole to the Laptev Sea, where he established a new feeder band right through the guts of Siberia. Of course it didn’t have the mildness nor the moisture of an Atlantic surge, but somehow it was enough to reinvigorate Ralph.

(I should give credit where credit is due, and mention that something like three months ago, when the record-setting cold was in Siberia, Joe Bastardi, over on his blog at Weatherbell, said we should “keep our eye out” for something. While that may not qualify as an actual forecast, I did not put my eye away with my other marbles. What he said was that often when the cold is ferocious, and centered on the Siberian side, in November and December, it somehow swings around and is centered in Canada in February and March. Lo and Behold!) (They really did deserve a break, over there in Russia and eastern Europe and northwestern Asia, after that awful early-winter they had.)


At this point the isobars between Ralph on the Laptev Sea and the high pressure over Alaska began to indicate a strong south to north flow up through Bering Stait, as a new, milder, moister Pacific feeder-band developed a new Pacific “surge”, and I started to look for signs of a “Hula Ralph” growing.

And right here, where I should have been saving DMI maps, I forgot to, as I was running around getting ready for our blizzard. But I did post about Hula Ralph.

By the time I remembered to save maps Hula Ralph had already formed, and was doing an amazing job of taking a huge mount of “mild” -10°C air and turning it into -25°C air. Also it crushed sea-ice into the west entrance of the Northwest Passage, at the very time that, last year, winds were blowing ice away from that entrance.

A sort of secondary formed in the North Atlantic, but Ralph’s circulation moved it east, and its warm sector moved east and gave Siberia further less-than-awful weather, rather than moving north to the Pole as another “surge.”  However I should have paid attention, for, in the lee of that secondary low, milder air began nudging north in the Atlantic, and Svalbard’s south coast even saw a thaw.

Of course, right when I should have been paying attention, I got too preoccupied in my last post. Therefore I forgot to save the maps that watch Hula Ralph fade, even as an innocuous looking low north of Iceland explodes into a deep gale just northeast of Norway.

The following maps show this new gale persist, fed by secondaries. It represents a big change in the sea-ice situation, because it was positioned in such a way it did not greatly surge the edge of the sea-ice north, in Barents Sea, but rather, especially towards Fram Strait, surged the sea-ice south, slamming it up against the north coast of Svalbard (which was ice-free during the southerly surges, earlier in this winter.)

The other thing I note is how this gale cannot roll east along the north coast of Russia, all the way to Bering Strait and perhaps even further east along the north coast of Alaska, as storms were wont to do other years, but rather suffers Ralphitis, and is inevitably tugged north to the Pole.

Here I missed some maps, and can’t even think up a good excuse for it. Let’s say I was celebrating sunrise at the North Pole, (although it is Lent, and my refrigerator is sadly devoid of beer).  What we now witness is Ralph continuing to persist at the Pole, fed by an exotic feeder-band which likely is Atlantic air, very moderated by a passage of several thousand miles of Siberian tundra, and also a little Pacific air squeaking north. It looks like there is a chance of a more direct Atlantic feeder band forming, but the main message is that Ralph goes on and on and on. The first real chance of decent high pressure developing over the Pole looks like it might be peeking over the horizon on April 1, but that is so far off we can’t truly trust the models.

As long as Ralph persists the temperatures up there will be above normal, until the sun gets higher in the sky around May, when the persistence of Ralph may lead to cooling. I’ll risk a forecast, and guess that, without as much El Nino warming as we saw last year, the red line in the graph below should duck beneath the green line of “normal” in May.  Date? Hmmm. May 13 (for luck).

Dmi4 0323 meanT_2017

The lay-out of the sea-ice seems different this year, as the persistence of Ralph has involved a lot of west-to-east winds along the coasts of Siberia, Alaska and Canada, which makes the Beaufort Gyre spin counterclockwise rather than clockwise. There is a polynya to the west of the Kara Sea as sea-ice is piled up to the east, thin ice to the west of the Laptev Sea with ice piled up to the east, and the ice has shifted west to east in the Beaufort Sea and really clogged the approach to the Northwest Channel. The flow of ice from the Arctic Basin into the Atlantic has only recently resumed, with a big bulge of ice coming south through Fram Strait.

Thickness 20170323 Attachment-1

Hudson Bay will be interesting to watch. Most summers it becomes ice free, but the ice is piled up very thickly against the southwest coast, and also in the east, due to a lot of shifting this winter. It ls not too often that you see polynyas both at the very top and very bottom of the Bay.

Days may be longer than nights, but it isn’t too toasty up at Barrow, Alaska. It is 2°F (-15°C) with a north wind off the Arctic Sea at 14 mph. The sea-ice along the shore isn’t budging despite tides and winds.

Barrow 20170324 08_13_00_447_ABCam_20170324_160900

I have a bit of good news. I recieved a nice birthday present, as O-buoy 14 came back to life after a winter spent hibernating. It seems frozen fairly solidly in Parry Sound, a short ways east of where it signed off last November. Currently it is not moving at all, nor is it likely to budge much until the melt is well underway. It appears to be attempting the Northwest Passage.

Obuoy 14 0324 webcam

There are some new pictures, without text, from the Russian site about their Barneo base. If these are current pictures, and not from some prior year, they may be helicoptering in supplies and getting ready to build the blue-ice jet port. (I’ll see if I can learn more, and if I can, I’ll update later.)


Barneo 2 13051705_1023415624402202_4868506117936992761_n

Barneo 1 17457954_1316375058439589_2922843653078765459_n

Barneo 3 13043427_1018307331579698_5537084612033005426_n

Update: (Translated from Russian Site)

The North Pole is preparing for the opening of “Barneo-2017” camp


In 2017, the 16th in a row “Barneo” camp, which is organized annually by the Association of Polar Explorers, with the participation of the Expeditionary Center of the Russian Geographical Society on the drifting ice near the North Pole, is expected to run from 4 to 26 April.

For the organization of the camp must first find a suitable ice floe. Strict requirements: it must be oval in shape, about 1 km wide and 2 km long, that on the ice field was possible to pave the runway for aircraft. Search ice floe – is not easy. As described one of the organizers and founders of the “Barneo” Irina Orlova, first from the island of the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago Middle fly helicopters that fly over the ice as far as fuel in short supply. Then they sit down, according to their position, and from Murmansk to flies IL-76 and resets the fuel for the helicopters to this point (it is called “Blinds-1”). Helicopters are filled, at which time IL-76 flying as close as possible to the pole and resets it to search for more fuel under the ice floe “Barneo”. At the same point called “Blinds 2” jumping paratroopers who give birth to helicopters with “Blinds-1.”

“This intermediate camp will work two or three days, until they find a suitable ice floe for” Borneo “. Then get over to the ice floe and begin to make the runway “, – said Irina Orlova. Nowadays helicopters are preparing for flight in point “Blinds 2” to start the search for an ice floe at the camp.

When the “Barneo” will be deployed, it is a few weeks will be the main scientific and tourist center in the Arctic.The organizational base camp is located on the Norwegian Svalbard, since it is more convenient to start from this tourist programs. In 2016 it was planned to transfer base “Barneo” the Russian Franz Josef Land, as the Norwegian authorities have tightened the rules for the use of their infrastructure. However, common interests have helped to successfully resolve all the contradictions, and the Expeditionary Center decided to leave the base in Spitsbergen.

“Everything is almost without exception ski program managers approached us with a request not to do so, because they work with clients more convenient to Longyearbyen, because there is a good infrastructure, is where to wait out bad weather, hotels, shops, bars, a warehouse, where they are can store their equipment.Then workers Longyearbyen – Hotels, travel agencies, catering business – would lose a lot of customers.Airport takeoffs and landing of our aircraft is also well paid. From this the party has lost quite a lot. We have been in negotiations with the governor and decided that leaving things as they are, “- said Orlov.

In addition to the tourist programs in 2017 to “Barneo” will be held the annual international marathon.Participants from around the world to be run in the arctic cold classic marathon distance of 42 km 195 m.

Research – one of the important components of the “Barneo” camp activities. 2017 will be no exception – on a drifting ice floe will run the Russian, French and American scientists.

Here is a picture of fuel being dropped for one of the two helicopter-refueling-camps leading out to the Pole (called “Blind 1” and “Blind 2”). [Notice the smoke-marker beneath, which likely makes some environmentalists cringe.] It is the cargo helicopters that lug out the bulldozers, which clear the runway for the jets that bring up scientists and tourists, and the staff for a restaurant.

Barneo B3 barneo-2017-airdrop2-irinaorlovafb

The Norwegian view of last years’s hubbub centered around the idea that Svalbard is suppose to be a demilitarized zone, due to the Svalbard Treaty of 1920.  The Russians likely felt that “training exercises” were not war-like, but images such as the following made the Norwegians nervous:

Barneo B2 airborne_mil_ruBarneo B1 paratroopers.arctic_mil.ru_

Here’s an article from last April expressing alarm:

The Norwegians apparently are keeping an eye on the “training exercises”, but have decided the money made by tourism outweighs the value of demanding the old treaty be obeyed to the letter. The Russians were irritated by the wrench Norway threw into their Barneo operations last April, and considered having a  base camp on Franz Josef Land. However they too decided the money made by tourism outweighed the large expense of opening a new base camp.  In other words, tourists saved the day!

Here is a Norwegian take on the resolution of negotiations:

An agreement between Svalbard Governor Kjerstin Askholt and Aleksandr Orlov, Vice President of Russian Association of Polar Explorers, was reached on 13th March.

The original plan, however, was to move all logistical operations to Franz Josef Land. 

“Following journalists’ publication of misleading news about last year’s expedition, there appeared problems in our relationship with Norwegian aviation authorities, and these were so serious that we were forced to abandon our work in Longyearbyen in favor of Franz Josef Land”, Irina Orlova says.

According to the chief operations officer, the developers of Barneo-2017 changed their minds after leading tour guides insisted that the Longyearbyen remain base for the activities.

It was the Barents Observer which in April last year first reported about Russia’s plan to use Longyearbyen airport for bringing military instructors to an airborne drill in the Arctic. That created an uproar and subsequent introduction of stricter regulations by Norwegian aviation authorities.

In any case, I’m glad they have patched things up, because the Barneo base gives us some of our best arctic pictures.

Here is a Sunday afternoon picture from Barrow, Alaska:

Barrow 20170326 12_47_37_536_ABCam_20170326_204400

The temperature is -4°F (-20°C) and the winds are west at 17 mph. Winds have to swing around to the east to clear the ice from the entrance of the Northwest Passage. (Southeast is best.)

O-buoy 14’s wind vane and anemometer are either frozen fast or busted, but the thermometer shows it has warmed from -29°C to -24°C. This buoy is going nowhere, for a while.


Obuoy 14 0326B webcam

The DMI maps have shown another storm blow up northeast of Norway and proceed through Barents Sea.

Judging from the isobars this will continue to push ice into Fram Strait and against the north coast of Svalbard, and may nudge ice southward in Barents Sea. It may also complicate things a bit for the Russians at their Barneo Base.  Stay tuned!


12 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE —2017 MAXIMUM—(Updated)

  1. Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    Nice update Caleb and the sleepy sun look is intriguing. The next few years look like they will offer much for both sides of the political climate divide, but simple humble observers of truth can watch in awe.

  2. Caleb – think you asked me a few months back about OLR venting the ENSO heat to space via the poles. Couldn’t find at time but saw something on the GWPF climate summary;

    Pdf link via here and in sources at end of the doc. A really interesting read if you haven’t seen it with the tax and blizzards;

    Oh btw – snowed in Madrid Spain on Thursday;

  3. Just saw a very interesting post that Ron Clutz did. Think you’ll find the linked paper illuminating;

    An increase in the frequency of intrusions can therefore drive bottom-amplified warming trend even in the absence of sea ice loss. In addition, the intrusions themselves drive sea ice retreat in the marginal zone and thus promote the upward turbulent fluxes that help produce bottom-amplified warming.

    • Thanks, Craig. Ron has good stuff, and is wonderfully straight forward and unswayed by political -bleep-.

      I’m going to read through his post around five times, to allow my slow brains a chance to grasp all the details.

  4. Great post! I’ve pretty much decided that the Climate Wars are only good for raising my blood pressure. I’m hoping that when the dust settles from Trump we can get back to science based on the scientific method and that modeling is used for, well, modeling and not for changing economies. In the meantime I’ve become more interested on the effect of more CO2 on plant growth (sure they grow bigger but how does it affect the nutritional yield) and also the solar minima we are about to experience. Also of note is that it seems that the same moisture that came with Ralph is what may have been feeding those huge snowstorms in Greenland earlier this year. I wonder if there’s any historic data that one could compare of Greenland annual snowfall with annual Arctic Ice Extent, although any signal may be buried by other oscillations.

  5. Thanks for the chart on solar cycles from A’leo. I hadn’t seen it before–very interesting.

    About a month ago, I too was wondering about “Barneo”. I found a source that indicated the Russians were not going to put out the effort this year, due to problems with using Norway as a waypoint. I guess something changed their minds?

    • The entire idea of a blue-ice jetport was originally a military exercise. Only later did they figure out that some big bucks could be made on the side by including a few extra tents for tourists.

      Last year the Norwegians took offence to the military side, I think because a general who was involved in the vicious civil war in Chechnya spoke proudly of his troops at the Pole. Some Norwegians think the civil war involves “war crimes” and made such a fuss that Russia was hit by all sorts of new rules and regulations right in the middle of last year’s Barneo event. It caused such difficulties that Russia basically said “The heck with Norway. Instead of using Svalbard as a base camp we’ll build a new one on Franz Josef Land.”

      That was how things stood until saner heads got to adding up how much money pride was going to cost both Norway and Russia. Norway was going to lose a lot, if the rich tourists didn’t pass through Svalbard on their way to the Pole, and Russia was going to lose money building a entire jetport on Franz Josef Land. I think someone must have said, “Wouldn’t it be better to go back to the old way, and make piles of money?”

      I think the negotiations were largely to preserve dignity. Also the Russians likely wanted to be sure the Norwegians wouldn’t pull the rug out right in the middle of an event again. It was quite an uncomfortable mess last year.

      In any case, it looks like things are back on track. If you can spare me $20,000 I’d be glad to go up there and report on the situation for you.

      • Okay, that explains it.

        I’m glad they’re going to set up the base again. I hope they publish some more great videos.

        I read somewhere that the Russians also sell slots on their big icebreaker. The “ride” is pretty pricey also, but reportedly includes all the vodka you can drink!

      • Vodka is cheap and those trips are not. When Lent is over I may be able to afford the vodka part, or maybe not, depending on my taxes.

      • Also, I want to correct my typo above, that I just noticed: It’s D’Aleo!

        Probably only you, Joseph, and I would notice it, but it’s worth the effort to correct, since I have a lot of respect for D’Aleo, and his work.

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