ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Nares Connection–

It is hard to get properly hysterical about the sea-ice extent, for although the extent is low it really is unworthy of the headlines it gets in some papers. The extent this time of year is largely dependent on sea-ice out at the periphery of the arctic, outside of the Arctic Sea. In terms of the melt in towards the core of the arctic, what matters does not show in the extent graph.

What will matter next September is the current temperature of the water under the ice, and the location of currents, and where the ice is moved and how thick it has become.  The extent graph does not differentiate between ice an inch thick and uncovered by snow, which will melt swiftly, and thick ice buried deeply in drifts, which takes longest.

An example of how little extent matters is to look at the year 2006, which had a spring maximum as low as recent years, but progressed to a far higher minimum:

Extent comparison April 7 Attachment-1

In light of this reality, it is far more meaningful to look at the specifics of the sea-ice situation. It is also far more fun, and allows a greater sense of wonder, for the sea-ice is always up to something, and is full of surprises.

Many people, myself included, entered the study of sea-ice with the preconception that the Arctic Ocean was a rigid field of ice, permanently in place, but now starting to erode at the edges due to warming, which might or might not be due to CO2. In actual fact the ice has always been highly mobile, which is a fact that was understood by even the early explorers.

For example, in 1881 the American ship Jeannette was crushed off the coast of Siberia off the Lena Delta, and in 1884 its wreckage was found off the southern tip of Greenland.  This evidence was part of the reason Nansen undertook his amazing adventure in the Fram. His plan was to get intentionally stuck in the ice, and then drift with the ice across the Pole. (When the ice did not drift in the correct direction, he attempted to make it to the Pole by sledge and kayak, leaving the ship behind.) His mind-boggling adventures are both inspiring, and also a treasure trove of information about sea-ice, and I highly recommend spending free time pouring through his notes and records:

Fram 1 p603

For old fossils like myself, there is something very gratifying about seeing a picture of old fellows with white beards up there, but probably they had brown beards, and the hair was just frosted by their breath in the extreme cold. The fact of the matter is that fellows my age are doomed to do most of our exploring from an armchair. While doing this I have found that the people who actually journey up there are far more liable to speak the truth than people who don’t have to deal with life-threatening conditions. This is not to say that the explorers don’t know which side their bead is buttered on, and are not capable of spouting all the politically correct balderdash you could ever desire, but if you overlook these episodes in the manner you’d overlook the fits of a handicapped person, you can learn a lot about actual conditions. The better reports come, of course, from back before Global Warming became the way to pick up chicks, and it is well worthwhile to seek out the records of old whaling ships, as well as the official explorers.

You never know where fascinating stuff will turn up. It was while looking into what stamp-collectors know about arctic post-offices that I stumbled across a collector who was interested in mail postmarked “Fetcher’s Ice Island”,  (also called “T-3” and “Drift Station Bravo.”) This large chunk of a glacier likely calved off the northern side of Ellesmere Island after the warm-period of the 1930’s and 1940’s, and then became trapped in the thicker sea-ice of the 1950’s,  1960’s, and early 1970’s, describing circles in the Beaufort Gyre.  One report states it was seven miles long when discovered and 50 feet higher than the surrounding pack ice, (which would mean it extended downwards 450 feet), however I have read other reports that stated it was only 10 feet above the surrounding ice (which would mean it extended down only 90 feet.) In any case, it was big enough for an airport and was first inhabited in 1952, last visited in 1979, and apparently drifted down into the Atlantic and melted in 1983, (dropping, among other things,  the remains of a crashed C-47 to the briny depths.)

Alarmists like to focus on Fletcher’s Ice Island because they suggest it shows there used to be bigger icebergs in the Arctic Sea, while Skeptics suggest it shows big bergs were calving off Ellesmere Island before Global Warming supposedly started. All I am certain of is that it demonstrates how mobile the sea-ice is.

The stamp-collector had no pictures of anything but envelopes with post-marks on them (called “covers”)  in his description of the big ice-island, but at the end of his post he mentions the AIDJEX project of the early 1970’s, and includes two great pictures, one from March 1975 (or perhaps early April) when the ice was thick, and a second from when the ice broke up in September and the base had to be moved sixty miles.

1975 Hercules March Delivery reduced

1975 ice breakup MainCamp I have found it handy to have pictures of ice breaking up in 1975, when dealing with people freaking about ice breaking up in 2016. (Although it is true that was near the peak of the last cooler-time, and ice was thicker on a whole, I think.) But it just goes to show you, stamp collecting isn’t as dull as it first appears:

Another unusual source is a magazine about canoeing and kayaking. You might think a kayak is an arctic invention, but most people steer clear of ice-water, and are prone to writing articles about paddling in nice warm places like the Amazon. However I chanced upon a wealthy young trio who planned a jaunt around Elsesmere Island in 2010, and, besides rattling off the usual politically correct stuff, they needed to keep some facts in mind, and produced this wonderful mine of data while planning their route. Ellesmere kayak ellesmere-island-map-lg Obviously these fellows wanted to be aware of icebergs, as bergs can melt below the waterline and, becoming top-heavy, abruptly overturn, and when this happens they can make large waves no person in a small boat wants to deal with.

Berg 1 P1010383b

The young adventurers could be as inaccurate as they wanted, regarding history, (for example, the young man dubbed “Turk” said, “One interesting point is that the Ward Hunt Ice-shelf [on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere] broke up in 2010 for the first time in 35 million years,” when the debate actually was whether the calved ice dated from 5000 years ago, or the Little Ice Age 500 years ago,) but they wanted accuracy, and insisted upon accuracy, when it came to meeting bergs face to face, in the present tense.

Therefore they were aware of the current of water rushing south from the Arctic Sea through Nare’s Strait,  which separates Greenland from Ellesmere Island. They were also aware that besides more ordinary sea-ice, there would be the far larger bergs that calve off Greenland’s enormous Petermann and Humboldt Glaciers. (In the early-summer satellite view below, Petermann Glacier slants up from the lower right, and Humboldt Glacier is at the bottom right.)

Nares Strait EllesmereIsland

I was made aware of how active the sea-ice is in Nares Strait in 2013 while watching the Army collection of Mass Balance buoys. Bouy 2013C was basically a static weather station, sitting on an 15-foot-thick ice-shelf on the northeast corner of Ellesmere Island, when in July it abruptly broke free. At first it entered Nare Strait in a lazy manner, but then it suddenly took off and headed south at a speed that amazed me. After then hesitating a while, as if it was thinking of entering Parry Sound and attempting the Northwest Passage east-to-west, it again took off to the south along the coast of Baffin Island, before the berg it was on broke up in January as it approached Labrador.


I was initially taken aback, as I assumed that far north, where winds are especially cold, the sea-ice would be thickest, but, as I continued to observe, I understood there is nearly always a flow of ice south, containing a lot of sea-ice and also scattered big glacial bergs, of the sort that sank the Titanic.

When the ferry “Highlander” was halted for half a day up by Cape Breton last week, it was sea-ice alone that was involved. (North winds brought all the scattered ice together as a single mass along the shore.)

Ferry Trapped mv-highlanders

It is further north, off the northeast coast of Labrador, that the big bergs enter the mix. They come every year, and, while dangerous, they are so strikingly beautiful that tourists come from far and wide to see them.

Berg 2 Humpback_and_iceberg_Labrador_Sea

Canadians do a good job of tracking all the larger bergs, and alerting ships to the southeast.

Berg 3 iceberg1.jpg.size.custom.crop.880x650

Some of the bergs are enormous, and rival Fletcher’s Ice Island. Some passing the coast last spring were 5 km long.

Berg 5 iceberg.jpg.size.custom.crop.731x650

This is just life as usual for the people living up there.

Berg 4 iceberg2.jpg.size.custom.crop.650x650

However some Alarmists tend to see the bergs as a sign the Greenland ice cap is breaking up. This is especially prevalent this year, as the Canadian’s in charge of watching the bergs report they are arriving earlier and are more numerous.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my decade of experience,” said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Gabrielle McGrath, commander of the USCG’s International Ice Patrol, in a recent interview. McGrath says that recent storms have led to a larger and earlier spring breakup: IIP’s satellite observations recently identified 455 icebergs in one week, five times the average in years past.

To me this seems a switch in Alarmist worry.  They used to like to take a picture of a lone big berg, far away from the smaller sea-ice, and speak mournfully of how the ice was melting…melting…melting…

Berg 6 Website-8

This year I suspect we will be shown pictures of crowds of bergs and be told Greenland is melting…melting…melting…

But the problem is that, if an especially large amount of ice was being lost, I would expect a dip in the mass-balance graph. Instead the amazing snows over southeast Greenland have increased the mass-balance to levels not before seen this early in the season.

Greenland Mass Balance 20170407 accumulatedsmb

To me this suggests that rather than seeing extra ice, we are seeing the same amount of ice hurried south earlier in the season, for the pattern that brought south winds and snow to the southeast of Greenland accelerated the Nare’s Connection, with increased north winds on the west side of Greenland.

Sometimes a sort of plug or clot of sea-ice forms at the top of Nares Strait during the winter, and ice stops entering at the top. This leads to a polynya forming at the bottom of the strait, as ice continues to be exported south without ice from the north arriving to replace it. This year we can see a dimple in the 15-foot-ice either side of the top entrance, as ice continues to be sucked through. The stream of ice can be seen continuing into Baffin Bay to the south.

Nares Con 1 IMG_4634

This stream of ice continues south, trending towards the west coast of the bay…

Nares Con 2 IMG_4635

Eventually the sea-ice crashes into the northeast coast of Labrador

Nares Con 3 IMG_4636

(Notice the scattered ice in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is all blown down to Nova Scotia’s north coast by the north winds, which led to the ferry being trapped for a while.)

So there you have it, the tale of the Nares Connection. It is one of the major exports of arctic sea-ice, though often unnoticed. It also is an example of how very mobile sea-ice is. It is far from the static stuff some envision.

Hopefully I’ll find time to post about the shenanigans the sea-ice has been pulling off along the coast of Russia. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the world of sea-ice, but you have to look for it.

In the more ordinary world of waiting for the yearly melt, this is a boring time. Winds did shift east for a bit at Barrow, creating the chance a polynya might form by the coast, but winds have shifted back around to the north, which will keep the ice stuck fast. The wind is at 16 mph and the temperature is 2° (-16°C).

Barrow 20170407 18_17_34_175_ABCam_20170409_021400

Up in Parry Sound O-buoy 14 did see temperatures rise under cloud-cover to -10°C, before they fell all the way back to -30°C under clear skies. The sun isn’t high enough to truly warm, but we are starting to see an effect at noon, and diurnal variation appearing in the temperature graph.

Obuoy 14 0407 temperature-1week.png

Obuoy 14 0407 webcam

Only one Army Mass Balance buoy has been placed this year. Buoy 2017A is located on ice about three feet thick up in the Beaufort Sea at 72.90° N, 147.10° W, and is reporting temperatures at -25.88° C.  The ice there is growing thicker.

If you want to lose several hours, there is an archive of past Army Mass Balance Buoys, including one back in 1993, that you can pour through here:

If that doesn’t convince you sea-ice isn’t static stuff, I give up.




35 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Nares Connection–

  1. “decade of experience”
    Or as The Anglo Saxon Chronicle says about weather related events “so severe that no man ere remembered such” or ” there came such a wind against them, as no man remembered before;”

    The beauty of icebergs never ceases to impress me.

    • The beauty is what originally attracted me to study sea-ice, as a sort of off-shoot of my study of Viking voyages, which amazed me for differing reasons. Politics was the last thing on my mind. I was not looking for a fight; the fight came to me.

    • Of course it does. Water temperatures have varied far more than most models allow. Vikings swam in waters that now would kill a man in five minutes.

  2. Yes, sty, it is cyclic. Argo shows the next (colder) phase coming up. Nothing to do with CO2, nor with us. The satellite ice record only started at the peak period of the last cold cycle, so all warmist kerfuffle is based on wilful ignorance. Of course it dropped as observed for centuries by navies and seamen over other cycles. Stable of recent years, the question is, will it expand as usual or not. Ten years should tell the story, though the quiet sun stirs the pot a bit…..

    • Ok Brett so when was the previous warm phase and what is the length of the cycle? 1930-1940 does not count as we know that there’s way less arctic sea ice now than back then.

      • Styrge,

        You have failed to do your homework since you last visited. I assigned you the work of looking beyond that single study you cherish which “erases the MWP” (and every other sign of past warmth.) You seemingly have failed to lift a finger, (except perhaps a middle one).

        You are missing a lot, if you don’t study the history of the arctic. The Vikings were up that way seeking furs on Russia as far back as the year 890. If you want to get a grade higher than an “F” I suggest you begin with a paper on Ohthere of Hålogaland.

    • Well Brett, I suppose we have to just watch Styrge and use our observations to better our understanding of IDS (Ice Derangement Syndrome.)

      At least he does send a few links, that allow us to see how he props up his willful ignorance. What amazes me is the blinders that must be worn to avoid seeing so much counter-evidence.

      Styrge will ask us for our counter-evidence, but then he doesn’t seem to read it. It doesn’t seem to register, or penetrate his defenses. Its amusing how he says “1930-1940 does not count.” I don’t let it get to me, for I like to study the history for myself.

      One interesting tale is the struggle to supply Stalin as he fought Hitler in World War Two. The convoys up through the sea-ice would have been impossible if the sea-ice was bad. This was especially true because when they tried convoys during the long days of summer the Germans crushed them. They had to sail in the dead of the arctic night. Then there is the little fact that the Germans pretty much flattened the mostly ice-free port of Murmansk during Operation Silver Fox in 1941, so ships had to venture on to the more icy Arkhangelsk. When the fate of the world balanced on the point of a hair, the fact there was less sea-ice may have made all the difference.

      That history should be taught, as few youth comprehend these days the level of sacrifice demanded by both Hitler and Stalin from their youth. The slaughter is difficult to fathom, as is the bravery of the young of both sides, caught in the hell of living under tyrants. (Also fascinating is the plight of poor Finland, forced to chose between two evils, and the amazing dexterity of Sweden, who ducked the entire slaughter by remaining neutral.)

      I was thinking this morning that the awful instruments of modern war have become so demeaning to the common soldier that soldiers can’t even be called “cannon fodder” any more, and youth has a completely different attitude towards war (and therefore all other sacrifice.)

      Because of this we are facing a new sort of war. It is a war not of guns but of minds. The wonderful thing about the battle is that old geezers like you and I don’t have to sit on the sidelines. Unless we get senile, we can take a stand right on the front lines.

      Not that I have anything against peace. Actually I prefer peace, but certain people will not allow it, and if there must be a battle, I can enjoy a good fracas, as long as it stays mental and I don’t need to prance about ducking physical uppercuts and jabs.

  3. According to Wikipedia the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) took place roughly from 950-1250CE. So is the cycle 900 years long, and is there evidence that it’s indeed a cycle (taking place more than once)?

    According to the temperature reconstructions it was also less warm as the current period that is still getting warmer.

    1930-1940 does not count since we *know* that there was a lot more arctic sea ice around during that time than now. This is not even in dispute. BTW It should be noted that the warming in the 1930-1940 was confined to the arctic, while the current warming is global.

    • Unfortunately Wikipedia has a proven bias regarding Global Warming. Even when William Connolley was rebuked for his one-sided editing he was reinstated and continues to make the articles unbalanced.

      The topic “Global Warming Skeptic” had the work of over 100 scientists deleted, and then the entire topic was deleted.

      Check the topic of Michael Mann, and see if there is a single mention of Climategate, despite his compromising emails. (Even if one feels Climategate was an invasion of privacy, or that the emails were faked (which was not claimed), it should at least be mentioned.)

      You should not rely on Wikipedia in matters concerning climate. I do use it for some data, but always double and triple check.

      I am amazed you *know* there was more ice in the arctic, despite evidence there was not. I assume you are still clinging to the study you mentioned back in the winter.

  4. Let’s stick to the studies, so do not shoot the messenger. There does not seem to be credible evidence/studies saying that 1930-1940 was similar to today in the Arctic. You ought to present your evidence or recant.

    Is there evidence of a 900-year cycle?

    • Yes, it is sad, but I have faith you can improve if you work on it.

      The “Sea-ice Forum” is a far better place to spend your time than “Skeptical Science”, but can be a bit of an echo chamber.

      In any case, you have used up your allotment of time for this post, and I will snip any further comments. You have failed to do the homework I assigned you, and instead are assigning me homework, without having the decency to send me a government grant or even any oil money. The nerve!

      By the way, I have noticed you changed your stance. Rather than stating there was “no” warming from 1930-1940 you now say there was “less”. When you make a concession like this, it would be nice if you thanked me for teaching you a thing or two.

  5. Everyone knows that with respect to climate, we are currently engaged in a highly politicized propaganda war with $ Billions at stake, where everything everbody says in their “studies” is supect. All Stynge can do is to parrot talking points from his side of the propaganda war.

    What Caleb has done is to independently present evidence of his points by citing historical facts from long ago that are totally independent of this current propaganda war. I would strongly believe that Caleb’s arguments are far more convincing and far better researched.

    • Thanks for the support, Andy. It may not be $ Billions, but at least it is clean.

      It would have been nice to be paid for all the research I’ve done over the past decade. However usually when you get money people expect something for it, and only the better people want blunt honesty, and even fewer want you to just be a free spirit and go wherever your thoughts take you.

      I only put up with Styrge so long, before showing him the door, because he thinks he can boss me around without funding me. On my own blog! So he’s worn out his welcome on this particular post.

      Not that he doesn’t give me some interesting homework to do, but it annoys me that he doesn’t do the homework I give him to do.

      I think you are quite right that current studies are a bit suspect. Things may change under Trump, but under the former president you simply would get no gravy if you investigated in the wrong direction.

      What I tend to do is look for the obvious “direction” people are veering away from, because I know there is something interesting in that direction.

      For example, last year was the earliest break-up of the Yukon River since they started keeping records back in the 1880’s. So of course Alarmists pounced, (ignoring stuff like the day it froze, level of flood, and so forth,) and in the process they produce a graph.

      As soon as I see something like this I look to see what 1930-1950 looks like, in that microcosm. And sure enough, there is the warm period, right at that time. Also there is even a sign of an earlier warm period (mostly seen by looking at the high-points on the graph) back between 1900-1915.

      Now, if I wanted to get in a pissing match with someone like Styrge I’d just point out the high outlier on the graph isn’t until 1960, (and is huge), but that really doesn’t interest me. What grabs my interest is the “coincidence”, when you compare this microcosm with the microcosm of the Northwest Passage, for it was in the 1900-1915 period that the Goa made the passage (1903-1906) and it was in the 1930-1950 period that the St Roch made the passage twice (1940-1942, 1944).

      The return trip was pretty interesting, because it was fast, and far north.

      My own homework is to find the dates the St. Roth was at certain spots, during the return trip, and to compare the ice-free waters of 1944 with 2016 and 2017. (I don’t think they could have pulled it off last summer.) What is politically interesting is that this obvious comparison is not readily available. Do you suppose it might show something politically incorrect?

      But, just to show you how the mind of a free spirit works, while doing my research I chanced upon a lead on an utterly different topic: The pre-Inuit “giants” who built their houses of whalebones (and what that might mean about open-water vesus iced-over areas).

      I prefer going where my mind wants to go. Styrge has no idea how annoying he is when, rather than taking the time to write a synopsis, he expects me to drop everything and read some paper (which nine times out of ten is -bleep-).

      I’d much rather read something like this, about what happened when a much-loved member of the St. Roth died (likely of a stroke) during the winter of 1941-1942. I think you might enjoy it.

      • Just loaded your Larsen url. Pity sty cannot be civil, though those who run to do ill tend to end up running in tighter circles, getting more frantic and vicious as the truth closes in. This is one of those times, more’s the pity.
        A neighbour, Mr MacKenzie, was an Engineer on the Arctic convoys. As he said, it was not a good war for him, and his health was damaged. The stories, sagas really, are common to us in NZ and up north too. I grew up on such, talked to participants in most campaigns. They were friends, neighbours, relatives, fellow farmers etc.. Nothing like eyewitness stuff. Not to mention countless Penguin and other paperbacks, true and novels, most of these based on experience. Unlike ‘scepticalscience’ etc.. Those bone buildings seen by the mounties, remind me of the mammoth hunters’ lifestyle, and so it might have been, same climate, different prey and latitude. Must read on….

    • What is most interesting is that the chill doesn’t seem to be occurring at the surface at mid-summer, but down deeper and all year. Some sort of mysterious surge.

      I don’t know my currents that well down at 800 meters. Does the Gulf Stream extend down that far?

      So much to ponder in a single graph!

    • I knew a fellow up in Maine who was on a wallowing “Liberty Ship” during a North Atlantic Gale in 1943, and was swept overboard. He knew he was a goner, but the next wave picked him up and slammed him back in the deck. It broke his arm, but he praised God all the same.

      My mother’s first boyfriend vanished during an Arctic Convoy to Russia. They say the night sky was bright orange, as the sea was covered with blazing oil.

      That war was a monster. Those who survived knew the meaning of “good fortune.”

      The current war is more mental. You need to be mentally tough, and even then listening to some is psychological torture and makes me scream (privately).

  6. My apologies Caleb, I’m not trying to start a “pissing match”. I’m just asking questions + providing evidence that the there is a *lot* less arctic ice around now during 1930-1940. This is not even in dispute due to the multiple lines of evidence that show this. I think some of your readers are not aware of this.

    • Apology accepted. Just don’t let me make you “sad”. I’m more of a “Don’t worry; Be happy” sort of guy.

      You have to use the information you’re given. Hopefully I give you a new window to broaden your views, and vice versa. The only thing I really can’t stand is intentional deceit.

      • Right & thanks. Here’s an interesting temperature-reconstruction (not ice-cover) of the Arctic:

        Interesting figures + the article concludes that recent warming broke a millennial-scale cooling in the Arctic. Conclusions talks about the cooling-trend:

        “The strongest trend in our proxy temperature
        reconstruction is the millennial-scale cooling of
        –0.22° T 0.06°C per 1000 years. The cooling corresponds
        with the slow reduction in summer insolation
        at high northern latitudes, driven by orbital forcing
        and enhanced by positive feedbacks that amplified
        the forcing more strongly than at lower latitudes.”

      • Word to the wise:

        Red flags should go up seeing certain words. “Proxie”; “Recontruction”; “CTUTEM3 data series”.

        Also U Mass is a state school only sixty miles from here; my older son went to an agricultural school next door.

        U Mass (or “the emerald city”) is a huge campus transplanted far from where people work real jobs, and lives in its own disconnected world of leftist dogma. At one point they made it illegal to fly the American flag, and so forth. Aroma of marijuana strong all over campus. Students highly skilled at video games. Degree from U Mass is basically worthless, for many. After the “Marathon Bombing” in Boston, U Mass students were hiding evidence that linked a “friend” (the younger bomber) to the bombing, and got a wake-up call when Federal swat-teams in full body armor with automatic rifles payed a visit to their dorms. They sometimes seem to need a wake-up call when it comes to the “climate science” they write as well. (That paper is from 2009, I think).

  7. Your comments about U Mass are not very relevant – Isn’t that actually a form of ad hominem argumentation? (except that it’s against the character of the University, and not the research group that did this research). Note that the article this published in Science, a very esteemed journal which vets the papers so carefully that it’s extremely difficult to get your paper published in it. Therefore it’s very certain that the methodology has been well scrutinized, and there’s zero indication on fraud.

    Are you aware of studies that argue that the current Arctic situation is *not* a lot warmer and with
    much less ice than ~80 years ago? Published studies please, not anecdotes.


  8. sty – google scholar ’60 year climate cycles’ for 2,780,000 replies. The different solar, galactic dust, and planetary cycles have complex effects. But we are slowly unravelling them. I have Gigabytes of papers and discussions on Climate alone. Happy learning and please keep an open mind. Everything we learn is subject to revision. Forever.

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