ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Value of a Witness–

NZ Barneo fellow SCCZEN_SUP250417NADPOLE1_620x310

I have been somewhat dismayed by a reduction in funding for on-the-scene reporters up at the Pole, most especially the buoys with cameras attached. As far as I know not a single camera-buoy has been put in place so far. There is no North Pole Camera this year, and no new O-buoys have been installed.

Why bother? Well, they may be expensive, but not compared to a satellite. Also satellites fail to give the on-the-scenes data we get from buoys, and also get from the wonderful madmen who actually ski and sail the arctic.

Let me give you a quick example from mid April.

By April the sun is up and never sets at the Pole, and that 24-hour-a-day sunlight is expanding steadily down towards the Arctic Circle, but the further south you go the more you see diurnal variation of temperatures. When you view the planet from the top the diurnal effect is fascinating; in terms of temperatures it is as if a big spoon is stirring around and around. Below are the 0z and 12z maps of April 19. Notice how much warmer the Beaufort Sea is in the afternoon, (left) as opposed to the wee hours of the morning (right).

Temperatures do not vary as much towards the Pole, because the sun’s height varies less as it travels around the horizon, and at the Pole the sun’s height doesn’t vary at all (beyond the slow rise to the solstice high-point.)  Diurnal variation seems to account for a 5-10° swing in temperatures down near the arctic circle, but less towards the Pole. Anything greater demands an different explanation, such as a switch from sunny to cloudy conditions, from calm to windy conditions, from convection to inversion, or a change in airmasses. Or, (and I hate to include this), a modeling error in the satellite data.

I bring this up because the satellite maps note the area near the Pole is between -20°C and -25°C on April 10, yet the reporter on the scene reported -35°C. His name is Matt Sutcliffe, and his adventure is recounted here:

Now, before the gentleman is accused of exaggerating the severity of the cold, I should state similar cold was reported at the Barneo Base Facebook page on April 10

Barneo News:
Coordinates: 89º11’N, 033º10’E
Weather: clear of cloud, wind SE 3 m/s, pressure 763 mm of mercury, temperature -32ºС.


I reiterate, no temperatures that low appear on the DMI temperature maps for either April 10 or April 11. -25°C seems more like it.

“Oh!” you perhaps exclaim, “What’s a piffling ten degrees between friends?”

I can think of a number of a reasons it matters.

1.) It mattered to Matt Sutcliffe, because not even high-tech mittens over high-tech gloves prevented frostbite of his fingers at -35°C. There is nothing glamorous about frostbite, (and at worst it can result in amputation), so we should attempt to make certain we report temperatures accurately.

2.) It matters to me, because I want to report the Truth on this site.

3.) Ten degrees is of great importance to people who fret about the planet being .01°C warmer than the year before,  especially as most of the “warming” is in arctic regions, and is derived from sparse data. If data like this DMI data was used, and a -10°C error was commonplace,  the world temperature could be adjusted downwards, and it might turn out the planet was .02°C cooler, and we could all stop fretting and relax and have a beer.

4.) This particular blast of -35°C cold was quite a pattern flip from an earlier pattern that had relatively mild Atlantic air pouring north over this same area, back in the dark of winter before the sun rose. Often it is the extremes that bring such changes to our attention, and a difference of ten degrees can take something that jumps out at us, and reduce it to something we fail to notice. (If studying the climate has any value at all, it likely is because we might notice a change we should be alert to.)

In conclusion, I’d simply like to say this is not an isolated incident. It pays to have an eye-witness reporter on the scene. In the past quite often the satellite reported no sub-freezing temperatures, but a buoy-camera would show melt-water pools skimming over with ice.

If we must de-fund, there are bureaucrats twiddling thumbs in offices that should go, before we lose the arctic sea-ice cameras.  Unless, of course, there is something we do not really want to see.

(Hat tip to Brett Keane for alerting me to the article from New Zealand).



10 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Value of a Witness–

  1. I have been enjoying your blog these past few months. Of course the public media is stating that this year’s arctic ice is the lowest ever, that the arctic was warmer than ever in previous history this winter (despite unseasonal cold throughout the lower but still high latitudes) and the drum beat continues that the earth is slipping into a torrid disaster. Now most recently I see hysteria about ancient diseases emerging from melting ice. So…..on the one hand a few lone voices look at data and argue things may not be as they seem; more other voices leap and clap in glee as the new administration rolls back all sorts of climate studies; yet most media and people it seems nod and think that we are about to see the seas rise ten feet in the next decade.

    How can educated people come to such totally different conclusions based on all the available data? It seems we are tipping from a few centuries of rational thought back to magical and belief driven thinking, such that all scientific conclusions end up becoming agenda drivers of one sort of another.

    So it is true, then, we have no buoys up there? No cameras?

  2. Caleb,
    where do you look for the bouys? I have no idea where to start and possibly a couple more people looking might find something?

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