Over at Tony Heller’s site at realclimatescience.com I spotted an interesting map which emphasizes the growth in sea-ice in Barents Sea since 2006. (more ice than 2006 shows as green.)
With the sun up close to 24 hours a day now, at those high latitudes, the increase in ice represents a significant area where sunlight is reflected back to space, as opposed to 2006, where the reduced extent allowed darker waters to embrace the sunlight and suck it into the sea and….and…and eventually result in the highest September ice extent in recent years?
Hmm. Some sort of flaw is boldly rearing its head here, in terms of the simplistic “albedo” theory of how the Pole is to become as ice-free as it was in prior optimums. If we were comparing apples to apples, the above map should mean we would have more sea-ice this September than in 2006. I think we will have more than last year, but more than 2006 would surprise me (though it is not outside of the range of possibility.)
I only bring this up because I think the “albedo” idea is way, way too simple, and the above map should make that obvious. The “albedo” theory is an idea concocted for the simple, in the manner Santa Claus was conceived to explain Christmas to little children. It needs to be discarded, in the manner serious Christians discard Santa Claus. The reality is far more wonderful.
Let’s just compare last year on May 16 to May 16 this year; (2016 to left, 2017 to right):
Last year there was open water north of Svalbard, where this year ice piles against the north coast. However, before you leap to any conclusions, lets compare May 16 last year (left) with March 1 this year (right):
The polynya northeast of Svalbard should leap out at you. 45 days ago all the sea-ice between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land was slush and pancake ice, in places only inches thick. One could leap to different conclusions two months ago, and indeed some did.
Some concluded that, if the ice was so thin on March 1, it could only get thinner as the sun rose and temperatures moderated between March 1 and May 16, but compare the maps: (March 1 to left, May 16 to right.)
Hmm. Abruptly the waters between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land are filled with ice 4-7 feet thick. What the heck happened?
Well, a little is due to temperatures being below normal, but largely the change was due to winds. Earlier in the winter south winds shoved the ice north and created polynyas north of Svalbard (and even north of Franz Josef Land at times) but then that pattern reversed and more northerly winds brought all the ice crunching and crashing back south.
Conclusion? The thickness of sea-ice often has little to do with air temperatures, and with any slight effect CO2 may have on that air. Rather it is largely effected by winds.
I should add it is also effected by the temperature of the waters below the ice. And this is another reason the area shown by the above maps is important, for it is the area where Atlantic water enters the arctic.
Atlantic water has a component brought north by the Gulf Stream, and Gulf Stream water has been subjected to warmth that has evaporated enough water to increase the salinity of the sea-water. Gulf Stream water is therefore more warm and more salty than the arctic water it moves into. The warmth makes it want to rise but the salinity makes it want to sink. For a time the warmth holds Gulf Stream water up at the surface, but after a while it cools to a degree where it’s salinity makes it take a dive, and it then flows as warmer but more salty water beneath the cooler but less salty water just beneath the ice. (At this point it is usually referred to as “Atlantic” water rather than “Gulf Stream” water.) In a very general sense, the cooler water just beneath the ice is the “mixed” layer, the Atlantic (and/or Pacific) water is the “pycnocline” layer, and the deeps are, with amazing creativity, called the “deep” layer.
As an aside, I should mention that some don’t think such stratification exists at the Pole. NASA states, “At high latitudes, the pycnocline and mixed layer are absent“, and proves it with this lovely graphic:
I suppose they assume the water is so cold at the Pole the variations of temperature don’t matter, especially as the northern waters that head south are so chilled they take a dive and become part of the “deep layer.”
In truth, slight variations of cold temperatures matter a lot, in the world of sea-ice. A tenth of a degree can be the difference between water being liquid or solid, and that can be the difference between cold water sinking from sight or cold water bobbing as ice at the surface. Therefore sea-ice scientists, while not telling NASA to go to hell (due to funding concerns) are so rude as to ignore NASA graphics and to speak of the arctic’s “mixed”, “pycnocline” and “deep” layers, and some even may divide the pycnocline into “Atlantic”, “Pacific”, and “Preexistent” layers.
Considering a lot of the melt of summer ice comes from beneath, it pays to attend to any news you can find about what is going on under the ice. It turns out the antics of these layers is insidiously complex. It is not enough to merely get a little data from the north and then flee south to a computer, and attempt to model the antics, for there are too many variables and too much chaos-theory involved. What we really need are real-time measurements from real buoys put in place by real scientists with real guts.
Most of what we know about the antics of waters under the ice was discovered by just such gutsy scientists, and often what was discovered was things that were not suspected beforehand, and therefore were not included in computer models.
For example, the “mixed” layer is assumed to be mixed by waves, as explained by this simple diagram:
Therefore, when ice forms, there can be no waves, and therefore no mixing, right?
Wrong. It turns out there are at least two mixings that occur even when the waters are seemingly still, under the ice. The first is that the ice, as it freezes, exudes salt as brine, and a steady rain of these brine-droplets wormhole down through the new ice and then rain down into the less-salty mixed layer, making it both colder and more salty, and therefore to differentiate differently from the pycnocline. The second is called “Ekman Spirals”, and is caused by Ekman Transport.
Allow me to pretend I understand this Ekman stuff: Basically floating ice has a keel, which creates drag, which allows the Coriolis force to influence motion. Even in 1897 Nansen noted that the sea-ice drifted at an angle to the direction the wind blew, and in the 1960’s real scientists with real guts were out on the sea-ice noting strange stuff in the waters beneath,
It should be noted that this does not merely mix waters in the “mixed” layer, but pulls up water from the pycnocline as an upwelling:
Conclusion? Well, the ruckus that has been going on all winter and into the spring, in Barents Sea, has had to have had an effect on the Atlantic water moving north into the Arctic. What might that effect be?
How are we to know, without gutsy scientists heading up there to place real buoys that give us real-time data? I sure don’t trust any model, because a model depends on real-time data. If you put guesses in you will get guesses coming out.
My own guess is that the arctic pycnocline has been effected, and in the future this will effect the sub-surface measurements of the layer of “Atlantic” water in other parts of the Arctic Sea.
How? I think there will be less slightly-warmer-slightly-more-saline water to be stirred up by summer arctic storms, to hurry the summer melt. But this is just a guess. How can I know without real-time data? And how can that data be gathered, if funding is cut at the Pole, so frantic beltway bureaucrats can line their nests?