After a week of dominating the Pole, Ralph is starting to fade away towards Siberia, as Byoof finally starts to rebuild over the Beaufort Sea. Models suggest we are likely to see the low pressure on the Siberian side, with Byoof building on the Canadian side, which should suck some mild air north through Bering Strait. However a Pacific-to-Atlantic cross-polar-flow may be blocked by an extension of Byoof across the north Atlantic. This block will be an interesting complication, but is off in the fog of the future. Uncertainty is involved.
We can be a little less uncertain regarding the present. Of course, there are various glitches involved in our instrumentalizations, but it does seem Ralph cooled the air at the Pole.
You may note that over Greenland there are temperatures below zero (-17°C), but that is because Greenland’s icecap is well over 10,000 feet up. (Icecap is 12,119 feet high and rising, at last report, at the center, but lowering at the edges.) In fact temperatures rarely get above freezing at that altitude, so far north, and there was quite a fuss a few years back when a brief thaw barely softened the icecap’s snow. The media made it sound like the entire icecap was melting, when in fact the softened snow refroze, and formed a crust. Study of the yearly layers of snow beneath suggest such thaws occur roughly once every fifty years, at that high altitude and high latitude.
The situation is entirely different when you drop down 10,000 feet to sea-level. There thaw is the norm, and freezes are the rarity. Here too the media has done a very bad job of stating what the norm of an arctic summer is. They tend to act as if a thaw is something to be alarmed about. Nope. It is quite normal.
In fact, though Ralph did manage to create some areas of sub-freezing temperatures, they were outweighed by the areas above freezing, and the mean of the entire area north of 80° north latitude never quite dipped below freezing.
Ralph’s main fascination, to me at least, is that he suggests a change in patterns we are used to, and not that he can “stop” the thaw. There is always a thaw. Here is the DMI graph from 1958 (the earliest we have.)
This 1958 graph is actually warmer than anything we have seen in recent summers, for the red line of actual temperatures gets above the green line of “average”. Recent summers have seen the red line below normal. But never, in the height of summer, does the red line sink below the blue line which represents freezing. There is always a thaw.
I actually found this surprising, when I first began to look at the history of the arctic. I thought for sure we could find at least one summer where it was especially cold, and there was no thaw, but I have yet to see a record of such a summer. I am starting to think it may have thawed during the summer even back during the height of the last ice age. The sun is simply too powerful to ignore, when it shines 24 hours a day, day after day after day.
Once you accept the thaw as a yearly event it is hard to get all bent out of shape by signs of melting sea-ice. In fact I feel like a person “in the know”, who can chuckle at the rubes who get excited by signs of slush. But the truth of the matter is that I was once just such a rube.
Now that I’m wiser my appreciation of men who crossed the sea-ice during the summer, back before rescue was possible with helicopters sent from massive icebreakers, has greatly increased. The more comfortable air temperatures get, the more treacherous the ice gets. The scientists Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo were lost in 2015 because the air temperatures were so warm they apparently were skiing in their long underware, and fell through thin ice into water that can kill you in five minutes.
Back in the days of the Cold War, to avoid the thinner and more treacherous sea-ice, both Americans and Russians used to seek out the thicker bergs that calved off the north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island. These flat bergs were over 100 feet thick, but, because 9/10 of an iceberg is under water, they hardly stuck up at all above the other ice, and were hard to locate. Once discovered they were invaluable, because airplanes could be landed on them, and bases built upon them, and the Americans and Russians could busily spy on each other while pretending to only be interested in scientific experiments. However, at the height of summer, even these high points on the arctic seascape could be afflicted by the problems of slush. I suppose that, because they were so flat, the water didn’t run off to the lower ice ten feet below these “highlands”. In any case, while reading about life on T-3 (also called “Fletcher’s Ice Island”) I recall raising an eyebrow when one one man casually mentioned he wore hip waders, to get through the slush.
Thaw is the norm in the north. We are lucky to have a camera, O-buoy 14, which drifted into Parry Channel last autumn.
Parry Channel has great significance in Climate Science, because it is in the shape of a hockey stick, and we all know how hockey sticks cause climate scientists to tingle and spout adithering verbosity. However the channel is annoying to those who want to say current melting is “unprecedented”, for it is named after William Parry, who back in 1819 sailed a wooden, non-motorized ship along the entire “shaft” and into the “blade” of the above hockey stick, and, after spending a winter stuck in the ice, sailed back east the following summer. In comparison, when the “Northabout” sailed the Northwest Passage last summer, it sneaked through a southern route and never got as far north as Parry Channel.
It is amazing to consider the guts of the fellows who sailed the arctic back then, for they seemed to always get stuck and spend winters in the ice. The next spring they had to wait and wait and wait for the ice to melt. O-buoy 14 is giving us a glimpse of what they saw, as the sun shone all day, day after day. The three pictures below are from June 23, 25, and 29, and show us softening snow, slush (with polar bear tracks), and melt-water pools.
Now, before you get too excited by melt-water pools, please remember the lesson we were taught by “Lake North Pole” back in 2013. A melt-water pool does not mean the ice is breaking up; it can drain away in 48 hours, and the ice will remain. (Left July 26; right July 28.)
Hopefully we will see the ice break up. The long-ago sailors hoped to see the same thing. The danger was, it didn’t always happen. The most tragic case involved the Franklin Expedition of 1845-1846. The waters that had been more open in the time of Parry were less open, and likely the expedition’s provisions were also tainted by lead-poisoning. It was crucial they escape after the first winter, but seemingly the ice didn’t melt enough the second summer, though the survivors apparently attempted to escape to the south.
It seems to me that the ships of that time, though better equipped than Parry’s, were to some degree tricked by dreaded “Climate Change”. In the period 1816-1817 there were reports of whalers sailing up through Fram Strait along the east coast of Greenland, and over the top, and down through Nares Strait and into Baffin Bay on the west coast of Greenland. This was no longer possible in 1845, and Parry’s route was increasingly difficult. The expedition of HMS Investigator, entering the same area Parry explored but from the west, became trapped in the ice in 1850, and waited through two winters on increasingly shrunken rations, hoping the ice would melt, but it didn’t. They faced the same doom as Franklin’s crew.
In 1853 an expedition was sent to look for both Franklin’s ships and HSM Investigator. Four of five ships were trapped in the ice and abandoned. Three of the abandoned ships were lost. The fourth ship was abandoned but not lost, and makes for a very cool story. This ship was HSM Resolute.
The Resolute managed to copy Parry’s route, entering Parry Channel from the east in 1852, and wintering to the west and north of where O-buoy 14 now sits, not far from where Parry wintered, but the next summer they couldn’t escape as Parry escaped, though they did find and rescue the crew of HSM Investigator. Then the entire bunch was trapped by the September refreeze of 1853, and the captain prepared to endure another winter, which they successfully did. However as the sun rose the following spring they received orders to abandon their ship, and travel over the ice to other ships. Under protest, the captain obeyed, taking great care to prepare the ship before he left. They sailed back to England in 1854.
Then, unmanned, the Resolute traveled east through Parry Channel during the summers of 1854 and 1855, and was boarded by American whalers up at the top of Baffin Bay in September, 1855. Because we Americans are such gosh-darn nice people, we gave the ship back to the English, and it was back in England in 1856.
Apparently America’s sweetness and light didn’t impress the British much, for they put textile mills and cotton before freedom for slaves, and supported the wrong side during our Civil War. But later, after the relatively-good guys won our Civil War, the British got over it. When the Resolute was decommissioned in 1876 they took some of the less rotted timbers and made a desk, which was given to our President, Rutherford Hayes, in 1880.
Consequently no American president could sit at such a desk, in his right mind, and say the melt of arctic sea-ice was “unprecedented”, unless they were amazingly ignorant, and were created as a sort of divine pay-back to England, for abolishing slavery throughout their empire in 1833, but supporting America’s slave-states in 1861. (Karma’s pay-backs can be bizarre.) (Such an impossible person would send back to Britain, if not the actual desk, a bronze bust of Winston Churchill given to the USA by the English. Could any man sit at a desk made of timbers of the Resolute and be so crass?)
I suppose this may show I just don’t understand politics. Politicians like to think they are ahead of the facts, but to me it seems they are always behind. Just as the British Navy was losing ships left and right, because they were basing their intelligence on an outdated idea that suggested sea-ice in 1845 was like it was in Parry’s time, the intelligence of American leaders who misled and mislead the American voters was and is sadly outdated. However I don’t think the English admiralty promoted arctic exploration knowing their intelligence was wrong. Some American leaders are well aware Global Warming is based on faulty intelligence.
It takes an extraordinary American buffoon to think it is intelligent, to be unintelligent on purpose.
The simple fact of the matter is that the current thaw in the arctic is neither greater nor less than thaws of the historical past, and anyone who says otherwise either hasn’t researched the past, or thinks it is intelligent to be unintelligent.
Parry Channel is the proof.
If I have time I’ll stick the DMI maps of Ralph’s recent rise and current fall, as a footnote and update to this post.