One thing I seem to see in my notes about Arctic sea-ice is an increase not merely in the low pressure at the Pole, which I have dubbed “Ralph”, but also an increase in the times Ralph gets rowdy, and becomes a full fledged gale.
I say I “seem to see” because I really don’t have the time to carefully peruse old weather maps, and study how often gales, especially summer gales, have occurred over the Pole.
I am aware our records don’t really go that far back. (When my Dad was a boy (1925) the National Geographic maps showed the Arctic Sea north of Alaska as a blank area labeled, “Unexplored”. They didn’t even know if those seas might contain a large island, for not even a dirigible had sailed north, on the Pacific side.) Because our satellite record only goes back to the first fuzzy Nimbus shots in 1964 we have only the records from a few bases, such as “Fletcher’s Ice Island” (T-3), to use, when we try to gauge how common summer gales were before that.
Those old Nimbus shots do make me wary about the rather cynical records of sea-ice extent, which always seem to begin when the ice was very high, in 1979. For example, after the Summer Of Love in 1969 the heat of hippies seemed to melt an extraordinary amount of sea-ice, leading to big areas open water north of Alaska by September 9, including a vast “hole” towards the Pole.
I don’t want to go down the road of complaining about the bias and cherry-picking which ignores such evidence of a “hole”, and perhaps exaggerates the sea-ice extents for 1969. Rather I prefer wonder. First, I wonder over the fact no sailing ship could reach a similar “hole”, in days of yore, and therefore such a “hole” could have existed in the past, and we’d have no records from whaling ships that such a “hole” ever existed. Second, I wonder what sort of gale might have ripped that hole in the ice.
All we really have, in terms of precise records, is from the recent past. Therefore, when the summer gale of 2012 was called “unprecedented”, I rolled my eyes just a bit. We have few records at all from the last time the AMO shifted from warm to cold, so, in a manner of speaking, we will be watching the AMO shift to a cold phase “for the first time”, (if the AMO ever gets around to it). In a similar manner we only have records from the southern edge of the Arctic Sea, for the last “Quiet Sun”, which began in 1798. We are like pioneers, climbing to the top of a ridge and peering over, and seeing a vast new frontier spread out before us. That wilderness existed before we saw it with our new satellites, but this is the first time our newfangled eyes will see it.
I have noticed some are not comfortable, facing a frontier. Perhaps it is true that, “it is the unknown that terrifies”, for, rather than facing a new Unknown with relish, some behave a bit oddly. Either they panic, or they insist they do know, and the Unknown isn’t actually unknown.
The panic-response tends to involve the word “unprecedented”, and also the fact the media gains more attention through sensationalism than through banal realism. (Also it is easier to sell life rafts if people fear a flood, and certain politicians like to portray themselves as life rafts.)
For example, if the “hole” in the sea-ice pictured by the Nimbus satellite in 1969 occurred this summer, there are some who would work themselves up into a complete tizzy, suggesting it was “unprecedented”. Of course, the Nimbus pictures show there was a precedent, but not everyone knows about the Nimbus pictures, and some prefer to only look at the Satellite record starting in 1979.
Even if we didn’t have the Nimbus pictures the fact we haven’t seen things before does not mean they haven’t happened before. The slender evidence we have from before we had satellites (or even dirigibles) tends to suggest remarkable events did occur. However “it has happened before” does not sell as many newspapers (and life rafts) as “unprecedented” does.
Looking backwards arrives us at the second response to facing a new Unknown, and that is the “we-do-know-about-the-Unknown” response. This is either called “history” or “proxies”, and involves the idea that history repeats itself, (also called “a pattern” or “a cycle.”) It embraces the idea we can know the future because the past reveals a pattern that will repeat, and it plunges us into the wonderful world of “bias.”
Historians work incredibly hard to avoid bias, but it is in human nature to “take sides”, and to put what politicians call “spin” on events. In fact to attempt to be completely factual about history can make a transcript robotic, for it carefully excludes the very subjectivity that makes mankind do nutty things (like start wars, or explore the barren arctic). Humanity cannot be understood if one insists on being rational.
In order to understand Climate Science, it is important to understand it isn’t entirely rational. Billions of dollars flowed into an obscure field, with a definite political “spin” connected to the money. This is not liable to result in bias-free behavior, or even rational behavior. Behavior was modified. The same thing would happen if you flew over a sedate picnic of poor senior citizens in a helicopter, and dumped out a barrel of hundred dollar bills. “I never dreamed Grandma could run like that!”
If you look at the pressures Climate Scientists worked under, the wonder isn’t that many produced results warped by bias and “spin”, but rather that any good work was produced at all. And much good work was produced. Often, to be politically correct, the final paragraph of a paper would contain a sort of genuflection to “Global Warming”, but, if you blacked out that paragraph, the rest of the work could be quite good.
An extraordinary amount of work has gone into studying the past of the Arctic. Much is work so tedious it would make my eyeballs fall out. I’ve worked some tough jobs in my time, and therefore I can appreciate young scientists working in a freezer, wearing a white suit, measuring the isotopes of air in tiny bubbles in layer after layer of a core extracted from the icecaps of Greenland and Antarctica. Maybe such work does not entail the brawn of unloading herring in a Maine cannery in January when the wind-chill is -20°, (which I once did), but it involves brains and an attention-to-detail in uncomfortable conditions, and I know for sure the job was no piece of cake.
However the interpretation of the data is a completely different matter, and involves bias. It involves things that the intern, freezing and doing the hard work, doesn’t even consider. It is the professor, glad he can delegate the suffering to an intern, parked in his cozy chair by a warm computer, who gets plunged into a purgatory all his own, dealing with things such as “funding”.
Truth does not change when one party loses an election. However funding does change. Sad to say, but “findings” then change as well. Even Galileo changed his findings a little, when the Pope got pissed.
In conclusion, one part of being a Skeptic is to doubt some findings. Especially I doubt those who state the Unknown is known, claiming a proxy proves it, most especially when the new proxy denies a number of reputable old proxies.
It is understandable why proxies are used, attempting to forecast the future. Some of the best forecasters do exactly that. However the above two graphs should show you the waters are muddied, and we cannot even agree what the past actually was.
In any case, the wonder of weather and life is that every day is fresh and new. There are some things in history that do repeat, in a way, but the repetitions are never exactly the same. Tomorrow is as unique as a fingerprint or a snowflake. In order to truly forecast one needs to be on their toes, for just because today’s map is exactly like a map from 1953, it doesn’t mean tomorrow’s map couldn’t be different from 1953’s. A forecaster must be aware of Chaos Theory, and be alert to a butterfly flapping its wings. There is no such thing as certainty in Chaos.
For this reason I chuckle when anyone ventures a timid hypothesis, suggesting they are certain about Chaos. I admire such people. It takes guts to make such an audacious statement. Of course, other scientists will come in the future and point out what they got wrong, but still it takes guts to be certain about chaos. And, sometimes, the hypothesis becomes a theory which benefits humanity a lot, (as in the cases of Newton and Einstein, even though neither was 100% correct).
Others hypothesises did not need to be ventured in a timid fashion, for their proponents received the accolades of power, privilege, political-correctness and pots of money. In some cases their fraud was flagrant, yet the media made them champions of a noble cause. Their position was one of invulnerability, and, because they felt no fear, they produced interpretations of proxies that has given the word “proxy” a bad name, and may have led some to think a proxy has something to do with proctology. I doubt the future will be kind to such interpreters, but that is not really my business.
My business, as a skeptic, is to glance back at the past, the historical record, the various proxies, and to sift the facts from the interpretations. For example, the tree-rings from a certain conifer in Yamal are facts, but the “Hockey Stick Graph” is an interpretation. It turns out one can create differing graphs by utilizing different trees, just as one would create different histories by utilizing different nationalities. Bias rears its head when one excludes certain views. The “Hockey Stick Graph” was exposed as a biased view by the careful sifting of data, (which was hard to get), largely led by Steve McIntyre at his Climate Audit site. (The early history of sifting-history is fascinating:)
The more I have looked at the interpretations derived from proxies, (usually expressed in the form of a graph), the more I have become aware certain “inconvenient” data is left out, (often described as “cherry picking.”) In some cases the reasons seem to be political and/or economic, and determined by those funding the study, but in other cases it is because a generalization allows one to grasp what usually, but not always, the case.
Generalization is not always a bad thing. For example the actual fact is that in New Hampshire there are cases, “exceptions to the rule”, where there are frosts in June, but this does not keep farmers from planting corn in May, using the generalization, “Plant your corn when the oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear.” (Here in New England seeking to avoid a late frost may expose your crop to the dangers of an early frost in late August.)
But is should be clearly stated a generalization is what it is. If a generalization is instead stated as a Truth, then a single “exception to the rule” sends it down in flames.
Two generalizations which are helpful to have are the idea of planetary circulation defined by Hadley, Ferrel and Polar Cells, and the idea of there being an oscillation of Arctic pressures, called the AO. These ideas are elegant and helpful, as one attempts to see order in the beautiful swirls of chaos, wrapping our blue planet in pearly clouds. However the appearance of “Ralph” is an “exception to the rule”, and in some ways a wrench in the works of elegance.
First, the circulation idea has a polar cell and descending air creating high pressure at the Pole, but “Ralph” involves rising air and low pressure. It doesn’t fit the generalization.
Second, when low pressure does inhabit the Pole the AO should be negative, which should involve a “zonal” pattern, but “Ralph” seems to involve a jet stream so extremely “medridional” that loops can actual reach and even cross the Pole. It doesn’t fit the generalization.
To me this suggests we need a new generalization to explain this “exception to the rule.” For August has barely started, and again we are seeing, if not Gustogales, Ralph getting to the verge of a Gustogale.
When we last looked the early development of sub-freezing temperatures over sea-ice seemed to clash with the warm air over sun-baked tundra, creating a small, tight, and intense storm on the Pacific side of the Arctic Sea, (which I call a “Hula Ralph”.)
This little beast peaked on July 31.
Even as this little Hula Ralph faded, the swirls of subfreezing isotherms on the temperature map are thought-provoking.
At this point one might think the collapse of Hula Ralph would pump high pressure at the Pole, and the little gale on the coast of the Laptev Sea would reestablish storms tracking along the junction of Ferrel and Polar Cells, with would fit the atmospheric circulation pattern diagramed above. Instead the gale on the coast of Siberia fades and Ralph displays the uncanny persistance he has manifested for over a year now, swinging up to the Pole itself by August 3.
(Misplaced temperature map)
By August 4 the “Ralph” over the Pole seems to be able to persist due to a “feeder band” from either side of Greenland, (which was briefly quite warm), while a reinforcing secondary rides north with a Siberian Tundra feeder band.
The Siberian reinforcement has taken over, this morning, and slightly raises my eyebrow with its strength. At 982 mb it may not qualify as an official Gustogale, but winds are gale forse where the isobars are tight, and the sea-ice is likely getting churned.
Though the GFS model suggests this incarnation of Ralph will drift to the Pole and weaken, it suggests an immediate reinforcement will follow, and in four days a 979 mb low, with some gale force winds, will sit in nearly the exact same place, as the next incarnation of Ralph.
If and when “Ralph” gets down near 960 mb in August, he will officially become a “Gustagale.” He will be a “top ten” summer storm, (in our very short history). I assume some Alarmists want this to happen, because they imagine the churning will melt a lot if sea-ice, but I want to see it for a different reason.
The Gustagale of 2012, which melted a lot of ice, was followed by a Gustagale in 2013 that melted far less ice. Last summer we had not one, but two Gustagales, and a lot of ice got melted. I am hoping we also get a Gustagale this summer, to see if we have a repeat of 2013, and less ice melts than expected. I hypothesize that the first Gustagale in the sequence, in the process of melting so much ice, chills the water under the ice, so the water is less able to melt ice the following year. (Even if we don’t get a major gale, perhaps the lesser gales we are getting will test this idea, to some degree).
Irregardless of how much ice melts, the phenomenon of Ralph getting stronger in August tickles my brain, and I’m playing around with generalizations which may (or may not) explain it.
One idea I have involves the very short window of time, basically three weeks either side of the solstice, when the sun gets high enough over the horizon to, as it shines 24 hours a day, actually make the North Pole a place that receives more energy than it loses. Temperatures over the entire Arctic Sea average above freezing, many melt-water pools form, and the landscape becomes a slushy mess. Even with temperatures below normal this summer, they were above freezong. (View Below from O-buoy 14)
The generalization I am toying with is that if you slightly shorten this “window”, by having less solar energy due to a “Quiet Sun”, you create a clash between the cooling air over the sea-ice and the still-warming air over the sun-baked tundra which seems disproportionately large, considering we are talking only a half degree of cooling only occurring a week or two earlier over sea ice. This clash between baked tundra and chilled sea-ice would screech to a halt with the first dust of snow on the tundra in September, but in August it would be most extreme. In any case, it is my explanation for the increase in Gustogales.
In any case, perhaps due to downdrafts and evaporative cooling and snowfall and even mere cloudiness caused by Ralph, arctic temperatures are dipping close to the freezing line already.
The “extent” graph has taken a plunge due to Ralph’s raging, but it remains to be seen if it flattens out like it did in 2013.
The next 45 days are the most interesting of the melt season. I’m going to try to post more often, but, if I can’t, I think Ron Clutz’s “Science Matters” is an excellent site, with wonderfully detailed analysis’s of the sea-ice extent, sea by sea, (among economic and political articles). The devil is in the details, as are the wonders, and it is important to watch the variations in individual locals, such as the Laptev Sea.
Also Susan J. Crockford’s “Polar Bear Science” has updates from an interesting perspective.
In any case, an “Ice-free Pole” looks like it will have to be delayed another year. There is just too much to melt, with too little time left to melt it: