ARCTIC SEA ICE –Gustagales 2–

On his “Science Matters” site Ron Clutz has a wonderful post on Gustagales (which is my word for August Gales at the Pole.)

What is wonderful is an animation he has that shows how such storms can melt a lot of sea-ice in a hurry. For example the great 2012 gale

Gusta 1 arctic-storm-modis-image-27-aug-2012-lg_0

melted a huge amount of ice in a hurry

Gusta 2 2012-storm-2-figure4-350x193

Ron’s animation does a better job of displaying the swift melt. But what few seem to sit down and to calculate is how much heat it takes to melt a cubic foot of ice. Though the temperature of ice and water can be the same, the phase change between solid and liquid sucks up heat, turning it into “latent” heat. (In fact one way I have learned to doubt various “thickness” maps, and the “volume” graphs derived from “thickness”, is because they can show six feet of ice melting away in a day, and that would simply require more heat than is available. Such super-fast melting makes me think melt-water pools are messing up the modeled calculations of thickness.)

Please don’t ask me to be the one to sit down and calculate the heat involved. I confess I spent all my Math classes dreaming out the window. However I did know “a lot” of heat was required to melt so much ice in 2012. In fact I doubted the ice had actually melted, but inquiries to very kind people who did reply to emails convinced me it was actually gone.

This brings us to the 2013 Gustagale. Ryan Maue posted a lovely view of the low-level moisture being sucked into it:

Gusta 3 ryan-maue-polar_dp_storm

It tore at the sea-ice from August 7 to August 11.

Gusta 4 dmi-aug-7-pressure-mslp_latest-bigGusta 5 dmi-aug-8-pressure-mslp_latest-big

Gusta 6 dmi-aug-11-pressure-mslp_latest-big

And though the 2013 storm may have been smaller than the 2012 storm, there was little doubt it completely churned the sea-ice. Tony Heller posted this view of the situation between 120 and 180 degrees after the storm:

Gusta 7 sarelite-arctic-aug-12-index

The thing that impressed me was that the ice was so churned, but did not melt. I tended to taunt Alarmists a bit, asking them why CO2 had become so weak and ineffectual, but to myself I was more serious. Why the heck had the 2012 gale melted ice with such amazing efficiency, and the 2013 gale was such a weakling? The only reason I could see was that the 2012 gale had used up an extraordinary amount of the available heat in the water under the ice, and the water was unable to replenish itself in 12 months, and therefore there was simple no available heat to work with, in 2013.

In the post I linked to, Ron Clutz shows how 2014 was a calmer year, and less ice melted, but when I checked my notes I saw it too had a gale, on August 30.Gusta 8 2013-storm-dmi2-0930-mslp_latest-big

However the gale also failed to melt much ice, as Ron’s superb animation demonstrates. I conclude the Arctic Sea hadn’t yet replenished itself with warmer waters.

However with the passage of 2015, (and perhaps assisted by the development of the super-El Nino),  perhaps the waters were replenished, so that by last summer, 2016, when we had not one but two Gustogales, there was enough southern waters available under the ice to slightly enhance the melting, so we saw ice vanish with those gales.

That brings us to 2017, when we have had two storms which, while they not have been as strong as Gustogales, have had gale force winds and have tortured and smashed the sea-ice, but without the melting (so far) that we saw last year.

To me this suggests we are in a situation similar to 2013, where the available heat has been used up, turned into latent heat by the prior years churning and melting. We should not expect the ice to melt like it did last year.

I will conclude with this observation:  The ideas I am playing with have little to do with a trace gas in the atmosphere. Instead they have everything to do with the surges in the atmosphere that create Gustagales, and the oceanic surges that replenish mild waters under arctic ice.

I think it is high time the governments stop funding scientists who insist trace gases control our weather and our future, and start funding the down-to-earth (largely unrewarded) dudes who are  focused on atmospheric and oceanic  surges which are far more real and far more likely to significantly effect humanity as a whole.

(I know some are hard at work collecting the data that demonstrates how the water-under-the-ice gains and loses its ability-to-melt, and that there are conversations about whether this may occur in a short, four or five year, cycle. I believe these guys deserve the funding.)




10 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –Gustagales 2–

  1. An alarmist troll (Griff) on Tony Heller’s site was very excited, hoping that upcoming storms would break up the 2017 ice in a 2012 manner. These Arctic summer storms are produced by an unusually cold atmosphere. So I basically said, if the ice is broken by a system produced by cold, how does that demonstrate global warming?

    • I will not waste my tongue’s power discussing Griff’s logic here.

      I think there is a brief period where the Arctic Sea is starting to get colder but the tundra just south of the sea is still baked by summer sun, and the clash between the two may fuel the storms.

      Then there is a second factor, which is the residual warmth of the water under the ice. A warm layer slips in like a card into a deck, but then gets mixed and used up by the storms.

      All this is just my guessing. But to simply study, without the silly politics, is a delight.

      • I am sorry but the numbers are absolutely crucial. And theidea of the water gaining and losing enough heat to matter, months later, does not fly.

        It takes as much heat to melt a certain amount of ice as to raise the temperature of the liquid thereafter from 0 C to 80 C.

        A “bigger than usual” sea-ice-melt in the Arctic melts about 1,000 EXTRA cubic kilometers of ice*. Assume that in some way this comes from cooling another mass of liquid water. How much would, say 710,000 cubic kilometers of water have to cool? The answer is 0.11 C.

        The significance of the quantity of 710,000 cubic kilometers is that this IS the mass of water near the surface which would be involved, in the Arctic Ocean. The area of the Ocean is a little over 14 million square kilometers and the Arctic Winter Mixed Layer** is generally agreed to be about 50 meters deep, i.e. 1/20th of a kilometer.

        I know of no theory which says a difference of about one-tenth of a degree C matters to anything***.

        * 19,000 instead of 18,000.

        ** During the summer the very top of the water is warmed by the sun. Winter storms mix this up, to a certain depth, and so the extra heat is distributed through out this water.

        ***Except for people who are also interested in angels dancing on pin-heads.

      • Thanks Nigel, especially for crunching the numbers in a way I can grasp. I especially like, “It takes as much heat to melt a certain amount of ice as to raise the temperature of the liquid thereafter from 0 C to 80 C.”

        Here’s the problem: It is not merely heat, but salinity, that is involved. The “warm layer” could not be beneath the “cold layer”, if it it wasn’t also saltier, because the warm water would rise and the cold water would sink (unless it was totally fresh water, which it isn’t.) (Fresh water lakes have a different layering than seas.)

        Some state the salty Atlantic water is too deep to be brought up by gales. (Below 200 meters.) I’d say evidence suggests otherwise. There is simply no way OMHO that the 2012 gale could have melted so much ice without an added assist from salt.

        Check out the comments in Ron Clutz’s post, where we barely scratch the surface of this topic.

      • “…not merely heat but salinity…”

        And bathymetry.

        Here is a useful summary – clear but somewhat complicated, which reflects the fact that the detailed behaviour IS complicated.:

        Click to access 1995_Mini2.pdf

        The main take home ponts I think, are:

        (1) The effective separation of the surface layer and the way it acts like “a lid;”

        (2) That ice-cover in the Beaufort Gyre always reforms readily;

        (2) That most changes in circulation are SLOW – to be measured in decades.

    • Thanks Brett. Interesting study. What I like is that they admit the error-bars are quite large. My ideas are allowed, within their error bars, even if their main-line disagrees.


    I appreciate your long comment, but it is a bit too speculative and political for this early in the conversation. I prefer to look at the nuts and bolts aspect of sea-ice first. I hope you will forgive me if I put your ideas “on hold”, for the time being. Later on, when the post is a bit older, I’ll include your ideas.

    • PS TO TOM O:

      I think I may do a post just for you. It will have a title something like, “Are Human’s Vermin?”

      It may be true that some consider you and I “excess population”. This is distressing on a number of different levels, not the least of which is that it goes directly against the spiritual advice to “Love thy neighbor.”

      However when I am deeply distressed I like to enact my escapism from such distress, which is to look at clouds (and sea-ice) and contemplate the majesty of the Creator. It is solace for my soul. That is the reason I try to steer the topic away from the lunacy of men to the majesty of Truth.

      But don’t worry. At other times I’ll be in the mood for a good rave.

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