One area of the Arctic Sea that has had far less sea-ice in recent years than I’ve seen earlier in my lifetime is in the waters north of the Bering Straits. I think it is an area Alarmists cling to hopefully, thinking it may support their strange belief that if the ice at the Pole all melts then civilization as we know it will crumble, and they won’t have to get a Real Job.
The problem with this fond delusion is that there are some hints in the yellowing pages of the logs of old whaling ships which suggest there were other times, before my lifetime, when those same waters saw less ice. Even the Eskimo, who were the original whalers of the north, could not have been whalers if the waters were not open.
That being said, in my lifetime the waters north of Alaska did formerly have more ice, as can be seen by the records of the bases that were set up on ice in areas that now are open water, late in the summer. True, in prior posts I’ve shown pictures of the ice breaking up beneath the huts of the scientists in 1975, but there is no getting around the fact they at least had ice to have break up. More recently the same areas have seen more open waters.
I’m afraid I annoy Alarmists by suggesting that the primary reason for the fluctuation in the levels of sea-ice north of Alaska is not CO2, but rather a cycle which the Pacific Ocean experiences called the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation). When this cycle is in its “warm” phase warmer water enters Bering Strait and is able to melt sea-ice to the north, and when it is in its “cold” phase the same water is chilled enough to allow sea-ice to form earlier, grow thicker, and be more lasting.
Some say the variations in temperature are too small to have so great an influence, but I must remind them of two things. First, a mere half degree can be the difference between sea-ice melting or freezing. Second, the variations in CO2 are far more tiny.
The PDO was thought to move through a cycle we could count on, over a period of roughly 60 years, but it has proven a bit untrustworthy of late. It moved into its “cold” phase right on schedule, but then unexpectedly shifted back to “warm”. At first I thought this resembled a brief “spike” to warm which occurred during the PDO’s last cycle, but that idea has proven to be incorrect, for the PDO has stubbornly remained warm. I can’t really call it a mere “spike”. Though it has been dragged back down towards the “cold” area where (according to my theory) it “should” be, it still remains slightly “warm”, and even had the audacity to pop up a bit in September. (The final cross in the graph below.)
Although the PDO is still “warm”, it is slightly “cooler” than it was last autumn. Therefore one would expect a slight increase in sea-ice north of Bering Strait and Alaska. So let us check, using the “new version” of NRL maps. (2016 to left; 2017 to right.)
In fact, rather than a slight increase of sea-ice there is a slight decrease of sea-ice north of Bering Strait. This may seem to discount the PDO as a factor, and to Alarmists this will leave CO2 as the only remaining reason for less ice. Wrong. Other factors need to be considered.
One is a jet stream pattern that may be setting up that I greatly enjoyed when young and hot-blooded, back in the bitter winter (in eastern USA) of 1976-77. The same loopy jet that convinced some, back then, that the Climate was cooling, by freezing the socks off the big-wigs in Washington D.C., brought balmy conditions to Alaska back then. My blood is not so hot any more, and I don’t like seeing such a sameness may reoccur. But if it did reoccur mildness would reoccur up towards Alaska, which likely would decrease sea-ice.
A second factor might be the same factor that is knocking the PDO from its (formerly) predictable cycle, and keeping it warm longer than expected. What might that be?
My guess is that it is the “Quiet Sun.” After a recent burst of activity, the sun has again gone spotless:
A “quiet” (spotless) sun sends less energy to earth, but this decrease in energy is likely to take forms other than that measured by thermometers. I hypothesize it may also be measured by anemometers, and be seen in a slight decrease on Trade Winds. This would encourage El Ninos and discourage La Ninas, causing the Pacific to be generally warmer. In a lagged manner (as shown so well by Bob Tisdale) this extra warmth makes its way north to effect the PDO. In other words, though it seems counter intuitive, a colder sun would make for a warmer Pacific, for a while.
But only for a while. It is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Eventually cooler can’t continue to make things warmer. It simply makes no sense, in the long run. Sooner or later, through processes I certainly don’t understand, cooling will result in cooling.
We may not be there yet, but I have a sense that, if one factor delays the inevitable, the inevitable gains a sort if strength through being delayed. A flood may be delayed by dams upstream, but, if the flood gathers strength behind such dams, and such dams crumble, the flood may have unexpected power when unleashed.
The fact the Pacific switched from a developing El Nino to a sudden La Nina last summer. in a manner unforeseen by models, seems to suggest the models are facing a power they never expected. But there the La Nina power sits, obvious in the anomaly maps:
It sure looks like the Trade Winds recovered, to produce a spear of blue heading west from Peru. Also cold water upwelled and headed west off South Africa, and even to a lesser degree west of Australia. But the North Pacific only shows a slight hint of the “cold” PDO reappearing, with a little chill on the west coast of Canada. Of greater significance is the new “warm blob” south of Alaska. It may form the warm core of a “cold” PDO.
How does this effect sea-ice? Very little, so far. It takes time for such changes to work their way north. In fact, if you look at the above map you see Bering Strait is above normal, and appears to be experiencing symptoms of a “warm” PDO.
This makes me nervous. It resembles the winter of 1976-77. Anomaly maps shows heat in Alaska, and bitter cold spearing southeast towards eastern USA.
When the jet-stream chooses to go loopy in this manner, Alarmists look silly, for the cold slices south to where they live. Record cold temperatures were set in intellectual locals such as New York City and Boston. A bit inland, in fly-over places like Lebanon, Pennsylvania, cold temperature records were broken by an amazing six degrees. And me? I was taking some time off on the coast of Maine, and my wife strolled the sand in what was more like a burka than a bikini.
The -17 Celsius wind ripped at the water, utterly altering the “sea surface temperaure” charts consulted by geeks who consult computers before consulting the sea. While intellectuals awaited “updates” the bird-brained gulls and sandpipers were wiser.
If this loopy jet stream “locks in”, as it did in 1976-77, there may be more sea-ice in Chesapeake Bay than in Alaska. The coastline of Washington D.C. itself may be frozen by Christmas, but do you think the politicians there would look out the window?
Likely not. Many would simply bleat some dogmatic propaganda about an “Arctic Death Spiral”, never bothering to study the subject. Let’s be honest. The typical politician knows less about arctic-sea-ice than I, a mere simpleton, possess in my little finger. Yet they strut and bray.
They are embarrassing. Even if one ignored all the subtlety of how the Creator made creation, you would think they could see their dogma looked dopey. For example, the idea of a “Death Spiral” involves an acceleration in the decrease of sea-ice, yet we have seen an increase from last year:
Politicians never ask themselves, “How can there be more ice, if there is less north of Being Strait and Alaska?”
I might suggest an answer, but they never ask.
OK. I can’t resist answering. Lets look to see where the ice is forming.
One place the ice has been swift to reform this year is along the north coast of Russia. In a chicken-or-the-egg manner this may be influencing weather patterns, or it may be a result of weather patterns. What I’ve seen is that low pressure hasn’t traveled from east to west along the north coast of Russia, as it has other years, and one reason for this may be that there is no open water to fuel such storms with evaporation. Instead Atlantic gales tend to stall and fade north of Norway, and far to the west Pacific gales have seemed to be attracted north by the open water north of Bering Strait; the so-called Aleutian Low has left its ordinary home and crossed East Siberia and then crossed the Chukchi Sea to the Beaufort Sea and then faded into Alaska. Between the two areas of general low pressure high pressure has existed where I noted the low pressure “Ralph” set up shop last winter. Currently the low has faded on the Pacific side, but a new visitor is forecast to come north. Most obvious is the high pressure bridging the Pole.
So far the closest thing to a “Ralph” reestablishing low pressure at the Pole has been the feeder-band of milder temperatures aiming north of Greenland, but so far, where such plumes of mildness had an uncanny ability to generate low pressure last year, this year they have failed. Also neither Atlantic nor Pacific gales have faded northwards towards the Pole. Things are changing.
Patterns tend to be in a state of flux during the autumn, and it’s likely wisest to sit back and watch. The pattern that first drew my attention to “Ralph” didn’t become very apparent until Christmas 2015, and I suppose the same thing could happen again this year. However that was following a powerful El Nino and this year we are following a feeble and failed El Nino, with a more vigorous La Nina forming (so far.) Things seem very different to me. Though the Pole continues above normal, it is far colder than last year. (2016 to left; 2017 to right).
In late November the waters north of Bering Strait usually flash freeze in a big hurry (on years when waters are open). It will be an area to watch; also watch to see if Pacific storms stop coming north of Bering Strait, once the open water is gone. (Also watch how swiftly the open water of Hudson Bay flash freezes.) My hunch is that the winter will start out with a loopy jet making Alaska warm and the east coast of USA frigid, but the pattern will switch to a more zonal pattern and the second half of the winter will see cold staying at the Pole. (In a tongue-in-cheek way I have stated the exact date for the switch will be February 13.) If the cold stays at the Pole the sea-ice will likely be thicker and less broken up by storms, when the sun peeks above the horizon next spring.
It will be fascinating to watch, but as always I think CO2 has only a microscopic influence on what is going on. The real shakers and movers are the weather patterns and the oceanic cycles, which are likely nudged by cycles of the sun. The trigger that will likely bring high sea-ice amounts back to the Pole will be when both the PDO and AMO swing to “cold” phases at the same time, but such a match seems still well in the future (though when it happens it may be abrupt.) The AMO is going through what may be the last hurrah of its “warm” cycle, which likely will make the North Atlantic interesting this winter:
In fact having the AMO leap up like that may completely trash my forecast for a zonal pattern during the second half of winter. At the very least I may change my date for the switch occurring to February 14, if the AMO doesn’t calm down.