I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I had a good time, with all sorts of family visiting, and between ten and twenty for dinner day after day, and wonderful food.
The only problem is that I have little time to study sea-ice. When I edge towards to the computer my wife gives me a certain look, and I pretend I was only getting a pen and some scotch tape from the shelf above the computer. I have to be downright sneaky, when it comes to saving maps, and I was so sneaky that I fooled even myself, and three days passed when I thought I was saving maps, but wasn’t. Therefore you are going to have to take my word for it, when I say some neat stuff has happened at the Pole.
When I last posted the high pressure I dubbed the “anti-Ralph” was stubbornly ensconced on the Pacific side of the Arctic Sea, keeping a large amount of arctic air swirling around and around at the Pole, and only allowing a little to escape southwards. This may have thickened the sea-ice, but it failed to deliver the extra arctic air that fuels super-arctic-outbreaks. Not that the tundra of Canada and Siberia are not able to create cold air of their own, with the sun so low. In fact tundra tends to be colder, as it doesn’t have the relatively “mild” waters of the Arctic Sea (29° F, -1°C) constantly radiating “heat” upwards into air far colder. Canadian Tundra can generate temperatures of -50°F and Siberia generates -70°F, while the Arctic Sea seldom sees temperatures below -30°F, especially early in the winter when the sea-ice is still thin. However both Siberia and Canada can generate larger amounts of bitter air when they are supplied by -30°C air from the Arctic Sea, than when supplied by air that started out at +15°C over the Atlantic or Pacific.
When I last posted I hinted that the selfishness of the anti-Ralph might be about to end, as models suggested a big Hudson Bay gale was going to crash into Greenland, undergo “morfistication” (IE disappear from maps on the west coast, be unapparent, and then reappear on the east coast as a gale abruptly popping “out of nowhere”.) This first step would be followed by the big gale heading north over Svalbard into the Arctic Sea and becoming the first “Ralph” we’ve seen in a while. The models got the first part correct, as the gale did reappear and make it as far as Svalbard, as the anti-Ralph weakened.
By December 18th you can see the Hudson Bay gale entangled with the +10,000 foot icecap of Greenland, suffering the same way Pacific gales suffer hitting the Rocky Mountains in North America, or North Atlantic gales suffer hitting the high mountains of Norway. How systems transit such obstacles is fascinating and poorly understood, and models have problems with the process. However I did notice some milder air starting to spike toward the Pole from the Atlantic side. What the models didn’t pay enough attention to was the Aleutian Gale slamming up into Bering Strait from the Pacific side.
Once “morpistication” is complete gales can explode with stunning speed in the North Atlantic, and December 20th is a fine example. Svalbard saw pressures fall from over 1000 mb to down around 950 mb (lower than many hurricanes) in 24 hours.
And it was at this point that the rot set in, in terms of the models, and in terms of my expectations. I thought the channel of milder air from the Atlantic towards the Pole would serve as a path for the gale, but instead the gale was deflected east, despite the fact the anti-Ralph was weaker. The inflow of milder air from the Atlantic simply chilled and dwindled away in the 24-hour darkness. Meanwhile a flow from the Pacific I never saw coming was starting.
And it was at this point the relatives arrived. They are not interested is Pacific air clashing with arctic air, preferring other topics. And my wife thinks it is impolite if I don’t talk about other clashes. Not that she practices what she preaches. Do you think my wife has the slightest idea what clashing is going on here?
In any case, I was a good host and did talk about football. And about fouled carburetors in snow-blowers. (My wife knows next to nothing about carburetors either.) And about tracking deer in snowy woods and shooting them. (ditto). And so on and so forth, with my wife doing what she is amazing at, which is making everyone comfortable and fat. For her “comfort” also involves being a conservation-facilitator, (which is to notice a quiet person at the edge of a conservation and, in a mysterious manner and often to the person’s surprise, to “draw them in” and make them downright gabby.)
Meanwhile I also had to face our local weather, as the arctic began draining south
This involved the snow removal necessary for running a Childcare business, at the same time I needed to shop and wrap presents. ‘Tis the season to be hectic. Sometimes it is hard to find time for sea-ice. I did sneak peeks, and thought I saved the maps. but apparently failed. You are just going to trust me on this.
Low pressure overwhelmed the Eurasian side of the Pole, moving east from the Atlantic and west from the Pacific, and the entire anti-Ralph got squeezed to Canada, along with much of the Pole’s cold air. To replace that cold air an inflow of Pacific air striped across the Pole. This Pacific-to-Atlantic flow effectively cut the inflow of Arctic air into Canada, but the damage was already done.
I’ve been expecting Alarmists to raise the usual hue and cry about temperatures +15°F of normal at the Pole, perhaps with the maudlin spin about Santa Claus seeing his house sink in thawing sea-ice, but for some reason they’ve been strangely quiet. Perhaps they know that, when the “polar vortex” gets nudged south, we are going to see temperatures -15°F of normal down in the USA, and they will look like idiots if they preach of how warm it is. I must admit we look like we are in for it, the next week, with even big cities seeing temperatures down near zero. (-17°C). Here is the current anomaly map for North America (Produced by Dr. Ryan Maue and available at the Weatherbell site (week free trial available.))
A week of such bitter cold should start to form sea-ice on the east coast of the USA. If this event occurs I’ll post about how such ice is never included in the “extent” graph, but has a big effect in terms of “albedo”. (Stay tuned.) But for the moment we are basically cringing, awaiting the arrival of the arctic.
At the top of the above map you can see the “white heat” in the Arctic Sea, where temperatures are +15° of normal. That sounds mild but in actual fact these temperatures are below freezing. But they do suggest the cold will relent in the future, down where I live, as the supply from the Pole starts to include milder air. Or will it? It is somewhat disconcerting to see how swiftly that heat is lost up there, in these darkest of days. Air that was close to freezing (32°F, 0°C) drops to zero (-17°C) in a few days. Compare the area of above zero air (red and lavender) now, with 72 hours from now, in the arctic north of Bering Strait. (Now to left, 72 hours from now to right.)
To me the above maps suggest the only place warming will be East Siberia. The models seem to suggest all the cold over Siberia is hopping aboard cross-polar-flow, and will be dumped into Canada. In the eastern USA we may be too busy staying warm to worry about sea-ice much.
The rush of milder air north through Bering Strait did seem to slow the growth of sea-ice in the “extent” graph.
It also produced the “Christmas spike” in the temperature graph I was expecting.
However notice this year’s highs are at the level of last year’s lows. (2016 left; 2017 right)
In fact, we haven’t reached the high of the 2015 “Christmas spike”, which generated all the media hype about Santa weeping and Rudolph drowning. (2015 left. 2017 right.)
2015 was when I first began to observe “Ralph”, but now Ralph is no longer apparent. I expected to see him linger, dwindling, and to see less of an anti-Ralph at first, as I forecast we would see the effect of last summer’s failed El Nino the first part of this winter, before the effect of the current La Nina manifested (which I forecast to occur exactly on February 13, as I recall.) The Pole should then become colder and more zonal, with the anti-Ralph again apparent, and the cold corralled up there and few arctic outbreaks coming south. I’ll smile, for by that time I expect to be sick (hopefully not to death) of cold, down here in New Hampshire.
Currently the sea-ice has reached the point where most growth occurs outside the Arctic Sea. The ice briefly connected Iceland to Greenland, but the last gale shoved all that ice west against the Greenland coast. Hudson Bay is completely frozen.
The main difference from last year is that this year the sea-ice is shoved north by south winds in Bering Strait, while last year sea-ice was blown north on the Atlantic side. (2016 left; 2017 right)