ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Vortex Hubbub–

My favorite long-range forecasters, Josrph D’Aleo, Joe Bastardi and Tom Downs over at Weatherbell, forecast a sort of sandwich winter back in October. That is: Two slices of bitter cold with a thaw in the middle. They have gotten the first two parts, and now I’m adopting a wait-and-see attitude about the third, but I must admit it increasingly looks like they have hit the nail on the head. If the long term forecasts prove true, that team deserves confetti and a parade, or at least some kudos (whatever those are), because predicting a winter the October before it occurs is danged hard.

I don’t usually pay much attention to upper atmosphere stuff, as it is over my head, but I do note the high clouds on days I can see up that far, and know a few old-timer rules concerning the various types of cloud, how fast they are moving, and the direction they are moving in relation to the winds down here on earth. So far I have seen nothing all that alarming, but did order an extra load of firewood, due to this couplet:

The longer and stronger the January thaw
The more that February’s snowstorms will awe.

I figure this is largely common sense. Weather is seldom “normal” or “average”, but rather tends to swing back and forth between warm spells and cold spells, so it is quite pragmatic to expect a colder February after a warmer January. Also, because spring starts in February way down south on the Gulf of Mexico coast, storms can access some warm, juicy air in February, which can feed storms like gasoline into a fire, and brings us people to the north some amazing February and March falls of snow.

But what has this to do with arctic sea-ice?

Largely it is due to the fact the Arctic Ocean is the source of our coldest air. The way winds howl up there influence us, as well as the movement of sea-ice. Also, though it has less influence on sea-ice than winds do, if the arctic is robbed of its coldest air sea-ice will form more slowly and less thickly. (For this reason biased Alarmists tend to focus on times the arctic is above normal, utterly ignoring the not-inconsequential fact we bumpkins down south in New Hampshire are freezing our socks off.)

In any case, one phenomenon that influences both sea-ice and New Hampshire is a strong cross-polar-flow from Siberia across into Canada, and then down to New Hampshire. These winds create polynyas of open water along the Siberian coast, as ice is shifted across the Pole via the Transpolar Drift to smash as impressive pressure ridges against Canada.  At first this lessens the area of sea-ice, but then the polynyas freeze over, and the sea-ice recovers back to what it was, in terms of “area”. But in terms of “volume”, no sea-ice has melted, and the total amount has increased. (You have to pay attention to such details when in discussions with biased Alarmists, due to their tendency to pick and chose only the data that supports their bias.)

So far the winds down at the level of the sea-ice have been mostly gentle, but I do notice when the winds aloft are more vigorous. This is not to say I understand what is going on up that high, but just as old-timers around here notice the antics of high clouds, I’m sure savvy old Eskimos are noticing the high clouds streaming south, and coming to conclusions. Therefore I perked up when Ryan Maue  tweeted about a “vortex”, way, way up at the tropopause, getting whipped across from Siberia all the way down to another “vortex” located over Hudson Bay. I have yet to see any sign of this cross-polar-bullwhip translating down to the surface, but it does make me pause and scratch my jaw a bit.

Also the meteorologist Judah Cohen produced a comparison of the “Vortex” as models forecast it to be on February 3 with how the situation looked during a very cold period back in 2014. (2014 to left, with North America at six o’clock. 2018 forecast to right, with North America displaced to eight o’clock.)


Judging from all this above-my-head stuff, history could repeat itself, and we could see a return to bitter winter. However so far our down-to-earth maps don’t show it.

20180130 satsfc

Though we are currently getting some north winds from the low developing out to sea, they are nothing like the blasts we got after Christmas. Our current “cold spell” will get down to 17°F (-8° C), but you would be surprised at how kindly such temperatures feel, after your body has acclimatized to windchill of -30°F (-34°C). Not that I don’t hunch my shoulders a bit against the chill, but I have noticed fellows younger and more hotblooded than I sauntering about with their jackets unzipped. And this is a cold spell? If you look west in the map you can see plenty of Pacific air leaking into the flow, diluting and moderating the winter. West winds are so different from north winds, in New England, that I can see why Indians felt different angels in the spiritual hierarchy, (wherein God [or the Great Spirit] is the only One worthy of worship),  were in charge of the west wind. After bitter blasts from the north, west winds, even when not a true Chinook, are downright kindly.

Therefore there is no real short-term reason for alarm. True, the meteorologists who focus on the upper atmosphere have a better record for correct forcasts, but sometimes even they are wrong. In fact I hope they are wrong. I don’t like bitter cold. However when they agree with old-timer’s maxims, I am especially inclined to take heed. And I remember,

The longer and stronger the January thaw
The more that February’s snowstorms will awe.

And for this reason I have made a complete mess of the side lawn of the Childcare.

Woodpile FullSizeRender

The wise old Indians used to say, “if you want to know how bad the winter will be, look at the white man’s woodpile.”

In terms of arctic sea-ice, having the “vortex” move down to Hudson Bay should lead to above-normal temperatures over the Pole as a whole, but we will have wait and see how the cross-polar-flow translates down to the surface. Having very cold air blast from Siberia to Canada will please Alarmists with polynyas along the Siberian coast, but that coastal ice is far thicker than last year, and shifting it across the arctic could lead to far thicker ice in the Central Arctic.

Stay tuned.

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