Around here folk treasure the days when the sun sets after eight in the evening. It is a brief time when life simply feels blessed. The blessing seems too short, but still it is a blessing.
At the Pole there is a similar “window of opportunity”. It is a brief period, from thirty days before the solstice to thirty days after the solstice, when, although “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, the Pole receives more than it gives away.
For most of the year the Pole is like a politician. It is giving, but not as saint, for it is not giving away what it has created. It is giving away what the south has created, in the manner a politician gives away what the taxpayer has created. However for the next sixty days the Pole does what few politicians do, it creates more than it gives away.
The fact of the matter is that, if the Pole was a vast, flat. black asphalt parking-lot, the 24-hour-a-day sunshine would build up intolerable levels of heat. Burning hot warm-fronts would charge south from the Poles by July, as is the situation on the planet Zextar. You should thank God, (or your “lucky stars”, if you don’t like God), that you don’t live on Zextar. Instead we live on a beautifully designed planet called “Earth” where such ferocious warm-fronts can’t happen, because our South Pole is an ice-cap up at 9000 feet, and our North Pole is an ocean covered by a skim of sea-ice. Both poles discourage the creation of ferociously hot warm fronts, but both Poles, for sixty days at opposing solstices, experience sunshine at levels ideal for the creation of pools of heat.
Back when I was a rookie, in terms of observing sea-ice, I was startled to learn it even got above freezing for weeks on end at the North Pole. Every puddle I saw seemed to support the Alarmist contention that the Pole was melting. Now that I’m older and wiser, I am surprised the Pole isn’t even warmer than it is.
In the beginning I was shocked to learn it might rain at the Pole. Now I am shocked by snow in July.
In the beginning I feared I might be losing “the argument”, and that CO2 might indeed be melting the Pole, when I heard of rain, and of melt-water pools. Now I see the argument as silly, and what I fear is getting sucked back into it.
In the beginning I had a hard time not being sucked into arguments about “albedo.” I was tricked into thinking “albedo” was what determined the levels of sea-ice. I am proud to say that, even though “albedo” has little to do with determining the levels of sea-ice, I was able to defeat Alarmists even while accepting their false premise. (Look back through five years of my past posts, for examples).
In a nutshell, the premise didn’t pan out: I saw examples where lots of dark melt-water pools and dark sea-water decreased “albedo”, but sea-ice refused to shrink, and also saw contrary examples where unusual falls of midsummer snow increased “albedo” to its highest, yet sea-ice melted like crazy. At best, the arctic cameras we once had showed albedo might have a local effect on air temperatures, and on whether melt-water pools expanded or skimmed over with ice, but albedo had little effect on the bulk and body of sea-ice, as a whole. Consequently I was forced to seek a different cause-of-melting.
As a humorous aside, I should state that it was the Alarmist James Hansen who first alerted me to a power greater than sunshine and “albedo”, when it comes to determining polar temperatures. Some Skeptic had managed to corner Hansen, and he was forced to defend colder-than-normal-temperatures at the Pole during July, and his defense involved the fact that the phase-change from ice to water “sucked up heat”. He suggested that an unnatural amount ice had melted, and it had sucked up heat to a degree where the increased melting made things colder. In other words, as CO2 melted sea-ice it could also lower temperatures.
I may be a bumpkin, but I do know that “what goes around comes around.” If melting ice “sucks up” a lot of heat in the summer, then freezing water “releases” a lot of heat in the fall and winter. You can’t have it one way and not the other, but Alarmists never brought up the phase-change argument when temperatures were warmer-than-normal as waters froze, and only when temperatures were were colder-than-normal in the summer.
To make matters worse, some of the most significant melting occurred after summer was over, and temperatures had dipped below freezing in the fall. The sun had dipped down to the horizon, and the “albedo” argument no longer applied. On one occasion several hundred square miles of sea-ice vanished when the sun was too low to melt it, and air temperatures were below the freezing point of salt water. It was therefore blatantly obvious that the melting didn’t involve sunshine, or “albedo”, or air temperatures, or how CO2 might effect air temperatures. What mattered most was the temperature of the water under the ice, and, when I started to investigate sea-water, I started to understand it takes hundreds and even thousands of years for sunshine and air temperatures to make much of a dent in the massive inertia of mile-deep waters.
The best way to melt a lot of sea-ice in a hurry is for winds to blow it south to places where warmer water can melt it from below, and the second-best way to melt sea-ice is for a fickle and meandering branch of a southern current to probe north into the arctic, and again to melt ice from beneath. In both cases the controlling powers are ponderous and slow and oceanic, and have next to nothing to do with the ups and downs of breezy air temperatures at the Pole. Mild temperatures at the Pole can even be part of a pattern that keeps sea-ice from moving south and keeps warm currents from moving north, while cold temperatures at the Pole can even be part of a pattern that pushes sea-ice south and draws warm currents north. To put it most succinctly, to care overly much about what happens to the top of the ice is silly.
Despite the fact I became aware of all of this in 2013, I still miss the cameras that showed us how the sweet sixty days of heat,either side of the summer solstice, melted the sea-ice from above. There is something utterly cool about the fact the North Pole is warming the planet, not due to CO2, or albedo, or anything unnatural, but instead due to the utterly natural fact the sun is relatively high and shining 24 hours a day. For 300 days a year the Pole is sucking the planet dry, constantly squandering its heat, and one gets used to thinking of the Pole as a place of ice and snow. It takes an enjoyable flip of conventional thinking to see the Pole, even briefly, as a place that warms. It has always done so, and will continue to do so, even if CO2 is reduced to zero.
In any case, for the next sixty days the Pole is a warming place. It has been like a chimney for 300 days, drawing heat away from our home, but for the next sixty days it is like a hearth, warming our home.
This represents a major shift to the atmospheric powers-that-be. It turns the tables topsy-turvy. In terms of the normalcy of weather patterns, it is like car shifting from forward to reverse at the height of a rush-hour.
I find this switch from a chilling Pole to a warming Pole fascinating, and have yet to see any paper that addresses the switch adequately, as being a yearly event that happens with or without any change in levels of CO2. It is a yearly jolt to the status quo, and, considering it is not fully understood, it seems silly to seize upon the slightest manifestations of its occurrence, and attribute them to CO2.
If I do seize upon some occurrence I do not understand, and attribute it to CO2, I am cruising for a bruising. It is likely that the yearly jolt from 300 days chilling to 60 days warming will then proceed in a natural fashion that involves considerable variety, and the variations will make a fool of me, as my one-size-fits-all, model-derived CO2 prediction will fail to manifest. If it does manifest one year it will make an even greater fool of me, for I will be jumping up and down yelling “yippee” thinking I’m right, when it’s occurrence is due to coincidence, and the following year my diet will be sheer crow.
It looks like this summer will be just such a case. According to model-derived CO2 predictions the arctic sea-ice should have been gone by 2014, but sea-ice shows every indication of not only failing to melt away this summer, but increasing (or, as some like to say, “recovering”.)
Not that I can explain why. I am not so arrogant. I share my hunches, but hope I do so in a humble manner, and freely admit when I’m wrong.
For example, I expected polar temperatures to dip below normal in mid May, but they persist at being barely above normal.
I also thought sea-ice “extent” would trend towards “normal”, and did not think it would remain “second-lowest”:
Lastly, I never expected increased sea-ice “volume” to counter the decreased “extent”, to the degree it has. Where “extent” is “second lowest”, “volume” is on the verge of being “the highest in five years.”
This unexpected increase in sea-ice “volume” has made mincemeat of a recent Alarmist talking-point. It was stated that, although the “extent” was failing to fulfill the narrative (about the Pole’s sea-ice melting away), the fact the “volume” was at very low levels demonstrated how weak and flimsy the ice that remained actually was. It was suggested this “thinning of sea-ice” would reach a point where, though the “extent” was at the same level, the ice would be so very thin that it wouldn’t take much sunshine at all to melt it, and the entire Arctic Ocean would become ice-free in a very short period of time. Sounded good, but now the ice obviously isn’t “thinning.”
Why not? One reason is that winds have not been exporting sea-ice as much through Fram Strait, where it is doomed to melt in the Atlantic. Rather winds have compressed the ice in the Central Arctic, where the compression leads to thicker ice, and also leads to sea-ice remaining where the it is not “doomed to melt.” The thickening of the sea-ice shows when we compare last year (left) with this year (right).
In a general sense the Central Arctic ice is a foot thicker, (light blue is 6 feet while slightly darker blue is 5 feet.)
It is interesting to zoom in on specific areas, such as Bering Strait and the North Coast of Alaska. (2017 left; 2018 right.)
The fact these two maps are so similar must be disconcerting to Alarmists, because only a couple of months ago 2017 showed far more sea-ice than 2018. 2017 showed all sorts of sea-ice south of Bering Strait, in the Bering Sea, but all that sea-ice is now melted. (Skeptics could counter that, in the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, 2018 was beating 2017, but there too the ice has now largely vanished.) What the Alarmists contended was that, while melting the Being Sea sea-ice in 2017 had kept the waters cooler in Being Sea, in 2018 the same waters would be warmed by sunshine and therefore warmer and therefore sea-ice north of Being Strait was doomed. But look at it. It is refusing to behave doomed, (so far).
Instead we see both maps show the often-seen polynya of open water off the northwest point of Alaska. Looking east along the coast we also see the often-seen polynya by the delta of the Mackenzie River, but here 2018 shows less of a polynya, and more ice to the north. In fact, as you look further out to sea to the north, 2018 definitely shows thicker ice (lighter blue) than 2017 (darker blue).
The thicker ice becomes most apparent when we zoom in to the Siberian Coast and the Laptev Sea. 2017 (left) shows the “Laptev Notch” while 2018 (right) shows the notch didn’t develop.
The Laptev Notch is thinner ice,. That navy blue hue represents ice that was three feet thick in 2017, as opposed to light blue ice which is six feet in 2018. The notch is created by the constant export of ice towards the Pole, due to bitter cold gales blasting out to seas from Siberia duting the coldest days of winter. Ordinarily we’d blame thicker ice in the Central Arctic on Laptev exports, but it is clear not as much ice was exported last winter, because far more ice is left behind. Some ice has moved north, as is shown by the lilac hues on the Siberian coast, and the north coast of the New Siberian Islands. These are Polynyas of open water formed by ice shifting north to the Pole, and barely skimmed over with sea ice a foot thick. Such thin “baby-ice” often (but not always) melts quickly in the summer, but there are far fewer such areas of thin ice to melt this year.
Scanning east to the coast of the East Siberian Sea, the ice is up to 15 feet thick (red), whereas it was only a foot thick last May (lilac).
We need new maps to compare the border between the Arctic Sea and the North Atlantic around Svalbard. (2017 left, 2018 right).
Here there was obviously more sea-ice in 2017 than 2018. Alarmists likely want to focus here, and indeed they did, during the winter, because unusual winds blew sea-ice away from the north coast of Greenland, and a polynya formed and skimmed over with new baby-ice only a foot thick, in an area where maps usually show sea-ice crushed up against the coast of Greenland, and sea-ice fifteen thick or even thicker (red). The winds have since reversed, and the ice has come south to crush up against northern Greenland again, but at times during the winter the Trans Polar Drift was reversed, and sea-ice that is usually exported through Fram Strait was pushed backwards to the Pole, thickening the ice there.
The ice pushed into Fram Strait is doomed to melt slowly or quickly. If it stays to the west it stays in a very cold current, and can make it to the southern tip of Greenland before melting. If it moves towards Svalbard it moves into a mild tendril of The Gulf Stream coming up from the south, and is eroded from beneath, sometimes with remarkable speed. 2017 shows sea-ice shoved south right up against the west coast of Svalbard, into that milder water, while 2018 shows that milder water exposed to winds and the churning of waves.
I don’t pretend to understand the difference between how the water is affected when protected by sea-ice, and when it is exposed to winds and waves. A lot of research is being done, but it is difficult to place buoys in areas where grinding sea-ice comes and goes. Therefore what follows is merely me surmising.
It seems logical that protected waters would likely be more able to create a situation where water is stratified, with milder water able to sink lower than colder water because it is saltier. Exposed water, on the other hand, would see such stratification destroyed by churning. This could change the effect of the mild current, as it gets north of Svalbard. However this is only wondering, on my part. I’m adopting a wait-and-see policy, and curiously watching the sea-ice north of Svalbard.
While winds were reversed one way in Fram Strait, they were reversed the other to the east of Svalbard in Barents Sea. The usual south winds were less common, and sea-ice that usually is pushed north at times instead spread south. However such ice is not as doomed as ice moving into Fram Strait. Not only can it turn around and head back north, but waters are generally colder, and it is slower to melt. 2018 has more ice in Barents Sea.
All in all it seems clear the past winter pressed ice north more than it spread it south, preserving and thickening the totality of the sea-ice. This is why the sea-ice “volume” has increased.
Before I depart I want to briefly discuss Hudson Bay. (2017 to left; 2018 to right).
The thaw had started last year and is barely starting this year. Last year more sea-ice was piled up against the southwest coast, and this year more is piled up against the east coast. The ice is thicker in the central Bay this year. Usually this matters little, in terms of the September minimum, because usually Hudson Bay melts away completely. Or that has been what I have observed.
However apparently the situation can change when the AMO shifts to cold. I have no clue of the engineering involved, but over at his excellent blog at Weatherbell, Joseph D’Aleo often skips the engineering of events, and simply points out that, in the past, when A happens, B follows. This drives me slightly crazy, as I want to know the “why”, however the “what” suggests a colder AMO leads to colder temperatures in eastern Canada.
The areas associated with a “cold” AMO have chilled since February. In the map below blue shows areas that have chilled. The “cold” AMO horseshoe-signature is apparent in the Atlantic. (Off topic, but the cold Pacific La Nina is warming, and therefore fading.)
Right on cue, over the past 45 days temperatures in eastern Canada have stayed below normal:
This has me curious about whether we might see some sea-ice fail to melt on the east coast of Hudson Bay, this year. Back in the mists of history, the Records of the Hudson Bay company show some summers a surprising amount of ice lingered.
(I snitched the above maps from Joseph D’Aleo’s blog, which costs me about what a coffee costs, each day. However if you are very cheap and curious, a week’s free trial is available. His post is here:)
If even a small amount of ice remains it will increase the “extent” total in the Sea-Ice-Minimum next September, and cause some Alarmist heads to explode.
There is also Alarmist concern about the Greenland icecap melting away. So far this spring the melt has been retarded.
I am wondering if this retarded melt is due to the cooling AMO. It is still early, but I am curious to see if it persists. Lastly, how will it effect the mass of ice added to Greenland?
The “wrong-way” flow in Fram Strait brought enough Gales slamming into Greenland to result in an above-normal dump of snow in the icecap this past winter and this spring. But the red line shows that 2011-12 also had above-normal totals at thyis time, yet around this time the totals began an “unprecedented” plunge to low levels that had newspapers in a tizzy and Alarmists bug-eyed. Will the same thing happen this year? Or will the cooling AMO result in no melt at all? The fate of the planet hangs in the balance! (According to some.)