It’s been a while since I’ve posted about sea-ice, mostly because I have my doubts that my observations have much effect on the people who seem deluded, and in need of persuasion. They seem beyond reach. Therefore, if I am going to write about sea-ice, it should because I get some sort of joy from doing so.
Sadly, a lot of the joy has been lost, with the loss of the O-buoy cameras, (and the earlier loss of the “North Pole Camera.”) To write of sea-ice without ever seeing it is like a person who delights in looking at clouds being put in a dark room, and being told to write about clouds. It sucks.
I suppose I can do it, but please give me credit for being heroic, as I do it. I am like Beethoven who, despite the loss of his hearing, went right on composing beautiful music, even improving upon the music he himself could never physically listen to. In fact I am so heroic, as I write this post, that you are obliged to toss a fistful of confetti in the air, as you read it.
At least we still have the webcam atop the bank in Barrow, Alaska. We are like Beethoven when he could still hear a ghost of sound. It may not be much, but it is better than being as deaf as a post. It shows us that even in the depth of night it doesn’t get dark in the month of May, up in Barrow:
This view shows us so-called “fast-ice” attached to the shore. It also shows us why we cannot really trust the old guess-maps of the state of the sea-ice in Beaufort Sea. Judging from the shore, the ice appeared solid as far as you could see, out to sea. In actual fact the ice out of view, in the past, was likely “sea-ice”, which is constantly moving. (Oh, how I wish we had an O-buoy, out there, right now.)
Not that we are back in the old days, when they had to create guess-maps, looking out to sea, (and back then there was no bank building to stand atop. They looked out to sea from down on the beach.) Nowadays we have satellites, and they can show us the ice fracturing, further out to sea, off the coast of Alaska..
Some uneducated Alarmists see this as alarming, (as alarm is what they’re good at), and also because they fail to look back to the earliest Nimbus satellite pictures, which gave us our first views of areas of open water north of Alaska. The Nimbus pictures go all the way back to 1964, but my favorite is from after the “summer of love” in 1969, and shows an amazing “hole” of open water to the north of Alaska by September.
Some Alarmists, rather than using their eyes and looking at old pictures, rely on graphs I cannot even call “guess-graphs”, for they even ignore the old guess-maps. Whoever creates these graphs should spend time in jail, for “falsifying public documents”, but Alarmists wave these graphs about as being a sort of gospel truth, which one should rely on more than their own eyes.
Beethoven had no choice but to accept the deafness that was his fate. Alarmists are not the same. They do have hearing, but are willfully deaf, and they do have eyes, but are willfully blind. Nor do they produce a 9th symphony like Beethoven’s, for Beethoven was focused on a Truth beyond speech, while Alarmists ignore Truth, in favor of dogma. Dogma never produces great music, but rather a poor facsimile, in the same manner that a propaganda poster is a poor facsimile of great paintings.
In any case, those who bother to keep their eyes open are aware that the sea-ice breaks away from the north coast of Alaska in a quite regular way in April and May.
Alarmists have an odd tendency to note the above 2015 map, but to become utterly blind to the 1975 map. They display loyalty to dogma, and disregard Truth. They seem to prefer to be pawns to the agenda of silent masters, and miss all the fun of wondering what is ripping the ice from the coast.
My best guess is that the “ripper” is powerful high pressure which builds north of Alaska, in a more mundane and ordinary April, and the persistent and (at times) powerful winds on the south side of this high pressure, which rip the ice from the coasts. But why does the high form?
Another best guess is that the sea is no longer warmer than the land.
In the depth of winter the Arctic Sea, even when capped by 6 to 9 feet of sea-ice, is far warmer than the air above. It is constantly radiating heat up through sea-ice, and any cracks in that sea-ice. Therefore the air over the Arctic Sea seldom drops below -40°, even though tundra to the south can drop to -80°.
But now we are approaching the height of summer. The tundra is swiftly turning into a mosquito infested swamp, with air temperatures above the Arctic Sea’s. Tundra temperatures soar far above freezing, even as the Arctic Sea’s temperatures rise more slowly. Why? Because it is easier for the sun to melt a foot of snow over dirt, than to melt less snow over six feet of ice. Even if the snow over the Sea melts before the snow over land, what is exposed is not black dirt but white ice. The black dirt of the Tundra warms swiftly, and warmed air rises, as the Arctic Sea remains white, and the chilled air over it sinks. This creates a high pressure, dubbed “the Beaufort High”, some years. This year? Not so much.
Why does paying attention to weather features over the Arctic Sea matter? Because it turns out one of the greatest factors, in terms of how much sea-ice will vanish during the summer, is the transport of ice by winds. One weather pattern may flush considerable amounts of ice south, while another pattern may bottle the ice up in the Central Arctic. Sunshine and CO2 matter little.
A common misconception entertained by novices about the landscape of sea-ice is that the ice is fixed in place, and melting inwards from the edges. Not so. One benefit of having buoys is that they educate us about how highly mobile the sea-ice is. One “North Pole Camera”, placed near the Pole in April, grounded on the north coast of Iceland the following January. Another buoy, placed on fast-ice west of the northern entrance of Nares Strait in June, rode ice that broke free and was sucked down through Nares Strait and Baffin Bay and last reported off the coast of Labrador in February. O-buoy 14 floated about the Beaufort Sea, and then sailed into Parry Channel and then south through the Canadian Archipelago towards the mainland.
A second misconseption Alarmists are fond of is that the mobility of sea-ice is a new thing, and that the ice of the past was fixed. How exactly one can seize such an idea, and grimly cling to it with white knuckles, involves a suspension of common sense, and willful ignorance of history, for we have records of sea-ice drifting long distances in the past. The winter of 1872-1873 saw men, marooned on a floe that drifted away from the Polaris, travel over 1800 miles before their rescue off Labrador.
Indeed Nansen’s 1892 plan to reach the Pole involved taking advantage of the drift of sea-ice by lodging a specially built ship, the Fram, in the ice and going where the ice went.
In other words, people were smarter over a hundred years ago than some Alarmists appear to be today, yet these Alarmists insist they are smarter.
As such people authoritatively produce blather, it is best to politely nod. Rolling your eyes and twirling a finger by your ear is rude. If you are patient they may eventually allow you to get a word in edgewise, whereupon it is best to pose them with a question, such as, “What about the Polaris in 1872?” Then there is a chance that maybe, just maybe, dawn will break on Marblehead.
In the long periods of time when you are left by yourself, as Alarmists frenetically attempt to prove that which isn’t, you might as well attend to that which is. Reality has its beauty, even if many refuse to see it. One thing fascinating to watch is how the sea-ice moves, for each year has an individuality, and teaches new things.
One fascinating time-lapse film recently appeared on WUWT showing the course of sea-ice melt over the course of fifteen summers. (Winters weren’t included.)
I have a desire to watch this video over and over, until I have memorized certain patterns it reveals.
One thing that swiftly becomes apparent is that the patterns over the Pole have a flickering swiftness quite unlike the plodding regularity of systems further south. We are dealing with something very different.
It is best to have no preconceptions, and to simply be an observer. We are likely seeing new things unseen before, because people of the past lacked the views we have of the AMO shifting from “warm” to “cold”, or the effects of a sun going “quiet”.
Unfortunately the DMI weather maps ceased for a while. They have resumed, but I have a large gap in my records. I’ll post what I have, when I have time, as an update to this post, but for now I’ll just mention some glaring differences between this year and last year.
First and foremost is the surprising increase in sea-ice “volume” to near normal levels.
One needs to remember that up until quite recently “volume” was an Alarmist talking-point, and supposedly proved that the ice was “thinning.” I’m not sure what they are saying now. The ice is thicker this year, (I think largely due to south winds during the winter in both Bering Strait and Fram Strait, which prevented the export of ice and instead condensed it in the Central Arctic. (2017 to left, 2018 to right)
The thicker ice is especially obvious along the East Siberian coast, and in the Laptev Sea, which lacks the often-seen “Laptev Notch” of thinner ice. The place Alarmists focus is Bering Strait, which has less ice this year. In fact, if it weren’t for Bering Strait we’d have more ice than normal. As it is “extent” is below normal, but no longer “Unprecedented.”
Allow me to focus on the lack of ice in the Bering Sea, as that is where Alarmists focus. As of April 30 it was -497885 km2 of normal. Sea ice, as a whole, (the entire Northern Hemisphere), was -290025 km2 of normal. Simple arithmetic tells you that, if you don’t include the Bering Sea (which is south of Bering Strait and therefore not truly part of the Arctic Ocean), sea-ice is at +207860 km2 of normal. Considering Bering Sea ice largely melts away most summers, the Bering Sea deficit is ice that was going to melt in any case, and marks an “early melt” rather than any true inroads on the ice in the Central Arctic. It should make Alarmists nervous that the “missing” ice is ice that was going to be gone anyway, and that in other places there are above-average areas of ice.
One area is the Sea of Okhotsk, which is at +96953 km2. It likely shouldn’t be counted, as it too melts away most every summer. If we subtract that ice we still have an excess of 110,910 km2.
A lot of the extra ice is on the Atlantic side. If it was all on the east coast of Greenland it would be ice getting exported south to swiftly melt in the Atlantic, but there is in fact less ice getting flushed south down that coast. The Greenland Sea is at -68015 km2 of normal. It is when we move east of Svalbard into Barents Sea that we suddenly see the extra ice, with Barents Sea at +184062 km2 of normal. This ice is not so swift to melt as the ice moving down the coast of Greenland. It will be interesting to watch the Barents Sea ice as summer progresses. Currently Barents Sea is witness to the most ice it has seen in recent years.
Ron Clutz goes into these factors in greater detail here:
At this point things seem against this being a year with very low sea-ice extents at the September minimum. The ice is thicker and there is more of it, at the start. I wonder what Alarmists are dreaming up, to restore their faith with.
A bit of lurking allows me to see they have great hopes in the water south of Bering Strait being warmer than normal, because it is ice-free and absorbs more sunshine, and they are rooting for warmer water to flood north through Bering Strait to melt the ice on the Pacific side, as we’ve seen happen, during recent summers. But one reason it happened was because the PDO was in a “warm” phase. Now it seems to be toying with crossing the threshold into “cold” territory, which is far less conducive to ice melting north of Being Strait.
To be honest, it does not look good for Alarmists, in my humble opinion. Once the ice south of the Arctic Circle (Sea of Okhotsk and Hudson Bay) melts away, the steep decent of the “extent” graph will have more trouble than usual finding thin ice inside the Arctic Sea to melt away. I personally would not be surprised to see the highest “extent” since 2006, and the long advertised “Ice Free Pole” most definitely will be delayed, for yet another year.
There may be some Alarmist-hype about a current surge of “milder” air to the Pole, though temperatures still average out well below freezing. The spike shows up nicely in the DMI polar-temperature graph.
The problem with Alarmists investing too much hope in this spike is because May often sees a switch to colder temperatures. For example, observe 2015’s graph:
In 2016 the warmth of the 2015 “super El Nino” masked the effect.
But in 2017 more La Nina-like conditions allowed it to return
And this year a more generally strong La Nina could cause the flip into below-normal polar temperatures to become more pronounced.
What causes the flip? I assume it is the change to summer conditions. We are at the very end of a time when the Arctic constantly loses energy. There is a brief window of time during the summer, (very roughly May 21 to July 21,) when the sun gets high enough at the Pole for the Pole to see a net gain in energy, with the sun up 24 hours a day. Though the Pole remains colder than surrounding land masses, (due to sea-ice), the fact it is gaining energy weakens the “draw” that sees surges of warm air pulled north in the dead of winter. Without the import of warm air from the south the Pole has only the sun to warm it and, because the sun is a “quiet” sun, that warmth is a little less and temperatures during the summer are a little below normal (unless a strong El Nino creates extra heat.)
The current spike in temperatures at the Pole may well represent the last gasp of a winter pattern. The temperature maps show a very pretty example of what what I’ve in the past called a “feeder band” (which did form a “Ralph” at the Pole last week), but I expect things to calm down now.
Of course, I could be wrong about what is going on. I’ll be surprised if temperatures remain above normal at the Pole into June, but it could occur. Also a warm inflow at Being Strait could melt Siberian ice swiftly, and a similar flow in the Atlantic could melt the Barents Sea surplus. The development of a strong Beaufort High could create wide polynyas on the shores of Alaska and mainland arctic Canada. Lastly, an unforeseen pattern might abruptly export much ice south through Fram Strait. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg (ha ha) of all the ways I could be wrong. That’s why it is better to merely be an observer, and avoid all forecasts.
UPDATE: SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES
Despite the Alarmist hoopla about decreased sea-ice in Bering Sea, the NOAA SST anomaly maps show the waters right in Bering Strait are below normal. The above-normal waters lie further south towards the Aleutian Islands, and just south of the Aleutians a sprinkling of below-normal waters extends to California and then curves back to Hawaii. This backwards, blue “C” of below-normal waters is the signature of a “cold” PDO. I watch the PDO like a hawk, because (although I don’t understand why) a “cold” PDO is indicative of sea-ice that resists melting, north of Bering Strait.
Also notice a backwards, blue “C” seems to be attempting to form in the Atlantic, which is indicative of a “cold” AMO.
It is interesting to watch the NOAA SST anomally map, because small changes in temperature can cause dramatic changes in the color-coding. I’ve learned to be wary. Water a quarter-degree above normal dropping a half-degree becomes water a quarter-degree below normal, and this involves color shifting from vivid yellow to pale blue. And a dramatic change in coloring doesn’t even have to involve any actual cooling. Because the map is an “anomaly map”, if the water warms more slowly than than normal it can go from being above-normal to below-normal. From all appearances it goes from sunny yellow to chilling blue, even though it is in fact warming all the while.
The changes in color from yellow to blue, or from blue to yellow, are fascinating to watch as summer comes on, partly for objective and scientific reasons, and partly because people can utterly freak out, and blow fuses when a large area of water that was sunny yellow one week turns to chilly blue the next. There will be a chorus of cries of “conspiracy!” And it is all about a half-degree! And there have been times when the colors shift from blue back to yellow a week later, sometimes because calm weather and still waters have allowed a thin skin of the uppermost waters to heat a half a degree the other way. Then the people crying “conspiracy” suddenly find the data reasonable, but some who found it reasonable earlier are afflicted by profound suspicions.
There is a reason cats and dogs smile, when they watch us humans. But stay tuned, for sometimes we can smile as well.