Any time one of my forecasts is correct I am struck by a sense of disbelief.
It reminds me of one time I got a long hit in a baseball game when I was twelve. I had swung the bat with my eyes completely shut, as hard as I could, and hit the ball with the “sweet spot” of the bat, for the first time in my life. When the “sweet spot” is involved the ball striking the bat makes hardly any noise, and you hardly feel it through the handle. As I opened my eyes I assumed it must be a foul tip, but moments later I heard the loud crash as the long line-drive hit the plywood wall in deep center field. My jaw dropped, and I looked towards the bench completely amazed, and by best buddy screamed, “Run, you idiot! Run!”
In any case I said the polar temperatures north of 80º north latitude would drop below normal in mid-May, months ago, and lo and behold they have. Perhaps they did so a few days past the middle of May, yet still, it has happened. This doesn’t mean my reasoning is correct; it may merely be a case of “the blind squirrel getting the nut”; however it does give me a chance to sit in the sun and bask in my five-minutes-of-fame.
When I was twelve, and had hit the only double of my little-league career, I was able to talk like a slugger, until the next time I struck out. In like manner, I will now pontificate like a learnéd scientist.
The Pole has been cooler than normal, starting in mid-May, in recent years, with the exception being right after a strong El Nino, and even then the temperatures only got up to normal. Not only does this throw a wrench in the idea CO2 will warm the Pole, but it also makes one cast about looking for another cause.
My idea is that the Pole, during the summer, is the one place on the planet where the Quiet Sun actually has the “cooling effect” my simple mind expected it to have. In all other places the effects are varied, and tend to muddy the waters.
A few months ago I simply inquired on my blog what effects the Quiet Sun might have, and received more comments at my obscure site than I’d ever before received. As I pondered the observations of many minds, it did occur to me that the Quiet Sun likely had more than one effect, and that not all effects would necessarily be cooling. Therefore the effects might cancel each other out at certain times and in certain places, and give some the idea the less-energetic sun had no cooling effect at all.
For example, besides measuring energy with thermometers we also measure energy with anemometers. If the Trade Winds were at all less energetic, there might be less up-welling of cold waters on the west sides of continents, which would warm the world’s temperatures rather than cool them. If you then threw this warming into the mix of other cooling effects the Quiet Sun may have, the result would be the indecipherable slumgullion we call climate.
But at the Pole things become wonderfully simplified in May. Many factors ordinarily effecting the region grind to a halt. Both the air and the ice warm to close to freezing, and the water under the ice is close to freezing as well, so there is no clash in temperatures to generate uplift and storms. Also the Pole shifts from 300 days, when it is a part of the planet that loses energy to outer space, to 60 days when it gains heat from the sun, and this shift slows down ordinary weather patterns. The weather (usually) becomes quiet. (In fact this quiet was a reason D-day was scheduled for early June in 1944; the success of D-day was due to an unusual gale, and the fact the Germans assumed the Allies couldn’t invade in bad weather.)
Because other factors have become quiet, the Pole becomes a laboratory where the chief influence is the sun, and therefore the effect of the Quiet Sun can be seen in the record of temperatures. Or so I theorize. Using this theory I assumed that, as we are at the solar minimum (and also with temperatures cooled slightly by a La Nina), we would see temperatures at the Pole dip below notmal as soon as winter storms ceased and weather became calm. Sure enough, it happened.
We will have to see if this continues. I think it will. If temperatures are slightly below normal there will still be some thawing at the Pole (because there always is, with 24-hour sunshine), but there will be less than usual, which will effect the “extent” graph.
At the moment the “extent” graph continues low, but the decrease in sea-ice is largely due to areas outside the Arctic Ocean melting. It will continue to drop as Hudson Bay melts, but the real crux of how low the minimum will be involves the Arctic Sea itself.
When we look at the thickness map some open water is seen in the Arctic Sea, but, as temperatures have yet to rise above freezing (except briefly in a few small locations) and still often are below -5º C, this open water is not due to melting, but rather are polynyas created by winds pushing sea-ice away from land. They are now apparent in the Laptev Sea and Bering Strait, north of the Mackenzie River Delta, in the North Atlantic, (and also, outside of the Arctic Ocean, in northwest Hudson Bay and northernmost Baffin Bay.)
Because this decrease in extent is due to winds, and not melting, it should actually be compressing and thickening the ice in the Central Arctic, and indeed this can be seen when we compare this years thickness map with last year’s, from the same date. (2017 to left, 2018 to right.)
Notice the Polynyas are roughly in the same places (though the Laptev polynya is skinned with ice last year, and more sea-ice is down in Fram Strait last year [where it was basically doomed to melt in the summer]) The big difference is how much thicker the ice in the Central Arctic is. This has resulted in a somewhat amazing increase in the “volume ” graph.
Volume is now the highest in five years, and is so close to the “normal” line that a somewhat cynical friend of mind thinks they will have to create a higher “normal”, by basing it on the years 1993-2004 rather than 2004-2013. Such monkeying-around with graphs may change the impression the general public gets from such graphs, but it cannot change the reality.
And what is the reality? The reality is that, once the ordinary melting around the periphery of the arctic is over with, the melt will slow down, as thicker ice must be melted, and the “extent” graph will flatten out, and we may see the sea-ice minimum nearly as high as in 2006.
The only hope for the Alarmists who hanker for an ice-free Pole would be the infusion of warm currents. Most of the summer melt occurs from the bottom up. Therefore I look to the NOAA graphs of the PDO and AMO, which tend to hint whether the waters entering the Arctic Sea will have the power to melt sea-ice or not. For some reason NOAA has failed to update the graphs I use since March. Perhaps they are switching to a different format, but my somewhat cynical friend would tell me (if he knew) that NOAA sure would be in a big hurry to update the graphs if there was warming to be seen, and therefore things must be colder.