ARCTIC SEA-ICE –High Summer–

It is now the time of thawing at the Pole. The sun never sets, and instead rolls around and around, high enough above the horizon to nudge temperatures just above freezing. There are brief freezes, when the sun goes under a cloud or a downdraft brings cold sleet down from a summer shower, but for the most part non-stop thawing occurs, 24 hours a day, for around 1440 hours. This is no new thing; it has been occurring as long as men have wandered the Arctic Ocean. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s and early 1970’s, men stationed on Fletcher’s Ice Island wore hip waders at times during the summer, the slush could get so deep.

Although we think of tabular icebergs as a feature of Antarctica, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, on the northern coast of Ellesmere Island in Canada’s high Arctic, produces them. A big berg from this shelf broke off, likely in the 1940’s, and was 50 m (160 ft) thick and covered an area of 90 sq km (35 sq mi). Between 1952 and 1978 it was used as a manned scientific research station that included huts, a power plant, and a runway for wheeled aircraft. Discovered by U.S. Air Force Colonel Joseph Fletcher, the iceberg was named T-3 or Fletcher’s Ice Island. It moved around the Arctic Ocean for many years, eventually exiting through the Fram Strait, between Greenland and Svalbard, and moved south and around the southern tip of Greenland to disintegrate and melt in Davis Strait. While it was inhabited in the high Arctic things grew so slushy in the summer the men could only be supplied by air drops, which meant they could receive mail, but never send any, for months. (No cell-phones, back then.)

The guys had to be tough and resourceful, as they awaited to things to freeze up in the fall. One year a large, shallow lake formed in the runway, and they tried to prepare the runway too soon, and a CAT broke through the ice. With things freezing up rapidly the men had to work furiously for 24 hours to get it out. The location of the berg that year was such that, “The first sunset was September 7th; the last sunrise was September 14th. So within a week, we went from total day to total night. Temperatures in September were often below 0°F, -17°C.”  With  the first flight not scheduled to land until November, but temperatures down to -35°F by late October, the generator quit. A hero named  Bill Hallett rebuilt it in a frantic rush, well aware there was no hope of outside help.

One interesting aside involves a time two women were sent north to work with the men. Apparently it was such a fiasco, in terms of multiple romances, jealousy and brawls, that it was never attempted again. So much for political correctness. But I digress. I’m suppose to be talking about a different sort of heat.

In the 1950’s a R4D (Navy version of the DC-3)  crashed on Fletcher’s ice island and, stripped of all valuable parts, became a sort of landmark that servicemen had their pictures taken with.

Fletcher's DC-3 1 kf3aa_p4

It is interesting how it looked years later:

Fletcher's DC-3 2 t-3-picture-r4d-on-pillar-apr-62-t3

This is not to suggest the Air Force puts itself on a pedestal, but rather that summer melting has always occurred at the Pole, for as long as we’ve been watching. And now we are watching it again.

DMI5 0619 meanT_2018

Sea-ice “extent”, “area”, and “volume”all tend to crash during the melt. The “extent” graph is being carefully watched, partly because it best supports the Alarmist narrative this year, and partly because some expect the melt to slow, once the thicker ice in the Central Arctic is reached.

DMI5 0619 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

The DMI “volume” graph puzzled many, as the black line vanished. Apparently the computer program is designed in a manner where the gray line representing “normal” takes precedence, so the black line had to pass under it, as volume moved from below to above normal.

Above normal? Did I say the volume is above normal? Yes. But do not expect Alarmists to bring the subject up. They are quite glum about it, and tend to ignore the DMI graph and flee to the PIOMASS data.  But here is the DMI graph they don’t like to look at. It shows volume plunging in the way it plunges every year,  but above-normal. In the past year we seem to have seen an increase of over 4500 km³ of sea-ice.

Volume 20180619 FullSizeRender

Where is the ice increasing? Here is a comparison of the thickness of the ice last year (left) with this year (right).

There is more open water north of Svalbard and in the Laptev Sea this year, but the sea-ice is obviously thicker towards East Siberia and in the Central Arctic.

Of interest to me is the area north of Bering Strait. Alarmists felt the melt would be faster this year than last year, for waters south of Bering Strait were surprisingly ice-free last winter, and Alarmists felt this would give those waters a head start , in terms of warming, and that warmer water would head north of Bering Strait, and hasten the melt in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. This hasn’t happened yet, though the waters are warmer than normal in Bering Strait.

SST anomaly 20180618 anomnight.6.18.2018

Just a reminder: The above map shows anomalies. The cherry red in Bering Strait does not mean the water is warm. Rather it means it is roughly 3 degrees above normal, or in other words +2°C rather than -1°C (which would be the temperature of the water with bergs floating around in it.)

Further south the La Nina is fading and an El Nino appears to be building. Oddly most of the warming is north of the equator, so far. Any warming effect due to an El Nino will be in a lagged manner, and we likely will still be seeing the lagged effect of the cool La Nina for a while longer at the Pole.

The Atlantic side is very interesting, as the backwards “C” of cold in the Atlantic is the signature of a cold AMO, which we haven’t seen in a long time, and were not expecting for another five years. NOAA will have to update the x-axis of its AMO graph, for the most recent “+” for the month of May is just into the negative, and you can only see part of it poking up at the very bottom right of their graph.

AMO May 2018 amo_short

This cold AMO is making conditions colder in southern Greenland and eastern Canada. This is of concern to people on the east coast of Hudson Bay, where the sea-ice is hanging tough. (2017 to left; 2018 to right.)

The concern involves getting a tanker to the east coast settlements, because people no longer heat igloos with blubber lamps, nor spend the entire winter fully dressed. Or maybe they could, but most prefer fossil fuels and warm houses. Therefore all are in a hurry to refill fuel tanks during the window of opportunity offered by the Bay being ice-free. It’s a problem when the ice hangs tough. People don’t sit around drumming their fingers waiting, because it would be downright dangerous to go without resupply.

I remember a clamor arose in 2015 when the ice hung tough into July, and the people in the east coast settlements asked for an icebreaker to clear a path for their oil tanker. Of course this didn’t make headlines. I only knew about it because some Climate Scientists had hired the icebreaker so they could study how the ice was vanishing, and instead the ship was diverted to where the ice wasn’t vanishing. I did not fail to note the irony, but also was puzzled, for the maps and graphs I used didn’t show all that much ice, but then I saw this picture of the path being cleared on July 17.

Hudson 2015 Icebreaker hudson-july-28-3-ccgs-pierre-radisson-in-sea-ice

I hope this explains why I sometimes seem distrustful of maps and graphs. When possible I seek out the Twitter and Facebook feeds from ships and small towns, because a reporter who is actually on the scene is best, even if they are unpaid by any newspaper.

In any case, I’ll be keeping an eye on Hudson Bay.

The cold AMO seems to be effecting Greenland as well. The yearly thaw has started around the edges of the icecap, but there are also some heavy snows. For example, yesterday heavy snow fell in the northwest.

Greenland MB 20180619 todaysmb

Of course, if more snow falls than melts then it is hard to be a true Alarmist about the icecap melting away. For a while this year’s “accumulated mass balance” roughly paralleled  2011-2012, which was a great year (if you like to worry about melting), but roughly a month ago the two years parted ways, and where 2011-2012 fell like a stone, (red line), this year refused to start falling (blue line).

Greenland MB 20180619 accumulatedsmb

One final effect of the cold AMO: Some fishing lodges in eastern Canada are taking a financial hit, for it is difficult to operate a fishing lodge when six feet of winter snow sits outside, refusing to melt. The picture is from Labrador in mid-June. (Hat tip to Ice-age-now site).

Fishing Lodge in June labrador-snow

The fishermen may be sad, but I understand the trout are tickled pink.

Stay tuned.


17 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA-ICE –High Summer–

  1. Thoughtful post Caleb. Hey, since I got back from Chile I’ve been reading a lot of Pablo Neruda’s poetry. I’d like to send you a book or two as a thank you for your interesting blog. I think you have my email from the blog log but if not let me know so send me a delivery address there if you want. I wouldn’t normally suggest this but I really like your poetry and Neruda’s just a true pleasure to read. Yes you can read them online but a nice book is the best. Sample: “In the dark pines the wind disentangles itself, The moon glows phosphorescent on the vagrant waters, Days go by, all the same, chasing each other.”

    • Thanks, “Mike in Mn”.

      I hadn’t heard of Pablo Neruda. Just scanned a biography. He sounds a bit like Milton. Milton found meaning in politics, (Puritanism), and Neruda sounds like he did the same (with Communism).

      In a way I feel like politics is a sort of quicksand to poets. Not that I don’t get sucked in, myself. But politics tends tends to to take sides, while real poetry is higher than that.

      The biography I scanned suggested Neruda backed away from the more extreme elements of communism as his latter end approached, which seems like Milton backing away from the more extreme elements of Puritanism.

      Now I need to look at some actual poems.

      Thanks for alerting me to this poet.

      • He writes poems about everything. Look up ‘Ode to Conger Chowder’. I also have colllections of his poems about vegetables and everyday objects. He’s quite a conundrum for a lot of the socialists/communists who still live there and love him as he ended up living a very lavish and fun lifestyle with owning three homes in Chile. Isla Negra is right on the pacific and he is buried there. Check it out! And send me a mailing address if you want some Neruda books!

      • OK. But I still haven’t had time to read a single translation.

        The only translation of Spanish poetry that has caught my imagination (so far) was “Dream Tigers”, by Jorge Luis Borges. (From Argentina).

        I look forward to investigating Neruda. But first I have to hoe my corn.

  2. Yes , hoe the corn! In the meantime I have sent some books your way based on some very amateurish internet sloothing. If you don’t get them, well, then someone else can enjoy Neruda. Normally I wouldn’t be so forward but I’m having some cancer surgery Wednesday and I 2anted to take care of this just in case. When I started reading him in Chile I could see that you and him have humor and observational skills that are similar…. Mike

    • Ode to Common Things most reminds me of your writing FYI. I put in the 20 Poems of Love and one Song of Despair for balance. :-). It is all in all just nice to read from time to time. – Mike

      P.s. In my three years in Santiago I never ran across your old pen pal with the one blue eye. I looked for three years though….

      • The poems arrived at my workplace mailbox Friday and I read them sitting on the back porch sipping wine after a hard week. I especially liked his love poems, though I’m sure the sound, the rich rolling of the words is lost in the translation. What made me laugh in delight was the daring leaps of logic. He doesn’t seem to care if not all minds will be able to follow the leap or get the connection. He just goes for it.

        I hope and pray you are swiftly recovering.from your surgery. After mine it took me a while to get my bearings. Anesthesia is like getting knocked out in a brawl. Its a real insult to the poor old brain, so don’t be surprised if it takes a while to get back on track. I remember part of me wanted to hop right up and get back to work, but another part simply said, “No way, Jose”. You need to push yourself at the same time you are patient with yourself. Good luck with the process.

        BTW, I did get the corn hoed, and the goats promptly broke out and ate half of it! SNAFU!

  3. I keep meaning to write you about my one time in the Arctic and my observations from two months on the west coast of Greenland in the summer of 1961, but not having your gift for writing have never gotten to it. Just an hour or so ago today I observed something that makes me suspect the Coast Guard, at least, doesn’t expect an early ice out in the Beaufort Sea. I was resting on our deck after my second Mohs surgery in four months when my wife said ” Isn’t that a Cost Guard Cutter and if so why does it have a red hull?” After a look through the binoculars sure enough it is the Healy. This is unusual as we live in La Jolla and the ice breakers almost never come this far south. According to its track on the internet it came down from Seattle, spent a few days in San Diego harbor and is now underway. Can’t find any info on why she made the trip but obviously she won’t be getting to the Arctic soon. Once she does you can see web cam picture from her bow cam which might give you some chance to see real time what the ice is doing.

    Also, things for you blog. I studied meteorology and oceanography at the Naval Academy and spent over eight years at sea as a deck officers but I still learn something every time you post.

    • The Healy in San Diego? What the….

      Do you suppose it is going through the Panama Canal? That would suggest they don’t want to mess with the Northwest Passage this summer. If you have the time, keep an eye on it’s whereabouts.

      I am very pleased you learn from my postings, but I myself have never been to the the arctic, (unless you include the coast of Maine when the harbors freeze up). All the credit goes to people like you, who did experience the arctic, and wrote down what they saw, and what they went through as young men. All I do is read what they observed. I’m an avid reader of obscure memoirs, because some of the tales are amazing.

      Recently I’ve been reading about the pioneer pilots, who did the first landing of large aircraft on sea-ice. Either they were utterly insane, or they had six times the guts I have.

      If you ever have time, write down what you observed during your two months in Greenland. It may not be a million-seller, but such autobiography is valuable.

      • Doubt if it is going south, when last seen it was headed west, which it need to do to clear Point La Jolla before it could turn north. It wasn’t in any hurry, I though it might have anchored for a while. It was only about two miles off shore. It did finally go out of sight around the Point. I will check and see if their track chart has been updated tomorrow.

  4. Re. Healy, the track chart the general public can see still has her in port San Diego. The web cam shows the sun setting on the port bow last night and the morning picture seems to show the sun astern so I would guess her course is close to West North West. Still seems strange she came all the way from Seattle for a weekend in San Diego.

    • I gather about a third of the Healy’s below deck space is devoted to scientific research. They may have gone to San Diego to pick up people and supplies from the Scripps Research Institute.

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