ARCTIC SEA-ICE –A Colder Pole–

I’m taking a break from working on a sort of Grouchism Manifesto, (wherein I am more focused on the somewhat idiotic socialism involved with Global Warming, rather than the actual science), to note a change I’m observing up at the Pole.

Currently the big news is an arctic outbreak, bringing record-setting cold to the area just west of the Great Lakes in the central USA. This frigid air is being swept south and then east, crossing over the Great Lakes and generating big lake-effect snows, but, because the lakes are incompletely frozen over, the arctic air is being warmed somewhat in the transit. Therefore, here in southern New Hampshire, (east of the Great Lakes), it was “only” -6 degrees F (-20 degrees C) yesterday morning. (We can get twenty degrees colder, when the arctic outbreak comes directly from our north, and crosses no lakes.)

Usually, when a loopy jet-stream brings such extreme cold south, an invasion of milder air is sucked up to the Pole. Somewhat surprisingly, though an inflow is currently heading up over Barents Sea as a “feeder band” to an anomalous area of low pressure at the Pole, (IE: “Ralph”), the Pole is remaining quite cold, for the time being.

Last year at this time the arctic outbreaks were resulting in surges of milder air up to the Pole which pleased Alarmists greatly, (though I have always felt such “warmth” is largely lost upwards to outer space, and seems to do little downwards, in terms of increasing sea-ice.)

This year there hasn’t been upward spikes, so far. In fact temperatures have even dipped below normal for the first time since last summer:

I am actually expecting a dramatic upward spike in the red line of the above graph. After all, when so much cold air heads south it must be replaced, and the replacement seemingly must come from a warmer south, and (unless the air comes north from a frigid Siberia) such south winds are mild, and also hold moisture. Moisture is a big topic.

Even a small amount of moisture is a big deal at very low temperatures, because temperatures cannot drop below the dew point, and when you are talking about the humidity of air at temperatures between thirty and forty below zero, a lemming’s yawn can raise the dew point. Therefore air that to us (and our lungs) would seem bone dry can create a fog bank at the Pole. Any time the winds tear open a lead in the sea-ice sea-smoke rises from the exposed water. Although that salt water is a degree or two below the freezing point of fresh water, it steams like a cup of hot tea in the extreme cold. Locally temperatures rise, not merely because the exposed water is sixty degrees (F) warmer than the air, but because the latent heat in the steam is released as it solidifies as frost and grains of frozen fog. In like manner even a small amount of moisture coming north should spike temperatures in the arctic. (Joe Bastardi explains how a degree-above-normal in the arctic requires very little evaporated water, while a degree-above-normal at the equator involves an enormous amount, and therefore it is like comparing apples to oranges to combine the two temperatures into an “average” for the planet.)

In other words, a measure of energy besides “temperature” is the amount of moisture in the air, (because it takes energy to convert (“boil”) liquid water to gaseous water vapor). It therefore follows that the very dry air at the pole holds far less energy than the tropical air of the equator. Even the bone-dry air of the Sahara Desert holds enough moisture (and energy) to, (if such air could be instantly transported north), form a fog over the arctic, at minus forty. Even that bone-dry air holds enough water to raise the dew point, and temperatures cannot be below the dew point. Consequently the addition of even slight moisture to the polar atmosphere spikes temperatures in a manner all out of proportion to what the common sense of lower latitudes expects. A twenty degree rise from minus forty to minus twenty is roughly the equivalent of a degree rise at temperate latitudes, and a quarter degree at the equator.

Hopefully this explains why it is wrong to see temperatures at the Pole in the same light as temperatures at the equator. It is all wrong to give the same weight to Polar temperatures as to Equatorial temperatures, and wronger to dream up a worldwide “average” by combining the two. In terms of energy, they are not even in the same ballpark. The Pole is like a five year old child kicking around a soccer ball, and the Equator is like a professional in the World Cup. The average between the two is more or less a meaningless metric, and to say the skill of the world’s soccer-players has increased greatly because the five-year-old learned much by age six doesn’t mean much about the quality of play in the World Cup. In like manner, to have a spike in polar temperatures influence the metric of World Temperatures is a bit absurd.

At the Pole, the amount of water required to raise dew points, (and therefore temperatures) ten degrees is so small, by tropical standards, that it approaches becoming ludicrous. The tropics involve as much humidity-increase in the air between 10:00 and 10:20 on a typical morning. A big equatorial thunderstorm likely holds more water than the entire arctic, in the dead of winter. Yet a degree of temperature rise in the arctic has the same weight as a degree of temperature rise in the tropics, in the minds of some Alarmists.

I look at upward spikes in the above DMI graphs without the hysteria of Alarmists. I see them as intrusions of humidity to the Pole. No big deal. Unless it is a big deal that the jet stream is loopy, and that the exchange between arctic and tropics (which keeps our planet in poise, and has done so for billions of years) is enhanced.

My personal view is that when our planet has achieved a degree of relative poise, we see a zonal flow, with less exchange between the arctic and the equator, but, when things get out of whack for various reasons, we see a loopy flow.

As we are currently moving from a time when the sun was very “noisy” to a time the sun is apparently becoming “quiet”, we should not expect poise, because things are not the same. Rather we should expect a period of adjustment, which should be marked by a “loopy” flow.

One observation I have made is that, rather than chilled air descending on the Pole and creating high pressure, we see anomalous low pressure, which I have dubbed “Ralph”, whirling at the Pole, fed by “feeder bands” of southern moisture and relative mildness. This winter we’ve seen a continuation of this phenomenon, with most feeder bands coming from the North Atlantic, but recently some feeder bands coming up through Bering Strait from the Pacific. Currently we see a weak “Ralph” over the Pole.

Once I am confronted by the present tense, I see all sorts of reasons for Ralph to fade away. For example, in the above map the high pressure over the Kara Sea is not drawing North Atlantic moisture, but continental air from west of Siberia. But I currently have not the time for the day-by-day details I once was fascinated by. Let us just skip ahead from isobars to isotherms:

I prefer this isotherm map. It confirms my personal bias, and avoids all the inconvenient reality of isobars. The isotherm map show a nice, neat feeder-band of Atlantic moisture hooking up to Ralph at the Pole, allowing me to skip questions I haven’t the time to wonder about. But still it confronts me with a wrench in the works.

What is the wrench? Well, in simplistic terms it is that the Pole is too cold. With feeder bands feeding north, it should be warmer. Last year the temperature spiked upwards. This year (so far) it hasn’t. Even as my personal bias is confirmed I am challenged, because something isn’t the same.

The increased cold seems to be showing in the sea-ice volume graph:

I should mention that the calculation of “volume” of sea-ice involves much that can be criticized, despite the above graph being the best that can be expected, considering the challenges. I myself preferred to deal with “extent”, because that formerly was what really mattered . “Extent” is only the surface, and is therefore superficial, but, in terms of the the original Alarmist “Death Spiral” argument, the surface was all that mattered, because it was the surface that reflected the sunlight, and that made all the difference. Alarmists stated, using the word “Albedo”, that less extent would mean more open water, and, as ice is white and water is deep blue, less extent would result less sunshine being reflected and more sunshine being absorbed, resulting in warmer water. Warmer water would result in less ice. Less ice would result in more absorbed sunshine, resulting in less ice. It was a vicious cycle, a “Death Spiral.” The only problem was: It didn’t happen. In fact “extent” increased.

Only then did Alarmists shift to talking about “volume.” They suggested the sea-ice was continuing to decrease, and the increase in “extent” was only a skim of ice, as the bulk kept right on shrinking. (This didn’t matter, in terms of their “albedo” theory, for an inch of white ice reflects more sunlight than six feet of dirty ice,) And their new argument was hard to rebut. If you look at last year’s “volume” at the start of 2017 you can see it was near the lowest recorded. But this year?

This year we are nearly back to a so-called “normal”. How is this possible, if we are in a vicious cycle? The so-called “Death Spiral” was suppose to feed on itself. It was suppose to escalate. The black line on the above graph debunks the Alarmist arguments about “shrinking sea-ice volume” without me needing to become involved.

Never mind that they mocked and derided me in the autumn of 2017, when their ideas about shrinking “volume” made some shred of sense. Never mind that they mocked and derided, scorned and belittled, many others. Don’t expect they will ever apologize. Apology requires a bigness, and spirituality, which they singularly lack. Rather than apologize, they will seek some new, seemingly-scientific-way to scorn those who only want the Truth recognized.

And what is the Truth? The Truth is the volume of sea-ice has increased. (if you trust the data.) The Truth is that it is colder this year, so far, than last year, at the Pole. And, in terms of “extent”? Well, let us take a look:

The above graph shows we are above the last four winters, in terms of “extent”. Rather than proof we are in a so-called “Death Spiral”, the above graph might be used to suggest that we are past the bottom-of-a-cycle. Perhaps sea-ice is increasing. Some might see hints we are at the start of the next ice age.

I am skeptical about the start of an ice age, but I have to confess there is currently more proof of that, than of Global Warming.

The fact some Alarmists cling to to the idea that the “Death Spiral” is a reality, despite the weight of evidence, suggests that something besides science (or even common sense) is involved. That is why I am working on my Grouchist Manifesto, rather than focusing on the down-to-earth beauty of actual isobars. We are no longer dealing with facts and science, but are dealing with a “belief”.

You’ll just have to forgive me for departing from the reality of sea-ice for a while. It just seems that, when you are dealing with “beliefs” you enter a different world, a world which can involve both spirituality and derangement. Eventually I’ll post a 20,000 word essay about times in world history when societies have become deranged, and share my thoughts on this matter. For the moment I’ll just note that the “Death Spiral” continues to be rebutted, yet some insist they still see it happening.

As always there are year to year variations in where the sea-ice is thickest and how it is moving. For example, last year at this time there was more thick ice in the East Siberian Sea:

There is an urge to cherry-pick what parts of the arctic one focuses on, in order to confirm one’s bias. For example, an Alarmist would tend to focus on the East Siberian Sea, which has less thick ice this year:

The problem with giving-in to the tendency to confirm ones own bias is that a year later whatever you were using as “proof” tends to stop confirming your bias, which makes you appear to be a bit of a fool, unless you develop a short memory and conveniently forget what you used as “proof” the year before. For example, all the hullabaloo about shrinking sea-ice “volume” heard fifteen months ago has been replaced by the sound of crickets, now that “volume” has increased. To a person with a longer memory this merely makes the foolish appear more foolish. One has the sense some people are rushing hither and thither, from “proof” to “proof”, acting very excited about next to nothing and exclaiming “eureka!” far too often.

In actual fact all the shifting and changing of sea-ice is fascinating, and may very well be hinting at some general pattern or cycle; it just doesn’t happen to be a “Death Spiral.” I wish it was hinting at a warmer climate, as that would be beneficial to mankind, but currently that does not seem very likely.

One interesting change from last year involves the amount of sea-ice flushing through Fram Strait. Last year there were “wrong way winds” from the south, and the usual discharge of sea-ice through the strait was slowed and at times even reversed. Last February the ice was even pushed north, away from the north coast of Greenland, and the polynya of open water along the coast made some Alarmists very excited, as they felt it was a sign the ice was melting (when it was merely moved.) This year is more normal, and the sea-ice is piling up against that coast, and far more is flushing down the east coast of Greenland. In fact, if I were an Alarmist, I would point out that a greater “volume” of ice is exiting the Pole, and use that to explain why the increase in the “volume” graph is merely temporary, and insist the sea-ice is actually decreasing. (The problem with this idea is that, when more sea-ice flushes down Greenland’s coast in a solid state it cannot sink, as the cold East Greenland Current does, and instead, because it is bobbing along at the surface, it cools the surface of the Atlantic south of Iceland, countering the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, and sometimes cooling Western Europe, and also Barents Sea, which may lead to increased sea-ce in Barent’s Sea.)

There also seems to be more ice jamming into the central part of the Northwest Passage, which could spoil things for people attempting the passage next summer. I would find this disappointing, as I like to follow their adventures.

February should be interesting. I’ll be watching to see if temperatures remain cold up there. While cold temperatures seems to distress some Alarmists, it does not necessarily result in thicker ice, because the lack of warmth can lead to fewer storms. Storms smash up the ice more and expose more water, which increases the amount of water able to be frozen, and leads to larger pressure-ridges, which increases the volume without necessarily increasing the area. So I’ll be watching to see if any big “Ralphs” form, and also to see if any strong gales associated with high pressure appear.

The chill at the Pole may be associated with a “Strat-warm” event. Joe Bastardi has an elegant explanation of events he has noted follow each other, leading up to and following such an event. I’m not certain of the cause-and-effect involved, but when things have followed the same sequence a number of times the sequence itself earns a validity even if you don’t understand why it happens.

The first thing noticed is an increase of thunderstorms over the western Indian Ocean. If you want to be a bit dramatic you call it an “explosion” of thunderstorms. It is an area much larger than a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal. Huge amounts of warmth and moisture are uplifted. This affects the stratosphere, especially to the north, on the far side of the Himalayas. Temperatures rise quite dramatically, by fifty degrees or so, and one sees this area of warmth, (cherry red in the animations of upper atmosphere maps), expand and enlarge northward until it is over the Pole. This is a “strat-warm” event. The warming of the stratosphere causes it to expand, pressing down on the troposphere below, and the squashed air beneath is squeezed south. It is nearly as regular as clockwork. “Strat-warm” events are followed by arctic outbreaks to the south, usually around thirty days later.

This sequence causes my poor brain to wonder about all sorts of things I can’t yet fathom. For example, shouldn’t the downward push of the expanding stratosphere create high pressure at the Pole? What the heck is “Ralph” doing, sitting up there? Also shouldn’t sinking air warm, like a Chinook? But the sequence does its dirty work without bothering to answer me. And I must admit I’m a bit nervous about what February and March will bring, here in New Hampshire. This winter reminds me a little of 1969, which I think was a “strat-warm” winter, and which saw Boston basically paralyzed by the “Hundred Hour Snowstorm”. I think we only had four days of school that February (admittedly there was a week’s vacation mid month) (and which I thought was proof that God does exist, as I didn’t like school). There were two big storms, and very nearly a third in early March which just barely was rain, in Boston, (leading to floods), but up here in New Hampshire that third storm was snow, and I’ve seen pictures of grinning old-timers, proudly standing with their snow shovels by cleared driveways, with the snowbanks by the driveways ten feet tall. I’m not so tough as those guys, and doubt I’d be grinning.

But back in 1969 the sun was “noisy”, while the current sun is observing silence. The ingredients are never the same, when dealing with what our Creator dishes out, which we call “meteorology”. One needs to have no preconceptions, and stay on ones toes.

In any case, the “strat-warm” is only one of several possible causes for the colder Pole. I hope to find time to discuss some other ways that distant oceans may effect the production and release of cold air at the Pole, but my thinking is still incubating, at the moment.

I will state, as I have stated before, that one of the cycles we see hinted at, in climate records, is roughly sixty years long, and sixty years ago was 1959, when there were no satellites giving us the wonderful data we now take for granted. We actually have only a very basic and rough idea of the changes that were occurring in 1959, and this means we are in many ways currently seeing that part of a “sixty-year-cycle” for the first time. We need to expect the unexpected, as the various changes or “phases” of that “sixty-year-cycle” are an unknown.

Stay tuned.

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15 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA-ICE –A Colder Pole–

  1. Yes, this relative energy and Latent Heat magic is another reason why I find physics so fascinating in my 70’s when it was boring in my teens….. The AMOC change we expected is as usual slow in coming (watched pots never boil and all that). Fascinating to see how different air sources (and maybe more Bering ice sooner after sea cooling?) trigger other cards to fall eg dry cold air for Ralph from Siberia? The cards fall as they will……. Cheers from Brett

    • I like your point about stuff that bored us when we were younger becoming interesting us as we get older. (My 66th birthday is next week.) There are several great Warner’s Brothers cartoon where the swaggering rooster (who I can’t help but love), Foghorn Leghorn, has to deal with a tiny, nerd nephew who cares more for physics than fishing. Foghorn usually gets his comeuppance.

      We are currently getting a “bounce-back”, as the extreme cold has been followed by a southerly surge. Temperatures have risen over sixty degrees, (Fahrenheit), from -6 to +59, in three days. What a mess! Slush and mud all over the place! But it looks like everything will freeze up again and be solid as rock in two days. That’s the problem with having an entire continent to our west. Britain and New Zealand are far more sensible, surrounded by seas as they are.

  2. Maybe equilibrium is not what the Earth’s weather is all about. It’s designed to challenge us, not bore us to death with an easy existence. Maybe we’ll think fondly of the climate optimum when weather cools, crops fail, and those expensive wind turbines fail to provide the energy we need.

  3. Glad to see you back writing. I was becoming concerned that something had happened to you, considering past events. I am not sure that a “strat-warm” event is really very warm. When you consider the temperature in the stratosphere, a 5 degree warming looks “boiling hot” but it really isn’t much warmth – just like the Arctic, where 5 degrees above normal might mean it is only -40 instead of -45.

    Good point about the “energy requirements” for that 5 degree warming in the Arctic being far less than a 1 degree warming in the tropics. Another thought would be WHEN is the warming, day time or night time, though that doesn’t apply that much to the poles. When the days aren’t setting record highs during the day, just at night, you have to guess that is urban heat island effect, not “global warming.” and when they are talking about “record highs” because the have changed earlier readings down, well, that also says something, but we don’t need to say what.

    Again, it is good to see you writing again since I don’t have to worry about whether you are alive and well. Welcome back.

    • I am touched by your concern, but don’t worry. I just have a side that gets bored if I’m not challenged, mentally, and this often results in my taking on big problems that are over my head, which results in me being deeply puzzled, (or “troubled”), and manifests as a bad case of “writer’s block.” But I have learned, over the years, that such struggles do resolve, and one is eventually blessed by so-called “inspiration.” (In actual fact I think it is a “Blessing from On High”, and feel tremendous gratitude when (and if) it happens.)

      In any case I’m working on a “Manifesto” which, if I can complete it, will likely stimulate your noggin. Maybe you’ll hate it. Maybe not. We’ll see.

      • Sometimes, lengthy pieces are better served in several courses, rather than dropped on the table all at once. The “size of the meal” can overwhelm, especially if, like myself, you aren’t a speed reader. I try hard to shorten my “run on sentences, oversized paragraphs, and seemingly endless comments” for just that reason.

  4. Wonderful post. You put the whole Artic picture together like no other.
    I’ve always been puzzled why there isn’t more attention to the point you make about the difference between temperature and energy. Global average temperature will never be the same.
    Anyhow, my withdrawal sweats and chills are over.
    Regards

    • Yes, there is a milder “feeder band” coming up through Bering Strait to a 990 mb low near the Pole, but it is also drawing some wickedly cold air north from East Siberia. It will be interesting to watch the air masses clash. It’s still minus 35 at the Pole, and has been generally colder than last winter, with fewer “feeder bands”, and the DMI sea-ice “volume is higher than last winter.

      The big gale over the Laptev Sea, down around 960 mb, is likely smashing up the sea-ice a bit down there.

      Hope your summer is treating you well. We just had a day of roaring winds, gusting up around 60 mph, and temperatures sinking all day well below freezing.

  5. Yeah, I see the warm did not last long. Very interesting….. CAGW near both poles, but not noticeable on Nullschool. Wintry chill up from Antarctica here at 35S, freezing at south end of NZ, Farmers there tell us. Real worry for winter fodder. Tasmania same, even West Oz autumnal, my cousn Sybil says. That is one hot place normally now.
    I see work from Nasa Solar scientists calling notice to strange effects of lower EUV lagged since 5yr ago. Predicts real cold…. notes it starts with cooling thermosphere – stratosphere – wild jetstreams. Where have I seen that before – surely not now? Ralph, is that you? Cheers all, from Brett the Kiwi

    • I’ll have to check it out. I just posted that more ice has been flushed down through Fram Strait this winter, and w2ondered if it would make the Atlantic colder. Thanks for the heads up.

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