ARCTIC SEA ICE –Saints and Chihuahuas–

I have heard what the United States is currently politically enduring described as: “A battle between a chihuahua and a saint”. On one side you have a chihuahua incessantly yapping, and on the other you have the saint displaying unending patience. The yapping just goes on and on and on, and gives you a headache. Increasingly you wish the saint would just give the little dog a boot.

Most annoying to me is the fact that no matter how carefully you explain what the facts are, the “other side” behaves as if you said nothing. For example, the United States spent two and a half years and millions of dollars determining that there was no conspiracy between Trump and Putin to “steal the election”, yet in his opening statement in the Impeachment Hearings Adam Schiff went on and on and on about Russia, as if the years and millions had never been spent.

This should wake people to what saint-like sea-ice Skeptics have been enduring from Alarmists, during discussions about sea-ice, over the past quarter century. Originally the Alarmists at least made an effort to debate scientific facts, but as the years have passed they have increasingly abandoned debate and discussion, and resorted to  innuendo, shaming and threats, with Greta Thunberg, an emotional young dropout, replacing James Hanson and Michael Mann, supposed scientists in white lab-coats, as the Alarmist’s spokespersons. In the end all a Skeptic’s long-suffering patience, and carefully explained truths, seems a colossal waste of time. It truly has been like attempting to debate with a yapping chihuahua.

Forgive me for expressing how exasperated and disgruntled I feel with a sonnet:

I search their faces, hunting for the hints
And clues contained in clouds, but they are blank.
The clouds have no faces, and seas don’t glint
With sunshine. There is nothing left to thank
With bursting song, and when I sniff the breeze
There is no scent. When two sniffing dogs greet
They exchange more news, and news is more sweet
Than in the zombie blankness that seeks to seize
With deceit’s hate. Disrespecting what’s real,
What’s tried and true, and all of the facts
For lust, gold and power, they try to steal
The jewel of peace with lead’s restless attacks.
What can I do but bow and beg with prayer?
Truth remains true, though I can’t see It’s there.

So what is “true” these days, in terms of sea-ice? The truth is the sea-ice “extent” is at the highest level, for the specific date of January 24, that it has been at in the past five years.

DMI 200124 Extent Screenshot_2020-01-24 Ocean and Ice Services Danmarks Meteorologiske Institut

Therefore, yet again, the “Death Spiral” theory has been debunked. Not that it seems to matter. Greta Thunberg blathers on about the sea-ice melting away. Because she dropped out of school, she apparently has no use for charts and graphs.

It is sort of sad, but I increasingly have to do the Alarmist’s arguing for them, as they apparently can’t even be bothered debating any more. For example, in the above graph it should be noted that, though this year is the highest of the past five years, it is still “below normal”. Then, having stated the Alarmist side, I cross over and state the Skeptic side, pointing out that the “normal” is determined using the time period 1981-2000, when the AMO was largely in its “cold” phase, and then suggesting that a slightly lower “normal” should be adopted when the AMO is in its “warm” phase, as it now is, (but may soon be shifting out of.)

Switching back to the Alarmist arguments, if the “extent” graph doesn’t work, one should shift over to the “volume” graph, which does indeed currently show very low levels. A true Alarmist then suggests the current sea-ice is thinner and more “rotton” than it formerly was.

DMI 200123 Volume Screenshot_2020-01-24 DMI Modelled ice thickness

The Skeptic response to Alarmist excitement over low volumes was more difficult in February 2017 or in March 2018, when Alarmists could use the word “unprecedented”.  However between March 2018 and July 2018 the volume (navy blue line in above graph) went from lowest in recent times to highest (for each specific date) which tended to suggest the “trend” was not in one direction, and that “volume” involved factors and fluctuations that hadn’t been discussed, and which needed to be considered.

The “truth” is that “volume” is very difficult to determine, and involves great efforts on the the part of the true climatologists working on the subject. The numbers we use are “modeled”, which is to say there are no actual people out measuring how thick the sea-ice actually is, in the midwinter darkness.

The thickness is gleaned through satellite measurements which tend to miss the the finer details because they are so far from the surface.  For example, a “pressure-ridge”, formed when two flat floes collide, can heap up a considerable volume of ice in a relatively narrow area, and be missed by the satellite many miles overhead. In fact a satellite may miss the significant difference between flat sea ice (created by a calm winter) and sea-ice crisscrossed by pressure-ridges (created by a stormy winter).

We were able to observe this around seven years ago when funding was more plentiful, both for funding cameras on the ice, and for funding young adventurers upon the ice. Where satellites, even with close-ups, saw smooth ice, our on-the-ground explorers saw and were blocked by new pressure-ridges which one experienced arctic-skier once described as “crazy ice”.  Like mini-mountain ranges, pressure ridges can thrust up ten to thirty feet, and, (because nine-tenths of an iceberg is under water), also thrust down ninety to two-hundred-seventy feet, holding considerable “volume” in what, from outer space, is, even in a close up, thinner than a hair if not downright invisible.

Later in the melt-season, when the pressure ridges tend to crumble and spread out, the “volume” can even appear to increase although the sea-ice is melting, as the satellites can start to “see” ice they formerly couldn’t. (Later on in the melt-season there may be different problems, as melt-water pools are “seen” as open water.) All in all volume measurements need to be taken with a grain of salt, (although the fact we even have such tools to work-with should  earn the scientists involved kudos).

This year likely has seen the formation of many pressure ridges towards the Atlantic side of the sea-ice icecap, for there have been many North Atlantic storms, and on occasion they have remained powerful even after progressing into Barents Sea, where they usually weaken.

Such North Atlantic storms are enormous.  Although they lack the eye-walls and intense inner winds of a hurricane, they are often larger and have tropical force winds over a larger area. The bigger ones have hurricane force winds far from their centers and central pressures below 28.00 inches (950 mb). I think they may actually “expend” more energy each year than hurricanes and typhoons do,  and likely play a large part in keeping the planet from growing too hot, and in transferring heat from where it accumulates at the equator to where it is lost to outer space at the Pole.

In essence hurricanes and typhoons transfer bundles of energy from Hadley Cells up to Ferrel Cells, and North Atlantic (and North Pacific) gales transfer bundles of energy up to the Polar Cell. It is part of a majestic and elegant system which (in a simplified form) works in the manner pictured below:

Hadley-Ferrel-Polar general-circulation-hadley-ferrel-polar-cell

As beautiful as the above portrayal of our atmosphere’s workings may be, reality is in some ways more messy, or perhaps more intricate. Above is a picture of things in balance, but wrenches get thrown into the works.

Some of the wrenches are predictable, such as the fact the sun moves from shining on the North Pole on June 21 to leaving that Pole in darkness and shining on the South Pole on December 21. Also the swings from a spotted sun to a sun with a clear face and back is a fairly predictable cycle of eleven years. These cycles likely interact to create oscillations, such as the AMO and PDO and the fluctuations between El Ninos and La Ninas which, even if secondary in nature, are wrenches-in-the-works in their own right. Furthermore there are dramatic events, such as the eruptions of enormous volcanoes and even the strike of a major meteor, which disturb the poise of the planet.

One cycle, perhaps predictable or perhaps not, is what may be a 200 year cycle from a quiet sun to an energetic sun and back to quiet again. The last “quiet sun” was the Dalton Minimum, around 200 years ago, which was marked by Global Cooling, and leads some to feel that current concern about Global Warming is patently absurd, and that we are donning bathing suits on the day of a blizzard.

It seems to me that, no matter what it is that whacks things out of balance, the planet has ways of recovering its balance, and I’m curious to identify what these “ways” are. It seems to me that if we had a list of phenomenon or sequences to expect, we might be better prepared, irregardless of whether the wrench-in-the-works was an El Nino, the AMO switching from “warm” to “cold”, an extended solar minimum, or a whopper of a volcano.

For this reason I watched with interest the past few winters as the above scheme of atmospheric circulation seemed disturbed, for rather than descending air and high pressure at the Pole, there tended to be an anomalous area of low pressure (which I dubbed “Ralph”.)

Of course, often, when you are looking for one pattern, that pattern refuses to show its face. “A watched pot never boils.” This winter has seen little of “Ralph”, and things have swung back to a more ordinary pattern, but with intriguing variations that make things unique, wonderful and puzzling.

While high pressure has generally owned the Pole, it has been displaced to the Pacific side, and there has been an interesting hubbub in the North Atlantic.

The typical Atlantic gales tend to peak around Iceland, which has led to such low pressure being dubbed “The Icelandic Low” (complimented by the matching “Aleutian Low” in the Pacific.) After stalling out around Iceland its remnants tend to wander away to the east, sometimes as secondary and tertiary storms along the trailing cold front, and sometimes as “kicker” storms on the warm front. In the fall, before sea-ice forms, such remnants of the Icelandic Low can be traced as they roll on along the arctic coast of Eurasia all the way to East Siberia and Bering Strait, but as the sea-ice forms such residual systems seem to be starved for moisture, and fade away earlier and further west.

During the past few winters the east side of huge Icelandic lows brought mild, surging “feeder bands” of Atlantic air north into the Arctic Sea, resulting in the formation of various incarnations of “Ralph”,  but this year has seen little of that. Instead the warm air has come north only so far, before being sucked in to intensify the Icelandic low, but the low hasn’t anchored itself by Iceland, and instead has peaked as a 950 mb giant as far east as the western border of the Kara Sea, and as far west as (recently) the east coast of Labrador.  In essence the Icelandic low has had a bad case of wanderlust.

To shift where the Icelandic low anchors itself and “peaks”, locating it more than a thousand miles east or west, must utterly derange the typical temperatures, stratification,  and currents of surface waters.

First, such enormous storms suck heat from the ocean and transport it to the top of the troposphere, for even when the seawater is below freezing (because it is salty), when such water is whipped to sea-spray, it creates moist air at 29º F which is so much warmer than overlying arctic air of -40º F that “bombo-genesis” results, with lapse rates favorable to amazing updrafts.  Heat from the ocean is removed to the edge of outer space, with further heat removed as latent heat released during the phase-change from vapor to liquid and from liquid to crystal, and that heat is left behind in the upper atmosphere as cold snow falls back down. (Though gas cools as it rises, expands and decompresses, solid does not warm as it falls for it does not re-compress. Therefore what goes up does not come down. The heat uplifted is lost to outer space.)

Second, such enormous storms have such extremely low central pressures they cause water to up-well beneath them,  as if they were a large mouth sucking on a soda-straw. Passing hurricanes leave a stripe of cooler water in their wake, and the same event occurs in the arctic, though less obvious. This is bound to derange the stratification of arctic waters in terms of temperature and salinity.

Third, such enormous storms have “fetches” that can be hundreds of miles long, and fetches of even a thousand miles have occurred. When such a fetch is from south to north it transports warmth north, and when such a fetch is from north to south it transports cold south. If the Icelandic Low is over Iceland it has a southerly fetch between Iceland and Norway, but if the Icelandic Low is displaced to the border between Barents and Kara Sea, as occurred earlier this winter, the southerly fetch becomes northerly, and a derangement of ordinary currents occurs.

“Fetch”, as a five letter word, fails to adequately describe what occurs in such storms. One needs to be out in a small boat in such a gale to appreciate the power involved. I, as a foolish young man, was once south of Cape Cod in a 28 foot yacht heading for New Jersey,  and had the misfortune to observe how swiftly the sea changes (as does ones intellectual Atheism). Because I had the good fortune to survive I can pretend I was scientific and that I took rational observations, and was aware the storm I was experiencing was downright puny, compared to the storms up by Iceland. (Actually I was sick as a dog and my scientific objectivity was reduced to swaying between groaning curses and whimpering, “Mommy.”)

They say the seas “build”, which is another inadequate five-letter word. What is fascinating is how the rather disorganized points of wavelets get their act together and become lines of marching waves, growing taller and taller until you can’t see over the oncoming wave until you are lifted to its top. The tops are torn and breaking in the wind,  creating streaks of foam on the water and flying spray in the air. The storm I experienced was a force 9 gale, (though when I tell the tale to grandkids I make it be force 12) and for me 50 mile an hour winds and thirty foot seas were enough. I have no desire to scientifically investigate true Icelandic bombs.

Yet what is odd is that, while the power and energy involved is tremendous, and so blatantly obvious one would be a fool to deny it, it has an elusive quality. It can slip under the radar in certain ways, in certain computer models. Why? Because in the midst of chaos the temperature may be stable, and the barometer may have bottomed-out in be flat-lining;  according to those two instruments nothing is happening. Also the water is theoretically barely budged by a wave passing through it, a cork on a windless swell describes an up-and-down circle and makes little progress, (in the same manner the sound waves of a song don’t stir the air they pass through very much). A wave may have little effect crossing thousands of miles of sea,  as if the sum of its passage was zero, and such a wave only reveals the power it holds when it crashes into the cliffs of a distant continent and crumbles solid stone to sand. Great power and energy is there, but, because such power cannot be measured by a thermometer, barometer or even anemometer,  it is neglected, and not included in some discussions about “Global Warming”.

A perfected climate model would need to include formulas I haven’t seen written down. For example, we may know how much energy there is in a sunbeam, but how many sunbeams are in a fifty knot wind? And how many sunbeams are in a thirty foot wave?

Because some forecasters bear the burden of warning sailors and “boaters” (who aren’t really sailors) when the seas may build and become dangerous, some good science has developed formulas that work fairly well. If you know the fetch is a hundred miles and the winds will rise to forty mph for three hours,  you can plug those three numbers into your equation and come up with an answer telling you how big the “average sea” will be, and by adding around 80% to that figure you can arrive at the size of the biggest wave. Though such numbers are now automatically fed into computers, with wave heights popping out to be read by clerk-like meteorologists,  the invention of this formula took a lot of hard work by dedicated scientists over many decades.

The invention of submarines meant further hard work needed to be done to determine how far down into the stillness of the depths the great agitation at the surface extended. (It is not as far as I originally imagined.)

Further hard work is needed, for the situation turns out to be far more complex than it may appear. For example, although waves move through the water without moving the water much, the wind does more than make waves; it bodily moves the water at the surface. When a fetch extends many hundreds of miles and then runs up against a shoreline, the water can pile up and create especially high tides. Also, because low pressure sucks water upwards, a mound of higher water exists at the center of a storm which can create a different sort of especially high tide, should the center cross a shoreline. Both of these events involve the shifting of huge amounts of water, which we notice when our beach house gets washed away, but tend to ignore when it occurs far from shore, in the middle of nowhere.

One thing we have never studied in great detail is what occurs in the North Atlantic when the “warm” AMO swings to “cold”. This lack of knowledge is due to the fact the last major swing of this sort occurred sixty years ago, when satellites were just being invented. (The first satellite, Sputnik, flew 63 years ago.) These early birds had no cameras, and then had very poor cameras. But one thing we do know, from the reports of fishermen, is that some mysterious shifts in cold and warm currents were involved,  which caused fishing grounds to shift hundreds of miles, to the great concern of fishermen (until they tracked down the fish.) We know it happened, but how it came to pass is sheer speculation, at this point.

Besides satellites, an array of buoys has been set in place in the North Atlantic and in Barents Sea to measure temperature and salinity at various depths. (I wish I could study the data they are gleaning.) This is the beginning of the hard work a new generation of scientists will do to further our understanding.

It is somewhat irritating when some Alarmists state “the science is settled” and fill the young heads of uneducated dropouts like Greta Thurnberg with panic, for the science is not settled and much awaits discovery (and some Alarmist “science” is just plain bogus, rather than “settled”.) Worst is that the funding seems to be being dramatically cut back, partly because, “who needs scientists, when they can hire a  bimbo like Greta?” Also it seems much of the funding was entangled in the “Swamp” mentality of “pay to play”, involving kick-backs and other forms of corruption, more concerned with power than with Truth. There seems to be a sort of push-back now occurring against such nonsense, which is making the money tighter in the “Swamp”, and far less trickles down to the true scientists, or even to the pseudo-scientists who….well….perhaps I won’t go there…….

To return to the subject of the North Atlantic, the wanderlust of the Icelandic Low did have some effects I could see. While the movement of currents below the surface and the stratification of those waters can’t be seen by satellites accessible to the public, we can watch the sea-ice.

When the Icelandic low formed up in Barents Sea, becoming a monster with a central pressure below 950 mb, stalling for days and only slowly crawling east towards Kara Sea,  south winds on its east side scoured the west coast of Novaya Zemlya, pushing the edge of the sea-ice (which had been advancing south) many miles north, actually creating a slight downward blip in the sea-ice “extent” graph. This downward blip might have been greater, but on the other side of this monster storm sea-ice was driven south, with a polynya of open water actually forming on the southwest coast of Franz Joseph Land, as sea-ice crushed up against the east coast of Svalbard and moved into Barents Sea south of there. There even seemed to be an increase of sea-ice on the west coast of Svalbard, which is often kept open by a warm tendril of the Gulf Stream that sneaks into the arctic along the easternmost side of Fram Strait. It seems likely that the flow of this warm tendril was interfered with, not only by north headwinds in the strait itself, but by contrary gales along the entire route this tendril takes as it moves north from Norway.

While I cannot dignify such observations by calling them “data”, I do park them in the back of my mind, for it seems probable that anything that impedes the inflow of warmer water into the Arctic Sea could eventually encourage the current formation, and impede the later melting, of sea-ice.

Further to the east, the general positioning of low pressure to the west, in western  Siberia, and high pressure to the east, towards Bering Strait, created steady south winds between the two.  Such south winds are not warm, for they come from the cold heart of Siberia in the dead of winter. In fact even without these south winds there is a tendency towards offshore winds along the Siberian coast during the winter, because the cold and sinking air over the interior is drawn out over the water as, even when ice-covered, the sea creates warmer air that rises; the south winds only enhanced this tendency, and the south wind was so persistent that the heart of Siberia was drained and did not get as terribly cold as it sometimes does.

The tendency for offshore winds seems to usually be greatest smack dab in the middle of the Siberian coastline, in the Laptev Sea. Because these wind push the ice away from the coast, forming polynyas of open water which skim over with fresh ice which in turn is also pushed out to sea, the Laptev Sea tends to be the greatest exporter of sea-ice to the Central Arctic of all the marginal seas. This year that export has seemingly been enhanced. The skim of ice near the Laptev shoreline has been exceptionally thin, while the ice has piled up to an exceptional degree where it runs up against thicker ice in the Central Arctic, forming a long band of thicker ice from north of Svalbard to north of Wrangle Island, and now a second band seems to be starting to form closer towards Eurasia.

DMI Thickness 200124 Screenshot_2020-01-25 FullSize_CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20200124 png (PNG Image, 1337 × 1113 pixels) - Scaled (53%)

The piling-up of this sea-ice towards the Pole is interesting (to me) for a number of reasons.

First, a feature I’ve sometimes noted during the melt-season, and dubbed “the Laptev Notch”, (a triangle of open water based at the Lena Delta and pointing towards the Pole,) seems apparent as thinner ice, even though the formation of ice continues for three months. This baffles me, for all the theories I’ve come up with to explain the Laptev Notch involves things such as the Lena River Floods that involve warmer weather. (Time to eat some humble pie).

Second, the piling-up of this sea-ice is alarmingly close to where they bulldose a blue-ice airstrip for the yearly “Barneo” research-station dash military-base dash tourist-trap. There has been trouble holding the event for the past few years due to quibbles between Norway, Russia and Ukraine, and last year the event was cancelled because some rule (which never existed before) abruptly decreed that an airline could not land jets north of eighty degrees latitude. Among other things this meant several hundred members of the elite could not joyously squander roughly $30,000 each, spending a couple days at the Pole. Now that the people involved have had a year to think about how roughly ten million dollars they could have fondled slipped through their fingers, they perhaps are rethinking their need to quibble.

Third, the fact this piled-up sea-ice is so visible in a satellite-derived model suggests it is far more than a few pressure-ridges, which are all but invisible from outer space. The “thickness” maps are an average-thickness,  and do not speak of the variations in thickness in the piled up area. When the sun rises over this sea-ice in March, the area will become discernible to the naked eye via satellite,  and we will be able to squint at close-ups. Sea-ice has a geology all its own, and it will be interesting to see what it looks like.

Fourth, it should be noted that the Naval Research Lab “Thickness” maps show nowhere near the same size and thickness, for this piled-up area. The Danish Meteorological Institute model seems to show sea-ice six feet thicker, which hints at problems with the reliability of models. It will be interesting to see which model is more correct, when daylight dawns at the Pole in March.

Fifth, The MOSAiC Expedition ship is locked in the sea-ice between this piled-up area and the Pole. If you don’t mind people who drink too much coffee and who strain at gnats, a surplus of information about the expedition’s findings is discussed at Nevin’s sea-ice site here:,2906.500.html

It will be interesting to see if the piled-up sea-ice interferes with the resupply of the MOSAiC expedition by icebreaker, next June.

Lastly, if sea-ice levels are determined by cycles of the AMO and PDO, then at some point we should see the levels of sea-ice begin to “recover” at the Pole. Such a recovery would put a final nail into the “Death Spiral” theory. Could we be seeing hints of the mechanisms involved?

Moving further east along the Arctic Eurasian coast we leave the influence of the North Atlantic gales and move into the orbit of the displaced high pressure which we see in the middle of a traditional “Polar Cell”. Besides wobbling to and fro between the Pole and Bering Strait, this high pressure has wobbled from side to side in Bering Strait. When it leans toward the Siberian side very cold air drains south through Bering Strait, and when it shifts to the Alaskan side the winds reverse and Pacific air flows north through the strait.

What I have noticed is that the cold air draining south, besides growing sea-ice south of the strait in Bering Sea, has (along with cold air pouring into the Pacific from western Siberia) chilled the “warm blob” in the Gulf of Alaska a lot. This may explain why, when the winds shift around and Pacific air comes north, it is not as mild as I expected. In fact, if this shift in sea-surface-temperatures continues the northern Pacific will start to take on the characteristic of a “cold” PDO, (which is also occurring, interestingly enough, on the Atlantic side, with a hint of the “cold” AMO appearing.)

SST anomaly 200127 anomnight.1.27.2020

This is quite a change from last November:

SST Anomaly 191104 anomnight.11.4.2019

While the sea-surface-temperatures remain confused, and don’t seem to want to resolve into anything definite, there is clearly some chilling occurring in the northern pats of both oceans. (As these are anomaly maps, the chilling is actual, and not merely because it is winter.) One thing that seems interesting is that both the Gulf Stream and the Kuroshio Current are above normal to the south, which suggests that the continental cold is heading out to sea further north. This is more indicative of a “zonal” flow than a “meridional” flow around the Pole, and suggests that although the high pressure is displaced towards the Pacific, much of the winter cold is being trapped up at the Pole rather than escaping south as arctic outbreaks, (which, because the cold stays over the Arctic Sea, may result in thicker sea-ice).

Another indication that the cold was trapped to the north was cold temperature records being set in Alaska over the New Year.

Alaska cold Fairbanks-Graphic

I found the cold in Alaska troubling, especially when the trajectory of the air-mass seemed to be from the Pacific, and therefore seemingly should have been warmer. I supposed I could dismiss it as “home grown”, due to the very long nights and brief days. However if I followed the trajectory of the “Pacific” air further back it often had poured off Siberia, and while that air may warm at the surface as it crosses the Pacific the warming isn’t all that deep. (Even as far south as California there is a difference between “Pacific” air that originated in Siberia and air from Hawaii.)

Besides the air from Siberia that crossed the Pacific there was Siberian air that bled across the Pole itself, due to the contrast between high pressure in Bering Strait and low pressure in the North Atlantic. This air did “warm” as it crossed the “warm” sea-ice, (if you can call temperatures rising from -50º to -25º “warming”), but these surface temperatures also seemed shallow, and as soon as the air bled into the Canadian Archipelago it reverted to extreme cold.

As a result it looks to me as if the central section of the Northwest Passage is frozen very solid, and if things were left to nature I’d say a sea-ice breakup would be unlikely this summer. Of course, we do have icebreakers helping with the breakup these days, so all bets are off.

Despite all the cold on the arctic coast, not all that much managed to charge south to my neck of the woods in New Hampshire, and frost has not been a worry in the orange groves of Florida (though one time they had just a touch.) Our cold air has tended to be “home grown” in Central Canada, due to snow-cover and short nights, or it has sneaked down through Quebec along the east coast of Hudson Bay,  timid compared the roaring blasts of arctic air which we’ve experienced other years.

This supports my contention the flow has been zonal, albeit in a confused and indecisive way. Perhaps the factoid most supportive of the idea the cold “stayed north” is that an all-time cold temperature record was set on the icecap of Greenland. (On January 3)

Greenland record ENYfUFSW4AAr-s3

This record was not merely the record for a single date, but for all time. Nor did it beat the old record by a small amount. The old all-time record was -81.9°F, and the new record is -86.8°F, nearly a five degree difference. (Inform Greta.) I find this especially amazing because, due to the fact various oceanic oscillations are in warm modes, the average humidity of the planet is slightly increased, and this makes a big difference in polar regions.

(Basically, if you measure humidity in terms of volume, a small volume (say a tablespoon) of water evaporated into the air at the equator makes very little difference, in terms of relative humidity, but makes a far greater difference at the Pole. IE, if you boiled a cup of water in a tropical kitchen you’d hardly notice any change in humidity, but if you boiled the same cup in an arctic igloo at -40° the room would fill with fog. A small amount of moisture raises the dew point a lot at the Pole, and, because the dew point represents a sort of basement to temperatures, (because latent heat is released as fog forms), a slight increase of moisture at the Pole results in a big jump in temperatures.)

Anyway, if you had asked me I would have told you would will see no record cold at the Pole until the oceans cool and the planet’s air gets drier. And I would have been (and was) wrong. The new record set in Greenland really raised my eyebrows.

Greenland summit_camp_e1578045880344

In terms of temperatures at the Pole, they have remained a few degrees above normal, but so far have lacked the spikes we saw in recent years when huge surges of Atlantic air rushed north as “feeder bands” to feed a “Ralph”. To me the difference is noteworthy. (2017 left; 2020 right.)

This brings me all the way around the Arctic Circle to the North Atlantic again, and returns me to my wonder about why it is that some years the milder “feeder bands” continue on up to the Pole, whereas other years they get spun up into an Icelandic Low with wanderlust further south. And the honest answer is, “I don’t know”.

And perhaps that is the difference been the way I am now, as an old man, and the way I once was, when I was a spoiled but frightened teenager like Greta Thurnberg. Now I know I don’t know, and it doesn’t bother me much, whereas back then I thought I knew everything, and was troubled. (I’m not sure, but perhaps this hints that even a chihuahua may hope to someday become a saint.)

(Note: If I get time I’ll include an update with all the DMI maps I’ve managed to save, but my old computer crashed and I’m inept with my new laptop. It takes me a long time to post maps, and time is in short supply in my life, for sea-ice is my avocation, and I have a vocation to run.

I should mention that the maps do show some incarnations of “Ralph”, though they aren’t of the well-fed Atlantic variety. One sort comes through Bering Strait, as an extension of the Aleutian Low,  and seem to occur when the high pressure shifts from one side of Bering Strait to the other. Another sort seems to come up through Baffin Bay along the west side of Greenland, and puzzle me a lot as they seems to have a cold core and haven’t much of a warm “feeder band.”

Here are the most recent DMI maps, showing more quiet than usual in the North Atlantic, especially in Barents Sea, and a weak “Ralph” that came through Baffin Bay fading away over the Pole. The “feeder band” curving up west of Svalbard through Fran Strait towards Francis Josef  Land is a new feature, drawn north by the fading Ralph, and will be interesting to watch.)

Stay tuned.


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