ARCTIC SEA ICE –Awaiting The Break-up–

One aspect of watching ice melt is that one becomes aware of misconceptions we all have, and which the media should end but doesn’t.  For example, people tend to think certain parts of North America are arctic, when they are not. All one needs to do is trace lines of latitude from North America around to Europe, and one gets their eyebrows lifted. The southern tip of Greenland is at the latitude of Stockholm, Sweden; and the southern end of Hudson Bay is at the latitude of  Hamburg, Germany.

If course it spoils the thrill of sensationalism if you mention, showing water pour off a glacier in Greenland, that it is as far south as Stockholm. The public then would compare a picture of flowers blooming in a Swedish summer park with the craggy coast of Greenland, and it would seem less surprising that ice melts at the edge of Greenland’s icecap.

In like manner, when writing about how swiftly the ice breaks up in Hudson Bay, it spoils the element of Alarmism if you mention it is as far south as northern Germany. Rather than the melt seeming surprising it would seem surprising that ice remains in July, for people would think how surprising it would be if there was ice on the sea-coast of Germany in July.

The fact of the matter is that it thaws right up to the North Pole in July, and temperatures can be above freezing and still below normal.

DMI4 0712 meanT_2017

Once you become aware that thaw is the norm up there in July, what becomes more interesting are the places that dip below freezing. It is quite common, for temperatures only need be three degrees below normal, and the rain changes to snow.

One thing I miss very much is the cameras we used to have drifting around up there. As recently as 2014 2015 we had seven views, and could witness fresh falls of snow and brief refreezes of the melt-water pools.  These were especially interesting because the satellites tended to miss these events, perhaps because they occurred at the wrong time of day, perhaps because they happened in a very small area, perhaps because refreezes involved a very thin layer of air right at the surface, or perhaps for some other reason. In any case, they stopped funding the cameras. (Let us hope the de-funding was not because certain people didn’t approve that the cameras showed freezing where politicians claimed there was melting.)

The only camera we have this year is a tough one, O-buoy 14,  which refused to be crushed by ice, and survived the winter. It is not out in the Arctic Sea, but down in Parry Channel at a latitude of roughly 74° north.  I like having it located where it sits, still frozen fast in immobile ice, because it allows us to compare the current situation with the year 1819, when William Parry sailed HMS Helca and Griper in the same waters.

William Parry original.1770

Parry sailed further north and west of where O-buoy 14 now sits, and then, as ice reformed in September, they cut a channel for the two boats, to get close to the shore of Melville Island, where they’d be less exposed to the crushing and grinding of moving ice.

William Parry The_Crews_of_H.M.S._Hecla_&_Griper_Cutting_Into_Winter_Harbour,_Sept._26th,_1819

Then they waited for the ice to melt. It was a long, long wait; ten months in all. It is interesting to read how Parry kept his crew from going nuts, especially during the three months of winter darkness. They produced plays and published a newspaper and, as it grew light, conducted expeditions along the coast of Melville Island on foot. Also, when some of the men showed signs of scurvy, Parry planted mustard and cress seeds in his cabin and fed the sprouts to the afflicted men. The first signs of thaw were in March, but the ice remained six feet thick.

In the year 2017 our first signs of thaw were much later, but sudden, and we swiftly developed an impressive melt-water pool on June 29:

Obuoy 14 0629C webcam

Of course, the media would generate sensationalism with such a picture, crowing about how the arctic is melting. Then they would get very quiet when the water drained down through a crack in the ice, as it did by July 8:

Obuoy 14 0708B webcam

The media would get even quieter when the camera then showed signs of fresh snow, as it did on July 12:

Obuoy 14 0712 webcam

And last but not least, there was a cold spell associated with the above view, and the melt-water pools were skimmed with ice, which needed to be melted away to make a little progress on July 13:

Obuoy 14 0713 webcam

What this makes me wonder about is the fortitude of Parry’s crew. They never got moving until August 1. Can you imagine how they felt when it snowed in July? (Or did it snow, back then, when it was supposedly colder?)

Our modern buoy is at roughly 103° west longitude. Parry was able to sail as far west as 113°46’W in the late summer of 1820. Then they noticed ice starting to reform. Apparently no one was eager to spend another winter up there, so they sailed lickity-split east the entire length of Parry Channel, escaping into Baffin Bay and arriving back in England in October.

It will be fun to watch this camera’s view. We are in a race with the year 1820, to see if we can get the ice moving before August 1. (One interesting thing is that, while the Navy satellite suggests the ice in Parry Channel is moving, the GPS attached to O-buoy 14 shows no movement. Once again we see the value of having an on-the-spot witness.)

I actually want the ice to move, so the view shifts around and we can see mountains in the distance.

Stay Tuned!

(Hat tip to Stewart Pid for always keeping me abreast of O-buoy 14 news.)

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ralph Rains?–

Ralph hasn’t become the gale some models were foreseeing, but is a persistent feature at the Pole, and a wrench in the works of the summer thaw.   In essence Ralph creates clouds where I expect sun. This slows the creation of melt-water pools, which are a creation that quickly changes the albedo equation, for the brilliant white of the snows (which reflects light in a highly efficient manner) is changed to the battleship gray of slush (which absorbs more sunlight and accelerates the surface melt.) Once the slush turns into an actual pool particles of soot, volcano ash, and arctic algae often create a black bottom to the pool, which hastens the melt further, and on occasion melt down and create a hole to the sea beneath, weakening the ice and contributing to the break up of floes.

This is a time I sorely miss the floating cameras, for they gave you a visual proof of what otherwise is merely modeled guess-work. The only camera we have is lodged in the ice of Parry Channel, and can’t give us a clear idea of the conditions out in the open sea. However it is better than nothing, and does show the crispness of the drifted snow softening in the thaw.

Obuoy 14 0623 webcam

O-buoy 14 is down around 74° north latitude, and away from the center of Ralph near the Pole. I have an insatiable curiosity about higher latitudes. The DMI graph shows the mean, north of 80°, as being below normal but above freezing.

DMI4 0622 meanT_2017

To look at Dr. Ryan Maue’s maps of modeled temperatures (free week trial available at Weatherbell site) isn’t exactly helpful, because the GFS tends to average it all out to a blandness, while the Canadian differentiates to a degree where it seems to make storms more intense. Which is a curious George to trust? (GFS to left; JEM to right)

 The reason this matters is because in the polar summer snow can change to rain, and this makes an enormous difference. Snow (usually a dusting to an inch, as the arctic is a desert), slows the melt by adding more brilliant white to reflect heat, while rain immediately creates slushy, gray spots and speeds the melt. As is often the case in the arctic, a half degree can make a big difference.

One of my favorite examples was the case of “Lake North Pole”, in 2013. The melt-water pool directly in front of the camera, expanded by summer rains in mid July, generated no end of media hype, complete with stories of Santa drowning and so on.

LNP 1 np-july-26-npeo_cam2_20130726072121 However no sooner had the media gotten everyone looking that way, when the water drained away down through a crack in the ice (as is often the case.)

LNP 2 np-july-28-npeo_cam2_20130728131212

The ice was still gray and capable of absorbing more heat than snow, but, rather than summer rains, summer snows followed.

LNP 5 np-july-29-npeo_cam2_20130729071817

And by August 5 all talk of “Lake North Pole” was muted. It had gone from being an Alarmist talking point on July 26 to being a Skeptic’s talking point.

LNP 3 np-aug-5-npeo_cam2_20130805065710

The camera allowed the curious to compare the August 5 view of 2012 (left) with 2013 (right).

To the dispassionate it simply looked like perhaps 2013 was a colder summer than 2012, but, in terms of getting a political message across, I fear cameras had gone from seeming like an excellent idea on July 26 to seeming like a very bad idea on August 5. This may be one reason funding dried up, and we are without their wonderful visual evidence this summer.

In any case, we now are stuck with what a satellite can see from afar. Ralph’s clouds can then present one with a bit of a problem, though there are usually plenty of interesting views further south, if you are in the mood to ruin your schedule with a wonderful form of procrastination. Here’s a nice, current view of Petermann Glacier and Nares Strait.

The problem is we are too far away to get the intimate feel for conditions the cameras gave us. We can’t see if it snowed or rained, last night. And, in cases where radar attempts to see through clouds, we are not even sure if we are looking at open water or a melt-water pool.

I sure do miss those cameras.

The best I can do is look at Ryan Maue’s “precipitation type” maps, keeping in mind they are models. The GFS seems to suggest Ralph will not rain. Ralph will continue to dust the north with snow (blue). The only rain (green) is towards the Alaska coast.

The maps below represent the GFS forecasts for 6, 72, 120 and 168 hours. Recognizing these are forecasts and not reality, Ralph looks like he will peak in 72 hours, down at 977 mb, but persist for a week. Only then are there signs Byoof (the Beaufort High) will come back.

Ralph B3 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_2

Ralph B4 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_13

Ralph B5 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_21

Ralph B6 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_29

To me it seems Ralph is being a real spoil sport to the melt-season. Right when the sun is at its highest he is murking up the sky and dusting everything with snow. Of course, most of the melt comes from below, but we won’t be setting any records unless Ralph takes a hike.

I should confess I blew a forecast, for I did not expect Ralph to show up much this summer. My assumption was that the lagged effects of the weak La Nina would reduce the difference in temperatures between the tropics and the arctic, and that it was that difference that fueled the anomaly I call “Ralph”.

This is merely my wondering, and likely should not be dignified with the word “hypothesis”, but the persistence of “Ralph” intrigues me and calls for an explanation, and what I wonder is this:

If the “Quiet Sun” does deliver less energy to the earth in various ways, could it be that less energy warms the Equator while cooling the Pole? At the Equator less energy would produce less wind,  indirectly leading to warming, by stirring up less cold water, and therefore intensifying El Ninos while weakening La Ninas. Meanwhile, up at the Pole, less energy has a more direct effect during the summer, making it colder. During the winter there is no sun so no effect, but the import of warm surges makes the winter’s milder. All year long the tropics are generally warmer (so far) and this fuels a more meridional jet, which is what creates the “feeder bands” that fuel Ralph.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Before Ralph reappeared Byoof did manage to push the ice away from the western entrance to the Northwest Passage, (lower right) but the ice is still fast against the shore at Barrow (top right).

Daytime sea-breeze shifted to a light land-breeze during Barrow’s “night”, and warm inland temperatures wafted over them, lifting them to a balmy 41°F.

Barrow 20170623 05_27_09_508_ABCam_20170623_132400

Here’s the Navy thickness map. (Ice-out starting in Hudson Bay):

Thickness 20170623 Attachment-1

And here’s the “extent” graph everyone likes to watch:

DMI4 0622 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

Stay tuned!

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Below normal temperatures at Pole–

On May 2 temperatures at the Pole (north of 80° north latitude) have dipped below normal for the first time since last fall. This is ahead of my prediction, was for it to happen on May 13.

DMI4 0502 meanT_2017

My own theory is that the cooler temperatures are a response to the “Quiet Sun.” Therefore they are noticeable when the sun is up in the arctic sky. When the sun is below the horizon it can have no direct effect on temperatures. But it does have an indirect effect by creating a more meridional jet stream, which brings more mild air to the Pole.

I theorize that the “Quiet Sun’s” effect at the equator is counter-intuitive, for the equator is warmed by less energy. This occurs because the lack of energy manifests as less wind. When the easterlies slow there is less upwelling of cold water on the west coasts of continents at the equator, because less surface water is pushed to the west, away from those coasts. In the Pacific this is conducive to El Nino situations, but not conducive to La Ninas. Consequently the El Ninos will be amplified as the La Ninas are suppressed. La Ninas will not cease altogether, but they will have less bang for their buck.  In general, the tropics will get warmer even as the Pole chills, which is what creates the imbalance that makes the jet stream meridional.

Last year the lagged effects of the 2015 El Nino nearly hid the effect of the chilled Pole. Only at the height of summer were temperatures below normal at the Pole.

DMI4 meanT_2016

The year before, (and also in 2007-2014) when there were no lagged effects of a very strong El Nino, temperatures dipped below normal as soon as the sun started to have an appreciable effect north of the Arctic Circle.

DMI4 meanT_2015

In conclusion, though my logic may seem too simplistic to some, I confess to what it is, (especially when it works).

I should also note the past La Nina failed to be as strong as we initially thought it might be, and it looks like we may be headed back to an El Nino situation, (even if it is not especially strong.) SST temperatures in the tropics are above normal. Further north they are not above normal, which could contribute to the cooler-than-normal air temperatures.

SST 20170501 anomnight.5.1.2017

I should also note that the Pole is not yet gaining heat, despite 24-hour-a-day sunshine. All the sunshine does reduce the amount of heat draining away to outer space, but it is not until June that the sun gets high enough to actually reverse the energy equation. The reason it gets milder at the Pole this time of year is because there is a constant importing of milder air from the south, and such air is cooled, but not as swiftly as it is cooled when there is no sun in the sky in the deep dark of December.

For the record, I’ll catch up on the surface maps. (You’ll have to forgive me for missing many; it is not the most thrilling time of year up there, especially as the lagged effects of the weak La Nina seems to have reduced the clash of temperatures between the tropics and the Poles, and there are not the blasting gales there were last year.)

When we last were watching a more typical Beaufort high had formed, displacing the more anomalous “Ralph” at the Pole. There likely was a lot of crunching and crashing of sea-ice as the atypical counter-clockwise flow reverted to the clockwise flow of the Beaufort Gyre. The most obvious manifestation was the appearance of a polynya on the east (Alaskan) side of Bering Strait. However the high was positioned more off shore and to the west of last year’s, which often brought north winds to the delta of the Mackenzie River, and kept much of a polynya from forming at the west entrance to the Northwest passage.

Even though the Beaufort High dominated the map, Ralph “signature” could be seen as a hook of milder air up to the Pole.

(Missing maps) I assume the Beaufort High is likely to persist at this time of year because the vast area of white snow formed by the Arctic Sea is conducive to cooling an air mass and causing it to sink. But it pulled enough milder air up through Bering Strait to be the author of its own demise, and allow Ralph a last hurrah of sorts. Winds at the Barneo blue-ice jetport seemed far lighter than last year. Also temperatures were reported that were often ten degrees colder than these maps show.

(Missing maps)

(Missing maps) Here we see Ralph revived.

(Missing maps)

(Missing maps) As the Beaufort High reforms I’ll be watching to see what sort of polynya forms at the west entrance to the Northwest Passage. Also it is to be noted that some of the world’s biggest rivers flow into the arctic, and though their flows are frozen to a trickle in the dead of winter, starting around now their flow starts to swell with the spring melt occurring upstream, to the south. The pulses of fresh water into the Arctic Sea creates “lenses” on top of the saltier water, which initially are swift to freeze, but get warmer as time passes. Especially interesting is the Mackenzie Delta in Canada and the Lena Delta in the Laptev Sea.

Is Ralph attempting to sneak back into the picture?

Of course no report would be complete without the ubiquitous “extent” graph, which at this point shows sea-ice outside of the Arctic Sea vanishing. In the Arctic there has actually been an increase in Barents Sea, with ice pushed south around Svalbard, even as the polynya has reduced the extent in Bering Strait.

DMI4 0502 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_enThe edge of the sea-ice in Barents Sea tends to mess with your mind at times, and is one reason the “extent graph” needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It seems obvious that the edge will retreat north in warmer weather, but the ice-edge has behaved in a counter-intuitive manner in the past, coming south in the summer  (four summers ago?) It also can retreat north during the coldest darkest days of January, as it did last January when Ralph sucked north a strong surge of moist air. As I recall many looked at the ice-edge at that time and, like a rube counting his chips at a poker table, assumed there would be more open water in May. Not so. (January to left; May to right).

Besides the Polynya on the Alaskan coast of Bering Strait, there’s an interesting one in the northwest of Hudson Bay, with the ice piled very thickly just south of it. Newfoundland is also in the news, with a great many large bergs reported, (though I always wonder: If a big berg breaks into twenty pieces, are the numbers inflated?)

Thickness 20170501 Attachment-1


It will be a while before it really warms up. O-buoy 14 shows the diurnal swing at 74° north latitude, with the solar power shutting down during the dark times. You can see evidence of BHI (Buoy Heat Islands) that will eventually have the buoy in its own private pool, but temperatures are still getting down below -20°C (which never makes the DMI maps.)

Obuoy 14 0502 temperature-1week

What impresses me most is how quickly the sun gets higher…

Obuoy 14 0502 webcam

….and how quickly the nights get shorter.

Obuoy 14 0502B webcam

Barrow, Alaska, at latitude 71.3°, has been by the Beaufort High, and I’ve been watching to see of any southeast winds might rip the ice from the shore, but I’ve been surprised by how often the winds disobey the isobars. Perhaps the flow is out from the center of the high, for often their winds have been inshore, from the north. Currently they have north winds at 10 mph, light snow, and a temperature of 14°F. (-10°C).

Barrow 20170502 22_52_20_90_ABCam_20170503_064900

To its north, on April 30, Buoy 2017A was at 73.66° N, 153.21° W, reporting -16.5° C, and the ice was getting thicker.

2017A 20170502 2017A_thick

Up by the North Pole 2017B is drifting slowly towards Fram Strait, and reporting -17.7°C, and, if not thicker, its ice is not melting.

2017B 20170502 2017B_thick

In other words, though the “extent graph” shows the amount of ice decreasing, the real melt hasn’t started yet.

Stay tuned.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Not Too Early To Donate $20,000 To Fund My Barneo Trip–

I’m sure there are some who wouldn’t mind sending me away to a dangerous place where jets can occasionally land (in 2005) like this:

And I am equally certain some wouldn’t mind me residing in a base where the sea-ice occasionally cracks and leads form between the tents, like it did in 2010:

Nor would some mind having me aboard a jet whose landing gear collapses slamming down on a rough, blue-ice airstrip, (seen at the start of this 30 minute film from 2015) (There is some controversy about whatever happened to the jet, with cynics stating the Russians polluted the pristine waters by letting it sink when the sea-ice melted, and more sanguine sorts suggesting they disassembled it and removed it in pieces.)

Here’s a picture of the jet:


and here is where I discussed the jet’s fate:

In 2016 (last spring) the Russians had troubles with cracks forming in the runways, and needed to shift their entire airstrip. Here is a wonderful video of a landing on the cracked blue-ice airstrip from the cockpit of a jet.

However the real troubles last spring were political, and caused by the fact that one of the reasons for the Barneo base is to train soldiers. Norway decided to make it hard for the Russians to conduct flights from Svalbard right in the midst of operations that have a very tight schedule and small window (basically three to four weeks in April) to work within, which pissed off the Russians no end, and is to some degree described in these articles.

The upshot of the political squabble seems to be that the people of Svalbard have lost some tourism dollars, as the Russians have decided things will be easier if they stage operations from Franz Joseph Land. This will involve the logistics of building the infrastructure for tourism in a stark landscape that has not known tourism (at least in April) before, but the Russians seem untroubled, perhaps thinking that if they can serve cutlets at the Pole they can do the same in Franz Joseph Land.

I am fairly certain that, after a winter of putting up with me, and with cabin-fever setting in, my wife will be extremely appreciative if I can be sent to Franz Joseph Land this April.

The question is, of course, will there be a Barneo base this year, after all the smashing and crashing the Pole has undergone with weather patterns very “loopy” (IE Meridional), and the Pole looking like this last September.


The thing is that, even when the above satellite picture was taken last September, when sea-ice was at its minimum, temperatures had already dropped below -10°C at the Pole and the leads of open water were already freezing over. What the Russians will do is attempt to locate one of those chips of “baby-ice” in the above picture, (much larger than they look), which will be, by April, “second-year-ice,” and thick enough to land a jet upon. The problem is that the “chips” drift many miles from where they are in September, and by April are not so obvious, for the entire surface is frozen and covered by drifting snow, and to the uneducated looks like one, vast expanse of white. Locating the thicker ice isn’t easy.

Nor is the logistics of building a new base in Franz Joseph Land easy. However the Barneo Facebook page reports:

Irina Orlova, the chief operations officer of the Barneo Camp: “I would say the recent official trip to Arkhangelsk was successful: we took the first step on a long and thorny way of Barneo starting point relocation to Franz Josef Land. It’s well-known that the FJL archipelago forms part of Primorsky district of the Archangelsk governorate. That’s why we had to negotiate with the governorate officials. And now we have got support of all departments, considered several ways to unfold an expedition, and made a plan for the nearest future. So we are satisfied with the results of the trip.”

The various non-Russian tourism entities seem uncertain about whether they will be flying in from Svalbard or not, but still are courting customers. For example, here is “Quark” page:

and here is the “Polar Cruises” page:

Now, I’m just wondering if, while you are digging deep into your pockets to send me up there for three days,  you could find the extra generosity to send a friend of mine as well. I’m speaking of Roger Anderson, who is part of the University Of Washington NPEO program, who for 14 0f 15 years since 2000 gave us the luxury of being able to view the Pole via the North Pole Camera, but went unfunded last year, ( I think because the camera showed Truth and not enough ice melting, though I may just be being suspicious.)

In fact, when I think about it, just send Roger. If you send an old geezer like me to the Pole I’ll probably just get hypothermia or get eaten by a polar bear. Fund Roger, and we’ll get excellent pictures of sea-ice conditions all summer long.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Disappointing Sunshine–

For those-who-hope-for-an-ice-free-Pole, the sun has become a traitor to the cause. They are all but shaking their fingers at it. They have wished for certain events, and all they have wished for has happened. They may even be starting to think they can control the weather, so many of their wishes have come true. But…I probably shouldn’t say that. Only very simple people believe they can control the weather by throwing virgins into a volcano or purchasing curly light bulbs. Surely educated people do not indulge in such preposterous claims. I apologize.

In any case, it sure has been a year to remember, when it comes to afflicting the icecap on the Arctic Sea. To begin with, there was a lovely, warm “super” El-Nino that set records (at least in the central Pacific, if not in the east), and it exploded umpteen Hiroshima’s worth of energy into the atmosphere, (in the form of non-radioactive cumulus in the middle of a pristine ocean). There is no way for this huge energy to dissipate into outer space by normal means, so, after the allotted amount is lost upwards, the remainder of the heat must head north for the Pole (if not south to the other Pole) to be dissipated up (or down) there.

It is important to knock it through my thick skull how huge this northward-bound energy is. You, who are thin-headed, probably already understand this, but a layman like myself tends to have these silly ideas, and thinks a degree of temperature is the same in the tropics as it is up at the Pole.  Not. In the tropics the warm air is loaded with water, and to raise it a degree involves warming all the attached water, while at the Pole the air is bone dry, and warming the air ten degrees can involve less energy.

How to explain it to a layman?  Well, to imagine all the energy pent-up in tropical air, imagine a juicy air-mass of 90° bumping against a cooler air-mass of 80°. Only cooling the air ten degrees can result in stupendous thunderstorms. But then imagine a Siberian air-mass of -70° bumping north into a Polar air-mass of -40°. In this case the air is cooled thirty degrees, but there isn’t even a cloud in the sky as the air-masses clash, because both air-masses are bone dry to begin with. Conclusion? Water matters. Second conclusion? Air- made-two-degrees-warmer by an El Nino is loaded with energy which air-made-seven-degrees-warmer at the Pole utterly lacks.

Third conclusion? Temperatures should be “weighted” in some way, to show the energy they hold. Otherwise you might behave like a silly layman, and just average all the temperatures together, giving the dry air at the Pole the same weight as the juicy air at the tropics. Ha ha ha ha ha! Who could be so stupid!?

In any case, all that juicy air from the tropics headed north to the Pole, and cold air from the Pole headed south, and there were wonderful collisions and confusions last winter, and record warmth north and record cold south, the first recorded snow in Kuwait and thin ice in Norway, which all seems to be an attempt on the part of the atmosphere to achieve a state of boring blandness. The atmosphere wants peace, and is in a constant state of war to get there. It is almost human.

The Pole did not escape this confusion, and a series of storms, (which my peculiar sense of humor made generic and called “Ralph”), tore at the sea-ice. Leads opened, and in cases grew to be many miles wide. When this happened the winter atmosphere, rather than touching an  ice-surface chilled to -31°, was touching open water chilled to +29°.  This is a sixty degree difference, and so of course the water warmed the arctic air further.

So how much warmer was the arctic air?  With exposed water heating it from below and El Nino air-masses surging north from the south?  Thirty degrees above normal? No? Twenty degrees? No? What the heck!!?? Ten degrees!?  No?  What are you saying? With all this assistance it could only manage 5-7 degrees above normal?

And that 5-7 degrees of slightly less-frigid,  slightly less bone-dry air called “Ralph”  was what made the entire planet be above normal in a “warmest evah” manner?

Oh well, never mind that. The important thing is that the ice was bashed and crashed and lots of open water appeared all through the winter, and increased through the summer, reaching near record levels by September. Right? After all, once the deep blue of open water is exposed it will absorb the sun much better than the white of sea-ice will. Right?

Wrong. And this is where the sun is a traitor to the cause. Everyone has worked really, really hard to expose that open water, but all the work is in vain, because the sun gets coy and insists upon bouncing off the water, despite the fact the water is deep blue, and sea-ice is white.

Actually, this late in the summer, the sea-ice isn’t so white any more. All sorts of crud dirties it, ranging from soot from coal-fired plants in China, to volcano dust from Iceland and the far east of Russia, to algae that grows on the bottom of bergs that see the light of day when bergs are flipped like pancakes. In actual fact the bergs are so dirty that they can absorb more sun than the deep blue water, and utterly screw up the calculations of overly-simple “albedo” modeling.  Why?  It is all because of this dumb graph:


The above graph shows how much sunlight penetrates water, as the angle at which the sun strikes the water increases. (It has an idea of “normal” as being when the sun is directly overhead. This is only at noon, south of the Tropic of Cancer, on certain days of the year, but never happens north of there. Odd sort of “normal”, if you ask me.)

What you should notice is that, when the sun gets down close to the horizon, the water does an increasingly  bad job of absorbing the sunlight.  Around now, even though the sun is still up 24 hours a day at the Pole, it is down so low on the horizon that all it does is make the open water spangle and glitter, as nearly all the sunshine is repelled from the sea into our poor eyes. It is not warming the open water in the proper manner, to the proper degree.

In fact, despite the fact the sun is still up 24 hours a day, temperatures are rapidly plunging at the Pole.


These temperatures are so low salt water will start to refreeze. Not only has the -5°C  isotherm reappeared, but the -10°C isotherm is rearing its head.


What this means is that the open water we have worked so long and hard to create is not making the Pole warmer, as some suggested, but is losing heat. It may even be losing heat at an “unprecedented” rate. Why? Because not only does open water have a higher “albedo” than dirty ice, once the sun gets down to 5° of the horizon, (85° from zenith, in the above graph), but also open water loses much, much more heat from the Arctic Ocean than ice-covered water does, and that heat is not returned to the equator in a manner that can warm the earth, but is largely lost to outer space.

In other words, all the wishing people did for open water, (perhaps using uncanny powers of wish-fulfillment,)  may have an opposite effect than the effect they envisioned. The bad people who refused to buy curly light-bulbs may have made the arctic ice-free, but open water may be cooling the planet, rather than leading to “runaway warming”.

You want proof?  If I give you proof you’ll call it circumstantial evidence, but take a gander at the open water O-buoy 14 saw on September 4.

Obuoy 14 0903C webcam

And then take a gander at the scene on September 7.


(I apologize for not saving the view from September 9, at 02:31:24, when the sea was surging slush.) Now look at the view from tonight, (early on September 12, camera time).

Ask yourself, “How much heat did the open water absorb?”


Forgive me for using my lying eyes, but the open water didn’t seem to absorb diddlesquat of heat. In fact, the entire idea of a “Death Spiral” seems even more idiotic than ever.

I know the above is circumstantial evidence, but at least it is evidence. The “Death Spiral” crowd has “some ‘splainin’ t’do”. They can blather all they want about a “consensus”, but the above makes the “consensus” look like the flat-earthers  who said Columbus was wrong.

The “Death Spiral” crowd has had everything they could have possibly wanted, to make the arctic Ice-free, this year. When the cards were dealt they got ace after ace.  El Nino, PDO, AMO, storms to smash the ice. What more could they ask for? (Likely more sunspots.) Yet, even with nearly all going for them, they couldn’t set a record, in terms of there being less ice than 2012.

They assured us that it was an escalating situation. Less ice would make waters warmer, which would lead to less ice. Even with conditions most favorable, it ain’t happening.


Now don’t get me wrong. I am not down on the “Death Spiral” people because they proposed a hypothesis that isn’t working out. That is actually a sign of science at its best. You have the guts to stick your neck out. You walk out on a limb. And (hopefully in a merciful manner) your peers test your ideas, expose your perfectly human weaknesses, and you see your theory fall flaming to earth. This is how progress occurs. Imperfect idea after imperfect idea, increment after increment.

However I am very down on the “Death Spiral” crowd when they insist they are perfect. They are part of “settled science”. They are of the “consensus”. Worst of, some of them even  start saying anyone (like me) who dares suggest they aren’t more perfect than God should be punished, for I am one of the no-good “deniers.” Me? Punished? For pointing out what I’ve pointed out?

I am very, very down on any Death Spiral person who resorts to that sort of defensive behavior. They have been paid lots of money to propose an incorrect hypothesis, while I have never earned a red cent for attempting to help them improve their science. They make ten times as much money as I do, being politically correct (and scientifically incorrect), yet they have the nerve to say I am a lackey of “Big Oil” or “Big Coal” or “Big Something-or-another”. Balderdash. Let me repeat myself. I have never earned a red cent for attempting to help them improve their science.

I am sorry if I inadvertently attack their livelihood, and threaten to deprive their children of the luxury of a father with a six figure income. But I just have this idea science isn’t about money. It is suppose to be about Truth. Once filthy lucre gets involved, people sniff a stink, and rather than seeing the scientist as wearing a white coat they see a scientist with a red cloak, as a “junk-scientist”, as “post normal”,  and lastly, rather than as “inquiring”, instead as part of a cruel, red-cloaked “Inquisition”.

I am down on this sort of response to criticism because it is not merely arrogant, but it is a thing few dare say:  It is evil.





ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ralph’s Retirement–

Ralph is feeling neglected.  Here he has been pummeling the Pole since last Christmas, but does he get any attention? No. Some dinky little trace gas gets all the headlines. Little wonder Ralph is sulking.

Poor Ralph. I’ll give him a bit of credit here. I’ve never seen sea-ice look like this from space:

Ralph7 2 26

Or like this:

Ralph7 1 28

Usually these sweeping sand-bar-like curves of ice are only seen at the edge of the ice-pack, where it meets the open sea. They create a floating geology reminiscent of barrier islands along a sandy coast, but just in from there the sea-ice usually reverts to angular chips, squares, rectangles and triangles, that look like “chips” from outer space, but that can be larger than Connecticut or many Manhattans. This year it is harder to find such ice, and when you do you notice the ice has been rounded and is less angular :


In essence, the geology of the sea-ice is very different this September, due to Ralph’s pounding. This should clue people into the pretty simple idea that, if the ice looks so different, something different might be happening. It seems odd to me that some of the “Death Spiral” crowd keep bleating the same old stuff, (but I suppose you shouldn’t expect any new ideas from parrots in an echo chamber).

The difference is fairly clear when you compare this years low ice extent  with 2012’s extent on the same date. (2012 to left, 2016 to right.)


It can be seen that in 2012 the ice was more centralized, while this year there are long arms of ice that spread out to Barrow, Wrangle Island, The New Siberian Islands and right into the Laptev Sea. This year the ice covers a much larger area, though if you measure the pixels of white, there are many openings and gulf of open water this year that make it look, in a specific manner, as if the area is nearly the same as 2012.


I want to avoid the arguments about how extent indicates how much sunlight is reflected away into space, for now, because my focus is how extraordinarily different the ice-geology is.  In some ways comparing this September’s sea-ice with 2012’s is like comparing apples with oranges.

Although I hadn’t named Ralph yet, the storminess at the Pole began last Christmas, and cracked up the skin of ice at the Pole a lot. Each time the vast leads formed (and some were many miles across) heat was released from the Arctic Ocean from seawater which would have otherwise been protected by an igloo roof of ice. I have heard very little discussion about how this effected the DMI graph of temperatures above 80 degrees north, which showed many spikes last winter. The general assumption seems to be that these spikes were entirely due to warm surges of air from the south. (Just before Christmas in 2015, off the graph below to the left, the red line was below the green line.)


To me it seems downright naive to suggest that all of the spikes were 100% caused by atmospheric warming. Not that I didn’t note and follow surges of warmth heading north, but the mildness cooled with amazing speed once they were up there (or likely rose up in the atmosphere), and meanwhile big leads were ripped open in the ice. (The scars were very apparent when the sun returned in late March, and the area close to the Pole was so crisscrossed with pressure-ridges and leads that the Barneo base had to be located far from the Pole, to find ice flat enough for a blue-ice jet-port.) I would like to suggest that, besides the atmospheric warming from the south,  the open water contributed to the warmth at the Pole.

Now consider, if you will, that the warming that made this year “the warmest year evah” occurred largely at the North Pole. And also consider that, if the warming comes from the water below, it’s origin has nothing to do with CO2 bouncing back warming from above. Can you not see the potential for a delicious irony here? “The warmest year evah” might have nothing to do with CO2 and little to do with the residual warmth of an El Nino, and might largely be due to good old Ralph!

(Please do not think that I dignify the above idea by calling it a “hypothesis”. It is my understanding that to even qualify as a hypothesis some data must be offered, which can be tested to see if it can be replicated. And I’m not too good, when it comes to data. Fact of the matter is, when my bank teller sees me coming she rolls up her sleeves even when she’s sleeveless, and she always cocks an eyebrow in a querulous manner when I hand her the deposit slip, for she knows she is about to embark upon adventures in arithmetic.)

Instead I am simply an observer, and a witness, who wonders a lot. When I see Ralph creating a completely new ice-geology, I wonder what is different. Something must be different to create a different geology.

Also to create a different quasi-biennial oscillation. (IE: The winds up in the stratosphere, that shift from west to east and back in a regular manner, roughly every 28 months, and did so 27 straight times since 1953 (when they began measuring it,) and then recently decided to try something new:)


When things behave differently I look around for a culprit, and the only culprit obvious to me is not CO2, whose tiny change didn’t start behaving differently recently, but rather is the sun, which is the opposite of tiny, and has changed dramatically from a “Noisy Sun” to a “Quiet Sun.”

Again without a decent hypothesis, I wonder if Ralph, and the loopy, “meridional” circulation that fuels Ralph, might not be due to an imbalance created by the southern oceans still remembering the “Noisy Sun” as the Pole swiftly adjusts to the “Quiet Sun”.

I can wonder all I want; without data it is just speculation. However I do wonder why those with scientific backgrounds seem so oblivious. They ought be jumping on these differences and running with the new data like a football player who has scooped up a fumble. (And someone did fumble, because no one seems to have seen these differences coming.)

Before I get into the duller details of the daily maps, I should note that even where the water is officially “ice-free” (IE; less than 10%, 15% or 30% ice-covered, depending on the source),  there seems to be a fair number of stray chunks of sea-ice drifting about. These are not the huge bergs that break off glaciers, but hunks of sea-ice, and they surprise me by not being the flat pans that barely poke above the water, but rather large, which means something when you consider 9/10th of a berg is under water.

These stray bergs tend to be too small to be seen by satellite, but I’ve seen them often in “ice-free” waters. I’ve seen them grounding off shore with the Barrow webcam, (August 21)


I’ve seen them from the deck of the good ship “Northabout”, (Coastal East Siberian Sea, August 24)


And most especially I’ve seen them from the only surviving drifting buoy, the durable O-buoy 14.

(It should tell you something about the wrath of Ralph, that so many drifting buoys have been crunched by the ice. The Mass Balance Buoys made a brave attempt at recovering lost data during the calmer part of the summer, but all are out of action now, and O-buoys 8b, 13 and 15 all bit the dust early.)

O-buoy 14 currently reports from the entrance of Parry Sound, so I expect a lot more views of ice, and perhaps even land, if it survives, (it has already staggered back from two knock-outs). But back when it was further west and reporting from “ice-free waters” it sent us this lovely shot of what I am talking about.

Obuoy 14 0831C webcam

That is the sort of beauty that originally attracted me to arctic sea ice, but the sun has been rare this summer, with Ralph on the rampage. To be honest, fair and balanced, I should also add that winds picked up and O-buoy 14 was showing ice-free waters three days later:

Obuoy 14 0903B webcam

Is that land, beyond the distant ice? Couldn’t be sure, as we were knocked off the air for a while by this brute:

Obuoy 14 0904 webcam

However now the view is this:


And if we push east any further into Parry Sound I suspect we’ll soon be frozen fast. The summer thaw is over.

I am wondering if all these big bergs drifting about will speed the refreeze, acting as sort of seed-crystals for surface refreezing, even while resisting basal melt with their sheer size. Also the water must be churned and chilled by all Ralph’s roaring, and by how much water has been exposed to the wind.

When we last were looking, Ralph was fed by a plume of milder air from central Siberia, as he resumed his stance as king-of-the-mountain on the Pole. R19 advanced north from the Atlantic.

As Ralph began to weaken towards the Canadian Archipelago R20 began to move north from the Kara Sea as R19 strengthened east of Svalbard. Ralph could see how things were headed, so he hopped in a lifeboat to make R19 the new flagship and new Ralph.


Missed some maps here. The new Ralph has moved over to the Pole, and the -5°C isotherm has appeared north of Greenland.

By the 4th the -5°C isotherm was growing north of Greenland, and Ralph was growing tired of everyone neglecting him. He saw a luxtury liner down in the Northwest Passage and, because the wealthy folk on board were talking about a trace gas and not him, Ralph snowed on its decks. Then he decided, “If I can’t beat them I’ll join them.” The last report we got from Ralph was, “I’ve got a berth on the Fistula Surgery.” (Ralph may have gotten the name of the ship wrong.) (I have no idea where Ralph got the $15,000.00 for the berth.)



I am fairly certain the crew of the good ship Northabout is not going to be happy to find Ralph sulking down there, when they head north towards the eastern mouth of Parry Sound. The -5°C isotherm is getting extensive, and Ralph seems to be wrapping it up in the Canadian Archipelago. It was 21°F (-6.1°C) up in Eureka this morning, and 23°F (-5°C) in Alert. Summer is past, at the Pole.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Is This Water Warming?–(Updated September 9)–Entering Parry Channel–

If you are one-who-wants-the-sea-ice-to melt, is somewhat relieving that O-buoy 14 stopped showing a sea of slush where maps said there was open water, and has busted free into an area of open water.Obuoy 14 0824B webcamObuoy 14 0827 webcamObuoy 14 0827B webcam

According to theory, these open waters, being darker than the ice, are absorbing a lot more sunshine.  Hmm. Anyone see a problem with this idea? Hint:  It is cloudy.

The problem is the rascal Ralph, once again roaring away to the north with its pressure again down to 969 mb. The winds are even beginning to pick up a little down here, at O-buoy 14. Maybe they aren’t gale force, like up north, but they are a steady breeze over 10 mph. And are they warm winds?

Obuoy 14 0828 temperature-1week

Hmm. Steadily at freezing or below. Gosh Toto, we’re not in July anymore. But at least it isn’t snowing…

Obuoy 14 0828 webcam

Rats. I’m going to have to think about this. I’ll update after church.


WELL-WELL-WELL?  What have we here?

Obuoy 14 0828B webcam

There’s just enough sunlight to clear the lens, with winds around 15 mph, and temperatures a hair below freezing.

I need to zip over to the Weatherbell site and peruse Dr. Ryan Maue’s maps. (Free week trial available.) Be right back.


I clicked over to the Canadian JEM model because I just like it in the short term. (Back when we had more buoys, and I could double-check, the GFS initial maps seemed a bit too warm). The Canadian model is very interesting to watch, map after map, in six hour installments out to 240 hours from now, because it can make the most wonderful storms. True, they usually don’t happen, but cheap thrills are hard to find these days. And the Jem has been right about Ralph’s reincarnations.

In any case, here is the “initial” map, now a bit outdated, from 00z last night. Ralph is roaring and at his strongest. The winds actually look stronger than the last gale.

Ralph4 1 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_1

The next map shows Ralph 6 hours later. This one of Ryan’s cool maps shows how much water fell in the last six hours. Remember, the arctic is basically a desert. Therefore 0.2-0.3 inches is a lot, (and is likely falling as 2-3 inches of snow.)

Ralph4 2 cmc_precip_mslp_arctic_2

This map is actually messing with my head more than you’d imagine. You see, I am trying out a new manner of seeing things, and, as is usually the case when I try to box Infinity and organize chaos, it does not take kindly to being packaged, and the only boxing going on is of my ears.

I’m trying to see everything in terms of blobs of cold air departing the Pole at low levels. When this air departs it leaves low pressure behind. Fronts, frontal low pressures, and jet streams all form in relation to the blob of cold air heading south. It is an elegant idea, and works in a way. For example a big blob of cold air just dove down in Siberia, and in its wake we have Ralph swirling at the Pole. But the problem with the idea of Ralph being a sort of vacuum left by a departing high is that air should not merely swirl in horizontally, but vertically. This would make uplift and clouds and precipitation unlikely, but the above map shows it is happening. Oh well. Back to the old drawing board.

The source region of the moister and milder air was western Siberia, which was actually fairly mild a couple days ago. It likely had a Pacific element. Now it is pulled right around to the Alaskan side. The Jem model’s temperature map, concurrent with the above map, is below:

Ralph4 3 cmc_t2m_arctic_2

I suppose one could suggest that rain might be mixed in with the snow in Ralph. (The freezing line is where the lightest pink turns to lightest blue, with pink  freezing and blue above-freezing). It is a pity we don’t have more cameras. (I keep hoping they will regain contact with O-buoys 8b, 13 and 15, as they melt free from the piles of ice that knocked them off the air, but no luck so far.)

What is quite interesting is the blast of cold air down in Siberia. The days are still longer than the nights, but the nights are quickly getting longer. The above map is from when the sun is high. Check out the 18z map below, when the night is having its effect in Siberia,(actually right about now, but this maps from a  forecast run 00z last night).

Ralph4 4 cmc_t2m_arctic_4

That little spot of white in the middle of the blue in central Siberia represents below zero temperatures. (Fahrenheit. Below -17°C). That makes me shake my head a bit. After all, it is still August.

School starts around here tomorrow, and I have to get cracking to prepare our Farm-childcare for all the changes. I’ll update if and when possible, but I imagine Ralph has really stirred the sea-ice, and there will be another dip in the “extents”.  But I’m also wondering how much colder the water is.


Obuoy 14 0828C webcam

 Wind 15 mph and Temperature 32°F. (0°C)  Looking south. Notice pieces of ice haven’t changed their position since the last picture, despite winds. Likely they are cemented together by a refreeze, and not a slop of slush.

As an aside, if the above picture shows waters with less than 15% ice, it appears as “ice free” on some maps.


Obuoy 14 0828D webcam

Wind 15 mph temperature a hair below freezing. Hopefully just a passing squall.


Obuoy 14 0829 webcam

Don’t worry. Nights are still shorter than days, and the sun soon will be back. Wind has slackened to 10 mph and temperature is -1°C.

The subtle colors in the sky sure are beautiful.


It’s hard to be sure, without the orb of the sun to refer to, but I think the buoy might have swung right around and be looking north.  Wind 11 mph temperature -1°C.

Obuoy 14 0829B webcam


Obuoy 14 0829C webcam


Obuoy 14 0829D webcam

Even as the sun has risen it has chilled slightly to -2°C, with the breeze at 16 mph.


Temperatures slowly rose back up to a hair below freezing, with winds at 10-15 mph, during the afternoon and evening.

Of concern to me is a berg hidden at the left of the camera, by our left shoulder, that is taller than the camera. I was hoping it would drift away and get lost, but you can see it is still there, just peeking in from the left in the third picture below.

 Obuoy 14 0829EwebcamObuoy 14 0829F webcamObuoy 14 0829G webcam


Obscured lens. Now is when we really hope most for sunshine. Temperatures are down to -3°C with winds around 12 mph. I suppose it could even be freezing spray, as temperatures are dipping below the freezing point of salt water, but I’m hoping it is what the fishermen in Maine call “sea smoke”, a particularly thick fog caused by the sea steaming like a soup in the cold.

Obuoy 14 0830 webcam


Obuoy 14 0830C webcam

 Temperature -3°C, wind 5 mph.


Obuoy 14 0831B webcam

 Obuoy 14 0831C webcamTemperatures slowly rose to freezing, as the winds died to 2 mph. (Notice sun shining off distant, calm sea, rather than being absorbed. Second picture is early afternoon, local time, and camera is looking south. My guess is that the ice to the right is sticking up 4 feet. If  9/10 of a berg is under water, it could stick down 36 feet, though likely the mass is more spread out.


In June such a sun would lead to thawing, as the sun rolled around and around the horizon, but it is now September and this happens instead:

Obuoy 14 0901 webcam

Winds have picked up to a breeze of 18 mph, as temperatures slipped back down to -1°C. Is the water warming yet?

Winds 20 mph temp up to 0°C —Rocking and rolling

Obuoy 14 0901C webcam

winds peaked at 22 mph; temp back down to -1° —Ice free foreground

Obuoy 14 0901E webcam

September 2 —winds slacken to steady 10-12 mph–temp to -2°c then steady -1°C

Can’t tell of that is ice or fog in distance.

Obuoy 14 0902 webcam

September 3 Open waters–south to 75°N–Sea-ice in distance; temps to -3°C as winds slacken

Obuoy 14 0903 webcam (1)Obuoy 14 0903B webcamObuoy 14 0903C webcam

 September 4 –BIG BERG BASHES CAMERA–  –Final picture–

Obuoy 14 0904 webcam

Winds were briefly calm, then rose back to 10-12 mph. Temperatures dip to -4°C.

September 5 –still getting wind and temperature reports.

No Pictures, but buoy reports temperatures up to -1°C and then back down to -4°C, with winds a steady breeze of 10 mph. That could start to freeze the water, which makes missing the camera all the more of a painful pang.

Considering my posts about sea ice were based around using my lying eyes to double-check what the satellites and models were reporting, having no camera makes me feel a bit pointless.

The question remains: Did it look like these waters were warming, when the maps reported them as ice-free?  (How embarrassing for O-buoy 14: To be knocked out by no ice.)

September 6 —Camera is back!–


O-buoy 13 couldn’t bear the embarrassment, and staggered back up. Looking a little bleary, and also as if there is a fair amount of ice about. That is odd, for winds, picking up to 15 mph,  have blown us south to 74.6° N, where the water should be more free of ice.  The coldest temperatures of the fall so far have blown by, down to -4°C, have blown by, and now temperatures are back up to -1°C.




We are roughly at 74.5°N, 135°W, and my tired eyes seem to see the NRL map as showing that as being on land.  Bed time for this bozo. (We lost our weather station for a while today, but it is back and shows -1°C and winds getting up there, 15-18 mph.)


Curiosity made me look more carefully. It looks like we are being blown into the mouth of Parry Channel. If we get clear weather we might see land!






Winds dropped to 10 mph, as temperatures fell to -6°C.  It makes me nervous when the thermometer and anemometer keep going silent. The buoy is getting battered, I fear.obuoy-14-0908-temperature-1week

SEPTEMBER 9  –Into Parry Channel–