The past winter saw a surprising number of powerful lows cross Barents Sea into Kara Sea, with the north winds behind these gales pulling sea-ice south around Svalbard. The most recent gale took a more traditional route, hooking back west in a retrograde manner and passing right over Svalbard.
The MOSAiC Expedition, in the sea-ice about a third of the way to the Pole from Svalbard, experienced winds of 83 km/hr north of the gale, as the sea-ice accelerated from a nearly stationary drift to a drift of over a kilometer an hour for a while. The bow-radar on the Polarstern showed a lead open and close, but not a great break-up of sea-ice. The sea-ice, which had been showing a slow drift southeast, was jerked west-southwest.
The MOSAiC Expedition, north of all the Barent Sea storms, has seen sea-ice in the Transpolar Drift move about twice as fast as usual. The hook to the southeast was unusual, and perpendicular to the drift the Fram saw, New Years to Mayday, in 1896.
The recent jerk to the west-southwest is more in line with the Fram’s Track. It will be interesting to study the condition of the sea-ice, once the weather clears and the satellite view improves. Currently it looks like the gale tore the sea-ice from the north coast of Svalbard.
What I wonder about is how much the sea-ice was compressed between Svalbard and the MOSAiC expedition. The Polarstern is suppose to head south towards Svalbard to be resupplied, and what they desire for such a journey is leads, and not pressure ridges.
There is an excellent video of part of the Russian icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn”s trip south from the MOSAiC site to port, showing how it has to back up and then ram to get through even ordinary sea-ice, yet has a far easier time once it finds leads skimmed with baby-ice.
In all, the journey of the Kapitan Dranitsyn from the MOSAiC site to port took three and a half weeks. The ship made it about halfway back to port in the thick sea-ice, and then was met by the Russian icebreaker Admiral Makarov, that refueled it. I think it took four days to complete the refueling. They then proceeded to the edge of the sea-ice in Barents Sea, but had to wait before venturing out into the open water because a gale was raging and the seas were too high. (I guess icebreakers are not designed for ocean storms.) They had to wait a week for the waves to subside under fifteen feet, but the MOSAiC scientists aboard got to observe how sea-ice fractures under the duress of huge swells. When the gale subsided they rushed across Barents Sea and two days later safely arrived in Tromso. (Likely some of the scientists had further adventures getting back to their home countries through the travel-bans of the Pandemic.)
It will be interesting to see what the Polarstern experiences, heading south.
The storm brought milder air over the arctic sea, including the year’s first patch of above-freezing air north of the Laptev Sea.
The sea-ice “extent graph” shows the typical decline for this time of recent years:
Interestingly, the “volume” graph hasn’t fallen much, suggesting much of the sea-ice lost on the “extent” graph is baby-ice at the periphery, without much bulk to it.
Last post I talked about my yearning to see the Russian records of how the sea-ice drifted, in the cases of their 41 Arctic Ocean Bases, going all the way back to 1937, (as well as the 14 Barneo floating tourist-traps for the ober-wealthy, since 2002.). Unfortunately such information is in some ways “top secret”, (in terms of industrial espionage, if not military). Because of this hidden record-keeping some shifts in the flow of sea-ice are described as “unprecedented” when in fact they have been seen before. The Russians themselves described two general flows of the sea-ice, translated as “circular” and “wash out”, yet the more political side of NOAA made a big deal of a change in the flow during the very-low-sea-ice year of 2012:
If that shift-in-the-drift was a sure sign of Global Warming, as certain Alarmists suggested when the above video was published in 2012, then surely the shift-in-the-drift away from that pattern to what we see now must refute Global Warming. Except it doesn’t. Alarmists either have very short attention spans, or have such overpowering confirmation-bias they’re blinded, or perhaps both.
The current drift is shown by the movement of the Polarstern and MOSAiC expedition, and is quite like the movement of Nansen’s ship “Fram” 130 years earlier. (Blue line is the Fram after it was lodged in sea-ice).
This similarity is a little embarrassing for Alarmists, (especially when NOAA was stating currents had dramatically changed, only eight years ago). Fortunately for Alarmists, the Polarstern is moving much faster than the Fram did, and likely will cross a similar distance in perhaps only a third of the time it took the Fram. This can be used to suggest that the sea-ice is more “rotten” and that there is less of it, which may well be the case. (Although it may also be that the Polarstern is in the middle of the Transpolar Drift, while the Fram was closer to the Eurasian coast and may have been slowed by a counter-current which runs close to the coast.)
I tend to look about for other reasons the sea-ice may have been thicker in Nansen’s time. One thing that many have noticed is that the sun was “quieter” back then, if you look over the previous five decades. Nansen sailed the Fram at the end of sunspot cycle 13.
The very high sunspot totals (and low number of “spotless” days) of cycles 18 through 23 represent a time our Sun was quite energetic and pouring extra heat on the planet. Though we are now returning to quiet conditions, the arctic is currently still cooling from the warmer times which are called “The Modern Maximum”. In Nansen’s day, however, the arctic was warming. In fact the high totals of “spotless days” before Nansen sailed are likely not as impressive as they look in the above graph, when you compare the above upward blip with the greater Dalton Minimum which preceded it, and the Dalton was preceded by the Maunder Minimum which is even more impressive. As measured by Carbon 14 in tree rings, the energy of the “Modern Maximum” is especially impressive. (The graph below ends with the year 1950.)
I can’t help but wonder if Nansen and the Fram were sailing in an Arctic Ocean which “remembered” far colder times, whereas the MOSAiC scientists and the Polarstern are sailing in an Arctic Ocean which “remembers” warmer times, though those warmer times are now over.
Therefore I have a confirmation bias all my own. I am keeping a sharp look-out for changes which shift away from the lower ice-extents of the present to the higher extents of the past. For there can be little doubt the sun has gone quiet.
(Above from Joseph D’Leo’s blog on the Weatherbell Site.)
As my confirmation-bias looks for increases in sea-ice I often see the exact opposite of what I expect, because my thinking is too simplistic. Some of the ways the planet responds to a “quieter” sun are not what you would expect, and are counter-intuitive. Here are two I’ve mentioned in past posts:
First, you’d think less energy from the sun would make air colder and therefore drier, but instead the air gets warmer and moister, because the surface of the sea is warmer and more moisture evaporates. How can this be? I think this occurs because less energy from the sun also makes the winds less, and without strong Trade Winds the very cold waters can’t up-well along west-facing coasts as surface waters are blown off-shore. Therefore the first response to a “quiet” sun would be warmer seas (and El Ninos) and moister, milder air. And Indeed the El Ninos have been strong and the La Ninos a bit feeble recently, and to this day the planet looks above normal at the equator.
However such warmth draws upon the bank account of the past, robbing from Peter to pay Paul, and there are indications that, in the Pacific, it is superficial, and is currently being eroded away from below:
Only when the cold water reaches the surface and a La Nina occurs is my bias confirmed.
Second, one would think a “quiet” sun would immediately create more sea-ice in the Arctic Sea, but in terms of an important component it creates less.
The captains of icebreakers in the arctic keep a sharp lookout for “biggy bergs”, which are different from sea-ice of the same size and thickness. When an icebreaker nudges against typical sea-ice seven feet thick the sea-ice is a conglomerate, made of a multitude of thinner slabs, and the bow of the icebreaker finds it easy to break apart the many smaller slabs. However when a seven feet thick section of ice has broken from a glacier, it is rock solid, and the icebreaker gets quite a jar, meeting a “biggie berg”, even if the icebreaker doesn’t sink like the Titanic.
What is interesting about “biggy bergs” is that they are more common when the arctic is warming, and are few and far between when the arctic is cooling. And every Alarmist knows why: Warming causes glaciers to calve more. When times get colder the glaciers stop calving, and extend out to sea more, in some cases becoming shelves of ice.
During the “Modern Maximum” some of the big shelves created by the “Maunder Minimum” broke off, creating handy platforms for the spy-vs-spy bases of Americans (for example “Fletcher’s Ice Island”) and Russians (for example the basement of their base “NP 22”, which was occupied more than eight years.) However, besides these large “ice islands”, which are few and far between, there are a great many “biggy bergs” deposited into the arctic ocean from glaciers that face north, and whose calving ice is not swept south in Baffin Bay or south along the east coast of Greenland, and instead bobs about in the Arctic Ocean along with more ordinary, conglomerated sea-ice, which is formed yearly by winter cold.
To me it seems “biggy bergs” must have an influence on both “volume” and “extent” of sea-ice, and it seems counter intuitive to me that the colder it gets the less they are seen (because north-facing glaciers cease calving them as it gets colder).
There is a third counter-intuitive thing happening I haven’t yet been able to put my finger on. All I know is that once again my confirmation bias has been sat backwards onto its butt. It has to do with how fast the Polarstern has been progressing across the Pole, and what this means in terms of Svalbard. With so much sea-ice rushing towards Fram Strait, by April 1 sea-ice surrounded Svalbard to levels I’ve never before seen.
The build up of sea-ice around Svalbard is a little embarrassing for Alarmists, for a few years ago the situation was reversed, and south winds had pushed the sea-ice north of Svalbard even on its eastern side, which is relatively rare, and which Alarmists took to be a sign of Global Warming (and the doom of cute baby polar bears). Now the sea-ice has returned with a vengeance, as have the highly adaptable bears (though hopefully the bears feel no vengeance).
Alarmists likely want to look away from Svalbard, but actually should take heart, for the “second lowest sea-ice extent evah”, in 2007, was achieved largely because a great deal of sea-ice was flushed south through Fram Stait. (Sea-ice south of Fram Strait is doomed to melt in southern waters).
(The site “Polar Bear Science” has a good post on the recent high sea-ice Svalbard situation here:)
The problem with comparing the situation now with 2007 is that…well…it isn’t the same. That is what is troubling me, and I can’t quite put my finger upon.
Some things are similar: For example 2007 was also close to the minimum of a sunspot cycle, however 2007 was coming off a high maximum while we are now coming off one of the lowest maximums in the past 200 years. Also 2007 was at the heart of the “warm” AMO, while there are indicators suggesting we are now at the very end of the “warm” AMO. Lastly, while Alarmists like to show decreasing sea-ice by starting their charts in the high sea-ice year of 1979, even their charts show things bottomed out around 2006-2007, and there has even been a slight rise, if you begin the “trend line” at that time rather than at 1979. For example, here is graph for extents in the month of March.
You can’t help but notice the extent is now higher than 2006.
However what was most puzzling to me on April 1 was the sea-ice to the west of Svalbard. That should make any sea-ice geek quirk an eyebrow, for that area is nearly always free of sea-ice. That is where the Fram popped out into open water after crossing the Pole, 1893-1896, and that is where Willem Barentsz “discovered” Svalbard (Vikings likely were there earlier) in 1596. The water is usually open there because a northernmost tendril of the Gulf Stream, the West Spitsbergen Current, bounces off the coast of Norway and heads a little west of due north, entering the Arctic Sea on the east side of Fram Strait. This current usually has a very impressive ability to melt sea-ice. I have witnessed strong west winds push large masses of sea-ice across Fram Strait, and seen (in satellite photos) the entire mass of ice shrink and vanish in a few days. But this year hasn’t seen that. What the heck?
My guess is that the WSC (that is what we true geeks call the West Spitsbergen Current) has been cooled this year by the powerful storms we (last winter) saw not stall by Iceland (as is more ordinary) but remain huge into Barents Sea and even the Kara Sea. When such “Icelandic Lows” stay by Iceland, surges of mild air are brought north, sometimes all the way from the balmy Azores, on the storm’s east side. But, when the storms are displaced east, as they were this year, the same waters get north winds on the gale’s west side. This year we saw the waters that hold the WSC blasted by north winds gusting to hurricane force, with waves up to forty feet tall. Not only would this churn and chill the WSC, but it would physically transport the water at the very surface of the current in the wrong direction.
This moves us into an interesting topic, if you are a true geek, involving a sort of water budget. It must be balanced. The water entering the Pole must be balanced by by water leaving the Pole. The WSC entering the Pole is more than matched by, on the far side of Fram Strait, the very cold EGC (East Greenland Current). More water leaves the Pole by sea than enters by sea, for evaporation is low due to sea-ice and cold temperatures, and much extra water enters via some of the world’s biggest rivers, as well as glaciers.
What is most fascinating is the fact various currents often (but not always) keep their identity as they travel around under the sea-ice. Water from the south tends to be saltier, but is made less salty as it melts sea-ice, yet can still be identified as a separate current. Some currents dive beneath other currents, because the buoyancy of a current is determined by its salinity and its temperature, which are always changing. When waters are quiet, undisturbed by storms under ice, they can stratify into various layers, with each layer part of an identifiable current. Therefore the WSC, after passing through Fram Strait, forks into the Yerkmak and Svalbard branches, which can be traced all the way around the Pole until they exit as the RAC (Return Atlantic Current) which heads south in the middle of Fram Strait between the Colder and less salty EGC heading south to the west and the milder and saltier WSC heading north to the east.
To make things either more interesting or more annoying, (depending on your temperament), is that, when you return the following year, things may have changed. For example, the WSC may have three other branches (perhaps more) besides the Yermak and Svalbard branches, but they are not seen every year.
In my humble opinion the study of such currents, and the way they change, is very important. Why? Because they set up certain areas of sea-surface-temperatures (such as the “warm blob” in the Pacific) which have been seen to have a major influence on the route taken by atmospheric jet-streams, which can determine things such as which-crops-are-wisest-to-plant-where.
One such change is the shift in the AMO from “warm” to “cold”, which we know little about because the last time it occurred satellites had barely been invented. It involves some major shifts-in-the-drifts which we will in many ways be seeing for the first time (by satellite, at least). The scant records we have from the past indicate the changes are major. For example, the prime fishing grounds for herring can shift hundreds of miles.
The above newspaper article from 1922 describes how swift and dramatic the change from a “cold” to “warm” AMO was around Svalbard, however it took more than a decade for the warming to start reaching the Russian coast and making the Northeast Passage more passable. (It was fortunate the sea-ice was still low when Hilter invaded Russia, for the British learned it was suicide to attempt to send Russia supplies via the arctic routes during the broad daylight of summer, and despite Stalin’s objections the British only dared do it in the darkness of arctic winter. Had sea-ice been more formidable then supplying Russia might have failed and Hitler might have succeeded.) But, to return to my point, I assume the change back from “warm” to “cold” might also be swift and dramatic, and might also be first seen around Svalbard.
One major element of the shift-in-the-drift involves a simple fact: Cold water sinks. When the EGC brings cold water south along the east coast of Greenland it stays at the surface because the shallow continental shelf keeps it from sinking, and also to some degree by the fact less saline water is more bouyant than more-saline water, even if it is colder. However down around the latitude of Iceland the bottom falls, and so does much of the EGC. In a manner that makes niagra falls look like a trickle, humongous amounts of cold water plunge to the ocean’s abyss, and seemingly such cold loses all ability to influence the surface. But does it?
Allow me to subject you to a simple thought-experiment. Imagine a large box of water is plunged downwards. What will this do to waters at the surface, and what will this do to the waters beneath?
At the surface it is obvious that waters must rush in to replace the water that sinks. But what determines whether it will be warm water rushing up from the south, or cold water rushing down from the north? History hints both have happened, and that what determines the flows of waters is as varied as what determines the flows of air on a surface weather map. But, on occasions when the flow of waters is increased from the north, the EGC transports south cold water that refuses to sink, called sea-ice. This sea-ice at the surface can change the temperature of sea-surface water hundreds of miles further to the south, changing air temperatures and the weather of lands downwind, and also causing more waters to chill and sink.
Beneath the sinking cold waters is the abyss, which we know little about. However we do know water can’t compress, and when water presses down from above the water beneath must move to make room. Some of this movement is explained by deep sea currents. However such currents are very slow, nor do they vary much. When a charge of bitter cold arctic air causes much more cold water to sink, the deep sea currents don’t speed up, (as far as I know, at this time.) Therefore things are not adding up. When water presses down from above room must be made for it, but where is the room made?
Two ideas have occurred to me. One idea is that room is made by bulging the thermocline upwards, but this bulge would become a sort of wave moving away through the thermocline like the ripple from a splash, an undersea phenomenon which as far as I know is undocumented, but which, if it did exist, would have some effect when the wave hit a distant coast. A second idea is that, just as when you push a brake pedal an immediate effect is seen in rear brakes far from the actual pedal, when cold waters sink south of Fram Strait, an immediate up-welling effect might be seen in some place far away, because water can’t be compressed. I am well aware this second idea is outlandish, but is it as outlandish as this: (?)
Patient, hard-working scientists have mapped the slow currents of the abyss, and to some degree have mapped the undersea rivers which connect where waters sink and where up-welling brings deep waters back up. Yet none of these rivers ends at the biggest up-welling, off the coast of Peru, which is part and parcel of the switch from El Nino to La Nina.
Only recently have maps started to include a branch of the thermohaline circulation past the coast of Peru, but this shows a warm surface current and not the cold up-welling so vital to the creation of La Nina’s (and to the fisheries of Peru.)
The generally accepted idea is that the up-welling off the coast of Peru is caused by strong offshore Trade Winds blowing from South America westward into the Pacific. These winds blow the warm surface water towards Australia, which causes cold, nutrient-filled waters to be drawn up from the depths to replace the displaced surface water. The problem with the idea is that the up-welling has a degree of independence from the wind. At times the up-welling can even occur before the increase in the Trade Winds, in which case the colder water appears to be causing the increase as much as the increase causing the colder waters. This has two effects. First, it makes El Ninos and La Ninas notoriously hard to forecast, and second, it allows madmen like myself to suggest that pushing water down in Fram Strait can cause water to up-well off the coast of Peru.
In any case the shift-in-the-drift off the coast of Peru has major repercussions, in terms of the world’s weather, just as the shift-in-the-drift in the North Atlantic associated with the switch of the AMO from “warm” to “cold” has major repercussions, in terms of the world’s weather. Such major repercussions are interconnected in ways we do not yet understand. Inquiring minds want to know. Scientists state “further study is needed”, holding out a cupped palm for money.
In my opinion the late Bill Gray’s desire for funding to better understand thermohaline circulation was intuitive genius, while Al Gore’s petty prevention of such funding was the initial travesty which has seen Global Warming politics befoul science. Money which could have been wisely used to further our understanding has been redirected to political hacks. Things important to study have been neglected to study the incidental. Not that I have anything against the study of polar bears, but bears can’t determine which crops to plant in Kansas, while the shift-in-the-drift can.
In order to redirect funding in unproductive ways, politicians always seem to need to invent a crisis, whether it be acid rain, or ozone holes, or global warming, or a corona virus pandemic. The problem is that when you are too unproductive you wind up broke.
In any case it will be interesting to watch the sea-ice in the North Atlantic as the winter gales die down and the quieter summer weather arrives. For five years now the two long-term measuring points of the Norwegan Current, which feeds into Barents Sea, have been noting a decline in water temperatures:
Sea-ice extent is within two standard deviations from normal, and high for recent years, though still low.
Both the Kara and Laptev Seas have seen a lot of sea-ice exported north into the Central Arctic this winter, and thin baby-ice now skims them, so I expect a fair amount of Alarmist hoop-la to occur when they become ice-free this summer. This may be reflected in a plunge in the extent graph, as they melt. However the hoopla may then die down as the extent graph flattens, as other parts of the Arctic Ocean see sea-ice more stubborn. If the PDO remains in its “cold” phase it will be especially interesting to see if sea-ice remains stubborn north of Bering Strait.
The “volume” graph is currently very low for this time of year, likely due to the thin ice in the Laptev and Kara Seas, and also due to an incapacity inherent in measuring the volume of pressure ridges, which are numerous in the Central Arctic due to all the sea-ice transported north from the Kara and Laptev Seas. I expect the “volume” graphs to become more normal later in the summer, when pressure ridges tend to crumble and spread out, and be included more easily in the totals.
The MOSAiC expedition is now experiencing 24 hour daylight, and I am enjoying the pictures I crave, which have been sorely missed since the camera-buoys stopped being funded. The scientists are enjoying the one part of the world without corona virus, and witnessing first hand how very dynamic the sea-ice is. A large lead snapped the cables powering one of their remote station, forcing them to operate at a reduced capacity with generators for around three weeks until they were able to lay a new cable.
Other leads have opened and crushed shut again, forming pressure ridges.
Some of the things they are studying are fascinating, such as the biology under the ice. Other studies seem based on the Global Warming narrative, and make me want to roll my eyes. (I will bite my tongue, regarding measuring the nearly non-existant amounts of nitrous oxide exuded by the Arctic Ocean.) (Of course, data is data, and when I was young I would have counted the number of leaves on a tree, if it let me avoid getting a Real Job.)
What really interests me is the shift-in-the-drift, but things do get more tranquil in the summer, and the currents slow down. (The WSC north through Fram Strait nearly halts at times.) While the Polarstern had been making steady progress towards Fram Strait, it recently experienced a bit of “wrong way” drift.
This expedition is experiencing some interesting resupply problems they are not talking about, due to the rest of the world going crazy due to the Corona Virus. If they dawdle too much, getting down to Fram Strait, their story could get interesting.
The Corona Virus has taken another victim, as around March 15 the yearly Barneo polar-tourism event was cancelled. Though the cancellation was necessary, it is a pity, for I enjoy the Russian’s attitude concerning sea-ice. They have about a million times the experience of the shallower Alarmists, who merely parrot the “settled science” which they have been gullible enough to accept as a talking-points. Where Alarmists have but dogmas, the Russians have actual experience. After all, the Russians have been landing aircraft on sea-ice since the 1930’s, and built their first Barneo-like base by the North Pole in 1937.
We are talking 72 years worth of experience, largely ignored by Alarmists, (and also are describing a great improvement in the sort of aircraft that the Russians land on the sea-ice with).
I must appear to dislike modern streamlining and other improvements, when I confess I sort of liked the old Russian bombers, which could carry their own fighter-bombers tucked like chicks under each wing:
The Russians had their own way of doing things, and it is interesting how their paratroopers exited their old bombers:
Although these ungainly-looking bombers look odd to us now, back in the day they set records for climbing to various altitudes lugging various weights, and also set the record (for that time) in terms of the duration of a flight, able to fly roughly eighteen hours without refueling (likely with additional fuel tanks). This allowed them to keep their bombers at airports a safe distance behind the battle-lines, as Hitler’s surprise attack sent the Russians reeling in retreat, and yet to still shock Hitler by bombing Berlin at night as early as 1941. Although very vulnerable in daylight, these ungainly bombers helped Russia withstand the German onslaught, able to even move tanks if need be.
Russia had to know a lot about arctic conditions in order to be resupplied during World War Two, both by the British via convoys through Barents Sea, and by Americans via airlifts up through Canada, Alaska and then along the entire Siberian coastline. One character who stands out, in terms of such arctic knowledge, was Mark Shevelev, a pilot who somehow managed to skate through Stalin’s paranoid reign without winding up purged, (despite having Jewish parents), eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant-general and passing away in 1991 at the ripe old age of 86. He likely possessed more knowledge about sea-ice in his little finger than Greenpeace holds in its entire collection of thick skulls.
Unfortunately much of this knowledge is not easily accessible.
Before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 Russia created a total of 31 bases drifting on sea-ice, each one gathering data, and each one having a beginning and end, and a path across the arctic, but the only actual drift-map I have found is from the first one in 1937:
A list of the bases, (including the Russian post-Soviet-Union bases which restarted such such exploration, after a fifteen year pause), can be found here:
One of the main reasons such bases were funded (the United States had a few, the chief being “Fletcher’s Ice Island” [“T-3”]), was because the two sides wanted to keep an eye on each other’s submarines during the Cold War, and consequently they also kept an eye one each other’s ice-floe bases, with much of the information kept top secret. There are all sorts of tales of submarines playing hide and seek under the ice, and one of the coolest tales to come out of that time (1962) was “Operation Coldfeet”, wherein a Russian sea-ice-base failed to disintegrate after it was abandoned, and Americans parachuted down to the sea-ice to investigate the abandoned base. This presented the investigators with a bit of a problem: How the heck to retrieve the men (and evidence) when there was no flat ice nearby large enough to land a plane upon. The answer was to snatch the men up from the ground using a moving plane, and this adventure was the first time “Sky Hook” was used.
I’m surprised that the people being rescued were not killed by whiplash, but perhaps the arrangement had some give, like a bungee cord. In any case the intelligence-gathering was a tremendous success, and a great deal was learned about the Russian’s ability to acoustically gather information about American submarines. (The fact a tremendous amount was also learned about sea-ice, during all these spy-vs-spy shenanigans, seems to have been a sort of side effect.)
My point is that we (and especially the Russians) are perfectly able to counter Alarmist contentions that the sea-ice is now at dreadfully low levels, “unprecedented” in human history. The Russians have data going back which allows them to see a decrease in sea-ice into the early 1950’s (which was fortuitous because winter convoys through a conveniently ice-free Barents Sea kept Russia from perishing during the darkest days of World War Two) followed by an increase in sea-ice until around 1979, followed by the cycle decreasing again until now.
If one wonders why the Russians don’t counter the Alarmists with loud rebuttals, the answer may well be, “Never interrupt your rival when they are making a mistake.” The Russians want to take the lead in developing their arctic resources, (which Greenpeace frowns-at and calls “exploitation”), and therefore Russia sees no great advantage in correcting the errors of their competitors. If others insist upon being politically-correct and scientifically-stupid, Russia will not be so rude as to interfere.
I personally prefer the Truth, and have posted all sorts of examples from history of open water at the Pole, even in March and May when sea-ice extents are high.
It is amazing how much obvious history Alarmists chose to be blind to, when they cling to their idea that we have never before seen sea-ice as thin as we now see at the Pole. For example, here is a newsreel from 1934 describing a schooner blithely sailing through an area where more modern-yachts were turned back, when attempting the Northwest passage, last summer.
Eventually one concludes (if one is me) that some Alarmists just don’t like history. When their psychiatrists ask them to remember their childhoods they likely respond, “What childhood?” This explains why they seem unable to resolve their psychological difficulties, chief of which is that they deny they have a problem and instead call me the “denier”. Theirs is a terrible state to be trapped in, and we actually should feel pity for these unfortunate people, for all knowledge is based upon the foundation of those who came before us and who discovered things which they handed forward through the mists of time to us, but these poor Alarmists resent the past, blame it for every possible challenge the present presents us with, and think the best thing to do is to purge all history from all books and start from scratch, as if amnesia is intelligence. (End rant.)
In other words, on one hand data is suppressed due to the spy-vs.-spy skullduggery of political and industrial espionage, and on the other hand data is denied by the blind faith of political dogma (which often replaces the blind faith of religious belief, when priests have too obviously been greedy and lustful and have broken people’s religious faith.)
And then there is deplorable me. All I want is the data, so I can watch the sea-ice and wonder, and perhaps glimpse a pattern which perhaps repeats.
There is no particular magic involved in the forecasts which spring from observations. A child can do it. Just as when the sky gets dark and one hear grumbles of thunder, one becomes wary of a storm, one watches the sea-ice for certain indicators. And just as, when one hears grumbles of thunder, the storm may pass to the north or the south and not hit you, uncertainty is involved in sea-ice forecasts, but uncertainty shouldn’t lead to despair and the abandonment of all observations.
As the Corona Virus is forcing us to self-isolate, I think this might be a good time to do some digging, and see if we can learn more about the Soviet Union’s sea-ice bases. Although I grew up deeming Russians “the bad guys”, one has to admit some amazing men achieved some amazing things in the arctic, and a lot we know about the arctic came from their research. (For example, they discovered the submerged mountain range running across the bottom of the Arctic Sea.)
One thing which could be better understood through the examination of the Russian sea-ice bases is the drift of the sea-ice. Usually it is described as two main features, the Transpolar Drift and the Beaufort Gyre.
In actual fact the two features may swing through cycles where first one and then the other predominates. The Russian descriptions I have been able to find seem to suggest their sea-ice bases traveled one of two routes, one of which flushed the base down through Fram Strait, and the other which cycled the base around the Pole.
Just looking at the list of Russian bases I gave earlier, I note sometimes bases were abandoned surprisingly close to where they began, despite the passage of long periods of time, suggesting the Beaufort Gyre was displaced far from the Beaufort Sea, and the base described a circle on the Siberian side of the Pole. (Some bases were abandoned not because the sea-ice became untenable, but rather because they drifted too far from Russia and too close to Canada, which created resupply problems, if not political ones.)
One base of particular interest is Base NP 22, which drifted around for eight and a half years, from September 13, 1972 to April 8, 1981. This base lasted longer than any other base, and also was operational when sea-ice levels peaked in 1979. It would be interesting to learn what the sea-ice and the sea-ice-drift was like, at that time. Therefore, if you are stuck in a period of “self quarantine” or “social isolation” and would like to be helpful, search about the web and see if you can find anything about this expedition for me.
Even when things can’t be found in official histories, on official news sites, or on government search engines, it is amazing what people post on there personal sites or in places like Facebook. Some of the old-timers who were on those Russian NP bases are likely now old and garrulous geezers like I am, and perhaps they wrote memoirs. In any case, I’m curious.
A few years back a Jet suffered a collapsed landing gear at the Barneo site and could not be repaired, and the usual suspects were accusing the Russians of polluting the Pristine Arctic by allowing the jet to just sink, when the sea-ice melted. The Russians responded in their usual manner; they do not dignify such accusations by even behaving as if they heard them. But I was curious, and started poking about, and found photographs which suggested the engines (at least) were valuable enough to save.
The humorous thing is that the images were not found in any official government disclaimer, but rather in the chatter of employees on Facebook pages. The Russian government could have defended itself, but seemed to feel that becoming defensive would be lowering itself.
Perhaps a certain element of egotism is involved. Governments have their dignity, and at times they refuse to stoop to answer inane questions. This seems especially true when the questions are nasty and accusatory. At times “Fake News” is as much in the questions as it is in the answers, (which is something that formerly was not as apparent as President Trump has made it become). But attack-dog questioning was always obvious to me, in the realm of arctic sea-ice, especially when the Russians faced questions by people who were known “activists”, such as Greenpeace. The very word “activist” is suggestive that a thing beyond mere curiosity is “active”, behind a reporter’s grilling.
In a better world we wouldn’t ask questions in the manner of a lawyer who is paid to arrive at a certain verdict. Rather we would ask questions because we wanted answers to things we didn’t understand. Sadly some seem to think they already know everything, and that “the science is settled”. When they raise their hands at a press conference it is like a proud child in a classroom, eager to show off an answer they already know, but not really interested in learning anything new. Rather than knowledgeable they look like know-it-alls, rather than conceiving they are blinded by preconception.
For example, imagine the conclusion an Alarmist would jump to, looking at the below picture of a prefab house at the Russian N.P. 36 base.
If you were an Alarmist you would take one look and, because everything is seen through the filter of Global Warming, (just as things look rosy to one wearing rose-colored glasses), everything looks alarming to an Alarmist. Some version of “Look how bad the melting is!” would be the first, and somewhat involuntary, utterance.
In actual fact those who live in wintry landscapes know that, even when the sun is low in December, one can find less harsh conditions out of the wind at the face of a south-facing cliff. The snow melts first at the base of a barn’s south wall (which is where farmers prefer to work, if they must work outside), but at the Pole in July every wall is south-facing, and rather than set the sun rolls around and around the horizon. Therefore every object sitting on the arctic snow has a tendency to wind up on a pedestal like a statue. For example, the DC-3 that crashed on Fletcher’s Ice Island was originally at the level of the snow:
But years later was elevated:
Simply by wandering from site to site, seeing as much of the Pole as I could from my armchair, I found my views of the Pole were altered, especially concerning what conditions are like during the height of summer. There is no “cool of the evening” because it never is evening, and the temperature seldom drops below freezing. (The slush on and around Fletcher’s Ice Island could be so deep the men stationed there wore hip-waders, back in the 1950’s). Consequently I’ve become less alarmed than Alarmists are, by signs of melting at the Pole in July.
In fact, I originally was drawn into the tussle with Alarmists due to a melt-water pool that appeared at the Pole in July, 2013:
This resulted in quite a hubbub among Alarmists. One article began, “If the image above doesn’t scare you about the effects of global warming, you must have ice water in your veins. That’s the North Pole — or at least that’s where the camera started its mission. It’s now a lake.” I attempted to soothe the above writer by pointing out it was just a melt-water pool, and would likely drain down through the ice when it found a crack, which was exactly what happened.
The sad thing was that before I was proved correct my comment was deleted from the Alarmist site for being that of a “denier”. However here at this site I went from my usual 40 views a day to 700. That was my introduction to the wonderful world of sea-ice politics:
When I reread the above post from July, 2013, I am struck by my own ignorance. I’ve learned a lot since then, simply following the principle of “curious minds want to know.” But back at the time what I was struck by was the fact that Alarmists didn’t even know melt-water pools would drain down through the sea-ice, but still could look down their noses at me as if I was the ignorant one.
Sad. But the fact some put appearing knowledgeable over actually knowing shouldn’t be allowed to stop us from learning a little more, and here’s what I’m curious about:
The Russians talked about two distinct flows in the arctic, one flushing sea-ice down through Fram Strait and one cycling sea-ice around the Pole. This past winter seems like a flusher. The Polarstern, holding the MOSAiC expedition, (and its associated buoys) has been making good progress down towards Fram Strait.
I notice this path is similar to the route shown taken by the first Russian N.P. expedition in 1937. The men on that expedition were picked up by icebreakers in Fram Strait, and delivered back to Russia aboard the icebreaker Yermak, built in 1898.
Russia still picks up its sea-ice expedition crews using icebreakers. Here are the crew of N.P. 36 being retrieved:
So who do you suppose we should go to, to learn about icebreakers, or about sea-ice? Greenpeace, or the Russians? Not that I’d be inclined to go to the Russians for advice on other topics, but in terms of sea-ice, the Russians rule and Greenpeace drools.
If I could, I’d go to them hat in hand and be very respectful, asking for more information about the past. I have my hunches that the discharge of ice into the Atlantic may have something to do with how the AMO switches from its “warm” phase to its “cold” phase, which has implications for farmers and fishermen further south, but that will have to wait until a future post, (if the Corona Virus doesn’t get me first).
Some people seem to have forgotten that sea-ice is dreadfully important, according to Alarmists. The fate of the world is determined by icebergs in the arctic, but instead everyone is in a tizzy about some piffling virus down south that will be here today and gone tomorrow. But fear not, for your courageous correspondent will not allow such distractions to swerve his piercing concentration from what truly matters: Sea-ice.
Or…well…as an ex-smoker with compromised lungs, perhaps I do wonder, just a bit, if the virus might be the end of my world, but, if so, the rest of the world will do just fine without me, and like the old song goes, “there’ll be one child born to carry on.”
In the meantime I refuse to dwell on morbid stuff, and prefer the antidote, which is Truth. I’ve decided the poet John Keats was more right than he could have known, at age twenty-four, when he wrote, “Beauty is truth; truth beauty”.
When I originally entered the discussion, concerning sea-ice, it was due to the fact the wonders of the web allowed me to visit the arctic in July, via the North Pole Camera, and besides making my hot days feel cooler, I was was ravished by the sheer beauty of the vistas revealed. However, clashing with this loveliness was what has come to be called “Fake News.” Back then it was called “The Consensus”, and “they” were outraged whenever I pointed out what the North Pole Camera made quite obvious: The sea-ice was not in a “death spiral”.
Fifteen years have past, and the quivering indignation of the politically-correct has gotten old and stale (to me at least). It is quite obvious that they care, and care deeply, but it is also obvious they do not care about the Truth. Therefore, if the Real does not matter, they must live in an odd state of unreality, swooning over shadows when not running after rainbows. As a poet, I always thought I was the hopeless romantic, but the politically-correct make me look like a rank amateur, when it comes to waltzing about in the wonder-world of an opium eater.
In fact, though I never thought I’d see the day I’d say this, poets and true scientists are brothers, for both are in love with the Truth. And they both have come to recognize they are disliked by the politically-correct.
Considering a virus from China, with an IQ of .00001, might snuff out my brilliance in a matter of 36 hours, if I happened to inhale it, I am not inclined towards being patient any longer with the politically-correct. Fifteen years is long enough. If those bozos don’t get it by now, then I fear their cases are hopeless. In some way, shape or form they are addicts, who would sell their grandmother’s false teeth for their next fix, even if their next fix is not heroin, but rather some politically-correct desire such as power, or money, or fame, or sex, or not having to work a Real Job. They have stepped beyond being merely ignorant, and have become actively opposed to Truth.
I think it is hard on the American psyche to deem any man so opposed to Truth that they are in effect an anti-Christ. Americans respect differing views, and the two-party-system is a way of making differing views work together and to, through compromise, make something better than either side is able to achieve alone. It is like two eyes, on either side of a nose, creating a depth perception neither eye owns. However for such a system to work Truth must rule. Both sides must be honest about what their views are, bring forward honest facts, and treat the loyal opposition with dignity.
“Fake News” involves none of that. Truth is disregarded. Rather than the opposition being treated as loyal, and with dignity, they are wished dead. Rather than principles of love the ruler is, (and there is no way to say this kindly), anti-love, and anti-Truth, and therefore by definition the anti-Christ.
I think the American public has been slow to wake up to the monstrous dishonesty of what they have been dealing with. They have been dealing all along with a cyclops, who cares not at all for any view but his own, and who is only interested in pretending to support “diversity” as a way of gaining power, planning on then crushing diverse views because they are seen as opposing views. But Americans, with kindness and generosity, would never call the person they are debating anything so rude as the anti-Christ. They can’t imagine a neighbor could be opposed to the very foundations of American liberty-of-views. At times they’d deem even a rabid dog a “differing perspective”. Only recently has it started to occur to many, “These people don’t care about my views; they want me gone.” Often this wake-up-call hits home as they realize, when watching Fake News, “These people don’t care a hoot about Truth.”
At the risk of sounding like one of those people who says, “I told you so”, I must remind you that more than a decade and a half ago I told you so. We who like the subject of sea-ice have been dealing with the happy horseshit of politically-correct Alarmists since our hair was still brown. We have been abused, and abused, and abused, on and on and on, and all for what? For telling the Truth.
Therefore, while others are just waking up to the horrid and disgusting falsity involved in “Fake News”, to lovers-of-the-Truth-about-sea-ice, such falsity is old hat. To some degree sea-ice lovers are jaded. If I die in thirty-six hours, strangled by own phlegm, it will be in the knowledge I fought the good fight, and that we would not be in the mess we are in had anyone heeded what I warned about, fifteen years ago. You other folk, who stood idly by as things went from bad to worse, will have to carry on without me.
Big deal. My death will not stop the spring from coming. Truth is almighty. The daffodils will bloom and honking geese will come north without needing my directions as a traffic cop. Truth is infinitely bigger than I am, and also infinitely bigger than the politically-correct, and will overpower and outlast both of us.
The preacher Andy Stanley tells a good tale, imagining what Saint Peter thought as he took his last look around Rome as he was led off to be martyred. He must have wondered if he had made the slightest difference, by standing by Truth. What he couldn’t see was that the Coliseum would someday be in ruins, but a massive cathedral would arise and be called “Saint Peters”, even as “Caesar” became a name given to dogs.
At the risk of sounding melodramatic I’ll say that I sometimes see the skepticism of True Scientists as a sort of modern day martyrdom. It is not as bloody and physically cruel as martyrdom was in the time of Rome, but it may in some ways be more painful, for it tends to be a psychological martyrdom. And at times I’m sure such thinkers look around as Saint Peter once did, and wonder if they have made the slightest difference. I say they have, for if they stand by Truth they stand by That which wins in the end.
However I’m becoming morbid, and I said I wasn’t going to do that.
Therefore, because I may not be dead in thirty-six hours, I’ll just do what I did when I started these sea-ice posts, all those years ago. I’ll just sit back and observe the sea-ice. It is a beautiful part of the world, and observing such beauty is to observe a certain Truth, whether you are a scientist or a poet. The fact the politically-correct get irate when you speak what you see only demonstrates that they are psychologically troubled individuals.
Before I move on from the absurdity of politics to what is actually happening at the Pole, allow me to share an example of a time simply observing-reality got me in trouble.
Years ago there used to be cameras floating about the Pole, sending us pictures of what was actually occurring on the surface. There were also satellites miles overhead estimating conditions at the surface. At some point the satellites were stating temperatures at the surface were well above freezing, but I noticed the cameras showed the melt-water pools on the sea-ice were skimming over with ice, and snow flurries were drifting snow over that skim of ice, and therefore I suggested the satellites might need to be re-calibrated. Lord Oh Lord! Did the politically-correct ever scold me! How dare I!? I must be a “science denier”, to question the satellites!
Now, years later, a bunch of genuine scientists are drifting on a “MOSAiC” ship up by the Pole, and one thing they have “discovered” is that there is an astonishing difference between temperatures at the surface, and temperatures measured by weather balloons only a few meters above the surface. Temperatures at the surface are much colder.
Well, Du-u-uh! I could see that years ago, which was why I suggested satellites should be re-calibrated. But where I earned scorn, the MOSAiC scientists may win a Nobel Prize. Now I ask you: Is that fair?
It does not always pay to be ahead of your time. Ask Alfred Wegener, who suggested continents drifted, fifty years before it became politically and geologically correct to say so. Wegener (and others like him) is (and are) proof the politically-correct are actually backwards, and are therefore silly when they describe themselves as “progressive”. The Truth is: The most progressive thing already exists, and awaits us giving up on our saddles on high horses of status and popularity, and instead dismounting and walking on the grounded firmness of facts, of Truth.
That being said, I will depart from my preachy, high-horse lectern, and instead will practice what I preach by walking the beauty of what actually is going on up there at the Pole.
This time of year is when the daylight breaks on the northernmost sea-ice, and the sun then refuses to set for six solid months. You might think, under such non-stop sunlight, the sea-ice would immediately start to get thinner. People get this impression looking at the “extent” graph beginning its yearly decent in March:
In actual fact the initial decrease in the “extent” occurs far from the Pole, in places off the edge of arctic maps like the Sea of Okhotsk or the Saint Lawrence Seaway. At the Pole the ice keeps right on getting thicker, sometimes even after air temperatures at the upper surface touch freezing.
How is this possible? It occurs because the ice does not thicken at the top (unless you count the meager snowfall) but rather at the bottom. All that is needed to thicken the bottom is for the water against the ice to give up its heat to ice slightly colder than the freezing point of salt water, (which varies depending on the salinity of the water, but tend to be around -1.7º Celsius, or 29º Fahrenheit). And during the coldest part of winter, the ice at the top may be forty below, the ice three feet down twenty below, and the ice next to the water at -1.7º Celsius. In May, just because the surface has warmed does not make the ice three feet down immediately warmer; it still is at twenty below, and therefore the ice beneath it still behaves as if it is winter, and keeps getting thicker.
The process of melting the sea-ice therefore involves warming the core of the ice, which is three feet down. Not only the must the water beneath the ice lose its heat upwards, but the air above the ice must lose its heat downwards. It takes time to erase a sort of memory-of-winter that lives in the ice, and for a long time the sun can shine brilliantly without seeming to have any effect. Even when the snow starts to wilt and the first melt-water appear as slushy darkness on the surface (usually in late May or early June) it can remain well below freezing three feet down.
Another interesting and highly complex dynamic involves the fact that salt has no power to melt ice below temperatures of -21ºC (-6ºF), but increasing power as the temperature increases. At +1ºF a pound of salt will melt 4 pounds of ice; at +20ºF it will melt 6 pounds of ice, and at +30ºF the same pound will melt 46 pounds of ice. This creates fascinating and complex dynamics, first as the ice gets colder and then later as the ice gets warmer. (Don’t ask me to explain it all because I can’t.) In the end the salt tends to be exuded from some of the ice, becoming brine, as temperatures cool. Lots of this brine bores down through the sea-ice, but some at the surface gets stranded and finally exists as a fine powder, as the water sublimates away in the dry atmosphere. Below temperatures of -6ºF salt blows around with drifting snow without having any effect, and when temperatures are a little above -6º the salt melts just enough to make the drifting snow into a crisp, hard surface (which has some name I can’t remember at the moment). In any case there is more salt than one would expect at the surface, (and also in the atmosphere right up to the stratosphere, contributing to ozone holes because the salt holds traces of iodine and bromine.) This salt caused great consternation among early arctic explorers, for they thought their supply of drinking water could come from the sea-ice, but at times the ice was too salty to drink. (They learned to look for “old ice”, which was largely salt free.) But we don’t need to drink the water, so what interests us this time of year is the change between ice at 20ºF and 30ºF, when the salt goes from melting six times its weight in ice to 46 times its weight. And if that isn’t complex enough for you, entertain your mind with the fact that using salt to melt ice makes temperatures colder (think of an old fashioned ice-cream-maker.)
If you look back through my old posts, and especially the comments, you will see the topic of salt discussed as far back as 2012 by people far smarter than I am. You would think Alarmists would be interested, as it seems obvious salt melts ice, and Alarmists are big on the topic of ice melting. A few were indeed interested, but they tended to become Skeptics as they learned the devil is in the details. Other Alarmists didn’t want to hear about the details, for they were only interested in the narrative, “The sea-ice is in a Death Spiral”, and if you brought up details it meant you were a “science denier”, for “the science was settled”. (This is not scientific thought, but it did teach me about how “Fake News” is created.)
Considering we’ve been discussing things like salt, and the time it takes to warm the ice three feet down, for eight years, it is just a little annoying that some of the scientists aboard the MOSAiC expedition are walking about with their index fingers poking up in an Eureka manner, saying stuff we wondered about eight years ago. However the point should be made that, while we were sitting on our duffs squinting at images from a camera on a buoy, they have actually gone up there in the dead of winter, and are gathering actual data. In effect they are the buoy, and they are the camera, and they are gathering all sorts of data I never even considered. I am happy for them, and their excitement.
I thought it would be fun to go through a month worth of maps, (keeping in mind that a bit below the Pole, towards Svalbard, is the MOSAiC crew).
When I last posted maps a very zonal flow had kept cold concentrated at the Pole, as milder air from the south wrapped around the edges of the cold, from west to east. After a single feeder-band brought the Pole its warmest (but still well below freezing) temperatures of the winter, temperatures had crashed to the coldest of the winter. Meanwhile what I called a “spear” of milder temperatures had moved west to east along the Eurasian coast.
What was interesting about the following week was how that “spear” of milder air along the Eurasian coast chilled. In the temperature maps you can see the green isotherm areas fade and turn blue. This demonstrates that even though the sunlight has returned and is pressing towards the Pole, in early March, the days are still too short and the sun is too low to prevent heat from being lost to outer space.
After a week the high pressure at the Pole, a sort of center of the Polar Cell, is being squeezed out and eroded, and we seem to be getting back to a pattern seen earlier in the winter, where low pressure dominates from the North Atlantic to along the Eurasian coast, while high pressure dominates from Bering Strait to the Canadian Archipelago. If the center of the Polar Cell exists at all, it has swung from Bering Strait nearly to Hudson Bay. The low pressure around the periphery has reverted to the Atlantic side, but the lows are shadows of the massive storms we saw earlier in the winter.
Around March 9 we again see the oddity of this winter. Other winters lows seemed to weaken as they left the North Atlantic and were starved for warmth and moisture, but this winter we have seen storms of surprising strength in Barents and Kara Seas. Above we see a weak low probing towards the Pole from the Kara Sea, and following lows entering Kara Sea, bringing up a feeder-band of milder air. The two are about to combine and cause a ruckus. Watch how the isobars tighten over the location of the MOSAiC expedition, intensified by a high pressure being pumped up over the Canadian Archipelago. An Aleutian low gets sucked north over east Siberia to weakly enter the mix.
If you look at how tight the isobars are in the above map, you can understand things might have been less than comfortable for the scientists working in the MOSAiC expedition. Notice how, though the storm (now a borderline “Ralph” (anomalous area of low pressure at the Pole)) has drawn a feeder band north, that milder air isn’t reaching the MOSAiC crew. They have been experiencing extreme cold for a long time, yet the ice around their ship starts cracking up.
For some of the scientists the opening of this lead was a fortuitous event, for they wished to study something I’d never consider: The amount of greenhouse gasses that escape from the ocean into the atmosphere via open water at the Pole. They could measure the amount of CO2 and methane without needing to trudge and tempt hungry polar bears, seeking open water. They didn’t have to even leave their ship. And surely such data is interesting, in it’s way. (Not to me, much, but likely to others.)
However the fact the sea-ice began breaking up around the ship, despite temperatures being below normal, also awoke other scientists to something bumpkins like myself understood years ago: Open water at the Pole can occur even in the coldest conditions, if the winds are right. This was known by Navy captains aboard submarines under the ice way back in the 1950’s. But it is nice to see what was Truth then is still Truth now, and that young whippersnappers are still able to raise an index finger, say Eureka, and see the Truth.
However, as delightful as science is, some aboard the ship must attend to more banal subjects, such as survival, and the stressing and crack-up of the sea-ice did not make life easy for such people. Nor did a thing called, “The Corona Virus”, occurring to the south.
The crack-up of the sea-ice complicated matters, for the next delivery of supplies was planned to be by air, with aircraft landing on a nice blue-ice airstrip on a nice plate of sea-ice, but the stormy weather cracked the ice. So of course those in charge of logistics made plans to fix the airstrip by extending one side of the broken floe’s rump-of-an-airstrip, and they were busily at work when they heard maybe the idea of delivering by air was a bad idea, because some involved in the flights “tested positive”, and it might be a bad idea to introduce the Corona Virus to the Polarstern and MOSAiC expedition. Instead it might be wise to drift down to Fram Strait with the supplies they had, and be helped down there by an icebreaker, if need be. And after that a silence descended, concerning logistics, I suppose because the slightest hint the expedition was being tested or in trouble might result in sensationalist headlines. Such attention would be quite the bother, when you want to gather data about methane escaping through cracks in the Arctic Sea.
I suspect there is very cool story involved, for when you compare the above picture with the picture below, you just know the ice has been through a commotion.
The scientists aboard the ship have seen first hand how, even at very low temperatures, open water can appear. They have also witnessed how swiftly such water freezes over, and how the sides of such leads then can clap together and form pressure ridges. Air temperature matters little, concerning sea-ice, for what is here today can be gone tomorrow. Open water can appear and then disappear in the blink of an eye. (View from MOSAiC radar.)
Of course bumpkins like myself knew about all this years ago, using data gathered by our lying eyes from much, much cheaper cameras on much, much cheaper buoys, but I will confess it is good to get some affirmation from people who have actually gone up there and put their lives on the line, and don’t just sit on fossilized duffs gazing at computer screens like I do (when my wife lets me).
I confess I worry just a bit about those men and women up there, but I am glad I don’t have to set up equipment connected by cables in minus fifty windchill, only to see cables snapped by some dumb lead. Instead I merely concern myself with whether the sea-ice is moving that cast of characters towards escape in Fram Strait, lickity-split. And so far, so good.
(See drift of buoys associated with MOSAiC at end of post.)
Speaking as a poet and not a scientist, one thing I noticed when I was young and foolhardy, and went to sea and found myself in over my head, is that I escaped with my life. At times I could take no credit for my escapes, and had the sense kindly guardian angels watched over me. (Either that, or a man born to be hung cannot drown.) I get the same sense watching the isobars in the maps below. Perhaps it is merely the arctic cooling the North Atlantic as the AMO shifts from a “warm” phase to a “cold” phase, but it is handy if you are in an ice-bound boat up there, and want to be blown down to Fram Strait. I’ve watched the drift of ice up there a lot over the years, and often noticed “wrong way” flows where the sea-ice is bottled up and prevented from moving to Fram Strait, but this year the Trans Polar Drift seems especially accelerated, which may turn out to be good news for the fellows aboard the Polarstern.
I’m not going to comment on the maps much, except to note you can see the storms prefer the Eurasian side, and also see air from the south swirled and cooled as it heads towards the Pole, but the Pole start its yearly warm-up.
The Pole continues to lose more heat than it gains until mid May, roughly a month before the solstice. In the winter it can only gain heat from south winds and the water under the ice, but now the addition of sunshine, riding ever higher in the sky, tips the energy-balance toward a point where, for roughly sixty days, the North Pole actually gives the planet more heat than it loses. (If it were a flat, dry desert it would become baking hot, but fortunately our Creator designed a nifty refrigeration system up there.)
Don’t get April-fooled, and stay tuned.
UPDATE: Below see drift of buoys associated with MOSAiC expedition down towards Fram Strait.
This episode is interesting because it demonstrates the sea-ice is thicker than exspected up towards the Pole. The Kapitan Dranitsyn, in successfully resupplying the MOSAiC expedition, was forced to plow through thick sea-ice at times, seeking the thinner refrozen leads, and consumed far more fuel than expected. It did not have enough fuel to plow its way back to Russia. (One does not want the gas gauge too close to empty, up on the Arctic Sea, for the fuel must be used for heating as well as powering the engines. At some point one must chose between powering forward and avoiding freezing to death.)
When it became apparent Kapitan Dranitsyn did not have enough fuel to make it back the Admiral Makarov was sent north to refuel it. After the ships met refueling took three days. I am curious how they handle diesel at temperatures when it tends to jell, (and it becomes obvious why the Russians turned to nuclear powered icebreakers.)
Rather than poking fun at the Russian’s struggles with the especially thick ice and especially cold temperatures, I tend to marvel that they can travel through the Arctic Sea in the dead of winter. The United States has no such ships nor such experience. I’m not sure of the state of the “Space Race”, but Russia is winning the Ice Race.
The MOSAiC site was hit by strong winds from another big storm in Barents Sea, and a lead formed that intersected the ship.
This crack should be handy, for they have been trying to study the gases released from the water in such leads, which involved dangerous hikes far from the ship. Now they hardly have to leave the Polarstern at all. However I wonder what stresses this puts on the ship’s hull.
Likely some Alarmists will suggest such a crack proves the sea-ice is thinner, but such leads open and then clap shut (forming pressure ridges) all over the Arctic Sea every winter, and by spring it is hard to find flat areas of sea-ice large enough for blue-ice airstrips.
The storm that stressed the sea-ice by the Polarstern did bring some slightly warmer air north, but temperatures remain cold up there. The coldest temperatures have swung around to the Atlantic side, and though a bit above the 1958-2002 mean overall, they remain colder than they’ve been in recent years as a zonal flow keeps the cold locked in the north.
It looks to me as if we are past the peak, in terms of sea-ice “extent”. It is the highest it has been in recent years.
I should hasten to add that there are various reasons that this “maximum” can foster an illusion, But I’ll not be hasty. After all, if this extent was the lowest in recent years, Alarmists would be making a big deal and exaggerating the importance. Instead, this year we hear crickets. Let’s listen to them for a bit.
Cheep-cheep, cheep-cheep, cheep-cheep. All right, that’s enough. I’ll now attempt to look like I’m giving the Alarmists some ammunition, by pointing out that “extent” alone does not tell us how solid and thick the ice is. In fact 2007 had a rather high maximum extent, despite the fact there were already indications that the September minimum was going to be low and might set a record (which it did, until 2012 broke it.)
2007 saw a great flushing of sea-ice down through Fram Strait, which temporarily increased the “extent” in the Greenland Sea as it all headed south. “Extent” actually rose though that sea-ice was doomed to head south and melt. There was also initially no sign how much less ice was left behind, in terms of “extent”, because all the wide leads were skimmed with thin baby-ice, which counted as much as thick ice on the “extent” graph. However that baby-ice melted swiftly when the summer sun reached its high-point in the arctic, (when temperatures have always averaged above freezing for roughly sixty days, as far as DMI records go.) (1958) In 2007 the result was the “extent” went from the relatively high 2006 totals to the 2007 record low.
In conclusion, a high extent at the maximum in March doesn’t necessarily mean a high extent at the minimum in September. One needs to look more deeply.
Unfortunately, some Alarmists fail to look all that deeply, and can’t really remember the 2007 event and what changes the Arctic has seen since then. For example, consider this statement from a BBC article posted last fall, when the MOSAiC Expedition was first being set up:
“But what is becoming clear is that the sea ice is getting more dynamic because of climate change. Up until the 1980s and 1990s, the Arctic sea ice was thick and slow-moving. As the ice has thinned, its motion has become faster, more turbulent and more varied. This motion pulls the ice into a vicious cycle of melting.
“The problem is that the ice is moving faster,” says Haapala. “The floes themselves are not staying in the Arctic for such a long time.” As a result, the ice doesn’t have time to grow thick, so it moves even faster, spending even less time at high latitudes – and so it begins the runaway cycle. Add to that the extra cracking of thinner ice, which opens up more stretches of relatively warm water, and the pace of change steps up further.”
Personally I’ve been watching the sea-ice since 2005, and have not seen the sea-ice move like it did in 2007 since 2007. (The low extent of 2012 involved different dynamics brought about by a major summer gale.) To be precise, since 2007 the ice has moved slower. It is disingenuous to state otherwise. Sea-ice may be moving faster than it did in 1979, but 1979 was the end of a “cold” cycle of the AMO, and the sea-ice was especially thick. Now we are at the end of a “warm” cycle of the AMO, and the ice is thinner and to some degree more mobile, but as the cycle moves back to a “cold” cycle the ice will come back just as the tide comes back. To speak of a “runaway cycle” is like saying the tide is going out and will continue to go out forever.
Another version of the “runaway cycle” is the so-called “Death Spiral”, which has failed to manifest. I’ve been pointing out how it has failed to manifest until I’m blue in the face. This has been going on for years. This is from 2008:
And this is from 2009:
And here we are eleven years later and the “Death Spiral” looks like this:
Because the extent was failing to show less sea-ice, in 2017 the idea was floated that the sea-ice was thinner, and the focus became the “volume” maps, (which involve modelling and are problematic,) but now even the PIOMAS “volume” graph is failing to show thinner ice.
It looks to me like after sea-ice amounts sunk due to the “warm” PDO and “warm” AMO, those amounts arrived at a sort of equilibrium. Could it not be like the “pause” we see when the tide has stopped going out, but hasn’t started coming in again?
I like to lurk about Alarmist sites, keeping my big mouth closed by my eyes and ears open wide, so I can comprehend what they are telling themselves to sustain their beliefs despite all evidence to the contrary. Recently I came across a splendid excuse, (which I can greatly appreciate, because fifty years ago a hush would fall upon my Algebra class when it came time for me to explain to the teacher why I had no homework to hand in).
I read that the “volume” graph is rising because Global Warming is causing glaciers to calve more ice into the oceans. No data nor evidence was offered, but it sure sounded good.
Mean temperatures north of 80º latitude at the Pole have shifted from the warmest of the winter to the coldest of the winter.
This plunge in temperatures from zero to -23º F (-18º to -30º Celsius) occurred due to a reversion to a zonal pattern we’ve seen a lot of, this winter. The spike occurred due to the only real invasion of slightly moister and milder air the Pole has seen this winter, due to a North Atlantic gale roaring up to Barents Sea, and then its remnants drifting up to the Pole. We even saw a brief incarnation of “Ralph” (Anomalous area of low pressure) at the Pole, with the typical “feeder band” of milder air curving up to its core.
As usual, my computer vaporized the next week’s worth of maps, so you are going have to to take my word for what followed. The “Ralph” in the above map filled in and its feeder band chilled in the arctic night. The following North Atlantic gale, just south of Iceland in the above map, is named “Rap” because it eventually wrapped around the Pole. Rap made it up to Barents Sea as the last in a series of extra large storms, but then could make no headway to the north, and instead rode along the north coast of Siberia. Rather than a feeder-band curving to the north, a sort of spear of milder air drove west to east along the Siberian coast, providing a pathway for lesser lows, and a week later the maps looked like this, with Rap weaker and northeast of the Laptev Sea, leading the “spear” of milder air along the Siberian coast:
These “spears”, that somehow are able to cross the enormity of Eurasia and reach the Pacific, always fascinate me. The mild air is of course modified colder by the time it gets to the Pacific, but its identity survives and it is nothing like the brutally cold air which Siberia home-grows when left alone. I’ve seen such spears further south, crossing the Steppes, and have noticed there is often a counter-flow further south, a sort of backwash which brings east winds and cold air to places which don’t usually see it, such as Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia did shiver as this spear of sub-freezing but relatively mild air swept west to east along the arctic coasts of Eurasia. (Also Kazakhstan, south of Russia, saw record snows).
Though Rap weakened, the isobars remain fairly tight ahead of it. This brought south winds ahead of Rap, and, as we have seen all winter, sea-ice was pulled away from the Siberian coast and crushed north into the Central Arctic. The Polynyas that form at the coast in such cases swiftly skim over with “baby-ice”, so the “extent” graph showed no dramatic drops, and remained at a level higher than recent years.
While this “extent” is the highest in five years and likely depresses Alarmists a lot, it is important to remember the sea-ice is quite thin along the Siberian coast, and actually looks dark, almost like open water, in visible satellite shots. For example, here is the coast of the Kara Sea:
Though such thin ice counts on the “extent” graph, it likely will melt swiftly in May, and the Northeast Passage will likely open early, at least to the mouth of the Lena River in the Laptev Sea. In fact all the lilac areas on the NRL thickness map are likely to be sea-ice that is tenuous and fleeting, as the sun rises.
What will be interesting to watch is the Central Arctic, where all the sea-ice has been pushed north to. (I’m not sure I trust the above NRL map, as it shows ice 6 feet thick where the DMI map (which hasn’t updated since February 17) shows ice 12 feet thick.) The sea-ice there is thickening even as I write, as it has gotten so cold there.
Another indication the sea-ice might be pretty thick is that the Russian beast-icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn took around two weeks longer than expected to resupply the MOSAiC expedition’s ship, Polarstern. (The polar night is giving way to twilight up there, and I’m hopeful we’ll soon get some good sea-ice pictures).
A crack appeared in the blue-ice airstrip serving the MOSAiC site, but I’ve noticed they are speaking of leads a meter or two across, and not the wide leads we’ve seen with infrared satellites other years, which on occasion have been many miles across.
Of especial interest is all the observing the MOSAiC scientists have been doing under the ice.
I can recall that, not many years ago, the Arctic Sea was called a “desert” away from the shores, because it was assumed it was relatively sterile away from coasts, like other oceans are. (It was assumed that if the sea-ice melted away from the fertile shorelines that seals and polar bears would starve.) Recently it was discovered that enough plankton and algae lives on the underside of the sea-ice to feed a whole ecosystem, including arctic cod, far from land. However then some assumed this ecosystem must go into a sort of hibernation during the winter, when lack of sunlight hypothetically would decrease the food supply. However the MOSAiC observations indicate the arctic cod are active in the darkness, and there are even seals hunting those cod in the dead of winter, which indicates there must be enough cracking of the ice to supply the seals with air-holes. This goes to show you how eyes-on-the-ground are still important, and not everything can be seen by imaginative minds sitting at computers.
They are also doing some interesting work to study the “turbulence” under the ice. Using the word “turbulence” may be a bit of an overstatement, but it does show minds open to the idea mixing occurs as ice with “keels” is blown against the flow of sub-ice currents. I expect interesting data will emerge from this escapade.
To return to the building cold at the Pole, a scan of the next week’s maps show Rap weakening but retaining its identity as it continues east north of Bering Strait and wanders north of Alaska and then Canada, before finally fading into the Canadian Archipelago. While the “spear” does curve around with Rap, it loses much of its heat in the process. Cold builds at the Pole itself as no “feeder-bands” probe north (unless you count a very cold feeder-band Rap swung clear around the Pole, that curved north of the Canadian Archipelago).
It is also interesting that the North Atlantic has been quieter, (though a fairly decent gale crashed into England, south of the area these maps show.) But of especial interest is the way Rap dislodged the high pressure which has been sitting over Bering Strait much of this winter, clawing that high-pressure over to Alaska and then Canada. That high has been a de facto center-of-the-Polar-Cell much of the winter, in a sense displacing the zonal flow to the Pacific side, like a beret worn by the Earth at a jaunty angle. Displacing it into Alaska represents a noteworthy wobble, a “disturbance in the Force”, and made me more alert, however so far what has seemed to happen is that a new center-of-the-Polar-Cell has formed over the Pole itself, as if the Earth sobered up and straightened its beret.
When the former Bering Strait high-pressure was budged into Alaska the winds in Bering Strait became southerly, but there wasn’t much warming brought north before a new high-pressure pushed in from Siberia, turning the winds in the Strait north again. So much cold air has poured south, and east off Siberia, that the “Warm Blob” south of Alaska is greatly shrunken, and the Pacific is shifting to a “cold” PDO.
On his blog at Weatherbell Joseph D’Aleo produced a map which shows the change in anomalies since November 1. It is somewhat startling how significantly the Pacific has cooled.
I did not expect the PDO to dive so dramatically:
If the PDO remains “cold” one thing to watch for (which has happened in the past) is a failure of the sea-ice north of Bering Strait to melt away in August, which can make a considerable difference to the “extent” graph at the September minimum. Even as the sea-ice vanishes swiftly on the Eurasian coast, especially west of the Lena River, we may see the sea-ice persisting east of the Lena and north of Alaska. The minimum would be higher than recent years.
Will I bet good money on it? Well, maybe a nickle.