The Pole is bipolar (what we used to call manic-depressive). The heaven of a day six months long gives way to the hell of a night six months long. The wonderfully mad people who wander about in such extremes are wonderfully swayed, and even the primmest scientists, who like to fool themselves into believing they are objective and rational and unaffected, are prone to showing signs of being moody like the rest of us.
The moodiness leaks into the writing and postings of those who sail icy waters or attempt to trek across the ice. In the brilliance of July we used to get glimpses of their manic ecstasy: Odd pictures of nudists on sea-ice. There was little of that last summer, with the world derailed with the coronavirus nonsense. But the Pole ignored us, and went about it’s business of thawing and then refreezing more or less as usual.
There were of course the slight variations which fanatics like myself like to focus on, and make a big deal about. The thaw started a little earlier and lasted a little longer than usual.
This interested me, as the exact opposite was true down at latitude 42 degrees, where I live in New Hampshire. We had a late frost in the spring and an early freeze in the fall, which made our growing season one of the shortest I can remember. Was the cold air displaced from the Pole to more southerly latitudes? I have not the time to do such research, so I just cast the idea out there, in a sense delegating the work to young whippersnappers who have the time and inclination.
I once was such a young person, and in fact one reason I have no pension and must work in my old age is because I took my retirement when young. I did a ton of research when young, rather than getting a Real Job. Surely there are still youths such as I once was, able to study obscure stuff (other than how to win video games).
This past coronavirus summer I could find no crazy whippersnappers attempting to sail the Northwest Passage, or trek across the ice, or set a new record and achieve a new first, such as making it to the Pole on pogo-sticks, but the dearth was redeemed by the MOSAiC Expedition. This bunch of crazies consisted of scientists copying Nansen, and drifting across the Pole in a ship frozen into the ice. They did all sorts of stuff I have been delegating to others, over the past decade. For example, where I said we should take temperatures, they took temperatures. And where I said we should put cameras, they put cameras. If our planet was sane, we would already have heaps of wonderful data made clear in well-written articles, rather than long lists of numbers.
But our world isn’t sane, so besides walking on dangerous sea-ice, the scientists had to, and have to, walk on eggs, in terms of politics. Some of the international team were from China, and one needs to have care about speaking the Truth when one’s leaders are not fond of the Truth. Also one must be careful about denying the theory of Global Warming, for political reasons, no matter what the data says. To top it off, the Coronavirus panic hit the world when the scientists were far from the maddening crowds, snug aboard a warm ship in the deep dark of a frozen arctic winter, and they had to be careful about commenting about how the rest of us panicking people looked, from afar. Yet, despite the fact they had to so careful about ludicrous things, they still gathered wonderful reams of information we never knew before. Their eyes sparkle, as they know more than they are allowed to say. I look forward to their discoveries leaking out.
To return to the above graph, one can see that the temperatures were actually below normal, by a hair, through much of the summer. In my eyes they were not below normal enough. Why? Because the sun has been very “quiet”, and the Pole is a place where low energy from the sun should be especially obvious. The Pole “should” be colder, whereas other places “should” be warmer, as I see things.
It is counter-intuitive that less energy from the sun should make the world warmer, but that is only because we tend to think less energy must be measured by thermometers. It is also measured by oedometers, for less energy from the sun makes less wind. Less wind makes for less up-welling of cold water where winds are offshore. Less cold water makes for more warm water at the surface of our oceans, and a warmer planet.
The only exception to this “rule” (actually a theory) is the Pole, where the sea is covered in ice and upwellings are not brought about by wind, especially when the sun first rises in late March, and sea-ice is at its maximum and the Arctic Ocean is totally covered. Therefore, because the Arctic Ocean is the one place on earth where wind has little influence, it should be the one place on earth where we see the sunshine of a “quiet” sun make things colder (during the summer when the sun shines). And this is exactly what we have seen, in recent years……until last summer.
I have the sense a change is in the wings. The counter-intuitive situation was a temporary adjustment, but now will become more intuitive. After all, the very word “counter-intuitive” means something is violating our common sense. And it goes against our common sense that less energy from the sun should make us warmer.
In a sense the planet has been borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, using warm surface waters to pay a debt created by the “quiet” sun. This can only go on so long before the debt catches up with the bank account. The surface waters use up whatever surplus heat they had to spare, and things return to a new normal where once again upwelling of cold water can occur. And so it is that, after a long lapse, we are again seeing the periodic upwelling called “La Nina”.
It should take a while for this sudden appearance of colder-than-normal water on the equator in the Pacific to work north to the Pole. The north Pacific still remembers the kinder times. And the Pole is still under the influence of kinder times, so we should expect low levels of sea-ice at the minimum. But, though the levels were indeed low, we are faced with a disconcerting problem.
What is the problem? Well, first let me show levels are low, (but up from 2012).
What is puzzling is that, though the sea-ice covers a low area of “extent”, the sea-ice that remains is surprisingly thick. Usually much of the remaining “volume” of sea-ice is piled up against the north coast of Greenland, in a narrow strip, but this year that thick ice is absent, yet “volume” does not show a down-tick, for the sea-ice between Canada and the Pole is quite thick.
In essence what we have seen over the past year is the sea-ice be pushed from the Eurasian side of the Pole to the Canadian side, creating more open water than we are used to on the Eurasian side, and ice thicker than we are used to on the Canadian side. This polarizes Alarmists and Skeptics (ha ha) because the Alarmists can make a big deal about the open water as the Skeptics make a big deal about the thicker ice.
The only thing I am certain about is that the good ship “Arctic Death Spiral” has taken another torpedo. It actually keeps sinking like the Titanic each year, but some people make a boat be a basketball, and it bounces back up to a yearly resurrection, only to be sunk yet again.
This year the torpedo involves all the thicker ice between Canada and the Pole being so-called “multiyear-ice”, which, as I hope you remember, we were suppose to see less and less of, according to the Arctic Death Spiral theory. But reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated, and this year multi-year has made a come-back. Unless some sort of major flushing of sea-ice south through Fram Strait occurs during the winter, by next spring there will be a solid core of sea-ice between nine and twelve feet thick between Canada and the Pole, which will make it all the harder for the ice to melt away next summer. (It may even represent the core of the beginning of a so-called “recovery” back to cold AMO ice-extent-levels such as we saw in 1979).
Not that my original objections to the Arctic Death Spiral theory needed to be validated by increases in sea-ice. Originally my focus was Greenland Vikings, and certain evidence that Greenland was much warmer in the Medieval Warm Period, and the idea the Arctic Sea may even have been wide open during some summers, back then. It took the dread out of the “Death” in “Arctic Death Cycle” if we’d already been there and done that, and hadn’t become extinct. In fact it made an ice-free Arctic Sea look like a good thing, and part of a kinder and gentler climate.
The backlash I earned simply by talking about Vikings tanning in the sun of a warmer Greenland came as a shock, for I discovered I was a “denier” and “wingnut”. It awoke me from my naïve innocence to the fact I was not dealing with science, but the dogma of radical politics.
It did not take me long to suspect the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Mark Serreze, was promoting not science, but rather a “narrative”, and that someone behind the scenes was forking out big money and a cushy position to make it worth Mark’s while. He was apparently paid to generate hoop-la about an Arctic Death Spiral. That hoop-la, and not science, became his job. Of course, if you pointed out any science which countered the hoop-la, they needed to make a racket to drown out your calm and rational voice. They also often labeled you in some way that allowed them to escape the fact they couldn’t debate worth a damn. One magic phrase they use was “conspiracy theory”, and to this day they continue to whip that accusation out, if you so much as question. Whenever you hear that phrase, and especially when you are accused of it, you should be alerted to the fact you are dealing with a mind that doesn’t want to debate. It is tantamount to muttering, “balderdash”, (which may express honest emotion, but scores no points, in a true debate).
As far as I can tell, the purpose behind preferring hoop-la to truth is money, which gains power, which gains more money, which gains more power, on and on with the money and power gathered in the same insane manner some women collect thousands of shoes in their closet. The besotted have more than they need or know what to do with, and, because such hoarding is disconnected from Truth and in fact opposes Truth, it degrades the quality of their life. They become pitiful.
However before I become too haughty I should fully disclose I’ve never really been tempted by large amounts of money and a cushy position. Would I myself pass such a test? There is only one way to find out. Drop by tomorrow and offer me a large amount of money and a cushy position.
In actual fact I have quibbled about ice cubes bobbing about in the Arctic Ocean for nigh on two decades, without pay. It makes me wonder: What’s in it for me?
Initially I liked the beauty of the sweeping views, and my pay was the same pay I get from watching clouds cruise across the sky. Added to that was the sense of adventure I got, never leaving my armchair, as I read about Vikings and explorers like Nansen. Also, back when science was actually discussed, I derived a sense of wonder as I learned how harmonious chaotic systems can be; it is hard to call chaos chaotic when looking at the sweeping swirls of a cyclone.
However increasingly I ran into the iceberg called “the narrative”, which is quite effective when it comes to sinking a buoyant mood. An Arctic sunset is beautiful, lasts two weeks, and is uplifting. I can’t say the same about Mark Serreze.
In my gloomier moods I tend to think I have wasted a lot of time, arguing about sea-ice. I likely would have been better off doing something more constructive, such as knitting. But in another sense perhaps this all has been practice for the battle of our lives.
One thing I have noticed over the past twenty years, both in terms of discussions about sea-ice and in terms of politics in general, is that the besotted have become increasingly besotted. The appetite for money and power seems insatiable, when not governed by Truth. The bribe which once seemed enough to diminish craving instead feeds a increase of craving, and one wants to double the dose. One wants more and more money and power, until one starts to want more than a sane person wants, at which point one starts to desire other people’s money and other people’s power. One wants to tax others and take away their liberty, which increasingly violates a certain component of Truth we don’t understand scientifically, called “Love”. In essence as soon as one steps into the webs of deceit they sell their soul to the devil, and become involved in a death spiral having nothing to do with ice.
Over the past twenty years I’ve watched certain scientists battle this insidious trap, which usually begins with a harmless-seeming compromise. Scientists need funding, and to gain it some will exaggerate a little, telling a little white lie for the sake of supporting their family and their staff. In some cases they are aglow when they first get the grant, and gain the power to go to the arctic landscape they adore, but that glow fades. I’ve watched them over the years. Their faces harden and become cynical, and in some cases they start to look ill. The compromise eats away at them, and in a few glorious cases they can’t abide the dishonesty and eventually blow a gasket, and go from being spokesmen of the Global Warming narrative to people you never hear about any more, unless you look very hard, whereupon you discover them posting on an obscure blog from a remote location in Siberia. It does not pay to bite the hand that feeds you, (especially when it’s a Stalin’s. Few return from Siberia like Solzhenitsyn did).
What is fascinating to me is how much of this suffering can be avoided when people, risking being called naïve chumps and suckers, simply stand by the Truth. They are neither tempted by money and power, nor bullied by belittling, and stand their ground. It is especially odd that standing still seemingly gets them somewhere. Truth seems inanimate and cold to some, but, perhaps because It includes Love, Truth seems to have a way of guiding and even protecting people who make It their guru.
Truth also has the benefit of obeying certain laws, such as the law of gravity, which it pays to attend to, and which you violate running the risk of crashing. Engineers who ignore the Truth will build stuff that crashes, and the same holds true for people who ignore the Truth in areas where the eventual crash is not so obvious, such as politics.
In any case, over the past twenty years I’ve watched things slowly build towards a crisis. On one side are those who stand by Truth, and on the other are those willing to disregard Truth for money and power. To think I originally turned to the topic of sea-ice as a way of escaping all the woes of the world!
I still turn to sea-ice for escape, for there is always much to wonder about. This year the refreeze of the huge area of open water along the entire Eurasian coast, nearly to the Pole and across Bering Strait, will be chance to see a situation which likely resembles the Medieval Warm Period in some respects. Having so much water open will allow upwellings which don’t usually occur, and changes to the stratification of the water. Even if the water freezes over by mid November, the usual “fresh water lens” atop saltier water will likely have been churned right out of existence. I delegate a great deal of study to whippersnappers, who must investigate how this reshuffling effects the various currents meandering under the growing sea-ice.
The MOSAiC expedition is doing exactly this. After the Transpolar Flow ejected them where the sea-ice breaks up south of Fram Strait, they powered up their good ship Polarstern and motored back north, sticking to the more open waters of the Eurasian side, and then planted themselves back in the sea-ice to enjoy the ride down towards Fram Strait a second time, and also to take careful observations of what actually happens when the ocean refreezes. They have all sorts of good gadgets, which enables them to measure salinity and temperature and which-way-and-how-fast-the-water-is-flowing at various levels under the ice. Their data will be freely displayed as long lists, and hopefully I’ll eventually learn how to read it; (currently I can’t make heads nor tails of it). But what is most wonderful is that they gather actual data, which on many occasions has surprised them, as it differed from what they expected, which is the theory which is entered into computers and is called “modeled data.”
I am not as surprised as they seem that the “modeled data” is proven wrong. The people programing the computer are paid by benefactors who desire a certain “narrative”, and it is hard to not display a sort of bias when you might get fired if the computer model disagrees with the boss. Computers tend to agree with the boss paying for the electricity, but the actual North Pole works for a different boss, called Truth. It doesn’t care a fig for any mortal’s money or power. It does what it does, and usually what it does is beautiful.
One thing the MOSAiC scientists uncovered was that the air right next to the sea-ice is colder than modeled, which likely explains why (back when we could watch with the O-buoy cameras) we saw meltwater pools freezing over when our satelite-and-computer-generated maps showed temperatures above freezing. But they also have been discovering stuff hidden from our prying eyes, in the waters under the ice. Besides all the critters and festoons of algae I mentioned in earlier posts, they are discovering unexpected turbulence.
As I understand it, nine-tenths of an iceberg is under water, so than when you see a pressure ridge six feet high wandering across the top of the ice, it is matched by a sort of keel sticking down fifty-four feet under the ice. When this keel is pushed through the water as the ice is moved by wind, it acts like a spoon stirring the sea. Apparently this was not considered when the modeling was done for waters under the ice.
This seems to suggest that perhaps those who fund scientists should stop telling the scientists what they are expected to find, and instead to allow them to discover the Truth. For the Truth is something very nice to chance upon, in this rough old world: It is true.
Also it is beautiful.