ARCTIC SEA ICE –Slack Tide–

I prefer to contemplate arctic sea-ice in July. It is my summertime escape from inland heat and humidity, because I can’t escape to the shore,  as I could as a spoiled child with a father rich enough to afford a seaside summer-house. But in dark December, when the arctic is lurking outside my front door, (and sometimes even inside my drafty old house), rather than contemplating sea-ice I prefer to contemplate being young and spoiled, and wearing nothing but a bathing suit for days on end,  brown as a nut because sixty years ago mothers didn’t fret about skin cancer.

What does this have to do with sea-ice? Well, as a boy I was so glad to escape the snobby suburbs I wanted nothing to do with snobs at the sea-side, and therefore had an aversion to having anything to do with sailboats. Sailboats seemed the territory of snobs. Instead my joy was rowing about in a tiny dingy, and this made me aware of the currents caused by the tides, which could make my rowing easy or difficult, depending on whether they were with me or against me. Because I was aware of whether tides were ebbing or flooding, I also became aware of a brief poise between the two states, called “slack tide”.

In the simplistic thoughts of a boy it seemed “slack tide” should be easy to calculate, because it would be the moment the tide stopped rising and started to fall. I soon realized “slack tide” wasn’t as simple as it seemed.

For example, when I desired to dip-net for blue-claw-crabs in a tidal marsh I’d row my little boat down a cove’s shore to a delta of sand, seashells and gravel, where the tidal stream was exiting the marsh through a gully that penetrated a sandbar. I’d have to hop out and drag my dingy up the braided stream to where the braids came together in a single channel under a little foot bridge. Looking back to the cove, I could see the tide was starting to rise and cover the very bottom of the delta, but looking into the marsh, I could see the water was still flowing out, and would continue to flow out for more than an hour before the tide rose to the footbridge, and “slack tide” would occur at the bridge as the water stopped flowing out and started flowing in.

I’d dip for crabs in the deeper places where the stream scoured against the outer banks of curves in the meandering channel, trying to keep in mind the tide was changing. Being a boy, such memos often were misplaced in the jumble I called thought, and as I paddled I’d suddenly notice the current becoming slack. This meant I’d have to paddle against the current on my way out, and also that, when I had to hop out and pull my boat by its painter over shoals, or through narrows where the current was strong, the water wouldn’t be sun-warmed and pleasant, but uncomfortably cold.

Interesting things happened when that slack water moved upstream. For example, if you you stood on that little footbridge after dark and shone a flashlight down, you might see a large striped bass, forty or even fifty pounds, venturing inland with the current. Out over the marsh you could hear a odd, popping sound which I was never sure whether was the striped bass, or the eels they hunted.

I was becoming a decent naturalist, for age eleven, but just then my parents decided they didn’t like having a summer house and would rather give their money to lawyers, so they got a divorce. (Not that I have anything against divorce between consenting adults, but by law the boy should get to keep the summer house.)

But now let me return from warmth, and summer, and the halcyon days of a long lost youth, to the bitter business of winter and arctic sea-ice. A sort of slack tide is seemingly occurring at the Pole.

The “tides” affecting the Pole are numerous, due to the many variables involved in the chaos called “weather”.  The most obvious is the biannual shift from 24-hour sunshine to 24-hour darkness.  After a slack-tide period in the summer, when temperatures flat-line for roughly two months near or just above freezing, with little variation, they abruptly plunge nearly thirty degrees (Celsius) between September 10 and November 10. Then, during the winter, they flat-line again, albeit only in the averages. In reality there are dramatic shifts in temperature during the winter, as arctic air surges south as “arctic outbreaks,” and is replaced by maritime air flowing north from the Atlantic or Pacific.

Both the Atlantic and Pacific are effected by different “tides” that last roughly sixty years, called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). In their”cold” phases both cycles cool the waters in their northern reaches, causing sea-ice to expand south, which tends to cool maritime air coming north, which in turn tends to allow the sea-ice at the Pole to grow thicker. The differences  between the “tides” can be seen by comparing the polar temperature graphs of 1963 (left) with 2016 (right).

Roughly the change amounts to between a fifteen and twenty degree difference (Celsius) in winter temperatures at the Pole, which would obviously influence the amount of sea-ice that formed. However such polar temperatures should not be given the same “weight” as temperatures at the tropics, when calculating an “average” for the planet. Why not? Because winter air at the Pole is bone dry, whereas tropical air is downright juicy.

Humidity needs to be included, in any honest calculation of how much energy (and therefore “warming”) a unit of air holds. Unfortunately Alarmists calculate our planet’s temperature giving arctic air the same weight as tropical air, and much of the “Global Warming” we have witnessed since 1963 has been caused by bone dry air getting moister at the Pole during the depth of winter. This creates a false narrative, for the addition of the slightest amount of moisture to such bone dry air causes temperatures to rocket upwards the fifteen to twenty degrees which is so significant to Alarmist calculations. The same amount of moisture would make almost no difference to temperatures at the equator.

That being said, 2016 seems to represent a sort of “high tide” in the oscillation of such temperatures, and we may now be in a sort of “slack tide”, but just starting to edge downwards. (2016 left; 2019 right)

A third “tide” affecting sea-ice is the Sunspot Cycle.

Sunspot noaa prediction 30Jan19updateV2

We are currently at a sort of “low tide” between solar cycles 24 and 25, involving a cycle of roughly 11 years. We also may well be at a different “low tide” involving a period of roughly 200 years, with the last “low tide” being The Dalton Minimum, 200 years ago.

There is currently a lot of discussion about what the effect of low sunspot numbers actually means, and my conclusion is that the jury is still out. Alarmists like to state that the effect of the sun is minimal, for the radiance of the sun apparently only varies a tenth of a percent. However this variation is far larger than the variation of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is not one or two parts per thousand but one or two parts per million. I tend to feel that, in their eagerness to blame CO2, Alarmist ignore the changes in TSI (Total Solar Irradiance) in the same manner they ignore the huge difference in moisture in the air between the tropics and the arctic, and how that affects temperature.

While Alarmists agree a small thing can have a huge effect when talking about CO2, they dislike thinking a small change in the intensity of sunlight can have equally huge or perhaps greater consequences. This is especially true concerning situations that apparently are balanced on a hair, such as the alterations between El Nino conditions and La Nina conditions in the equatorial Pacific. A shift between an El Nino and a La Nina can have worldwide repercussions, yet are caused by changes so subtle they are very difficult to predict. Just as a small pebble may cause a huge avalanche, a slight change in the intensity of Trade Winds could shift an El Nino to a La Nada, or vice-versa. I often wonder if the slight decrease in energy reaching the earth when the TSI is at “low tide” could slightly decrease the Trade Winds, which could precipitate an El Nino, or prevent the development of a La Nina.

This would create a counter-intuitive result, namely that slightly less energy reaching the earth would not create slightly less heat, but rather would create warming, because El Ninos are associated with warming.

This solar-caused warming could in turn explain the failure of the PDO to turn to its “cold” phase in the expected manner, five years ago. The “rising tide” of the PDO is being masked by the “sinking tide” of the sunspot cycle. However the sunspot cycle is bottoming out, and soon it too will be rising. Perhaps the mask will soon be taken off.

This makes me a little nervous, for in certain situations a “slack tide” is anything but slack. For example, sometimes a rising tide at the mouth of a river is “masked” by a sandbar or jetty or jutting reef of rock, and water is kept back from entering the river except through a narrow channel. Then, as the tide keeps rising, the water starts to pour over the obstruction, and abruptly much more water enters the river and pushes upstream. If this surge is funneled by narrowing banks it can become a “tidal bore”, which is anything but boring. It can be a wall of water six feet high, and nothing you want to face in a small dingy. Yet all a tidal bore actually amounts to is a changing of the tide, and a very quick and condensed version of “slack water”.

I sometimes wonder if certain dramatic shifts in temperature seen in climatic history could involve similar dynamics. Various proxies derived from cores taken in icecaps and sea-bottoms indicate fairly stable temperatures which abruptly show a large rise or fall, without any visible rhyme or reason to explain the drama of the shift. Perhaps, just as a tidal bore resembles a tsunami yet requires no earthquake, sudden shifts in temperature require no earth-shaking event, but rather the slow rising of a “tide” to overcome whatever was resisting and “masking” it.

The expansion and decrease of sea-ice involves multiple variables. I’ve clumsily described  the seasons, the AMO and PDO, and sunspot cycles, but likely there are many more. There are multiple “tides”, sometimes working in conjunction and sometimes opposing each other. It seems to me the most dramatic changes would involve “tides” that were formerly opposed starting to work in conjunction. In such a situation opposition might create a calm, but it might be the calm before a storm.

This in turn can make a calm that might seem boring become very exciting. It might seem a bit cynical to distrust peace and quiet, like the sentries at night in a movie, who stand in the dark with the background music intensely suspenseful and ominous. The first sentry states, “It’s quiet…too quiet”. The second sentry states, “I agree. Trouble’s a-brewing, when they play this music.” (However rather than cynical and pessimistic, I prefer to see myself as possessing a certain enthusiastic zest for life).

The old-timers used to speak of a yearly “equatorial storm” which tended to occur around the fall and spring equinox. On these dates the Poles are shifting back and forth between six months of complete sunlight to six months of complete darkness, and it makes a sort of sense that the greatest flood and ebb tides should be occurring around these dates, creating the greatest contrasts between tropical and polar air, gross imbalances which must be balanced, creating hurricanes, typhoons, and monster North-Atlantic and North-Pacific gales. Once this imbalance is corrected things can quiet down into a sort of “slack tide”.

In my admittedly simplistic way of viewing things, a sign of imbalance is a loopy or “meridional” jet stream, which transports arctic air far south and tropical air far north. A sign that things are temporarily in balance is a “zonal” jet stream, which circles the planet in a flat manner, as cold air seemingly has no need to head south, nor does warm air need to head north.

Besides the jet stream being knocked out of balance by the fickle seasonality of the sun, other events can knock things out of kilter. For example, huge volcano eruptions apparently vomit so much ash into the atmosphere that the jet stream can become very loopy, attempting to balance things out. After two enormous eruptions between 1810 and 1815 (seen as ash in ice-cores in both Greenland and Antarctica) the jet stream became so wildly erratic that it apparently surged right across the Pole, from the Pacific into the Atlantic, in the process shoving an unprecedented amount of arctic sea-ice down into the North Atlantic. This caused the whalers up by Svalbard and northern Greenland to speak of Global Warming, as they saw no sea-ice to their north, while the people of Ireland shivered and spoke of Global Cooling, as icebergs grounded on their coasts, an event old-timers stated had never been seen before (nor since).

In terms of increasing the levels of sea-ice, a zonal flow that keeps the cold air up at the Pole is preferable. This not only allows the sea-ice to thicken, but also tends to flush less sea-ice south into the Atlantic. Unfortunately for those who hope to silence yakking, “sea-ice-Death-Spiral” Alarmists (by having a great growth of sea-ice manifest), the current quasi-zonal flow may mean we are now seeing the “calm before the storm”.

If you enjoy worry, most worrisome is the fact we are roughly fifteen years into a “Quiet Sun” period, and it was roughly fifteen years into the last Quiet Sun, (the Dalton Minimum), that volcanoes began popping off; (not merely the two super-volcanoes I mentioned, but many smaller ones as well.)  While I myself cannot claim to comprehend how something as gentle as a sunbeam can erupt volcanoes, scientists I respect suggest there is some correlation we don’t yet understand. Therefore, worry if you will.

Another worry you may enjoy is the fact the “rising tide” of the “cold” PDO has been opposed by the “falling tide” of a sunspot-cycle, creating a precarious sort of balance. Now, even though the next sunspot-cycle may be weak, the sunspot-tide will start rising, and it will start working in conjunction with the PDO. Meanwhile, across the arctic, the AMO is expected to be a tide that will stop falling and start rising, as a “warm” phase gives way to a “cold” one.  Having these three variables all shift and begin working in conjunction may be factors in some longer-term balancing act, but in the short term I suspect they will knock things very much out-of-balance, and cause some atmospheric reaction I certainly don’t dare forecast, but very much hope I live to see.

This is very dramatic talk, considering the current situation is rather dull. To be frank, the Pole is more zonal than I recall ever seeing during winter, in recent years. It’s Dullsville, Baby, Dullsville…….unless you are like me and suspect it is sort of calm before a storm.

What maps show is that high pressure basically parked at the Pole, and though it has wobbled about a bit it has refused to be knocked off the top of the planet by some rude “Ralph” (area of anomalous low pressure) attempting to be king-of-the-mountain. It has been a traditional “Polar Cell” and has behaved in a traditional manner, with lows about its edges.

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

I lost some maps due to a vile virus invading my computer, but here are the Danish Meteorology Institute  maps of the recent past. When I last posted on December 10 this was the situation:

At that point things were still fairly mobile, and the high pressure north of Canada represented a blob of cross-polar Siberian cold I expected would move south into North America. Some of it did, but not as a mighty high, but more as sneaky cold, bleeding south through Eastern Canada even as Pacific air fought its way into Western Canada. Over North America occurred a sort of state of confusion, with neither the warm Pacific Chinooks nor the Arctic Outbreaks winning, but both sides fighting to various standstills, and making life very hard but interesting for full-time weathermen. No so-called “pattern” would establish itself. Then my computer crashed, which explains six days of missing maps. When I staggered back to functioning on December 16 the maps show you didn’t miss much.

The low pressure north of Finland had moved to the Laptev Sea, as the gale by Iceland had weakened greatly and existed over  the Kara Sea. Most interesting was the high pressure over the Pole.  Some of it moved south into Canada, but the body stayed behind and, if anything can be called a “pattern”, it was the stubbornness of this high, so let’s call it “Stub.”

Stub stays stubborn, with lows wavering indecisively around it.

More of the same. “Feeder bands” from Pacific and Atlantic failing to fuel any sort of “Ralph”.

More of the same.

More of the same, but the first hints of “CC”,  a low developing over the Canadian Archipelago.

Stub over Pole. CC very disconcerting, as it is a cold-core low with no obvious feeder-bands.

High pressure over Hudson Bay perhaps feeding CC, but, if so, feeder-bands are not very obvious in isotherm map. Stub remains stubborn.

Same.

Three days later, and Stub is getting nudged off the Pole. What I find hard to explain is how CC can have colder air than Stub. (Because highs are suppose to be cold air sinking and pressing down, and lows are suppose to be warm air lifting up.) Elsewhere, note Atlantic feeder-band artificially spikes Pole’s temperature even as surrounding areas are very cold.

Note: Feeder-band are chilling and failing to form a “Ralph.”

Feeder-band perhaps growing low pressure northeast of Svalbard, pushing Stub towards East Siberia,  as CC is the coldest-cored arctic low I can remember seeing.

Feeder-band chilling swiftly, but has created a pathetic “Ralph” briefly at Pole, as  Stub cycles towards East Siberia. CC is very cold, but at least has the decency to develop a hint of a feeder-band.

36 hours later: Current Map; Stub seems to be exiting into East Siberia, and perhaps the slack-tide period is ending. CC is still whirling north of the Canadian Archipelago, perhaps venting arctic air down into Canada, and also into Bering Strait, which has swiftly iced-over. The feeder-bands have faded, showing how such air loses heat in the dead of winter. Perhaps the small low in Fram Strait will come north and be a “Ralph”, but for the time being the Pole has remained quiet, and has generated cold.

This quasi-zonal pattern has allowed sea-ice to grow without undue interruptions, especially in Bering Strait and Hudson Bay. (Thanks to Ron Clutz for animation).

This growth of sea-ice has allowed the “extent” graph to show levels zoom up from “the lowest in recent years” to “the highest in recent years”.

DMI 191227 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

But that ice isn’t coming south. What should concern us people-just-south-of-tundra is the cold air freezing that ice, kept north by the “slack tide” of a Quasi-zonal pattern. If things go a certain way, that building cold could rush south as a sort of “tidal bore”, and then it can be colder in southern locales than it is at the Pole, right into February.

If “historic” arctic outbreaks occur, you can expect to hear an uniquely backwards (but clever) argument from Alarmists. Rather than stating a zonal pattern creates more ice at the Pole, they will state more ice at the Pole creates a zonal pattern. (Never mind that we have just seen the opposite occur.) They state this because it allows them to state that, when a zonal pattern gives way to a meridional pattern, and cold air charges south, that the arctic outbreak is caused by less ice at the Pole. This allows them to say Global Warming makes us colder, even though only a decade ago they were saying our children would not know what snow looked like.

In actual fact we could be on the verge of dramatic cooling.

For example, suppose the Quiet Sun did slow the Trade Winds at the Equator, and suppress the up-welling of cold water, but then, as the Quiet Sun became more “noisy”, that suppression became less. And also suppose that the former suppression was opposing the PDO and keeping it from flipping to its “cold” phase.

Furthermore, suppose that the oppression of the PDO was not stopping its development, but rather was masking it on a superficial level. Even though the way we measure the PDO, with sea-surface-temperatures, showed the shift to from cold to warm wasn’t happening, suppose it was happening on levels we don’t measure, perhaps down in the deeps of the sea. If this was the case, then, when the Quiet Sun stopped opposing the PDO, the PDO would not need to start from scratch. Rather it would explode to its fullest magnitude, like a tidal bore charging a six foot wall of water up a river, even though no tide ever actually rises six feet all at once.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Cross-polar Switcheroo–UPDATED

In 5 1/2 days the flow of air up at the Pole went from Canada-to-Siberia (November 28, lower left) to Siberia-to-Canada (December 4, lower right.)

 

Personally I prefer Canada to export its cold air to Siberia, for that means there is less left over to freeze my socks off where I live,  south of the Canadian border in the state of New Hampshire. It seems to me that the last thing Canada needs during winter is the import of Siberian air.

I may be a bit prone to ranting about the subject of cold weather at the moment, as we have been at the center of a so-called “lollypop” on snowfall maps, and are dealing with 36 inches. (91 cm). It’s unfair, because the politicians in the capitals of Concord, New Hampshire 35 miles to our northeast, and Boston, Massachusetts 49 miles to our southeast, experienced less than six inches. If there was any justice they’d be the ones digging down three feet to get a stick of firewood, or even to get their mail. 

But maybe its for the best. If they had to deal with three feet of snow they’d likely invent some new tax or fee to deal with it, and never shovel a flake themselves.

I amuse myself by imagining what politicians would come up with. Perhaps they’d concoct a fee to supply every mailman with a snow-shovel to dig down to mailboxes with, but only a nickle of every dollar would reach the mailman, as 95 cents went to “administration”, which would of course involve the politician’s  Aunt Agnes and Cousin Waldo, plus anyone else who contributed to his reelection.  This alone explains why governments are so inefficient when they attempt to do what ordinary people do. When I shovel out my mailbox 100% of my energy goes into the job, but when politicians try to do the same job 95% goes to nepotism and cronyism, and the remaining 5% causes the Postal Workers to go on strike, for currently they refuse to deliver me my mail if my mailbox is under snow,  (even though I pay them to deliver it with my taxes),  and if you supply them with a shovel and tell them to deliver the damn mail even if it involves digging,  you will not only see no digging, but you will see no mail delivered.  In essence the entire tax-dollar is wasted.

In like manner, it seems my imagination is wasted, when I spend time on the antics of politicians. It seems far better to spend my imagination on the antics of clouds. Not only has the government not yet found a way to tax us for looking at clouds, (though they have invented a “view tax” to add onto the property taxes of houses on hills), but also clouds are 100% efficient, whether it is the cloud’s job to free the sunshine, or to dump three feet of snow on my mailbox.

One reason I look to the North Pole is because it gives me a heads-up to what my future may hold. It was good news that the cross-polar-flow went from Canada to Siberia, for it promised a break in the arctic outbreaks that afflicted us. But it is bad news that the cross-polar-flow has undergone the switcheroo. Mark my words, after a mild spell to start next week, the (bleep) is going to hit the fan around here, and I may manage very few posts about sea-ice, until spring.

One interesting thing about watching cross-polar-flow is that it doesn’t matter which way the air goes, it warms crossing the Arctic Sea. People tend to see the North Pole as the source of cold, but in actual fact the source is Tundra, and to a lesser extent Taiga.  Over Siberia temperatures can drop to -90 F, which gives us pretty pictures like this:

On Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, Anastasia Gruzdeva poses for a selfie as the temperature dropped to about 58 degrees below zero in Yakutsk, Russia.

However as that air is sucked towards Canada via cross-polar-flow one notes it swiftly warms, right at the surface, and the Central Arctic Basin seldom sees temperatures below -30ºF, very rarely sees temperatures below -40ºF, and never (that I have seen) reaches temperatures below -50ºF.

Meanwhile Alaska and northern Canada, though not as expansive as Siberia, can see temperatures below  -70ºF. When the cross-polar-flow  moves from Canada to Siberia, one again sees the surface temperatures rise.

What does this suggest? First, it suggests that the true sources of arctic cold are Northern Eurasia and Northern North America, and the Arctic Sea is actually a “heat-island” between two very cold places. Second, because the Arctic Sea is a “heat island” and because warm air rises, it must constantly be sucking air north to replace the air that rises.

If the air sucked north is from the Atlantic or Pacific, it is “maritime” air and slows the growth of sea-ice as it is relatively mild (though usually below freezing). But if the air sucked north is from Siberia or Canada it is “continental” and enhances the growth of sea-ice because it is very cold.  In simplistic terms all Alarmists should root for maritime air being sucked north while all Skeptics root for continental air being sucked north.

In actual fact the opposite may  be true. If you study the temperatures of air-masses,  it becomes obvious nothing squanders the planet’s heat as swiftly as a mild air-mass moving to the sunless Pole. In like manner, nothing preserves the planet’s heat as much as it’s coldest air never freezing lower latitudes, and instead being warmed over the Arctic Sea.

Some eloquent arguments  may then arise between those over-focused on sea-ice and those over-focused on air temperatures. Both are “wrong”,  for the situation is complex and involves multiple variables. One reason climate models fail is because they miss certain variables, or fail to give certain “weight” to certain variables, or even to vary the “weight” of variables (which creates varying variables). It is so complex it tends to give me a headache, so what I prefer to do is to make an overly simplistic forecast and then enjoy my failure. Fortunately no one is depending on my forecasts, for it frees me from blame and guilt, and, like a child at play, I think train wrecks are cool.

peter-arno-drawing-board-cartoon-new-yorker-1941-8x6

 

One train wreck in my forecasting has been due to attempting to see a pattern, when the pattern is a switcheroo pattern, which in essence is a lack of a pattern. If you try to base things on a Canada-to-Siberia flow then you get messed up when the pattern goes through a switcheroo and is the exact opposite 5 1/2 days later.

Another train wreck occurred because a pattern did persist even as things all around it were going through a switcheroo. What happened was that an upper air trough in eastern North America combined with a ridge to the west and brought a flow of arctic air persistently south, the first half of November.  Then this flow was interrupted by the Aleutian Low penetrating the ridge in the west, which allowed Pacific air to flood inland in Canada. What this usually means is that our north winds become noticeably milder, because it involves air from a different “source”.  That change was the “switcheroo”, but the arctic air wasn’t entirely banished from the north winds. Way over towards Greenland a thin ribbon of arctic air bled south, sneaking over the east side of Hudson Bay into Quebec. That was the “pattern that persisted”. Perhaps the arctic wasn’t breaking records and sending impressive blobs of high pressure south, (causing Texan ranchers to laconically drawl, “Nothin’ between here and the North Pole but a few strands of barbed wire an’ some cold cows.”) But the arctic flow persisted in the very east of Canada. That resulted in a personal train-wreck forecast, for that cold air was the reason that rather than rain we got three feet of snow.

If one is in the mood to be gloomy, that persistent drain of cold in the east of Canada, even when the west is flooded with Pacific air, does not bode well for the Great Plains and East of the USA. If it effects us even when the cross-polar-flow is Canada-to-Siberia, it will be far worse when the flow is Siberia-to-Canada. Our worst winters see the arctic sweep south down the east side of the Rockies, brew trouble by mixing with tropical air in the Gulf of Mexico, and send snowstorms up the east coast.  This early in the winter the Atlantic retains summer warmth, so the storms often contain rain or are all rain, but as the winter proceeds the big cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and even Washington D.C. get clouted, (and politicians get busy dealing with the climate by raising taxes).

Around here the last thing we want right now is rain. When you have three feet of snow on your roof the snow acts like a sponge in the rain, and the weight of all the wet snow can cause buildings to collapse. In fact I’m going to shovel the roof of my goat’s stable over the weekend. (When younger I made some extra money during bleak winters risking my neck in that manner, but now I just do it for survival, which I also call “fun”.)

There seems to be a lag of up to a week between events in Northern Canada and repercussions reaching us down here. A switcheroo up there leads to erratic weather down here. It’s still too early to be certain what the winter pattern will be. One looks for things to “settle down”, but one also is not entirely sure the switcheroo-pattern might not be THE pattern, and chaos will continue non-stop. Stay tuned.

(I’ll ad some graphs and the individual DMI polar isobar and isotherm maps later, when I find time. But now I have to go shovel a roof.)

*******

OK. Heavy rain is now reducing any snow that hasn’t been shoveled from local roofs, allowing me to scrutinize maps.

When I last posted a Aleutian Gale had been deflected north up the Siberian side of Bering Strait, (becoming “Hula Ralph #2”). The southerly gales up through Bering Strait actually pushed the expanding sea-ice backwards, increasing the open water (and warmer surface temperatures) north of Bering Strait. (Nov. 24 to left; Nov, 27 to right).

Sometimes these retreats of sea-ice can cause a dip in the extent graph, but in this example the decrease in the Chukchi Sea was more than matched by increases in the Kara and Greenland Seas and Hudson and Baffin Bay.

By November 29 Hula-Ralph #2 was rapidly weakening north of Alaska, and I was watching the next Aleutian Low to see if would follow the same path. Despite the vast impulse of Pacific air coming north through Bering Strait and across the entirety of Alaska, the Pole itself was still cooling, which was not what I expected. I expected the Pacific “feeder-band” to fuel more of a “Ralph” low north of the New Siberian Islands, but instead an Atlantic low strengthened at the top of Norway.

Over the next two days the Pacific influence continued to dwindle, to my surprise. The influx of pacific air cooled, precipitating very little snow, and the next Aleutian Low faded without coming north, though it did swing a secondary into Alaska. The Canada-to-Siberia cross-polar-flow was falling apart, but I still expected the Atlantic low to fade and high pressure to reassert itself on the Atlantic side, as all the Pacific air would allow low pressure to reassert on the Pacific side, resurrecting the Canada-to-Siberia flow.

The map of December 2 made a train-wreck of my expectations.

First, polar temperatures hit their lowest levels of the year, despite the huge invasion of Pacific air through Bering Strait. To be honest, the invasion seemed a spectacular flop. All the invasion seemed to accomplish was to lose an incalculable amount of heat to the arctic night.

Second, I failed to foresee the expansion of high pressure from Siberia, even as I failed to forecast the low pressure expanding north through Baffin Bay. A month ago a similar low moved right up to the Pole, but I had low confidence the current low could do the same, with the Siberian high advancing from the other side of the Pole. It seemed to me an irresistible force was meeting an immovable object, and I tend to avoid forecasting the outcomes of such affairs. 

The next day saw the two powers both stronger, and still at a stand-off, but the isobars between the two suggested the cross-polar-flow was completely reversed to Siberia-to-Canada.

The next day showed the Siberian high pressure won. Just as the Aleutian Low failed to penetrate north the prior week, and instead was deflected east, now the Baffin Bay low was deflected east into the Atlantic. The cross polar-flow was starting to suck in some milder Atlantic air through Fram Strait, creating a feeder-band north of Greenland.

One day later saw the high weaker, and a massive Atlantic storm strengthening. This storm had sub-950 mb and the power of a super-typhoon, but such beasts get little press, as there are not even shipping lanes that far north. But what does get press is temperatures at the North Pole, and this Icelandic Gale pumped the feeder-band north of Greenland fatter, and warmed the Pole. I found it odd that a feeder-band existed without a “Ralph”, and I was paying undue attention to the very weak low pressure north of the Canadian Archipelago. I dubbed that low “Wimpy-Ralph.”

Maps a half-day later day demonstrated what a wimp that Ralph was. Rather than being fed by the feeder band he was weaker, and pushed east.

A half-day later Wimpy-Ralph had made a train-wreck of my theory feeder-bands feed Ralphs, for he was weaker and getting pushed southwest. However Wimpy-Ralph was, besides crimping my egotism, crimping the cross-polar-flow. It no longer came straight across from Siberia, but now described a backwards “S”, first swinging towards Svalbard to scoop up some Atlantic air, before curving towards Alaska, and only then swinging down to Canada. (At this point it is interesting to think of the cross-polar-flow as a high-pressure-hose laying on a pavement. When it swings over in one direction, what do you expect will follow?)

Only a day later the cross-polar-flow is aiming down the east coast of Greenland, rather than curving around towards Alaska. How could such a dramatic shift occur?

First, the Siberian high pressure, though weakening towards Siberia, expanded greatly towards Canada, pushing Wimpy-Ralph down towards Hudson’s Bay.  In fact while the official center of the high pressure is still over the New Siberian Islands, the body of high pressure is generally moving across the Pole.

Second, if high pressure is moving away, low pressure tends to replace it, especially if other factors support growth, and in the Kara Sea we see growing low pressure from a “kicker” storm ahead of the weakening Icelandic gale now hitting the northwest coast of Norway.

The next day’s map shows the Siberian High and Kara Low performing a sort of Polar Waltz, something remotely like the Fujiwara Effect between adjacent Typhoons.  Let it suffice to say (because I can’t claim to understand it) that the body of the high pressure is dislodged from the coast of Siberia and is moving towards North America.

The following two days show stuff occurring on the Pacific side, associated with the Aleutian Low, and the Atlantic side, associated with the Icelandic Low, which may well be the subject of my next post. However, for this post, simply notice how the dislodged high pressure moves across to Canada.

I may well be laying the tracks for my next train wreck, but to me it seems the cross-polar-passage of an entire high pressure system is more significant than cross-polar-isobars which are here today and gone tomorrow.

For one thing, cross-polar-isobars only suggest winds “can” transport air from Siberia to Canada. The actual transport takes time. How long? You’d have to send up a balloon, and see how long it took to float from Siberia to Canada.

You can be certain the balloon wouldn’t follow the straight path suggested by one map, when following maps first curve the path towards Alaska and then down the east coast of Greenland.

However, when an entire high-pressure crosses the Pole, in some ways it is a big balloon, in and of itself. (And I know, I know, some don’t like to call a high-pressure a “thing”, and to say it is but a reflection out outside imbalances, but for the sake of argument allow me to state it has a reality and is an entity.) This balloon is not a hot- air balloon, rising, but is a cold-air balloon, pressing down and making barometers read “high pressure”. (In such a case a high-pressure represents a big blob of cold air, and therefore is a “thing”.)

The power of such Siberian cold can be hidden, for its lowest levels are warmed by the passage over the thin ice of the Arctic Sea. However the surface maps mute the true intensity of the cold. If we could only afford towers, or perhaps drones, to measure temperatures only a hundred feet above the sea-ice, we might see that the warming of Siberian cold passing over the Arctic Sea is superficial. It seems to me that I have seen constant examples of times such air, the moment it moves from the Arctic Sea into Canada, reveals its true nature. It was not truly made into a maritime air-mass by passing over the Arctic Sea, but rather was a Siberian air-mass with its very bottom, as little as six feet thick, turned into a maritime air-mass. How can I claim such a thing? It is because air “above-normal” over the Arctic Sea can become “below-normal” within a half hour of moving inland and over Canadian Tundra. This would be difficult to do, because Tundra’s “normal” is so much colder than the “normal” over sea-ice, but becomes possible when the layer of “warm” air is so very thin it is easy to mix out of existence.

In any case, it will be interesting to watch the high-pressure that has crossed the Pole, and to see if it is a “thing” that causes North America grief.

To conclude this update, I should revert to the subject of sea-ice, and state that neither the invasion of Pacific air through Bering Strait, nor the feeder-band that invaded north of Greenland and fed Wimpy-Ralph, slowed the yearly growth of sea-ice. In fact the growth has been so rapid we are no longer counted among the lowest years.

If you are into headlines, you need to change the September headline “Lowest Extent In Five Years” to “Highest Extent In Five Years.” (No bother, because you’re only changing one word.)DMI 191212 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

Hudson Bay is in the process of swiftly freezing over. (November 30 to left; December 11 to right.)

We are ahead of the same date in 2016 (left) but behind 2017 (right)

Hudson Bay Dec 10 2016 2017

As soon as the Bay skims over the cold is able to build much more swiftly to my north, and north winds become crueler here.

The only thing Alarmists have to crow about is sea-ice “volume”, which is notoriously hard to determine, but is currently quite low:

Volume 191210 Screenshot_2019-12-11 DMI Modelled ice thickness

I think the low volume is largely due to the open water north of Bering Strait, but that area is rapidly shrinking and Bering Strait is now bridged by sea-ice.

Thickness 191210 Screenshot_2019-12-11 DMI Modelled ice thickness(1).png

Also of interest has been the slow growth of a sort of mountain range of thicker sea-ice all the way from Svalbard to Wrangle Island. This range of ice has largely been created by the transport of ice from the marginal seas along the Eurasian coast. The Laptev Sea is always a great creator and exporter of sea-ice, as cold winds blow north from Siberia, shifting sea-ice away from shore and creating polynyas of open water which swiftly refreeze in the frigid winds. But this year it seems the Kara, East Siberian and even Chukchi Seas are also getting into the act.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –The Darkest Ninth–

We are entering the darkest days, the forty days which most challenge northern people. In Denmark some call this “hygge”, “the cozy time”, which is a brave attempt to evoke sentimental feelings about black days more likely to kill than to nurture. The sun is at its weakest, and when there is snow-cover the days are so short and the nights are so long that landscapes can lose more heat than they gain even as far south as the Gulf Coast of USA and the deserts of North Africa. Snow-cover is key, and this year it is above normal, covering Scandinavia, nearly all of Russia, nearly all of Canada, and extending far south in the west of the USA.

Snow cover 191129 cursnow

This early and advanced snow-cover is largely due to a buckling jet stream which failed to keep cold air up at the Pole, (where I feel it belongs), and instead allowed it to pour south (and annoy me). While southern areas shiver with below-normal temperatures the Pole itself experiences above normal temperatures, and also shivers, for even thirty-degrees-above-normal is still below freezing up there.

What I look for during such cold episodes is a “break-in-the-pattern”, which is basically anything that stops the delivery of cold air into Canada, and then down to me in New Hampshire. I am sort of selfish, for sometimes this means the cold air gets delivered into Europe or Asia instead. That is fine by me. But I am not really heartless; in fact I’m brimming with pity for people shivering far away; it’s just that I’d rather feel pity than shiver myself.

One way to see where the cold air is being delivered is to watch the maps over the sea-ice. I look for one of two things. The first is a “zonal” pattern, which traps the cold air up where it belongs, making Santa wear fur. The second is a surge of warm air due to a “meridional” pattern which pushes the cold air off the Pole in some southward direction other than the south called the Canadian Arctic.

Recently the polar maps showed just such a respite develop for much of the Canadian Arctic: (To save myself the bother of writing “low pressure anomally” over and over I use the word “Ralph”, and rather than writing “Low pressure anomaly of pacific origins” I write “Hula Ralph”.)

What I like to see is high pressure at the center of the polar map, with low pressures submissively rolling from west to east around the periphery. Two semi-permanent areas of low pressure are the Icelandic low on the Atlantic side and the Aleutian low on the Pacific side. As long as these two lows mind their manners things are fine; it is when they get unruly and fail to know their place that trouble brews (or “things get interesting”.)

Recently we’d seen the Icelandic low get unruly and come north over Baffin Bay and the backbone of Greenland, flooding the Pole with warm air. Initially this bumped bitter cold into Canada, but a series of three “Ralphs” crossing the Pole seemed to redirect the cold air down into Eurasia, pumping a massive and very cold high pressure in central Asia. This high pressure in turn seemed to make the Aleutian low unruly, and it crossed into Alaska, with its south side flooding Pacific air into northwestern Canada, and also redirecting some cold air building over the Canadian snows back north over the Arctic Sea.

As we rejoin our maps on November 25 the Aleutian low had become somewhat discombobulated by its passage over Alaska. Part had continued east into Hudson Bay and was even kicking energy further east as the Icelandic low tried to reform in its proper position, and part had swung mild air completely around, northeast of Alaska, and was forming a weak Hula Ralph over the Arctic Sea. Meanwhile a new Aleutian low seemed to be reforming in its proper position. Across the Pole Ralph #3 was weakening over the Siberian coast, with a weak secondary Ralph #4 north of Scandinavia, but these two features were so far south they were not all that unusual. Things seemed to be returning to normal. My main concern was that “normal” meant the thirty-degree-above-normal air over the Pole had chilled thirty degrees, which meant a reservoir of cold was building, and the weak Hula Ralph was bleeding some of that cold into the very northeast of Canada. But usually such cold is shunted southeast into the Atlantic, so I wasn’t overly concerned.

24 hours later not much had changed, with the exception of the Aleutian low. It was exploding into a sub-960-mb gale, and rather than remaining stationary, or heading east to Alaska like the last one, it was coming straight north.

Twelve hours later the Aleutian low has south winds howling in Bering Strait. North of there the sea-ice has stopped advancing and is being crushed back north. Also, in a most sneaky way, the weak Hula Ralph moving into the Canadian Archipelago, combined with the weak low over Hudson Bay, continues to bleed very cold air into northeast Canada.

Twelve hours later the Aleutian Low is crashing into the Asian side of Being Strait. To some degree Pacific air is not poring east into Canada as much as it is being curved north into the Arctic Sea. The above-freezing isotherm pushes north through Bering Strait. Perhaps this deflection of Pacific air permits the very weak Hula Ralph to continue its slow bleed into eastern Canada. Ralph #3 and #4 look like weak Atlantic lows slowly moving east along the Siberian coast, with a suspicious low forming northeast of Iceland.

12 hours later the Aleutian Low is moving onto the Arctic Sea, which I suppose makes it Hula-Ralf #2, even as Hula-Ralph #1 fades away in the Canadian Archipelago. It is interesting that despite the constant flow from the south in Being Strait, the above-freezing isotherm retreats south. South of there cold air is being dragged from Siberia out over the Pacific. The Icelandic low has moved east into western Europe, with a weak extention north towards Svalbard. The slow bleed of very cold air continues into eastern Canada, (setting me up for ambush, locally, because I am looking towards western Canada and seeing mild air and Chinooks, and am not looking due north.) Old Ralph #3 and Ralph #4 persist as weak lows along the Siberian coast, like bubbles atop the enormous and sprawling high pressure off the map, over central Asia. They are drawing cold air west inland in Asia, while over the Arctic Sea Atlantic air seeps east.

Twelve hours later Hula-Ralf #2 has stalled over the ice-free water north of Bering Strait, and has cut itself off from further inflows of Pacific air, although moderated Pacific air continues to be pulled up into Alaska even to the arctic coast. On the Atlantic side the inflow of Atlantic air is starting to generate a low off the northwest coast of Norway. Cross-polar flow is pulling air from Canada towards Siberia, as high pressure over Hudson Bay pushes cold air down over my neck of the woods.

An interesting development at this time is that northern Canada is in a sense being robbed blind of its arctic air with very little inflow. The cross-polar flow exports some, as more is exported south down the east side of Hudson Bay to my neck of the woods. Meanwhile the inflow is all from the Pacific. The best you can say is that the Pacific air had origins in Siberia, and is not as warm and juicy as Pacific air from further south. But my point is that the cold in Canada must be all “home grown” by the winter darkness.

The next map shows Hula-Ralph #2 weakening, Ralph #3 fading, Ralph #4 getting pushed south and inland by the cross-polar-flow’s expanding high pressure, which is blocking the North Atlantic low and bringing a secondary up through Scandinavia. The Pacific air has so flooded northern Canada and Alaska it is starting to show up on on the arctic coasts, on the temperature map.

 The next map shows Hula-Ralph #2 continuing to fade as the next Aleutian low appears at the very top of the map. On the far side of the Pole low pressure moves north through Scandinavia.

The next map seems to show the start of a flip-flop in the pattern. The Aleutian low is neither charging across to Alaska nor coming north, as Hula Ralph #2 fades. Meanwhile low pressure is building north of Scandinavia on the Atlantic side.

The final map shows November end with the pattern flipped.  The Pacific side has gone quiet as the Atlantic side gets active. The Pole is rather “Ralphless” as the low north of Scandinavia still counts as a North Atlantic storm. There is actually high pressure at the Pole.

One interesting thing about the period covered by the above maps is that, despite the invasion of Pacific air through Bering Strait, the sea-ice north of 80º latitude never warmed, and in fact continued to slowly chill.

DMI 191130 meanT_2019

The surge of south winds in Bering Strait did push the edge of the sea-ice back north up there, and open water exists where it usually doesn’t, creating air temperatures as much as thirty-degrees-above-normal right at sea-level. However the south winds there have led to north winds in eastern Canada, and the refreeze of Hudson bay started early. I can remember some years when it didn’t truly begin until December.

CIS 191130 CMMBCTCA

One thing that becomes apparent during the “coldest ninth” is the stupendous amount of heat the north loses at this time of year. Rather than seeing it as “losing heat” I tend to see it as “generating cold”, which likely breaks laws of thermodynamics, but I can’t help myself. I am always on the lookout for cold air masses, and I can’t help but notice when, despite masses of Pacific air being pumped into Canada, we see little of it get down here to New Hampshire. It becomes obvious that besides the Pole losing heat, two enormous stretches of tunda and taiga are losing heat and generating cold, one over the vast stretches of Siberia, and another the smaller but still vast north of Canada.

A final observation is that the current temperature-anomaly map (remember red and even white-heat still can indicate temperatures below freezing) shows that despite all the above-normal temperatures pumped into northern Canada, southern Canada (and New Hampshire) is below normal.

GFS TA 191201 gfs-deterministic-nhemi-t2m_f_anom-5180000It will be interesting to watch the “warm” air in northern Canada, and see how long it takes to cool now that it isn’t being reinforced by Pacific air so intensely.

New Hampshire is seeing temperatures ten degrees below normal and is currently under a heavy snow warning for over a foot of snow by tomorrow morning, so I’ll be busy for a while and may not be as able to focus on any arctic besides my own driveway. Stay tuned.

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –A Mysterious Incarnation Of Ralph–

The sea-ice is continuing its usual tripling of its extent. Hudson Bay has started to refreeze, and the open waters north of Bering Strait are rapidly shrinking, and some ice along the west coast of Alaska has even begun to form south of Bering Strait. All this is rather ho-hum stuff,  with sea-ice continuing at the low levels of extent one might expect with both the PDO and AMO warm, but without the record-setting low levels needed to support the contention that the arctic is in some sort of “Death Spiral”.DMI 191125 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

Despite the fact things are rather ordinary, we mortals have an eye out for the extraordinary. Why? I assume it is because we know that it is quite “ordinary” to have winter weather in the winter. In my neck of the woods, it is quite “ordinary” to have a snowstorm. And, when you are dealing with a snowstorm, it is hard to deem it “ordinary”, even when it is. In like manner, California has its own extremes, including both extreme drought and extreme rain, which tend to peak in the winter, and which lead to the opposites of either wildfires or mudslides, both of which are quite “ordinary”, yet both of which are hard to call anything but “extraordinary”, when you are in the midst of them. 

In conclusion, the extraordinary is part of the ordinary. We actually should thank God for this, for without battle life is a drag. If every day had Camelot weather, we’d all be bored stiff. Yet some politicians claim they can control the weather:

It’s true! It’s true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year.
 
A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there’s a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot.
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September
In Camelot.
Camelot! Camelot!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Camelot, Camelot
That’s how conditions are.
The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.
 
Camelot! Camelot!
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those are the legal laws.
The snow may never slush upon the hillside.
By nine p.m. the moonlight must appear.
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.
 
Though we may yearn for idyllic peace (especially when we’re older) there is a quite contrary side of ourselves which craves the challenge of a storm (especially when we’re younger). And it turns out Creation doesn’t let us down, and gives us both times of peace and times of storm.
 
It is because we own a certain sense of foreboding that we keep a wary eye out for winter extremes, as winter approaches. Our eyes turn up, both to the sky and high clouds, and also to “up” in a map, which is north, to where the winter comes from (in the northern hemisphere.)
 
Therefore, even when the sea-ice is a bit boring, a true pessimist is optimistic about hints of coming calamity appearing. (This likely explains why some Alarmists are so delighted by what they see as signs of the-end-of-life-as-we-know-it.)
 
One sign of cold and snow is the jet stream buckling from a “zonal” flow (which keeps cold trapped up at the Pole) to a “meridional” flow, (which allows arctic outbreaks to charge south). These flows involve “upper winds”. It is interesting to read the words of meteorologists who lived back in the 1880’s, and to hear how the craved more information about winds aloft, and how they strove to get the government to fund not satellites, but weather balloons. Weather balloons were a newfangled idea back then, and they felt that “if only” they had weather balloons, all their problems would be solved. Well, they got their balloons, and then their satellites, and guess what? They got as many new problems as they got answers. But at least we can see if the flow is zonal or not. (Current GFS 500 mb Northern Hemisphere map of upper air pressure and winds, from Weatherbell site:)
 
GFS UAP 191126 gfs-deterministic-nhemi-z500_barbs-4748000
 
These maps are helpful, if you have studied long and hard, for they tell you where storms are likely to form, down here on earth. But a problem arises, because the maps are in constant flux. If the danged bulges would stay in the same place, or stay the same size as they rotated around the planet, or rotate at a nice, predictable speed, forecasting would be far easier. But the big bulges have waves which have ripples atop them, and bulges elongate and flatten and tilt forward and back until one feels one is dealing with an epileptic amoeba. So what do people do? They look higher, higher, ever higher. They look past even the tropopause into the statosphere, and beg for better satellites, until they get what they desire. (Current GFS stratospheric 10 mb temperature amomoly):
 
Strat 191126 gfs-deterministic-nhemi-t10_anom-4748000
 
The above shows a Stratospheric Warming event is occurring. A fascinating discussion has been occurring at the Weatherbell Site as the highly skilled meteorologists there discuss what the event may portend. Apparently,  as Jospeph D’Aleo explains it,  the stratospheic warmings “propagate down in pulses into mid-latitudes affecting the polar vortex and high latitude blocking (with a lag)”.
 
Strat Warm Evolution Screen_Shot_2019_11_23_at_8_26_59_AMAnd this in turn results in high pressure building  and “blocking” in arctic regions, which results in a meridional jet stream (and in me freezing my posterior off).
 
Strat Warm NAO_WINTER(11)
 
The problem then becomes that the Stratospheric Warming Events are as fickle as the bulges in the jet stream beneath. So I suppose we should look even higher, ever higher. We should gaze beyond the stratosphere to the Quiet Sun, and to the increase in deep space cosmic rays such a Quiet Sun permits, and…..and at this point, as much as I love all such speculation, I get hit by humbleness. I have to confess such high things are above my head. It’s then I decide that if I must go higher, ever higher, I likely should go straight to the Top, and I trot off to church.
 
But wouldn’t you just know it, even church can present me with problems. The good person to my left is praying for rain to water the church’s garden-for-the-poor, while the good person to my right is praying for sunshine to beam upon the church’s benefit-picnic-for-the-poor, and I figure those conflicting prayers are bound to breed clashing air masses and cause a tornado. (Likely, when praying,  it’s best to keep the wish-lists short, and instead to focus on thanksgiving.) In any case I tend to find myself plunked back down to earth.
 
Not that I am against eyes uplifting higher, higher, ever higher. It is just that my feet remain on the ground, even when my gazes soar up to cirrus. Down here is where I live, and down here is where, in the end, all forecasts end up focusing. After all, most of us don’t live on the equator bobbing in a boat in the Pacific, so why should we care if the Pacific waters switch from an El Nino to a La Nina? Why? Is it not because, in the end, we think far places may effect where we stand? In the end our focus is our feet, and whether they are cold or not.
 
Therefore I tend to plunk back down to earth, and to the surface maps they had back in 1880. In a sense all else is an embellishment; perhaps fabulous accoutrements to wonder, and enhancements to our depth of understanding,  but unable to move our feet from the mud we stand in, if we are standing in mud. To move we must move, which involves recognizing where we stand, which involves respecting the surface-level maps.
 
After all, it is not merely the stratosphere that “propagates” down; it is also the rock bottom of the troposphere that “propagates” up. In fact my ears perked right up when I heard Joe Bastardi musing, at one of the fascinating Weatherbell discussions, about how some action involving the “Indian Ocean Dipole” seems correlated with the onset of Stratospheric Warming Events, which (to my mind at least), suggested the bottom of the Troposphere effecting the Stratosphere. How? Who knows? Maybe a surge of warm, juicy air gets rammed north by the power of the Monsoon and is hoisted by the Himalayas. Your wondering is as good as mine, but my point is that I like to stay grounded down at the bottom of the troposphere. It is where I live, and where I view the planet from, and where I feel at most at home. (Not that I don’t look forward to different views I may gain, once I grow a set of wings).
 
Therefore I accept a sort of set of limitations as my bounds and my discipline, and like to focus on the DMI surface-level maps of the Pole. It is those winds and storms and temperatures, after all, which are in actual contact with the sea-ice, and which shove it about, and cause it to grow and to shrink. And it is at that level we may first see what we have never witnessed before with satellites: The moment when sea-ice moves from the low levels of a “warm” AMO to the higher levels associated with a “cold” AMO, an event which happens roughly every sixty years (and sixty years ago we had no watching satellites.)
 
So allow me to get down to the business of scrutinizing the polar maps.
 
When I last posted the Pole had been flooded by Atlantic air as much as thirty degrees above normal that surged north either side of Greenland, and formed Ralph (anomalous low pressure) which moved from just north of Greenland across the Pole to Siberia, followed by Ralph Junior forming just north of Greenland in his wake. I noted that Ralph had consumed a “feeder band” of warm air, and seemed to be leaving a wake of colder air. The strong high pressure over eastern Russia, even while feeding Ralph and Ralph junior with mild Atlantic air, was exporting a surge of very cold air down through central Russia towards Mongolia and northern China. Despite exporting much of its cold, the Pole as a whole was starting to cool.

dmi-191119-temp-screenshot_2019-11-19-modis-satellite-images-coi-dmi1

Two days later the massive cold high pressure arctic air pumped up in Central Asia (where few live and the media doesn’t notice) apparently bumped the Aleutian Low east, across Bering Strait into Alaska. This was good news for me, for it broke a pattern where frigid air was being delivered from the Pole to me, and the rest of eastern North America. Instead this big low was swinging Canadian air back up over the Pole, and its south side was pouring Pacific air into the Canadian Rockies, in places creating far milder Chinook conditions on the eastern slopes. This new circulation sped the formation of sea-ice north of Bering Strait. The feeder-band of mild air up through Bering Strait was reversed, but still seemed to show on the temperature map. I shrugged this off as being due to open water affecting surface temperatures. On the Atlantic side the feeder-band of Atlantic air seemed cut off as well, by the movement of Ralph Junior across the Pole, and now seemed to be curving over Scandinavia and then back down into Russia. I sat back certain that the Pole, without feeder-bands, would see a period of growing cold and high pressure, and there could not be a third Ralph.

Twelve hours later a lot of heat had been lost, but I wasn’t sitting back as far. There was a funny bump of low pressure in Fram Strait. It made me suspicious.

Another twelve hours passed and my suspicions were confirmed. A very weak low had formed in Fram Strait, and even a small “signature hook” had formed in the isotherms, confirming the low was sucking in warm air. I assumed the warm air came from a tendril of the Gulf Stream which squeezes up the west coast of Svalbard on the east side of Fram Strait. Can we be seeing the genesis of Ralph #3? Also, even as Ralph Junior moved inland into Eurasia, he seemed to be sucking a weak band of mildness and low pressure behind him from the Pacific, against all the power of the Aleutian Low in Alaska, which sucked air the opposite way.

Twelve hours later the Atlantic Ralph #3 has moved north in Fram Strait and seems to be drawing Atlantic air north, while a Pacific Ralph #3, with even lower pressure, has formed far north of Bering Strait, although seemingly cut off from Pacific feeds, by the the circulation of the powerful Aleutian Low over Alaska.

Twelve hour later the Pacific Ralph #3 has weakened, as the Atlantic Ralph #3 has strengthened, but they have become strangely connected, in terms of isobars. The Pacific Ralph appears unsupported, but the Atlantic Ralph seems to have an incipient feeder-band north of Svalbard, and perhaps even a second feeder-band, bucking the isobars in the Kara Sea.

How can this be? The Pole is getting colder, and high pressure should be formed by descending cold air. How can not only an Atlantic low, but a Pacific low, intrude upon my assumptions?

Unfortunately my life got busy, and I missed the next map, but 24 hours later my suspicions were confirmed. Ralph sat squarely by the Pole, with his signature-hook of milder air clear on the isotherm map.

I must confess that, in the big picture, Ralph #3 may seem like a small player. The arctic outbreak that crashed down into central Asia sprawled out into a vastness that now covers nearly all Asia in high pressure, as the Aleutian Low that crashed into Alaska sent blobs further east, even as it weakened, which made a sprawling area of low pressure atop North America, (with a new Aleutian Low forming off northeast Asia.) Ralph #3 seems an inconsequential dot between two major forces, and I’m sure most minds focus on the big things.

GFS SP 191123 gfs-deterministic-nhemi-mslp-4510400

However Ralph continues to interest me. I don’t see what makes such a blip in Fram Strait gain such power, nor what draws him across the Pole. Also, though I noticed he did draw Atlantic warmth north, it didn’t warm the arctic like his Grandfather did, and the signature-hook was already fading in twelve hours, on the isotherm map.

In fact the chilling of the Pole towards normal temperatures continued, with only a brief slowing.

DMI 191126 meanT_2019

I could add further maps, but the purpose of this post was to note down, as a sort of observation into a notebook, the appearance of a “Ralph” that had no seeming excuse for becoming a feature on maps.

This Ralph was not created by a surging “feeder-band” created by a southern gale. Rather this Ralph created his own feeder band. This Ralph didn’t need the south, and was trying to make some point which is having difficulty penetrating my thick skull, but involves the suggestion that the Arctic may have powers we are not aware of.

For all I know, that small Ralph #3, which looks so small compared to Asian high pressure or to sprawling North American low pressure, may not be a small player, but the conductor of the orchestra. Just a thought.

However it is hard to think about such stuff under the press of fresh changes. As a preview of my next post I’ll tell you the Aleutian Low forming on the above map did not follow the last one into Alaska, but rather moved up the Siberian side of Bering Strait. Besides blowing south winds in Bering Strait, this may mean all that cold air building in over the Pole gets discharged into Canada rather than Asia. What this means is that I should not be scrutinizing maps. I should be cutting firewood. However, even when I’m busy elsewhere, I’ll try to remember to save maps for my next post.

Stay tuned.

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Ralph’s Hooked Signature–

“Ralph” (Anomalous polar low pressure), which was created by a North Atlantic gale that swerved left and proceeded north right up the spine of Greenland, has merrily crossed the Pole and headed towards Central Siberia. On November 17th new low bombed-out south of Greenland, as high pressure was pumped over West Siberia.

As Ralph passes the Pole he sucks north milder Atlantic Air, creating a “signature hook” in the temperature isotherms.

Twelve hours later we see Ralph moving closer to Siberia, and the high pressure in his wake to some degree cutting off the Atlantic “feeder band”, and redirecting it north of Greenland where “Ralph Junior” is brewing. Major cold is building in Central Siberia, and the North Atlantic Gale is not moving north into Baffins Bay like the last one.

The “signature hook” can still be seen in the temperature isotherms, but cooling is evident. A slight hook is appearing north of Greenland.

Twelve hours later Ralph has reached the New Siberian Islands, as Ralph Junior develops north of Greenland. The North Atlantic gale is wobbling east towards a more traditional stance as the Icelandic Low.

The temperature map reveals only faint traces of Ralph’s original “hook”. The temperature isotherms reveal both the minus-five and minus-ten isotherm have retreated west along the Siberian coast towards the North Atlantic. Not that the mild air has moved west; rather it has physically cooled. A less dramatic hook of Atlantic air is probing north of Greenland to feed Ralph Junior. Interesting to me is the elongated pocket of minus fifteen isotherms extending from the Canadian Archipelago and crossing the Pole. Did the primary Ralph leave colder temperatures in its wake?

Twelve hours later this morning’s map shows the primary Ralph is fading on the coast of Siberia, cut off from its feeder band. Ralph Junior is surviving north of Greenland, but the Icelandic low looks like it is sweeping in a lot of North Atlantic “juice” and perhaps cutting off Ralph Junior from further supplies.

The temperature map shows little trace of all the warm air the original Ralph brought north, and the original “hook” has vanished. The secondary hook made by Ralph Junior imports fresh mildness over the Pole (if you can call minus-ten Celsius “mild”).

Importing all the mild Atlantic air north has created a dramatic spike in the DMI polar temperatures graph, now starting to descend.

While this spike is incorporated into global-average-temperatures, and makes them look higher, to me it appears it is largely a reflection of heat lost. If you desire to retain heat it should be placed in the piggy-bank of the south, not squandered under the sunless skies of the north.

When I look a little deeper I notice an oddity. Initially the surge of Atlantic air made the entire Arctic Ocean “white hot” on the GFS temperature anomaly-map (from Weatherbell). (“White hot” is still below freezing, but 16 to 30 degrees above normal.) However Ralph’s transit of the arctic did not increase or even sustain that anomaly. In fact the “white hot” area appears cut in two, as if Ralph left a trail of cooling in his wake. (Also Ralph Junior involves some less-than-white-hot temperatures in his signature curl.)

In conclusion, the overturning of the atmosphere and heat-exchanges, seen in Ralph, makes mincemeat of the ideas within the elegant idea of there being a Polar Cell of descending air and high pressure at the Pole.

One exercise I find interesting is to attempt to draw a picture of the overturning atmosphere as elegant as the above one is, but to include a Ralph of rising air. Try it. All sorts of problems manifest.

One fascinating thing to observe has been a reverse from a cross-polar-flow to a cross-polar-low. The flow was from Europe to Canada, and in barely a week this swung to a whirl from Greenland to Siberia. I don’t claim to understand what I watch, but I think it is well worth watching. Geeks (not me) who devote study to such stuff deserve funding, for, rather than a mere reflection of what happens at more southerly latitudes, these arctic shenanigans may be pivots that swing the weather further south. The discovery of a forecasting “tool”, as valuable as the discovery of the tropic’s “MJO” was, may be awaiting discovery.

Sorry to be so distracted from sea-ice by what is moving and shifting and growing the sea-ice. The sea-ice itself is continuing its ordinary expansion, and so far we haven’t seen the down-dip which sometimes occurs in late Autumn, despite Ralph bashing the ice about a bit.

The appearance of Ralph north of Greenland did bring about wrong-way south-winds in Fram Strait, slowing and even briefly reversing the discharge of sea-ice south into the Atlantic down the east coast of Greenland, and also compressing that sea-ice against Greenland’s coast. This reduces the possibility we’ll see the rarity of an ice-bridge between Greenland and Iceland in early January.

The area of open water north of Bering Strait is shrinking but still sizable. Beaufort Sea is nearly completely frozen, the retreat on the Kara-Sea-front has reverted to expansion, the top of Baffin Bay is seeing rapid expansion of sea-ice despite the recent south winds, and Hudson Bay is starting to freeze (which is always interesting to watch.)

Current ice cover in Canadian Waters

Stay tuned.

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Trans Greenlandic Ralph–

In my last post I pointed out cross-polar-flow was bringing north a mild (albeit dry) “feeder-band” through Central Europe, and a smaller (but moister) “feeder-band” was sneaking north through Bering Strait and then east along the East Siberian coast. I stated I’d be a on the lookout for Ralph (Anomalous low pressure at the Pole) due to the influxes of mild air. Well, Ralph has formed, but not in the way I expected.

This time of year we expect “bombogenesis” in the North Atlantic. Arctic outbreaks of very cold air over warm water creates a contrast ripe for development, however at first the sinking cold air serves as a sort of “lid” on the heat. Then, due to a sort of “tipping point” in terms of lapse rates, the heat starts to rise, and abruptly a storm explodes. Often these gales are bigger and stronger than many hurricanes, but usually are out where only captains of freighters and people in Iceland notice. Usually they stall around Iceland, creating a semi-permanent feature known as “The Icelandic Low”. Back on November 13th I was wary of the weak low pressure south of Greenland exploding.

Bombogenesis did occur, but rather than heading east to Iceland the huge gale roared north into Baffin Bay, with winds howling south to north along the entire spine of Greenland.

Then this morning, Ralph pops out north of Greenland.

This is interesting partly because it makes me look like a dope. I was watching warm inflows from the Pacific and from Eurasia, and never saw this huge wave of Atlantic moisture coming. In any case, the Arctic Sea is now brimming with above-normal air, “white hot” in the temperature anomaly map.

Alarmists will likely focus on the “white hot” anomalies, though temperatures are in fact below freezing. They will pay no attention to the frigid air masses bumped off the Pole into Europe, Central Asia, and currently clouting me here in New Hampshire (and centered south of Hudson Bay.) At times some Alarmists seem to forget no thawing occurs when temperatures are below freezing.

I find the situation interesting because I always like to watch how the “white hot” anomalies fade, and to think about all the heat being lost. Where does it go? Also the antics of Ralph are always interesting. Finally, having this huge slug of moist Atlantic air ride over the icecap of Greenland involves the Alarmist idea the icecap is melting and coastal cities will drown. Not today. All the precipitation seems to have have fallen as snow, and no melting is seen.

In a single day it looks like Greenland received ten gigatons of frozen water.

I’m not exactly sure what ten gigatons amounts to, in terms I can comprehend. I’m just glad I don’t have to shovel it.

One final wonderment (for me, at least) is how much heat is lost as the moist air passes over the ten-thousand-foot high ice-cap. A lot of latent heat is released as vapor goes through two phase changes, and falls as snow. Some is lost to outer space. But some remains with the air, which must descend as Greenland-Chinook. Even the roaring katabatic winds coming off Antarctica warm as they descend in altitude (albeit only a “warming” to minus-forty), and up in Thule, towards the top of Baffin Bay, where winter temperatures can get down to -72 (-58 Celsius), they have experienced above freezing temperatures every month of their dark winters, and have a record January temperature of 41 (+5 Celsius). This makes me wonder if some “polar warming” is just a natural Chinook.

There are some fascinating old tales from whalers, and the Polaris Expedition of 1871-1873, about polynyas of open water up in Nares Strait at the top of Baffin Bay, even in the dead of winter. Much to ruminate upon.

Stay tuned.

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Cross Polar Punch–

I awoke this morning, (before I actually opened my eyes), to the wintry chorus of roaring pines, moving majestically across the distance from my northern window to my southern one, and instinctively visualized where I last saw my warm slippers, and planned a bee-line to the wood-stove. In the predawn twilight it was 12 degrees out (-11 Celsius). When I made it to the wood-stove, and as I nursed my first coffee, I awoke my grumpy laptop and avoided depressing politics by checking out weather sites. In many parts of New England the arctic blast was setting records for the coldest morning, as far back as records go, for the date of November 13. I failed to avoid depressing politics, for many were commenting, “Global Warming? Bah! Humbug!” even as others insisted record-setting cold was proof of Global Warming. So I sought the best escape, which is either the sky itself, or weather maps of what the actual sky is doing, for the sky does what it does and doesn’t care a flying flip about your politics.

Because it was so cold, my eyes gravitated north, to where the cold was coming from. Arctic air leads to arctic research, (and, in this case, a short sea-ice post.)

I immediately noticed a “cross-polar-flow”. On surface maps you could basically follow the 1020 mb isobar from Greece across the North Pole to Canada.

What effect does this cross-polar-flow have? Well, it crumples my brow, for starters. Why? Well, I confess I was looking for some sort of “zonal flow”. A zonal flow traps cold air at the Pole by wrapping winds around and around the Pole. You can’t get more opposite from a zonal flow than a cross-polar-flow. It was time for me to get back to the old drawing board.

One interesting thing about a cross-polar-flow is that it doesn’t merely embarrass the idea of a “zonal” jet stream, but also embarrasses the idea of the apparent opposite idea, which is the “meridienal” (or “loopy”) jet-stream. Both ideas involve the bias of southern people who tend to think in terms of winds going around the planet, and who draw elegant and beautiful schemes of how this occurs.

The problem with this elegant and beautiful idea is this dratted thing called “Truth”. The North Pole simply doesn’t work in the manner that we, with our southern bias, assume it works, and therefore the Pole is constantly splatting a custard pie into the fair face of our beautiful and elegant theories. (Which likely explains why our long-range forecasts stink.) Rather than winds politely obeying the elegant and beautiful theory, (which winds sometimes do), winds become rude, and disobey. One way is by forming howling gales of low pressure (which I call “Ralph”) right where the above illustration shows high pressure at the Pole, and another way is by whipping over the top of the planet rather than around the top, which is called “cross-polar-flow.”

Rather than getting mad at Truth, and calling it “cruel”, I try to take the attitude of the poet John Keats, and rhapsodize “Truth is Beauty”. After all, a bit of custard pie in your face doesn’t taste all that bad, and anyway, any man who marries meteorology has married a wonderful wench who will mash wedding cake into your mug ten minutes after you say “I do”. Get used to it.

One reason cross-polar-flow should be attended to is because it has caused havoc in the the past. Between 1815 and 1817 it dumped an amazing amount of sea-ice south into the Atlantic, which resulted in the following statement in minutes of a British Admiralty meeting:

It will without doubt have come to your Lordship’s knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated...

(This) affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations.”
President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817

While the apparent cross-polar-flow of those times may have been good news for those who desired an ice-free arctic to enhance their explorations, it was not good news for those further south, where all that sea-ice went. Ice-bergs were grounding on the beaches of Ireland (which has not been recorded happening since) and the waters of the North Atlantic were chilled to a degree where Western Europe had a horrible growing-season called “The Year Without A Summer.”

It would seem logical to investigate such history, but sadly it seems some see such records as unhelpful to the “cause” of panicking the public about Global Warming. Current low-levels of sea-ice will seem less worrisome if people realize even lower levels were seen in the past.

The person who first dug up the Admiralty Records and brought them to the public’s attention was named John L. Daly. John died in 2004, and when he died a prominent Climate-scientist of that dark time remarked that his death was “in an odd way cheering news”. I was utterly disgusted when I learned of this, (in the “climate-gate emails”), for it was indicative of an attitude that did not look fondly upon Truth, or upon those who work hard to bring Truth forward.

In the 15 years since John L. Daly passed on I have seen little sign that certain Climate Scientists “in charge” are in any way wiser, or are any more likely to work hard to bring Truth forward. In fact there even seems to be an effort to erase the name “John L. Daly” from Climate Science altogether.

What a waste of effort! Life is too short, and there is too little time left over, (after dealing with worldly responsibilities like washing dishes), as it is. We should be spending every little bit of free time we have bringing Truth forward. What a loss it seems to waste that time by spending such slender moments pushing Truth back. I can only assume people who resort to such behavior are addicts. After all, heroin addicts will sell their grandmother’s cane and false teeth for their next fix. Certain Climate-scientists must need a similar fix, when they waste precious hours on earth fighting a man like John L. Daly, even though he has been beyond fighting back for 15 years. (Perhaps the news of John’s death was not so “cheering” after all, because perhaps the Truth which John stood for cannot die, and rises from the grave.)

I’m just glad I’m not addicted to whatever it is they are. I’d rather confess I am backwards than claim “science is settled” and that I stand at some “forefront”, when such a claim is proof even the most educated Climate-scientist is more backward than I.

How can I make such a claim? After all, I am not a Climate-scientist. I’m a mere bumpkin. But I do respect Truth. And this strangely makes me “more educated” then fellows who went to college. Why? I can only suppose it is because some element of their education made them too snobby and sophisticated to listen to some silly blond like Doris Day sing “Que Sera, Sera”. (Whatever will be, will be).

To return to the arctic, when I note cross-polar-flow occurs, I am merely noting, “Whatever will be, will be.” As a bumpkin I am not required to publish a paper with fifty footnotes, or to find funding to pay for others to wash my dishes as I research. I am free of all that.

Though I wonder why the cross-polar-flow happened, I am not required to say why. I merely state the Truth. I continue to wonder, but am not required to prove anything.

I’m glad I don’t have to supply any Truth, for, as I stated earlier, I was expecting a “zonal” flow, and expected the pocket of below-normal air at the Pole to expand. In a manner of speaking the cross-polar-flow brought milder air to the Pole and, as in a game of “king-of-the-mountain”, bumped the cold air off the top and down into Canada and Alaska.

Here is the temperature-anomaly map from November 11, showing the blue pocket of below-normal air at the Pole.

And here is the temperature-anomaly map just three days later on November 14.

Notice, in the second map, the spear of above-normal temperatures moving north through Eastern Europe. It becomes less obvious as it moves out over the Arctic Ocean, (because in November a continental land-breeze is colder than a maritime sea-breeze, on the arctic coast), but it seems fairly obvious the flow is not zonal, and we should see a mild “feeder band” warming the Pole. And sure enough, the DMI polar temperature graph shows a spike of warming.

Instead of seizing upon this spike as being proof of some preconception about Global Warming, I feel it is likely better to sit back and observe, humming “Que Sera, Sera”. There are far more questions than answers.

For example, sometimes you can follow a surge of milder air and see it keep its identity across thousands of miles. I once watched a spear of midwinter warmth surge from the Atlantic inland in Europe and cross the entirety of Russia, fading but still evident as it reached the Pacific. But this cross-polar-flow isn’t like that. Rather various atmospheric-entities were moving every which way like a bunch of baby ducks, and suddenly some mother duck quacked and got all the ducks in a row, called a cross-polar-flow.

Also I am never certain if the south wind bumps the cold off the Pole, or if it is the departure of a cold air mass that creates a vacuum that draws the south-wind north. What came first, the chicken or the egg?

In other words, on some levels my understanding amounts to a goose egg. (There, I worked ducks, chickens and geese into a discussion about the arctic.)

However one does not need to understand the Truth to observe the Truth. In fact Truth is the teacher, and we are just taking notes. Then we should compare notes with others, which is a delightful process, because it is as if we gain additional sets of eyes. What is absurd is to ignore the observations of others, including observers who are not with us any more, such as John L. Daly.

One interesting thing I noticed was that the edge of the sea-ice stopped expanding southwest in the Kara Sea, and even retreated north and northeast, pushed towards the Pole by the cross-polar-flow. (A second feeder band sneaked in through Bering Strait along the Russian coast and pushed sea-ice back a bit in the Chukchi Sea.) However the colder part of the cross-polar-flow completed the refreeze at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, and overall the sea-ice extent continued its yearly expansion.

One thing I’ll be watching to see is how the feeder-bands of milder air behave up at the Pole. If they form a stormy “Ralph” it may break up the sea-ice in places.

As I finish this post it is now the morning of November 14, and outside it 17° (-8° Celsius), with a steely gray overcast as southern air tries to push back north. We may briefly climb to 45° (+7° Celsius) tomorrow, before yet another arctic blast clobbers us. Hopefully that will drain the arctic of its cold, for at least a while. A snowy Thanksgiving only looks good on postcards.