I’ve noted in earlier posts that a lot of the coldest arctic air has been dumped into the oceans this winter, out over the Sea of Okhotsk on the Pacific side, and down Baffin Bay past Newfoundland, as well as through Fram Strait, on the Atlantic side. This has given the big cities of Europe and of eastern North America a break, in terms of heating bills when prices are high. However it seemed to me that the oceans should be chilled, but there is only a slight sign of chilling.
I assumed this was because cold air has thinly dispersed molecules, while the water’s molecules are closely packed. The air is outnumbered, and is swiftly warmed as it passes over the seas. Yet there does seem to be slight cooling, as the clash between cold air and warm water creates an imbalance which results in the explosive development of storms, illustrated as follows in a paper by Josph D’Aleo:
These storms assume great magnitudes, though little noticed beyond those who risk sailing midwinter seas. Several have had pressures dive below 27.75 inches of mercury (940 mb) this winter, and such storms, while lacking the ferocious eyewalls of hurricanes and typhoons, often have gale, storm and even hurricane forse winds farther from their centers than tropical storms and contain more energy overall. All of this energy has been lifted from the seas, and much is dispersed to outer space, yet they don’t leave the distinctive stripes of cold water that hurricanes and typhoons do, as their low pressure is more dispersed, and also the waters at the very surface are not so warmed in midwinter as they are in the summer. Yet I have my hunch that, while the robbery of the ocean’s warmth is less obvious, it is occurring and ongoing.
Therefore, I noted with interest when places where people usually go to flee the cold reported snow on the beaches.
On the Atlantic side Mallorca was seeing snow right at the water, where late February temperatures usually range between 62 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit, and one beach had only seen temperatures dip below freezing a tenth of a degree, one time in its recorded history.
By the time I paid attention the cold storm was drifting off towards Italy, small but getting great attention, as far to the west yet another huge storm got no attention at all, out in the middle of the Atlantic, sucking very cold air out of the mouth of Baffin Bay, as had been happening all winter
In the above map a second unnoticed storm is roaring just southeastb of Svalbard, dragging cold air through Fram Strait. Most of the cold air is swung towards Norway, but a weak front has made it to Scotland. This invasion increases as the northern storm shoots a second, stronger cold front south, in the next map.
You’ll notice the storm making the news is weak, over Sicily with a pressure of only 1011 mb, while the storm south of Greenland has a pressure of 964 and hurricane force winds, yet generates no press at all. However, I have my hunch the Atlantic is being chilled in some manner which may not be reflected in the temperature of the air or water right at the surface, but may be more obvious 100 feet down or a thousand feet up.
On the Pacific side there was one of the oceanic storms which did generate media attention earlier this winter. Though the storm itself never came ashore, it’s southside winds directed an “atmospheric river” of moisture (the “Pinapple Express”) towards California, swiftly changing drought conditions to floods.
I don’t have fond memories of the Pineapple Express, because during my drifter years I arrived in California in December of 1982, and had a line of an old Al Stewart song stuck in my head for months, “It never rains in California…but girl, don’t they warn ya…it pours. Man! It pours.” That winter of 1982-1983 set an all-time record for rain, and the sun almost never peeked between the clouds. Most days were dark and dismal, and I have only two really happy memories.
One was when an older brother, perhaps noticing I was a bit gaunt on my emegency diet (rice and beans), took me out for a lunch of chicken enchilada verde, under a wind-whipped awning facing the sea. Surfers in black wetsuits were out creasing the sides of enormous waves, when suddenly they faded into a milky shroud, and for about five minutes the rain turned into a pelting shower of sleet. The pellets rolled off the awning and scattered across the wet sidewalk to cluster in puddles, and the situation was so absurd we couldn’t help but smile. My brother told me he’d never seen it sleet in Santa Cruz before.
The second happy occation was when the rain finally quit, which it did in April entirely, and without much adieu. The endless rain broke into a cloudless sky, and it didn’t rain for months. But the day the sun first came out I have never seen so many smiling faces in all my life.
In any case, I perked up with interest when I heard it didn’t just sleet on the beaches of Santa Cruz for five minutes, and there was even slush in tidal pools.
I was also interested because the rain was going to set yet another all time record. (The last time, after 1982-1983, was around ten years ago; that time it annoyed me because I could no longer brag that I arrived in California in the “rainiest year ever”.)
This does spoil the Alarmist narrative of several months ago, which involved predictions of a megadrought lasting until 2030, and ski areas closing due to lack of snow. Currently several areas are closed because they have too much snow.
In any case, I am not going to be a fool and venture a forecast. I am merely observing unusual snows coming in off the waters.
“Bombo-genesis” has occurred in Fram Strait, creating a super-storm smack dab in the middle of a place where many of the ins and outs of sea-ice levels are determined by factors which often seem subtle and even delicate, but there is nothing delicate about a North Atlantic gale.
(At this point I could go off on a long tangent about amazing storms, and which storm was the whopper of all big-fish-stories, but I’ll try to restrain myself and just focus on this baby.)
We begin with a Labrador storm crashing into Greenland, which is 10,000 feet tall and sometimes kills storms. However other storms somehow survive the passage, (another long tangent and fascinating digression.)
Obviously this storm was a survivor.
And became a super-storm, with pressure below 950 mb (28.00 inches).
And hangs around Fram Strait as a super-storm at least twelve hours.
Then it sent some of its energy east into the Kara sea as a sort of kicker impulse along a warm front, as a couple of secondary lows developed along a cold frnt extending down the east coast of Greenland.
The energy from the secondary reinforsed the stalled low over Svalbard, as the Kara Sea kicker moved south and inland.
The last map shows the low has restrengthened and its pressure is below 950 again, with the storm’s center further east over Svalbard.
Notice how the isobars shift. Initially an Atlantic to Pacific flow is cutting Canada off from cross-polar flow from Siberia. However at the end it looks like that flow is resuming. This concerns me, as I live just below Canada, and when Siberia bumps cold into Canada I tend to experience colder weather, with a delay of four to seven days. We shall see that “tendency” tested.
In terms of sea-ice, the shift of isobars suggested sea-ice which ordinarily is flushed south through Fram Strait first faced south gales and became a “wrong-way” flow, but at the end the gale’s west-side north winds came into play and the ice resumed it’s southerly movement in the Strait. Further north the sea-ice was being rammed past the Pole into the Central Arctic. (The NRL animated maps show just such a sloshing in the strait and ramming further north occurring.)
The isotherm maps of the arctic show that this storm sent an arrow of Atlantic air into the heart of the arctic, which pleases Alarmists because it creates an upward spike in the temperature graph.
The funny thing is that, while the above graph suggests heat entering the arctic, the isotherm maps show heat lost. Yes, the Atlantic heat gets up there, but it’s life expectancy is short. Here are the isotherm maps, to demonstrate what I mean. We start with the Atlantic air thrusting north of Greenland and Canada.
But 48 hours of importing Atlantic air does not expand the area of warm temperatures, and the imported air looks like it is chilling.
And it soon becomes obvious that rather than warming the arctic, the influx of air is itself cooling. Look at the heat lost in only twelve hours:
And twelve hours later there is a mere whisper of the warmth that invaded.
And twelve more hours basically eraces that “feeder band” of warming from the polar map (although the Fram storm is surging a new band north.)
So, what became of that first band? I’d suggest it lifted, because it was warm, and eventually lost its heat to outer space. As it did so the moisture it held fell as snow. How much? A very small amount:
The above map shows how much precipitation has fallen in the past 24 hours, and grays are less than a tenth of an inch of melted precipitation. Light green indicates a tenth of an inch and darker green two tenths. It can be seen that even our roaring Fram Slammer, with a pressure below 27.90, can’t even eek out a quarter inch of rain (or 3 inches of snow) in a full day at its heaviest.
Very cold air is nearly incapable of holding moisture. Even the moisture in dry air will form a fog, which is why very cold water, exposed when the sea-ice cracks and forms a lead, steams like hot tea, and forms “sea-smoke”. It is also why we see our breath when its cold, and not when its hot. When Atlantic moisture manages to get north into such chill, and fall as snow, it tends to be a dusting, or perhaps as much as a inch in a big storm. By the time the air gets north it is wrung out.
Not far to the south, where Atlantic air crashes into Greenland, the situation is very different, though the same laws apply. The Atlantic air is different because it is far warmer as it comes off the Gulf Stream, and is able to hold far more moisture. Therefore when it crashes into an icecap, and is hoisted 10,000 feet and radically cooled, it sheds its moisture as snow, but the snowfall is measured in feet, not inches. How radical can the cooling be? In extreme cases air can drop from sixty above zero to forty below. As the vapor becomes snow it goes through two phase changes that free up heat, but the heat is swiftly lost to outer space at 10,000 feet.
When the dried air descends from the icecap it can actually become milder than one would expect, and in some ways like a far-north Chinook. (Just as air cools as it rises, air heats as it descends.) This can occasionally generate sensationalist headlines concerning slight thaws in the far north in the dead of winter, when in fact a Greenland Chinook is often indicative of enormous snowfalls that add, and don’t subtract, from the icecap of Greenland.
Once down to sea-level the air resumes its steady loss of heat to the sunless sky, and is very dry. The Pole is basically a desert. Therefore, when we think about a super-storm’s increased snowfall effecting sea-ice formation, we need to remember we are talking about small, even minuscule, amounts. If you keep track of maps like the above map, you almost never see any 24-hour-precipitation that isn’t gray over the Central Arctic; snows are usually dustings.
Interestingly, this dust mixes with salt dust, because salt cannot melt snow in extreme cold, and also salt is expelled from sea-water as it freezes. During times when temperatures rise just high enough, the salt starts to melt the snow, but then temperatures drop and the snow refreezes into a stiff, crisp form which has its own name in various northern languages. Lastly, due to the extreme dryness of the air the snow can sublimate into vapor without melting, and when it does this it leaves any salt it is mingled with behind. The salt is in a powdered form and is easily blown about and creates a haze, which is actually lifted by the bigger storms such as this Fram Slammer right to the edge of the stratosphere, where traces of iodine and bromine in the salt can attack ozone and make an ozone hole, (if you want something new to fret about.)
In any case, it will be interesting to watch this Fram Slammer as it wanders about up there. But now I’ve got to run to work.
Of the many variables affecting the creation, movement and dispersal of sea-ice, the super-storms of the northern Pacific and Atlantic have recently grabbed my attention, perhaps because the storm that made headlines off the coast of California was unusually far south, and made me wonder if unusual things were occurring elsewhere.
Not that there is much that is usual about “ordinary” super-storms. They do not get much press, because they largely live and die far from where most people live, but they are well worth watching, for they are more powerful than hurricanes and typhoons in their totality, though they lack the ferocious winds of a tropical storm’s central eye-wall.
They are strongest when the contrast between arctic air and the warm waters brought north by the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and the Kuroshio System in the Pacific is at its greatest. They can grow with shocking speed, called “bombogenesis” by some, and sometimes fill and vanish nearly as rapidly, while other times they and their closely associated secondary and tertiary developments wobble about as features for weeks.
Because the Pacific is larger than the Atlantic, and the Siberian tundra creates crueler cold than Canada, you might think the Pacific super-storms would be larger, but in fact the Atlantic storms hold the records for lowest pressures. In some ways this makes sense, because the clash between cold and warm is crowded into a smaller area. In any case, such massive storms influence the currents and winds entering and departing the Arctic Ocean, and in this regard the Atlantic has greater power than the Pacific, at greater depths. In fact Bering Strait is so shallow that it dries up every ice age, and most water that is chilled and sinks in the Arctic departs via a deeper channel through Fram Strait. But it is the shallow currents bringing warmer water into the arctic which are most affected by the churning of super-storms, and are what originally drew my attention away from the sea-ice, southward to the storms.
One fascinating current is the WSC, which brings warm and saltier water into the Arctic equation through the east side of Fram Strait. It is complex because its warmth makes it more buoyant than colder water at the same time as its salinity makes it less buoyant than fresher water. Therefore, as it cools, it arrives at a point where it becomes less buoyant than the sea it is entering, and at that point it stops riding atop the sea, and takes a shallow dive, sliding beneath the arctic waters like a playing card sliding in to a deck. It can be followed as a submerged current a considerable distance, all the way around the Pole, even to where it exits on the west side of Fram Strait, though it is subjected to a number of variables which can change its course and even threaten its existence. It is a difficult task for scientists to measure its whereabouts because in some ways it is like attempting to follow something that wanders like an upper air jet stream, but you can’t measure it with a weather balloon, and instead have to drill through thick ice while looking over your shoulder for 1500 pound bears. Data is scarcer than most would like, and “funding is needed”. But one variable which effects the WSC is every, single superstorm that blows up in the Atlantic.
The WSC is fed by a northern tendril of the Gulf Stream which in effect bounces off Norway and proceeds north-northwest to Svalbard. If a super-storm is to the west southerly winds hurry this current on its way, but if the super-storm is to the east its northerly winds balk the current, and also chill it. This can make a considerable difference in the nature of the current as it reaches Fram Strait, and can cause the current to take its dive earlier or later than usual. Without measurements, one indication of where the current is taking its dive is where the sea-ice at the surface melts. When the WSC is at the surface the sea-ice melts away with a rapidity which astonishes me.
However all sorts of other variables need to be kept in mind. For example, melting the sea-ice adds cold water to the WSC which reduces its temperature, and also its salinity. Also the current is drawn north not merely by powers pushing from behind, but also it is sucked north by the fact polar water is sinking and water must come north to replace it. Varying such pushing and pulling will also alter the current, which affects the sea-ice. As is often the case with meteorology, if you focus on one thing you are likely missing another; (hopefully it is not a 1500 pound bear.)
When I last posted about sea-ice a powerful high pressure lay just south of the Laptev Sea, while the remnants of one super-storm dissipated in Barents Sea as a second super-storm exploded in Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland. Cold air was being recycled from west Siberia to east Siberia, creating a pool of air so cold records were set in places, as a second, smaller pool developed over the Canadian Archipelago.
In terms of the movement of sea-ice, the most noticeable feature (to me) was the divergence of isobars towards the Pole, with some heading south towards Fram Strait and some continuing across the Pole towards the Central Arctic, which created a split and some interesting leads of open water (which swiftly froze over). Also we noted the export of coastal sea-ice was largely from the Kara Sea, with the Laptev Sea (usually the largest exporter) relatively calm, and the high pressure actually rotating around and crushing ice up against the coast of the East Siberian Sea.
Four days later the situation had changed. The super-storm off the coast of Greenland retained its strength and wobbled east to become a Barents Sea Blaster.
This movement of a super-storm tends to drive south winds up into Barents Sea, compressing the sea-ice and crushing the edge northwards, while north winds howl down through Fram Strait bringing sea-ice south along the east coast of Greenland. But the divergance persists, and a cross-polar-flow developed from Siberia to Canada. Canada has quite enough cold air and doesn’t need imports.
The warm air shows up as a spike in the polar temperature graph, but the heat is swiftly lost to the endless night.
The crushing of sea-ice north in Barents Sea may at least partially explain the flattening of the sea-ice extent graph, when it usually continues to slowly rise in January.
The south winds eventually transported warmer than normal air into western Russia, as the rest of Russia remained below normal.
It is important to remember that, while the anomalies look red hot or even white hot, fifteen degrees above normal is still frigid when “normal ” is minus thirty. What passes for “warm” in Siberia is nothing I want to see crossing the Pole and heading my way. However the pattern persisted. Three days later saw the Barent Sea Blaster weakening in the Kara Sea, but a new superstorm brewing up in its wake down in Denmark Strait, and the cross polar flow continuing to transport Eurasian cold to North America. My only hope was that a powerful Aleutian super-storm might press north from the Pacific, create a counter cross-polar-flow, and blow all that sub-zero air back to Russia where it belongs.
The cross polar flow, and bit of a counter cross-polar-flow close to Bering Strait, were definitely effecting the sea-ice. For one thing, polynyas formed on the north coast of the Laptev Sea for the first time all winter, even as air below minus forty poured north, freezing the polynyas over in a matter of hours. (In the map below lilac to white indicates the thin ice on leads and polynyas, while the dark blue and very light blue indicates the pressure ridges, which were formerly jumbled up against the shore, being pushed out to sea. Some are over six feet thick, and are handy tracking devises that show how the sea-ice is moving, as winter progresses.)
The counter cross-polar flow has been interesting to watch, for it has robbed a surprising amount of sea-ice from the northwest coast of Alaska and crushed it against Wrangle island and the northeast coast of Siberia. (West of there, along 160 E, is a thick tendril of multi-year-ice reaching towards the Pole which will be interesting to watch.)
Lastly, all the sea-ice flushed south through Fram Strait and down the east coast of Greenland is doing something relatively rare. It is attempting to create an ice-bridge across Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland.
However I am not as interested in the movement of the sea-ice as I am in the transport of Siberian air over the top to Canada. I look to today’s map, hoping to see it stop…
Alas. No such luck. The storm which was in Denmark Strait has crossed to be a Barent Sea Blaster, and, while it (and its secondary) my not qualify as a super-storm, it does keep the flow going from Eurasia to Canada. Furthermore, that big blob of high pressure has high pressure because it is very cold, and cold air sinks, and presses down, making pressures higher. Let’s see how cold it is:
That is -30 degree air, (-22 degrees Fahrenheit). It is moving over a sea of water above freezing, so the water is warming it, or it is chilling the water, but in any case it is not getting colder…until…it gets on shore in Canada. Canada can home-grow its own cold, for even below the arctic circle the sun is very low at noon, the days are short, and during the long, starry nights the snow-covered ground loses heat you’d doubt could even exist in such a wintery landscape to outer space, and the air will drop to that magic number -40, which is the only time Celsius and Fahrenheit ever agree about anything. And then…
…And then, just south of Canada, is me. But it can’t possibly come this far. We’ve had the nicest January. I can walk outdoors after dark without a scarf. Even the tiny birds, which cold can kill in minutes if they don’t flit about with amazing care, avoiding wind and shadows, have been fearless. And last time I checked the long range forecast I saw no….but those computer models have a hard time seeing cold air, because it presses down so flat it sneaks beneath their radar. Let me check again.
Oh, bleep. There it is, next Saturday.
(The high temperature of 6 translates to -14.4 Celsius, and the low temperature of -14 translates to -25.6.)
The computer could be wrong, for it is still six days away. Or it could be worse; when cold air like that dives this far south it can generate a super-storm off our coast and bury us. It will be interesting to watch as it develops, but, as others look west for our next storm, it does demonstrate a reason I watch the Pole and look for things coming “over the top”.
A fascinating change in the pattern at the Pole is occurring, involving the winds in Fram Strait switching from south winds, which prevent the sea-ice from exiting the Arctic Sea, to north winds, which flush the sea-ice down into the Atlantic.
One interesting example of the bias of Alarmists is that both south winds and north winds are a sign of Global Warming. South winds bring milder air north, which is proof the Pole is warming, while north winds flush sea-ice south and reduce the amount of sea-ice in the Central Arctic, which is proof the Pole is warming.
In any case I’ll start with a bunch of maps, which will show the switch. We’ll begin back on March 18, when high pressure over Norway and low pressure north of Greenland had south winds in Fram Strait, and a clear “feeder band” of milder air probing up towards the Pole.
The “feeder band” fed the weak low north of Greenland, and it took an unusual route over Svalbard, strengthening and switching the winds from south to north in Fram Strait.
The storm became quite strong, but notice how the “feeder band” fades. Despite the sunrise at the Pole, the warmer air is still lost to outer space, and the temperatures at the Pole remain close to thirty below.
The storm fades into western Russia, but a small low follows over Svalbard, keeping the flow of cold air south through Fram Strait.
At this point I am noticing the low down by Iceland, and wondering if it will disrupt the pattern by taking a more traditional route. High pressure is being pumped behind the prior storm, over Scandinavia.
In the above map I am already noting that the Icelandic gale will not behave as I expect, as the prior low has pumped a ridge over Scandinavia, blocking the Icelandic gale. It will be deflected towards Fram Strait. This could get interesting.
Another big low moves up from Cape Farewell at the southern tip of Greenland to Iceland, and runs up against the blocking high over Scandinavia. That high is expanding south and west, growing into what would be a northern positioning of the Azores High, if it was warmer, but it is not a balmy high pressure.
The gale has managed to squeeze over the top of the high pressure, weakening a lot, and the flow in Fram Strait is now east to west, flushing out less ice. The blocking high has forsed the next gale up the west side of Greenland, into Baffin Bay.
As the Baffin Bay low transits the high icefields of Greenland it sucks a new “feeder band” up through Fram Strait, fueling a “Ralph” (Anomolous area of low pressure) over the Pole, as the old Atlantic gale sags into Russia. At this point I am sitting back and quite confident the flow down through Fram Strait is over. The blocking high pressure is bulging north south of Iceland, forsing a second Gale west up into Baffin Bay.
Only a day later and I am scratching my head, for again there are north winds in Fram Strait, despite the Baffin Bay low approaching from the west, which I thought would create south winds. However I figure the north winds will soon shift south, and my attention is diverted to the speed at which the “feeder band” is cooled, as it fuels the “Ralph.”
The Baffin Bay low fights its way over the blocking high and the 10,000 foot high icefields of Greenland, and is in Fram Strait, where winds are nearly calm. High pressure builds in its wake. I pay little attention. I am thinking of writing a post on how the “feeder band” cooled despite the fact the sun has risen, which shows the Pole is still losing heat to outer space. I am watching “Ralph”. Fram Strait is not a focus of my attention.
Yowza! What the heck happened!? Crossing the northernmost north Atlantic the Baffin Bay low totally exploded, and the high behind it became totally pumped, and the winds are screaming south in Fram Strait. Who the heck cares about the dwindling “Ralph”, or about “feeder bands” you can barely see any more?
The Baffin Bay low, (which now perhaps qualifies as a “Barents Sea Blaster”) never sunk down into Russia, but rather wobbled about southeast of Svalbard, helped by a Fujiwara dance with another Atlantic low which managed to squeak over the blocking high. The maps below basically demonstrate we have seen six days of roaring north winds in Fram Strait. (And many other things as well, but one needs to limit ones focus, at times.)
At this point we perhaps can sit back and attempt to see what the effect of six days of Fram Flushing has been. One rather cool effect is that the sea-ice, formerly crushed west into the east coast of Greenland, has been spread out, forming polynyas of open water or very thin baby-ice along Greenland’s coast, but actually crossing the Denmark Strait and touching the north coast of Iceland in two places.
However, before you plan to saunter from Iceland to Greenland, it is important to be aware “thickness” maps exist in a dream-world of “averages” and the average of a few big bergs and much open water is six inches. There is in fact no six inch thick ice to stroll upon, and you’d better be prepared to hop like a super-kangaroo to get from big berg to big berg. A satelite few of the ice-edge between Greenland and Iceland will give you a good idea of the conditions we are dealing with.
Of course, with ice being flushed south in Fram Strait, one looks north to see where the sea-ice is coming from. And indeed some big leads have opened north of Greenland. (Greenland coast at lowest right corner.)
If you look at these leads you will notice they are dark on their left sides and more milky to the right, which shows you how rapidly sea-ice forms with temperatures still down close to thirty below. In some ways leads may increase the production of sea-ice, especially in April. (In July it is totally different, with air temperatures above freezing.) To be honest, I am uncertain if exporting sea-ice through Fram Strait decreases the amount of sea-ice, or increases it.
In the short term the more sea-ice you flush down into the Atlantic, the less your total will be, because the Atlantic swiftly melts the bergs. However there are long-term consequences as well. What happens if you chill the Atlantic?
In the winter of 1816-1817 there was apparently such an amazing Fram Strait flushing that it seems pure hyperbole. The sea-ice didn’t just reach the north coast of Iceland; it reached Ireland.(Never seen since). So much ice was flushed south the waters north of Greenland were wide open. Coastlines never mapped before were mapped, and one whaler claimed he sailed up through Fram Strait, westward over the top of Greenland, and down through Baffin Bay. The English Navy was galvanized, for it seemed a Northwest Passage might be opening up. But the same time saw a “year with no summer” in western Europe, because the Atlantic had been so chilled by the discharge of sea-ice. (Meanwhile Eastern Europe was warm; apparently the chilled Atlantic caused the summer jet stream to dig unusually far south over Western Europe, but to loop north in the East.)
In any case, the current flushing (so far) is small potatoes compared to 1817. But it is interesting to think about the factors involved.
One factor is that if you greatly cool the Atlantic you also cool the water that ordinarily melts a lot of sea ice, when it enters the arctic as the northernmost tendrils of the warm Gulf Stream. If you cool those tendrils they can melt less ice, which leads to more ice and colder temperatures which leads to even more ice. In fact the very low sea-ice of 1817 sent the 600 ship British Navy, (recently unemployed with Napoleon defeated and the conflict with the United States ended), exploring open Arctic waters which they then saw become increasingly ice covered. In 1819 William Parry was able to sail far west in the sound which now bears his name, yet the Franklin expedition perished, trapped by ice in the same waters thirty years later. It might be that a discharge of sea-ice through Fram Strait is a sort of “tipping point” or “trigger”, which sets off cooling. Or maybe not. But it should at least be considered.
Fram Strait is important because it is the only deep connection the Arctic Sea has with the rest of the world’s oceans. The arctic cools vasts amounts of water, and cold water sinks, drawing warm water north to replace it. As the warm water comes north the colder water must exit south, but has difficulty doing so in shallow waters of the continental shelf, such as Bering Strait or the waters east of Svalbard. Only west of Svalbard is there a deep channel for cold waters that have sunk deep. Even so, some cold water spills over the shallow waters of the continental shelf on the Greenland side of Fram Strait, but, as soon as that water has a chance, it plunges downwards. South of Fram Strait, where the continental shelf draws closer to Greenland, there is a sort of underwater Niagara Falls, where huge amounts of cold water plunges down over the edge of the continental shelf.
As this cold water plunges down it is removed from the influences that control weather at the surface, and, though part of the thermohaline circulation, it cannot effect temperatures at the surface for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years, when it reappears as an upwelling at some other place on the planet. However if that water comes south with a bunch of sea-ice, the sea-ice cannot sink down to the abysmal deeps, but merrily continues to bob south at the surface, and consequently continues to be able to greatly alter weather at the surface. Those who sail northern fogs state you can feel the chill of an iceberg long before you can see it.
Despite six days of frigid north winds, current anomaly maps do not show much cooling of the north Atlantic.
I think ice-water causes problems for the models that produce such maps. Technically ice-water is as cold as water can get, for it is where ice and water coexist. Therefore, because water any colder would not be water but rather ice, ice-water cannot be “above normal”, because that would suggest a “normal” where water was fluid below freezing. However I have often seen such models describe ice-water as a degree, (and in one case three), above “normal”. Impossible. But in any case I am expecting to see the models catch on later in the season, and to see the North Atlantic cooled. Currently the cooling is only apparent east of Iceland.
Another effect the north winds have is to slow the flow of warmer waters to the arctic. The major warm tendril of the Gulf Stream in Fram Strait is the WSC (West Spitsbergen Current), which bounces off the coast of Norway and travels north roughly along the line of ten degrees longitude. This mild current is responsible for ice-free water on the east side of Fram Strait, and ice-free waters north and northwest of Svalbard, sometimes even in the dead of winter. However this water is only held at the surface because it is warmer than than surrounding water; in terms of salinity it wants to sink, because evaporation down in the tropics makes it saltier than surrounding water, and salty water wants to sink below fresher water. Therefore when the WSC chills to a certain point it sinks below the surface, and can melt sea-ice no longer. Six straight days of being blasted by northern winds likely has chilled the WSC more than usual. It may dive beneath the surface prematurely, and allow sea-ice to persist north of Svalbard.
Interestingly, the WSC remains recognizable even after it dives under the surface, due to its salt content and temperature, and hard working scientists have traced it as it describes a complete circuit of the Pole and exits, still different from colder water, on the west side of Fram Strait as part of the ice-clogged, southbound EGC. (East Greenland Current.)
I am somewhat amazed by the hard work done, getting beneath the sea-ice to measure these currents, especially as such study discovers no gold and isn’t profitable in any immediate worldly sense. I’ve noticed the discoveries don’t always jive with prior discoveries. I don’t think this is due to one scientist being “right” and another “wrong”, but rather because the currents wander. After all, like the jet stream high overhead, currents have no restraining banks like a river has, and are free to meander whither they will. What I imagine is needed is a salesman to sell the idea of under-ice sensors as numerous as weather balloons are above the ice, to trace the meanderings. Hmm. Good luck with that job.
Another effect of the north winds howling south through Fram Strait for six straight days would likely be to slow the speed of the WSC northward, while increasing the speed of the EGC southward. This creates interesting pneumatic problems, for water doesn’t compress and cannot stretch. Initially I would think that slowing the speed of the WSC by a tenth of a mile per hour would only delay the arrival of the water in Fram Strait slightly, but the effect upstream might in some ways be immediate. When you press a brake pedal the pneumatic effect takes no time to reach your brakes. The only give in the Arctic Sea pneumatic system is the level of the sea, and if the WSC is importing less water north as the EGC is exporting more water south, the level of the Arctic Sea should theoretically drop. And if it is then lower than surrounding seas, would that not increase the tendency of water to pour into the arctic in other places?
Lastly, the tundra and taiga are just starting to see days longer than nights, and snows are just starting to melt, which means arctic rivers, frozen to a mere trickle by the bitter winter cold, are just beginning to rise. The increases are astounding. For example, the largest river, the Lena, can rise sixty feet in spring floods. The import of fresh water into the Arctic Sea goes from near zero to vast amounts. This fresh water tends to form a “lens” atop the saltier water, and freezes more easily than salt water. Therefore the import of water to the Arctic Sea switches from largely being saltier water from the tropics in early April, to fresh water from rivers in June. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, (or put it in your climate model and watch the computer smoke and melt down).
The more you study sea-ice the more you become aware the variables are multitudinous, and perhaps chaotic to all minds but the Creator’s. Every year 20 thousand cubic kilometers of sea-ice are created, only to melt away every summer down to around 5 cubic kilometers that remain. By the end of summer the sea-ice is splotched with meltwater pools, and in places broken into slabs.
The satellites tend to see meltwater pools as open water, but the scientists slogging about collecting data (and rescuing equipment before it sinks) know such pools are usually but puddles on firm ice (though a few can reach down through the ice, holes down to an open sea a mile deep.)
It is a beautiful landscape. I wish we still had the Barneo polar tourist-trap and jetport, the floating buoys with cameras, and the intrepid adventurers skiing past polar bears, but pictures are getting harder and harder to find. Right now we’d be seeing the floating bergs were now firmly fixed in the winter’s new baby-ice.
We could examine where leads had opened, frozen swiftly over with baby-ice, and then clapped shut, stacking the baby-ice like plates.
All these images strike me as beautiful, and inspire no dread of a “Death Spiral”, nor of a planet broiling and boiling. A quick glance at the “volume” graph shows we have more ice than last year, and indeed more than in 2017, so it’s hard to fear it is all melting away.
In fact, rather than inspiring fear, the sea-ice inspires a sense of wonder. It is amazing how our Creator designed our planet to work, with its seasons and its ebbing and flowing. My mind is more inclined towards awe than towards dread, which makes the pseudo-scientists hired by politicians seem all the more like purveyors of panic porn. They make it their business to inspire fear, rather than appreciation of how well the world is made. They want to sell vaccines, rather than appreciate the excellent antibodies made by immune systems we already possess, so they downplay wonder and stir up dread.
God’s beauty currently does not manifest in Washington D.C., but it does manifest at the Pole. If you want to feel uplifted, shut off the Fake News, and study the clouds, or sunsets, or sea-ice.
As a final aside and wonder, I’ll point out that the current flushing of Fram Strait has drained the Pole of a lot of its cold air, exporting the cold all the way south to April snows in England. Yet despite the export of all this cold air, temperatures at the Pole are not all that far above normal, and indeed are closer to normal than they were at this time last year.
It will be interesting to watch the arctic for further developments. Stay tuned.
“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.)