ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ralph’s Retirement–

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

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

Ralph7 2 26

Or like this:

Ralph7 1 28

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Obuoy 14 0831C webcam

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

Obuoy 14 0903B webcam

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

Obuoy 14 0904 webcam

However now the view is this:


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

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

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

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


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

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



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

ARCTIC SEA ICE -Northabout Can’t Shortcut-(Updated Tuesday)

The good ship Northabout is past the New Siberian Islands and plowing east, using their engines, across the East Siberian Sea. They actually experienced an entire day without seeing sea-ice, for the first time since they left the open waters of the Kara Sea, before they came across a few unmapped bergs. The main threat they have faced, and conquered, has been engine troubles.

Northabout 20k Screen-Shot-2016-08-21-at-20.33.38-1024x680

If you look at the Bremen maps of recent years, you can see they might have formerly hoped to turn northeast and cut a corner, taking a sort of Great Circle route north of Wrangle Island.

Northabout 20a SeaIceMinimum2015-asi-AMSR2_small

No such luck this year:

Northabout 20b Arctic_AMSR2_visual_small

If you hope to see an ice-free arctic, you likely favor the Bremen maps, for they tend to be MIM. (Much Ice Missing.) However if you are a sailor you don’t want to miss ice that is actually there, and are prone to look at the Russian maps, which are prepared for actual seafaring people.  This shows the ice around Wrangle Island looks more formidable than the Bremin map shows. (Wrangle Island to right).


Northabout 20c Screen-Shot-2016-08-20-at-17.26.08-1024x751

Rather than able to turn northeast and pass north of Wrangle Island, it looks like Northabout will have to turn southeast and hug the coast. This makes their route considerably longer. Then, once they pass under Wrangle Island, their problems are not over, as the larger Russian map still shows a second barrier of ice extending from Wrangle Island to the southeast, right to the coast.

Northabout 20d Screen-Shot-2016-08-10-at-09.35.55

The green color on the Russian map indicates the ice could vary between 60% and 10%, and you can bet the crew of the Northabout is hoping for 10%. They will likely be scanning the satellite maps for a more northern gap in the ice, for hugging the coast takes them even further south, likely adding an extra day to their sail, and they are running out of time.

(There is no turning back, as it looks like the ice has been blown south in the West Laptev Sea right to the shore. Not that they’d even consider it. Pilots crossing the Atlantic in the early days of flight used to speak of a “point-of-no-return”, (where it took more gas to reach land going back than continuing forward), and the Northabout has passed that point.)

The Bering Strait should be wide open, but towards Barrow yet another protrusion of ice juts down from the north, and the Barrow webcam shows that even the water that is blue on the Russian maps holds scattered bergs.

Barrow 20160821 05_47_24_126_ABCam_20160821_134400

They are planning on spending a couple days in Barrow to re-provision, and exchange crew members. I am wondering if they might reconsider the wisdom of battling on. The Russian map shows ice touching the coast, where the Canadian Ice Service shows open water at the southwest opening to the Northwest Passage. (I would tend to trust the Canadians in their own waters.)

Northabout 20e CMMBCTCA

The satellite has very clear skies over the southern part of the Northwest passage, showing ice-free waters, but blasted clouds hide the areas of interest to the east and west. The satellite view does give us a dim view of where the Canadian Map shows some ice threatening to close the passage where it jogs north.

Northabout 20f 18

For selfish reasons I hope they continue on, so I can get first-hand reporting. However I think the good crew of the Northabout may be getting tired of discovering ice where maps, especially the Bremen map, says it isn’t.

(I’ll try to include some temperature maps in an update, later.)


O-buoy 14 has drifted slowly against the normal flow of the Beaufort Gyre, southeast to 75.9°N, 136°W. Its camera gives us an opportunity to use our eyes, rather than trusting in maps. What does it show us?

Obuoy 14 0821B webcam

As we have been seeing for several days, O-buoy 14, after a brief stint in open water, is midst a mass of pulverized ice, currently with some open water in the upper right distance, and a small patch of open water ruffled by the breeze in the mid-foreground. But what leaps out, to me at least, is the slushy water in the foreground. It is refreezing, and even rounding the sharp edges of some bergs into a formation called “pancake ice.”

This is what I love about these arctic cameras. You can’t get this information from graphs. What do graphs show us?

The temperatures have been below freezing.

Obuoy 14 0821B temperature-1week

It is still breezy, though winds have slacked off some.

Obuoy 14 0821B windspeed-1week

One thing I have witnessed too often is how Alarmists and Skeptics can look at the exact same graphs and come to very different conclusions, and paint very different pictures. The camera frees us from that. The picture is painted by an Artist far greater than any of us. The Truth is there, for eyes that see.

With my weak vision I see the yearly battle between basal melting and surface freezing underway. The surface freezing always wins in the end, but right now we exist in a marvelous equipoise, even as the daylight dwindles and the big chill gains strength. For a time the refreeze makes inroads, and then a thaw fights back and basal melting can eat surprising holes.

If you are the captain of a ship your eyes must be constant assessing the situation. In the old days the whaling ships dared sail far north, seeking the un-hunted whaling grounds, but they had to time their escape south right, or their ship would be trapped. Now the captain of the Northabout sails the same seas, scans the same situation, and wears the same shoes. The responsibility is not small, when you are not sitting in an armchair far away, making excuses for the fact the Pole isn’t as ice-free as you thought it would be. You face a sea that doesn’t care about excuses.


I promiced I’d look at the temperatures the Northabout may face, so I’ve gone to the Weatherbell Site and poured through some of the thousands of maps Ryan Maue makes available. I prefer the Canadian maps in the short term, for they know their business up north, [but I have to shake my head at the “JEM” model’s habit of foreseeing fabulous storms in the long term. I have learned not to panic, for the major hurricanes roaring up the east coast of the USA haven’t happened (so far.)]

The days are still longer than the nights, and one thing the midday maps show in any arctic area is how toasty warm the Tundra gets. Look how nice and warm it is in inland Alaska today.

Northabout 20g cmc_t2m_arctic_3

However look at inland Alaska only 12 hours later. Much colder. This doesn’t happen in high summer, and what it shows is that the nights are swiftly growing longer, and starting to have a definite chilling effect.

Northabout 20h cmc_t2m_arctic_5

The above maps also show that the storm I dubbed “Ralph” is sitting north of Greenland, keeping a lot of cold air wrapped up and trapped in its circulation. It also shows a sort of “feeder band” of juicy air poking north through westernmost Siberia, to fuel further mischief and perhaps keep “Ralph” going. Likely a secondary storm will brew in the Laptev, and the Northabout, being well to the east, will be blessed by southerly winds that push the ice away from shore.

However when I glace at the winds shown by the JEM modle for Tuesday, the south winds look fairly strong at Wrangle Island. Once winds get above 20 mph they can actually slow you down, because you have to reef your sails.

Northabout 20j cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_13

Also I should say the map looks messy. Chaos is rearing its head, and computer models like things nice and neat. So I’m not sure I trust the forecast.

Check out the temperature map for five days from now. Remember, days are still longer than nights, and at noon in Siberia it should be nice and toasty over the Tundra.

Northabout 20l cmc_t2m_arctic_21 (1)

For goodness sake! That ridiculous model is showing an arctic outbreak of freezing temperatures blasting south nearly to China! And it is only August!

This could get me off into a  long digression about a loopy ( or “meridional”) jet stream, but I am fairly certain the good ship Northabout is not overly concerned about the weather in China. They only look ahead to Barrow. And things do look a bit warmer there.

One fun thing to do with these maps is to open them on new tabs, and click between them. When I do this, and compare the 24-hour temperature map with the 120-hour temperature map,  the warming at Barrow is plain, but when you head further east to the Northwest Passage, you see the big chill sneaking south. The outbreak may be far smaller than the one blasting towards China, but it is there.

“Polar Challenge” indeed.  The Northabout has quite the battle ahead.

The thing of it is: Even to complete the Northeast passage is quite an achievement, in a small boat. I won’t mock or shame the Northabout if they haul out at Barrow, and say, “Wait until next year!”

After all, that is what certain “Climate Scientists” do. Year after year they say “this summer the Pole will be ice-free.” Year after year they are dead wrong, yet the government showers them with money. Surely the Northabout deserves the same, if they too say “wait until next year.”

But…..(and forgive me for pouting just a little here)….what about me? Year after year I am dead right. What do I get?

(Sigh)…….nothing but abuse.


They continue to slog east-southeast. Making decent time, but the winds are starting to turn against them, and the going may be a bit rough tomorrow, I fear.

Northabout 21 Screen-Shot-2016-08-22-at-23.45.06-1024x824.png

From their blog:

“N71 13 E161 12 Pressure 1007, Water 6, air 0, UTC 20:30, 22 Aug, East Siberian Sea

Wind against us, so choppy seas. We also got the latest sat photo this morning and having to go further south even more to avoid the ice.

BUT slowly going East. Ice tomorrow I think.  The Irish in 2004 had a torrid time around here with the ice, so hoping we get better luck…”

Strong southeast breezes start blowing south of Wrangle Island tomorrow night and persist several days.

Northabout 21b gfs_mslp_uv10m_arctic_6


Yesterday the good ship had to assume a heading of due south and even southwest to avoid the southern edge of a tongue of ice. They got all the way down to latitude 70° north before turning east, and successfully negotiating the southern edge. Now they are plugging east at 9-10 kmh.

Finding ice so far south doesn’t further the assertion we are close to having an ice-free Pole this summer, but it does further my statement last spring that the ice had been pushed over to the Russian side. They hope to find smoother sailing on the North American side.

Coming so far south puts them further away from the tail end of the six months of “midnight sun” at the Pole, and they experienced actual night and saw their first stars in months. They also shared a truly marvelous photograph, with northern lights:

Northabout 23 сияние-1024x682

This picture, besides being beautiful, demonstrates how all the arguements about how the low “albedo” of September’s open waters means the water absorbs sunlight are hollow. The waters in the picture are losing heat, and warming the moonlight.

It looks to me as if south winds should push the ice ahead of them north, and clear their path to Barrow, though I’m sure they’ll take extra care at night to be on watch for stray bergs.

“Yesterday was very interesting, we plodded south to avoid the ice. I came up early to get ice on my watch. Oddly, with the sun in the right direction you get a thing called ‘Fata Morgana’ and the ice looks like towering ice cliffs. You can understand why the early explorers saw these cliffs and thought the route barred.

Then Sunset. Poor Constance had a full watch of dodging ice in the dark, thank goodness eating that bird seed has helped her night vision. Then our first star and a dazzling first display of the Aurora Borealis. What a day.

The new ice charts showed we were right to come south, and now just skirting the southern edge. Now hopefully a straight line to Point Barrow. Get those eastings up. Amazingly, the ice charts show how lucky we are, the Laptev sea is now closed behind us.”

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Volga, I mean, Lena Boat Men–(updated)

The Northabout has been making better time, as it passes the delta of one of the most fantastic rivers on earth.

The Lena River is one of the ten largest in the world. It goes from nearly being frozen solid in winter to amazing floods in the summer. As I recall off the top of my head, 3% of its flow occurs in January, and 40% in August. In places the water level in the Lena River rises 60 feet during the August Floods. During the floods the salinity of the Laptev Sea decreases, so much fresh water pours into it. Along with all the water comes all sorts of Siberian trees and branches, so that is something besides bergs the crew of the Northabout have to be wary about.

My preconception was that the surge of fresh water brought north by the Lena floods created a slightly milder lens of fresh water near the delta. Maps show the area as ice-free. Therefore I was surprised when on the 17th they mentioned having to take care about bergs in fog. This shows the importance of on-the-scene reporters.

Northabout 19a DSC_1142-600x400


They have made decent time east across the Laptev Sea, but complain a bit about meeting areas of ice in waters the maps show as “ice-free”. This occurs because, once the amount of ice dips below a certain percentage of a “grid-cell”, it stops being counted. I’ve seen maps where ice is not counted as “existing” when it is high as 30%, but the saner maps tend to use 10% as the cut-off point. But, when you are in a small boat, 1% can damage your craft if you pull off a Titanic. Also, the ice does not arrange itself in a dispersed manner in the “grid-cell”, but can be a sort of swirl, and form a line of bergs like a ice-bar or ice-reef, which must be navigated.

These sailors want to haul ass and don’t appreciate anything slowing them down, but the above picture shows something else they may have forgotten about:  “Twilight”.

Until you have experienced a winter up at high latitudes, you cannot imagine how depressing the winter darkness is. Conversely, until you have experienced a summer at high latitudes, you can have no idea how intoxicating the endless sunlight is. Dark ceases to enter your calculations, and you enter a sort of state of delusion, until the dark comes creeping back and twilight returns.

As these sailors hurry east they are going to increasingly be confronted by darkness limiting their visibility. Their solar panels on the deck will be less and less effective, and as each twilight grows more dusky they will be less and less able to see the stray bergs they come across in “ice free” waters. Do they have searchlights, and the generators to power such lights? (Also the stray bergs can create mini-fog-banks in calmer weather, which is yet another thing to slow them down, as such fog renders searchlights useless.)

The Northabout is facing increasing challenges, even as they thought they had left sea-ice in their past, and sailing would be clear and easy.  Best wishes to them, as they approach the entrance to the East Siberian Sea.



Obuoy 14 0818 webcam


Obuoy 14 0819B webcam


ARCTIC SEA ICE –Northabout Awaits Thaw–(With Monday Update)

We have been watching the travels of the Northabout, which is attempting to circumnavigate the Pole this summer, with interest because it will act as our on-the-scene reporter of ice-conditions on the Siberian side of the Pole.

The Northabout is tucked into a cove to the west of Vilkitskogo Strait, which is the western entrance of the Laptev Sea. They are waiting for the sea-ice conditions to improve, and south winds may be helping them out. Skies have cleared, and you  can peer down from outer space by using:

I’m going to try to zoom in, copy, and paste the image here.

Drat. For some reason it clipped off the edges. Anyway, the Northabout is off the picture to the right. South winds have cleared a tentative channel right along the coast to thicker sea-ice on the right side of the picture. That thicker ice is broken up, and a gutsy captain might try to pole and poke his way through, with a steel hulled boat made for such conditions. On the other hand, one can sip vodka and wait.

During August the Siberian rivers reach their peak levels of flood, as all last winter’s snow is melted by the long days and is rushing downstream. The floods are unreal. The Lena River (world’s tenth largest) can rise sixty feet from its January levels. All that water pours into the Arctic Sea and creates a “freshwater lens” along the coast, especially in the Laptev Sea. Though the river water is very cold it can melt Sea Ice, and create a brief channel. Interestingly, because it is fresher, it freezes at a higher temperature, and the “freshwater lens” in the Laptev Sea doesn’t need much of an excuse to re-freeze. (Watch how quickly the Laptev Sea freezes in the fall.)

My guess is that they will bide their time and wait for melting. The problem is that they’ll be falling behind schedule.

They are tucked into a bay in an island that is near the center of the satellite shot below. (South to the top.)You can see that the north winds behind the last storm pushed a lot of ice south to the east of their refuge.

Below is a picture posted by “Colorado Wellington” over at

(South to the bottom. Location of Northabout marked by the red dot.)

Northabout 9 15139-1

It does look like the last low pressure system pushed the ice southeast, but I’m not concerned about them being blocked in at this point, as winds are shifting to the south as a ridge of high pressure slides over. Then the next low will give them some south winds ahead of it, and may be helpful because it may pull a loop-de-loop in the Kara Sea, keeping them in the south winds and pushing the ice away from shore.  The lows center broadens in the Canadian JEM model, giving them a period of calm if they want to attempt to motor through Vilkitskogo Strait,  72 hours from now.

Hopefully this post will include updates. They are well worth watching.

Tuesday Update

They are still waiting. Some ice blew into their anchorage. “At 4am Constance woke me, bits of floating ice all around.  I thought she was pissed, so got up in my boxers. She was right, with the change of direction of wind, we had lots of bits of loose ice all around the boat, and worryingly, congregating around the anchor chain.”

I wish they’d post some pictures. Also describe how the water temperatures changed as the ice moved in. Maybe they will, later. I sent an inquiry to their blog site.

The blogger “AndyG55” produced this good picture of how the ice blew south, and where they anchored. (South is to the top.) He marked a potential escape route with the yellow arrow, though I think the ice will stay scattered. Winds have since shifted to the west, and it looks like our good satellite view will be obscured by clouds.

Northabout 10 15248-1

Now AndyG55 has posted a picture of the clouds moving in today.

Northabout 11 15259-1

I would not blame the captain for being cautious. One thing the satellites do not show very well is the smaller bergs, and last summer I could watch O-buoy 9 go from being in water that seemed utterly ice-free to a scene of jammed ice in a matter of mere hours.

I’ll continue to update, as this is interesting to me.


Below is a picture of the ice that blew down the harbor and gave them a rude awakening.

Northabout 12 Screen-Shot-2016-08-04-at-12.11.50-1024x571

Thursday Update

Looks like they have to hunker down and wait out a bit of a blow that blew up right on top them. The winds may be clearing the coast of the Laptev Sea but it looks like Vilkitskogo Strait could be jammed up. The storm will fade by Sunday, and then they’ll have to appraise the situation.

Northabout 13 gfs_mslp_uv10m_arctic_2

Saturday Morning

It was a good thing they were in a safe anchorage, as the storm gave them gale force winds gusting up to 38 knits, and near white-out conditions of fog, rain, and some wet snow. Air temperatures were around +2°.

The storm is now filling and fading to the west.PS1 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_1

By Sunday morning their north winds should have slackened, and they will be able to appraise how much ice blew south to block their route.

PS3 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_5

By Monday morning a very small low will develop in the wake of the departing storm, and they may see winds shift to the south as it approaches.

PS5 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_9

It is more of a test than you would imagine to be trapped in a boat with the same people day after day, especially when you can’t even go out onto the deck to see the sky. Until the strait clears there is nothing they can do but be patient and wait.

Here was the ice-situation before the storm (from Ron Clutz’s site). I’ll have to figure out how he gets these maps.

Northabout 14 laptev-gateway

Northabout 15 ru-legend


We are getting our first glimpses through the clouds as the storm fades, and it looks like their is still ice in the strait, though it may be less concentrated in places. There is a sort of geology to sea-ice, and I can see what I call “ice bars”, for they remind me of the sand bars that form along the sandier parts of the east coast. They shift fairly swiftly, and I doubt one would seek to plow through them in a sailboat the way one can do with an icebreaker.

If they do attempt a run along the coast they will be keeping an anxious eye to the north, for the ice can return. A very good example was seen up in Barrow Alaska last week. The ice was gone, and none could be seen on the horizon, for over two weeks, and then it returned abruptly, and crunched up against the shore. At low tide it could be seen that the bergs were fairly thick; definitely not slush. Briefly there was a second mass of ice visible on the horizon. Hopefully a link to the webcam (atop a bank building) can be seen here:

(I’d hoped to preserve the above video for posterity, but unfortunately it stopped working when it was replaced by a updated 10-day video. You can still see the sea-ice (for a few more days) by going to the website and hitting the ten-day-animation, but when the event recedes more than ten days into the past it will be harder to find a record of it.  The website is here:

Once the visual record is unavailable you’ll just have to take my word for it that what happened happened.)

If a sailboat was coasting along the shore and a mass of ice like that came south the captain would be in for some difficult maneuvering, and the crew busy pushing the bergs from the boat with poles. In a worst case scenario they might be driven ashore with the ice. So I can see why a captain would wait in a safe anchorage, even if the vodka ran out.

I should note that the satellite didn’t show the ice at Barrow as anything worse than milky-looking water. The ice is more impressive when you meet it face-to-face. (Also note that, although Barrow is well north of the Arctic Circle, the sun dips so low to the north at midnight that it briefly sets. The time of 24-hour sunlight has past, and the chill will start building.)


High clouds continue to make it difficult to get a clear picture of the ice conditions in the strait.

They now have been biding their time for a solid week, and are likely suffering a small-craft equivalent of cabin fever. Fortunately conditions grew calm enough to test out the dingy, and they got to walk a bit on solid ground, before a mother polar bear with two cubs gave them an adrenaline rush, and caused a hasty retreat.

Northabout 16 IMG_3454

The bears look rather healthy, and seem to cast doubt on Al Gore’s suggestion that polar bears starve without sea-ice. A good reference, if you want to learn more about this subject, is Susan J. Crockford’s site:

Apparently polar bears do most of their eating in the spring, when new-born seal pups spend their first week helpless, by air-holes in the ice. By the time the ice melts the bears are obese, and quite able to get through the summer only nibbling a bit, subsisting on body fat. Susan points out that what really reduces the bear population is too much ice, for thick ice means there are no air-holes for seals, and the seal population takes a dive, which means the bears go hungry, and few cubs survive. (Al Gore’s weepy movie was wrong, in this respect, among its other errors.)

In any case, our sailors got some excitement, which is just the tonic needed to alleviate boredom, as they wait. They also received a another real-life lesson. Misconceptions, whether they be about sea-ice or about polar bears, tend to be self-correcting, provided you keep your eyes open and seek the Truth.

ANCHORS AWEIGH. Monday afternoon.

They’ve finally headed east toward the strait. Best wishes.


As the sun beams down for twenty-four hours a day in the arctic, the Pole simply cannot get as cold, and the clash between the arctic and the tropics grows less. Not that the clash can’t still generate notable storms, but they grow less common. In fact spring is kinder than the autumn, because in the fall the abrupt end of all sunlight, and the cold which sunlessness creates, clashes with waters and landscapes that retain and “remember” the summer warmth, and such clashes can be extreme. In the spring the abrupt cessation of darkness cannot create such a clash, for the gradually warming arctic is rubbing against waters and landscapes that still retain and remember winter cold, and at times they are basically the same temperature, and the clashes are nonexistent.

The results are the unexciting maps we are witnessing.  (Dullsville, man, dullsville).

This is as close as we have seen to a textbook “zonal” pattern in a long time. I may have to look about in the shrubbery for that textbook I threw out the window, for having a high pressure sit on the Pole obeys the textbook idea of the “Polar Cell”, with air descending at the Pole, and storms wheeling about the periphery, pumping the air aloft that comes down at the Pole.

Polar Cell cells_mod

An interesting side effect of this kinder and gentler pattern is that currently there are no above-freezing temperatures at the Pole. Dullsville can’t do that, until June. When else can it thaw besides the midsummer? Ironically it took the the coldest temperatures of the entire winter to derange things into a non-zonal and “meridienal” state, and suck a brief plume of above-freezing temperatures north, last Christmas. In fact it took temperatures so cold it was the only time they dipped “below normal” in El Nino winter (north of 80 degrees), to suck the plume of brief “warmth” north. (The extreme cold shows as a couple dips below the “green line”, just before temperatures spiked at the end of the year, in the graph below.)

DMI3 2015 meanT_2015

To witness the nature of the clash, the maps from Christmas are required, but unfortunately I am a sentimental fool. Rather than being disciplined. and saving the maps from Christmas, I was attending to foolish things like family, friends, and plum pudding. Therefore I confess I only saved the maps from the day before and the day after Christmas.


It sure wasn’t Dullsville, back then! Huge storms were roaring perilously close to the Pole! These gales flung Atlantic air right over the Pole, (and you can still see the remnant “warmth” (in fact below freezing by the 26th) to the Pacific side of the Pole, in the second map).

At the time Alarmists were dancing in the streets, because temperatures may have nudged above freezing, if not on the Pole itself, then at a buoy very close to the Pole. It was an event worth Washington Post headlines. More quietly, under the froth of headlines, a scientist named Wendy gathered solid data and shared it with us here:

If the Washington Post was interested in both sides of the story it might report that, despite twenty-four hour sunshine, the Pole can’t get above freezing, now.  But The Washington Post won’t. Why not? Because it is Dullsville.

Let’s face it, the dull stuff, which is what scientists must drudge through most if the time, doesn’t make headlines. The media wants every day to be Christmas, when we can skip the hard work of recording maps, and temperatures, and just be enthusiastic. Yippee! Yahoo! Like a cowboy in town on a bender. Not like the cowboy riding and herding cattle day after day in the driving sleet and parching dust. However if that cowboy didn’t ride the range through all that sleet and dust, we’d have no beef on our table, and he’d have no time on the town going yippie-yahoo. In like manner, scientists could never lift their index fingers and utter their flabbergasting revelations if it were not for long times spent in the tedium and drudgery of Dullsville.

And Dullsville is where we are at, right now, as we attempt to be informed voters, and watch the sea-ice, in order to separate the science from the sensationalism.

Usually this time of year is always fairly dull, but also we get our best views of the sea-ice now, and can use the images to play Sherlock Holmes and deduce what happened when darkness hid all last winter.  We get our pictures from cameras on buoys, and from cameras held by adventurers on the ice, as it is now that adventurers dare go out on the ice because the sun is brightest and the ice is firmest. However something odd has happened the past few years. The cameras on buoys have all vanished, except for O-buoy 14’s. Also the adventurers have quit their adventuring, as few fund them, (and/or fund the air support they require). This makes the dull time waiting for the ice to start thawing even duller, because we don’t even get any pictures, and can’t even argue about what the pictures show.

I confess I have a suspicious side. I would call it a paranoid side, but unfortunately my suspicions have too often proved true.  However, before I go into my suspicions, I should simply report the facts, and show O-buoy 14 shows a dull waste of white, without the thaw starting.

Obuoy 14 0506 webcamObuoy 14 0508 webcam

And that is all I can post. Some unnamed person cut the funding, so I can’t post any pictures for the “North Pole Camera” this year. Nor does it seem that anyone found the funds to place cameras beside Mass balance Buoys, north of Alaska, this spring. Where has all the money gone? It makes me suspicious.

I also find it suspicious we have lost all but one of the Mass Balance Buoys, and also O-buoys 8b, 13 and 15.  Why? Because I think the wiser Arctic-Sea-Ice scientists would not have placed the buoys in foolish places where they would obviously be prone to being destroyed. (In one place the ice broke up only hours after the camera was placed). Whether the buoys were instead placed by a know-nothing political appointment who was too stupid to chose the better places, or were placed by a devious manipulator who intended for them to fail, (perhaps because higher-ups disapprove of eyewitnesses seeing the ice isn’t melting away as expected), the fact remains they are all gone, and rather than having buoys increase our knowledge, we are now left in the dark. (We do have some satellite views, but the buoys often proved “modeled” satellite data was incomplete and inaccurate, and even non-modeled visual satellite pictures were from too far away to capture important details.)

I would rather rely on facts than suspicions, but I am denied the facts. I am reduced to a view not much better than midwinter darkness, and a level not much higher than the media’s, and the media cared more for sensationalism than facts right from the start.

Therefore you must forgive me for creating a media-like sensationalism of my own, without facts. It is tantamount to this suspicion:

Some people are dependent on a sensationalist illusion, which suggests the sea-ice is melting away. They are paid for promoting the hoop-la about a polar “Death Spiral” that hasn’t occurred. They therefore dislike the cameras and buoys and adventurers they formerly funded, for such buoys, cameras, and people are not supporting their sensationalism that the Pole is in a Death Spiral. They see old friends as foes. In fact they may dislike even an Alarmist website like the notorious “Nevin’s”. Why? Because even “Nevin” likes to use actual data and actual pictures from actual cameras as he, with his filter of bias, sees what he wants to see. Why dislike “Nevin”?  Because even as an Alarmist his honesty grates against the sensationalist meme that the ice is melting away, and he is too honest about the fact the ice isn’t gone, even as he assures everyone it will be, it will be, it will be, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

Too many tomorrows have come and gone, and the ice is still there.  The sensationalist illusion has been utterly undermined.  The people dependent on a sensationalist illusion may even be starting to understand  their days are numbered. They were the “insiders”, but may be on their way out.

The American voters are seeming to riot as a rabble against the demure assurances of “insiders”, preferring a Trump to the “insider” Bush, and a Sanders to the “insider” Clinton (and even to be pissed off at the current president, because such voters only voted for the president because they “hoped for a change” but instead got an even greater dose of “more of the same”.)

The “consensus” sensationalist illusion can not stand up to the hard Truth of reality, in all areas, including the obscure subject of arctic sea-ice.  The writing is on the wall. The “insiders” think they are the “consensus”, but the Majority know the word “consensus” means “insiders”, and doesn’t include the Majority that is increasingly fed up, to a degree where grumbling is becoming a growl.

My final suspicion is this: Some can see the writing on the wall, and know it is time to take the money and run. If they take the money for themselves and run, then real scientists suffer from a lack of funding, and buoys and satellites break down, which is what we are seeing.

However I confess that is mere suspicion, on my part. I would be glad to see it is paranoia, but I doubt it is.  The blatant hypocrisy of those who have used immortal beauty as a thin veneer over mortal lusts has been so absurdly and clearly obvious for so long it has become laughable, and the practitioners are swiftly becoming jokes. Already their rats are deserting their ships.

On the other hand it may be that the buoys and cameras and satellites are failing for some other, logical reason. I can’t explain the satellites, but the sea-ice is not as smooth as it used to be. Maybe it is getting crumpled up, compressed like an accordion, and destroying Mass Balance Buoys and Cameras as it increasingly buckles and bulges.

If this is the case, the resultant thickening ice is not the same as ice thinning, melting away, and leading to an ice-free Pole and a “Death Spiral”. In such a case both Skeptics like myself and Alarmists like “Nevin” would like to discuss what the evidence of thickening sea-ice means. Yet it is hard to do so when some unnamed person somewhere in Washington fails to maintain (or even fund),  buoys, cameras, and even satellites.

Dullsville may not turn out to be so dull after all.


ARCTIC SEA ICE –Comparison with 2006–

I was listening to some Bach yesterday to mellow out my temper, but unfortunately was on a PBS station which injected a bit of Climate Change hoopla into my brain before I could change the channel, the result being I was anything but mellow. The editorial was so full of incredibly distorted news that I’m surprised the speaker’s nose didn’t grow so long it poked out through the front of the radio.

Just for an example, every El Nino makes the waters warmer around Australia, which allows waters to get hot enough, in the shallowest reef-waters, to “bleach” some coral. The coral dies, and then comes back after the water cools. I’m not sure what percentage gets bleached, but it isn’t all that high. I’m not sure how long it takes for the reef to recover, but it isn’t that long. Like a forest fire in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, “bleaching” is not pretty, leaves a short-term wasteland, but is a part of the natural cycle of things.

I know all this because there was a “coral reef bleaching scare” around ten years ago, and I paid attention to a degree where I actually visited Australian websites. Some fellows at resorts were irritated that they might lose customers because people would assume the reefs were dead, while other fellows thought tourists would come if the guides played on a theme of “see the reef before it is too late.” However I soon understood the reefs were not anywhere close to dying out; bleaching had occurred before, and the reef always recovered. Some websites frequented by scuba divers were downright contemptuous of the media, and how ill-informed the reporters were, and how some scientists were pandering for funding, to study reefs the scuba divers already knew about. The divers joked the scientists were looking for a paid vacation. In the end the scare blew over and the coral recovered.

The PBS editorial I accidentally listened to was replaying all the exaggerations of the old scare, based around this latest El Nino. For example, in an area of sun-baked shallow water up to 99% of the coral can die. That is a true fact. However it is a gross distortion to use the “up to 99%” figure for the entire barrier reef. Yet the editorial said something along the lines of, “A professor and his students were reduced to weeping because up to 99% of the Great Barrier Reef had died.” That may not be an out and out lie, if you parse the sentence with a lawyer, but it gives a false impression, and therefore PBS seemingly is misusing its funding. It is suppose to educate the public, not bleat propaganda. (The (unnamed) professor is suppose to do the same.) (Weeping isn’t scientific, and weeping is known to, in fact, cloud scientific objectivity. A bunch of bawling students is therefore not a sign of a good teacher.)

The editorial went on to do the same with other facts regarding sea-ice. My favorite involved blithely explaining away the cold hitting Europe as “cold displaced by the heat at the Pole.”

Joe Bastardi at Weatherbell site  posted a Dr. Ryan Maue forecast map of snow in Germany this week.

Germany April snow 2 gfs_tot_snow_eur_29(1)

I was curious as to whether the forecast had verified, so I checked back to the Weatherbell site, and Joseph D’Aleo was (as usual) right on the ball. I learned temperatures over Germany were ten degrees below normal.

Germany April snow 3 ncep_cfsv2_4_t2anom_europe(2)

And Pierre Gosselin reported to Joseph,

“Winter transforms Germany’s Thuringia Forest into a winter wonderland today. Massberg webcam photo 11.07 a.m.

Newsite Thuringia Antenne here writes that winter has returned and will stick around for awhile, reporting of icy roads, accidents and cold. Meteorologist Dominik Jung of forecasts 5 to 10 cm of snow across wide regions of Germany, especially Bavaria and Thuringia.

The Rheinbrecke at Rees had to be closed for over an hour and a half early this morning due to accidents from icy conditions, the RP Online reports here.”

Germany April snow. Winter_massberg_April_26_2016

While it is true Europe is smaller than the Arctic Ocean, (3.931 million square miles versus 5.427 million square miles), when you include the area of Atlantic Ocean covered by the cold hitting Europe you wind up with an area larger than the Arctic Ocean. Nor is the entire Arctic Ocean above normal. Slightly less than half of it is, in fact, below normal.

Germany April snow 4 gfs_t2m_anomf_arctic_1

None of this was mentioned in the editorial, of course.  In the end it basically dissolved into a diatribe against people who vote out Alarmists, such as Australians. What was most nauseating to me was its “science-is-settled” attitude, which accepted guff as gospel.

I have my doubts about recent record-keeping, due to some being polluted by  “adjustments”, but, using those records, we are indeed feeling the effects of a large El Nino, and the air temperatures of the world are at “record highs” as the sea-ice-extent is brushing “record-lows.” I don’t find this particularly alarming, as records are set all the time, when the period when the records have been kept is relatively short.  The last El Nino did indeed set a recent record, for the central Pacific, but didn’t for the waters just off Peru. Off Peru the 1998 and 1982 El Ninos were “the worst ever”.  In any case, I’ve been expecting a lot of hubbub to be made about this El Nino’s mildness, and the word “unprecedented” to be used a lot, and the PBS editorial didn’t disappoint me.

What is always interesting to do is to search the historical records we have from the period before modern records were kept.  They are full of surprises, and in fact it was my study of the conditions the Vikings in Greenland lived under that first alerted me to the fact that the word “unprecedented” didn’t include a huge swath of history.

I started poking around in the past, looking at low sea-ice extent, and I didn’t need to go far to find an example that surprised me. It was the year 2006, which most think of as a year with higher ice-extent, because most focus on September and not late April. I found a good site for making such comparisons, where you can erase all the years you don’t want charted, and avoid facing a hopeless tangle of graphed squiggles. I thought it would be interesting to compare 2006 with 2012, (2012 being the year with the lowest extent on record). Here’s the site, so you can do your own comparing:

What is interesting is that 2012 was above normal, while 2006 was at record-setting lows, at the start of May. By September 2006’s extent was barely below 6 million km2, while 2012 was well below 4 million km2. In other words, all the hubbub about how low levels now are might actually mean we are in for a year like 2006, rather than 2012.

At this point one runs into a lot of talk about how much more solid the ice was back in 2006, versus how flimsy it is now. So I did a bit of checking. People have been skiing from 89 degrees north to the Pole for over ten years, so I went and looked at the “final degree” diary for 2006. Temperatures were milder that year than this year, and April  17 had this intriguing headline.


Reading a little discovered this:

We have crossed difficult leads of open water today, where we also had to use our two large sleds as bridge to get across. This we can do on two-three meter wide leads. We lash the two sleds together to make a catamaran, and push them out in the water. This raft floats well and becomes a stable platform; we then crawl across to the other side one after another. This system works on small leads, but on wider leads we need to find a crossing point.

We did 15.5 kilometre on our ten hour long day. It’s now 46 kilometres left to the Pole, and it looks like we will make it with good margin. At the end of the day however, we came to an enormous lead, 3-400 metre wide. We made camp nearby this lead, and Thomas and I went out to look for a crossing point for tomorrow. Pressure ridges and large leads have one thing in common; they don’t last forever. When we meet such leads there is just one thing to do and that is to walk along it until we find a crossing point. They can be several kilometres long but sooner or later the lead will close. The good thing about such leads is that they take up a lot of the movement in the ice and we hope conditions are more stable on the other side.

OK, that is 2006, when the ice was “thicker”.

Now let’s evesdrop on 2016

From April 14

A long and hard day. Lots of snow on the ice, and a lot of rubble. Not extreme, but it’s there all the time…

Final Degree 1 in-the-ice

From April 16

Beautiful day, sunny but cold. Also today heavy walking, but nothing so bad that we have to turn back. The drift has changed direction and has almost stopped up.

Final Degree 2 ice-2

Now, if I was like PBS I would never mention that they later came across open leads. I’ve made my point: The ice was thick and piled up this year. However, because I am in love with truth, I’ll mention the leads.

From April 17

Just slightly some wind, and it was in our back. Temperature probably around minus 30-35.

And drift was almost zero. We got into better ice, less bulky and with hard snow. We followed a new lead that went straight north for almost an hour.

From April 18

We skied 18 Km, same as the day before. Lots of snow in the ice, but good conditions. A lot of large pans.

From April 19

Sunny, a bit wind from the back, warmer aprox 25 under.

We met an open lead right away in the morning. Struggled there for a bit, but came over. After that we had to jump several cracks, and did a couple more leads…

We then meet the mother of all leads just before camp time! Luckily it had one point that was possible to cross. We went over and came into camp at 20:15.

There. That is what real reporting looks like. You report truth, not just what supports your theory.

The “Race Against Time” expedition experienced the same arctic landscape. They started further south, experiencing some leads at the start, but then fought through a great deal of pressure ridging, which they described as “boulder fields”. Later they too came across the leads close to the Pole, and displayed their unabashed bias (apparent throughout the trip) by stating, “Strangely warm day around -10C. 8 hours trekking today. Reached a huge expanse of water, which is bizarre so close to the North Pole.”

They should have read up on 2006, for then they would have seen that the temperatures they experienced were colder than 2006 through much of their trip. Rather than “strangely warm” they should have stated 10ºC  was”temperatures like 2006″. Also if they had researched they would have known that the adventurers in 2006 also found leads near the Pole. Maybe they would have even researched to a point they would have known there were leads near the Pole in 1987.  It’s not so “bizarre” after all.

Barneo 6C 3-subs-north-pole-1987

I always admire the people who ski to the Pole. The oldest has been 69 and the youngest has been, I think, 10. However the “Race Against Time” crew got a bit too maudlin for me.  On one hand they had to promote how “delicate and fragile” the arctic was, but on the other hand they had to make it sound like they were up against hardships only supermen could endure, and this made them describe the pressure ridges they had to haul heavy sleds over as being like the Himalayas. Wrong.  Making pressure ridges sound huge is politically incorrect, if you want to promote the idea all the ice is melting.  They forgot the political cause, in their lust for self-aggrandizement.

Fool Ranulph

All I can say is, “Put on a hat, you fool!”

To return to more mundane matters, the last “whirl” faded away from the Pole, pumping a high behind it. This has cut off the export of cold down into the North Atlantic, but not before the trough mentioned at the start of the post was filled to the brim with cold. That trough will slowly drift across Europe to the east, and some milder temperatures will finally return to Europe from west to east as that trough moves to Russia.

It looks to me like Pacific air may try to generate the next “swirl” at the Pole, but the models suggest that low north of Iceland will be the next low at the Pole, splitting the high pressure in Frem Strait in half. Hmm. I guess we’ll see what we see.

O-buoy 13 has been experiencing dull weather, cloudy but with little snow, and steady temperatures at -10ºC.Obuoy 13 0429 webcam

O-buoy 14 has been producing the better pictures, and reminding me of what originally attracted me to these cameras. (Beauty). Temperatures have been going through a diurnal swing between -7ºC and -15ºC. It’s gradually clouding up.

Obuoy 14 0427 webcam

Obuoy 14 0429 webcam

Things remain fairly dull, usually, until the thaw starts, but perhaps the Alarmists will give me more to write about.


ARCTIC SEA ICE –Insomnia Cure–

I was laying in bed last night contemplating customers, carrots and other things I’m suppose to consider, during the spring on a Farm-childcare, when sea-ice came drifting through my consciousness. It’s usually a sign sleep is creeping up, and worldly worries are melting away. Last night it led to some delightful, dazing dreaminess I doubt I can fully replicate, but which show the complexity of even a thing as simple as water.

Yesterday I was briefly discussing how a tendril of the Gulf Stream, coming north, for a time rides at the top of the ocean, but then takes a dive under the colder waters. For a time it is less dense than surrounding waters, but then it becomes more dense.

This occurs because there are two variables involved. First, there is temperature, and second, there is salinity. The Gulf Stream is more salty than surrounding waters, because it was subjected to a lot of evaporation down in the hot tropics before it came north. Salty water wants to sink. However the Gulf Stream is much warmer than surrounding waters. Warmer waters want to rise.

An analogy is needed. Imagine the water coming north is a bunch of hot air balloons. As long as the air in the balloons is hot, the balloons remain high, but gradually they cool, until they reach a momentous occasion where they take a dive.

It is a simple enough thing to model this on your multi-million dollar computer. First you need to loot the wallets of drained tax-payers, and then you convince the government to print up some extra money. Easy as pie, when you are falling asleep and in a dream world, but I find it easier to command the non-virtual reality in dreamland, and to model the two variables outside computers in the fresh air.

Instantly Fram Strait is experiencing complete calm. What’s more it has been doing so for weeks. The Gulf Stream, coming north, does so in a glassy stillness, and the point where it dives beneath colder water can be seen by the way sea-gull feathers drifting north in the current come to a halt.  The waters to the north are still, even stagnant.

IE:  In dreamland we have simplified things to a degree where slowly moving water is sliding beneath still water. If course we can’t have water coming in without water going out, but let’s have that happen someplace else, so it won’t mess up our dreamland model. Also, of course, you can’t have a fluid in motion moving past a still fluid without this annoying thing called “turbulence” making little whirls along the boundary, like little storms along a front. Fortunately our dreamland model has a “mute” key that dampens that stuff away. In the end we have a nice simple scenario.

Now, as we slip deeper into dreamland and our brains gain super-powers, let’s have a little fun by adding another variable or two.  Let’s reduce the amount of warming due to sunlight, as winter comes and the sun sinks  low.  Or let’s chill the air. This cools the Gulf Stream tendril coming north more quickly, so it reaches the magical point where salinity trumps heat five miles further south.

Oh oh. Problem. If the water sinks earlier, the completely static water which it is sinking under has to move, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it have to move south to fill in the space above the sinking water?

Or suppose we change the salinity of the Gulf Stream heading north. How?  How about a tropical storm dumping a foot of warm rain. Now the tendril wants to come further north before sinking. Would not it plow into the static surface water, and make it move?

But how about both chilling the water and reducing the salinity? How are we going to manage that?

What’s that you say? Why don’t we redirect all the sea-ice heading south along the east coast of Greenland, in that cold current, and push it across Fram Strait into the warm current heading north?  That will both cool the northbound tendril of the Gulf Stream, and make it less salty, you say?

Funny you should say that, for that is exactly the scenario we were looking at yesterday, as vast amounts of ice were melted just west of Svalbard. Svalfloe 3 svalbard 15

Ordinarily it is at this point I get a headache, but when I am falling asleep the implications have a nice way of knocking me over the brink into unconsciousness. Sort of like an uppercut to the jaw. As I pass out, I am usually pondering one of three things.

First, if you cool the water heading north, and lower its salinity,  how will this effect the melt from beneath to the north? In Theory, if you dumped enough ice into the northbound water, you could so cool and so dilute the current that it wouldn’t be all that different from the water to the north, and could skip the bother of sinking beneath it. What effect would that have on surface currents, and submarine currents?

Second, how many more buoys will the taxpayers allow before they come with burning torches? We don’t need a mere string of buoys across Fram Strait. We need north-south strings. We need surface reports and reports at depth, so we can have a 3-D picture of the daily fluctuations of temperature, salinity, and the speed the water is moving, like the weather-maps we get for the air above.

Lastly, what does it mean if ice does not travel in the cold, southbound current to the southerly tip of Greenland? Through much of the winter the ice levels were low, because ice was held back at the Pole, and much of the ice off the east coast of Greenland was “home grown”. Now even more ice is being deprived of it’s right to take the normal route because it has headed across to the wrong lane of the two-lane highway in Fram Strait. Will less ice off the south tip of Greenland make that water warmer?  (Currently there is a fringe of warmer-than-normal water right along the Greenland coast, but then waters are colder-than-normal clear across to Spain.)

Usually thinking about all this is quite enough to cure insomnia. If necessary, you can add another variable: Wind.  A strong wind can move surface water. What effect does a cold north wind have on a current coming from the south? Do you have a current heading south at the surface even as it heads north deeper down? Oh oh. Time to hit that “mute” key again, as I see turbulence rearing its head.

In the end I think very few things travel in the nice neat lines shown by textbooks. I am old enough to remember the way the Gulf Stream was portrayed in textbooks before we could see the surface with heat-sensitive satellites. It was nothing like this:

Gulf Stream images

I have a vivid memory, from back in those pre-satellite days, of attending a class held to make the general public more aware of beach erosion and why we should alter our attitudes about where we built marinas and beach houses. It was taught by a knowledgeable young scientist, and in the audience was a garrulous old fisherman. For some reason the subject got off the topic of beaches and moved out into the Gulf Stream, and at that point the fisherman began to talk about “warm whirlpools” and “cold whirlpools” and how he’d use them to hunt the best places to fish, and the young scientist rolled his eyes, as if the old man was talking nonsense, and finally the young man cut the fisherman off, making it obvious he felt the man was inventing tall tales. Later I always wondered what the scientist thought, when he saw the first satellite images come in, showing exactly what the old fisherman had described.

Perhaps it is for this reason that I, meaning no disrespect to scientists, am less than certain the map below is fully accurate.

Svalfloe 4 svalbard current

The thing I am watching for are the changes fishermen described the last time the AMO shifted from “warm” to “cold”. They were dramatic.

In any case, I highly recommend thinking about this stuff next time you have trouble sleeping.

In more mundane matters,  The DMI maps continue to show the high pressure over towards Bering Strait, and the low nudging toward the Pole, but weakening.

I’m worried they may have had troubles with the airstrip at Barneo, as there have been no reports since the 18th. You can see the ice is “active” across the Pole in the NRL “Speed and Drift” map from yesterday.

Speed and Drift 20160422 arcticicespddrfnowcast

This map also shows ice is likely moving away from the northwest coast of Hudson Bay.

In terms of the Northwest Passage, the western approach looks like it is opening up nicely, with ice moving away from the coast of Alaska. However the ice in Baffin Bay seems to be being crammed north into the eastern approaches.

Lastly, it looks like ice continues to be exported to the “wrong side” of Fram Strait.

The thickness map shows an odd little mountain range of thicker ice crossing right over the pole. (Not really a mountain range, but worth noting: 9 feet thick rather than six feet thick.)

Thickness 20160422 arcticictnnowcast


Lastly the “Race Against Time” expedition has been reporting struggling over a lot of pressure ridges as they approach the Pole from the Russian side. Mark Wood mentioned the ice was much flatter when he skied the route two years ago. At last report they had crossed 89 degrees north. Unfortunately they only report by satellite phone, without pictures.