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