Arctic Sea-Ice —Icelandic Superstorms–

It has been a good winter for storms way out in the North Atlantic, where old fellows like me prefer they stay. The most recent bomb occurred just south of Iceland, and achieved the third lowest pressure of any Northern Hemisphere non-hurricane in recorded history. True, our ability to record pressures away from the shore only goes back to around 1979 (Boats with barometers have better things to do than to aim for the center of such monsters.)

The low pressure of this storm bottomed out at around 27.14 inches of mercury, (919mb), which is lower than most typhoons and hurricanes. In fact it is a pressure lower than any recorded North Pacific non-tropical storm.

iceland supersdtorm 2 Screenshot_2020-02-16 Ryan Maue on Twitter Final analyzed pressure of powerful North Atlantic #StormDennis was 919 mb from [...]

I find it amazing that North Atlantic super-storms outdo North Pacific super-storms, considering Pacific typhoons tend to outdo Atlantic Hurricanes, but in either case such storms are gigantic.

iceland superstorm EQ6-m7bWoAA-xYC

I’m surprised the storm drew so little media attention, considering….well, I won’t go there. But for people like me the lengthy fetch from the northwest into the Atlantic seemed bound to interfere with the Gulf Stream’s delivery of warm water northeast towards Europe. Besides cooling the surface water it will bodily shift large amounts of surface water southwest.

Nor is this storm an isolated event. It was preceded a few days earlier by another giant, which was matched by a similar giant in the North Pacific, making a spectacular satellite picture.

Icelandic monster with Aluetian monster 1_v1

The Pacific storm bottomed out at  28.12 inches (953 mb) while the Atlantic storm reached 27.56 inches (940 mb). The above picture is from February 13. The next day the Atlantic storm moved up to Iceland and they were blasted by St. Valentine’s Day winds over 100 mph. I imagine much snuggling was involved in Iceland, as the winds shrieked outside.

Such storms tend to gobble available energy in a single gulp, and some fade with remarkable speed, handing their energy off to offspring along their energetic cold fronts, or (more rarely) kicking energy ahead along their warm fronts. Others fade more gradually, slowly filling in as they wobble off east, or more rarely west, and occasionally due north to the Pole to become a “Ralph”. (Anomalous Area of Low Pressure.) In the above examples both Icelandic gales involved, one way or another,  powerful low pressure in Barents Sea, which has seen a stormy winter.  Some vestiges of the first bomb’s Barents Sea prelude made it up towards the Pole, in very weak form barely serving the title “Ralph”, but the deep low pressure on the Atlantic Side has pumped high pressure on the Pacific side, which tends to keep the Aleutian Gales down over the Aleutians, where they belong, even as the Icelandic Gales are in Barents Sea, where they don’t belong.

To watch animation of the above events, in terms of winds and in terms of huge wave heights, scan down through a good article (which has further links), found here:

Day after tomorrow? No, but we are facing two impressive extra-tropical cyclones right now – one over the North Pacific and another over the North Atlantic

In terms of sea-ice, the Atlantic storms have brought strong south winds to Barents Sea towards the boundary with the Kara Sea formed by Novaya Zemlya, pushing the edge of the sea-ice far to the north. (January 30 to right; February 16 to right)

Were it not for increases in Baffin Bay and Bering Sea, this retreat would cause quite a down-tick in the extent graph; as it is the graph has flattened.

DMI 200218 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

The fact the “extent” has retreated north in Barents sea should not be misconstrued as meaning sea-ice has melted. Some indeed may have, through being churned by thirty to fifty foot waves slightly above the melting point of sea ice, (roughly 29ºF, or -1.7ºC), but some may have formed in the sub-freezing gales as well. For the most part the edge has moved north because the ice itself has moved, and has piled up against thicker ice to the north. This perhaps explains why the “volume” graph shows no similar flattening:

Volume 200217 Screenshot_2020-02-18 DMI Modelled ice thickness

The “volume” graph is modeled, and contains some interesting devises which I think might be called “educated-guess-work”. It will be interesting to watch as the sun returns and throws some light on the subject. Even though we are near the peak of sea-ice “extent”, which tends to start downward in March, “volume” goes on merrily increasing well into April and sometimes into May. Where “extent” is greatly influenced by the edge of the sea-ice, far to the south, “volume” pertains more to the bulk in the Central Arctic, and has more to do with hinting at what the minimum will be like, next September.

Up to this point the superstorms in the North Atlantic, combined with high pressure towards Bering Strait, have (to varying degrees) kept winds blowing from Siberia to Canada. For the most part this has drained the massive area of homegrown cold from Central Siberia, though northern Scandinavia and westernmost Siberia have seen moderated north Atlantic air sucked east along the bottoms of the superstorms. On a whole, this has resulted in temperatures a few degrees colder than recent years over the Central Arctic. On a whole this should make ice thicker, though the offshore winds along the coast of Eurasia has constantly pushed sea-ice offshore, creating polynyas on the coasts of the Kara and Laptev seas. Indeed the Northeast Passage may see ice melt early this year, while across the Pole the Northwest Passage has seen sea-ice piled up by north winds, and thickened by extremely low temperatures, and the Northwest Passage may require icebreakers to be passable this coming summer.

Another consequence of the Atlantic superstorms, and also of the positioning of the high pressure towards Bering Strait, has a been a considerable cooling of both the northern Pacific and the northern Atlantic. On his site Joseph D’Aleo produced a map which shows where seawater anomalies (not actual temperatures, but whether those temperatures are above or below normal) have warmed (red) or cooled (blue). Remember, these are anomalies; a change from very-much-above-normal to slightly-above-normal will appear blue even though temperatures are still above-normal. (Also, over sea-ice, water temperatures cannot be read so you are actually seeing the change in temperature of the top of air-influenced sea-ice.) What is striking is the cooling which has occurred between Canada and Europe, and also the major cooling of the so-called “warm blob” south of Alaska. Because the “warm blob” is crucial to the location of the jet stream, the fact it has been so abruptly weakened has caused many long-term forecasters to suffer bad hair days, if not go bald. The map below covers the period between December 14 and February 14.

In terms of the actual anomalies, we seem to be seeing the backwards “C” of cold water indicative of a “cold” PDO, forming in the Pacific, and even a “cold” AMO being hinted-at in the Atlantic (though you have to stretch imagination a bit, in the Atlantic.)

SST Anomaly 200217

One thing forecasters use is records-from-the-past, but the last switch from “warm” to “cold” AMO was sixty years ago, and the satellite-records are either very poor or non-existent. Therefore I don’t blame forecasters for scrambling a bit. We haven’t seen this before. But what amuses me is those forecasters who try to look like they aren’t scrambling, and saw this coming. They didn’t.

Nor did I, but I don’t pretend to be a know-it-all. I try to just observe, (though I do compare the present with the past when I can.) And I wonder.

It seems that these superstorms must deeply churn the waters, and alter the stratification of the waters entering the Arctic Sea. Some waves have been ninty feet tall, winds have been over 100 mph, and pressures down to 27.14 inches (919 mb) suck cold waters up from the depths. Considering contrasts in water temperatures to some degree fuel and direct such currents, a significant change in temperatures may even alter the direction such currents flow. And if we replace a warm current under the summer sea-ice with a cold current,  we may find ourselves wondering, “Why isn’t the sea-ice melting?” We shall see what we shall see. Stay tuned.

I tend to roam about like a lurking wolf, skimming over current ideas regarding the current situation, and it is wonderful how the theories flourish and utterly contradict each other. I have read, on the same afternoon, that the arctic has a puny effect because it has so little heat compared to the tropics, and that the arctic has a huge effect and has shifted the El Nino from east to west, from a traditional El Nino to El Nino Madoki.

I prefer to think the Arctic has an effect, (due to my obvious focus-on and bias-towards sea-ice). Here is a link to a couple know-it-alls at the UCSD Scripps center, who suggests  a Global-Warming-caused decrease in sea-ice is causing the westward shift in warmth to a El Nino Madoki in the Pacific:

I note they state “further study is needed”. I think Scripps is hopeful to get some of the ten billion which virtue-signaling Jeff Bezos is getting a charitable deduction for, for donating to the cause of “Climate Change”.  Personally I would like to remind Jeff that a few years back Scripps predicted a massive La Nina which never occurred, and also that we could use a few fifty cameras drifting about on buoys in the Arctic Sea.

(It seems to me that, as the “cold” PDO starts to form the backwards “C” of cold water in the Pacific, the extension of the southern arm of that “C” would tend to push warm water west, and turn El Ninos to El Nino Madokis, but perhaps that idea is too simple and requires too little research money.)

I’m expecting to see things we haven’t seen before simply because we didn’t have much in the way of eye-in-the-sky satellites, the last time the AMO flipped from “warm” to “cold”. However I predict that when others see what they have never seen before they will state it is “unprecedented”, and a sign of End Times, and that if I fill my gas tank I will be told, “How Dare You!”


And I will meekly whimper that I’m not the one misbehaving. It is the weather that is misbehaving.

One final bit of misbehavior was enacted by the most recent and largest Icelandic Superstorm. It waited until people had stated the cold was “locked up” at the Pole, due to the breakdown of “stratospheric warming” at the end of last year, which created a strongly positive AO.

Strat donut 2 hgt_ao_cdas__2_(13)

Ryan Maue tweeted a wonderful picture of this highly stable stratospheric doughnut, convincing me of its stability and the inability of cold air to escape its wrapping embrace.

But what does the danged superstorm then do? Instead of fading away and sliding along the north coast of Eurasia, it drove right on up to the Pole and became a “Ralph”, giving our first truly sizable spike in Polar temperatures of the winter.

DMI meanT_2020 200219

I note this spike is small, compared to the steadily higher temperatures of 2016 (lower left) or the amazing spikes of 2018 (lower right):


However the appearance of Ralph is a bit unnerving to me, for when “Ralph” bumps up and becomes king-of-the-mountain he tends to bump cold air south, and it looks like it is being bumped to the Canadian side. In other words, as soon as I assume the cold air is “locked up”, it escapes.

Don’t ask me what happens next. I’ve learned my lesson. Instead I’ll just sit back and be a quiet observer.

Here are some DMI maps I saved which show the pelude-to, the comings, and the goings of the two recent superstorms:

I’ll begin back on January 31. We’d been seeing a pattern with High Pressure wobbling from side to side of Bering Strait, marking the center of a tilted “Polar Cell” as, in a quasi-Zonal-manner, low pressure drifted around the edges, displaced to lower latitudes in the Pacific and climbing to higher latitudes in the Atlantic. However towards the end of January I thought I might be seeing the end of that pattern, as the high pressure, (which I will dub “Bear” for Bering Strait) was fading and eroding away, as a “Ralph” appeared at the Pole. I’ll call this particular Ralph “Trub” as it was troublesome. In fact I should call it “Trub 3”. It was one of a string of “Ralphs” which made mincemeat of my theory that Ralphs are formed by warm feeder-bands of milder air surging to the Pole and rising. In the case of Trub there was little mild air and in fact the center of Trub was very cold, and in my book had no business rising at all. Also it formed first and the feeder-band came second, drawn north by Trub’s circulation.

This new pattern resulted in an elongated feeder-band nearly from the Atlantic to the Pacific, feeding Trub, with the feeder-band seeming to start to form a more traditional “Ralph” near Svalbard. However Bear was showing signs of reforming over Siberia. The two maps below illustrate how swiftly the feeder bands cool over a twelve hour period.

By January 7 Bear had reasserted itself over Bering Strait, and low pressure been repressed back to the Atlantic side. I thought a new Ralph might be trying come north through Baffin Bay, but we’d seen this earlier and it seemed the old pattern was reasserting itself. In the end the Baffin bay low couldn’t out-push Bear, and instead hopped over Greenland taking the old North Atlantic route

Three days later this low was crashing into Norway. (I accidentally deleted the isotherm map, so I stuck an igloo in its place).


A day later and the gale is north of Norway, bashing Barents Sea, as many gales have this winter. It is a sub-28.00 inches gale (sub 950 mb) and a superstortm in its own right. Its circulation steered the next gale south of the range of these maps into England.


The next map shows, four days later, the first superstorm lashing Iceland with 100 mph winds. Notice that the storm that was over Barents Sea drifted up to the Pole with a feeder-band, but is much weaker.

Two days later the second superstorm crashes into Iceland, as the first swiftly weakens into a mere appendage. Barents Sea is relatively tranquil.

Now here is where it gets interesting, for the second superstorm doesn’t swiftly fade. but continues up across Barents Sea.

And then, fading but still strong, into Kara Sea

And then it hooks north towards the Pole as a true “Ralph”.

And now we see yet another sub-28.00 inches gale just south of Iceland.

There’s a lot to digest, even as I keep observing.

Stay tuned.


ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Surge Snipped–

The Pole continues to make for interesting theater, though the drama has died down from what it was a week ago, when temperatures were soaring to 35 degrees above normal and the ice at the north edge of Barents Sea was retreating. Fueling this weather was a strong south wind from the Atlantic that at times pushed right past the Pole towards the Pacific, thus confusing everybody, because a south wind became a north wind without changing direction.  This flow achieved its peak around November 14:

By November 16 the flow was pushing an Atlantic low and its secondary up through Fram Strait, whereupon, due to the strict laws of this website, they are automatically dubbed “Ralph”. The southerly flow, while remaining southerly, had swung east, and was now coming less off the Atlantic and more off shore from Europe, but it nearly was able to push above-freezing temperatures to the Pole.

So strong was this flow that the sea-ice, which usually is expanding south as a thin sheet of ice, was pushed north by strong wind until it was briefly well north of Franz Josef Land, and unable to refreeze because temperatures were above freezing in that area. This produced a brief and unusual dip in the ice “extent”graph, which usually is rocketing upwards at this time of year. However the ice swiftly grew back down to Franz Josef Lands’s north coast as conditions began to change, and the graph resumed its upward climb.


The surge from the south had raised eyebrows by raising temperatures to unprecedented levels (in a history that goes back 58 years).


However my eyebrows were raised by the steep decline that followed.


This interested me because, whereas other places can get colder air from lands further north, there is no place north of the North Pole. Therefore it must get cold air imported from colder tundra to the south, but I didn’t see any strong flow from such tundras. This meant the cold must instead be home grown. Or, to put it more scientifically, the heat was lost locally, radiated upwards into the unending winter night.

Still, it seemed odd to me that the warm southerly flow should just turn off like a spigot. My curiosity sought reasons, for the cessation was obvious as early as November 17, because the first and second lows, following a storm track straight north to the Pole, (incarnations of “Ralph”), weakened with surprising speed. It was as if they were cut off from their warm inflow of mild, moist air, while the third storm in the sequence came to a dead halt and refused to head north, and just sat off the coast of Norway and twiddled its thumbs, remaining fairly strong.

I wondered if the stalled low off Norway might be consuming all the available energy, but this didn’t satisfy me, for the isobars in the above map still indicate a strong flow from the south. Why wasn’t the warmth heading out over arctic waters? The temperature anomaly map still showed the above-normal temperatures moving north in central Europe, but then being bent east at the top. What was stopping the import of heat north to the Pole?


I’d likely still be mystified, but dawn broke on Marblehead when I visited Joseph D’Aleo’s blog over at the Weatherbell Site, and during the course of one of his elegant descriptions of complex situations he turned on the light-bulb in my noggin.

Just as a meandering stream straightens its course from time to time, cutting across the neck of a loop and leaving an oxbow lake behind


So too can a loopy jet stream decide to straighten up its act, and the “surge” was part of a loopy jet:


When a jet straightens up it act, the cut off part of the stream is not called an “oxbow”, but rather a “cut off”, (which shows that meteorologists are occasionally more sensible than geologists).  By November 23 the upper air maps showed the “cut off low” was sitting down over Spain. Over Spain a large part of the surge was no longer heading north, but caught up and going around and around and around, like a taxpayer caught up in a bureaucracy.


You will notice that at the top of the above map the jet is basically zooming west to east. The surge from the south has vanished, making a mess of all my forecasts that calculated the surge would move east this far one day, and this far further east the next. The surge simply disappeared, or at the very least fell over and surged west to east. It was confusing. (Actually the same thing happens when I straighten up my own act. It confuses people who depend on me to be loopy.)  In any case, this morning’s surface map had a reflection of the cut-off-low stalled over Spain, but what about the North Atlantic low? It will plow west-to-east across Scandinavia in the jet, nothing like the lows that headed straight north, last

The tipped over surge can be seen giving some relief to central Asia in the temperature maps.


In the anomaly map the west-to-east surge looks like an arrow, making a layer cake out of the map (to mix my metaphors). The old cold is to the south, still capable of generating a few headlines, but likely to be slowly moderated out of existence. The new cold is along the top, and likely needs to be watched, for it seems likely to be a lasting feature. The “surge” itself seems likely to linger but weaken, but will remain interesting to watch.  At the very least it will give some Asians a break, after they have been through an autumn colder than some winters.


But this is all off the point, which was (in case you can’t remember), that the mild air is not surging up to the Pole any more, and that the vast pool of mild air that was transported up there is slowly cooling, day by day.

I should note that Joseph D’Aleo mentioned that when a jet really gets roaring west to east it can act downright human. (After humans have straightened out their act, what tends to happen next? Answer: Their resolve buckles.) In like manner, we should be on our toes, watching for where the jet will next buckle, and get all loopy, (like a human falling off the wagon after keeping a New Year’s resolution as long as they can bear it).   However, for the time being, up at the Pole, “Ralph” has little hope of reinforcements from the Atlantic.

Not that “Ralph” has vanished completely. Largely he has retreated to the Canadian Archipelago, as high pressure dominates the Arctic. At the end of my last post there actually was a small ghost of Ralph by the Pole, and hint of Ralph’s “signature” in the temperature map, hooking mildness towards the Pole, despite the power of the expanding high pressure. (See the tiny low by the Pole?)

The next day Ralph’s ghost was just a dent in the high pressure’s isobars. Freezing temperatures had snuck down to the northeast coast of Svalabard.


The next dawn Ralph, like all good ghosts, was vanishing, because that is what ghosts do at dawn. (If you you squint you can still see a microscopic low under the Pole.) The only real import of air towards the Pole was from central Siberia.

The following dawn saw an odd dimple in the high pressure’s isobars, on the Canadian side. It looked like (if you use your imagination) a face, that the ghost of Ralph had punched. Freezing temperatures were engulfing Svalbard. By evening the ghost of Ralph reappeared, (as good ghosts do at dark), just north of the Canadian Archipelago.

Today saw the freezing isotherm slump well south of Svalbard, and Ralph retreat and regroup north of Canada. Models are suggesting Ralph will soon start attacking the Pole from the Canadian side, though with colder air than before. The North Atlantic flow is totally from the north, and Scandinavia looks likely to get a dose of north winds.

The north winds are allowing the sea-ice to build south again where the “surge” had forced it to retreat, in the north part of Barents Sea, and sea-ice is again touching the north coast of Franz Josef Land. There was also a slight reduction on the Pacific side, due to strong south winds and a brief mild inflow a week ago, but that has been more than made up for by regrowth, which has now engulfed Wrangle Island.


A major difference from last year is that Hudson Bay was half skimmed-over last year, and the refreeze hasn’t even started this year. I think this will soon change. The Bay’s waters are shallow, and it tends to freeze over with remarkable speed, which contributes to the speed of the growth of the “extent” graph.  I’ll bet a nickle the Bay is entirely frozen by Christmas.

Even though the flow from central Siberia has been weak, it appears to have nudged the thicker ice just off shore, in the Laptev Sea. Watch for the formation of polynyas along the shore there, for that is indicative of the export of ice into the Central Arctic Basin.

Baffin Bay is swiftly icing over, but remains behind last year’s rate of growth..

The Kara Sea’s sea-ice shrank back before the “surge”, but that sea has since swiftly grown sea-ice on its eastern side.

The reversing winds have seen multi-year ice start down through Fram Strait, along the east coast of Greenland, but the ice down towards the coast opposite Iceland in Denmark Strait is largely home grown.


I’m not sure how it is possible, but some models see a colder version of Ralph moving up from Canada to regain complete control of the Pole in a week to ten days. Stay tuned.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Barneo Politics–

After a silence we have a report from Barneo, which suggests the Norwegians made it impossible to use Svalbard as base of operations. The key sentences are these:  “Then on April, 7 we got further problems from the Norwegian authorities. Trude Petterson, The Independent Barents Observer reporter, found a threat to national security in our conventional activities.

As best as I can tell, the Russians have had to shift to Franz Josef Land as a alternative, and will likely do so in the future, if they continue the Barneo bases. It will be rough on the economy of Svalbard to lose the tourists, I imagine. I’m not sure what has happened with the tourists this year, or heard anything about the planting of this year’s North Pole Camera.

The ice appears to be sound, though there are a lot of pressure ridges.

Barneo 8A 13083366_1023415584402206_7795010859968768566_n

Barneo 8B 13051705_1023415624402202_4868506117936992761_n

The Barneo site continues to drift south towards Fram Strait.

Barneo 8C 13087629_1023415681068863_8066820128088290364_n

The red line at the top is the “Race Against Time” expedition, which originally was planned to travel from the Pole to Canada. Likely all the delays caused them to back out of that plan, and take an easier route. I find their site a little amusing, for they are stressing how warm the Arctic has been this winter, but describing how the ice is thicker than it was when Mark Wood crossed the same area two years ago. There are many more pressure ridges, which they describe as “boulder fields”. It is no joke hauling sleds over such barriers.

It is worthwhile to compare this years ice with last year’s. (If you open each map (link)  to a new tab you can then switch back and forth to better see the comparison.) (2015 is to the left; 2016 is to the right.)


It is clear that the ice is thinner in Barents and Kara seas, but largely because that ice has been exported, and crunched over to the Pole. Ordinarily a pressure ridge is too small to be seen in these satellite-derived thickness-maps, as a pressure ridge gets averaged-out, however in the above 2016 map a long curving “mountain range” of ice averaging nine feet thick curves directly over the Pole. In order for this to not be averaged-out, it must consist of  numerous smaller pressure ridges, some which obviously would be more than nine feet thick. So far I have been unable to get a good view of this feature from satellite pictures, due to clouds. It curves all the way down to the area north of Greenland’s northeast corner, and is likely bound for Fram Strait. Ice is pushed closer to the northwest corner of Svalbard this year, and likely is chilling the tendril of the Gulf Stream that enters the arctic there, as it is melted.

The Polynya northwest of Alaska is larger this year, as are the polynyas along the North Slope coasts of Alaska and Canada. The ice missing from these areas has largely been swept over towards East Siberia, which has thick ice piled up on its coasts, and thicker-than-last-year ice out to sea. This area will likely be slower to melt this summer, especially as the Pacific seems colder. It will be interesting to watch the Laptev Sea in August, when the freshwater floods from the Lena River reach their peak, as the floods will likely be greater (and perhaps colder) this year due to deep snows inland in Siberia. These surges of fresh water have a big effect on that coast of the Arctic.

One feature I watched last summer I dubbed “The Slot”, north of Alaska. A feature-of-this-feature was “The Reef”, which formed The Slot’s southern edge. This never completely melted away, as it originally consisted of some huge pressure ridges, and I’ve watched it all winter as it was swept around all the way to 160 degrees east longitude. It likely forms a considerable pile of ice-chunks over there. The ice north of Siberia is by no means flat “baby ice”. It is a pity we lost our two O-buoy cameras that were over that way.

In order to have all the ice piled up towards Russia it needed to be exported from the Beaufort Sea, which the satellite views show as being crisscrossed by a web of leads and frozen leads, some quite wide, and some frozen-over quite thickly. That sea’s water has been losing heat all winter through these leads.

O-buoy 13 continues to be swept east north of Alaska, and pictures a cold and windswept scene, with temperatures showing a diurnal swing between -10°C and -15°C.

Obuoy 13 0423 webcamObuoy 13 0424 webcam

O-buoy 14 is further east, has finally melted its lens free. We were lucky to not lose this buoy over the winter, as a small pressure ridge grew right at its feet. Note the Mass Balance buoy tipped  (and likely not reporting) to the lower right.

Obuoy 14 0423 webcamObuoy 14 0424 webcam

This buoy’s thermometer seems more effected by sunlight, and over the past few days has shown a diurnal swing between -22°C and -7°C, with the high temperatures less high when the wind picks up. (Judging from shadows, there are some decent pressure ridges off-camera to the left and behind our left shoulder.)

This should be a very interesting summer, as the El Nino is rapidly fading, and cracks of blue, below-normal water are already showing up off the coast of South America, indicative of a La Nina coming on. The North Atlantic is cooler,  and “The Warm Blob” is largely gone from the North Pacific, (though some residual heat from the El Nino may be heading north past Japan).

SST Anomaly 20160421 2016anomnight_4_21_2016

There will be a “lag time” before any La Nina coolness effects the Pole, but the Scripps model is showing an absolute whopper of a La Nina. Likely it is overboard, and things will not be this extreme (for it would set records) but usually Scripps is a fairly decent model, and the situation does bear watching.

Scripps 0423 Screen_Shot_2016_04_23_at_4_17_56_AM

ARCTIC SEA ICE –A Changing Pattern–(Updated Sunday Night)

The DMI maps are available again at long last, and seem to indicate the low pressure over the Pole is filling in, and the cold is starting to rebuild.                          DMI3 0122 mslp_latest.big DMI3 0122 temp_latest.bigDMI3 0122B mslp_latest.bigDMI3 0122B temp_latest.big

Deep low pressure continues to stall between Iceland and Greenland, creating a southerly flow up through the North Atlantic, but the associated fronts and lows aren’t making the same progress past Fram Strait towards the Pole. The UK Met maps show the current storm weakening as it crawls from Denmark Strait up to Fram Strait, as a new Gale replaces it by midday Sunday down in Denmark Strait. Note all the fronts occlude and tangle to the north, failing to progress north. (Click maps to clarify and enlarge.)

UK Met 20160122 31143270 UK Met 20160122 2 day for 31146915

The Atlantic flow is expected to slowly collapse south and east, until it pours across Northern Europe.  (Jospeph D’Aleo has an excellent post about this shift at the Weatherbell Professional Site.) This will squeeze the cold currently over Europe back down over poor, snowbound Turkey (and any Syrian refugees) and then down to the Middle East, as western Europe gets a break from its current cold, and even may get some rain, but eastern Europe and Russia gets yet more snow. This developing spear of milder temperatures shows up especially clearly in Dr. Ryan Maue’s Canadian JEM model map for temperatures next Monday.DMI3 0122B cmc_t2m_asia_11It is not particularly “warming” to increase the Siberian snow-pack, which has been generating a copious supply of cold air this year. It’s to be hoped that the spear of mildness is bent southeast down to Mongolia, which has been suffering bitter cold, as the cold generated over Siberia’s snows escaped south towards China. The excellent researcher and contributor the Ice Age Now site,  Argiris Diamantis, found this press release about Mongolia’s plight, (which I haven’t seen mentioned in the mainstream media):

 Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support Mongolian herders facing severe winter. Published: 19 January 2016
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 158,000 Swiss francs (157,686 US dollars) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to assist 1,500 herder families (7,500 people) in Mongolia who are at risk of losing all their livestock to extreme sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall.
Based on the latest assessment report released by the Mongolian Government in early January 2016, 50 soums (districts) in 16 aimags (provinces) are currently categorized as being affected by dzud (the Mongolian term for severe winter conditions), while 120 soums in 20 provinces are facing a winter situation that is very close to dzud.
Snowfall and snowstorms are expected to continue unabated in the coming weeks with average temperatures of below -25 degrees Celsius during the day and around -40 degrees at night. This will potentially affect more than 965,000 people, especially vulnerable herders. The herders, most of whom are now facing difficult weather conditions and shortage of hay and fodder, are expected to start losing their livestock in the coming weeks. In order to obtain cash to buy food, hay and other necessities many herders have started selling their animals before they perish in the severe weather. However, the oversupply of livestock resulted in very low market prices, forcing herders to sell at abnormally unfavourable prices. This situation will have the worst consequences for vulnerable families with smaller herds.

(From )

(This sad situation introduced me to a new word, “dzud”, which is a Mongolian word for the mass death of livestock.)

Besides the cold air escaping south, it is pouring east into the Pacific, giving Korea its bitterest cold of this winter, and speeding the freeze of Pacific coastal waters to the northeast, the Sea of Japan and especially the Sea of Obhotsk further north. These waters, outside the Arctic Ocean, have had below-normal-sea-ice so far this winter, and are one reason the ice extent graphs show “less than normal” ice. (Map from Wikipedia)240px-Sea_of_Okhotsk_mapWhile ice in these waters likely has a part to play in the intricate engineering of the PDO, it is likely wrong to put too much weight to the up-ticks in the extent graphs any increase here might create, (especially as ice on Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay were not included in “sea-ice extent graphs” last winter.) Also, in terms of the reflected sunlight and “albedo” equations that mean so much to some Alarmist theories, the amount of snow over Siberia (and Canada) should be factored in, as it far exceeds this possible increase of ice, but the albedo of snow-pack often isn’t included.

The thing I’m noticing more and more is how Siberia generates cold air masses, and what a huge factor this is all over Eurasia, and even across the Pole in Canada. Siberia is a gigantic region, and even the snow currently blocking the mountain passes in the North African nation of Tunisia can be traced back to the Steppes.

In any case, to return from Africa to the subject of the Arctic Ocean, some of the Siberian cold seems to be pouring north, and I am going to be keenly watching to see if the temperatures up at the Pole take a dive, after being relatively high during the time Atlantic air was flowing up that way. (The DMI has finally posted a new graph, for the mean temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude.)DMI3 0122 meanT_2016While temperatures have been as much as ten degrees above normal at the Pole, it should be noted this is no heatwave, and represents a mean temperature of -20C, at the “mildest”. This is “below zero”, for people like me who use Fahrenheit, and quite obviously no melting has been going on during this “heat wave”, (except for a brief thaw on the Atlantic side, that lasted only a matter of hours.)

I will also be keenly watching to see if a rebuilding of cold at the Pole is accompanied by a break from the cold, a so-called “January Thaw”,  further south. As it is, when milder temperatures push north colder temperatures seem to be pushed south, and, even as I write, a nor’easter is blowing up on the eastern coast of the USA, creating quite a hubbub, as the snows are falling further south than they did last winter, and Washington D.C. is getting clouted.

In a sense it seems to me almost as if the Arctic is breathing. It breathed cold out, and had to breathe warmth north to replace that cold, (or perhaps vice-versa). Now it is breathing the other way. The cold is refilling the Arctic Sea, but likely will be again exhaled, leading to the next outbreak of winter storms.

Spring seems a long way away, but we are currently at the depth of the cold, the bottom of the bottom. The coldest surface temperatures are usually around January 20, down where I live in New Hampshire, and the coldest temperatures aloft occur around February 1. I even saw a true sign of spring today, which was the first advertisement by “Quark Expeditions”, for people like me who would like to travel up to the Russian Barneo Base, a yearly airbase (and military exercise) that exists for roughly 45 days on the sea-ice at the North Pole. (Unfortunately I lack the $15,000.00 needed for a ticket, but surely some good reader will fund my research). (I want to meet and interview the fellows putting up next year’s North Pole Camera.)

The sea-ice will keep expanding at the edges for another month, and in some areas the ice keeps growing thicker right into the spring, so there is still much to watch. Besides watching to see if there is late growth in below-normal Pacific areas such as the Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea, it will be interesting to watch the below-normal parts of Barents Sea on the Atlantic side, especially around Svalbard.Concentration 20160120 arcticicennowcastOf course a lot concerning the ice is very difficult to gauge. Is the ice tortured by storms, and crammed into pressure ridges? Is it thinner, due to greater snows acting as a muffler? The Navy’s thickness map attempts to measure this, but has some shortcomings.Thickness 20160121 arcticictnowcastOne thing I’ve noticed about the thickness map is that it can’t really tell you whether or where the ice will or won’t melt in the summer, as that is partly caused by where the ice moves, and also is dependent on the temperature of the water moving in, under the ice. Water temperatures are important, and it is great fun trying to figure out what the oceans are up to.

One of the most important factors in the flow of the currents involves the antics of the AMO and PDO, so I try to watch what they are up to

The AMO is still staying up in its “warm” phase (whereas last year it was taking a dive, in January). AMO January amo_short

The Pacific, on the other hand, seems likely to become colder, with the El Nino starting to fade, the so-called “Warm Blob” looking less robust, and the PDO starting down.PDO January pdo_short

One thing becoming apparent to me, as I try to fathom something as huge as even one of the oceans, is that the sloshes represented by the AMO and PDO are brought about by some mighty big butts in the bathtubs. Things such as the magnificent moods of the Sun, and the bigger volcano eruptions, can take a nice predictable cycle and knock it all out of whack. As I look back in time I can see all sorts of evidence of a sixty-year-cycle, but also times when a world shaking event, such as the eruption of Tamboro in 1815, threw some cannonballs into the bathtubs, and added sloshes to the sloshes. Considering some of the ocean’s up-wellings contain waters that are over a thousand years old, I wonder if some events occurring now had origins in calamities that occurred to Earth a thousand years ago. My sense of wonder grows and grows, the more I study.

One small comment at the end of a recent post by Joseph D’Aleo really got me thinking. He mentions, in an off-hand manner, “In upcoming winters as the sun goes into its deep slumber including geomagnetic activity which has a cycle that trails the sunspot/flux cycle, expect more persistent cold and the return of record snows further west as the AC/NAC become very negative. High latitude volcanoes seem to get more active in these periods and they help enhance blocking in winter and the cold.” (My bold).

I found this statement a bit disconcerting, because it exposed my own dismissal of the idea the Quiet Sun could have any effect on things such as earthquakes and volcanoes. I just took a practical view that sunshine might effect the temperature of the air and the surface waters of the sea, but sunshine couldn’t cause the continental plates to shift or volcanoes to explode. Sunshine just plain didn’t seem strong enough.

However I dismissed this idea without bothering to investigate the idea or look at data. Considering I’ve spent (and perhaps wasted) ten years investigating whether trace amounts of a trace gas could have earth-shaking consequences, including boiling oceans and the extinction of the human race, it doesn’t seem fair that I dismissed another idea off hand. But I confess: I did exactly that.

My study of the trace gas CO2 has taught me an amazing amount, and I am far more aware of its effects than I formerly was. Formerly I was only aware of CO2 when tried to see how far I could swim under water, and the CO2 levels in my blood told me it was time to come up for O2. Now I know all sorts of fascinating trivia. For example the CO2 levels in my garden spike during the night, when no photosynthesis is occurring, while a lot of fungus is contributing to a lot of CO2-producing rot. Therefore most of the plants in my garden rejoice at dawn, for the CO2 levels are at their peak, and they do most of their growing just after dawn, when the air is rich with CO2. Within a couple hours the CO2 levels plummet to levels so low plants can barely grow, due to the frenzied phtosynthysis of daybreak.

Now I ask you, isn’t that some interesting trivia?

However, in terms of sea-ice, try as I would, I could find no great effect from CO2 levels. Nor was there much effect from even sunshine, though it was obvious sunshine twenty-four hours a day did have a greater thawing effect than CO2.  Yet most of the effects on the amounts of sea-ice were caused by winds, and by currents of water under the ice.

Winds and currents can at least be attributed to the levels of sunshine reaching the earth, and I struggled to see CO2 might be the fausett turning on and turning off those levels of sunshine, but in the end it was too great a stretch to look at CO2, and not look at the sun itself, as the determiner of the levels of sunshine.

However it is one thing to see the sun as influencing winds and currents, and quiet another to see the sun as influencing earthquakes and volcanoes. Therefore I found Joseph D’Aleo’s comment  unnerving, because if anyone has sifted through the available data, it is he. Maybe he couched his language and used the word “seem”, when he said “High latitude volcanoes seem to get more active”, but when he stops to look at something, it gives me pause.

It was especially disturbing because of another thing I’ve been dismissing. That is the idea that undersea vents may contribute to the melt of sea-ice. I’ve seen creatures by those deep sea vents living quite happily in spitting distance from water so hot it only was kept from exploding into steam by enormous pressures, and if heat couldn’t even cross that short distance, I didn’t see how it could get to the surface.

But wouldn’t you just know it? The very day I read Joseph D’Aleo’s remark I came across this map:

Vent melts sea ice fig1_arctic

It was an illustration for this post:  .

I began to think: If the Quiet Sun could increase high latitude volcano eruptions, could it not increase high latitude undersea eruptions?  And could that not increase the melting of ice from below, even as the Quiet Sun made things colder and increased the ice from the top? And what sort of butt would this stick into the sloshing bathtubs of the PDO and AMO?

What a hideous complication!  But what a wonder to wonder about! (Don’t get me wrong; I am far from arriving at a firm conclusion, but I sure am wondering).

It makes me feel so sorry for the Alarmists who are so insistent upon CO2 being the one and only reason, for absolutely everything, that they never open their minds to the possibility of anything else. What a narrowness they live in. It must be like living in a crack.


I should likely note that the Camera Fabootoo is still producing pictures of darkness, and that the co-located Buoy 2015D is reporting another slight thaw, with temperatures of +0.16°, as pressures have plunged to 983.07 mb. Likely the winds are roaring. We are at 72.31° N, 17.03° W, which means we have moved 244.22 miles south-southwest since December 30. We are now closer to Denmark Strait than Fram Strait, and nearly as far south as the small, isolated  Norwegan Island of Jan Mayen, to the east.

The DMI maps show a weakening low crawling up the east coast of Greenland. The cold is building in the Arctic Sea, but an interesting tendril of milder air is extending up over the Pole from Svalbard, causing a noodle of low pressure north of Greenland.

SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE –Cold To Be Dislodged From Pole Again?–

Today’s DMI Maps continue to show the cold building up over the Arctic Sea.

However it appears this cold will be pushed off the Pole by new invasions of both Atlantic and Pacific air. Look at the Canadian Jem Model’s solution of what the temperatures will look like on Tuesday, up there. You can see the intense cold in East Siberia, and cross-polar flow to Canada getting squeezed by tendrils of milder air from both Oceans.DMI3 0124B cmc_t2m_arctic_9While looking at a NASA video of the blizzard that hit Washington DC my eyes were drawn, (because I’m a true sea-ice fanatic) to the upper right, to watch what was occurring in the North Atlantic. You can see a couple of very impressive surges heading straight for the East Coast of Greenland.

It looks to me as if it will stay “warm” over the Pole, with a meridenal pattern locked in. If it keeps up, it will be interesting to see what the long-term effect on the sea-ice is. I’ll make no predictions.

The effect on the media is more predictable, for those eager to find “evidence” of a melting arctic are bound to notice if it stays above normal in the Arctic Ocean. They will be all the more delighted if there is any sort of dip in the amount of sea-ice, which is something I myself would not be terribly surprised to see. But I will be considering whether it indicates things other than a “melting arctic”.

For one thing, having so much heat rushing to the Pole seems like it might be in response to the El Nino releasing heat and moisture. To have it rushing to the Pole is like warmth from your living-room rushing up your chimney.  It is a waste of home heating, with “home” being planet Earth. It would be far more efficient if the “damper was shut”, and a zonal pattern kept the winds circling around and around the Pole, with the cold locked up in the north, and the warmth hoarded further south.

Another thing to consider, and watch for, is the consequence of warm air rushing up to the Pole, which tends to be the cold getting dislodged and snows getting deep in places where it usually doesn’t, such as Washington DC and Turkey. Even though snows in southern latitudes tend to melt swiftly, and be gone by the end of February, they cannot have a “warming” effect while they last, especially when you consider the “albedo” of freshly fallen snow is huge. In terms of the “energy budget” (that Alarmists like to pretend we understand, and I don’t),  snow over areas that do get sunshine is bound to reflect more sunshine than a lack of sea-ice over areas that are under 24-hour-a-day darkness is liable to fail-to-reflect.

Once the sun starts coming north all these calculations will get more interesting, for then there is at least a chance of open waters absorbing some sunshine. However that won’t be until March.

Everything is likely to change very much by summer, because the El Nino is expected to fade fairly rapidly. Even if you include “lag time”, the very thing that may be fueling the current situation may vanish by next autumn, when a La Nina may be setting in. Just around the time I get things figured out, they are likely to completely change. To use the analogy I used above, a La Nina is like a cannonball plopping in the bathtub. I guess you can see why I am reluctant to venture a prediction.

I prefer to simply watch and wonder, so that is precisely what I intend to do.


We seem to be switching back to the former pattern, so I figure this post about the “new pattern” is already obsolete, and it is time to start another post. For the record I will state that we have seen a break in the flow of arctic air, during the brief time it has been held up at the Pole, but I suspect the new post will watch the arctic wolves again starting south.



ARCTIC SEA ICE —A Barents Sea Blaster—(June 11-15, 2015 — Concluded)

Our last polar storm, which I guess I’ll call “Polly”, has faded away towards Bering Strait, swinging an interesting secondary along the coast of Alaska. Meanwhile notice a new storm brewing in the Kara Sea.

DMI2 0610 mslp_latest.big

I suppose I could have called the new storm “A Kara Cruncher”, but it is suppose to retrograde back into Barents Sea, so I’m leaning towards “A Barents Blaster”.  Let”s give it a name. To show I’m not preferential I’ll name it after both seas, and dub it “Karabar”.

DMI2 0611 mslp_latest.big

The thing Karabar will do is start to flush ice south through Fram Strait. This ought to make Alarmists happy, for a similar situation developed in  2007 and gave them low ice extents to bewail. They are not happy unless bewailing, which has never made a lick of sense to me, but I suppose that is just how some people are.

I’ll be updating later, as there is some interesting history to relate, regarding what occurs when ice is flushed south into the Atlantic. However I wanted to post this news while it was hot. (Or actually the temperature of ice water).

UPDATE JUNE 12  Impossible Occurrence Occurs

“Karabar” has centered itself over Barents Sea and is developing nicely, if you want to focus on a flow down through Fram Strait. (Which I do). However first I suppose I should take care of some housecleaning, regarding the fate of “Polly the Polar Gale”, which is rapidly fading away over by Bering Strait.

DMI2 0612 mslp_latest.big

One thing I’ve been wondering about Polar gales like “Polly” involves the simple fact that what goes up must come down. North of 60° latitude what goes up in the south comes down further north, as heat from the equator follows a three step process, on its way to being dissipated at the Poles:

Polar Cell atmospherecirculation

The thing about a storm like Polly is that the rising air is right at the Pole, and can’t go further north. In the nice, neat system portrayed above, it is a wrench in the works. You can’t have the Polar Cell running backwards without “grinding gears” with the Ferrel Cell,.To make the system work you either have to remove the Polar Cell, and have the Ferrel Cell extend right to the Pole, or else create a little Cell north of the Polar Cell, and, to keep it from feeling inferior, give it some sort of grandiose name like “Superpolar Cell”.

I tend to doubt the Ferrel Cell can extend to the Pole, as all the jet streams would tie themselves into a knot, or else shrink to a black hole of some sort. Even in the summer you tend to have the boundary between polar and subpolar air marked by gentler and kinder summer fronts lazily orbiting the earth. Therefore I’m going to play with the idea of a “Superpolar Cell,” right in the middle of the Polar Cell, sort of like the hole in a doughnut.

Basically a “Superpolar Cell” is created when a storm running along the boundary between the Ferrel and Polar Cells becomes a renegade, and punches right into the guts of the Polar Cell, and then lives in those guts as a sort of tapeworm, until the atmosphere, furious about being compared to a tapeworm, strangles it. (Please tell me if I’m getting too technical.)

Once a storm like “Polly” is strangled from any inflow of warm air, it seems what goes up must come down. However, because it is trapped, (in the center of a doughnut as it were), it can’t be transported by some sort of superpolar jetstream to some other hemispehere, and therefore goes down in roughly the same place it went up, (at the very least, within the Arctic Circle), like a sort of yo-yo. And because the atmosphere does not like being called a yo-yo any more than it likes being called a tapeworm, a distinct chill is felt, an icy mood despite summer sunshine.

This chill, perhaps caused by the collapsed corpse of poor strangled Polly,  can be seen in the 12z runs of both in the always-warmer GFS model and the always-colder Canadian model, pictured below. DMI2 0612 gfs_t2m_arctic_2

DMI2 0612 cmc_t2m_arctic_3

Having recieved this chilly reception, I am reluctant to tell the atmosphere what it is doing is impossible, but someone must do it. “Atmosphere, what you are doing is impossible.”

If the air is going up and down like a yo-yo, the air that comes down should be warmer. What should happen is what happens to air going over the Rocky Mountains. Polly lifts air up and snows over the Pole, and all the water vapor turning into snow releases lots of latent heat which does not come down with the snow (as the snow, being solid, doesn’t shrink more that a most minuscule amount as pressures rise, and is not subject to adiabatic heating as it falls.) The latent heat should remain with the air, and later, when Polly collapses and the air descends, it should be warmer, like a Chinook is warmer.

To be honest I don’t really understand this adiabatic cooling and heating stuff. But smarter fellows tell me moist air heats and cools less than dry air. Moist air rides up one side of the Rocky Mountains losing heat at .54°C/100 m, snows out all its moisture and becomes dry air, and then descends gaining heat at 1°C/100 m, as a snow-eating Chinook. There is no cotton picking way Polly should be creating cold air. Those maps you see above are lies, I tell you! Lies!

I’m sure some will say that the heat is lost to outer space from the tops of the clouds, but I once tried saying exactly that to a very smart person, and received quite a drubbing. (He used all sorts of facts and figures and satellite data, and I nodded and pretended to understand, while secretly vowing never to bring up the topic with that fellow ever again.)

What his argument boiled down to seemed to suggest that the tops of clouds are so very cold they can’t lose heat. Adiabatic cooling has them down as low as minus 70, and the satellites that measure how much heat is lost don’t measure much heat being lost from something that is starting out that cold. They may reflect incoming sunshine, but they don’t lose more than a tiny amount of heat brought up from the surface. Therefore what goes up must come down, and should come down warmer.

Having explained to the Atmosphere why it is wrong, I don’t expect it will listen to me. (It probably is a good thing it doesn’t listen, because if it had listened when I was a boy no one could have gone to work, because schools would have constantly been canceled due to storms.)

It really should be getting warmer, when you consider the sun now never sets north of this red line.

ARCTIC_CIRCLE_021106 And when I just checked the buoy down near 70° on the coast of Alaska, it doesn’t look like any freezing is occurring, despite the midnight sun dipping low,

Buoy 2015A 0612 camera1

The more recent report has temperatures down to  -0.19° C, which is still too warm to freeze salt water.

At Buoy 2015B, out on the open ocean northwest of there, temperatures are down to -1.60° C, which is right at freezing point of the slightly brackish salt water (made slightly fresher by melting ice). A new, wide lead has opened.

Buoy 2015B 0612 camera2 And to east of there Bouy 2013F, co-located with O-buoy 10, is showing thawing, but reporting -0.11°Obuoy 10 0612 webcamAnd even further east, Buou 2014I, co-located with O-buoy 11, shows signs of thaw and still has above-freezing temperatures at +0.59°, but they’ve dropped more than a degree.

Obuoy 11 0612 webcam

Far back to the west, at O-buoy 12 north of Bering Strait, where I have been expecting the earliest and quickest melt (away from the coasts), temperatures have been steadily below zero, though now there’s a hint of a warm-up. This recent spike towards freezing is the only sign I can find the atmosphere is listening to me.

Obuoy 12 0612 webcam Obuoy 12 0612 temperature-1week

I’ll try to get back on subject, and deal with “Karabar” and the Atlantic side, later, but I thought you should know about poor Polly.


Poor Polly continues to fade away, and any cold air involved in her demise looks like it is being recycled back over the Pole, as a weak Pacific-to-Atlantic flow is appearing, in through Bering Strait and out through Fram Strait. (In this map it is midnight on Fram Strait and noon in Bering Strait.)

DMI2 0613 mslp_latest.big

The 12z (noon in Fram Strait and midnight in Bering Strait) forecast maps for the always-warmer GFS and always-colder Canadian models continue to show the cold remains of Polly, but not much of a signature for Karabar.

DMI2 0613 gfs_t2m_arctic_2DMI2 0613 cmc_t2m_arctic_3

The main thing Karabar is doing is flushing ice out of the Arctic Sea through Fram Strait, even as the mild PDO flushes warm water into the Arctic Sea through Bering Strait.

DMI2 0613 arcticicespddrfnowcast In some ways this is heaven for Alarmists, for there will be loss of ice towards Bering Strait due to melting from beneath, and melting on the Atlantic side because ice is exported through Fram Strait to warmer waters. They will able to celebrate an apparent forthcoming decrease in extent, employing thought processes which are dubious, but which I think go something like this: “Yippie! Yippie! Yippie! Ice extent is decreasing and that means we are in an Arctic Death Spiral which means the End Of The World is coming which makes me very happy because now I won’t have to work a Real Job!”

There may be some factors involved, which those who jump to conclusions are not considering, which I have been meaning to discuss, but I do have a Real Job, and run a Real Business, and that means I have to hustle even on a Saturday. However I hope to find a free moment in the middle of the morning, and to sit back and play about with some interesting ideas.


I never really did get any time off today, and the way things are going I likely won’t get much time to dawdle in the manner I most enjoy, and therefore I figure I’d best quickly sketch out my ideas this evening, rather than noting observations. It seems if I keep putting it off I’ll never get around to it. (That has been my attitude all day; lots of things I’ve put off have come back to bite me this week, but that is more of a subject for a “Local View” post than a “Arctic Sea Ice” post).

On the Pacific side, the inflow may not have the melting I have been expecting, because the “warm” spike of the PDO seems to be entering a state of transition.  The warm area in the north Pacific, affectionately called “The Blob”, has gradually moved east until it no longer fills the mouth of the Bering Strait. In fact a mini-blob of colder-than-normal water now is south of Bering Strait.

Sea Surface anomalies June 14 2015061400_054_G6_global_I_SEASON_tm@lg@sd_000 The above map shows anomalies, and a few degrees above or below normal creates lots striking red or blue. In actual fact the temperatures within Bering Strait are cold, and the waters just south of Bering Strait are slightly less cold, though the colors give you the sense the opposite is true. It is helpful to compare the anomaly map with a map of actual temperatures. Things such as “The Blob” become far less apparent.

Sea Surface temperatures June 12 sst.daily Too often anomaly maps are used to show bright red in the arctic, without mentioning bright red may indicate temperatures barely above freezing. In some cases, because salt water is involved, red may even indicate a temperature below the freezing point of fresh water.

Keeping the relativity involved in mind, red can be a helpful color because a slight variation in temperature makes a big difference, in terms of melting ice. After all, a degree makes all the difference, when the degree is right at the freezing point. It makes the difference between solid and liquid.

Lastly it is important to remember water can exist as either liquid or solid, at exactly the freezing point. If ice at freezing is floating in water at freezing, and no heat is added, the ice will not melt. Some heat must be added to the system, and go from being available heat beside the ice to being latent heat within the melted ice. If you are into measuring such things, a huge amount of heat is sucked out of the system, melting the ice each summer, and then an equally huge amount of heat is freed each winter as the ice refreezes, simply within the phase changes from solid to liquid and back to solid. In fact James Hansen once explained away the failure of the Arctic to become as ice-free as expected by saying all the heat had been “hidden” because the melting turned it into latent heat. (He failed to mention that same heat “reappears” when the ice refreezes in the fall.)

Keeping all these things in mind, when I look at the anomaly map and see the blue mini-blob south of Bering Strait, and The Blob shifted so far east against the west coast of Canada, I get nervous about my forecast for much melting on the Pacific side of the arctic. Even though the PDO remains in its “warm” phase, the devil is in the details, and this “warm” PDO has different details than last year’s. Considering it looks like there will be less available heat, and a degree makes such a difference, there may be less melting.

(By the way, it will be interesting to watch what happens to “The Blob” next fall. I have a hunch it may fall apart rapidly as winter comes on, and cause winter to begin like last year’s, but mutate half way through.)

Looking at the same anomaly map, and shifting attention to the Atlantic side, it seems there is the clear signature of a “cold” AMO. It is a blue, backwards letter “C”,  from the tropics up the coasts of Africa and Europe and then back beneath Greenland. The only remnant of the “warm” AMO is some above-normal water northeast of Iceland (and extending off the right-hand-side of the map into Barents Sea, and on through the Kara Sea, on the right-hand-side of the map).

Sea Surface anomalies June 14 2015061400_054_G6_global_I_SEASON_tm@lg@sd_000 The switch from “warm” to “cold” AMO is something we don’t fully understand, for the last time it happened was before we had the satellites and buoys we now have. Many of our models, especially the models that involve the stratification of the sea-water, may need to be altered to account for radical changes we are about to observe.

For example, the difference in the temperature of the sea water at the surface may be hinted at by how swiftly people died, floating in the water near an iceberg after the Titanic sunk in 1912; (the cries ceased within an hour); meanwhile the three survivors of the Hood, after it exploded during the battle with the Bismark in the spring of 1941, floated for four hours in Denmark Strait yet were recovered alive and conscious.

If the water would remain liquid then figuring out the stratification of seawater would be far simpler. Basically the very cold arctic waters would sink down beneath the milder waters of the Gulf Stream, and in fact take a dive to the bottom and join the snail-like flow of deep ocean currents. However large rafts of ice refuse to sink, and bob merrily along, often defying the currents and instead sailing with the winds, even if doing so involves invading territory claimed by warmer currents.  Even as the bergs shrink in warmer waters they are creating surrounding envelopes of colder water at the surface, that move as they do, and even if this cooler water sinks beneath the warmer water it is doing so in unusual locations, and causing chaos to more organized currents which exist in computer models, (even if not always in reality.)

Sometimes it is helpful to look at extremely exaggerated examples, in order to get an idea of what goes on when subtlety makes clarity difficult. When I posted on the the Tambora eruption in 1815 here: I received all sorts of interesting feedback,  (especially when it was re-posted at WUWT and I could enjoy 150 comments), and included a link to a treasure trove of information:

Perhaps it had to due with various cycles getting nudged out of their ordinary swings by a huge, mystery eruption (likely in South America) in 1810, and the gigantic Tambora eruption in 1815, but the arctic discharged a massive amount of ice down into the Atlantic at that time.

Huge discharge of Arctic Ice screenhunter_37-feb-10-07-22Huge discharge 2 screenhunter_38-feb-10-07-23

It should be noted that so great was this discharge of ice that icebergs were grounding on the beaches of Ireland as late as August. It is thought that the poor growing season that afflicted Europe after Tambora erupted may have been due to the North Atlantic being unnaturally cold, rather than the ash in the stratosphere diminishing the sunlight.

In any case, it should be obvious that, in the above example, the discharge of ice created a reletively “ice-free” Arctic Sea, at least on the Atlantic side. There might be headlines about how this proved Global Warming was occurring, were it to happen today, even as Europe was about to be hit by notably colder weather.

It seems possible to me that, when the AMO moves into its “cold” phase, icebergs may be able to move farther south through  the colder water, not merely adding to the cooling at the surface, but to some degree deranging the conventional locations of places where down-welling and up-welling occurs. It is just one more thing to think about, when considering the “flip” of the AMO. (I wrote about it once already, here: and this was also re-posted at WUWT, gaining me 107 comments to think about.)

In conclusion, just because the storm I dubbed “Karabar” is discharging ice down through Fram Straot is no cause to feel assured warming has occurred, or may continue next winter.


The flow continues in through Bering Strait and out through Fram Strait.

DMI2 0614B arcticicespddrfnowcast

“Karabar” weakens as it continues to retrograde into the North Atlantic, kicking a secondary (“Karabarson”) east along the Barents Sea coast, and drawing a weak low I’ll call “Klyuchi” (because that is the city it is over) north from the steppes east of the Urals. “Klyuchi” may be the next storm to penetrate the Polar Cell and stand upon the Pole as a “Superpolar” cell, but only after wandering along the periphery of the Polar Cell for a solid week, traveling all the way around to north of Alaska before spiraling inward like a soap bubble to the whirlpool of a bathtub’s drain. (Alas! Again I am becoming too technical!)

Apparently “Polly” is gaining a sort of second life, having collapsed dramatically and flopped about in Hollywood death throes close enough to the boundary between the Polar and Ferrel Cell to gain a new feed of moisture, or actually a weak low pressure moving north through East Siberia.  This is perpetuating the flow in through Bering Strait, but the weak ghost of Polly will get in the way of that flow, even as that flow pushes the ghost of Polly back towards the Pole, eventually to become the weakness that draws “Klyuchi” north.

DMI2 0614 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0614B mslp_latest.big

At this point all of this activity looks like it will involve very weak systems, with light breezes, and the Pole will assume its more ordinary summer quietude.

Karabar was less impressive than I thought it might be. Buoy 2015E: hasn’t been wiped out, despite being placed on thin ice to begin with, and now on thinner ice, driven southwest dangerously close to the edge of the ice in Fram Strait. Likely it is designed to float, and report on water conditions, for they didn’t bother include an expensive camera. I doubt it will be reporting ice-conditions much longer, but currently the ice is 87 cm thick, and the temperature is  -0.10° C.

Buoy 2015E June 14 _track

I’ve been less impressed by the movement of Buoy 2015D: which is co-deployed with our faithful North Pole Camera.

Buoy 2015D 0614 _trackDespite being subjected to 20-30 mph winds by Polly, and breezes up to 16 mph by Karabar,  Polly seemed to move it more east than south, from a position at 06/06/1200Z  of 87.564°N,12.382°W, to a position at 06/08/0600Z of 87.489°N, 5.976°W. As Polly faded and Karabar started to brew up the camera drifted as far east as, at 06/12/0600Z, of 87.245°N, 3.296°W, but then it started back west to, at the last (delayed) report, a position, at 06/13/2100Z, of 87.146°N   3.907°W. The Mass Balance report for the 14th, (which has no time stamp) states it is now at 87.11° N, 4.97° W.

On other words, we haven’t even made it down to 87° north, yet. As I recall last year we were down close to 85°, and well to the east, north of Svalbard, and the ice was all full of leads and pressure ridges (which destroyed the camera in July.) This year we see much more boring ice, and mostly signs of thaw and refreezes.

NP3 1 0614A 2015cam1_6 NP3 1 0614B 2015cam1_5 NP3 1 0614C 2015cam1_4NP3 1 0614D 2015cam1_1

After the recent thaw the temperature has dropped back to  -0.16° C, and it seems the ice is 6 cm thicker and the snow is at the same depth as it was when it was deployed back on March 25.

NP3 1 0614 2015D_thick

All of which goes together to suggest the ice is more solid this year, and we may have to wait longer to see the thawing begin, up this close to the Pole.

Obuoy 9 has continued to grind its way east along the north coast of Greenland, with viability poor and temperatures hovering just below freezing.  If we could see better we might on the coming days see the shoreline fade into the distance, before coming near again as we pass Station Nord, and then turn southeast into Fram Strait. Obuoy 9 0614 webcam

Obuoy 9 0614 temperature-1week We have to travel far to the west to O-buoy 11 to find sunshine and hints of thaw, (which may have ended. Just beyond the pressure ridge in the distance there has been a lot of activity over the past two weeks, barely glimpsed through the teeth of ice formed by the ridge. Leads have opened and closed, and floes have surged left and right.

Obuoy 11 0614 webcamObuoy 11 0614 temperature-1week

As this post is (supposedly) about the Barents Sea Blaster, I’ll skip the buoys closer to Bering Strait for now. (In actual fact, I need to get to bed.)


It seems I wasn’t able to avoid the ‘flu going through the children at our Farm-childcare, (and also the local public schools), and I’ve spent an amazing amount of the past two days simply snoozing. Now I’m wide awake in the wee hours, and figure I might as well wrap up this post about the Barents Sea blaster, which was less of a blaster than I expected.

Our faithful North Pole Camera is so unimpressed that it has turned around and is now daring to creep back north a bit, which is no way to get down to Fram Strait and hurry the ice-melt.  As the winds from Karabar peaked around 20 mph at 0300z on Sunday morning, and then gradually slacked off, we made it down to, at  06/14/1200Z, a position of 87.105°N, 4.652°W, but then backed off to, at 06/14/2100Z, a position of  87.109°N   4.916°W. The co-located Mass balance buoy 2014D, (less delayed but with no time stamp) states that creep has continued, and places us 87.11° N, 5.04° W late on the 15th. (Latest report, early on the 16th, shows eastward creep beginning again, with our faithful buoy at 87.11° N, 5.00° W.) The most recent thaw has ended, with temperatures back below freezing at  -0.28° C this morning, after getting up to +0.67° C at yesterday’s late report. A picture from that time still shows little sign of thaw.

NP3 1 0615 2015cam1_1

Despite the thaws, it takes a while to get the melt-water pools going, this far north. For example, two summers ago we had one of the widest (if not deepest) melt-water pools I’ve ever seen the North Pole Camera show, which created quite a stir in the media (and was even dubbed “Lake North Pole”), but that pool never formed until late July. Two years ago, on June 29, it still looked fairly wintry:


(The view was more interesting in 2013, with an open lead to the distant left and a pressure ridge to the distant right. That was when my hobby of watching ice melt first gained me some interesting viewers and comments, and this obscure blog abruptly went from ten views a day to four hundred:  )

I’ll conclude this post with a map of Karabar fading away northwest of Scandinavia, Karabarson drifting across Scandinavia, and “Klyuchi” being kicked north and bulging into the Kara Swa. The ghost of “Polly” drifts over towards Bering Strait, and has pulled thaw north through the strait. All in all it looks less stormy, and as if it is time for a new post, which I think I’ll dub, “Klyuchi and the Quietude.”

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