ARCTIC SEA-ICE –High Summer–

It is now the time of thawing at the Pole. The sun never sets, and instead rolls around and around, high enough above the horizon to nudge temperatures just above freezing. There are brief freezes, when the sun goes under a cloud or a downdraft brings cold sleet down from a summer shower, but for the most part non-stop thawing occurs, 24 hours a day, for around 1440 hours. This is no new thing; it has been occurring as long as men have wandered the Arctic Ocean. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s and early 1970’s, men stationed on Fletcher’s Ice Island wore hip waders at times during the summer, the slush could get so deep.

Although we think of tabular icebergs as a feature of Antarctica, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, on the northern coast of Ellesmere Island in Canada’s high Arctic, produces them. A big berg from this shelf broke off, likely in the 1940’s, and was 50 m (160 ft) thick and covered an area of 90 sq km (35 sq mi). Between 1952 and 1978 it was used as a manned scientific research station that included huts, a power plant, and a runway for wheeled aircraft. Discovered by U.S. Air Force Colonel Joseph Fletcher, the iceberg was named T-3 or Fletcher’s Ice Island. It moved around the Arctic Ocean for many years, eventually exiting through the Fram Strait, between Greenland and Svalbard, and moved south and around the southern tip of Greenland to disintegrate and melt in Davis Strait. While it was inhabited in the high Arctic things grew so slushy in the summer the men could only be supplied by air drops, which meant they could receive mail, but never send any, for months. (No cell-phones, back then.)

The guys had to be tough and resourceful, as they awaited to things to freeze up in the fall. One year a large, shallow lake formed in the runway, and they tried to prepare the runway too soon, and a CAT broke through the ice. With things freezing up rapidly the men had to work furiously for 24 hours to get it out. The location of the berg that year was such that, “The first sunset was September 7th; the last sunrise was September 14th. So within a week, we went from total day to total night. Temperatures in September were often below 0°F, -17°C.”  With  the first flight not scheduled to land until November, but temperatures down to -35°F by late October, the generator quit. A hero named  Bill Hallett rebuilt it in a frantic rush, well aware there was no hope of outside help.

One interesting aside involves a time two women were sent north to work with the men. Apparently it was such a fiasco, in terms of multiple romances, jealousy and brawls, that it was never attempted again. So much for political correctness. But I digress. I’m suppose to be talking about a different sort of heat.

In the 1950’s a R4D (Navy version of the DC-3)  crashed on Fletcher’s ice island and, stripped of all valuable parts, became a sort of landmark that servicemen had their pictures taken with.

Fletcher's DC-3 1 kf3aa_p4

It is interesting how it looked years later:

Fletcher's DC-3 2 t-3-picture-r4d-on-pillar-apr-62-t3

This is not to suggest the Air Force puts itself on a pedestal, but rather that summer melting has always occurred at the Pole, for as long as we’ve been watching. And now we are watching it again.

DMI5 0619 meanT_2018

Sea-ice “extent”, “area”, and “volume”all tend to crash during the melt. The “extent” graph is being carefully watched, partly because it best supports the Alarmist narrative this year, and partly because some expect the melt to slow, once the thicker ice in the Central Arctic is reached.

DMI5 0619 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

The DMI “volume” graph puzzled many, as the black line vanished. Apparently the computer program is designed in a manner where the gray line representing “normal” takes precedence, so the black line had to pass under it, as volume moved from below to above normal.

Above normal? Did I say the volume is above normal? Yes. But do not expect Alarmists to bring the subject up. They are quite glum about it, and tend to ignore the DMI graph and flee to the PIOMASS data.  But here is the DMI graph they don’t like to look at. It shows volume plunging in the way it plunges every year,  but above-normal. In the past year we seem to have seen an increase of over 4500 km³ of sea-ice.

Volume 20180619 FullSizeRender

Where is the ice increasing? Here is a comparison of the thickness of the ice last year (left) with this year (right).

There is more open water north of Svalbard and in the Laptev Sea this year, but the sea-ice is obviously thicker towards East Siberia and in the Central Arctic.

Of interest to me is the area north of Bering Strait. Alarmists felt the melt would be faster this year than last year, for waters south of Bering Strait were surprisingly ice-free last winter, and Alarmists felt this would give those waters a head start , in terms of warming, and that warmer water would head north of Bering Strait, and hasten the melt in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. This hasn’t happened yet, though the waters are warmer than normal in Bering Strait.

SST anomaly 20180618 anomnight.6.18.2018

Just a reminder: The above map shows anomalies. The cherry red in Bering Strait does not mean the water is warm. Rather it means it is roughly 3 degrees above normal, or in other words +2°C rather than -1°C (which would be the temperature of the water with bergs floating around in it.)

Further south the La Nina is fading and an El Nino appears to be building. Oddly most of the warming is north of the equator, so far. Any warming effect due to an El Nino will be in a lagged manner, and we likely will still be seeing the lagged effect of the cool La Nina for a while longer at the Pole.

The Atlantic side is very interesting, as the backwards “C” of cold in the Atlantic is the signature of a cold AMO, which we haven’t seen in a long time, and were not expecting for another five years. NOAA will have to update the x-axis of its AMO graph, for the most recent “+” for the month of May is just into the negative, and you can only see part of it poking up at the very bottom right of their graph.

AMO May 2018 amo_short

This cold AMO is making conditions colder in southern Greenland and eastern Canada. This is of concern to people on the east coast of Hudson Bay, where the sea-ice is hanging tough. (2017 to left; 2018 to right.)

The concern involves getting a tanker to the east coast settlements, because people no longer heat igloos with blubber lamps, nor spend the entire winter fully dressed. Or maybe they could, but most prefer fossil fuels and warm houses. Therefore all are in a hurry to refill fuel tanks during the window of opportunity offered by the Bay being ice-free. It’s a problem when the ice hangs tough. People don’t sit around drumming their fingers waiting, because it would be downright dangerous to go without resupply.

I remember a clamor arose in 2015 when the ice hung tough into July, and the people in the east coast settlements asked for an icebreaker to clear a path for their oil tanker. Of course this didn’t make headlines. I only knew about it because some Climate Scientists had hired the icebreaker so they could study how the ice was vanishing, and instead the ship was diverted to where the ice wasn’t vanishing. I did not fail to note the irony, but also was puzzled, for the maps and graphs I used didn’t show all that much ice, but then I saw this picture of the path being cleared on July 17.

Hudson 2015 Icebreaker hudson-july-28-3-ccgs-pierre-radisson-in-sea-ice

I hope this explains why I sometimes seem distrustful of maps and graphs. When possible I seek out the Twitter and Facebook feeds from ships and small towns, because a reporter who is actually on the scene is best, even if they are unpaid by any newspaper.

In any case, I’ll be keeping an eye on Hudson Bay.

The cold AMO seems to be effecting Greenland as well. The yearly thaw has started around the edges of the icecap, but there are also some heavy snows. For example, yesterday heavy snow fell in the northwest.

Greenland MB 20180619 todaysmb

Of course, if more snow falls than melts then it is hard to be a true Alarmist about the icecap melting away. For a while this year’s “accumulated mass balance” roughly paralleled  2011-2012, which was a great year (if you like to worry about melting), but roughly a month ago the two years parted ways, and where 2011-2012 fell like a stone, (red line), this year refused to start falling (blue line).

Greenland MB 20180619 accumulatedsmb

One final effect of the cold AMO: Some fishing lodges in eastern Canada are taking a financial hit, for it is difficult to operate a fishing lodge when six feet of winter snow sits outside, refusing to melt. The picture is from Labrador in mid-June. (Hat tip to Ice-age-now site).

Fishing Lodge in June labrador-snow

The fishermen may be sad, but I understand the trout are tickled pink.

Stay tuned.

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