ARCTIC SEA ICE –Barneo Put On Ice–

The Corona Virus has taken another victim, as around March 15 the yearly Barneo polar-tourism event was cancelled.  Though the cancellation was necessary, it is a pity, for I enjoy the Russian’s attitude concerning sea-ice. They have about a million times the experience of the shallower Alarmists, who merely parrot the “settled science” which they have been gullible enough to accept as a talking-points. Where Alarmists have but dogmas, the Russians have actual experience. After all, the Russians have been landing aircraft on sea-ice since the 1930’s, and built their first Barneo-like base by the North Pole in 1937.


We are talking 72 years worth of experience, largely ignored by Alarmists, (and also are describing a great improvement in the sort of aircraft that the Russians land on the sea-ice with).

Russian aircraft Barneo 2018 barneo_0

I must appear to dislike modern streamlining and other improvements, when I confess I sort of liked the old Russian bombers, which could carry their own fighter-bombers tucked like chicks under each wing:

Russian Tupolev_TB-3

The Russians had their own way of doing things, and it is interesting how their paratroopers exited their old bombers:

Russian Paratroopers_jumping_from_Tupolev_TB-3

Although these ungainly-looking bombers look odd to us now, back in the day they set records for climbing to various altitudes lugging various weights, and also set the record (for that time) in terms of the duration of a flight, able to fly roughly eighteen hours without refueling (likely with additional fuel tanks). This allowed them to keep their bombers at airports a safe distance behind the battle-lines, as Hitler’s surprise attack sent the Russians reeling in retreat, and yet to still shock Hitler by bombing  Berlin at night as early as 1941. Although very vulnerable in daylight, these ungainly bombers helped Russia withstand the German onslaught, able to even move tanks if need be.

Russia had to know a lot about arctic conditions in order to be resupplied during World War Two, both by the British via convoys through Barents Sea, and by Americans via airlifts up through Canada, Alaska and then along the entire Siberian coastline. One character who stands out, in terms of such arctic knowledge, was Mark Shevelev, a pilot who somehow managed to skate through Stalin’s paranoid reign without winding up purged, (despite having Jewish parents), eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant-general and passing away in 1991 at the ripe old age of 86. He likely possessed more knowledge about sea-ice in his little finger than Greenpeace holds in its entire collection of thick skulls.

Полярный летчик Шевелев

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.or/w/index.php?curid=62460887

Unfortunately much of this knowledge is not easily accessible.

Before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 Russia created a total of 31 bases drifting on sea-ice, each one gathering data, and each one having a beginning and end, and a path across the arctic, but the only actual drift-map I have found is from the first one in 1937:

Russia first base drift

A list of the bases, (including the Russian post-Soviet-Union bases which restarted such such exploration, after a fifteen year pause), can be found here:

One of the main reasons such bases were funded (the United States had a few, the chief being “Fletcher’s Ice Island” [“T-3”]), was because the two sides wanted to keep an eye on each other’s submarines during the Cold War, and consequently they also kept an eye one each other’s ice-floe bases, with much of the information kept top secret. There are all sorts of tales of submarines playing hide and seek under the ice, and one of the coolest tales to come out of that time (1962) was “Operation Coldfeet”, wherein a Russian sea-ice-base failed to disintegrate after it was abandoned, and Americans parachuted down to the sea-ice to investigate the abandoned base. This presented the investigators with a bit of a problem: How the heck to retrieve the men (and evidence) when there was no flat ice nearby large enough to land a plane upon. The answer was to snatch the men up from the ground using a moving plane, and this adventure was the first time “Sky Hook” was used.

I’m surprised that the people being rescued were not killed by whiplash, but perhaps the arrangement had some give, like a bungee cord. In any case the intelligence-gathering was a tremendous success, and a great deal was learned about the Russian’s ability to acoustically gather information about American submarines. (The fact a tremendous amount was also learned about sea-ice, during all these spy-vs-spy shenanigans, seems to have been a sort of side effect.)

My point is that we (and especially the Russians) are perfectly able to counter Alarmist contentions that the sea-ice is now at dreadfully low levels, “unprecedented” in human history. The Russians have data going back which allows them to see a decrease in sea-ice into the early 1950’s (which was fortuitous because winter convoys  through a conveniently ice-free Barents Sea kept Russia from perishing during the darkest days of World War Two) followed by an increase in sea-ice until around 1979, followed by the cycle decreasing again until now.

If one wonders why the Russians don’t counter the Alarmists with loud rebuttals, the answer may well be, “Never interrupt your rival when they are making a mistake.” The Russians want to take the lead in developing their arctic resources, (which Greenpeace frowns-at and calls “exploitation”),  and therefore Russia sees no great advantage in correcting the errors of their competitors. If others insist upon being politically-correct and scientifically-stupid, Russia will not be so rude as to interfere.

I personally prefer the Truth, and have posted all sorts of examples from history of open water at the Pole, even in March and May when sea-ice extents are high.

Submariene at Pole 1959 uss-skate-open-water

It is amazing how much obvious history Alarmists chose to be blind to, when they cling to their idea that we have never before seen sea-ice as thin as we now see at the Pole. For example, here is a newsreel from 1934 describing a schooner blithely sailing through an area where more modern-yachts were turned back, when attempting the Northwest passage, last summer.

Eventually one concludes (if one is me) that some Alarmists just don’t like history. When their psychiatrists ask them to remember their childhoods they likely respond, “What childhood?” This explains why they seem unable to resolve their psychological difficulties, chief of which is that they deny they have a problem and instead call me the “denier”. Theirs is a terrible state to be trapped in, and we actually should feel pity for these unfortunate people,  for all knowledge is based upon the foundation of those who came before us and who discovered things which they handed forward through the mists of time to us, but these poor Alarmists resent the past, blame it for every possible challenge the present presents us with, and think the best thing to do is to purge all history from all books and start from scratch, as if amnesia is intelligence. (End rant.)

In other words, on one hand data is suppressed due to the spy-vs.-spy skullduggery of political and industrial espionage, and on the other hand data is denied by the blind faith of political dogma (which often replaces the blind faith of religious belief, when priests have too obviously been greedy and lustful and have broken people’s religious faith.)

And then there is deplorable me. All I want is the data, so I can watch the sea-ice and wonder, and perhaps glimpse a pattern which perhaps repeats.

There is no particular magic involved in the forecasts which spring from observations. A child can do it. Just as when the sky gets dark and one hear grumbles of thunder, one becomes wary of a storm, one watches the sea-ice for certain indicators. And just as, when one hears grumbles of thunder, the storm may pass to the north or the south and not hit you, uncertainty is involved in sea-ice forecasts, but uncertainty shouldn’t lead to despair and the abandonment of all observations.

As the Corona Virus is forcing us to self-isolate, I think this might be a good time to do some digging, and see if we can learn more about the Soviet Union’s sea-ice bases. Although I grew up deeming Russians “the bad guys”, one has to admit some amazing men achieved some amazing things in the arctic, and a lot we know about the arctic came from their research. (For example, they discovered the submerged mountain range running across the bottom of the Arctic Sea.)

One thing which could be better understood through the examination of the Russian sea-ice bases is the drift of the sea-ice. Usually it is described as two main features, the Transpolar Drift and the Beaufort Gyre.

In actual fact the two features may swing through cycles where first one and then the other predominates. The Russian descriptions I have been able to find seem to suggest their sea-ice bases traveled one of two routes, one of which flushed the base down through Fram Strait, and the other which cycled the base around the Pole.

Just looking at the list of Russian bases I gave earlier, I note sometimes bases were abandoned surprisingly close to where they began, despite the passage of long periods of time, suggesting the Beaufort Gyre was displaced far from the Beaufort Sea, and the base described a circle on the Siberian side of the Pole. (Some bases were abandoned not because the sea-ice became untenable, but rather because they drifted too far from Russia and too close to Canada, which created resupply problems, if not political ones.)

One base of particular interest is Base NP 22, which drifted around for eight and a half years, from September 13, 1972 to April 8, 1981. This base lasted longer than any other base, and also was operational when sea-ice levels peaked in 1979. It would be interesting to learn what the sea-ice and the sea-ice-drift was like, at that time. Therefore, if you are stuck in a period of “self quarantine” or “social isolation” and would like to be helpful, search about the web and see if you can find anything about this expedition for me.

Even when things can’t be found in official histories, on official news sites, or on government search engines, it is amazing what people post on there personal sites or in places like Facebook. Some of the old-timers who were on those Russian NP bases are likely now old and garrulous geezers like I am, and perhaps they wrote memoirs. In any case, I’m  curious.

A few years back a Jet suffered a collapsed landing gear at the Barneo site and could not be repaired, and the usual suspects were accusing the Russians of polluting the Pristine Arctic by allowing the jet to just sink, when the sea-ice melted. The Russians responded in their usual manner; they do not dignify such accusations by even behaving as if they heard them. But I was curious, and started poking about, and found photographs which suggested the engines (at least) were valuable enough to save.

Barneo jet engine barneo-2q-image307244_74b1ce7f97f8b128f6a43f11d5797852

The humorous thing is that the images were not found in any official government disclaimer, but rather in the chatter of employees on Facebook pages. The Russian government could have defended itself, but seemed to feel that becoming defensive would be lowering itself.

Perhaps a certain element of egotism is involved. Governments have their dignity, and at times they refuse to stoop to answer inane questions. This seems especially true when the questions are nasty and accusatory.  At times “Fake News” is as much in the questions as it is in the answers, (which is something that formerly was not as apparent as President Trump has made it become). But attack-dog questioning  was always obvious to me, in the realm of arctic sea-ice, especially when the Russians faced questions by people who were known “activists”, such as Greenpeace. The very word “activist” is suggestive that a thing beyond mere curiosity is “active”, behind a reporter’s grilling.

In a better world we wouldn’t ask questions in the manner of a lawyer who is paid to arrive at a certain verdict. Rather we would ask questions because we wanted answers to things we didn’t understand. Sadly some seem to think they already know everything, and that “the science is settled”. When they raise their hands at a press conference it is like a proud child in a classroom, eager to show off an answer they already know, but not really interested in learning anything new. Rather than knowledgeable they look like know-it-alls, rather than conceiving they are blinded by preconception.

For example, imagine the conclusion an Alarmist would jump to, looking at the below picture of a prefab house at the Russian N.P.  36 base.

Russian NP 36 prefab house 800px-Sp_01

If you were an Alarmist you would take one look and, because everything is seen through the filter of Global Warming, (just as things look rosy to one wearing rose-colored glasses), everything looks alarming to an Alarmist. Some version of “Look how bad the melting is!” would be the first, and somewhat involuntary, utterance.

In actual fact those who live in wintry landscapes know that, even when the sun is low in December, one can find less harsh conditions out of the wind at the face of a south-facing cliff. The snow melts first at the base of a barn’s south wall (which is where farmers prefer to work, if they must work outside), but at the Pole in July every wall is south-facing, and rather than set the sun rolls around and around the horizon. Therefore every object sitting on the arctic snow has a tendency to wind up on a pedestal like a statue. For example, the DC-3 that crashed on Fletcher’s Ice Island was originally at the level of the snow:


But years later was elevated:

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

Simply by wandering from site to site, seeing as much of the Pole as I could from my armchair, I found my views of the Pole were altered, especially concerning what conditions are like during the height of summer. There is no “cool of the evening” because it never is evening, and the temperature seldom drops below freezing. (The slush on and around Fletcher’s Ice Island could be so deep the men stationed there wore hip-waders, back in the 1950’s). Consequently I’ve become less alarmed than Alarmists are, by signs of melting at the Pole in July.

In fact, I originally was drawn into the tussle with Alarmists due to a melt-water pool that appeared at the Pole in July, 2013:

Lake North Pole

This resulted in quite a hubbub among Alarmists. One article began, “If the image above doesn’t scare you about the effects of global warming, you must have ice water in your veins. That’s the North Pole — or at least that’s where the camera started its mission. It’s now a lake.” I attempted to soothe the above writer by pointing out it was just a melt-water pool, and would likely drain down through the ice when it found a crack, which was exactly what happened.NP July 28 npeo_cam2_20130728131212

The sad thing was that before I was proved correct my comment was deleted from the Alarmist site for being that of a “denier”. However here at this site I went from my usual 40 views a day to 700. That was my introduction to the wonderful world of sea-ice politics:

When I reread the above post from July, 2013, I am struck by my own ignorance. I’ve learned a lot since then, simply following the principle of “curious minds want to know.” But back at the time what I was struck by was the fact that Alarmists didn’t even know melt-water pools would drain down through the sea-ice, but still could look down their noses at me as if I was the ignorant one.

Sad. But the fact some put appearing knowledgeable over actually knowing shouldn’t be allowed to stop us from learning a little more, and here’s what I’m curious about:

The Russians talked about two distinct flows in the arctic, one flushing sea-ice down through Fram Strait and one cycling sea-ice around the Pole. This past winter seems like a flusher. The Polarstern, holding the MOSAiC expedition, (and its associated buoys) has been making good progress down towards Fram Strait.

I notice this path is similar to the route shown taken by the first Russian N.P. expedition in 1937. The men on that expedition were picked up by icebreakers in Fram Strait, and delivered back to Russia aboard the icebreaker Yermak, built in 1898.

File:Yermak icebreaker.jpg

Russia still picks up its sea-ice expedition crews using icebreakers. Here are the crew of N.P. 36 being retrieved:

So who do you suppose we should go to, to learn about icebreakers, or about sea-ice? Greenpeace, or the Russians? Not that I’d be inclined to go to the Russians for advice on other topics, but in terms of sea-ice, the Russians rule and Greenpeace drools.

If I could, I’d go to them hat in hand and be very respectful, asking for more information about the past. I have my hunches that the discharge of ice into the Atlantic may have something to do with how the AMO switches from its “warm” phase to its “cold” phase, which has implications for farmers and fishermen further south, but that will have to wait until a future post, (if the Corona Virus doesn’t get me first).

Stay tuned.

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.