A blip on the “extent” graph has separated the decline of sea-ice this year from past years, making it look like there is more sea-ice this year. Is this true, or an illusion?
The melt is far from over, and the amount of the end-of-summer melt can vary considerably. Just in recent years it can be seen, in the above graph, that roughly twice as much “extent” vanished in 2020 as did in 2021. (The x-axis gradations in the above graph represent 2 million km2. Therefore 2020 saw a loss of 2 million km2 and 2021 saw a mere million km2 melt.) As our extent is currently roughly 0.8 million km2 above what it was in 2020, we’d have to lose that much more to reach a level approaching the 2020 minimum.
The most amazing reduction of “extent” was in 2012, due to a big summer gale that formed over the Pole and caused some major stirring of the Arctic Sea. That year there was a thick, cold “freshwater lens” over slightly milder and saltier water, and when the stirring brought up the milder water the sea-ice vanished with startling rapidity. Or at least I was startled. That April I was expecting the sea-ice to make a comeback, for it was nowhere near the lowest that records had seen; in fact, it was 27th lowest. Yet by August it was lowest ever seen. I was so amazed I confess I actually suspected fraud was involved.
But one nice thing about that time, (only ten years ago but now seemingly a different universe), was that you could write a polite email to scientists and get a polite reply, and I contacted scientists who were actually up in the Arctic at that time, and I got a wonderful reply from a gentleman who had actually been on flights over the Arctic Sea, and he described how amazed he was that so much ice had vanished so swiftly.
Also, scientists back then were not so swift the blame Global Warming and leave it at that. I recall discussions about how a shift in the AO had caused a shift in where the outflow of the Lena River wound up, and how this caused a thickening of the “freshwater lens” towards Canada. While such articles tended to have an obligatory genuflection towards Global Warming in the final paragraph, the body of the paper was full of fascinating wonders. Here is one about that shift, from January 2012, (if I’d been more on-the-ball, I’d have suspected the “freshwater lens” might affect the melt the following summer.)
After that amazing melt in the summer of 2012 everyone seemed made more aware of the effect a summer gale might have, and therefore Alarmists were expecting great things (in terms of melting) when an equally impressive gale developed the summer of 2013. To the surprise of many (including myself) far less sea-ice melted. In fact, the sea-ice seemed to slosh around and hardly melt at all.
I never saw a paper explaining why the sea-ice failed to melt; perhaps it was given a good leaving-alone because it did not support the narrative concerning Global Warming. However, it seems apparent the water under the sea-ice must have been altered. Perhaps the 2012 gale demolished the “freshwater lens”, and also “used up” the heat and salinity stored in the stratified water beneath.
It seems apparent that there are variations in the layering and makeup of the waters of the Arctic Sea which may rival the changing makeup and layers in our atmosphere. Perhaps there are the equivalent of warm fronts and cold fronts, and even watery “jet streams” at various levels.
Last summer I spent some time attempting to envision what changes might be brought about by a major eruption of lava on the Gamal Ridge. (Basically, it would screw up preconceptions and mess up carefully crafted maps of existing currents, by creating a plume of ascending water where water ordinarily should be descending.) This subject is another which seems to have been given a good leaving alone, at least since 2008.
To return to the subject of the “extent” of the sea-ice this summer, I think we cannot have a good idea of how the extent will diminish without a clear map of the sub-ice currents. We need a clear idea how the stratification of the water has proceeded. How thick is the “freshwater lens” and how has it shifted? How stratified is the water, and what is the temperature and salinity at various levels. We need more buoys. Lots and lots of buoys! Send much more money, please. (It is a far more worthwhile investment than the Clinton Foundation).
In the meantime, we have little to go on. I have noticed an abundance of small storms (“Ralphs”) over the Pole this summer, though so far none rival the gales of 2012 and 2013. Their cloudiness perhaps explains why temperatures have largely been below normal. (The lone spike above normal occurred as a high pressure’s sunny spell drifted over the top of the earth.)
The current dip in temperatures occurred as yet another small low drifted past the Pole.
This is occurring just as the temperature map shows the reappearance of the sub-freezing isotherm at the Pole; the surface thaw is ending.
Back when we had buoys with cameras up there, we could see the meltwater pools atop the sea-ice start to freeze over, but also we witnessed that the melt continued from below the sea-ice, and often saw areas of ice crumble even as temperatures above the ice dropped below freezing. Typically, more sea-ice melts than freezes until mid-September. So, where should we be looking? We should look where the sea-ice is most thin, and for this I like the NRL (Naval Research Lab) maps.
The lilac, especially the light lilac and white, represents the thinnest and most-likely-to-melt ice.
For comparison I’ll include a NRL map for the same day in 2020
One increase that jumps out at me is the increase in sea-ice in the East Siberian Sea, between Wrangles Island and the New Siberian Islands. This seems to happen when the PDO is colder and during La Ninas, though I can’t claim to understand the dynamics. In 2020 this area was largely ice-free by September, but I doubt it will happen this year. First, because the ice is thicker to begin with, and second, because that water was ice-free in 2020 it was exposed to cold air during the refreeze, which seems to “shock the system” and disturb any warm and salty layer beneath any freshwater lens. (I say “seems” because I haven’t seen any actual study.) Therefore it “seems” that, even if there was a big gale, the effects would be more like 2013’s rather than 2012’s.
A comparison of the two maps also shows an increase of thicker ice north of Greenland. While this makes no difference in terms of “extent” graphs, it does make a difference in terms of “volume” graphs.
The “volume” graphs involve many variables and the difficulties of modeling, so I tend to be a little leery of their accuracy, but they have given Alarmists a problem in recent years by refusing to show the expected decreases. The PIOMAS graph does show a sharp decrease between 1997 and 2010, but the curve has seemingly bottomed out since 2010.
Despite a mysterious subtraction of 2,000 km3 of sea-ice (see previous posts) the DMI model shows a recovery of volume to levels near 2018’s.
In conclusion, it seems highly unlikely that this year will see the long trumpeted ice-free Arctic Ocean we’ve been promised. But this is not to say the researchers don’t deserve more funding. They do. Much that influences weather further south occurs up there and is worthy of our wonder.
Here is a nice, current example of the Beaufort Gyre reduced and the Transpolar Drift enhanced, leading to sea-ice being flushed down through Fram Strait, which is occurring today, (January 3).
It is important to remember the motion of sea-ice is in constant flux and varies from day to day. For example, only a few days ago the condition was reversed, and it was the Beaufort Gyre that was greatly expanded, to a degree the Transpolar Drift was erased and replaced by what I call the “Cold War Current” (because this variance from ordinary currents would cause Russian “spy” ice-bases to drift from locations easily resupplied from Russia, and away towards Canada, leading to spy vs. spy shenanigans; [see CIA operation “Coldfeet” in 1962].) (For the opposite situation, wherein a USA “spy” satellite fell on sea-ice where Russians might get at it, see the fate of the satellite Discover 2 in 1959, [which prompted the movie “Ice Station Zebra” in 1969].) Here is an example of that “Cold War Current” from December 29:
The fact that the sea-ice is whipped first one way and then another, first speeding up and then slowing down, is the reason the sea-ice surface is twisted and contorted into piled-up pressure ridges separated by flat areas of thinner ice, where “leads” of open water have swiftly refrozen in the Arctic night. However, notice that in both of the above maps the sea-ice is heading down through Fram Strait and the east coast of Greenland. This is called the Greenland Current, but I call it the “Fram Flush”.
Not that even the Fram Flush ice-flow can’t be reversed. An example of such wrong-way-flow occurred back on December 2. (It also is a fairly good example of the “Cold War Current”.)
Now I should confess something which I don’t understand. It is this: Most of the studies I have perused which attempt to map the currents under the ice fail to show any such variability. This may be due to the limited amount of data available, and the limited amount of time data has been able to be collected. Besides an array of fixed buoys across Fram Strait, there have only been limited expeditions taking actual measurements, strings of readings from icebreakers which may number scores or even hundreds of individual readings, but each such reading is one-time-in-one-place, which cannot be compared with measurements in the same place weeks, months, years or decades earlier. This sparce information is fed into computer models which may then create a stability where stability does not exist, (accidentally enacting GIGO). I also assume this false sense of stability is to a degree necessary. Why? Because models are already smoking, just dealing with the variables they already accept, and to include additional variables might make them be too big to buy and too expensive to run. In any case we are left with a seemingly impossible situation: The currents under the ice are steady while the icefloes atop those currents are erratic.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to downplay the herculin efforts of the men who gather the actual data, often in extremely uncomfortable environments and even at risk of their own lives from frostbite, thin ice, or 1500-pound polar bears. Furthermore, I assert every scrap of data they gather has value. But I do feel puzzled by some of the conclusions arrived at, even early on in the discovery process. In a sense it is as one found apples and attempted to attach them to the branches of a walnut tree.
For example, a certain, inherant doubt in the idea that the erratic-movement-of-sea-ice is not reflected in the currents under the ice was created by the O-buoys, which sent out signals indicating their precise location, and through which it could be seen the sea-ice in Fram Strait pulsed in a zig-zag manner, responding to the tides. (Obuoy 9 was fabulous in this respect, as it arrived in Fram Strait. Even during a spell of calm winds, when only the currents under the sea-ice could move the ice, the buoy zig-zagged.) Also, on certain other, earlier occasions the famous “North Pole Camera” drifted upwind, moving against the wind, which had to have involved the power of a current under the ice. Yet the idea the currents were steady, even as sea-ice moved erratically, persisted.
Forgive me for this suspicion, but I got the feeling that the concept of “steady currents” was one of those so-called “narratives” which a young scientist would be ill-advised to question, if he wanted funding. I haven’t a clue why “steady currents” might be more “politically-correct” than “variable and meandering currents”, but it did seem that evidence “for” was welcomed as established fact, while evidence “against” vanished into the dustbin of unfunded and disdained ignominy. Perhaps someone can explain to me why “steady currents” were preferred. But it does seem that one reason that funding for drifting cameras on the sea-ice was discontinued was because such cameras (and attached instruments) gave the general public too many reasons to question the various “narratives”, while doing too little to actually support the various “narratives.”
One reason to support the “steady currents” narrative was that, while gales might rage to hurricane force above the sea-ice, waters beneath the sea-ice were sheltered by the ice and were tranquil and still. I myself accepted this as a logical deduction. However, the MOSAiC Expedition noted “unexpected turbulence” under the ice. What was unexpected manifested in the following way:
Apparently, a large pressure-ridge that thrusts up twenty feet is like any iceberg, with nine-tenths of its bulk underwater, and therefore must theoretically thrust down 180 feet. Such a pressure ridge, many miles long, is in essence a boat with a sail twenty feet high, and an oversized keel. When winds of hurricane force hit the sail, the keel also moves, and has an effect like the blade of a spoon, stirring the water it moves through. In cases where that “spoon”, 180 feet deep and many miles long, moved across or against the existing “steady current”, the result was “unexpected turbulence.” The MOSAiC researchers dared not go any farther than that, in their conclusions, for one does not want to stir the waters of the accepted narrative.
Truth, however, is constantly stirring the waters. It cares very little about what we think. (In fact, when Truth actually does respond to what we think it is often called “a miracle.”) (When personal preference effects science it is deemed “bias”, a forecast becomes a “wish-cast”, and ordinarily we expect failure.)
Truth does what is Truth, and is most harmonious to the entirety of Creation. Truth sees the Big Picture. And the Big Picture often allows meandering and seldom lets the straight remain straight, (or a “steady current” remain steady).
Think of a meandering stream, on those occasions when the meander abruptly becomes an oxbow lake, as the river cuts a corner. Or think of the jet-stream doing roughly the same thing, when a loop becomes a “cut off low” as the jet resumes a straighter course. And then assure me arctic currents never, never do the same? I’ll politely nod, but privately entertain doubts.
At this point I feel I should take a hard look in the mirror, and confess my own unwillingness to have my own ideas poked and prodded by doubts. Just because something makes no sense to me, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. For example, take a platypus…
That being said, let me say another maxim of the idea of “steady currents” seems to be “thou shalt not include seasonal variability.” This knocks me backwards flat on my butt, for there is no place on earth where seasons are so exaggerated and extreme as the arctic, as it shifts from total 24-hour darkness to total 24-hour sunshine. It shifts from temperatures which (almost) never allow melting to temperatures which (almost) never allow freezing. A factoid of the not-many-people-know-that sort involves the extreme heat at the Pole when the sun is at its highest: On the summer solstice the Pole receives more heat than the equator.
This factoid strikes some as sheer nonsense. After all, on the equator the sun beats down from 90° while at the Pole it slants down from 23.5°. However it takes the tropical sun an hour and a half to rise above 23.5° in the morning, and it spends its last hour and a half below 23.5° in the afternoon, and then it does not shine at all during the twelve-hour tropical night, as the polar sun just sits at 23.5° 24 hours a day. In other words, the tropical sun only beats the polar sun for nine hours a day, and during the other fifteen hours the polar sun accrues enough hourly energy to beat the equator. It’s a race where the turtle beats the rabbit, in the end.
In any case, during the polar summer the Pole recieves a big shot of energy, while during the winter it receives no solar energy at all, (except as imports from southerly winds and currents). “Seasonal variability” is extreme. How can currents not reflect such extremes, especially when our understanding is that freezing and thawing in some ways partially fuels such currents?
The “cause” of currents is a weave of many variables, the most stable (and easy-to-model) of which is likely the Coriolis effect. But let us pick another variable thread from the weave: Part of thermohaline circulation involves cold water sinking at the Pole and being replaced by warm water rising and coming north from the equator. (Yes, it is far more complex than that, but we are examining only one thread.)
One major contributor to the sinking water is salty brine exuded from the sea-ice as it freezes. Such brine is especially cold and especially salty, which makes it especially dense. (Such brine is even exuded from the so called “freshwater lens,” for such lenses are actually “brackish-water lenses” due to diffusion and the mixing caused by turbulent storms. Where “seawater” has roughly 33-35 parts per thousand of salt, I have seen water with as high as 32 parts per thousand called a “freshwater lens”.) In any case, most of the freezing occurs in a rush between October 1 and January 1, which would mean most of the cold, salty and dense brine sinks in a surge at that time. Conversely, during the height of summer enormous melting occurs and little brine at all is contributed to the thermohaline circulation, though (because sea-ice has earlier been liberated from much of its salt) a lot of relatively fresh water is added to the freshwater lens. Therefore it “should” follow that, because brine is added in such a pulsing manner, a current ought to pulse, and have a sort of heartbeat. Do they? Not according to the “steady current” school of thought. “Seasonal variation” does not exist.
Another seasonal surge is water added to the “freshwater lens” by the flow of arctic rivers. With the exception of the Volga, nearly the entire northern half of Eurasia floods into the Arctic, but not during the winter. During the winter the water is largely locked up as ice, and precipitation locked up as deepening snow. Even the world’s tenth largest river, the Lena, dwindles away until its waters can drop as much as sixty feet, and only 1% of its yearly flow reaches the seas in March. But when spring comes, look out! All that snow melts under the powerful summer sunshine, and the river rises back sixty feet. The chart below shows that one June the flow of the Lena exceeded 100,000 cubic meters a second, which is five times the flow of the Mississippi.
Other great arctic rivers show the same sort of surge in flow in the spring. For example, the Makenzie River rises from a flow of roughly 3400 cubic meters per second in March to roughly 20500 in June. This represents an enormous inflow of fresher and warmer water, basically all at once, to the Arctic Sea. Then the cessation of this flow is nearly as abrupt, in October. And I am asked to believe the flow of associated currents remains steady?
Considering a first surge of sinking brine occurs October to January, and a second surge in the size of the freshwater lens, due to both melting sea-ice and river-water, occurs May through August, I am not only surprised currents are expected to be steady; I am also surprised currents don’t reverse course entirely. After all, a lot of sinking brine creates a very good reason for water to flow in at the surface, but adding as much as a quarter million square meters of river water to the freshwater lens per second, at the surface, seems to give surface waters ample excuse to flow out of the Pole. After all, the river waters raise the physical level of the Arctic Sea, so it must depart, due to the law of gravity. The only explanation I’ve been able to invent may be sheer poppycock: The thickening of the freshwater lens presses down like a sort of CPR onto deeper waters, pushing the flow along the same route the brine takes.
At this point I feel I need to throw yet another wrench into the works. In the above case the thermohaline flow involves the decent of waters at the Pole, however lava at over 1000 degrees would create a plume of rising water right where it is supposed to be descending. This scenario seems to happen in the area of Gamel Ridge, close to the craters of three volcanoes two miles down called Thor, Oden and Loke.
As an aside, the discovery of these craters discredited a view held by some geologists that explosive eruptions could not occur under the extreme pressure created by having two miles of water overhead. Explosive eruptions occur when a volcano is uncapped like a bottle of soda, and bubbles form in the lava in the same way bubbles form in soda pop, only on a far larger scale. However, pressures are so great two miles down that CO2 exists in its liquid state (as it does inside a pressurized fire extinguisher) and dribbles of liquid CO2 have actually been seen exiting deep-sea vents. The assumption was that pressures were so great lave could never fizz like soda pop, and therefore explosive eruptions could not occur. However, a swarm of earthquakes in 1999 led to a sonar investigation of the sea-bottom by the icebreaker Healy and the submarine Hawkbill, and the existence of the craters was revealed. Obviously, the lava did more than ooze out. Further investigation seemed warranted, and funding was procured, and in 2007 cameras were sent down, and revealed the eruptions were so violent that despite the pressure and the density of water pyroclastic debris was thrown a mile from the craters.
A paper was published in 2008, and then something odd happened. Silence descended. Funding ceased. Forgive me for again being suspicious, but I can’t help but think that certain “narratives” were threatened. After all, it messes up nice and neat concepts when descending currents abruptly put on the brakes and become ascending currents.
“Nothing to see here, folks. Please move along.”
This brings me to a couple of events I observed last spring. First, an odd hole melted in the sea-ice over the Gammel Ridge, and continued to be melted independently to the shifting of the sea-ice. Concurrent with that event, the WSC (West Switzenberg Current) seemed to lose its power to melt the sea-ice on the west and north sides of Svalbard, as if that current had been weakened. It made a sort of common sense to me that the two events might be related, and that if waters to the north stopped sinking then waters to the south would be less inclined to be drawn north. But what do I know? Let me simply present the observations.
First hint of hole on March 27
Hole on April 20
Hole enlarging and melting “backwards”, (independently of ice’s drift). May 20
WSC melted ice well north and west of Svalbard on February 27
Ice advancing towards north coast on April 20
Thick Ice on north coast and thin ice on west coast on June 20
I should note that if the sea-ice had been similar back in the year 1596, Willem Berentz’s discoveries along the north coast of Svalbard could not have happened. And you have to admit that, if there was less sea-ice in 1596 than in 2021, it harms a certain “narrative” which stresses sea-ice is currently at “unprecedentedly” low levels.
I cannot help but wonder if other innocent observations of Truth, of fact, of what is happening right before our eyes, also threaten the “narrative” in ways I can’t even see. Perhaps the idea of huge amounts of lava under the sea suggests there are other factors besides CO2 involved in the shifts we see to our climate, and introducing new variables in some way threatens the focus on CO2 and CO2 alone. I can’t say.
In any case, variables do exist, whether we include them in computer models or not.
I’ll conclude by returning to how variable the drift of sea-ice is right now, and to my original maps of how that is currently moving. Today’s map (January 4) shows an Aleutian Gale has drifted north across East Siberia, and, nourished by a nice feeder-band of Pacific air, has become a “Ralph” of low pressure over the Pole. This has completely reversed the normal drift of the Beaufort Gyre.
The above is interesting, for ice from Russia is not heading towards Fram Strait, which makes it a “Cold War Current”, yet ice is also being pushed into Fram Strait, which makes it also a “Fram Flusher”. Having one does not disqualify the other.
My conclusion? Variations happen. Sit back and watch. To turn a blind eye because it violates some narrative or pet theory is to miss the wonder.