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 –Northabout Battles Sea-Ice Through Vilkitsky Strait and Laptev Sea (Updated 5 Times)

When temperatures are over ninety (32.22° C) there is nothing like pictures of sea-ice to cool my crazed brain. Cooling is especially nice if one is politically inclined to scoff at Global Warming as a serious threat, and the sea-ice is proof that Global Warming isn’t happening in the manner proscribed by believers in the “Arctic Death Spiral.” But when sailors are taking the pictures, of the sea-ice I enjoy, there comes a point when the importance of politics fades away, because the photographers are facing death.

Not that one cannot die for political things, and die for their country, or their platoon, or their gang, or their wife, but such sacrifice is beyond the scope of ordinary politics. Ordinary politics, especially in recent times, is far more sleazy and selfish, and, rather than sacrifice, tends to focus on “what is in it for me.” People get busy keeping petty accounts that note how many times they scratched another’s back, and how many back-scratchings they have received and are owed, and if accounts do not seem right, they resort to back-stabbing.

To be honest, it disgusts me. Modern politics has all the spirituality of a leech, and all the love and romance of a cheap business transaction involving the purchase of the daily paper. I increasingly feel that it isn’t only me, and that the public is also disgusted, and cynicism is rife. Cynicism rises up as a king,  belittling hope and optimism, until an unlikely redeemer appears,  and our common enemy, Death, rises up and waggles his fingers with a friendly, “Hello”.

The reason people sail the Arctic Ocean or climb Mount Everest, rather than staying in a cozy and safe armchair,  is because risk is a redeemer.

It is amazing how quickly the threat of extermination will cut to the chase, and get people to get over their differences, and work together.  Unfortunately some politicians are adept at misusing this phenomenon, and create false threats to motivate populations to act. For an extreme example, most genocides are based on portraying a minority as a life-threatening threat to a majority, which the majority  must rally together to kill.

I am increasingly certain Global Warming is just such a false threat. It’s creators seemingly aim to exterminate opposition to their political agenda, which is an agenda I find repugnant, as an American, because the agenda loathes the liberty of the individual.  To cut a long discourse short, the agenda loathes private ownership of anything, seeking to enforce brotherhood with a club.

The Agenda dislikes mothers nourishing their babes, because Family Values are charity, which begins at home, because a man’s home is his castle, and even such a little patriotism as that is a threat to internationalism, which loathes patriotism of any sort.  Therefore internationalists twist a mother’s love into being a sort of hate:  If you love the baby God gave you then you are not being equal and fair to some child starving far away, and this makes you a racist.

In like manner internationalists loathe the love a man displays when he goes to the trouble to open a small business. As soon as a man steps from being a person who works for another to being a man hiring workers, he becomes slime. He is a “boss”, as if that is an evil.

In conclusion, internationalists in their ivory towers can become the enemy of love, in any sort of normal and natural form love has, that street-people can relate to.  Rather internationalists profess the love of Stalin, who is said to have subscribed to the idea that, “The death of one is a tragedy; the death of a million is a statistic.”

In other words, “It is the big things that matter; little people can be damned.”

This is fundamentally different from the American idea that, “All men are created equal.”

Americans believe, if they examine themselves, that a mother nursing her babe is equal to a Stalin, with all his might and all his power. Furthermore, she has the same single vote Stalin has, and the same control of our destiny. Stalin can bluster all he wants, muttering, “The ends justify the means” and, “Might makes right” and, (write in here any other justifications for bullying you desire). Still that poor mother has the power of Stalin, if America lives up to Her dream.

Global Warming is an attempt to create a false threat, because its creators know mothers will sacrifice their own well-being for the well-being of their babies. However it is a threat born of the cynical genius of politics, which has outlived its shelf-life.

Where a snake-oil salesman knows when to depart a town in a hurry, and seek a new town where the population is gullible and naive,  the perpetrators of the Global Warming alarm have no place to run; they have sold their snake-oil too widely; it is a case where they have no place to hide and internationalism has become a bad thing even for internationalists, for even remote Eskimos know all about Global Warming. The sheer, grinding nastiness of their cynicism has created a cynical populace, which increasingly doubts everything politicians and the Media claims.

Death is quite another matter. When it waggles its fingers at you, you are not the slightest bit cynical.

This was most especially obvious during the 1800’s in the age of sail. With members of a crew liable to be washed overboard or die of scurvy, captains had to hire new crew-members from alien cultures.  And, within the pages of writings such as “Moby Dick”, it is obvious that crew-members of very different racial, political, cultural and religious backgrounds would drop all their differences, when the alternative, (to working together as a team), was death.

This is something the Sea teaches much better than the Land does.  Stalin tried to teach with bullying death, but his schools always involved barbed wire, gulags and fences. The Sea spits on the very idea of fences. In fact it is the opposite, for it offers freedom.

But freedom isn’t free. It involves risk. It involves going to Sea.

This is what the good ship “Northabout” has done. Gone to Sea. Sure, they left port all puffed with a bloated political agenda about Global Warming, but the Sea slaps your naive preconceptions away with the first storm, when it lays you as low as a dog, with sea-sickness. After that, they could have turned back, but now they are heading into considerable risk, as they attempt to slip through sea-ice.

Northabout 17a DSC_1028

When such ice appears ahead, do you think inanimate ice cares what political party you belong to? If you believe Professor Peter Wadhams, when he makes his yearly headlines stating the Pole will be ice-free this summer, do you think the sea-ice will part like the Red Sea, to let you through?

Northabout 17b DSC_1026

Apparently not. The sea-ice does not read the New York Times or attend Professor Peter’s lectures. Therefore, because the sea does not agree, you are in a pickle, with your way blocked. You must trust the courage of your captain, and your own ability to be a good crew. And perhaps you do find a weakness in the wall of ice:

Northabout 17c DSC_1030

When your captain finds a gap in the ice, it may be like the gap between the teeth of a shark’s open mouth. After all, each berg only represents the “Tip of an iceberg.” The slightest berg, to the upper right, may only extend six inches above the water, but nearly five feet (56 inches) extend downwards. And that is but the smallest chip. How about that bigger berg off the starboard bow? It sticks up four or five feet, which in theory means it should stick down 36 or 45 feet, but these burgs are not always symmetrical with their mass, and sometimes the below-water part can stick sideways 36 or 45 feet.  It could hole your hull. In other words, this is no Sunday sail the crew of the Northabout  are on, over velvet waters, after church. This is for real. What if the shark’s teeth close?

Northabout 17d DSC_0964-600x400

Oh shit. This is no joke, anymore.

Now I am sure some are tempted to sneer, “Where’s your ice-free Pole now, suckers?” However this is no Professor Peter we are dealing with, getting rich by being politically correct in a fat-cat armchair,  and pretending to be a prophet, and announcing the Pole will be ice-free in 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016.

Instead these are very real people. They are not sitting on obese posteriors in some plush. leather Lazyboy, pontificating upon polar conditions from far away places. They are actually in those far away places. They are actually battling the ice that isn’t suppose to be there. They are actually gathering the actual data. In fact, in a worse case scenario, they could be killed by the actual data.

Therefore, rather than sneering, I suggest we do a bit of praying. Let us drop the stupid politics until they cross the Laptev Sea. Once they are safe, then, if they insist upon resuming their political nonsense, we will meet their nonsense blow for blow.

Were it not for individuals who dare test the waters, we’d be all sitting in our armchairs believing the media’s claptrap about how ice-free the arctic is.

Rather than sneering at “Northabout” and calling them a “Ship of Fools”, we should be thanking the crew for facing waters we don ‘t dare face. At the very least, they are showing the “ice-free” waters have icebergs, and they themselves have guts.

Northabout 17e 16693-1

That fellow in red is a “man overboard”, in water that is salty and at, or below. freezing, and can kill a person in five minutes if they fall in. Just who does he think he is, standing on the water? Jesus? No. He is just a working man trying to get to that open water barely visible in the upper right of the picture.

They made it, and crept along the shores, which were ice-free because the southwest winds blew the ice away from shore. This is called a  “Polynya”, and does not mean the ice by the shore is melted, but rather it is moved away. (Northabout located where the white arrow is:)

Northabout 17g 16729-1

However in these “ice free” waters you can come across not only sea-ice, but bergs taller than your highest mast.Northabout 17f DSC_1049.

I find this berg fascinating. It isn’t sea-ice and it isn’t locally grown. I want to take dirt samples. Is it from Greenland’s glaciers? And how did it wind up across the Arctic Sea in the Laptev Sea, when official maps of currents state “you can’t get there from here”? Also why is the geology of the berg’s ice so odd, with horizontal strata and slanting strata?

But the captain doesn’t care a hoot about that. He just sees that open water to the upper left, and also knows big bergs are dangerous. In theory, if they are 40 feet tall, they stick down 360 feet, but as I said earlier they can stick sideways rather than down. Also, because “bottom melt” can exceed “top melt” in August, such bergs can become top-heavy, with their bottoms melted, and can suddenly capsize and what was the bottom can come surging up as the top plunges down. This can be dangerous to a small boat squeezing by.

The good ship Northabout has faced days of dangers, but now a new danger appears. Winds may shift to the north for a brief time. It may be only twelve hours. But all the ice will come grinding south and threaten to crunch a small boat against the shore. So perhaps the captain dodges backwards, to seek a safe place for twelve hours, after which,  perhaps, the south winds will resume and allow sailing east again.

Northabout 17h 16774-1

I will not criticize these gutsy sailors, and instead I will find a private place to whisper a few politically incorrect prayers that they experience safety.

Professor Peter Wadham is another matter. He stated the arctic would be ice free this summer. I will privately pray he meets an iceberg inland, in England.


They made three attempts to get through the ice yesterday, all in vain. Likely they wanted to get east before a storm hit with north winds. The last thing they want is to be stuck in the ice with the ice moving in gale force winds. It is quite hard enough in a calm.

Northabout 18b 16357-1

All their attempts brought them back to where they started.

Northabout 18a 2

The closest thing they could find to a safe anchorage was a so-called “stamukha”, which is a berg that has been pushed onto shallow water by a storm and is grounded. This particular chunk of ice appears to be genuine sea-ice, and not a large chunk calved from a glacier. It looks like multi-year-ice, either piled up to a pressure ridge where it now remains, or piled up to a pressure ridge somewhere else and driven ashore.

Northabout 18c DSC_1087

From  the safety of my armchair I want to take samples of the dirt on the berg. It might be from a mountain, which would prove the ice was from a glacier. It might be soot from China’s coa;-fired power plants, or from a volcano, concentrated at the bottom of a melt-water pool and then refrozen into the ice. Or it might be alge that grows on the bottom of the ice, and then is frozen into the ice when the ice gets thicker in the winter, or put at the tip of the ice when the ice is flipped like a pancake.

The captain has other concerns, with winds picking up. Will this berg stay grounded in a storm? Will it shelter them from other bergs moving in the storm?

They likely have endured a long, sleepless night, and I’m awaiting this morning report with a degree of anxiety. All I can say is that there is no  sign of movement yet.


ON THE MOVE AGAIN.  They got started at around 7:00 AM EST, which I guess is early afternoon for them, and so far they have made it east about half the distance they probed three times yesterday.


BREAKTHROUGH!  Yesterday they commented that if only could get through the three miles of ice there would be clear sailing all the way to Bristol. I think that may be a bit overly optimistic. But they may find things easier at least to the far side of the Lena River Delta. (The Lena is at peak flood in August, pouring massive amounts of summer-warmed waters into the Laptev Sea.)

Northabout 19 17017-1



All day I have found myself sneaking to peek at the “Tracking Map” to see how the Northabout is doing. The skipper is amazing. I can’t see how he hasn’t gone aground, he has sailed so close to shore. I figured they had penetrated the blocking ice, and therefore was surprised to see them abruptly turn back.

Seeking a reason, I checked the forecast. Hmm. Looks like they are in for a bit of a blow. The skipper is wise to seek a safe anchorage.

Northabout 20 Screen-Shot-2016-08-13-at-23.47.13-1024x909

Arctic Sea Ice —The Beaufort Switcheroo—(May 31, 2015)

The blogger “Chris PT” mentioned me in a YouTube video,

In the process he mentioned how watching sea-ice shrink and grow in the Arctic can be a bit like a sporting event, in that Alarmists all cheer wildly when more-than-expected melts, and Skeptics all cheer wildly when less-than-expected melts. I’m not sure I approve, considering billions of dollars are at stake, not to mention the fate of the planet (if you believe Alarmists.)  Also the arguing tends to disintegrate into discussions of the mental state and sanity of opponents, which has little to do with sea-ice, to put it mildly. Therefore I’m going to try to steer clear of such debate, when possible, and if I ridicule anyone it will be myself.

I will expose myself to ridicule by making a guess at what I think will happen. Then I will be wrong. Then I can have all the fun of ridiculing someone, by ridiculing myself.

One forecast sure to be correct this time of year is, “Warmer.”  Temperatures shoot upwards at the Pole, under the 24-hour-a-day sunshine, until they get above freezing and level off in late June. (The average climb in temperature is the green line in the graph below, and you can see how steep the climb is, from April through June.)

What is more difficult to forecast is whether the red line in the graph below will be above or below the green line. For some reason this is the third straight year that temperatures dipped below normal in May. It remains to be seen if they stay below normal for the rest of the summer, as they did the past two summers. I forecast that they will.

Switcher 4 meanT_2015

One way to get an idea how thick the ice is, which gives you a hint about how enduring it might be, is to study the NRL ice-thickness map.

Switch 6 arcticictnowcast If you watch this over a period of time some events become obvious. For example, all winter the ice was pushed from the northwest to the southeast across Hudson Bay, and by April the ice was piled up and thick to the southeast, and newly-formed and thin to the northwest. Therefore it is obvious ice will melt away first in the northwest. I forecast there will be some ice still left in the southeast of Hudson Bay in August.

In the like manner, a lot of ice was pushed out of the Kara Sea, so I expect it will melt more swiftly in the Kare Sea this year.  The Laptev Sea, on the other hand, did not export as much ice as last year. Last year the cross-polar-flow was so extreme that ice was pushed far from shore, leaving so much newly-formed, thin ice that, once melting began, an area of open water I dubbed “The Laptev Notch” formed during the summer, and stabbed north of 80 degrees latitude for a time. I forcast that notch to be far smaller this summer, and to have trouble melting north of 80 degrees.

If you don’t have the time to study the thickness-laps on a regular basis, you can watch a whole year be animated here:

What impresses me most in that animation is the bite the Pacific takes out ice north of the Bering Strait. That ice is solid and thick, at the start, but the influx of milder, Pacific water at the surface melts the ice from underneath, and ice that is ten feet thick in April can be gone by September.

I am expecting quite a bite to be taken from that ice this year, because the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) is going through a “warm spike”, and the water coming in through the Bering Strait ought be especially warm. However already I’ve blown my forecast in some ways. For one thing, to the south of Bering Strait the water on the Siberian side has become much colder than normal, and that makes me nervous. If it becomes involved, the water coming in through Bering Strait won’t be so mild.

Also the nice, mild breezes that have been rushing up from the south, and affirming my forecast, are putting me through the old switcheroo. They are swinging to the east and becoming colder.

The coldest air is currently parked over the Pole, and along the north coast of Greenland.

Switcher 1 gfs_t2m_arctic_1

However a high pressure is parked north of Bering Strait,

Switcher 5 mslp_latest.big

In three days the cold air will be pulled off the Pole, and it seems the yearly warm-up will be well underway.

Switcher 2 gfs_t2m_arctic_18

The problem with the above map is that it shows the Beaufort Sea during the warmest part of the day. Even under 24-hour-sunshine the sun is higher at noon, and a diurnal variation does occur. Therefore, to play it safe, we look at the situation under the midnight sun,

Switcher 3 gfs_t2m_arctic_20

Now the situation north of Bering Strait and in the Beaufort Sea suddenly looks much colder. This does not bode well, in the short term, for my forecast of melting in that area.

The GFS model makes it look like the high pressure will remain parked roughly where it is, and an easterly flow will move a lot of the cold air north of Greenland to the west, along the Canadian coast and finally to the Alaskan coast. Yesterday I noticed Buoy 2015B: had dropped from above freezing to -3.19° C, and while it has rebounded to -1.33° in the “noontime” heating, the water its camera shows in a nearby lead looks suspiciously like it is skimming over with ice.

Bouy 2015B 0531 camera2

O-buoy #12 (which is due north of Bering Strait and most likely to first feel the effects of the “warm” PDO), has fallen from above freezing to -5°.

Obuoy 12 0531 temperature-1week Obuoy 12 0531 webcam

To the east across the Beaufort Sea, our old friend Obuoy 10 also shows an abrupt temperature drop

Obuoy 10 0531 temperature-1week Obuoy 10 0531 webcam

The buoy I’ll be watching is Buoy Buoy 2015A: , which is right on the coast of Alaska and effected by the sun-baked tundra just to its south. It’s camera is currently showing a lot of melt-water pools and temperatures are at +0.66°. If the camera starts to show the melt-water pools freezing over, then we’ll know the cold air has really backed west.

Buoy 2015A 0531 camera1

Of course, the cold will have to come from somewhere, and if the Pole is robbed of all its sub-freezing air, temperatures will likely rise up that way. They may even get their first thaw of the year. As it is, it is currently -8.42° C up at Buoy 2015D: , which is hard to see but is to the left of this picture, taken by North Pole Camera 1.

NP3 1 0531 2015cam1_1

In conclusion, what is really fun about watching ice melt is seeing surprises occur, and what you don’t expect. I did not expect this cold shot into the Beaufort Sea.

What happened last summer, and I expect to happen again this summer, is for there to be some of these cold spells that come right out of the blue, with their origins more or less a mystery. After all, you reach a point where there is no more cold air left at the Pole. In the current situation the Beaufort cold can be explained-away as a case of Robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul, but later in the summer Peter is broke, so you can’t rob him. It is when there are suddenly temperatures below freezing in July, without any apparent “source reason,” that your sense of wonder starts to come into play.

I’m looking forward to that.


I have been urged to put aside my novel for a day, and comment on the sea-ice maximum. I only do so out of fondness for old friends, for I have personally become more interested in what I discovered while studying sea-ice than the sea-ice itself.

What I discovered was that both the science involved in the so-called “Arctic Death Spiral”, and the media’s efforts involved in reporting the “Arctic Death Spiral”, were shoddy at best and highly suspect at worst. Truth did not seem to matter as much as selling a particular political view, and, because I feel that any political view that disregards Truth is doomed to disaster, this behavior seemed like that of lemmings rushing towards a cliff.

Therefore my mind is more interested in contemplating the apparent madness of my generation, than it is in studying sea-ice. My novel looks back to when my generation was just stepping out into the world, and it contemplates how my generation’s sweet and naive hope for “Peace, Truth and Understanding” could, in some cases, be amazingly corrupted.

However I still do watch the sea-ice, as it ignores all politics and reflects the Truth of the Creator, and its motions can rest the mind with the same sort of serenity one derives from laying on ones back and watching clouds.

I’ll pick up from where I last left off reporting after Christmas, with the post:

At that point a surge of mild air up towards the pole ahead of several North Atlantic Gales had relapsed or sagged back south in the north flow behind the gales, as the storm track of those gales slumped down into western Siberia. The flood of cold air built an elongated east-west ridge of high pressure over Europe. To the south of the ridge cold winds from Siberia flowed west, and there was snow even on the north coast of Africa. But our polar-view maps see only the milder west winds bringing Atlantic air east over the top of the elongated high. This mild air is clashing with cold air over the Pole, and brewing a storm over Svalbard. Across the Pole Pacific air has been pulled through the Bering strait and generated a nifty storm north of Alaska.

This was one of the few times all winter the Pole’s temperatures were below normal, but the pool of cold was being eroded from both sides.  .

DMI2 1229B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1229B temp_latest.big

By Dec 31 the gale over Svalbard had grown, while the Pacific storm faded south and strong high pressure built. Mild air was dawn up into Barents Sea, as cold air flowed south through Fram Strait down the east coast of Greenland. More cold air is being exported south to Hudson Bay. Less usual is the reverse cross-polar-flow, from Alaska back to Siberia, north of Bering Strait.

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By January 2 that reverse-flow has vanished, replaced by Pacific air pouring north through Bering Strait as Atlantic air pours north over Svalbard. These influxes warm the Arctic Sea’s surface temperatures, but only south of Bering Strait and south of Svalbard is the warmth enough to melt sea-ice.

I think these influxes represent cooling, for the planet as a whole, for this is occurring during the darkest days, and much heat is lost to outer space. The sea-ice may be split and tortured by the shifting winds, but it is largely pushed towards the Pole, and compressing. Less than normal amounts are being flushed south through Fram Strait, as is shown by less ice moving down the east coast of Greenland, but that flow has increased at this point, as the North Atlantic gale is in a sort of “normal” position, bringing gales down Greenland’s east coast..

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By January 3 the amount of very cold air over the Pole has decreased, due to the Pacific and Atlantic invasions. This is an indication we are not seeing a “Zonal” flow, where winds go around and around the Pole, and the cold is contained up there. The invations of warming-than-usual air we are seeing up towards the Pole are matched by exports that cause arctic outbreaks further south.

In terms of sea-ice, there is a great deal of movement. The ice is split apart, forming “leads” which swiftly freeze over (but lose a lot of oceanic heat in doing so) and then are slammed together again, forming “pressure ridges” which are like mini-mountain ranges of sea-ice, ranging from only knee high to over fifteen feet. Not only do they extend upwards, but have roots extending downwards (because 9/10th of an iceberg is under water.)

During the summer stormy conditions can reduce sea-ice, especially if the water is stratified and a layer of warmer water lies below. During the winter stormy conditions likely increase sea-ice by exposing more water to temperatures well below the freezing point of salt water. Also the wider leads allow water to be to some degree churned, which prevents stratification, and allows the water to be more efficiently chilled.

The invasions of oceanic air likely increase snowfall, which actually may decrease the amount of sea-ice by insulating the ice, and by slowing the growth of ice on the underside of flat areas of ice. On the other hand, as soon as the sun rises at the Pole on the spring solstice, that same snow-cover protects the sea-ice, by reflecting the sun’s rays.

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On January 5 the invasions of oceanic mildness had generated a genuine arctic gale. These storms stress the sea-ice a lot. I’ve also noticed that, while they represent updrafts of mild air, they are often followed by increasing cold. They may lose a lot of heat, but how this might be done generates a lot of debate.

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By January 7 the gale has faded down towards the Kara Sea, but high pressure is bulging north from Alaska, and the pressure gradient between that high and the weakening gale is quite strong, and pulling Siberian air across to Canada.

When a strong flow like this gets going the cold air screams off the Siberian coast with such power that the ice is pushed away from the shores of the Laptev sea. There can be open water when the Siberian winds are down near seventy below. Of course this open water freezes swiftly, but even as a new skim of ice forms it too is pushed out to sea. During these situations the Laptev Sea creates and exports amazing amounts of ice. This winter this ice-creation also occurred along the coast of the Kara Sea.

This process of ice-creation actually can make it look like there is less ice, on the “ice extent graph.” The graph shows less ice along the Siberian coast, as the ice has been pushed towards Canada. The thinner ice along the Siberian coast is easier to melt away in August. However what is difficult to measure, in terms of “extent”, is all the ice crushed up against Canada by the Transpolar Drift.

A very strong gale off southeast Greenland is creating a wrong-way flow up in Fram Strait, halting the export of sea-ice.

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By January 10 the cross-polar-flow is being interrupted by new invasions of Pacific and Atlantic air. The wrong-way flow in Fram Strait is weaker, but continues, and there are even weak impulses of low pressure heading that way, rather than taking the more normal route between Svalbard and Norway.

DMI2 0110 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0110 temp_latest.big

By January 12 a final, weak wrong-way low has moved to the northwest of Greenland, as a more conventional gale is moving up between Iceland and Norway.

What is interesting to note is what has become of all the oceanic air imported to the Pole. It has chilled down. This is the fate of all air, in 24-hour darkness.

Also the Siberia-to-Canada cross-polar flow has reappeared.

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By January 14 the Atlantic Gale is weakening, and the cold keeps building over the Pole.

What is interesting about these gales is how different they are from last winter’s. Last winter’s tended to stall further south, and I said they should be dubbed “Britannic Lows” rather than “Icelandic Lows.” Because they were positioned further south they tapped into the Azores High and brought up mild southwest winds, giving even Finland a milder winter. This winter it is as if the Azores High is walled off. Instead the big gales tap air from either side of Greenland and from Labrador, and even after crossing thousands of miles of water warmed by the Gulf Stream they make a far colder southwest wind, when they get to Europe.

The cross-polar-flow is starting to break down. Watch how it collapses towards Iceland.

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By January 16 the old gale has drifted off to the Kara Sea and weakened, and has been replaced by a new gale, as the cross-polar-flow has swung down to Iceland.   Watch how that flow continues to collapse down towards England. (This is a lot like what happened around Christmas.)

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By January 17 the flow is down the coast of Norway towards England, and the new gale is weakening and sagging south. In essence, the storm track has swung clear across the Atlantic, from aiming the wrong way up Fram Strait over Greenland to crashing into Europe. As this dramatic sway has occurred, the Pole has been left alone, and cooled to normal.

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DMI2 0120B meanT_2015

At this point something else dramatic was occurring that doesn’t show on the maps. It was of great interest to me, because I wondered if it might occur over a year ago. (I’m not sure where I wrote the thoughts down; it may have been while chatting with someone in the comments section.)

Last winter, when the Atlantic Gales stalled-out so far south and east that I dubbed them the “Britannic Low”, it may have brought benign mildness to the east of the centers, but to the west north winds rushed south over Iceland and vast stretches of the Atlantic, including the Gulf Stream. It may have seemed like the arctic air was spent harmlessly over waters where no one resides,  but I wondered what effect all that cold air, which rushed south week after week even as Europe enjoyed week after week of low-heating-bills, might have upon the sea water’s temperatures. It seemed the north winds must chill the Atlantic waters, and do so to considerable depth, because some of the gales were enormous and the seas must have been gigantic, and stirred the waters deeply.

Although the water was cooled thousands of miles from Europe’s coast, all that water is on the move. True, it moves less than a mile per hour, but a layman like me can do a back-of-an-envelope calculation, and I figured the cold water would arrive off Europe in around a year. There was nothing very scientific about my calculations. It was more of a wondering than any sort of theory.

Then, around a year later, the sea-surface temperatures cooled surprisingly swiftly towards Europe , compared to normal. You can bet my eyebrows mooned, when I noticed this. It effected the calculations used to determine the AMO (Atlantic Decadal Oscillation). Although that oscillation was not expected to switch over to its “Cold” phase for several more years, this January saw it plunge to levels on the “Cold” side not seen in decades.

All bets are off. This is a big shift, and the last time it happened was before we had satellites. We are entering Terra Incognito.

Not that the maps got all that dramatic. January 19 showed things seeming to swing back to another wrong-way flow up through Fram Strait, and, even as cold east winds afflicted areas of Europe and the Mideast south of these maps, new invasions of milder air were gathering to attack the Pole from both the Atlantic and Pacific side.

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January 21 shows the invasive process continuing.  The cross-polar-flow is less obvious, for rather than a stream of isobars it is shown by blobs of cold high pressure moving from Siberia to Canada.

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At this point large gaps appear in my notes. I apologize, but we were getting clobbered by blizzards in New Hampshire. Survival, at least in a business sense, focused on snow-removal, and if I was going to stagger indoors and record anything for posterity, recording how a New Hampshire town battled a severe winter seemed more newsworthy than arctic sea-ice far away. However I did note a few things.

On January 26 another big Gale was crossing the Atlantic, as a very cold high pressure sat atop the Pole. Between the two they created a strong wrong-way flow through Fram Strait.

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On February 1 the gale is cetered south of the Baltic and the high pressure has shifted towards Svalbard, Franz Joseph Land and Barents Sea, but the flow is still the wrong way through Fram Strait.

This stuff matters, if you are accounting for sea-ice. The ice that doesn’t come down through Fram Strait does two things. One, it makes the “ice extent” graph look lower, because there is less ice drifting down the east coast of Greenland. Second, because that ice only heads south to be melted, it means there is more ice left behind up in the arctic, which may mean the “ice extent” graph will show more ice in the summer, many months away.

For only the third time all winter, temperatures neared normal in the arctic.

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DMI2 0201B meanT_2015

By February 3 the wrong-way flow was bringing mild air up west of Svalbard to nudge against very cold air, which always seems a recepie for storm to me, but I didn’t expect the storm that developed.

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February 6 shows the Noodle Storm, pulling very mild air right past the pole, driving a cross-polar-flow from Siberia to Canada, and also a “correct” flow, for a change, down through Fram Strait, and then down to Scandinavia.

It would have been fun to study this in greater depth, but at this point winter was using the people of New England as a punching bag.

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By February 8 the Noodle Storm was sagging south into Europe, and the cross-polar-flow was pronounced, and winds were dropping to a calm in Fram Strait. The Pole is doing a good job of cooling all the mild air brought north.

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(There is quite a gap here, as I figured I didn’t have enough to do, and should also write a novel.) The February 15 map shows what I think is left of the Noodle Storm has drifted to central Siberia, bringing its milder air with it. Cross-polar-flow continues, now bringing arctic highs across Bering Strait. A powerful gale is hitting Iceland, but will you look up in Fram Strait? Everything is going the wrong way again.

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By February 18 the gale has passed well north of Scandinavia, and the flow is the right way in Fram Strait. Mild air is pouring towards the Pole from both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, but blobs of cold high pressure continue to march from Siberia to Canada.

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On February 23 a micro-gale caught my eye, as it approached the Pole. Not that I had time to study it, though they are an interesting Polar phenomenon,  and may be like hurricanes. As you can see, I couldn’t get my act together enough to save a temperature map.

DMI2 0222B mslp_latest.big

I did remember to get a temperature map twelve hours later. I didn’t like the looks of that blob of Siberian high pressure being squeezed across to Canada. I likely should have paid more attention to the powerful gale southeast of Iceland. However mostly I wondered what the mirco gale was doing to the sea-ice at the Pole. The isobars are packed and the winds must have been strong.

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Twelve hours later I forgot the surface-pressure map, and only got the temperature map. (By this point most of the population of New England was approaching delirium, as snow depths passed six feet in places.) It does show how that mirco low sucked milder air right up over the Pole. It also shows mild air coming through Bering Strait from the Pacific, and the cold cross-polar-flow bringing more air from Siberia to Canada, and then down to New England. This was starting to annoy me. I mean, enough is enough.

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By February 26 the first Gale has weakened, taking the route north of Norway, as the mild Pacific air has generated a storm of its own. Between the two the cross-polar-flow looks to be weakening. A powerful gale approaches Iceland from the west.

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Four days later it looks like the Pole has stopped exporting cold, and is gathering its resources. A final glob of cold is passing into Alaska, but sucking Pacific air north in its wake. North Atlantic low pressures extend all the way to central Siberia, and have pulled some milder air up the entire eastern side of the North Atlantic.

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On March 3 the Pacific invasion has started again, and the Atlantic invasion continues despite the swiftly weakening low and the building high pressure north of the Kara Sea.

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By March 6 the Atlantic surge has become impressive as the Pacific surge retreated. Once again cross-polar-flow is developing.

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March 9 shows the Atlantic invasion at its high point (I think.) A sprawling gale is over Svalbard, wheeling mild air up over the Pole itself. However it is still dark over the Pole for another eleven days, and that mild air can only chill.

A meandering cross-polar-flow persists.

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The invasion of Atlantic air spikes the arctic temperatures.

DMI2 0308B meanT_2015

And now, at long last, we look at the ice extent graph:

DMI2 0309 icecover_current_new

Hopefully by subjecting you to all these maps I’ve shown that edge of the sea-ice has been eroded north a lot this winter by influxes of Pacific and Atlantic air. Also, because the bitter Siberian air headed across the Pole towards Canada, there was less bitter cold air left behind to create sea-ice off the Pacific coast north of Japan, (where there is much less ice than normal.) However the fact remains: There is less ice at the maximum.

The question immediately asked is: Does the lowness of this graph indicate the world is warming?

No. It means the cold air was distributed differently this winter. If the flow was “zonal”, the cold air generated by sunless winter days in the arctic would have stayed up north, and frozen northern waters. However the flow was radically “meridinal”, which means the cold headed south. As a consequence warm air has repetitively flooded up into the arctic, on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, and frayed the outer edges of the sea ice, on those sides. Meanwhile there was significantly more ice on waters that are not used in the calculations for the sea ice extent graph. For example, take the Great Lakes:

Great Lakes Feb 26 glsea_cur

Or take the saltwater bays off the east coast of the USA.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

The freezing of these waters, which ordinarily are not ice-covered to such an extent, could be used to argue the world is in fact colder, if one wanted to go that route.

The exact same “albedo” equations used up at the Pole can be used on the Great Lakes and the East Coast of the USA, and could demonstrate a huge amount of sunlight is being reflected back into space. After all, there is no sunshine at all at the Pole right now, but the sun is high in the sky further south. By the time the southern ice is melted it will have reflected a sizable amount of heat, but don’t ask me to fool around with the numbers. It would take a lot of “absorbing” for northern ice-free waters to counter that “reflected” deficit.

And that doesn’t even consider the surplus ice in the waters around the South Pole. It doesn’t take a lot of brains to compare the areas of ice, and the latitudes the ice is at, and determine the “albedo” arguments simply don’t add up.

In order for the “albedo” argument to work, there must be less solar radiation reflected and more absorbed, resulting in increasing temperatures. The problem is, the idea doesn’t work even if you utterly ignore the Great Lakes and the East Coast of the USA and the Antarctic. In order for it to work, the ice must decrease at the North Pole.

Even after a winter like this, where the arctic was robbed of a lot of its cold, there are some signs that the ice is increasing. Less ice seemed to be flushed south through Fram Strait, and more ice seemed to be packed together at the Pole. However in order to see these signs you have to do your homework, and become acquainted with individual chunks of ice.

For example, consider the buoy 2012G, which is tracked by the purple line in the map below.

Army Map Active_track

For over three years I’ve watched this buoy as it has wandered the Arctic Ocean, part of a mass of ice that has more than doubled its thickness, from less than six feet to more than twelve. Watching it does not give one the sense ice is getting thinner and weaker.

Another buoy, “Obuoy 9”, past roughly the same area by the Pole two years later, but took a radically different course, and is now north of the Greenland coast. ( See map at  )

If you do your homework and follow such buoys, (many of which have anemometers, thermometers, barometers, and cameras attached), you swiftly learn how mobile the sea-ice is. One buoy I followed began close to the Pole in April and grounded on the north coast of Iceland 8 months later. Most of the ice on the Arctic Sea has a life expectancy of less than two years, and the ice at the edges seldom lasts longer than a few months.

More than half of the ice melts every year, and one year it was three quarters. Then it grows back. You can write both the screaming headline “67% Of Arctic Sea-Ice Melts!” and the headline “Arctic Sea-Ice Triples!” on the same year, and not be a liar.

Considering these amounts are so huge, it is a bit ridiculous to obsess about small seasonal variations in the maximum and minimum extent. They have nothing to do with either a coming “Ice Age” or a coming “Death Spiral”. They have everything to do with the planet’s futile but constant effort to achieve balance, when it it is constantly knocked out of balance by sunspot cycles, and also the simple fact Earth is tilted, and we have seasons.

As the planet attempts to arrive at equipoise it manifests various actions and reactions, and the PDO and AMO are such actions and reactions. Those who want to understand why the ice comes and goes the way it does would do well to study those cycles, and what causes them.

Two major things are likely to influence the melting and reformation of sea-ice over the next few years. The first is the switch of the AMO to its “cold” phase this past January:

AMO January amo(2)

The second is that the sunspot cycle is reduced, and we are seeing a “Quiet Sun.”

DMI2 0224 sunspots latest

My private wondering is about how the “Quiet Sun” may alter the PDO and AMO. They may not behave as we’d expect them to, if they were following a stable 60-year-cycle, because the sun was far from “quiet” 60 years ago.

However if things behave as they behaved in the past, I would expect the shift of the AMO to “Cold” to result in a swift increase of sea-ice on the Atlantic side, over the next year. There is no sign of this yet.


As more than half the ice melts away this summer one can measure whether the melt is above-normal or below-normal by visiting a Cryosphere Today page that graphs the melt of all the various Seas, and whether the melt is above or below normal. For example, Hudson Bay can be viewed here:

If you scroll down to the bottom of the Hudson Bay screen you can see a handy map that allows you to swiftly click to the graphs for other areas.

I chose Hudson Bay because it will be interesting to watch. Usually it is entirely ice-covered by now and entirely ice-free by August, however on rare years not all the ice melts away. Last year the ice barely melted away, but the water was quite cold to begin the winter, and froze swiftly. Now the ice is thick and has piled up deeply against the south and east coasts. The refreeze of Hudson Bay means a lot for the east of the USA, for until it freezes its open water moderates the temperatures of arctic air coming south, and it serves as a buffer. It would not bode well for the northeast coast of the USA if a winter began with ice already in Hudson Bay.

Another place to watch will be Barents Sea north of Scandinavia. Last year, with the AMO only briefly dipping to the “cold” side, the ice actually increased in Barents Sea even as it retreated everywhere else. I am not sure how this is even possible, with the temperatures rising all over the arctic to above the freezing point of salt water. It must be that the ice that already exists drifts south. In any case, it may happen again. If it does happen, it may explain the surprising increases of ice hinted at, in that area, by old, Danish maps showing where the edge of the ice was as the AMO turned “cold”, back in the days before we had Satellites to watch with.

Happy ice-watching!

ARCTIC SEA-ICE RECOVERY —The usual but different—

Since I last focused on this subject back on November 29, the sea-ice has continued its usual amazing increase, a tripling and even quadrupling which happens every year, and in some ways is ho-hum news.  I only note it because next summer, when the decrease goes the other way, sensationalist headlines may read, “Ice decreases by huge amounts! Only a third of it remains!”  It sells papers. What puzzles me is why they don’t sell even more papers, in December,  with headlines reading, “Ice increases by huge amounts! Extent triples!”

Here are the maps for November 29, (left), and December 12 (right).

DMI2 1129 arcticicennowcast DMI2 1212 arcticicennowcast

The increase in ice is pretty much as to be expected. What I am focused on is slight differences from the norm, that may hint at changes in cycles, whether they be short term weather patterns or longer term 60 year cycles involving the AMO or PDO.

The swift freeze of Hudson Bay is ahead of normal, and of concern to me because the open waters of Hudson Bay to New Hampshire’s north is a buffer against the full brunt of arctic discharges. As soon as Hudson Bay freezes we are more susceptible to pure arctic outbreaks from due north. If the Great Lakes freeze we are more susceptible to cold from the Canadian prairie as well.  To my east, even though the Atlantic does not freeze outside of the bays, its waters can be signifigantly cooled by the right conditions.

One such condition involves the discharge of ice from Baffin Bay, which is a great producer and exporter of ice.  Even in the dead of winter when temperatures are down near forty below, open water can appear in the north of Baffin Bay, because so much  ice is exported down the west coast of the bay that a polynya forms in the north. That ice then continues along the coast of Labrador, and icebergs continue down into the entrance of the St Lawrence or even further. The flow is far more complex than you’d think, as currents can dive down beneath milder waters, but in general there is a counter-current to the south hugging the American coast, as the Gulf Stream surges north.

A second discharge of ice comes down through Fram Strait, down the east coast of Greenland towards and past Iceland. The ice in this current cannot dive even when the current’s water does, and therefore ice floats onward and effects the temperature of the North Atlantic. In extreme cases (1815-1817) so much ice is exported that icebergs can ground on the coast of Ireland, and Europe’s summer temperatures can be cooled.

It should be noted that the ice moving down the east coast of Greenland comes from the Arctic Basin, and therefore subtracts from the amount of ice left behind up north for people to fret about next summer. Although their worry about less ice in the arctic focuses on Global Warming, the concern should be cooling. Here is a quote from the year 1817:

“We learn that a vessel is to be fitted out by Government for the purpose of attempting again the north-west passage, the season being considered as peculiarly favourable to such an expedition. Our readers need not be informed that larger masses of ice than ever were before known have this year been seen floating in the Atlantic, and that from their magnitude and solidity, they reached even the fortieth latitude before they were melted into a fluid state. From an examination of the Greenland captains, it has been found that owing to some convulsions of nature , the sea was more open and moré free from compact ice than in any former voyage they ever made: that several ships actually reached the eighty-fourth degree of latitude, in which no ice whatever was found; that for the first time for 400 years, vessels penetrated to the west coast of Greenland, and that they apprehended no obstacle to their even reaching the pole, if it had consisted with their duty to their employers to make the attempt…”

The fact this discharge of ice is concurrent with “The Year Without A Summer” is mentioned in this post,  and further information can be found in this treasure trove:

While nothing as dramatic as 1815-1817 has occurred recently, I do like to keep an eye on the discharge of ice, and utilize a layman’s assumption that less discharge may make Europe warmer, while more may make Europe colder, the following summer.

This past autumn the ice-export down the coast of Greenland, and also down the west side of Baffin Bay, were below normal, but recently the extent has increased to near normal.  This represents a surge or pulse of ice that bears watching, IMHO.

On the Pacific side of the Arctic there has been an impressive increase of sea-ice in the Chukchi Sea north of Bering Strait. It is still below normal, but is closer to normal. I like to watch this area for two reasons. First, once it freezes over Siberian air can remain cold when it takes the “short cut” route from Siberia to Alaska, and second, it gives hints about the current nature of the PDO. The PDO has been in a short-term “warm” spike midst a long term “cold” phase, so I would expect ice in the Bering Strait to be below normal, but ice will increase as the short-term “warm” spike ends.

There are past records of “warm” spikes during the “cold” PDO, however this is the first time we’ve been able to watch it with the detail satellites allow us,  so of course I’m watching with great interest.

On the Atlantic side the exact opposite has been occurring. We saw, last spring and summer, a “cold” spike during a “warm” phase of the AMO. Right on cue there was more ice along the north coast of Svalbard, even those it was the warm season and everywhere else the ice was decreasing. Then this “cold” spike ended, and now, even though everywhere else sea-ice is increasing, the northern reaches of Barents Sea have seen a decrease in sea-ice.  (Even more intriguing is the fact there are some signs the AMO may be about to go through a second “cold” spike.)

At this point the arctic is pretty much completely frozen over, and my attention turns to how the ice is being pushed around up there.  However there are a couple of areas outside the arctic that freeze over, which are interesting to watch.

The first is the Sea of Okhotsk east of Russia and north of Japan. Extremely cold air has been pouring into the Pacific off Asia, and these waters are starting to freeze over swiftly. (Their refreeze were below-normal, earlier.) I have a hunch the variations in how these waters cool may have something to do with the end of the “warm” spike in the PDO.

The second is the northern reaches of the Baltic Sea, especially the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland. Those waters are just plain fascinating to me, because so many fresh water rivers pour into the Baltic Sea that the further north you go the fresher the water becomes, until in the very north of the Gulf of Bothnia fresh water fish can swim in the Sea. Because the water is so much fresher it freezes more easily, and the northern Baltic becomes a hypersensitive measure of Scandinavian cold. When southwest winds and the Atlantic rules, there is little freezing, but when winds shift to the brutal east, the entire Baltic can freeze.

Having discussed the extent maps, I’ll swiftly go over the daily maps. I apologize for not being able to name the individual storms like I did last year. Other areas of my life got too bossy.

One obvious difference from last year has been that storms don’t ride along the arctic coast of Eurasia from Barents Sea, through the Kara and Laptev Seas, all the way to the East Siberian Seas, and meet up with Pacific storms in the Chukchi Sea. Instead they run into a wall, and are bent north to the Pole and even Canada, or south into Russia.

Back on November 29 an Atlantic storm had crashed into the wall and devided, with half heading towards Canada and half down into Russia. In the process it brought a huge surge of Atlantic air north over the Pole. Last year this Atlantic air surged over Europe and kept them relatively warm all winter, but this time that mildness was wasted on sea ice.

DMI2 1129 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1129 temp_latest.big

At this point something ominous happened, if you live in Scandinavia. My ears perked forward in interest, for it may be a forerunner of what could become a pattern, later in the winter. This time it was quickly rebuffed, but later in the winter ic could “lock in”.

What happened is that as the low pressure was defected south into Russia high pressure extended west to its north, creating a flow of east winds along the arctic coast. Brutally cold Siberian air rolled west (last winter I called it “the snout of Igor”), and Europe chilled, though not to the degree it could have chilled if the east winds had continued.

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On December 1 there is a cross-polar-flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific, drawing mild Atlantic air right across the Pole. The flow is about as non-zonal as it can be. If you are into looking for proof of Global Warming, now is the time you point out a spike in temperatures at the Pole, but the exact same spoke can be used as a disproof.

What you need to do is think of how a summer thunderstorm uplifts hot and muggy air and breeds a cooling shower, and use that as an analogy for what is occurring on a far grander scale up at the cap of the planet. Warm air is uplifted, heat is lost, and the air comes down cooler.

Of course, this is a grotesque simplification, but when debating Global Warming, who really cares? (What is actually occurring as the mild air is uplifted up at the Pole is fascinating, and I don’t claim to understand it, but have learned enough to make it a subject for an amusing post I’m working on, and may even submit to WUWT. Rather than supplying any answers, it asked questions that need to be asked.)

Europe was spared the icebox of an arctic outbreak from the east by a series of lows that pushed the high pressure (and its east winds,) north to the Pole.

DMI2 1204 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1204 temp_latest.big

However rather than this low pressure bumping the high pressure over to Canada and continuing on to the east, the low itself got deflected north as high pressure again built ahead of it. A new cross-polar-flow, this time from Asia to Canada, began to appear, and temperatures at the Pole crashed.

DMI2 1206 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1206 temp_latest.big

By December 6 the most recent pattern began to manifest, and the final seven maps showing storm after storm failing to get across the Atlantic, and instead curling around north of Norway back towards Greenland. This has created a second invasion of milder Atlantic air to pour north through Scandinavia, on the east side of storms, as frigid winds howl down the east coast of Greenland and make Iceland cold on the west side of storms.

This pattern is (I assume) self-destructive, as eventually the North Atlantic (seemingly) will get too mild to its northeast and too cold to its southwest to perpetuate the pattern. Therefore I am watching in great interest to see signs of its demise, and to see what will set up next.

DMI2 1208B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1208B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1209B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1209B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1210B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1210B temp_latest.big DMI2 1211B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1211B temp_latest.big

DMI2 1212 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1212 temp_latest.big

DMI2 1212B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1212B temp_latest.big

DMI2 1214 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1214 temp_latest.big

As a final interesting tidbit to this post I’ll add the graph of polar temperatures, which shows the big warming spike caused by the initial invasion of Atlantic air, the crash as the Siberian cross-polar-flow developed, and the start of a second spike as the second invasion of Atlantic air begins.

DMI2 1214 meanT_2014

All in all I would say this winter is promising to be another winter when any semblance of a zonal flow is rare, and the sea-ice will be wracked and tortured by storms. It will be interesting to watch.


I have neglected to report on the sea-ice since November 11, as the subject draws little attention when the sea ice is growing by leaps and bounds. It is hard for the media to inspire panic about a “Death Spiral” when the sea-ice is doing what it does every year, which is to triple in its extent.  Also I have been fighting an arctic invasion in my own back yard. Lastly, my favorite DMI site was down for a while.

Now I have been nudged back into action, partly because I have a bit of free time and simply enjoy the arctic, but also due to being aggravated by an article I read on “The Weather Network”  that contained the usual misinformation. One paragraph stated:

“For example, after the record melt of Arctic sea ice in the northern summer of 2012, the melts in 2013 and 2014 were more in-line with the years prior to 2012 (and very close to what was seen in 2009). Although some have claimed this to be a ‘recovery’ of the Arctic, the 2012 melt was due to a combination of the warming trend in the climate and a specific worst-case sequence of weather events during that summer. Since that sequence of weather events didn’t repeat in the years after, the ice extents didn’t reach as low. However, the ice that grew back after 2012 was far thinner than was there before that melt, so the overall volume of ice – the total amount, rather than just how much ocean it covers – is still at a record low for the Arctic.”

This is just plain incorrect. The ice that grew back after 2012 was quite average, but was pushed towards Canada and piled up against the north coast of the Canadian Archipelago in a manner that made ice thicker for hundreds of miles out to sea, in a manner we have not seen for years. Furthermore, while “volume” is notoriously hard to calculate, indications are it is increasing, largely due to the increase of multi-year ice north of Canada.

This is something you know if you simply watch the ice. I’ve been doing so for years, and therefore misinformation leaps out at me.  Appeals to authority cannot cancel what my lying eyes have seen, and I am unimpressed by any sentence that uses the words “studies show” or “scientists say” without referring to actual data, or at least to papers that hold the data.

In any case, the article can be found at:

I get the feeling the more evidence proves that the idea of a “Death Spiral” is incorrect, the more we will hear these excuses. However the good thing is that is gets me so steamed I am motivated to continue to study the ice.  When you can’t rely on the media you must rely on your own eyes.

Since November 11 the rest of the Kara Sea has refrozen, the rest of the East Siberian Sea has refrozen, and Hudson Bay is freezing up a little ahead of schedule. The flow of ice down the west side of Baffin Bay is behind schedule, while the flow of ice down the east coast of Greenland, which was very much behind schedule, has nearly caught up to normal. The most noticeable deficit of sea-ice is in the Chukchi Sea north of Bering Strait, while the most noticeable increase from last year is in the northern waters of the Barent Sea, which are back to normal.

Watching these fluctuations in the growth of the ice give one hints about weather patterns and the state of the AMO and PDO, and have little to do with any Death Spiral.  The only way to call the current levels “unprecidented” is to studiously ignore history. The Danes kept careful records all the way back to the 1890’s, but these are repressed by people who seem determined to advance an agenda. I myself would like to see sea-ice retreat to the levels the Vikings saw when they grew barley in Greenland, because that would be a kinder climate here in New Hampshire, however people with an agenda likely would use the warmth as an excuse to increase my taxes.

You can open the maps below to new tabs to enlarge them, and then click back and forth between the tabs to watch how the ice grew between November 10 and November 29.

Extent 20141110 arcticicennowcastDMI2 1129 arcticicennowcast

Back on November 11 cold air was building over the Pole, as the Atlantic was blocked and pouring most of its milder air east into Europe.  The main entrance region for milder air was through Bering Strait. Cold Siberian air was draining north into the Laptev Sea.

DMI2 1111 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1111`temp_latest.big

Five days later the Pacific air has curled along the Canadian coast to the Pole, generating rising air and low pressure, which creates a return flow back to Canada. The air is in essence sloshing back and forth, but a cross-polar flow like last winter’s, from the Laptev Sea to the Canadian Archipelago is developing on the Pacific side, as a weak cross-polar-flow heads the other way north of the Atlantic. (Last year I called this “The Two Way Highway”.)

DMI2 1115 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1115 temp_latest.big

DMI2 1116B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1116B temp_latest.big

By November 18 the cross-polar-flow from Siberia to Canada is quite clear, and, like last year, not only air is moved but also the sea-ice is moved, to join the mass of multi-year ice already piled up north of Canada. Meanwhile, on the other side of the “highway’, a west wind blows across the north of Europe, keeping the Siberian cold at bay.

DMI2 1118 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1118 temp_latest.big

By November 25 the cross-polar flow has largely broken down.  A storm rolling along the Eurasian arctic coast has brought some Atlantic air up to the Pole, but the Pole is much colder, as it is sloshing between patterns, and isn’t exporting much cold.The cold air it is exporting is back down to be recycled in Siberia. This will generate storminess as the cold air clashes with the Atlantic air.

DMI2 1125 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1125 temp_latest.big

Currently the storminess has taken over the entire Atlantic side of the Pole, and a great rush of milder air is being drawn up to the Pole, even as the same general flow draws the coldest air of the season north from Siberia across the Laptev Sea. This clash will be interesting to watch.

DMI2 1128 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1128 temp_latest.big

The current invasion of warm air will of course make the graph of temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude spike upwards.

DMI2 1129B meanT_2014

These spikes in temperature might seem like they would indicate less sea-ice forming, however, as the maps show, they are often indicative of storms at the Pole, and storms often smash up the ice and expose waters to temperatures which, as the graph makes clear, are well below the freezing point of salt water. Perhaps a small amount of ice is melted if the water is stratified and if warmer water is stirred up from below, but such melting is more probable in summer storms. In winter storms the ice cracks to “leads” of open water which swiftly freeze over, or else these leads slam shut, creating “pressure ridges” of piled up ice.  After last winter, which was quite stormy, the new ice was not very flat, and contained more mini-mountain-ranges of piled up ice, which suggests storms increase the total volume of ice over a given area. It likely also chills the water more, as the water is exposed to the sub-zero air more often.

To get an idea of how much the ice is shifted about it pays to keep an eye on how the ice is moving, and I find this animation helpful:

Arctic Sea Ice Speed & Drift – 30 Day Animation

Because the Arctic Sea is constantly losing heat, if not through the open water of leads then through the ice itself (especially when the ice is new and only a foot or two thick,) now is the time we see the tables turned, and the Pole becomes a source of warming for the Tundra, and the Tundra becomes a source of cold for the Arctic Sea. The exact opposite is true during the summer, and it can be a bit hard to get your mind around which is effecting which, as the seasons change. It is especially hard because whichever is colder will tend to generate sinking air and high pressure, and whichever is warmer will tend to generate rising air and low pressure. It is great fun trying to keep track of it all, as long as you don’t mind seeing your assumptions are incorrect on a regular basis.

The only certain thing is that it is darn cold up there, and the sea is freezing over.  Where there isn’t ice, ice will appear, and where there is ice, the ice will get thicker. You can keep an eye on the thickness here:

Arctic Sea Ice Thickness – 30 Day Animation

The best collection of arctic information I know of has been compiled by Anthony Watts on his Sea Ice Page, which can be seen here:


I haven’t been able to study arctic maps to the degree I did last year. I only am able to allot so many hours a day to daydreaming and goofing off, (which is what studying weather maps boils down to, when you don’t get paid for it,) and this year I have other things to daydream about, and to goof off doing.

I figure it isn’t so urgent to study the arctic any more, as the idea that the arctic is in a “death spiral” has been slinking away in shame to the shadows, where it will lurk and await the next thaw, (or perhaps the next warm PDO.)  In fact it now is starting to seem incredible that  the “death spiral” idea was ever taken seriously, and that people became so indignant when I (and many others) dared challenge it.

Those clinging to the idea of the “death spiral” now need to cling to the hope the current “warm” spike in the PDO is more than a spike, and is in fact a freak occurrence of the PDO switching back to a long-lasting “warm” phase a decade earlier than usual. They also must hope the AMO stays in its “warm” phase as well.

This Alarmist dream likely will not come true, but even if it comes true it will not make the arctic be ice-free, as they predicted, but it might result in ice-extents low enough for them to point fingers at, and wave arms about.  Otherwise such people appear to be malingering, (which is, “to avoid work by feigning illness.”) The illness, in their case, is the “fever” the planet supposedly has, and the work they are avoiding involves facing the facts they fail to look at.

Having spent nearly a decade attempting to see the facts, (despite the smoke-screen some Alarmists have created to hide evidence from honest eyes,) I’ve fallen into the habit of observing the planet from the top. Even as it becomes less politically important to do so, I think I’ll continue to do it, for the top-down view possesses a fascination quite free from politics, and owns a beauty all its own.  I won’t do it to the degree I once did, but will continue to be an observer. While I may not demonstrate the rigor of a true scientist, I will continue to be a witness.

Over the past two weeks the extent of sea-ice has increased very swiftly. It always does, as the sun sets for six months at the Pole, but this year has seen the increase be especially fast. We are all set to surpass last year’s levels, because last year the ice extent actually decreased, briefly, at this time:

DMI2 1102 icecover_current_new (click to enlarge)

Much of this increase is due to the fact a large area of open water north of the Laptev Sea, (which I called, “The Laptev Notch”), and the Laptev Sea itself, froze over.  Compare these two maps, the top being from two weeks ago, and the bottom being the current situation:Extent 20141022 arcticicennowcastDMI2 1102 arcticicennowcast

It is important not to get too swept up in the hoopla about this increase, for such hoopla is only a response to the hoopla about decreases in ice being a “death spiral.”  The open water of the Laptev Notch was an anomaly largely created by winds, but did allow a glimmer of hope to brighten the gloom of those hoping the Pole would become ice-free and the end of the world was nigh.  The “Laptev Notch” could not last, and it was to be expected that it would swiftly refreeze, that the world wouldn’t end, and that those avoiding getting a real job because the end was nigh would have to get real jobs.

The above maps also show the open waters off the north coasts of Alaska and Canada have rapidly refrozen, adding to the swiftness of the increase in the ice-extent graph. However at this point we are running out of waters easy to freeze. There may even be a “pause” in the refreeze, much like last year’s, as we run out of easy-to-freeze open water.

It should be noted we still have more open water than last year towards Bering Strait, especially in the East Siberian Sea. Without a lick of scientific data, I would suggest this coincidentally matches the “warm” spike of the PDO, and is suggestive of an influx of warmer Pacific waters.

Also it should be noted there is more ice than last year east of Svalbard in the northern reaches of Barents Sea. Without a shred of scientific data, I would suggest this coincidentally matches a down-spike of the AMO last spring and summer into its “cold” phase.  In fact there was more ice along the north coast of Svalbard during the warmest days of summer than there was in the dead of last winter. Now the AMO has settled back into its “warm” phase.  When you compare the two maps above, what do you observe?  You observe there is a little less ice along the north coast of Svalbard, despite the fact ice is growing everywhere else, up in the arctic.  Coincidence? Or proof the AMO governs the amount of sea-ice?  That is not for me to say. I am just a witness.

Sometimes my curiosity gets going, and I yearn for more stuff to witness, and more time to witness stuff with. When I’m rich I’m going to hire a “go-for” to hunt up graphs and charts and old weather maps for me.  Even so, I doubt I’ll qualify as a true scientist. However I’ll be a better witness.

As the Arctic Sea refreezes the refreeze is influenced by the weather, and the weather is influenced by the refreeze. It is a chicken-or-the-egg thing.  Weather patterns influence the snow cover and the ice extent, but the snow cover and ice extent can influence the weather patterns.  For example, a certain pattern will dump snow over Siberia, but, once Siberia is snow-covered, it allows radiational cooling to generate cold high pressure, which must influence the pattern. In the same manner open water in the Arctic Sea allows more warm, moist updrafts, reletive to ice-covered water and  snow-covered land, and such updrafts are far more likely to feed and encourage low pressure systems. Storms have a way of following the edge of the ice, but a week later, when that same area is totally ice-covered, a similar storm will weaken.  So who is controlling whom?  You decide. I am just a witness.

Two weeks ago, on October 22, high pressure had been sitting up near the Pole for a week, and the air beneath cooled until it was the coldest of the season, and then a gale charged up from Iceland to budge the high south towards Siberia. As this cold air passed over the Laptev Sea it had a lot to do with the swift refreeze of the open waters.

DMI2 1022B mslp_latest.big

As the cold air settled over Siberia on October 26th the flow behind that high pressure, (between its high pressure and the Icelandic low), brought a flood of milder Atlantic air rushing north over Scandinavia, with a tongue of that mildness extending past the Pole on the Eurasian side, however this flood of warmth was about be swiftly pinched off by new high pressure advancing north from Canada.

DMI2 1026 mslp_latest.big

By October 27th the advance of the Canadian high pressure was starting to divert the flow of Atlantic air back towards Greenland, even as the advancing Icelandic low was shunted away from the Pole towards Scandinavia. This shoved the Siberian cold east. Meanwhile an Aleutian low was squeezing that cold from the other side, before it too was shunted eastward into Alaska by the Canadian high. During the brief period when the Siberian cold was getting squeezed from both sides it poured vast amounts of very cold air into the Pacific, behind the Aleutian low.

(This verifies a pet rule of mine:  If mild air floods up towards the Pole, cold air will be surging away from the Pole somewhere else.)

DMI2 1027 mslp_latest.big

As the Siberian cold poured out over the Pacific it cooled the water, which has been at “above normal” levels, to levels “below normal,” especially along the Pacific coast of Asia.  I think we shall see this continue this winter, and have a hunch it will end the “warm” spike of the PDO and return it to its more typical “cold” pattern by spring. However it also, (and this strays miles off topic,) apparently exposed some problem with how “above normal” and “below normal” are determined.  The problem manifested in very different sea-temperature-anomaly maps being produced by the same data, and is discussed here:


DMI2 1028B mslp_latest.big

Briefly the Canadian high pressure at the Pole was creating a zonal flow, with low pressures rotating politely around it, but by Halloween it was falling apart, as a new situation developed. The high pressure was settling south over Scandinavia, which was getting north winds, even as south winds approached ahead of the next Icelandic low.  On the Pacific side another Aleutian low approached Bering Strait even as the last one weakened moving east across Alaska to northern Canada.

DMI 1031B mslp_latest.big

By November 1 the winds were swinging around to the south in Norway, but this time the flood of milder, Atlantic air is not penetrating to the Pole, but rather is swung back towaeds Greenland. The only significant south winds invading the Pole are from the revitalized low in the Canadian Archipelago, and they are not all that balmy. For the most part the Pole is quiet and calm and losing heat, which creates cold at the surface. So is Siberia.

DMI2 1101 mslp_latest.big

This brings us to today.  I’m at a loss to explain why the low pressure is extending north of Eurasia the way it is. It is time to simply watch, and be a witness, and be glad my livelihood isn’t dependent on predicting what happens next.

DMI2 1102 mslp_latest.big

However, as a witness, I’ll note the air over the Pole is the coldest we’ve seen all autumn:

DMI2 1102 meanT_2014 (click to enlarge)

DMI2 1102 temp_latest.big

Furthermore Siberia, which was milder after discharging so much cold air over the Pacific, has recharged itself and is again loaded with cold:

DMI2 1101 cmc_t2m_asia_1

When this much cold air builds up, it seldom sits up there. It is heavy, dense stuff, much heavier and denser than air to the south, so it is likely to sink under the air to the south and cause uplift and storms and arctic outbreaks.  The question then becomes, “Where?”

My guess is a lot of the Siberian air will again spill into the Pacific, but a little further north than last time, as we progress towards a winter pattern that will see Siberian air spilling across the Bering Strait into Alaska and then south.

I also guess a surge of relatively mild westerly wind will cross Europe, hinting at a winter storm track that will see the westerly winds sink south as the cold builds to the north,  until easterly winds north of that storm track start transplanting air from Siberia across the north of Europe, so that Scandinavia, which saw southwest winds from the Atlantic for much of last winter,  will see the east winds of Tolkien’s Mordor freezing their socks off.

Lastly, the cold over the Pole, separate from Siberia, will leak south into Canada behind the low in the Archipelago. I guess this is a temporary event, and part of a transitory autumnal pattern.

I confess this guess-work has great gaps and holes. For example, while I’ve figured out where air will exit the arctic, I know it must be replaced by air entering, but haven’t a clue where that would be. Either side of Greenland?

In the end, guess-work is but guessing, and I’ll likely stand corrected. Actually I look forward to correction, for I would rather stand corrected than fall. And, even without the comments of fellow bloggers to correct me, simply being a witness supplies me with more corrections than a school-teacher with a lot of red pencils, in the form of that great correcter called “Reality.”