ARCTIC SEA-ICE –The Seventh Storm–

I’ve been keeping an eye on “Ralph” (anomalous low pressure at the Pole).  For a time he sagged south towards Siberia, (though often bulging further north than usual), and things seemed more or less typical, with the Beaufort high pressure establishing itself towards Alaska.

If course, as soon as you say “more or less typical” you tend to drop your guard, especially on the July 4 holiday, and that’s when you get sucker punched in the jaw. During the holiday  the Siberian low shot across the Pole and knocked the Beaufort High right off the map. A second Siberian low formed, with a feeder band of milder air moving up its east side from the sun-baked steppes and tundra of Central Siberia.

A “zipper” formed on the warm front. over the New Siberian Islands on the east side of the Laptev Sea.

Rather than drifting east it curled north, drawing mild air as a feeder band, holding some modified Pacific air.

On the seventh day of the seventh month, it began blowing up, as the seventh summer storm since I began counting, back when we had the storm in the summer of 2012 that got so much attention.

If you remember, the 2012 storm generated all sorts of attention because it melted a lot of ice swiftly. Alarmists were overjoyed. Apparently the water had stratified and there was a slightly warmer layer of water below the “lens” of colder water at the surface. The reason the slightly warmer water didn’t rise was because it was saltier. Then the storm churned the water, and the milder water got into the mix. The speed at which the sea-ice vanished was quite remarkable. However then the  milder water was “used up”, and the stratification ceased to be. This, along with  (perhaps) the cooling of the water because it was initially exposed to arctic blasts the next winter, seemed to make the water so much colder that,  when a similar gale blew up in 2013, what was remarkable was how little of the sea-ice melted. (It was also remarkable how crestfallen certain Alarmists were.)

The 2012 storm was described as “very rare”, and a “top five storm”.  I’m not sure who was keeping the records, but if it was unusual, than the unusual is becoming more usual, for this makes the seventh top five storm we’ve had in seven years. We had two last summer, and this is the second we’ve had already, this summer. Ralph is on the rampage.


All eyes will be watching to see what sort of effect this storm will have on the sea-ice. Will it be like 2012 or like 2013?

The sea-ice remains thicker than last year. The “volume” always falls steeply during the peak of the melt, and this year has slipped below 2014, but remains far above last year’s.

DMI5 0707 CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20180707.png

The sea-ice “extent” has not fallen as steeply as last year. All eyes wait to see if the storm causes a downturn.

DMI5 0707 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

Despite the “feeder bands” of milder air Ralph draws up to the Pole, temperatures remain below normal.

DMI5 0707 meanT_2018

As was the case with the storm in early June, the flip of the pattern has swung the cross-polar-flow completely around, to a flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific. (Dr. Ryan Maue map from Weatherbell)

Seven 1 gfs_mslp_uv10m_arctic_5

This flow prevents the flushing of sea-ice down into the Atlantic, (a major reason for the low sea-ice “extent” in 2007). This inflow from the Atlantic looks likely to persist, as Ralph looks unlikely to surrender the Pole any time soon.

I should mention that, deprived of my addiction to views of sea-ice from floating cameras, I have turned to shipping reports in a sort of desperation. The lone American ice-breaker was down in San Diego. No sea-ice there, yet. However I think they are picking up scientists from Scripps. Hopefully those fellows bring a camera north and plant it on the ice.

The Russians have a whole different attitude. The built the world’s first icebreaker in 1897, and are determined to open the Northeast Passage, and replace the Suez Canal. They are building massive ships, veritable monsters.

AA North route 4 Yamal_2009

How committed are the Russians? They have build forty of these monsters. This June they launched their biggest icebreaker yet. It will be able to smash through ice nine feet thick. Cost? Over a billion dollars!

What a gamble! So far the Russians are only escorting something like fifty ships a year, compared to thousands through the Suez Canal, but if they they can open the new sea-route it will be a change like Henry the Navigator  putting Portugal on the map by exploring the new route to India around Africa.

AA North route 2 tanker-icebreaker-sovcomflot

The hope is that once they bash channels open in the summer, the channels will remain open, and some reinforced boats can travel without escort.

AA North Route 1 tankerlng.christophemargerie-rosmorport11

The gamble is, well, the arctic is the arctic. Ice can thicken and channels crunch shut. But the Russians have been battling the arctic for centuries. They alone have built off-shore rigs in the frozen sea, and had a terrific battle getting their tankers to load up the oil this spring, fighting this year’s thicker ice.

AA North route 3 prirazlomnaya.springice2_gazpromneft

Stay tuned.


This could get interesting.

Usually things get benign (or boring, depending on your inclinations), at the Pole in June. The 24 hour sunshine warms the air to the temperature of the water, and there is less of a trouble-causing clash between north and south, and winds calm down. Back when we had cameras we tended to see sunshine slowly soften the crisp snow and turn it to slush, as temperatures slowly rose until most of the Arctic Sea was just above freezing. We have been moving in that direction this year, but an interesting storm is brewing on the coast of the Kara Sea.

Usually these lows roll east along the Siberian coast. At most they stall and loop-de-loop, before proceeding east in a weakened state. This one may plow straight north across the Pole.

The European model sees it slowly moving up to Fraz Joseph Land by Friday.

June 1 ecm_mslp_arctic_5

The GFS model has it faster, and deeper, at roughly the same spot by Thursday.

June 2 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_14

Notice how the GFS has milder air and rain pulled up from central Siberia. (The GFS is always a little milder, for some reason) But mostly the storm has snow, and not the sunshine and thawing we expect in June. But the sea-ice will be bashed and crashed.

By the weekend the GFS sees the storm weakened. (A weakened weekend). And it is directly over the Pole. Snow is still falling and sunshine is scarce.

June 3 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_23

The Canadian model (which is usually colder) elongates the storm and develops a second center towards Canada, so that by Friday it looks like this (Canada to left rather than to right):

June 4 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_20

The Arctic is more or less a desert, and the third of an inch of (melted) precipitation shown by the Canadian model is unusual. The Canadian has it in a more condensed area. (I think it may be using the milder air drawn up from Siberia to develop the second storm). Judging from temperatures, all the precipitation is seen as snow.

June 5 cmc_precip_mslp_arctic_20

(Thanks to Dr. Ryan Maue for developing these maps, which are available at the Weatherbell site [Week free trial available.])

All in all, I expect this storm will make a complete mess of all the careful calculations of Alarmists and Skeptics alike. Days of clouds and a swath of fresh snow will require a rebooting of “albedo” calculations, to begin with.

Then there is the smashing and crashing of sea-ice. The Pole is not the “ice cap” many imagine, and sea-ice is highly mobile, and becomes more mobile when fragmented by storms to smaller pieces. Judging from the location of the storm, it looks to me like not all that much will be transported south through Fram Strait, but that will have to be watched.

Lastly there are changes in the speed of the melt brought about by the mixing of stratified water under the ice. Sometimes milder water is brought up, when differences in salinity allow warmer water to slide beneath colder, fresher water at the surface, but these conditions vary from year to year. Also it is still early, and the water is still more protected from winds by winter ice (at least until it gets smashed up). Lastly, the inrush of fresh waters from huge, north-flowing arctic rivers like the Lena has only started, and the “lens” of fresher waters by the coasts is not as expansive as it becomes later in the summer.

There is lots to wonder about. One thought that occurred to me is that the power of this storm may be due to the fact the air over the Pole is colder than normal, perhaps brought on by the fading La Nina, and the “Quiet Sun”.

DMI5 0603 meanT_2018

I should confess that the cross-polar path of this storm is making complete mincemeat of my idea that the lagged effects of the La Nina would make the storm tracks more zonal. I assumed the cooler La Nina would lessen the clash between the warm tropics and the cold Pole, but perhaps the “Quiet Sun” perpetuates the clash. Things can’t get much less zonal than a cross-polar storm, and it looks like a “Ralph” (low pressure anomaly at the Pole) which I associated with an El Nino.

Not liking to admit I’m wrong, I cast about for excuses other factors. One idea that occurred to me is that the “wall” of thicker sea-ice, extending down past the New Siberian Islands to the East Siberian coast, may create colder air above, and a “wall” of high pressure that deflects storms north.

DMI5 0603 CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20180603

It will interesting to see if the storm produces a dip in the “extent” graph.

DMI5 0603 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

The only thing I’m certain of is that the storm will produce a hubbub at Alsarmist sites. It will be fun to do some lurking.

Worst would be if all the models are wrong, and no storm develops. What fun would there be in that?

Stay tuned.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Polar Storm–Updated

Polar Storm Aug 4 6a0133f03a1e37970b01676918c63b970b-800wi

The general area of low pressure over the Pole I’ve dubbed “Ralph” is again reinvigorated, and we can expect the usual amount of Hoopla from the usual suspects.  The stormy summer is indeed a very interesting phenomenon, but they will attempt to squeeze it into their preconceptions, and milk what is actually a cabbage.

One bit of hoopla  I’ve heard involves beach erosion of arctic shores. The idea is that there was no beach erosion before, because of there was more ice, and now terrible things will happen to coastlines because the shores are unprotected. The thing of it is, we have a geologic record of coastal erosion along arctic shores where there has been isostatic rebound (places where the land rose after the weight of glaciers were removed).  The blogger Max™ sent us a beautiful picture of just such a geological formation.

Rising shoreline Rebounding_beach,_among_other_things_(9404384095)

Because we have such formations along the shores of the Arctic Sea, especially north of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago, we have a record of whether the seas were ice covered or open back for thousands of years. It turns out ice-covered seas grind and smash a shoreline in a very different way than the lapping, washing and thumping of surf does. This lets us see that the Arctic sea has been open in the past. (Also bits of driftwood from inland Siberia, washed down Asian rivers,  are found in the far side of the Arctic Sea on the coast of Canada and Greenland.) Studies of such shorelines may not get much funding or press, (because they do not support the political narrative), but they have been undertaken by honorable scientists who went out into a mosquito-infested landscape to do the hard field work, and their work shows us that the Arctic Ocean has been open in the recent past, especially during the Holocene Optimum 9000-5000 years ago.

I’ll leave it to others to discuss the topic of whether or not there has been an effort to “erase the Medieval Warm Period,” but even if one burned all the books, it is difficult to erase the geology seen in the above picture.

The hubbub  fretting about coastal erosion in the arctic is founded on a false concept that the arctic was calm, frozen from shore to shore, and only  recently thawed. In fact sailors have been testing their limits up there for centuries. The Arctic Ocean is an ocean, not a frozen lake, and its shores are under constant onslaught, just like every shore of every ocean and every sea always has been, always is, and always will be.

There is an interesting summer-read, describing the adventures of Dutch explorers seeking a way to avoid the King of Spain, by finding a way to China around the northern side of Asia.  They were doing this in the late 1500’s!  If you’d like a trip on the way-back machine, read “The Three Voyages of William Barents to the Arctic Regions 1594, 1595 and 1596” which itself dates from the late 1800’s.

Click to access cihm_18652.pdf

People who ignore history are willing accomplices to the crime of their own ignorance.

This summer has been one with low pressure often riding up to the Pole, and strong bands of wind along the edges of the storms. Alarmists have been anticipating that the ice will melt swiftly, due to the churning of the storms, as happened in 2012. I’m not so sure, as the water may be colder. So I simply zip my lip, and watch. It seems interesting to me that ice has returned to the waters off northernmost Alaska. (North to right, South to left.)

The Barrow, Alaska webcam even shows ice returning to the shoreline, that was ice-free for several weeks.

Barrow Webcam 0805 05_22_23_24_ABCam_20160805_132000

This ice may not “count” in ice-extent graphs, as it is less that 15% ice and more than 85% open water, but does tend to throw a wrench in the concept of an “ice-free Pole.”

Below are the recent DMI maps of the storms up at the Pole. In the first map “Ralph” is over towards Bering Strait, as R10 (reinforcement number ten) moves across the Kara Sea coast, on July 28.

On July 29 R-10 is gathering additional strength in its “warm sector” from Siberia, and the temperatures on the Pacific side of the Pole are colder. (The 12Z maps always are colder on the Pacific side than the 00Z maps, because it is midnight in the Bering Strait at 12Z.)

On July 30 and 31 Ralph weakens, but R10 heads north to assist.

Missed 12Z Map.

By August 1 Ralph is strengthened by R10, and R11 is moving into the Kara Sea. Computer models had suggested Ralph would become a Gale, but it didn’t get as big as expected. (I just noticed the temperature map failed to update at 12z.)


On August 2 Ralph is weakening rather than strengthening, R11 is recieving help from the southwest, and R12 is a very interesting feature moving north from central Siberia.

I missed the 00z map on July 3, as R12 moved north to combine with R11. Ralph was weakening but giving O-buoy 14 a cold snap and snow. .

On August 4, because I am the boss, I just say Ralph bails and flees across the Pole to his arriving troops, and the combination of R11 and R12 becomes the newest incarnation of Ralph.  I conveniently missed the 12z map, which shows Ralph waving as he crosses the Pole.

And that brings us to today, when we see Ralph Rules!

There will be a great deal of hubhub about this storm, but I am going to wait until the clouds clear and we can see what we see.

The cold in the above maps was largely towards the Pacific and south of 80 degees latitude, and not shown by the DMI north-if-80-degrees-latitude graph, which in fact showed the warmest thaw we’ve seen in several summers.

DMI3 0805 meanT_2016

This is not all that impressive, when compared to the really mild summer of 1995:

DMI3 1995 meanT_1995

The surface thaw ceases to be much of a factor from now on, and in fact the top of the ice can look like it is freezing up, however bottom-melt continues into September. The Alarmists feel Ralph will speed up this bottom melt, however I feel the 2012 melt was assisted by the fact the water had been calm, protected, and was stratified, with a lot of less-cold water not far below the surface. I have my doubts the situation can be the same this summer, as the water has been constantly agitated by storms, right back to last winter. We shall see.

I’ll conclude with before and after pictures from O-buoy 14, showing the surface thaw can be interrupted even when the DMI temperature-graph shows an upward spike. The top picture is from July 30 and the bottom is from August 3. However I am still expecting the floe to break up, especially as the cold north winds are pushing the floe which O-buoy 14 is perched upon southwards, into open waters.Obuoy 14 0730C webcam

Obuoy 14 0803 webcam

You can see some of the open water appearing in the distance of the second picture. Hold onto your hats. The next month is bound to be interesting.


Subsidence towards Alaska is creating especially clear skies. It is a good time to look at those waters, even if it is a bad time in the vicinity of the weakening storm. Here is the satellite view of the ice around O-buoy 14.

And here is the Saturday morning view from the ground.

Obuoy 14 0806 webcam

The sun brought a slight thaw, but temperatures at this buoy are back down to freezing.

This buoy has blown south to 76.5° N and 138° W. Nearly due north, at 83.56° N, 138.28° W the sea-ice is more densely packed, and Mass Balance Buoy 2015 os reportomg near-freezing temperature of +0.06°. The berg it is attached to shows melt from above and below, but is still fairly thick:

2015F 20160805 2015F_thick

The Canadian JEM model show the storm filling and fading to the west, with north winds to its west replaced by a small low, which will be of interest to the sailors aboard the Northabout, who are hunkered down in a protected anchorage and waiting for a chance to sail east through Vilkitskogo Strait, at the western entrance of the Laptev Sea. They may be able to report if the storm shifted any ice south into their path, even before we get a satellite view.

(Maps courtesy of Dr. Ryan Maue at the Weatherbell site.)

00z Saturday  PS1 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_112z SaturdayPS2 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_3  00z SundayPS3 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_5 12z SundayPS4 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_7  00z MondayPS5 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_9