ARCTIC SEA ICE –Insomnia Cure–

I was laying in bed last night contemplating customers, carrots and other things I’m suppose to consider, during the spring on a Farm-childcare, when sea-ice came drifting through my consciousness. It’s usually a sign sleep is creeping up, and worldly worries are melting away. Last night it led to some delightful, dazing dreaminess I doubt I can fully replicate, but which show the complexity of even a thing as simple as water.

Yesterday I was briefly discussing how a tendril of the Gulf Stream, coming north, for a time rides at the top of the ocean, but then takes a dive under the colder waters. For a time it is less dense than surrounding waters, but then it becomes more dense.

This occurs because there are two variables involved. First, there is temperature, and second, there is salinity. The Gulf Stream is more salty than surrounding waters, because it was subjected to a lot of evaporation down in the hot tropics before it came north. Salty water wants to sink. However the Gulf Stream is much warmer than surrounding waters. Warmer waters want to rise.

An analogy is needed. Imagine the water coming north is a bunch of hot air balloons. As long as the air in the balloons is hot, the balloons remain high, but gradually they cool, until they reach a momentous occasion where they take a dive.

It is a simple enough thing to model this on your multi-million dollar computer. First you need to loot the wallets of drained tax-payers, and then you convince the government to print up some extra money. Easy as pie, when you are falling asleep and in a dream world, but I find it easier to command the non-virtual reality in dreamland, and to model the two variables outside computers in the fresh air.

Instantly Fram Strait is experiencing complete calm. What’s more it has been doing so for weeks. The Gulf Stream, coming north, does so in a glassy stillness, and the point where it dives beneath colder water can be seen by the way sea-gull feathers drifting north in the current come to a halt.  The waters to the north are still, even stagnant.

IE:  In dreamland we have simplified things to a degree where slowly moving water is sliding beneath still water. If course we can’t have water coming in without water going out, but let’s have that happen someplace else, so it won’t mess up our dreamland model. Also, of course, you can’t have a fluid in motion moving past a still fluid without this annoying thing called “turbulence” making little whirls along the boundary, like little storms along a front. Fortunately our dreamland model has a “mute” key that dampens that stuff away. In the end we have a nice simple scenario.

Now, as we slip deeper into dreamland and our brains gain super-powers, let’s have a little fun by adding another variable or two.  Let’s reduce the amount of warming due to sunlight, as winter comes and the sun sinks  low.  Or let’s chill the air. This cools the Gulf Stream tendril coming north more quickly, so it reaches the magical point where salinity trumps heat five miles further south.

Oh oh. Problem. If the water sinks earlier, the completely static water which it is sinking under has to move, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it have to move south to fill in the space above the sinking water?

Or suppose we change the salinity of the Gulf Stream heading north. How?  How about a tropical storm dumping a foot of warm rain. Now the tendril wants to come further north before sinking. Would not it plow into the static surface water, and make it move?

But how about both chilling the water and reducing the salinity? How are we going to manage that?

What’s that you say? Why don’t we redirect all the sea-ice heading south along the east coast of Greenland, in that cold current, and push it across Fram Strait into the warm current heading north?  That will both cool the northbound tendril of the Gulf Stream, and make it less salty, you say?

Funny you should say that, for that is exactly the scenario we were looking at yesterday, as vast amounts of ice were melted just west of Svalbard. Svalfloe 3 svalbard 15

Ordinarily it is at this point I get a headache, but when I am falling asleep the implications have a nice way of knocking me over the brink into unconsciousness. Sort of like an uppercut to the jaw. As I pass out, I am usually pondering one of three things.

First, if you cool the water heading north, and lower its salinity,  how will this effect the melt from beneath to the north? In Theory, if you dumped enough ice into the northbound water, you could so cool and so dilute the current that it wouldn’t be all that different from the water to the north, and could skip the bother of sinking beneath it. What effect would that have on surface currents, and submarine currents?

Second, how many more buoys will the taxpayers allow before they come with burning torches? We don’t need a mere string of buoys across Fram Strait. We need north-south strings. We need surface reports and reports at depth, so we can have a 3-D picture of the daily fluctuations of temperature, salinity, and the speed the water is moving, like the weather-maps we get for the air above.

Lastly, what does it mean if ice does not travel in the cold, southbound current to the southerly tip of Greenland? Through much of the winter the ice levels were low, because ice was held back at the Pole, and much of the ice off the east coast of Greenland was “home grown”. Now even more ice is being deprived of it’s right to take the normal route because it has headed across to the wrong lane of the two-lane highway in Fram Strait. Will less ice off the south tip of Greenland make that water warmer?  (Currently there is a fringe of warmer-than-normal water right along the Greenland coast, but then waters are colder-than-normal clear across to Spain.)

Usually thinking about all this is quite enough to cure insomnia. If necessary, you can add another variable: Wind.  A strong wind can move surface water. What effect does a cold north wind have on a current coming from the south? Do you have a current heading south at the surface even as it heads north deeper down? Oh oh. Time to hit that “mute” key again, as I see turbulence rearing its head.

In the end I think very few things travel in the nice neat lines shown by textbooks. I am old enough to remember the way the Gulf Stream was portrayed in textbooks before we could see the surface with heat-sensitive satellites. It was nothing like this:

Gulf Stream images

I have a vivid memory, from back in those pre-satellite days, of attending a class held to make the general public more aware of beach erosion and why we should alter our attitudes about where we built marinas and beach houses. It was taught by a knowledgeable young scientist, and in the audience was a garrulous old fisherman. For some reason the subject got off the topic of beaches and moved out into the Gulf Stream, and at that point the fisherman began to talk about “warm whirlpools” and “cold whirlpools” and how he’d use them to hunt the best places to fish, and the young scientist rolled his eyes, as if the old man was talking nonsense, and finally the young man cut the fisherman off, making it obvious he felt the man was inventing tall tales. Later I always wondered what the scientist thought, when he saw the first satellite images come in, showing exactly what the old fisherman had described.

Perhaps it is for this reason that I, meaning no disrespect to scientists, am less than certain the map below is fully accurate.

Svalfloe 4 svalbard current

The thing I am watching for are the changes fishermen described the last time the AMO shifted from “warm” to “cold”. They were dramatic.

In any case, I highly recommend thinking about this stuff next time you have trouble sleeping.

In more mundane matters,  The DMI maps continue to show the high pressure over towards Bering Strait, and the low nudging toward the Pole, but weakening.

I’m worried they may have had troubles with the airstrip at Barneo, as there have been no reports since the 18th. You can see the ice is “active” across the Pole in the NRL “Speed and Drift” map from yesterday.

Speed and Drift 20160422 arcticicespddrfnowcast

This map also shows ice is likely moving away from the northwest coast of Hudson Bay.

In terms of the Northwest Passage, the western approach looks like it is opening up nicely, with ice moving away from the coast of Alaska. However the ice in Baffin Bay seems to be being crammed north into the eastern approaches.

Lastly, it looks like ice continues to be exported to the “wrong side” of Fram Strait.

The thickness map shows an odd little mountain range of thicker ice crossing right over the pole. (Not really a mountain range, but worth noting: 9 feet thick rather than six feet thick.)

Thickness 20160422 arcticictnnowcast


Lastly the “Race Against Time” expedition has been reporting struggling over a lot of pressure ridges as they approach the Pole from the Russian side. Mark Wood mentioned the ice was much flatter when he skied the route two years ago. At last report they had crossed 89 degrees north. Unfortunately they only report by satellite phone, without pictures.





Things are a bit dull, at the moment, up at Barneo. (Not for the people up there, but for onlookers like myself). Huge jets are air-dropping cargo, which holds the housing for scientists, soldiers, and tourists (who will pay over $30,000.00 for a certificate that states they stood at the North Pole). This cargo must be retrieved from 1500 pound polar bears (who think it is for them),  unpacked, and then erected, and, because the start of operations is behind schedule, all bodies up there are likely are as busy as bees, and have little time to blog or post on Facebook.Barneo 2B 12938328_977836602285489_5091821605559718540_n910Barneo 2C 11140098_977836658952150_7239834978044090855_n943

You can see the base is located farther from the Pole than usual, towards Russia.

The choice may seem odd, for the ice actually looks thinner in that direction. The 90 degree longitude line is straight sideways in the map above, but straight up in the map below.)

Thickness 20160404 arcticictnnowcast

The reason for avoiding the thicker ice at the Pole was because it had been shoved north over the winter, and was crisscrossed by pressure ridges (seen below). Not only is it hard to build an airstrip when you have to level pressure ridges, but the pressure ridges also represent a fault in the ice, in a sense like a polar version of the San Andres Fault in earthquake-prone California. In the case of multi-year-ice, some faults are active and some are inactive, but it is taking a chance to build  an airstrip across one.  I imagine considerable thought went into the choice they made.

Barneo 2D 1934634_1004573596286405_5270321295161880015_n

You can see (above) that at this point in the season the ice doesn’t look like it is any sort of  “Death Spiral”. The temperatures stay below freezing deep into the month of May, and the melt-water pools usually don’t start to form until late June. It is in the month of July that the melt-water pools get common and the Media gets its sensationalist pictures, that support the “Death Spiral” stories. This can be seen from the view below, (which I think is taken from a far lower altitude), and was likely taken in late July or early August.Barneo 2E image307244_cf7a94da3dd81e6a854b7d12adf0e02b

This slushy, summer ice is not necessarily “rotten”, and often can still support considerable weight.

Barneo 2F image307244_3ad7ff4f49b720ee7020160619421018

In terms of the arctic environment, the Russians tend to be too messy for most environmentalists, especially Alarmists. While Russians are realists, Alarmist tend to be surrealists.

Barneo 2F CfG1rGPXIAAv8DD

Therefore many have been highly critical of the Russian clean-up the the Barneo site. Largely the Russians do a good job, but have been known to burn things rather than to carry everything in plastic bags back to the mainland. Pictures like this one can cause the tops of some environmentalists heads to explode.

Barneo 2G image307244_3570365d266b388089103eafec8d8301

To environmentalists, the very word “exploit” has an unsavory sound, but Russia fully intends to exploit its arctic resources, and when Greenpeace tried to get in the way of Russia’s exploration and exploitation, Greenpeace’s members were arrested and spent time in Russian jails. Therefore the two sides are at war, (albeit a war of words, for the most part).

Consequentially there has been a great deal of focus on the whereabouts of a certain jet, that showed how strong the ice was last year, by coming down so hard on the ice the landing gear crumpled, without cracking the ice.

Barneo 2A 10310

At first the word was that the jet would be repaired on the site, and flown off. However the damage was serious.

Barneo 2H 8955

At this  point the plan changed, and it was decided to remove the jet in bits and pieces, by icebreaker.  Environmentalists worried whether oils would be spilled, and wanted to know every detail of the project, but Russians (and even the Ukrainians, who actually owned the aircraft), felt their business was their business, and went ahead without giving the media the satisfaction of press releases. Basically the evironmentalists conservationists like myself who were interested had to scrutinize websites and search for pictures, and come to their own conclusions.

The best job I have seen done was by the blogger “Patrick” at the “Arctic Sea Ice Forum” here:,1505.0/nowap.html   The links he supplied are a mother-lode of pictures, and supplied me with many for this post. I was not willing to arrive at the conclusions he arrived at, regarding the missing jet. As usual, I avoid concluding much of anything, but hope readers think for themselves.

The Borneo base itself is a hive of activity for the month of April, but shuts down around Mayday. Then the base changes its name, and becomes a quieter base, inhabited by scientists as the ice slowly drifts towards its eventual doom in Fram Stait and the North Atlantic. They stay well into the melt season.

Barneo 2I IMG_4246

These fellows stay long after jets can land on the slushy landing strip (though an airplane with skis might attempt it in an emergency). They are supplied by helicopter, and in the end are evacuated by a huge Russian icebreaker, which is big enough to have its own cargo helicopter. Barneo 2J image307244_0463887d529d2be034724ad1ee54cabd

It was during the process of removing the parts of the base last summer that pictures were taken that seem to show parts of an airplane being removed as well.

Barneo 2K image307244_3f57c09f1f9453d0c44d128c1768faa9Barneo 2L image307244_d6192f4639dd8d5e8074879387edbe76

Of course the most valuable, and heaviest, parts are the engines. The picture below seems to show the ghostly imprint of the fuselage, with the engines still sitting.

Barneo 2M IMG_4248

And the following picture seems to show an engine in the background of objects awaiting removal.

Barneo 2N sp-camp-28.07-b

The blogger “Patrick” concluded the engines were removed and dragged off, because he does not see engines on the wings of the jet in this bird’s eye view, but only “scorch marks” made by a welder removing them. (I can’t tell, and leave the decision to experts, but I do notice there are no melt-water pools, and conclude this picture was taken early in the season, no later than the middle of June). (The jet is at the bottom of the picture, and the various houses for scientists are out of view, further down.)

Barneo 2O 0531-west-side


“Patrick” then concludes only a few fins and flaps of the jet were removed, and the rest of the jet fell through a crack and sank to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. He sees a lead in the bird’s-eye-view below. The jet’s parking place is to the top of the picture. No jet remains, at this point. (My assumption is that the icebreaker’s path is invisible because it berthed off the margin of this picture, to the lower left.)

Barneo 2P sp-camp-31.07-c

To my eyes the only active “crack” runs along the bottom of the picture. Other cracks look to be inactive, and perhaps turned into the lazy melt-water streams, (that roam across the summer ice until they find a route down through the ice). It also looks to me like the Russians did a fairly good job cleaning up, though they did make the ice a bit dirty, and perhaps could have bagged all that dirty slush and moved it south, to make Greenpeace happy. But I think that isn’t high on their list of priorities. (There seems to be something they left behind at the center, which I suppose is a weather station.)

Lastly, “Patrick” discovered an interesting Russian “chat room” which hold the suspicious comment  “It was decided that the aircraft will not be repaired, it will remain on the ice, and later fell through the ice.” The problem with making too much of this comment, and later comments on the comment, is that the initial comment was made on April 28, even before the final tourist left Barneo.  However the forum is well worth visiting, because there are later videos, in Russian, from TV newscasts about the decommissioning and evacuation of the base, with some good footage.  The forum is here:

Anyway, this mystery-of-a-missing-jet annoys outsiders, who are suspicious of the Russians. A Norwegian Newspaper, the “Svalbardpostan” is especially interested in a pristine arctic, and has been following the issue of the missing jet from the start.

Their most recent post was this past March 11th, and seems to suggest that if the fuselage did sink to the bottom, the Russians should still crank it back up and remove it. (Not going to happen.)

Speaking for myself, to me it seems the Russians might have actually removed the jet. What I’d really like to know is how in the world they removed those jet engines. They were big suckers, and how to budge them must have been something the Russians thought long and hard about.

Barneo 2Q image307244_74b1ce7f97f8b128f6a43f11d5797852


Barneo Base-camp reports, on April 5:

This morning at the Barneo ice floe broke. From the band left 650 meters. So many titanic work days for nothing. Helicopter pilot flew to look for a new ldinu.Nachinaem over.
Space for the new runway Barneo ice airfield was found. Right next to the camp.
Stay tuned.


ARCTIC SEA ICE —The Shadows Lengthen—Updated 5 times—

I saw a child on a playground troubled
By his shadow. He cried and he backed off
But the shadow, unrelenting, doubled
The child’s alarm, for it never slacked off
And hounded the child’s feet, until the child backed
To the ladder of a slide. The shadow
Couldn’t follow up the ladder, and blacked
The ground below, as the child felt joy grow,
And jeered down, and looked up, and forgot the dark.

In the same way, I’m an old man troubled
By lengthening shadows, and seek a spark
Like the child’s ladder, though odds seemed doubled.

Faith is a ladder towards lights that strengthen
As winter comes closer and shadows all lengthen.

You’ll have to forgive me for waxing poetic to start this post, but I got off into an interesting tangent of thought during the sermon at church last Sunday. This often happens to me. Just as I forgot to pay attention to my teachers at school, and my mind went sailing out windows to clouds blooming in the sky, in church some idea in a sermon sends my eyes to the windows, which are stained glass lit by morning sunshine.

(I think that, if they really expected people to heed the entire sermon, the windows would be painted black. The fact they are stained glass encourages independent thought.)

Among other things, the sermon suggested a “saint” isn’t some person with a long white beard and a halo of shimmering gold, but is just an ordinary person who happens to believe that Truth is a good thing. I sort of like this idea, because it suggests that even a cantankerous anachronism like me could be a “saint”. However I didn’t like the next part of the sermon, which suggested being honest invited persecution. I have enough troubles without “inviting” any.

However, as my mind went drifting off from the sermon into the colors of the stained glass, I had to admit that simply stating the truth about arctic sea-ice has earned me a lot of grief. People I greatly respect, members of my own family and church, have used that silly word “denier” on me, when I simply state a mundane fact about banal stuff called “sea-ice”.  It seems more like a knee-jerk reaction on their part, than a deed involving one iota of actual thought.

As I gazed off into the colors of the stained glass it occurred to me that perhaps civilization has made some progress over the last two or three thousand years. Back in the day, the authorities, and especially the Romans, physically tortured people who spoke Truth. Now the authorities only psychologically torture people who speak the Truth.

Hey, it may not be pretty, but it is progress.

If you study Roman times, the brutality of Roman authority stands out. When the Romans marched in, there was no talk about political correctness, it was a case of, “My way or the highway.” They thought nothing of slaughtering all the elders of a town, or all the professors of an university, or all the leaders of a government. In fact they made their slaughter a spectator sport, feeding people to lions at the Colosseum. Physical cruelty was everyday, and Jesus Christ on the cross was no exception.

Nowadays the cruelty is psychological. A modern Christ would be crucified on some sort of  psychological cross. Or so I found my mind thinking, as my thinking wandered through the lights of stained glass lit by Sunday morning sunshine. However the next question is, “What would a psychological cross look like?”

The answer that leaped into my my head was, “To begin with, rather than throwing you to the lions, they throw you to the morons.” That made me chuckle aloud, at which point I figured I had better stop daydreaming, and pay attention to the sermon.

Later, however, the thought came back to me, and I found myself wondering what makes a person a moron. I’m not talking about the fellow with an IQ of 60, who maybe drools a little. I’m talking about an otherwise intelligent person, with an IQ well over 100, who feels they somehow deserve the right to be indignant about a subject they have never studied and know nothing about.

As a boy I was a moron, concerning the subject of New York, because I was a Red Sox fan after Ted Williams retired in 1960 and before Carl Yastremski led the Impossible Dream Team in 1967. Every year New York won the pennant and every year the Red Sox came in next-to-last, (which was ninth place back then), and I developed a foaming hatred towards New York. If anyone said anything good about New York I became quite indignant. I was actually surprised I wasn’t immediately mugged when I first visited the city, and astonished that I actually met kind and helpful people.  The scales fell from my eyes, and I stopped being such a moron.  I also dropped the right to be indignant, which was no great loss, for when I thought about it, being indignant doesn’t feel all that good.

However it seems to me some people really like the feeling. They must, for why else would they spend so much time being indignant about this and indignant about that?  And most especially, why would they bother to feel indignant about things they know nothing about? I mean, as a boy I might feel indignant of anyone who said anything nice about New York, though I had never visited the city and my knowledge of New York (beyond the Yankees) was nil, but I was just a boy and didn’t know any better. As you grow up you are suppose to know better.

Some don’t know any better. They simply like to feel offended, I suppose, and I do my best to steer clear of them, the same way I steer clear of my rooster when his neck feathers stick out and he looks at me in an indignant manner.

Fortunately, at this site, we don’t deal with big issues, such as the definition of marriage, or the point at which aborting life becomes murder. All we are concerned with is whether we are moving towards the next Little Ice Age, or the next Medieval Warm Period. Furthermore we have retreated far from the maddening crowd, to a landscape devoid of mankind, or even signs of mankind, except for a stray contrail in the sky, and perhaps a buoy, every five hundred miles.

However I am sad to inform newcomers that, even when you retreat to a point this far from civilization, you may still find yourself a “saint”  for simply stating what you see, and may even suffer a sort of psychological crucifixion for being accurate.  All you need to do is state a Truth; for example: “The so-called ‘Death Spiral’ did not manifest during the summer of 2015”, and people may become extremely indignant.

They remind me of my rooster, who always is extremely indignant when I come into the stables to get buckets of grain for my pigs and goats. It doesn’t seem to matter that the rooster has a record of 0-524, in his battles with me. He is a bird-brain, which is like a moron. He comes up to strike at me with his spurs, and I have to lower the lid of the grain barrel as a round shield, and there is a loud “plink” as he strikes the metal, and then he gets shoved backwards by the shield, and loses the battle. (In case you are wondering, if a rooster ever successfully strikes you with his spurs it feels like a solid tap on your shin, and you bleed a little trickle, but the next day you are hobbled, as he has penetrated right to the bone and given you a bone bruise. Needless to say, I don’t allow this particular rooster to ever succeed.)

I don’t know why this particular rooster gets so indignant when I enter the stable, especially when you consider the fact I’m the guy who gives him grain and water. However I forgive him because, after all, he has a brain about the size of an aspirin.

It is very painful to me to see my fellow mankind behave as if they have brains the size of aspirins, and to watch them become absurdly indignant about subjects they know next to nothing about. Even worse is the fact many get such a strange joy out of being indignant that they don’t want to learn more about the subject they know next to nothing about. When you attempt to patiently explain things, they sort of go, “La-la-la I’m not listening.” And that is the modern, psychological crucifixion of people who simply speak the Truth. They get thrown to the morons.

I’m sorry to spend so much time explaining this phenomenon, on a site which for the most part is dedicated to simply watching ice melt, and then watching water freeze. However, if we are going to study the state of affairs, concerning sea-ice, it is important to know you will meet maddening, indignant roosters, for they are included in the state of affairs, concerning sea-ice, and they are also one of the shadows lengthening across our social landscape.

In other matters, the shadows are lengthening, as are the nights, across the Pole. The times of daylight are shorter, and also farther and farther from the Pole, as the Pole itself has already started its six-month-long night (though some always insist on calling it “twilight”). (Some even insist on calculating the microscopic amount of heat that comes from twilight, after the sun has set.)

It remains worth watching, even as the views become fewer and farther between, because you can occationally see some interesting events. One thing I have discussed is how leads can open up and expose open water even when temperatures are well below the melting point of salt water. We saw this happen at O-buoy 8-b. I mentioned that such open leads can also slam shut, and rather than an open lead you see a pressure-ridge. We saw this happen at O-buoy 8-b over the weekend, giving us a picture of how an area of open water or thin ice can become extra-thick ice (as we remember 9/10th of a pressure ridge is under water, as is the case with all bergs.) In a sense we have been privileged to see what usually is hidden by winter darkness, and have a sequence of pictures that would teach well on a textbook.Obuoy 8 0923B webcamObuoy 8 0924 webcamObuoy 8 0924C webcamObuoy 8 0925B webcamObuoy 8 0927 webcam

Of course, having such splendid leads and pressure ridges so close to the camera is a bit like living right next to the San Andreas fault. The camera is at risk.

Today’s picture from O-buoy 8-b indicates some milder air is moving in, but is lifted by the cold air at the surface. Wet, sticky snow is falling, though temperatures remain low, down at -10°C.Obuoy 8 0928C temperature-1weekObuoy 8 0928 webcam

The invasion of mild air is much more dramatic over at O-buoy 9 at the north entrance of Fram Strait. Obuoy 9 0928 temperature-1weekHere we are seeing winds of 25-30 mph bringing a flood of Atlantic moisture and mildness north. Also the sea-ice is being pushed back north in Fram Strait, which is unusual this late in the season. Fram Strait is the major exporter of sea-ice from the Arctic Sea, and such export is a major part of low levels of sea-ice.

Now, if you are an Alarmist, and have a major emotional investment in seeing there be less arctic sea-ice, it is hard to know whether the current southerly gales in Fram Strait are good news or bad news. The ice being pushed back to the north is bad news, as it keeps the Arctic Sea loaded with last year’s ice. However the mild temperatures must be good news…or are they? Mildness and moisture makes more snow fall, on the ice, which would be “good” if conditions were calm, for the snow would insulate the ice and keep the ice from freezing. However, as conditions are not likely to be calm, the snow is likely to be blown from the ice into wind-created leads, forming slush which increases the amounts of ice, which is “bad”.

I find it wiser to avoid the value-judgement of calling what happens “good” or “bad”.  Whatever will be will be. Furthermore, it is the Truth, and Truth is a good teacher.

They say history repeats itself, but I can never recall seeing such a wrong-way gale in Fram Strait after the solstice. This is a new one, for me, and I think it is wise to sit back and learn.

Someone said that Harry Truman once stated, “The only thing new under the sun is the history you haven’t read.”  However we don’t have all that much history to read, concerning the arctic. We are newcomers. And when you have no  history book to read, you need to sit back and watch the present tense make history.

Also I doubt Harry Truman ever said that, because he had to handle the atomic bomb, and there was no history book about that topic. When I researched the above quote, it seemed some reporter was putting those words in Harry’s mouth, when Harry might have been talking about Mark Twain, who had a more cynical view about how we are revisionists, concerning history, and may have said something along the lines of, ” The only new thing mew under the sun is the history you haven’t invented.”

While I do believe history repeats itself, and that meteorologists who search the past for analogs can do wonders, I also believe no two snowflakes or fingerprints are alike, and there is something eternally fresh and new in every sunrise and in every weather map. Therefore I watch the current surge in Fram Strait with great interest, fully expecting to see something I’ve never seen before. The view from O-buoy 9, at the moment, is rather dull, gray, and even slushy.Obuoy 9 0928 webcam

Further north, at Faboo (my name for the North Pole Camera), the surge of mild air has arrived, and melted the hoarfrost off the lens after days of blindness. They haven’t figured out the problems they’ve been having transmitting the official data, so I have had to rely on unofficial data from a co-located Mass Balance Buoy (which lacks a time stamp). The surge was rather dramatic, as we saw temperatures shift from -16.98°C to -0.76°C. We also saw Faboo get as far south as 84.69° latitude, and then be jolted back north to 84.84° latitude. Somewhere the ice must be buckling, but no buckling is apparent in our views (which I am very glad to again have.)NP3 1 0928 2015cam1_3 NP3 1 0928B 2015cam1_2 NP3 1 0928C 2015cam1_1

I notice “Lake Faboo” is buried under the new snow, but as is usually the case in the arctic, the snows are not all that deep. In the few places where records are kept, I notice now is the most snowy time of year, but the snow amounts are only an inch or two. At other times the monthly amount is barely a half inch, or even less. The arctic is a desert, in terms of precipitation. When you talk of a half inch of snow per month it is like talking about five hundredth of an inch of rain in an entire month.

You will hear a lot of talk, from various people, about how snow insulates the ice and the water under the ice. It is important to remember we are not talking about snow that you wade hip-deep through, but rather ankle-deep stuff. When the winds howl, often the ice is blown clear of snow.

In order for winds to howl what is called a “meridional flow” is needed. What is called a “zonal flow” is more neat and tidy, and more according to textbooks. Textbooks like to talk about the “Polar Cell”, and place a high pressure at the Pole, with well-behaved lows rotating around it, with the air rising in the lows and sinking in the high pressure centered on the Pole.

Polar Cell atmospherecirculation

This is elegant and tidy, but a meridional flow makes a total mess of it. Floods of warm air surge right up to the Pole, and fuel low pressure right where the textbook states we should have high pressure, and air rises right where the textbook states it should be descending. We are likely to see a splendid example of this, the next week.

When a zonal flow places high pressure over the Pole, conditions tend to be quiet, as calm often occurs under a center of high pressure. However a meridional flow creates storms, and winds smash and crash the sea-ice. Rather than ice and snow sheltering the water, ice splits and leads, sometimes ten or twenty miles across, open up, and the sea is exposed to bitter winds. Not only is the water chilled more, but more ice forms on that open water than would be formed if the water was protected by a yard or two of ice. Air temperatures may be higher, as the open water loses heat to the air, but that heat can only be lost to outer space in 24-hour nighttime. All in all, IMHO, a meridional flow is far more conducive to building the volume of sea-ice.

So let us sit back and watch as the atmosphere does its dance.

In the maps below we see the feature ESib1 has been flung from Bering Strait across northern Alaska to the east side of Hudson Bay, as its Fujiwhara-dance partner FG4 got left behind and whirls north of East Siberia.  I should be paying more attention to that, but only have so many brain cells.

What grabs my attention is the ridge of high pressure sliding east across the Atlantic and the low forming off northeast Greenland, which I’ll call “FG5”.  Between them is the remarkable “wrong way” flow in Fram Strait, and the warm flood toward the Pole. As that warm air hits the cold air it is bound to fuel a frammerjammer, and the flow in Fram Strait could swing right around for a while. “FG5” looks like it might be an interesting storm, and briefly be king of the mountain, riding high atop the entire planet Earth.

DMI2 0927B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0927B temp_latest.bigDMI2 0928 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0928 temp_latest.bigDMI2 0928B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0928B temp_latest.big


DMI2 0929 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0929 temp_latest.big


Obuoy 9 0929 webcam


The buoiy is roughly  at 78.5° N, 141° W, which is south and west of O-buoy 9 in the Arctic Basin. (I’ll call it a Beaufort Buoy because that so obviously irks nitpickers.) Temperatures are around -5°C and winds fairly strong around 25-23 mph. Obuoy 13 0929B webcam


The gale exploding south of Svalbard isn’t suppose to be there. Of course, I haven’t been paying proper attention to maps, (as I have to attend to six-year-olds), but the last I knew the development was suppose to occur around that weak low north of Greenland. I did notice it got abruptly colder at O-buoy 9, suggesting that weak low had a cold front, and apparently the gale blew up along that front. It is more like a true North Atlantic gale than a frammerjammer, but I’ll call it “FG5son.”

DMI2 0929B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0929B temp_latest.big

Considering there was little sign of that gale this morning, the above example is a fine example of what happens when you mix warm and juicy south winds from the Atlantic with bitter cold from the arctic. The isobats suggest the winds are really howling off the coast of Norway, but haven’t picked up in Fram Strait.  However this map is actually from noon, and by afternoon the north-moving ice was lurching back to the south, which is more normal for this time of year.

Across the Pole ESib1 is a decent low, adding to the fact that uplift is occurring over much of the arctic, which sure makes a mess of the textbook defination of “The Polar Cell”, as an area of decending air. Yet all this uplift must go somewhere, and the powers-that-be can’t send the air further north as a Ferrel Cell does, as there is no such thing as further north at the North Pole.  It is a test to our ordinary thinking, which tends to be zonal, and see weather systems parading around the globe from west to east. At the Pole, I sometimes think, the weather simply goes up and down like a yoyo. When all the uplift has no place to go it just comes crashing back down, turning low pressure into high pressure. And before you laugh at this idea, check out the computer models, and notice that where FG5son is a sub-960 mb low tomorrow the maps show it swiftly  fading, and being replaced by a 1040 mb high pressure system. It will be interesting to watch, as will be what happens to the temperatures.  Currently it is much milder than it has been. DMI2 0929B meanT_2015


O-buoy 9 saw the mild temperatures abruptly crash, as the winds slacked off, veered 180°, and increased to the 25-33 mph range of a true gale, which makes for a nasty wind-chill and a swift halt to any thawing that might have been going on.Obuoy 9 0929 temperature-1weekThe buoy stopped the wrong-way movement north and lurched south.Obuoy 9 0929 latitude-1weekThere is little to see, as the nights are getting long up there, but so far the ice hasn’t broken up despite the strong and shifting winds. (Remember that a month ago O-buoy 9 often drifted in seas relatively free of ice, and much of the ice we look at is new “baby ice” between thicker bergs. It doesn’t take all that much to smash up such baby ice.)Obuoy 9 0929C webcam


On September 25 Faboo drifted 4.35 miles south east in very light winds to 84.728°N, 8.772°W and saw temperatures fall steadily, crashing to the low of -17.4°C at 1800Z, before rebounding to the period’s high of -10.8°C at 2100Z.

On September 26 Faboo sped up as winds picked to around 10 mph, covering 6.93 miles southeast to 84.683°N, 7.798°W. Temperatures rose to the high of -7.2°C at 1500Z, before falling back to -13.3°C at 2100Z,

On September 27 Faboo reached its most southerly point at 0300Z, at 84.678°N, and its most easterly point at noon, at 7.510°W, before deversing back to the north and west and finishing the day at 84.752°N, 7.542°W, which was 5.03 miles the “wrong way”.  Temperatures fell to a low of -18.2°C at 0600Z before recovering to -9.4°C at the end of the period. The breezes grew stronger, up to 15-20 mph range.

On September 28 Faboo again returned to moving east, but continued north to finish at 84.876°N, 6.452°W, which was another 15.76 miles the “wrong way”. Temperatures rose from -9.3°C at midnight to a balmy +1.0°C at 0900Z. After dipping to -1.8°C at 1500Z, a second thaw was experienced at the end of the period, with temperatures at +0.5°C. Winds peaked early, with a steady blow of 27 mph, before slacking off to 15 mph.

Unofficial reports showed we continued north for a while today, but then headed south, as temperatures fell. Unfortunately freezing rain was involved. It is my experience that this stuff is hard to melt from the camera’s lens.NP3 1 0929 2015cam1_2



Obuoy 13 0929D webcam


Obuoy 15 0929 webcam Obuoy 15 0929B webcam Obuoy 15 0929C webcam Obuoy 15 0929D webcam


DMI2 0930 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0930 temp_latest.big


DMI2 0930B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 0930B temp_latest.big


DMI2 1001B mslp_latest.big DMI2 1001B temp_latest.big

I’ll try to play catch-up later. It is hard to run a decent blog when pulling double shifts.


It is also hard to focus on sea-ice when a hurricane is milling about to your south.


On September 29 Faboo  continued northeast as far as 84.904°N at 0600Z before a 180° wind shrift hit, dropping temperatures from +0.5°C to -7.0°C at the next report at 0900Z. Winds picked up from 11 to 17 mph as temperatures fell to -13.2°C as Faboo moved 3.49 miles southeast to finish the period at 84.826°N, 6.363°W.

Yesterday temperatures slowly rose from -13.2°C to -10.2°C as winds climbed to a steady gale-force blasting of 36 mph, grinding the ice 17.6 miles SSE to 84.574°N, 5.923°W.

It is difficult to get your mind around tons upon tons upon tons of ice, covering hundreds of square miles, all moving north twenty miles and then all being snapped back south twenty miles, especially as the shift from north-movement to south-movement does not effect all areas equally at the same time, but rather is a radical change along a front. Somewhere the ice has to buckle and build pressure ridges, while somewhere else it must crack open and expose leads of open water. The frustrating thing is the camera’s lens if frozen over, and we are unlikely to see much more than this:NP3 1 1001 2015cam1_2


DMI2 1002 mslp_latest.big DMI2 1002 temp_latest.big

Quite a mild stream of air has been pulled east over the Siberian Side, as the cold is reduced to a pool north of Canada and Greenland. I expect the cold to expand as the gale weakens and fills.


Temperatures are at -10°C and winds at 4-7 mph. If the recent gale didn’t smash this ice up, nothing will, until it gets further south.

Obuoy 9 1002 webcam


DMI2 1002B mslp_latest.big DMI2 1002B temp_latest.big

SATURDAY’S DMI MAPS (To be repeated to start the next post)

.DMI2 1003 mslp_latest.big DMI2 1003 temp_latest.big

DMI2 1003B mslp_latest.big DMI2 1003B temp_latest.big

I apologize for being unable to properly withdraw from life and enjoy the pleasures of escape to the arctic. Sometimes life won’t let you escape.

Time and tide and arctic sea-ice wait for no man, and a lots been going on I haven’t had time to talk about. A veritable flood of milder air came north with low pressure and made the Pole an area of uplift, which drew more air north at the surface.  A lot of this “air” was water vapor, which went from taking up a lot of space as vapor to taking up very little space as a drop of water or an ice crystal.  Therefore there does not need to be as much outflow aloft as one might expect, with all the inflow.

The vapor also released a lot of heat as it went through the phase changes of gas to liquid and liquid to solid. (There is a phase change the other way when precipitation evaporates of sublimates when falling, but for the most part the recent storm has been releasing more heat than it has been sucking up.)

They say what goes up must come down, but this is not true of the Pole. Water vapor goes up there and does not return, and heat goes up there and is lost to outer space. Once the sun sets the Pole is like a chimney for the planet, and what we have just  seen is stuff heading up the chimney.

That being said, when a mild surge heads north for the Pole I often look for an south-bound arctic outbreak somewhere else,  and indeed  there were two decend surges of cold into eastern and western Siberia, as well as a snowy spell in Alaska that drew notice.

Even as milder air floods the Pole, snow-cover is building on the tundra in Siberia, Alaska and Canada.  This will assist the creation of cold air through radiational cooling, and result in the Arctic ocean being frozen by south winds from the tundra.

Snowcover Oct 3 ims2015276_alaska

However one interesting feature is that swath of snow northwest of Hudson Bay, as much of it is well south of the actual coast of the Arctic Sea. This tendency also shows up in a Dr. Ryan Maue map posted on Joseph D’Aleo’s excellent blog, of the the deepening snow in Western Siberia. Much of the snow is well south of the actual coast.Snowcover Oct 3 ecmwf_snowdepth_russia_41(1)

This of course makes one wonder about the maps which show the arctic coasts as well above normal, in terms of water temperature:  

(I point out elsewhere that these maps can show water as red even when it is full of floating ice, as was the case in Hudson Bay last summer, which does make one suspect they are estimating on the warm side.)

In conclusion, we have a situation where we have a cold circle of ice atop the globe, surrounded by a larger circle of milder coastal waters, surrounded by an even larger circle of cold tundra. Until the coastal water freezes, the situation is wonderfully unstable.

The current temperature graph for areas north of 80° shows the current surge of mild air past its peak, and about to begin what I suspect will be a steep plunge.DMI2 1003B meanT_2015

The ice “extent” graph shows the mild surge did slow the refreeze, but couldn’t halt it.DMI2 1003B icecover_current_new

Most of our surviving buoys did show the milder air reaching across the Pole to Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, and the pacific side of the Central Arctic Basin, as the Atlantic and Siberian side haven’t experience the early season cold as much, and continue fairly mild. Yet the temperatures only briefly could thaw, in only a few places, and rather than thawing there was falling snow and freezing rain. Most of the slow-down in the refreeze was due to bottom-melt having a chance to occur without much upper-freezing,  and also gale force winds smashing up the new baby-ice.

It is unfortunate that O-buoy 10 got crushed (or perhaps retrieved by an icebreaker) as we have no eye down in the Beaufort Sea “Slot”. The NRL concentration map suggests the southern “reef” of the “lagoon” got dispersed by the gales, though we cannot tell if the water still has ice and slush in it once everything gets wet, as it doesn’t show up well to satellite sensors.  If the reef reappears during the refreeze we will know it wasn’t fully dispersed.Concentration  20151003 arcticicennowcast

I’ll download some pictures from cameras, and catch up on Faboo’s doings, in the morning.

ARCTIC SEA ICE —A second maximum—

This is a little interesting, mainly because it kerpows a custard pie into the face of the overly-serious reporters who where making drama of a “low maximum”. a few weeks back.

I quiet honestly have a hard time even noticing the dire reports of shrinking sea-ice any more, because the media seems impervious to facts. I used to get all excited, and worked very hard to alert them to the data they seemed unaware of. I have since decided they could care less. They are paid to report a certain view, and their job is to seek molehills, and make mountains out of them.

I was made aware of the reports of the “unprecedented” minimum by certain people tugging on my sleeve, and yawned at the hubbub. Mostly to calm down the people tugging at my sleeve, I did post about how the “extent” measured by the “maximum” doesn’t include areas such as the Great Lakes and Chesepeke and Delaware Bays, and how when a pattern is not “Zonal” but is “Meridianal”, it is waters far from the arctic that freeze over, even as the arctic is invaded by relatively “mild” sub-zero air, and freezes less.

The fact of the matter is that the cruelest winters in sub-polar areas often involve milder-than-normal temperatures at the Pole. (By “milder” I mean they can get up as high as -15° Celsius, rather than dipping below -40°.) However winter covers a huge area of the northern hemisphere, at its peak, and the coldest temperatures are almost never on the Pole, which is “warmed” by an Arctic Sea with salt water at roughly -1.8° Celsius under the ice. The coldest temperatures are over the Tundra of Siberia, and sometimes Alaska and Canada, where temperatures can drop below -60° Celsius. There were even a few occasions last February when it was colder on my back porch, in southern New Hampshire, than it was on the North Pole, as Boston experienced its snowiest and second-coldest February since records began being kept, just after the Cival War, (1868).

In order to measure the true extent of a winter you would need to measure the totality, and allow your eyes to roam across the entirety of the northern hemisphere. Yes, Boston was very cold, but the Rocky Mountains were milder than normal. Yes, Spain was colder, but what about the Ukraine? What you usually discover, when you look at the big picture, is that everything averages out. The difference between one winter and another is measured in tenths of a degree, which is an amount so small you cannot really see it on your back-porch thermometer, and you only notice it when it is the difference between frost or no frost on your tomatoes.

The one thing you would not want to do is look at a small area, and use it to make grand pronouncements about the entire planet. Or you wouldn’t want to do it unless you were an irresponsible journalist who wanted to sell newspapers with tabloid sensationalism.  In that case you would look for a molehill to make a mountain out of.  For example, look at the temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude, last winter. (The red line is the actual temperatures, and the green line is “normal.”)

DMI2 0328B meanT_2015

Such a graph could provide a fine springboard for a story about how the Pole is warmer, and there is less ice, and how we should all run around freaking out like panicking chickens. However if you have any experience in such matters such a graph suggest two things.

First, it suggests that the cold air didn’t stay up at the Pole, (where it stays when the pattern is “Zonal”), but rather it was exported south to some sub-polar area, where people got a winter to tell their grandchildren about. This year it was Boston and the Northeast of North America, another year it might be Europe, another year it might be China.

Second, it suggests it was more windy at the Pole than it is during a “Zonal” pattern.  The sea-ice will be stressed and crunched, split apart into leads and slammed together into pressure ridges, and howling winds may shove ice off shore and form areas of open water along the shores, even when the winds are -50°. (Called. “polynyas”, these areas of open water are notorious for appearing along the coast of the Laptev Sea and at the top of Baffin Bay even when the dark is deepest and temperatures are lowest.)

Therefore, if you are serious about reporting what is occurring at the Pole, you would be aware it is not a matter of merely figuring out how to support a preconceived view, that your boss is paying you to support. Rather than waiting like a hawk over a rabbit warren, awaiting some crumb of evidence you can use to promote the idea the arctic is in a “Death Spiral”, (which promotes the idea society should adopt a war footing, where individual liberties are suspended),  you would study the situation and report what is actually going on, (and in some cases be promptly fired).

What is actually going on at this time of year is that Arctic Sea is pretty much frozen solid. The ice that goes into making the maximum “more” one year and “less” the next is outside the Arctic Sea. For example ice forms in the northern Yellow Sea (between China and North Korea) and the Sea of Okhotsk off eastern Russia, south of the Bering Strait, in the Baltic Sea, off the east coasts of Labrador and Greenland, and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.  This ice is outside the arctic, and with the exception of scattered bergs coming down the east coast of Greenland and off Labrador, it is fleeting in nature and will be gone by June.

Therefore, why make a big deal about it?

The first reason given is that the number represents a totality. However it doesn’t.  To represent the totality you would have to include all ice, and that would include ice on the east coast of North America, in the Gulf of Maine, Massachusetts Bay, Long Island Sound, Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay.  Late this February that was a large amount of ice.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

In order for water to count as ice-covered in the “extent graph”, it only needs to be 15% ice-covered, which means that water can be 85% open, with only stray icebergs dotting the surface,  As the ice broke away from the coasts and blew across Massachusetts Bay, for a few days a large area qualified for “extent” coverage, in early March.

Cape Cod iceberg2

If this ice “doesn’t count”, it is hard to get all that excited about ice that “does count” being at a lower level off the Pacific coast of Russia. The coldest winds blew down into eastern North American, from Siberia right across the Pole, rather than blowing from Siberia into the Pacific.  What else would you expect to happen?

A second reason for making a big deal about non-arctic sea-ice is that it reflects the spring sunshine. This is part of the “albedo” equation that believers in the “Death Spiral” like to rant about. If there is less ice the water will absorb more sunshine, become warmer, melt more ice, until there is no ice at all, or so they say. However if this equation is to be accurate they should include all the ice, but don’t. I won’t even touch the subject of the southern hemisphere. Even in the northern hemisphere they don’t include all the sea-ice.

I suppose they don’t include the Great Lakes because the water is fresh, and not officially sea-ice, but the water is so fresh in the northern reaches of the Baltic Sea that fresh-water fish can swim in it, and it counts. The northern Yellow Sea is also fairly fresh, especially at the mouth of the Yellow River after Typhoons, and they have no qualms about counting its ice.

It seems likely to me that, to get a true measure of “albedo”, they should even include land covered with white snow, but for various reasons they only include certain areas of salt water. It is by no means an entirety, but it did provide a springboard for sensational headlines a few weeks back, because the graph seemed to hit its peak a slightly lower level, slightly earlier than usual.

Now they have become very quiet, due to the fact the graph decided not to continue down from its early peak, but rather to move back up to a second peak.

DMI2 0328B icecover_current_new

This mostly involves the drift of bergs at the very perifery of the sea-ice, and doesn’t matter a hill of beans, but it is delightful because the media stated it did matter a hill of beans, and in fact several hills. Having stated this inconsequential thing matters, you can understand why they have become quiet. They don’t want to draw attention to the egg on their faces. (Or is it custard pie?)

What has happened is that north winds have blown through Bering strait, and is transporting ice south. This ice is thin and won’t last, but has a spendid effect on the “extent-graph”. Also Europe is getting a bast of cold from the north, and ice is getting blown down into Barents Sea, which is more interesting and may be more significant, because it may last longer and mess up the summer “extent-graph” with increases that are very unwelcome, if you want to promote a “Death Spiral.”

This involves the fact the AMO is hinting at moving to its “cold” phase five years early.  Perhaps the “Quiet Sun” is giving it a nudge, or perhaps this is merely a “spike” like last year’s, a sort of warning rumble before the actual shift, (which was predicted by Dr. Bill Gray something like 30-40 years ago, as part of a 60-year-cycle).

I’m not sure this is the real deal. Joseph D’Aleo had a couple of wonderful maps on his great site at Weatherbelle, (which was a great solace when I was down with pneumonia last week), and they compared the established, theoretical cold AMO with the situation that currently exists. Here is a “established AMO”:

AMO Theoretical Screen_shot_2015_03_20_at_5_50_15_AM

And here is the current situation: (Sorry the scales are different.)

AMO Actual globe_cdas1_anom__3_(4)

You can see a sort of backwards letter “C” in the Atlantic, of colder-than-normal waters on both maps, (which is the signature of a “cold” AMO) but if you look northeast of Iceland you see the current map still has some warmer-than-normal water hanging in there. That is a hang-over of the “warm” AMO. Colder water is in the pipeline, being shunted northeast by the Gulf Stream at less than a mile per hour, however that warmer water northeast of Iceland makes me unsure whether we’ll see the dramatic increase in sea-ice in Barents Sea that I’ve noticed occurs when the AMO shifts to cold.

I wish I could document my evidence, but for some reason its hard to find the old Danish pre-satellite maps of the edge of the ice, that went back all the way to the 1890’s. Also I’m unsure of the AMO graphs I used; apparently there are different ways of measuring the AMO. However what I noticed was that, even when the AMO only spiked briefly into its “cold” phase, ice came drifting down into parts of Barents Sea where it was hardly ever seen when the AMO was “warm”.

So you can bet I’m keeping my eyes peeled for signs of that, this summer.

This situation, (maps from a week ago) is perfect for pushing ice south into Barents Sea. (Click maps to enlarge.)

DMI2 0321 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0321 temp_latest.big

It also is a setup that slows the export of ice through Fram Strait and down the east coast of Greenland.

The flow from Siberia to Canada has shoved sea-ice all winter from the shores of the Laptev Sea across towards Canada. While this is similar to last year, I think the ice looks a little thicker on the Siberian side, especially between the Laptev and Kara Seas.

Ice thickness March 29 arcticictnowcast

Despite the thickness of the ice on the Canadian side, I expect the current warm-spike of the PDO to take quite a bite out of the ice north if Bering Strait this August and early September, however the Atlantic side intrigues me. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if a little of the ice in Hudson Bay survived the entire summer, which is rare but not unheard of.

However the main point of this post is to chuckle about the second maximum for the sea-ice extent.

The Danes also have a graph for sea-ice of 30% or greater extent.

DMI2 0328B icecover_current

This graph in a sense excludes the inconsequential ice at the periphery, and focuses on ice that has more body and matters more. Rather than the graph seeming to demonstrate record-setting levels of lowness, it looks like we are pretty much middle-of-the-road, for recent years.

So, if you meet anyone running around like a panicking chicken, you can pat their hand and tell them they can calm down.










These amazing pictures are from the Dapixara Blog at:

Cape Cod iceberg2 Cape Cod 2 iceberg

I lived on the coast of Maine during the very cold winters in the late 1970’s, and never saw the sea-ice this thick, though it was thick enough back then to allow me to walk from Freeport to Eagle Island out on Casco bay.  These pictures are from further south, on the “inside” beaches of Welfleet, out on the forearm of Cap Cod. Though the beach pictured is on the “cold” side of Cape Cod, it is not as cold as Maine.

What we are seeing is (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event. I find it amazing.

Even over on the “warm” side of Cape Cod, down on the Island of Nantucket, it was cold enough to form “slurpee surf” of slush, back in February.

Slurpee Waves B-zUYWaUEAEJnt9

Shortly after the above pictures were taken, the surf froze solid.

For this to be happening out on Nantucket, which after all is not all that far from the Gulf Stream, is amazing to me.

However there was something even more amazing. It was the attempts of Global Warming activists to blame the freeze on some freakish side-effect of a “warming world.”

One of my favorite attempts was by Dr, Michael Mann (of “hockey stick graph” fame). Shortly before the seas froze up as pictured above, he blamed the blizzards Boston was experiencing on extra moisture put into the air by warmer-than-normal waters off Cape Cod.

The timing of these fellows is simply amazing. They are the only people I know who manage to shoot themselves in the foot at the same time it is in their mouth.

If that water is warmer-than-normal, I’d sure hate to see it turn colder.

Mann Tweet screenhunter_7071-feb-11-22-19


At this time of year there tends to be an increase of interest in the Sea-ice at the Pole, largely because some believe the Arctic sea-ice is in a “Death Spiral”, and when the ice up north goes the world will lose its ability to reflect sunlight, and we’ll all fry. The people who have this idea seem strangely happy at any sign there is less ice. I should think the end of the world might be depressing, but they are gleeful.

They are likely gleeful now, as there is less ice in the Arctic, as we approach the peak levels of ice in the first weeks of March. (Click all images and pictures to clarify and enlarge)

DMI2 0226  02icecover_current_new

In actual fact the levels of ice this time of year are not indicative of that the levels will be at when the sun is at its highest, and the most sunlight can be reflected. For example, in the above graph, in April, the green line is highest and the red is lowest, but by September their positions are reversed.

But never mind that. Let us play the game, and worry about sunlight being reflected. The word to use is “albedo”. This makes you look scientific, even if you only have a crumb of information.

One reason there is less ice up at the Pole is that during this past winter the winds have been “merdianal”, and air has often assumed a cross-polar-flow across from Siberia, and then down to the USA. This creates what might be called back-eddys, swirling milder air in from both the Atlantic and Pacific sides. One Atlantic eddy formed a little gale on the Pole itself a week ago, and right now a swirl of milder air is forming a storm on the Pacific side. Between the two, a glob of cold Siberian high-pressure is being transplanted to North America.

DMI2 0226 mslp_latest.big

Temperatures on both the Pacific and Atlantic side are milder than normal, though often below the freezing point of salt water.

DMI2 0226 temp_latest.big

The thing to remember is that the sun hasn’t risen at the Pole, and even down by the arctic circle, where it has risen, it is so close to the horizon that it tends to bounce off any open water it strikes. Water, especially when glassy, can reflect the sun as well as ice can, when the sun sits on the horizon.

Another thing to remember is that the cold air also freezes water down south in the USA. In fact the Great Lakes are now frozen at record-setting levels for the date.

Great Lakes Feb 26 glsea_cur

This ice is not included in the above graph of sea-ice extent, but it does reflect sunlight. In fact, because the sun is so much higher in the south, it is reflecting more sunlight than the entire North Pole. This should be added to “albedo” calculations.

Also not included in most graphs of sea-ice extent is the ice forming on the east coast of the USA. The satellite picture below shows ice in Long Island Sound, and off the New Jersey north coast, and down in Delaware Bay,  and even in the upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

The sun is high and bright down in Virginia. In 1947 the cherry trees were already budding in Washington, before a bloom in March. The amount of sunlight being reflected is substantial, and it too should be included in “albedo” equations. Boston Harbor and New York Harbor are reflecting heat, rather than absorbing it.

East Coast Sea Ice screenhunter_7348-feb-21-10-512

Boston sea-ice Screen_shot_2015_02_21_at_1_34_06_PM

With all this heat being reflected, should not we start to be alarmed?  I mean, for Pete’s sake, look at Niagara Falls!

Niagra Falls Frozen b-o_1qsxiaa7xn5

It may not be a sight you are longing to see, if you are longing for spring, but I think we can avoid being alarmed and skip talking about some sort of anti-death-spiral.  As is the case with most extreme weather, the media is wrong when they call it “unprecedented”.  For example, here is Niagara Falls in 1911:

Niagra 1911 article-2536278-1A82232200000578-809_964x522

In the same manner I myself get nostalgic when I see current pictures of Lobster boats frozen in, up in the harbors of Maine.

Lobsterboats frozen 6829983_G

What is alarming about the above pictures is what it may suggest will happen to the price of lobsters, and the income of lobstermen.  However back in the late 1970’s I lived up there and walked the ice on those harbors.

The following old post has a couple pictures from that time, and also points out the fun you can have. After all, if believers in the “death spiral” can get glee from the world ending, the rest of us ought be allowed to have some fun when it doesn’t end.

The only thing sure to end is winter, though I’ll admit it looks like it may take its sweet time ending, this year.



Actually there isn’t usually much drama in watching sea-ice, especially this time of year when the cameras are shut down and the long arctic night has blacked-out our views for months. Though the first hints of spring twilight are circling around on the Arctic horizon, it isn’t until March that the adventurers start to roam the ice and send back pictures, and the Russians land jets and set up their base. Here is a link to some pictures from last year:

While we wait for human activity to resume, the best we can do is rely on satellite information, and the best site I know of is Anthony Watt’s “Sea Ice Page”

I also like the Danish Meteorological Institute Site:

The Danish site gives us this graph: (Click to enlarge)

DMI2 0224 meanT_2015

This graph shows the mean temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude, and gives the correct impression it is warmer than usual up at the Pole this winter. However it is important to keep in mind the “warm” temperatures are at -25° Celsius. At these temperatures not only does any exposed ocean swiftly freeze, but salt is exuded by the freezing sea-water, forming “flowers” on the surface of smooth ice in calm conditions,  and then, when winds howl, being blown around with the snow without any ability to melt the snow. Only in May, when temperatures rise above -10° Celsius, can the salt abruptly turn snow to slush.

However the graph does show “warm” conditions, and this has occurred because much arctic cold has been exported south. In fact, if I want to see arctic sea-ice I have only to drive eighty miles to Boston Harbor.

Boston sea-ice Screen_shot_2015_02_21_at_1_34_06_PM

I am not sure whether they include Boston Harbor, when they add up the total of arctic sea ice for this graph.

DMI2 0224 icecover_current_new

This graph suggests the extent of ice is on the low side, and is used by some Global Warming Alarmists to suggest the arctic is in a “Death Spiral.” This is largely an illusion.

One can get drawn into quibbling about where there is ice and where there isn’t any ice, however such fluctuations are quite ordinary, and tend to follow a sixty-year-cycle governed by the AMO and PDO. However, if you get sucked into such quibbling, a helpful bit of ammunition is the fact the Great Lakes are not included in sea-ice-data, but represent a large area of water, and the ice-cover on the lakes may set a modern record, this winter

Great Lakes 20150221 glsea_cur

The fact of the matter is that rather than a “zonal” flow, which steers winds around and around the Pole and keeps the cold locked up there, we are seeing  “meridianal” flow this winter, which involves a jet stream so loopy that at times air from Siberia flows across the Pole, rather than around the Pole, and then heads down to my back yard.  In fact, even as I type, the thermometer on my back porch reads -10.8° Fahrenheit, which is -23.8° Celsius, which means my back porch is colder than the North Pole, where it appears to only be -20° Celsius.

The reason it is warm at the Pole this morning is because, when cold air is exported, warmer air must come north to replace it. Often this imported air comes north aloft and doesn’t show up on surface temperature maps, but when the flow is especially meridianal you can see the plume of mildness curling north, and often breeding a storm as it rises.

DMI2 0223B temp_latest.big

This plume of warmth produced a neat, tight, little gale right at the Pole, which is wandering away towards Canada.

DMI2 0223B mslp_latest.big

Alarmists are coming up with various ideas that explain the meridianal flow as being due to warming, but in order to do so they have to turn a blind eye to the fact we have records that show us we have seen this all before. We may not have satellite records, but the Danes in particular kept records of where the edge of the ice was, due to their interests in Greenland and their fishermen. These records show a decrease in ice in the 1920’s and 1930’s was followed by an increase in the 1940’s (though the records become sparse during World War Two, when Nazis occupied Denmark and information about the sea-route to Russia became classified).

The interesting thing is how swiftly and immediately the ice responded to fluctuations in the PDO and AMO. The Pacific, though huge, has less direct imput via ocean water, and mostly effects the levels of ice in the Bering Strait.

One fascinating example of history repeating itself involves the fact that, the last time the Pacific PDO switched from “Warm” to “Cold,” it displayed an interesting glitch in smooth cycling, by reverting to “Warm” during a “spike” in 1958 and 1959. We have seen the exact same thing reoccur the past two years, and have seen the sea-ice in the Bering Strait immediately revert to low levels from high levels.

PDO Screen_shot_2015_02_17_at_5_38_30_AM

I was surprised to see the resemblance be so similar, because all things are not equal,  during these cycle, and outside influences are throwing wrenches into the works and keeping this cycle from being a copycat of the last one. For one thing, the sun is behaving very differently, and is described as a “Quiet Sun,” and even though we are near the high point of the sunspot cycle, the past four days have shown us a “spotless” sun, (though if you magnify you can see some “specks”).

DMI2 0224 sunspots latest

It seems to me that the current “warm” spike is stronger than the one in 1958 and 1959, and I am expecting a decrease in the ice in Bering Strait. However it is on the Atlantic side that the real drama is taking place.

The AMO is suppose to stay “warm” another five years, but last winter and spring it displayed a short spike into “cold” territory. There was an immediate response in the sea-ice, which grew along the north and east coast of Svalbard at a time of year it was shrinking back everywhere else. Then, when the AMO reverted to “warm”, that same ice shank back at a time of year it was growing everywhere else.

I assumed things had gotten back to  normal, and we could expect the AMO to remain warm, but take a look at this January’s graph.

AMO January amo(2)

This represents a major crash, and suggests we will be seeing some major changes in where the edge of the sea-ice is this summer, on the Atlantic side. From what I could gather looking at the old Danish records, the response is far swifter than one would think it could be.  Will the same thing happen again?

I haven’t a clue about the dynamics involved. To be quite honest, I doubt anyone does. We are witnessing this change for the first time since we developed the wonderful modern tools we can employ from satellites, and developed our modern buoys as well.

It is a time to buy some popcorn, and to sit back and watch. I imagine a lot of people who behave as if they are authorities and already understand everything are going be humbled.

I did offer some ideas for discussion in this “guest essay” at WUWT: and think the comments include some ideas better than my own. One idea I had never even thought about involved the viscosity of water at various temperatures, and how that could influence flow as much as density.

We may be about to see how Nature pulls off one of her magic tricks, and once she shows us how it is done we might shake our heads, and wonder why we couldn’t figure it out before.