ARCTIC SEA ICE –El Norte Nina–

Bob Tisdale posted this animation over at WUWT., at this post:

Something to Keep an Eye On – The Large Blue Ribbon of Below-Normal Sea Surface Temperatures in the North Pacific

The animation shows how the cold air draining off the Pole into Siberia didn’t only move west to Europe, but also spilled east into the North Pacific, dramatically cooling the waters over the past month.


You can see the modest La Nina extending off the west coast of South America, and also the “Warm Blob” shrinking and being pressed up against the coast of Alaska. However the cold water hasn’t been named, so I’ll call it the La Nina of the North, or “El Norte Nina”.

It will be interesting to see how long El Norte Nina lasts. I imagine it is a wrench in the works of long term winter forecasts, likely based upon the “Warm Blob”. If it persists it will likely represent an end to the “warm spike” in the PDO, and a return to a cold PDO, just as I forecast.  I forecast it two years ago, and it didn’t happen, and I forecast it last year, and it didn’t happen, but now, at long last, the blind squirrel finds the nut.

(Actually there was a warm spike in the cold PDO of the 1950’s, and I was imagining the current warm spike would behave the same way, and last the same length of time. Fail. The current situation is unique, and the warm spike was far more powerful and lasted longer.)

The El Norte Nina fits nicely into my idea that we can’t have all the mild air rushing north to fuel the low pressure “Ralph” at the Pole, without having an exit route for all that air, bringing cold down to sub-polar regions. This year Eurasia has experienced a bitterly cold autumn, “unprecedented” in some places. I’ve been waiting for this autumnal pattern to flip into a winter pattern, but so far it is hanging tough. The map below shows the cold over Eurasia, with the cold pouring east into the Pacific over Japan. Of interest is the slot of warmth in the upper left. It is due to the latest incarnation of Ralph, which formed off the northeast tip of Greenland and crossed the Pole on the Atlantic side, finally crashing down into Eastern Russia. It’s odd when the “mild” air comes from the Pole, but that is how topsy-turvy  the pattern is.


Looking ahead to next Tuesday, Mongolia gets a respite, but the cold  gets incredible over central Russia, with temperatures forecast to be 35 degrees below normal. It looks like cold air is continuing to spill east over Japan, which likely would continue to fuel El Norte Nina.


To me this suggests another surge of mildness should be heading up to the Pole. So we first look at the current GFS anomaly map (produced by Dr. Ryan Maue over at the Weatherbell site [week free trial offered]).


Things indeed are mild up there, but not as mild as they are forecast to be next Tuesday.


Indeed, just as temperatures are 35 degrees below normal down in Siberia and Kazakhstan, they are 35 above at the Pole. In a few cases they may even be a bit above freezing, and I expect that will generate the usual hoop-la from the usual suspects. The DMI temperature-north-of-80°-latitude map will likely show yet another up-spike, perhaps even higher than the last one.


There will be further hoop-la about such a spike, and I feel there should be, but not because I feel the planet is warming. I feel it demonstrates our planet is spending heat like a drunken sailor, and will face one heck of a hangover in the morning, (the “morning” being midwinter.)

The next surge of warmth will come from the Atlantic and in some ways will be a repeat of where we left off last time I posted. Back then (November 7) an Atlantic-to-Pacific cross-polar-flow was bringing a spike of milder temperatures north of Greenland. (Ralph’s “signature”)

Besides creating a wrong-way-flow in Fram Strait, the rising mild air fueled yet another incarnation of Ralph himself.

Rather than heading up to the Pole, Ralph headed over to the Kara Sea, and I was thinking maybe the pattern was changing a little, and Ralph was merely a North Atlantic storm that happened to be displaced way, way, way to the North. I watched for high pressure to build at the Pole.

The high pressure did build, but the flow in Fram Strait remained a wrong-way flow, and that can lead to the reappearance of Ralph’s “signature.” And indeed today’s map shows a weak signature north of Greenland, and a weak Atlantic-to-Pacific cross-polar-flow starting, right where I was thinking high pressure might build. And….what is that dent of low pressure over the Pole? No! Not the ghost of Ralph, haunting me!

This really is a remarkable pattern, and a lot of fun to watch. I was expecting a pattern flip, and I guess El Norte Nina fits the bill. Not that I was expecting it to happen so quickly, (though I did say it would happen quickly, back in 2014), but I’ll call it a correct forecast, because I’m not able to say I’m right all that often, and even a blind squirrel wants a pat on the back every once in a while.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 98 years ago, the guns stopped shooting and silence descended over Flanders Field. People really did believe men had fought the war to end all wars, and mankind would never be so foolish ever again. Alas, Hitlers arise, and some men must leave warm homes to defend us. May God bless them, and may God save us from ourselves.


ARCTIC SEA ICE —The Cruel Pool– December 7-13, 2015

Sometimes I simply sit back in awe and wonder over weather features our Creator brews up, especially when they take forms that in some ways are outside of our ordinary expectations, and defy the constructs our small minds come up with to grapple with something as giant as “weather”.

I tend to see things in simplistic terms, and one construct I fall back on is the idea of a “storm track” with nice and neat low pressure areas rolling along this track like trains. However the recent surge that crossed the Atlantic and dove across Europe into Siberia seems in some ways like a javelin of energy. It wasn’t really marked very well by nice, neat circles of isobars marking nice, neat storms rolling along,  but rather ripped through all my nice, neat preconceptions like a spear through tissue paper.

I’ve poked about, trying to get the take others have on what was occurring, and noticed Piers Colbyn suggested the sun hit us with extra energy, (perhaps as a TSI spike).

I sort of like the idea of some sort of trigger hurling the javelin, which caused the flooding in Scotland as the spear of moisture passed through:

Spear 1 screenshot_2015-12-07-17-36-29-11

As this javelin plunged into the cold, dense air parked over the tundra and taiga of Siberia’s vastness, it shoved the cold aside and forward like a snowplow. I’ve already remarked on how the cold got pushed south to give snow to Persia:Persian Snow 151207113212_snow_in_iran_640x360_isna_nocredit

The poor nation of Syria was hit by cold which set a record for the entire month of December, not even ten days into the month, with Damascus hitting -9°C.

A lot of cold air was plowed east, pouring out into the north Pacific, which will (perhaps) shift the Aleutian low south and west, and (perhaps) cause the jet stream to pour arctic air south into Canada. But how cold is that air, out over the Arctic Sea?

Now that is where my wondering gets tickled, for apparently the javelin didn’t merely plow the cold south and east, but also plowed it north, up over the Pole.

That isn’t all that unusual, and is one reason the Laptev Sea leads all coastal arctic seas, when it comes to the creation and export of sea-ice. The cold air created by the snow-pack over Siberia does what cold air is inclined to do, namely sink, and creates high pressure as it presses down, but it can only press down so much before it presses outwards, and on the coast of the Laptev Sea this creates south winds that are anything but warm. They are the coldest south winds north of the equator, in fact, and roar north with such ferocity that they rip the sea-ice away from the coast, creating polynyas of open water even when the winds are as low as -70°C. This open water rapidly freezes, and then it too is pushed out to sea. Enormous amounts of ice are created in the Laptev sea, even though the ice there never gets all that thick. And, considering this outflow from Siberia happens even in ordinary circumstances, it will be all the more likely to occur when encouraged by a javelin plowing through Siberia.

As I watched the DMI maps the past week, the cold air pouring north from Siberia was obvious, even if the origins were beyond the edge of these maps. The high pressure I dubbed “Igor2” was pumped up, on the Pacific side.  Of interest was the fact that the gale I called “Tip3” was sucked east by (apparently) the surge associated with the “javelin”, while the gale I called “Tip4” behaved like a leaf swirling about in the wake of a race car, loop-de-looping back to Greenland.

DMI3 1208 mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1208 temp_latest.bigDMI3 1208B mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1208B temp_latest.bigDMI3 1209 mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1209 temp_latest.big DMI3 1209B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1209B temp_latest.big DMI3 1210B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1210B temp_latest.big

The last map shows a decent gale off the coast of Norway, but in fact that is a “zipper” and associated with the occluded mess Tip4 created when he retrograded to Greenland. You get some idea of this mess by looking at the UK Met map.UK Met 20151210 29951109 The UK met map shows the “javelin’s” isobars still remain strongly west to east across Britain, Scandinavia and into Siberia, but not much of a “storm track” in the North Atlantic, where everything has bogged down to a stalled, occluded mess. In fact the low to the lower left of the map (which we might as well name “Tip5”) is likely to dawdle towards Spain, before perhaps probing up towards the English Channel. In terms of invading the arctic, the Atlantic is not much of a threat. A slight flow is pushing towards the Pole from the open waters of Barents Sea, but it is nothing like the surges we have seen.

Without invasions, the Pole swiftly chills, and this can be seen by the recent plunge of the DMI temperatures-north-of-80° graph. (The recent slight uptick is due to the air from Barents Sea.)DMI3 1210B meanT_2015

It makes me nervous when temperatures become “normal” over the Pole, because it represents a reservoir of nasty cold, a truly cruel pool. It wouldn’t be so nervous-making if the flow was zonal, for then you would know the cold would be trapped up there, which is where it belongs, as far as I’m concerned. However the flow has been meridenal, which tends to suggest the cold is just winding up before a pitch, or rearing back before an uppercut, or (add the sports metaphor of your choice).

Some of the cold air has been leaking down the east coast of Greenland, which may chill the Atlantic and cause future troubles, but in the short term is good news for places like the USA and Europe and China. However a lot of wicked cold is simply remaining up at the pole, as a building threat.

I mentioned earlier that the cold air spilling from Siberia into the Pacific might relocate the Aleutian low, and cause the jet stream to aim down into North America. Cold already is oppressing the north of Alaska and Canada,  but so far hasn’t started south:Spear 2 gfs_t2m_noram_1 Mr. Bastardi, over at the Weatherbell site, seems to suggest this ferocious cold is likely to roar down the Rocky Mountains into the west of North America, which will not effect me right away, which is fine with me. I prefer reading reports from Calgary of bone-chilling blasts. Or from Colorado. Or even from Texas or Phoenix.

I figure we here in New England payed our dues last winter. (Of course, I am not the guy who figures out this thing called “dues”. Some celestial angel does those calculations, which is why I never get the millions I figure I’ve earned by being so charming all my life.)

My hope is that we get a winter for softies, here in New England, and I don’t have to attend to ice on my driveway, and therefore have lots of time to attend to ice in the arctic.

Something very odd has been happening in the DMI ice-extent graphs. Rather than explain it I’ll just let you look at the two graphs. The first is for 15% coverage, and includes “coastal areas”, and the second is for 30% coverage, and has coastal areas “masked out”. (Click graphs to enlarge and clarify)

DMI3 1210B icecover_current_new DMI31210B icecover_current How two graphs, produced by the same agency, can give such differing impressions, is beyond my capacity to explain. The first will be loved by Alarmists, as it shows less ice, as the second will be adored by Skeptics, as it shows more ice.  (My own take, for what it is worth, is that the thicker and denser ice is increasing, even as the ice that doesn’t really matter so much, at the edges, is diminished.)

Tomorrow I hope to find time to catch up with the doings of Faboo (the north Pole Camera) which is hurrying south along the east coast of Greenland. The cameras are still sending pictures, and it has moved so far south that some of the pictures are lighter than others, but apparently the lenses are still very obscured by hoarfrost, so all you see is black for night and purple for day.

However the main emphasis of this post is the cruel pool building over the Pole, and the pondering about who will get that cold air, when an arctic outbreak sends it south. (I hope it hits some poor boy yearning for a White Christmas, and arrives on Christmas Eve,)


I’ve just been noting the passage of what I called either a spear or javelin through Siberia. It has now reached the Pacific and is still milder than the air both to the north and to the south (though it has been cooled a lot crossing the deep snow-cover of Siberia, and “milder” is now 10°F)(-12°C):Javalin 3 gfs_t2m_arctic_1

So far the javelin seems to be deflected a bit further south than I expected by the (so far) stubborn cold (-55°F; -48°C) lodged over east Siberia. However what is an interesting “coincidence” to me is the massive gale computer models see blowing up in the Bearing Sea tomorrow (Sunday).

Javalin 4 gfs_mslp_uv10m_arctic_5I am not qualified to say whether this super gale, at the very bottom of the above map, is actually related to the impulse that gave northern Britain its recent floods. My eye has just been following something east, and a qualified meteorologist might be quite correct to call any connection between the two events an optical illusion. But, as an observer, I figure I should mention it. (For those with home barometers, 933mb is like your barometer reading 27.55 inches.  IE Super-dooper typhoon.)


The weak remains of Tip4 and secondary and tertiary elements have drifted east to the Kara Sea, bringing some slightly milder air to the Pole, but not the true Atlantic moisture that comes in surges all the way up from the Azores. In a sense this is home-grown Atlantic air, polar in origin.

Across the Pole Igor2’s high pressure continues to mark some very cold air that is pouring north from East Siberia and across towards Canada. Some is exported down the east coast of Greenland, but North America is increasingly in danger of an onslaught from the north.

A Pacific storm is off the map south of Alaska, and the Pacific super-gale hasn’t developed yet.


On December 7 Faboo (the North Pole Camera) was blown south to 78.879°N, 8.174°W, which was another 18.75 mile to the SSW. Temperatures were fairly flat, with a low of  -21.4°C at 0600Z and a high of -18.1°C at 1500Z. Breezes fell off from the prior gales, but remained strong, slacking off from 25 mph to 15 mph.

December 8 saw the winds fade away to a calm, as temperatures fell from -18.7°C at midnight to -26.1°C at 1800Z. The buoy’s movement slowed to 6.14 miles, to 78.790°N, 8.186°W. There was a slight wiggle to the SE at 1500Z,  midst the SSW motion.

On December 9 calm conditions continue, and likely hoarfrost froze up the anemometer and wind-vane. Movement slowed further to 3.22 miles, to 78.744°N, 8.143°W. Temperatures crashed to -29.2°C at 0900Z and then recovered to -21.0°C at the end of the period at 2100Z.

December 10 saw movement of 6.63 miles to 78.648°N, 8.119°W, wobbling east, west, east and west as it proceeded south. Temperatures rose to a high of -17.7°C at midnight and a low of -23.1°C. at noon. Winds were not reported, likely due to hoarfrost.

December 11 saw the buoy move back west, as it continued south, to  78.577°N, 8.201°W, 5.02 miles further south. Temperatures were at their highest at midnight at -21.7°C and sunk to -27.3°C at 1500Z. No wind reports.

On December 12 Faboo drifted another 5.81 miles SSW to 78.494°N, 8.274°W. No wind reports, and temperatures remaining very cold for Fram Strait at -26.3°C at midnight down to -28.5°C at 1500Z.

Faboo is still well out in Fram Strait, and somewhat amazingly the cameras are still functioning, though the hoarfrost is likely so thick on the lenses that all we see is blackness. The slab of ice it is on is likely still fairly solid, or at least one of the cameras would be sunk. Much of the ice moving down into Fram Strait is solid, and the air has been very cold with few mild incursions. Of we could get some gentle south winds we might get a lens thawed, and get a few decent pictures from Faboo before it gets crunched. (As the ice moves south it tends to compress against the coast of Greenland. In fact all the thin “baby ice” from earlier this autumn has vanished from the NRL thickness map, turned into a much thicker jumble along the coast, south towards Denmark Strait.)

Further east there is still open water all around Svalbard, but we are likely to see Svalbard freeze swiftly, for it is entilerly surrounded by water that is now below 0°C, and only remains liquid due to its salt content. (Click to enlarge, and click again to enlarge further.)Fram Ice 1212 general_20151211Further west Hudson Bay is rapidly freezing over.Hudson Bay 20151212 CMMBCTCABering Strait has also frozen up.Concetration 20151212 arcticicennowcastThe only area with much below-normal ice-extent continues to be Barents Sea, which is likely to see an increase of ice on the Svalbard side over the next week.

Half-horsepower Persian Snows

A strong west-to-east flow across northern Europe is driving polar Atlantic air deep into Siberia. (Maps below are created by Dr Ryan Maue from GFS initial data, and are among thousands of maps he makes available at the Weatherbell site.) (Click maps to clarify and enlarge.)

Persia 1 gfs_mslp_uv10m_eur_6

This air is actually quite mild for December (although below freezing by the time it gets to Russia. Below freezing appears as pink on the map below.)Persia 2 gfs_t2m_eur_1

To get a feel for how above-normal the air actually is a temperature anomaly map is helpful. The map below shows temperatures are most above normal in Finland.Persia 3 gfs_t2m_anom_eur_1

This surge of relatively mild (but still below freezing air) will extend far across Asia, but does not represent the very cold (-40°C) Siberian air being warmed, but rather replaced. The displaced air is pushed north into the Arctic Sea, or west into the Pacific, or south and then east by a sort of backwash under the west winds. You can see the cold appearing in the lower right of the map above.

What this means is that places like Persia, Lebanon, Syria and Israel are seeing very cold conditions. Even the ordinarily hot and desert dry United Arab Emerites are seeing cold rain and temperatures down near freezing. UAR Cold Rain 3820661127

This is often an unexpected side effect of mild west winds across the Baltic and into Russia. Siberia is a huge place, larger than the USA and Canada put together, and its tundra and taiga create huge amounts of cold air. It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of this reservoir, or how impossible it is to warm this vastness in the dark days of December. It is only when a fringe of this cold comes east as a sort of backwash, and snows fall in the holy land, that one glimpses a hint of how gigantic the area of cold is. It perhaps can be shoved aside by a surge of air from the west, but it doesn’t just vanish, and I was particularly interested in pictures of the snow in Persia (Iran). Persian Snow 151207113212_snow_in_iran_640x360_isna_nocredit

It is a bit stunning to realize that the displaced Siberian air has it colder south of the Caspian Sea than it is way up in Finland. (One thing to realize is that the relatively milder air rushing east past Finland is constantly losing heat, and will be quite cold after a week or so over the deep snows that cover most of Siberia this autumn.) In fact it is so cold over Persia that things are running at half-horsepower.1931874(1)

OK, OK, I admit it is a bad joke, but I actually thought this statue was so cool that it deserved an entire post just to share it. It just goes to show you that you never know what you’ll discover, when you wander the web looking for news.




I am very ignorant concerning computers, and I only mention this as a ignorant soul telling a Rembrandt his shoelace is untied.

The models amaze me with their accuracy five days into the future, most of the time. I have a hard time forecasting tomorrow. Therefore I rely on models, and notice when they are not amazing, five days into the future. Recently they have been spectacularly wrong, especially as you get up into northern latitudes.

I’ve been wondering if they think in a circular manner. They might see weather patterns going around and around the earth.  It might throw a wrench in the works, and be over-the-top, so to speak, when rather than around and around, cross-polar-flow brings things over the top.

The recent cold that clobbered Europe was unseen by models, even three days ahead of time. I think it may be because the models are based on a nice, “zonal” flow, and have trouble when the Pole is afflicted by what some (me) call a “loopy” flow, and others call “meridianal.”

The best model at handling such cross-polar-flow seems to be the Canadian “JEM” model, likely because Canada gets clobbered by cross-polar-flow more than most other nations. Perhaps the JEM model does not do as well with round-and-round the earth patterns, for it is not the best model overall, however when it does score a “coup” it seems it is because it added over-the-top cold to the mix. (Of course, the JEM model has a habit of creating over-the-normal super-storms, but no one is perfect.)

I thought it might be interesting to see what the JEM model produced, and what follows gives you an idea of the wrenches the Pole can throw into the works of any model that accepts a zonal flow as a basic premise.

(These maps are produced by a Rembrandt of the weather-map-world called Dr. Ryan Maue, of the Weatherbell site, however these maps are blemished by a bit of digital graffiti down the left sides. Likely Dr. Maue was operating on two hours of sleep when he wrote the code for this map, or perhaps the Canadian computers produced the glitch and the graffiti  is beyond Dr. Maue’s control. In any case, it is an untied shoelace, and I hope you will ignore it and enjoy the great art.)

All these maps can be clicked, or opened to a new tab, to enlarge them. Then they can be clicked a second time to enlarge them further.

The first, “initial” map shows a Pacific invasion has nearly reached the Pole, but a tremendously cold airmass in Siberia, (the hottest pink is -70°), is rushing north behind the invasion, cutting it off. (The clash between the the milder and frigid air is creating a decent polar storm.) This northward rush of Siberian air is what I called “the snout of Igor” last year, and makes me worry, though I am off the map and on the far side of the planet.

CPF1 cmc_t2m_arctic_1

The next map shows that a day later the Siberian air has charged right across the Pole. The Pacific invasion is cut off, but an Atlantic invasion is starting north west of Norway. (Notice the cold air has been driven from northern Scandinavia.) Things look bad for Canada, with that thrust of Siberian air charging their way.

CPF2 cmc_t2m_arctic_5

The next map, 48 hours later, makes one say, “But what is this?” A new invasion of Pacific air is attacking the cross-polar-flow from one side, as the Atlantic invasion proceeds from the other. Will the flow be strangled?

CPF3 cmc_t2m_arctic_9

After 72 hours the Pacific invasion seems to be overpowering the Atlantic invasion, and rather than the cross-polar-flow being nipped in the bud, it is developing a curve, or a sort of saddle. Warmth has pushed east of Finland into Russia.

CPF4 cmc_t2m_arctic_13

After 96 hours the curve in the cross-polar flow has become such an oxbow that the air is starting to aim not towards Canada initially, but west towards Scandinavia. Notice that west of Finland, the cold is no longer retreating east in Russia, but starting to advance west.

(I think this is where some models start to lose it.)

CPF5 cmc_t2m_arctic_17

After 120 hours the original cross-polar-flow has collapsed into a surge of cold back towards Scandinavia. However a new cross-polar-flow is starting, and the most-recent Pacific invasion is again being cut off. Northern Scandinavia is much colder.

CPF6 cmc_t2m_arctic_21

Lastly at 144 hours, (which is starting to enter la-la land, for models), we see some bizarre feature north of Greenland throwing mild air up towards the Pole.  (“I’ll believe it when I see it.”)  However what seems a little more reliable is, first of all,  that the new cross-polar-flow has hooked up with Canada, and the air in northern Canada is nearly as cold as Siberia’s.  Secondly, the old cross-polar-flow has sent really cold air crashing into Scandinavia.

(It is sort of like the cross-polar-flow was a meandering river, and cut off an oxbow, but in the atmosphere an oxbow does not just sit stagnant, as an oxbow lake, but is a mobile thing, as Scandinavia may see first hand, 144 hours from the time of the first map.)

CPF7 cmc_t2m_arctic_25

Please remember all of the above is occurring in the virtual world of computer models. It is theory, not reality.  However what is so fascinating to me is how different weather patterns look, when you view the globe from the top, rather than always from one side or another.

ARCTIC SEA-ICE RECOVERY –Sneak Attack onto Europe–

The last two weeks has been interesting to watch, though the growth and extent of the ice is fairly normal. Here are the extent maps from December 12 (to the left) and December 27 (to the right).

DMI2 1212 arcticicennowcastDMI2 1227B arcticicennowcast

As Hudson Bay and the Bering Strait have frozen up, most of the growth in ice from now on has little to do with the Arctic. You could almost call it cosmetic. It will be occurring in the Pacific, or the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, or the Baltic Sea, and therefore will be fleeting, and have little to do with the Arctic Sea itself, which is what all the fuss is about in the summer.

I tend to watch the arctic ice-thickness maps, which can give you an idea where the ice is moving. It moves far more than many imagine. For example, hundreds of square miles of thicker ice that had been lodged north of Franz Josef Land was shifted west by storms and crashed into the north coast of Svalbard, over the past month. This created a sort of polynya of open water where the ice had been by Franz Josef Land, which swiftly froze over and became thin ice.

DMI2 1227B arcticictnowcast

If this large body of ice continued to move west it might be flushed south through Fram Strait, which could create a situation much like occurred in 2007, when the thick ice was flushed south of the Pole, leaving the Pole with a thin skim of ice as summer approached, and, because the thin ice melted easily, the people who assume the icecap is in a “Death Spiral” had something to hype. (The main difference between now and 2007 is that there is much more thick ice north of Canada now.)

Watching the thickness maps allows you to see where the ice is piling up and where it is thinning, and gives you a rough idea on the total volume of ice up there.  There are many interesting processes occurring that you seldom read about.  For example, the same strong winds that blew the ice away from Franz Josef Land also blew the ice away from the south coast of the Kara Sea, and you can see that ice as thin blue lines of thicker ice now out in the middle of the Kara Sea.

Ice really piles up on the west coast of Baffin Bay, and grinds southeast along that coast and then along the coast of Labrador towards the North Atlantic. Ice also can pile up on the south and east coast of Hudson Bay, while the north coast can see polnyas form, so that even though the north was the first to freeze and the south was the last to freeze, by spring the south has thicker ice than the north. Lastly, ice can be seen piling up just west of the Bering Strait on the north coast of Russia; last year this ice was piled up 20 feet thick there by spring.

Watching the thickness maps brings many surprises, especially when storms wrack the ice. In the dead of winter, with temperatures at -40°, I have seen leads of open water form that are scores of miles across and hundreds of miles across. The open water freezes to thin ice almost immediately, but sometimes you can still see signs of that thinner ice months later. In a similar manner storms had a lot to do with the build up of thicker ice north of Canada.

At times the thick ice can crumble and be spread out into open waters, and mess up all sorts of neat calculations in the process. Where a cold current often sinks when it meets a warmer current, and more saline waters want to sink beneath more brackish waters, it is physically impossible for the ice to sink, and it bobs merrily onwards on top, often significantly chilling both the temperatures of the surface waters and the air, until it melts away. Therefore a strong wind transporting ice south can alter temperature maps with startling speed.

I imagine there are times when such alterations make a difference in the forecasts generated by computer models. They may even explain why the models utterly failed to foresee the cold that slumped south onto Europe recently. Just as it only takes a single pebble to start an avalanche, a single miscalculation can mess up a computer model.

Although the models did not see the cold coming, Joseph D’Aleo and Joe Bastardi on their blogs at the Weatherbell site did say we should be on guard for cold waves to hit Europe, as the autumnal patterns were similar to years in the past that saw cold waves hit Europe. They didn’t explain how it was going to happen in a step-by-step way, so I watched very carefully to see if I could see the steps as they occurred.

Back on December 12 we were seeing south winds bring warm air flooding north over Scandinavia, as the Atlantic storms veered north towards the Pole. A lot of Barents Sea was above freezing. Cold air was exiting the Arctic down the east coast of Greenland.

DMI2 1212 mslp_latest.big DMI2 1212 temp_latest.big


This pattern continued on December 14

DMI2 1214 mslp_latest.big DMI2 1214 temp_latest.big


And peaked around December 17

DMI2 1217 mslp_latest.big DMI2 1217 temp_latest.big

By December 19 the storms were no longer heading up to the Pole, but were moving east along the north coast of Russia. Barents Sea was cooling down, and to the east of the storm cold Siberian air was drawn up over the Arctic Sea and then dragged back west, and the milder Atlantic air lost its influence over the Pole.

DMI2 1219 mslp_latest.big DMI2 1219B temp_latest.big


By December 21 the new storm track had the east winds to its north starting to drag cold air back towards Scandinavia. The following Atlantic Gale didn’t bring such a flood of warmth north.

DMI2 1221B mslp_latest.big DMI2 1221B temp_latest.big


By December 24 the new storm track had penetrated weakly to the Pacific side of the Pole, and chilled Pacific air was being drawn over the Pole, but was too cold to warm the Pole much, and the cold air over the Pole was heading south to Scandinavia, and below freezing temperatures seeped down the coast of Norway.

DMI2 1224B mslp_latest.big DMI2 1224B temp_latest.big


By the 26th of December the cold was building over the Pole, and the strongest low pressure was east of Scandinavia, transporting Siberian air back west over its top towards a Barents Sea that was now far colder, especially to its north. The Pole was as cold as it ever gets, except on rare occasions, and the weight of that dense air was spreading out, including down towards Europe.

DMI2 1226B mslp_latest.big DMI2 1226B temp_latest.big


Today we see the following North Atlantic low is weak, without a surge of southerly winds, and the isobars hint of a discharge straight from the Pole to Scandinavia and areas further south.

DMI2 1227 mslp_latest.big DMI2 1227 temp_latest.big

This afternoon’s map shows the weak low bringing snow to Britain and the cold continuing to press south over Europe.

DMI2 1227B mslp_latest.big DMI2 1227B temp_latest.big

The computer models didn’t see this cold coming, even a few days ago, but now much of western Europe is below normal. As this cold continues to press south it is likely create elongated high pressure west to east. There may be a warm-up over Scandinavia as winds turn west to the north of the high pressure, but east winds to the south of the cold high pressure will bring very cold Siberian air further and further towards the Mediterranean, and a southern storm track will bring snows to Italy and perhaps even the north coast of Africa, before the cold is moderated.

DMI2 1227B gfs_t2m_anom_eur_1



However I have no business talking about Africa in a post about the Arctic, so I’ll just show the graph of temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude, which informs us the arctic is loaded with midwinter cold, and has plenty to spare.

DMI2 1227B meanT_2014

Besides dumping cold down on Europe, some is being dumped south into Canada and the western USA.  The thing to remember is that not only the Pole creates cold, but all areas of Tundra and Taiga generate cold as well, during these shortest of days. Better look for where you left your mittens.

DMI2 1227B gfs_t2m_noram_1

(These maps are created by Dr. Ryan Maue at the Weatherbell site.)


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.

DMI2 1130B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1130B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1201 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1201 temp_latest.big

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.


It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the sun was still high enough to make Siberia warmer than the Arctic Ocean. Those days are done, and now Siberia is a monster, a sort of dragon with a breath of ice rather than fire. It is a huge expanse of snow, bigger than the lower 48 of the USA, and a large amount of Siberia’s north is above the arctic circle.


Between now and early February the parts north of the Arctic Circle experience no sunshine, right down to the circle on the Solstice, and even south of the circle the sun is so low at noon it has nearly no warming effect, unless a slope faces south. It is a situation where the land is constantly losing heat to outer space.  With no warmth coming from the sun, all warmth must be imported. If warmth isn’t imported, temperatures fall continuously, reaching the coldest levels seen north of Antarctica.  -40 is quite common, and -70 is reached most winters.

Snow-cover greatly increases the ability of this landscape to get cold. This year it was established early, and although it has melted back in the very west of Russia, to the east it has increased south of Russia’s borders.

Snowcover 20141121 ims2014324

At this point the constantly building cold over Siberia becomes a sort of pulsating, undulating amoeba, a blob throwing out huge globules of deadly chill. It pays to keep an eye on this monster, to see where it is aiming its empty-eyed gaze.

Here is the current cold, from the GFS initial run.  (These maps can be clicked or opened to a new tab for better clarity and enlargement.)

Temp Siberia 1121 A gfs_t2m_asia_1

Storms running along the southern boundary of the monster attempt to punch warmth north, as huge storms in the North Pacific sometimes drive milder air up through Bering Strait and attack the northeast. This pressure doesn’t much bother the monster, who merely retracts north and exhales cold over the “warm” ice of the Arctic Sea.  Also the blob-monster can simply undulate west. Look at the map 30 hours from now.

Temp Siberia 1121 B gfs_t2m_asia_11

When the blob-monster bulges west, Europe gets nervous. 60 hours from now a sort of counter attack from the west tries to halt the westward expansion.

Temp Siberia 1121 C gfs_t2m_asia_21

When the blob-monster is halted, attacked from the west and punched in the gut from the south, he just smiles an icy smile and gets colder. The pink area in the above map in central Siberia shows temperatures dropping below minus 40 (which is a great temperature, as it is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius).

The final map is 90 hours from now (after which the GFS model has been no good, lately.)

Temp Siberia 1121 D gfs_t2m_asia_31

This map shows a victory for Europe, as it shoves the blob-monster east.  However the victory is selfish, and shows they don’t think much of the USA, as a lot of cold pours north over the Pole. However look to the upper left. Some of the cold is curling around the top to the west, and is thinking of sneaking down on Europe from the north.

Various analog years show a pattern where Europe holds winter off for a while, but later in the winter the blob-monster comes oozing west on cruel east winds. I’m wondering if its first attack might be one of these sneak attacks, curling around from the north.