ARCTIC SEA ICE —Hudson Bay’s Slow Thaw—

I focus on Hudson Bay for selfish reasons.  The faster it thaws the better, as far as I’m concerned. As long as it has ice floating around on it there is a chance for some unseasonable cold to come south and spoil my summer, down here in New Hampshire. In fact it happened just last week, when a summer storm swirled up across the great lakes.20150627 rad_ec_640x480Around the backside of that storm came north winds, drawing air down from Hudson Bay, and while the welcome rains began warm and summery, they gradually grew more and more chilly, until we experienced a daylight with temperatures never rising above 53° (12° Celsius) and a driving mist. That doesn’t count as summer, in my book.

Other people look at sea ice for political reasons, and focus on this graph, which shows how swiftly the ice is melting. As you can see, two thirds of the ice melts every year. Almost always all the ice in Hudson Bay melts.DMI2 0704 icecover_current_newIf you are politically aligned with the Global Warming theory, you want the ice to be low, and to beat the lowest green line on the graph. In fact, you need it to, because otherwise your theory is humbug and you have to give all the money you took to combat-Global-Warming-with back to the people you stole taxed it from.

The theory, in case you haven’t heard it, states that white ice at the Pole reflects sunlight and keeps the earth cool, but dark oceans without ice will absorb the sunlight and the earth will heat up, and indeed “get a fever”. If this theory was correct, the low levels of ice in 2012 would have resulted in warmer waters and even less ice in 2013. As you can see, that didn’t happen, nor did it happen in 2014. Rather than conceding their theory is humbug, the Alarmists say, “Just wait until next year!”

So here we are, in July of the next year, and once again the ice is failing to prove the theory. This is getting rather monotonous, but there are still some Alarmists who go “Ah ha! Ah ha!” if the graph ticks down, and cheer wildly if there is a steep fall. It is all much ado about nothing, as far as I’m concerned, as in many cases the ice is going to be gone by September in any case, and then grow back in December, but people seem to regard the graph as a sort of sporting event.

Often I see a major misconception displayed by people who don’t know their ice. They think the north Pole is an icecap, when it is an ocean. It is the Arctic Ocean, and the ice never sits still. In other posts we have followed buoys day by day as they’ve traveled over a thousand miles. One began near the North Pole and wound up on the north Coast of Iceland. One began on the north coast of the Canadian Archipelago, squeezed down into Nares Strait, traveled down the northwest coast of Greenland and then down Baffin Bay and wound up vanishing off the coast of Labrador. O-buoy 9, which we are currently following, began on the Eurasian side of the Pole, crossed near the Pole, and now is scooting along the north coast of Greenland on its way to Fram Strait. Nor is this a new phenomenon. During the Cold War in the 1950’s military bases floated around on “ice islands”,  and in 1893 the arctic explorer Nansen attempted to drift across the Pole in a boat frozen into the ice called the “Fram”.

Hud 5 800px-PSM_V57_D434_Map_showing_the_regions_traversed_by_nansen

Another misconception is that this motion only occurs during the summer, and that things are frozen fast in the winter. Even in the depths of winter the ice is in motion, and areas of open water can appear, many miles across, even when temperatures are -40°. When winds roar off cold tundra, the areas of open water along the shore, formed as the sea-ice is shoved out to sea, are called polynyas, and in places occur with regularity, for example along the shores of the Laptev Sea, or at the top of Baffin Bay. In such places the ice can be quite thin when spring comes, as it has had to reform at the very end of the winter, and it may be swift to melt. In other places, where all the ice has been blown, for example along the coast of the Canadian Archipelago and northern Greenland, the ice can pile up into a towering jumble.

When we look at the ice we see it terms of thickness, and concentration. The map below shows concentration today.Hud 3 arcticicennowcastWhat is notable in the above map is the lack of open water in places where you might expect it on July 4, notably the Laptev Sea, Baffin Bay, and Hudson Bay. I’m focusing on Hudson Bay for the reason I gave earlier.

Hudson Bay started June with less ice than recent years, which made Alarmists happy, but now it has more ice than recent years, which likely has Alarmists glum.

Hud 2  r10_hudson_bay_ts1

It has me glum because, as long as there is ice floating on that bay, it can generate sub-freezing temperatures under clear skies during the short nights. (Pink is below freezing in the map below; ignore the glitch that makes that mess along the left margin). Hud 1 cmc_t2m_arctic_2As soon as Hudson Bay is ice-free, it will stop creating that threat to my north, and my tomato plants will breathe a sigh of relief. In the meantime, I keep an eye on the bay using the Canadian Ice Service map.Hud 4 CMMBCTCA

What is odd to some viewers is that the ice melted in the cold north part of the Bay before it melted in the warm south. This occurred because the wind howled down from the northwest a lot last winter, forming polynyas along the northwest coast, and cramming all the ice down to the southeast. Therefore one can see that not even in an enclosed bay does the ice sit still, in the arctic.

I’ll be watching the ice carefully because on some rare years it fails to melt away completely. That would be a bad start to our winter, as by September the bay is usually warm enough to warm the arctic blasts coming down towards us. If it starts partly frozen and freezes early, we could have January cold waves in December.

So you see, when I watch the ice there is a practical side to it. I’m not trying to make some political point, and not tempted to make things sound more dramatic than they are in order to gain more attention and money.

This brings me to why I prefer the Canadian Ice Service, (within limits.)  Other ways of “seeing” the extent of the ice have some major flaws, and show water as “ice free” when it most definitely isn’t.  A major flaw involves using microwave imagery from space, the problem being a melt-water pool may be seen as open water.

This problem was highlighted in a somewhat humorous way by polar bear researchers who pestered poor bears by drugging them and attaching GPS thingies behind their ears, so they could be tracked. The bears do 67% of their hunting and eating between the time the arctic sun comes up and the time the ice melts away, which in Hudson Bay is between April 1 and July 1, usually. Then they waddle ashore fat and happy, and then do 33% of the rest of their eating in remaining 75% of the year. However, as the bears were tracked, it was noted that they spent a lot of time in areas that some maps showed were “ice-free”. The maps below (From polarbearscience.com ) show the locations of bears last year, with some in “ice-free” waters.Hud 6 hudson-bay-breakup-2014-pb-tracking_30-june-vs-8-july_pbi

This put the scientists in an embarrassing situation. While bears can swim over 700 miles if they have to, they don’t do so for sport, and therefore had to be moving from berg to berg hunting seals in waters the maps showed were ice-free.  Scientists blushed, as they had gained funds by stressing how stressed the bears were by ice-free waters, that made it impossible for them to hunt. Now the scientists were the stressed ones, because the bears were hunting where scientists said they couldn’t. Obviously the bears needed to go back to school. What is funny is how slow the scientists have been to mention this discovery to the people funding them. (I suppose some discoveries are not entirely welcome; who is going to fund the endangered polar bears if you discover they are fat and happy and not endangered?) (Of course, the discovery of hidden ice up there may endanger my tomatoes. Will no one fund those scientists for the sake of my endangered tomatoes? Please do, or we may have endangered scientists.)

As for me, I’m glad I only do this as a hobby, and as a way of making a guess if next winter will start out cold or not.

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LOCAL VIEW –Frost and Fire Warnings–

A secondary cold front slid past today, and temperatures fell despite the bright sun. The wind was gusty and very dry. Despite some talk of big thunderstorms yesterday, the primary front passed without much ruckus, and in all we only got a tenth of an inch of rain. That barely made any puddles, and dried up with somewhat amazing speed. The swift evaporation created a shallow overcast of flat, purple cumulus, and robbed us of our warming sun. As I shuddered in the garden I figured I’d best zip home and see if we are in for a frost.

The map’s isobars seem to show a flow straight down from Hudson bay.

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Hudson Bay is still nearly entirely ice-covered.

Hudson Bay May 20 CMMBCTCA

The most recent storm even laid down a swath of snow-cover across Ontario. Most of the smaller lakes are still frozen up there, and there is even a bit of ice left in the easternmost part of Lake Superior, though it is nearly June. No warmth is in winds from up there.

May 20 ims2015139_usa

Usually the fact the foliage is out does something that prevents frost. The leaves exude moisture when the winds die, or some such thing. So usually I’d ignore the GFS-based NWS forecast, which has a frost warning. They tend to be too cold. However it is so bone dry that I’m nervous. The thirsty trees may have less ability to resist frost than usual.

The air temperatures are still up in the mid 50’s, (12.8° Celsius) but the dew point is down to 36°, which reduces the relative humidity to around 30% . That is so dry my skin feels sort of chapped by the wind. New Hampshire has a class three fire danger, which is high. The very afternoon you might like a fire to warm by you’d be a Tom Fool to start one, because the wind could whip across the field into the neighbors yew bushes, and I don’t think they’d like that.

I’m not going to take any chances. I have piles of grass clippings in the garden, from mowing the lawn, and I think I’ll bury my tomato plants in the dry grass, just to be on the safe side. I’d complain about the extra work, but it’s my own fault for trying to get away with putting tomatoes in early. The old-timers are laughing at me from the clouds they sit on, as they never trusted New Hampshire springs, and never bothered much with their gardens until May 31.

Its odd to hear fire dangers and freeze dangers in the same forecast. The only good news is that over at the Weatherbell Site Joseph D’Aleo sees signs the pattern will get wetter next week.  I don’t see a sign of it yet, but here’s to hoping.