LOCAL VIEW –Beech Buds–

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There’s a mist up in the maples;
There’s a hueing of the trees.
Let the farmer plant his staples;
Let the banker seek his ease.
Neither way will truly please.

I’m made hobo by the woodlands.
I’m made cross-eyed by the trees.
Schoolboys don’t have to be good. Man’s
Made rules ban ecstasies,
And his goals are but a tease.

In the treetops there’s no fading
Above glades that know no shading.
Farmers sweat, as bankers promise.

Schoolboy’s are the Doubting Thomas.

Last week we had but a single glory day, with skies as blue as promises, before the dreary and cold weather clamped back down. This is typical of the hills of New Hampshire. During my boyhood among the flatlanders of Massachusetts I came to expect spring to bust out in April, but I’ve learned not to expect it before May, this far north. We live right at the boundary of a sort of change in climate zones. Here is where Indians stopped attempting to grow corn, and became hunters.

Rather than April being a month where spring busts out, it tends to be a torture. Trees aren’t stupid, and they look both ways before crossing over into summer. The maples start to be hazed by their buds in early April, but they only tantalize, for what seems like forever. A sort of mist rides the tips of twigs, golden green over sugar maples and raspberry over swamp maples, and I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty…….about 5% of the time. The rest of the time it seems like way too much foreplay.

This is especially true when April holds long spells of dank weather, which is often the case. Snow can mix in with the rain right into May on the most torturous years. A sort of war goes on between the powers of rebirth and the powers of rot. (If you plant corn, beans or squash too early, that is exactly what their seeds do: rot.)

To really rub it in, last week the children asked me questions, and I had no answers. Rather than seeing this as an opportunity to teach how life never gets old, and is always full of new things, I just felt I was failing to live up to my reputation for being amazingly knowledgeable. Rot even was effecting my brain. For example, a child asked me, “What animal is this from?”

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(Oh the irony! Here it is April, and rather than the fresh and new, I am consulted about an old bone. ) I had to confess I didn’t know. My guess was it was an old pig bone, and then, to hide my ignorance, I pointed out the gnawing marks left by deer mice, and also disseminated a bit about scientists who know their bones.

The next question was about foam coming from the side of a tree.

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 Again I had to confess I had no clue. I had noticed it before, but never had come across an explanation in my reading. So I made a guess. I had wondered, when I saw it before, if it was rising sap fermenting in the tunnel made by some sort of wood-boring beetle. Sounds good, at any rate. But then curiosity killed the cat. I googled “foam on trees”, and discovered it was “slime flux”, and caused by bacteria. So then, on top of admitting I didn’t know, I had to admit my wild guess scientific hypothesis was wrong, which no thinker enjoys doing.

Not the best day. Rather than the fresh and new, I get brought bones and bacteria, and get my fat ego humbled to boot.

In such situations I find it best to retreat from my position as an authority figure, and to just do my job, which is to watch the kids. Call it licking-my-wounds if you will, but it is what I do when it is not the best day.

When I am sulking in this manner I like to turn to old,reliable ways of cheering myself up, for example noticing the beauty of red maple blossoms.

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This is what mists the treetops raspberry.  They are so small few notice them.

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They also make an interesting nibble, though I prefer the golden-green blooms of the sugar maple, but they weren’t out yet. Then I got a craving for beech buds, and sauntered over to a low hanging branch, and noticed something interesting. The buds were especially plump.

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When I unwrapped the fat bud I discovered it was fatter than usual because rather than leaves it held a flower.

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This is likely just another sign of rot. Our beech trees are stressed by a virus from Eurasia. When a tree is stressed, it makes nuts like crazy, attempting to reproduce before it dies. And now our beech trees are going the way of the American elm, chestnut, and butternut. Thank you very much, Internationalists. Our squirrels will starve. But we will have our revenge. An exploding population of American gray squirrels is running roughshod over the landscapes of Eurasia. (And it serves them right.)

As I contemplated this situation in my grumpy manner I absentmindedly nibbled the beech bud,  and was surprised how good it was. The flowers sweeten the flavor. Then I remembered my job. I was suppose to be watching the kids, and they had become suspiciously quiet.

When I turned I saw I was a teacher, after all. I saw a line of quiet children strung out behind me like ducklings, or perhaps like small monkeys behind a daddy gorilla. They were all nibbling beech buds.

I figured that, if I’m stuck with the job, I’d better do it right, so I taught them, “You don’t want to eat too many of those things, or it will make your tongue feel all hairy.”

(Yet another little-known-fact from my vast store of wisdom.)

[Photo credits for “old bone” and “foaming tree” pictures go to Marlowe Gautreau.]

LOCAL VIEW –Refrigerated Blooms–

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Winter weary, wanting spring to slow down,
I don’t half mind refrigerated blooms,
As if some florist had snuck into town
And wanted no wilting by rain-wet tombs,
No fading of flowers by flag stoned graves.

Who am I kidding? The spring never stays
And there is no cold that completely saves
Yellow daffodils under sky’s many grays.

How can I hope when my hopes always wilt?
The glass is half full, but the half-glass’s spilt.
Rust never sleeps as dream-towers are built.
I stand before God; my achievement is guilt.

God alone lasts; it grows clearer and clearer
As wilting looks back at me from my mirror.

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ARCTIC SEA ICE –Barneo Bear Incident–(Updated)


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It sadly seems that the Russians are incapable of getting through a of year running a tourist trap at the North Pole without doing something that causes the heads of the politically correct to explode. Of course, the politically correct are very touchy  sensitive, and I myself have been known to pass through polite circles leaving accidental craters in my wake. But the Russians can’t seem to avoid offending elitist whack jobs nature-lovers.

Two years ago it was a crashed jet that besmirched the pristine snow.


Last year they offended the Norwegians by having soldiers march about, and the Norwegians offended the Russians by instituting a three-day-wait for tourists going to Barneo, so bags and backgrounds could be checked.


Sadly I think tourists may have been turned off by how badly they were treated last year. Norway may have killed the goose that laid the golden egg, by being so politically correct, for Svalbard stood to make a nice chunk of change from North-Pole-tourism. Or perhaps the elite are nervous about their wealth, with Hillary losing, and are less willing to pay $30,000 for a five day junket to the North Pole. In any case, there seem to be far fewer tourists this year.

Not that I pay any attention to all the fun they are having. Nope, not me. I am utterly focused on the sea-ice in the background, and I’m not at all jealous. Nope, not me. Disinterest is my middle name.

In any case, this year everything has gone like clockwork, but as they collect snow to melt for water, who is the water for?

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However it was with great dismay I then noticed they were already disassembling the tourist lodges, two weeks early.

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However there was hope for the future. The lack of customers might be explained by the failure of Norway and Russia to iron out their differences until the last minute. Also the wonderful efficiency of the crew might be seen as practice, and as a dry run for next year.  What’s more, commitment to landing on the sea-ice might be seen in the fact a small passenger airplane called the L-410, (originally developed in the late 1960’s), was resurrected and production has started again, and one landed at Barneo.

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A few skiers did show up, and found beautiful weather and conditions that appear far better than last year’s. (I love the pictures they post, which allow me to study the sea-ice.)

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Right at this point, when it seemed the Russians might get through a year without offending anyone, a 1500 pound bear walked up to introduce itself to a 140 pound woman, and the woman was politically incorrect, whipping out a gun and blasting the bear.  There may have been a desire to hush up the incident, but it later made the Barneo Facebook page. Here is a translation:

“Our season rarely follows a rigid schedule: one day we’re relocating the camp because of a crack, another day we’re trying to deliver spare parts from Moscow for broken tractors, and so on. We did this season without such kind of a cataclysm, but… An incident has occurred, a sticky one, and – most importantly – a dangerous kind of event.

I already used to tell about bears who terrorize skiers on the route: invaders are walking within 50 meters from the group, men put them off with rocket launcher, and they get back after a while. Each group leader has a rifle for that case.

So, a few days ago it happened that one skier fired a pistol at a bear. She had a Magnum, a combat weapon. I’m not a gun expert but I know this unit has a huge penetrating power. The bear was wounded and then disappeared. It’s hard to say how appropriate it was for the purpose of self-defense; it really may be do-or-die situation. But. The group leader Dirk Dansercoer did not informed the chief expedition leader at the Barneo Station about the incident. He did not informed the person responsible for safety of all of us. It means that people who wounded a dangerous creature concealed the fact that all groups following the same course are in danger from now on. It’s hard to predict how a wounded bear behave.

As soon as we started to get troubling messages that one of the groups is followed by a bear leaving footsteps of blood, we explored from Dirk Dansercoer (who already was at Longyearbyen) the details of the incident. Today all the groups are aware of that danger, they have established a day-and-night duty. And we scheduled a hotwash for all of the guides to elaborate rules for that sort of incidents.”

I can’t really blame a woman for defending herself, but I just know the Russians will catch hell for this. (Groan)

Not that I care. Disinterestedness is my middle name. What is it to me if a lady has a bear for dinner, or vice-versa? All I care about is sea-ice, right?

The ice Barneo is sitting on has slowed its drift in the kind weather, though the temperatures are slowly dropping, from -15°C on April 16 to -24°C on April 18 (which demonstrates the Arctic continues to lose heat under clear skies, despite 24-hour-a-day sunshine. The sun is simply still too low. Any warming is still imported from the south. But the imported air chills more slowly now.)

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There is more to this than meets the eye. From yesterday’s Barneo Facebook page:

In the matter of yesterday’s message about the bear incident: as we just learned, the case is more complicated than it appears to be. Mr. Dansercoer misinformed us. Now the incident is exploring by Norwegian Police; as far as we know, they have a footage and witness testimony. We’ll inform our readers as soon as we get exact knowledge.

But then I suppose the lawyers got involved. From today’s page:

Victor Boyarsky, a member of the International Polar Guides Association, has just informed us that the Bear Shooting Case study is scheduled soon after completion of the Barneo season. They will make a decision after consultations with all the people involved. Until that moment we won’t make any comments on the matter.

What interests me most is the mention of “footage.” Now, that would be an interesting bit of film to see. I hope it appears on You Tube. But I suppose the reputation of an arctic guide is at stake, so we should be patient. I do know one thing: Those bears could care less about our rules and regulations.

In other news, a new lead (crack in ice with, initially, open water exposed), apparently has made one end of the runway unusable, so they extended the other end. I can’t find any pictures of it yet, nor a description of how wide it is, but here is a nice picture of a “pressure ridge” (what happens when the two sides of a “lead” slam closed):

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ARCTIC SEA ICE –Beaufort Buildup Bedlam–

Way back in the year 1247 some goodhearted monks created a place for deeply troubled individuals called “Hospital of Saint Mary of Bethlehem”. Over the years the local folk shortened the name of the place to various versions of the word “Bethleham”, and finally wound up with the word “Bedlam.”

I have decided we need a similar place for people deeply troubled by sea-ice. After all, sea-ice is a sort of Rorschach test. Look at this and pretend it is sea-ice, and tell me what you see.

Rorschach test InkblotTest

If you see “the end of human existence as we know it”, there are various Bedlams I can suggest you be committed to. If course, you do not want to go into an asylum run by a madman, and therefore I suggest you avoid sites run by people who enjoy  dressing up in Nazi uniforms.

Skeptical Science Nazi Herr Cook

It is better to commit yourself to a Bedlam run by a compassionate monk, and the best Bedlam I have found is “The Sea Ice Forum”, run by the good monk Brother Neven.

Mind you, just as the original Bedlam back in 1247 was stilted towards Catholic ideas, you need to expect a modern Bedlam to be stilted towards the modern religion of Global Warmingism. Just as, concerning a subject we don’t scientifically know about, such as life-after-death, a Catholic will speak with great authority, so too will an Alarmist speak with authority about sea-ice before the satellite era, though we truly know next to nothing about it.

The little evidence we have needs to be ignored by certain inhabitants of Bedlam, in order to continue to see “the end of human existence as we know it”. What is kept behind blinders are geological studies of shorelines, certain core studies of the sea-bottom, and, most interesting to me, the places where whalers and explorers found open water. For example, the doomed Franklin expedition found open water one year (1845) and not the following two years.

Franklin Map Franklin's-Lost-Expedition

To me it seems a certain suspension of cynicism must be involved, to believe the situation at the Pole is dramatically different this year (as some Alarmists believe it is).  It is sort of like, when you read “Lord of the Rings”, you suspend your doubt that trees can walk around and talk to you. Such belief may be fine in a fantasy, but it is not so good when it involves spending billions of tax dollars. Yet somehow I can’t seem to penetrate an Alarmist resistance to seeing there may have been times of open water in the Arctic Sea in the past. Even photographic evidence fails to get behind the blinders. I can show them that even in the spring, when sea-ice is thick and only starting to fall from its maximum, submarines apparently found open water at the Pole on March 17, 1959

Sub at Pole 1959 download

And on May 18, 1987.

Sub at Pole 1987 3-subs-north-pole-1987

And yet this year we have jets landing up there on April 16, 2017.

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Of course, when I speak about such things I really do come across as a wet blanket and something of a party-poop. If you are going to participate in Bedlam you are suppose to get hugely exited about every little crack in the ice, as if it a “sign.”  You say, “It’s a sign” and make your eyes very round, and nod. That is the way to gain acceptance.  Also you can gain a lot of status if you monkey around with data and make a graph (unless you are a party-poop and point out the data is upside down, as Michael Mann’s graph was.).

Therefore, when you visit Bedlam, my recommendation is that you keep your lips buttoned. Be a so-called “lurker”.  It is well worth the visit to a good site, partly because ( I confess) there is something fascinating about weirdos,  and no one can see you are gawking, when you silently lurk.

One thing that is fascinating is how they constantly stroke each other for reassurance. It is downright touching. (Pun). However keep your tongue firmly planted in your cheek when they pull out their graphs. The graphs will always draw a line showing how much sea-ice there was in the past, as if they knew. In fact it is what they believe, and they arrive at their belief  via dubious means. I tend to roll my eyes when presented with a graph like this:

Extent Polyak et al 2010 fig2a

The problem I have with such graphs is that, before the satellite era, there is only airplane data, and, before the airplane era, there is only data from the edges. The Nimbus 5 satellite only began collecting pictures in 1972, and the Nimbus 2 pictures only reach to 1966. Long distance aircraft were not developed until World War 2, and had little reason to fly over the Pole at first. A few zeppelin flights explored the arctic, (for example the Norge in 1926 and the Italia crash in 1928), but they had no idea our bedlam would require specific details about the exact area of open water versus solid ice. Before that we have only scattered reports from brave and sometimes doomed men. For example, from the diaries of the failed Arctic Balloon expedition of 1897 we know the sea-ice north of Svalbard was not solid,  “Andrée called it ‘dreadful terrain’, with channels separating the ice floes, high ridges, and partially iced-over ice-ponds”.

Andre 1897 image

Nor did Nansen, traveling over the ice in 1895, neglect to bring along the kayaks that in the end saved his life. Considering we have so little data, and the data we do have does show that the ice had leads of open water, all calculations which assume the Arctic Sea was shore-to-shore ice are highly suspect. If we instead estimate and subtracted the unseen areas of open summer-water from the total extent, (as we now do), the extent of some years would obviously be lower.

(The belief the Pole was sheeted with solid ice before 1979 is a belief that is ironically diametrically opposite to a prior incorrect belief from the early 1800’s, which suggested that the center of the Arctic Sea was open water.)

But zip your lip about all such uncertainty, in Bedlam. If you yap you will only spoil their awe over standing, in real time, this very moment, as wonder-struck witnesses to “the end of human existence as we know it”.

And actually the inhabitants of Bedlam are quite good, when it comes to noticing the smallest patch of open water, now. This keenness of eyesight makes them useful, even if what they conclude may be the wildest of speculations.

For example, high pressure can stall over the Beaufort Sea, in which case it is called the Beaufort High, and if it is properly located it will create polynyas of open water called the West Beaufort  and Bathurst polynyas. If you spot this happening now you are welcome in Bedlam, but if you point out it happened in 1975….not so much.

Beaufort Polynyas poly-3-bathurst-and-w-beaufort-polynyas_1975-vs-2015_polarbearscience

However, if, rather than the Beaufort High, a low pressure called “Ralph” stalls, then rather than a clockwise gyre you get a counter-clockwise eryg, as I described here:


And the result will be that, rather than the ice being pushed away to form a polynya by the shore, the ice will reverse and be piled up against the shore. This will create a very different deployment of sea ice, as can be seen by comparing the ice of late March in 2016 (left) with 2017 (right):

It does not make people in Bedlam happy when ice is crunched up against the coast like that, but they have seemingly inexhaustible hope. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there was a chance the eryg was turning back into a gyre, and indeed a Beaufort High has formed and the ice has moved away from the shore. It is nothing like last year, but gives cause for bedlam in Bedlam. (One funny thing is that some begin their observations with, “Ugh Oh!”  Actually they are celebrating the fact they have a sign of imminent doom, but it would be danged improper to go “Whoopie” about “the end of human existence as we know it”.) In any case, they save some wonderful satellite shots of the polynyas starting to form, which is a very real reason to visit the Sea Ice Forum site. The image below was offered by Brother Neven himself:

Bering Strait is to the upper left. Notice that the West Beaufort Polynya forming up there is larger than the Bathurst Polynya, to the lower left, and the Bathurst Polynya is nowhere close to the size of last year’s.

Hopefully below you will see some lovely satellite views of the West Beaufort Polynya forming, submitted to the forum by the blogger “JayW”. Superb submission! This is why it is so worth visiting the Sea Ice Forum. (Bering Strait is at the bottom.)

The question that arises in my mind is, “Is this open water evident from shore?” So I turn to the Barrow webcam, looking north from a place higher than men could stand, back in the old days.

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And the answer is a simple “No”. The only movement that can be seen out to sea is the movement of shadows as the sun swings around in the arctic sky. (Temperature is -2° [-16°C])

My next question is, “When they say the ice was wall-to-wall in a long-ago-year, such as 1912, are they merely guessing? Are they assuming because it was stuck fast to the shore in Alaska that it extended as a solid sheet clear across to Russia? How do they know what was occurring out of view?”

The humble answer is, “They, and we, don’t know”. Graphs that use proxies are largely guess-work, and are at risk when the grafters are more liable to get grants if their guess-work is in a certain direction. However the graphs are gospel in Bedlam.

Me? Oh, you know me. I’m as gentle as a lamb and never raise a ruckus, and only confide my private views in the confines of this obscure blog, and even then I’m astonishingly spiritual and modest, if you want my opinion. I just sit back and watch, and, if I chuckle, well, sometimes you just can’t help it.

Below are the sequence of recent DMI maps. They basically show the Beaufort High forming and stalling. It is interesting to see that the high fails to really develop the southeast gales last year’s did, and is displaced to the west more, so that the region where the Bathurst Polynya might be expected to form may even get north winds, bringing the ice back in to shore. This would be bad news for those hoping the entrance to the Northwest Passage clears out.

The temperature maps are interesting for they, at first, show cold builds at the Pole even though the sun never sets. The sun is simply still too low to warm the arctic, and the arctic continues to lose more heat than it receives. Later the temperature maps show the Pole warming, but this seems to be because the stalled Beaufort High is bringing a steady flow of Pacific air north through Bering Strait.

If possible I’ll update later. If not,  I’ll make up a good excuse.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Jets at Barneo Halted by Storm–

The video below was taken by a drone flying above last year’s Barneo base, and at the start shows the sort of pressure ridges they were dealing with, which forced them to move the entire base in the midst of their operations.

This year the ice seems smoother, and so is the operation of the base.  They have drifted south past 89°N latitude, which will be handy for the cross-country skiiers headed up there to ski “the final degree”.

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You can see the direction-of-drift shifted from to the southeast to the southwest, and the rate-of-drift increased. This was due to an influx of air all the way from the Pacific that raised temperatures some twenty degrees to -15°C.  You can see the skies, which had been a vibrant blue, turning gray in this video taken by a woman walking about the camp.

Here is the layout of the camp seen from above.

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Flights had to be canceled for a day as the “milder” air generated a snowstorm, with temperatures at -17°C

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But it is not entirely uncomfortable to sit around indoors.

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And soon the skies cleared and the jets could bring more people north.

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Including a rock band, conducting a “Top of the World” tour.


In conclusion, the idea that “The Polar Icecap has melted away” is not true quite yet.

NOTE: Yesterday the Barneo base reported from 88º56’N, 018º15’E, but back on April 10 it was at 89º11’N, 033º10’E.  I noticed a second Army Mass Balance buoy (2017B) has been deployed, and was reporting from 89.19° N, 30.07° E on April 12. It seems likely it was deployed from Barneo, as the coordinates match so well.  Obviously Russians and Americans can get along, in the wild world of sea-ice. Can cats and dogs be far behind?

They placed this buoy on ice roughly five feet thick. It hasn’t reported since April 12, but it did graph the temperature rise as greatly moderated Pacific air moved in.

2017B Temp 20170412 2017B_temp

LOCAL VIEW –Snow Goes–


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We’ve had one of those spells of summer that sneak backwards into spring, just as some winter can creep forward, and make April a crazy month which makes us all behave like bipolar fools. It was 77° on Monday and 83° on Tuesday. (25° and 28° Celsius).

The initial result was two-fold. First it created mud, and can you see the second result in this picture?

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What you should notice is a total lack of fighting.  A fit of springtime-ambitiousness so overwhelmed the boys they became too busy to brawl.  I was amazed, especially as it lasted two solid hours.

After the children went home I took a walk out to the flood-control reservoir with my wife, granddaughter and dog to watch the sunset. There was not a breath of wind, and I expected the water to be like a mirror. It seemed a perfect time to think about peace and serenity, but wouldn’t you know it? Three pairs of Canada geese were scoping out a pond which likely is only big enough for two pairs, and they were constantly chasing each other, honking like a rush hour, taking off and landing or running atop the water, and the surface was never like a mirror, even when they took a break between battles.

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As if to highlight the lack of peace, a beaver surfaced, saw my dog, and Ker-whack! It slapped its flat tail on the water, (which is their alarm-call for other beavers).

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Don’t ask me to make sense of spring. Boys will work like beavers and be peaceful, as vegetarian geese and beavers are anything but. Sometimes it is wiser to just sit back and be a witness.

You raise my eyes from chain-gang shackles
To castles in clouds, but then I descend
And my chains remain. A witch’s cackles
Reminds me my dreaming wakes in the end.

You melt snows with the wild hope of spring
And again I am dreaming, planting seeds,
But again I descend with molted wing
Like Icarus, as my garden grows weeds.

Again You come, and hope ends one more night
But this time I’m not going to pursue
Some distant dream, for I’ve now seen the light
And understand that it’s coming from You.

Why should you seek a far distant star
When the light is shining right where you are?

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ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Nares Connection–

It is hard to get properly hysterical about the sea-ice extent, for although the extent is low it really is unworthy of the headlines it gets in some papers. The extent this time of year is largely dependent on sea-ice out at the periphery of the arctic, outside of the Arctic Sea. In terms of the melt in towards the core of the arctic, what matters does not show in the extent graph.

What will matter next September is the current temperature of the water under the ice, and the location of currents, and where the ice is moved and how thick it has become.  The extent graph does not differentiate between ice an inch thick and uncovered by snow, which will melt swiftly, and thick ice buried deeply in drifts, which takes longest.

An example of how little extent matters is to look at the year 2006, which had a spring maximum as low as recent years, but progressed to a far higher minimum:

Extent comparison April 7 Attachment-1

In light of this reality, it is far more meaningful to look at the specifics of the sea-ice situation. It is also far more fun, and allows a greater sense of wonder, for the sea-ice is always up to something, and is full of surprises.

Many people, myself included, entered the study of sea-ice with the preconception that the Arctic Ocean was a rigid field of ice, permanently in place, but now starting to erode at the edges due to warming, which might or might not be due to CO2. In actual fact the ice has always been highly mobile, which is a fact that was understood by even the early explorers.

For example, in 1881 the American ship Jeannette was crushed off the coast of Siberia off the Lena Delta, and in 1884 its wreckage was found off the southern tip of Greenland.  This evidence was part of the reason Nansen undertook his amazing adventure in the Fram. His plan was to get intentionally stuck in the ice, and then drift with the ice across the Pole. (When the ice did not drift in the correct direction, he attempted to make it to the Pole by sledge and kayak, leaving the ship behind.) His mind-boggling adventures are both inspiring, and also a treasure trove of information about sea-ice, and I highly recommend spending free time pouring through his notes and records:


Fram 1 p603

For old fossils like myself, there is something very gratifying about seeing a picture of old fellows with white beards up there, but probably they had brown beards, and the hair was just frosted by their breath in the extreme cold. The fact of the matter is that fellows my age are doomed to do most of our exploring from an armchair. While doing this I have found that the people who actually journey up there are far more liable to speak the truth than people who don’t have to deal with life-threatening conditions. This is not to say that the explorers don’t know which side their bead is buttered on, and are not capable of spouting all the politically correct balderdash you could ever desire, but if you overlook these episodes in the manner you’d overlook the fits of a handicapped person, you can learn a lot about actual conditions. The better reports come, of course, from back before Global Warming became the way to pick up chicks, and it is well worthwhile to seek out the records of old whaling ships, as well as the official explorers.

You never know where fascinating stuff will turn up. It was while looking into what stamp-collectors know about arctic post-offices that I stumbled across a collector who was interested in mail postmarked “Fetcher’s Ice Island”,  (also called “T-3” and “Drift Station Bravo.”) This large chunk of a glacier likely calved off the northern side of Ellesmere Island after the warm-period of the 1930’s and 1940’s, and then became trapped in the thicker sea-ice of the 1950’s,  1960’s, and early 1970’s, describing circles in the Beaufort Gyre.  One report states it was seven miles long when discovered and 50 feet higher than the surrounding pack ice, (which would mean it extended downwards 450 feet), however I have read other reports that stated it was only 10 feet above the surrounding ice (which would mean it extended down only 90 feet.) In any case, it was big enough for an airport and was first inhabited in 1952, last visited in 1979, and apparently drifted down into the Atlantic and melted in 1983, (dropping, among other things,  the remains of a crashed C-47 to the briny depths.)

Alarmists like to focus on Fletcher’s Ice Island because they suggest it shows there used to be bigger icebergs in the Arctic Sea, while Skeptics suggest it shows big bergs were calving off Ellesmere Island before Global Warming supposedly started. All I am certain of is that it demonstrates how mobile the sea-ice is.

The stamp-collector had no pictures of anything but envelopes with post-marks on them (called “covers”)  in his description of the big ice-island, but at the end of his post he mentions the AIDJEX project of the early 1970’s, and includes two great pictures, one from March 1975 (or perhaps early April) when the ice was thick, and a second from when the ice broke up in September and the base had to be moved sixty miles.

1975 Hercules March Delivery reduced

1975 ice breakup MainCamp I have found it handy to have pictures of ice breaking up in 1975, when dealing with people freaking about ice breaking up in 2016. (Although it is true that was near the peak of the last cooler-time, and ice was thicker on a whole, I think.) But it just goes to show you, stamp collecting isn’t as dull as it first appears:


Another unusual source is a magazine about canoeing and kayaking. You might think a kayak is an arctic invention, but most people steer clear of ice-water, and are prone to writing articles about paddling in nice warm places like the Amazon. However I chanced upon a wealthy young trio who planned a jaunt around Elsesmere Island in 2010, and, besides rattling off the usual politically correct stuff, they needed to keep some facts in mind, and produced this wonderful mine of data while planning their route. Ellesmere kayak ellesmere-island-map-lg Obviously these fellows wanted to be aware of icebergs, as bergs can melt below the waterline and, becoming top-heavy, abruptly overturn, and when this happens they can make large waves no person in a small boat wants to deal with.

Berg 1 P1010383b

The young adventurers could be as inaccurate as they wanted, regarding history, (for example, the young man dubbed “Turk” said, “One interesting point is that the Ward Hunt Ice-shelf [on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere] broke up in 2010 for the first time in 35 million years,” when the debate actually was whether the calved ice dated from 5000 years ago, or the Little Ice Age 500 years ago,) but they wanted accuracy, and insisted upon accuracy, when it came to meeting bergs face to face, in the present tense.

Therefore they were aware of the current of water rushing south from the Arctic Sea through Nare’s Strait,  which separates Greenland from Ellesmere Island. They were also aware that besides more ordinary sea-ice, there would be the far larger bergs that calve off Greenland’s enormous Petermann and Humboldt Glaciers. (In the early-summer satellite view below, Petermann Glacier slants up from the lower right, and Humboldt Glacier is at the bottom right.)

Nares Strait EllesmereIsland

I was made aware of how active the sea-ice is in Nares Strait in 2013 while watching the Army collection of Mass Balance buoys. Bouy 2013C was basically a static weather station, sitting on an 15-foot-thick ice-shelf on the northeast corner of Ellesmere Island, when in July it abruptly broke free. At first it entered Nare Strait in a lazy manner, but then it suddenly took off and headed south at a speed that amazed me. After then hesitating a while, as if it was thinking of entering Parry Sound and attempting the Northwest Passage east-to-west, it again took off to the south along the coast of Baffin Island, before the berg it was on broke up in January as it approached Labrador.


I was initially taken aback, as I assumed that far north, where winds are especially cold, the sea-ice would be thickest, but, as I continued to observe, I understood there is nearly always a flow of ice south, containing a lot of sea-ice and also scattered big glacial bergs, of the sort that sank the Titanic.

When the ferry “Highlander” was halted for half a day up by Cape Breton last week, it was sea-ice alone that was involved. (North winds brought all the scattered ice together as a single mass along the shore.)

Ferry Trapped mv-highlanders

It is further north, off the northeast coast of Labrador, that the big bergs enter the mix. They come every year, and, while dangerous, they are so strikingly beautiful that tourists come from far and wide to see them.

Berg 2 Humpback_and_iceberg_Labrador_Sea

Canadians do a good job of tracking all the larger bergs, and alerting ships to the southeast.

Berg 3 iceberg1.jpg.size.custom.crop.880x650

Some of the bergs are enormous, and rival Fletcher’s Ice Island. Some passing the coast last spring were 5 km long.

Berg 5 iceberg.jpg.size.custom.crop.731x650

This is just life as usual for the people living up there.

Berg 4 iceberg2.jpg.size.custom.crop.650x650

However some Alarmists tend to see the bergs as a sign the Greenland ice cap is breaking up. This is especially prevalent this year, as the Canadian’s in charge of watching the bergs report they are arriving earlier and are more numerous.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my decade of experience,” said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Gabrielle McGrath, commander of the USCG’s International Ice Patrol, in a recent interview. McGrath says that recent storms have led to a larger and earlier spring breakup: IIP’s satellite observations recently identified 455 icebergs in one week, five times the average in years past. 



To me this seems a switch in Alarmist worry.  They used to like to take a picture of a lone big berg, far away from the smaller sea-ice, and speak mournfully of how the ice was melting…melting…melting…

Berg 6 Website-8

This year I suspect we will be shown pictures of crowds of bergs and be told Greenland is melting…melting…melting…

But the problem is that, if an especially large amount of ice was being lost, I would expect a dip in the mass-balance graph. Instead the amazing snows over southeast Greenland have increased the mass-balance to levels not before seen this early in the season.

Greenland Mass Balance 20170407 accumulatedsmb

To me this suggests that rather than seeing extra ice, we are seeing the same amount of ice hurried south earlier in the season, for the pattern that brought south winds and snow to the southeast of Greenland accelerated the Nare’s Connection, with increased north winds on the west side of Greenland.

Sometimes a sort of plug or clot of sea-ice forms at the top of Nares Strait during the winter, and ice stops entering at the top. This leads to a polynya forming at the bottom of the strait, as ice continues to be exported south without ice from the north arriving to replace it. This year we can see a dimple in the 15-foot-ice either side of the top entrance, as ice continues to be sucked through. The stream of ice can be seen continuing into Baffin Bay to the south.

Nares Con 1 IMG_4634

This stream of ice continues south, trending towards the west coast of the bay…

Nares Con 2 IMG_4635

Eventually the sea-ice crashes into the northeast coast of Labrador

Nares Con 3 IMG_4636

(Notice the scattered ice in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is all blown down to Nova Scotia’s north coast by the north winds, which led to the ferry being trapped for a while.)

So there you have it, the tale of the Nares Connection. It is one of the major exports of arctic sea-ice, though often unnoticed. It also is an example of how very mobile sea-ice is. It is far from the static stuff some envision.

Hopefully I’ll find time to post about the shenanigans the sea-ice has been pulling off along the coast of Russia. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the world of sea-ice, but you have to look for it.

In the more ordinary world of waiting for the yearly melt, this is a boring time. Winds did shift east for a bit at Barrow, creating the chance a polynya might form by the coast, but winds have shifted back around to the north, which will keep the ice stuck fast. The wind is at 16 mph and the temperature is 2° (-16°C).

Barrow 20170407 18_17_34_175_ABCam_20170409_021400

Up in Parry Sound O-buoy 14 did see temperatures rise under cloud-cover to -10°C, before they fell all the way back to -30°C under clear skies. The sun isn’t high enough to truly warm, but we are starting to see an effect at noon, and diurnal variation appearing in the temperature graph.

Obuoy 14 0407 temperature-1week.png

Obuoy 14 0407 webcam

Only one Army Mass Balance buoy has been placed this year. Buoy 2017A is located on ice about three feet thick up in the Beaufort Sea at 72.90° N, 147.10° W, and is reporting temperatures at -25.88° C.  The ice there is growing thicker.

If you want to lose several hours, there is an archive of past Army Mass Balance Buoys, including one back in 1993, that you can pour through here:


If that doesn’t convince you sea-ice isn’t static stuff, I give up.