ARCTIC SEA ICE –Awaiting The Break-up–

One aspect of watching ice melt is that one becomes aware of misconceptions we all have, and which the media should end but doesn’t.  For example, people tend to think certain parts of North America are arctic, when they are not. All one needs to do is trace lines of latitude from North America around to Europe, and one gets their eyebrows lifted. The southern tip of Greenland is at the latitude of Stockholm, Sweden; and the southern end of Hudson Bay is at the latitude of  Hamburg, Germany.

If course it spoils the thrill of sensationalism if you mention, showing water pour off a glacier in Greenland, that it is as far south as Stockholm. The public then would compare a picture of flowers blooming in a Swedish summer park with the craggy coast of Greenland, and it would seem less surprising that ice melts at the edge of Greenland’s icecap.

In like manner, when writing about how swiftly the ice breaks up in Hudson Bay, it spoils the element of Alarmism if you mention it is as far south as northern Germany. Rather than the melt seeming surprising it would seem surprising that ice remains in July, for people would think how surprising it would be if there was ice on the sea-coast of Germany in July.

The fact of the matter is that it thaws right up to the North Pole in July, and temperatures can be above freezing and still below normal.

DMI4 0712 meanT_2017

Once you become aware that thaw is the norm up there in July, what becomes more interesting are the places that dip below freezing. It is quite common, for temperatures only need be three degrees below normal, and the rain changes to snow.

One thing I miss very much is the cameras we used to have drifting around up there. As recently as 2014 2015 we had seven views, and could witness fresh falls of snow and brief refreezes of the melt-water pools.  These were especially interesting because the satellites tended to miss these events, perhaps because they occurred at the wrong time of day, perhaps because they happened in a very small area, perhaps because refreezes involved a very thin layer of air right at the surface, or perhaps for some other reason. In any case, they stopped funding the cameras. (Let us hope the de-funding was not because certain people didn’t approve that the cameras showed freezing where politicians claimed there was melting.)

The only camera we have this year is a tough one, O-buoy 14,  which refused to be crushed by ice, and survived the winter. It is not out in the Arctic Sea, but down in Parry Channel at a latitude of roughly 74° north.  I like having it located where it sits, still frozen fast in immobile ice, because it allows us to compare the current situation with the year 1819, when William Parry sailed HMS Helca and Griper in the same waters.

William Parry original.1770

Parry sailed further north and west of where O-buoy 14 now sits, and then, as ice reformed in September, they cut a channel for the two boats, to get close to the shore of Melville Island, where they’d be less exposed to the crushing and grinding of moving ice.

William Parry The_Crews_of_H.M.S._Hecla_&_Griper_Cutting_Into_Winter_Harbour,_Sept._26th,_1819

Then they waited for the ice to melt. It was a long, long wait; ten months in all. It is interesting to read how Parry kept his crew from going nuts, especially during the three months of winter darkness. They produced plays and published a newspaper and, as it grew light, conducted expeditions along the coast of Melville Island on foot. Also, when some of the men showed signs of scurvy, Parry planted mustard and cress seeds in his cabin and fed the sprouts to the afflicted men. The first signs of thaw were in March, but the ice remained six feet thick.

In the year 2017 our first signs of thaw were much later, but sudden, and we swiftly developed an impressive melt-water pool on June 29:

Obuoy 14 0629C webcam

Of course, the media would generate sensationalism with such a picture, crowing about how the arctic is melting. Then they would get very quiet when the water drained down through a crack in the ice, as it did by July 8:

Obuoy 14 0708B webcam

The media would get even quieter when the camera then showed signs of fresh snow, as it did on July 12:

Obuoy 14 0712 webcam

And last but not least, there was a cold spell associated with the above view, and the melt-water pools were skimmed with ice, which needed to be melted away to make a little progress on July 13:

Obuoy 14 0713 webcam

What this makes me wonder about is the fortitude of Parry’s crew. They never got moving until August 1. Can you imagine how they felt when it snowed in July? (Or did it snow, back then, when it was supposedly colder?)

Our modern buoy is at roughly 103° west longitude. Parry was able to sail as far west as 113°46’W in the late summer of 1820. Then they noticed ice starting to reform. Apparently no one was eager to spend another winter up there, so they sailed lickity-split east the entire length of Parry Channel, escaping into Baffin Bay and arriving back in England in October.

It will be fun to watch this camera’s view. We are in a race with the year 1820, to see if we can get the ice moving before August 1. (One interesting thing is that, while the Navy satellite suggests the ice in Parry Channel is moving, the GPS attached to O-buoy 14 shows no movement. Once again we see the value of having an on-the-spot witness.)

I actually want the ice to move, so the view shifts around and we can see mountains in the distance.

Stay Tuned!

(Hat tip to Stewart Pid for always keeping me abreast of O-buoy 14 news.)

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ralph Rains?–

Ralph hasn’t become the gale some models were foreseeing, but is a persistent feature at the Pole, and a wrench in the works of the summer thaw.   In essence Ralph creates clouds where I expect sun. This slows the creation of melt-water pools, which are a creation that quickly changes the albedo equation, for the brilliant white of the snows (which reflects light in a highly efficient manner) is changed to the battleship gray of slush (which absorbs more sunlight and accelerates the surface melt.) Once the slush turns into an actual pool particles of soot, volcano ash, and arctic algae often create a black bottom to the pool, which hastens the melt further, and on occasion melt down and create a hole to the sea beneath, weakening the ice and contributing to the break up of floes.

This is a time I sorely miss the floating cameras, for they gave you a visual proof of what otherwise is merely modeled guess-work. The only camera we have is lodged in the ice of Parry Channel, and can’t give us a clear idea of the conditions out in the open sea. However it is better than nothing, and does show the crispness of the drifted snow softening in the thaw.

Obuoy 14 0623 webcam

O-buoy 14 is down around 74° north latitude, and away from the center of Ralph near the Pole. I have an insatiable curiosity about higher latitudes. The DMI graph shows the mean, north of 80°, as being below normal but above freezing.

DMI4 0622 meanT_2017

To look at Dr. Ryan Maue’s maps of modeled temperatures (free week trial available at Weatherbell site) isn’t exactly helpful, because the GFS tends to average it all out to a blandness, while the Canadian differentiates to a degree where it seems to make storms more intense. Which is a curious George to trust? (GFS to left; JEM to right)

 The reason this matters is because in the polar summer snow can change to rain, and this makes an enormous difference. Snow (usually a dusting to an inch, as the arctic is a desert), slows the melt by adding more brilliant white to reflect heat, while rain immediately creates slushy, gray spots and speeds the melt. As is often the case in the arctic, a half degree can make a big difference.

One of my favorite examples was the case of “Lake North Pole”, in 2013. The melt-water pool directly in front of the camera, expanded by summer rains in mid July, generated no end of media hype, complete with stories of Santa drowning and so on.

LNP 1 np-july-26-npeo_cam2_20130726072121 However no sooner had the media gotten everyone looking that way, when the water drained away down through a crack in the ice (as is often the case.)

LNP 2 np-july-28-npeo_cam2_20130728131212

The ice was still gray and capable of absorbing more heat than snow, but, rather than summer rains, summer snows followed.

LNP 5 np-july-29-npeo_cam2_20130729071817

And by August 5 all talk of “Lake North Pole” was muted. It had gone from being an Alarmist talking point on July 26 to being a Skeptic’s talking point.

LNP 3 np-aug-5-npeo_cam2_20130805065710

The camera allowed the curious to compare the August 5 view of 2012 (left) with 2013 (right).

To the dispassionate it simply looked like perhaps 2013 was a colder summer than 2012, but, in terms of getting a political message across, I fear cameras had gone from seeming like an excellent idea on July 26 to seeming like a very bad idea on August 5. This may be one reason funding dried up, and we are without their wonderful visual evidence this summer.

In any case, we now are stuck with what a satellite can see from afar. Ralph’s clouds can then present one with a bit of a problem, though there are usually plenty of interesting views further south, if you are in the mood to ruin your schedule with a wonderful form of procrastination. Here’s a nice, current view of Petermann Glacier and Nares Strait.

The problem is we are too far away to get the intimate feel for conditions the cameras gave us. We can’t see if it snowed or rained, last night. And, in cases where radar attempts to see through clouds, we are not even sure if we are looking at open water or a melt-water pool.

I sure do miss those cameras.

The best I can do is look at Ryan Maue’s “precipitation type” maps, keeping in mind they are models. The GFS seems to suggest Ralph will not rain. Ralph will continue to dust the north with snow (blue). The only rain (green) is towards the Alaska coast.

The maps below represent the GFS forecasts for 6, 72, 120 and 168 hours. Recognizing these are forecasts and not reality, Ralph looks like he will peak in 72 hours, down at 977 mb, but persist for a week. Only then are there signs Byoof (the Beaufort High) will come back.

Ralph B3 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_2

Ralph B4 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_13

Ralph B5 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_21

Ralph B6 gfs_ptype_slp_arctic_29

To me it seems Ralph is being a real spoil sport to the melt-season. Right when the sun is at its highest he is murking up the sky and dusting everything with snow. Of course, most of the melt comes from below, but we won’t be setting any records unless Ralph takes a hike.

I should confess I blew a forecast, for I did not expect Ralph to show up much this summer. My assumption was that the lagged effects of the weak La Nina would reduce the difference in temperatures between the tropics and the arctic, and that it was that difference that fueled the anomaly I call “Ralph”.

This is merely my wondering, and likely should not be dignified with the word “hypothesis”, but the persistence of “Ralph” intrigues me and calls for an explanation, and what I wonder is this:

If the “Quiet Sun” does deliver less energy to the earth in various ways, could it be that less energy warms the Equator while cooling the Pole? At the Equator less energy would produce less wind,  indirectly leading to warming, by stirring up less cold water, and therefore intensifying El Ninos while weakening La Ninas. Meanwhile, up at the Pole, less energy has a more direct effect during the summer, making it colder. During the winter there is no sun so no effect, but the import of warm surges makes the winter’s milder. All year long the tropics are generally warmer (so far) and this fuels a more meridional jet, which is what creates the “feeder bands” that fuel Ralph.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Before Ralph reappeared Byoof did manage to push the ice away from the western entrance to the Northwest Passage, (lower right) but the ice is still fast against the shore at Barrow (top right).

Daytime sea-breeze shifted to a light land-breeze during Barrow’s “night”, and warm inland temperatures wafted over them, lifting them to a balmy 41°F.

Barrow 20170623 05_27_09_508_ABCam_20170623_132400

Here’s the Navy thickness map. (Ice-out starting in Hudson Bay):

Thickness 20170623 Attachment-1

And here’s the “extent” graph everyone likes to watch:

DMI4 0622 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

Stay tuned!

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ralph’s Back!–

After a period of relative calm, when Byoof (The Beaufort High) ruled the roost and sun could get to work on the yearly thaw, low pressure has loop-de-looped north from the Siberian coast, and Ralph (anomalous low pressure) has retaken the Pole. (Maps created by Dr. Ryan Maue at the Weatherbell site [week free trial available.])

Ralph 2017 1 gfs_precip_mslp_arctic_2

Ralph will tend to slow the melting, for two reasons. First, the clouds block the sunshine. Second, summer storms at the Pole seem to create cold, perhaps utilizing evaporative cooling in the manner of a summer thunderstorm. Even when the precipitation largely evaporates (or sublimates) before reaching the ground, temperatures can be lowered a degree or two, and at the Pole that is the difference between temperatures just above freezing and temperatures just below.

Ralph will meander weakly about the Pole for the next few days, and then the GFS model sees Ralph reinvigorated by a sort of secondary moving north from east Siberia, and becoming our first gale of the summer.  Of course, we will have to wait and see if the computer is correct, but the current forecast is impressive, with pressures dropping to 966 mb in five days.

Ralph 2017 2 gfs_precip_mslp_arctic_20


If such a gale manifests we will not merely be talking about a dusting of snow, but several inches, and also the winds will increase:

Ralph 2017 3 gfs_mslp_uv10m_arctic_20

Once the winds get over gale force the ice tends to be crunched and broken. This will be our first opportunity to see if the water under the ice holds enough mildness to melt ice, as occurred in the summer gale of 2012, or is so cold it melts little ice, as occurred in the summer gale of 2013.

The Canadian JEM model also shows the gale. As usual it sees a stronger storm, though it takes longer to develop.

Ralph 2017 4 cmc_mslp_uv10m_arctic_24

The Jem model also sees colder resultant temperatures associated with the the gale, (again as is usually the case.)

Ralph 2017 5 cmc_t2m_arctic_27

Stay tuned!

Heavy ice off East Coast 2017 caused by winds, cold temperatures, and icebergs

A typically insightful post by Susan Crockford. If this field of icebergs persist it seems likely to chill the SST in that part of the Atlantic. Watch to see if the cold water encourages high pressure of a “Newfoundland Wheel” sort. Joe Bastardi suggests high pressure to the north can lead to stronger hurricanes to the south.

Typically the media reports such a shift to the south of sea-ice as a loss of ice to the north. It seldom reports the chilling of the water to the south. Sea-ice can achieve such chilling where a cold current can’t, because a cold current, being denser than the milder water it moves into, tends to sink. Icebergs bob merrily onward, refusing to sink, and greatly chill the waters they move into. This can allow colder currents to move further south at the surface, because they are no longer moving into milder waters. I sometimes wonder if it is such a shift in a field of ice that causes a “flip” from a warm AMO to a cold one.


Heavy sea ice off Newfoundland and southern Labrador has been an issue for months: it brought record-breaking numbers of polar bear visitors onshore in early March and April and since then has hampered the efforts of fisherman to get out to sea.

Newfoundland fishing boats stuck in ice_DFO_May 26 2017 CBC

Let’s look back in time at how the ice built up, from early January to today, using ice maps and charts I’ve downloaded from the Canadian Ice Service and news reports published over the last few months.

The tour is illuminating because it shows the development of the thick ice over time and shows how strong winds from a May storm combined with an extensive iceberg field contributed to the current situation.

Bottom line: I can only conclude that climate change researcher David Barber was grandstanding today when he told the media that global warming is to blame for Newfoundland’s record thick sea ice conditions this year. …

View original post 1,867 more words

ARCTIC SEA ICE —2017 Thaw Begins–

We have reached the short window of opportunity in the arctic when the sun is high (by arctic standards) and relentless. It never sets.  In fact, if the arctic was a flat, snowless desert of dry sand at sea level, the constant heating of the sun would make it hot, and warm fronts would head south. As it is the heat is used up warming the sea-ice from roughly -30°C to zero, and in melting the snow atop the ice (which involves turning a lot of the available heat into latent heat, as the water goes through the phase change from solid to liquid.)  For roughly three weeks before and after the summer solstice the Pole receives more heat than it loses, and we can expect to see temperatures zoom up to just above freezing, at which point they flatten, as all the heat is consumed by the process of turning solid water to liquid water. There are only slight variations from this pattern, summer after summer, but these variations are interesting.

One interesting fact is that during the depth of winter temperatures drop so low that salt loses its ability to melt snow. Above that temperature (roughly -10°C [+14°F]) the salt forms brine which bores down through the ice, but below those temperatures the salt is exuded from the ice and blows about as a powder. Under certain conditions there can be minute drifts of powdered salt at the sides of fresh, flat frozen leads, during the dead of winter. This salt is mixed in with the powdered snow, and any time a surge of southern air invades the arctic in the winter and temperatures are briefly raised above -10°C, the snow softens due to the salt; then it refreezes, which gives the snow atop the ice a starchy quality, and makes the wind unable to drift it. Then, when temperatures finally rise in the spring, the “melt” begins well before temperatures get back up to freezing (and available heat is consumed, becoming latent heat, before you would think.)

Another thing that has to happen is that the ice itself must warm. There are fascinating charts produced by dedicated scientists that show a cross section of the ice, and temperatures at various depths. At the end of winter the ice is coldest at the top and warmest at the very bottom, but when the ice starts gaining heat from above, there is a period when the ice is coldest in the middle. Then, towards the end of the summer, the ice is at zero where it is melting from above and at -1.7° where it is melting from below. At the start of September the ice can be refreezing from above, at zero, even as it is still melting away from below at -1.7°C (which has fooled me many a time, as I think the thaw is over when it isn’t).

Currently there is little visual evidence the ice is melting, but the air temperatures nudge above freezing at times. Down at lower latitudes, such as at Barrow at 70° north, there is enough of a diurnal variation so that, even though the sun is still up at midnight, it drops low enough to the horizon for frost to form. It touched 40°F a week ago, but was cold enough for snow a day later. The ice is still frozen fast to the shore, and shows no sign of budging despite tides and strong winds, as it is apparently over 20 feet thick. (Double error: First, this is the 2016 graph, and second, I misread the bottom as the bottom-of-the ice. The ice is thicker this year. I don’t know why they haven’t updated. Funding? But no use blaming them for my mistake. [Too rushed.])

Barrow 20170609 535eaa087abc4df83c000179

I like to google “Barrow Webcam” and then watch the ten-day-animation from the roof of the bank building, for one gets a feeling for the diurnal variation, just watching the snow and frost form and then melt away on the bank building’s roof, at the very bottom of the picture. (Bit of snow left, just to right of vent in midnight picture below.) (Temperature 28°F [-2.2°C] with a strong north breeze of 22 mph.)

Barrow 20170609 23_27_10_908_ABCam_20170609_072400

The further north you go the less the diurnal variation is, until at the Pole it is absent. O-buoy 14 is still far enough south, at 74° north, for the diurnal effect to be clear. It experienced its first thaw May 25-27

Obuoy 14 0601 temperature-1week

And another June 3

Obuoy 14 0609 temperature-1week

(The little peaks in temperature are caused by what I’ve dubbed BHI (Buoy Heat Islands). In the summer buoys can actually form their own little melt-water pools.)

The milder temperatures often bring north moisture, and fog.

Obuoy 14 0601 webcam

(Fog is interesting, for rather than using up the available heat, it releases available heat in the phase change from vapor to liquid, as it condenses on the side of the cold ice like water on the side of a summertime drink.)

This far south on often sees the counter-intuitive phenomenon of temperatures dropping as the sun comes out. (The landscape has a more rounded look where there had been peaks and sharper features, indicative of the first effects of thaw.)

Obuoy 14 0607 webcam

Further north there are fewer signs of any diurnal effect, and the warming is more usually (but not always) a sign the sun is out. Up at 87° north, across the Pole at Army buoy 2017B, we are seeing a more general slow rise in temperatures, with the ups and downs more due to local conditions than time of day, (and we are sorely missing the visual confirmations of a North Pole Camera). (A plague on those who cut their funding.)

2017B 20170609 2017B_temp

Incidentally, at 2017B the ice has stopped growing thicker, but hasn’t yet started to thin.

Lastly we come to the DMI graph of air temperatures north of 80° latitude. While soaring upwards, it displayed a an interesting blip. First temperatures approached normal, but then sank back below normal, before approaching normal again.

DMI4 0609 meanT_2017

This blip was caused by Byoof (The Beaufort High) being shoved away from Canada and over the Pole, giving the Pole sunny weather, followed by a reappearance of the low “Ralph” at the Pole, creating cloudy weather, followed by Byoof returning.

Obviously there is more to be said about this, but as usual I am strapped for time. I’ll just stick the daily maps below (apologizing for some missing maps.) Hopefully I’ll find time to comment on some ideas I glean from the maps, later.










































For those interested in the yearly decent of ice “extent” towards its minimum, the decent is slower than last year and resembles 2014.

DMI4 0609 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

LOCAL VIEW –Moody Monday–

Moody 1 FullSizeRender

Sometimes the weekend is too short. I’m not ready for the sheer inanity of my fellow man when Monday rolls around.

I’ve been in an on-line discussion with someone about sea-ice. It has been frustrating because he or she will not talk about the things my eyes can see and that I can point to, but instead resorts to invisible things sensed by satellites, such as “mass-balance.” Finally I gave up trying to show what eyes can see, and basically stated, “Be that way, if you want.” I thought that would be the end of it, but this morning I got this lovely note:

“Caleb, you should be aware by know that the Heartland institute support whatever fake science industry pays them to support. This includes lobbying and generating doubt against regulations on CO2 emissions, ozone-destroying chemicals, second-hand-smoke, endangered species etc. They are part of the paid anti-science forces in the US. You are truly living in a conservative bubble if you are not aware of this. And Fred Singer’s past? For-hire fake scientist…shameful stuff.
I know this won’t be published, I just hope you read this and reflect a bit what kind of forces you are dealing with and endorse.”

Great. I haven’t even had my first coffee.

Anyway, I am reflecting on what kind of forces I am dealing with (if not endorsing.) It made me pout a bit. After all, I am only pointing out what my eyes can see, and discover I am a bad-guy, part of “anti-science forces”. Me!  And I’m such a nice old fossil.

Then, when driving the little children to kindergarten, I discover this lovely object has been parked at the entrance of the high school.

Moody 2 IMG_4929

I think the point of this is to stress the gravity of reckless driving to the high school seniors, who tend to go wild at the time of graduation. However, as is often the case with alarmists focusing on worst-case-scenarios, it immediately backfired. Someone was gawking at the appalling wreck, and promptly went off the road, not fifty yards away.

Moody 3 FullSizeRender

Sometimes human efforts look particularly lame and ineffectual, and I want to stop the world and get off. Funny how often this happens on Mondays.

Take my cheeks in Your palms and raise my eyes
To Your hills, for my vision’s gone heavy.
(Too much talk of itches with hearts so dry
They make thirst.)
                          Faith that has never been steady
Knows most about the worst, yet it yammers
On insistent, (Professor of Dullsville),
As my tired heart slowly hammers
A cage for itself.
                                   Even the seagulls will
Rise from their dumps and let beauty soar
But I need Your help; It would be so easy
For You.
                  You open Springtime’s golden store
Of lemon green, make trees lacy and breezy,
And dab dark pines in honey. One glance kills
All woe, so raise my eyes to Your hills.

Moody 4 FullSizeRender

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Barents Bounce-back–

Over at Tony Heller’s site at I spotted an interesting map which emphasizes the growth in sea-ice in Barents Sea since 2006. (more ice than 2006 shows as green.)

Ice gain 0513 FullSizeRender

With the sun up close to 24 hours a day now, at those high latitudes, the increase in ice represents a significant area where sunlight is reflected back to space, as opposed to 2006, where the reduced extent allowed darker waters to embrace the sunlight and suck it into the sea and….and…and eventually result in the highest September ice extent in recent years?

Hmm. Some sort of flaw is boldly rearing its head here, in terms of the simplistic “albedo” theory of how the Pole is to become as ice-free as it was in prior optimums. If we were comparing apples to apples, the above map should mean we would have more sea-ice this September than in 2006. I think we will have more than last year, but more than 2006 would surprise me (though it is not outside of the range of possibility.)

I only bring this up because I think the “albedo” idea is way, way too simple, and the above map should make that obvious. The “albedo” theory is an idea concocted for the simple, in the manner Santa Claus was conceived to explain Christmas to little children.  It needs to be discarded, in the manner serious Christians discard Santa Claus. The reality is far more wonderful.

Let’s just compare last year on May 16 to May 16 this year; (2016 to left, 2017 to right):


Last year there was open water north of Svalbard, where this year ice piles against the north coast. However, before you leap to any conclusions, lets compare May 16 last year (left) with March 1 this year (right):

The polynya northeast of Svalbard should leap out at you. 45 days ago all the sea-ice between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land was slush and pancake ice, in places only inches thick. One could leap to different conclusions two months ago, and indeed some did.

Some concluded that, if the ice was so thin on March 1, it could only get thinner as the sun rose and temperatures moderated between March 1 and May 16, but compare the maps: (March 1 to left, May 16 to right.)

Hmm. Abruptly the waters between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land are filled with ice 4-7 feet thick. What the heck happened?

Well, a little is due to temperatures being below normal, but largely the change was due to winds.  Earlier in the winter south winds shoved the ice north and created polynyas north of Svalbard (and even north of Franz Josef Land at times) but then that pattern reversed and more northerly winds brought all the ice crunching and crashing back south.

Conclusion? The thickness of sea-ice often has little to do with air temperatures, and with any slight effect CO2 may have on that air. Rather it is largely effected by winds.

I should add it is also effected by the temperature of the waters below the ice. And this is another reason the area shown by the above maps is important, for it is the area where Atlantic water enters the arctic.

Atlantic water has a component brought north by the Gulf Stream, and Gulf Stream water has been subjected to warmth that has evaporated enough water to increase the salinity of the sea-water. Gulf Stream water is therefore more warm and more salty than the arctic water it moves into. The warmth makes it want to rise but the salinity makes it want to sink. For a time the warmth holds Gulf Stream water up at the surface, but after a while it cools to a degree where it’s salinity makes it take a dive, and it then flows as warmer but more salty water beneath the cooler but less salty water just beneath the ice. (At this point it is usually referred to as “Atlantic” water rather than “Gulf Stream” water.) In a very general sense, the cooler water just beneath the ice is the “mixed” layer, the Atlantic (and/or Pacific) water is the “pycnocline” layer, and the deeps are, with amazing creativity, called the “deep” layer.

As an aside, I should mention that some don’t think such stratification exists at the Pole. NASA states,  “At high latitudes, the pycnocline and mixed layer are absent“, and proves it with this lovely graphic:

Sea layers ocean-vertical-structure_clip_image002

I suppose they assume the water is so cold at the Pole the variations of temperature don’t matter, especially as the northern waters that head south are so chilled they take a dive and become part of the “deep layer.”

In truth, slight variations of cold temperatures matter a lot, in the world of sea-ice. A tenth of a degree can be the difference between water being liquid or solid, and that can be the difference between cold water sinking from sight or cold water bobbing as ice at the surface.  Therefore sea-ice scientists, while not telling NASA to go to hell (due to funding concerns) are so rude as to ignore NASA graphics and to speak of the arctic’s “mixed”, “pycnocline” and “deep” layers, and some even may divide the pycnocline into “Atlantic”, “Pacific”, and “Preexistent” layers.

Considering a lot of the melt of summer ice comes from beneath, it pays to attend to any news you can find about what is going on under the ice. It turns out the antics of these layers is insidiously complex. It is not enough to merely get a little data from the north and then flee south to a computer, and attempt to model the antics, for there are too many variables and too much chaos-theory involved. What we really need are real-time measurements from real buoys put in place by real scientists with real guts.

Most of what we know about the antics of waters under the ice was discovered by just such gutsy  scientists, and often what was discovered was things that were not suspected beforehand, and therefore were not included in computer models.

For example, the “mixed” layer is assumed to be mixed by waves, as explained by this simple diagram:


Therefore, when ice forms, there can be no waves, and therefore no mixing, right?

Wrong. It turns out there are at least two mixings that occur even when the waters are seemingly still, under the ice. The first is that the ice, as it freezes, exudes salt as brine, and a steady rain of these brine-droplets wormhole down through the new ice and then rain down into the less-salty mixed layer, making it both colder and more salty, and therefore to differentiate differently from the pycnocline. The second is called “Ekman Spirals”, and is caused by Ekman Transport.

Allow me to pretend I understand this Ekman stuff:  Basically floating ice has a keel, which creates drag, which allows the Coriolis force to influence motion. Even in 1897 Nansen noted that the sea-ice drifted at an angle to the direction the wind blew, and in the 1960’s real scientists with real guts were out on the sea-ice noting strange stuff in the waters beneath,

It should be noted that this does not merely mix waters in the “mixed” layer, but pulls up water from the pycnocline as an upwelling:

Conclusion? Well, the ruckus that has been going on all winter and into the spring, in Barents Sea, has had to have had an effect on the Atlantic water moving north into the Arctic. What might that effect be?

How are we to know, without gutsy scientists heading up there to place real buoys that give us real-time data? I sure don’t trust any model, because a model depends on real-time data. If you put guesses in you will get guesses coming out.

My own guess is that the arctic pycnocline has been effected, and in the future this will effect the sub-surface measurements of the layer of “Atlantic” water in other parts of the Arctic Sea.

How? I think there will be less slightly-warmer-slightly-more-saline water to be stirred up by summer arctic storms, to hurry the summer melt. But this is just a guess. How can I know without real-time data?  And how can that data be gathered, if funding is cut at the Pole, so frantic beltway bureaucrats can line their nests?