LOCAL VIEW –First Arctic Blast–

We had our first taste of winter today, with temperatures 15 degrees below normal and reluctant to rise all day and puddles from last night’s rain flat and frozen, and fits of flurries throwing handfuls of white confetti into a stiff breeze, though I saw no reason for confetti. What is there to celebrate? It was a miserable day after yesterday evening’s miserable cold rain.

Last night I faced a night out with good friends, but nearly didn’t go, because, to get to the cheer and the warm hearth of friends, I’d have to venture out into pitch black and pelting, cold rain. It stinks when, in order to have a good time, you must first take a deep breath and run a gauntlet. But that is the definition of winter, in New England.

It is said, “No pain; no gain”, and that is what urges one out, yet at the same time another voice whispers, “No strain; No pain”. And there is much to be said for the second voice. Why risk pneumonia, when you could toast toes by a warm fire?

At some point one is forced to chose between which voice one will listen to. It seems a sort of “tipping point”, or a “fork in the road.” As a writer, often I stay home and am introspective, while others go out. I sometimes stay in even when the weather is balmy. Also as a writer, I often have wound up broke because I stayed home when I should have gone out to work, which later forced me to go out and work lousy jobs in weather others would call insane to work in. Therefore I have a pretty good idea of what both sides of the “tipping point” entail.

In my experience it is almost always better to go out. For example, last night, as I wavered at my front door, there could be no doubt the weather was disagreeable. It was weather best described by Englishmen in London during a North Atlantic gale, when they look out and say, with lordly disapproval, “Simply filthy weather; simply filthy.” Yet two hours later when I stomped back through the same door and hurried to my hearth, I was glad I’d gone. I hadn’t caught pneumonia, and had gained, through the insights of others, an idea I’d never have come up with alone.

One thing that few account for is that the mortal body is capable of ramping up its Adrenalin levels, and altering its entire metabolism, if need be. I noticed my physical frame doing this today. The bitter wind was “lazy” (IE: it cut straight through you, rather than taking the time to go around you) and I was flinching and muttering, “I’m too old for this.” My circulation isn’t as good, and my testosterone levels are lower, than when I was twenty-five. To me that seems a good excuse for staying home by the fire. But, because I’ve been a writer, I’ve worked over a hundred different jobs, and that is no way to earn a pension. So I’m stuck with working when friends have retired. And, because I have to go out when they don’t, I discover what they won’t.

What I saw is that one doesn’t need Viagra to be hot. Apparently something other than testosterone is involved, when the northern body shifts gears in the face of brutal winter. Something in the human frame fights back, when exposed to insults, even when you’re old. It will take science a while to verify this observation, I suppose, but it was undeniable to me: I was warmer after the first nasty blasts of winter hit me than I was when I first saw the forecast.

I didn’t notice how much warmer I was, at first. I walked through my front door after work and pottered about as if it was June, thinking little of it until I went to put wood in the stove. Only then did it occur to me I hadn’t rushed to the fire like a babe to a breast as I came in the house. Contrary as it may sound, bitter breezes made me warmer.

Decades ago I saw the same thing in a different way. A friend complained his wife never got out, and instead stayed at home depressed. In the foolish way that marked my youth, I stuck my nose in the business of others, “to be helpful”. (One friend called me guilty of “dry adultery”: I might not have had sex with friend’s wives, but was prone to emotional meddling.)

My friend was exasperated to a degree where he’d stopped listening to his wife, but I figured that, because I was an artist, I was more sensitive than my pal (who was gruff, tough, and constantly in trouble with the law), and that I would be more able to be sympathetic and empathetic. I believed often that is what emotional people need, in order to escape whatever dilemma they find themselves in.

I was useless. Why? Because it was immediately obvious to me the woman’s problems were primarily caused not by her insensitive, outlaw husband, but by the fact she used him as an excuse to never go out.

Why was it obvious? Hard to explain, but it was like this:

Sometimes your feet are cold because you are sitting too much. What you need to do is stir your blood and get your circulation going. In such a case it does absolutely no good to talk about what caused you to sit, for the longer you talk the longer you stay sitting and the colder your feet become.

Although my friend’s wife very much appreciated the fact I would sit with her and talk with her, she did not like it when I suggested she might benefit if she stopped sitting and talking. In the end I was not “helpful”.

In actual fact the woman helped me far more than I helped her, for she reminded me of myself. Artists often sit and think when they should get up and go. She made me aware a “tipping point” is involved.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to suggest we should outlaw art, because artists sit and think when they should get up and go. (In fact I think too many people get up and go without enough thought.)

Instead I mean to suggest a “tipping point” indicates a balance is involved, and a balance involves two sides. If you succumb to the mentality that takes only one side you are completely out of balance.

At this point we need to define “balance”. In terms of humanity, it is actually a precarious state. Often the people we deem most stable and balanced are knocked completely out of kilter by a feather. For example a bank president may commit suicide when the market crashes. Meanwhile the janitor at the same bank may be the fellow who offers the most help to his fellow employees as the ruined bank closes its doors.

“Balance” is often seen as “security”, which can draw people out of balance. For example, “political correctness” draws people into postures they may not be comfortable with, but which they feel are “safer” stances than what their conscience knows to be Truth. Such compromises seem “balanced” up until Truth jars them with a rude awakening, and they become aware “political correctness” has lured them into being led by some sort of despot, such as Stalin or Hitler. Then what seemed like “balance” abruptly shocks people into the awareness they are miles past the “tipping point”, and are plunging into disaster. This sort of shock is like the first blast of winter into New England. When it hits you, nothing that came before matters. Truth has arrived.

Artists, who have (in theory at least) put Truth ahead of “political correctness”, are less perturbed by such abrupt and shocking arrivals of Truth. They tend to respond more like the Bank Janitor than the Bank President. At some point they faced a “fork in the road” and, as the poet Robert Frost stated, the choice they made “has made all the difference.”

Often I find the biographies of artists as interesting as their art. Not that they had easy lives. Often they faced winters. Van Gough is an example of a a man who lived a rough life, yet he painted Truth which millions, perhaps billions, now admire.

One biography that fascinates me is that of an American master of the genre, “short story”, named William Sydney Porter, who took on the pen-name of “O. Henry”.

What intrigues me about Porter is that he seems to have been more like a person who goes out, than a person who sits by the fire, and therefore he seems unlikely to ever become a writer. But he did like to sit in a bar after work and tell a good tale. Then one thing led to another.

Though Porter’s tale-telling can be seen to gradually develop, (as pieces he sent to newspapers, newspapers which he increasingly was interested in and involved with), he was too practical to depend on writing for his livelihood, and supported himself, and later his wife and daughter, by working as a pharmacist, sheep-herder, cowboy, draftsman, clerk, and teller at a bank.

While working as a teller he apparently strayed from doing things by-the-book, using his heart more than his head, for political and perhaps other reasons. He lost one bank-job when a new political party came into power, and was fired from a second when “irregularities” in his bookkeeping were discovered. In disgrace he move from Austin, Texas to Houston, Texas, and then for the first time focused on writing. He was making headway, getting raises and seeing his newspaper-column become more popular, when Federal Auditors snooped into the doings of the bank back in Austin. They didn’t want to hear any excuses for a former employee who used his heart and not his head; $854.08 were unaccounted for and, roughly two years after he had left Austin, Porter faced five years in jail for embezzlement.

Because he was a man of action, the day before his trial Porter fled to Honduras, where he associated with exiles, coined the phrase “Banana Republic”, and did a lot of work on the collection of intertwined short stories called “Of Cabbages and Kings”, (which was as close as he ever came to writing a novel.) He hoped to make money writing and had made plans for his wife and daughter to join him, but then discovered the tuberculosis (which he knew his wife was suffering from, before he married her) was now killing her. At this point he returned to face five years in jail, to be at her side as she died.

She died, and then he went to jail, where he was valued and worked as a pharmacist. However he still had a daughter to support, and became involved in sneaky ways to make money by writing without people knowing the writer was a jailbird. That is when he adopted the name “O. Henry” (Which some suggest is a condensed version of “Ohio Penitentiary”.) (The name first appeared attached to a charming tale about a hobo who becomes a hero but chooses to remain a hobo, called “Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking”. In retrospect the hobo’s love-of-freedom is especially poignant because the writer himself was in jail, though of course readers of that time didn’t know that). “O. Henry” became increasingly popular even before Porter was released from prison, (two years early, “for good behavior”).

What I find fascinating about that part of Porter’s life is that he did not intentionally retire to the fireside to write. In essence he was forced to the “fireside” of a jail-cell, after facing the bitter winter of his wife’s death. Largely he was not a retiring man.

After he was released from prison in Ohio he traveled to Pennsylvania to where his daughter was staying with his in-laws. As a widower and ex-con he did not seem all that accepted or happy, and drank too much. He moved to New York City to be near the market for short stories, and basically drowned himself in work. Porter would write in the morning and conduct research after “the sun passed the yardarms”, with the “research” consisting of visiting restaurants and bars where, rather than telling tales, he often got others to tell him tales, late into the night. Then he’d head home and jot some notes, and work on a tale the next morning, often facing a Friday deadline. He produced a total of 371 tales, some masterpieces, in roughly seven years, before his liver gave out. What is interesting to me is that even while writing so much, he didn’t sit by the fire. By noon he was restless, and had to get out.

It likely impossible to state the effect Porter had during the time he was most productive, when my Grandfather was young. There was no radio or TV, and people were avid readers. My Grandfather’s generation awaited the next “O. Henry” story in magazines and newspaper-Sunday-supplements with the same eagerness my own generation awaited the next song by The Beatles, and it is difficult to translate that eagerness across time. I do not belabor my grandchildren with talk about the Beatles, and my Grandfather never told me why he had eight volumes of O. Henry short stories in the bookshelf by his living-room armchair. But I noticed them. Though the tales were panned by critics of that time (and by some fellow writers as well) they are more than a wonderful window to the attitudes and realities of another time; they contain descriptions of human frailty and nobility that are timeless. When I finally got around to reading them I felt like I’d discovered a gold mine.

However that is not the point of this essay. The point of this essay is to suggest that, sometimes, facing the blasts of winter, men do not merely survive, but become downright prolific, as O. Henry did, facing the winter of his life.

LOCAL VIEW –The Rapids Freeze–

The way to defeat “cabin fever” and to avoid going “shack whacky” is to grit your teeth and go out into the cold, so I decided to practice what I preach and went out to take some pictures of the Souhegan River freezing up, (with the Patriot’s game on my car radio), yesterday. It was well worth the discomfort of getting out of the comfort of my car, from time to time, to take some pictures.

Brook 1 watershedmap

The Souhegan is basically a brook as it comes north from its headwaters down in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, but it quickly gathers other brooks, and back in the day (when water power was the only power) it fueled a number of small mills in my town.  It was enough, back then, to make my out-of-the-way backwater a center of industry, even though it was up in the hills, as people went where the power was. Later, when railways were invented, my town chose to prevent the railway from expanding because it was thought the railway would “attract the wrong people”, and that was the death knell to many of the local industries, and the town faded to its current backwater status. However one mill survives at “High Bridge”, having transitioned from an age when fabric was for clothing, to making fabric for body armor and dirigibles and even spacecraft landing on Mars.

Brook 20 Contact-Warwick-Mills

And just downstream is where I began freezing my fingers, taking pictures of the freezing stream.

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A few miles downstream lies Greenville, where the mills prospered more, for they did allow the railway in, (though it no longer goes that far.)

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North of there the river is a favorite place for white water kayaking in the spring,

Brook 2 kayaks1

It was amazing how much of the water was iced over, but I couldn’t stop as the snowbanks and traffic made pulling over too dangerous. Further on, just past the Temple-Wilton line, the river passes beneath an abandoned bridge, (I think built by New Deal workers in the Great Depression).

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On the west side of Wilton another stream tumbles down from Temple Mountain to join the flow.Brook 21 FullSizeRender

The water gurgles and mutters and gargles from holes in the fast-forming ice

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And the old railway still reaches this far.

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Driftwood is frozen in place where water tumbles over the first dam.

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The second Wilton dam’s pond is solid ice

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And I simply had to crunch along the road, despite biting winds and blaring traffic, to see beneath the dam.

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Check out the outlet pipe. (And the graffiti beyond it).

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I wonder what the old water mills did, when it got this cold? (And where do the teenagers now go?)

Then on to Milford, as the river turns east.

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And more hidden artwork from warmer days.

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And onward to the Merrimack River and then southwards to the sea.

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The cold can not stop it. Ice cannot clamp
The water’s yearning for the distant sea
In its vice. Like a happy old tramp
Offered a steady job, it will flee
All restraint but that of its double banks
And the steady tugging of gravity.
So do not cold-shoulder with icy glance
The inevitable progress of the free.
Do not think you can keep children ever young
Or prevent the innocent from finding Truth,
For though arctic winters have come and stung,
Forever fluid is the river called “Youth”,
And though your white may clench from bank to bank
Underground gurgles will sing and will thank.

It pays to practice what you preach, and to walk the walk besides talking the talk. Although I may have appeared a foolish old man, out taking pictures with a cell-phone in a wind that could freeze the bleep off a bleep, heedless of the whizzing vehicles flying past with incredulous onlookers, (or sort of heedless), I had no symptoms of cabin fever as I headed home. In fact I noticed that, once you have spent time trying to find the perfect angle for a picture, and the right views to capture an idea, your eyes seem to become stuck in the habit, and even when you are not taking pictures any more the whole world looks strangely photogenic, and you see beauty you usually overlook.

Last but not least, you never know what you will find, if you just get out and look. I was seeking river ice. Who would dream I would find graffiti?

WILL BRAZIL CHILL KILL COFFEE?

The “Ice Age Now” site has been reporting deep snows, in some cases over ten feet deep,  in the mountains of Chile and Argentina, with the cold pouring east across the pampas and northeast into southern Brazil.
http://iceagenow.info/chile-71-workers-trapped-snow/ http://iceagenow.info/argentina-two-meters-snow-near-chilean-border/ http://iceagenow.info/record-cold-brazil-2/

The coffee crops have been extended to the southern limits of what is possible in Brazil, just as orange trees are grown to the northern limits of what is possible in Florida, and therefore just as arctic outbreaks threaten Florida’s oranges in our winter, antarctic outbreaks threaten Brazil’s coffee.

brazil-coffee-screen-shot-2013_07_17-at-8_35_50-am

The interesting thing is that it is still officially autumn in the southern hemisphere. Winter doesn’t begin for a fortnight.

My interest is piqued because I am watching to see if the southern hemisphere gets the same loopy jet stream we got last winter. The current culprit is a low off the east coast of Brazil in the South Atlantic, which is bringing cold south winds north on its west side, (because low pressure spins clockwise in the southern hemisphere,) (which is an excellent mental exercise, if you feel like stretching your ability to visualize maps, first things in the morning,) (which is why coffee is important.)

Brazil 1 cmc_mslp_uv10m_samer_1

As this low meanders off the coast the early morning is coldest, with considerable warming during the day, especially up in the pampas of northern Argentina.

Brazil 2 cmc_t2m_samer_6Brazil 3 cmc_t2m_samer_4

What I would assume is that the antarctic blast would be moderated by the day-time warming, and the cold wave would fade. However by glancing ahead through the early morning maps, it looks like a following blast of cold comes roaring north across the pampas to southern Brazil.

Brazil 4 cmc_t2m_samer_2Brazil 5 cmc_t2m_samer_10Brazil 6 cmc_t2m_samer_14Brazil 7 cmc_t2m_samer_18

This shows a couple things. First it shows how poking through the thousands of maps Ryan Maue makes available at the Weatherbell site can make you late for work. Second it shows why gamblers who like to play with coffee futures study meteorology.  (I may stock up a bit myself.)

And there is a third thing as well. “Global Warming” isn’t effecting Brazil, where temperatures are setting new record lows.

LOCAL VIEW –COLD SHOT SETS RECORDS–

This will be a short post, as I’m dealing with frozen pipes both here and over at the Farm-childcare. It was -9° F here this morning, but calm, which made it feel far more humane than yesterday morning, when it was -15°F with a nasty  wind.  Yesterday set records for the date all over New England.  Not even including the wind-chill, this is the coldest it has been in the more southern parts of New England since I was a small boy. (Up here I did see it hit -27°F in 1994, and on the coast of Maine I saw an amazing -20°F right by the relatively warm ocean in 1977, but those were both in January.)

        COLDEST TEMPERATURES RECORDED SINCE 1957

RECORD LOW TEMPERATURES FOR FEBRUARY 14TH

BOSTON -9 /PREV -3 IN 1937/. COLDEST SINCE 1957.
 RECORD LOW HIGH 12 / PREVIOUS 14 IN 1916
HARTFORD -12 /PREV -9 IN 1979/.
PROVIDENCE -9 /PREV -7 IN 1979/.
WORCESTER -16 /PREV -11 IN 1979/. COLDEST SINCE 1957.

What cut worst was the wind. Windchills were below -30°F steadily, and when the wind gusted were below -40°F (which is handy, for it is also -40°C).

There is little snow, only around three inches, so the cold is able to get down in places that are usually protected, and at the Farm-childcare they have frozen a pipe someplace I can’t figure out, and that I have never seen before. The problem will get my mind off the depressing subject of politics, so I’m telling myself it is a silver lining.  However my wife and I had planned to go out and have a nice post-Valentine’s Day lunch. It is amazing how we have only to plan a lunch to spark some sort of crisis.

Here’s a Dr. Ryan Maue map from Weatherbell, showing the cold yesterday morning.

Valentine's Coild rtma_tmp2m_neus__3_(7)

 

“A million” mountain livestock dying of cold in Peru and Bolivia

Andes cold alpacas nieveAndes Cold - Bolivia - 2

The “Ice Age Now” site reports the cold events the mainstream media seems to avoid, and I was troubled when I came across two stray headlines.

Global Warming is suppose to make mountains warmer, and in some cases cause plants and animals to go extinct because they can’t migrate any higher than a mountain’s top. It seems some South American herders did move uphill during the warmer years of the past few decades, and now are paying the price as it is too cold at those altitudes this year.

It should be noted that in Peru the animals dying include alpacas, which are native to the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains. (The person writing the second article obviously isn’t pleased by the Peruvian government.)

“This is a disaster unparalleled in our history. Of course, Ollanta Humala and his court seem to have been unaware. The presidential message of July 28 said iota about the tragedy. Frightening is the situation created by the snowfall that hit especially the poor peasants. The regime cares only for transnational mining poor things.”

(You may have to use your “translate” feature to read these articles)

http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2292793&CategoryId=14919

http://www.connuestroperu.com/actualidad/punto-de-vista/47404-frio-mata-un-millon-de-cabezas

Argiris Daimantis sent this news item to the “Ice Age Now” site, and added insights that ought cause some shame:

“One lion killed in Zimbabwe has got a lot of attention in the Main Stream Media,” says Argiris. “A disaster unparalleled in the history of Peru gets no attention at all.”

“Even the President of Peru chooses to ignore this disaster.

“Why? Because this news might disturb the new Global Warming religion.”

LOCAL VIEW —July Jackets—

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The map shows yesterday’s hot and humid air driven out to sea, and the front rammed clear down to Georgia, yet it managed to pass under us. We didn’t even get a sprinkle. I was a bit amazed, watching it happen. You could see the cool air clash with the hot, and brew up a squall line that NOAA noted for its longevity, and Joseph D’Aleo posted on his superb blog at the Weatherbell site. (The picture overlays many separate radar shots of the same squall line.)

Squall Line 20150713_summary1 If you follow the direction the red arrow points you can see the energy passed well south of New Hampshire. We just had a muggy morning gradually dry out, without a sprinkle of rain. I headed off to a barbecue in the early evening, and everyone was wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts, as the shadows from the trees at the end of the lawn gradually extended over and the warming sun was lost. Then someone remarked, “Sheesh! is it ever cold!”

I looked around, and noticed everyone was hugging themselves. It was like it hadn’t penetrated anyone’s consciousness that a sunny July evening could possibly be cold. But it was downright uncomfortable, and as soon as people woke to the fact many headed off to cars and came back wearing summer jackets. I’d come in my wife’s car, and had no jacket, so I got so close to the grill I was practically in among the steaks. As soon as the meat was done we moved indoors.

The good thing about such cold shots in the north winds is that often they don’t last long. I’ve seen winter days when the temperatures fall all morning and you expect the cold to become extreme with the advent of evening, but instead the cold wave relents, and temperatures don’t drop after dark, and can even rise a degree or two. However those are winter events. In July you only expect to don a jacket when east winds bring fog and drizzle inland from the cold Gulf of Maine. You don’t expect it when it is sunny and the wind is north. I can only assume this shot from the north contained a packet of air from Hudson Bay, which still has a surprising amount of ice on it, for the middle of July.

Hudson Bay Ice extent July 16 CMMBCTCA By this morning that shot of cold was long gone. Rather than Hudson Bay the wind was from the Canadian Prairie, baking under long summer days and barely cooled by short nights where the twilight never completely fades. However the shot of cold activated some instinct in me, and I got out of bed thinking I should get going, in terms of firewood.

Now is the time to lay down the less desirable trees, and to let them lie as the leaves suck the sap from the wood before withering. Then cut them up. Then split them. Then stack the wood to dry in the summer sun, so they don’t hiss in the stove, wasting heat boiling off sap, but burn clear and hot.

Dream on, old man. You are sixty-two years old, and it will take you a week to do what you once did in the morning.

Now I do stuff sort of as an exhibition, for the children at our Farm-childcare. “This is the way things were done a long, long time ago.” However it does not seem so long ago to me.

Not that I ever used a cross-cut saw. However there is a film of the center of this town after the 1938 hurricane, with trees down left and right, and not a chainsaw is in sight. All the local folk are out at either end of cross-cut saws. Some look like they are out of practice, but all know how to use such saws, how to always pull and never push. It is amazing how swiftly they cut through the logs.

I do remember when people built houses with hand tools, with saws and hammers and drills that had no batteries or cords or pneumatic air lines. It did take longer, but the men were stronger.

In the 1700’s the average worker burned off over 4000 calories a day. Few men work half as hard, now. Now we expect weekends off, but farmers never had weekends, for milk cows don’t stop making milk on Saturdays and Sundays, and chickens don’t stop eating.

The strange thing is that some think we are worse off. We work less and have more leisure, but they take their leisure and use it to gripe, often complaining they work too hard, or aren’t paid enough, or are hurt emotionally and should not have to work at all.

Idiots. I just wish I could still work as hard as I once did. God knows there was a glory in it, and someday I’ll write a book about it. But tonight I’ll just think about those men of the past, who worked twelve hour days, full of faith in a thing called “progress”, and believing we would rejoice to have the things they lacked. I’ll look back a half century, to when I was twelve and knew nothing of work, and didn’t like the prospect of work much at all,  until I saw old men loving it, and became curious about what could be so good about it.
Free wood is seldom free. The gnarled apple
Really required a pneumatic splitter
And I had but a maul, but youth will grapple
Ridiculous tasks: I was a hard hitter
And relished each victory, each split log
And the sheen of sweet sweat; the impossible
Challenge; the twisted, bumpy, Dryad-eyed frog
Of old apple attacked, wedges buried full,
But struck with a final karate scream
And torn open like a closed-case, long-shut book:
A hundred-fifty years of history
Lay exposed to the sun…Long time it took
For that scythe, hung in fork of young tree,
To be swallowed by growth, a tool forgotten
But a man now recalled, though flesh be rotten.

ARCTIC SEA-ICE MAXIMUM —WHY SO LOW?—

I have been urged to put aside my novel for a day, and comment on the sea-ice maximum. I only do so out of fondness for old friends, for I have personally become more interested in what I discovered while studying sea-ice than the sea-ice itself.

What I discovered was that both the science involved in the so-called “Arctic Death Spiral”, and the media’s efforts involved in reporting the “Arctic Death Spiral”, were shoddy at best and highly suspect at worst. Truth did not seem to matter as much as selling a particular political view, and, because I feel that any political view that disregards Truth is doomed to disaster, this behavior seemed like that of lemmings rushing towards a cliff.

Therefore my mind is more interested in contemplating the apparent madness of my generation, than it is in studying sea-ice. My novel looks back to when my generation was just stepping out into the world, and it contemplates how my generation’s sweet and naive hope for “Peace, Truth and Understanding” could, in some cases, be amazingly corrupted.

However I still do watch the sea-ice, as it ignores all politics and reflects the Truth of the Creator, and its motions can rest the mind with the same sort of serenity one derives from laying on ones back and watching clouds.

I’ll pick up from where I last left off reporting after Christmas, with the post:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/arctic-sea-ice-recovery-sneak-attack-onto-europe/

At that point a surge of mild air up towards the pole ahead of several North Atlantic Gales had relapsed or sagged back south in the north flow behind the gales, as the storm track of those gales slumped down into western Siberia. The flood of cold air built an elongated east-west ridge of high pressure over Europe. To the south of the ridge cold winds from Siberia flowed west, and there was snow even on the north coast of Africa. But our polar-view maps see only the milder west winds bringing Atlantic air east over the top of the elongated high. This mild air is clashing with cold air over the Pole, and brewing a storm over Svalbard. Across the Pole Pacific air has been pulled through the Bering strait and generated a nifty storm north of Alaska.

This was one of the few times all winter the Pole’s temperatures were below normal, but the pool of cold was being eroded from both sides.  .

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By Dec 31 the gale over Svalbard had grown, while the Pacific storm faded south and strong high pressure built. Mild air was dawn up into Barents Sea, as cold air flowed south through Fram Strait down the east coast of Greenland. More cold air is being exported south to Hudson Bay. Less usual is the reverse cross-polar-flow, from Alaska back to Siberia, north of Bering Strait.

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By January 2 that reverse-flow has vanished, replaced by Pacific air pouring north through Bering Strait as Atlantic air pours north over Svalbard. These influxes warm the Arctic Sea’s surface temperatures, but only south of Bering Strait and south of Svalbard is the warmth enough to melt sea-ice.

I think these influxes represent cooling, for the planet as a whole, for this is occurring during the darkest days, and much heat is lost to outer space. The sea-ice may be split and tortured by the shifting winds, but it is largely pushed towards the Pole, and compressing. Less than normal amounts are being flushed south through Fram Strait, as is shown by less ice moving down the east coast of Greenland, but that flow has increased at this point, as the North Atlantic gale is in a sort of “normal” position, bringing gales down Greenland’s east coast..

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By January 3 the amount of very cold air over the Pole has decreased, due to the Pacific and Atlantic invasions. This is an indication we are not seeing a “Zonal” flow, where winds go around and around the Pole, and the cold is contained up there. The invations of warming-than-usual air we are seeing up towards the Pole are matched by exports that cause arctic outbreaks further south.

In terms of sea-ice, there is a great deal of movement. The ice is split apart, forming “leads” which swiftly freeze over (but lose a lot of oceanic heat in doing so) and then are slammed together again, forming “pressure ridges” which are like mini-mountain ranges of sea-ice, ranging from only knee high to over fifteen feet. Not only do they extend upwards, but have roots extending downwards (because 9/10th of an iceberg is under water.)

During the summer stormy conditions can reduce sea-ice, especially if the water is stratified and a layer of warmer water lies below. During the winter stormy conditions likely increase sea-ice by exposing more water to temperatures well below the freezing point of salt water. Also the wider leads allow water to be to some degree churned, which prevents stratification, and allows the water to be more efficiently chilled.

The invasions of oceanic air likely increase snowfall, which actually may decrease the amount of sea-ice by insulating the ice, and by slowing the growth of ice on the underside of flat areas of ice. On the other hand, as soon as the sun rises at the Pole on the spring solstice, that same snow-cover protects the sea-ice, by reflecting the sun’s rays.

DMI2 0103B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0103B temp_latest.big

On January 5 the invasions of oceanic mildness had generated a genuine arctic gale. These storms stress the sea-ice a lot. I’ve also noticed that, while they represent updrafts of mild air, they are often followed by increasing cold. They may lose a lot of heat, but how this might be done generates a lot of debate.

DMI2 0105B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0105B temp_latest.big

By January 7 the gale has faded down towards the Kara Sea, but high pressure is bulging north from Alaska, and the pressure gradient between that high and the weakening gale is quite strong, and pulling Siberian air across to Canada.

When a strong flow like this gets going the cold air screams off the Siberian coast with such power that the ice is pushed away from the shores of the Laptev sea. There can be open water when the Siberian winds are down near seventy below. Of course this open water freezes swiftly, but even as a new skim of ice forms it too is pushed out to sea. During these situations the Laptev Sea creates and exports amazing amounts of ice. This winter this ice-creation also occurred along the coast of the Kara Sea.

This process of ice-creation actually can make it look like there is less ice, on the “ice extent graph.” The graph shows less ice along the Siberian coast, as the ice has been pushed towards Canada. The thinner ice along the Siberian coast is easier to melt away in August. However what is difficult to measure, in terms of “extent”, is all the ice crushed up against Canada by the Transpolar Drift.

A very strong gale off southeast Greenland is creating a wrong-way flow up in Fram Strait, halting the export of sea-ice.

DMI2 0107 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0107 temp_latest.big

By January 10 the cross-polar-flow is being interrupted by new invasions of Pacific and Atlantic air. The wrong-way flow in Fram Strait is weaker, but continues, and there are even weak impulses of low pressure heading that way, rather than taking the more normal route between Svalbard and Norway.

DMI2 0110 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0110 temp_latest.big

By January 12 a final, weak wrong-way low has moved to the northwest of Greenland, as a more conventional gale is moving up between Iceland and Norway.

What is interesting to note is what has become of all the oceanic air imported to the Pole. It has chilled down. This is the fate of all air, in 24-hour darkness.

Also the Siberia-to-Canada cross-polar flow has reappeared.

DMI2 0112B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0112B temp_latest.big

By January 14 the Atlantic Gale is weakening, and the cold keeps building over the Pole.

What is interesting about these gales is how different they are from last winter’s. Last winter’s tended to stall further south, and I said they should be dubbed “Britannic Lows” rather than “Icelandic Lows.” Because they were positioned further south they tapped into the Azores High and brought up mild southwest winds, giving even Finland a milder winter. This winter it is as if the Azores High is walled off. Instead the big gales tap air from either side of Greenland and from Labrador, and even after crossing thousands of miles of water warmed by the Gulf Stream they make a far colder southwest wind, when they get to Europe.

The cross-polar-flow is starting to break down. Watch how it collapses towards Iceland.

DMI2 0114B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0114B temp_latest.big

By January 16 the old gale has drifted off to the Kara Sea and weakened, and has been replaced by a new gale, as the cross-polar-flow has swung down to Iceland.   Watch how that flow continues to collapse down towards England. (This is a lot like what happened around Christmas.)

DMI2 0116B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0116B temp_latest.big

By January 17 the flow is down the coast of Norway towards England, and the new gale is weakening and sagging south. In essence, the storm track has swung clear across the Atlantic, from aiming the wrong way up Fram Strait over Greenland to crashing into Europe. As this dramatic sway has occurred, the Pole has been left alone, and cooled to normal.

DMI2 0118 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0118 temp_latest.big

DMI2 0120B meanT_2015

At this point something else dramatic was occurring that doesn’t show on the maps. It was of great interest to me, because I wondered if it might occur over a year ago. (I’m not sure where I wrote the thoughts down; it may have been while chatting with someone in the comments section.)

Last winter, when the Atlantic Gales stalled-out so far south and east that I dubbed them the “Britannic Low”, it may have brought benign mildness to the east of the centers, but to the west north winds rushed south over Iceland and vast stretches of the Atlantic, including the Gulf Stream. It may have seemed like the arctic air was spent harmlessly over waters where no one resides,  but I wondered what effect all that cold air, which rushed south week after week even as Europe enjoyed week after week of low-heating-bills, might have upon the sea water’s temperatures. It seemed the north winds must chill the Atlantic waters, and do so to considerable depth, because some of the gales were enormous and the seas must have been gigantic, and stirred the waters deeply.

Although the water was cooled thousands of miles from Europe’s coast, all that water is on the move. True, it moves less than a mile per hour, but a layman like me can do a back-of-an-envelope calculation, and I figured the cold water would arrive off Europe in around a year. There was nothing very scientific about my calculations. It was more of a wondering than any sort of theory.

Then, around a year later, the sea-surface temperatures cooled surprisingly swiftly towards Europe , compared to normal. You can bet my eyebrows mooned, when I noticed this. It effected the calculations used to determine the AMO (Atlantic Decadal Oscillation). Although that oscillation was not expected to switch over to its “Cold” phase for several more years, this January saw it plunge to levels on the “Cold” side not seen in decades.

All bets are off. This is a big shift, and the last time it happened was before we had satellites. We are entering Terra Incognito.

Not that the maps got all that dramatic. January 19 showed things seeming to swing back to another wrong-way flow up through Fram Strait, and, even as cold east winds afflicted areas of Europe and the Mideast south of these maps, new invasions of milder air were gathering to attack the Pole from both the Atlantic and Pacific side.

DMI2 0120B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0120B temp_latest.big

January 21 shows the invasive process continuing.  The cross-polar-flow is less obvious, for rather than a stream of isobars it is shown by blobs of cold high pressure moving from Siberia to Canada.

DMI2 0121B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0121B temp_latest.big

At this point large gaps appear in my notes. I apologize, but we were getting clobbered by blizzards in New Hampshire. Survival, at least in a business sense, focused on snow-removal, and if I was going to stagger indoors and record anything for posterity, recording how a New Hampshire town battled a severe winter seemed more newsworthy than arctic sea-ice far away. However I did note a few things.

On January 26 another big Gale was crossing the Atlantic, as a very cold high pressure sat atop the Pole. Between the two they created a strong wrong-way flow through Fram Strait.

DMI2 0126 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0126 temp_latest.big

On February 1 the gale is cetered south of the Baltic and the high pressure has shifted towards Svalbard, Franz Joseph Land and Barents Sea, but the flow is still the wrong way through Fram Strait.

This stuff matters, if you are accounting for sea-ice. The ice that doesn’t come down through Fram Strait does two things. One, it makes the “ice extent” graph look lower, because there is less ice drifting down the east coast of Greenland. Second, because that ice only heads south to be melted, it means there is more ice left behind up in the arctic, which may mean the “ice extent” graph will show more ice in the summer, many months away.

For only the third time all winter, temperatures neared normal in the arctic.

DMI2 0201 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0201 temp_latest.big

DMI2 0201B meanT_2015

By February 3 the wrong-way flow was bringing mild air up west of Svalbard to nudge against very cold air, which always seems a recepie for storm to me, but I didn’t expect the storm that developed.

DMI2 0203 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0203 temp_latest.big

February 6 shows the Noodle Storm, pulling very mild air right past the pole, driving a cross-polar-flow from Siberia to Canada, and also a “correct” flow, for a change, down through Fram Strait, and then down to Scandinavia.

It would have been fun to study this in greater depth, but at this point winter was using the people of New England as a punching bag.

DMI2 0206 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 0206 temp_latest.big

By February 8 the Noodle Storm was sagging south into Europe, and the cross-polar-flow was pronounced, and winds were dropping to a calm in Fram Strait. The Pole is doing a good job of cooling all the mild air brought north.

DMI2 0208 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0208 temp_latest.big

(There is quite a gap here, as I figured I didn’t have enough to do, and should also write a novel.) The February 15 map shows what I think is left of the Noodle Storm has drifted to central Siberia, bringing its milder air with it. Cross-polar-flow continues, now bringing arctic highs across Bering Strait. A powerful gale is hitting Iceland, but will you look up in Fram Strait? Everything is going the wrong way again.

DMI2 0215 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0215 temp_latest.big

By February 18 the gale has passed well north of Scandinavia, and the flow is the right way in Fram Strait. Mild air is pouring towards the Pole from both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, but blobs of cold high pressure continue to march from Siberia to Canada.

DMI2 0218B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0218B temp_latest.big

On February 23 a micro-gale caught my eye, as it approached the Pole. Not that I had time to study it, though they are an interesting Polar phenomenon,  and may be like hurricanes. As you can see, I couldn’t get my act together enough to save a temperature map.

DMI2 0222B mslp_latest.big

I did remember to get a temperature map twelve hours later. I didn’t like the looks of that blob of Siberian high pressure being squeezed across to Canada. I likely should have paid more attention to the powerful gale southeast of Iceland. However mostly I wondered what the mirco gale was doing to the sea-ice at the Pole. The isobars are packed and the winds must have been strong.

DMI2 0223B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0223B temp_latest.big

Twelve hours later I forgot the surface-pressure map, and only got the temperature map. (By this point most of the population of New England was approaching delirium, as snow depths passed six feet in places.) It does show how that mirco low sucked milder air right up over the Pole. It also shows mild air coming through Bering Strait from the Pacific, and the cold cross-polar-flow bringing more air from Siberia to Canada, and then down to New England. This was starting to annoy me. I mean, enough is enough.

DMI2 0224B temp_latest.big

By February 26 the first Gale has weakened, taking the route north of Norway, as the mild Pacific air has generated a storm of its own. Between the two the cross-polar-flow looks to be weakening. A powerful gale approaches Iceland from the west.

DMI2 0226 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0226 temp_latest.big

Four days later it looks like the Pole has stopped exporting cold, and is gathering its resources. A final glob of cold is passing into Alaska, but sucking Pacific air north in its wake. North Atlantic low pressures extend all the way to central Siberia, and have pulled some milder air up the entire eastern side of the North Atlantic.

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On March 3 the Pacific invasion has started again, and the Atlantic invasion continues despite the swiftly weakening low and the building high pressure north of the Kara Sea.

DMI2 0303B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0303B temp_latest.big

By March 6 the Atlantic surge has become impressive as the Pacific surge retreated. Once again cross-polar-flow is developing.

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March 9 shows the Atlantic invasion at its high point (I think.) A sprawling gale is over Svalbard, wheeling mild air up over the Pole itself. However it is still dark over the Pole for another eleven days, and that mild air can only chill.

A meandering cross-polar-flow persists.

DMI2 0308B mslp_latest.big DMI2 0308B temp_latest.big

The invasion of Atlantic air spikes the arctic temperatures.

DMI2 0308B meanT_2015

And now, at long last, we look at the ice extent graph:

DMI2 0309 icecover_current_new

Hopefully by subjecting you to all these maps I’ve shown that edge of the sea-ice has been eroded north a lot this winter by influxes of Pacific and Atlantic air. Also, because the bitter Siberian air headed across the Pole towards Canada, there was less bitter cold air left behind to create sea-ice off the Pacific coast north of Japan, (where there is much less ice than normal.) However the fact remains: There is less ice at the maximum.

The question immediately asked is: Does the lowness of this graph indicate the world is warming?

No. It means the cold air was distributed differently this winter. If the flow was “zonal”, the cold air generated by sunless winter days in the arctic would have stayed up north, and frozen northern waters. However the flow was radically “meridinal”, which means the cold headed south. As a consequence warm air has repetitively flooded up into the arctic, on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, and frayed the outer edges of the sea ice, on those sides. Meanwhile there was significantly more ice on waters that are not used in the calculations for the sea ice extent graph. For example, take the Great Lakes:

Great Lakes Feb 26 glsea_cur

Or take the saltwater bays off the east coast of the USA.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

The freezing of these waters, which ordinarily are not ice-covered to such an extent, could be used to argue the world is in fact colder, if one wanted to go that route.

The exact same “albedo” equations used up at the Pole can be used on the Great Lakes and the East Coast of the USA, and could demonstrate a huge amount of sunlight is being reflected back into space. After all, there is no sunshine at all at the Pole right now, but the sun is high in the sky further south. By the time the southern ice is melted it will have reflected a sizable amount of heat, but don’t ask me to fool around with the numbers. It would take a lot of “absorbing” for northern ice-free waters to counter that “reflected” deficit.

And that doesn’t even consider the surplus ice in the waters around the South Pole. It doesn’t take a lot of brains to compare the areas of ice, and the latitudes the ice is at, and determine the “albedo” arguments simply don’t add up.

In order for the “albedo” argument to work, there must be less solar radiation reflected and more absorbed, resulting in increasing temperatures. The problem is, the idea doesn’t work even if you utterly ignore the Great Lakes and the East Coast of the USA and the Antarctic. In order for it to work, the ice must decrease at the North Pole.

Even after a winter like this, where the arctic was robbed of a lot of its cold, there are some signs that the ice is increasing. Less ice seemed to be flushed south through Fram Strait, and more ice seemed to be packed together at the Pole. However in order to see these signs you have to do your homework, and become acquainted with individual chunks of ice.

For example, consider the buoy 2012G, which is tracked by the purple line in the map below.

Army Map Active_track

For over three years I’ve watched this buoy as it has wandered the Arctic Ocean, part of a mass of ice that has more than doubled its thickness, from less than six feet to more than twelve. Watching it does not give one the sense ice is getting thinner and weaker.

Another buoy, “Obuoy 9”, past roughly the same area by the Pole two years later, but took a radically different course, and is now north of the Greenland coast. ( See map at  http://obuoy.datatransport.org/monitor#overview/gpstracks  )

If you do your homework and follow such buoys, (many of which have anemometers, thermometers, barometers, and cameras attached), you swiftly learn how mobile the sea-ice is. One buoy I followed began close to the Pole in April and grounded on the north coast of Iceland 8 months later. Most of the ice on the Arctic Sea has a life expectancy of less than two years, and the ice at the edges seldom lasts longer than a few months.

More than half of the ice melts every year, and one year it was three quarters. Then it grows back. You can write both the screaming headline “67% Of Arctic Sea-Ice Melts!” and the headline “Arctic Sea-Ice Triples!” on the same year, and not be a liar.

Considering these amounts are so huge, it is a bit ridiculous to obsess about small seasonal variations in the maximum and minimum extent. They have nothing to do with either a coming “Ice Age” or a coming “Death Spiral”. They have everything to do with the planet’s futile but constant effort to achieve balance, when it it is constantly knocked out of balance by sunspot cycles, and also the simple fact Earth is tilted, and we have seasons.

As the planet attempts to arrive at equipoise it manifests various actions and reactions, and the PDO and AMO are such actions and reactions. Those who want to understand why the ice comes and goes the way it does would do well to study those cycles, and what causes them.

Two major things are likely to influence the melting and reformation of sea-ice over the next few years. The first is the switch of the AMO to its “cold” phase this past January:

AMO January amo(2)

The second is that the sunspot cycle is reduced, and we are seeing a “Quiet Sun.”

DMI2 0224 sunspots latest

My private wondering is about how the “Quiet Sun” may alter the PDO and AMO. They may not behave as we’d expect them to, if they were following a stable 60-year-cycle, because the sun was far from “quiet” 60 years ago.

However if things behave as they behaved in the past, I would expect the shift of the AMO to “Cold” to result in a swift increase of sea-ice on the Atlantic side, over the next year. There is no sign of this yet.

THINGS TO WATCH FOR

As more than half the ice melts away this summer one can measure whether the melt is above-normal or below-normal by visiting a Cryosphere Today page that graphs the melt of all the various Seas, and whether the melt is above or below normal. For example, Hudson Bay can be viewed here:  http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/recent365.anom.region.13.html

If you scroll down to the bottom of the Hudson Bay screen you can see a handy map that allows you to swiftly click to the graphs for other areas.

I chose Hudson Bay because it will be interesting to watch. Usually it is entirely ice-covered by now and entirely ice-free by August, however on rare years not all the ice melts away. Last year the ice barely melted away, but the water was quite cold to begin the winter, and froze swiftly. Now the ice is thick and has piled up deeply against the south and east coasts. The refreeze of Hudson Bay means a lot for the east of the USA, for until it freezes its open water moderates the temperatures of arctic air coming south, and it serves as a buffer. It would not bode well for the northeast coast of the USA if a winter began with ice already in Hudson Bay.

Another place to watch will be Barents Sea north of Scandinavia. Last year, with the AMO only briefly dipping to the “cold” side, the ice actually increased in Barents Sea even as it retreated everywhere else. I am not sure how this is even possible, with the temperatures rising all over the arctic to above the freezing point of salt water. It must be that the ice that already exists drifts south. In any case, it may happen again. If it does happen, it may explain the surprising increases of ice hinted at, in that area, by old, Danish maps showing where the edge of the ice was as the AMO turned “cold”, back in the days before we had Satellites to watch with.

Happy ice-watching!