ARCTIC SEA ICE: Undersea Volcanoes In the Arctic; Part 1

I see no need of waffling about with a long introduction, as if making a point requires foreplay. The simple fact of the matter is that a hole appeared in thick sea-ice in the spring of 2021 in the rough vicinity of the undersea, volcanic Gakkel Ridge. Although for a time the actual sea-ice drifted to the east the hole “burned” its way west, and then when the sea-ice shifted back to the west the hole “burned” to the east. This strongly suggested (to me) that the power that made the hole was different from the power that moved the sea-ice. My guess was that the sea-ice was shifted by surface winds, but the hole was made by a plume of warm water up-welling from lava beneath. Over the course of two months the hole gradually drifted across the 90 degree east longitude line, and then seemed to loose its power to keep a separate identity. Converging winds eventually crunched the sides of the hole together, creating a pressure ridge where there once had been a hole, as the entire area moved towards Fram Strait, and towards being eventually flushed down into the Atlantic.

I then did my best to stir up some debate about volcanoes melting sea-ice, at various sites, but failed. Then I sulked, and morosely watched the same area, to see if there were other “holes”. I saw nothing for months, until last summer, much later in the melt season when the sea-ice was much thinner. In late August four holes appeared. They were fleeting and ephemeral, but not associated with any divergence of sea-ice that I could see. Interestingly, later they too collapsed into four small spots of pressure ridging, and began slowly drifting towards Fram Strait.

There you have it. That is the totality of my evidence. Or, well, there was an earlier hole around a seven years ago that got me in the habit of watching that area. A person commenting on this site sent me a screen-shot picture and asked me if I thought the pictured hole might be caused by a volcano. I had to confess I had no idea, but that when I tried to research the topic I noticed people avoiding the topic, which did seem odd.

To be blunt, the topic seems to cause some researchers to practically break out in hives. They’d deflect and distract and change the subject. I assumed it was because it was in some ways taboo to suggest anything other than CO2 causes decreases in sea-ice. The powers that control the puppet strings of funding, of advances and grants and promotions and awards, had somehow made it clear that there are certain directions research shalt not go. What boobs.

Besides steering carefully around the reefs of talk-about-seafloor-volcanoes, researchers also seemed to need to walk-on-eggs concerning solar cycles, whether they be the shorter sunspot cycle or longer cycles involving whether the sun is “noisy” or “quiet”. Apparently the powers-that-be noted the sun is not influenced by the levels of CO2 on earth, and therefore they decreed, “Thou shalt dismiss the sun as a cause for increases and decreases in sea-ice.” Fluctuation in solar radiation were then obediently scoffed-at as “too small to matter”, even as a tinier change, from three-parts-per-ten-thousand to four-parts-per-ten-thousand, were claimed to matter hugely…(in terms of funding, I think. Do you want a paycheck? Or not?)

I find this all frustrating, and just plain annoying. When simple observation notices a curiosity, it is only natural for curious people to go look at the curiosity. In a sense a curiosity is an opportunity. It is a chance to discover. And most scientists delight in discovery.

Besides those who shy away from talking about the possible effects of volcanoes on the floor of the arctic sea, there is the occasional lone wolf. Often they are amateurs like myself, who don’t make any money off being curious, nor require any funding to remain curious. As lone wolves, we scent the blood in the water; perhaps we should be called lone sharks. Whatever you call us, we occasionally meet in obscure chat rooms and compare notes, and bounce wild theories around, and nearly always vent our frustration that there is not more research on what should be researched.

One thing about the Gakkel Ridge is that every time they have managed to scrape together funding and do a little research they have discovered things that have shattered science’s preconceptions.

Bathymetrische Karte vom Gakkel-Rücken

One thing discovered, or rather verified, was reports of volcanic craters down roughly two and half miles beneath the ice. The craters had been seen by Russian and British and American submarines using sonar during their Cold War shenanigans, and the craters puzzled scientists because, according to theory, there could not be craters down so deep. Craters require gaseous explosions, and according to theory the pressures were too extreme down so deep. Even CO2 exists as a liquid, (as it does under pressure in a fire extinguisher,) down that deep. This was a curiosity that attracted the curious.

There seemed to be two ways a volcano could explode. A caladra could eject a plug of lava from its vent, reducing pressure in the lava beneath which then, like soda pop in a bottle when the cap is removed, would abruptly release gas at such a rapid rate it would explode lava out of the volcano, creating a crater. Also, should the caldera eject enough lava it would become an enormous cavern of super-heated air, floored by a lake of lava, whereupon a failure of a wall and an inrush of ocean water could cause a sudden, tremendous creation of steam capable of blowing the top of a mountain off. However it seemed impossible to meet such a criterion two and a half miles down. The pressure would be too extreme. Most explorations by robot submarines suggested at such depths lava could only ooze out of mid-ocean rifts. Yet here there were craters! Was there some third way volcanoes could explode?

A series of undersea earthquakes in 1999 made curiosity too great to bear, and in 2007 a robotic submarine was sent down to take a look. There was fresh evidence a never-seen-before (at such depth) eruption had spread volcanic shards over a 10 km2 area.

If you glance through the above article you will notice it does not mention anything about warming water or melting sea-ice. I think what got them in trouble with the powers-that-be was when they attempted to theorize what could have caused a blast under such pressure. They theorized it was impossible to create steam under such pressure, but if sufficiently high levels of CO2 could be drawn from the lava it could be heated to a degree where it became gaseous. And the lead scientist likely made a political mistake by saying:

“This means that a tremendous blast of carbon dioxide was released into the water column during the explosive eruption.”

I imagine this broke the commandment, “Thou shalt not say there is any source of CO2 other than fossil fuels.” Call me a suspicious old coot if you wish, but, in terms of research on Gakkel Ridge, you could have heard a pin drop for nearly 15 years. (There was one study in 2014 I can find little about, and there may have been some others, but, if so, they received very little publicity, and were shadow banned so effectively, I haven’t found word of them on the web. If you find one, please alert me in the comments below.)

But now at long last some research is going on up there. But I find it amusing the lengths they’ve gone to assure everyone their research has nothing to do with climate, CO2, or sea-ice. The research is ongoing by NASA, and it’s aim has nothing to do with Earth. It has to do with the exploration of “icy worlds” like Europa (a moon of Jupiter) and Enceladus (a moon of Saturn). Far enough away for you?

I can’t help but chuckle over the language they use. In a related NASA paper I read,

“We should be pinching ourselves because it turns out that the first vent-site tracked to source in the Arctic is a very useful analog for answering questions pertinent to Enceladus missions,” said Chris German of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In a sense I feel a little sad. Are they not allowed to find things that might be very useful to answering questions pertinent to planet Earth?

However I have hope. In the same paper I spotted the line,

When collecting samples from the plume of material emanating from the vent, the scientists uncovered other ways in which this hydrothermal system is unique.

You see that word, “unique”? That means it was never seen before. That means it cannot have been expected. That means it is puzzling, and that word “puzzling” has the power to draw scientific minds like a light draws moths.

No matter how hard the powers-that-be use mothballs, the moths will find a way to see the light.

Stay Tuned.

(P.S. I am sketching out a future post on the effects a lava flow might have on the currents of an Arctic Ocean. To play it safe this Arctic Ocean will not be on Earth, but on a planet called Mirth. Mirth is exactly like Earth, but on Mirth they are allowed to have volcanoes melt sea-ice.)

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Another Blip–

A blip on the “extent” graph has separated the decline of sea-ice this year from past years, making it look like there is more sea-ice this year. Is this true, or an illusion?

The melt is far from over, and the amount of the end-of-summer melt can vary considerably. Just in recent years it can be seen, in the above graph, that roughly twice as much “extent” vanished in 2020 as did in 2021. (The x-axis gradations in the above graph represent 2 million km2. Therefore 2020 saw a loss of 2 million km2 and 2021 saw a mere million km2 melt.) As our extent is currently roughly 0.8 million km2 above what it was in 2020, we’d have to lose that much more to reach a level approaching the 2020 minimum.

The most amazing reduction of “extent” was in 2012, due to a big summer gale that formed over the Pole and caused some major stirring of the Arctic Sea. That year there was a thick, cold “freshwater lens” over slightly milder and saltier water, and when the stirring brought up the milder water the sea-ice vanished with startling rapidity. Or at least I was startled. That April I was expecting the sea-ice to make a comeback, for it was nowhere near the lowest that records had seen; in fact, it was 27th lowest. Yet by August it was lowest ever seen. I was so amazed I confess I actually suspected fraud was involved.

But one nice thing about that time, (only ten years ago but now seemingly a different universe), was that you could write a polite email to scientists and get a polite reply, and I contacted scientists who were actually up in the Arctic at that time, and I got a wonderful reply from a gentleman who had actually been on flights over the Arctic Sea, and he described how amazed he was that so much ice had vanished so swiftly.

Also, scientists back then were not so swift the blame Global Warming and leave it at that. I recall discussions about how a shift in the AO had caused a shift in where the outflow of the Lena River wound up, and how this caused a thickening of the “freshwater lens” towards Canada. While such articles tended to have an obligatory genuflection towards Global Warming in the final paragraph, the body of the paper was full of fascinating wonders. Here is one about that shift, from January 2012, (if I’d been more on-the-ball, I’d have suspected the “freshwater lens” might affect the melt the following summer.)

After that amazing melt in the summer of 2012 everyone seemed made more aware of the effect a summer gale might have, and therefore Alarmists were expecting great things (in terms of melting) when an equally impressive gale developed the summer of 2013. To the surprise of many (including myself) far less sea-ice melted. In fact, the sea-ice seemed to slosh around and hardly melt at all.

I never saw a paper explaining why the sea-ice failed to melt; perhaps it was given a good leaving-alone because it did not support the narrative concerning Global Warming. However, it seems apparent the water under the sea-ice must have been altered. Perhaps the 2012 gale demolished the “freshwater lens”, and also “used up” the heat and salinity stored in the stratified water beneath.

It seems apparent that there are variations in the layering and makeup of the waters of the Arctic Sea which may rival the changing makeup and layers in our atmosphere. Perhaps there are the equivalent of warm fronts and cold fronts, and even watery “jet streams” at various levels.

Last summer I spent some time attempting to envision what changes might be brought about by a major eruption of lava on the Gamal Ridge. (Basically, it would screw up preconceptions and mess up carefully crafted maps of existing currents, by creating a plume of ascending water where water ordinarily should be descending.) This subject is another which seems to have been given a good leaving alone, at least since 2008.

To return to the subject of the “extent” of the sea-ice this summer, I think we cannot have a good idea of how the extent will diminish without a clear map of the sub-ice currents. We need a clear idea how the stratification of the water has proceeded. How thick is the “freshwater lens” and how has it shifted? How stratified is the water, and what is the temperature and salinity at various levels. We need more buoys. Lots and lots of buoys! Send much more money, please. (It is a far more worthwhile investment than the Clinton Foundation).

In the meantime, we have little to go on. I have noticed an abundance of small storms (“Ralphs”) over the Pole this summer, though so far none rival the gales of 2012 and 2013. Their cloudiness perhaps explains why temperatures have largely been below normal. (The lone spike above normal occurred as a high pressure’s sunny spell drifted over the top of the earth.)

The current dip in temperatures occurred as yet another small low drifted past the Pole.

This is occurring just as the temperature map shows the reappearance of the sub-freezing isotherm at the Pole; the surface thaw is ending.

Back when we had buoys with cameras up there, we could see the meltwater pools atop the sea-ice start to freeze over, but also we witnessed that the melt continued from below the sea-ice, and often saw areas of ice crumble even as temperatures above the ice dropped below freezing. Typically, more sea-ice melts than freezes until mid-September. So, where should we be looking? We should look where the sea-ice is most thin, and for this I like the NRL (Naval Research Lab) maps.

The lilac, especially the light lilac and white, represents the thinnest and most-likely-to-melt ice.

For comparison I’ll include a NRL map for the same day in 2020

One increase that jumps out at me is the increase in sea-ice in the East Siberian Sea, between Wrangles Island and the New Siberian Islands. This seems to happen when the PDO is colder and during La Ninas, though I can’t claim to understand the dynamics. In 2020 this area was largely ice-free by September, but I doubt it will happen this year. First, because the ice is thicker to begin with, and second, because that water was ice-free in 2020 it was exposed to cold air during the refreeze, which seems to “shock the system” and disturb any warm and salty layer beneath any freshwater lens. (I say “seems” because I haven’t seen any actual study.) Therefore it “seems” that, even if there was a big gale, the effects would be more like 2013’s rather than 2012’s.

A comparison of the two maps also shows an increase of thicker ice north of Greenland. While this makes no difference in terms of “extent” graphs, it does make a difference in terms of “volume” graphs.

The “volume” graphs involve many variables and the difficulties of modeling, so I tend to be a little leery of their accuracy, but they have given Alarmists a problem in recent years by refusing to show the expected decreases. The PIOMAS graph does show a sharp decrease between 1997 and 2010, but the curve has seemingly bottomed out since 2010.

Despite a mysterious subtraction of 2,000 km3 of sea-ice (see previous posts) the DMI model shows a recovery of volume to levels near 2018’s.

In conclusion, it seems highly unlikely that this year will see the long trumpeted ice-free Arctic Ocean we’ve been promised. But this is not to say the researchers don’t deserve more funding. They do. Much that influences weather further south occurs up there and is worthy of our wonder.

Stay tuned.