ARCTIC SEA ICE –Saints and Chihuahuas–

I have heard what the United States is currently politically enduring described as: “A battle between a chihuahua and a saint”. On one side you have a chihuahua incessantly yapping, and on the other you have the saint displaying unending patience. The yapping just goes on and on and on, and gives you a headache. Increasingly you wish the saint would just give the little dog a boot.

Most annoying to me is the fact that no matter how carefully you explain what the facts are, the “other side” behaves as if you said nothing. For example, the United States spent two and a half years and millions of dollars determining that there was no conspiracy between Trump and Putin to “steal the election”, yet in his opening statement in the Impeachment Hearings Adam Schiff went on and on and on about Russia, as if the years and millions had never been spent.

This should wake people to what saint-like sea-ice Skeptics have been enduring from Alarmists, during discussions about sea-ice, over the past quarter century. Originally the Alarmists at least made an effort to debate scientific facts, but as the years have passed they have increasingly abandoned debate and discussion, and resorted to  innuendo, shaming and threats, with Greta Thunberg, an emotional young dropout, replacing James Hanson and Michael Mann, supposed scientists in white lab-coats, as the Alarmist’s spokespersons. In the end all a Skeptic’s long-suffering patience, and carefully explained truths, seems a colossal waste of time. It truly has been like attempting to debate with a yapping chihuahua.

Forgive me for expressing how exasperated and disgruntled I feel with a sonnet:

I search their faces, hunting for the hints
And clues contained in clouds, but they are blank.
The clouds have no faces, and seas don’t glint
With sunshine. There is nothing left to thank
With bursting song, and when I sniff the breeze
There is no scent. When two sniffing dogs greet
They exchange more news, and news is more sweet
Than in the zombie blankness that seeks to seize
With deceit’s hate. Disrespecting what’s real,
What’s tried and true, and all of the facts
For lust, gold and power, they try to steal
The jewel of peace with lead’s restless attacks.
What can I do but bow and beg with prayer?
Truth remains true, though I can’t see It’s there.

So what is “true” these days, in terms of sea-ice? The truth is the sea-ice “extent” is at the highest level, for the specific date of January 24, that it has been at in the past five years.

DMI 200124 Extent Screenshot_2020-01-24 Ocean and Ice Services Danmarks Meteorologiske Institut

Therefore, yet again, the “Death Spiral” theory has been debunked. Not that it seems to matter. Greta Thunberg blathers on about the sea-ice melting away. Because she dropped out of school, she apparently has no use for charts and graphs.

It is sort of sad, but I increasingly have to do the Alarmist’s arguing for them, as they apparently can’t even be bothered debating any more. For example, in the above graph it should be noted that, though this year is the highest of the past five years, it is still “below normal”. Then, having stated the Alarmist side, I cross over and state the Skeptic side, pointing out that the “normal” is determined using the time period 1981-2000, when the AMO was largely in its “cold” phase, and then suggesting that a slightly lower “normal” should be adopted when the AMO is in its “warm” phase, as it now is, (but may soon be shifting out of.)

Switching back to the Alarmist arguments, if the “extent” graph doesn’t work, one should shift over to the “volume” graph, which does indeed currently show very low levels. A true Alarmist then suggests the current sea-ice is thinner and more “rotton” than it formerly was.

DMI 200123 Volume Screenshot_2020-01-24 DMI Modelled ice thickness

The Skeptic response to Alarmist excitement over low volumes was more difficult in February 2017 or in March 2018, when Alarmists could use the word “unprecedented”.  However between March 2018 and July 2018 the volume (navy blue line in above graph) went from lowest in recent times to highest (for each specific date) which tended to suggest the “trend” was not in one direction, and that “volume” involved factors and fluctuations that hadn’t been discussed, and which needed to be considered.

The “truth” is that “volume” is very difficult to determine, and involves great efforts on the the part of the true climatologists working on the subject. The numbers we use are “modeled”, which is to say there are no actual people out measuring how thick the sea-ice actually is, in the midwinter darkness.

The thickness is gleaned through satellite measurements which tend to miss the the finer details because they are so far from the surface.  For example, a “pressure-ridge”, formed when two flat floes collide, can heap up a considerable volume of ice in a relatively narrow area, and be missed by the satellite many miles overhead. In fact a satellite may miss the significant difference between flat sea ice (created by a calm winter) and sea-ice crisscrossed by pressure-ridges (created by a stormy winter).

We were able to observe this around seven years ago when funding was more plentiful, both for funding cameras on the ice, and for funding young adventurers upon the ice. Where satellites, even with close-ups, saw smooth ice, our on-the-ground explorers saw and were blocked by new pressure-ridges which one experienced arctic-skier once described as “crazy ice”.  Like mini-mountain ranges, pressure ridges can thrust up ten to thirty feet, and, (because nine-tenths of an iceberg is under water), also thrust down ninety to two-hundred-seventy feet, holding considerable “volume” in what, from outer space, is, even in a close up, thinner than a hair if not downright invisible.

Later in the melt-season, when the pressure ridges tend to crumble and spread out, the “volume” can even appear to increase although the sea-ice is melting, as the satellites can start to “see” ice they formerly couldn’t. (Later on in the melt-season there may be different problems, as melt-water pools are “seen” as open water.) All in all volume measurements need to be taken with a grain of salt, (although the fact we even have such tools to work-with should  earn the scientists involved kudos).

This year likely has seen the formation of many pressure ridges towards the Atlantic side of the sea-ice icecap, for there have been many North Atlantic storms, and on occasion they have remained powerful even after progressing into Barents Sea, where they usually weaken.

Such North Atlantic storms are enormous.  Although they lack the eye-walls and intense inner winds of a hurricane, they are often larger and have tropical force winds over a larger area. The bigger ones have hurricane force winds far from their centers and central pressures below 28.00 inches (950 mb). I think they may actually “expend” more energy each year than hurricanes and typhoons do,  and likely play a large part in keeping the planet from growing too hot, and in transferring heat from where it accumulates at the equator to where it is lost to outer space at the Pole.

In essence hurricanes and typhoons transfer bundles of energy from Hadley Cells up to Ferrel Cells, and North Atlantic (and North Pacific) gales transfer bundles of energy up to the Polar Cell. It is part of a majestic and elegant system which (in a simplified form) works in the manner pictured below:

Hadley-Ferrel-Polar general-circulation-hadley-ferrel-polar-cell

As beautiful as the above portrayal of our atmosphere’s workings may be, reality is in some ways more messy, or perhaps more intricate. Above is a picture of things in balance, but wrenches get thrown into the works.

Some of the wrenches are predictable, such as the fact the sun moves from shining on the North Pole on June 21 to leaving that Pole in darkness and shining on the South Pole on December 21. Also the swings from a spotted sun to a sun with a clear face and back is a fairly predictable cycle of eleven years. These cycles likely interact to create oscillations, such as the AMO and PDO and the fluctuations between El Ninos and La Ninas which, even if secondary in nature, are wrenches-in-the-works in their own right. Furthermore there are dramatic events, such as the eruptions of enormous volcanoes and even the strike of a major meteor, which disturb the poise of the planet.

One cycle, perhaps predictable or perhaps not, is what may be a 200 year cycle from a quiet sun to an energetic sun and back to quiet again. The last “quiet sun” was the Dalton Minimum, around 200 years ago, which was marked by Global Cooling, and leads some to feel that current concern about Global Warming is patently absurd, and that we are donning bathing suits on the day of a blizzard.

It seems to me that, no matter what it is that whacks things out of balance, the planet has ways of recovering its balance, and I’m curious to identify what these “ways” are. It seems to me that if we had a list of phenomenon or sequences to expect, we might be better prepared, irregardless of whether the wrench-in-the-works was an El Nino, the AMO switching from “warm” to “cold”, an extended solar minimum, or a whopper of a volcano.

For this reason I watched with interest the past few winters as the above scheme of atmospheric circulation seemed disturbed, for rather than descending air and high pressure at the Pole, there tended to be an anomalous area of low pressure (which I dubbed “Ralph”.)

Of course, often, when you are looking for one pattern, that pattern refuses to show its face. “A watched pot never boils.” This winter has seen little of “Ralph”, and things have swung back to a more ordinary pattern, but with intriguing variations that make things unique, wonderful and puzzling.

While high pressure has generally owned the Pole, it has been displaced to the Pacific side, and there has been an interesting hubbub in the North Atlantic.

The typical Atlantic gales tend to peak around Iceland, which has led to such low pressure being dubbed “The Icelandic Low” (complimented by the matching “Aleutian Low” in the Pacific.) After stalling out around Iceland its remnants tend to wander away to the east, sometimes as secondary and tertiary storms along the trailing cold front, and sometimes as “kicker” storms on the warm front. In the fall, before sea-ice forms, such remnants of the Icelandic Low can be traced as they roll on along the arctic coast of Eurasia all the way to East Siberia and Bering Strait, but as the sea-ice forms such residual systems seem to be starved for moisture, and fade away earlier and further west.

During the past few winters the east side of huge Icelandic lows brought mild, surging “feeder bands” of Atlantic air north into the Arctic Sea, resulting in the formation of various incarnations of “Ralph”,  but this year has seen little of that. Instead the warm air has come north only so far, before being sucked in to intensify the Icelandic low, but the low hasn’t anchored itself by Iceland, and instead has peaked as a 950 mb giant as far east as the western border of the Kara Sea, and as far west as (recently) the east coast of Labrador.  In essence the Icelandic low has had a bad case of wanderlust.

To shift where the Icelandic low anchors itself and “peaks”, locating it more than a thousand miles east or west, must utterly derange the typical temperatures, stratification,  and currents of surface waters.

First, such enormous storms suck heat from the ocean and transport it to the top of the troposphere, for even when the seawater is below freezing (because it is salty), when such water is whipped to sea-spray, it creates moist air at 29º F which is so much warmer than overlying arctic air of -40º F that “bombo-genesis” results, with lapse rates favorable to amazing updrafts.  Heat from the ocean is removed to the edge of outer space, with further heat removed as latent heat released during the phase-change from vapor to liquid and from liquid to crystal, and that heat is left behind in the upper atmosphere as cold snow falls back down. (Though gas cools as it rises, expands and decompresses, solid does not warm as it falls for it does not re-compress. Therefore what goes up does not come down. The heat uplifted is lost to outer space.)

Second, such enormous storms have such extremely low central pressures they cause water to up-well beneath them,  as if they were a large mouth sucking on a soda-straw. Passing hurricanes leave a stripe of cooler water in their wake, and the same event occurs in the arctic, though less obvious. This is bound to derange the stratification of arctic waters in terms of temperature and salinity.

Third, such enormous storms have “fetches” that can be hundreds of miles long, and fetches of even a thousand miles have occurred. When such a fetch is from south to north it transports warmth north, and when such a fetch is from north to south it transports cold south. If the Icelandic Low is over Iceland it has a southerly fetch between Iceland and Norway, but if the Icelandic Low is displaced to the border between Barents and Kara Sea, as occurred earlier this winter, the southerly fetch becomes northerly, and a derangement of ordinary currents occurs.

“Fetch”, as a five letter word, fails to adequately describe what occurs in such storms. One needs to be out in a small boat in such a gale to appreciate the power involved. I, as a foolish young man, was once south of Cape Cod in a 28 foot yacht heading for New Jersey,  and had the misfortune to observe how swiftly the sea changes (as does ones intellectual Atheism). Because I had the good fortune to survive I can pretend I was scientific and that I took rational observations, and was aware the storm I was experiencing was downright puny, compared to the storms up by Iceland. (Actually I was sick as a dog and my scientific objectivity was reduced to swaying between groaning curses and whimpering, “Mommy.”)

They say the seas “build”, which is another inadequate five-letter word. What is fascinating is how the rather disorganized points of wavelets get their act together and become lines of marching waves, growing taller and taller until you can’t see over the oncoming wave until you are lifted to its top. The tops are torn and breaking in the wind,  creating streaks of foam on the water and flying spray in the air. The storm I experienced was a force 9 gale, (though when I tell the tale to grandkids I make it be force 12) and for me 50 mile an hour winds and thirty foot seas were enough. I have no desire to scientifically investigate true Icelandic bombs.

Yet what is odd is that, while the power and energy involved is tremendous, and so blatantly obvious one would be a fool to deny it, it has an elusive quality. It can slip under the radar in certain ways, in certain computer models. Why? Because in the midst of chaos the temperature may be stable, and the barometer may have bottomed-out in be flat-lining;  according to those two instruments nothing is happening. Also the water is theoretically barely budged by a wave passing through it, a cork on a windless swell describes an up-and-down circle and makes little progress, (in the same manner the sound waves of a song don’t stir the air they pass through very much). A wave may have little effect crossing thousands of miles of sea,  as if the sum of its passage was zero, and such a wave only reveals the power it holds when it crashes into the cliffs of a distant continent and crumbles solid stone to sand. Great power and energy is there, but, because such power cannot be measured by a thermometer, barometer or even anemometer,  it is neglected, and not included in some discussions about “Global Warming”.

A perfected climate model would need to include formulas I haven’t seen written down. For example, we may know how much energy there is in a sunbeam, but how many sunbeams are in a fifty knot wind? And how many sunbeams are in a thirty foot wave?

Because some forecasters bear the burden of warning sailors and “boaters” (who aren’t really sailors) when the seas may build and become dangerous, some good science has developed formulas that work fairly well. If you know the fetch is a hundred miles and the winds will rise to forty mph for three hours,  you can plug those three numbers into your equation and come up with an answer telling you how big the “average sea” will be, and by adding around 80% to that figure you can arrive at the size of the biggest wave. Though such numbers are now automatically fed into computers, with wave heights popping out to be read by clerk-like meteorologists,  the invention of this formula took a lot of hard work by dedicated scientists over many decades.

The invention of submarines meant further hard work needed to be done to determine how far down into the stillness of the depths the great agitation at the surface extended. (It is not as far as I originally imagined.)

Further hard work is needed, for the situation turns out to be far more complex than it may appear. For example, although waves move through the water without moving the water much, the wind does more than make waves; it bodily moves the water at the surface. When a fetch extends many hundreds of miles and then runs up against a shoreline, the water can pile up and create especially high tides. Also, because low pressure sucks water upwards, a mound of higher water exists at the center of a storm which can create a different sort of especially high tide, should the center cross a shoreline. Both of these events involve the shifting of huge amounts of water, which we notice when our beach house gets washed away, but tend to ignore when it occurs far from shore, in the middle of nowhere.

One thing we have never studied in great detail is what occurs in the North Atlantic when the “warm” AMO swings to “cold”. This lack of knowledge is due to the fact the last major swing of this sort occurred sixty years ago, when satellites were just being invented. (The first satellite, Sputnik, flew 63 years ago.) These early birds had no cameras, and then had very poor cameras. But one thing we do know, from the reports of fishermen, is that some mysterious shifts in cold and warm currents were involved,  which caused fishing grounds to shift hundreds of miles, to the great concern of fishermen (until they tracked down the fish.) We know it happened, but how it came to pass is sheer speculation, at this point.

Besides satellites, an array of buoys has been set in place in the North Atlantic and in Barents Sea to measure temperature and salinity at various depths. (I wish I could study the data they are gleaning.) This is the beginning of the hard work a new generation of scientists will do to further our understanding.

It is somewhat irritating when some Alarmists state “the science is settled” and fill the young heads of uneducated dropouts like Greta Thurnberg with panic, for the science is not settled and much awaits discovery (and some Alarmist “science” is just plain bogus, rather than “settled”.) Worst is that the funding seems to be being dramatically cut back, partly because, “who needs scientists, when they can hire a  bimbo like Greta?” Also it seems much of the funding was entangled in the “Swamp” mentality of “pay to play”, involving kick-backs and other forms of corruption, more concerned with power than with Truth. There seems to be a sort of push-back now occurring against such nonsense, which is making the money tighter in the “Swamp”, and far less trickles down to the true scientists, or even to the pseudo-scientists who….well….perhaps I won’t go there…….

To return to the subject of the North Atlantic, the wanderlust of the Icelandic Low did have some effects I could see. While the movement of currents below the surface and the stratification of those waters can’t be seen by satellites accessible to the public, we can watch the sea-ice.

When the Icelandic low formed up in Barents Sea, becoming a monster with a central pressure below 950 mb, stalling for days and only slowly crawling east towards Kara Sea,  south winds on its east side scoured the west coast of Novaya Zemlya, pushing the edge of the sea-ice (which had been advancing south) many miles north, actually creating a slight downward blip in the sea-ice “extent” graph. This downward blip might have been greater, but on the other side of this monster storm sea-ice was driven south, with a polynya of open water actually forming on the southwest coast of Franz Joseph Land, as sea-ice crushed up against the east coast of Svalbard and moved into Barents Sea south of there. There even seemed to be an increase of sea-ice on the west coast of Svalbard, which is often kept open by a warm tendril of the Gulf Stream that sneaks into the arctic along the easternmost side of Fram Strait. It seems likely that the flow of this warm tendril was interfered with, not only by north headwinds in the strait itself, but by contrary gales along the entire route this tendril takes as it moves north from Norway.

While I cannot dignify such observations by calling them “data”, I do park them in the back of my mind, for it seems probable that anything that impedes the inflow of warmer water into the Arctic Sea could eventually encourage the current formation, and impede the later melting, of sea-ice.

Further to the east, the general positioning of low pressure to the west, in western  Siberia, and high pressure to the east, towards Bering Strait, created steady south winds between the two.  Such south winds are not warm, for they come from the cold heart of Siberia in the dead of winter. In fact even without these south winds there is a tendency towards offshore winds along the Siberian coast during the winter, because the cold and sinking air over the interior is drawn out over the water as, even when ice-covered, the sea creates warmer air that rises; the south winds only enhanced this tendency, and the south wind was so persistent that the heart of Siberia was drained and did not get as terribly cold as it sometimes does.

The tendency for offshore winds seems to usually be greatest smack dab in the middle of the Siberian coastline, in the Laptev Sea. Because these wind push the ice away from the coast, forming polynyas of open water which skim over with fresh ice which in turn is also pushed out to sea, the Laptev Sea tends to be the greatest exporter of sea-ice to the Central Arctic of all the marginal seas. This year that export has seemingly been enhanced. The skim of ice near the Laptev shoreline has been exceptionally thin, while the ice has piled up to an exceptional degree where it runs up against thicker ice in the Central Arctic, forming a long band of thicker ice from north of Svalbard to north of Wrangle Island, and now a second band seems to be starting to form closer towards Eurasia.

DMI Thickness 200124 Screenshot_2020-01-25 FullSize_CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20200124 png (PNG Image, 1337 × 1113 pixels) - Scaled (53%)

The piling-up of this sea-ice towards the Pole is interesting (to me) for a number of reasons.

First, a feature I’ve sometimes noted during the melt-season, and dubbed “the Laptev Notch”, (a triangle of open water based at the Lena Delta and pointing towards the Pole,) seems apparent as thinner ice, even though the formation of ice continues for three months. This baffles me, for all the theories I’ve come up with to explain the Laptev Notch involves things such as the Lena River Floods that involve warmer weather. (Time to eat some humble pie).

Second, the piling-up of this sea-ice is alarmingly close to where they bulldose a blue-ice airstrip for the yearly “Barneo” research-station dash military-base dash tourist-trap. There has been trouble holding the event for the past few years due to quibbles between Norway, Russia and Ukraine, and last year the event was cancelled because some rule (which never existed before) abruptly decreed that an airline could not land jets north of eighty degrees latitude. Among other things this meant several hundred members of the elite could not joyously squander roughly $30,000 each, spending a couple days at the Pole. Now that the people involved have had a year to think about how roughly ten million dollars they could have fondled slipped through their fingers, they perhaps are rethinking their need to quibble.

Third, the fact this piled-up sea-ice is so visible in a satellite-derived model suggests it is far more than a few pressure-ridges, which are all but invisible from outer space. The “thickness” maps are an average-thickness,  and do not speak of the variations in thickness in the piled up area. When the sun rises over this sea-ice in March, the area will become discernible to the naked eye via satellite,  and we will be able to squint at close-ups. Sea-ice has a geology all its own, and it will be interesting to see what it looks like.

Fourth, it should be noted that the Naval Research Lab “Thickness” maps show nowhere near the same size and thickness, for this piled-up area. The Danish Meteorological Institute model seems to show sea-ice six feet thicker, which hints at problems with the reliability of models. It will be interesting to see which model is more correct, when daylight dawns at the Pole in March.

Fifth, The MOSAiC Expedition ship is locked in the sea-ice between this piled-up area and the Pole. If you don’t mind people who drink too much coffee and who strain at gnats, a surplus of information about the expedition’s findings is discussed at Nevin’s sea-ice site here:,2906.500.html

It will be interesting to see if the piled-up sea-ice interferes with the resupply of the MOSAiC expedition by icebreaker, next June.

Lastly, if sea-ice levels are determined by cycles of the AMO and PDO, then at some point we should see the levels of sea-ice begin to “recover” at the Pole. Such a recovery would put a final nail into the “Death Spiral” theory. Could we be seeing hints of the mechanisms involved?

Moving further east along the Arctic Eurasian coast we leave the influence of the North Atlantic gales and move into the orbit of the displaced high pressure which we see in the middle of a traditional “Polar Cell”. Besides wobbling to and fro between the Pole and Bering Strait, this high pressure has wobbled from side to side in Bering Strait. When it leans toward the Siberian side very cold air drains south through Bering Strait, and when it shifts to the Alaskan side the winds reverse and Pacific air flows north through the strait.

What I have noticed is that the cold air draining south, besides growing sea-ice south of the strait in Bering Sea, has (along with cold air pouring into the Pacific from western Siberia) chilled the “warm blob” in the Gulf of Alaska a lot. This may explain why, when the winds shift around and Pacific air comes north, it is not as mild as I expected. In fact, if this shift in sea-surface-temperatures continues the northern Pacific will start to take on the characteristic of a “cold” PDO, (which is also occurring, interestingly enough, on the Atlantic side, with a hint of the “cold” AMO appearing.)

SST anomaly 200127 anomnight.1.27.2020

This is quite a change from last November:

SST Anomaly 191104 anomnight.11.4.2019

While the sea-surface-temperatures remain confused, and don’t seem to want to resolve into anything definite, there is clearly some chilling occurring in the northern pats of both oceans. (As these are anomaly maps, the chilling is actual, and not merely because it is winter.) One thing that seems interesting is that both the Gulf Stream and the Kuroshio Current are above normal to the south, which suggests that the continental cold is heading out to sea further north. This is more indicative of a “zonal” flow than a “meridional” flow around the Pole, and suggests that although the high pressure is displaced towards the Pacific, much of the winter cold is being trapped up at the Pole rather than escaping south as arctic outbreaks, (which, because the cold stays over the Arctic Sea, may result in thicker sea-ice).

Another indication that the cold was trapped to the north was cold temperature records being set in Alaska over the New Year.

Alaska cold Fairbanks-Graphic

I found the cold in Alaska troubling, especially when the trajectory of the air-mass seemed to be from the Pacific, and therefore seemingly should have been warmer. I supposed I could dismiss it as “home grown”, due to the very long nights and brief days. However if I followed the trajectory of the “Pacific” air further back it often had poured off Siberia, and while that air may warm at the surface as it crosses the Pacific the warming isn’t all that deep. (Even as far south as California there is a difference between “Pacific” air that originated in Siberia and air from Hawaii.)

Besides the air from Siberia that crossed the Pacific there was Siberian air that bled across the Pole itself, due to the contrast between high pressure in Bering Strait and low pressure in the North Atlantic. This air did “warm” as it crossed the “warm” sea-ice, (if you can call temperatures rising from -50º to -25º “warming”), but these surface temperatures also seemed shallow, and as soon as the air bled into the Canadian Archipelago it reverted to extreme cold.

As a result it looks to me as if the central section of the Northwest Passage is frozen very solid, and if things were left to nature I’d say a sea-ice breakup would be unlikely this summer. Of course, we do have icebreakers helping with the breakup these days, so all bets are off.

Despite all the cold on the arctic coast, not all that much managed to charge south to my neck of the woods in New Hampshire, and frost has not been a worry in the orange groves of Florida (though one time they had just a touch.) Our cold air has tended to be “home grown” in Central Canada, due to snow-cover and short nights, or it has sneaked down through Quebec along the east coast of Hudson Bay,  timid compared the roaring blasts of arctic air which we’ve experienced other years.

This supports my contention the flow has been zonal, albeit in a confused and indecisive way. Perhaps the factoid most supportive of the idea the cold “stayed north” is that an all-time cold temperature record was set on the icecap of Greenland. (On January 3)

Greenland record ENYfUFSW4AAr-s3

This record was not merely the record for a single date, but for all time. Nor did it beat the old record by a small amount. The old all-time record was -81.9°F, and the new record is -86.8°F, nearly a five degree difference. (Inform Greta.) I find this especially amazing because, due to the fact various oceanic oscillations are in warm modes, the average humidity of the planet is slightly increased, and this makes a big difference in polar regions.

(Basically, if you measure humidity in terms of volume, a small volume (say a tablespoon) of water evaporated into the air at the equator makes very little difference, in terms of relative humidity, but makes a far greater difference at the Pole. IE, if you boiled a cup of water in a tropical kitchen you’d hardly notice any change in humidity, but if you boiled the same cup in an arctic igloo at -40° the room would fill with fog. A small amount of moisture raises the dew point a lot at the Pole, and, because the dew point represents a sort of basement to temperatures, (because latent heat is released as fog forms), a slight increase of moisture at the Pole results in a big jump in temperatures.)

Anyway, if you had asked me I would have told you would will see no record cold at the Pole until the oceans cool and the planet’s air gets drier. And I would have been (and was) wrong. The new record set in Greenland really raised my eyebrows.

Greenland summit_camp_e1578045880344

In terms of temperatures at the Pole, they have remained a few degrees above normal, but so far have lacked the spikes we saw in recent years when huge surges of Atlantic air rushed north as “feeder bands” to feed a “Ralph”. To me the difference is noteworthy. (2017 left; 2020 right.)

This brings me all the way around the Arctic Circle to the North Atlantic again, and returns me to my wonder about why it is that some years the milder “feeder bands” continue on up to the Pole, whereas other years they get spun up into an Icelandic Low with wanderlust further south. And the honest answer is, “I don’t know”.

And perhaps that is the difference been the way I am now, as an old man, and the way I once was, when I was a spoiled but frightened teenager like Greta Thurnberg. Now I know I don’t know, and it doesn’t bother me much, whereas back then I thought I knew everything, and was troubled. (I’m not sure, but perhaps this hints that even a chihuahua may hope to someday become a saint.)

(Note: If I get time I’ll include an update with all the DMI maps I’ve managed to save, but my old computer crashed and I’m inept with my new laptop. It takes me a long time to post maps, and time is in short supply in my life, for sea-ice is my avocation, and I have a vocation to run.

I should mention that the maps do show some incarnations of “Ralph”, though they aren’t of the well-fed Atlantic variety. One sort comes through Bering Strait, as an extension of the Aleutian Low,  and seem to occur when the high pressure shifts from one side of Bering Strait to the other. Another sort seems to come up through Baffin Bay along the west side of Greenland, and puzzle me a lot as they seems to have a cold core and haven’t much of a warm “feeder band.”

Here are the most recent DMI maps, showing more quiet than usual in the North Atlantic, especially in Barents Sea, and a weak “Ralph” that came through Baffin Bay fading away over the Pole. The “feeder band” curving up west of Svalbard through Fran Strait towards Francis Josef  Land is a new feature, drawn north by the fading Ralph, and will be interesting to watch.)

Stay tuned.


ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Stand By Truth–

Around a fortnight ago I heard that Alarmist sites were proclaiming that the big guns were being rolled out to blast Skeptics, in order to convince the general public that Global Warming was a “fact” and not a theory, and that only wicked people (like me) denied such “facts”. In actual fact the Alarmists have rolled out pop-guns; not cannons. There has been a shortage of facts, and primarily we’ve seen raving and ranting by young people who are “on strike” because grown-ups are “destroying their world”, (which is basically a delusion, for it is likely there has never been a generation as physically well-off).

(Emotionally, such youth may well be destroyed, but their teachers are to blame for that. The climate itself is beyond reproach. And I could warn such foolish teachers what eventually happens to the teachers in socialist revolutions, but that would take me down a long, sad sidetrack and far from the subject of sea-ice.)

I will only go so far, playing this silly game Alarmists play, wherein they steer far from the facts while pretending they are the realists. As long as the person I am debating is willing to calmly discuss the facts, (and also whether the facts are “raw data” or so-called “adjusted data”, [which is data that has been fiddled-with and therefore can no longer can be called true data]), I can enjoy the conversation. However there are certain conversations that seem highly unlikely to involve any enjoyment.

Having raised two daughters, I am familiar with young women’s extremes of emotion, (though by age sixteen mine were showing some signs of returning to earth). But with daughters one at least owns the love which sees one through feminist storms, and daughters return some degree of that love, even when they’re furious at you. In the case of Greta Thunburg one is faced with a veritable iceberg of antipathy.

And “icebergs” returns me to the subject of sea-ice. Which is what people need to do, when faced with political nonsense. Otherwise one risks being dragged down by the sheer ugliness of untruth. In such situations it is often wise to go for a hike and absorb the beauty of the view. Become aware of the wonder.

This was actually all I was doing, when I first posted about sea-ice back in July of 2013. I was merely sharing a beautiful escape I had found, which offered relief to the heat of July.

But that post embroiled me in the Climate Debate on my own site. (I did visit the “subject”, in a political sense, on other sites, but my own site was for my personal, poetic wanderings, attractive to some 10-20 viewers a day.) Abruptly I had over 500 viewers a day, and all sorts of interesting comments.

My first sea-ice post made me aware of what a huge hubbub surrounded sea-ice, and that, though the subject seems inane, it can get you more attention than driving a Mercedes. Gosh! If I only knew I could get so much attention talking about icebergs I surely would have started much younger, back when I still had the lungs and stamina necessary to chase women. However, because I am largely past such pursuits, I am not as impressed as I once was by superficiality. In fact I am interested in things that didn’t interest me at all when young, such as “peace”.

When I was young I was more interested in stimulation and excitement, but even then I was aware of a richness and depth which could be found in quietude. I even pursued peace, sitting cross-legged and chanting “Aum” for an entire fifteen minutes, when swept up by spiritual zeal, but soon that seemed too boring, and I bopped away from meditation along an erratic path towards gratifications that never were lasting. To be honest, the course of my life displayed a sort of Brownian motion, despite the great gift of owning free will in a free country. Yet one thing did seem to come along with me and to be lasting, namely a sort of intangible and highly subjective sense of beauty.

Beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder. One time I was swept into a sort of rhapsody by the beauty of a sunrise, but when I asked a depressed and cynical friend if the sunrise was beautiful, he stated it looked like a vomited egg. For that reason I sometimes am in no hurry to share beauty with sourpusses.

As one gets older one’s initial attraction to mere superficial beauty (which is why people wear make-up) evolves. One is hurt when a person externally beautiful turns out to be cold-hearted, and one is touched when an ugly person turns out to have a heart of gold. One then becomes more aware of a thing that is an “inward” beauty. This in turn seems to have a relationship with a thing called “Truth”.

For some odd reason I have always had the ability to see beauty in situations that few would call beautiful. My depressed and cynical friend once told me, “You could face a pile of stinking shit, and you’d find something positive to say about it.” I had to laugh. It was the Truth. But that only annoyed my cynical friend, for I was finding something beautiful about his insult.

One time I was in an alley of a slum, and rather than be upset by the ugliness and decay all around me, I was entranced by the way a sunbeam found its way into that gloom, and how beautiful the old, orange bricks looked in the sunlight. Also I noted that, in some forgotten past before the slum was a slum, the bricks had been laid with extraordinary care by a skilled mason, at which point my cynical friend accused me of smoking dope without sharing any with him.

I actually did hope, when young, that legalizing marijuana might allow others to see the way I saw. After people smoked they would say things like, “Wow, man, the sky is so blue.” Unfortunately their revelations weren’t lasting, and the long-term consequences of using drugs seemed to lessen revelation, rather than stimulate revelation. Not that there was a definite decrease in intelligence. People remained the same. At age fifty they sounded the same as age seventeen.

When I look back and try to find some logical reason for my ability to see beauty, (rather than just calling it a “gift”), one thing I remember is an amazing collection of old and ugly people. My parents were both wealthy and very active, and chose to delegate the rearing of their children to others, and this tendency was exacerbated when they both were bedridden by polio in 1954. The first “nanny” I recall was an old French woman, the daughter of a French composer, who had no fear of polio germs because she was a Christian Scientist. She looked very much like the face on a box of Quaker Oats: Not exactly the face of a Hollywood movie star, but a person who was very beautiful, simply because of all she had endured in France during years of hardship, without losing faith and hope, nor losing her ability to suffer little brats like myself.

Someday I’ll hopefully write a post called “My Nannies” about the entire collection of fascinating refugees who I was cared-for by, by age nine. All were fired, as not one fully achieved the high standards my parents desired for their children, but they were all fascinating in my eyes. They didn’t ever tell me about the hells they had endured, the lynchings in America’s south, the barbaric behavior of Hitler and Stalin in Europe, but, though I later learned they had endured such ugliness, instead, in their wrinkled faces, was a triumph over evil, the victory of simple, good people over horribly astounding adversity. They shone with an “inward beauty” I was somehow able to see, despite being a naive and gullible child, and I think it stuck with me. Being old and wrinkled has never since seemed the slightest bit ugly to me.

Unfortunately, now that I myself am the old and wrinkly person, some young people do not look upon me with any fondness.

Greta and her ilk shows no sign of having the slightest interest in respecting any elders beyond those who indoctrinated her. She is as prejudiced against old people with differing views as some white people were when they listened to Louis Armstrong’s music at a nightclub, but wouldn’t allow him to drink at the same bar with them. Yet Louis wasn’t soured, nor convinced the world was doomed, but instead sang with hope in his old age:

There is an irony in watching Greta, (who has just sailed across the sea in a boat owned by monarchy), wrinkle her nose and insist her future has been stolen, and comparing her sourness with the sweetness of a man whose life was full of reasons to be bitter, yet who refused to be bowed, and persisted, and insisted on joyous song.

What makes the difference? To me it seems to be a difference between imagination and fact, between a dismal distortion of hope into despair, as opposed to an acceptance of what the present tense holds. Where Greta gripes about a forecast, Louis accepts the weather right now and, if it is raining, sings in the rain.

Greta complains her dreams have been stolen, but what are dreams? Even in a better world there is no guarantee dreams will come true. Nor is there any certainty worries will manifest; in fact they usually don’t, and even when they do they’re often not nearly as hard to endure as one envisioned. All in all, it is better to attend to today and allow tomorrow to tend to itself; even five-day-forecasts are often wrong, and few lives unfold anything like what we had scripted at age sixteen. We may plan for a pension, but “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray”. Conversely, even when one seemingly assures oneself a miserable future by being utterly morose in the present, unexpected fortune can befall one out of the blue. Even Greta’s sour face might tomorrow be the glowing face of a young woman who has fallen in love.

One reason it is better to focus on the present is because it is all we really have. It is where Truth exists. It is filled with beauty, if you only look for it. Sadly, people often miss what they have because they hanker for what they haven’t. It is not only heroin addicts who writhe in their cravings, despite the fact the sun is shining and birds are singing.

This at long last brings me back to the subject of sea-ice. It is a beautiful and wonderful subject, if one simply looks at the Truth, and has no need to distort with bias and “adjustments”, nor any need to advocate some political cause. Even though the sun has stopped shining at the Pole, and arctic birds have fled south, the starry polar night has a beauty all its own.

It is a time of great changes, from perpetual sunshine to perpetual darkness, from melting ice to freezing salt water. The flooding arctic rivers, glutted with meltwater, abruptly shrink to a trickle as melting ceases to the south, and even the south winds become cold, when they come north over a tundra which has abruptly changed from being a swampy ooze to being as hard as iron.

This time of transition is fascinating to watch, as it never happens the same way, because a great many variables are involved. Allow me to skim over the surface of this highly complex subject, to give you an idea of how wonderful it is.

One variable is the amount of sea-ice in the marginal seas, which seems dependent on the state of the AMO and PDO. This year the ice-cover is low and the passage along the coast of Siberia is open. What this in turn creates is the likelihood of air rising over those open waters, for the waters “remember” the summer sunshine in a more lasting way than the sea-ice to the north and the tundra (already snow-covered in places) to the south, which makes the air above those waters both milder and moister than the air to the north and to the south. Because the air is rising low pressure is encouraged, and lows tend to ramble from west to east, from Barent’s Sea through the Kara, Laptev, and East Siberian Seas, all the way to Bering Strait. In the map below (for September 29) the blue areas are places where pressures are lower than normal, (especially along the Siberian coast), and orange areas are where pressures are above normal (especially over Greenland and the Central Arctic.) You can see the suggestion that the open water is effecting the pattern. (Maps courtesy of Weatherbell Site.)

When we switch to the temperature maps of the same time (Sept 29) we again can see the effect of the open water, as compared to colder lands to the north and south. (I prefer the Celsius Weatherbell map because the difference between below freezing (white) and above freezing (purple) is so clear.) Of especial interest to me is the above freezing area towards Bering Strait over the East Siberian Sea, as usually the East Siberian Sea is colder and first to freeze.

Also of interest is the below freezing air just inland of the Laptev Sea coast in Central Siberia. It looks so cold one doesn’t see it is actually warmer-than normal, unless one looks at the temperature-anomaly map for the same time:

In the above map the area inland of the Laptev is so cherry red one is tempted to forget temperatures are in fact below freezing, and get carried away and step outside in a bathing suit. (One has to be careful with anomaly maps.) What the anomaly demonstrates is the after-effects of a large storm that stalled over western Russia, drawing cold air south over Scandinavia and pulling warm air north over central Russia. But remember the warm air is only relatively warm, has chilled as it came north, and is in fact below freezing and far colder then the air it displaces over the Laptev Sea, when it is sucked north because the air over the Laptev Sea is rising.

Also notice the above map shows colder-than-normal air plunging south in Western Canada, as Eastern Canada is above-normal. This is indicative of a loopy, “meridienal” jet-stream, (which is what you look for if you like exciting winters). A flatter “zonal” jet stream has troughs and ridges that are barely bumps, and on the surface beneath have meeker lows that travel west to east without much ado. But it is when the jet stream gets loopy that the fun starts. The storms beat their chests and roar. They can start down at the edge of the tropics and come northeast intensifying constantly until they are full fledged monster-gales as they approach the arctic, actually drilling up into the upper atmosphere and altering the steering currents. This is great fun to attempt to visualize, though it can leave you a bit cross-eyed. How can the steered control the steering? It messes up computer programs, for it is like unruly peasants marching to the castle with torches and scythes to tell their boss they aren’t going to follow his orders.

What you have to watch for is storms stalling, and the upper-air pattern getting stuck in a certain position (or sometimes looking like it is going to pull out of a certain position, but then relapsing back to its former pose.) As the storms stall they often occlude, which means the warm front has caught up with the cold front, and the “warm sector” is hoisted off the ground and starts messing around with the upper atmosphere. Though some take the attitude an occluded storm is “cut off” from the juice that feeds storms, at times an occluded front represents a pipeline of juice still feeding the gale, but feeding-in up a few thousand feet. The massive gale remains massive, and often slows, stalls, and then curves back to the west. What the heck is going on in terms of “steering currents”?

The most elegant explanation for the looping of high latitude gales is that they have escaped the influence of mid-latitude westerlies and nudged into the influence of polar easterlies. And, as is the case with many beautiful explanations, this idea works, but only to a certain degree, after which elegance is thrown to the wind like a rich, fat banker slipping on ice and falling on his butt.

In the most elegant scenarios all the might of the primary gale fades as a secondary storm grows new might, usually to the southeast where the occluded front meets the warm and cold fronts. In the most pretty examples, as the secondary explodes into predominance the primary low’s occluded front turns into a secondary cold front of the secondary gale, and the primary gale just vanishes. This happens often enough to be something I watch for, and it fails to happen often enough to cause me to think inelegant thoughts. Politically incorrect thoughts. Thoughts often begun with the three words, “I wonder if…”

There is stuff going on up there on the arctic coasts that bears further study. I fear we may have a sort of west-to-east prejudice, due to living in mid-latitudes, and that this prejudice manifests as a sort of blindness to ripples that move east-to-west, like our sun. What’s more, polar weather is capable of trickery impossible at lower latitudes, for a cross-polar-flow can make a south wind a north wind in one inch, which can’t happen anywhere else (except the South Pole). This messes with simple concepts such as “Coriolis Effect”, to say the least. But it makes the Pole a splendid place, if you like to wonder.

One thing I’ve been wondering about is what causes a jet-stream to get stuck in a certain location. This is important, because a stuck jet-stream has led to our most remarkable winters. For example, the winter of 1976-1977 saw the jet stream get stuck in a pose where the coldest Siberian air took a cross-polar flow north of a balmy Alaska and then across a frigid Yukon and straight down to where I lived in Maine, and far further, to freeze oranges in Florida and cause “Time” magazine to wonder if an ice-age was starting. But what the wonder should have been was: Why did the jet stream stay stuck? It is a small wonder if the jet stream assumes that position for a week in an ordinary winter, and we get a blast we call “winter’s worst.” But that year the blast began in November and stayed stuck until February. It was amazing how the cold just wouldn’t quit that year, and fortunately I was young and hot-blooded and enjoyed it to the hilt.

Now I’m more than forty years older and would likely call the same weather a pain in the ass, but I remain curious about why the jet-stream stayed stuck. Because it seems scientists are too busy trying to get paid by showing CO2 is the cause of everything, no one has the time to wonder why jet-streams stay stuck. Therefore I have to think all alone, (without the help of those who are supposedly educated, but chose to be slaves).

One thing I have wondered is that, if I was going to push around a jet-stream, I wouldn’t chose to do so when it was charging north, like giant surf that flattens swimmers, or sucking south like undertow that can drag swimmers out to sea, but instead would chose the moment when the mighty wave is reduced to a ripple, at the top of the beach. That “top” is the coast of the arctic. It occurred to me that seemingly small things, along that coast, may effect the jet stream when it is at it’s weakest. Just as a little pebble can start an avalanche that flattens an army, small events on the arctic coast may effect the entire Northern Hemisphere winter.

Not that I can say what the events are, but I do think we should study what happens, and not CO2-caused events that don’t happen. We should study what usually happens, and also study the unusual.

What usually happens is the East Siberian Sea freezes first, followed by the Laptev, and then the Kara, and lastly by Barents Sea to a varying degree. And “usually” as the waters freeze the low pressure systems passing over them lose the addition of heat and moisture, and therefore weaken, first over the East Siberian Sea, and later over the Laptev, then Kara, and lastly Barents Sea.

At this point I am launching into sheer conjecture. It seems to me that the point where a jet stream stops moving north and starts moving south may be a sort of “hinge” which can be moved this way or that way, by small things, and have huge effects on the world’s weather. The swing of a huge gate is determined by a little hinge, and that “hinge” is moved east or west by a scrawny little man with a screw driver.

God willing, I’ll find time to venture some of my ideas about who (or what) the “scrawny little man” that determines our winter might be, in a future post. However the point of this post is not to announce some grand theory, but rather to stress the importance of simply watching the Truth. The Truth knows all about the grand theory long before we get around to discovering it, and Truth toys with it.