ARCTIC SEA ICE —The Drastic Laptev Majesty—

Of all the seas bordering the Arctic Ocean, the Laptev Sea is the most extreme, when it comes to the yearly ecological whiplash the arctic subjects its species and geology to. The water goes from nearly fresh to salty and the water temperatures swing from freezing to 60° F (16° C) near the shore. The tundra bordering it goes from sunbaked heat in the summer to one of the coldest places in the northern hemisphere in the winter.

Arctic rivers vary greatly in their flow, at a trickle in the frozen depths of winter and in a roaring flood during the height of the summer melt, and the Lena River is the tenth largest river in the world, though perhaps it is difficult to measure a river’s size when it freezes to the bottom in places, in February. The river rises sixty feet during its flood stage. Maximum discharge has exceeded 4.2 million cubic feet (120,000 cubic metres) per second, and the minimum has fallen to 39,300 cubic feet (1,100 cubic metres). In other words, a hundred times as much fresh water pours into the Laptev Sea in August as does in January.

The huge surge of fresh water into the Laptev Sea is one reason its shorelines freeze so swiftly. The ice has spread over much of the sea in only a week. (October 4 left, October 9 right.)

During calmer years the fresh water is able to stratify more, and a definite “lens”of fresh water forms at the surface, but on stormy years the mixing of the fresh water with the salty occurs more quickly. The sea is over the continental shelf and relatively shallow, so there is little exchange with the deeps, as occurs over much of the Antarctic coast. Winds tend to shift from summer sea-breezes, when the land is hotter and air rises over land, to winter land-breezes, when the sea is warmer and cold air sinks over Siberia. A dramatic change occurs during September, when days shrink shorter than nights, and the landscape shifts from sun-baked to snow-covered.

On his blog at Weatherbell, Joseph D’Aleo mentions the Siberian snows have been early this year.

Laptev 3 download

As soon as there is even a dusting of snow the tundra loses its ability to absorb heat from the shrinking daylight, and increases its ability to lose heat to the skies of the increasing nights. Although we are suppose to speak in terms of “heat-loss”, Siberia becomes a “cold-producer”.  The chilled air sinks, and builds high pressure as it presses down, and the Siberian high pressure (which I like to call “Igor”) can be the coldest and strongest in the northern hemisphere, with temperatures in the depth of winter down to -90° F.

The effect on the Laptev Sea is a quick freeze, as the winds start to flow off the land. It is all the quicker because the water is made brackish by the Lena River’s floods. However as the Lena River’s waters freeze, the flow swiftly shrinks. Also the winds start to pick up off the land, as the difference in temperature between the sea and the tundra increases. For a brief time there is a maritime airmass rubbing cheeks with an arctic high, and often this breeds storms that roll along the Siberian coast (with these storms having an oddity: Warmer winds from the north than from the south.) (Not so odd in Australia, I suppose.) These storms churn the water and can break up the ice, yet the freeze can be delayed but not denied. Eventually the Laptev is ice-covered.

However even when ice-covered, though less heat is lost, heat continues to radiate up through the ice. It may seem odd to call it “heat” when it is below freezing, but it is far “hotter” than the air pouring off Siberia. The air over the land is often below -50°F while the air over the sea-ice is “warmed” and seldom below -30°F. This difference can create “land-breezes” that in fact are roaring gales, and the gales are so strong they push the Laptiv Sea ice away from shore, creating a polynya of open water even in the depth of winter. This creates a difference in air temperature at the surface of +28°F over the water and -50°F over the land, which can only increase the gales, and the result is that large amounts of Laptev sea-ice are exported towards the North Pole. Most winters see the Laptev Sea as the largest creator and exporter of sea-ice, though the amounts vary a lot from year to year, depending on weather patterns.

Each time the polynya forms and the exposed water must be refrozen, an interesting process occurs wherein salt is exuded from the forming ice. Unlike Antarctica, where the super-cooled brine vanishes down to great depths, Laptev brine sinks in shallow water. In the delta of the Lena River the water becomes much saltier, as the summer flood turns to a winter trickle, and the “lens” of fresher water atop the Laptev Sea is constantly frozen and exported.

Just imagine a scientist trying to get his mind around all the variables we have discussed already. For a true scientist the challenge is a sheer joy, though for a person who wants a simple answer the Laptev Sea is a nightmare. Even if you could comprehend one year’s changes in temperature and salinity, the following year is likely to be completely different. One year the Lena basin may experience cold and drought as the following year sees mildness and rains, greatly altering the flow of fresh water into the Laptev Sea, and therefore altering the point at which water freezes, and changing all sorts of exchanges between water and air, all sorts of up-welling and down-welling influencing currents, and influencing evaporation rates and the formation of storms.

Just, (for the joy of it), consider this variable: In the case of fresh water, water at 32.1° F floats on top of water at 35°F, but in the case of salt water, water at 32.1°F sinks below water at 35°F. For your homework assignment, figure out the flow of fresh water from the Lena River, chilling as it flows into the Laptev Sea, and also becoming more saline, and determine the point at which it stops being more buoyant than the water it is entering, and starts to sink.

I think the true joy of a true scientist is not so much in figuring everything out, as it is in seeing how wonderful everything is. We might find some answers, but we will never comprehend the entirety of the sheer majesty and magnitude of what our Creator has achieved.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Surge Snipped–

The Pole continues to make for interesting theater, though the drama has died down from what it was a week ago, when temperatures were soaring to 35 degrees above normal and the ice at the north edge of Barents Sea was retreating. Fueling this weather was a strong south wind from the Atlantic that at times pushed right past the Pole towards the Pacific, thus confusing everybody, because a south wind became a north wind without changing direction.  This flow achieved its peak around November 14:

By November 16 the flow was pushing an Atlantic low and its secondary up through Fram Strait, whereupon, due to the strict laws of this website, they are automatically dubbed “Ralph”. The southerly flow, while remaining southerly, had swung east, and was now coming less off the Atlantic and more off shore from Europe, but it nearly was able to push above-freezing temperatures to the Pole.

So strong was this flow that the sea-ice, which usually is expanding south as a thin sheet of ice, was pushed north by strong wind until it was briefly well north of Franz Josef Land, and unable to refreeze because temperatures were above freezing in that area. This produced a brief and unusual dip in the ice “extent”graph, which usually is rocketing upwards at this time of year. However the ice swiftly grew back down to Franz Josef Lands’s north coast as conditions began to change, and the graph resumed its upward climb.


The surge from the south had raised eyebrows by raising temperatures to unprecedented levels (in a history that goes back 58 years).


However my eyebrows were raised by the steep decline that followed.


This interested me because, whereas other places can get colder air from lands further north, there is no place north of the North Pole. Therefore it must get cold air imported from colder tundra to the south, but I didn’t see any strong flow from such tundras. This meant the cold must instead be home grown. Or, to put it more scientifically, the heat was lost locally, radiated upwards into the unending winter night.

Still, it seemed odd to me that the warm southerly flow should just turn off like a spigot. My curiosity sought reasons, for the cessation was obvious as early as November 17, because the first and second lows, following a storm track straight north to the Pole, (incarnations of “Ralph”), weakened with surprising speed. It was as if they were cut off from their warm inflow of mild, moist air, while the third storm in the sequence came to a dead halt and refused to head north, and just sat off the coast of Norway and twiddled its thumbs, remaining fairly strong.

I wondered if the stalled low off Norway might be consuming all the available energy, but this didn’t satisfy me, for the isobars in the above map still indicate a strong flow from the south. Why wasn’t the warmth heading out over arctic waters? The temperature anomaly map still showed the above-normal temperatures moving north in central Europe, but then being bent east at the top. What was stopping the import of heat north to the Pole?


I’d likely still be mystified, but dawn broke on Marblehead when I visited Joseph D’Aleo’s blog over at the Weatherbell Site, and during the course of one of his elegant descriptions of complex situations he turned on the light-bulb in my noggin.

Just as a meandering stream straightens its course from time to time, cutting across the neck of a loop and leaving an oxbow lake behind


So too can a loopy jet stream decide to straighten up its act, and the “surge” was part of a loopy jet:


When a jet straightens up it act, the cut off part of the stream is not called an “oxbow”, but rather a “cut off”, (which shows that meteorologists are occasionally more sensible than geologists).  By November 23 the upper air maps showed the “cut off low” was sitting down over Spain. Over Spain a large part of the surge was no longer heading north, but caught up and going around and around and around, like a taxpayer caught up in a bureaucracy.


You will notice that at the top of the above map the jet is basically zooming west to east. The surge from the south has vanished, making a mess of all my forecasts that calculated the surge would move east this far one day, and this far further east the next. The surge simply disappeared, or at the very least fell over and surged west to east. It was confusing. (Actually the same thing happens when I straighten up my own act. It confuses people who depend on me to be loopy.)  In any case, this morning’s surface map had a reflection of the cut-off-low stalled over Spain, but what about the North Atlantic low? It will plow west-to-east across Scandinavia in the jet, nothing like the lows that headed straight north, last

The tipped over surge can be seen giving some relief to central Asia in the temperature maps.


In the anomaly map the west-to-east surge looks like an arrow, making a layer cake out of the map (to mix my metaphors). The old cold is to the south, still capable of generating a few headlines, but likely to be slowly moderated out of existence. The new cold is along the top, and likely needs to be watched, for it seems likely to be a lasting feature. The “surge” itself seems likely to linger but weaken, but will remain interesting to watch.  At the very least it will give some Asians a break, after they have been through an autumn colder than some winters.


But this is all off the point, which was (in case you can’t remember), that the mild air is not surging up to the Pole any more, and that the vast pool of mild air that was transported up there is slowly cooling, day by day.

I should note that Joseph D’Aleo mentioned that when a jet really gets roaring west to east it can act downright human. (After humans have straightened out their act, what tends to happen next? Answer: Their resolve buckles.) In like manner, we should be on our toes, watching for where the jet will next buckle, and get all loopy, (like a human falling off the wagon after keeping a New Year’s resolution as long as they can bear it).   However, for the time being, up at the Pole, “Ralph” has little hope of reinforcements from the Atlantic.

Not that “Ralph” has vanished completely. Largely he has retreated to the Canadian Archipelago, as high pressure dominates the Arctic. At the end of my last post there actually was a small ghost of Ralph by the Pole, and hint of Ralph’s “signature” in the temperature map, hooking mildness towards the Pole, despite the power of the expanding high pressure. (See the tiny low by the Pole?)

The next day Ralph’s ghost was just a dent in the high pressure’s isobars. Freezing temperatures had snuck down to the northeast coast of Svalabard.


The next dawn Ralph, like all good ghosts, was vanishing, because that is what ghosts do at dawn. (If you you squint you can still see a microscopic low under the Pole.) The only real import of air towards the Pole was from central Siberia.

The following dawn saw an odd dimple in the high pressure’s isobars, on the Canadian side. It looked like (if you use your imagination) a face, that the ghost of Ralph had punched. Freezing temperatures were engulfing Svalbard. By evening the ghost of Ralph reappeared, (as good ghosts do at dark), just north of the Canadian Archipelago.

Today saw the freezing isotherm slump well south of Svalbard, and Ralph retreat and regroup north of Canada. Models are suggesting Ralph will soon start attacking the Pole from the Canadian side, though with colder air than before. The North Atlantic flow is totally from the north, and Scandinavia looks likely to get a dose of north winds.

The north winds are allowing the sea-ice to build south again where the “surge” had forced it to retreat, in the north part of Barents Sea, and sea-ice is again touching the north coast of Franz Josef Land. There was also a slight reduction on the Pacific side, due to strong south winds and a brief mild inflow a week ago, but that has been more than made up for by regrowth, which has now engulfed Wrangle Island.


A major difference from last year is that Hudson Bay was half skimmed-over last year, and the refreeze hasn’t even started this year. I think this will soon change. The Bay’s waters are shallow, and it tends to freeze over with remarkable speed, which contributes to the speed of the growth of the “extent” graph.  I’ll bet a nickle the Bay is entirely frozen by Christmas.

Even though the flow from central Siberia has been weak, it appears to have nudged the thicker ice just off shore, in the Laptev Sea. Watch for the formation of polynyas along the shore there, for that is indicative of the export of ice into the Central Arctic Basin.

Baffin Bay is swiftly icing over, but remains behind last year’s rate of growth..

The Kara Sea’s sea-ice shrank back before the “surge”, but that sea has since swiftly grown sea-ice on its eastern side.

The reversing winds have seen multi-year ice start down through Fram Strait, along the east coast of Greenland, but the ice down towards the coast opposite Iceland in Denmark Strait is largely home grown.


I’m not sure how it is possible, but some models see a colder version of Ralph moving up from Canada to regain complete control of the Pole in a week to ten days. Stay tuned.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Northabout Battles Sea-Ice Through Vilkitsky Strait and Laptev Sea (Updated 5 Times)

When temperatures are over ninety (32.22° C) there is nothing like pictures of sea-ice to cool my crazed brain. Cooling is especially nice if one is politically inclined to scoff at Global Warming as a serious threat, and the sea-ice is proof that Global Warming isn’t happening in the manner proscribed by believers in the “Arctic Death Spiral.” But when sailors are taking the pictures, of the sea-ice I enjoy, there comes a point when the importance of politics fades away, because the photographers are facing death.

Not that one cannot die for political things, and die for their country, or their platoon, or their gang, or their wife, but such sacrifice is beyond the scope of ordinary politics. Ordinary politics, especially in recent times, is far more sleazy and selfish, and, rather than sacrifice, tends to focus on “what is in it for me.” People get busy keeping petty accounts that note how many times they scratched another’s back, and how many back-scratchings they have received and are owed, and if accounts do not seem right, they resort to back-stabbing.

To be honest, it disgusts me. Modern politics has all the spirituality of a leech, and all the love and romance of a cheap business transaction involving the purchase of the daily paper. I increasingly feel that it isn’t only me, and that the public is also disgusted, and cynicism is rife. Cynicism rises up as a king,  belittling hope and optimism, until an unlikely redeemer appears,  and our common enemy, Death, rises up and waggles his fingers with a friendly, “Hello”.

The reason people sail the Arctic Ocean or climb Mount Everest, rather than staying in a cozy and safe armchair,  is because risk is a redeemer.

It is amazing how quickly the threat of extermination will cut to the chase, and get people to get over their differences, and work together.  Unfortunately some politicians are adept at misusing this phenomenon, and create false threats to motivate populations to act. For an extreme example, most genocides are based on portraying a minority as a life-threatening threat to a majority, which the majority  must rally together to kill.

I am increasingly certain Global Warming is just such a false threat. It’s creators seemingly aim to exterminate opposition to their political agenda, which is an agenda I find repugnant, as an American, because the agenda loathes the liberty of the individual.  To cut a long discourse short, the agenda loathes private ownership of anything, seeking to enforce brotherhood with a club.

The Agenda dislikes mothers nourishing their babes, because Family Values are charity, which begins at home, because a man’s home is his castle, and even such a little patriotism as that is a threat to internationalism, which loathes patriotism of any sort.  Therefore internationalists twist a mother’s love into being a sort of hate:  If you love the baby God gave you then you are not being equal and fair to some child starving far away, and this makes you a racist.

In like manner internationalists loathe the love a man displays when he goes to the trouble to open a small business. As soon as a man steps from being a person who works for another to being a man hiring workers, he becomes slime. He is a “boss”, as if that is an evil.

In conclusion, internationalists in their ivory towers can become the enemy of love, in any sort of normal and natural form love has, that street-people can relate to.  Rather internationalists profess the love of Stalin, who is said to have subscribed to the idea that, “The death of one is a tragedy; the death of a million is a statistic.”

In other words, “It is the big things that matter; little people can be damned.”

This is fundamentally different from the American idea that, “All men are created equal.”

Americans believe, if they examine themselves, that a mother nursing her babe is equal to a Stalin, with all his might and all his power. Furthermore, she has the same single vote Stalin has, and the same control of our destiny. Stalin can bluster all he wants, muttering, “The ends justify the means” and, “Might makes right” and, (write in here any other justifications for bullying you desire). Still that poor mother has the power of Stalin, if America lives up to Her dream.

Global Warming is an attempt to create a false threat, because its creators know mothers will sacrifice their own well-being for the well-being of their babies. However it is a threat born of the cynical genius of politics, which has outlived its shelf-life.

Where a snake-oil salesman knows when to depart a town in a hurry, and seek a new town where the population is gullible and naive,  the perpetrators of the Global Warming alarm have no place to run; they have sold their snake-oil too widely; it is a case where they have no place to hide and internationalism has become a bad thing even for internationalists, for even remote Eskimos know all about Global Warming. The sheer, grinding nastiness of their cynicism has created a cynical populace, which increasingly doubts everything politicians and the Media claims.

Death is quite another matter. When it waggles its fingers at you, you are not the slightest bit cynical.

This was most especially obvious during the 1800’s in the age of sail. With members of a crew liable to be washed overboard or die of scurvy, captains had to hire new crew-members from alien cultures.  And, within the pages of writings such as “Moby Dick”, it is obvious that crew-members of very different racial, political, cultural and religious backgrounds would drop all their differences, when the alternative, (to working together as a team), was death.

This is something the Sea teaches much better than the Land does.  Stalin tried to teach with bullying death, but his schools always involved barbed wire, gulags and fences. The Sea spits on the very idea of fences. In fact it is the opposite, for it offers freedom.

But freedom isn’t free. It involves risk. It involves going to Sea.

This is what the good ship “Northabout” has done. Gone to Sea. Sure, they left port all puffed with a bloated political agenda about Global Warming, but the Sea slaps your naive preconceptions away with the first storm, when it lays you as low as a dog, with sea-sickness. After that, they could have turned back, but now they are heading into considerable risk, as they attempt to slip through sea-ice.

Northabout 17a DSC_1028

When such ice appears ahead, do you think inanimate ice cares what political party you belong to? If you believe Professor Peter Wadhams, when he makes his yearly headlines stating the Pole will be ice-free this summer, do you think the sea-ice will part like the Red Sea, to let you through?

Northabout 17b DSC_1026

Apparently not. The sea-ice does not read the New York Times or attend Professor Peter’s lectures. Therefore, because the sea does not agree, you are in a pickle, with your way blocked. You must trust the courage of your captain, and your own ability to be a good crew. And perhaps you do find a weakness in the wall of ice:

Northabout 17c DSC_1030

When your captain finds a gap in the ice, it may be like the gap between the teeth of a shark’s open mouth. After all, each berg only represents the “Tip of an iceberg.” The slightest berg, to the upper right, may only extend six inches above the water, but nearly five feet (56 inches) extend downwards. And that is but the smallest chip. How about that bigger berg off the starboard bow? It sticks up four or five feet, which in theory means it should stick down 36 or 45 feet, but these burgs are not always symmetrical with their mass, and sometimes the below-water part can stick sideways 36 or 45 feet.  It could hole your hull. In other words, this is no Sunday sail the crew of the Northabout  are on, over velvet waters, after church. This is for real. What if the shark’s teeth close?

Northabout 17d DSC_0964-600x400

Oh shit. This is no joke, anymore.

Now I am sure some are tempted to sneer, “Where’s your ice-free Pole now, suckers?” However this is no Professor Peter we are dealing with, getting rich by being politically correct in a fat-cat armchair,  and pretending to be a prophet, and announcing the Pole will be ice-free in 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016.

Instead these are very real people. They are not sitting on obese posteriors in some plush. leather Lazyboy, pontificating upon polar conditions from far away places. They are actually in those far away places. They are actually battling the ice that isn’t suppose to be there. They are actually gathering the actual data. In fact, in a worse case scenario, they could be killed by the actual data.

Therefore, rather than sneering, I suggest we do a bit of praying. Let us drop the stupid politics until they cross the Laptev Sea. Once they are safe, then, if they insist upon resuming their political nonsense, we will meet their nonsense blow for blow.

Were it not for individuals who dare test the waters, we’d be all sitting in our armchairs believing the media’s claptrap about how ice-free the arctic is.

Rather than sneering at “Northabout” and calling them a “Ship of Fools”, we should be thanking the crew for facing waters we don ‘t dare face. At the very least, they are showing the “ice-free” waters have icebergs, and they themselves have guts.

Northabout 17e 16693-1

That fellow in red is a “man overboard”, in water that is salty and at, or below. freezing, and can kill a person in five minutes if they fall in. Just who does he think he is, standing on the water? Jesus? No. He is just a working man trying to get to that open water barely visible in the upper right of the picture.

They made it, and crept along the shores, which were ice-free because the southwest winds blew the ice away from shore. This is called a  “Polynya”, and does not mean the ice by the shore is melted, but rather it is moved away. (Northabout located where the white arrow is:)

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However in these “ice free” waters you can come across not only sea-ice, but bergs taller than your highest mast.Northabout 17f DSC_1049.

I find this berg fascinating. It isn’t sea-ice and it isn’t locally grown. I want to take dirt samples. Is it from Greenland’s glaciers? And how did it wind up across the Arctic Sea in the Laptev Sea, when official maps of currents state “you can’t get there from here”? Also why is the geology of the berg’s ice so odd, with horizontal strata and slanting strata?

But the captain doesn’t care a hoot about that. He just sees that open water to the upper left, and also knows big bergs are dangerous. In theory, if they are 40 feet tall, they stick down 360 feet, but as I said earlier they can stick sideways rather than down. Also, because “bottom melt” can exceed “top melt” in August, such bergs can become top-heavy, with their bottoms melted, and can suddenly capsize and what was the bottom can come surging up as the top plunges down. This can be dangerous to a small boat squeezing by.

The good ship Northabout has faced days of dangers, but now a new danger appears. Winds may shift to the north for a brief time. It may be only twelve hours. But all the ice will come grinding south and threaten to crunch a small boat against the shore. So perhaps the captain dodges backwards, to seek a safe place for twelve hours, after which,  perhaps, the south winds will resume and allow sailing east again.

Northabout 17h 16774-1

I will not criticize these gutsy sailors, and instead I will find a private place to whisper a few politically incorrect prayers that they experience safety.

Professor Peter Wadham is another matter. He stated the arctic would be ice free this summer. I will privately pray he meets an iceberg inland, in England.


They made three attempts to get through the ice yesterday, all in vain. Likely they wanted to get east before a storm hit with north winds. The last thing they want is to be stuck in the ice with the ice moving in gale force winds. It is quite hard enough in a calm.

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All their attempts brought them back to where they started.

Northabout 18a 2

The closest thing they could find to a safe anchorage was a so-called “stamukha”, which is a berg that has been pushed onto shallow water by a storm and is grounded. This particular chunk of ice appears to be genuine sea-ice, and not a large chunk calved from a glacier. It looks like multi-year-ice, either piled up to a pressure ridge where it now remains, or piled up to a pressure ridge somewhere else and driven ashore.

Northabout 18c DSC_1087

From  the safety of my armchair I want to take samples of the dirt on the berg. It might be from a mountain, which would prove the ice was from a glacier. It might be soot from China’s coa;-fired power plants, or from a volcano, concentrated at the bottom of a melt-water pool and then refrozen into the ice. Or it might be alge that grows on the bottom of the ice, and then is frozen into the ice when the ice gets thicker in the winter, or put at the tip of the ice when the ice is flipped like a pancake.

The captain has other concerns, with winds picking up. Will this berg stay grounded in a storm? Will it shelter them from other bergs moving in the storm?

They likely have endured a long, sleepless night, and I’m awaiting this morning report with a degree of anxiety. All I can say is that there is no  sign of movement yet.


ON THE MOVE AGAIN.  They got started at around 7:00 AM EST, which I guess is early afternoon for them, and so far they have made it east about half the distance they probed three times yesterday.


BREAKTHROUGH!  Yesterday they commented that if only could get through the three miles of ice there would be clear sailing all the way to Bristol. I think that may be a bit overly optimistic. But they may find things easier at least to the far side of the Lena River Delta. (The Lena is at peak flood in August, pouring massive amounts of summer-warmed waters into the Laptev Sea.)

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All day I have found myself sneaking to peek at the “Tracking Map” to see how the Northabout is doing. The skipper is amazing. I can’t see how he hasn’t gone aground, he has sailed so close to shore. I figured they had penetrated the blocking ice, and therefore was surprised to see them abruptly turn back.

Seeking a reason, I checked the forecast. Hmm. Looks like they are in for a bit of a blow. The skipper is wise to seek a safe anchorage.

Northabout 20 Screen-Shot-2016-08-13-at-23.47.13-1024x909

ARCTIC SEA ICE —Groping In Darkness—(Updated Sunday Evening)

It is somewhat appalling how swiftly the days grow shorter, even way down south here at 42.75° North latitude, in southern New Hampshire. The month before and the month after the equinox see the swiftest shrinkage of daylight,  nearly four minutes a day around here. By December days are short, but not getting much shorter, and one can adjust to the status quo, but in October one exists in a sort of trauma.

I spent a year up at latitude 58° north, at the top of Scotland, and was completely unprepared for the swifter decent into darkness. I really think someone should have warned me. Ever since I have had greater respect for people who call such a plunge into darkness “normal.”, because that is their homeland.

Of course, the further north you go the greater and swifter the change gets, until you arrive at the Pole where it is the all-or-nothing of a six-month-day followed by a six-month-night. Up at latitude 84°N, where Faboo (my name for the North Pole Camera) is located, the sun has set until spring, and even if the camera lens wasn’t encrusted with hoarfrost, there would be little to see but darkness and nearly black twilight. As it is you can hardly see any difference between day and night.NP3 1 1030 2015cam1_4 NP3 1 1031 2015cam1_1

It is rather hard to write interesting things with such a black view as a basis. To make matters worse, both Faboo’s GPS and weather buoy haven’t bothered report since October 23. The best I can do is hope to catch one of the reports from co-located Mass Balance Buoy 2015D:, which are sporadic at best.   I do know Faboo drifted as far south as 84.11°, and then drifted back to the northwest to 84.16° N, 7.11° W, and now again has floated south to 84.11° N, 6.91° W, with the most recent temperature reported at -22.01°C.

The O-buoys have been equally as frustrating, with the entire site down much of last week. Now that it is operating again you have to be on your toes, and have more free time than I have, to catch the brief times of bright twilight, which is all that the day now amounts to.

The most interesting O-bouy camera has been O-buoy 14, which likely is causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the poor fellows who spent so much time and effort placing it, as it was by sheer chance located on what turned out to be a sort of San Andrea Fault. The odds of this happening are fairly slim,  though last year the arctic explorer Thomas Urlich did have a lead open up six feet from his tent as he slept.

These faults in the sea-ice have little to do with whether it is warm or cold, and are brought about by the the colossal stresses put on the ice by the winds. They create brief areas of relative mildness, as the open water steams like a hot cup of tea though it is below the freezing point of fresh water. Then the open water flash freezes. (Notice the layers in the ice exposed by the lead in the picture below, indicating there is more complexity to the growth of ice than some imagine.)

Freezing Lead 328125_original

Here are some of O-buoy 14’s recent pictures:

OCTOBER 25  Obuoy 14 1025B webcam OCTOBER 26Obuoy 14 1026 webcam OCTOBER 27 (notice how horizon is tilting.)Obuoy 14 1027 webcamObuoy 14 1027B webcam Obuoy 14 1027C webcam OCTOBER 31Obuoy 14 1031 webcamWe are actually witnessing the birth of a pressure ridge. This is pretty cool, but likely is bad news for the camera. I think the odds are poor that the camera will be functioning in the spring.

The other O-buoy cameras are picturing darkness or snow-smeared lenses or, in the case of O-buoy 9, not sending any pictures at all. The loss of O-buoy 9 is most sad, though perhaps I should be amazed it survived the battering it experienced in Fram Strait so long. Its final picture, after two years of reporting a journey from the far side of the Pole, was this real beauty on October 20:Obuoy 9 1020 webcam

It was at that point all the ice began grinding southwest, and perhaps the ice buckled as it crunched towards Greenland and the camera got toppled, or its radar dish got crunched or encrusted in rime. (I suppose an icebreaker may have picked it up as well.)

We still are getting reports from the O-buoy 9 weather station and the GPS, which show a general movement southwest with a few quirks back north as pulses of south winds passed. One such pulse lifted temperatures nearly to freezing Saturday morning:Obuoy 9 1101 temperature-1weekFor the most part temperatures have been between -10°C and -15°C, which once again demonstrates melting has little to do with the lessening of ice to the north; the ice is simply flushed south. What is interesting about the process this year is that the ice has been slow to be moved south. In fact a lot of the sea-ice in Fram Strait is not ice transported south, but home-grown “baby-ice”. It shows up as purple in the NRL ice-thickness map below:

Thickness 20141028 arcticictnowcast

The thicker sea-ice, transported down from the north, shows as blue, and is located further out in Fram Strait. (There may be some remnants of an earlier flush right along the coast, though that also may be crunched baby-ice, or ice calved from Greenland’s glaciers, or a mix.) The older ice shows as a sort of spear tip of blue out in Fram Strait, and O-bouy 9 is located near the point, roughly at 78.1° N and 10.8° W. It would be wonderful if they could get the poor, old camera functioning again, as that ice is likely under duress and building odd shapes, and cracking open wide leads.

The various wintertime leads and cracks and gaps are seldom wide enough to show up in the NRL ice-concentration maps. The bright red creates the the illusion ice is solid, when it often is fractured and in motion:Concentration 20151029 arcticicennowcastTo me the above map is interesting because the East Siberian, Laptev and Beaufort Seas have frozen over so swiftly, even as Bearing Strait and The north Atlantic entrance to Barents and Kara Seas are wide open. This creates a sort of imbalance, especially on the Atlantic side.  Storms seem to want to cruise up to the Pole or Barents Sea, or south to the Mediterranean, and to avoid Europe, which is making headlines with early snows to the southeast, and in southwest Siberia. (Visit the Iceagenow site for news of early snows.)

In eastern Siberia temperatures may be above normal, but that is still far too cold for rain, and, because milder means moister, they have had early snows right down into China and Mongolia. (Iceagenow has a report of China having trouble transporting oil into occupied Tibet by truck, due to snows.) The areas with early snow (which are usually snow free on this date) are shown in blue in the map below.Snowcover anomaly 20151101 2015302__1_ Unless this snowcover melts back Eurasia will have a larger than normal area “creating cold”. I suppose this is occurring because the cold normally over the Pole has been displaced south by the invasions of Atlantic and occasionally Pacific air we have seen move north.  This has resulted in a DMI graph showing it is warmer than normal north of 80°N latitude. (If you want to promote Global Warming I suggest you focus on this graph, and ignore the snows in Bulgeria and Romania falling while the trees still have green leaves.)DMI3 1101 meanT_2015

Note that “above normal” in the above graph still involves temperatures below -20°C.

Another good way to see the “warmth” at the Pole is to visit the excellent Weatherbell site, and get the week free trial of Ryan Maue’s maps. Among thousands of other maps you can get a map that shows you whether temperatures are above or below normal at the Pole. (Above normal is a cheery red, rusting to white hot, which will please Alarmists.) The map below shows a spear of Atlantic warmth coming in a curve over Svalbard and around towards Canada, past the Pole, while Pacific warmth is over by Bering Strait.Temp Anomaly 20151101 gfs_t2m_anom_arctic_1

However, before you are fooled by the red, and put on a bathing suit, it is important to compare the above map with the map of actual temperatures, For example, eastern Siberia may look a toasty red above, but check out the actual temperatures [in Fahrenheit], below.Temps 20151101 gfs_t2m_arctic_1To me the most interesting observation overall continues to be the dichotomy between the open water of Barents Sea, suggesting warmth, and the thickening ice over the Pole, suggesting increased cold. The fact it has been so cold south of Barents Sea hints that sea is getting chilled from all sides. Its open water may well lose a lot of its warmth over the course of the winter, and do so at depth, for the water is far less able to stratify when it is open and churned by winter winds.  I doubt it will freeze over swiftly like the Laptev Sea did, and as long as it is open it will be being cooled. Also cooled will be the drift of slightly warmer water that ordinarily moves east and influences the sea-ice coverage of the entire Siberian coast. This may be a case of play-today-pay-tomorrow, for the lack of ice now may create colder water and more ice to the east, next summer.

With the loss of our cameras most of my observations from now until spring will involve looking at maps and making wild speculations about what the maps may mean. Simply watching the weather over the ice can be fairly interesting, especially as you can often see an arctic outbreak developing a week before the newspapers further south go berserk with headlines about the “polar vortex,” (which often is just an arctic outbreak).

Below are the past weeks DMI maps.  Hopefully I’ll find time to discuss them later, but I’m going to visit my big sister in Boston today, so naming storms and describing their tracks will have to wait. I apologize for slacking off the past week, but I had to get a pig to market, and it weighed three hundred pounds and decided to be a problem.  That likely will make a good “Local View” post, but I did get a fat lip out of the tussle,  which took a week longer than I expected, and in such situations sea-ice gets bumped down my list of priorities, at least for while.


OK, I’m back, so let me see if I can catch up on these maps before the workweek starts. As we begin the low “Fling5zip” os drifting towards Kara Sea, with a decent and normal north flow behind it in Fram Strait, but the low “Malga” in Baffin Bay has a southerly flow ahead of it, and threatens to creat a “wong way” flow from the south in Fram Strait. Between these two storms a ridge of high pressure is developing from the high pressure “Nunu” on the Pacific side and  unnamed Atlantic high pressure I’ll dub “Tick” (which is short for “Atlantic.”)  This high pressure will deflect the storm over Iceland southeast towards the Mediterranean, so we can call it “Norit”, because I’ll ignore it.

DMI3 1026 mslp_latest.big DMI3 1026 temp_latest.big

Here we are seeing Fram5zip reaching the end of the open water, which I believe feeds storms, and reaching the ice-covered waters of the Laptev Sea, which ought fail to feed it. Back in Fram Sreait we see a weak frammerjammer forming, which likely is energy from Malda which survived the morpistication of climbing over Greenland, and is now making a complete confusion of winds in Fram Strait. Therefore call it “Messer”. It is also confusing the establishment of the ridge between Nunu and Tick across the Pole. Malga weakens in Baffin Bay.

DMI3 1027 mslp_latest.big DMI3 1027 temp_latest.big

On this map (below) we see Fling5zip weakening over the closed waters of the Laprev Sea, but a secondary, (Fling5zipson) forming over the open waters of Barents and Kara Seas. Messer is heading due east, rather than north like earlier frammerjammers. Norit has faded southeast from view , but Norit2 has appeared at the southern tip of Greenland. Nunu is strong on the Pacific side, and Tick is strong over Scandinavia. Malga is being reinforsed by energy from the south in Baffin bay.           DMI3 1027B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1027B temp_latest.big

In the next map Fling5zip is much weaker and Fling5zipson is taking over as the big storm north of Siberia, over the open waters of Kara Sea. A long cross-polar fetch extends from East Siberia to northern Scandinavia, and weak Messer is getting sucked into that flow and vanishing south. Marlga and Norit2 are exchanging energies obscenely,  south of Greenland, as a ridge through Fram Strait has finally formed between Nunu and Tick. Nunu is oulling Pacific air through Bering Strait towards the Pole. DMI3 1028 mslp_latest.big DMI3 1028 temp_latest.big

In the map below Fling5zipson is in the Kara Sea, Norit2 is bleeding energy southeast towards the Mediterranean, Malga is mushed along the east coast of Baffin Bay, and the ridge between Nunu and Tick creates complete confusion in Fram Strait. DMI3 1028B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1028B temp_latest.big

In the next map Fling5zipson is running out of open water as it slips east. The cross polar flow mixes milder air from the Pacific with cold air from east Siberia. The flow into Scandinavia is from the north. Malga is attempting to cross over Greenland. Confusion continues in Fram Strait. Norit2 is gone southeast, but Norit3 is brewing a gale southwest of oceland, and the east winds north of it are poling snow up onto Greenland. DMI3 1029 mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1029 temp_latest.big                                Fling5zipson is starting to weaken but loop-de-looping to avoid leaving the Kara Sea’s open water (I imagine). Norit3 can’t penetrate the ridge of high pressure and is loop-de-looping southwest of Iceland. Malga has undergone morphistication, and is now a weak frammerjammer. Scandinavia is starting to have a southerlky flow to the far west as the northerly flow continues to its east. Greenland is having a record increase in “ice volume, likely due to the strong east winds piling Atlantic moisture up 10,000 feet to its icecap..DMI3 1029B mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1029B temp_latest.big                               Fling4zipson and Norit3 continue their respective icclusion loop-de-loops, as Malga creates a weak southerly flow in Fram Strait. The Pacific inflow has ceased. DMI3 1030 mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1030 temp_latest.big                                Both Fling5zipson and Norit3 have weakened, and there is a cross polar ridge between Nunu and Tick, with the west side of the ridge bringing a southerly flow up over much of the north Atlantic, including Feam Strait and western Scandinavia. Malga is moving north to the top of Greenland.                                                      DMI3 1031 mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1031 temp_latest.big                                The cross polar ridge is shifting towards Eurasia, drawing mild Atlantic air north, and feeding both Malga north of Greenland and weak Norit3 wast of Iceland.  DMI3 1031B mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1031B temp_latest.big                                 Norit3 has exploded into a gale, with Malga an appendage to the north, and the cross polar ridge breaking down. The flow in Fram Strait is again confused. DMI3 1101 mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1101 temp_latest.big                                 The flow in Fram Strait is northerly again, as Norit3 heads fie Barents Seaa nd Malga stalls over the Pole. Norit4 is apparently going to try to follow Norit3, which should give Scandinavia a southerly flow and Fram Strait a northerly flow for several days, before the models start showing bizarre solutions I don’t much trust for later this week, involving a southerly flow returning to Fram Strait.                            DMI3 1101B mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1101B temp_latest.big

So far we haven’t seen big gales in the North Sea or the Baltic.

so far there hasn’t been a major flush of ice south in Fram Strait, though the ice is showing signs of cracking up a bit, with areas of “very close ice” becoming merely “close ice.”Fram Ice 1030 general_20151030


On October 24 Faboo drifted slowly northwest, achieving 84.429°N at noon before turning southeast and accelerating to 84.413°N, 7.010°W at the period’s end at 2100Z, which was 3.1 miles SW of where we began. Temperatures fell from  -13.8°C to -24.3°C at 1500Z before moderating slightly. Likely south winds became north winds, but the anemometer and wind vane have ceased to function. Probably they are rimed up with hoarfrost.

On October 25 Faboo continued southwest until it reached 7.149°W at 1500Z, after which movement turned southeast to end the period at 84.326°N, 7.110°W, which was 6.04 miles due south of where we began. The high temperature was -19.7°C at 0300Z, and the low was the coldest we’ve seen so far, -26.6°C at the end of the period.

On October 26 Faboo continued southeast 6.37 miles to 84.239°N, 6.797°W. Temperatures remained very cold, with a low of  -27.0°C at 0300Z and a high of -22.8°C at 1500Z.

On October 27 Faboo kept chugging southeast to 84.170°N, 6.444°W, which was another 5.35 miles towards Fram Strait. Temperatures moderated slightly, from a low of -25.9°C at the start to -18.5°C at 0900Z before falling back to  -23.5° at the end.

On October 28 our southeast progress slowed to 4.09 miles, and we reached 84.117°N, 6.184°W. Temperatures again moderated a little, from -23.5° at the start to -19.0°C at 0600Z before falling back to a low of -26.7°C at the end.

On October 29 we continued slowly southeast until 0300Z, when we achieved 6.139°W and turned southwest, until at noon we’d reached 84.112°N and nudged northwest, concluding the period at 84.123°N, 6.331°W, which was 1.12 miles northwest and 1.12 further  away from Fram Strait. Temperatures reached our coldest yet, -29.1°C at 0300Z when the winds apparently shifted, and then slowly rose to a high of -20.1°C at the end of the period.

On October 30 our “wrong way” drift northwest continued all day, winding us up at 84.147°N, 6.997°W, which was 4.97 miles further from Fram Strait. The winds were likely southeast from the distant Atlantic, as temperatures rose from a low of  -20.1°C at the start to -9.4°C at the end.

On October 31 our “wrong way” drift curved around to normal, as we reached  7.198°W at 0600Z before curving northeast, and 84.182°N at 0900Z before curving southeast, concluding at 84.126°N, 6.980°W, which was 3.34 miles back southeast towards Fram Strait. Temperatures fell as the wind swung around from the high of -9.4°C at the start to -17.8°C at 1500z, before rebounding slightly to -16.9°C at the end.

All things considered, we’ve made some progress, and might actually cross 84°N latitude this week.



On November 1 Faboo continued southeast 5.48 miles, winding up at 84.054°N, 6.652°W. Temperatures sank from -16.9°C to a low of -25.3°C at 0600Z and then slowly clawed back up to -19.1°C at the end of the period. The anemometer and wind vane continue to be frosted into immobility.

On November 2 Faboo slowed to 2.31 miles, drifting southeast to 84.022°N, 6.555°W. Temperatures remained fairly flat, achieving a high of -18.9°C at 0900Z and then abruptly plunging to  -28.3°C at the very end.

Today’s unofficial Mass Balance Buoy report suggests Faboo still hasn’t made is south of 84°N, but temperatures made it below -30°C to -33.77° C.

In the summer a five degree swing in temperature is big news, but once the sun sets the swings seem far larger.


DMI3 1102 mslp_latest.big DMI3 1102 temp_latest.big DMI3 1102B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1102B temp_latest.big

I missed this morning’s maps.

DMI3 1103B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1103B temp_latest.big

Norit3 has weakened greatly in Barents Sea, as has Norit4 down by Iceland, as Malga has remained a weak entity north of Greenland. What is interesting to me is that the influx of mild air, curling up and around the Pole, has seemingly created a center of very cold air; the coldest we’ve seen all autumn. It is like a whirlpool sits atop the earth sucking away heat. It remains a mystery to me, because it doesn’t make sense that when you add heat things get colder.

We may be able to muse upon this phenomenon a while longer, if models are correct and the pattern repeats in various ways. The Canadian JEM model, (available through Weatherbell, via Dr. Ryan Maue’s maps of JEM data),  shows a new swirl of mildness sucked north, surrounding the very cold air, and evetually creating a larger pool of very cold air.

CURRENT MAPWhirlpool 1 cmc_t2m_arctic_1   48 HOUR MAPWhirlpool 2 cmc_t2m_arctic_9  72 HOUR MAP Whirlpool 3 cmc_t2m_arctic_13120 HOUR MAPWhirlpool 4 cmc_t2m_arctic_21 (1)

If this whirlpool forms as the GEM model suggests, it looks to me as if we could see some more “wrong way” winds in Fram Strait. Unfortunately the O-buoy site is off line again, so we can’t check up on what O-buoy 9 is reporting from the Strait, this evening.


Sorry for being slow to update. I’ve been busy, with the little time I have to write, reworking an old “Tundra Blunder” post from August into my new “Microcritters Rule” post.


Faboo has made steady but slow progress southeast.

On November 3 Faboo only made it 1.98 miles southeast, finishing at 83.998°N, 6.405°W. Temperatures were extremely cold, only briefly nudging above -30°C to a high of -28.0°C at 0600Z, and reaching a low of -32.2°C at 1800Z,

On November 4 Faboo sped up, moving 3.42 miles and finishing at 83.966°N, 6.044°W. Temperatures warmed slightly from a low of -31.0°C at midnight to a frigid high of -21.9°C at 1500Z, before starting down again.

On November 5 Faboo accelerated further, moving 5.55 miles and arriving at 83.899°N, 5.621°W, as temperatures again fell, from a high at midnight of -24.1°C to a low at 1500Z of -30.2°C.

We have finally made it south of 84°, however on this date two years ago the buoy site I dubbed “Forkasite” had made it south to 80°, and in gale force winds was moving south 30 miles a day. I remember making a big deal about how long that buoy took to get south of 84°, but Faboo has hung back much more. It also seems toi be experiencing colder temperatures. This may only be because it is over 200 miles further north. Trying to compare Faboo with other buoys is a little like comparing apples with oranges. Here’s the report from 2 years ago:

Two years ago the ice that Forkasite was about to be bashed to pieces in the turmoil of Fram Strait, but this year’s acre of ice is still solid and even starting to thicken. (It take’s a while for surface cold to reach the bottom of sea-ice, just as it would take some time for your pipes to freeze if they were buried four feet down.)

2015D_thick 20151106

What does this mean? I suppose it means that acres and acres of ice that usually would be down in Fram Strait are held back, to the north.


O-buoy 9 has made it down to 78° North, which puts it roughly 100 miles south of where the Forkasite buoy was 2 years ago, though it is closer to the coast of Greenland, at 11°W rather than 4°W. It has yet to see the winds over 40 mph Forkasite saw, (though that may be in the near future). For the most part we have been seeing light winds and very cold temperatures, though there is a hint of warmth in our future at the very end of the temperature graph.

Obuoy 9 1106 temperature-1weekAt the very start of the graph you can see the brief warm-up that occurred with the last “wrong-way” flow. For the most part cold air has been bleeding down the east coast of Greenland, even as Arctic Sea ice has been held back. Most of the sea-ice is home grown, which means the water was open and chilled more (unprotected by ice from the north) before the relatively thin ice formed. That chilled water is likely sinking further north than usual. It is remarkable, to me at least, how variable the areas where water is chilled and (in theory) must sink are. Good luck to anyone attempting to devise a computer model that handles such variety.


O-buoy 14 is the only remaining camera with a lens un-obscured enough, and located far enough south, to give us decent daylight pictures. Here are some pictures from the past three days:Obuoy 14 1104 webcam Obuoy 14 1104B webcam Obuoy 14 1105B webcam Obuoy 14 1106B webcam

The flattened weather-mast to the lower right must be irking someone somewhere, who went through considerable bother to get the mast up there, only to see it flattened. I don’t think it is ours, but the hoarfrost over everything may explain why our anemometer quit a couple days ago . Temperatures have been down touching -30°, but are struggling up to -20°. The ice in the foreground has stopped moving, shifting and grinding, so perhaps we can hope this camera might survive, though I wouldn’t bet on it.


DMI3 1104 mslp_latest.big DMI3 1104 temp_latest.big DMI3 1105 mslp_latest.big DMI3 1105 temp_latest.big DMI3 1106 mslp_latest.big DMI3 1106 temp_latest.big DMI3 1106B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1106B temp_latest.big

A whirlpool continues to sit on top of our planet, sucking in warm air and venting it to outer space, and having something to do with a pool of very cold air north of Greenland. The low “Malga” over the Pole seemingly was revived by the inflow of milder (and likely moister) air. Some models show the low pressure south of Iceland heading straight up to the Pole, and causing chaos in Fram Strait.


Volume 20151107 BPIOMASIceVolumeAnomalyCurrentV2.1


A hat-tip to the blogger “rah” for pointing this out. I’ve been so focused on how open the Barents, Kara and East Siberian Seas are I neglected to reference 2012. How soon we forget.Ectent comparison 2012-2015 Nov 2 testimage.2


DMI3 1107 mslp_latest.big DMI3 1107 temp_latest.big DMI3 1107B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1107B temp_latest.big DMI3 1108 mslp_latest.big DMI3 1108 temp_latest.big


Polar Bear Bleeding polar-bear-radio-collar_cbc-oct-28-2015

Sickening effect of satellite radio collars polar bear researchers don’t want you to see


DMI3 1108B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1108B temp_latest.big

The whirlpool continues over the Pole, with another plume of mild air spearing up that way even though “Malga” is weaker, atop the Pole. Strong high pressure over Europe has blocked North Atlantic lows, and a low I guess I’ll dub “Crawl” is crawling up the east coast of Greenland, which is as far west as a low can track and still be a North Atlantic low. It is so far west I’d call it a frammerjammer, but it too obviously came from the Atlantic, and wasn’t home grown in Fram Strait. Across the Pole a big storm I’ll call “Crept” has come creeping up towards Bering Strait, (but I have neglected to pay attention to that side of the Pole, and can offer no background to that storm, which looks pretty big.)

Despite the big storms on both the Atlantic and Pacific side,  it doesn’t seem either will charge the Pole. Wahat is left of Malga looks likely to scoot over to the pacific side, but other than that the various sides seem likely to stall.

Over on his always-illuminating blog at Weatherbell Joseph D’Aleo suggests the high pressure over Europe will back up over the Atlantic, and low pressure now forsed far west to Greenland will gain the power to dig right down into Europe. This will be interesting to watch from our northern view, and should bring more normal northerly winds to Fram Strait. At the moment it looks like the very coast of Greenland is getting north winds, but the eastern part of Fram Strait, and across Svalbard and all the way to Finland are getting south winds. Both Faboo and O-buoy 9 are still getting the north winds, though temperatures at O-buoy 9 have risen to freezing and the winds may be just starting to briefly turn south.


On November 6 Faboo continued to accelerate slightly, covering 6.7 miles to the southeast, and finishing at 83.847°N, 4.851°W. Temperatures moderated only slightly, from a low of -29.8°C at midnight to a high of -20.4°C at 1800Z.

On November 7 Faboo slowed down, crossing 3.49 miles SSE and winding up at 83.803°N, 4.619°W. Temperatures crashed below -30°C again, falling from a high at the start of -22.8°C to -30.7°C at 1800Z.

Most of the current southerly flow seems to passing to the east of Faboo, which remains in a pool of extremely cold air. The ice north of Svalbard and Barents Sea is getting shoved north, but Faboo continues to drift southeast.


A glance at the temperature graph tells us some Atlantic air has made it north, and though the buoy hasn’t moved north, it has stopped moving south for the moment.. It also has been pushed a little west, closer to Greenland.Obuoy 9 1108 temperature-1week


Despite the invasions of mild air the DMI temperatures-north-of-80-degrees-latitude graph has touched normal for the first time in over a month. I expect this normalcy will be short lived, as a new rush of mildness is heading north from the Atlantic. Notice how much colder “normal” is than it was a month ago. Normal is now down around -25°C. So be aware, when you hear of temperatures “above normal”, we are are still talking about temperatures cold enough to freeze your socks off.DMI3 1109 meanT_2015

ARCTIC SEA ICE —Hudson Bay’s Slow Thaw—

I focus on Hudson Bay for selfish reasons.  The faster it thaws the better, as far as I’m concerned. As long as it has ice floating around on it there is a chance for some unseasonable cold to come south and spoil my summer, down here in New Hampshire. In fact it happened just last week, when a summer storm swirled up across the great lakes.20150627 rad_ec_640x480Around the backside of that storm came north winds, drawing air down from Hudson Bay, and while the welcome rains began warm and summery, they gradually grew more and more chilly, until we experienced a daylight with temperatures never rising above 53° (12° Celsius) and a driving mist. That doesn’t count as summer, in my book.

Other people look at sea ice for political reasons, and focus on this graph, which shows how swiftly the ice is melting. As you can see, two thirds of the ice melts every year. Almost always all the ice in Hudson Bay melts.DMI2 0704 icecover_current_newIf you are politically aligned with the Global Warming theory, you want the ice to be low, and to beat the lowest green line on the graph. In fact, you need it to, because otherwise your theory is humbug and you have to give all the money you took to combat-Global-Warming-with back to the people you stole taxed it from.

The theory, in case you haven’t heard it, states that white ice at the Pole reflects sunlight and keeps the earth cool, but dark oceans without ice will absorb the sunlight and the earth will heat up, and indeed “get a fever”. If this theory was correct, the low levels of ice in 2012 would have resulted in warmer waters and even less ice in 2013. As you can see, that didn’t happen, nor did it happen in 2014. Rather than conceding their theory is humbug, the Alarmists say, “Just wait until next year!”

So here we are, in July of the next year, and once again the ice is failing to prove the theory. This is getting rather monotonous, but there are still some Alarmists who go “Ah ha! Ah ha!” if the graph ticks down, and cheer wildly if there is a steep fall. It is all much ado about nothing, as far as I’m concerned, as in many cases the ice is going to be gone by September in any case, and then grow back in December, but people seem to regard the graph as a sort of sporting event.

Often I see a major misconception displayed by people who don’t know their ice. They think the north Pole is an icecap, when it is an ocean. It is the Arctic Ocean, and the ice never sits still. In other posts we have followed buoys day by day as they’ve traveled over a thousand miles. One began near the North Pole and wound up on the north Coast of Iceland. One began on the north coast of the Canadian Archipelago, squeezed down into Nares Strait, traveled down the northwest coast of Greenland and then down Baffin Bay and wound up vanishing off the coast of Labrador. O-buoy 9, which we are currently following, began on the Eurasian side of the Pole, crossed near the Pole, and now is scooting along the north coast of Greenland on its way to Fram Strait. Nor is this a new phenomenon. During the Cold War in the 1950’s military bases floated around on “ice islands”,  and in 1893 the arctic explorer Nansen attempted to drift across the Pole in a boat frozen into the ice called the “Fram”.

Hud 5 800px-PSM_V57_D434_Map_showing_the_regions_traversed_by_nansen

Another misconception is that this motion only occurs during the summer, and that things are frozen fast in the winter. Even in the depths of winter the ice is in motion, and areas of open water can appear, many miles across, even when temperatures are -40°. When winds roar off cold tundra, the areas of open water along the shore, formed as the sea-ice is shoved out to sea, are called polynyas, and in places occur with regularity, for example along the shores of the Laptev Sea, or at the top of Baffin Bay. In such places the ice can be quite thin when spring comes, as it has had to reform at the very end of the winter, and it may be swift to melt. In other places, where all the ice has been blown, for example along the coast of the Canadian Archipelago and northern Greenland, the ice can pile up into a towering jumble.

When we look at the ice we see it terms of thickness, and concentration. The map below shows concentration today.Hud 3 arcticicennowcastWhat is notable in the above map is the lack of open water in places where you might expect it on July 4, notably the Laptev Sea, Baffin Bay, and Hudson Bay. I’m focusing on Hudson Bay for the reason I gave earlier.

Hudson Bay started June with less ice than recent years, which made Alarmists happy, but now it has more ice than recent years, which likely has Alarmists glum.

Hud 2  r10_hudson_bay_ts1

It has me glum because, as long as there is ice floating on that bay, it can generate sub-freezing temperatures under clear skies during the short nights. (Pink is below freezing in the map below; ignore the glitch that makes that mess along the left margin). Hud 1 cmc_t2m_arctic_2As soon as Hudson Bay is ice-free, it will stop creating that threat to my north, and my tomato plants will breathe a sigh of relief. In the meantime, I keep an eye on the bay using the Canadian Ice Service map.Hud 4 CMMBCTCA

What is odd to some viewers is that the ice melted in the cold north part of the Bay before it melted in the warm south. This occurred because the wind howled down from the northwest a lot last winter, forming polynyas along the northwest coast, and cramming all the ice down to the southeast. Therefore one can see that not even in an enclosed bay does the ice sit still, in the arctic.

I’ll be watching the ice carefully because on some rare years it fails to melt away completely. That would be a bad start to our winter, as by September the bay is usually warm enough to warm the arctic blasts coming down towards us. If it starts partly frozen and freezes early, we could have January cold waves in December.

So you see, when I watch the ice there is a practical side to it. I’m not trying to make some political point, and not tempted to make things sound more dramatic than they are in order to gain more attention and money.

This brings me to why I prefer the Canadian Ice Service, (within limits.)  Other ways of “seeing” the extent of the ice have some major flaws, and show water as “ice free” when it most definitely isn’t.  A major flaw involves using microwave imagery from space, the problem being a melt-water pool may be seen as open water.

This problem was highlighted in a somewhat humorous way by polar bear researchers who pestered poor bears by drugging them and attaching GPS thingies behind their ears, so they could be tracked. The bears do 67% of their hunting and eating between the time the arctic sun comes up and the time the ice melts away, which in Hudson Bay is between April 1 and July 1, usually. Then they waddle ashore fat and happy, and then do 33% of the rest of their eating in remaining 75% of the year. However, as the bears were tracked, it was noted that they spent a lot of time in areas that some maps showed were “ice-free”. The maps below (From ) show the locations of bears last year, with some in “ice-free” waters.Hud 6 hudson-bay-breakup-2014-pb-tracking_30-june-vs-8-july_pbi

This put the scientists in an embarrassing situation. While bears can swim over 700 miles if they have to, they don’t do so for sport, and therefore had to be moving from berg to berg hunting seals in waters the maps showed were ice-free.  Scientists blushed, as they had gained funds by stressing how stressed the bears were by ice-free waters, that made it impossible for them to hunt. Now the scientists were the stressed ones, because the bears were hunting where scientists said they couldn’t. Obviously the bears needed to go back to school. What is funny is how slow the scientists have been to mention this discovery to the people funding them. (I suppose some discoveries are not entirely welcome; who is going to fund the endangered polar bears if you discover they are fat and happy and not endangered?) (Of course, the discovery of hidden ice up there may endanger my tomatoes. Will no one fund those scientists for the sake of my endangered tomatoes? Please do, or we may have endangered scientists.)

As for me, I’m glad I only do this as a hobby, and as a way of making a guess if next winter will start out cold or not.

Arctic Sea Ice —Continued Concentration on Quietude’s Quirks) June 26-29, 2015

Faboo (short for “Faithful Buoy”)  continued the slow drift the wrong way, back towards its starting point at the North Pole, though it is difficult to make headway with so much other ice in the way. The official report had us at 87.099°N, 2.566°W at 2100z last night. The eastward drift stopped at 0300z, at 2.334°W. and now we are inching west again. We’d moved 2.76 miles back to the north in the 24 hour period.

When you consider that back at noon on June 14 Faboo was at 87.105°N, 4.652°W, it becomes obvious the ice isn’t making much progress.  In 2 weeks we’ve traveled 7.28 miles, mostly to the east. The Quietude continues.

DMI2 0627B arcticicespddrfnowcast

The speeds in the above map are measured in centimeters per second, and the blue areas are less than 0.2 mph. The ice isn’t going anywhere, except just north of Greenland and over along the East Siberian coast. This is one reason the ice-extent graph has stopped declining.DMI2 0627B icecover_current_new If the current flat-lining graph continues much longer you can expect a hubbub about it, as Skeptics can never resist taunting Alarmists, when the Death Spiral doesn’t manifest. However I bite my tongue, as often flat-lining is followed by a sharp dip.

Another reason may be the lack of sunshine at the Pole. Bright sunshine is a great slush-creator, even when temperatures are below freezing, but gray days don’t make much slush, (unless there’s fog), even when temperatures are a bit above freezing, as they have been. Faboo edged above freezing at 0600z yesterday and peaked at +0.3°C at 2100z. However picture after picture shows a gray scene, and the closest I could get to any blue sky was from 1933z yesterday.  I don’t see what the use of 24 hour daylight is when the sun never shines.NP3 1 0627 2015cam1_4

I’m hoping those footprints were made by the scientists setting up the site, and have simply been exposed by the thaw. If they are signs of a snooping bear there could be trouble, as the bears tend to scientifically investigate the cameras, to see if they are edible.

The gray weather is also occurring at our other cameras. (Four of the cameras we started the season with are now not functioning) O-buoy 9 is showing the lead in front of it crunching shutObuoy 9 0627 webcamO-buoy 11 is showing a lead starting to open up, to middle right.Obuoy 11 0627 webcamAnd O-buoy 12 shows the melt-water pool to the left finally getting back to the size it was two weeks ago. Obuoy 12 0627 webcamHowever the primary observation I make is how gray it is. Of course, these only represent 4 microcosms in a vast arctic, but the past summers have simply seemed far grayer than I recall earlier summers being. If some scientist did the careful calculations and determined they actually were cloudier, I imagine that could explain differences in the surface melting.

The maps show weak lows circling a high that his hogging the Pole. You might think high pressure would bring sunshine, but I haven’t seen much. “Balt” is drifting east across the Kara Sea, “Folfol” is retrograding to perhaps merge with Balt, in the Laptev Sea, And “Follower” has crossed and looked like it was going to sink into Alaska, but now some models show it doing a U-turn and trying to bump the High Pressure off the Pole, which I doubt will make it much sunnier.

The models are having a hard time handling this sluggish pattern, because there is so little definition between the high pressure and low pressure they don’t have much to work with. The fun thing is that they produce interesting events (which never happen) around seven days into the future.

DMI2 0627 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 0627B mslp_latest.big SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE  —The Laptev Mystery—

The Mass Balance Buoys haven’t updated. I suppose the fellow in charge deserves a weekend, like everyone else, but it means I have no real news to report. However that never stops the mainstream media, so why it should stop me?  The trick is to search and observe something interesting, and to make that the news. The arctic is always full of interesting stuff.

One thing I have observed is the failure of the Laptev Notch to reappear, so far. There is only a skim of ice remaining on the Laptev Sea, but in terms of concentration, it doesn’t yet have any “ice-free” areas. Ice Concentration 20150628 arcticicennowcastLast year at this time the Laptev Sea was already starting to show areas of open water, which expanded impressively through the summer until the open water extended like a shark’s tooth towards the pole, north of 82° latitude and giving Alarmists reasons to cheer.

I myself called the shark’s tooth “the Laptev Notch” and figured it was due to  the fact the Laptev Sea had exported impressive amounts of ice northward, the winter before. The ice moved across the North Pole to jumble up against the Canadian Archipelago and Greenland.

The Laptev Sea commonly exports more ice than any other arctic sea, even though it sometimes exports triple the amount it exports other years. The winter of 2013-2014 seemed a good year for exports, and it meant that the sea kept having to form a new skin of ice, which was quite thin when the sun came up for the summer and began melting things.

That open water was still there after the sun went down, and can be clearly seen jabbing north of 80° as late as October 22. Laptev 1 extent-20141022-arcticicennowcast

One interesting thing to note in the above map is that it is freezing along the Laptev Sea’s shore first. This is in part because of enormous amounts of fresh water the Lena River’s floods poured out. The flow of that river fluctuates wildly; 40% of its yearly flow occurs in August. (Then it freezes up and 3% of its yearly flow occurs in January) The inshore waters, especially at the surface, are much fresher than off shore parts of the Arctic Sea, especially in the early autumn.

Another reason for the early inshore-freeze was that Siberia had early and extensive snowcover last year, and already the land had switched from being far warmer than the Arctic Sea to far colder. This tends to shift the winds from sea-breezes to land-breezes, as the relatively milder ocean causes air to rise, and the colder, heavier air flows out to sea to replace it. Initially this freezes the inshore waters, but as the difference becomes larger bone-chilling gales can roar from Siberia out towards the Pole, and this pushes the ice itself out to sea, forming a polynya of open water by the coast even when the winds are at -40° or even lower (-70° has been seen). This is the dynamic that allows the Laptev Sea to export so much ice.

Something different happened last winter. I neglected to keep records and document the difference, as I was busy documenting the ferociously cold and snowy winter in my own neighborhood here in New Hampshire. But looking at the Laptev Sea’s actions over last winter might make a good paper for a college student who could get praise for poking through old records. (If I spent time doing that my wife would likely notice all the time I was spending at the computer, and I doubt I’d get praise.)

The best I can do at this late date is look at the animation of the past 365 days’ ice-thickness, which I will attempt to reproduce below. (If you are reading this a year from now, the animation may have updated and may not show what I intend.)

What the current animation shows is not only the Laptev Notch forming and jabbing towards the Pole, but that it persisted even after the ice refroze, as a shark-tooth-shaped area of thinner “baby ice.” If you watch carefully you’ll see the ice got thicker, and the “notch” rode the Transpolar Drift right across the Pole, and indeed the five-foot-thick ice Faboo now rides and sends us pictures from might well have been ice-free water of the Laptev Notch last summer. (It should also give you an idea of how mobile the ice is up there; the Arctic Sea is truly a surging, moving ocean, and nothing like a frozen icecap.)

Also, as you look at the animation, you can see some export of ice and polynya-formation in the Laptev Sea last winter, but the real activity was over in the Kara Sea, which may have even rivaled its neighbor, in terms of exports. This may be a reason the Kara Sea is more ice-free this summer than last summer, and part of the reason the Laptev Sea has more ice; (it simply exported less).

However my mind is toying with other ideas as well. I’m wondering if having so much open water at the end of last summer might not have allowed the Laptev Sea to be churned more and cooled more, and it might just be colder now, and therefore less likely to melt ice from the underside.

Wondering about water temperatures makes me turn to Bob Tisdale’s site “Climate Observations”. He has done some really great work simply observing, without deciding what he wants to see before he starts, and also putting data down in graphs and maps, which turns incoherent strings of numbers into something I can get my mind around. One data set he put into a graph involved the readings from Argo floats in the Arctic Ocean, which seemed to be cooling (as of last fall)Arctic Sea Cooling figure-2-comparison-w-arctic This of course makes me ponder all the more deeply, especially as other sites tell me the arctic is warming faster than the rest of the earth. (The above chart comes from Bob Tisdale’s post: )

In any case I am going to watching the Laptev Sea very carefully the next 45 days, for if it does not thaw to the degree it thawed last year, it could make a big difference in the sea-ice extent graphs.

Also this should show you that even when no new data comes in, I can still find things to write about. However I likely should include at least a picture from Faboo. Faboo did glimpse a bit of glimpse a bit of, if not midnight sun, then midnight blue sky, though things swiftly became dull and gray again afterwards,NP3 1 0627C 2015cam1_2

I checked out the O-buoy cameras, but they just show gray sky, and I can see that if I look out my window. It’s a gray Sunday in New Hampshire, with a sweeping summer rain and air coming down from the waters of Hudson Bay, which still have ice.  Brr. Maybe I’ll write a “Local View” post, for there is no way I’m heading out to weed in the garden, that’s for sure.

I’ll update in the evening, when Faboo’s official data comes in.


I am going to have to cut this post short, for the animation above overwhelms the rather low IQ of my ancient computer, and forces me to wait longer than I like to add anything.

Faboo reported in, and told us he made it as far north as 87.102°N, before succumbing to peer pressure and heading south again. His contrary nature had to find satisfaction in continuing west, finishing the 24-hour-period at 87.087°N, 3.318°W, which is 2.76 statute miles to the southwest of where we were.

Temperatures bounded about, as peer pressures opposed. Temperatures crashed to -0.5°C at 0300z (Skeptics pouted serious approval), and rebounded to +0.4°C at 0900z (Alarmists now nodded with their approving and dignified frowns,) but then fell to -0.3°C at 1500z (Skeptics nodded more vigorously) but then rose to +0.1°C at 1800z (Alarmist nodded even more vigorously) at which point Faboo did the only safe thing, which was to arrive at exactly 0.0°C at 2100z. Unfortunately this precipitated a ferocious battle between Skeptics and Alarmists about whether 0.0°C constituted thawing or not, at which point Faboo wisely tiptoed from the room.

Immediately the gloom was gone and blue skies appeared.

NP3 1 0628A 2015cam1_2NP3 1 0628B 2015cam1_1This should be a reminder (to me, if no one else), that the real reason to study Truth is that Truth is Beauty.  Speaking of which, I’ll conclude this post with a truly lovely picture that comes from O-buoy 9 this evening.Obuoy 9 0629 webcam

Arctic Sea Ice —The Beaufort Switcheroo—(May 31, 2015)

The blogger “Chris PT” mentioned me in a YouTube video,

In the process he mentioned how watching sea-ice shrink and grow in the Arctic can be a bit like a sporting event, in that Alarmists all cheer wildly when more-than-expected melts, and Skeptics all cheer wildly when less-than-expected melts. I’m not sure I approve, considering billions of dollars are at stake, not to mention the fate of the planet (if you believe Alarmists.)  Also the arguing tends to disintegrate into discussions of the mental state and sanity of opponents, which has little to do with sea-ice, to put it mildly. Therefore I’m going to try to steer clear of such debate, when possible, and if I ridicule anyone it will be myself.

I will expose myself to ridicule by making a guess at what I think will happen. Then I will be wrong. Then I can have all the fun of ridiculing someone, by ridiculing myself.

One forecast sure to be correct this time of year is, “Warmer.”  Temperatures shoot upwards at the Pole, under the 24-hour-a-day sunshine, until they get above freezing and level off in late June. (The average climb in temperature is the green line in the graph below, and you can see how steep the climb is, from April through June.)

What is more difficult to forecast is whether the red line in the graph below will be above or below the green line. For some reason this is the third straight year that temperatures dipped below normal in May. It remains to be seen if they stay below normal for the rest of the summer, as they did the past two summers. I forecast that they will.

Switcher 4 meanT_2015

One way to get an idea how thick the ice is, which gives you a hint about how enduring it might be, is to study the NRL ice-thickness map.

Switch 6 arcticictnowcast If you watch this over a period of time some events become obvious. For example, all winter the ice was pushed from the northwest to the southeast across Hudson Bay, and by April the ice was piled up and thick to the southeast, and newly-formed and thin to the northwest. Therefore it is obvious ice will melt away first in the northwest. I forecast there will be some ice still left in the southeast of Hudson Bay in August.

In the like manner, a lot of ice was pushed out of the Kara Sea, so I expect it will melt more swiftly in the Kare Sea this year.  The Laptev Sea, on the other hand, did not export as much ice as last year. Last year the cross-polar-flow was so extreme that ice was pushed far from shore, leaving so much newly-formed, thin ice that, once melting began, an area of open water I dubbed “The Laptev Notch” formed during the summer, and stabbed north of 80 degrees latitude for a time. I forcast that notch to be far smaller this summer, and to have trouble melting north of 80 degrees.

If you don’t have the time to study the thickness-laps on a regular basis, you can watch a whole year be animated here:

What impresses me most in that animation is the bite the Pacific takes out ice north of the Bering Strait. That ice is solid and thick, at the start, but the influx of milder, Pacific water at the surface melts the ice from underneath, and ice that is ten feet thick in April can be gone by September.

I am expecting quite a bite to be taken from that ice this year, because the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) is going through a “warm spike”, and the water coming in through the Bering Strait ought be especially warm. However already I’ve blown my forecast in some ways. For one thing, to the south of Bering Strait the water on the Siberian side has become much colder than normal, and that makes me nervous. If it becomes involved, the water coming in through Bering Strait won’t be so mild.

Also the nice, mild breezes that have been rushing up from the south, and affirming my forecast, are putting me through the old switcheroo. They are swinging to the east and becoming colder.

The coldest air is currently parked over the Pole, and along the north coast of Greenland.

Switcher 1 gfs_t2m_arctic_1

However a high pressure is parked north of Bering Strait,

Switcher 5 mslp_latest.big

In three days the cold air will be pulled off the Pole, and it seems the yearly warm-up will be well underway.

Switcher 2 gfs_t2m_arctic_18

The problem with the above map is that it shows the Beaufort Sea during the warmest part of the day. Even under 24-hour-sunshine the sun is higher at noon, and a diurnal variation does occur. Therefore, to play it safe, we look at the situation under the midnight sun,

Switcher 3 gfs_t2m_arctic_20

Now the situation north of Bering Strait and in the Beaufort Sea suddenly looks much colder. This does not bode well, in the short term, for my forecast of melting in that area.

The GFS model makes it look like the high pressure will remain parked roughly where it is, and an easterly flow will move a lot of the cold air north of Greenland to the west, along the Canadian coast and finally to the Alaskan coast. Yesterday I noticed Buoy 2015B: had dropped from above freezing to -3.19° C, and while it has rebounded to -1.33° in the “noontime” heating, the water its camera shows in a nearby lead looks suspiciously like it is skimming over with ice.

Bouy 2015B 0531 camera2

O-buoy #12 (which is due north of Bering Strait and most likely to first feel the effects of the “warm” PDO), has fallen from above freezing to -5°.

Obuoy 12 0531 temperature-1week Obuoy 12 0531 webcam

To the east across the Beaufort Sea, our old friend Obuoy 10 also shows an abrupt temperature drop

Obuoy 10 0531 temperature-1week Obuoy 10 0531 webcam

The buoy I’ll be watching is Buoy Buoy 2015A: , which is right on the coast of Alaska and effected by the sun-baked tundra just to its south. It’s camera is currently showing a lot of melt-water pools and temperatures are at +0.66°. If the camera starts to show the melt-water pools freezing over, then we’ll know the cold air has really backed west.

Buoy 2015A 0531 camera1

Of course, the cold will have to come from somewhere, and if the Pole is robbed of all its sub-freezing air, temperatures will likely rise up that way. They may even get their first thaw of the year. As it is, it is currently -8.42° C up at Buoy 2015D: , which is hard to see but is to the left of this picture, taken by North Pole Camera 1.

NP3 1 0531 2015cam1_1

In conclusion, what is really fun about watching ice melt is seeing surprises occur, and what you don’t expect. I did not expect this cold shot into the Beaufort Sea.

What happened last summer, and I expect to happen again this summer, is for there to be some of these cold spells that come right out of the blue, with their origins more or less a mystery. After all, you reach a point where there is no more cold air left at the Pole. In the current situation the Beaufort cold can be explained-away as a case of Robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul, but later in the summer Peter is broke, so you can’t rob him. It is when there are suddenly temperatures below freezing in July, without any apparent “source reason,” that your sense of wonder starts to come into play.

I’m looking forward to that.

ARCTIC SEA ICE —A second maximum—

This is a little interesting, mainly because it kerpows a custard pie into the face of the overly-serious reporters who where making drama of a “low maximum”. a few weeks back.

I quiet honestly have a hard time even noticing the dire reports of shrinking sea-ice any more, because the media seems impervious to facts. I used to get all excited, and worked very hard to alert them to the data they seemed unaware of. I have since decided they could care less. They are paid to report a certain view, and their job is to seek molehills, and make mountains out of them.

I was made aware of the reports of the “unprecedented” minimum by certain people tugging on my sleeve, and yawned at the hubbub. Mostly to calm down the people tugging at my sleeve, I did post about how the “extent” measured by the “maximum” doesn’t include areas such as the Great Lakes and Chesepeke and Delaware Bays, and how when a pattern is not “Zonal” but is “Meridianal”, it is waters far from the arctic that freeze over, even as the arctic is invaded by relatively “mild” sub-zero air, and freezes less.

The fact of the matter is that the cruelest winters in sub-polar areas often involve milder-than-normal temperatures at the Pole. (By “milder” I mean they can get up as high as -15° Celsius, rather than dipping below -40°.) However winter covers a huge area of the northern hemisphere, at its peak, and the coldest temperatures are almost never on the Pole, which is “warmed” by an Arctic Sea with salt water at roughly -1.8° Celsius under the ice. The coldest temperatures are over the Tundra of Siberia, and sometimes Alaska and Canada, where temperatures can drop below -60° Celsius. There were even a few occasions last February when it was colder on my back porch, in southern New Hampshire, than it was on the North Pole, as Boston experienced its snowiest and second-coldest February since records began being kept, just after the Cival War, (1868).

In order to measure the true extent of a winter you would need to measure the totality, and allow your eyes to roam across the entirety of the northern hemisphere. Yes, Boston was very cold, but the Rocky Mountains were milder than normal. Yes, Spain was colder, but what about the Ukraine? What you usually discover, when you look at the big picture, is that everything averages out. The difference between one winter and another is measured in tenths of a degree, which is an amount so small you cannot really see it on your back-porch thermometer, and you only notice it when it is the difference between frost or no frost on your tomatoes.

The one thing you would not want to do is look at a small area, and use it to make grand pronouncements about the entire planet. Or you wouldn’t want to do it unless you were an irresponsible journalist who wanted to sell newspapers with tabloid sensationalism.  In that case you would look for a molehill to make a mountain out of.  For example, look at the temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude, last winter. (The red line is the actual temperatures, and the green line is “normal.”)

DMI2 0328B meanT_2015

Such a graph could provide a fine springboard for a story about how the Pole is warmer, and there is less ice, and how we should all run around freaking out like panicking chickens. However if you have any experience in such matters such a graph suggest two things.

First, it suggests that the cold air didn’t stay up at the Pole, (where it stays when the pattern is “Zonal”), but rather it was exported south to some sub-polar area, where people got a winter to tell their grandchildren about. This year it was Boston and the Northeast of North America, another year it might be Europe, another year it might be China.

Second, it suggests it was more windy at the Pole than it is during a “Zonal” pattern.  The sea-ice will be stressed and crunched, split apart into leads and slammed together into pressure ridges, and howling winds may shove ice off shore and form areas of open water along the shores, even when the winds are -50°. (Called. “polynyas”, these areas of open water are notorious for appearing along the coast of the Laptev Sea and at the top of Baffin Bay even when the dark is deepest and temperatures are lowest.)

Therefore, if you are serious about reporting what is occurring at the Pole, you would be aware it is not a matter of merely figuring out how to support a preconceived view, that your boss is paying you to support. Rather than waiting like a hawk over a rabbit warren, awaiting some crumb of evidence you can use to promote the idea the arctic is in a “Death Spiral”, (which promotes the idea society should adopt a war footing, where individual liberties are suspended),  you would study the situation and report what is actually going on, (and in some cases be promptly fired).

What is actually going on at this time of year is that Arctic Sea is pretty much frozen solid. The ice that goes into making the maximum “more” one year and “less” the next is outside the Arctic Sea. For example ice forms in the northern Yellow Sea (between China and North Korea) and the Sea of Okhotsk off eastern Russia, south of the Bering Strait, in the Baltic Sea, off the east coasts of Labrador and Greenland, and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.  This ice is outside the arctic, and with the exception of scattered bergs coming down the east coast of Greenland and off Labrador, it is fleeting in nature and will be gone by June.

Therefore, why make a big deal about it?

The first reason given is that the number represents a totality. However it doesn’t.  To represent the totality you would have to include all ice, and that would include ice on the east coast of North America, in the Gulf of Maine, Massachusetts Bay, Long Island Sound, Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay.  Late this February that was a large amount of ice.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

In order for water to count as ice-covered in the “extent graph”, it only needs to be 15% ice-covered, which means that water can be 85% open, with only stray icebergs dotting the surface,  As the ice broke away from the coasts and blew across Massachusetts Bay, for a few days a large area qualified for “extent” coverage, in early March.

Cape Cod iceberg2

If this ice “doesn’t count”, it is hard to get all that excited about ice that “does count” being at a lower level off the Pacific coast of Russia. The coldest winds blew down into eastern North American, from Siberia right across the Pole, rather than blowing from Siberia into the Pacific.  What else would you expect to happen?

A second reason for making a big deal about non-arctic sea-ice is that it reflects the spring sunshine. This is part of the “albedo” equation that believers in the “Death Spiral” like to rant about. If there is less ice the water will absorb more sunshine, become warmer, melt more ice, until there is no ice at all, or so they say. However if this equation is to be accurate they should include all the ice, but don’t. I won’t even touch the subject of the southern hemisphere. Even in the northern hemisphere they don’t include all the sea-ice.

I suppose they don’t include the Great Lakes because the water is fresh, and not officially sea-ice, but the water is so fresh in the northern reaches of the Baltic Sea that fresh-water fish can swim in it, and it counts. The northern Yellow Sea is also fairly fresh, especially at the mouth of the Yellow River after Typhoons, and they have no qualms about counting its ice.

It seems likely to me that, to get a true measure of “albedo”, they should even include land covered with white snow, but for various reasons they only include certain areas of salt water. It is by no means an entirety, but it did provide a springboard for sensational headlines a few weeks back, because the graph seemed to hit its peak a slightly lower level, slightly earlier than usual.

Now they have become very quiet, due to the fact the graph decided not to continue down from its early peak, but rather to move back up to a second peak.

DMI2 0328B icecover_current_new

This mostly involves the drift of bergs at the very perifery of the sea-ice, and doesn’t matter a hill of beans, but it is delightful because the media stated it did matter a hill of beans, and in fact several hills. Having stated this inconsequential thing matters, you can understand why they have become quiet. They don’t want to draw attention to the egg on their faces. (Or is it custard pie?)

What has happened is that north winds have blown through Bering strait, and is transporting ice south. This ice is thin and won’t last, but has a spendid effect on the “extent-graph”. Also Europe is getting a bast of cold from the north, and ice is getting blown down into Barents Sea, which is more interesting and may be more significant, because it may last longer and mess up the summer “extent-graph” with increases that are very unwelcome, if you want to promote a “Death Spiral.”

This involves the fact the AMO is hinting at moving to its “cold” phase five years early.  Perhaps the “Quiet Sun” is giving it a nudge, or perhaps this is merely a “spike” like last year’s, a sort of warning rumble before the actual shift, (which was predicted by Dr. Bill Gray something like 30-40 years ago, as part of a 60-year-cycle).

I’m not sure this is the real deal. Joseph D’Aleo had a couple of wonderful maps on his great site at Weatherbelle, (which was a great solace when I was down with pneumonia last week), and they compared the established, theoretical cold AMO with the situation that currently exists. Here is a “established AMO”:

AMO Theoretical Screen_shot_2015_03_20_at_5_50_15_AM

And here is the current situation: (Sorry the scales are different.)

AMO Actual globe_cdas1_anom__3_(4)

You can see a sort of backwards letter “C” in the Atlantic, of colder-than-normal waters on both maps, (which is the signature of a “cold” AMO) but if you look northeast of Iceland you see the current map still has some warmer-than-normal water hanging in there. That is a hang-over of the “warm” AMO. Colder water is in the pipeline, being shunted northeast by the Gulf Stream at less than a mile per hour, however that warmer water northeast of Iceland makes me unsure whether we’ll see the dramatic increase in sea-ice in Barents Sea that I’ve noticed occurs when the AMO shifts to cold.

I wish I could document my evidence, but for some reason its hard to find the old Danish pre-satellite maps of the edge of the ice, that went back all the way to the 1890’s. Also I’m unsure of the AMO graphs I used; apparently there are different ways of measuring the AMO. However what I noticed was that, even when the AMO only spiked briefly into its “cold” phase, ice came drifting down into parts of Barents Sea where it was hardly ever seen when the AMO was “warm”.

So you can bet I’m keeping my eyes peeled for signs of that, this summer.

This situation, (maps from a week ago) is perfect for pushing ice south into Barents Sea. (Click maps to enlarge.)

DMI2 0321 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0321 temp_latest.big

It also is a setup that slows the export of ice through Fram Strait and down the east coast of Greenland.

The flow from Siberia to Canada has shoved sea-ice all winter from the shores of the Laptev Sea across towards Canada. While this is similar to last year, I think the ice looks a little thicker on the Siberian side, especially between the Laptev and Kara Seas.

Ice thickness March 29 arcticictnowcast

Despite the thickness of the ice on the Canadian side, I expect the current warm-spike of the PDO to take quite a bite out of the ice north if Bering Strait this August and early September, however the Atlantic side intrigues me. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if a little of the ice in Hudson Bay survived the entire summer, which is rare but not unheard of.

However the main point of this post is to chuckle about the second maximum for the sea-ice extent.

The Danes also have a graph for sea-ice of 30% or greater extent.

DMI2 0328B icecover_current

This graph in a sense excludes the inconsequential ice at the periphery, and focuses on ice that has more body and matters more. Rather than the graph seeming to demonstrate record-setting levels of lowness, it looks like we are pretty much middle-of-the-road, for recent years.

So, if you meet anyone running around like a panicking chicken, you can pat their hand and tell them they can calm down.










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:

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.  .

DMI2 1229B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1229B temp_latest.big

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.

DMI2 1231 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1231 temp_latest.big

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..

DMI2 0102 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0102 temp_latest.big

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.

DMI2 0302 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0302 temp_latest.big

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.

DMI2 0306 mslp_latest.big DMI2 0306 temp_latest.big

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  )

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.


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:

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!

ARCTIC SEA-ICE RECOVERY —The usual but different—

Since I last focused on this subject back on November 29, the sea-ice has continued its usual amazing increase, a tripling and even quadrupling which happens every year, and in some ways is ho-hum news.  I only note it because next summer, when the decrease goes the other way, sensationalist headlines may read, “Ice decreases by huge amounts! Only a third of it remains!”  It sells papers. What puzzles me is why they don’t sell even more papers, in December,  with headlines reading, “Ice increases by huge amounts! Extent triples!”

Here are the maps for November 29, (left), and December 12 (right).

DMI2 1129 arcticicennowcast DMI2 1212 arcticicennowcast

The increase in ice is pretty much as to be expected. What I am focused on is slight differences from the norm, that may hint at changes in cycles, whether they be short term weather patterns or longer term 60 year cycles involving the AMO or PDO.

The swift freeze of Hudson Bay is ahead of normal, and of concern to me because the open waters of Hudson Bay to New Hampshire’s north is a buffer against the full brunt of arctic discharges. As soon as Hudson Bay freezes we are more susceptible to pure arctic outbreaks from due north. If the Great Lakes freeze we are more susceptible to cold from the Canadian prairie as well.  To my east, even though the Atlantic does not freeze outside of the bays, its waters can be signifigantly cooled by the right conditions.

One such condition involves the discharge of ice from Baffin Bay, which is a great producer and exporter of ice.  Even in the dead of winter when temperatures are down near forty below, open water can appear in the north of Baffin Bay, because so much  ice is exported down the west coast of the bay that a polynya forms in the north. That ice then continues along the coast of Labrador, and icebergs continue down into the entrance of the St Lawrence or even further. The flow is far more complex than you’d think, as currents can dive down beneath milder waters, but in general there is a counter-current to the south hugging the American coast, as the Gulf Stream surges north.

A second discharge of ice comes down through Fram Strait, down the east coast of Greenland towards and past Iceland. The ice in this current cannot dive even when the current’s water does, and therefore ice floats onward and effects the temperature of the North Atlantic. In extreme cases (1815-1817) so much ice is exported that icebergs can ground on the coast of Ireland, and Europe’s summer temperatures can be cooled.

It should be noted that the ice moving down the east coast of Greenland comes from the Arctic Basin, and therefore subtracts from the amount of ice left behind up north for people to fret about next summer. Although their worry about less ice in the arctic focuses on Global Warming, the concern should be cooling. Here is a quote from the year 1817:

“We learn that a vessel is to be fitted out by Government for the purpose of attempting again the north-west passage, the season being considered as peculiarly favourable to such an expedition. Our readers need not be informed that larger masses of ice than ever were before known have this year been seen floating in the Atlantic, and that from their magnitude and solidity, they reached even the fortieth latitude before they were melted into a fluid state. From an examination of the Greenland captains, it has been found that owing to some convulsions of nature , the sea was more open and moré free from compact ice than in any former voyage they ever made: that several ships actually reached the eighty-fourth degree of latitude, in which no ice whatever was found; that for the first time for 400 years, vessels penetrated to the west coast of Greenland, and that they apprehended no obstacle to their even reaching the pole, if it had consisted with their duty to their employers to make the attempt…”

The fact this discharge of ice is concurrent with “The Year Without A Summer” is mentioned in this post,  and further information can be found in this treasure trove:

While nothing as dramatic as 1815-1817 has occurred recently, I do like to keep an eye on the discharge of ice, and utilize a layman’s assumption that less discharge may make Europe warmer, while more may make Europe colder, the following summer.

This past autumn the ice-export down the coast of Greenland, and also down the west side of Baffin Bay, were below normal, but recently the extent has increased to near normal.  This represents a surge or pulse of ice that bears watching, IMHO.

On the Pacific side of the Arctic there has been an impressive increase of sea-ice in the Chukchi Sea north of Bering Strait. It is still below normal, but is closer to normal. I like to watch this area for two reasons. First, once it freezes over Siberian air can remain cold when it takes the “short cut” route from Siberia to Alaska, and second, it gives hints about the current nature of the PDO. The PDO has been in a short-term “warm” spike midst a long term “cold” phase, so I would expect ice in the Bering Strait to be below normal, but ice will increase as the short-term “warm” spike ends.

There are past records of “warm” spikes during the “cold” PDO, however this is the first time we’ve been able to watch it with the detail satellites allow us,  so of course I’m watching with great interest.

On the Atlantic side the exact opposite has been occurring. We saw, last spring and summer, a “cold” spike during a “warm” phase of the AMO. Right on cue there was more ice along the north coast of Svalbard, even those it was the warm season and everywhere else the ice was decreasing. Then this “cold” spike ended, and now, even though everywhere else sea-ice is increasing, the northern reaches of Barents Sea have seen a decrease in sea-ice.  (Even more intriguing is the fact there are some signs the AMO may be about to go through a second “cold” spike.)

At this point the arctic is pretty much completely frozen over, and my attention turns to how the ice is being pushed around up there.  However there are a couple of areas outside the arctic that freeze over, which are interesting to watch.

The first is the Sea of Okhotsk east of Russia and north of Japan. Extremely cold air has been pouring into the Pacific off Asia, and these waters are starting to freeze over swiftly. (Their refreeze were below-normal, earlier.) I have a hunch the variations in how these waters cool may have something to do with the end of the “warm” spike in the PDO.

The second is the northern reaches of the Baltic Sea, especially the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland. Those waters are just plain fascinating to me, because so many fresh water rivers pour into the Baltic Sea that the further north you go the fresher the water becomes, until in the very north of the Gulf of Bothnia fresh water fish can swim in the Sea. Because the water is so much fresher it freezes more easily, and the northern Baltic becomes a hypersensitive measure of Scandinavian cold. When southwest winds and the Atlantic rules, there is little freezing, but when winds shift to the brutal east, the entire Baltic can freeze.

Having discussed the extent maps, I’ll swiftly go over the daily maps. I apologize for not being able to name the individual storms like I did last year. Other areas of my life got too bossy.

One obvious difference from last year has been that storms don’t ride along the arctic coast of Eurasia from Barents Sea, through the Kara and Laptev Seas, all the way to the East Siberian Seas, and meet up with Pacific storms in the Chukchi Sea. Instead they run into a wall, and are bent north to the Pole and even Canada, or south into Russia.

Back on November 29 an Atlantic storm had crashed into the wall and devided, with half heading towards Canada and half down into Russia. In the process it brought a huge surge of Atlantic air north over the Pole. Last year this Atlantic air surged over Europe and kept them relatively warm all winter, but this time that mildness was wasted on sea ice.

DMI2 1129 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1129 temp_latest.big

At this point something ominous happened, if you live in Scandinavia. My ears perked forward in interest, for it may be a forerunner of what could become a pattern, later in the winter. This time it was quickly rebuffed, but later in the winter ic could “lock in”.

What happened is that as the low pressure was defected south into Russia high pressure extended west to its north, creating a flow of east winds along the arctic coast. Brutally cold Siberian air rolled west (last winter I called it “the snout of Igor”), and Europe chilled, though not to the degree it could have chilled if the east winds had continued.

DMI2 1130B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1130B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1201 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1201 temp_latest.big

On December 1 there is a cross-polar-flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific, drawing mild Atlantic air right across the Pole. The flow is about as non-zonal as it can be. If you are into looking for proof of Global Warming, now is the time you point out a spike in temperatures at the Pole, but the exact same spoke can be used as a disproof.

What you need to do is think of how a summer thunderstorm uplifts hot and muggy air and breeds a cooling shower, and use that as an analogy for what is occurring on a far grander scale up at the cap of the planet. Warm air is uplifted, heat is lost, and the air comes down cooler.

Of course, this is a grotesque simplification, but when debating Global Warming, who really cares? (What is actually occurring as the mild air is uplifted up at the Pole is fascinating, and I don’t claim to understand it, but have learned enough to make it a subject for an amusing post I’m working on, and may even submit to WUWT. Rather than supplying any answers, it asked questions that need to be asked.)

Europe was spared the icebox of an arctic outbreak from the east by a series of lows that pushed the high pressure (and its east winds,) north to the Pole.

DMI2 1204 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1204 temp_latest.big

However rather than this low pressure bumping the high pressure over to Canada and continuing on to the east, the low itself got deflected north as high pressure again built ahead of it. A new cross-polar-flow, this time from Asia to Canada, began to appear, and temperatures at the Pole crashed.

DMI2 1206 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1206 temp_latest.big

By December 6 the most recent pattern began to manifest, and the final seven maps showing storm after storm failing to get across the Atlantic, and instead curling around north of Norway back towards Greenland. This has created a second invasion of milder Atlantic air to pour north through Scandinavia, on the east side of storms, as frigid winds howl down the east coast of Greenland and make Iceland cold on the west side of storms.

This pattern is (I assume) self-destructive, as eventually the North Atlantic (seemingly) will get too mild to its northeast and too cold to its southwest to perpetuate the pattern. Therefore I am watching in great interest to see signs of its demise, and to see what will set up next.

DMI2 1208B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1208B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1209B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1209B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1210B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1210B temp_latest.big DMI2 1211B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1211B temp_latest.big

DMI2 1212 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1212 temp_latest.big

DMI2 1212B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1212B temp_latest.big

DMI2 1214 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1214 temp_latest.big

As a final interesting tidbit to this post I’ll add the graph of polar temperatures, which shows the big warming spike caused by the initial invasion of Atlantic air, the crash as the Siberian cross-polar-flow developed, and the start of a second spike as the second invasion of Atlantic air begins.

DMI2 1214 meanT_2014

All in all I would say this winter is promising to be another winter when any semblance of a zonal flow is rare, and the sea-ice will be wracked and tortured by storms. It will be interesting to watch.