Mini-manifesto; Parts 13-17 “Democracy In Three Steppes”

***13***

Psychobabble often operates using the premise that, under a thin veneer of civilization, we humans are all savage brutes: We are nothing but easily enraged gorillas controlled by animal appetites. This low opinion of humanity is quite contrary to the concept that God is in everyone. It also runs counter to the observation that small, cheerful children, while selfish, and while at times devious and dishonest when asked simple questions, are very honest about their frustration when desires are thwarted. Yet children are also quick to accept limits when such limits are presented as inflexible, and, after the initial tantrum, quite cheerfully adapt to such limits. Small children swear to hate you forever at nine o’clock, yet walk holding your hand five minutes later. It takes persistent lack of love, either blunt trauma or else cold neglect of some sort (including sparing the “rod”), to truly spoil a child. Even then God still lies within them, albeit God buried very deeply, in some cases.

Which returns me to the subject of Stalin, who, after coming to power, is purported to have asked his elderly mother, “Why did you beat me so hard?” to which she supposedly responded, “That is why you turned out so well.” His lack of compassion is legendary, and is often taken as a proof God does not exist in everyone, and even that God does not exist at all. To Stalin are attributed some amazingly chilling statements, including, “The death of one is a tragedy; the death of a million is a statistic” (called by Wikipedia a misattribution, but reported by both Churchill’s aid and Churchill’s daughter, albeit placed on differing occasions.) Most chilling of all (to me) is a statement of Stalin’s cold scorn of thanksgiving, “Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.”

The very existence of such a hard-bitten and cruel man is a standing challenge to everything I have been claiming about the power of Truth. Stalin would likely deem me a naive chump, and he did wonder about the sanity of the English political system. In fact Churchill reported that Stalin inquired, during a moment of blunt honesty, why on earth the English put up with a troublemaker like Gandhi in their colony of India; why didn’t they just have Gandhi “liquidated?” Churchill states that he replied to Stalin in some lordly manner, such as, “That is not how the English conduct business”, but Churchill didn’t seem to properly pursue the matter, and explain to Stalin why bumping people off when they disagree with you is a bad idea. I feel this is a great pity, for Churchill seemed to glimpse what made the British Empire last so much longer than Hitler’s Third Reich or the Soviet Union. (It involves respecting those you oppose, and the wealthy respecting their servants, and basically attempts to enact the mystical, spiritual premise that you are expanding your consciousness when you love your enemies.) (Where in other lands an Untouchable could never aspire to be a Brahman, England somehow allowed a boatswain like Francis Drake to become an admiral and National Hero.) However when I have asked Englishmen what gave them their power, rather than speaking of meritocracy they seem to have little idea, and simply sing “The English Are Best.”

In some ways I think the only reason the English Empire lost its grip on power was because they forgot what made them great. While I have remarked earlier that the English king Edward VIII favored fascism, it should be noted that his grandfather, Edward VII, while touring India, stated, “Because a man has a black face and a different religion from our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute,” and that his criticism actually resulted in a high ranking official in India being replaced. Mind you, the official was not “purged”. He was merely subjected to critical analysis, and then a decision was made. Such genteel politics was something Stalin could not comprehend.

If I had lived in Russia during Stalin’s time, I do not doubt my life expectancy would have been very limited. But, because I truly believe that one should love their enemy, I have felt compelled to lovingly inquire of communists, (who are so obviously deeply dedicated to their ideas), what exactly they see as beautiful and poetic about their dogma. After all, when one states “The ends justify the means,” and “the means” involve some drastic, ugly and basically inhumane deeds, the “ends” must be some wonderful thing. So I asked a simple question, to understand my enemy. What exactly were the “ends”? What was the heaven-on-earth communism strove to make real?

Allow me to attempt explain the mad faith of communism, as I understand it. It revolves around the concept that, if you can destroy a certain sort of “capital”, you will see the dawn of a newer and better way. Unlike ordinary revolution, which involves the oppressed “Have-nots” becoming furious at the “Haves”, (when the “Haves” become especially ungrateful and oppressive to their own employees), communism seeks to solve all problems (and end all revolutions), by removing all “Haves” forever. “Haves” are theoretically to be removed irregardless of whether they are ungrateful or are grateful, and irregardless of whether they oppressively exploit or kindly assist their employees. The communist concept seems to be that, if nobody is a “Have”, everyone will be happy. If no one is a “Have”, the ugliness of greed will vanish from the human experience.

Elementary spirituality tends to agree generosity is superior to greed, and generosity leads to a more loving society. But what “means” shall reform society? I feel that the conversion to a “better way” involves persuasion rather than coercion; one is moved because one is touched; a poem works better than a club; you cannot legislate spirituality. Communists beg to differ. They feel we are midst a sort of social evolution, moving from serfdom through capitalism to communism, and that by forcibly removing vestiges of the “old” we will arrive at the “new”. Society as a whole must undergo a sort of boot camp, wherein a sort of drill sergeant kicks everyone into shape.

I feel I need to look at two major concepts when I hear this idea. The first is the concept of “social evolution” and the second is the concept of “boot camp.”

The concept of “social evolution” is debatable, as I personally like the old-fashioned farms more than modern agribusiness. I see much good in the past, and glimpse beautiful things in the rear-view-mirror which it seems sad that we left behind. But there also has been progress, and much good exists in the present. Rather than calling society “evolving” I think it is likely better to call it “ongoing”. Society shifts its position like a sleeping person in a bed, seeking comfort first one way and then another way. No particular position is more “evolved” than another.

To fully discuss “social evolution” would involve discussing each step: The good and bad of the medieval manors with serfs; the good and bad of capitalistic factories with sweating workers; and the good and bad of communism’s attempts to create so-called “collectives”. For the time being I’ll put those discussions aside, and focus on the concept of a “boot camp”, that will jerk society up by its bootstraps to achieve a better way.

I see two immediate problems with this boot-camp concept. The first is that, as every soldier knows, boot camp’s discipline may whip one into shape, but it tends to be followed by a “leave” wherein one cuts loose, and is far less disciplined, and may to a degree “backslide” and do the exact sort of things that gets one “out-of-shape”. (In fact some addicts go through “detox” and “rehab” merely to get back-in-shape, so they can better enjoy the next binge.) But when a person truly changes, it involves a change of heart, more than being a matter of will.

The second problem is that (I believe) people do not excel because of greed. People excel because they are gifted. This is a huge distinction. Why? Because, if it is true a person does well because they are gifted, then when they succeed they are being generous and sharing their gift. Their success is not being greedy at all. Often, when sharing their gift, they are happily expressing themselves, and become absorbed and engrossed in the process of giving, and are quite self-forgetful, which is very different from being selfish.

When one fails to credit humanity with having this good side, one becomes too focused on what is low; it is like stating lust and only lust is the reason men and women marry. To say greed and only greed is the reason some are successful and become “Haves” is a denial of the Truth of gifted people, which is a denial of That which is lovely. And to then say that the byproduct of giving your gift, (which sometimes [but not always] includes wealth), is a byproduct that automatically make you a bad person, is unequivocally nuts.

But some ( perhaps enviously) say being gifted is evil. Why? Because, if your gift is song, and you sing well, you gain some form of applause, and some call this applause a form of “capital”, or “means of production”, which is a bad thing, in their eyes. If you sing well and people applaud you have gained “capital” and are a capitalist, and to be a capitalist is a step backwards in social evolution. Or so I understand one of the foundational premises of communism to be.

In a sense communism shames people for excelling. Doing so is as silly as scolding Mozart for making music, only the absurdity is less obvious when, rather than a non-physical thing like music, it involves the production of physical grain. (This involves me, as a small farmer of sorts.) Farming is hard work. To me, scolding a successful producer seems more like envy on the part of the critic, than greed on the part of the criticized producer.

I consider myself a successful farmer, for I figured out a way how to wrestle a living from hardscrabble dirt that hadn’t produced a profit since the 1950’s. Not that I made much money raising food; rather I turned the farm into a farm-Childcare, and raised children, while also raising crops and livestock, using my unprofitable farm to show children how things grow. However, because my farm, (without the Childcare), was not profitable, even when I worked my butt off to make it succeed and produce a profit, I demonstrated I do know a thing or two about how very hard it is to produce a bumper crop. (At best I’ve paid for the seeds and tools, and fed the labor, but lacked the money for property taxes.) I’ve been made painfully aware how often things go wrong, and that farming doesn’t involve much greed, (unless one includes being a glutton for punishment.)

Instead of greed it seems (to me) that farming involves a love of the land; not land in general, but a love of a particular plot of land one is in a sense married to. In my case it is a hardscrabble plot, but I wouldn’t trade it for better land. It is more than mere land. It is my homeland, just as my wife is “my” wife. It might make a sort of sense to the heartless, if I traded my wife in, for some ignorant, young and physically gorgeous floozy, and it might make sense to the hardhearted to call my love of a plot of hardscrabble dirt, and my refusal to abandon it, an example of my “greed” and “possessiveness.” To me this simply demonstrates that the hardhearted do not understand love.

The Bible is quite clear about greed being a bad thing and generosity being better, and some even state the first Christians were the first communists, for the Book of Acts describes how the first Christians shared every iota of their personal property to help the community as a whole. Some go so far as to state that the first “purge” involved Ananias and Sapphira, who only pretended to share their all, but kept a little “capital” back for themselves, and were instantly shocked dead for lying to God. However communists don’t believe in God, and can’t fully understand the electric “Spirit” that joined the early believers and made them “one in heart and mind” and able to perform some amazing (and, to communists, unbelievable) deeds.

Nor did the first Christians seem to lose ownership of their possessions; they simply did not call things “their own” selfishly, and freely shared what they “owned”. The concept of “ownership”, and of rewards for hard work, was never disparaged to the degree communism disparages. Saint Paul stated, “If you don’t work you don’t eat”, which seems very greedy and unfair to some young socialists, as it allows the unemployed to go hungry, (yet ambiguously Christianity feeds the hungry, but only after they “reap” the hunger they “sow”). Jesus himself seems to suggest “ownership” has value, when he states the hired man will run away when a wolf threatens the sheep, but the shepherd will lay his life down for his sheep. Why? It involves the mystery of love. When one truly loves another, one “owns” them in a way that greed cannot comprehend.

This somewhat simple reality concerning the power of love is never more obvious than among small farmers. Back when farming was more common (before farming became agribusiness) it was quite clear that hard work pays off, whereas laziness gets you in trouble. If two farmers lived side by side, on equally rich land, the hard-working farmer would wind up with more cows than the lazy farmer. However having six fat cows when your neighbor has only two skinny cows is a very evil thing, according to communist dogma, because the six cows are “capital”. “Capital” is a bad word, among communists. The six cows are “accumulated wealth”, and “means of production” and divorce you from the ordinary “proletariat”, and make you a member of the “petite bourgeois”. You need to be “reeducated” so that you can confess your success has nothing to do with really caring. The six cows should be forcibly taken from you and “shared”. Wealth should be “collective.” Once society removes rich and selfish farmers (like you) from the equation, the Age Of Greedy Capitalism will end, and a glorious new age will dawn.

I explain this to show you I have listened, while loving my enemy, and do comprehend the heaven-on-earth communists envision. It is poppycock, but I understand it. However I know why it will never work, because I have been a lazy farmer, in my time. Such things happen, when you don’t weed because you want to write a poem. Poets face a choice: If they weed they may be a good farmer but their poetry suffers, but if they write poetry they earn a crop of weeds. (It is no coincidence that good poets often go hungry.)

I liked the example of Robert Frost, who was a poet and also a farmer (for a while), and seems proof one can do both things. One thing I have attempted to do in my life is to show that a poet doesn’t need to be a hapless and useless drone, incapable of raising crops or children. This involves a precarious balance between weeding and writing. It involves spending a lot of time being very defensive about how weedy your garden is, while at the same time having to defend yourself from other poets, who ask you why the heck you even bother with a garden (or family). Looking back, the struggle has been great fun; life would have been a drag if I hadn’t made it so difficult. Also it had an unexpected benefit: I know communism preaches poppycock, because I have made a scientific study of the absolute minimum of hard work you can get away with, and still grow broccoli.

It seems fairly obvious that if you punish society’s hard workers you will wind up with lazy workers, and fewer fat cows, and perhaps only skinny cows. If society punishes more successful farmers then society will end up promoting less successful farmers, and might even experience a scarcity of food. Yet, when communism was first being tried out, as an experiment, people who believed it would have glorious results had a mad faith that all that was needed, to end poverty, was to punish the successful. This faith seems to have been just as unshakable as the faith of Christians facing lions, but makes even the most irrational Christian seem sane. Where Saint Paul stated, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat”, communism stated that if you became an “activist”, busily dispossessing the hard-working farmers who succeeded, (never farming yourself because you were too busy with your “activism” to actually act), the poor would not go hungry.

How this played out under Stalin was a nightmare that in some ways makes Hitler look tame. It was the Russian equivalent of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”, and equally disastrous, and was a slight degree worse than Hitler because it didn’t hate a “differing” religion or nationality, but fostered hate and division between farmers of the “same” religion and nationality, in the same town, driving a wedge between farmers who were poor and farmers who were slightly better off, (but by no means rich). Where Hitler promoted hating “foreigners”, Stalin promoted hating neighbors, and even brothers.

The result was that the hard-working and successful farmers, (called “Kulaks”), were “liquidated”, and, rather than prosperity, famine was the consequence, (perhaps predictably.)

Before I go into the details of this horrific fiasco, I need to describe the situations it intended to “improve upon”. This will involve several long sidetracks into anecdotes of history, with a focus on the more interesting times, which catch my eye because they stand out either by being particularly hellish or particularly heavenly. Hopefully I will be forgiven if I dwell a lot on small farmers. This involve something a surprising number of modern youth don’t know: Without farmers we all starve. It also involves something all too many leaders forget: People will put up with a lot of excess and extravagance in their leaders, until they get hungry. Then, watch out.

***14***

The American “populist” Bryan stated, in a famous speech in 1896, “Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms, and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”

In a sense this is a warning to the “elite” which occurs again and again, across the expanses of time. It basically warns the elite, “do not bite the hand that feeds you”. The average man is willing to put up with surprising disparities in wealth, as long as his own lot in life is happy, but once suffering enters his picture the foundations of wealth and privilege quake. The poor riot and the authorities react by oppressing, and the rot sets in.

There are all sorts of intellectual explanations for why disparities in wealth exist, and when I look through them all, I am reminded of children at my Childcare all whining, “He got more than me! It’s not fair!” The standard answer is, “Life isn’t fair.”

The spiritual answer is that everyone is blessed with gifts, some which are very obvious and some which are blessings in disguise. (Some who have employed me have suggested my blessings are very, very disguised.) (It can be dangerous to have a dreamy young poet operate a forklift in a warehouse containing great numbers of glass bottles.) Individuality involves gifts as varied as people’s fingerprints, and one gift is to be a motivator and leader of others. When one gazes back through the rises and falls of peoples, across the expanses of time called “history”, it is like looking across mountain ranges of many hues at sunset. Some mountains are ugly, blackened by the vomit of volcanic turmoil, while others are sweet like sunny uplands with patches of pines. A trait of the better societies is a respect people have for each other; a king or boss may be stern and demand respect, but he does not lord it over others in a haughty manner, and is actually respectful and always on the lookout for talent. Far, far back in history, even before the first farm, the massive, muscular chief of meat-eating Neanderthals might spot, in a skinny, nearsighted fellow who was useless on a hunt, a latent skill at making flint spear-points. Bingo! Useless hunter becomes a man whom hunters value.

The difference in how individuals are gifted leads quite naturally to what economists call the “division of labor”, and this process occurs because when you are good at something you tend to succeed at it. The cream rises to the top. This brings me back to the difference between the hard working farmer and the lazy farmer. The hard working farmer will tend to have wealth and acquire more land, as the lazy farmer loses his land and becomes a worker, or else loses ownership of his land and works the same farm as a tenant. Or I should say this process would occur in a time of peace. In a time of war even a hard working farmer can lose ownership of his land because his society loses a war. The Babylonians march into Jerusalem, or the Manchu into China, or the Rus into Russia, and, because the ability to conquer is also a “gift”, the conqueror gets all the stress, and all the care, and all the bother, of having to run all the farms of the all farmers they have conquered. (Yikes! As if running a single farm isn’t trouble enough! Conquest seems a fate worse than Solomon having 600 wives!)

Conquest was never as easy as it might seem. It might seem an invader only needs to yell, “Grow food and make it snappy, or I’ll lop off your head”, but that has been tried and it never works. Dispirited workers produce poorly. Terror is indeed a form of motivation, but fails to bring out the latent gifts people inwardly own, in the manner love does, and merciless conquerors soon discover the land isn’t producing the wealth they expected. Therefore, like it or not, they are faced with finding a better form of motivation.

It is actually quite fascinating to look back across time and see how some conquest resulted in kingdoms that endured, and some conquest (like Hitler’s) resulted in complete flops. There are plenty of examples to study, as our planet has not been known for its lack of wars.

To return to the example of Genghis Khan, we are faced with a paradox, for he was undoubtedly brutal, but created an empire that endured. The explanation is that he used brutality as one of several forms of motivation. If you resisted him, and you killed his beloved soldiers, he would show you little mercy. He slaughtered not just every soldier, but every person in entire cities, and tore those cities down, even to the degree some cities ceased to be, and are only heaps of rubble in the steppes to this day. While it is to a degree unwise to put too much stock in quotes that are 700 years old, when leading the population of one of the first cities he vanquished outside the gates to all be beheaded, he is purported to have informed them, “I am the flail of God. Had you not created great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”

If this quote is true, it would indicate Genghis had some sense that he was an “ax” of God. If you wonder what joy could be found in such a gift, so do I. However he did experience pleasure, if the the following statement, that he is said to have made, is also true: “The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.”

It does make a sort of sense to utterly exterminate a foe who has had the courage to stand up to you, because otherwise you are in the shoes of a hunter who has not shot to kill, and has a wounded beast on his hands. (Jefferson described slavery as “having the wolf by the ear”.) The lick-spittle of vengeance has an amazingly long memory; and history shows many conquered people who arose from ashes to burn the capitals of their conquerors, as the Babylonians did to the Assyrians.  The Mongols themselves were a people who arose from ashes all their own.

(Before Christians get too haughty about such behavior being ungodly, they should look at the Book of Joshua, and read how it was not merely the soldiers of Jericho who were slaughtered, but also the women and children and even the livestock, Christians should read how anything that could be burned was burned. Only metal was allowed to be saved from Jericho, and not as loot, but to be put in the temple treasury, for God. Any infractions to this decree were severely punished, yet, of course, people did covet certain objects, and did show mercy to particularly beautiful women, and trouble always came of it. One example was: Mercy was shown to the Agagites. Then these people, rather than gratitude, bore a lick-spittle grudge across centuries. Eventually, when the Jews were captives in Babylonia, an Agagite named Haman came up with the solution many have come up with over the millennium: The total extermination of the Jews. Read The Book of Esther for the exciting climax. [Spoiler alert: The Jews weren’t exterminated.])

In conclusion, mercy has not been a strong suit among conquerors. In the case of Genghis Khan his reputation for being merciless did motivate some strongholds to open their gates and offer no resistance, and such cities tended to fare better, receiving what could be called “mercy”, considering the alternative. They then had a chance of witnessing Genghis’s ability to see talent. For example, Mongols, as a people on horseback, had no idea how to conduct a siege and storm a castle’s walls. Genghis learned such things from Chinese, and later Persian, captives. Even in cases where populations were slaughtered he made exceptions for people who had gifts, men who made actual things that could be used, blacksmiths and potters and other artisans, who tended to be shipped home as useful slaves. He seemingly governed by principles of meritocracy, and appreciated people who were not cowed by his power and answered him honestly. He lacked much of the megalomania often seen in tyrants: While he might confidently call himself the “flail” of God, he didn’t allow statues and portraits of himself to be made. In fact the more I study the man, the more I realize there were reasons his influence endured.

Not that he doesn’t qualify as a mass murderer. When he invaded northern China the local northern population plunged from something like 40 million to 5 million, (from the last Chinese census to the first Mongol census). (There may have been a mass exodus of refugees, as well as slaughter.) (Also the Medieval Warm Period crashed into the Little Ice Age.) But, to get back to my original point, it was not an easy thing to be a small farmer, minding your own business, in those times.

***15***

Looking back, it seems that because even peace-loving farmers were subject to invaders, (outlaws, if not armies) they came to desire protection (sheriffs, if not dictators with armies). Society became divided between protectors and the protected. Some worked as farmers as some worked as soldier-protectors. Farmers tended to be smaller men and soldiers be bigger men. In societies where this division became hereditary, the size-difference could be surprising. Why? Because the same child, fed only grain, may grow to be a foot shorter than the same child would be, if fed beef. (This is trivia, but when the meat-eating Americans occupied rice-eating Japan after World War Two, the children of Japan became significantly taller than their parents.) The divisions in ancient societies trended towards big knights and small serfs. But this was a division all agreed upon, and, in societies where people cared for each other, it worked surprisingly well. (Of course, because this system involved soldiers, it also tended to perpetuate war).

In the Bible there is an interesting story regarding farmers needing a defender, (found in the eighth chapter of the first Book of Samuel.) Basically the farmers want a defender, and God tells them He is their defender, but they insist God isn’t good enough; they want a big, strong, human king. Then God (through Samuel) tells them what to expect, if they have a human king. It makes good reading, three millennium later:

This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.

19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “Nay; but we will have a king over us;20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles”.

In other words, the Jews of that time could have stood for Truth and seen that Truth stood by them, but would rather be slaves to big government. They should have known better, because they were “God’s Chosen” and got good advice most of us never get, (such as the prophet Samuel’s), but perhaps there is a bit of the lazy farmer in all of us, that wants to shrug responsibility off to someone else. We desire to sit at home and write lovely poems, as someone else bleeds and dies fighting the enemy. According to the ancient prophet Samuel, this choice will not give us the freedom to write poems, but rather will make us slaves.

I have seen this true in my own life, (where I have been the slave of many bosses who couldn’t care less for my poetry), (or anyone else’s), but in terms of World History some bosses redeemed the tyranny of power, likely because they felt the influence of love, as displayed by the Christ. In the social structure called the “medieval manor system”, the primitive society could be hell, but could also sometimes be very loving and wonderful. On such rare occasions the “Medieval Manor System” was heavenly Christianity in a worldly form, for it was a “body” with all the “parts” working in harmony, and an individual’s “gifts” were allowed free expression.

Many of the Medieval Manor System’s concepts seem loathsome to us, and we are repelled from the very idea of their servitude, which approached slavery’s. But apparently the master of the manor could sometimes prefer to oversee happy serfs. (Such oddness even occurred in America, midst the undeniable horrors of American slavery: Rare, scattered plantations allowed slaves to plant their own gardens and even own rifles to hunt with, to create their own churches and schools, with some slave-owners even granting their best slaves their freedom, as a reward.)

Not that I would ever want to be a slave, or a serf. Serfs were not allowed to marry without their lord’s permission, and were bound to the soil they worked. Rather than own their land, their land owned them. They had to stay in town, and were denied freedom of movement, but the benefit to this limitation was that they also could not be thrown off their land. If their lord went bankrupt and lost his land, they went along with the land to the new owner. Also, though they didn’t own their land, they were allowed to keep some of what it produced. (In some ways that is not all that different from my own government, which allows me to keep some of my paycheck.) Serfs were slaves, in that they had to work for the lord, in “his” fields and fixing “his” roads, but, though I smugly think I own “my” land, I do pay property taxes, which in a sense means I am renting my farm from the government. When I struggle to make the money to pay those taxes I am in a sense a serf, (though my taxes pay others to fix the roads, and I don’t have to [thank God] fix them myself).

In some places the lord of the manor found the serfs were quite productive during their free time, both as farmers and as artisans, and that the wealth of the manor as a whole increased the more free time serfs got. If you consider the time serfs had to work for the manor was a sort of “tax”, the tax was reduced, but rather than less income, the lord of the manor strangely got richer, for the consequence of asking serfs for less was that they became more productive. In some way I don’t understand, [when Satan wasn’t looking], a sort of golden age occurred in Central Europe.

I long to know more. How the exposure to an apparent mass murderer like Genghis Khan, and the nightmarish pandemic called The Black Death, could have had such unexpected positive consequences makes me wonder. But the history startles, and states this: In parts of Poland around the year 1370, some serfs were only required to work for their lord two days a year. That is a very small tax. When I total up all my taxes, I see I spend half my time working for the government, or 130 days a year (subtracting weekends.) So who is the slave? Me, or those long-ago Polish serfs, who only worked for their government 2 days a year?

***16***

One effect of the plague called the “Black Death” may have been to make a serf more valuable. There was just as much land, but in places only half as many people. Unless depopulated fields were abandoned (which did happen), you, as a surviving lord, had to make the best use of your remaining servants and, unless you could afford seeing your income cut in half, you had to ask them to work twice as hard. Meanwhile, in the next manor over, your neighbor was facing the same problem, and might be tempted to lure some of your more footloose serfs to break their bond with your soil and come to his land (offering higher pay, or perhaps lower “taxes”). Your serfs gained power. But this is just a guess on my part, with me plopping modern concepts of “supply and demand” onto a situation I only dimly glimpse through mists of time.

One problem with trying to see into the mists of medieval Central Europe is that the landscape was constantly overrun by invaders. Genghis Khan was proceeded by Attila the Hun, and by Rus and Visgoths and Magyars and Saxons and others, and followed by further churnings of the landscape, culminating in the mind-boggling tank-battles between Hitler and Stalin. Not only did these invasions tend to burn down existing libraries, but each conqueror tended to rewrite history, with the revisionist-version portraying the new conqueror as the hero, and his foes as barely human.

A brutal way to erase the past was to simply burn parchments, but parchment (basically carefully-prepared animal hides) was valuable and scarce, so another approach was to scrape the ink off the parchment and start over. A recent development has been for historians to radiocarbon-date parchments and also their ink, and if the parchment is significantly older than the ink, to scrutinize the parchment for traces of what was written before, (able to be brought-out by modern science using x-rays or ultraviolet light or some such magic). This has brought back writings that were thought destroyed. However, to the north, parchment is more likely to rot. Much we have to go on is legend and lore, handed down largely by word of mouth, and only written down centuries later. For example, it is possible to get a glimpse of where Genghis Khan was most brutal by where he is, (to this day), most hated, (parts of China, and Persia [modern Iran]), whereas he appears surprisingly beneficent in the lore of other lands, and is a hero in Mongolia. We also have bits of history in libraries far from the steppes, (often not original documents but handwritten copies, or copies of copies), which have escaped such ravages. However much of my sense of there being a golden period in Central Europe I glean through inference, which arises from incidental behavior which seems out-of-character for the time, in comparison to the brutality elsewhere.

For example, I recall reading of a princess of Central Europe whose father was king of one land and whose uncle was king of another land, who, because her uncle died childless the same year as her father died, became queen of both lands. This created an immediate crisis, as the the two nationalities did not get along. (Hungarians and Poles?) Anywhere else there would have inevitably been a war, but the queen did the sane and smart thing, which was to give up her claim to one of the lands, and simply hand the bother of ruling that land off to some relative.

The fact there may have been a golden age and renaissance in Central Europe is inconvenient to those who prefer to rewrite history to show a “societal evolution”. The concept of “evolution” tends to be linear, and tends to succumb to the temptation to make oneself the pinnacle and to reduce those who came before oneself to the status of less-evolved Neanderthals. Even when a golden past is honored, one sees oneself as that golden past’s progressive heir. (Hence some Romanians see themselves as improved Romans.)

The communist version of “societal evolution” tends to focus on material byproducts of Truth, such as power (“Church versus State”) and money (“Guns versus Butter”) and is blind to factors outside the box it creates for itself; a cramping crate it disciplines itself to adhere to being boxed-in by. This blindness fails to see what moves humanity is often a politically-incorrect discipline that comes from outside-the-box. Communism itself was originally outside-the-box, in its dismissal of religion as an “opiate”, yet communism fails to see that Christianity also was originally outside-the-box, and not at all associated with the rich, powerful, and politically-correct people of its time.

From the moment the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and became a “defender of the faith”, political power threatened to turn spirituality into a box, limiting the human spirit. With power comes the temptation to abuse it. Not that reform cannot originate from the throne, but (turning to Tolkien’s fantasy) often only a humble hobbit like Bilbo or Frodo can resist the evil of the “Ring of Power”. Power tends to increasingly be something clung to, rather than a thing used wisely, and then it ceases to be something that comes from Truth outside-the-box, and exists in growing mustiness, in which case the fresh, outside-the-box breezes tend to take the form of invaders. Once Christianity began to stultify, challenges shocked it from its torpor, pagan Visgoths sacking Rome and pagan Huns flooding Europe, Vikings from the north and Islam from the south and Genghis Khan from the east.

People have an unease regarding bright times of good fortune, and tend to worry the light will be taken away. Even a most glorious party must come to an end. A sunny dawn gives way to evening’s long shadows. Life leads to death. Perhaps this vague sense of shadow, lurking in even the best and happiest life, sometimes creates a defensiveness, even a paranoia, and people build structures hoping to wall out shade, but the walls become prisons in and of themselves. One cannot defeat a shadow with a wall; it takes a light.

There is much talk about how, to be free, one must stay on their toes and must not slack off. “The condition upon which God has given liberty to man is eternal vigilance”, (John Philpot Curran; 1790); “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few,” (Wendell Phillips; 1854); [perhaps even, “Rust never sleeps”, (Neil Young; 1979)]). However one of the most fascinating qualities of liberty is that it cannot be grasped. Attempt to grab it, and it slips away. Try to pen it with laws and rules, and it immediately manifests as “the exception to the rule.” Perhaps this is what Saint Paul was attempting to describe in Galatians, 2000 years ago, when he stated, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

In terms of simplistic “societal evolution” the “medieval manor system” atrophied into a stratified society, partly because the cream rises to the top, and partly because the conquerors ruled the conquered (for example, in Russia a Rus nobility ruled Slav serfs.) In this system the serfs grew the food, protected by the lord of the manor, and groups of manors were protected by a duke, and groups of dukes were protected by the king, and kings were under the jurisdiction of the Pope. When serfs had squabbles they brought them to the lord; when lords had squabbles they brought them to the duke; when dukes had squabbles they brought them to the king, and when kings had squabbles they brought them to the Pope, and because everyone was a good Christian, meek and mild, everything worked out. This occurred during the mild winter of the year 926, in the dead of night, between the hours of 2:52 and 3:09 AM. The rest of the time things weren’t quite so peaceful. Even in the Vatican problems occurred, involving a schism that resulted in there being three Popes at the same time.

I would not like to be in the shoes of any Pope dealing with all the quarrelsome kings of Christendom. (Not that the College of Cardinals is considering me. “If elected I will not serve.”) However I do have many of the skills required of a Pope. After all, I run a Childcare. And I have some powers Popes never dreamed of having, for I’m more than twice as tall and weigh more than four times as much as my subjects. One quarrel I always find myself dealing with is expressed by the words, “He started it!”

The “start of war” is an interesting thing to study, for it seems to me that, without a “start” there would be no need for soldier-protectors, and farmers could farm in peace. Soldier-protectors would be out of a job, and would have to go back to farming. Looking back in time, few seemed to really desire that. The problem seemed to be that hoeing corn got a bit boring, after the first decade or two.

It is all well and good to adopt some hippy slogan such as, “Wars will cease when men refuse to fight,” but that simply doesn’t deal with the fact that, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Life simply gets boring without something to battle. Therefore it seems to me that the problem a Pope is faced with is: Getting people to realize the fiercest and most interesting battle there is to fight is not with people over the border, but within one’s self. That would mean Popes would have to first look hard in the mirror, and, as Pope of a Childcare, I understand that is the last thing one is prone to do, when things are getting out of hand and spiraling out of control.

One thing I’ve noticed at my Childcare is that children seem to spend half of every ballgame arguing. I often don’t step in and interfere, (unless things get drastic), for I understand this is how we mortals learn the art of diplomacy.

One mistake students of “societal evolution” tend to make is to over-emphasis the domineering, and ignore the quieter peacemakers. An interesting example of this involves the etymology of the word “slave”. It comes from the word “Slav”, who were a people constantly overrun by outsiders, farmers who fed their masters and often only earned scorn for it. But what does the word “Slav” actually mean? Apparently it is an ancient word with deep Indo-European roots, and has a somewhat ambiguous meaning, as it seems to mean both “listen” and “speak the truth.” Perhaps the best translation is “heed.” (Definitely not a blabbermouth, especially when the lord has a sharp sword, but “silent waters run deep.”) And one thing about the Slavs is that they have endured where their masters have not. Who speaks of the Scythians in a modern context? Not that the Slavs didn’t learn a great deal from their masters, but in the end their masters were the ones who converted.

Gazing back into the mists of time I am always interested in seeing how missionaries converted fierce, pagan warriors to Christianity. They often couldn’t convert with the sword, for often the pagans were better warriors, and had superior weapons. When the English had a huge advantage in Western Europe because their longbows could shoot farthest, in Eastern Europe the Mongol bows of horn and wood could shoot even further, and pierce armor even better than English arrows. And long before the Mongols, the Scythians in a sense had the first RVs, and it was difficult to counterattack their villages, as they were basically covered wagons on wheels, and hard to locate. Nor were such nomadic people stupid and without skill. Here is a Scythian necklace from 400 BC:

In a sense it seems crazy to leave a secure castle and head out as a missionary into dangerous steppes, yet people did it. I wish I could wiretap time and listen-in on the conversations between Christians and Pagans. They did not always end well.

People are not always welcoming when you arrive at their front door like a salesman and tell them you have a deal they can’t refuse. One of my favorite stories about such a “deal” involves the English arriving in Bombay harbor in the early 1600’s, and telling the Indian king they could supply really wonderful goods, if he allowed them to build a trading post in his harbor, protected by cannons. The king asked the English if he also would be allowed to build a trading post, on the river Thames in London, protected by his cannons. The English left and didn’t return for 200 years.

While peering about in the mists of the past, looking for sunny uplands, I chanced upon some dark deeds. Apparently the East Saxons (who “evolved” into the Prussians) didn’t like the deal missionaries were offering. A pagan priest had the missionary bishop Alderbert of Prague murdered on the Baltic coast of Poland in 997, and the missionary archbishop Bruno of Querfurt was beheaded by Saxons (and most of his 18 followers hung) in 1006. Yet midst these black shadows are strange ghosts of gray; the martyred missionaries were so venerated that their corpses were bought: Bruno’s by a Duke of Poland, Boleslaw the Great, and Alderbert’s, (for its weight in gold), by the king of Poland, Boleslaus I. And then, as I poke through the strange, dark fog further, some of the ghosts resolve into beams of light.

Some of this history is found in a copy of a history written in the early 1000’s called the “Annals of Quedlinburg”, which quirked my eyebrow as it was likely written by a woman, at a sort of college for women within the abbey of St. Servatius Church. This immediately piqued my interest, as it suggested women had a status I didn’t imagine existed in medieval times. Poking further, I discovered this school was founded by Matilda of Ringelheim in 932.

Matlda is a person who strikes me as a crossroads of many forks, or perhaps a star of many rays, for whichever which way one turns one sees a fascinating avenue one can wander down and become lost upon. For example, (don’t get lost), her great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was Widukind, a fierce, pagan Saxon king at the time the Frankish Charlemagne was attempting to convert Saxons to Christianity with his sword. Around the year 772 Charlemagne cut down a sacred-to-pagans grove of trees, which did not bring about peace, but rather nearly two decades of warfare. Around 785 Widukind converted, not due to losing a battle, but rather due to a vision. It was a rather interesting vision, but if I go any farther down this avenue we’ll get lost. So let’s back up to Matilda.

All five of her children gained great power. Her eldest daughter was married to the count of Paris and became the mother of Hugh Capet, first king of the West Franks. Her oldest son became Holy Roman Emperor in 962. Her second daughter eventually became the queen of King Louis IV of France. Her second son became Duke of Bavaria. And her third son became both an Archbishop and a Duke, and his court was the intellectual center of Germany.

I suppose communists would suggest this shows how the bourgeois intrigue and plot to hog all the power to themselves, but this fails to consider what is done with such power. Matilda was the sort of person who would slip from her husband’s bed in the dead of night to go to the castle chapel and pray. She apparently dismayed the court accountants by spending far too much of her husband’s money on charity. These are not the deeds of a hog. The simple act of starting a school to educate women is more of an act that spreads the wealth of knowledge, even if the women who attended the school were all upper class. Women in other lands were not writing histories, which brings me back to the “Annals of Quedinburg.”

In this history we find the first mention of a Baltic tribe called the “Lithuanians”, (midst describing when the martyred Bruno was beheaded in 1009). There was little indication at the time that these pagan people would someday challenge communist dogma, concerning “societal evolution”.

***17***

Lithuania was luckily located, just northeast of the maximum Mongol expansion, (but close enough for contact), and just east of the worst Saxon warfare and west of the various Viking wars that led to the beginnings of Russia. It’s lowlands were a bit swampy and highlands a bit sandy, so the land wasn’t coveted by outsiders, but it was fertile enough, especially in the warmth of the Medieval Warm Period. It was one of those places out on the fringe of civilization which happily escapes notice. It gradually prospered, and after a couple centuries became the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, an entity that persisted five hundred more years, and at one point reached from the Black Sea to the Baltic and was the largest nation in Europe. But what is most upsetting to the communist dogma about “societal evolution” was that Lithuania didn’t concentrate wealth and “the means of production” in the hands of a king, but rather developed democracy.

 

In all its long history, Lithuania only had a single “king”. Back in its beginnings, it was basically a conglomeration of tribal chieftains, (although they are called “dukes” in the old histories). Rome saw them as “pagans”, as did Constantinople, and Orthodox missionaries from the east and Catholic missionaries from the west aimed to convert them. The missionaries from Rome reached the levels of a crusade, involving armed knights and groups such as the Teutonic Knights, (centered in Jerusalem but with a branch in the Baltic), converting with such zeal that they threatened to erase the cultures they converted. It was at this point one chieftain, named Mindaugas, grins out from the mists of history as a particularly crafty guy. Despite the fact the chiefs of his own land, often his own relatives, restlessly kept his land in a state of civil war, he manipulated circumstances to an advantage where Lithuania not only wasn’t erased, but expanded. At one point he converted to Christianity, and there was joy in Rome, and Lithuania was marked down as a victory for Christ, but apparently Mindaugus only did this to get the Teutonic Knights working for him. Later, when circumstances changed, he caused frowning in Rome, as it looked to them like he went back to his pagan ways, though he may have renounced Rome more than he renounced Christ. But most interesting to me is something which appears, in the written history of the steppes, not in Lithuania but in what became Belarus, during the time Mindaugus ruled. This fragment states Belarus became part of Lithuania, but not, according to the Belorussians, because Lithuanians marched in and sacked their small cities; but rather because the Lithuanians were “invited” in. Details are lacking, but the very idea of Lithuania expanding, not due to invasion, but through invitation, hints at a reality not much discussed, in tomes about “societal evolution.”

Initially Lithuanians formed more than 80% of the population of their homeland on the coast of the Baltic, but as they expanded over the steppes to the Black Sea, including Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine, they became a minority of the duchy, only 12% of the total population. The simple fact a people can be so outnumbered and yet never be slaughtered, not for only a few decades but for five hundred years, suggests a level of civilization rarely seen in Europe. However what is most fascinating to me is the democracy they developed. After Mindaugas they had no “king”, but rather had a sort of gathering of chieftains, which became a parliament which decided policy through discussions and by vote. They did not seem to feel the slightest bit compelled, as the rest of Europe did, to concentrate the “means of production” in the personage of a single, absolute monarch, but rather went merrily on their way, defying “societal evolution”, (which likely would have annoyed the heck out Marxists, had any existed). Instead they delighted in freedom. Apparently they could do this without asking outsiders for permission. Of course their democracy’s “voters” were only the “royalty”, but membership in the “royalty” expanded until it involved more than 10% of the population.

When I gaze across the landscape of history, seeking a cause for such a growth of liberty, I think to myself one factor might have been the sheer enormity of the steppes. The steppes have a vastness approaching the ocean’s, which may have been what attracted the Vikings, however the freedom which the steppes encourage is very different from what the fenceless sea encourages.

The sea knows no walls, but sailors are confined within the gunnels of a ship, which tends to develop character-traits that keep men from going for each other’s throats, (which is what you feel like doing, when you are confined with someone aboard a ship for a long period of time.) Not that mutiny never happened on ships, but among sailors it was seen as the worsts of sins. Out of this came loyalty seldom seen in other cultures. While a Viking could be heartless and deadly if you didn’t know him, if he gave you “his word” and you clasped hands, you could be sure he felt “honor bound” to “keep his word”. Meanwhile in Constantinople the measure of manhood was not loyalty, but rather Byzantine slyness. Therefore the Byzantine emperor did not trust his palace guard to Byzantines, but instead chose Vikings from Russia, called Varangians.

The steppes, however, knew no gunnels, and, where a mortal cannot walk on water, the steppes were dry land, and if a man truly couldn’t stand his master he could just take a hike towards the endless horizons. This vastness even imprinted steppe laws: While Slavs were tied to their Manor and not suppose to leave town, the law stated that, if a runaway remained free for more than a year, the lord had to give up and stop trying to recapture him. Therefore at the edge of the civilized parts of the steppes there tended to be a fringe of free Slavs, in some senses like American pioneers at the edge of the wilderness. Rather than Indians they faced Tartars.

The “Tartar” were what the Mongols became after they intermarried with the local Turkic populations. Initially tolerant of all religions, they eventually became Muslim. Their primary weakness was fighting among themselves, and divided they fell, but only after a long and illustrious time controlling the steppes all the way to China. Among the Tartar slavery was legal, but one Tartar leader was disgusted when he saw his poor paying bills by selling their children, so he made slavery illegal among his own people, which was very bad news for the Slavs. The Tartar developed the bad habit of paying their bills by raiding westward into Slav villages, killing the elders and scooping up the young and strong, herding them south, and selling them to Arabs and the Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that an average raid captured between one and two thousand Slavs, but one raid apparently herded 20,000 Slavs south. It was at this time the word “Slav” became synonymous with “slave”.

It was nearly impossible to stop these raids, for the Tartar could ride faster than word-of-mouth could spread (and the internet hadn’t been invented). Some raids didn’t merely cross borders, but crossed entire nations into adjoining nations. Also the raiding parties succeeded because they were much larger than the meager militia of Slav villages. Lastly the Tartar would raid new areas each time, allowing enough time between raids for the local population to recover, (which was also just enough time [one generation] for the local population to become careless). However the success of such slave-raids weakened Tartar society, I think, because it was easier to make money raiding, than by developing Tartar farms or Tartar industry, and slowly the Russians came to have more advanced weapons.

These Tartar raids went on not for a short time, but for centuries, and I’ve seen the total given, for the number of Slavs captured, enslaved, and shipped south by the Tartar, as being between a half million and three million. And looking south, to where the slaves wound up, one sees that at one point there were over a million white slaves in predominately Muslim lands in Europe. (It would be interesting to do genetic studies of Arab lands now; they may have more Slav blood than they care to admit, [added to Visgoth blood in North Africa.]) (Also, if America must pay reparations for once having black slaves as employees, must oil-rich Islam pay reparations to Belarus, Poland, and the Ukraine ?)

In any case, it can be seen why Slavs preferred Lithuanians to the Tartar. It also can be seen it took a lot of guts to be a free Slav, at the edge of the wilderness. Lastly, it can be seen why the steppes remained so depopulated.

Because it was dangerous, due to the Tartar, to settle and farm on the steppes, some of the free Slavs lived elusive, nomadic lives hunting and fishing. They also studied their oppressors, and learned to form their own bands of fierce men on horseback. These became the Cossack, who enacted a sort of Karmic revenge on the Tartar lands as Russia expanded east as the United States expanded west, in an uncanny way preforming the role the US cavalry played against the American Indians. (The Cossack also happened to be a people who practiced a basically democratic form of government).

When I gaze out over the steppes in my mind’s eye I am in awe of the enormity, both in terms of time and of space. It seems a landscape where our Creator used his broadest brush. Yet it barely seems noticed, in discussions of human liberty and “societal evolution”, beyond a paragraph or two written in fine-point. In fact the Slavs were considered “backwards”, at an early stage of “societal evolution”, by the early thinkers of the Enlightenment. Yet Slavs had a fascinating government that worked quietly out on the farms, (without the Lord of the manor needing to pay it much mind), called the “commune”. For centuries, perhaps even millenniums, they did very successfully what American hippies attempted very poorly, and what Marx and Engels felt was a new idea, and what Stalin and Mao utterly botched.

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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 –El Norte Nina–

Bob Tisdale posted this animation over at WUWT., at this post:

Something to Keep an Eye On – The Large Blue Ribbon of Below-Normal Sea Surface Temperatures in the North Pacific

The animation shows how the cold air draining off the Pole into Siberia didn’t only move west to Europe, but also spilled east into the North Pacific, dramatically cooling the waters over the past month.

el-norte-nina-animation-1

You can see the modest La Nina extending off the west coast of South America, and also the “Warm Blob” shrinking and being pressed up against the coast of Alaska. However the cold water hasn’t been named, so I’ll call it the La Nina of the North, or “El Norte Nina”.

It will be interesting to see how long El Norte Nina lasts. I imagine it is a wrench in the works of long term winter forecasts, likely based upon the “Warm Blob”. If it persists it will likely represent an end to the “warm spike” in the PDO, and a return to a cold PDO, just as I forecast.  I forecast it two years ago, and it didn’t happen, and I forecast it last year, and it didn’t happen, but now, at long last, the blind squirrel finds the nut.

(Actually there was a warm spike in the cold PDO of the 1950’s, and I was imagining the current warm spike would behave the same way, and last the same length of time. Fail. The current situation is unique, and the warm spike was far more powerful and lasted longer.)

The El Norte Nina fits nicely into my idea that we can’t have all the mild air rushing north to fuel the low pressure “Ralph” at the Pole, without having an exit route for all that air, bringing cold down to sub-polar regions. This year Eurasia has experienced a bitterly cold autumn, “unprecedented” in some places. I’ve been waiting for this autumnal pattern to flip into a winter pattern, but so far it is hanging tough. The map below shows the cold over Eurasia, with the cold pouring east into the Pacific over Japan. Of interest is the slot of warmth in the upper left. It is due to the latest incarnation of Ralph, which formed off the northeast tip of Greenland and crossed the Pole on the Atlantic side, finally crashing down into Eastern Russia. It’s odd when the “mild” air comes from the Pole, but that is how topsy-turvy  the pattern is.

el-norte-1-gfs_t2m_anomf_asia_1

Looking ahead to next Tuesday, Mongolia gets a respite, but the cold  gets incredible over central Russia, with temperatures forecast to be 35 degrees below normal. It looks like cold air is continuing to spill east over Japan, which likely would continue to fuel El Norte Nina.

el-norte-2-gfs_t2m_anomf_asia_19

To me this suggests another surge of mildness should be heading up to the Pole. So we first look at the current GFS anomaly map (produced by Dr. Ryan Maue over at the Weatherbell site [week free trial offered]).

el-norte-3-gfs_t2m_anomf_arctic_1

Things indeed are mild up there, but not as mild as they are forecast to be next Tuesday.

el-norte-4-gfs_t2m_anomf_arctic_19

Indeed, just as temperatures are 35 degrees below normal down in Siberia and Kazakhstan, they are 35 above at the Pole. In a few cases they may even be a bit above freezing, and I expect that will generate the usual hoop-la from the usual suspects. The DMI temperature-north-of-80°-latitude map will likely show yet another up-spike, perhaps even higher than the last one.

dmi4-1111-meant_2016

There will be further hoop-la about such a spike, and I feel there should be, but not because I feel the planet is warming. I feel it demonstrates our planet is spending heat like a drunken sailor, and will face one heck of a hangover in the morning, (the “morning” being midwinter.)

The next surge of warmth will come from the Atlantic and in some ways will be a repeat of where we left off last time I posted. Back then (November 7) an Atlantic-to-Pacific cross-polar-flow was bringing a spike of milder temperatures north of Greenland. (Ralph’s “signature”)

Besides creating a wrong-way-flow in Fram Strait, the rising mild air fueled yet another incarnation of Ralph himself.

Rather than heading up to the Pole, Ralph headed over to the Kara Sea, and I was thinking maybe the pattern was changing a little, and Ralph was merely a North Atlantic storm that happened to be displaced way, way, way to the North. I watched for high pressure to build at the Pole.

The high pressure did build, but the flow in Fram Strait remained a wrong-way flow, and that can lead to the reappearance of Ralph’s “signature.” And indeed today’s map shows a weak signature north of Greenland, and a weak Atlantic-to-Pacific cross-polar-flow starting, right where I was thinking high pressure might build. And….what is that dent of low pressure over the Pole? No! Not the ghost of Ralph, haunting me!

This really is a remarkable pattern, and a lot of fun to watch. I was expecting a pattern flip, and I guess El Norte Nina fits the bill. Not that I was expecting it to happen so quickly, (though I did say it would happen quickly, back in 2014), but I’ll call it a correct forecast, because I’m not able to say I’m right all that often, and even a blind squirrel wants a pat on the back every once in a while.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 98 years ago, the guns stopped shooting and silence descended over Flanders Field. People really did believe men had fought the war to end all wars, and mankind would never be so foolish ever again. Alas, Hitlers arise, and some men must leave warm homes to defend us. May God bless them, and may God save us from ourselves.

 

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Dark and Dull– (With African Update) (And updates from other lands)

This tends to be the dullest time of year for watching sea-ice, as the noontime darkness creates a black hole in the satellite pictures, and the cameras down on the ice see nothing but darkness as well, when they bother to report. Also this year some unexplained reorganization at the Danish Meteorological Institute resulted in no graphs and maps for a long period as well. Worst of all, faithful Faboo (the North Pole Camera) was apparently caught up in all the grinding and crunching east of Greenland, and ceased reporting.

A major change occurred at the end of the old year, when a surge of Atlantic air rushed up to the Pole, creating a spike in the DMI temperature map which made the news. Because a new graph hasn’t been created for 2016 yet, we are left with this impressive spike as our last available guidance. The fact such surges have happened in the past, and are always followed by equally impressive down-spikes, isn’t yet apparent.DMI3 1231 meanT_2015

Faboo actually recorded this impressive surge, with temperatures of -21.0°C at 2100Z on December 27 soaring to +2.1°C at 0600Z in December 29. A second surge again lifted temperatures from -8.3°C on December 30 to +0.5°C six hours later….and then there was silence.

The silence was likely not due to all the ice melting in a flash, but rather because the huge mass of ice grinding south was brought to a halt and shoved north by these surges. Faboo reported its location as 75.369°N, 11.941°W at 1500Z on December 28 and then 75.618°N, 11.425°W at 0300Z on December 30, which represents an abrupt shift back to the north-northeast of 19.34 miles. Then, at the final report, Faboo was back down to 75.539°N, 11.741°W 15 hours later, which represents a shift 7.69 miles the exact opposite direction, south-southwest.

In other words, the silence likely wasn’t silent, but rather was likely accompanied by the creaking, cracking, squealing, moaning, groaning and crunching of tons upon tons of ice being tortured this way and that by winds up near gale force. Eventually such ice does unkind things to cameras placed on what was, last April, smoothe and untroubled ice, but now is becoming a tumbled heap of slabs.

I was bitterly disappointed, for I had hopes Faboo might survive long enough to reach daylight further south, and give us a final few decent pictures before its demise, but the last picture of blackness was transmitted New Years Eve, and then, like a fellow who partied too much, there was silence on New Years Day.

I did keep an eye open, because in the past the GPS involved in such an array has managed to survive the mangling, and came bobbing up and, despite an antenna that likely looked like it was having a bad-hair-day, started to transmit the location of the dented buoy, even down to where (two years ago) it grounded on the North Coast of Iceland.

Therefore I wasn’t completely surprised to see the Mass Balance Bouy co-located with Faboo (Buoy 2015B) start transmitting, 17 days later, 177 miles further south-southwest. I was surprised other sensors also survived, reporting an air temperature of -16.65°C, a high barometer of 1029.81 mb, and a snow-depth of over three feet (but no ice thickness).

However I was completely flabbergasted when I saw this:NP3 2 0116 2015cam2_1

This is a picture from not Faboo, but the co-located camera at the site, Fabootoo. True, it may be laying flat on its face, but the simple fact it has survived and is still transmitting at all is something of a miracle.

In any case, the ice that started up by the North Pole is now so far south it is basically off the map.2015D_track 20160116 (1)

One important thing to keep in mind is that this ice hasn’t melted, and is drifting along in water below the freezing point of fresh water and therefore, because ice over a year old has exuded most of its salt and is largely fresh-water-ice, this ice is unlikely to melt any time soon. Keep your fingers crossed. Though we are at the edge of a grinding mass of ice in a stormy sea, there is still the slightest chance we might get a springtime picture from Fabootoo, even if it is from closer to Denmark Strait than Fram Strait. (Click map below to enlarge, and click again for detail)Fram Ice 0115 general_20160115

It is also interesting to note that, despite the surges of mild air from the south, enough freezing has occurred to create much new ice off the east coast of Greenland, which is added to the ice that has been flushed south. In fact, though the ice further east in Barents Sea is much below normal (as is the ice south of Bering Strait) the ice off the east coast of Greenland (and west of Greenland in Baffin Bay down to Newfoundland), is near normal.

Ice extent 20160115 N_bm_extent_hires

The Danish Meteorological Institute has at long last started updating its extent graphs, which can return us to the fuss about the difference between its 15% graph and it’s older 30% graph, which create very different impressions about whether there is less ice than normal (the 15% graph, from January 16) or more ice than normal (the 30% graph, from January 8).DMI3 0116 icecover_current_new (1)DMI3 0108 icecover_current (1)

I like the 30% graph because it has a longer history, though it does not include coastal areas, however I’m not certain how well the upkeep of the graph is managed, as it is deemed an “old” graph. I tend to focus on the 15% graph, if only because it does not trouble me greatly that ice is “below normal”, because I no longer think extent is the sole criterion of the so-called “health” of the arctic ice. As the years have passed I have increasingly seen other factors are involved.

For one thing, in terms of any sort of “heat budget” open water represents a loss of heat, at this time of year. The question of “albedo” doesn’t even arise when the Pole is in total darkness, and albedo will not become a variable until the sun pokes above the horizon in March. Until then the open water in Barents Sea and south of Bering Strait is a case of the ocean losing heat it might otherwise retain, if it were sheltered by a lid of ice.

Furthermore the surges of warmth to the pole, when the flow is meridienal rather than zonal, loses a lot of heat to the dark night skies. The only way such a flow might warm the planet is because there is increased snowfall, which might shelter the water under the ice from the very cold air masses above the ice.  Watching the thermometers of buoys such as O-buoy 8b has seen the “mild” air masses seldom get above -10°C, and often dip down to -30°C.Obuoy 8b 0117 temperature-1month

There will be an increase in interest in February, as the sea-ice extent arrives at its high point of the year, but most of the ice that counts in that peak is thin and flimsy ice that doesn’t last long, and in many cases is outside the Arctic Ocean. What seems of most interest is the temperature of the sea in the two primary entrance regions, Barents Sea and south of Bering Strait. These will be interesting areas to watch over the next few months, to see if they are protected at all by a brief ice-cover. As it is, their waters are stirred deeply by winds, and cannot stratify in the way they can when sheltered. I have a hunch this may play a part in the undulations of the PDO and AMO from warm to cold phases, but that is merely a matter of my wild surmising, at this point.

Currently the cold continues to be shunted south of the Pole, and to build over the deep snowcover of Siberia and Central Canada, as milder air swirls up to be squandered at the Pole. If I find time, I’ll talk more about this with an update.DMI3 0117 cmc_t2m_arctic_1

SAHARA UPDATE

At least once a year I have to include the Sahara Desert in a Sea-Ice post, just to demonstrate how long the reach of the North gets in January. Even though the nights aren’t much longer than the days that close to the equator, in the dry desert air it can drop below freezing, even in the Sahara, as is shown in this Dr. Ryan Maue map of Africa during the wee hours of the morning, (Canadian JEM model) from the Weatherbell site. Below freezing is pink. It is especially cold in Iran and Afghanistan, to the upper right of the map.Africa cold Jan 17 cmc_t2m_afr_3Things really get interesting when some cold air sneaks south aloft, as occurred in Saudi Arabia last week, with the cold backing southeast through Iran from Siberia.  Then the blazing heat at the surface, once the sun arises, sends updrafts up into the cold, and even with the moisture limited in the desert environment they can get amazing hailstorms and flash floods, (just as they get in the American west).Saudi Snow 14012016h01 http://iceagenow.info/snow-on-the-road-to-mecca/

While I originally thought the white stuff was hail, in Saudi Arabia, further reports indicate genuine snow occurred, which appears in all sorts of Saudi social-media postings, as snow is described as rare. In one local it was described as an event that happens “once a generation”, while in an another local it was described as “the first snow in 85 years.” All I can say I would not like to walk in another mans sandals, in such a situation.

Saudi Snow 2 fotonoticia_20160116113053_1280

It might be interesting for some to compare the cold of this year with the cold of last year, which brought snow to Algeria, and which I described in a post nearly exactly a year ago:

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/snow-in-algeria/

TUESDAY’S UPDATE  –Europe’s Turn, and then Washington DC’s?–

It looks like winds have swung around to the south in Saudi Arabia, part of a general flow ahead of low pressure north and east of the Caspian. West of that low pressure cold air is being drawn down over all of Europe, with only the far west, Ireland and Portugal, missing the cold.  If that low pressure draws enough moisture and warmth north to intensify itself and persist, there is always the danger it will tap into the intense cold over Siberia, farther to its east, and the east winds on the north side of that low pressure will pull the cold back towards Europe. In the map below (with temperatures in Fahrenheit) you can see that on eastern Siberia temperatures are down aound -60°F.Eurasia Jan 19 cmc_t2m_asia_2In order to view these temperatures in some sort of context it is helpful to see if these temperatures are above or below normal,  and Dr. Ryan Maue supplies such a map over at Weaherbell Site.  It shows the milder air to the east of Europe, fueling the low pressure, and that further east the ridiculous cold in Siberia is cold even by their frigid standards.Eurasia Jan 19 cmc_t2x_anom5_asia_1As an aside, one thing I’ve noticed is that any refugees heading north from Syria through Turkey into the Balkans have had very rough sledding for well over a month. It doesn’t seem to matter if storms go north or south, Turkey gets clipped by them. (As if there isn’t enough misery already.)

Check http://iceagenow.info for specific stories about Europe’s winter.

Also you should note that the very top of the above map shows temperatures “white hot”, they are so far above normal. As this post is suppose to be about sea-ice, I likely should mention that. However the “white hot” temperatures, 15 degrees above normal, are still well below the freezing point of salt water, except for Barents Sea north of Norway. In fact all along the Siberian coast they are below zero Fahrenheit, (-17°C).

What this map shows is that what a meridienal flow does is to perhaps make it “warmer” up at the Pole, but look out below!  Not only is the dislocated cold air poured down upon Europe, but a pretty cold shot is now pouring down into North America as well. Below zero Fahrenheit air (gray) is jabbing across the Canadian border west of Lake Superior, even in the daytime.North America Jan 19 cmc_t2m_noram_3One thing very neat thing shown by the above map is how the Great Lakes are warming the air, as the air roars across them, and areas east of the lakes are to some degree protected. However the lakes are starting to freeze, and enough cold is sneaking by to generate a clash between the icey arctic and that nice, orange, juicy, humid, air over the Gulf of Mexico. There is a chance a big storm could swirl up and clobber Washington DC. (The consensus outside the beltway seems to be that them being buried by snow could be a good thing.)

Unless and until this potential storm slips harmlessly out to sea, it may hold most of my attention, and updates on sea-ice may be few and far between.

ARCTIC SEA ICE —The Cruel Pool– December 7-13, 2015

Sometimes I simply sit back in awe and wonder over weather features our Creator brews up, especially when they take forms that in some ways are outside of our ordinary expectations, and defy the constructs our small minds come up with to grapple with something as giant as “weather”.

I tend to see things in simplistic terms, and one construct I fall back on is the idea of a “storm track” with nice and neat low pressure areas rolling along this track like trains. However the recent surge that crossed the Atlantic and dove across Europe into Siberia seems in some ways like a javelin of energy. It wasn’t really marked very well by nice, neat circles of isobars marking nice, neat storms rolling along,  but rather ripped through all my nice, neat preconceptions like a spear through tissue paper.

I’ve poked about, trying to get the take others have on what was occurring, and noticed Piers Colbyn suggested the sun hit us with extra energy, (perhaps as a TSI spike).

https://weatheraction.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/piers-corbyn-nw-england-extreme-floods-driven-by-wild-jet-stream-mini-ice-age-conditions-nothing-to-do-with-co2/

I sort of like the idea of some sort of trigger hurling the javelin, which caused the flooding in Scotland as the spear of moisture passed through:

Spear 1 screenshot_2015-12-07-17-36-29-11

As this javelin plunged into the cold, dense air parked over the tundra and taiga of Siberia’s vastness, it shoved the cold aside and forward like a snowplow. I’ve already remarked on how the cold got pushed south to give snow to Persia:Persian Snow 151207113212_snow_in_iran_640x360_isna_nocredit

The poor nation of Syria was hit by cold which set a record for the entire month of December, not even ten days into the month, with Damascus hitting -9°C.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/features/35031257

A lot of cold air was plowed east, pouring out into the north Pacific, which will (perhaps) shift the Aleutian low south and west, and (perhaps) cause the jet stream to pour arctic air south into Canada. But how cold is that air, out over the Arctic Sea?

Now that is where my wondering gets tickled, for apparently the javelin didn’t merely plow the cold south and east, but also plowed it north, up over the Pole.

That isn’t all that unusual, and is one reason the Laptev Sea leads all coastal arctic seas, when it comes to the creation and export of sea-ice. The cold air created by the snow-pack over Siberia does what cold air is inclined to do, namely sink, and creates high pressure as it presses down, but it can only press down so much before it presses outwards, and on the coast of the Laptev Sea this creates south winds that are anything but warm. They are the coldest south winds north of the equator, in fact, and roar north with such ferocity that they rip the sea-ice away from the coast, creating polynyas of open water even when the winds are as low as -70°C. This open water rapidly freezes, and then it too is pushed out to sea. Enormous amounts of ice are created in the Laptev sea, even though the ice there never gets all that thick. And, considering this outflow from Siberia happens even in ordinary circumstances, it will be all the more likely to occur when encouraged by a javelin plowing through Siberia.

As I watched the DMI maps the past week, the cold air pouring north from Siberia was obvious, even if the origins were beyond the edge of these maps. The high pressure I dubbed “Igor2” was pumped up, on the Pacific side.  Of interest was the fact that the gale I called “Tip3” was sucked east by (apparently) the surge associated with the “javelin”, while the gale I called “Tip4” behaved like a leaf swirling about in the wake of a race car, loop-de-looping back to Greenland.

DMI3 1208 mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1208 temp_latest.bigDMI3 1208B mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1208B temp_latest.bigDMI3 1209 mslp_latest.bigDMI3 1209 temp_latest.big DMI3 1209B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1209B temp_latest.big DMI3 1210B mslp_latest.big DMI3 1210B temp_latest.big

The last map shows a decent gale off the coast of Norway, but in fact that is a “zipper” and associated with the occluded mess Tip4 created when he retrograded to Greenland. You get some idea of this mess by looking at the UK Met map.UK Met 20151210 29951109 The UK met map shows the “javelin’s” isobars still remain strongly west to east across Britain, Scandinavia and into Siberia, but not much of a “storm track” in the North Atlantic, where everything has bogged down to a stalled, occluded mess. In fact the low to the lower left of the map (which we might as well name “Tip5”) is likely to dawdle towards Spain, before perhaps probing up towards the English Channel. In terms of invading the arctic, the Atlantic is not much of a threat. A slight flow is pushing towards the Pole from the open waters of Barents Sea, but it is nothing like the surges we have seen.

Without invasions, the Pole swiftly chills, and this can be seen by the recent plunge of the DMI temperatures-north-of-80° graph. (The recent slight uptick is due to the air from Barents Sea.)DMI3 1210B meanT_2015

It makes me nervous when temperatures become “normal” over the Pole, because it represents a reservoir of nasty cold, a truly cruel pool. It wouldn’t be so nervous-making if the flow was zonal, for then you would know the cold would be trapped up there, which is where it belongs, as far as I’m concerned. However the flow has been meridenal, which tends to suggest the cold is just winding up before a pitch, or rearing back before an uppercut, or (add the sports metaphor of your choice).

Some of the cold air has been leaking down the east coast of Greenland, which may chill the Atlantic and cause future troubles, but in the short term is good news for places like the USA and Europe and China. However a lot of wicked cold is simply remaining up at the pole, as a building threat.

I mentioned earlier that the cold air spilling from Siberia into the Pacific might relocate the Aleutian low, and cause the jet stream to aim down into North America. Cold already is oppressing the north of Alaska and Canada,  but so far hasn’t started south:Spear 2 gfs_t2m_noram_1 Mr. Bastardi, over at the Weatherbell site, seems to suggest this ferocious cold is likely to roar down the Rocky Mountains into the west of North America, which will not effect me right away, which is fine with me. I prefer reading reports from Calgary of bone-chilling blasts. Or from Colorado. Or even from Texas or Phoenix.

I figure we here in New England payed our dues last winter. (Of course, I am not the guy who figures out this thing called “dues”. Some celestial angel does those calculations, which is why I never get the millions I figure I’ve earned by being so charming all my life.)

My hope is that we get a winter for softies, here in New England, and I don’t have to attend to ice on my driveway, and therefore have lots of time to attend to ice in the arctic.

Something very odd has been happening in the DMI ice-extent graphs. Rather than explain it I’ll just let you look at the two graphs. The first is for 15% coverage, and includes “coastal areas”, and the second is for 30% coverage, and has coastal areas “masked out”. (Click graphs to enlarge and clarify)

DMI3 1210B icecover_current_new DMI31210B icecover_current How two graphs, produced by the same agency, can give such differing impressions, is beyond my capacity to explain. The first will be loved by Alarmists, as it shows less ice, as the second will be adored by Skeptics, as it shows more ice.  (My own take, for what it is worth, is that the thicker and denser ice is increasing, even as the ice that doesn’t really matter so much, at the edges, is diminished.)

Tomorrow I hope to find time to catch up with the doings of Faboo (the north Pole Camera) which is hurrying south along the east coast of Greenland. The cameras are still sending pictures, and it has moved so far south that some of the pictures are lighter than others, but apparently the lenses are still very obscured by hoarfrost, so all you see is black for night and purple for day.

However the main emphasis of this post is the cruel pool building over the Pole, and the pondering about who will get that cold air, when an arctic outbreak sends it south. (I hope it hits some poor boy yearning for a White Christmas, and arrives on Christmas Eve,)

UPDATE: “JAVELIN” CROSSES ASIA; CAUSES SUPER-STORM?

I’ve just been noting the passage of what I called either a spear or javelin through Siberia. It has now reached the Pacific and is still milder than the air both to the north and to the south (though it has been cooled a lot crossing the deep snow-cover of Siberia, and “milder” is now 10°F)(-12°C):Javalin 3 gfs_t2m_arctic_1

So far the javelin seems to be deflected a bit further south than I expected by the (so far) stubborn cold (-55°F; -48°C) lodged over east Siberia. However what is an interesting “coincidence” to me is the massive gale computer models see blowing up in the Bearing Sea tomorrow (Sunday).

Javalin 4 gfs_mslp_uv10m_arctic_5I am not qualified to say whether this super gale, at the very bottom of the above map, is actually related to the impulse that gave northern Britain its recent floods. My eye has just been following something east, and a qualified meteorologist might be quite correct to call any connection between the two events an optical illusion. But, as an observer, I figure I should mention it. (For those with home barometers, 933mb is like your barometer reading 27.55 inches.  IE Super-dooper typhoon.)

DMI MAPS UPDATED SUNDAY EVENING

The weak remains of Tip4 and secondary and tertiary elements have drifted east to the Kara Sea, bringing some slightly milder air to the Pole, but not the true Atlantic moisture that comes in surges all the way up from the Azores. In a sense this is home-grown Atlantic air, polar in origin.

Across the Pole Igor2’s high pressure continues to mark some very cold air that is pouring north from East Siberia and across towards Canada. Some is exported down the east coast of Greenland, but North America is increasingly in danger of an onslaught from the north.

A Pacific storm is off the map south of Alaska, and the Pacific super-gale hasn’t developed yet.

FABOO UPDATES

On December 7 Faboo (the North Pole Camera) was blown south to 78.879°N, 8.174°W, which was another 18.75 mile to the SSW. Temperatures were fairly flat, with a low of  -21.4°C at 0600Z and a high of -18.1°C at 1500Z. Breezes fell off from the prior gales, but remained strong, slacking off from 25 mph to 15 mph.

December 8 saw the winds fade away to a calm, as temperatures fell from -18.7°C at midnight to -26.1°C at 1800Z. The buoy’s movement slowed to 6.14 miles, to 78.790°N, 8.186°W. There was a slight wiggle to the SE at 1500Z,  midst the SSW motion.

On December 9 calm conditions continue, and likely hoarfrost froze up the anemometer and wind-vane. Movement slowed further to 3.22 miles, to 78.744°N, 8.143°W. Temperatures crashed to -29.2°C at 0900Z and then recovered to -21.0°C at the end of the period at 2100Z.

December 10 saw movement of 6.63 miles to 78.648°N, 8.119°W, wobbling east, west, east and west as it proceeded south. Temperatures rose to a high of -17.7°C at midnight and a low of -23.1°C. at noon. Winds were not reported, likely due to hoarfrost.

December 11 saw the buoy move back west, as it continued south, to  78.577°N, 8.201°W, 5.02 miles further south. Temperatures were at their highest at midnight at -21.7°C and sunk to -27.3°C at 1500Z. No wind reports.

On December 12 Faboo drifted another 5.81 miles SSW to 78.494°N, 8.274°W. No wind reports, and temperatures remaining very cold for Fram Strait at -26.3°C at midnight down to -28.5°C at 1500Z.

Faboo is still well out in Fram Strait, and somewhat amazingly the cameras are still functioning, though the hoarfrost is likely so thick on the lenses that all we see is blackness. The slab of ice it is on is likely still fairly solid, or at least one of the cameras would be sunk. Much of the ice moving down into Fram Strait is solid, and the air has been very cold with few mild incursions. Of we could get some gentle south winds we might get a lens thawed, and get a few decent pictures from Faboo before it gets crunched. (As the ice moves south it tends to compress against the coast of Greenland. In fact all the thin “baby ice” from earlier this autumn has vanished from the NRL thickness map, turned into a much thicker jumble along the coast, south towards Denmark Strait.)

Further east there is still open water all around Svalbard, but we are likely to see Svalbard freeze swiftly, for it is entilerly surrounded by water that is now below 0°C, and only remains liquid due to its salt content. (Click to enlarge, and click again to enlarge further.)Fram Ice 1212 general_20151211Further west Hudson Bay is rapidly freezing over.Hudson Bay 20151212 CMMBCTCABering Strait has also frozen up.Concetration 20151212 arcticicennowcastThe only area with much below-normal ice-extent continues to be Barents Sea, which is likely to see an increase of ice on the Svalbard side over the next week.

Half-horsepower Persian Snows

A strong west-to-east flow across northern Europe is driving polar Atlantic air deep into Siberia. (Maps below are created by Dr Ryan Maue from GFS initial data, and are among thousands of maps he makes available at the Weatherbell site.) (Click maps to clarify and enlarge.)

Persia 1 gfs_mslp_uv10m_eur_6

This air is actually quite mild for December (although below freezing by the time it gets to Russia. Below freezing appears as pink on the map below.)Persia 2 gfs_t2m_eur_1

To get a feel for how above-normal the air actually is a temperature anomaly map is helpful. The map below shows temperatures are most above normal in Finland.Persia 3 gfs_t2m_anom_eur_1

This surge of relatively mild (but still below freezing air) will extend far across Asia, but does not represent the very cold (-40°C) Siberian air being warmed, but rather replaced. The displaced air is pushed north into the Arctic Sea, or west into the Pacific, or south and then east by a sort of backwash under the west winds. You can see the cold appearing in the lower right of the map above.

What this means is that places like Persia, Lebanon, Syria and Israel are seeing very cold conditions. Even the ordinarily hot and desert dry United Arab Emerites are seeing cold rain and temperatures down near freezing. UAR Cold Rain 3820661127

This is often an unexpected side effect of mild west winds across the Baltic and into Russia. Siberia is a huge place, larger than the USA and Canada put together, and its tundra and taiga create huge amounts of cold air. It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of this reservoir, or how impossible it is to warm this vastness in the dark days of December. It is only when a fringe of this cold comes east as a sort of backwash, and snows fall in the holy land, that one glimpses a hint of how gigantic the area of cold is. It perhaps can be shoved aside by a surge of air from the west, but it doesn’t just vanish, and I was particularly interested in pictures of the snow in Persia (Iran). Persian Snow 151207113212_snow_in_iran_640x360_isna_nocredit

It is a bit stunning to realize that the displaced Siberian air has it colder south of the Caspian Sea than it is way up in Finland. (One thing to realize is that the relatively milder air rushing east past Finland is constantly losing heat, and will be quite cold after a week or so over the deep snows that cover most of Siberia this autumn.) In fact it is so cold over Persia that things are running at half-horsepower.1931874(1)

OK, OK, I admit it is a bad joke, but I actually thought this statue was so cool that it deserved an entire post just to share it. It just goes to show you that you never know what you’ll discover, when you wander the web looking for news.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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