Alaska On The Rocks

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

From the “weather is not climate” department, the sea ice is in early and thick in Alaska. It makes me shiver just to look at the picture. They had to use an icebreaker to get fuel to Nome.

Figure 1. The Bering Sea region in Alaska. Anchorage is at the upper right. The Aleutian peninsula and chain runs down to the lower left. Ice covers all of Bristol Bay, and extends well out from the shore to the west. Photo Source

I fished commercially up there, in the Bering Sea. I’ve lived in a container in the Peter Pan Cannery boatyard in Dillingham, and gill netted for the noble salmon in Bristol Bay, drunk too much and worked it off laughing in a blazing hot steam bath with some Yupik guys trying to roast me out the door by cranking up the heat. I’ve made great money in driving sleet arguing with the herring regarding the eventual fate of their roe in Togiak, and seen the walrus hauled ashore in their thousands on Round Island. Those fisheries kill a man or two a year, plus the usual crushed hands and feet and the like. But I haven’t fished the January Bering Sea crab fishery, the one made famous as “The Deadliest Catch”. Figure 1 shows why I don’t do that.

The Bering Sea ice this year is in early, and it’s thick. Not only that, it’s moving south fast. The crab fleet has some $8 million dollars of gear in the water, and the ice is moving south at twenty miles a day. Usually ice comes in later and thinner, and moves south at three miles a day. Boats are tied up to the Dutch Harbor docks. At St. Paul Island, out of the photo to the left, the crab boats usually sell their loads to the processor boats. It is also totally iced in. Millions of dollars have already been sunk into moving the crab boats and the processor boats and the crab pots to Dutch. If this cold continues, the season will likely be a total bust.

My point in this post? Awe, mostly, at the damaging power of cold. As a seaman, cold holds many more terrors than heat. When enough ice builds up on a boat’s superstructure, it rolls over and men die. The sun can’t do that. The Titanic wasn’t sunk by a heat wave.

The thing about ice? You can’t do a dang thing about it. You can’t blow up a glacier, or an ice sheet like you see in the Bering Sea above. You can’t melt it. The biggest, most powerful icebreaker can’t break through more than a few feet of it. When the ice moves in, the game is over.

Now me, I’m a tropical boy. My feeling is that well-behaved ice sits peacefully in my margarita glass, making those lovely cold drips run down the outside, and giving me a brain freeze when I hold the glass to my forehead.

But when ice jumps out of my glass and starts running all around painting the landscape white and solidifying the ocean and falling on my head and freezing my … begonias, well, at that point the fun’s over. I call that “water behaving badly”.

And if you want to worry about a climate related occurrence, I certainly wouldn’t worry about the dread Thermageddon™, the long-foretold and ever-receding premature heat-death of civilization.

I’d worry about water behaving badly …

Best of the cold to my friends in Alaska, stay safe on the ocean, and my regards to all,

w.

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Mark

Well said W.
Where did the picture come from? I’d love to scan around the satalite images of other areas up there right now.

Louise

“My point in this post?” You may have ‘pointed’ it out but I still can’t see it…
Other than “don’t worry, it’ll be fine, trust Granpa Willis, it could be soooo much worse” that is

Jason

The polar bears are in for a rough winter.

timg56

Willis,
About that cold and ice – just spent 8 days trying to get power back to 400,000 people due to a winter storm caused outage. 8 – 21 inches of snow followed by freezing rain can put a hurting on trees. And where do they fall? Well, quite often on power lines.

Mark Foster

Amen Willis. Let’s pray those tough guys upthere can make a living and keep their life. Gnarley work to say the least. I’ll say my prayer for them after work while nursing my warming ice cold marg. Cheers, Mark

timg56

Louise,
I believe his point is similar to this – if you have to go without the convienance of electricity, do so in a warm environment is almost always perferrable to doing so in a cold one. I bet I can get about 400,000 amens to that where I live.

Tony

I saw an interesting article on this from NASA of all places. Obviously not endorsed by James Hansen where they talked about the lack of cold in the lower 48 and the extreme cold in the Artic. And instead of blaming global warming or Run away climate change they spoke of the Arctic ao being high and La Nina imagine that NASA telling the truth about weather. Not one mention of Man made climate change I couldn’t believe it.

kbray in california

Louise says:
January 27, 2012 at 11:11 am
Is the cold having your nose drip into your keyboard ?
Your comments are snotty.

Austin

Spent a few years up there fishing with relatives. Halibut on mile-long trot lines in February with forty below offshore winds – Its absolutely brutal. I realized that some people – the natives, both Inuit and Tlingit, and the Laplander Finns – had very real genetic adaptations to that kind of cold. I did not.
I wonder when break-up will be this Spring?

Resourceguy

Alaska in winter should be the required field camp of all Masters and Doctoral candidates in climate sciences. In winter of course

Luther Wu

Willis Eschenbach sez:
Now me, I’m a tropical boy. My feeling is that well-behaved ice sits peacefully in my margarita glass, making those lovely cold drips run down the outside, and giving me a brain freeze when I hold the glass to my forehead.
__________________________
I’m sure that you neglected to mention other ways to get a margarita brain freeze. Otherwise, you just aren’t drinking that margarita fast enough.

Bill Parsons

Jack London needed an editor, too.

Near record cold in Fairbanks this year – coldest in 40 years for January. Average of nearly -25 F throughout the month. Here in Anchorage a very cold winter also, with 22 days below zero so far.
There are a couple things you can do with ice. One would be to simply dirty it up with soot or something very black to help speed up melting. But nothing is going to melt outside in Fairbanks this January. Cheers –
http://newsminer.com/view/full_story/17310167/article-No-records-yet–but-January-has-been-cold-in-Fairbanks?instance=home_lead_story

8364khz

Joined MV Falmouth Bay as R/O 21st February, 1984. Up through Unamak passage, Bering Sea and down the coast of Kamchatka. Vessel iced up and ice on inside of cabin porthole. Never saw any sea ice then.
Yes Willis, not very nice.
Jmac

Jenn Oates

I am now and always have been a pansy…not that I didn’t know this before, but I’m occasionally reminded just what a useless piece of over-educated flesh I am, and now is one of those times.
From sunny northern California, I say Brrrrrrrr…

Same thing in today’s Toronto G&M Tony. Maybe the first time in 20 years no “CO2 dunnit” in a climate related article.

8364khz

Should have said…
Joined MV Falmouth Bay, Seattle, as R/O 21st February, 1984.
There is something about getting older… Can’t remember what it is though.

Louis Hooffstetter

For scale, Google Earth shows the long axis of Kodiak Island is approximately 140 miles long (not including the 2 smaller islands to the SSW).

Beautiful terrible picture Willis, thanks?
I’m a tropical guy also, and I don’t want to win this debate this way; a pirric victory.
Yes, there was no man-made global warming, yes, we are all frozen!

Brian in Bellingham

It will be interesting to watch Deadliest Catch this year when they show that part of it. Frustrated crabbers talking about how cold it is, how they have never seen ice this far south, wondering where “global warming is”, etc. Might be an eye opener for people who don’t pay attention to what is really going on and only get their information from the MSM.

Fisherman, farmer, gambler, mathematician, climatologist, original thinker, etc, etc. Is there nothing you haven’t achieved, Willis? How old are you? (P.S. I’m just a jealous admirer).

Rujholla

Another thing I’m wondering about — there has been 12+ feet of snow around the portage glacier area this year — I wonder if that will reverse the shrinking trend, as that is certainly more snow than I ever saw there when I lived there.

agw nonsense

Brilliant post All the best to you from myself and the skipper and crew of Angelica (TV show HardLiners) here in Australia

Steve C

Cool. Should make for a good late finish to the Nenana Ice Classic then.

Scarface

@Louise
Tell your leader that warm is good, cold is bad and that you’ve learned that over here.
The truth will set you free.

Just send the liberals up there. Their hot air will melt it in no time.

John Cooper

It could be a rough Iditarod this year. It’s so cold already that some of the mushers are unable to train their dogs.

Ice :
When you drink vodka over ice, it can give you kidney failure.
When you drink rum over ice, it can give you liver failure.
When you drink whiskey over ice, it can give you heart problems.
When you drink gin over ice, it can give you brain problems.
Apparently, ice is really bad for you.

Bill Jamison

As a huge ‘Deadliest Catch’ fan I’ve been following the weather and sea ice in the Bering Sea for a few years now. This year started off rough with the huge “arctic hurricane” that prevented Nome from getting their normal pre-winter fuel supply and it’s only gotten worse.
I can’t wait to see how it all plays out on the TV show this summer!

Anteros

Willis –
One of your best posts.
I made the point recently at Climate Etc [well, I do it frequently..] that six degrees ago when my ancestors were sitting in an oak forest in Southern Britain and the great Barrier Reef was still a Eucalyptus forest, life was accepted as it was. But, had a modern sensibility existed then, there would have been many people [‘alarmists’, they would have been called] saying that the prospect of six degrees of warming (and a 400 foot sea level rise) would have signalled the end of life on earth. Whereas now we think our current climate as fine and dandy and any warming would be….er… the end of life on earth…
I had a comment from some loon saying “But it was an ice age then!”. My response had to be, of course, that we are still in an ice age – as you hinted at in your post.
The modal temperature of the planet for the last billion or so years? About 7 degrees warmer than now…
The only downer is that in the first week of February the RSS data is going to show 15 years of cooling.
I wonder if all the greatly relieved alarmists will allow me to go to their “Thank God it’s not warming any more” parties even though I’ll be moaning about how it would be nice if it got a little milder…..

Will Nelson

More on the order of 3-20 mi/day…but still hazardous. http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/marfcst.php?fcst=FZAK80PAFC

Alan Watt

The Bering Sea ice this year is in early, and it’s thick. Not only that, it’s moving south fast. The crab fleet has some $8 million dollars of gear in the water, and the ice is moving south at twenty miles an hour. Usually ice comes in later and thinner, and moves south at three miles an hour.

Twenty miles an hour? Do you mean twenty miles a day perhaps?
At that speed the poor polar bears won’t even be able to climb up on the ice because it will smack into them, knock them back in the water, then freeze on top of them so they will all drown.

Willis Eschenbach

Louise says:
January 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

“My point in this post?” You may have ‘pointed’ it out but I still can’t see it…
Other than “don’t worry, it’ll be fine, trust Granpa Willis, it could be soooo much worse” that is

Louise, the fact that you can’t see the point of a story is evidence that … well, let me move on.
I specifically said what my point was, but let me state it again. Cold is much worse for us humanoids and the other creatures that inhabit our planet than is heat. It is more damaging, and is harder and more expensive to fight. If you want to worry about something, the earth has recently (last few million years) gotten very cold a number of times, and it hasn’t overheated at all.
Now, if you wish to believe in things with no supporting evidence, like fairies and unicorns and the idea that the earth is going to overheat, I can’t stop you, Louise. But I will point out that there is a much larger danger, one which actually has repeatedly happened before, which is that the earth will overcool.
If that’s still not clear, let me know.
All the best,
w.

Willis Eschenbach

Luther Wu says:
January 27, 2012 at 11:26 am

Willis Eschenbach sez:

“Now me, I’m a tropical boy. My feeling is that well-behaved ice sits peacefully in my margarita glass, making those lovely cold drips run down the outside, and giving me a brain freeze when I hold the glass to my forehead.”

__________________________
I’m sure that you neglected to mention other ways to get a margarita brain freeze. Otherwise, you just aren’t drinking that margarita fast enough.

I didn’t want to encourage alcoholic consumption among our suggestible youth, they might not have heard about it …
w.

Willis Eschenbach

Bill Parsons says:
January 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

Jack London needed an editor, too.

You must be fun at a party …
w.

Willis Eschenbach

Bob Mount says:
January 27, 2012 at 11:51 am

Fisherman, farmer, gambler, mathematician, climatologist, original thinker, etc, etc. Is there nothing you haven’t achieved, Willis? How old are you? (P.S. I’m just a jealous admirer).

Sixty five next month, and there are still far, far more things I haven’t done than things I have done. My CV is here if you are curious …
w.

Willis Eschenbach

agw nonsense says:
January 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Brilliant post All the best to you from myself and the skipper and crew of Angelica (TV show HardLiners) here in Australia

Dang, they don’t show that here in the US, I’d love to see it. My best wishes to you and the skipper and crew as well, my friend, stay safe on the awesome Southern Ocean,
w.

Viv Evans

I am full of admiration for the people living up there, working to make a living. The last two winters here in the UK, when the whole of the British Isles were frozen over, should have taught every alarmist, Phil Jones especially, that cold is not a good thing!
Personally, I prefer the maritime climate: not too cold, not too hot, and am happy to put up with having four seasons in a day, as long as they stay within the range prevalent on the Celtic fringe.
Here, all one usually needs all year round is a T-shirt, a woollen jumper and a coat. (Yeah, ok, jeans – don’t want to frighten the rest of the population!). add and subtract the cover according to the weather.
One thing people living on the celtic fringe know is that humans do not melt in the rain, so no need to be scared of a few drops or a downpour. Oh – and clothes do dry. Eventually …

Louise

I have yet to see any reliable statistics that enable us to see whether a warmer or colder climate will lead to more deaths (across the globe) in the future.
It has been reported that tens of thousands of elderly french people died as a direct consequence of a particularly warm summer (2009?). I have also heard statements that there were a number (again in the thousands) of extra deaths due to the cold in the UK in 2010 (although not directly due to hypothermia as some have claimed). Does anyone have a link to actual facts rather than political spin on this issue?
It is all too easy to say cold kills more than heat does, surely that depends upon where ‘most’ of the population happens to live? Those in the sub-sahara are unlikely to suffer frostbite just as those in Alaska are unlikely to suffer sun-stroke.

Mickey Reno

Now, now, we all know that, outside of an Al Gore or Michael Moore propaganda film, one small data point does not a climate make. Except, of course, when more people than usual are killed by a tornado, which, due to it’s emotional impact, necessarily invalidates normal observational methods and scientific rules. 😉

and the ice is moving south at twenty miles an hour. Usually ice comes in later and thinner, and moves south at three miles an hour.

You mean per day, I would hope.
[Too right, fixed. -w.]

kim2ooo

Louise: flat landers and landlubbers won’t “get it” – We don’t expect it from them. 🙂
It’s the Actual people who work, everyday, IN the climate / weather – That understand climate / weather.
PS A passenger on a cruise ship to Antarctica has less knowledge of climate / weather – than a first year seasoned deck hand. 🙂

adolfogiurfa

It´s just the “Gore Effect”!..or perhaps polar bears want to visit their savior at his beach property in California. 🙂

Jason H

Willis Eschenbach says:
January 27, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Bob Mount says:
January 27, 2012 at 11:51 am
Fisherman, farmer, gambler, mathematician, climatologist, original thinker, etc, etc. Is there nothing you haven’t achieved, Willis? How old are you? (P.S. I’m just a jealous admirer).

Sixty five next month, and there are still far, far more things I haven’t done than things I have done. My CV is here if you are curious …

Willis is the Jaime Heineman of climate skeptics: he’s done more things than I can imagine, and uses those experiences to educate the masses. Hats off to you, sir.

kim2ooo

Louise says:
January 27, 2012 at 1:04 pm
I have yet to see any reliable statistics that enable us to see whether a warmer or colder climate will lead to more deaths (across the globe) in the future.”
Here’s where your logic fails you.
People live all over the World without AC……What do they ALL people share in common – When it’s cold?

W.
Your history reminds me of similar litany. See: Second Hand Lions Bar FIGHT Scene
The balmy global warming sirens don’t stand a chance against “old man winter”.
Considering the historical glacial cycle, we will need all the global warming we can get!

Robert M

The crab fleet has some $8 million dollars of gear in the water, and the ice is moving south at twenty miles an hour. Usually ice comes in later and thinner, and moves south at three miles an hour.
No, No, Miles per day, not miles an hours.
Can you imagine the screaming if the ice was moving south at 20 MPH!!!

At 20mph the ice will reach Hawai’i in a week!
We are doomed! We are doomed!

John

Meanwhile, down here in Georgia, we are having a heat wave. Daffodils in full bloom in the second week of January, Lenten roses blooming and Forsythia budding. Weather extremes are to be expected with AGW

Garry Stotel

I come from Russia, and remember that when I was a boy I had to wade through snowstorms at -15F (-26C) to school at half seven in the morning, and how snow used to blow up my trousers and get into shoes. How my face would freeze and on getting to school I could not talk for a while, until I gained control of the facial muscles.
Since then I detest cold, and all those fat rich people that from the warmth of their moderate climates that tell me that cold is good, and warm is bad, particularly so when they do it taking some kind of moral high ground.
It is a kind of a personal thing for me.