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« Mann makes friends | Main | Spiral of subsidy »

Arctic ice loss was hyped

There's a terrible sense of deja vu about this story (via Climate Depot):

In a September 18 video posted by NASA on its website, they admit that the Arctic cyclone, which began on August 5, “wreaked havoc on the Arctic sea ice cover" by "breaking up sea ice."

This is exactly what happened in 2007, when weeks of hype was followed by a quiet admission that the root cause of the loss of ice was winds and ocean currents. I had put the possibility that the 2012 ice loss was similarly down to factors other than global warming to Mark Brandon, a polar regions scientist. He agreed that this was very much a possibility and decried the poor coverage of the issue in the media. There can certainly be little doubt that we have only heard part of the story.

It would be interesting to see who hyped the ice loss in 2007 and who corrected their stories when the truth came out. And it would be interesting to see who hyped it again this time.


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Reader Comments (40)

What they call a wind up, I suppose.

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I don't believe it was just the storm. It was clear to some, long before any storm, that ice was headed for an unusually low extent. Steven Mosher was making posts along these lines in the summer, here's one I found with a quick Google:
And I haven't watched the video (not easy for me for technical reasons at the moment), but does it actually use the verb 'admit'? Or is that superimposed spin of the type we decry when the warmists do it?

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterSJF

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

Well, The Guardian ran around screaming "We're all doomed!" for several days over this one.
But in Guardian terms that barely qualifies as "eyebrow raising", let alone "hype".

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

perhaps just a tiny bit the Guardian hyped it Vidal (on a Greenpeace ship) with Wadham ..

By the way, they are having a Arctic meltdown meeting (Vidal/Wadham) this Wednesday.

Why not just go and watch and listen (just a thought to any passing psychologist aswell)

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Barring something else unusual in this arctic melt season, it appears that the National Ice Center (NIC) ice charts have also reached the ice extent minimum for the year. As discussed last month, NIC produces operational ice charts with a different method than the microwave-based Indices that are exclusively reported in the media.

As of Sept. 21, 2012, NIC reports the minimum (so far):

8/10ths 3,275,795 sq. Km.
Marginal zone 923,871 sq. Km.
Ice Extent 4,199,666 sq. Km.

For comparison, NIC reports the 2007 minimum on Sept. 11, 2007:

8/10ths 3,547,333 sq. Km.
Marginal zone 1,018,054 sq. Km.
Ice Extent 4,565,387 sq. Km.

Whether comparing the pack ice (>80%) or the total extent including the marginal zone (10% to 80% concentration), 2012 is reported as ~8% less than 2007, or a reduction in arctic ice extent of 365,721 sq. Km.

Considering that 2012 started with a higher maximum in March than 2007 did (15.97 M. sq. Km. Vs. 15.81 M. sq. Km.), it truly is a remarkable single melt season this year. There was warm water from the Atlantic, a rare late summer cyclone and persistent air temperature near freezing, only now dropping towards normal for the time of year. Release of heat from more open water probably contributed to the latter effect. Still, the numbers say that a lot of ice remains in the Arctic, and it is not wise to extrapolate from one season to an ice-free arctic.

What remains is to see what effect this event may have on weather patterns, and what kind of recovery will be seen in the months ahead.

For those who want to know more about NIC ice charts:

“Arctic charts include information on sea ice concentration and edge position as well as (since about 1995)information on ice type. The charts are constructed by analysts using available in situ, remotely sensed, and model data sources. Data sources and methods of chart construction have evolved since 1972 resulting in inconsistencies in the data record; a
characteristic shared with most operational products. However the arctic-wide charts are the product of manual interpretation and data fusion, informed by the analyst’s expertise and by ancillary products such as climatologies and ice information shared by foreign operational ice services. They are therefore often more accurate, especially since the addition of synthetic aperture radar to data sources in the mid 1990s, than are the passive microwave derived sea ice data sets commonly used by researchers. This is especially true for ice edge location because of its operational importance. NIC provides charts free of charge on their Web site.”

“Often a wide marginal ice zone of 40% to 60% is not detected in passive microwave (this was noted anecdotally in earlier studies by the authors comparing passive microwave with ice chart and other analyses), and this appears to be the case here. Also, the NIC partial ice concentration for multiyear shows that thinner types are present in higher concentration near the edge, and passive microwave can fail to detect thinner, younger ice.”

NIC charts are available here:

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRon C.

Re. the Guardian, my impression was that it wasn't so much that it was "we're all doomed" as "yay! We can go on feeling superior to those inferior deniers, at least for a few more weeks." They talk an awful lot more about the "deniers" than they ever do about the planet, or their supposed concerns for it.

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterSJF

but has anyone explained why the "Arctic death-spiral" ,atters? And all those climate scientists who deny ever using the word "catastrophic" as in many of them uses words such as "death spiral"? I would not dare to point a finger at eminent scientists such as Josh Halpern, Grant Foster and co...but "death spiral" as a search term might yield results on their web-sites.

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

(Just to clarify, with my last comment I was talking about the CIF commenters rather than the journalists.)

Sep 24, 2012 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSJF

Tax the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Sep 24, 2012 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Your Bishopness, dont know if you have seen this at the BBC - on first sight appears balanced!!!! - - new assessment of sea level rise. OT so please feel free to delete from this thread. I am in Oz and internet here aint the best.

Sep 24, 2012 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

Some will remember will fondness the antics of the Arctic Catlin Survey in 2009

They are not repeating it. Instead, they have now moved to somewhat warmer climes, using robots to detect if the subject of their attention "may hold some of the secrets of whether or not the coral reefs will survive rapid climate change"

Sep 24, 2012 at 11:38 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

This is the nature of the Arctic. This article from the Alaska Science Forum in 1998, describes the movement of ice:

"Finding the Heartbeat of the Arctic Ocean" Article #1373, by Ned Rozell

"The Arctic Ocean is an ice-covered pool the size of Australia. With its center near the North Pole, the ocean touches the northern limits of Alaska, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Greenland and Canada. Ice floes--huge hunks of sea ice that bump into one another for years before currents spit them to lower latitudes--cover the ocean like a layer of plastic film on a tub of water."

The role of the wind has been known for very many years and Wadham's submarine claims of a 40% decline in ice thickness in 1998-2000, were shown to be the result of the movement of ice by Arctic winds, although he still makes the claim.

Amundsen negotiated the NW passage from 1903 to 1907. This is from his account of the journey:

"We encountered no ice with the exception of a few narrow strips of old sound ice, carried by the wash. Of large Polar ice we saw absolutely nothing. Between the ice and the land, on either side, there were large and perfectly clear channels, through which we passed easily and unimpeded.

The entire accumulation of ice was not very extensive. We were soon out again in open water. Outside the promontories, some pieces of ice had accumulated; otherwise the sea was free from ice. The water to the south was open, the impenetrable wall of ice was not there."

"At 5.30 P.M. we met a quantity of ice off Cape Maguire, a fairly broad strip of loose ice. Beyond this we could see clear water. Captain Knowles reports the season the most open he has ever known. He entered the Arctic on the day we left Sari Francisco, May 22, and thinks the straits were open even earlier than that."

Amundsen commented:
"The ice of the Arctic Ocean is never at rest. Even in the coldest winters it is liable to displacement and pressure by the currents of air and water. Though expansion and contraction, due to changes in temperature, also assist in this disturbance."

The first single season journey through the passage was in 1944, by an RCMP schooner, the St Roch. There have been others since.

There are lots of research papers on the Arctic, but all we hear of are the satellite ice reports and people wait with baited breath for the next data point to see whether ice extent has increased or decreased, to prove or disprove the theory of Arctic ice melt. But it's all happened before, without the help of current CO2.levels.

"Anomalies and Trends of Sea-Ice Extent and Atmospheric Circulation in the Nordic Seas during the Period 1864–1998" Issn: 1520-0442 Journal: Journal of Climate Volume: 14 255-267 Authors: Vinje, Torgny:

"It is not until the warming of the Arctic, 1905–30, that the NAO winter index shows repeated positive values over a number of sequential years, corresponding to repeated northward fluxes of warmer air over the Nordic Seas during the winter. An analog repetition of southward fluxes of colder air during wintertime occurs during the cooling period in the 1960s. Concurrently, the temperature in the ocean surface layers was lower than normal during the warming event and higher than normal during the cooling event."

Taurisano, A., Boggild, C.E. and Karlsen, H.G. 2004. "A century of climate variability and climate gradients from coast to ice sheet in West Greenland". Geografiska Annaler 86A: 217-224.

"the temperature data "show that a warming trend occurred in the Nuuk fjord during the first 50 years of the 1900s, followed by a cooling over the second part of the century, when the average annual temperatures decreased by approximately 1.5°C." Coincident with this cooling trend there was also what they describe as "a remarkable increase in the number of snowfall days (+59 days)."

"Climate variation in the European Arctic during the last 100 years" Hanssen-Bauer, Inger, Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Co-Author Førland, Eirik J. (CliC International Project Office (CIPO) 21 June 2004)

"Analyses of climate series from the European Arctic show major inter-annual and inter-decadal variability, but no statistically significant long-term trend in annual mean temperature during the 20th century in this region. The temperature was generally increasing up to the 1930s, decreasing from the 1930s to the 1960s, and increasing from the 1960s to 2000. The temperature level in the 1990s was still lower than it was during the 1930s. In large parts of the European Arctic, annual precipitation has increased substantially during the last century."

There is nothing unusual happening in the Arctic.

Sep 24, 2012 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennis A

And there's no such word as 'wreaked'.

"Darling, Mrs Jones has just been to the garden centre and come home with a lovely wreaked iron gate!"

Sep 25, 2012 at 12:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon Jermey

Jon Jermey -
I think your argument is wreak. "Wrought" is past tense of "work", not of "wreak". See this for a dictionary's view of "wreaked".

Sep 25, 2012 at 12:46 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:59 PM | diogenes

The person you seek is Mark 'Death Spiral' Serreze:

Sep 25, 2012 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Sep 24, 2012 at 11:36 PM | Dolphinhead

... on first sight appears balanced!!!! - ...

- balanced? Not really.

GRACE can't tell what causes the changes in gravity it measures. It was assumed that the changes measured in Antarctica were due to the loss of ice. Recent observations by ICESAT appear to show the opposite:

The BBC report:

ESA recently lost its flagship Earth observation satellite, ENVISAT, after 10 years of unbroken data-gathering.

They don't report that ENVISAT raw observations disagreed with earlier satellite altimeters (Topex Poseidon and Jason):

I'd say that the other side of the 'narrative' was not reported in the BBC piece.

In my view the network of 700 tide gauges (the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level) collated by the Proudman Laboratory in Liverpool was junked by the IPCC in favour of satellite measurements because it was not showing an alarming enough 'narrative'.

Sep 25, 2012 at 1:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

The hype is down to WATERMELONS pushing their BS (Bureaucratic Science)

Sep 25, 2012 at 6:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurice@TheMount

The south pole (Antarctica) cools first it's land based! you can be a real idiot and say; Sea ice warms first.

Sep 25, 2012 at 6:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterSparks

Readers may be interested to learn that following the Arctic ice-melt 'catastrophe' the Guardian had an article on...wait for it "How to teach polar meltdown".

This was part of the Guardians Teacher Network, so we can safely deduce it's their offical policy to pass this garbage off as gospel to the next generation.

I posted a polite post observing that in a fair polar discussion they'd also no doubt be making equal mention of the record high Antarctic ice extent, wouldn't they?

The post was deleted.

Sep 25, 2012 at 7:31 AM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

I can confirm that my comments on the CIF site which are, shall I say, not of the 'consensus', are being permitted after 3 years of censorship. It's the DT which is censoring objective science now.

Sep 25, 2012 at 7:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

As a layman, the satellite data of the last 30 years or so does genuinely seem to show a progressive decline in the summer ice. There does not seem to much point in denying this. It seems to me to be the one of the very few...if not the only, "catastrophic" observable radical change occurring on the planet.
The "alarmists" predicted this and ,lo, it has come tp pass. You cannot take this away from them, and I do not think we should try. Anecdotal evidence suggest that this may be cyclical and have happened before in the quite recent past...but there is no denying it is occurring.
I sincerely doubt it is down to increased CO2...(which after all is the debating point which really fuels the furore) ..but it does seem to be happening, for whatever reasons. For the time being I am prepared to concede the point that there would appear, by and large, to be less and less summer ice. For whatever reasons.
Or am I being too conciliatory? I am prepared to leave the "never give an inch" form of debate to the fanatics.
I note a wee bit of bluster and obfuscation amongst us "deniers" about this, and it does not sit well.

Sep 25, 2012 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Jack, I don't believe anyone is denying the summer ice in the Arctic is reducing. The problem is that it is being hyped as a sign of global warming. The forecast for the melting ice in the Arctic by the IPCC was based on increased temperatures there and the fact that the ice is on a vast ocean, therefore will melt before the Antarctic. This years temperatures in the Arctic (via the DMI) have been at, or below, average, so whatever caused the melt, if there was one, it wasn't the temperature in the Arctic, yet, the alarmists, who clearly know this, have been hyping it up as a sign of global warming. As with all their hype they know that very few policymakers will go to the extent of checking that the Arctic sea ice has melted on many occasions before and want to get the killer blow in with, not lies, but exaggerations. There is nothing unusual in the sea ice in the Arctic disappearing, to say it's a sign of global warming is at best disingenuous, even the Met Office have, albeit without bruiting it widely, have made that point.

Sep 25, 2012 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

@alec m

'I can confirm that my comments on the CIF site which are, shall I say, not of the 'consensus', are being permitted after 3 years of censorship'

Is this for real? Should I dust off an old nom de plume and dip my toe once more in the shark-infested waters of Alarmist Central?

Sep 25, 2012 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

but you are all missing the point. The storm was caused by global warming! :-)

Sep 25, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

@Latimer Alder
The debate is reasonably robust over at the Guardian these days. You will find you have to say something naughty about Monbiot or be as rude to other commenters as they can be to you in order to have your posts moderated. Accusations of scientific fraud get pretty short shrift, but I suppose that is understandable.
"Deniers" are also strictly limited to what they can link to and any minor straying "off-topic" will have you disappeared pretty fast.
The days when ALL my comments on an entire thread sometimes use to get disappeared without trace seem to be long gone. However, complete politeness is advised. No bad thing, as telling someone they are talking complete garbage while being courteous hones ones language skills.....but it is fairly obvious the alarmists posting there are not quite so subject to being put down the memory hole.
All in all, well worth a visit. The comment threads are frequently more interesting and informed than the articles.
Slightly more Orwellian is that many of the more rabid alarmist articles from the likes of John Vidal, Suzanne Rosenberg, etc do not have the comments enabled at all.....allowing a lot of pseudo-scientific political propaganda to go unchallenged. Sneaky.
Further, well argued and pithy denialist comments ( sadly, not many of mine!) can get a surprising number of reader recommendations. The science is very far from settled at the reader end of Guardian Environmental.
I am retired and even with lots of time on my hands I think I spend far,far too much time reading and posting comments there. There are however several warmist/alarmists/catastrophists/radical greens posting there who seem to be at it, bashing the denialists, 24 hours a day. Doubtless both fanatical AND retired. Now that is scary!

Sep 25, 2012 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

@Latimer Alder
P.S. As regards unscientific alarmist twaddle with no comments allowed...this is the latest from Goldenballs.

Where to start?

Sep 25, 2012 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

I am just in the mood, you know.

Jack Savage
As a layman, the satellite data of the last 30 years or so does genuinely seem to show a progressive decline in the summer ice.

There is a name just for this kind of grammatical mistakes that I just can't remember.

The "alarmists" predicted this and ,lo, it has come tp pass.

The rough diamond. Love it!

But where is the exclamation mark?!

I am told that if you are to use 'lo' or 'Lo and Behold!', it's supposed to be properly punctuated with an exclamation mark.

So my polished version of this sentence would be in verse and it would read as follows:

The 'warmists' predicted this
And Lo and Behold!
It came to pass.

I don't know what comes after these lines yet. :D

Sep 25, 2012 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

sHx - Rhymes with "pass".
Soft "a" US, hard "a" UK, Aust, NZ with slightly different spelling.

Sep 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

sHx: ‘Jack Savage
“As a layman, the satellite data of the last 30 years or so does genuinely seem to show a progressive decline in the summer ice.”
There is a name just for this kind of grammatical mistakes that I just can't remember.’

Dangling modifier, because the phrase risks being associated with, in this case, ‘satellite data’ rather than the presumed term, ‘I’.

Sep 25, 2012 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Brendan, thanks. Dangling modifier, yes.

GrantB, I can imagine much more complicated words to rhyme with 'pass' than 'ass', assuming that's what you mean. ;-)

Sep 25, 2012 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

re your comment:
"The "alarmists" predicted this and ,lo, it has come tp pass. You cannot take this away from them, and I do not think we should try."

I agree with you insofar as we should aspire to higher standards than those who apparently go to great lengths to trumpet what they consider to be proof of anthropogenic global warming, catastrophic or not.

I have opined here more than once that predictions are paramount. I also usually emphasise that deciding what is considered an appropriate prediction is the more difficult task.

In xxx years time the Arctic either will, or will not, be essentially ice-free in Summer [by some definitions]. That's a prediction with only two choices. Flipping a coin only once would give me a good chance of being able to say "I told you so."

But even if my prediction comes true, it does not follow that it did so for the reasons I may have given. For example March of 2012 was very warm for much of the UK. I predicted this here:
[Third paragraph. I should quit while I have a 100% record :) ]

Of course if you read my "prediction" you will quickly realise that I only said "warmer" not "warmer than usual". And I made the prediction in February. But March COULD have been colder than February, couldn't it?

Now, which IPCC models predicted that Antarctic sea-ice would be increasing as the Arctic sea-ice was diminishing? None that I am aware of. That would have been a prediction with only four options to choose from. Better than the first prediction, maybe, but still nothing to write home about.

Meanwhile, Arctic sea-ice continues to form in winter and melt in Summer, same as before.

Sep 25, 2012 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Comments above show why we are talking about the Arctic. Warmists and skeptics look at the world through very different lenses. Warmists see positive feedbacks and tipping points everywhere, and the Arctic is one of their big ones. Skeptics see negative feedbacks characteristic of a climate system oscillating between stable states.

This year's melt is exciting because maybe, just maybe, Nature is conducting an experiment in the Arctic from which we can learn. A step-change of 8% reduction of ice extent from the previous 2007 low presents an opportunity to test over the coming years how the climate responds: either accelerating the melting, or recovering the ice. Also, we shall see how the weather is impacted by more open water this year.

Sep 25, 2012 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRon C.

A very interesting paper was linked on Steve Goddard's site, showing arctic ice taking a real nose-dive in the 1955-60 period. I can't find it now, pity he posts so much junk on there, that the good stuff gets washed away too quickly.

Sep 25, 2012 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

All must remember that the Arctic melting is the only hope left for the warmists. The fact is, there is no proven CO2-AGW, no hot spot and the IR measurements have been misinterpreted.

Sep 25, 2012 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

" It was clear to some, long before any storm, that ice was headed for an unusually low extent."

On the day the storm started Arctic Ice was 229,000 sq km above 2007.

By the 4th day 2012 ice was 39,000 sq km below 2007.

It was the storm that start Aug 5th.

8 4 6001250 6214063 212813
8 5 5890469 6119531 229062
8 6 5815156 5931094 115938
8 7 5724688 5760625 35937
8 8 5649063 5585313 -63750

Sep 25, 2012 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Bruce -
NSIDC's data shows 2012 extent running slightly below 2007 prior to the storm. However, even equalling 2007 -- the record low -- would qualify in my book as "an unusually low extent."

Sep 25, 2012 at 7:12 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

The only interesting thing about the 2007 event was that most of the fractured ice wound up in the Barents Sea. It isn't obvious that the wind will take it in one direction predominantly.

Sep 25, 2012 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrian G Valentine

Why does "the Guardian" do it? Because it is climate porn.

It gives some people the same titillation as voyeurism.

It is voyeurism.

Sep 25, 2012 at 8:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrian G Valentine

HaroldW, I used Jaxa data.

Norsex Extent shows the crossover date:

Sep 25, 2012 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

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