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Antarctic confusion

With the sea ice in Antarctica breaking extent records again this week, New Scientist seems to have taken it upon itself to engage in a bit of damage limitation on behalf of the global warming movement. Its article today declares that the growth in sea ice is in fact caused by global warming (who would have thought it?!). 

There doesn’t actually seem to be any research to back this up – there is no link to a new paper or anything like that. We just have a couple of talking heads with a rather impenetrable explanation of their case:

More sea ice may seem odd in a warmer world, but new records are expected every few years, says Jan Lieser of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart. That's because the southern hemisphere warms more slowly than the north, as it has less landmass, boosting the winds that circle Antarctica and pulling cold air onto the sea ice.

And if that explanation were not confusing enough, the link at the end of the paragraph is to a 2009 New Scientist article about a paper by Turner et al that has a completely different explanation for the rise in sea ice:

The autumn increase in [sea ice] is primarily a result of stronger cyclonic atmospheric flow over the Amundsen Sea. Model experiments suggest that the trend towards stronger cyclonic circulation is mainly a result of stratospheric ozone depletion, which has strengthened autumn wind speeds around the continent…

The confusion is further increased when we learn from Turner et al that the rise in Antarctic sea ice is statistically significant (I doubt it, given how short the time series is) and then just a few sentences later we learn that “statistics derived from a climate model control run suggest that the observed sea ice increase might still be within the range of natural climate variability.” This suggests to me that either the climate model or the statistical model used are nonsense. Or perhaps both.

So is the sea ice extent significant or not? Is it something to do with warming or with ozone? It’s anyone’s guess.

[Interestingly, a similar story appears in the Guardian, with  Lieser appearing once again. So any impression you might have got that this is a public relations exercise, rather than news, was entirely correct]

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Reader Comments (55)

Note particularly the large positive anomalies in East Antarctica.

Sep 19, 2014 at 9:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

UAH has it the coldest August in the Southern Hemisphere since 2008,

Sep 20, 2014 at 3:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

UAH also has the South Pole at 0.29C for Aug. The warmest August was 1996 at 2.20C.

Sep 20, 2014 at 4:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

UAH also has the South Pole at 0.29C for Aug. The warmest August was 1996 at 2.20C.

To elaborate.

The warmest Augusts using column SoPol according to UAH

2014 8 0.29
1995 8 0.41
1989 8 0.45
2009 8 0.62
2006 8 0.84
2013 8 0.89
1991 8 1.10
1988 8 1.19
1980 8 1.30
1981 8 1.46
2011 8 1.79
1996 8 2.20

Sep 20, 2014 at 4:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

All these preening comments but not one person states the obvious: since Antarctica is dozens of degrees below the freezing point of water on average, in a mildly warming world the humid summer ice box effect kicks in, and yes, of course it clogs up with extra ice. Not even the idiot box warmists lay this common fact on the table.

Sep 22, 2014 at 4:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterNikFromNYC

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