Poles Apart

As most of you are aware, Arctic sea ice has shrunk dramatically over the last several decades, because of man-made global warming. This year it has broken the records for lowest area, lowest extent, and lowest volume. Perhaps more to the point, those records were broken not by a little — not even by a modest amount — the were broken by a helluva lot. Yes, a hell of a lot. The loss of Arctic sea ice has been nothing short of astounding.

How have the fake skeptics of global warming responded? By changing the subject, of course.

Perhaps the most ridiculous example (by which I mean, worthy of ridicule) is on hcubed’s blunderblog. And what does he change the subject to? This:

Antarctic sea ice set another record this past week, with the most amount of ice ever recorded on day 256 of the calendar year (September 12 of this leap year).

Wow! Stop the presses! Extra!!! Extra!!! Read all about it!!! Antarctic sea ice reaches record high for this day of the year!

What a shame for that poor, poor, unimpressive Arctic sea ice. All it managed to do this year was set the record for lowest sea ice extent for a single day of the year for every day since July 28th. Yes, that’s the last few days of July, the entire month of August, and the entire month of September — so far. All it did was break the all-time record. All it was able to do this year was go below the pre-2012 all-time record 26 times — so far.

Yeah. The previous paragraph is sarcasm.

If that sarcastic exposition gives you the impression that it’s the “record” in Antarctica that’s unimpressive — then you got the right impression. But that won’t stop fake skeptics from exaggerating its importance, trumpeting it as though it were a major event. They really don’t have much choice … that’s all they’ve got.

They want to compare Antarctic sea ice to Arctic sea ice? Okay.

Here’s that “daily record high” in Antarctic sea ice (using daily extent data from NSIDC):

The data from 2012 is shown in red. If you’re color-blind, you’ll have a damn hard time telling which line is for 2012.

It might look like 2012 just barely broke the all-time record, but actually it did not. It just barely missed. Here’s a close-up view of the recent maximum:

This year’s peak is certainly above average. But it’s nowhere near “astounding.” In fact, if it weren’t in red color, or if you’re color-blind, you could have trouble picking out which line is 2012 even in this expanded view.

Here’s the all-time record low in Arctic sea ice:

Even if you’re color-blind, you’ll still have absolutely no trouble picking out the 2012 line. It’s the one at the bottom. To be unable to see it, you’d have to be actually blind.

I’m fond of emphasizing trends rather than individual events (climate over weather and all that). For that purpose, one strategy is to study sea ice anomaly. Doing so removes the annual, seasonal cycle from the data. Here’s the sea ice extent anomaly data, for the Antarctic (in blue) and the Arctic (in red), which reveals that both have shown an overall trend, in opposite directions:

Which trend is more impressive? Let’s take a closer look:

How about the annual peaks, both high and low? Here are the annual wintertime maxima for both the northern and southern hemispheres:

The Antarctic maxima have increased. But the Arctic maxima have decreased — faster.

But the real story is the annual summertime minima. Here they are for both hemispheres:

The Antarctic minima have increased, but only very slightly. But the Arctic minimum this year was only half what it used to be.

Really, there’s no comparison. But fake skeptics insist on making a comparison, because when they leave out the details it gives them something to talk about. And that’s all they’ve got.

Here’s the volume of Arctic sea ice at its summer minimum:

Arctic sea ice minimum volume has decreased by over 75%. Let me repeat that: by over 75%. That’s front-page news. The Antarctic setting a record-high-for-this-day-of-the-year is not.

Let me close by paraphrasing hcubed’s blunderblog:

Why is everybody talking about Michael Phelps’ olympic swimming medals? Florent Manaudou of France won the 50-meter freestyle gold medal in 2012 — why don’t I read about that on the front page of the New York Times?

171 responses to “Poles Apart

  1. The big difference here is, even when you get to minimum seasonal sea ice in Antarctica you still have extensive land ice coverage, thus you still have a lot of albedo effect remaining. When you get to near zero seasonal sea ice in the Arctic you’ve changed the albedo in a very dramatic way.

    It would be interesting to see graphs for albedo change rather than just sea ice. I don’t think I’ve seen that anywhere yet.

    • Hansen has posted a bit o discussion on sea ice and albedo change on his website. On his Sea Ice Area page on his website, he plots Arctic and Antarctic sea ice maximum and minimum extent trends for about 30 years and adds sea ice extent at seasons of maximum and minimum insolation.

      He comments: “It is the sea ice area in April-August, when the sun is high in the Arctic sky, that determines the degree of sea ice feedback in the Northern Hemisphere. The figure below suggests that the September 2007 sea ice minimum did not have a correspondingly large effect on the sea ice area at the time of maximum insolation”

      Athough many are now pointing to the Wadhams statement on how significant the Arctic sea ice change is to the planetary albedo, it appears that this is a back of the envelope calculation. On the other hand, Stephen Hudson of the Norwegian Polar Institute published in JGR Estimating the Global Radiative Impact of the Sea-Ice Albedo Feedback in the Arctic which says this: “the observed loss of sea-ice in the Arctic between 1979 and 2007 is approximately 0.1 W/m2”. Hudson cautions: “the potential for changes in cloud cover as a result of the changes in sea ice makes the evaluation of the actual forcing that may be realized quite uncertain, since such changes could overwhelm the forcing caused by the sea-ice loss itself….”

      According to an August 17 2011 press release posted on the Norwegian Polar Institute website Hudson says, for those wanting to look out into the future, consider an Arctic Ocean that is ice-free for one month in summer and has less ice than today for the rest of the year:

      “my calculations show that the warming driven by the disappearance of the ice corresponds to 0.3 W/m2, if you spread it evenly over the whole planet. If you do not consider the cloud cover… the effect is nearly 0.6 W/m2″.

      James Hansen says in Earth’s Energy Imbalance that his calculation of the present net forcing driving climate change is 0.58 +/- 0.15 W/m2 although in his talks he says he thinks the true value is about 0.75 W/m2 if averaged over a full solar cycle (the measured heat content of the global ocean he used which is the biggest term in his calculation for the paper was taken at solar minimum).

      If the change in Arctic sea-ice has already added 0.1 W/m2 and could add 0.3 W/m2 soon it is significant….

      • Halldór Björnsson

        One has to be careful not to exaggerate the change in albedo due to summertime icemelt. While the albedo of snow covered sea ice may be 0.9 and that of the ocean about 0.1, increased cloudiness over ice free areas means that the net change is smaller. Details can be seen in Gorodetskayaa et. al. (2006). I suspect that some estimates of the radiative effects have used an unrealistically high value of the change
        in albedo.

        The effects of sea‐ice and land‐snow concentrations on planetary albedo from the earth radiation budget experiment
        Irina V. Gorodetskayaa Mark A. Cane, L.‐Bruno Tremblay & Alexey Kaplan

      • Halldor said :

        One has to be careful not to exaggerate the change in albedo due to summertime icemelt.

        Indeed, the largest ice melt area anomalies happen at the end of the summer, when the sun has lost most of its power.
        Combined with the increasing cloud cover duing the summer, albedo effect of ice melt itself cannot be excessive, and Hansen’s 0.1 – 0.3 W/m^2 sounds resonable in that respect.

        Not many scientists however seem to talk about snow cover anomaly.
        Now, snow cover anomaly happens much earlier in the season (when the sun in high in the sky, 24/7 in the Arctic and butal in the sub-Arctic) than ice cover anomaly, and is also much larger than ice anomaly. For example, the June 2012 snow cover anomaly was a whopping 6 million km^2 in the Northern Hemisphere :

        A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that during June 2012, the 6 million km^2 snow cover anomaly added about 1000 TW heating to the Northern Hemisphere. 1000 TW is almost 2 W/m^2 if spread out over the entire globe. Thus, June snow anomaly alone added 0.15 W/m^2 global forcing if spread out over 12 months.

        If we did not even add the 4 million km^2 snow cover anomaly in May (causing about 0.1 W/m^2 global annualized forcing), and the 2.5 million km^2 snow cover anomaly in April and again in July (each adding about 0.05 W/m^2), snow cover anomaly in the Northern Hemisphere will have added something like 0.35 W/m^2 global annualized forcing. This is more than even a completely ice-free Arctic will cause…

        Not only with undoubtfully much of all this heat caused by snow cover anomaly ending up heating up the Arctic early in the season, and thus helping melt sea ice, it also seems to adds significantly more radiative forcing than ice albedo effect has caused so far (and probably even more than an ice free Arctic will cause).

        Interesting, no ?

      • Sorry for the typos, guys. It’s late.
        The calculations should be faily accuarate though, and the point (that snow cover anomaly may be a much bigger factor than ice albedo effect) should be significant.

    • That’s being worked on as I type. See http://www.globalbedo.org/
      (Disclosure: I work with people who are processing albedo data for the entire planet covering the last 30 years)

  2. I think it’s interesting to read about the different reasons for the increase. If it was getting colder, they might have a point, but it’s not getting colder. There are areas where sea-ice extent is shrinking. Because it’s getting warmer. And then there are areas where it is growing a lot, and it looks like winds blowing the pack out to sea, which creates open water along the shoreline, which freezes, repeat, repeat, repeat.

  3. Typo. “But the Arctic minima” should be maxima.

    [Response: Fixed, thanks.]

  4. I believe the day 256 quote originates with Steven Goddard. Quelle surprise!

  5. I read one theory that the sea ice increase is the result of the increased calving of the ice sheets into the sea, resulting in a cooling of the Southern Ocean. It is known for a fact that the Antarctic ice sheets are loosing mass at a greater rate.

  6. More to the point surely is that Antarctic sea ice is almost totally seasonal. Almost everything you’ve got at peak will melt out for the minimum. Arctic sea ice never used to be so seasonal.

  7. That’s not fair for poor Laurent!

  8. So, uhm, what you want to say with all this is… that you hate France?

    Haha, sorry, I couldn’t resist!

  9. Another big point is that the physical processes behind the maxima in the Antarctic and the minima in the Arctic are quite different. The larger melt in the Arctic is due to rising temperature. The larger freeze in the Antarctic is due to the freshening of water, if I am not mistaken. Like Greenland, the Antarctic is losing ice mass. And in the case of Antarctica the melt from the West Antarctic Pennisula is freshening the surface water. Given the East Wind Drift, this fresh water is carried to the Ross Sea where sea ice is increasing. In most areas it is actually decreasing.

  10. In many ways the Arctic and the Antarctic are polar opposites (no pun intended). The Arctic is water surrounded by land and the Antarctic is land surrounded by water. Within their respective polar circles, the North is two thirds water, while the South is two thirds land.

    Given the above and the massive land ice volume in Antarctica — more than 8 times greater than the land ice volume in the Arctic — wouldn’t it be amazing if annual sea ice melt and recovery behaved exactly the same at both poles?

    Making an issue out of the difference is truly nutty.

    • Timothy Chase and John Russell raise some very important points in the whole distraction about the increasing sea ice in the Antarctic. There are a number of factors that contribute to the difference compared with Arctic trends:

      1) Anarctica has a huge continent plonked in the middle, which separates most of its ice from the melting influence of ocean currents.

      2) As mentioned above, the land-sourced melt-water is freshening the seawater, which raises the temperature at which sea ice will melt.

      3) The Antarctic ozone hole appear to results in local seasonal cooling compared with other parts of the world.

      4) The increased evaporation of water resulting from warming in non-polar parts of the world results in increased snowfall when the humidity saturates as the air moves to the Antarctic. As long as the temperature remains below freezing, even if it is warmer than previously, and whenever air with increased humidity moves in from the north, there will be increased snowfall in Anarctica.

      The Antarctic trend graphed by Tamino above is entirely consistent with global warming, given the different physical processes that operate there compared with elsewhere. And with continued warming the Antarctic will overall lose more and more ice, as is already significantly occurring in the west.

      There is nothing happening at the South Pole that should convince a scientifically literate person that all is well with the planet’s climate.

  11. The denialists are coming across more and more as dreadful magicians trying ineptly to engage in a game of directing attention, when the audience has lost interest and are starting to talk amongst themselves.

    It always gets embarrasing and messy for the last dregs on the losing side of an argument that the evidence is settling. And in the case of Arctic sea ice the evidence is not just settling the argument, but crushing the deniers utterly.

  12. It’s a real-life Pythonesque dead parrot sketch :-(

  13. Sinbad the sailer

    You know fighting the scum bad anthony watts is useless with words and posts, someone needs to hit him where it hurts, i.e. right in his back pocket. He supports himself through ad-words revenue from his blog, I’m sure Google is not aware of the political situation where his followers gleefully throw him a few clicks to keep him posting his disinformation, of course with no chance of sales for the companies involved, I think Google should be made aware of the situation and he should lose his ad-words account, I don’t know anyone at Google, does anyone reading this have a contact at Google? I think people should write to Google and any advertisers appearing on his site and explain the situation.

    • That is a horrible, horrible idea. As much as I dislike Watts, Goddard and the denier crowd, it is not Google’s job to evaluate, if some website has a beneficial character for mankind or not and then allow them to earn money or not. An what basis should they decide that?

      What should Google do, if an atheist wants Google to cut ad-words revenue for religious fundamentalists (e.g. young-earth creationists websites). The religious fundamentalist wants Google to cut ad-words revenue for the atheist group, because they spread godlessness in god’s own country and endanger their ability to help the poor as god intended.

      Or if some Democratic voters wants Google to cut funding for Republicans, while Republicans wants Google to cut the money for the Democrats.

      Likewise this is with climate. You want Google to cut funding for Watts, because you probably think he is wrong and harming our chances to react to climate change (as I do). But do you really think that the people on Watts side think so too? They want to cut funding for sites like this, because they think that Global Warming is not real and you will harm the economy by wasting our money and jobs on something that is no problem (or create your eco-socialist-liberal world domination).

      How on earth should a private company decided those things? If your proposal would be realized, we could just stop elections and court ruling, and let Google decide what is right or wrong. But that is not a world where I would like to live in. I think we are much better of, letting the people themselves decide what is right or wrong, not a private company.


      • The complaint is clearly about Watts violating the AdSense Terms and Conditions:

        6. Prohibited Uses.

        6.1 You shall not, and shall not authorise or encourage any third party to:

        (a) directly or indirectly generate queries, Referral Events, or impressions of or clicks on any Ad, Link, Search Result, or Referral Button (including by clicking on “play” for any video Ad) through any automated, deceptive, fraudulent or other invalid means, including through repeated manual clicks, the use of robots or other automated query tools and/or computer generated search requests, and/or the unauthorised use of other search engine optimisation services and/or software;

      • uknowispeaksense

        “I think we are much better of, letting the people themselves decide what is right or wrong, not a private company.” Like Fox, Exxonmobil, Koch Industries. If you think those private companies are not buying opinion and engaging in dirty tactics to manipulate people into making decisions you are kidding yourself. Anthony Watts is paid by Heartland and through the questionable use of adsense to spread lies and disinformation. People should be free to decide what is right and wrong but they should be able to make that decision based on accurate information.

      • “Like Fox, Exxonmobil, Koch Industries. If you think those private companies are not buying opinion and engaging in dirty tactics to manipulate people into making decisions you are kidding yourself.”

        Of course they are, but they are lobbying groups. They are no independent parties. There job is to *promote* a certain point of view. Google is nothing like that. It is not their job to decide, what is true/false or good/bad. Don’t you see that difference?

        Do you think that would be a good idea, if all companies would behave like lobbying groups, promoting an agenda with dirty tricks like Fox&Co? I certainly don’t think that this is a good idea. There is no ultimate instance of morality or truth in this world, and certainly this is not a job a company like google. Why on earth should they not provide ads on WUWT?

        And I’m still curious, how you argue, on what basis Google should decide, who can participate in their ad-programs and who may not. Can you answer this question?

      • uknowispeaksense

        Exxonmobil and Koch are in the business of lobbying? Interesting. Look, I understand where you are coming from, I really do. You are suggesting Google is pretty much a benign company that has no direct interest in the climate “debate” and so should allow advertising anywhere. In fact you take it that they have no moral obligation to decide what’s good and what’s bad. You say, “There is no ultimate instance of morality or truth in this world, and certainly this is not a job a company like google. Why on earth should they not provide ads on WUWT?” Given that position and taking that logic to the extreme, you would have no problem with Google providing a service to websites that promote anarchy, relligious extremism, racism or even child abuse. Now, I would hope you find the idea that Google would make money out of websites like that abhorent? I certainly would. I lump websites like WUWT in the same basket. The promotion of ignorance and stupidity about a very real thing that will have a very real negative impact on the most vulnerable people on the planet is abhorent. Google in not making a moral judgement, facilitates that process. Now, if you think that people are smart enough to make that judgment for themselves, the fact that WUWT and its ilk are able to function at all is testament to the ignorance and stupidity of people.

        [Response: I’m no friend to Anthony Watts or his blog, and I think his actions are extremely destructive. But I do NOT lump him or his WUWT blog in the same basket with racism or child abuse. In fact I find the suggestion that it should be, offensive.

        You’re entitled to your opinion. So is Anthony Watts. And I repeat, although I find his blog a source of deliberate, culpable misinformation, I do not put him in the same class with racism or child abuse.

        I’m also entitled to my own opinions, which include this: carrying your rhetoric to this extreme is both morally wrong and destructive to our cause.

        You’re free to promote this idea, but don’t do it here any more.]

      • r: And I’m still curious, how you argue, on what basis Google should decide, who can participate in their ad-programs and who may not. Can you answer this question?

        BPL: Isn’t it obvious? Google OWNS their own ad programs. They are private fora, not public. No one has a right to a service from a private company. They can deal with–or not deal with–anyone they please.

      • uknowispeaksense wrote:
        “Given that position and taking that logic to the extreme, you would have no problem with Google providing a service to websites that promote anarchy, relligious extremism, racism or even child abuse. ”

        A website promoting child abuse would be against the law, so here is a clear line.
        The only things that Google prohibits are pages that contain pornographic, hate-related, violent, or illegal content. And that is, because of many laws (either those things are illegal or it would create many legal problems e.g. age verification, etc). None of things applies to WUWT.

        And yes, you can use Google Adsense on sites that promote anarchy or religious extremism (websites advocating against evolution are to me also religiously extreme) or similar things as long as that doesn’t include promoting pornography, hate-crime, violence or illegal content. And again: Nothing of that applies to WUWT.

        And just to be curious:
        How would you propose that the usage terms of Google Adsense should be phrased, that WUWT would violate those terms? I bet you can’t even come up with a good definition for that, because your proposal is simply totally unrealistic and stupid.

        If you can’t answer that, than all you have said is just a moot point.

      • uknowispeaksense

        I was merely expressing an opinion that Google has the power to decide if they think something is immoral or not and act accordingly. I think WUWT promoting wilful ignorance and stupidity to the detriment of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet is immoral. As for coming up with some sort of legal wording, I’m not a lawyer and unlike some people, I don’t suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect so won’t pretend I know more than I do. I’m sure Google have a whole team of people whose job it is to think stuff like that up. I merely think they should. It’s ok for you to disagree with me but I really don’t like your tone. You catch more flies with honey as the saying goes. C

      • You don’t have to be a lawyer, to tell us that. But it’s your idea, so you must have some sort of concept, what sides qualify for being able to participate in google ads and what don’t. And how you decide that *objectively*, because if you can’t, your whole idea is flawed anyway.

      • Hello? Terms and Conditions?

        Nobody is suggesting Google arbitrarily dump customers they don’t like. That’s a straw man, and I’m baffled why you have babbled on about it for so long, Mr. Unreasonablemadness.

    • My idea – and it’s one that would be extremely hard to implement (indeed, dangerous, but desperate times require desperate measures), would be to implement some kind of ‘Reality libel’ law.

      In essence, this would mean that a prosecution could be launched against someone who denied reality (where ‘reality’ would probably be defined by a strong scientific consensus on a position), continued to do so after reasonable correction, did so in a public manner and/or for financial gain.

      It would be an extremely tricky law to both enact and prosecute effectively, since you have to allow for both honest debate and freedom of speech. But if ‘freedom of speech’ actually means that a few people with megaphones are allowed to shout down reality.. we have a problem.

      • This is a truly extraordinary proposal. Read the founding fathers, read the Constitution and its amendments. Read about what sort of situation was in the minds of their writers, what sort of historical background drove its writers to enshrine the guarantees of free speech and a free press.

        Watts and Co simply think differently from you on a major public policy issue. There is nothing wrong with that. You may think they are in bad faith, but you have no evidence for that, and even if they were, that too is protected by the Constititution.

        Self righteous indignation is the spiritually most dangerous emotion one can yield to. Its also the most politically dangerous emotion one can yield to. Whe crowd feel it all in unison and whip each other up in to a frenzy of righteous indignation, the wise leave the country.

        For goodness sake, get in touch with the traditions of your own country!

        [Response: I think there’s strong evidence they’re in bad faith. But I agree with you that laws against “contradicting reality” are both misguided, and antithetical to the free speech doctrine.]

      • Yeah, you can’t have a law like that. But if people behave like that they should be ridiculed.

      • I’m British.. it’s kind of hard to read an unwritten constitution…

        I’d argue that the situation is not one of policy – goodness knows I have serious issues with a lot of ‘green’ policies. And quite frankly, if Watts and co were putting forth policies bases on fact – or the best approximation of fact that we can come up with, anyway – then I’d have no problem whatsoever, even if I disagreed with said policies.

        No, the situation is where people are repeatedly screaming lies, and doing so across a broad spectrum of media, so as to influence policy to the detriment of all but a tiny minority. And in case you hadn’t noticed, they are winning – there is no worldwide action on global warming and no prospect of such action.

        And global warming is by no means the only example.

        Personally, I see no contradiction between the concept of free speech, and laws against knowingly lying for financial gain – something which would set the bar sufficiently high.

      • Gavin's Pussycat

        > Yeah, you can’t have a law like that.

        You can, actually. And it’s an interesting intellectual exercise: in special situations (like under oath, or when telling something relevant to someone else’s reputation, or to the presence or otherwise of a fire in a packed theatre) it is already so. But it can also be credibly argued that, generally, you shouldn’t.

  14. Interestingly, in contrast to the Arctic, where various proxies indicate that sea ice was higher than today for a long period of time before the satellite record (possibly on the order of 5000 years), even the period from 1973 to 1977 indicates that Antarctic sea dropped before it rose (very Kerry-like). http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~kostya/Pdf/Seaice.30yrs.GRL.pdf

    and ditto for whaling records from the 1950s:

  15. “Help of-a Sciency Whopper”
    — Horatio Algeranon’s reversification of Simon & Garfunkel (Bridge over Troubled Water)

    When you’re contrary
    Feeling gall
    When smears are in your lies
    I will deny them all

    I’m on your side
    Oh, When times get rough
    And ice just can’t be found
    With the help of-a sciency whopper
    I will play it down
    With the help of-a sciency whopper
    I will play it down

    When you’re down and out
    When you’re in defeat
    When sea ice melts so fast
    I will comfort you
    I’ll take your part
    Oh, When summer comes
    And water is all around
    With the help of-a sciency whopper
    I will play it down
    With the help of-a sciency whopper
    I will play it down

    Assail on Michael Mann,
    Assail on Jones
    Your time has come to shine
    All your schemes will have their way

    See how they shine
    Oh, If you need a friend
    I’m assailing right behind
    With the help of-a sciency whopper
    I will ease your mind
    With the help of-a sciency whopper
    I will ease your mind.

  16. While I agree that what’s happening in the Antarctic is far less dramatic than what’s happening in the Arctic, I don’t believe that nothing is going on there. One good reason for fake skeptics to point to the Antarctic is that we have a simple explanation of what’s going on in the Arctic. The explanation of the Antarctic is much more convoluted and, in my opinion, is far less certain. So, if something is going on there and it can’t be simply explained in terms of global warming, then it opens the door to challenging the simple explanation of what’s happening in the Arctic.
    I’d like to know more about processes in the Antarctic. Right now it seems as though it has something to do with ozone hole, isolating air and ocean currents, and possibly some freshening of water due to melting glaciers. I’m sure my synopsis ain’t very good, but better synopses won’t be any more convincing to a lay person.
    In addition, I think a lot of realists (in most respects) will say the increase in sea ice area in the Antarctic is not consequential. For example, they say it melts back to approximately zero in the austral summer, so there’s little effect on albedo. I think they’re too quick to jump to that conclusion. A small increase in albedo at a lower latitute in the southern hemisphere may be quite important relative to a much larger decrease in albedo at very high altitudes at the end of boreal summer in the northern hemisphere.

    So while it’s clear that some people are changing the subject to hide from the very dramatic effects being observed ahead of schedule in the Arctic, I think we (laypersons such as myself) should take the time to focus on and understand the more complicated situation in the Antarctic.

    [Response: I quite agree. I would also like to see a detailed analysis of the albedo forcing induced by both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice changes. This is rather complicated, because as you say the impact of albedo depends on the specific latitude at which sea ice concentration changes, and albedo also depends on the angle of incidence of incoming sunlight. Something to note, which is not intuitive, is that at midsummer the pole actually receives more solar insolation than any other latitude.

    That’s a fascinating scientific issue. The important propaganda issue is that fake skeptics only mention Antarctic sea ice as a misdirection, when they want to distract attention away from the truly astounding sea ice changes in the Arctic.]

    • ” I would also like to see a detailed analysis of the albedo forcing induced by both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice changes”
      There has been some discussion of this at Stoat in relation to this in a BBC report of comments from Prof Wadhams
      “Melting of white Arctic ice, currently at its lowest level in recent history, is causing more absorption. Prof Wadhams calculates this absorption of the sun’s rays is having an effect “the equivalent of about 20 years of additional CO2 being added by man”

  17. The mythical interpretations of this situation by the deniers ranks at #10 at SkepticalScience. Naturally, SkepticalScience has explained the very important difference that the time of year at which the maximum and minimum occurs plays. This silly argument also ignores the fact that the western Antarctic ice sheet is steadily losing ice.

  18. Jeff Masters Wunderblog for September 20 has an excellent discussion of Antarctic/Arctic temperatures and sea ice.

  19. The “problem” with Antarctic sea ice is that there are a host of explanations for why sea ice would increase in warming conditions. It is unlikely that all these ideas are wrong, but working out which processes are dominant is going to be a challenge – attribution is always difficult.

    This denies us the luxury of a simple answer when people say “why is it growing?”

  20. Something to note, which is not intuitive, is that at midsummer the pole actually receives more solar insolation than any other latitude.

    Certainly true for horizontal daily totals at the top of the atmosphere, as the 24-hour day with constant solar elevation makes up for the somewhat lower sun. Surface quantities are complicated by atmospheric transmission – but at the south pole, the clear skies make for high surface totals, too. Tends to be a bit more cloud at the north pole, so a bit more variable at the surface. As you said, counter-intuitive, but easily demonstrated if you do the math.

  21. Many commenters have raised the issue, but it bears repeating: it seems to be a bit of a fool’s errand to attempt to counter skeptics pointing out the Antarctic ice increases with the fact that the Arctic melt is greater. The real issue is that growing Antarctic ice isn’t evidence against AGW in the first place. Omitting or glossing over this fact unnecessarily cedes ground to the skeptics.

    [Response: However, pointing out what a big deal they make out of something that truly is unremarkable, does show how deceptive and desperate they are.]

  22. I have been thinking that the expansion of the Antarctic sea ice and unusual cold events in the recent Southern hemisphere winters may be related to the Arctic sea ice loss. Examples of the unusual cold events include these:

    The driving force this effect could be the increasing temperature differential between the northern and southern hemispheres during the Northern hemisphere summer. This would have the effect of increasing the strength of the Antarctic (offshore) polar wind.

  23. A little more explanation is needed about Antarctic sea ice minimum, which is 2 million square kilometers, although it is suppose to melt completely.

    I suspect the Antarctic sea ice minima increasing has something to do with massive Glaciers calving.

    Great subject to clear Tamino before the contrarians do cart wheels.

    • This area includes the giant ice sheets that are grounded on the ocean floor that are part of the glaciers. Take those away and you do end up with the zero. When those melt (not if) the Antarctic will be in very serious trouble. That is why the Larsens collapses are such a big deal. You would also notice that the ice has not come back there.

      • Much thanks Brian! Can you confirm with a reference? I suspected that the shelves are extending further the minima number by breaking out to sea as well. This is really good stuff because the real clear metric for warming is of course at Polar minimas, Comparing Antarctic Maxima with Arctic Minima is as one cereal commercial says ” for kids” , fake skeptics are true amateurs, and I enjoy a good laugh at times.

        Tamino please take note if Brian comes back with reference.

  24. Are there any projections in models that would state the Antarctic sea ice should diminish with Global Warming? If so, when should we expect that? After a full cycle of ThermoHaline Circulation (THC, not the tetrahydrocannabinoid one) taking a thousand years?

  25. I think that you’re unfair with Manaudou.
    You missed the real important thing during the Olympics : during the Women 4×100 final, medley swimming, 1st leg of breaststroke, the Chinese swimmer was ahead the US swimmer by 1 head, for 5 meters. THAT should on the front pages !
    (seriously: the Arctic Sea Ice melt is terrifying)

  26. I really like the clarity of your graphs. May I ask what graphing software(s) you use, please? Also, do you use LaTeX and amsfont for your website?

    [Response: I use R.]

  27. It seems there are some who just want to prove you right

  28. Some questions for the statistically skilled…

    Is the linear trend of Antarctic sea ice growth statistically significant?

    Is the acceleration of Arctic sea ice decrease statistically significant?

    I’m guessing yes to the latter and unsure about the former.

    (The barry above is not me)

    [Response: Yes to both questions.]

    • Tamino, at what confidence level for the linear trend in antarctic sea ice? Also, is there a stat. significant linear trend at 95% level for the antarctic sea ice minimum as well as for the corresponding maximum?

      [Response: Confidence level for S.Hem extent anomaly is over 98%. For Antarctic annual maximum stat. sign. yes, for Antarctic annual minimum no.]

  29. Hello Tamino, I used some of your plots in my blog post:
    I hope, you will not angry for that ;)

  30. When talking about the net albedo forcing from climate change, don’t forget to include the decline in N hemisphere snow cover. (see http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2012/08/the-untold-drama-of-northern-snow-cover.html ) According to NSIDC, the anomaly in NH snow cover extent in June this year fell to -6 million km2. That is 50% larger area than the ~4 million km2 of lost Sept Arctic sea ice. The trend line in recent years for NH snow cover is impressive.

    Combined we are looking at roughly 10 million km2 of albedo flip in the NH and 0.5 million km2 in the SH — 20 to 1.

    I’ve also read that there is also an albedo shift underway in NH from expanding boreal forest cover. Haven’t seen details on it yet though.

  31. (humor on, we all need some), While researching this post on McIntyre’s reliance on “flat-earth maps” and quotes from a “dog astrology journal”, I as able to learn the difference between Arctic and Antarctic. The latter ends in the ring of ice-mountains that circle the flat earth. See FAQ at Flat Earth Society.
    I hope all that is a big Poe, but I fear not, as the first post makes clear that people can cling to long-obsolete models, like H.H.Lamb’s 1965 sketch.:

  32. Doug Martinson, polar scientist associated with Lamont-Doherty, who works on the Antarctic peninsula gave a talk at last year’s AGU on Antarctic ice.

    He wrote on the Earth Institute blog: “I have an unprecedented gridded ocean record of 18 years for which I have been documenting the ocean heat” in the area. When he combines this dataset with “historical data” he concludes ocean heat in the area “has increased approximately exponentially since the 1960s”. He wrote Martinson et.al. 2008 which he says has more info on the dataset.

    By 2011 he’s saying this: “In the area I work there is the highest increase in temperature of anywhere on Earth“. He says the heat is coming from upwelling warm water, but he’s not certain where its coming from or why.

    The result appears to be that ice shelves are rapidly being eaten from the bottom as opposed to sea ice melting at the top. The graphic in Deep Ocean Heat is Melting Antarctic Ice illustrates what he’s talking about. The graphic itself is here. A layer of warm water shown as red is upwelling from the deep to under ice at the Weddel Gyre, near the Ross Gyre, and on the West side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

    Some theorists have pointed to the Southern Westerlies, which have been observed to be increasing in power and moving in average location to more directly over the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and say the increase in the power of this force which is driving the ACC anyway must increase the power of the ACC, which is already by far the largest ocean current that exists. Joellen Russel is an exponent of this explanation. Russell says ozone depletion over Antarctica increases the temperature differential between the equator and the pole which is what is driving the observed changes in the Southern Westerlies. This change in location and power of these winds she says is “one of the most obvious trends in the global climate system over the past 20 years“.

    Martinson says increased power in the ACC as a result “seems to be an obvious conclusion (accepted almost universally…) But….” there is the Boning et.al. study which processed Argo float data and did some modelling and found “transport in the ACC… insensitive to decadal changes in wind stress”.

    So Martinson says his most likely explanation is “heat stored in deep waters far from Antarctica is being pushed southward and becoming entrained in the ACC” whether the power of the ACC is increasing or not. Whatever the exact cause is, what he’s observed, he says, is “jaw dropping”. He says its: “like a huge freight of hot coals – fresh, hot water being delivered right to the front door”.

    Because this is heat already deep in the ocean moving around, this isn’t going to be switched off even if the planetary energy imbalance was reduced to zero tomorrow.

    Whatever the Antarctic sea ice at the surface is doing appears to be irrelevant to this, for the moment.

  33. now the record has been broken.
    2012, 09, 21, 19.36135

  34. uknowispeaksense

    Tamino, apologies. On rereading I can see that I may have worded that badly. I was trying to make the point that they are all morally reprehensible but was not trying to draw a DIRECT comparison between Watts and those other things. It was meant to be more a statement of principle. I shall endeavour to be more careful with my wording in the future because I do not wish to lower the standards of your blog. Feel free to remove the offending comment. Mike

  35. The Met Office contributed Hadley Centre Technical Note 91 Assessment of Possibility and Impact of Rapid Climate Change in the Arctic to the debate….

  36. http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/09/stratospheric-winds-churn-up-the.html

    “… To delve deeper into any stratosphere-oceans link, climate scientist Thomas Reichler of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and his colleagues reexamined simulations from a well-known climate model developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that compiled 4000 years of atmospheric and ocean conditions, and compared these with weather and ocean data collected over the past 30 years. These revealed a surprising link between stratospheric winds and ocean currents as deep as 2 kilometers beneath the waves. The researchers report online today in Nature Geoscience that the findings from that climate model were supported with data from 18 other models….”

  37. a bit more from that same source. I’ve often wondered about a little patch south of Greenland in the Atlantic that shows up in temperature and circulation maps as a little circle somewhat different from everything around. Maybe this is related:

    “… “The effects from the stratosphere can explain on the order of 30% of the oscillations we find in the ocean,” Reichler says. “We found the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has an ‘Achilles heel,’ a vulnerable spot in the North Atlantic Ocean in the region south of Greenland.” That region, he says, is susceptible to even small amounts of warming and cooling from the atmosphere—and how cold the water gets influences how much or how little it sinks, thereby driving or delaying, respectively, the ocean conveyer belt.

    “I never considered that weather events tens of kilometers high in the atmosphere significantly influence the decadal- to century-scale circulation kilometers deep into the ocean,” says climatologist Judah Cohen of Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, who did not take part in this study. “This paper is another example of how surprisingly complex the climate system is, how interrelated or interconnected all the parts are, and how difficult it is to model correctly.”

    These findings suggest that climate models should perhaps not ignore the stratosphere as they often do. However, Reichler cautions that it remains unclear how important the stratosphere is to climate. The stratospheric sudden warming events analyzed in the paper are driven by air waves traveling upward from the troposphere—”so one could argue whether or not the troposphere is the primary cause of events,” Reichler says. “I would say the stratosphere is still needed to amplify these effects from the troposphere to have an impact on the ocean, but I would like future research to really investigate this question.”

  38. It is true that total sea ice extent is down. Compared to the 1979-2008 average for this date, global sea ice is currently down about 7%:

    Of course, total sea ice extent varies by about 30% over the course of a year, so a 7% drop isn’t really very much. Moreover, Antarctic sea ice extent (which is high this year) is more important than the Arctic sea ice extent (which is low this year) because:

    1. Antarctic sea ice is a better climate indicator than Arctic sea ice, because Arctic sea ice is greatly affected by factors other than climate, Antarctic sea ice less so. Antarctic sea ice is anchored to a continent, rather than blown around by the vagaries of the wind. Plus, this year, a big, unusual August storm that broke up the Arctic ice. And,

    2. As an albedo-based feedback mechanism, Antarctic ice is more important than Arctic ice, because Antarctic ice is at less extreme latitudes.

    [Response: Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

    Aren’t you the David Burton who is on the board of “NC-20,” the group which pushed the North Carolina state legislature into one of the most idiotic proposals in the history of American politics when they tried to legislate the science behind sea level rise projections?

    Before I rip your sea-ice arguments to shreds, I think I’ll rip your sea-level arguments to shreds. Stay tuned.]

    • “1. Antarctic sea ice is a better climate indicator than Arctic sea ice, because Arctic sea ice is greatly affected by factors other than climate, Antarctic sea ice less so.”

      Funny how that did not happen in the past to the arctic ice, no?

    • “Before I rip your sea-ice arguments to shreds, I think I’ll rip your sea-level arguments to shreds. Stay tuned.”

      Where is the popcorn when you need it?

    • I’ll be happy to engage you in dialogue about sea-{anything}, Grant, if you’ll pledge that you won’t censor me, like you did the last time. In return, I’ll pledge to be at least as cordial as you are. Deal? Promise?

      [Response: I’ll take that as a “yes” — that you are the same Dave Burton who’s on the board of “NC-20.”

      I’ll be posting on the topic soon. I won’t censor your replies to that post unless they contain blatant ad hominem or obscenity. I hope your arguments will be based on sound science, but judging by your comments on sea ice … well, I’ll get to those too.]

      • Grant wrote, “I won’t censor your replies to that post unless they contain blatant ad hominem or obscenity.”


        And what about here, and elsewhere? May I have your pledge that you won’t censor me here, in this thread, and in other threads, on those same terms?

        [Response: No.]

    • KeefeAndAmanda


      As one climate science layperson to (as far as I can tell based on the name) another, I feel compelled to reply to you, to address some of the implied falsity of what you wrote: You write as if you do not know what sea ice is and as if you think that more ice and snow implies that there is not warming, which would seem to indicate that you do not know the facts I amplify further below that under certain conditions warming can actually cause more ice and snow.

      For an introduction to what sea ice is, see the following two pages:



      “The freezing point of seawater decreases as salt concentration increases. At typical salinity it freezes at about -2 [degrees] C (28 [degrees] F).[1] The coldest seawater ever recorded (in a liquid state) was in 2010, in a stream under an Antarctic glacier, and measured -2.6 [degrees] C (27.3 [degrees] F).[2]”



      “Sea ice is largely formed from seawater that freezes. Because the oceans consist of saltwater, this occurs below the freezing point of pure water, at about -1.8 [degrees] C(28.8 [degrees] F)….Sea ice may be contrasted with icebergs, which are chunks of ice shelves or glaciers that calve into the ocean. Icebergs are compacted snow and hence are fresh water from the beginning; sea ice loses its salt during its process of formation from sea water and thus eventually is fresh as well.”


      As the above quote essentially points out, as the salt concentration in saltwater decreases, the easier it is for that water to freeze and stay frozen.

      And so in Antarctica we can have, because of those truly massive glaciers, warming => more glaciers and icebergs melting (icebergs formed from glacier calving caused by warming – see
      for an introduction) => the salt concentration in the saltwater decreases => more of that saltwater freezes and stays frozen. (Note that possibly because of all this, the Arctic sea ice north of those melting glaciers of Greenland and Canada could be among the last Arctic sea ice to go. Look at the map
      to see the melting pattern from 1980 to 2012 – the open water is progressing in the direction of these melting glaciers.)


      Since beyond a certain point the colder and dryer it gets, the harder it is to snow, there is relatively speaking not a lot of snowing in Antarctica – it’s essentially still relatively speaking a cold and dry desert. But that can change due to warming.

      And so in Antarctica we can have, because of warming making the conditions go from colder and dryer to relatively warmer and wetter, warming => more snow, which can mean more ice.


      In general, warming => more evaporation => more precipitation and thus when the conditions are right more snow, which can mean more ice.

      • Thanks for the links, KeefeAndAmanda.

        I do know what sea ice is, and what happens when it melts. In fact, I’m the guy who explained it to the National Science Foundation.

        The NSF’s web site page on sea ice used to say, “melting sea ice also raises worldwide sea levels, with potentially significant effects for coastal cities and towns.”

        Now, of course, any competent middle school science teacher could tell you that’s nonsense. Archimedes figured it out quite a while ago. Yet that false statement appeared there for 6-1/2 years. (In fact, it’s still on their web site, in a less prominent place.)

        Now, because of my complaints, it says, “[Editor’s note: An inaccurate statement about sea ice and rising sea levels has been deleted. We regret the error.]”

        Maybe there aren’t any competent middle school science teachers on staff at the federal agency that hands out 10,000 grants per year, and arbitrates whose research proposals are worthy of federal funding.

        I tried, without success, to get the NSF to footnote that statement with an explanation of what the error was. I even composed a little web page with the footnote explaining it, for them to use. But they refused.

      • The NSF’s web site page on sea ice used to say, “melting sea ice also raises worldwide sea levels, with potentially significant effects for coastal cities and towns.”

        Now, of course, any competent middle school science teacher could tell you that’s nonsense. Archimedes figured it out quite a while ago.

        Of course, Burton’s wrong in the nano-sense (melting sea ice does indeed contribute to sea level rise, but only a little bit).

        But he’s right in the micro sense … the NSF site suggesting that such melting has potentially significant effects for coastal cities and towns is wrong.

        He’s wrong, of course, in the macro sense, because digging out an error on one web site written by, well, some web site writer in no way refutes the work of thousands of climate scientists.

        Burton’s own statement is trivially wrong, so by his logic I guess we can dismiss anything any skeptic has ever written, right?

      • dhogaza wrote, “Of course, Burton’s wrong in the nano-sense (melting sea ice does indeed contribute to sea level rise, but only a little bit). But he’s right in the micro sense … the NSF site suggesting that such melting has potentially significant effects for coastal cities and towns is wrong. … Burton’s own statement is trivially wrong…”

        I’m not wrong “in the nano-sense,” either, dhogaza. I explained the calculable but insignificant effect of melting sea ice on sea-level, due to changed ocean salinity, in the linked “footnote” which you apparently didn’t bother to read.

      • Horatio Algeranon

        “Broken records”
        — by Horatio Algeranon

        Broken records
        Are now the norm
        And not just of the
        Arctic sea-ice form

    • Aren’t you the David Burton who is on the board of “NC-20,”

      If so, he’s the founder of a software company, obviously an expert in climate science related subjects with relevant skillz climate scientists can only dream of learning …


    • I know everyone is waiting for Tamino to hand Dave Burton his hiney in a handbasket, but I am surprised that no one jumped the gun on the bizarre claim that “Antarctic sea ice is a better climate indicator than Arctic sea ice, because Arctic sea ice is greatly affected by factors other than climate, Antarctic sea ice less so.”

      In other words, because the Arctic is plugged into the globe more extensively, it’s a worse indicator of global warming. It’s the more isolated region that’s the more telling. Uhhhrrr . . . huh? I’ll agree that when the Antarctic sea ice begins to decline, that will be the baseball bat to the head, but it will be at least the second (perhaps 10th or 15th) baseball bat to the head. In that case, it would be better to say that Antarctic sea ice is the next “best indicator.” Of course, it’s not as isolated as some might think. After all, surface temp (not this year!) is trending up on the scale of climate. Ocean temp is trending up. Deep ocean warmwater is pushing up under the ice, if Doug Martinson is to be believed. Antarctic land ice mass loss is accelerating, even if one study suggests that the acceleration is balanced by increased snow/rain. Still, there’s no common mechanism other than solar and GHGs that can cause a thirty-year volume loss such as we’ve seen. The only way that the Arctic sea ice becomes a less important indicator of an enhanced GHE is if it disappears (and even then it’s present in its absence). Of course, it may have effectively disappeared already, since it’s unlikely to recover if GHG forcing continues par-for-the-course.

  39. This is one of the best climate science blogs I have found. I just donated a few dollars.

    [Response: Thanks.]

    • It’d be a lot better, Dennis, if Grant didn’t censor it to block dissenting viewpoints.

      [Response: I don’t censor dissenting viewpoints. I censor useless nonsense.]

      I’ve found that most skeptical climate blogs (including WUWT) welcome dissenting views, courteously expressed. But most alarmist climate blogs, including this one, are strictly censored to prevent most dissent; the only prominent exception I’ve found is Peter Sinclair’s ClimateCrocks. That should tell you something.

      [Response: Anthony Watts is notorious for censoring dissenting views when the climate gets too “hot” for him.

      Apparently you can’t even wait until I post about your sea-level ruminations to submit useless nonsense comments like this one. No more of this crap will be permitted.]

      • Grant, it’s been a year and a half since I last tried to have a meaningful discussion of sea-level with you on your blog, so maybe you’ve forgotten. I haven’t: you deleted almost everything I wrote. I still have copies of it all.

        Some of my “useless nonsense” which you deleted was subsequently accepted for publication (in heavily modified form) in a peer-reviewed journal.

        As for Anthony Watts, the key to not being censored at WUWT is to be polite. Dissenting viewpoints, politely expressed, are welcomed there, but invective is not.

      • The difference is that WUWT vanish absolutely anything they don’t like, and try to create some kind of illusion that they don’t delete anything and everything they find uncomfortable. And since they find science uncomfortable, (because it makes them look like idiots) the quality of the remaining discourse is very, very poor indeed.

      • Horatio Algeranon


        Should have put “Broken Records” here.

        But it’s six of one, a half dozen of the other.

        The “nice” thing about broken records is that if you miss them the first (or even “nth”) time around, you can always catch them on the repeat..tick…repeat…tick…repeat…

      • “I’ve found that most skeptical climate blogs (including WUWT) welcome dissenting views, courteously expressed”

        You’re joking, right?
        You’re in the wrong place to try to get away with slipping through porkies like that one.
        Of course, since Watts and his duplicitous* moderators regularly block dissenting posts and substantive rebuttals of nonsense from ever appearing, the only ones you get to see are the ones that are the most courteous and the least challenging of the herd conspiracy theory mentality that prevails at WUWT.

        *One moderator also posts bullying and virulent ad homs under the handle “smokey”.

      • That should tell you something.

        Given that the majority of people who’ve tried to make reality-based comments at WUWT have been banned, it tells us that you’re either

        1) clueless


        2) lying

        Offhand I can’t think of any other choices.

      • Sorry, I mean those of us posting *here* who’ve tried making reality-based comments at WUWT … in other words, burton, your statement runs counter to the group experience here, which makes it easy for us to dismiss it.

      • Some of my “useless nonsense” which you deleted was subsequently accepted for publication (in heavily modified form) in a peer-reviewed journal.

        “useless nonsense” and “published in heavily modified form” aren’t mutually exclusive.

        Out of curiousity, which peer-reviewed journal? Google scholar isn’t helping (in part because your name is not particularly uncommon).

      • KeefeAndAmanda

        With respect to comments by daveburton and dhogaza:

        “”Some of my “useless nonsense” which you deleted was subsequently accepted for publication (in heavily modified form) in a peer-reviewed journal.

        “useless nonsense” and “published in heavily modified form” aren’t mutually exclusive.”

        The first thing we should all know is that getting published in even a reputable peer-review journal means nothing in and of itself. Even reputable such journals can publish not just articles that are properly refereed before being published but also articles that are *not* properly refereed or even *not* refereed at all before being published, these latter types of papers including so-called review articles.

        And so the first thing we should ask when we hear that a paper is published in a peer-reviewed journal is how is it classified, a properly refereed research paper or a review article or something else.

        Remember that infamous paper a couple or so years ago “Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics” by Gerhard Gerlich, Ralf D. Tscheuschner? That paper was widely cited by the denier community as a properly peer-reviewed paper, but was actually an example of what I just said. It was not published as a peer-reviewed paper – meaning a properly refereed research paper, a paper that was actually put through the process of being truly and skeptically refereed before publishing. It was published as one of these so-called review articles.

        So that the reader can see that I’m not making this up, with some digging one can find all over the Internet comments like the following:



        Chris Ho-Stuart on April 7, 2010 at 12:42 pm

        The paper by G&T was classified as a “review” article, which means it most likely appeared by invitation of an editor and did not necessarily have the normal full peer review process applied.

        All in all, it seems to have been something of an aberration for the journal. But to their credit, they have also subsequently accepted and will shortly publish a paper which has been through the review process and points out some of the major errors in G&T.

        It should appear within a couple of weeks, I think.

        I am interested… what made you notice this article now? I am a minor co-author of the rebuttal, and am interested to see the paper starting to be noticed again as the rebuttal approaches a publication date.

        Cheers – Chris Ho-Stuart


      • Anthony banned me from WUWT when I politely asked him when he was going to get around to his promised third post explaining why choice of baseline for anomalies made a difference in the analysis.

        I’ll admit I was quite looking forward to his explanation.

        He not only banned me, he then want back and removed every comment I had made there over a period of a couple years – hundreds of comments, most of which where made through moderation and had been approved by him previously. He ‘disappeared’ me.

        He then went back and edited -without notice – his two earlier ‘anomaly baseline’ posts to make them look less unreasonable than they first did, and edited several comments to remove references to my comments.

        Some people here on Open Mind watched this happen at the time, and more than one of the people here have, if memory serves, also been banned from WUWT.

        It is ludicrous to claim that Anthony doesn’t ‘strictly censor’ WUWT. Those of us who have been censored there know better.

      • Is this the peer-reviewed publication in question? DOI: 10.1007/
        s11069-011-0046-8 It appears to be a Comment, not an actual publication, but I grant that it is (slightly) better than the nothing-burgers often provided by contrarians…

      • MMM’s reference is to this.

        Is this what you’re refering to, Burton?

      • > skeptical climate blogs (including WUWT) welcome dissenting views

        Massive, massive lie. The notion that reasonable dissent is not censored at WUWT is purest laughable fiction.

      • I’ve been temporarily banned several times. I’m always polite if for nothing else than because I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of banning me for bad behaviour. One time I got banned for having a pseudonym. Talk about double standards! Anthony even let “Jeff ID” post articles long before it became known who he was.

  40. Hi Tamino,
    as a loyal reader of your blog I didn’t miss to notice that you are an expert on Fourier transformations. Therefore I would like to point you to this paper: http://www.clim-past-discuss.net/8/4493/2012/cpd-8-4493-2012.html
    It is currently in open review in “Climate of the Past”. The authors basically claim that the observed warming is not due to CO2 based on a DFT. I think – but I am not an expert – the paper is heavily flawed. My impression is that their method is more or less a fit of the time series and therefore of corse no CO2 attribution can be seen. Surprisingly, the two reviewers were relatively positive…Perhaps you want to have a look or even write a short review?
    Keep on with your great work!

    • Smanson –

      First comment.. why exactly have they chosen 6 records from geographically close places in central europe (and not used CET?). These records would be expected to show considerable correlation, which I suspect lowers the significance of any spectra peaks. In essence that have one temperature record from Europe and one from Antartica, whilst ignoring other records and/or proxies.

      Then they include a record from Antarctica. No particular reasons given. Presumably similar records would be available from Greenland as well..

      There are peaks at ~240 years (length of record?), ~120years, ~80 years, ~60 years, ~48 years and ~40 years. Inquiring minds would be thinking about artifacts at this point. They claim that a ~60 year cycle can easily be seen in their final figure, which is not apparent at all, to me anyway..

      So.. strange, limited choice of data, no physical underpinning for the analysis, no particular reason for the given analysis, but results are taken to overturn a large and well-established area of science. In other words, classic crank science.. that’s my view, anyway.

  41. I’ve looked but could not find a proper reference which states that ice shelves are included with Antarctic sea ice extent… Any luck anyone?

  42. Dave Burton wrote: “Now, of course, any competent middle school science teacher could tell you that’s nonsense. Archimedes figured it out quite a while ago.”

    The “significant effects for coastal cities and towns” is indeed nonsense, but the “melting sea ice also raises worldwide sea levels” part is not because melting sea ice does raise sea level, albeit by a negligible amount. Archimedes did not need to take the density difference between fresh water ice and salt water into account.

    • You are correct, Jim. I explained that in the proposed footnote that I tried to unsuccessfully get the NSF to use, which I linked to above.

    • “I explained that in the proposed footnote”

      Not very well. I read it before I posted and you said nothing at all about the difference in density between fresh water sea ice and sea water, which is why I pointed it out.

      • Sorry, I thought everyone understood that fresh water is less dense than salt water.

        Sea ice is nearly-fresh (only slightly salty) water, which, even when it melts, is still less dense than the seawater upon which if floats. When it melts, it mixes with surface seawater, and slightly reduces the salinity of the water with which it mixes, thereby very slightly reducing its density.

        However, that is a local effect. It does not affect coastal sea-levels at all until the reduced-salinity water eventually mixes with the ocean depths, and reduces seawater density there. When that happens, it causes an immeasurably tiny, but non-quite-zero, increase in coastal sea-levels.

      • “it causes an immeasurably tiny, but non-quite-zero, increase in coastal sea-levels”

        Agreed. But, I can assure you that I have encountered a good many people who do not grasp this fact.

      • It might just be a communications issue, as between mathematicians and engineers.

        Engineer to mathematician: “2 + 2 = 5, for large values of 2 and small values of 5”

  43. Sorry this is a bit OT, but it is too good to pass up….if true I rest my case from the Mitt Romney’s America thread where I suggested there was a possibility he was as dumb as a box of rocks…http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-romney-jet-windows-20120924,0,3749461.story

  44. I think the obvious comment re Ludecke is that with 4 variables I can fit an elephant and with 5 variables I can make him wave his trunk. Ludecke uses 6 to get very high fit (assuming he’s done that math right), and then claims there’s no improvement coming from adding CO2 increases.

    Without assigning a basis in physical reality to those 6 periodicities there’s no real reason I can see not to flag this as ‘mathturbation’.

  45. Any comment on the effect of cyclone activity on the Arctic ice? NASA indicates the storm in August did exacerbate sea ice loss but also noted that losses were almost certainly increased by the thinner ice cover. If there was significant storm loss is it valid to compare 2012 with other years where storms were not considered a factor?

    [Response: Weather happens. Read this.]

    • Hi –

      From what I gather, storms such at this years are a part of the process. Storms don’t last long when there is no open water to feed them, so until recently, the multiyear ice ‘lid’ in the Arctic acted to stop storms. As the ice cover drops, storms can move further into the Arctic, stay stronger for longer, and possibly even form in the Arctic in a way that never used to happen.

      The consequences – should this all be correct – are increased heat advection from the south towards the pole, ice fragmentation and the mixing of the stratified Arctic waters. All of which promote further ice loss.

    • Ian – Julienne Stroeve left this comment on one of the WUWT sea ice posts (note the last paragraph):
      Julienne Stroeve says:

      August 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Theo, we don’t have the data/analysis in at this point to say exactly what the storm did (i.e. what sizes of floes did it break the ice-pack up into, what were the SSTs, how far were the ice floes transported, how much thick the ice was when it was broken up, how much melt happened as the ice pack spread out, etc. etc. What we do know is that the winter ice was thinner than last winter (from Cryosat) and that immediately after the storm, ice concentrations were already low in that region prior to the storm, and SSTs were colder than normal immediately after the storm, with warm water below. Then the SSTs increased later in the month.
      I can’t quite understand the desire to ignore the fact that the ice is thin and prone to melting out. If you remember, 2002 was dominated by cyclones all summer. So why didn’t all those storms result in ice extent below 5 million sq-km?

      • Jerald, amazing , a perfectly well reasoned and especially informed presentation submitted in the lions den of denial. I admire Juliennes attempt, but they still believe in the single cyclone mega melt causation. They were at least warned.

  46. fter this year’s jaw-dropping mega-melt of Arctic sea ice, which drops to almost 2 sigma’s the projections of the latest CMIP5 models (see Stroeve et al 2012), thank you NPR, for paying attention to the much-less-talked-about, but even more important decline in spring snow cover over the Northern Hemisphere.

    Here is the scientific publication in GRL :

    With the interesting quote :

    The rate of loss of June snow cover extent since 1979 (-21.5% decade-1) is greater than the loss of September sea ice extent (-10.8% decade-1) over the same period.

    In other words, snow cover reduces at twice the rate that ice cover reduces.

    Since snow cover anomaly occurs early in the melting season, when the sun is still high in the sky, it warms the Northern Hemisphere much more than ice cover changes. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the June 2012 snow anomaly has added some 1000 TW to the early melting season, causing extensive wild-fires in the Boreal forests in Siberia (see Siberia on fire), as well as contributed (possibly very significantly) to the 2012 mega-melt of Arctic sea ice.

    Interesting is also that, just like for the Arctic sea ice anomaly, this snow melt anomaly also drops well below the CMIP5 models projections. From the paper :

    Analysis of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) model output shows the marked reductions in June SCE observed since 2005 fall below the zone of model consensus defined by +/-1 standard deviation from the multi-model ensemble mean.

    And the June 2012 snow cover anomaly (6 million km^2) is close to 2 sigma’s below the CMIP5 projections, just like the Arctic sea ice deviation from CMIP5 models.

    It looks like models have a hard time keeping up with the rapid changes of the Northern Hemisphere cryosphere that are unfolding as we speak. I start to wonder if maybe the changes we cause to our environment may unfold more rapidly than the improvement in the models that we need to project these changes.

    • Good info, thanks. Snow albedo seems important.
      See this comment over at Shaping Tomorrow’s World. (#362, unless gets renumbered by deletions).
      Geographies near the snow line, snow-albedo feedback may be a local amplifier in either direction. If a combination of CO2 drop, volcanoes and solar minima forced some cooling, the cooling would be most visible in populated areas where there was seasonal snow, because days of snow coverage would increase, keeping albedo higher, and thus cooler. [This effect is certainly visible at some ski slopes.] Hence, one would expect the LIA to have beenespecially noticeable in Europe.

      This bears on one of the reasons why “spaghetti graphs” of paleo reconstructions can be confusing: they might reasonable differ: read the fine print on geography.

  47. KeefeAndAmanda


    “I do know what sea ice is…”

    But you said, “Antarctic sea ice is anchored to a continent, rather than blown around by the vagaries of the wind.”


    If what you said is true – that Antarctic sea ice is anchored, then the following is not true. But the following (and much more) is true:

    “Antarctic Sea Ice”


    “For example, during positive phases of the Antarctic Oscillation, the prevailing westerly winds that circle Antarctica strengthen and move southward. The change in winds can change the way ice is distributed among the various sectors…The winds may drive the ice away from the coast in some areas and toward the coast in others.”

    “AMSR-E Antarctic Sea Ice”


    “Antarctica is a land mass surrounded by an ocean which allows the sea ice here to move more freely than it does in the Northern Hemisphere. Because there are no surrounding continents to limit its movement, the sea ice is free to float northward into warmer waters where it eventually melts.”

    (The above link has an animation of Antarctic sea ice motion during 2005.)

    Therefore by modus tollens what you said is not true – Antarctic sea ice is not anchored.

    And you did not actually address the main point of my reply to you, which was to address what seems to be your implicit claim that an increase in Antarctic sea ice somehow argues in favor of some claim that the planet isn’t warming after all.

    Isn’t this what you are trying to argue?

    If so, then why not just come out and say it?

    And while you’re at it, how about actually addressing the facts I pointed out that warming can actually in a number of ways cause an increase in ice (including sea ice) and/or snow, and that therefore an increase in ice (including sea ice) and/or snow is not necessarily an indication that there is not warming.

    Also on this last point, consider that paper published by Jiping Liu and Judith A. Curry in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2010:

    “Resolving the Paradox of the Antarctic Sea Ice”


    “Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology provide an explanation for the seeming paradox of increasing Antarctic sea ice in a warming climate….Currently, as the atmosphere warms, the hydrological cycle accelerates and there is more precipitation in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. This increased precipitation, mostly in the form of snow, stabilizes the upper ocean and insulates it from the ocean heat below. This insulating effect reduces the amount of melting occurring below the sea ice. In addition, snow has a tendency to reflect atmospheric heat away from the sea ice, which reduces melting from above…. We may see, on a time scale of decades, a switch in the Antarctic, where the sea ice extent begins to decrease,” said Judith A. Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.”

    “Why Antarctic Sea Ice Is Growing in a Warmer World”


    “The paper also helps to dispel a common misconception-that the strong decline in Arctic ice and increase in Antarctic ice causes a net zero effect, Meier said.
    That’s not the case, because the two polar ecosystems are so different, he said. Arctic ice is multiyear, persisting through the seasons, while Antarctic ice forms and melts each year and has always been governed more by wind and ocean circulation than air temperatures, he said. [More proof that Antarctic sea ice ain’t anchored.]

    That’s not to say the melting effects of temperature, as seen in the Arctic, won’t also occur in the Antarctic-they’ll just take longer to show up, he said.”

    • It seems as if Burton’s confusing the Antarctic ice shelves with Antarctic sea ice, two different things.

      • In the geologic sense; how do you anchor ice to anything? Glaciologists wonder?

      • Horatio Algeranon

        Sure looks like that is indeed the case.

        Perhaps Burton will add a “footnote” on his site (and an addendum to his “peer reviewed” paper) pointing out his own confusion on the matter (and crediting the clarification to you, of course)

      • A bit of minor pedantry in reply to t0kodave, some ice can be “anchored” – cold based ice is frozen to its bed and doesn’t move.

    • A minor point of clarification (at least as far as the science is concerned)

      While Judith Curry might like to take credit for “Resolving the Paradox of the Antarctic Sea Ice”, Manabe et al actually proposed the explanation over two decades ago.

      Curry was actually aware of the work by Manabe when she and her co-author published their paper (she had actually quoted Manabe in a previous paper), but failed to give credit where credit was due (and, after this was pointed out, gave a lame excuse for the “oversight”)

      At some universities — the one Horatio went to — (but not Georgia Tech, apparently), one would get an F in an undergrad course for this kind of “oversight”.

      • At some universities — the one Horatio went to — (but not Georgia Tech, apparently), one would get an F in an undergrad course for this kind of “oversight”.

        At the universities where I’ve studied and worked such an “oversight” would result in a warning, and a repeat offence would result in termination of participation as a student/employee.

        Just saying.

  48. I seem to remember Someone called Burt Rutan making some pretty stout claims about the Arctic sea ice recovering. Claims were made sometime this past spring, if memory serves. Looking at the data for the 2012 miniumum, it appears that his claim of recovery was inaccurate. I wonder if this means that the other claims that he made in the WSJ, Forbes, etc were somewhat inaccurate as well. I’m sure the WSJ and Forbes will update their readers.

  49. Tamino beats WUWT by a factor of 3

    Congrats on beating WUWT readers in your Arctic sea ice predictions over 2008-2012 by a factor of three (WUWT: 29.8% average error; Tamino: 9.9% average error).

  50. KAP, I second the congrats, it signifies a greater understanding of the matter at hand. I did not predict exact numbers but wrote in April that 2012 melt would be greater than 2007 despite extensive clouds.

    WUWT followers should appreciate those who predict correctly, if not they are just amateur politicians.

  51. Lee, being censored by Watts, in fact erased from the record by him signifies an unfair bias towards a delusional version of reality. The science construct requires reviewing by repetition, serious tedious verification and the free flow of information especially not deleted or omitted because its inconvenient. I suggest simply monitoring WUWT predictions and place them in a safe place for further review.

  52. Dave Burton said:

    ‘Some of my “useless nonsense” which you deleted was subsequently accepted for publication (in heavily modified form) in a peer-reviewed journal.’

    Can you give more details on this publication of yours? I noticed that you did not actually say that you have published a peer reviewed paper in a peer reviewed journal.

    You have made a similar claim in comments to this article in climatecrocks.com:


    where you said you published in Natural Hazards, but when challenged to give more details on your publication, because the only thing that could be found was a comment to the journal by you, you did not do so.

    • where you said you published in Natural Hazards

      That’s the comment found by MMM, and linked above by me. Here’s the link for yourself:

      Not a heck of a lot to brag on …

      • As I recently discovered, stated editorial policy for Natural Hazards is to NOT peer review their “comments” or “short communications” sections. I now always check the submitted and accepted dates above the abstract. Interesting business model they’ve seemingly adopted.

  53. Horatio Algeranon

    Sea ice is not the most important thing in Antarctica.
    Total ice mass is (particularly since the vast majority of the ice is land ice which DOES raise sea level if it melts).
    Is Antarctica melting?

    There has been lots of talk lately about Antarctica and whether or not the continent’s giant ice sheet is melting. One new paper, which states there’s less surface melting recently than in past years, has been cited as “proof” that there’s no global warming. Other evidence that the amount of sea ice around Antarctica seems to be increasing slightly is being used in the same way. But both of these data points are misleading. Gravity data collected from space using NASA’s Grace satellite show that Antarctica has been losing more than a hundred cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice each year since 2002. The latest data reveal that Antarctica is losing ice at an accelerating rate, too.

    Tamino is right. Talk of Antarctic sea ice is just a diversion.

    • Horatio, that’s from 2010. NASA’s most recent information, from its best satellite data, is that Antarctica is gaining ice mass.

      NASA’s Jay Zwally is not a global warming skeptic. He’s a well-known climate alarmist, who predicted a few years ago that the Arctic “could be nearly ice-free” by now. (Oops!)

      So consider the source when you take a look at his presentation two months ago on Antarctica’s ice mass balance. The opening/title slide sums up their findings:

      “Mass Balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet 1992-2008 from ERS and ICESAT: Gains exceed losses”

      [Response: It’s too bad we can’t view his presentation at that link, since it shows only the first few minutes of the introduction and the last few minutes of the Q&A, with the presentation itself missing. Forgive me if I don’t rely on your interpretation of his results, based on the opening/title slide. I suggest readers consult Zwally’s recent publication on the issue for a better perspective.]

      Now, it is certainly possible that when we get data from ICEsat-2 in a few years, it might show the opposite. After all, Most Published Research Findings Are False. But, for now, the latest and best data from NASA indicates that Antarctica is gaining ice mass, not losing it.

      [Response: I blogged about the Ioannidis paper here. It’s a controversial claim (although not without merit) mainly about the risks of experimental results in biology and medicine. Your reference to it reveals how little you understand science.]

      Hey, that’s good news! So why aren’t y’all happy?

      • It’s worth noting that the ERS and ICESAT made measurements with altimeters (radar and LIDAR), as opposed to the mass measurements from GRACE, or local measurements of glacial outflow rates. While there have been increases in precipitation over Antarctica over the last few decades (not surprising given the increasing amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere), it’s not entirely clear, between gains in central altitudes, actual density of those (relatively uncompacted) gains, GIA movement, mass measures from GRACE, outflow rates, and peripheral retreat, as to what the mass balance is doing.

        Most studies so far indicate increasing mass loss in Antarctica – these recent altimeter measurements may, may indicate previous work makes some overestimates, but (a) that hasn’t been fully worked out, and (b) currently the majority of evidence still points to accelerating mass loss.

        In short, whether or not the Zwally work proves out in time – you are grabbing at a straw, waving the incomplete information that confirms your outlook, aka cherry-picking.

      • “climate alarmist”

        Can’t resist straying away from science and into political dogma, can you?

      • The Cryosphere Discuss., 6, 3703-3732, 2012
        Antarctic ice-mass balance 2002 to 2011: regional re-analysis of GRACE satellite gravimetry measurements with improved estimate of glacial-isostatic adjustment I. Sasgen1, H. Konrad1, E. R. Ivins2, M. R. van den Broeke3, J. L. Bamber4, Z. Martinec5, and V. Klemann1,*

        “Here, we develop an improved glacial-isostatic adjustment (GIA) estimate for Antarctica using newly available GPS uplift rates, allowing us to more accurately separate GIA-induced trends in the GRACE gravity fields from those caused by current imbalances of the AIS. Our revised GIA estimate is considerably lower than previous predictions, yielding an (upper) estimate of apparent mass change of 48 ± 18 Gt yr−1. Therefore, our AIS mass balance of −103 ± 23 Gt yr−1 is considerably less negative than previous GRACE estimates.” [my bold – BD]

        “less negative” does NOT equal “Antarctica is gaining ice mass.”

      • crap. …is considerably less negative than previous GRACE estimates.” [my bold – BD]

      • Horatio readily admits a bias for gravity.

      • Brian Dodge wrote: “[my bold – BD]”

        Which apparently you did not turn off.

      • daveburton writes:

        “NASA’s most recent information, from its best satellite data, is that Antarctica is gaining ice mass.”

        Even if true:

        So what?

        Pure and simple.

        So what?

        I again put my challenge to you to actually address what I’ve put to you repeated;y, especially in my last post to you further down this entire comment thread at September 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm.

  54. The denier’s focus on Antarctic sea ice is deliberately narrow – widen the scope to total land and sea ice and the power of winter sea ice growth to prove climate isn’t warming, even locally in the Antarctic just … melts away.

    • Ken, here’s a graph of total sea ice extent, 1979 to present:

      It does show a declining trend, but it’s not very scary, is it?

      In fact, it would look even less scary if the early and mid-1970s Nimbus-5 data were included, which showed an increasing trend in sea ice extent, suggesting that .

      Unfortunately, the Nimbus-5 data (and the lost Nimbus-6 and Seasat-1 data) didn’t overlap the 1979 & later Nimbus-7 data, and the Nimbus-5 & -6 data was from a different type of instrument, which makes combining its data with the 1979 & later data problematic. Nevertheless, the often-heard claim that satellite measurements of sea ice extent began in 1979 are just plain false. We have 4.5 years of Nimbus-5 data before that.

      [Response: Seriously — is that the best you’ve got? The long-term view on the Arctic is even more disturbing that the satellite record since 1979. And the long-term view on the Antarctic shows overall dramatic decline throughout the 20th century. Your “1979 represented something of a peak” is what’s “just plain false.”]

      • Grant, some of your readers may be scratching their heads at that, since you deleted from my comment the snippet of text which you singled out for criticism.

        [Response: The deletion of that snippet of text was unintentional — I must have “cut” and pasted rather than “copy” and pasted.]

        W/r/t the falsity of the claim that satellite measurements of sea ice extent began in 1979, do you dispute the fact that Nimbus-5, Nimbus-6, and Seasat-1 all made measurements via passive microwave radiometry prior to 1979? NSIDC says, “The satellite record only dates back to 1979.” But, actually, we have Nimbus-5 ESMR (passive microwave) measurements from December 11, 1972 through May 16, 1977. So how is it possible to characterize the NSICD statement as anything other than “just plain false?”

        [Response: If you want NSIDC to state that the satellite record as starting in late 1972, I suggest you contact them. It doesn’t alter the fact that your “1979 represented something of a peak” is “just plain false.”.]

      • KeefeAndAmanda


        Why do you keep running away from what I put to you and its implications?

        What I put to you is the basic science fact that any competent middle school science teacher knows, which is that warming can actually result in an increase in ice and snow. This science fact is constantly explained to you again and again by many – including even those like Judith Curry – that as the Antarctic moves from being a cold and dry desert to being a warmer and wetter place, there can be increasing snow that can result increasing ice (of all types, including land and sea ice) *than would otherwise be the case*, which means that there could be temporary periods of time during an overall long-term downward trend in ice (of all types, including land and sea ice) in which we see increases in ice.

        And so another implication of that basic science fact is this question: Why do you continue to argue as if you deny the science fact that given those certain conditions in question warming can result in increased ice – that is, why do you argue as if you think that an increase in ice in and of itself is evidence that there is no warming given those certain conditions in question?

        Furthermore, here is a hidden problem with your argumentation (as one with a math degree, this is a pet peeve of mine): You (and so many others, including most especially those who deny not only this science I mention above but much more science involving the basic physics of meteorology and climate science) seem to argue as if cause and effect in nature must give us data that must form a graph that is either strictly decreasing or strictly increasing or at least monotonically decreasing or monotonically increasing. That is, you seem to think that cause and effect in nature must give data that forms either a one-to-one function or at least a monotonic function.

        That is, for instance, a general cause and effect relationship in nature is that increased heat generally causes decreased ice. And so the expectation is that graphs showing a relationship between heat and ice should show that over a long period of time, increasing heat should show decreasing ice. (And that is what we see even in Antarctica over the long-term.) But it is wrong from an applied mathematics standpoint to think that if heat is strictly or monotonically increasing, then a graph showing the level of ice should be respectively strictly or monotonically decreasing.

        Side note: Deniers do this applied mathematics mistake all the time also with the causal relationship between CO2 and temperature. They wrongly think that if CO2 in the atmosphere is strictly or monotonically increasing, then the global temperature must also be respectively strictly or monotonically increasing and that if the temperature is not doing this, then that proves that there is no causal relationship between CO2 and temperature.

      • The University of Bremen group have incorporated satellite measurements from 1972 in their sea ice extent data. Here is a graph I posted at Neven’s, showing minimum Arctic extent (15%) 1972-2011:

        In their 1972-1978 estimates there are 4 years higher than 1979, two approximately tied, and only one lower, so 1979 is by no means “something of a peak.”

        UB have a similar Antarctic time series going back to 1973. In their data the 1979 minimum extent is well below that for any year 1973-1978. It appears that Antarctic ice reached substantially lower extent in 1979 and the 80s than it had in the mid-70s.

      • Thank you, J. Hamilton, for that graph. But there’s something fishy about it: it’s graphing data that doesn’t exist. The Nimbus-5 measurements started in December, 1972. So where’d they get their 1972 data? The Nimbus-5 data ends in mid-1977, so where’d they get their 1977 and 1978 data?

      • “Thank you, [L] Hamilton, for that graph. But there’s something fishy about it: it’s graphing data that doesn’t exist”.

        Not fishy. If you follow the source (NSIDC),

        The temporal data gap in the satellite-derived sets were filled with supplemental data sources. In the Northern Hemisphere, the U.S. National Ice Center sea ice climatologies (Dedrick et al. 2001) were used, which were based on weekly operational sea ice charts. In the Southern Hemisphere, a weekly sea ice extent time series (Ropelewski 1983) from the U.S. National Ice Center was used. These supplemental data sets were also used to match or calibrate the three satellite-based products and eliminate biases between the products from the three sensors. See Cavalieri, Parkinson, and Vinnikov (2003) or visit the National Ice Center Web site for more information.

        More in:
        Cavalieri, D. J., C. L. Parkinson, and K. Y. Vinnikov. 2003. 30-Year Satellite Record Reveals Contrasting Arctic and Antarctic Decadal Sea Ice Variability. Geophysical Research Letters 30(18), doi: 10.1029/2003GL018031.

        In that paper, Cavalieri et al. discuss why their reconstruction differs from IPCC (2001):
        The resulting sea ice extent anomalies resemble anomalies for the period 1973–2000 published previously for the Antarctic (see Figure 2.16 in IPCC [2001]), but differ substantially from those published for the Arctic (see Figure 2.14 in IPCC [2001]), although both show negative overall trends. The reason for the Arctic differences during the early part of the period 1973–2000 is apparently the result of the IPCC [2001] study using different historical data sets in combination with the more current satellite sea ice data records. Additionally, there may have been differences in the method of data set blending, but this was not explained or referenced in IPCC [2001]. The time series presented in this paper are considered to be more consistent, because our primary source of data is satellite observations, using the blended ice extent data from NIC only to match the satellite time series and to fill gaps in the satellite records.

      • Dave, you dodged my point – there is ongoing, significant loss of land ice in Antarctica. Seasonal sea ice, important as it is, can only ever be part of the story and, with respect to overall change of climate an increase in Antarctic sea ice does not cancel or balance out changes to Arctic sea ice, and definitely does not cancel out the continuing loss of glacial and icesheet ice.

    • Horatio Algeranon

      Does that turn off the bold?

    • Horatio Algeranon

      Guess not.

      [Response: I located the mistaken tag and fixed it.]

  55. An article by an Inuit student in Canada on climate change in the North

  56. DaveBurton

    The 5700 km^2 chunk of Larsen B ice shelf that collapsed was ~220 meters thick; the 7320 km^2 Wilkins ice shelf area that collapsed was a little thinner, maybe 200 meters. When the slush generated from these events melted and was spread around Antarctica, then refroze to ~1.8 to 2 meters thick, it would cover 1,359,000+ km^2. The current Antarctic sea ice anomaly is only 898,000 km^2(the Arctic anomaly is -2,414,000, almost 2.7 times as large). Where did the extra 461000 km^2 X 2m thick layer of fresh water go? Maybe carried away by Eckman transport into the AMOC? Along with the melting/calving losses measured by GRACE?

    Do you think that the changes in ocean surface salinity are without consequences?

    • Brian, I missed this superb comment, totally agree with it. We need a yearly calving graph corresponding with Grace data. And then contrarians will pin the donkey on something else.

  57. I am looking at the charts for this year. One set can be found here:
    The question is always what we are seeking to explain. There are two things, one the decline over a prolonged period, the second, the unusual low point this year.
    If you look at the above chart, what seems to have happened is that ice was quite normal until early June. Back in April or May it was even relatively high. Then in early June it starts to take a sharp dive.
    Something must have happened between the middle of June and early September to have caused such a large and very unusual dive. At least, unusual in the satellite era, I don’t know if it is unprecedented in the last few hundred years, or even how we would find out with any certainty. Anyone know what it might be? Or maybe you don’t think there was anything? However, the phenomenon itself is unusual and must have had a proximate cause.
    We should be scientifically pleased that its happened, because it is really turning into a crucial experiment. Either the ice will recover next year or in the next few years, or it will continue to decline in the same way. Either way, we are going to get a very strong piece of evidence to bear on the controversy.

    • Very astute, michel. What happened was a very large, unusual August storm centered on the North Pole. NASA says:

      This year, a powerful cyclone formed off the coast of Alaska and moved on Aug. 5 to the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it churned the weakened ice cover for several days. The storm cut off a large section of sea ice north of the Chukchi Sea and pushed it south to warmer waters that made it melt entirely. It also broke vast extensions of ice into smaller pieces more likely to melt.


      That sort of thing can’t happen to Antarctic sea ice, because there’s a big, mountainous continent right in the middle.

      • Nonsense. That was just a (minor) contributing factor. Weather wasn’t the culprit for this years melt out … and you should know that!

        To the point of not-so-astute-michel: It would have been clear as early as in February already that this years melt might smash the old record, if it weren’t for the respective analysis which hadn’t been readily processed at that time. However, it is available now and it clearly shows that the ice was literally doomed to melt out as quickly as eventually observed based on February thickness: [SMOS sea ice thickness]

        Find more info on the SMOS thickness retrieval in [Kaleschke et al. 2012]

      • Of course Daveburton, in all astuteness the question that I’ve had is how such a, what was referred to as a Cold core Cyclone, could have developed in mid summer in the first place… one reason is large stretches of open water that did not used to be there, breaking up of course to such an extreme because the ice was already rotten down to the core. Blaming the GAC’12 coined storm for the collapse is too easy… it was not helpful though.

      • Quite apart from weather related variation in any given year, the trend in arctic sea ice (extent and volume) has been downward for the last several decades.

        And ultimately, that is the only thing that matters.

    • Up thread Andrew Dodds put the August storm in context:

      “Storms don’t last long when there is no open water to feed them, so until recently, the multiyear ice ‘lid’ in the Arctic acted to stop storms. As the ice cover drops, storms can move further into the Arctic, stay stronger for longer, and possibly even form in the Arctic in a way that never used to happen.”

      Elsewhere Wayne Davidson, who actually lives in the Arctic, has pointed out that cyclones such as we saw in August are not all that unusual in the Arctic, but that in the past the thicker multiyear ice prevented them from breaking up the pack to the extent the on this year did, basically corroborating what Andrew wrote.

      So we have a not all that unusual weather event in August—not June or July—producing a very different outcome due to the preexisting thinning of the sea ice pack, not the “unusual” nature of the storm.

    • “what seems to have happened is that ice was quite normal until early June”
      Well, no. The 15% extent was near normal, but we also know the thickness is very low. There’s also pretty good claims that much of the ice quality was bad – fractured, mushy, and so on. ‘Normal’ area’ with low volume bad quality ice – not normal overall.

      “Something must have happened between the middle of June and early September to have caused such a large and very unusual dive”
      Yes – summer temperatures and insolation, acting on abnormally thin and poor quality ice cover. It’s not like this is a mystery.

      “Anyone know what it might be?”
      Everyone looking at the arctic knows what it IS, not just what it ‘might be’. Higher temps, higher ocean heat content, acting on thin bad quality ice. There simply is no mystery at all to this.

      “we are going to get a very strong piece of evidence to bear on the controversy.”
      We already have that very strong piece of evidence. Arctic sea ice is disappearing before our eyes – much of it is gone already. Ignoring what we’re seeing won’t make it go away.

  58. Dave Burton needs a closer look at the animation on top Neven’s web page. The ice melted before and after said famous August 5 cyclone a lot more despite all sorts of cyclones from all kinds of directions. If the said August 5 cyclone was the culprit it would of ripped apart the main surviving ice pack, it didn’t. Jim Eager pointed this out right.

    The sea ice melted the same way it was formed but in reverse , this melt was unstoppable, August 5 cyclone was like a weak nudge on a huge rock hanging on top of a cliff, the ice which appears to have disappeared (it melted and broke up further) was rotten, weak . The cyclones bring heat Northwards, lack of solid multi year ice encourages cyclonic incursions especially in winter, not so much in summer. But there is another point of view which is correct, that thinner ice or open water next to thicker ice encourages a temperature difference to spin anti-clockwise lows faster.

    So the point of view that Aug 5 cyclone “dun it” as far as this year melt was concerned is excessively flawed, exaggerated and misleading, something one can always learn at contrarian sites.

    Nothing is like good science such as found at Tamino’s site and also congratulations Christine.

  59. Looking at the infamous 5 august animations convince me even more that the ice was already widely broken up and scattered according to CT:


    The NASA animation appears to have more ice than CT on august 2

    or does it? It depends on criteria for animation. It was very loose pack ice already melted according to CT, NASA likely needed less ice area criteria giving the illusion of more ice. All sea ice followed varying strong wind directions scattering the pack more. In addition NASA shows a great deal of wind towards the main Pack compressing it further , the main pack as reported by many ships is not one solid piece of ice, Hope this helps…

    • Wayne,

      I’ve just noticed your question many posts upthread (I’m replying down here so that it doesn’t get lost in the traffic) – I’m nearly certain that the ice shelves do not count towards Antarctic Sea Ice area. Cryosphere Today has Antarctic SIA at around 1.9 million sq kms average at minimum. The total area of Antarctic shelves is over 1.5 million, which would only leave ~0.4 million in actual sea ice.

      If you look at satellite pix for February (the minimum), you see the Weddell Sea is still well stocked with ice (it’s sheltered from the prevailing westerlies by the Antarctic Peninsula). Just eyeballing, but its close to twice the area of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, which puts it in the range of 0.8 million by itself. Add in a good area in the Ross Sea and some more around the fringe of the continent, puts you between 1.5 and 2 million. If you added in the 1.5 for the ice shelves you’d be well over 3 million.

  60. “Everyone looking at the arctic knows what it IS, not just what it ‘might be’. Higher temps, higher ocean heat content, acting on thin bad quality ice. There simply is no mystery at all to this.”

    Well, if this is the explanation offered, it certainly is mysterious, because these things have been around a while without causing the very unusual events of this summer.


    [Response: No. They haven’t. Goodbye.]

    • Don’t know what was so terrible about what I posted – it was simply a summary of the enlightening things that other commenters had pointed out about. It seemed from what they said, storms which are quite common had been made more violent by the long term loss of ice, and also that the ice had become more suseceptible to the effects of storms. Are you saying this is wrong? Or that the storms are new and unusual things?

      I thought the whole point of what the commenters where saying was that storms have always been a regular occurrence, but that the long term trend has made them more destructive than in the past. More violent to start with, and the ice more vulnerable in the second place.

      • arch stanton

        Michael, grammatically, “these things” would apply to “Higher temps, higher ocean heat content, acting on thin bad quality ice” (not storms).

        I don’t know what was snipped, but it is easy to misconstrue your intent.


      • KeefeAndAmanda

        Based on your “these things have been around a while” and the context it seemed to me (and evidently based on his response to you, the moderator) that you were trying to implicitly argue or at least suggest that maybe these records – including most importantly the volume record – would not have occurred this summer had that storm in question not occurred.

        Were you implicitly arguing or at least suggesting this?

  61. FrankD, much thanks, having a reference from those who do these numbers would be best. Given that each institute have their own criteria for measurement, it is wise to analyze the data when we are certain about the methods and definitions. Antarctica having such large scale Ice shelves
    makes it significantly different than the Arctic, where I know that floating ice shelves and icebergs may be counted as ice area. Especially with Aug 5 2012 infamous Arctic cyclone in mind when NASA had different animation than Cryosphere Today and everyone is falling all over the place speculating about images of “apparent” melting ice not as convincing as reasoning and or experience on observing sea ice intricacies.

    • Fair enough Wayne, I suppose different agencies may or may not. I was referring to Cryosphere Today, and while you might want to ask them, I think the answer is pretty clear – I note that their maps show the ice shelves (at least nine are marked) in grey/gray. not the dark purple used for 100% concentration. Together with the rationale above, the conclusion seems obvious to me, but YMMV.

      On a side note, it seems that the CT map still shows Larsen A and B as intact shelves, where A broke up in 1995 and most of B fell apart in 2002. That would mean that technically they are underreporting Antarctic sea ice by 5-6,000 sq km’s, which means the recent one-day record was even more recordy than reported. Recovery! :-)

      • Exactly FrankD! , in addition NSIDC has sketches showing major ice shelves being sea ice!



        I take it further, lets take any big iceberg from Antarctica say the one in 2000 measuring 4,000 square miles, that is 10,400 kilometers square (Ross ice shelf), say this monster was 60 meters high, if it breaks up in 2 meter high pieces, eventually it can cover more than 300 thousand square kilometers. Enough to cause the peak increase at minima in 2001 on Tamino’s graph above. There has to be a yearly calving graph super imposed with the sea ice minima graph other wise the data presented is confusing, and we all know how much contrarians feed on confusion.
        “Recovery recovery recovery!!!”

  62. Its a record! WTFUWT are shouting…

  63. John, my Response would be for the loud mouths in class to: “watch TV”:

    Featuring a few recent examples (mostly from 2011) , see any ice in the water?

    I wonder if the Tsunami of 3/11 had any impact collapsing more shelves and causing this 2012 mini spike in extent?

    Mega ice shelf Glaciers get hammered by the same waves as these:

    so when multiple huge Wilkins like ice shelves:

    face these strong winds…….. they break up !

    Huge ice shelves amongst open water also slow down melting of normal sea ice, they are huge islands forming more fast ice around them. Encouraging the formation of sea ice, protecting huge packs from mixing with the fierce Antarctic sea waves.

    Hope you enjoyed the show, and now for a graph or two!