Summer ice in the arctic has recovered

This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


Objection:

Sea ice at the north pole recovered a whopping 9.4% from 2007 to 2008 despite the doom and gloom predictions of the alarmists. Yet another wheel falls off the global warming bandwagon.

Answer:

It is true that the minimum summer ice extent in the arctic ocean in 2008 was 9.4% higher than the minimun in 2007. But calling this a recovery is simply not justifiable, not even by a long shot. Firstly, at 4.52 million square kilometers, this measurement is 2.24 million square kilometers below the average minimum observed since 1979 when accurate satellite observations began, so we are nowhere near getting back to normal levels of ice cover. (Source: NSIDC) Secondly, year to year flucuations are very large and simply reflect the chaotic nature of weather, the change over a single year does not say anything meaningful about climate trends.

So what is the trend?

(image courtesy of NSIDC)

There are several things worth noting that we can see from this image. Not only is 2008 below the average as noted above, it fell well below the downward trend line, the fourth year in a row to do so. So hardly showing sings of recovery, this year is consistent with an accelerating ice loss. We can also see that an almost 10% jump from one year to the next is not unprecedented. The jump up from 1995 to 1996 was even larger, nearly twice so. The differences between 1989-1990, 1994-1995, 2001-2002, and 2006-2007 all were larger as well than the difference between 2007 and 2008.

We can also see that 2007 was really an exceptional record setter and aside from that year, 2008 is lower than any other. This is hardly the "warming is over" news the climate denialist organisations and websites have been proclaiming or at least implying.

So that’s what has happened, but what were the "alarmist" expectations? It is true that a small number of media reports quoted people saying there might be another record this year, maybe even total ice loss (can anyone show me an actual prediction?), it makes a nice sensational headline after all, but if you look to climate science you see a predictive failure in precisely the opposite direction. No research papers from scientists in the field have been predicting ice loss at the rate it has been happening. Checking in the IPCC report from 2007, in the Summary for Policymakers[PDF] we find this on page 15:

"In some projections, arctic late-summer sea ice disappears almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century."

This is nowhere near a prediction of total summer ice loss by 2008 and it is looking more and more like it will be very wrong by being too conservative. This is not the hallmark of an "alarmist"!

So, I guess the reality is that 2008’s summer arctic ice extent observation is not a wheel off the GW bandwagon, it is one more nail in the coffin of denialism.


This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


“Summer ice in the arctic has recovered” is also posted on the Grist website, where additional comments can be found, though the author, Coby Beck, does not monitor or respond there.

108 thoughts on “Summer ice in the arctic has recovered

  1. Meanwhile, back in the Arctic…….

    “…..At the end of October, ice growth slowed, and at the end of the month extensive open water areas remained in the Beaufort, Chukchi, Kara and Barents seas. This region had the warmest ocean surface temperatures at the end of the melt season……Even with the rapid ice growth at the beginning of the month, October 2010 had the third-lowest ice extent for the month in the satellite record. The linear trend for October steepened slightly from -5.9% per decade to -6.2% per decade….”

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  2. Meanwhile, back in the Arctic:

    “…..Arctic sea ice extent averaged over January 2011 was 13.55 million square kilometers (5.23 million square miles). This was the lowest January ice extent recorded since satellite records began in 1979. It was 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles) below the record low of 13.60 million square kilometers (5.25 million square miles), set in 2006, and 1.27 million square kilometers (490,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average…..”

    “….Air temperatures over much of the Arctic were 2 to 6 degrees Celsius (4 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal in January. Over the eastern Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Baffin Bay/Davis Strait and Labrador Sea, temperatures were at least 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average. Temperatures were near average over the western Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Scandinavia…..”

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