Tag Archives: polar sea ice

Climate news poorly reported in the news, about things you should know

Summary: Today we look at arctic sea ice and tornadoes. While they tell us important information about our world, how the news tells us about them tells us even more. As we become isolated into tribes our news becomes dominated by targeted clickbait. So it is with climate change, among our most serious issues but often grossly misrepresented by both Left and Right. Yet the climate agencies tell us what we need to know, if we’d only listen.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

The 2015 record low maximum of arctic sea ice

The media overflow with hype about small changes in climate metrics, often records with some combination of narrow criteria, little importance, and influenced by factors in addition to temperature. Putting big labels on these tends to mislead more than illuminate climate trends. These records produce clickbait for websites advertising to the Left, alarming stories given without vital context.

The latest story is about this year’s record low in the maximum arctic sea ice extent, producing the usual alarmist headlines. For reliable information we should first check with the NASA statement about it by scientist Walt Meier (red emphasis added):

“Scientifically, the yearly maximum extent is not as interesting as the minimum. It is highly influenced by weather and we’re looking at the loss of thin, seasonal ice that is going to melt anyway in the summer and won’t become part of the permanent ice cover … With the summertime minimum, when the extent decreases, it’s because we’re losing the thick ice component, and that is a better indicator of warming temperatures.

“The winter maximum gives you a head start, but the minimum is so much more dependent on what happens in the summer that it seems to wash out anything that happens in the winter” …

There is more valuable context to this story, as shown by a few pictures. Look at the record low seasonal maximum extent vs other years.  This shows the past 5 years; blue is 2015. A record by a small amount.

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More good news about the climate, giving us a priceless gift.

Summary:  Today’s post shows more good news about our climate, about ice. The good news gives us time to act. Unfortunately both Left and Right prefer that we squander this gift of time. The Left denies the pause; the Right considers it a “stop”. Neither supports the climate science research and political organizing necessary to build a coalition capable of acting on the scale necessary. But we need not listen to them. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Ask me for anything, except time.”
— Attributed to Napoleon.

Ice cubes


  1. The most valuable resource
  2. Polar Sea Ice
  3. Greenland’s Ice Cap
  4. News coverage from hysteria to journalism
  5. For More Information


(1)  Our most valuable resource

Time is the most valuable of resources. It gives us the ability to do research, to mobilize the public and build political coalitions. With time we can prepare; without it we can only react.

Nature has given us the gift of time in the pause of  the atmosphere’s warming since roughly 2000. Most forms of extreme weather have followed by stabilizing or improving: hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires (see links at the end). Even the “sea level rise slowed slightly in the past few years” (Columbia Earth Institute). And now even the sea ice and rate of Greenland glacial melting have stabilized (the subject of this post).

Both Left and Right have adopted science denial as their preferred tactic, using selective citation and exaggeration of science — filtered through activists. Yet we have time to act if we can break free of the ideologues that surround us.

Now to another update on the data.

(2)  Polar Sea Ice

The polar ice caps are sensitive indicators of the global climate. They’re influenced by a wide range of factors and have opposite trends. The good news is that the global sea ice area has been at 1979-2008 average for the past 2 years. See these graphs from the NSIDC.

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Some good news about our changing climate. Enjoy it, for it might not last long.

Summary: A people can be shaped by controlling their information, altering their perception of the world by filtering what they learn. We see that today in the debate about one of the potentially largest challenges of the 21st century.  Climate scientists differ on their forecasts of future weather, which range from large to calamitous changes. Some activists find these inadequate, and resort to exaggerated claims about extreme weather today — and suppression of the good news. Today we look at the good news you might know. All these trends will change (that’s what climate does). But before we look ahead, let’s clearly see the world of today.

Extreme Weather

We don’t know what lies ahead


  1. Few hurricanes, weak hurricanes
  2.  It’s a slow year for wildfires (again)
  3. Another slow year for tornadoes
  4. Arctic sea ice rebounds
  5. The pause continues
  6. About trends in extreme weather
  7. For More Information

Click on the graphs to enlarge them.

(1)  Few hurricanes, weak hurricanes

No Named Storms First Time Since 1992 at Hurricane Peak“, Bloomberg, 10 September 2014 — Excerpt:

The statistical peak of the Atlantic hurricane season has arrived and for the first time since 1992 there isn’t a named storm in the basin. … In records going back to 1851, Sept. 10 is the day when the odds are greatest there will be at least one tropical storm or hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic.

… There have been times when quiet years have shown up in the midst of active eras, Phil Klotzbach, lead author of Colorado State University’s seasonal hurricane forecast, said from Walnut Creek, California. Last year produced 13 named storms, one more than the 30-year average, yet the power of those systems was so weak it is considered a relatively quiet season.

Using an index called the accumulated cyclone energy, 2014 has only had 45% of  the activity that it should have produced by this time, Klotzbach said. “But we are still ahead of the ridiculously quiet season of 2013,” he said. “I would say that we need at least one more quiet year to really be convinced that we are heading into an inactive era.”

The last major landfall on the US was Wilma in October 2005; cyclone activity is also low in Australia. Global tropical cyclone energy has fallen from its peaks of 1994 – 2006, per this graph from WeatherBell.

Global tropical cyclone activity, 31 August 2014

Ryan N. Maue, meteorologist, WeatherBell

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5 years later: checking up on the 2-minute hate at George Will about melting of the polar ice

Summary:  The climate wars among the public (laymen) show how poorly we see our world. Here we look at an example displaying many of these problems: the “two minute hates” we substitute for rational debate, how ideology blinds us to the physical world, and our disinterest in the wonderful findings of climate science.

“Some of the models suggest that there is a 75% chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during some of the summer months, could be completely ice-free within the next 5 to 7 years.”

— Al Gore at the UN Climate Change Conference, 14 December 2009 (video here). He cited Wieslaw Maslowski as the source; Prof Maslowski denied making so specific a prediction (London Times, 15 December 2009). Gore also gave this forecast in 2007 and 2008, in bolder form.

Ice cubes

Ice teaches us about climate change



  1. The heretics
  2. What does this mean?
  3. Update: about the 2014-15 season
  4. Research about the arctic ice
  5. Research about the antarctic ice
  6. For More Information
  7. Coal’s contribution to arctic melting

(1) The heretics

The same year as Gore made this prediction Michael Asher, (Daily Tech) and George Will (Washington Post) dared to question the Left’s “arctic ice disappearing” narrative – predictions that the arctic would be ice-free soon, continuing the melt since start of satellite data in 1979 (during the 1970s cold snap). This followed the 2007 low in arctic sea ice, and predictions of a “death spiral” and “Arctic summers ice-free ‘by 2013′

Asher and Will were met with the Left’s standard “2 minute hate” — smears, mockery, rebuttals to what Asher and Will didn’t say.  They did everything but recommend Will and Asher  be chopped up and fed to the poor. This is comic opera, not science; of interest as demonstrations why the Left continues to lose influence in US politics.

These fluctuations in sea ice are too brief to tell us anything about climate (both Left and Right trumpet weather as climate when it suits them). But having said that, let’s see what the polar sea ice tells us.

May Arctic Sea Ice extent from the National Snow & Ice Data Center — 2002 to 2014, during the hysteria. No melting (the satellite data from 1979-2001 shows the extent shrinking from almost 20% above the 1981-2010 mean).

Arctic Sea Ice Extent

National Snow & Ice Data Center


Here’s a broader look at this year’s trend vs variability since 1979. So far this year’s seasonal melt lies in the average range.

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Start of another swing of the media narrative – to global cooling?

Summary: We have the first newspaper headlines announcing global cooling. Does this herald the news media yo-yo swinging from one extreme to another, after a few months in the middle? Here will look at the latest story, and show the rest of the story not told well by activists on either side. There is a sensible foundation for public policy action in here, somewhere. Let’s see if we can find it.

Global Cooling

Graphic showing Global Cooling



  1. Why we know so little: we read newspapers
  2. For the rest of the story
  3. A few key things to remember about global warming!
  4. For More Information
  5. Links to research about effects of soot and wind
  6. Science gives us adequate tools to plan, if only we’d use them

(1) Why we know so little: we read the news

This is why we know so little: we rely on the newspapers. After a decade of some exaggerating the effects of warming and forecasts about the future, we get an exaggerated backlash. Like this from Daily Mail, David Rose, 7 September 2013:

Daily News: global cooling

Daily Mail by David Rose, 7 September 2013


Other newspapers, similar theme:

All three quote climate scientists, who describe current research. Just like the pro-alarmist news media cites scientists about warming. Just as alarmists did about global cooling during the 1970s (see section 4b below). It’s the headlines, context, and exaggerated conclusions that mislead.

The centerpiece of his article is this data, quite a shock to those expecting a rapid collapse of arctic sea ice extent from the 2012 lows. Those overconfident predictions were based on lightly-tested models and a short baseline of data (full coverage began only with satellites in 1979; see this page for a longer perspective — click its graph to enlarge).

Arctic sea ice extent

Graph from NSIDC website, only last 7 years shown


The AlaskaDispatch quotes Ted Scambos (Lead Scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center) in rebuttal:

“It was very irresponsible reporting on their part. … They know what they’re saying and how they are saying it, and to say what they said they had to cherry pick facts. … You’d have to have a very unusual perspective to describe things the way they did and it’s clear they do have that different perspective.”

So America’s opinion on this vital issue goes up and down like a yo-yo, unable to make the public policy machinery run in a coherent manner. Unable to take even the easy obvious steps, such as better funding and supervision for climate research and massive funding to further develop alternative energy sources. An unnecessarily problem, in my opinion, as there are many scientists who provide clear and accurate guidance — and they run websites.

Why is the news media coverage so unreliable? There are probably many reasons. One is that journalists get simple powerful stories from activists, who craft narratives by ignoring the parts that don’t fit. Activists give the brief, exciting, unqualified (ie, without qualifiers) quotes that make headlines. Too bad they are wrong far more often than the mild, nuanced, complex explanations of sober scientists.

(2) For the rest of the story

What are the key elements of the sea ice story?

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The North Pole is now a lake! Are you afraid yet?

Summary: Fear rules our hearts, affecting people on both the Left and Right. It makes us easy to manipulate. We fear minorities.  Terrorists. Socialized Health Care.  Running out of oil. Chemicals. Climate change. And many more things. All of these are rational concerns. It’s the fear that makes us vulnerable to propaganda, which our ruling elites have seen and exploited (as rulers have done so often in the past, to so many peoples). Here’s a small example, nicely illustrating how fears are fed — and reason flees.

No Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone
…. I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

— The Litany against fear is an incantation used by the Bene Gesserit (from Frank Herbert’s 1965 book Dune)

Naked Capitalism posted links to How we became what we are today. See some dark origins of the New America and The secret, simple tool that persuades Americans. That molds our opinions. The replies showed that these posts hit a raw nerve. Rebuttals discussed things I didn’t say; some were to the opposite of what I said. I suspect their fear prevented them from directly addressing the issues I raised (which were, of course, speculative). It gets better.

One rebuttal was that I was a “climate denier”.  I replied that —

I rely on the the IPCC and major climate agencies. … The larger firm conclusions of climate scientists: two centuries of warming, coming in pulses (ie, waves) … Anthropogenic warming has been the dominate factor for a century or longer (only since WW2). … The Earth’s atmosphere continues to warm, at an accelerating rate (not since roughly 2000).

The replies were quite odd, most assertions of tribal identity rather than debate. One reply in particular illustrated how fear works, this comment by Lidia:

The North Pole is a frickin’ LAKE, you ass. You are either being paid well for these posts, or you are off your meds. I swear, these Baghdad Bobs are going to be crowing about the earth cooling right up until their proteins start congealing from the heat.

Lidia links to one of the of stories about this photo, with the headline “The North Pole is now a lake” (82 thousand entries on Google).

Polar melt pond

From the North Pole Environmental Observatory

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Checking up on past forecasts about climate change, a guide to the future

Summary:  While we quake in fear at the stream of apocalyptic forecasts fed us by the news media, let’s look back at two previous forecasts about rising sea levels and melting sea ice. Perhaps we’d get better forecasts from our experts if we more often held them accountable for them.




  1. The opening of the NorthWest Passage
  2. A flooded New York City
  3. Key things to remember about global warming!
  4. Other climate forecasts
  5. For More Information

This is an update from Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses, 17 October 2010.


(1)  Opening the NorthWest Passage to shipping

Arctic Meltdown“, NASA press release, 27 February 2001:

… in 10 years’ time, if melting patterns change as predicted, the North-West Passage could be open to ordinary shipping for a month each summer.

These predictions come in a recently declassified report of a meeting of American, British and Canadian Arctic and naval experts in April last year, organised by Dennis Conlon of the US Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia. Entitled “Naval Operations in an Ice-Free Arctic” …

Peter Wadhams of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge agrees that the Arctic could soon open up. “Within a decade we can expect regular summer trade there,”he predicts.

Eleven years later the “within a decade” prediction has proven false, with little (no?) commercial traffic yet on the NW Passage.

In 2012 the arctic ice melt was unusually extensive, beating the previous minimum in 2007 (see the data here).  NASA reported that satellites show that the key chokepoints of the Northwest Passage were mostly open in early August, and reached its minimum in mid-September. But NASA mentions an important detail about satellite data usually ignored by the news media (red emphasis added):

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