Science & Nature

About the coming sea ice Armageddon!

Summary: Every day brings a new warnings in the news media about the coming climate catastrophe. These go beyond known science, and often contradict well-established research. Despite that, they’ve terrified many people.  For example, comments on leftist-friendly websites team with resigned predictions of doom for humanity — and even the biosphere.  Today we again join the fight to show the truth.


  1. Ominous words in The Economist about the coming doom.
  2. See for yourself the changes in sea ice extent
  3. The major short-term factor affecting arctic sea ice extent: the wind.
  4. Soot, another major long-term factor melting polar ice.
  5. Apocalypse delayed — about melting of the ice caps.
  6. Other posts about melting sea ice.

Note: As usual on the FM website, we show only part of the large climate literature — the part that the news media tends to hide because it breaks the narrative of  a consensus of scientists about anthropogenic and catastrophic climate change.  Some of the journal references below are from Watts Up with That.

(1)  Ominous words about the coming doom

From “The vanishing north”, The Economist, 16 June 2012 — “There are benefits in the melting of the Arctic, but the risks are much greater”. Excerpt (emphasis added):

Between now and early September, when the polar pack ice shrivels to its summer minimum, they will pore over the daily sea ice reports of America’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre. Its satellite data will show that the ice has shrunk far below the long-term average. This is no anomaly: since the 1970s the sea ice has retreated by around 12% each decade. Last year the summer minimum was 4.33m square km (1.67m square miles)—almost half the average for the 1960s.

The Arctic’s glaciers, including those of Greenland’s vast ice cap, are retreating. The land is thawing: the area covered by snow in June is roughly a fifth less than in the 1960s. The permafrost is shrinking. Alien plants, birds, fish and animals are creeping north: Atlantic mackerel, haddock and cod are coming up in Arctic nets. Some Arctic species will probably die out.

Perhaps not since the 19th-century clearance of America’s forests has the world seen such a spectacular environmental change. It is a stunning illustration of global warming, the cause of the melt. It also contains grave warnings of its dangers. The world would be mad to ignore them.

(2)  See for yourself the changes in sea ice extent

Scientists have tracked sea ice extent at both poles since satellite data became available in 1979.  See for yourself!  Here are graphs from the National Sea Ice Data Center and The Cryosphere Today of the Polar Research Unit of the University of Illinois.  There is no trend in the northern total since 2000; there is little change in the global total since 1979.

The first two show % changes in sea ice extent vs. the 1979-2000 average.  The third graph shows total global sea ice area, and (at the bottom) the difference vs. the 1979 – 2008 average.  Click on the graphs to see the full images.


From the National Sea Ice Data Center

From the National Sea Ice Data Center

From The Cryosphere Today

(3)  The major short-term factor affecting arctic sea ice loss:   wind

Wind strength and patterns cause much of the annual variation in the area and extent of the arctic ice.  The 2007 and 2010 declines in polar sea ice resulted mostly from winds.

(a)  A major factor is The Arctic dipole anomaly, as explained by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, June 2010:

The record low ice extent of September 2007 was influenced by a persistent atmospheric pressure pattern called the summer Arctic dipole anomaly (DA). The DA features unusually high pressure centered over the northern Beaufort Sea and unusually low pressure centered over the Kara Sea, along the Eurasian coast. In accord with Buys Ballot’s Law, this pattern causes winds to blow from the south along the Siberian coast, helping to push ice away from the coast and favoring strong melt. The DA pattern also promotes northerly winds in the Fram Strait region, helping to flush ice out of the Arctic Ocean into the North Atlantic. The DA pattern may also favor the import of warm ocean waters from the North Pacific that hastens ice melt.

June 2010 saw the return of the DA, but with the pressure centers shifted slightly compared to summer 2007. As a result, winds along the Siberian coastal sector are blowing more from the east rather than from the south. Whether or not the DA pattern persists through the rest of summer will bear strongly on whether a new record low in ice extent is set in September 2010.

(b)  For non-technical explanations of the effect of wind on ice:

  1. Winds, Ice Motion Root Cause Of Decline In Sea Ice, Not Warmer Temperatures”, Science Daily, 20  December 2004
  2. NASA Examines Arctic Sea Ice Changes Leading to Record Low in 2007“, NASA, 1 October 2007 — “Nghiem said the rapid decline in winter perennial ice the past two years was caused by unusual winds..”
  3. Wind contributing to Arctic sea ice loss, study finds“, The Guardian, 22 March 2010 — “New research does not question climate change is also melting ice in the Arctic, but finds wind patterns explain steep decline.”
  4. Report from the Alfred Wegener Institute, 8. June 2012 — “North-East Passage soon free from ice again? Winter measurements show thin sea ice in the Laptev Sea, pointing to early and large scale summer melt. … these clear differences are primarily attributable to the wind.”

(c)  Samples of the large body of research about wind’s effect on the arctic, often ignored by the news media (against the narrative):

  1. Fram Strait Ice Fluxes and Atmospheric Circulation: 1950–2000”, Torgny Vinje, Journal of Climate, August 2001
  2. Response of Sea Ice to the Arctic Oscillation” by IGNATIUS G. RIGOR, Journal of Climate, 2002
  3. Arctic decadal and interdecadal variability” by Igor V. Polyakov and Mark A. Johnson, American Meteorological Society, 15 September 2002
  4. Variations in the Age of Arctic Sea-ice and Summer Sea-ice Extent”, Ignatius G. Rigor & John M. Wallace, Geophysical Research Letters, 8 May 2004
  5. Arctic climate change: observed and modelled temperature and sea-ice variability“, Ola M. Johannessen et al, Tellus, August 2004
  6. Rapid reduction of Arctic perennial sea ice“, S. V. Nghiem, Geophysical Research Letters, 4 October 2007 — Free copy here.
  7. Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon“, V. Ramanathan, Nature Geoscience, August 2008
  8. Summer retreat of Arctic sea ice: Role of summer winds“, Masayo Ogi, Geophysical Research Letters, 18 December 2008 — Free copy here.
  9. Influence of winter and summer surface wind anomalies on summer Arctic sea ice extent“, Masayo Ogi et al, Geophysical Research Letters, 2 April 2010 — Free copy here.
  10. Recent wind driven high sea ice export in the Fram Strait contributes to Arctic sea ice decline“, L. H. Smedsrud, et al, The Cryosphere Discussions, 5 May 2010

(4)  Soot, another major long-term factor melting polar ice

(a)  For non-technical explanations:

(b)  Samples of the large research literature about the effect on climate of soot (black carbon) deposits:

(5)  Apocalypse delayed– about melting of the ice caps

(a)  How fast is Greenland’s icecap melting?   How much does that raise global sea level?

Answer:  18 thousandths of an inch per year.  From the abstract of “Partitioning Recent Greenland Mass Loss“, Michiel van den Broeke et al, Science, 13 November 2009:

Mass budget calculations, validated with satellite gravity observations [from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites], enable us to quantify the individual components of recent Greenland mass loss.  The total 2000–2008 mass loss of ~1500 gigatons, equivalent to 0.46 millimeters per year of global sea level rise, is equally split between surface processes (runoff and precipitation) and ice dynamics. Without the moderating effects of increased snowfall and refreezing, post-1996 Greenland ice sheet mass losses would have been 100% higher. …

(b)  Slowing of Greenland melting

1.  Greenland’s glaciers have stabilized (for now; eventually they will resume their retreat — or advance), as reported at the Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union – “Galloping Glaciers of Greenland Have Reined Themselves In“, Richard A. Kerr, Science, January 2009

2.  “A reconstruction of annual Greenland ice melt extent, 1784–2009“, Oliver W. Frauenfeld et al, Journal of Geophysical Research, 19 April 2011 — “Recent melt is similar in magnitude but shorter duration than 1920–1960 melt. Record 2007 melt is not statistically different from 20 other melt seasons.”

3.  “A new, high-resolution surface mass balance map of Antarctica (1979–2010) based on regional atmospheric climate modeling“, J. T. M. Lenaerts et al,, Geophysical Research Letters, 21 February 2012 — “We found no significant trend in the 1979–2010 ice sheet integrated SMB components, which confirms the results from Monaghan et al (2006).”

4.  “Twelve years of ice velocity change in Antarctica observed by RADARSAT-1 and -2 satellite radar interferometry“, B. Scheuchl, J. Mouginot, and E. Rignot, The Cryosphere Discussions, 15 May 2012 — “”the ice streams and ice shelves in the broad region under investigation herein have not been changed in a significant way in the past 12 yr, which suggests that the ice dynamics of the entire region does not have a strong impact on the mass budget of the Antarctic continent.”

(6)  Other articles about melting sea ice

  1. About that melting arctic ice cap, 17 April 2010
  2. Fear or Fail: about the melting Greenland ice sheet, 24 May 2010
  3. It’s time to worry (again) about disappearing arctic ice, 8 June 2010
  4. Should we worry about 2010′s near-record melting of sea ice?, 10 July 2010
  5. Climate Armageddon postponed (again): the melting polar ice, 9 October 2010
  6. More about the forecast for flooded cities in the late 21st century, 16 October 2010

15 replies »

  1. Fabius,

    Your data is always interesting, but the observations of my admittedly short (64 and counting) lifetime strongly support a belief that the world is warming. I did read recently that the Battle of Monmouth was fought in 100 degree temperature so this week’s weather in New England is probably not unheard of, just quite unusual. I live in the Deep South (Memphis) where we are now 2.05 degrees C over normal for the past 12 months; we’ve experienced too many of these periods in recent years for me to be comfortable that nothing has changed. I can tell you that 2 degrees C is enough for many plants to decide they don’t want to live here any more.

    Clearly anthropogenic causation is harder to confirm, since this warming cycle began before the industrial revolution took full hold, much less the Age of Gasoline. However, it seems worth considering a risk calculation on this one. Most of human civilization has occurred during a short period of equable climate that apparently began about 7000 years ago. Clearly the Anasazi didn’t do too well when their climate fell outside an acceptable climatic range. I’m not sure it’s worth the risk to find out how our would fare under similar circumstances.


    • Slater, I don’t understand much of what you said.

      (1) “the observations of my admittedly short (64 and counting) lifetime”
      You have personally been taking global temperature measurements, esp over the poles & oceans, for 64 years?

      (2) “64 and counting) lifetime strongly support a belief that the world is warming.”
      Does anyone of sense not believe that the Earth has warmed over the past 64 years?

      (3) “I did read recently that the Battle of Monmouth was fought in 100 degree temperature so this week’s weather in New England…”
      Rule 1: weather (conditions here and now) are not climate. These little stories mean nothing.

      (4) “However, it seems worth considering a risk calculation on this one.”
      I have no idea what that sentence means. The subject is extensively discussed in these posts about shockwaves.

      (5) “Clearly the Anasazi didn’t do too well when their climate fell outside an acceptable climatic range. I’m not sure it’s worth the risk to find out how our would fare under similar circumstances.”

      As the history of the Anasazi shows, civilizations have risen and fallen due to natural climate change. Climate will continue to change, so saying “it’s not worth the risk” is absurd. It will happen, irrespective of our actions.

      In addition to natural variation, we are rapidly and substantially altering the biosphere, with climate change one of the effects (not necessarily the worst). As has been said here so many times, increased research is necessary to better understand these things. IMO the current programs of semi-secret clubs doing small-scale research will not provide reliable answers in an acceptable time frame.


  2. FM is right:

    I saw a nature guide program recently about the Glacier Bay National Park (Alaska), possibly on one of the National Geographic cable TV channels, or similar. A 40+ mile glaciated bay was almost full at the point that the first europeans saw it, late 1700s.

    When John Muir visited, in the late 1800s, a large area (80%?) of the bay had already melted, and the industrial revolution had barely begun. History and Culture of Glacier Bay National Park, National Park Service. The melting coincided with the end of the “little ice age”.

    The last major ice age ended about 11,000 years ago, and the planet has lost vast areas of glacial ice since then. widespread agriculture became possible due to altered CO2 levels at the end of the ice age.

    Human culture as we know it is a result of glacial melting, not the other way around.


    • (repeat from another similar thread) “Environmental Heresies, Technology Review, Stewart Brand, May 2005 — “The founder of The Whole Earth Catalog believes the environmental movement will soon reverse its position on four core issues.” Excerpt:

      Over the next 10 years, I predict, the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbani­zation, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.

      Reversals of this sort have occurred before. Wildfire went from universal menace in mid-20th century to honored natural force and forestry tool now, from “Only you can prevent forest fires!” to let-burn policies and prescribed fires for understory management. The structure of such reversals reveals a hidden strength in the environmental movement and explains why it is likely to keep on growing in influence from decade to decade and perhaps century to century.

      The success of the environmental movement is driven by two powerful forces — romanticism and science — that are often in opposition. The romantics identify with natural systems; the scientists study natural systems. The romantics are moralistic, rebellious against the perceived dominant power, and combative against any who appear to stray from the true path. They hate to admit mistakes or change direction. The scientists are ethicalistic, rebellious against any perceived dominant paradigm, and combative against each other. For them, admitting mistakes is what science is.

      There are a great many more environmental romantics than there are scientists.


    • Measurement in sea ice volume is on the frontier of climate science. Accuracy of satellite temperature measurements is still debated, and globla sea ice volume is a far less mature data series. For information about it see the Polar Science Center of the U of Washington: Arctic Sea Ice Volume Anomaly, version 2.

      Sea Ice Volume is calculated using the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS, Zhang and Rothrock, 2003) developed at APL/PSC.

      Sea ice volume is an important climate indicator. It depends on both ice thickness and extent and therefore more directly tied to climate forcing than extent alone. However, Arctic sea ice volume cannot currently be observed continuously. Observations from satellites, Navy submarines, moorings, and field measurements are all limited in space and time. The assimilation of observations into numerical models currently provides one way of estimating sea ice volume changes on a continous basis. Volume estimates using age of sea ice as a proxy for ice thickness are another useful method (see here and here).


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