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. See Gore’s correction and information about Maslowski’s prediction.

Ice cubes
Ice teaches us about climate change

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Contents

  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

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(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

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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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Arctic Sea Ice Extent
National Snow and Ice Data Center

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Meanwhile Antarctic sea ice extent continues its long increase, now approaching a record high (i.e., during satellite era, since 1979): see the May anomalies and the seasonal trend. The global sea ice anomaly is now above the 1979 – 2008 average.

(2)  What does this mean?

Neither of these trends are simple stories of warming — or lack of warming. As usual with climate change, there are many factors at work. The massive increase in funding for the climate sciences has produced a renaissance, still running. Insights on all aspects, not just answers but new questions for research.

Yet these wonders are hidden from Americans, least it spoils the CO2 narrative — focusing the public’s attention to produce the desired political effect. Research about other natural and anthropogenic factors, even pollutants such as soot, are uncovered by the news media.

In the many threads about climate change on the FM website, climate activists usually know little about the new findings of climate science — because they refuse to see them. It’s sad for them. It’s sad for America, since science is one of our few reliable tools to manage the challenges of the coming years.

The following sections discuss some little-known (among laymen) drivers of polar sea ice extents.

(3) Update: about the 2014-15 season

What can we expect for this year’s Arctic sea ice?“, by Judith Curry (Prof, GA Inst Tech), 17 June 2014 — Conclusion:

Based on the springtime melt pond extent, the {U of Reading} UK group is predicting a 2014 sea ice minimum of 5.4 million sq km, about the same as for 2013.  Vox has a good overview on this.

… I would say that the Reading team should be fairly close – similar to last year. … I am definitely not placing any money on a spiral of death scenario.

But there are many wild cards associated with the weather, and even high latitude forest fires can play a role. It will be fun to see how the SEARCH forecasts come in, and how this plays out.

(4)  Research about arctic sea ice

(a)  Non-technical articles about the effect of winds on polar sea ice

Wind has a large effect on the accumulation of polar sea ice, usually ignored by journalists (it would ruin the narrative).

  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. A major factor is The Arctic dipole anomaly, as explained by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, June 2010
  5. 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.”

(b)  Non-technical explanations about the effect of soot on polar ice

We burn coal, especially in places with few pollution control regulations (e.g., China); the soot travels to the arctic and lands on the ice — warming the ice.  Also usually ignored as bad for the narrative.

  1. Soot’s Dirty Hand in Global Warming“, Scientific American, 8 February 2001
  2. Soot More Culpable in Climate Warming Than Expected“, Scientific American, 23 December 2003
  3. Impure as the Driven Snow“, Scientific American, 8 June 2007 — “Soot is a bigger problem than greenhouse gases in polar meltdown.”
  4. Best Hope for Saving Arctic Sea Ice Is Cutting Soot Emissions, Say Researchers“, ScienceDaily, 28 July 2010
  5. Greenland Is Getting Darker, Science, 14 June 2014

(c)  Some of the large body of research about wind’s effect on the arctic

  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”, 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. Recent Arctic Sea Ice Variability: Connections to the Arctic Oscillation and the ENSO“, Judith Curry et al, Geophysical Research Letters, 13 May 2004
  6. Arctic climate change: observed and modelled temperature and sea-ice variability“, Ola M. Johannessen et al, Tellus, August 2004
  7. Rapid reduction of Arctic perennial sea ice“, S. V. Nghiem, Geophysical Research Letters, 4 October 2007 — Free copy here.
  8. Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon“, V. Ramanathan, Nature Geoscience, August 2008
  9. Summer retreat of Arctic sea ice: Role of summer winds“, Masayo Ogi, Geophysical Research Letters, 18 December 2008 — Free copy here.
  10. 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.
  11. 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

(d)  Some of the research about effect of soot on the ice

  1. List of articles, with links, about black carbon deposits’ effect on climate, AGW Observer
  2. Climate response of direct radiative forcing of anthropogenic black carbon“, Serena H. Chung and John H. Seinfeld, Journal of Geophysical Research, 1 June 2005 — Free copy here.
  3. Aerosol organic carbon to black carbon ratios: Analysis of published data and implications for climate forcing“, T. Novakov, Journal of Geophysical Research, 8 November 2005 — Free copy here.
  4. Present-day climate forcing and response from black carbon in snow“, Mark G. Flanner at al, Journal of Geophysical Research, June 2007 — Free copy here.
  5. Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon“, V. Ramanathan and G. Carmichae, Nature Geoscience, April 2008 — Free copy here.
  6. Black soot and the survival of Tibetan glaciers“, Baiqing Xu et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 29 December 2009
  7. Climate change and forest fires synergistically drive widespread melt events of the Greenland Ice Sheet“, Kaitlin M. Keegana, Proceedings of the National Academies, 13 June 2014
  8. Contribution of light-absorbing impurities in snow to Greenland’s darkening since 2009“, Nature Geoscience, in press — Science news article.
  1. Climate change and forest fires synergistically drive widespread melt events of the Greenland Ice Sheet“, Kaitlin M. Keegana, Proceedings of the National Academies, 13 June 2014 — Abstract:

“Through an examination of shallow ice cores covering a wide area of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS), we show that the same mechanism drove two widespread melt events that occurred over 100 years apart, in 1889 and 2012. We found that black carbon from forest fires and rising temperatures combined to cause both of these events, and that continued climate change may result in nearly annual melting of the surface of the GIS by the year 2100.”

  1. Contribution of light-absorbing impurities in snow to Greenland’s darkening since 2009“, Nature Geoscience, in press — Science news article. Abstract:

The surface energy balance and mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet depends on the albedo of snow, which governs the amount of solar energy that is absorbed. The observed decline of Greenland’s albedo over the past decade has been attributed to an enhanced growth of snow grains as a result of atmospheric warming. Satellite observations show that, since 2009, albedo values even in springtime at high elevations have been lower than the 2003–2008 average. Here we show, using a numerical snow model, that the decrease in albedo cannot be attributed solely to grain growth enhancement. Instead, our analysis of remote sensing data indicates that the springtime darkening since 2009 stems from a widespread increase in the amount of light-absorbing impurities in snow, as well as in the atmosphere.

We suggest that the transport of dust from snow-free areas in the Arctic that are experiencing earlier melting of seasonal snow cover as the climate warms may be a contributing source of impurities. In our snow model simulations, a decrease in the albedo of fresh snow by 0.01 leads to a surface mass loss of 27 Gt yr−1, which could induce an acceleration of Greenland’s mass loss twice as large as over the past two decades. Future trends in light-absorbing impurities should therefore be considered in projections of Greenland mass loss.

(5)  Research about antarctic sea ice

(a)  It’s the winds, which also have a powerful effect on Southern sea ice

For a non-technical explanation see “How wind helps Antarctic sea ice grow, even as the Arctic melts“, The Conversation, 12 March 2014.

  1. Interpretation of recent Antarctic sea ice variability“, Judith Curry et al, Geophysical Research Letters, 22 January 2004 — Abstract:

“Over the last 24 years, a positive Antarctic oscillation (AAO) trend and a slightly negative ENSO trend produce a spatial pattern of ice changes similar to the regional ice trends. However, the magnitude of the ice changes associated with the AAO and ENSO is much smaller than the regional ice trends.”

  1. Modeling the Impact of Wind Intensification on Antarctic Sea Ice Volume“, Jinlun Zhang, Journal of Climate, January 2014 — Abstract:

A global sea ice–ocean model is used to examine the impact of wind intensification on Antarctic sea ice volume. Based on the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data, there are increases in surface wind speed (0.13% yr−1) and convergence (0.66% yr−1) over the ice-covered areas of the Southern Ocean during the period 1979–2010. Driven by the intensifying winds, the model simulates an increase in sea ice speed, convergence, and shear deformation rate, which produces an increase in ridge ice production in the Southern Ocean (1.1% yr−1). The increased ridged ice production is mostly in the Weddell, Bellingshausen, Amundsen, and Ross Seas where an increase in wind convergence dominates.

… The increase in thick ice leads to an increase in ice volume in the Southern Ocean, particularly in the southern Weddell Sea where a significant increase in ice concentration is observed.

  1. The ocean’s role in polar climate change: asymmetric Arctic and Antarctic responses to greenhouse gas and ozone forcing“, John Marshall et al, Royal Society A, 13 July 2014 — Wind and ozone.

“By mid-century, however, ozone-hole effects may instead be adding to GHG warming around Antarctica but with diminished amplitude as the ozone hole heals. The Arctic, meanwhile, responding to GHG forcing but in a manner amplified by ocean heat transport, may continue to warm at an accelerating rate.”

(b)  It’s volcanic heat:

  1. Evidence for elevated and spatially variable geothermal flux beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet“, Dustin M. Schroeder et al, Proceedings of the National Academies, in press — Phys.org article here.

“… large areas at the base of Thwaites Glacier are actively melting in response to geothermal flux consistent with rift-associated magma migration and volcanism. This supports the hypothesis that heterogeneous geothermal flux and local magmatic processes could be critical factors in determining the future behavior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.”

Polar Ice Caps are melting
The usual over-the-top alarmism

(6)  For More Information

(a)  Reference Pages about climate on the FM sites:

  1. The important things to know about global warming
  2. My posts
  3. Studies & reports, by subject
  4. The history of climate fears

(b)  Posts about Will and Asher:

  1. The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2009
  2. George Will: climate criminal or brave but sloppy iconoclast?, 23 February 2009
  3. Apologies are due George Will, vindicated from charges that he is a climate criminal, 22 April 2010

(c)  Posts about polar sea ice:

  1. Checking up on past forecasts about climate change, a guide to the future, 6 January 2013
  2. The North Pole is now a lake! Are you afraid yet?, 3 August 2013
  3. Start of another swing of the media narrative – to global cooling?, 11 September 2013

Some of these links to research were from Judith Curry’s website, Climate Etc.

(7)  Coal’s contribution to arctic melting

Melt-water collects the soot from far-away burning coal; from Anthony Watts’ website:

From the AGU Weekly Highlights, something I’ve pointed out more than a few times. See this photo of a moulin in upper Greenland, where carbon soot has collected at the bottom:

Greenland melt-water canal
Image from National Geographic online slide show. Photo: James Balog

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

  1. Update: more information about Gore’s speech

    About Gore’s speech about Maslowski’s forecast

    Gore apologized for misrepresenting Maslowski’s work, as reported in the The London Times on 17 December 2009:

    “Al Gore tries to cool ‘climate spin’ by correcting claims of North pole thaw”

    “Al Gore’s office issued a formal correction yesterday to a speech the former US Vice-President had given earlier in the week that started the latest in a series of “climate spin” rows. Mr Gore told the Copenhagen summit meeting that the latest research suggested that the North Pole would be ice-free within five to seven years. The Times revealed that this was not the information provided to Mr Gore’s office by the climatologist Wieslaw Maslowski, who works at the US Naval Postgraduate School in California.

    Dr Maslowski said that his projections suggested that the North Pole would be near ice-free, but that some ice would remain beyond 2020. He also denied providing the 75% figure used by Mr Gore. “It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at, based on the information I provided to Al Gore’s office,” he said.

    The clarification said that Mr Gore “misspoke” on the polar ice prediction and that he meant that the cap would be nearly ice-free. Scientists have criticised Mr Gore for basing his talk on unpublished data, rather than relying on the latest peer-reviewed studies.

    About Maslowski’s prediction

    The prediction was from Maslowski’s “State and Future Projections of Arctic Sea Ice”, presented at the Changes of the Greenland Cryosphere Workshop and the Arctic Freshwater Budget International Symposium held at Nuuk, Greenland on 25-27 August 2009. I see no online copies, open or gated.

    One sentence from his paper seems to be all that remains in the public domain: “Autumn could become near ice free between 2011 and 2016.” A bit daft to have an entire debate over one sentence from a paper (Maslowski has said that people misunderstood the context). I wonder how many talking about it have actually read it.

    The only details from the paper I see is this graph from an undated 2 page brochure by the Danish Meteorological Institute. Click to enlarge.

    2009-Maslowski-arctic-sea-ice-2

    “Modeled monthly mean sea ice volume (blue line) over the Arctic Ocean for the period ’79-’04.

    • Green line is the mean model ice volume for ‘79-’95.
    • Stars show minimum October-November values from model (blue) and observational estimates (magenta (Kwok and Cunngham, 2008) and cyan (Kwok et al., 2009)).
    • Red and black dashed lines: Calculated (NPS/K08 and NPS/K09) linear trend through ‘95-’07.
    • Blue dashed line: Model trend through ‘95-’04.
    • Projecting the trend into the future indicates that autumn could become near ice free between 2011 and 2016 (Maslowski, 2009).
    • Purple line: An unknown minimum amount of ice volume expected to survive summer melt beyond that time.”
    1. gairman,

      Probably as spam. We take down about 50 per day (I just took out 12). Plus the thousand-plus the software takes out (the bin now has 385 so far today). When you read that most of the traffic on the Internet is spam, they’re not joking.

      Was it related to the post? That’s the #1 distinguishing characteristic. Inevitably (but quite rarely) others get swept up

  2. It’s interesting (and uninformative) that you never provide Maslowski’s actual prediction. That Gore somewhat mangled the prediction isn’t that surprising. He got the gist of it correct – the nuances he missed (as have you, apparently).

    Maskowski’s actual prediction nearly came true in 2012 – fell just 4% short. While it’s still unlikely to be a correct prediction, if he’d said plus or minus five years instead of three I’d put even money on it.

    How about you?

    Kevin O’Neill writes on May 31, 2015: “I haven’t spent much time trying to predict extent, but ….I’d vote for an average September extent of 4.59 Mkm^2.”

    NSIDC monthly extent for September, 4.63 Mkm^2

    1. One,

      “you never provide Maslowski’s actual prediction”

      (1) You do not provide it either. Nor do you appear able to read what I said. Here’s the London Times:

      Al Gore’s office issued a formal correction yesterday to a speech the former US Vice-President had given earlier in the week that started the latest in a series of “climate spin” rows. Mr Gore told the Copenhagen summit meeting that the latest research suggested that the North Pole would be ice-free within five to seven years. The Times revealed that this was not the information provided to Mr Gore’s office by the climatologist Wieslaw Maslowski, who works at the US Naval Postgraduate School in California.

      Dr Maslowski said that his projections suggested that the North Pole would be near ice-free, but that some ice would remain beyond 2020. He also denied providing the 75% figure used by Mr Gore. “It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at, based on the information I provided to Al Gore’s office,” he said.

      The clarification said that Mr Gore “misspoke” on the polar ice prediction and that he meant that the cap would be nearly ice-free. Scientists have criticised Mr Gore for basing his talk on unpublished data, rather than relying on the latest peer-reviewed studies.

      Also, I refer to Al Gore because the subject of the post is stated in the first sentence: ” The climate wars among the public (laymen) show how poorly we see our world.”

      (2) “He {Gore} got the gist of it correct”

      The arctic sea ice record minimum was in 2012: aprox 2.24 million sq km (see the data here). To call that “ice free” is quite daft.

      (3) “How about you?”

      I am neither a meteorologist nor a climate scientist, and don’t make predictions of weather or climate. You are not either, so I don’t care about yours. You are a troll, making stuff up. Good-bye.

    2. About Maslowski’s prediction was from “State and Future Projections of Arctic Sea Ice”, presented at the Changes of the Greenland Cryosphere Workshop and the Arctic Freshwater Budget International Symposium held at Nuuk, Greenland on 25-27 August 2009.

      I see no online copies, open or gated. The one sentence quoted from his prediction: “Autumn could become near ice free between 2011 and 2016.” A bit daft to have an entire debate over one sentence from a paper (Maslowski has said that people misunderstood the context), esp when I wonder how many talking about it have actually read it.

    3. Here’s a graphic from Maslowski’s 2009 paper, taken from a brochure by the Danish Meteorological Institute. Click to enlarge.

      Graphic from Maslowski's 2009 paper on arctic sea ice

      Modeled monthly mean sea ice volume (blue line) over the Arctic Ocean for the period ’79-’04. Green line is the mean model ice volume for ‘79-’95. Stars show minimum October-November values from model (blue) and observational estimates (magenta (Kwok and Cunngham, 2008) and cyan (Kwok et al., 2009)). Red and black dashed lines: Calculated (NPS/K08 and NPS/K09) linear trend through ‘95-’07. Blue dashed line: Model trend through ‘95-’04. Projecting the trend into the future indicates that autumn could become near ice free between 2011 and 2016 (Maslowski, 2009) Purple line: An unknown minimum amount of ice volume expected to survive summer melt beyond that time.

  3. The first clue is the graph. Maslowski was talking about volume – not extent. And Maslowski’s definition of ice-free is 80% of the 1979 – 2000 average. Yet in your post you show two sea-ice extent graphs. At minimum in 2012 the ice volume had fallen by 76%. It has increased since then, but it’s not likely we’ll ever see the volume of the 1990s again.

    1. One,

      The graph is of volume, but that does not mean Maslowski was speaking of volume. His quotes in response to Gore’s speech don’t say so.

      Your have not presented any information, and appear to be just making stuff up – based on the information produced by my research.

      You are just a troll. I’m blocking you from further comments. Life is too short to bother with trolls.

  4. First, the graph Maslowski provides is of volume, so why anyone would assume he’s talking about extent is just wrong.

    Second, ice is a 3D object. Exgtent is a 2D metric. Typically if we want to accurately describe a 3D object we include three 2D measurements; height, width, and depth – or a single 3D measurement – typically volume.

    Third, we could always just ask Maslowski. Others have. Years ago.

    Hey, but I’m just a troll, right? Unfortunately for you, this troll happens to be correct and what you think you know is just plain flat out wrong.

    1. One,

      To respond to your points.

      (1) We don’t know that graph was Maslowski’s (I expressed that incorrectly in my comment). It includes Maslowski’s projection, or a projection based on his. As I said, the graph was from a DMI brochure. They did not give a cite for the graph; it might be their own work.

      (2) The measurement of arctic sea ice volume comes from models (e.g., PIOMAS Arctic Sea Ice Volume Reanalysis).

      Most analysis uses sea ice area and extent as directly measured by satellites, since most of the impacts of sea ice depend on the amount of surface covered — not the volume (volume is useful for forecasting, however). For example, see the main pages of the National Snow Ice Data Center and Cryosphere Today — many graphs of area/extent, none of volume.

      (3) Thank you for the quote. That does answer the question, and you were correct about this tiny point.

      I will add three points of my own.

      (4) From Romm’s 2010 “Arctic Death Spiral“: “’If this trend persists for another 10 years-and it has through 2005-we could be ice free in the summer.’ And that was in 2006, so he was talking about the possibility of being ice free in 2016.”

      Maslowski’s forecast about “ice free” by 2016 is almost certainly wrong. The decrease in arctic sea ice has paused, with the trend sideways since roughly 2008. Extent in 2012 was the low (probably due to winds, which have a large effect). The minimums were similar in 2008, 20010, 2011, and 2015 — which were below those of 2009, 2013, and 2014. You can see the data for yourself at the interactive graph on the NSIDC website.

      (5) You are still wrong about all your major points, which you probably realize since you have provided no evidence to support them.

      (6) You are a troll: “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to an internet discussion with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” All further comments by you are going to the spam bin. Good-bye.

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