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.
- The heretics
- What does this mean?
- Update: about the 2014-15 season
- Research about the arctic ice
- Research about the antarctic ice
- For More Information
- 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).
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.
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:
… 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).
- ”Winds, Ice Motion Root Cause Of Decline In Sea Ice, Not Warmer Temperatures”, Science Daily, 20 December 2004
- “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.”
- “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.”
- A major factor is The Arctic dipole anomaly, as explained by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, June 2010
- 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.
- “Soot’s Dirty Hand in Global Warming“, Scientific American, 8 February 2001
- “Soot More Culpable in Climate Warming Than Expected“, Scientific American, 23 December 2003
- “Impure as the Driven Snow“, Scientific American, 8 June 2007 — “Soot is a bigger problem than greenhouse gases in polar meltdown.”
- “Best Hope for Saving Arctic Sea Ice Is Cutting Soot Emissions, Say Researchers“, ScienceDaily, 28 July 2010
- Greenland Is Getting Darker, Science, 14 June 2014
(c) Some of the large body of research about wind’s effect on the arctic
- “Fram Strait Ice Fluxes and Atmospheric Circulation: 1950–2000”, Torgny Vinje, Journal of Climate, August 2001
- “Response of Sea Ice to the Arctic Oscillation”, Ignatius G. Rigor, Journal of Climate, 2002
- “Arctic decadal and interdecadal variability” by Igor V. Polyakov and Mark A. Johnson, American Meteorological Society, 15 September 2002
- “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
- “Recent Arctic Sea Ice Variability: Connections to the Arctic Oscillation and the ENSO“, Judith Curry et al, Geophysical Research Letters, 13 May 2004
- “Arctic climate change: observed and modelled temperature and sea-ice variability“, Ola M. Johannessen et al, Tellus, August 2004
- “Rapid reduction of Arctic perennial sea ice“, S. V. Nghiem, Geophysical Research Letters, 4 October 2007 — Free copy here.
- “Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon“, V. Ramanathan, Nature Geoscience, August 2008
- “Summer retreat of Arctic sea ice: Role of summer winds“, Masayo Ogi, Geophysical Research Letters, 18 December 2008 — Free copy here.
- “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.
- “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
- List of articles, with links, about black carbon deposits’ effect on climate, AGW Observer
- “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.
- “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.
- 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.
- “Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon“, V. Ramanathan and G. Carmichae, Nature Geoscience, April 2008 — Free copy here.
- “Black soot and the survival of Tibetan glaciers“, Baiqing Xu et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 29 December 2009
- “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
- “Contribution of light-absorbing impurities in snow to Greenland’s darkening since 2009“, Nature Geoscience, in press — Science news article.
- “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.”
- “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.
- “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.”
- “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.
- “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:
- “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.”
(6) For More Information
(a) Reference Pages about climate on the FM sites:
- The important things to know about global warming
- My posts
- Studies & reports, by subject
- The history of climate fears
(b) Posts about Will and Asher:
- The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2009
- George Will: climate criminal or brave but sloppy iconoclast?, 23 February 2009
- Apologies are due George Will, vindicated from charges that he is a climate criminal, 22 April 2010
(c) Posts about polar sea ice:
- Checking up on past forecasts about climate change, a guide to the future, 6 January 2013
- The North Pole is now a lake! Are you afraid yet?, 3 August 2013
- 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: