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News & Perspective from the Center for Environmental Journalism
This item was posted on December 3, 2009, and it was categorized as Arctic sea ice, Climate Change, Global Warming.
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While hyper-partisans continue to claim “fraud,” “conspiracy,” and “fascism” in climate science, Arctic sea ice just hasn’t gotten the message.

The graph above, from  “Cryosphere Today,” published by the University of Illinois, shows the evolution of Arctic sea ice extent over the past year. If you follow the black line you can see that sea ice is expanding right now, just as one would expect with the return of frigid temperatures in the Arctic region. But take a look at the red line, which plots how the extent of the ice compares with the long term mean. The data extend almost to the beginning of December, so the period of the entire Climategate controversy is covered here. And note that as of the start of December, the extent of Arctic sea ice is about a million square kilometers shy of the long-term average.

Here’s another graph, plotting the evolution of sea ice over since 1979:


I know that some people looking at this will no doubt see a dramatic trend of ever expanding sea ice indicative of the imminent return of the Ice Age. But as much as I scrunch up my eyes and try to make out that trend, I just don’t see. It kind of sort of looks like Arctic sea ice is, well, continuing to decline.

But really, who the heck am I to say? As Congressman James Sensenbrenner said yesterday, I’m a climate fascist.

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This thing has 10 Comments

  1. Raven
    Posted December 3, 2009 at 11:56 pm | Permalink


    The earth is getting warmer but that does not mean it was caused by CO2 or that spending massive amounts of capital on reducing CO2 emissions will stop the inevitable.

    Using “evidence of warming” to persuade people to accept CO2 mitigation policies is as deceptive as using “evidence of unethical scientists” to persuade people that AGW has been proven false.

  2. Dougetit
    Posted December 4, 2009 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Since CRU/Noa/Nasa 150 plus year temperature history data has been tainted, this leaves us with http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/uahncdc.lt
    the 31 year [b]untamperable[/b] sattelite temperature data-set. When we look at the un-bias, raw, temperature record, it shows that temperatures have risen at an alarming 13 hundreths (.13) of a degree. Worse yet, temperatures have been trending down for over a decade (Jan 1998 thru Oct 2009) now. Just the facts that we are left with. We need to change this before people find out about this!

  3. Posted December 4, 2009 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    One says ‘Of course it is warming but it is not caused by carbon dioxide.’ The other claims ‘there is no warming at all; it’s cooling.’

    This reminds me of the tag team approaches of YECs and OECs. Instead of having to deal with both, I’d rather they duke it out with each other, get one coherent contrarian argument and then bring me into the matter.

    AGW may be a common enemy but your beliefs are mutually exclusive. Would it be possible for the two of you to work out your differences first, and then we can examine AGW?

    I know. A faint hope, just as it is with evolution, but I can dream, can’t I?


    As a side note, I want to say that this site is one of my favorites with its own viewpoint not seen in many others. And the discussions are generally of a pretty high standard, even when I reply at all hours of the night.

    Thank you for you efforts.

  4. John Zulauf
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Tom —

    you could as easily have had a headline “Antarctic Sea Ice Ignores Global Warming” The same Cryosphere site shows a long mean above the average.


    How are those cherries?


    (who wouldn’t think to mention that historical record show three years allowing traversals of the Northwest Passage (sans icebreaker) the prior to the current “unprecedented” warmth (1906, 1940, 1944).)

  5. Posted December 7, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    John: Yes, Antarctic sea ice has expanded. But the mechanisms for this are well understood and not incompatible with global warming. But fine, you want to doubt that, no problem. Overall, though, there are very worrisome signs about melting in Antarctic. See: http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/press/press_releases/press_release.php?id=989 This links to a press release. If you want to see the primary literature, there is a paper referenced there in Nature. In any case, this is the very latest data from IceSat, and if you find something there that’s reassuring, please be sure to tell us what it is.

    You would be pretty much on your own even in the world of reasonable skeptics if you were to argue that the cryosphere has not experienced very significant impacts from a warming world. These are observable facts on the ground.

  6. Posted December 7, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    John: I forgot to say this — have you looked at my climate change course yet? http://www.newsu.org Most of what I have to say about climate change, and most of my responses to what you have been bringing up are there.

  7. Matt
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    It’s a pity the sea ice data in your graph only extends back to 1978 considering the average global temp decreased the previous 20 years, would that potentially show that artic sea ice is at 1950′s levels?

    Also the anomaly from the 79-2000 mean doesn’t show that the 2000-2009 mean is steady.

  8. Posted December 8, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Matt: You ask what if we had reliable records back to the 1950s? Well, in high school physics, when I’d try to squirm out of a mistake by saying, “What if…”, my marvelous teacher Mr. Weismann would reply, “If your grandmother had wheels she’d be a motorcycle.”

    We have only the data that we have. But you’re free to speculate as much as you’d like.

    As for your other point, this more recent plot is not of anomalies: http://www.cejournal.net/?p=2492 It is of the absolute extent of sea ice. I know that some skeptics look at that trend line (a decline of ~4.5%/decade) and actually see a world plunging into the next ice age. What do you see?

  9. Posted December 8, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, this fellow appears to disagree with you. Better yet, go over to grumbine for some interesting news

  10. Demesure
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Cryosphere Today keeps revising its data all the time, so the values have huge uncertainties! Compare eg the different dataset versions : http://plasmaresources.com/ozwx/climate/images/ArcticMysteryArea.gif
    (the old versions are in the web archive http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.area.jpg )

    So the changes you’re fussing about are of the same magnitude than the data revisions! The fact that you stress on the Arctic ice loss and not on Antarctic ice gain is evidence that your point is flagrantly anecdotal.

    And contrary to your claim, we DON’T know what’s happening in Antarctica, because see ice area is expanding (nearly compensating Arctic sea ice decrease) while the continental ice sheet is decreasing… or not (see 4AR, WG1, table 4.6, Antarctica melting contribution to sea level rise = –0.28 to +0.55 mm/y !). Your claim to certainty is sustanciated by no fact, only by the journalism motto : simplify and exagerate.

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