Antarctica is Cold? Yeah, We Knew That

Guest commentary from Spencer Weart, science historian

Despite the recent announcement that the discharge from some Antarctic glaciers is accelerating, we often hear people remarking that parts of Antarctica are getting colder, and indeed the ice pack in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica has actually been getting bigger. Doesn’t this contradict the calculations that greenhouse gases are warming the globe? Not at all, because a cold Antarctica is just what calculations predict… and have predicted for the past quarter century.

It’s not just that Antarctica is covered with a gazillion tons of ice, although that certainly helps keep it cold. The ocean also plays a role, which is doubly important because of the way it has delayed the world’s recognition of global warming.

When the first rudimentary models of climate change were developed in the early 1970s, some modelers pointed out that as the increase of greenhouse gases added heat to the atmosphere, much of the energy would be absorbed into the upper layer of the oceans. While the water was warming up, the world’s perception of climate change would be delayed. Up to this point most calculations had started with a doubled CO2 level and figured out how the world’s temperature would look in equilibrium. But in the real world, when the rising level of gas reached that point the system would still be a long way from equilibrium. “We may not be given a warning until the CO2 loading is such that an appreciable climate change is inevitable,” a National Academy of Sciences panel warned in 1979.(1)

Modelers took a closer look and noticed some complications. As greenhouse gases increase, the heat seeps gradually deeper and deeper into the oceans. But when larger volumes of water are brought into play, they bring a larger heat capacity. Thus as the years passed, the atmospheric warming would increasingly lag behind what would happen if there were no oceans. In 1980 a New York University group reported that “the influence of deep sea thermal storage could delay the full value of temperature increment predicted by equilibrium models by 10 to 20 years” just between 1980 and 2000 A.D. (2)

The delay would not be the same everywhere. After all, the Southern Hemisphere is mostly ocean, whereas land occupies a good part of the Northern Hemisphere. A model constructed by Stephen Schneider and Thompson, highly simplified in modern terms but sophisticated for its time, suggested that the Southern Hemisphere would experience delays decades longer than the Northern. Schneider and Thompson warned that if people compared observations with what would be expected from a simple equilibrium model, “we may still be misled… in the decade A.D. 2000-2010.” (3)

The pioneer climate modelers Kirk Bryan and Syukuro Manabe took up the question with a more detailed model that revealed an additional effect. In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica the mixing of water went deeper than in Northern waters, so more volumes of water were brought into play earlier. In their model, around Antarctica “there is no warming at the sea surface, and even a slight cooling over the 50-year duration of the experiment.” (4) In the twenty years since, computer models have improved by orders of magnitude, but they continue to show that Antarctica cannot be expected to warm up very significantly until long after the rest of the world’s climate is radically changed.

Bottom line: A cold Antarctica and Southern Ocean do not contradict our models of global warming. For a long time the models have predicted just that.

(1) National Academy of Sciences, Climate Research Board (1979). Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment (Jule Charney, Chair). Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.

(2) Martin I. Hoffert, et al. (1980) J. Geophysical Research 85: 6667-6679.

(3) Stephen H. Schneider and S.L. Thompson (1981) J. Geophysical Research 86: 3135-3147.

(4) Kirk Bryan et al. (1988). J. Physical Oceanography 18: 851-67. For the story overall see Syukuro Manabe and Ronald J. Stouffer (2007) Journal of the Meteorological Society of Japan 85B: 385-403.

449 comments on this post.
  1. Rod B:

    gusbob (348), I suspect you didn’t mean to imply such and it just came out wrong. But a 1% deviation of solar irradiance over 25-30 years strikes me as HUGH — about 13 watts at TOA.

  2. William Astley:

    In reply to those commenting above, concerning solar changes and climate. You do not understand the mechanisms.

    The solar magnetic cycle changes are hypothesized to affect planetary temperature by modulating the amount of planetary cloud cover, not by changes in total solar irradiation (TSI). (i.e. Sun does not get hotter. There is less solar magnetic activity which reduces solar wind bursts and reduces the solar heliosphere strength and size. Solar wind bursts remove cloud forming ions. The solar heliosphere blocks Galactic Cosmic Rays which form cloud forming ions.)

    This paper by Brian Tinsley and Fangqun Yu “Atmospheric Ionization and Clouds as Links Between Solar Activity and Climate” outlines the fundamental mechanisms in detail.

    This is my attempt to summarize (See the above paper for details.)

    The net effect of planetary clouds (all levels) is a reflection into space of 27.7 W/m2 (i.e. Clouds cool the planet by 27.7 W/m2.) [Hartmann, 1993] A process that increases or decreases the total amount of planetary cloud cover will change the planet’s temperature.

    GCR Modulation by Solar Heliosphere
    Pieces of magnetic flux from the sun are carried out into the solar heliosphere. The solar heliosphere stretches out about 20 light hours (near the orbit of Uranus.) The pieces of magnetic flux deflect GCR so that deflected GCR does not strike the earth. As the solar cycle progresses there is an observed change in amount of Galactic Cosmic Ray (GCR) particles. Tracking the change in the number of GCR is a change in low level clouds in regions of the earth (Over regions of the ocean that are ion poor. This is shown by satellite data in Palle’s paper and also in Tinsely and Yu’s paper (figure 2.1.)

    Cloud Modulation by GCR
    Microscope cloud nuclei are created by the electrons that are produced when the GCR strike the upper atmosphere. (GCR create muons. The muons reach lower levels in the atmosphere and create free electrons.) Svensmark has confirmed the processes in a lab test. Two additional tests are planned. One in a deep under ground mine, to test the process in the absence of natural muons and the second with CERN, where CERN will be used to create a known modulated artificial GCR source.

    Cloud Modulation by Electroscavenging
    High speed solar winds that are created by coronal holes (for example) remove cloud forming ions by the process of electroscavenging. The high speed solar wind creates a space charge in the earth’s ionosphere. The charge differential in the ionosphere creates a potential difference between the ionosphere and the lower atmosphere which removes cloud forming ions, from the lower atmosphere. (See figure 3.1 and figure 5.3 in Tinsley and Yu’s paper.) The ionosphere space charge is latitude specific (see figure 5.3.) Palle’s satellite analysis shows a significant reduction in clouds at the latitudes, as predicted by Tinsley and Yu.

    The planetary cloud cover closely tracks GCR through two solar cycles. Around 1999 there is a gradual reduction in the earth’s cloud cover and reduction of the earth’s albedo based on the moonshine albedo data and satellite data. This reduction in cloud cover occurs when there is an increase in solar wind bursts due to coronal holes moving to the solar equator at the end of the solar cycle. (See next paper for details.)

    “Once again about global warming and solar activity” by Georgieva, Bianchi, & Kirov

  3. William Astley:

    In reply to Tom Fiddaman’s comment #346

    >One of the citations for the third (1987) paper provides a needed reality check:

    Tom, no one is stating that the barycentric motions of the sun cause the tachocline oscillations. The solar barycentric motions are relatively slow however the distance moved by the sun is significant, about the diameter of sun, and the sun must change direction which is believed to be a key factor in creating conditions for an interruption. (Some researchers noted a correlation to specific solar barycentre motion, change in direction and acceleration, to the occurrence of solar magnetic cycle minimums.)

    The barycentric motion of the sun by the large planets creates some sort of oscillation or other type of disturbance in the tacholine region, which interrupts the release of the magnetic ropes that eventually form sunspots and keeps the magnetic seeds from the last cycle from entering the region where the seeds are amplified to form a powerful magnetic rope that can survive floating up through the turbulent solar convection zone.

    With an normal (undisturbed)tachocline, the most powerful magnetic rope released is around 1500 to 3000 gauss. When the tacholine is interrupt the magnetic ropes (the few that remain in the tachocline) are not released and build to a stronger magnitude. That explains why there are suddenly 39 x-ray flares at the end of the solar cycle 23.

  4. Cobblyworlds:

    #349 Gareth,

    I’m not sure about Pekka’s comments representing a change outside of normal past behaviour.

    The Arctic Oscillation (AO) +ve phase tends to direct Atlantic storm tracks over the North of Scotland and towards Scandinavia. This would (I think) give the impression of a warm influx, over the N of Scotland and towards Scandinavia, but it’s a pre-existing pattern and has been implicated in the increase of mass balance of some Scandinavian glaciers in the recent past (more precipitation as warm wet maritime air hits the colder northern air masses). When I watch the weather here in the UK I regularly see fronts soaking Northern Ireland and the North of Scotland while the rest of the UK remains dry.

    The daily AO index had been +ve preceding Pekka’s comment in early March: e.g.

    IF the loss of Arctic ice impacting local climate will have a wider impact, then it seems reasonable to suppose that the speed of change precipitated by a sudden transition to a seasonal as opposed to perennial ice-cap, will be as swift as the transition itself. Given the increasing worldwide demand, e.g. wheat prices, such threats to food security worry me.

    As an amateur I’m trapped between a mound of papers to read and a day-job so need more time to get my head around the issue.

    In plain-english here’s Jeff Masters at Wunderground:
    “Loss of Arctic sea ice will also dramatically change the global weather and precipitation patterns. For example, the jet stream should move further north, bringing more precipitation to the Arctic, and more frequent droughts over the U.S.”
    Once again I find my “refutation” of that is “Nah can’t be that bad”, a poor response that keeps gripping me when I ponder next September.

    Meanwhile the mainstream Media haven’t touched this….

  5. Gareth:

    Cobbles #354:

    I think we’re both concerned about the same thing. I posted on an aspect of this at Hot Topic earlier this year. My reference to Pekka’s comment was to his “four months of November” as a winter – especially in the context of this news from Finland:

    The Finnish Meteorological Institute said the December-February period was the warmest since records began more than 100 years ago, with average temperatures about 5 degrees Celsius (9 Fahrenheit) higher than usual.

    That strikes me as pretty unusual… (I’d really like to know how many SD’s that is away from “normal”. Do we have another Svalbard post coming?)

    The impact of a rapidly warming Arctic will be to change weather patterns, as Masters – and Stu Ostro at the Weather Channel – suggest. If the changed patterns persist, you have a changed climate.

    It’s too soon to say, perhaps, but the potential for rapid climate change in the northern hemisphere can be seen in this last winter.

  6. Hank Roberts:

    Mr. Astley, you are far more certain about this than Dr. Tinsley is. He suggests far less than you believe.

    “… The charges are of sufficient magnitude to suggest measurable electrical effects …. relevant to the modeling … as a possible cause of small effects on weather and climate.”

    Citation: Zhou, L., and B. A. Tinsley (2007), Production of space charge at the boundaries of layer clouds, J. Geophys. Res., 112, D11203, doi:10.1029/2006JD007998.

  7. gusbob:

    William Astley Says: “In reply to those commenting above, concerning solar changes and climate. You do not understand the mechanisms.”

    William you refer to but one theory to account for solar impact on climate. Perhaps it is not the ignorance of others but the fact that your reference is not the only theory floating about.

    In addition there are some who believe it is TSI that makes the difference. And others that see it as a function of cosmic rays and clouds and TSI. There is a group of minority astronomers who believe in an electric sun/universe and they have additional slants. Decades ago they suggested the energy flows to earth via the plasma and “twisted magnetic ropes”, Birkeland currents , that Themis has now confirmed. Such a discovery seemed to have surprised the other majority. Magnetic fields are produced by electric currents, so increased magnetic field means increased electric currents. Currents that are field aligned are orderly and can be de-thermalized , but when they interact with different media they can impart random motion and thus high temperatures. Such is their explanation for the high corona temperatures. The centennial doubling of the sun’s magnetic field implies a doubling of an electric current. Changes in voltage and amperage change the Watts/m2 that measures the energy input to the earth. Energy that has not been well measured. I am attracted to the electric sun ideas because they explain why the solar winds accelerate as they get further from the sun’s surface. That suggests an electric field at work.

    Half of my amateur astronomer friends like the electric universe paradigm. It explains lots of odd variable star behavior or observed emission nebula that turn on and then disappear. And it can explain other phenomena without creating imaginary dark matter.

    That’s why I find the prospect of a quiet sun very exciting because if the sun does go into a minimum it will be very instructive, adding insight and constraints to astronomy as well as climate. And we have many satellites in place to help measure what is happening.

  8. William Astley:

    In reply to Hank Robert’s #356 Comment:

    I believe Tinsley does support the assertion that the electroscavenging mechanism can have a significant affect on climate. See the following: (Note the percentage increase in the mechanism for high altitudes which is consistent with Palle’s findings.)

    “The role of the global electric circuit in solar and internal forcing of clouds and climate” by Brian A. Tinsley, G.B. Burns, and Limin Zhoua

    “The observed short-term meteorological responses to these five inputs are of small amplitude but high statistical significance for repeated Jz changes of order 5% for low latitudes increasing to 25–30% at high latitudes. On the timescales of multidecadal solar minima, such as the Maunder minimum, changes in tropospheric dynamics and climate related to Jz are also larger at high latitudes, and correlate with the lower energy component ( 1 GeV) of the cosmic ray flux increasing by as much as a factor of two relative to present values.”

    “Thus, we propose that mechanisms responding to Jz are a candidate for explanations of sun–weather–climate correlations on multidecadal to millenial timescales, as well as on the day-to-day timescales analyzed here.”

    Hank, based on the present planetary temperature change (assuming all of the change is attributable to the current solar change) and a published estimate of the planetary climate system’s e-folding time it is possible to calculate, the by year drop in temperature. (Assuming an interruption to the solar magnetic cycle. i.e. The solar cycle does not restart.) If the e-folding time estimate is correct, we can resolve this question by this time next year.

    Comment: Note also that Tinsley does not attribute the entire solar magnetic modulation of climate to Jz. Modulation of GCR is also a significant factor. Neutron counts have increased 10% over the last 2 years, which is due to increasing GCR. (The Solar heliosphere is reduced, as the cycle 24 has failed to start up.) It was only in the last year that the solar coronal holes which had moved up to the solar equator have started to dissipate. (There was a burst in solar wind, when the coronal hole moved into an earth facing direction.)

    In the recent past, solar wind bursts, at the end of each cycle, increase Jz and removed cloud forming ions, masking the increase in GCR at the end of each solar cycle. Now if the cycle has been interrupted, GCR will increase and there will no longer be solar wind bursts to cause the increase in Jz and remove the cloud forming ions.

  9. CobblyWorlds:

    #355 Gareth,

    We are talking about the same thing.

    From my understanding so far it seems we can expect climate impacts and if we’re on a transition to a seasonally ice-free state as fast as Dr Orheim suggests or Maslowski’s model projects, it’s hard to see how any such impacts will not be as rapid as the transition itself. My concern is what will happen, because that determines how it will impact us. And it would not help to act (in the sense of adaptation) on observations that may turn out to be be transitory in nature. Like I said above, there is a current La-Nina.

    A couple of relevant papers that I’ve not had chance to really get to grips with as yet:
    Singarayer 2005 “Twenty-First-Century Climate Impacts from a Declining Arctic Sea Ice Cover” Available from here:

    Bhatt et al 2007 “The Atmospheric Response to Realistic Reduced Summer Arctic Sea Ice Anomalies”
    2nd paper down, here:

    After a first read (whilst tired after work) their results have left me shaken (from the point of view of food security and geo-political stability). But I am hoping that worry recedes when I get to grips with them with a rested mind over the weekend.

    BTW; interesting blog, thanks for the link.

  10. William Astley:

    In reply to: Barton Paul Levenson

    “…, if the Sun doesn’t go into some kind of unusual minimum over the next ten years or so, will you stop saying .. [solar magnetic cycle changes]… causing present temperature history?”

    The solar magnetic cycle appears to have been interrupted based on observations and analysis. I would expect some sort of official announcement by fall of this year, concerning a solar magnetic cycle interruption. If the solar magnetic cycle has been interrupted we should have a good idea based on planetary temperature by late 2008 or early 2009 whether the solar modulation of cloud hypothesis is or is not correct.

    Attached is the NASA global land-ocean temperature data by month. It is interesting to note how the by year planetary temperatures have varied in the past. There are quite low planetary temperatures in the 1880s and at the turn of the 20th century. For example, Jan. 2008 was +0.12C (Above base. Base for the NASA data is 1951 to 1980). How was the planetary climate different for the Jan. 1924 which was -0.24C (below base) or for Jan 1883 which was -0.83C (below base)? Note the planetary temperature was low for decades during those periods.

    Assuming all of the recent cooling was caused by the recent solar magnetic cycle change and assuming that the e-folding time of the planetary system to a step change is 3 years, the final change in temperature from an assumed based of plus 0.54C, is -1.48C below the initial base of +0.54C. (i.e. If the e-folding time is known and there are no other significant forcing functions at the time of the first change, an estimate of the final total forcing can be made, based on the first change.)

    With the above assumptions, the by year (Jan of year in question) estimated temperature anomaly, 2008 to 2013 is as follows:

    2008, +0.12C
    2009, -0.18C
    2010, -0.40C
    2011, -0.55C
    2013, -0.66C

    BPL what are your thoughts?

  11. Barton Paul Levenson:

    gusbob posts:

    [[Half of my amateur astronomer friends like the electric universe paradigm. ]]

    The electric universe theory is pseudoscience of the purest ray serene. Try here for a discussion as to why:

  12. Barton Paul Levenson:

    My thoughts are, if it doesn’t turn out that way, will you admit you were wrong? Or will you start attributing temperature change to some other solar feature? How much is “temperature changes on Earth are caused by the sun” your premise rather than your conclusion?

  13. Andrew:

    Does anyone know if there’s any credibility behind this statement that I found in a Newsmax story in Feb 2008:
    “…according to reports from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that reveal that almost all the allegedly “lost” ice has come back. A NOAA report shows that ice levels which had shrunk from 5 million square miles in January 2007 to just 1.5 million square miles in October, are almost back to their original levels.” It goes on to reference a UK tabloid newspaper (that infallible source of robust scientifc data) as quoting “Figures show that there is nearly a third more ice in Antarctica than is usual for the time of year”

    I’ve had a look for a NOAA report along this lines but can’t find anything. Is this lies or is there anything behind it?

    [Response: Yes. It’s called winter. – gavin]

  14. Hank Roberts:

    > allegedly “lost” ice has come back
    >> winter

    That’s referring to the Northern hemisphere winter.
    The second claim isn’t about winter:

    > a third more ice in Antarctica than is usual for this time

    Fails the fact check (no such report) and fails the logic check:
    Where would they put it all? Stack it up to 4 miles thick?
    Surely the scientists there would notice.

  15. gusbob:

    BPL says “The electric universe theory is pseudoscience of the purest ray serene.”

    Your personal condemnation does little to shed light on the debate of an electric universe. If your information on that debate is limited to the link provided you are left with little more than a mud slinging fest devoid of much science, and likewise will be limited to mudslinging yourself.

    There have been great scientists that have proposed an electric model starting most notably with aurora pioneer Kristian Birkeland and in his honor “Birkeland currents” are named. Irving Langmuir who in honor of his work in measuring electric potentials the “Lanmuir probe” is named. Nobel prize winner Hannes Alfve whose names is attached to Alven waves. Thornhill is considered a great thinker in this field but admittedly does lack the credentials beyond a BS, a point that Thompson would rather hammer home than argue the specific science. Thornhill readily admits that he did not seek higher credentials because to succeed he needed peer approval and none of his contemporaries thought in terms other than gravitational effects. Likewise today physicists complain of the professional limitations for anyone who dares not to accept string theory.

    Until 1958 and the discovery of the Van Allen belts the idea of a magnetosphere and electric currents was limited to the few astronomers that followed the likes of Birkeland. The twisted magnetic ropes now confirmed by Themis were predicted by Birkeland 100 years. There is growing research into magnetic fields but there is a tendency to deny the possibility of electric currents. Electric universe people simply argue that according to Maxwell’s equations, without an electric current there are no electric fields.

    I would advise caution when taking Thompson’s point of view. When the majority of scientists accepted the geocentric model for orbiting sun and planets, they fended of the challenges to that theory and the heliocentric model by plugging in additional models such as the equant and epicycles. And those ad hoc inventions made better predictions at first than the “pseudoscience” of the heliocentric model.

    When Thompson says “especially in Thornhill’s propensity to deny the reality of that which is in front of him.” I am moved to appreciate Thornhill for his courage to inquire and challenge while discounting Thompson who mistakes hypothetical models for reality. People talk about black holes and dark matter as if they were real. The media reports new discoveries of these space species as if they are real. But they are only theoretical constructs created to fend off challenges to holes in their standard theory. All our real observations led scientists from Oort onwards to suggest that the calculations based on observation lacked enough mass. And so the mass did not add up if Newtons Law’s were to hold up. So dark matter(non-baryonic matter) was invented. It has yet to be observed because the inventors tell us it is very hard to observe. But reports always seem to verify dark matters presence, because it explains missing gravitational attractions. Attractions that can also be explained by electromagnetic forces that are a trillion, trillion, trillion times more powerful than gravity. Doesn’t it seem odd that in our cosmology that the weakest force of all dominates all mechanistic models and while electromagnetism as been virtually overlooked until recently. I suggest Thompson’s arguments would be more scientifically believable if he accepted that much of our cosmology is hypothetical and yet to be proven.

    Read Thompson’s replies again. Thornhill argued that the sun’s granules are electric and magnetic in nature, and not convective cells driven by rising heat. Thompson replies “with a rebuttal?” citing papers that evoke magnetic fields. He seems to be making Thornhill’s point.

    I see this as a time where our electromagnetic understanding is in its infancy (like the failed tether experiment underestimated the electric charge) and astronomers are struggling to incorporate new language and new observations into a more unified theory. And I have no doubts the electric universe will play a part.

    As regard to this topic on Antarctica, I must wonder and speculate if the observed warming at the poles has any relationship to electric currents. Since the north pole is really the south magnetic pole where the magnetic field is oriented into the earth vs the south pole where the magnetic vector is oriented out. Orderly streaming currents along magnetic field lines do not display high temperatures until they collide and create random motion. Would collisions at the north pole contribute to what is lumped together as “polar amplification”?

  16. Hank Roberts:

    Oh, and
    > third more ice in Antarctica

    If that referred only to sea ice, Cryosphere’s graphics are working again, you can look it up.

  17. gusbob:

    To get an idea of how much solar energy can be conveyed to earth that has been unaccounted for if just TSI and electromagnetic waves are considered, look at the substorms that are now being measured.

    On 3/2008 NASA states “A good substorm can unleash a hundred thousand billion Joules of energy, as much as a magnitude 5 earthquake. Although auroras, generally speaking, are understood (they are caused by solar activity), the sudden power of substorms is one of the biggest mysteries of space science.”

    We are in the infancy of understanding an electric universe.

    PS is there a way to edit a post for mis-spelling and sloppy typing?

  18. Ray Ladbury:

    Gusbob, If you want to be taken seriously among scientists, might I suggest that advocacy of the theories of a disciple of Velikovsky isn’t the best way to do it. The fact that you find this stuff convincing suggests to me that you don’t understand what science is. If a theory does not lead to predictions and insights–as presented in peer-reviewed journals, not independently produced DVDs–it isn’t science.
    Stellar physics is well established, as is climate science. Maybe you have fun looking into all these alternative theories, but don’t fool yourself thinking you are doing science.

  19. William Astley:

    In reply to Barton Paul Levenson’s comment #362

    “My thoughts are, if it doesn’t turn out that way, will you admit you [my comment: The solar magnetic modulation of planetary cloud theory] were [is] wrong?”

    Yes, I will unequivocally, admit the solar magnetic modulation of cloud hypothesis is incorrect, which would also imply that almost all of the 20th century warming was due to GHG. (Except for a very small portion which would likely be due to TSI changes.)

    Based on the cloud modulation hypotheses, as there is currently a spotless sun moving to a low magnetic cycle, there should be an abrupt cooling of the planet. If there is not an abrupt cooling, the hypothesized, solar modulation of clouds mechanisms, are disproved.

    The solar heliosphere takes roughly two years to reach the edge of its extent (About the orbit of Uranus to Pluto, depending on solar wind strength and interstellar gas density.) Due to this delay, the forcing function (cooling, due to weaker solar heliosphere and hence more GCR) should strengthen. Also there are currently solar wind bursts being produced due to coronal holes. If the coronal holes dissipate and there are no longer wind bursts, that should reduce electroscavenging and increase cloud cover.

    In the winter months, the larger extending cryosphere, will increase the planet’s albedo, amplifying the change, so the cooling noted in Jan. 2008 will be higher than would be expected in July for as the is more land area in the Northern Hemisphere. I believe, however, as there are both, pluses & minuses, the below estimated cooling is reasonable. (It would also be reasonable considering past paleo cooling events, assuming the step changes were mostly due to these solar mechanisms.) The actual data will answer these questions.

    2008, +0.12C
    2009, -0.18C
    2010, -0.40C
    2011, -0.55C
    2013, -0.66C

    -0.18C below 1950 to 1980 base is equivalent to 1952 to 1955 or 1965 to 1966.
    -0.40C below the base is equivalent to 1907, 1911, 1917.
    -0.55C below, matches the coldest years, which are 1880 to 1889.

    I have looked at Christopher Burt’s book “Extreme Weather” which quantifies and describes the extreme North American weather events in those periods. As Burt notes, North America has significantly more extreme weather events (than Europe or Asia), because for North America there are no east west continental mountain barriers to separate the cold Arctic air from the warm and moist Gulf and Atlantic lows. Also as the jet streams moves east up and across the Rockies it moves south (to conserve angular momentum) creating a Rossby wave. The Rossby wave oscillates North and South as it moves across the planet.

    The Rossby wave pulls Arctic cold air down and pulls warm moist air up. This affect in winter, can create blizzards with very high wind speeds, freezing rain as the cold front moves south and so forth. In summer the affect produces extreme storms and tornados.

  20. Brian Klappstein:


    The sea ice extent anomaly for February 2008 for Antarctica at NSIDC looks to be close to 30% according to their graph on the “Cryospheric Climate Indicators” page. Not exactly a third more than the long term average sea ice extent, but pretty close.


  21. Hank Roberts:

    Brian, it’s late summer in Antarctica. The text as written says “ice in Antarctica” — that’s deceptive. Funny how the PR errors always make mistakes in the direction of the people funding them.

    Yes, I agree — the number they’re talking about is actually the annual variation in the floating sea ice around Antarctica. Look at one year, then compare it to other years.

    Variation around the mean is normal. You can see other years like that in the past.

    It’d be interesting to know how much of this extra 1M sq. km. showing up — both in midwinter (from 15 to 16M sq. km) and currently (from about 2 to M)– is
    — fresh water from continental meltwater freezing at the edge, or
    — ice sheets pushing out from the toe of the glaciers, or
    — salt water freezing along the edges.

    Good thing the Int’l Polar Year is actively working down there. Perhaps we’ll hear real science news.

  22. Hank Roberts:

    >367, gusbob, you seem impressed by the energy in the aurora, but it doesn’t add anything new; it’s part of insolation. How much?

    > a hundred thousand billion joules
    > a magnitude 5 earthquake

    And how much added warmth is that? If you reached in and tapped Earth with a meteor and produced that big an earthquake, how much would the planet warm up? Do you think it’s noticeable against background heat from the sun?

  23. Barton Paul Levenson:


    Hannes Alfven did NOT accept what is now called the Electric Universe Theory, which is, as noted, pseudoscience. He thought electromagnetic and plasma effects might have had a greater influence on planet formation and galaxy structure than previously thought. But he would never have said stars were powered by electricity rather than fusion, as the EUT would have us believe. Sorry, there’s just too much evidence on the side of stars being fusion reactors. The EUT folk would have us believe that everything we know about nuclear physics and stellar evolution is wrong. Kind of like the way creationists portray modern biology.

  24. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Hank’s comment is much more to the point than mine — it always helps to do the math. “A hundred thousand billion joules” is 10^5 x 10^9 = 10^14 Joules. The mass of the atmosphere is 5.136 x 10^18 kilograms, and has a specific heat capacity of 1,004 J/K/kg (dry air figure, wet air is even higher). So the heating from the aurora (if transmitted completely to the atmosphere, rather than most being lost through radiation to space) would be about 1.94 x 10^-8 K — about 19 billionths of a degree.

  25. M. Ward, CA:

    Fine. You KNEW that Antarctica would get colder (’cause the models said so)… Would you be so kind as to explain that if CO2 is THE cause of Global Warming (aka “Climate Change”), AND CO2 stays “trapped” in our atmosphere, HOW IS IT that the ARTIC ICE has “recovered” to the same levels from a year ago (

    I’m assuming, of course, that there are still MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of “deniers” who have NOT cut back on their CO2 emissions, so Anthopogenic Global Warming “reductions” clearly cannot account for this.

    AND why is it that the “Global Temerature” tracks SO nicely with SUNSPOTS ( without complex computer models (software guesses) to show that CO2 is the cause?

  26. gusbob:


    I would respond to your questions but it seems that my questions and answers are censored. Two posts have been removed. Ideas that were too threatening I guess.

    [Response: No. Just too aggressive. Tone it tone and try again. – gavin]

  27. spilgard:

    Re #375:
    Aren’t you just a bit curious as to why your solar/temperature graph doesn’t extend past the 1980s? Is it because no data exists past the ’80s or is it because solar activity and temperature don’t track so well if one includes the entire data set?

    For a look at the complete record, try:

  28. Phil Scadden:

    #375 Extent yes – its winter! But thickness? This is one-year ice instead of multiyear. I would say incredibly vulnerable to rapid melt if get similar weather condition in summer. And on subject of Antarctic ice, last month’s Nature Geoscience published nice map of ice speed and mass loss.
    Net loss was 136Gt/yr in 2000, 192Gt/yr for 2006.

  29. Jim Eager:

    Re M. Ward @375: “HOW IS IT that the ARTIC ICE has “recovered” to the same levels from a year ago”

    It’s called winter, and it happens every year this time.

    But seriously, while the Arctic sea ice has recovered in surface area, which was also predicted and expected, it has NOT recovered in DEPTH. That will take multiple winters. The ice formed this winter is by definition new ice, which is thinner, saltier, and weaker than thicker, multi-year ice. What made last summer’s melt so different was that so much multi-year ice melted.

    M. Ward: “AND why is it that the “Global Temerature” tracks SO nicely with SUNSPOTS”

    It doesn’t. Did you notice that graph ends at about 1980? It’s now 2008. (Do you know where your missing 28 years of data are?)
    That’s because from 1980 to 2008 global temperature does NOT track at all nicely with sunspots or any other indicator of solar activity.
    Inconvenient, that, eh what? Never mind, just leave it off the graph.

    This is why it’s so hard to take “millions” of global warming “deniers” seriously.
    Some of them lie, and the rest of them accept those lies without question.

  30. Hank Roberts:

    Mr. Ward, no need to shout.

    Watts has opinions. You can look up the science yourself and make up your own mind. I recommend it.

    Google found these quickly, using a few likely words taken from your questions in the Search box:

  31. Ray Ladbury:

    M. Ward, surely you’ve heard of winter, have you not? However, the ice now forming will be weaker and more susceptible to melt in the future unless we get several cooler years.
    Let me acquaint you with what the theories do not say and what they do say. They do not say that temperature will rise inexorably and continually without limit. They do say that ceteris paribus, the climate will be warmer than it would have without that extra CO2.

  32. wayne davidson:

    #375, It has not recovered in thickness nor in main features, multiple leads are more and more visible and the air is amazingly clear over the north American side of the Pole, just waiting for the fog to see if it will reoccur the habitual way…

  33. gusbob:

    Hank says, “And how much added warmth is that? If you reached in and tapped Earth with a meteor and produced that big an earthquake, how much would the planet warm up? Do you think it’s noticeable against background heat from the sun?”

    That is a good question.If we are calculating the energy input we need to know the voltage and amperage. The magnetic ropes observed by Tmemis can be as wide as the earth. Where is tis energy deposited and how much propagates to earth and in what form. Lightning, substorms and auroras all need to be involved in the calculation. When this energy ionizes gas and which then release EMR how much of that is measures? I believe SOHO would miss all this when calculating TSI.

  34. gusbob:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says: Hannes Alfven did NOT accept what is now called the Electric Universe Theory, which is, as noted, pseudoscience.

    I am not trying to defend one particular flavor of the Electric universe. I am saying we must incorporate an electromagnetic views of the universe and in doing so that leads us to logical extensions that may prove to be more or less valid. And I am not sure how you know just what part of the so called “EUT” you refer to that Alfven would reject? If Hank hasn’t asked you already , what are your sources?

    But Alfven most certainly thought of the sun in electrical terms. Here are 2 pictures of his model for a coronal loop and compared to what we wtiness:

    Despite what BPL implies, the theories of an electric universe have never, ever said that there is no nuclear fusion. What is advocated is that electric z-pinch creates the fusion at the photosphere. Z-pinch for fusion was first done at Los Alamos in the 50’s so its well studied.

    BPL mentions the evidence of fusion but fails to understand that fusion can be caused by different mechanisms. To date the standard mechanism of gravitational confinement also requires the release of x amount of neutrinos from the sun and so far too many of those neutrinos are missing. Maybe dark neutrinos that we can’t measure? Z-pinch fusion would expect fewer neutrinos.

    I had hoped that a sustainable fusion reaction would satisfy our clean energy needs but nothing sustainable as postulated for the sun has been demonstrated in the last 50 years of hoping. But z-pinch fusion has been readily demonstrated.

  35. Martin Lewitt:

    Camp and Tung find a polar amplification in the signature of the solar cycle on the climate in the Antarctic as well as the Arctic, although it is smaller in the Antarctic.

    This appears to be the paper that is in press at JGR retitled “Solar cycle warming at the Earth’s surface in NCEP and ERA-40 data: A linear discriminant analysis”

  36. Cobblyworlds:

    #375 M Ward CA,

    CA? Climate Audit?

    That fits. ;)

    Once the available evidence is considered, e.g. QuikScat/PIOMAS/Cryosphere Today, and the relevant research. The current extent is neither a surprise, nor a reason for reassurance.

    Try reading Bitz, C. M. and G. H. Roe, 2004: A Mechanism for the High Rate of Sea-Ice Thinning in the Arctic Ocean, J. Climate, 17, 3622–31: Available here:

    And if it gives you reason for reasurance maybe you need to consider the caveat:
    “However, following Thorndike (1992), we have assumed that M is independent, of h, while Untersteiner (1961) and Maykut (1986) argue that M should increase if the ice becomes thin…”
    M is the amount of melt, h is ice thickness

    #382 Wayne,
    I’ll be finalising a long detailed post on the board I normally frequent. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll post a link here, assuming it’s OK with RC (rather than spam RC with an essay). With regards whether the March >2.5-3metre ice is indicative of the following September extent: Using a series of images extracted from the PIOMAS 1979-2004 video it seems suggestive, but no more.

    Have you (or anyone else) got any current data on ice thickness?
    Specifically in the Arctic Basin – as that’s where the summer minimum will be set.

    This is going to be a very interesting year.

  37. Ray Ladbury:

    Gusbob, where are you getting the idea that current theories ignore electromagnetism? A star is a plasma–and plasmas are inherently magnetohydrodynamic critters. As to your idea of a near-surface fusion zone–it doesn’t square with the evidience. For instance, in a supernova, the neutrinos escape long before the light does, indicating that both have travelled a long distance (btw, if you were in the vicinity of a supernova, it would be the neutrinos that would kill you). Your electic Universe theory just isn’t viable–for instance what would be the energy source that drove your heating?
    We can measure the energies involved, gusbob, and while the magnetic recombination events are impressive, they’re tiny compared to TSI. If you give us your technical background, maybe we can find some appropriate references.

  38. Hank Roberts:

    “Near surface fusion” is an idea I’ve found in only one person’s work:

    Gusbob, is this your source? Or can you point to another source?

  39. wayne davidson:

    Cobbly yes, try this site

    Read the ‘EGG’ code before clicking on the map… These give approximate ice thickness,
    lets see what you have !

  40. Barton Paul Levenson:

    M. Ward posts:

    [[Would you be so kind as to explain that if CO2 is THE cause of Global Warming (aka “Climate Change”), AND CO2 stays “trapped” in our atmosphere, HOW IS IT that the ARTIC ICE has “recovered” to the same levels from a year ago ]]

    Arctic. It’s because of seasons. The Earth is tilted 23.45 degrees to the plane of its orbit. As a result, many locations on the Earth experience a succession of seasons — summer when the hemisphere in question points toward the sun, fall and spring when it is “sideways on,” and winter when it points away. The Arctic is currently experiencing winter. Thus, it is colder there now than its mean temperature during the year.

    The furor over Arctic ice earlier was because it fell below its record for the summer. That’s what you have to compare — year to year figures, not season to season.

  41. Barton Paul Levenson:

    gusbob posts:

    [[Despite what BPL implies, the theories of an electric universe have never, ever said that there is no nuclear fusion. What is advocated is that electric z-pinch creates the fusion at the photosphere.]]

    Right, except that we know from neutrino telescopes, helioseismology and stellar evolution models that fusion is taking place at the core, not the photosphere.

  42. David B. Benson:

    Commentary on the glaciation of Antarctica 34 million years ago:

  43. gusbob:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says: Right, except that we know from neutrino telescopes, helioseismology and stellar evolution models that fusion is taking place at the core, not the photosphere.

    BPL I would suggest that you replace the words “we know” with the words “some infer”. The illusion of knowledge prevents discovery. But please show me your sources and logic to make such a statement.

    Nothing you mentions allows us to see inside the sun. Its all inference and conjecture. All the temperatures in the textbooks for the core are estimates not measurements. Regards to helioseismology you are advocating something analagous to stating earthquakes on earth are proof of fusion at the earth’s core. Sorry but there is no way in “the earth’s core” seismology tells us that.

    As far as stellar evolution models, there are several stars that defy the standard model as depicted by main sequence stars on the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram. Instead of the consumption of hydrogen at a speed determined by its mass and resulting progression of brightness and color some stars apparently haven’t read the theory and appear downright whimsical.

    Try FS Sagittae for starters

  44. gusbob:

    Ray Ladbury Says: Gusbob, where are you getting the idea that current theories ignore electromagnetism?

    RL to be more specific most of astronomy ignores the electric and accept the magnetic. Just too much evidence and more easily measured than electric currents in space. For example, look at the descriptions of the Themis observations talking about “magnetic ropes”. These ropes are puzzles yet no one mentions electric currents other than the solar wind tavels along these ropes.Fine but perhaps you can help me here RL. My level of technical expertise says magnetic fields must be caused by electric currents. Now with your expertise perhaps you can show me how you get “magnetic ropes” with out a current. Does this magnetism just appear? from dark matter? from what?

  45. Tilo Reber:

    “The furor over Arctic ice earlier was because it fell below its record for the summer. That’s what you have to compare — year to year figures, not season to season.”

    Why do I have to compare year to year? The anomaly record compares a given time of year with the same time for previous years. It is therefore a relevant comparison any time of the year. And right now the global anomaly is plus a half million square kilometers. The Arctic anomaly has shrunk from 3 million square kilometers to less than half a million square kilometers. As so many here are so fond of saying, last year’s melt off was just weather.

  46. Cobblyworlds:

    #395 Tilo Reber,

    I agree it’s not unreasonable to compare season to season to season, when done with due awareness of the wider context. I often compare days for different years. And about now is roughly the typical time for maxima so if one can compare minima trends, it’s not unreasonable to compare maxima. I’ve not yet checked today, but we may not be at this years maxima.

    However from my reading last night (Cryosphere Today regional) the area of greatest advance on last year seems to be in the Baffin Sea. The minima is set in the Arctic Basin, not Baffin Sea (which is ice-free in September), so any increase there is not really relevant to trying to figure out what last year means for the future.

    I had originally stated here (at RC) last years melt was just weather, but retracted that when I saw the later impact. Last year’s weather event removed a substantial volume of ice in the Arctic Basin. And it seems unlikely that volume will be replaced this winter. Short of an exceptionally cold summer it seems to me that loss of volume will impact next year. Exactly how depends on the next few months, but I wouldn’t bet against Olaf Orheim’s statement with regards a near complete loss next year being possible.


    Thanks for that, way better than messing around comparing PIOMAS and QuikScat. I was reading the Egg code last night on Environment Canada. The site you link to is just what I needed.

  47. Ray Ladbury:

    Gusbob, There are electric currents–both in the sun and in the earth. You can also generate magnetic fields by the flow of magnetic materials–as in Earth’s core. There are even instances of getting magnetic fields around icy satellites, where they are though to result from the flow of brine in the core. I would suggest that you look at some of the work by Gary Glatzmaier on the solar dynamo and the geodynamo. For one thing, it’s damned interesting. For another, it will hopefully ground you a little better in the electromagnetism of the solar system.
    BTW, BPL is quite correct when he says that we KNOW the fusion takes place in the core. The energy has travelled a long ways, and we know that the neutrinos emerge much more rapidly than do the photons, etc. This would not be the case for a near-surface source.

  48. Nick Gotts:

    Re #393 [gusbob] “Nothing you mentions allows us to see inside the sun. Its all inference and conjecture.”

    Hate to disillusion you, gusbob, but everything we believe about the outside world (and some would argue, about mathematics and our own mental states as well) seems to be based on inference and conjecture. All sensory experience involves a considerable component of active construction or to put it more colourfully, hallucination. Of course, this conclusion (of cognitive psychology) is itself based on inference and conjecture.

  49. Kevin:

    Hmmm…I had started to think that gusbob’s dark matter/electric sun stuff was completely OT, not just for the particular posts but for RC in general. A total thread-jacking, although one that I was
    having some fun participating in on the Galactic Glitch thread.

    But it seems like there’s a backdoor which returns to climate stuff. The links Hank provided about “near surface fusion” go to the work of one Robert Soberman, who has written a book explicating his theory of dark matter. From the review of that book:

    “Recognition of dark matter, cosmoids (a contraction of cosmic meteoroids), enables resolution of numerous scientific enigmas such as the link between our Earth’s climate and solar behavior.”

    So the TSI idea falls apart and then the GCR idea comes to the fore. But then there’s no trend in GCR, so the mechanism’s gotta be…dark matter?

    Huh. Didn’t see that coming.

  50. gusbob:

    # Ray Ladbury Says:
    BTW, BPL is quite correct when he says that we KNOW the fusion takes place in the core. The energy has travelled a long ways, and we know that the neutrinos emerge much more rapidly than do the photons, etc. This would not be the case for a near-surface source.”

    Do we know that from the sun’s observations or from supernova observations?