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Arctic misrepresentations

Filed under: — gavin @ 8 July 2013

At the weekend, Christopher Booker at the Daily Telegraph made another attempt (see previous) to downplay the obvious decreases in Arctic sea ice by (mis-)quoting a statement from Arctic oceanographer Ken Drinkwater and colleagues:

Panic over Arctic ice – what else can the warmists get wrong?

As evidence to support their belief system continues to crumble in all directions, acolytes of the warming cult fall back ever more desperately on the summer melting of Arctic ice to justify their wishful thinking that the world is still warming, and to explain why we are enjoying such cold winters and wet summers. Real scientists (as opposed to climate modellers) have long maintained that the decline in Arctic ice is caused not by warmer air – in the past year or two Arctic air temperatures have actually been falling – but by shifts in major ocean currents, pushing warmer water up into the Arctic Circle. Ken Drinkwater, one of a team of scientists at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen who have been observing the Arctic for decades, dismisses the idea that the ice is melting because of any rise in global temperatures. “The warming,” he says, “is primarily due to currents. A greater amount of warm Atlantic water is flowing into the North Atlantic and up to the Barents Sea.” He points out that this is just what happened in the 1920s and 1930s, when the ice melted even more dramatically than it has done in recent years, before it recovered again during the decades of what is called “the Little Cooling”.

This was added to by Andrew Neil as well, despite the best estimates of sea ice history showing nothing of the sort:



History of seasonal sea ice 1900-2010 (via NOAA, Cryosphere Today)

In the comments yesterday, Ken responded directly to this to make the context far more plain (slighty edited):

The article by Christopher Booker … is a misrepresentation of my views. He does not state where he obtained his information but it might have been from [this press release] in which I was discussing the increase in the abundance of Atlantic cod in the Barents Sea and its relationship to sea temperatures from studies we had conducted, or in Drinkwater et al., (2011, Progress in Oceanography 90, 47-61). In both articles, my comments focussed upon the Barents Sea and not the Arctic Basin. Our studies did indicate that much of the heat entering the Barents Sea in recent years was advected in by the inflow of warm Atlantic Waters and although direct warming through air-sea heat exchanges no doubt occurred, it appeared not be the dominate process at the time of our studies. This increase in heat led to the melting of the sea ice. I did NOT dismiss “the idea that the ice is melting because of any rise in global temperatures” as Mr. Booker claims. One of the reasons that more heat is being transported into the Barents Sea is because of the general rise in temperatures within the Atlantic waters. Increased melting of sea ice did occur in the 1920s and 1930s in the Barents Sea (Ifft, Monthly Weather Review, November, 1922, p. 589) and over the Arctic Basin (Ahlmann, 1949, Rapports et Proces-Verbaux des Revions du Conseil International pour l’Exploration de la Mer 125, 9-16 ) but it was much less so than in recent years. I did NOT state that ice melted more in the 1920s and 1930s than in recent years as Mr. Booker claims. Mr. Booker has a duty as a journalist to ensure [that] his facts [are] correct.

We will await the corrections with bated breath…


75 Responses to “Arctic misrepresentations”

  1. 51
    Dan H. says:

    Kevin,
    When the only available data is scant, then the conclusions become more guarded. Sea ice data prior to the satellite data is severely lacking, such that these types of attempts are used to recreate the extent of the sea ice as best we can.

  2. 52
    Ray Ladbury says:

    In other words

    Forbes: “Squirrel!”

  3. 53
    Hank Roberts says:

    > “free market” … costs are paid by the world,
    > but the profits go to a very few.

    Do note the air quotes. As Brin points out relentlessly, no matter -what- the political scientists or their predecessors in spin management call the system, it’s been oligarchs all the way down in human history.

    Science challenges oligarchy with education. It’s damned dangerous, to the few who benefit by externalizing costs and capturing profits and power.

    No matter what you call the political system, it’s the outcome that matters.

  4. 54

    #51–Dan, I respectfully disagree with your comment that “these types of attempts are used to recreate the extent of the sea ice as best we can.”

    I don’t think that this is ‘the best we can’ if ‘best’ is defined as looking for a true picture. (And–just to keep the record straight–it wasn’t about recreating extent; it was about trying to relate an existing SI reconstruction to solar cycle length. They did nothing original on extent in this paper at all, and didn’t claim to have done so.)

    It would have been a stronger paper if they had been much more circumspect in their ‘conclusions’ section. That a connection between solar cycle length and sea ice extent *could exist*–which is about what I take them to have shown–is not absurd, and might be worth examining.

    But going on to suggest that such tenuous and limited results say something meaningful about the post-1980 pan-Arctic trend is a serious over-reach. So serious, in fact, that I conclude (for myself, not ‘objectively’) that the stretch was the main point–their result was pre-ordained to be some sort of suggestion that sea ice decline ‘could be natural.’ (BTW, their term for the observed loss, ‘sea ice withdrawal,’ is rather interesting (euphemistic) in itself, isn’t it?)

    I think this paper was always about ‘casting doubt,’ not ‘finding out.’ Of course, YMMV–and it generally does, I’ve noticed.

  5. 55
    Rob Dekker says:

    Kevin, Dan H is simply pulling a “Barnum effect” on you.

    Look at his statement : “When the only available data is scant, then the conclusions become more guarded. Sea ice data prior to the satellite data is severely lacking, such that these types of attempts are used to recreate the extent of the sea ice as best we can.”

    Nobody can possibly disagree that we do the “best we can” to reconstruct sea ice prior to satellite measurements.

    The problem is that Dan H attaches value (“best we can”) to a correlation between ice berg sightings off Iceland and the solar cycle as CAUSATION for Arctic sea ice loss.

    That is where Dan H has explaining to do, not you.

  6. 56
    patrick says:

    High res Arctic sea-ice extent graphic update–plus chart: 2013(April)-to-date sea-ice extent plotted against the 1981-2010 average–at NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice News (and Analysis):

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

  7. 57

    “The problem is that Dan H attaches value (“best we can”) to a correlation between ice berg sightings off Iceland and the solar cycle as CAUSATION for Arctic sea ice loss.

    That is where Dan H has explaining to do, not you.”

    Thanks, Rob–but I must not have been as clear as I thought in my comment, as that covers a lot of the same ground I was trying to cover. It’s not news to me that Dan was throwing out a huge red herring; that, I thought, was addressed when I wrote:

    “I don’t think that this is ‘the best we can’ if ‘best’ is defined as looking for a true picture. (And–just to keep the record straight–it wasn’t about recreating extent…)”

  8. 58
    Criame A. River says:

    I just got permission to speak out about out secret task force – project Splainin Todo. I served in one of many elite ice melting squadrons – the entire force may be in the thousands, they never told us. But I know we were tasked with making an impact on the Arctic region that might provide an alternate explanation for the widespread melting. We worked tirelessly, alone on the tundra and ice during the long polar nights.

    We were deployed extensively through the Arctic regions. Armed with dryers, heaters, fans, portable ovens – anything that would generate heat. Of course we brought hundreds of miles of extension cords – now neatly coiled for the return trip.

    Just thought I would explain how my personal work made for at least some of the melting of the Arctic. Should call it project “alternate explanation” Believe me it was plenty cold before we got to work. You can see the results of our work in the satellite pictures – but the real results are in the press coverage. Each hair dryer in the cold melted certainty into doubt. Success.

  9. 59

    @ owl905 pls get in touch yr old email addresses don’t work

  10. 60
    flxible says:

    How did 58 overshoot the borehole?

  11. 61

    #60–Did *you* find it boring? Granted, there’s not a lot of scientific content, except by ironic inversion…

  12. 62
    Susan Anderson says:

    @60flxible: where is your sense of humor? Anyway, what other explanation is possible?

    cry me a river

  13. 63
    Susan Anderson says:

    I have been promoting that wonderful animation of the Danish DMI Arctic records (@24 & 34) and up popped a new denialist meme. Having had a moment to look more closely and think about it, I think it worthwhile to share this answer with anyone who encounters this new-minted argument:

    Since the white areas are “inferred” it is being claimed as evidence the ice is not there. I took a closer look, so if you get this denial meme, note all the confirmed red observations are at the edges. The Arctic having then been more intemperate than it is now, with no airplane flyovers (airplanes being a lot less powerful then, it would have been dangerous to an extreme) or satellites, and shipping not so advanced, it would be surprising if they did have any observations not on the edges, but the edges are quite clearly defined.

    http://gergs.net/2013/07/more-northern-sea-ice/
    “The animation is drawn from the Danish Meteorological Institute’s sea ice maps for August in each year from 1920 to 1939. The red marks show actual records of ice conditions and the white area is the inferred ice extent.”

    In the process of looking this out, I also found Gavin @9. Very helpful as well:
    http://nsidc.org/forms/g02169.html

  14. 64
    Alan says:

    RE #49 – Nice one Hank. The Stewart/Wallace debate you link to is IMHO the most rational and honest political debate to come out of the US in well over a decade, kudos to both of them.

  15. 65

    #63–Yes, a ridiculous argument if you ask me, but then a lot of these arguments are ridiculous. Yet it’s dangerous to let them go unchallenged.

    It’s an interesting question, this early Arctic aviation thing. I’ve written about S.A. Andree’s “Svea” expedition, which turned into a Swedish national tragedy–the article is actually about the life and career of Nils Ekholm, who was on the original crew, and who (as a scientific buddy of Arrhenius) later wrote on CO2-mediated global warming:

    http://doc-snow.hubpages.com/hub/Global-warming-science-press-and-storms

    (And, BTW, a renewed hat-tip to Martin Vermeer, who kindly volunteered some research assistance back when I was working on the article.)

    Of course, it didn’t stop with Svea–for instance, the Graf Zeppelin came within 490 nautical miles of the Pole in 1931:

    http://www.airships.net/lz127-graf-zeppelin/polar-flight

    Interestingly, one of those onboard was Arthur Koestler, later a Cold Warrior and author of Darkness At Noon.

    But that was by no means a first or a best; Amundsen had got within 150 NM of the Pole in 1925, Richard Byrd claimed (controversially) to have reached it in 1926. Umberto Nobile is generally considered to have been first to reach the Pole via the air. His flight aboard the airship Norge was a little later that year. Further expeditions in the Italia in 1928 were marred by disaster:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umberto_Nobile#Polar_expeditions

    Amundsen was lost during SAR operations; Nobile was eventually rescued and in fact was aboard the Soviet icebreaker Malygin, which met the Graf Zeppelin.

    It’s certainly true that data is sparse for the Arctic basin before the satellite era. But it’s not non-existent:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Arctic_expeditions

    I don’t know if anyone has been over the observations made during these diverse trips. But I’ve never heard of anything suggesting that anything close to current conditions was observed in the 20s–well, not comprehensively and credibly, anyway.

  16. 66
    Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks Kevin (~65), I was hoping for more information, will take a look. Anything about arctic melt brings the critters out from under the rocks and I’d like to be better informed.

  17. 67
    Kevin O'Neill says:

    Susan – One place to find useful information is to look at all the various expeditions that tried to find a Northwest (or Northeast) Passage. Wiki has a pretty good timeline.

    I’d start with the Franklin Expedition, the McClure Expedition, the Vega Expedition, and Nansen’s Fram Expedition. Each tells you something about the state of the arctic at the time. You can go further back into the 1600s or 1700s — but the information seems more fanciful than scientific in many cases.

    The McClure expedition saw their ship frozen in the ice for 3 years. They ended up abandoning it and finishing the journey on foot and by sledge. Nansen intentionally froze his ship (the Fram) into the ice in hopes of drifting with the ice across the pole.

    There are dozens of expeditions to read about and the amount of information varies – some we’ll never know their exact fate (i.e., they never returned).

  18. 68
    Hank Roberts says:

    > some we’ll never know their exact fate (i.e., they never returned)
    I’d bet the nuclear navies have pretty good Arctic seabottom maps in their secret files, and the oil companies will to if they don’t already. Likely some historical answers will be there.

  19. 69
    adelady says:

    But surely the regular recordings of Arctic ice extent would have come from all the sailing there. Sealers, whalers, fishing and trading vessels would have reported regularly to their owners about any observable changes in the accessibility of different areas and particular ports and of sailing and operating conditions being more or less difficult on each voyage.

  20. 70

    Re : 66/67 I found ‘Weird and Tragic Shores’ the story of Charles Hall to be particularly interesting and useful. It’s more of a documentary, though.

  21. 71

    “But surely the regular recordings of Arctic ice extent would have come from all the sailing there. ”

    Yes, I believe that the Walsh & Chapman reconstruction of sea ice extent uses such data. I don’t know if it used overflight data as well.

    But you can probably take a look; I know it’s linked from this SkS post from last year:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/record-arctic-sea-ice-melt-to-levels-unseen-in-millennia.html

  22. 72
    pete best says:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/jul/24/arctic-ice-free-methane-economy-catastrophe?INTCMP=SRCH

    Peter Wadhams thinks that the Arctic is in more trouble than the general climate science community would admit to from the models

  23. 73
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Peter Wadhams
    He’s been mentioned here, a few dozen times, quite recently.
    For rather comprehensive, up-to-date discussions of the same stuff see
    https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,459.msg10704.html#msg10704
    and
    http://planet3.org/2013/07/26/what-is-the-deal-with-methane/

  24. 74
    Tom Adams says:

    My favorite media misrepresentation was one by Paul Harvey. He claimed that scientist had bee wrong about the ozone hole because they were now saying “never mind”. The real story was Dow had a breakthough that helped get big industry behind the elimination of HFC pollution putting the hole on a reversal trend.

  25. 75
    Robert Bristow says:

    No surprise at another misleading climate statement in the U.K press, many people in my country (N.Z) are still convinced by David Rose of the Mail stating that temperatures stopped rising 16/17 years ago. What amazes me is the amount of misinformation gets published regarding Climate Change, other science fields/projects (Large Hadron Project etc.), do not suffer from this misinformation so why do they think respectable climate scientists are fair game. It doesn’t make any kind of sense to me.


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