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North Pole notes

I always find it interesting as to why some stories get traction in the mainstream media and why some don’t. In online science discussions, the fate of this years summer sea ice has been the focus of a significant betting pool, a test of expert prediction skills, and a week-by-week (almost) running commentary. However, none of these efforts made it on to the Today program. Instead, a rather casual article in the Independent showed the latest thickness data and that quoted Mark Serreze as saying that the area around the North Pole had 50/50 odds of being completely ice free this summer, has taken off across the media.

The headline on the piece “Exclusive: no ice at the North Pole” got the implied tense wrong, and I’m not sure that you can talk about a forecast as evidence (second heading), but still, the basis of the story is sound (Update: the headline was subsequently changed to the more accurate “Scientists warn that there may be no ice at North Pole this summer”). The key issue is that since last year’s dramatic summer ice anomaly, the winter ice that formed in that newly opened water is relatively thin (around 1 meter), compared to multi-year ice (3 meters or so). This new ice formed quite close to the Pole, and with the prevailing winds and currents (which push ice from Siberia towards Greenland) is now over the Pole itself. Given that only 30% of first year ice survives the summer, the chances that there will be significant open water at the pole itself is high.

The actuality will depend on the winds and the vagaries of Arctic weather – but it certainly bears watching. Ironically, you will be able to see what happens only if it doesn’t happen (from these web cams near the North Pole station).

This is very different from the notoriously over-excited story in the New York Times back in August 2000. In that case, the report was of the presence of some open water at the pole – which as the correction stated, is not that uncommon as ice floes and leads interact. What is being discussed here is large expanses of almost completely ice-free water. That would indeed be unprecedented since we’ve been tracking it.

So why do stories about an geographically special, but climatically unimportant, single point traditionally associated with a christianized pagan gift-giving festival garner more attention than long term statistics concerning ill-defined regions of the planet where very few people live?

I don’t really need to answer that, do I?

827 Responses to “North Pole notes”

  1. 151
    Hank Roberts says:

    John, I think his point in 128 is that the ‘new ecological niche’ you suggest will be created in an ice-free Arctic is likely at first to be a biological desert, because of the rate of change.

    The rate of change from human causes is far faster than any past event short of an asteroid impact.

    Earth abides; it has little practice hurrying.

    Much of the primary production (q.v.) comes right at the edge of the melting ice each year.

    The marine biologists are very attentive to what’s changing for that reason.

  2. 152
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 146

    Great question and one I have been asking on the several blogs posting Arctic ice melt threads. Question ignored.

    There is a fascination (maybe obsession) with measure of ice melt extent with virtually no discussion or concern about the impact of an ice-free Arctic on precip and temp in western North America.

    As the Australian drought continues to repeat, wheat harvest will likely continue to be affected. How the world will maintain grain surplus if weather in W. NA worsens the grain production there is not on the radar yet. But, it will be.

    How about some thought and response to Craig’s question?

    John McCormick

  3. 153
    iheartheidicullen says:

    regarding inline response to #7

    where is this increased seasonality/variability associated with the SH? i think you might be confused with resolution, as both hemispheres appear to normally fluctuate + or – about 1 million square km each year. as for which pole is “significant”, i guess of course that is for you to say! by the way, the largest annual anomaly (negative) occurred 1979-1980 and took place in the SH, with -3 million square km lost compared to the NH loss of -2 million square km last year. for betting purposes, there was not a SH repeat the following year.

  4. 154
    Hank Roberts says:

    > where is this increased seasonality/variability …? …
    > both hemispheres appear to normally fluctuate + or – about
    > 1 million square km each year …

    What’s your source for that number? Why do you believe it?
    Are you confusing the anomaly with the variability? Look at the size of the anomaly as a percentage of normal variation.
    Compare your information to this, see if it helps:

  5. 155
    iheartheidicullen says:

    re 154:

    yes that is my source. look at the axis for NH/SH. i guess the absolute value including the anomaly would be the variability – no?

  6. 156
    iheartheidicullen says:

    yes, the fluctuation i refer to is from the ANOMALY graphs (for each hemisphere)from uiuc.

  7. 157
    Anne van der Bom says:

    What I miss completely, is what North Pole are we talking about? The magnetic North Pole or geographic North Pole?

    The submarines in open water at the North Pole is probably the magnetic North Pole, which has been moving northward quite fast. So an ice free magnetic North Pole in 2008 is something different than, say, 1959. According to the data, it was located at 70 degrees north in 1830.

    [Response: Everyone is talking about the geographic North Pole. – gavin]

  8. 158
    Nick Barnes says:

    iheartheidicullen @ 153, Hank @ 154: The bald statement of “+ or – about 1 million square km each year” is broadly true; see the long-term anomaly graphs at Cryosphere Today:
    However, this superficially true statement is also misleading; it is disingenuous, or at best ignorant, to equate the two anomalies.

    The southern-hemisphere anomaly:
    – is a much smaller proportion of the SH area; and
    – has no statistically significant trend (the 2008 numbers are peculiar, but it is much too soon to tell whether this is a trend).

    The northern-hemisphere anomaly:
    – is larger in absolute terms;
    – is much larger in relative terms;
    – has had a very clear trend for two full decades; and
    – this trend has clearly accelerated in the last five years.

  9. 159

    #152 When the land or ice scape is drastically changed, fundamental differences in atmospheric planetary waves occur. I guess we are just learning about these changes as they come along. This means that the weather in your location may seem a little different than usual. Climate models
    may give you a better long term idea. I have noticed a few things, winter is greatly milder
    in most parts of the Arctic, dominant winds have equally changed there, rain or precipitation patterns seem out of whack pretty much everywhere else on Earth as well. 500 year Mid West flooding events occur every 15 years for instance, as Dr Masters has said on his website. If one huge area of the world has been transformed, weather wise. since every weather system is interconnected, like multiple gears in a machine, change the size, or features of one gear, and the entire machine behaves differently.

  10. 160
  11. 161
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #146: Craig, there are recent model results linking reduced Arctic sea ice to increased drought in the Western U.S. We may already be seeing the effects of this linkage, although it’s far too early for a formal attribution to be made.

    That aside, less summer ice will mean a lot more heat gain throughout the Arctic, with dorect local implications for the permafrost, the Greenland ice sheet and (worst case) the East Siberian Shelf shallow clathrates. That said, as the Arctic warms the whole planet will be affected.

  12. 162
    iheartheidicullen says:

    come on nick, “superficial” “disingenuous” “misleading”? same “trend” would be apparent in SH from 1993 on. “trend” currently in limbo in NH, i guess that’s what the excitement’s about. 50/50 odds, maybe i shouldn’t have got out of bed today with that kind of likelihood.

    “at best ignorant”

  13. 163
    Lowell says:

    Here is a good satellite picture of the NorthWest Passage from yesterday (June 29, 2008). No ships going through that for about 6 weeks (with a resulting two or three week window to reach the Pacific before it freezes up again in mid-September.)

  14. 164
    Eyal Morag says:

    Why they (Credit: Peabody Energy) did the photo manipulation?
    I think that connect to the problem of peak coal that may come soon. If we can’t trust coal we should find alternative now. the manipulated photo show that there is a lot of coal. The original attached text in “An Export in Solid Supply” by CLIFFORD KRAUSS is
    “An 80-foot wall of coal at Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle mine in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming is an example of abundance in America.”

    By the way I guess there used to be mountain peak above the coal In the photo.

  15. 165
    pat neuman says:

    Re: 146 “If the Arctic ocean shifts to being largely ice free in summer, what impact will this have on Northern Hemisphere weather patterns?”

    Maybe we’ve already seen some of the impact with shrinking Arctic sea ice in recent years.

    My observations agree with the statement on the NOAA NCDC Global Warming website that:

    … “there is evidence of increases in the heavy and extreme precipitation events”
    in mid-high northern latitudes.

  16. 166
    catman306 says:

    Does anyone know if anyone keeps track of ‘dry fronts’? I live in a region (N. Georgia) that has been experiencing droughts for the past several years. We seem to be having the usual number of fronts passing per week (1 or 2), but 20 years ago each front would produce 1/2 to 1 inch of rain. Last summer and this, each front may only produce 0.1 inch to 1/4 inch. So we get lightning and wind, which may be quite intense, but very little rain.

    If a ‘dry front’ is defined as a front that produces less than 0.1 inch of rain, is anyone keeping track? This might be a new metric for tracking the desertification of the SE US.

  17. 167
    CobblyWorlds says:

    #146 Craig Allen, #152 John L McCormick,

    I gave up posting what more I was going to say, keeps getting rejected by the filter. But in short, yes there will be an impact, yes it quite possibly is already happening. I am worried about it.

  18. 168
    Nick Barnes says:

    iheartheidicullen @ 162: Sorry if my tone was intemperate, but really the SH and NH sea ice trends have been analysed at length online by Tamino and others, over the last year or two, with the clear conclusion that the SH anomaly trend is small (the anomaly at the maximum last year was about 1.5% of the mean annual maximum, if I remember correctly) and not statistically significant (at the 95% level, I think), whereas the NH trend is large (tens of percent), long-lived, and statistically very significant indeed.

  19. 169
    Gareth says:

    Re #146, #152, #167

    Recent papers with a direct bearing on this issue:
    “Accelerated Arctic land warming and permafrost degradation during rapid sea ice loss”
    David Lawrence, Andrew Slater, Robert Tomas, Marika Holland, and Clara Deser
    Geophysical Research Letters, June 13, 2008
    (UCAR press release)

    Good coverage of this at Open Mind, and extensive discussion at Hot Topic here.

    Lawrence et al focus in the impact on permafrost, but that are equally significant implications for the whole NH.

    Also significant:Greenland Ice Core Analysis Shows Drastic Climate Change Near End Of Last Ice Age

    Startlingly, the Greenland ice core evidence showed that a massive “reorganization” of atmospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere coincided with each temperature spurt, with each reorganization taking just one or two years, said the study authors.

    Lawrence et al find evidence of a significant and rapid step change in Arctic temperatures associated with rapid loss. We’re seeing rapid ice loss. If the atmosphere can reorganise on such short time-scales, we badly need to look inside the models to see if we can tease out the implications. Perhaps Gavin might like to comment – or better, work up a post on the issue…

  20. 170
    l david cooke says:

    RE: 166

    Hey Catman,

    From observations I have been making since the 1980’s the reason for the dry fronts you are experiencing in GA may be related to the reason for the reduction in US coast crossing tropical storms over the last two-three years. A La Nina event appears to set up a series of seasonal pressure waves which are the reverse of what you should see during a neutral or positive ENSO pattern.

    It appears that during an La Nina period an anti-cyclonic (high pressure) zone sets up near Southern Arizona and New Mexico drifting between S. Cali and S. Texas during the early summer. If this high pressure wave drifts south it appears to cut off the flow of Gulf of Mexico water vapor from flowing up the Mississippi Valley and feeding the normal Late Spring and Early Summer afternoon showers in the Southern Mid-Atlantic region.

    Normally we would see the Bermuda High pressure wave interacting with this SW US pressure wave, by oscillating East and West. Since the mid-1970s the two patterns appear to have become disconnected at times with the Bermuda High retrograding and sitting off the coast of the Savannah/Charleston region at times, resulting in an increasing occurrence of a dry, high temperature wind coming out of the SW. At other times it will take up a station about 400-500 miles SSW of Ireland.

    (In the mid-80s the Bermuda High actually retrograded to the point it set up south of Panama City FL.) (You may remember this period as when one season the Mid-West had a drought and the Southern farmers shipped hay to them and two seasons later the Southern farmers had a drought and the Mid-Western farmers returned the favor.) It appears the Bermuda and SW US High, at least for the last 5 years, has more of a the character of moving North and South.

    In short, the current pattern will likely breakdown over the next two years and the El Nino pattern will slowly reassert itself with the wetter and generally warmer winter temperatures in GA. While the Mid-west will likely return to their normal balanced moisture with cooler winter time temperatures. There is a real good review of the effects of the ENSO events at the NOAA site and as of last Fall there was a good reference to be found there that talked about the formation of Stagnant Fronts. (Note: One of the modeled expectations related to Climate Change relates to an increase in formation and duration of Stagnant Fronts. )

    Dave Cooke

  21. 171
    Nigel Williams says:

    This pix from Cryosphere

    viewed in the context of the last few weeks shows how homogenous the whole ice pack is, and most disturbingly how the area adjacent to the Canadian Archipelago is now showing as in the 80% to 60% range. This would seem to suggest that the multi-year ice is now well and truly adrift and practically indistinguishable among the mush of younger ice. With no anchoring of the old ice and the on-going push through Fram Straight the whole future of the Arctic over the next few months looks like it will be determined by how the wind blows.

  22. 172
    Gareth says:

    Nigel (#171),

    Try looking at the higher resolution sea ice images available from the University of Bremen here (my new favourite sea-ice site – hat-tip to LG Norton at #110 above). You can see a lot more of what’s going on – and it certainly looks as though a lot of the multi-year ice is disappearing fast…

  23. 173
    Robert says:

    What effect will the melting north pole ice have on sea levels? Did someone actually ask that with a straight face???

    Try this: Fill a glass half full of ice. Fill the remainder with water. Let the ice melt.


    [Response: You are mostly right, but (as always) the real world is a little more complicated. The main issue is that sea ice is fresher than sea water (has less salt), and since salty water is more dense (1028 kg/m3) than fresher water (1004 kg/m3 for 5 psu), the volume of sea water displaced by the ice is slightly less than the volume of the ice if it melted. Thus sea levels do rise if fresh ice melts over a salty ocean. Having said that, it is a really small effect – if the entire Arctic summer sea ice pack melted (average thickness 2 metres, density ~920 kg/m3, area 3×10^6 km^2 (0.8% total ocean area) => a 4.5 cm rise instantly which implies a global sea level rise of 0.36 mm. Given current rates of rise of 3 mm per year, this is negligible (but not zero). – gavin]

  24. 174
    Craig Allen says:

    With regard to my (#146) question about the effect of an ice-free arctic on weather patterns:

    I’ve been thinking about atmospheric circulation a lot as I try to work out what global warming if doing to Australia’s climate. So bringing together my shambolic understanding of atmospheric circulation, here are my pondering on the implication of an ice free arctic for northern hemisphere weather.

    1) It seems to me that the key mechanism for any impact must be the changes that increased arctic ocean temperatures will impose on the atmospheric circulation feature known as the Polar Cell, and via this on the Ferrel cell which sits over the mid latitudes.

    There are handy explanations of these at Wikipedia …
    * Atmospheric circulation
    * Hadley cell

    2) The World’s deserts are due to the down-welling of dry air caused by the northern and southern Hadley Cells. This works as follows: As hot air rises in the tropics, moisture condenses causing high tropical rainfall. As it descends in the Horse latitudes (approx 30 degrees north and south) the opposite effect happens and deserts therefore occur. It seems that decreasing rainfall in these regions in recent decades is due to a shift and expansion of this down-welling toward higher latitudes due to global warming. In the northern hemisphere this is causing the desert regions to expand northward. In the south they are expanding southward. This is very evident in Australia, where the east moving low pressure systems that bring us our rain increasing pass south of the continent. As a result, our westerly fronts are much drier than in the past.

    3) At the poles, cold air within the Polar Cells descends then travels equator-ward and rises at the junction with the Ferrel Cells at the temperate latitudes around 60 degrees. (The Ferrel Cells are a secondary cells that sit between and are driven by the circulation of the Polar and Hadley cells.) The descending air masses of the Polar Cells is responsible for low precipitation at the polls. And likewise it is responsible for high precipitation where the air rises at the junction with the Ferrel Cells at latitudes 60 degrees.

    4) So in thinking about the implications of a warmer arctic, we need to consider what this will do to the circulation of the Arctic Polar Cell. Given that it is driven by the descent of cool air at the poll, a warmer arctic would presumably slow the circulation. Therefore you would expect that the southward movement of air from the poll to latitude 60 degrees would slow. This would have a kick-on effect on the Ferrel cell, so you would expect the northerly movement of surface air – the mid latitude westerlies – within that cell to also slow. With a decreased mass of air moving, perhaps we will see decreased precipitation at and around latitude 60 degrees where it ascends. Then again, with a big expanse of exposed arctic ocean, you would expect evaporation to increase, so rainfall might be expected to increase north of the confluence of the Polar and Ferrel cells.

    5) Given that that Ferrel Cells acts like a ball bearing between the upwelling of the Polar Cells and the downwelling of the Hadley Cells, you would expect there to be weather implications within the region of the Northern Ferrel Cell if the relative rate of circulation of the Arctic Polar and Northern Hadley cells alters. If there is an increased miss-match between the mass of air movement in each, then perhaps this would lead to increase turbulence and therefore increased storminess. Alternatively, perhaps the Hadley cell is currently slower than the Polar cell, so the slowing of the Polar Cell will actually bring the two into better accord and storminess will decrease. I imagine that this has implications for the number and intensity of tornadoes and hurricanes.

    Can anyone point to discussions of this sort of thing anywhere on the internet? Preferably by someone who knows what they are talking about – unlike myself. And does anyone know what the current balance is between the Northern Polar and Hadley cells. Surely someone somewhere is investigating all this with climate models.

  25. 175
    Jamie says:

    Well, the WSJ is at it again.

    “Global Warming as Mass Neurosis” by Bret Stephens

    1. Let’s confuse the mean temperature of the continental 48 with the mean temperature of the whole world!

    2. Now how about the increasing ice extent in the Antarctic??

    3. This winter the Northern Hemisphere was the coldest in decades! (And a bunch of German scientists predict global warming will take a “vacation” for a few years.)

    4. And 3,000 scientific robots have shown that the ocean has cooled over the last five years!

    I know enough from following the discussions here to ignore the first three points, but I missed the underlying story likely misrepresented in point 4. Someone care to comment, or point me to the relevant discussion?

  26. 176
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Robert, people often don’t consider the ice on Arctic land. The situation is more like a bowl with an ice cube in the water and another resting on the rim. Tip the ice on the rim into the water (i.e., melt the land ice), and the water level in the bowl rises.

  27. 177
    Jim Galasyn says:

    The young neocon speaks. This really belongs in The Weekly Standard.

    Anybody care to compose a rebuttal for comments?

  28. 178
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Eyal Morag @164: “By the way I guess there used to be mountain peak above the coal In the photo.”

    No, The Powder River basin is in the rolling high plains of NE Wyoming and SE Montana and there is relatively little overburden above the coal beds.

  29. 179
    l david cooke says:

    RE: 174

    Hey Craig,

    I am afraid this discussion my be slightly OT, as both your and my observations may involve processes unrelated to changes in Arctic Ice Coverage. I read through your thoughts and though I am not an expert being little more then a layman myself, I have some insights that seem different from your developing hypothesis.

    First and foremost is I have yet to see a good discussion on how Global Warming effects your observation of a Northward movement of the apparent circulation of the ITCZ heat energy and water vapor distribution. I have a hypothesis of my own; however, I have insufficient synoptic data to back it up. I can share with you two observations I think are crucial. The first is the NASA observations in 2004 and again in 2005 that demonstrate that the air high over the poles appeared to be warmer then normal, though at the surface the temperatures appear normal and drier in Winter. While in the Summer the temperatures appear to be slightly warmer and a bit wetter. The second observation relates to the apparent difference in the wet/dry adiabatic altitude at temperatures in the range of -30 Deg C. Apparently, the British Arctic Survey Team operating out of Northern Canada in 2006 seemed to suggest that the formation of ice/snow in the upper atmospheric region of around 250mb seems to be remaining as super cooled water drops.

    Secondly, as to your thoughts in regards to the Polar, Farrel and Hadley cellular interaction. It is likely the interface between the Hadley and the Farrel cells drive the Northern Jet Stream. Though I have not seen any data that would suggest the speed of the Jet Stream has shown a decrease. However, occurrence of the north and southern deviation (meanderings) of the Jet Stream have increased to the point that many former seasonal patterns appear to be changing. At issue is trying to determine the cause of these changes, for instance are the deviations due to an attempt of the Jet Streams to speed up? Where as more the impetus for speed has been traded for increased volume and without constraint it has resulted in increased the North/South meandering. However, most winds, even the Jet Stream, are more likely driven by the differences in Air Pressure cells and not circulation interaction or latitudes.

    The interesting thing is when looking at the synoptic record we have a clear signature of an increase in the speed of the surface Polar Easterlies in the NH. At the same time we seem to have an indication of a decrease of the surface Temperate Zone Walker circulation between 20 and 40 Deg. North and South. Yet, if we look at the Air Pressure records, ( ) at the various altitudes there does not seem to be a increase in these values, though the occurrence of where the Air Pressure zones occur seem to be related to the ENSO, PDO and NAO interaction. At best there seems a possibility that the geographical breadth of these Air Pressure Zones may have changed rather then their intensity.

    In the past we have had extensive discussions in regards to these observations on UKWeatherWorld; however, there has not been much research released recently. Hence, the discussions have waned there over time. I can share that there may be several resources you may want to research further as you continue to develop your hypothesis. NOAA and the Hadley Met Center have quite a collection of discussions and studies along these lines as do several of the Scandinavian countries. However, I do not recall any discussions that appear to track with your current thoughts.

    Dave Cooke

  30. 180
    pete best says:

    OFF TOPIC but can anyone verify or refute this paper on GHG:

    [Response: Garbage (again). – gavin]

  31. 181
    Aaron Lewis says:

    Re 172 and therein cited,
    This pattern of ice melt is hard for polar bear “cubs of the year” to survive. Unless the multi-year ice reverts to shore anchored modes, we may be seeing the functional extinction of polar bears.

  32. 182
    pat neuman says:

    In #170 david cooke wrote … “While the Mid-west will likely return to their normal balanced moisture with cooler winter time temperatures.” …

    However, warming trends are evident in the climatalogical data. Thus it is not possible for the Mid-west to return to “cooler winter time temperatures”.

    Data plots:

  33. 183
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Okay, I’d like to post the following rebuttal to the WSJ opinion piece. Before I post, any feedback from this great group is appreciated!

    It’s unfortunate that WSJ would run an editorial that contains so many factual errors. They are, in order:

    “NASA now begrudgingly confirms that the hottest year on record in the continental 48 was not 1998, as previously believed, but 1934.”

    This claim confuses local temperature with global temperature. The trend for global temperature is inexorably upward.

    “Six of the 10 hottest years since 1880 antedate 1954.”

    According to the Hadley Centre, the 11 warmest years on record occurred in the last 13 years. This claim also fails to note the increase in droughts, especially in the US West.

    Data from 3,000 scientific robots in the world’s oceans show there has been slight cooling in the past five years, never mind that “80% to 90% of global warming involves heating up ocean waters,” according to a report by NPR’s Richard Harris.

    This claim fails to note that in the NPR story, the the principal researcher notes the cooling is “not anything really significant.” Furthermore, this claim fails to note the long-term trend in ocean heat content, which is inexorably upward.

    “The Arctic ice cap may be thinning, but the extent of Antarctic sea ice has been expanding for years.”

    This claim ignores the accelerating disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). It also neglects the imminent destruction of the entire Arctic sea-ice ecosystem.

    “Last winter was the Northern Hemisphere’s coldest in decades.”

    This cooling is caused by La Niña, a phase of the well-known El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the ocean-atmosphere system.

    As for the larger claim that climate science is religious in nature, its empirical basis is at least as strong as that of economics. When Mr. Stephens dismisses the results of climate science as “neurotic” and “Social-ist,” he should tell it to the Marx-spouting liberals in the global re-insurance industry.

    Munich Re, for example, states unequivocally that “Munich Re and its experts have been drawing attention to man-made climate change and its effects since 1973. In the long term, global warming will lead to a further increase in weather-related natural catastrophes, the financial impact of which will have to be borne by insurers and the public. Rapid international action is called for.”

  34. 184
    gavin says:

    #144 Peabody image manipulation

    I made an animated gif of the overlain sections and it shows quite clearly that the left hand 30% of the image overlays directly (with slight scaling) on to the part of the image from 280 to 480 pixels. It is clearly a picture of the same spot taken at a different time of day (hence the shadows change). As to why they would have done it, and then claimed that it was just a question of ‘touching up‘ the photo, that remains a mystery.

  35. 185
    Mark says:

    [# arja Says:
    28 June 2008 at 8:22 AM

    Why do you keep on telling your kids funny stories about father Christmas living at North Pole? Everyone should know that he lives in Finnish Lapland. What on earth would his reindeer eat at North Pole. Ice?]



  36. 186
    l david cooke says:

    RE: 182

    Hey Pat,

    Not to quibble; however, I have done an extensive analysis of the USHCN data for the Mid-Western region just for kicks, myself. For 40 of the sites for which there is a historic record of a minimum of 75-78 years and 8 sites of which there is a record of more then 110 years in this region, the Monthly low temperature, when tracked from year to year separately for the Months Dec. Jan. and Feb., shows an average low temperature rise of 1.5 degrees since 1930-33 using a 30 sample moving average.

    Point being is, I suspect we have a miscommunication occurring. Though there is a increase in the low temperatures, whether it is your estimate of a rise of 12 Deg. F or the USCHN record demonstrating a 1.5 (+/-.5) degree average monthly long term rise, the low temperatures are generally lower during a positive ENSO or negative to neutral transition for this region. Normally, they will warm during a negative ENSO of positive to negative transition based on my long term observations.

    I am curious though, is your data based on the measured daily low temperature? If so how widely distributed are your sensing stations? Have you noted a change in the relative or specific humidity at each station that tracks with the changes in the temperature trend? Have you tried comparing the wet bulb/dry bulb low temperature data? Have you tried to analyze the range of the daily high and low temperature against the daily range in the humidity values? Have you tried tracking the difference in the high temperature from the day before to the current days low temperature to demonstrate the change in the radiational cooling from one day to the next day? Finally, have you ran a comparison between the indicated radiational cooling to the change in humidity?

    I know too many questions… I have found that a simple temperature analysis will not tell me as much as an analysis that reduces the confounding variables to a minimum. That is part of the problem the experts face today in that it is very difficult to separate the seed from the chaff. My hope is that the science will continue to march along with better data sets and increasingly improved analysis techniques. I am always curious as to how someone has arrived at the conclusions they have and an explanation of yours would be welcome, though a bit OT for this thread.

    Dave Cooke

  37. 187
    Mark says:

    RE: Chuck Booth #82

    Actually, the extra biomass would contain some current atmospheric CO2. But if it were even as much as a trillion tons of new animals and plants composed solely of carbon, we’d still have retarded the growth in CO2 by about three weeks.


    Be still my beating heart.

    This would also have to assume that our fishermen wouldn’t fish these stocks for our own consumption. How likely is that? We have had recent satellite pictures of no-go areas for fish breeding (and fish stocks haven’t recovered as quickly as models suggested). Where the poor recovery is because of fishing trawlers going in there and catching spawning fish. Even though, if they listen to their own people, they should know that fish stocks have to recover before they can fish at the old levels they were used to, so fishing now robs their future for fifty years so that they get paid for one year now.

    So not likely, is it.

  38. 188
    Chris Colose says:

    # 180

    The tone of that paper alone should give away its bias. Quite a bit of the paper involves attacking the analogy of a greenhouse to the actual greenhouse effect– it’s not a surprise to anyone that the analogy breaks down pretty quick, but the authors feel like they are making a revelation here. They go on about how a greenhouse effect violates thermodynamics, how a pot of boiling water invalidates the greenhouse effect, and other absurd remarks.

  39. 189
    Mark says:

    [Re: 125 John E. Pearson Says:
    29 June 2008 at 2:40 PM]

    However, this ecological niche of the North Polar Ocean is already occupied by organisms. Given no better models or reasoning, we can only assume that the new ecological niche will create new biomass opportunities (which as I’ve said earlier, is only a one-time reduction in CO2) at the expense of the biomass currently exploiting the current niche.

    If you want to take some time looking at the solution, feel free. But I’d call this a dead end (pardon the pun) until someone looks at it.

  40. 190
    Brian Dodge says:

    RE #174 Craig
    My layman’s view of the Polar cell circulation’s response to removal of the ice cover is:
    Open water picks up more solar heat; descending cool dry air is heated and moistened (latent heat); the warmer, moister, less dense air gets pushed south (& west; Coriolus effect) to the convergence with the Ferrel cell(s); this warmer, moister, less dense air rises faster; precipitation releases latent heat, increasing convection; the increased convection sends even more air mass higher in the atmosphere and poleward; radiation cools the poleward bound air mass, precipitating out more water; the cool dry dense air descends, continuing the cycle.
    I.e., I would expect more heat(sensible & latent)=> more convection=> more mass flow=> a stronger cell, at least in the summer. Latent heat released by freezing in the fall would tend to keep the increased convection going. If my simplistic qualitative view captures the dominant mechanisms, we should see larger seasonal variation as well.

    PS #112 Chris,
    thanks for checking my math – I should have entered 1e6 instead of 100000(it LOOKED like enough zeros!). I wonder what will be the cause du jour for this years melting?

  41. 191
    Phil. Felton says:

    Jim some suggestions:

    “NASA now begrudgingly confirms that the hottest year on record in the continental 48 was not 1998, as previously believed, but 1934.”

    In 2001 Hansen et al. published the following:
    “The U.S. annual (January-December) mean temperature is slightly warmer in 1934 than in 1998 in the
    GISS analysis (Plate 6). This contrasts with the USHCN data, which has 1998 as the warmest year in the century.
    In both cases the difference between 1934 and 1998 mean temperatures is a few hundredths of a degree. The main
    reason that 1998 is relatively cooler in the GISS analysis is its larger adjustment for urban warming. In comparing
    temperatures of years separated by 60 or 70 years the uncertainties in various adjustments (urban warming, station
    history adjustments, etc.) lead to an uncertainty of at least 0.1°C. Thus it is not possible to declare a record U.S.
    temperature with confidence until a result is obtained that exceeds the temperature of 1934 by more than 0.1°C.”
    So Hansen freely conceded this 7 years ago, nothing begrudging about it!

    “The Arctic ice cap may be thinning, but the extent of Antarctic sea ice has been expanding for years.”

    Hardly, the March extent (minimum) is changing at 4.2 ± 4.6 %, i.e. fluctuating without much trend, two years ago it was 20% below average.
    The September extent (maximum) is changing at 0.8 ± 0.8 % i.e. rather flat.

  42. 192
    Jamie says:

    RE 183


    Thanks for the rebuttal. I’m not competent to critique, but it does help me with point 4 in my post above.

  43. 193
    pat neuman says:

    David (#186),

    I updated the website (below) to include additional data plots.

    If you go there I think you will find the answers to your questions.

  44. 194

    #183, Jim, yet again another fabulous arm chair commentator from the WSJ. Similar to TV football anchors, but with a difference, he didn’t watch the climate change in person, is like a commentator looking at the stadium parking lot and making key comments about the football game in progress. I wonder if WSJ ever reported the astounding record Polar ice melt of 07?

  45. 195
    pete best says:

    Re #180, thanks Gavin. I knew it was but your response confirms it.

  46. 196
    Steve L says:

    Mark at 185 indicates that reindeer would eat penguins at the North Pole. I’ll ignore the problem of reindeer being herbivores, for the moment, because these are undoubtedly magical reindeer and I don’t know what THEY would eat. But I do know that there aren’t penguins at the North Pole. Search “penguin” here:

  47. 197
    Steve L says:

    Unless they are also magical, invisible penguins.

  48. 198
    Mark says:

    Phil, #191, I may be missing some text here, but

    “Hardly, the March extent (minimum) is changing at 4.2 ± 4.6 %, i.e. fluctuating without much trend, two years ago it was 20% below average.
    The September extent (maximum) is changing at 0.8 ± 0.8 % i.e. rather flat.”

    Means (as far as I can tell) that the minumum us changing by:

    Sometimes increasing by 0.4% (-1SD)
    Sometimes decreasing by 4.2% (median)
    Sometimes decreasing by 8.8% (+1SD)

    Given more than 1SD below is just as likely as more than 1SD above, this doesn’t mean “rather flat”.

    Same problem with the september. If the lower bound is 0%, only if the upper bound is also 0% could that be considered “flat”.

    Maybe it’s just the text you use.

  49. 199
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mark, did you learn New Math?
    I learned it the old way; I read it thus:

    > 4.2 ± 4.6 % is a range between these extremes:

    4.2 + 4.6 = +8.8 %
    4.2 – 4.6 = -0.4 %

    > 0.8 ± 0.8 % is a range between these extremes:

    0.8 + 0.8 = +1.6 %
    0.8 – 0.8 = 0

    How did you do the addition? Can you show your work?

  50. 200
    CL says:

    “Unless they are also magical, invisible penguins.”

    There were once the northern hemisphere equivalents of penguins.
    They were called the Great Auk. Humans killed them, to extinction.
    Magical, invisible birds. Gone forever.