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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. 351
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #327 paulm follow-on to Register screeds:

    This is probably completely futile to continue pursuing, but for what it’s worth “Steven Goddard” replies to my email. I believe this by and large a canned response:

    Dear Doug,

    Thank you for your thoughtful questions about the article.

    My intent in writing this series is to raise what I believe are legitimate questions about discrepancies and changes in published predictions and data.
    Over the last few years I have been surprised to see that some normally critical and analytical members of the press have treated a few government scientists as if their opinions were above question. America was built around a healthy skepticism of government, so why is government funded global warming research considered exempt by the American press?

    The only skills required to do this sort of analysis are a basic ability to read and understand maps, graphs and technical papers. As an engineer, my work often involves digging into other people’s work in detail to find possible sources of error, and I have applied the same methodology here. I have little interest into delving into theory – that is for climatologists. Rather, my interest is in comparing published predictions vs. actual results, as well as changes to published data.

    I have made in this article a short-term verifiable and falsifiable prediction about Arctic sea ice this summer. If I am incorrect, obviously my credibility is damaged. This is in sharp contrast to the standard global warming predictions of events 80+ years from now. I am amazed that some publications are even willing to print such nonsense.

    BTW- I have no direct or indirect ties to any energy industry and no financial stake in this debate. My interest is in making sure that decision makers and the press have accurate and complete information.

    I would love to do a Q&A with Dr. Hansen to get my questions answered.
    Best regards,

    I’ve asked him to come out into the light of day:


    Thanks for your reply. I was despairing of ever hearing from you.

    I’m going to reply with the assumption that you are in fact what you claim to be.

    To be blunt, your articles are offensive in that they accuse Dr. Hansen of scientific misconduct. Your remarks in both your latest and your earlier articles go quite beyond a simple processing of numbers, crossing instead into such excursions as:

    “Hansen is only telling half the story”


    “If someone wanted to present a case for a lot of recent warming, adjusting data upwards would be an excellent way to do it. Looking at the NASA website, we can see that the person in charge of the temperature data is the eminent Dr. James Hansen…”

    and finally:

    “…when the data is calibrated in lockstep with a very high-profile and public political philosophy, we should at least be willing to ask some hard questions. Dr. James Hansen at GISS is the person in charge of the NASA temperature data. He is also the world’s leading advocate of the idea of catastrophic global warming, and is Al Gore’s primary climate advisor. The discrepancies between NASA and other data sources can’t help but make us consider Einstein’s advice: “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.”

    That last quote goes beyond being a rhetorical question or tease and instead seems an attempt to steer readers to the conclusion that Dr. Hansen’s scientific work has become inseparable from and is fact dependent on external factors removed from pursuit of truth. That’s a very serious matter, and I can’t think you’d make that suggestion if you understood how serious such a charge really is. Perhaps you also don’t understand the patina of authority that comes with publication of opinion pieces such as yours in even such a low-level outfit as El Reg, but please believe (I think you already know this) there are legions of ill-informed folks just gobbling up what is perilously close to if not actually libel, authored by you and promoted by El Reg. It’s just not the same thing at all as a few hastily scrawled rants in a blog comments section.

    As I have remarked earlier, Dr. Hansen’s work and professional life is entirely visible, published for all to see. Meanwhile, you are anonymous. Without a CV your name means nothing, and in fact given that it includes “Goddard” the moniker seems fictitious. Nobody has the means to establish with certainty your credentials or more importantly the agenda you are pursuing (which does seem to include targeting Dr. Hansen specifically) or your track record of honesty and correctness. Your correctness is poor (see comments on Real Climate), which taken in conjunction with your seeming reluctance to identify yourself is positively destructive to any hope you may have of gaining a following among any but the ignorant (and I say “ignorant” in the non-pejorative sense).

    But given your peculiar personal attacks on Dr. Hansen it’s not really your credibility I care about. It’s giving Dr. Hansen or some useful (ie educated, practicing in the field) proxies the opportunity to perform public corrections on your public errors with your public participation that really counts. Hiding behind an obscure, self-moderated discussion thread at El Reg is not the way you can allow this to happen. You also can’t have a scientific repartee in the accepted sense as you don’t appear to work within the community of research scientists, so why not bring your discussion over to Real Climate and get the complete record corrected, not just to Dr. Hansen’s benefit but also incidentally your own?

    Thanks again for writing.


    PS– There are a number of people who believe Steve Goddard at UNL is you. They are conflating his professional activities with your opinion pieces. As I mentioned earlier in fairness to Dr. Goddard you need to correct this problem, which is another good reason to come out.

  2. 352
    cat black says:

    Interesting series of comments. The game is on! It seems pretty clear to me that the Denialists are mounting their final defense; regardless of the actual climatological meaning (being little to none) of an ice-free North Pole, the Denialists are correctly sensing that the unwashed masses are likely to come unglued in the event. Prudence dictates that no serious student of climate change place much weight on transient events like ice coverage (or lack of it) until such transients become trends in their own right. Weather is not climate, as they say, so the matter will generate no real science. So for now, I suppose, the Denialists can rage. If the ice melts it will be what it is, the cruise ship operators will reap a harvest in excursions. If it doesn’t then nothing else will have changed and we’ll continue to lurch unsteadily toward our certain future. The mass of Western men will resolutely keep to the sports page while the planet sorts itself out. Which of course it will. The science of all this is fascinating while the political argument is a revealing sideline. The two will proceed along their appointed paths unto the end because neither in itself can address the total problem. If we had actual scientists in political positions that might change things. I suspect the day is approaching when science will by law become policy, policy pulled out of thin air at the very edge of catastrophe. Then we will see what intelligent people bent on ultimate survival can really accomplish.

  3. 353
    Rod B says:

    Ray (332), but didn’t interstellar (and maybe “primordial stellar”) gravitational force begin and keep the whole galaxy going?

  4. 354
    Rod B says:

    Ray (349), we’re a bit OT here, but it’s interesting science. I can’t disagree with your numbers, but the effect? Is not the Sun’s gravitational pull on the Earth, and in turn the tidal forces, exactly the same as the Earth’s pull on the Sun, ignoring the nil angle differences? And if the Sun affects our tides wouldn’t the Earth cause tidal action on the Sun? Maybe even to a greater degree given the lower density of the solar atmosphere (at least at the fringes), though somewhat mitigated by that nil angle difference.

  5. 355
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, Amazing what you can do when you are the only force with unlimited range that doesn’t get canceled out by opposite charges, huh?

  6. 356
    David B. Benson says:

    It occured to me that many non-linear systems can entrain on a weak external forcing. So it is at least plausible that the 22 year solar cycle entrains on the Jupiter-Saturn tidal influence.

    That said, I find no 22 year influence on global temperature throughout the Holocene.

  7. 357
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 327, 351
    Perhaps the Register needs bigger numbers to set rates for advertisers?
    Seems trollish.

  8. 358
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Is not the Sun’s gravitational pull on the Earth, and in turn the
    > tidal forces, exactly the same as the Earth’s pull on the Sun …?

    Reality check needed here. Compare the masses of the Earth and Sun.

  9. 359
    Brian Dodge says:

    RE 352 cat black

    I disagree that the melting of the Arctic Ice cap is merely a “transient event” with little or no “actual climatological meaning”. The sediment core record indicates that no hot weather periods in the last 700,000 to as much as 4 million years resulted in open water over a large fraction (>60%) of the Arctic Sea including the North Pole(see comment 40). The meters thick ice covering millions of square kilometers has enough thermal inertia to shrug off warm weather(at least it has for hundreds of thousands of years), but not resist a warming climate. The thermal inertia of the thousands of meter thick Greenland Ice sheet makes its integrative time constant even longer(>20x volume, >1000x thermal path length, nonlinear function due to rate dependencies). My laymans’ viewpoint is that as the Arctic ice has thinned (due to global warming, climate change), it has moved to where it only now responds to the weather (will the North Pole be ice free this year? Depends on the wind, cloud cover, monthly temperature history etc; i.e., the weather). I agree that most people will not fully understand the implications of this, because most don’t know diddly about Hadley cells, Ferrel cells, the Polar cell, albedo, latent or sensible heat, and mechanisms by which solar energy can be transported from the Arctic to melt more of the Greenland ice sheet. They may have the wrong reasons, but they will see this as a “tipping point” and may well “come unglued”. Especially if they put $4+ a gallon gasoline, global warming disinformation, and Exxon/Mobil record profits together in a “perfect storm” (rightly or wrongly) of public reaction.

    When Dr. Hansen came unglued a teeny bit and called for the criminal prosecution of energy company executives, my first thought was “he’s REALLY frustrated from dealing with the Bush Administration”, followed quickly by “Holy [expletive] cow, he’s really worried; we’re in [expletive] deep [euphemism: excrement]” as the significance sank in. I’m not reassured, or optimistic.

    Regarding the issue of liability for the effects of global warming, I would like to point out that we’re(USA & developed nations population mostly) the ones who burned the fossil fuels to CO2, not Peabody Coal or Exxon/Mobil. Firearm and ammunition manufacturers aren’t held liable for the murder and mayhem their products (in the wrong hands) cause in our society.

    Perhaps if gun industry spokespeople had a history of claiming their products can’t cause harm, or that what appear to be bullet holes in people are actually caused by cosmic rays, sunspots, volcanoes, internal forcing, or other natural phenomena, the courts might rule differently.

  10. 360
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, this may help.

    “The Jupiter tide on the Sun is 1/1000 the height of the Moon’s tide on the Earth and totally insignificant. There is an equally strong tide on the Sun caused by Venus, but again, that tide is minuscule.”

    — Leif Svalgaard, at in the Spaceweather discussion, Posted – 07/06/2008 : 20:45:11

    It’s off topic here.

  11. 361
    l david cooke says:

    RE: 359

    Hey Brian,

    In regards to: “Regarding the issue of liability for the effects of global warming, I would like to point out that we’re(USA & developed nations population mostly) the ones who burned the fossil fuels to CO2, not Peabody Coal or Exxon/Mobil.”

    We may have been the ones to use the products; however, our governments were the ones that provided the environment for the products and vehicles to flourish and to become the “drug” of choice. In addition, it was our government that promoted and saw tax profits from the economic expansion opened up by these energy sources and the taxes that could be obtained by the exploitation of the oligopolies formed of both the fuel producers and the fuel consuming product manufactures.

    Our government and science researchers have been attempting to find a technical alternative for fossil fuels for nearly 60 years now. As wood became scarce, the development of plastics created from the cracked hydrocarbon wastes generated in the vaporization of oil have been harnessed to replace wood. As to transportation or industry the truth is there is no other portable energy source that offers quite the concentration of energy or the abundance found of the original bounty found in liquid fossil fuels.

    The point being we burned the fossil fuels because that was the most economical and over time it eventually became the only choice. As the systems were tuned to provide the most cost effective energy source and utilization, the transportation industry has grown into a oligopoly. We also have to keep in mind that part of the growth for the personal transportation and economic freight hauling we the need for alternatives to the rail oligopoly.

    Dave Cooke

  12. 362
    llewelly says:

    Lynn Vincentnathan (#258):

    I have an old clonker TV that I assume didn’t use that GHG, but I was thinking of perhaps buying a new TV once the digital conversion goes into effect next year, so now I’ll have to be sure it doesn’t involve nitrogen trifluoride in its manufacture.

    NF3 almost certainly wasn’t used to make it, but as far as I know, all of the etching gasses used for similar purposes are also very strong GHGs (and all of the etching gasses in use when Kyoto was formulated were included in it), of similar magnitude to NF3. Furthermore, essentially all electrictronics require etching gasses. The problem is by no means unique to TVs.

  13. 363
    dhogaza says:

    Is not the Sun’s gravitational pull on the Earth, and in turn the
    tidal forces, exactly the same as the Earth’s pull on the Sun …?

    Yeah, and when I jump off a cliff my gravitational pull on the earth is exactly the same as the earth’s pull on me.

    Yet, strangely, I’m the one that quickly accelerates to 200+ mph and goes “splat” soon after.

  14. 364
    Clarence says:

    Re #342, #347:

    The captions for the figures are here.

    Older ice isn’t necessarily thicker than younger ice. It may lose more during the summer than the freezing season can replace. An example is the floe that is carrying buoy #7413. It barely survived the 2007 melting season in the Beaufort Sea. In figure 4 of the April 2008 NSIDC sea ice news it must be located near the tip of the slim red strip. Now it’s heading towards the North Pole and it will be there until the beginning of September at current speed.

    Animations of sea-ice with position of buoy #7413: Full lifetime, weekly (2.3 MB), 2007 melting season, daily (4.1 MB).

  15. 365
    Mark says:

    [# Hank Roberts Says:
    6 July 2008 at 9:32 PM

    > Is not the Sun’s gravitational pull on the Earth, and in turn the
    > tidal forces, exactly the same as the Earth’s pull on the Sun …?

    Reality check needed here. Compare the masses of the Earth and Sun.]

    See, this is the sort of question to which the magnitude of effect is important. Not whether it’s possible: there IS a tidal effect from the solar system on the sun (despite the sun being part of the solar system). But when someone asks “is the effect the same?” you can answer “no”, not if the question is “can the sun be affected by the solar system”.

    If we’re going to be trusted, we need to be trustworthy in our answers.

  16. 366
    Mark says:

    Brian Dodge (359) Says:
    {Regarding the issue of liability for the effects of global warming, I would like to point out that we’re(USA & developed nations population mostly) the ones who burned the fossil fuels to CO2, not Peabody Coal or Exxon/Mobil. Firearm and ammunition manufacturers aren’t held liable for the murder and mayhem their products (in the wrong hands) cause in our society.}

    But when the companies deliberately lie or rubbish evidence because it will negatively affect their profit levels, they ARE involved intimately with the problem.

    The people who took up smoking in the ’60’s and ’70’s were lied to by advertising and propaganda from the tobacco companies telling them they were safe. In the 70’s and maybe into the 80’s they were deliberately lying to avoid telling people smoking was dangerous.

    For the people so lied to, their cancers ARE the fault of the company.

    Since then, there’s not been any debate about smoking being bad for your health, so people starting smoking since the mid/late 80’s have themselves to blame.

    Oddly enough, one of the biggest payroll sources for Anti-AGW propaganda is Phillip Morris: if the smoking lobby can convince people scientists wrong on GW, they can move on to whether they are wrong about smoking and cancers.

  17. 367
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, The relevant fact that you are missing is the fact that tidal forces go as the inverse cube of the distance. The Wikipedia article on the subject does a reasonable job of explaining this.

  18. 368
    Mark says:


    Re: 350, I noticed I worded it badly. Very badly. Oopsie.

    The reason why the moon nutation exists is because the moon is not a point object.

    Orbital mechanics is the only part of Rocket Science that deserves the use in the phrase “it’s not Rocket Science”. How a rocket works is easy. How to get it there (orbital mechanics) is the bloody hard bit!

  19. 369

    Okay, let’s do the math, since Mark still thinks he has a point.

    Webster (1925) gives the height of mid-ocean tides as:

    h = 0.85 MA RB4 / (MB r3)

    where h is the tide height, MA the mass of the tide-raising body, RB the radius of the affected body, MB the latter’s mass, and r the separation between them. The proportionality constant is for the SI.

    Let’s try Jupiter on the Sun. From NASA fact sheets, we have:

    MA = 1.8986e27
    RB = 6.96e8
    MB = 1.9891e30
    r = 7.7857e11

    This results in h = 0.000403 meter, or 0.403 millimeter. Not too significant.

    Now, let’s try the Milky Way galaxy on the Sun. New values are:

    MA = 2.0e42 (I assume 1 trillion Solar masses)
    r = 2.6e20 (I assume 27,000 light-years)

    This results in a tide of 1.1 x 10-14 meters, or about 10 billion times less than Jupiter raises. It is equivalent, in fact, to one one-hundred-millionth of a micron. It is a distance smaller than the width of a hydrogen atom.

    No significant effect. Sorry.


    Webster, A.G. 1925. The Dynamics of Particles and of Rigid, Elastic and Fluid Bodies. Leipzig: B.G. Teubner.

  20. 370
    Mark says:

    Re: #369


    The point is the query “Huh? The Milky Way is the galaxy we’re in” has nothing to do with “the sun will have tides from the Milky Way”.

    Oh, and the “tidal” pattern is because of the change in masses, not the average. Granted not much still, but your maths is measuring the wrong thing.


  21. 371
    Mark says:

    [Yeah, and when I jump off a cliff my gravitational pull on the earth is exactly the same as the earth’s pull on me.

    Yet, strangely, I’m the one that quickly accelerates to 200+ mph and goes “splat” soon after.]

    Wow. You must be very aerodynamic.

    Me? I’d be grabbing handfuls of air on the way down. Every little helps!

  22. 372
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mark, Re: the phrase “It’s not rocket science.”

    Um, not to nitpick, but actually, the propellant guys have to be pretty damned smart–we are talking controlled explosions here. A small mistake and you mixture either burns too hot, eroding your nozzle, or too cool, and you run out of fuel. And if you still doubt me, look up “multi-phase flow” and its relation to propellants. There is absolutely no part of spaceflight that is easy or routine.

  23. 373
    Mark says:

    [Um, not to nitpick, but actually, the propellant guys have to be pretty damned smart–we are talking controlled explosions here.]

    That’s merely engineering being difficult. The actual science is pretty straightforward. The difficult science is how to get down from your stable orbit into a lower stable orbit. You can’t accelerate down to that, it works against you.

  24. 374
    Nick Barnes says:

    Mark @ 370: yes, Abbe Mac @ 311 was technically correct to say that the Sun has tides from the Milky Way. But Barton @ 328 was also correct to say “Huh?”. The Swiss Alps raise much larger tides on the Sun than the Milky Way does.

  25. 375
    Rod B says:

    Hank (358), admittedly the respective accelerations will be different and depend on the individual masses, but the Force is exactly the same on both Earth and Sun. Doesn’t matter which is big M and which is little m. Same as an apple falling from a tree.

  26. 376
    Rod B says:

    Brian (359), a minor clarification. I am unaware of any significant (or even minor?) corings from the Arctic region, other than lower Greenland. Are there some? Or is your assertion an extrapolation ?

  27. 377
    Rod B says:

    Hank (360), despite the equality of gravitational forces, I agree the inequality of tidal acceleration makes it extremely difficult to imagine it as having any effect on any solar cycle.

  28. 378

    This gravitational discussion should come closer to home, there is a strange tidal anomaly
    which occurs uniquely during the full or new moon on Arctic Ocean ice.

    The best explanation I can give is that its tidal and wind combination, but tides occur everyday, just as the ice goes wild every full and new moon, not only on the coast but everywhere as reported by Polar ice extreme adventurers. . May be someone has a better explanation,
    gravity plays a role, that is all I know.

  29. 379

    I did a back of the envelope calc on the volcano thing. I looked up an estimate for total geothermal energy output of the Earth. To give a break to the volcano folks I assumed it all comes out through the oceanic ridges. Since there are 80,000 km of ridges and 1800 km (2.25%) of these are in the Arctic, I simply applied 2.25% of this total geothermal energy to a slab of ocean 500,000 square miles in area and 4 km deep. A temperature rise of 0.001 C per year would be the result.

    I then applied a 1 watt/sq meter forcing to a 10 meter thick slab of ocean and he atmosphere above to get a warming of 0.6 C per year. That is, a 1 watt/sq meter forcing has 600 times the strength of a geothermal effect.

    Note: The 0.6 C/yr warming isn’t an actual warming. Since the ocean is covered with ice, rather than warming the surface, the forcing would melt ice. The energy need to melt a volume of ice is equal to the energy needed to warm water by 80 C. Thus the energy that can produce 0.6 C of warming would cause the melting of 0.6/80 = 0.75% of the ice cover per year. Over a decade that is a 7.5% reduction in ice cover produced by imposition of a *net* 1 watt/sq meter forcing to the Arctic. Since the actual loss of ice is similar in magnitude to this figure, I conclude that a 1 watt/sq meter forcing is “big enough” to produce the melting actually seen, whereas geothermal energy is much too small.

    The reason the geothermal “melting power” is so small is because it is applied at the *bottom* of the ocean. It has to heat up all that water before it can affect the ice. The poster who called it the “Princess and the Pea” effect has it exactly right.

    Now there is one way geothermal energy could matter. If the normal geothermal energy were stored up for a long time and then released over a short time, then it could produce *transient* melting.

    For example, even if the average energy release is 1/600th the size of forcing effects, if the energy were stored up for 3000 years and then released over a single year, the effect would be 5 times larger than the forcing effect. This, of course, is what a volcano does. However, associated with volcanic energy releases are *explosions*.

    One of my sources said that about 1% of geothermal energy shows up as earthquakes, that is, kinetic/potential energy. The energy needed to warm a volume of water 1 degree C is equal to the energy needed to lift it 430 meters. If we assume that delivering energy volcanically is associated with about 1% of the energy beg released as potential/kinetic energy, this means that a 1 C warming (sufficient energy to melt 1.25% of the ice cover) would be associated with a potential/kinetic energy equivalent to lifting the ocean bed some 4 meters, which would generate an enormous tsunami.

    Since nothing like this has happened we can be sure than no volcanic eruption big enough to matter has happened.

    Another way to look at this is that an eruption large enough to melt a significant amount of ice would be on the order of 100,000,000 Hiroshima bombs. That is a big explosion.

  30. 380

    About #378, on the link mentioned
    you must look for a noticeable tidal wave, Caught during the full moon, which opened very thick sea ice near the NW archipelago coast. Apparently unusual and always during a lunar event in line with Earth and sun.

    As a matter of probable coincidence, definite observations confirmed an extraordinary event. On March 23, 1989 there was a huge lead opening off the archipelago coast which spanned from Greenland to near Alaska as seen on NOAA Satellite pictures. This lead opened through thick ice in front of many North Pole bound expeditions, causing a terrifying noise which lasted for several hours, as soon as it opened, sea water froze, it was very cold. This mega lead appeared to have closed within 24 hours. Causing a wall of new ice shingles 1 Km wide, 10 meters above the ice surface, as long as the eye can see. It took a snowmobile expedition 1 week to cross this new ice shingle ridge.

    Now here is the twist:

    On March 23 1989 an Asteroid , called Apollo had a near miss to Earth. Did this tiny little
    thing compared to the Earth, add to the gravitational full moon tidal anomaly? A question which I have yet seen resolved.

  31. 381
    Abbe Mac says:


    The high tides that happen at full and new moons are called spring tides. See Wikipeia Note that they happen twice for each orbit ot the moon.

    Therefore it is unlikely that the 11 year solar cycle is caused by Jupiter’s orbit. That also takes 11 years, but that means the solar tides it causes will peak every 5 1/2 years.

    Returning towards the topic, above the Arctic Circle there will be times when there is only one tide because points there will always remain closer to the sun and moon than the centre of the Earth in summer and further from them in winter.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  32. 382
    Mark says:

    Nick, 374.

    No, if Hank in posting #328 had said “huh? the tidal forces compared even to jupiter is miniscule” then that would have been correct. “Huh? the sun is part of the milky way” is incorrect.

    Later workings showed the numbers (and although the changes available are slightly larger, it’s only by a couple of orders of magnitute and still pretty insignificant) but no retraction to the silly rebuttal. The sun being part of the Milky Way doesn’t stop the sun feeling tidal forces from the milky way. The milky way being thinly spread stops the sun from feeling any *significant* tidal force from the milky way would have been better, but was an option not taken.

  33. 383

    #381, Alastair, Thanks, I looked at that, the tide magnitudes near the coast are apparently the same. I was always stumped by this, we call them spring tides, but the ice, acts a little stranger during these events. I would be more than happy to see a tidal chart showing an estreme anomaly in sea level at thesame moment as with observed tidal ice events, but the charts I’ve seen show 100 cm tides even at the full moon. Nevertheless spring tides have a significant impact on the withering ice as we write.

  34. 384
    Ray Ladbury says:

    ‘scuse me son, but how do you think you get down to your lower stable orbit without your propellant guys doing their job. I will say it again. There is no portion of spaceflight that is routine. I have worked on enough anomaly investigations and failure review boards to know that when you start saying “That’s easy,” your tuckus is about to disappear into the yawning maw of complacency. Every satellite is unique and faces its own dilemmas. I have seen propellant engineers save satellites that had been written off for lost. I’ve also seen people take a cavalier approach to a 24 hour mission and have it fail because of propellant problems. In space, nothing is easy.

  35. 385
    Rod B says:

    re OT rocket science. Before one relegates the entire field of rocket propulsion to engineering you really have to understand the history of nozzle development, e.g. Like gHz frequency digital modulators it’s pretty much (at least was initially) more of an art than a science, let alone an engineering challenge.

  36. 386
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mark wrote, conflating two hypotheticals:

    > No, if Hank in posting #328 had said “huh? …

    If I’d written anything in 328, my name would be Barton.
    Check your sources.

  37. 387
    Brian Dodge says:

    re # 376

    McKay, J L; Hillaire-Marcel, C; de Vernal, A; Polyak, L; Darby, D
    (2006), Title, Eos Trans. AGU, 87(52), Fall Meet. Suppl.,HR: 1340h AN: OS53B-1101
    Holocene Paleoceanography of the Chukchi Sea / Alaskan Margin, Western Arctic Ocean
    “A multi-proxy approach to the analysis of deep-sea sediment cores has been used to investigate paleoceanographical changes in the western Arctic.”
    “It is also possible that the isotopic composition of the planktonic foraminifera was influenced by enhanced sea-ice formation and sinking of isotopically-light brines during the early Holocene. This second hypothesis is compatible with reconstructions from dinocysts that suggest maximum sea-ice extent during the early Holocene.”

    Jan BackmanC, Martin Jakobssonb, Reidar Løvliec, Leonid Polyakd and L.A.Lawrence A. Febo Quaternary Science Reviews
    Volume 23, Issues 11-13, June 2004, Pages 1435-1454
    “Numerous short sediment cores have been retrieved from the central Arctic Ocean, many of which have been assigned sedimentation rates on the order of mm/ka implying that the Arctic Basin was starved of sediments during Plio–Pleistocene times.”

    Nature 300, 321 – 325 (25 November 1982); doi:10.1038/300321a0

    Origin, nature and world climate effect of Arctic Ocean ice-cover

    David L. Clark

    Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

    “During the Cenozoic, an open water Arctic Ocean changed to the modern permanently ice-covered condition. Significant world climate modification accompanied this change but the precise role of the Arctic Ocean in major Pleistocene climate events is controversial. The present ice-cover averages 3 m thickness but there are theories that during the Pleistocene it was Antarctic-like, several thousand metres thick. The time of origin of the ice-cover is placed as young as 0.7 Myr ago and as old as the middle Miocene.”

    google scholar “Results 1 – 10 of about 900 for “Arctic ocean” “sediment core”.”

    There have been many cores taken, although far fewer than in ice free ocean areas. Many of the papers don’t address whether or not the ocean was ice covered, but other science. There is currently debate over rates of sediment accumulation, stratigraphy, and whether the Arctic has been permanently covered for 100000, 800000, or millions of years, but I haven’t seen any that assert that the present melting we’re seeing is business as usual based on the sediment record.

  38. 388
    dhogaza says:

    The milky way being thinly spread stops the sun from feeling any *significant* tidal force from the milky way would have been better, but was an option not taken.

    Sigh, despite your pedantic ponderings, the context was clear enough to those of us interested in what’s happening on earth. And the context was whether or not galactic tides could impact solar output and therefore climate on earth.

    Note the title of this blog. Real *Climate*. With “on earth” being implied.

  39. 389
    Brian Dodge says:

    Off topic re rocket science – my brother was a NASA engineer at the Cape.

    from wikipedia –

    “Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is the effort to discover, understand, or to understand better, how the physical world works, with observable physical evidence as the basis of that understanding.”

    “The American Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD, the predecessor of ABET[1]) has defined engineering as follows:
    ‘The creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.’”

    Sucessfully developing the Shuttle Main Engine was definitely pushing the envelope-
    weight- ~7000 lb
    fuel consumption- ~275 gallons/sec liquid oxygen & ~750 gallons/sec liquid hydrogen, pumped from tanks at 30psi and delivered at > 4000 psi
    combustion chamber pressure – 3000 psi
    combustion chamber temperature 3,300 °C (6,000 °F), (higher than the boiling point of iron.)
    Pressure stability of the first generation engines was tested by detonating four sticks of dynamite in the combustion chamber while the engine was running at full throttle
    – but it was (mostly) engineering, based on extensive understanding of the underlying science (physics, chemistry) and math. At the leading edge, whether it’s engineering or science is a fuzzy and ultimately unimportant distinction. This is also very much the case in High Energy Physics.

  40. 390
    Mark says:

    Sheesh, guys.

    A throwaway comment.

    Orbital mechanics IS weird and strange.

    WWII got rocket propellants.

    All this stuff about GHz doohickeys is how to get more or better controlled propulsion.

    Engineering is HARDER than physics, because physics includes only those things we’re thinking about or can formulate. Engineering has to deal with the real world, which obeys all the laws, not just the one we know about. Add into our limited ability to reach much beyond our current technical level and you have a field that is real hard. The physics isn’t anywhere near as important as the engineering. And nowhere near as difficult. As you’ve been pointing out. But the problems and their solutions are driven by the engineering, not the physics.

    And you’re conflating the two.

  41. 391
    Doug Bostrom says:

    As I’ve already whined about here, a fellow by the name of Steven Goddard is publishing a series of articles in the online IT journal “The Register”. These are chock-a-block with yummy DenialChow and are being gobbled up eagerly all over the world by intellectully malnourished climate change skeptics.

    Here’s what Goddard tells me motivates his articles:

    “The questions I have raised need to be answered. They are completely legitimate questions, formed from apparent contradictions and changes in Dr, Hansen’s published data and public comments. What is truly disturbing is that so few are asking them.”

    Mr. Goddard also tells me in private correspondence he’s afraid to reveal his identity or CV because he’s received “a number of death threats from zealous believers in catastrophic global warming”. Apparently the danger is so great that he cannot even bring his pseudonym to Real Climate to satisfy his sadly appealing need for explanation and information. I suggested he do so several times but the more I repeat myself the more ill-tempered he becomes. Go figure.

    I’m going to try to help him here, and he won’t have to write a thing. The only thing is, I can only gag down one article at a time; the misconceptions and distortions are just too thick to handle all his articles in one meal.

    Are the ice caps melting?

    Goddard opens his first article with the breathtaking announcement ‘The headlines last week brought us terrifying news: The North Pole will be ice-free this summer “for the first time in human history…Or so the experts at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado predict. “.’

    The actual headline of the article? “Scientists warn that there may be no ice at North Pole this summer”

    What this piece says– once you bother to read it which Goddard counts on you failing to do– is there’s a greater than 50% chance of open ocean this year at the pole, with the pole possibly reachable by surface craft. Nobody quoted in the article says the pole will be ice free, certainly nobody at Boulder, nor even did “The Independent”, the source of the article.

    (Independent article:

    Goddard’s first paragraph of his first article is a nicely figured rococo lie. The really great thing about this, I suppose, is that later Goddard can create a double cognitive shortcircuit by writing -another- article about how the predictions he fabricated in his first article turned out not to be true. Leaves your head spinning, doesn’t it?

    That first lie is an important precedent, one that may save you a lot of time. If you don’t want to wade through the rest of this little critique I can guarantee you’ll only learn one significant thing from the time I spent slogging through Goddard’s article. Goddard’s a liar. There, a single fact you can take with you, now go on about your life. But if you just can’t resist more punishment, here goes…

    Goddard next refers to the prior existence of polynyas at the pole as proof that the pole has previously been “ice free”. He shows a photo of 3 nuclear subs, surrounded and dwarfed by ice as far as the eye can see as evidence of the “ice free” pole. Keep your eyes peeled, because Goddard’s going to ask ’em to lie to you again, in just a paragraph or so.

    Goddard moves on to a graph, apparently from the University of Illinois (no cite, but it looks real) showing global sea ice area from 1979 to the present. Although a recent downward trend in coverage is clearly visible by naked eye inspection, Goddard invites us to believe there has “…been no net gain or loss of polar sea ice since records began.” A few minutes’ extra work, or rather full disclosure, on Goddard’s part would of course have revealed that Arctic coverage has been declining at about 3.4%/decade. It is true that Antarctic ice has been on the increase, but it’s nothing to write home about (0.9% +/-1.3%/decade). Given the relatively similar initial sizes of Arctic versus Antarctic sea ice and the much steeper downward slope in Arctic ice, it’s easy to see why Goddard needed to beg the favor of lying eyes to make his point with the University of Illinois graph. Goddard would like us to look at it and form the opposite conclusion from what it plainly shows.

    (UI graph:
    (Arctic/Antarctic coverage:

    Introducing Dr. James Hansen with a brief quote saying that 2007’s fairly dramatic loss of old ice confirms “The Arctic is the first tipping point and it’s occurring exactly the way we said it would”, Goddard then refers to an ancient 1980s article, in which Dr. Hansen’s initial prediction was of cleanly symmetric polar amplification. Goddard’s essential beef in this section is that because the predictions and models of the 1980s have since been refined to correct observed discrepancies in Antarctica, recent statements by Hansen are somehow not accurate or credible. In other words, Goddard’s claim is that the more Hansen learns, the less he knows and should be believed. Goddard can’t resist embroidering further by saying Antarctic sea ice “has rapidly expanded” since Hansen’s 1980s remarks, when of course we know that there has been an extremely modest increase in Antarctic sea ice, little enough that the derived slope in the coverage graph is useful in seeing any increase at all.

    Having besmirched himself early and large, Goddard moves on to discuss soot. Referring to a 2004 paper examining the impact of soot on albedo, Goddard fabricates a conclusion by Hansen: “In 2004, Dr Hansen… explained that most of Arctic warming and melting is due to dirty snow from soot, not CO2.”


    The paper Goddard is referring to is work of Hansen’s on integrating soot into global climate modeling. As a product of this work, Hansen concludes that soot is a significant player. Here are conclusions of the paper that come closest to Goddard’s fabrication, as far as I can tell:

    “Our estimate for the mean soot effect on spectrally integrated
    albedos in the Arctic (1.5%) and Northern Hemisphere land areas
    (3%) yields a Northern Hemisphere forcing of 0.3 W m2 or an
    effective hemispheric forcing of 0.6 W m2.”

    “We suggest that soot contributes to near worldwide
    melting of ice that is usually attributed solely to global warming.”

    “Our estimate for the equilibrium global warming of current soot levels
    is 0.2°C, most of which is already achieved.”

    So yes, soot is a problem, but no, Hansen never said “most of Arctic warming and melting is due to dirty snow from soot” or anything remotely like it.

    Moving on in an article that seems less and less about the North Pole and more and more about Dr. James Hansen’s imagined offenses, Goddard rants: “Dr Hansen also talks frequently about the unprecedented temperature rise in the Arctic, yet his own temperature records show that much of the Arctic (including Greenland) was warmer from 1920-1940 than now.”

    Well, no, they’re not Dr. Hansen’s temperature records. And no, Dr. Hansen is not found talking frequently about unprecedented temperature increases in the Arctic. But this doesn’t stop Goddard from selecting a few graphs to show that, yes, the temperature at many stations was warmer circa 1920-1940. I’m not sure exactly what Goddard’s point here was, but it does not take long to pull the covers back and see, just like everywhere else, Greenland is showing a swift upward trend in temperatures in the past few decades.

    Finally tiring of chewing on Hansen, Goddard spends few words speculating that a “brown cloud” helped cause the 2007 melt, but provides no citations or other information on this. Apparently self-appointed armchair climatologists are free to do this sort of handwaving and see it published before a global audience, courtesy of “The Register”, even as they nitpick and complain about real climatologists’ refinement of real climate models.

    Concluding his article, Goddard clinches his case that 2007 was nothing special because in 1922 “…there was open sailing very close to the North Pole that year.” Yes, the Weather Bureau reports it was possible to sail as north as 81 degrees that year and you can trust this data because Dr.James Hansen was not born yet. I wonder if Steven Goddard could walk that last 540 miles to the North Pole? I suppose so, because in his reality being 540 miles away is “very close”. It’s also safe to say Goddard gets no closer than 540 miles away from any approximation to a useful contribution to the human condition, either.

  42. 392

    Mark, I’m not going to retract what I said, because I said nothing wrong. You are the one asserting that it can somehow matter that the Sun has tides from the Milky Way. I showed that the tide has no noticeable affect on anything. [edit]
    Mentioning the Milky Way is irrelevant [edit]. Deal with it.

  43. 393
    Paul says:

    O.K. I’ve tried to read through a bunch of this (with 392 replies, it’s a little difficult to go through all of them in one sitting).

    I guess I’m what you guys term a “denier”. Somehow, I’m mentally deficient for believing that this whole Global Warming thing is a hoax.

    [Response: No. Just wrong. – gavin]

    I’ve seen enough data to show that a) we’ve had many periods of warmer climate than we do now and b) that Mars is also going through a period of climate change. Recent reports also indicate that possibly Jupiter is also experiencing changes to the climate there as well. (I guess we managed to corrupt those two planets with our polution causing probes) I don’t deny that the climate is changing. I just don’t believe that humans are a significant factor in it. There’s a little thing called the sun that seems to do just fine with it.

    Another thing. Warmer climates mean that we have more fertile grounds. Better growing conditions. So, granted, we have some fools who have placed their homes directly on the beach who might lose them, but is it really such a bad thing that more people be able to eat?

    I’m sure I’ll be excoriated and scorned for a while, and maybe even have my post pulled. I just would love to see someone answer the following questions:

    1) If it’s man-made, then why are other planets experiencing changes similar to ours?

    [Response: They aren’t. – gavin]

    2) If it’s man-made, then why have we had much (as much as 7 degrees) warmer than we do now before man had a major impact on the world?

    [Response: Does the existence of natural forest fires preclude the existence of arsonists? This point is logically incoherent. If you see someone murdered, does the culprit get a pass because more people died at the Somme? The current rise in greenhouse gases is man-made and it is currently driving climate change. None of the things that drove climate change in the past appear to be relevant because they are either not changing, are too slow or are insignificant on these shorter timescales. – gavin]

    3) If it’s so bad, then since now colder climates historically able to produce better quality foods and drinks than now, and warmer climates encourage plant growth, is the risk not worth it to provide better crop production than before?

    [Response: Where is the data to back that up? But in any case, the issue is that we, and various ecosystems, have gotten used to the relatively stable climate we have now. Changes will be positive in some places, and negative in a lot more – increasingly so as the world warms. Sure, English wine and Canadian wheat will do well, Bangladesh? – not so much. – gavin]

    4) Why is it the proponents (believers/hypists/faithful) want to shut down not only fossil fuel production, but also all other energy production methods in the United States and other developed countries? (Try to build a windmill, solar farm, nuclear plant, hydrothermo dam, offshore turbine facility in the US. You CAN’T. The environmental crowd will ALWAYS crow about some endangered species, bird, fish, etc.)

    [Response: B**cks. New generating capacity is going up all over the place. But frankly this is irrelevant to any issue of what is actually happening to the atmosphere. The radiative properties of CO2 and CH4 are completely independent of how society chooses to deal with that information. We might actually find common ground in agreeing that society is not doing a great job on this issue so far. – gavin]

    I have said it before, and I will say it again, and I’m sure your church of environmentalism can’t stand to hear it, but the AGW theory and the entire environmentalist movement is not about “saving the planet”, but controlling others. Please, someone here have the intellectual honesty to at least address the issues I’ve gone over.

    [Response: In return, try laying off the intellectually lazy cliches and paranoid conspiracy theories. – gavin]


  44. 394
    Mark says:

    Barton, #392

    Please show me where I said it can somehow matter that the sun has tides from the milky way.

    I’ll wait…

  45. 395
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mark, no one thinks it matters. Do you need attention?

  46. 396
    Mark says:

    Hank, any point to asking? Surely if your hypothesis is correct, you are walking straight into my dastardly plan.

  47. 397
    Tom Dayton says:

    RE: #393

    Paul, perhaps RealClimate is not the best place for you to begin your research into climate change, because RealClimate tends to be rather technical, and delves into individual topics in depth. For example, your comment #93 covered a wide range of topics beyond the narrow scope of this “North Pole notes” post. Gavin answered well (#94), but this is not the best place for your broad and basic queries.

    Here’s a well-written introduction to the global warming debate, by cce. It’s in a nice narrative format, it’s got both text and video versions, and it’s not the least bit confrontational: The Global Warming Debate: A Layman’s Guide to the Science and Controversy.

    For point-by-point addressing of arguments (rather than the above narrative coverage of many points), here is a great indexed site: Skeptical Science.

    Along the same lines, here is another indexed site on Grist, though I believe it’s not updated as often as the Skeptical Science site. It seems to be broken at this moment, but keep trying: How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic.

  48. 398
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 397 Tom, you offered Paul some good advice he is likely not programmed to follow. His choice of characterizations gives him away.

    Paul did not come to RealClimate to debate or learn. He came here to vent his spleen. When I see the ‘church of environmentalism’ and ‘(believers/hypists/faithful) want to shut down not only fossil fuel production, but also all other energy production methods in the United States and other developed countries?’, I relegate that kind of contributor to the Bozo Bin.

    Gavin was too generous with his time. People like Paul are best ignored.

    His defect is not that he is mentally deficient (his words). He has a conspiratorial mind prone to absorbing nonsense and lies that do not require any thinking…only believing.

    John McCormick

  49. 399
    Tom Dayton says:

    RE #398:

    Yeah, I pretty much figured that was Paul’s motivation. But I like to give people the benefit of the doubt at least once, because there are lots of people whose anger is perfectly justified given their knowledge.

    It’s easy for the majority of the folks who gravitate to the RealClimate blog, to forget how little most people in the world know about climate. Or science. Or math. Or Nature. Or places outside their own town or even neighborhood.

    Imagine someone who has heard from their best friend, that all the planets are warming exactly like the Earth is. And this person has never heard a contradiction to that statement. And this person has only the vaguest notion of what planets are and where they are. (I’m not exaggerating!) They also have not even a faint awareness that other people know much more than their best friend. So they get angry, which would be appropriate if the actual situation matched the one in their head.

    I like to give such folks at least one chance to improve their fundamental knowledge. But if they don’t take advantage of that chance, then I ignore them. Sometimes after yelling at them.

  50. 400
    Mark says:

    More for people following Doug’s message.

    Steven Goddard has said to me he’s a Californian and a vegetarian who pefers to cycle than drive (a comment that grants great irony to the posters congratulating him and villifying the “eco nazi” “hippies” while doing so).

    He said (though I don’t believe him) that he doesn’t want to see time and effort wasted on climate change and CO2 when there’s a water shortage in California because they are putting it all in animal feed.

    Whether this rings any bells…