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Rumors of the Death of Arctic Sea Ice Greatly Exaggerated

Even if polar bears really are drowning, the melt is likely a natural, not man-made, phenomenon.

by
Timothy Birdnow

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December 20, 2008 - 12:00 am
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Mark Twain, ever the wry observer of human nature, once famously quipped that “everybody complains about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.” (Actually, Twain was quoting the essayist and novelist Charles Dudley Warner, but the colorful humorist gets credit for the line.) Whoever deserves the credit, the point was that there is a folly to human arrogance and some things cannot be “fixed,” are outside of the powers of man. The weather, for example, is governed by forces beyond human control.

But the arrogance of the race is boundless, and there are those who actually believe that man is in the process of destroying the Earth’s weather, or at least climate. Al Gore, the leader of the Gang Green, tramps about the planet in his fuel-guzzling, greenhouse gas-spewing jets to tell people that the world is burning — his speeches are usually given on days of bitter cold — because they are living too extravagantly by, well, heating their homes when cold and driving their cars to work. James Hansen of NASA gives hysterical lectures to Congress and the news media, claiming we face fire and brimstone. Repeatedly we have been told we have ten years left, starting in the 1980s; much like those old end-of-the-world preachers, the date for the end time keeps extending.

In short, there are people who believe that, yes indeedy, we can do something about the weather, or at least the climate. If we just live more frugally, share our wealth, eat lots of natural foods like tofu and pine nuts, and hold hands while visualizing world peace, we can bring carbon dioxide and methane levels down and the world will become a pastoral paradise.

The Gang Green — those who believe that man is destroying the planet via our release of industrial emissions — have struggled to convince the populace that their viewpoint, based almost entirely on computer simulations and not on actual recorded data, is correct. (I often refer to global warming as the Goldilocks theory; if it is too hot, too cold, or just right it must be global warming!) Every time Al Gore gives a speech the temperature drops into single digits. We haven’t had any real planetary warming since 1998, and this year has been unseasonably cool, a likely result of an anemic sunspot cycle and reversals in wind and wave oscillations in the Pacific. So the alarmists are forced to making desperate pronouncements designed to panic the average Joe.

One issue that they’ve employed to good advantage is the loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Just run a quick Google search on “Arctic sea ice vanishing” and you will find a series of breathless warnings of coming doom and pictures of drowning polar bears. The alarmist will triumphantly point to the opening of the Northwest Passage and the unusually low ice levels of 2007 and 2008, claiming this is absolute proof that anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (AGW) is wrecking the planet. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), for example, recently released a dire warning that “between 1.5 and 2 trillion tons of ice have melted in Greenland, Antarctica, and Alaska” and that this proves that we are in the throes of a man-made crisis, one that will trigger massive sea level rise as polar ice melts away. Clearly human greenhouse gas emissions are becoming a planetary emergency.

But are they?

Climate Science, the weblog of climatologist Roger Pielke Sr., discusses the issue of Arctic sea ice melt and explains why the freeze and thaw dates are important to establishing whether ice loss/gain is related to greenhouse gases.

The upshot of his argument is that the start of the freeze-up should come later in the fall, as the melt should likewise begin earlier. It’s not simply a matter of how much ice is lost, but when it is lost.

Dr. Pielke Sr. quotes from a recent paper on the matter:

Indeed, this is what is claimed in a recent talk by Mark C. Serreze of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences/National Snow and Ice Data Center (CIRES/NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder (November 10, 2008, titled “The Emergence of Arctic Amplification”) …

The abstract includes the statement “As the climate warms, the summer melt season lengthens.”

So, we should be able to discern if the season is actually lengthening by examining the melt/thaw dates.

Which is precisely what William Chapman, author of the Chryosphere Today blog, has done.

Here is a table showing the melt and thaw periods with the minimum and maximum ice level dates starting in 1979; you will note that this year’s maximum was equal to 1981 (at .1943), and the minimum at .6876 is likewise equal to 1981. So, does that mean we are in a greenhouse warming cycle reminiscent of 27 years prior?

Actually, the chart shows no discernible pattern whatsoever, with 1985 representing the high for the maximum and 2005 representing the nadir of the minimum, a close second to 1985. In short, there is no evidence for an increase in warming — at least not in regards to when sea ice freezes and melts.

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