Tag Archives: Arctic ice cap

Al Gore’s Wild Ass Arctic Ice Guess

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Mr. Gore spent lots of time talking about Arctic Ice in his 2006 pseudo documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.  We got to see Al ride on a Nuclear Submarine and watch as he saw first hand how the Navy measured ice thickness in the Arctic.

Sometimes it’s good to be Vice President.

Mr. Gore talked about how he was able to use his influence to get very important confidential Arctic Ice data released.   He then provided the data in graph form.   Mr. Gore narrated while the graph was displayed.   He said that the ice had been reduced by 40% in 40 years.  It was catchy and easy to remember.  What a story.

But was it true?

No.  Well I’m sure he rode on the sub and the Navy has data.   Most everything else is simply a part of his story.  And it’s a good story.

Mr. Gore (in the film) presented a charts that showed a steady decline in the ice mass in the Arctic.  He lectured to the audience while the slide was being displayed.   He claimed the ice had decreased 40% in 40 years.   Here’s the chart:


Mr. Gore’s chart says the ice declined by 1.5 million square kilometers from a base of a bit less than 14.    I’ll help Mr. Gore with the arithmetic.  1.5/13.7 = 11%.

11% in 35 years is not exactly 40% in 40 years.   Mr. Gore’s careless use of data  really is old news.  Why, one might wonder, am I bringing this up now?

Well I always suspected the entire calculation was a wild ass guess but I didn’t have good independent confirmation.   I suspected Sub based data would be spotty and incomplete.  But I wasn’t sure.  Now I am confident the entire section of the film was a fabrication (except for the submarine ride).  A good story and nothing else.

Visit the National Snow and Ice Data Center  (NSIDC) web site.   They provide lots of statistical information about  ice in the Arctic (and Greenland and the Antarctic too).   The NSIDC has this to say about Arctic Ice thickness:

While satellite observations have shown a decline in Arctic Ocean sea ice extent since the late 1970s, sea ice is highly mobile, and a decrease in extent does not necessarily imply a corresponding decrease in ice volume. Observations of thickness (which allows  calculation of volume) have been limited, making it difficult to estimate sea ice volume trends. The European Space Agency (ESA) CryoSat satellite was launched in October 2010 and has enabled estimates of sea ice thickness and volume for the last three years.

The best information is only 3 years old.  Wow.  Everything before that is a guess or so says The National Snow and Ice Data Center.  These University of Colorado scientists are the recognized experts.  Mr. Gore released his film in May of 2006.  Most of his data ended before 2005.

Wild Ass Guess Confirmed.


Local weather extrapolation — A common Climate mistake

We all have a tendency to extrapolate local conditions.   The weather we see at home today has nothing whatsoever to do with climate science.  If it is warmer today than in years gone by it does not mean the world is warmer.   But we think it does.  The Weather Channel lives it’s own special world of extrapolation.    And so do Al Gore and his buddies at the UN .

I make this mistake too often.

Case in point Summer 2013 …Anchorage, Alaska.  We have had a wonderful warm summer with many many days over 70 degrees.   We set a record for the most consecutive days where the daily high temperature was above 70 degrees.  15 days in a row.  And we were close to setting a record for the most days above 70 for an entire season.   Our warm wonderful summer….it’s been  the talk of the town.

And then we almost set a record for the most consecutive days of rain in September.  More rain in Anchorage is supposedly something to expect as the world warms.

Global warming seemed to be all around.

I expected record melting in the Arctic.  2012 had been a record year for Arctic ice  melt, followed by a relatively normal winter.  As the melt season began, the Arctic had extraordinary amounts of first year sea ice.  First year ice is saltier than older ice, which makes it melt at lower temperatures than older sea ice.  A very warm South Central Alaska, quick melting ice; the Arctic was sure to have a record melt year.

I was expecting the regional climate I was experiencing to have wider implications…and I was wrong….as this chart from the National Snow and Ice Data Center demonstrates:


The Arctic had a cool summer and a change in the prevailing winds.   The result was a slow melting year.   And Greenland had a slow melting year too.

But is the world warmer than in the recent past?  Uh….no.   Hot off the presses… the September 2013 world satellite surface temperature data courtesy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH).

2013 has been and continues to be boringly similar to every year since 2002.

I thought 2013 would be one for the record books in the Arctic.  Mother nature constantly reminds us not to draw simple conclusions when evaluating climate.

Sea Level to Rise 3 Feet, Maybe

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is about a year away from publishing their next Climate Synthesis Report. IPCC report drafts are about halfway through their 2 year review process.  Tasty tidbits have become cannon fodder for the press.  Gloom and doom is everywhere.  I have read articles in my local paper, the Huffington Post and the New York Times.

The IPCC is now more certain than ever that man made carbon dioxide is seriously impacting the climate.  Temperatures will rise and so will the sea level.   They are now, according to the leaked data, expecting sea level to be 3 feet higher than it is today in 21oo.     The recent cooler weather is being blamed on short term factors.

Hmmm…short term factors.   That’s a new concept for the IPCC.  It should be interesting reading.  The world has not been doing as the IPCC predicted and they appear to feel the need to explain themselves.  I suspect guessing.

Of course I like to guess too.  My favorite guess is visible air pollution.  And by that I don’t mean carbon dioxide, I mean smog.  Smog blocks the Suns radiation and cools the climate and it also makes the ice in the Arctic less white, making it melt faster.   And since smog is more prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern, it would help explain why the Antarctic has not been melting.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center states  the following:

Arctic sea ice extent maintained a steady, near-average pace of retreat through the first half of August, making it highly unlikely that a new record low minimum will be reached this year. Nevertheless, there are extensive areas of low concentration ice, even in regions close to the North Pole, atmospheric pressure and temperature patterns this summer have differed markedly from those experienced in 2012; cooler than average conditions have prevailed over much of the Arctic Ocean. By contrast, Antarctic sea ice is near a record maximum extent for mid-August.

ANTARCTIC SEA ICE IS NEAR A RECORD MAXIMUM.   A lot of that ice is going to have to melt.  Melting in the Antarctic and Greenland are necessary for sea level to rise.

A rising sea level is a problem and a 3 foot rise is a big problem.   Recent IPCC studies blame air pollution more and carbon dioxide less than does the 2007 IPCC Synopses Report.  The leaked information is preliminary because it must be reviewed.  That review includes a political scrubbing.   And since the IPCC is a very political place I suspect air pollution will once again be ignored.

Air pollution, and soot in particular, is more of a problem in the developing world and less of a problem in the USA, so we know where the UN will come down on that issue.  Don’t we?

400 year old plants come to life in Canadian Arctic

I just finished an article in The Atlantic.  The article is titled Jurassic Park is Real…for 400 year old Arctic Mosses. Yeah, it’s a stupid title ..but just go with it.  It turns out that mosses that have been under glaciers for 400 years come back to life as the glacier melts.   This discovery surprised the scientists doing the research.  They did not expect the glaciers to melt so rapidly and they did not expect the plants to come back to life.

As I read the article I was fascinated by the way the conventional wisdom of the day was being changed by new information….science at work.

And then I got to thinking about climate change.  These plants were on glaciers way up north in Arctic Canada, very near the Arctic Ocean.

Just 400 years ago they were growing plants, that surprised me.  I would have guessed the glacier ice in that specific location to have been around for a longer span of time.   These plants were knocked off by the end of the little ice age.   Wow.   I wonder what it was like up their during the height of the medieval warming period around a 1000 years ago?

This region appears to be changed by fairly small changes in temperature….and it may actually be  trailing rather than a leading indicator of regional climate.    The plants were destroyed near the end a cooling period and it took 250 years of warming to rediscover them.  I suspect the whole Arctic ecosystem could be a trailing rather than a leading indicator.

World temperatures peaked in 1998.  Since then there has been a very slight cooling as this UAH worldwide temperature chart demonstrates.

Ice melting in the Arctic has continued to melt ever more rapidly as 2012 was a  record year with ice being the lowest in history; if you can call a data base that started in 1979 significant.

Small data base, lots of noted change, what does it all mean?   Beats me.   How can one really know.  One thing is certain, the changes the plants saw 400 years ago were a part of natural climate variation.

Each summer our local paper includes several Arctic warming articles full of global warming gloom and doom.  How can we be sure the change we are now seeing is man caused?   I suspect widespread SWAG. I remain convinced that  too many hawkish climate scientists underestimate the power of natural climate variation!

Antarctic Ice Updates Available

I don’t tend to tell people I meet about my skeptical attitude toward global climate science as practiced by the UN.   When the subject does come up,  I usually have a rather unpleasant conversation.

All too often I get told about all the horrible things happening in Antarctica.  Yep Antarctica.   I then tell them Antarctica hasn’t been melting.   I tell them that most warming experienced in the last 200 years has been experienced on land in the Northern Hemisphere.   I am presumed to be less bright than I was at the start of the conversation.

I think Al Gore is probably to blame.  His 2005 film features lots of Antarctic boogie men.   I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised so many people believe Al’s propaganda.  Antarctica isn’t talked about much.  Al’s misinformation fills the void.  I just wish more people would at least listen to an opposing position.

My approach is about to change.  Reliable data is here and readily available.  I can point to a recognized expert.  One that has been in the forefront of Arctic melting, the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  This University of Colorado site has lots of neat stuff about the Arctic.  I’ve been following their Arctic Ice data for years.

And now they have Antarctic stuff too.   Yep, the world has been warming, the Arctic is melting, but the Antarctic Ice sheet is growing.    There are pictures…

And charts too…

Go Antarctica.   Antarctic Sea Ice has grown by about 10% in the last 30 years.  Not exactly what Al predicted in his film.

I know that the UN’s IPCC actually predicted Antarctic Ice could grow in their global warming models as area snowfall increased.   But they didn’t tell you it had been going on for years before they started their studies in the 1990’s. Who knows how long, this type of data has only been available since 1979.

Antarctica has not warmed yet, and the world has warmed.  The world is about a degree C warmer that it was about 200 years ago.   I wonder what Al Gore was thinking when he used only Antarctic Ice Core data as his proof of impending doom.

Individual ice cores are a poor proxy for the climate of the entire world because they provide information about a single location in a very cold place.   I see guessing.  It must be difficult to draw conclusions about North America or Europe or Asia from Antarctic data.   The ice core Al used in the film showed wild increases in carbon dioxide and no real 20th century warming, (which Al failed to point out in his film) which is typical of Antarctic Ice Cores.  Here’s a typical one

Notice how temperature went down 130,00 years ago while carbon dioxide remained stable.  The current temperature stability (the last 10,000 years) appears to be happening while carbon dioxide is skyrocketing.

It’ll be nice to have a respected source (National Snow and Ice Data Center)  to point global warming fear mongers to. Antarctic Ice melting really isn’t the immediate problem too many ill informed citizens believe it to be.

Global climate change is a very difficult science problem.   Doubt is a reasonable response.  I’d be the first to admit I don’t know what the answer is.  Too many advocates of IPCC positions insist they know the answer.   Come on guys.  You are guessing.

Maybe this Antarctic data will help spread a bit of doubt.  And doubt is a good thing.

Arctic Ice Data

Several months ago I began following the data presented at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  The University of Colorado provides the web site.  I really like the site, it’s full of interesting information and is less preachy than many climate data sites.

In April, the Ice Sheet in the Arctic was above average, now it’s at record lows.  Two months of very good ice formation weather was followed by two months of really good melting weather.  What conclusions can be drawn from the data.

Not much.  The data set is too small.   If we can go from above average to record lows in just 3 months…and most of the data in the last 5 years  lies outside  + or – 2 standard deviations (that should hold about 95% of the data) …the data set probably is too small.

The data appears to be fluctuating more than statistical analysis says would be normal…either the data is very unusual, which means the world is changing rapidly or the base line data is skewed.   I vote for skewed data, but I don’t know and I worry about air pollution coming from China.  Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and/or increased particulate air pollution from China might be really messing things up.

Most of the recent data is outside the normal data range.  I suspect the normal data range is flawed.  Time will tell…..lots of time.  Don’t expect an answer next week or next month or next year.  We could still be trying to figure this out 10 or 20 or 50 years from now.

Arctic Ice Statistics

I like to look at the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web Site.   I was looking at the data presented and I noticed something that seemed odd to me.  So much of the data was outside the shaded area of the chart which was labeled as a + or – 2 standard deviation area.  In a normal distribution, over 95% of the data should lie within the shaded area.

Then I looked at a second chart that shows recent data

Then I finally figured out what was going on…. the standard deviation data was old data. Why did they do that?  Yes I know it was right in front of me the whole time, but I wasn’t paying close attention.  I hadn’t noticed that the data set that calculated standard deviation and average was based on data that ended in 2000.

So when I made a post touting April as just about average for the 34 year history of the data, I was wrong.  The Arctic Ice sheet was bigger  than average in April of 2012.    OK, a 34 year ice sheet data set doesn’t mean much, the data set is too small…but it’s bigger than a 21 year data set….60% bigger!

We know that the Arctic Ice Sheet summer melt peaked in 2007.  We know data between 2000 and 2007 would have been less than average, and all data since 2007 has been warmer (less ice) than the average.   It’s safe to assume that if a 34 year data set had been used instead of a 21 year data set, the average would have been a much lower number, and the shaded area that was 2 standard deviations would have looked different too.

So April of 2012 was not average for the data set, is was average for the last 21 years of the 20th century and much colder (more ice) than the average of the entire data set.

I am used to people making grandiose statements about Arctic Ice from small data sets.   And really a 21 year data set or a 34 year data set doesn’t mean much in the grand scope of climate cycles that last millions of years…but it is an interesting manipulation of statistical data.