Desperately Denying Arctic Warming
    By Patrick Lockerby | May 28th 2010 08:23 PM | 14 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Retired engineer, 60+ years young. Computer builder and programmer. Linguist specialising in language acquisition and computational linguistics....

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    Desperately Denying Arctic Warming

    This is the age of rapid public access to satellite images.  If you want to know what is happening to the Arctic ice you can see for yourself.

    There are some people who don't want you to look.  They want you to read their drivel instead, and go away believing that the Arctic ice isn't really melting, or if it is then that is nothing unusual.

    On Saturday, May 01, 2010, Paul Driessen wrote a piece of blatant propaganda called "(Desperately) Looking for Arctic warming".  It was "co-authored by scientist Willie Soon".

    The article has been multiply published, see e.g.
    DRIESSEN&SOON: Desperately seeking Arctic warmth

    Scientists are usually content to publish once and then let the media pick it up - or not.  Propagandists, however, need to disseminate their BS themselves, since no discriminating journalist would take them seriously.

    I call the article blatant propaganda because that is what it is.  Here are some quotes from it, with evidence in rebuttal.

    Actually, the Arctic ice has been rebounding since its latest low ebb around September 2007.
    That was published May 01 2010.  Please check the NSIDC graph for 03 May 2010:

    Is that 'rebounding'?

    “Not only in the summer, but in the winter the ocean [in the Bering Sea region] was free of ice, sometimes with a wide strip of water up to at least 200 miles away from the shore,” Swedish explorer Oscar Nordkvist reported in 1822.
    A Google search for "Oscar Nordkvist" finds lots of climate change denier websites, but nothing about the explorer.  That's hardly surprising - Oscar Frithiof Nordquist was not Swedish - he was Finnish.   Now, it could be that there was another Oscar Nordqvist who was Swedish.  But the Finnish Oscar Frithiof Nordquist could not have written those words in 1822.  He was born in 1858.  He was hydrographer and Russian interpreter on the steam/sail ship Vega, home to Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld's expedition of 1878 - 1879 to find a way through the North East Passage.  The expedition took two years because the open water only let the ship get so far, and then froze it in for the winter.

    “We were astonished by the total absence of ice in Barrow Strait,” Francis McClintock, captain of the “Fox,” wrote in 1860. “I was here at this time in 1854 – still frozen up – and doubts were entertained as to the possibility of escape.”
    Francis McClintock was an Arctic hero.  Following the loss of the Franklin expedition various searches had been mounted, after which the British government gave up.  Lady Franklin obtained the Fox and the services of Francis McClintock as captain through public subscription.  The voyage is described in detail in his book The Voyage of the 'Fox' in the Arctic Seas: A Narrative of the Discovery of the Fate of Sir John Franklin and His Companions. Ticknor and Fields, Boston, 1860.

    McClintock describes going into the Barrow Straight the first year, being beset by ice and drifting helplessly down Davis Strait between August 11 1857 and April 24 1858.  Nothing daunted he tried again.  He attempted Franklin Channel which after 25 miles of open water was blocked by ice.  He tried Prince Regent's Inlet and Bellot Strait but was again blocked by ice.  After many attempts to find free passage the Fox was forced to over-winter in Bellot Strait.

    McClintock's discoveries relating to the fate of the Franklin expedition were made by sledge parties.  There was a sound reason for this - his ship was iced in and immobile.

    In 1903, during the first year of his three-year crossing of the Northwest Passage, Roald Amundsen noted that his party “had made headway with ease,” because ice conditions had been “unusually favorable.”
    Roald Amundsen had great difficulty during the whole of his expedition with the exception of one small part of the voyage where he noted afterwards that he “had made headway with ease”.  Shortly after that entry in his log he encountered worsening conditions.  He found an uncharted natural harbor in which to overwinter, which he named Gjoahavn.  He remained iced in for two winters before there was enough open water to proceed.

    Open any book on Arctic exploration and discovery and you will find references to open water and easy going.  Commonly, the open water and easy going refer to a leg of the journey of a day or less in duration - perhaps only an hour.  Countering that progress you will find a ship locked in ice being forced to overwinter; a ship making a mile in ten hours through pack ice; a ship making a few yards in one day as ice is blasted and hacked to make a path.

    The Arctic was considered to be so generally un-navigable that the British government stopped funding exploration.  Prior to the voyage of the RCMPV St Roch in 1944 no vessel ever passed through the entire Arctic in a single season.  In a previous voyage the St. Roch had taken from 1940 to 1942 to make the passage in the opposite direction.

    If anyone wants to challenge the idea of global warming with scientific methods and debate that's fine.  But bad science gets jumped on.  This opinion piece by Driessen and Soon masquerading as fact isn't bad science.  There is no science.  Just blatant agendist propaganda which tries to belittle the splendid achievements of Arctic heroes.


    So are you deliberately not showing today's graph? I've been looking, and it's not good.

    So are you deliberately not showing today's graph? I've been looking, and it's not good.

    I used the May 03 graph to keep in the context of the May 01 article I was shredding.  After all, it would be unethical to use an April graph to refute the accuracy of a May argument.

    Here is the graph as published on 27 May 2010:


    The trend over the last two or three weeks doesn't look at all good.  I estimate that at current loss rates as estimated by me from satellite images, half of the remaining ice will be gone by September.  If the melt rate increases as expected during the hottest part of Arctic summer, and especially if winds become more variable, the Arctic could become completely ice free except for a relatively small detached ice cap.  ( In all previous years the ice cap has remained land-locked in at least one location.)

    NSIDC should be publishing a new monthly analysis about the 4th or 5th of June.  I hope to publish my own June analysis and predictions about the same time, as a follow-on to Arctic Ice May 2010  and Arctic Ice May 2010 - Update.

    Oh my! I didn't realize how much worse the problem has become in such a short time, Patrick. Thank you for posting both graphs.
    Patrick, I'm eagerly awaiting your June analysis and NSIDC's as well, just to see how the reaction on the Watts-blog will be. Have you noticed the frantic denying over there recently? Makes one almost wish the Arctic to be ice free this September.

    ... see how the reaction on the Watts-blog will be. Have you noticed the frantic denying over there recently?

    Not half!1

    I like his artwork:
    The little melt which has occurred since the winter peak has been at lower latitudes, as can be seen in red in the modified NSIDC map below.

    Such a pity. I used to enjoy reading his blog for the intellectual challenge.  Now I read it only for a good giggle.

    I just published my article Arctic Ice June 2010.  I'd best proof-read it again before all those anonymice comments appear! :-)

    [1] - originally from Cockney slang - meaning 'quite a lot'.
    Patrick: I thought you might find this article which I found on Science Codex interesting. Even I didn't think of this, but now that I've read the article it makes sense: Impact Of Rainfall Reaches To Roots Of Mountains
    Eric, thanks for the link.  Most interesting.  I wonder what the deniersphere will make of it.  I'm tempted to write an article showing how Mount Everest could end up in Siberia due to human influence, just to see who is first to call Poe.  :-)
    You're quite welcome, Patrick. Thanks for the Poe link. This the first time I have heard of the principle. But it certainly makes sense. The sublime and the absurd are often hard to distinguish from one another. ;-)
    There is a lot of talk about how much ice the Arctic is losing ice but few mention the very much above average build up of ice in the Antarctic i.e. 1.607sq km above the 1979 to 2008 median on 29/06/2010. This can be seen on How Is this huge build up of ice in the Antarctic taken into consideration when promoting global warming?

    How Is this huge build up of ice in the Antarctic taken into consideration when promoting global warming?
    The annual growth and loss of sea ice in Antarctica is not showing a rapid trend towards total loss.  The Antarctic sea ice is much less of an indicator of global warming than Arctic sea ice is.

    The polar amplification predicted to occur as a result of rising CO2 levels is happening.  It is happening faster over the Arctic sea than the Antarctic land due to rapid albedo changes.  There is also the fact to consider that the Arctic is a sea surrounded by land, but the Antarctic is land surrounded by sea.  Different sea ice behaviour is to be expected.

    The Arctic is losing ice at an unprecedented rate.  There are some people dedicated to asserting that the Arctic is recovering.  As fast as the ice melts and proves them wrong they switch arguments and try to 'prove' that the Arctic melt isn't unusual.  A classic tactic is to quote a few words from a book that most of the denialist's acolytes won't have read.  The few words refer to a bit of open water.  The other 2 or 3 hundred pages talk about the number of months or years needed to get through - or in some cases over - solid, impenetrable ice.
    Thanks Patrick. That has made the situation much less confusing for me.

    You are most welcome, John.
    What about heat release at depth in the Bering strait region? This must place a little kink in the data for the Arctic.

    What about heat release at depth in the Bering strait region? This must place a little kink in the data for the Arctic.

    Not sure what you mean by 'heat release at depth, but the influx of warm Pacific water and warm meltwater runoff into the region puts quite a kink in the ice extent trend.

    I just wrote a little about warming there in: Arctic Ice July 2010 - Update #1