Premature Celebrations by the Cooling Crowd?

As of recent, some of the world’s news services have been filled with joy over the return of some of the sea ice extent at the Arctic, and this news is reinforcing the cooling crowd’s chatter about a turn up in atmospheric conditions, meaning, let’s not worry about global warming or climate change.  The (other) experts have got it all wrong.  As a result, let’s celebrate the cooling trend and pop open the champagne, and don’t worry any longer about human causes of global warming, like CO2 from fossil fuels, and just for good measure, let’s insist that Al Gore give back his Oscar.

Here’s some of the good news:

“Good News for Polar Bears! The Arctic Ice Pack is 60 Per Cent BIGGER than it was a Year Ago.”1

“And now it’s Global COOLING! Record Return of Arctic Ice Cap as it Grows by 60% in a Year.”2

“Global Warming? No, Actually We’re Cooling, Claim Scientists.”3

You can go to the Internet and search for “Arctic Sea Ice” to find all kinds of headlines about the increasing sea ice and global cooling. The cooling crowd are falling all over themselves with exclamation points and bold cap letters like “BIGGER” to drive home the point that – Ha! Ha! – We’re right – Global warming is a sham, not caused by people; fossil fuels have nothing to do with it, drill-baby-drill!

And, the XL Pipeline decision is right around the corner. Boy, oh boy, what a great time for mother nature to play right into their sweet spot.

On the other hand, all climate scientists would celebrate a reversal in climate change conditions with factual evidence that global warming is not a threat, if it were factual, but it is not.

Figure31-350x261The chart above, as of August 2013, from the National Snow & Ice Data Center (“NSIDC”), depicts the Arctic Sea Ice Extent trend over the past 35 years, and the trend is decidedly downwards with occasional blips up along the way, similar to the recent blip this year (2013). In point of fact, the loss of Arctic sea ice averages 10.6% per decade.

According to NSIDC, as of 2013:

The seasonal decline of extent through the month of August was slightly above average at 56,400 square kilometers per day, but more than a third slower than the record decline rate in August 2012. And, this year’s August extent was the sixth (6th) lowest in the 1979 to 2013 satellite record.4

The NSIDC Overview of Conditions is as follows:

Sea ice extent for August 2013 averaged 6.09 million square kilometers (2.35 million square miles). This was 1.03 million square kilometers (398,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average for August, but well above the level recorded last year, which was the lowest September extent in the satellite record. Ice extent this August was similar to the years 2008 to 2010. These contrasts in ice extent from one year to the next highlight the year-to-year variability attending the overall, long-term decline in sea ice extent.5

In short, the cooling crowd celebrations of a cooling cycle are premature, to say the least, especially since the long-term trend remains solidly down, not up. Better leave the champagne on ice until Multi-year Ice starts re-building in a serious manner rather than focusing on one-year blips of first-year thin ice.

Sea Ice Extent versus Multi-Year Ice (or Fantasy versus Reality)

The cooling crowd is eyeballing “sea ice extent,” which is a two-dimensional measurement, and which does not tell us how thick the ice is.

The measurement that real scientists use is “volume,” which is a three-dimensional measurement, which tells us how much ice really exist.

Scientists are concerned about the volume of ice rather than how much of the sea is covered by a thin layer of ice, which comes and goes with changing weather patterns. Multi-year ice is the older ice that has accumulated over centuries, and it is the most important measurement when it comes to climate change, not thin new-year ice.

Real Scientific Measurements of Arctic Sea Ice

Meanwhile, back at the scientific labs that are responsible for analyzing Arctic Sea Ice, this year scientists deployed Ice Mass Balance Buoys over a wide area in undeformed, multi-year ice, not in the thin new year ice the news articles refer to, which new year ice expanded in 2013 because of an aberration of below-average sea level pressure patterns which cause cloudy and cool conditions.

The Ice Mass Balance Buoys, put into place before the melt season began, measuring multi-year ice, showed the following results: (1) Surface ice melting ranged from zero in the central Arctic to 30 inches of melt in the Beaufort Sea area; (2) Bottom melting of the ice sheet, in general, varied from 3-to-43 inches with the largest melt thinning from 133 inches (June) down to 62 inches on August 28th near the ice edge in the Beaufort Sea; (3) Ice thickness loss at other buoys on August 28th ranged from 48-to-105 inches.

The reported results discuss “surface ice melting” and “bottom ice melting” but nothing about sea ice re-building. The report is all about melting because that’s what is happening with Arctic Sea Ice. It is not re-building in the slightest.

Here are a couple of Ice Mass Balance Buoy readings directly from the Arctic6:

(1) 2012L – ID Code: 300025010123530 in Multi-Year Ice in Beaufort Sea (Deployed by WHOI) conditions at deployment Ice Thickness (8/27/2012) 335 cm versus Ice Thickness (8/28/2013) 157 cm.  This equals an ice loss of 70 inches or nearly six (6) feet of multi-year ice loss within one year, 2012-2013.

(2) 2012M – ID Code: 300025010206570 in Multi-Year Ice at Fram Straight (Deployed by Norwegian Polar Institute). Conditions at deployment Ice Thickness (8/29/2012) 250 cm versus Ice Thickness (9/02/2013) 121 cm. This equals an ice loss of 51 inches or over four (4) feet of multi-year ice loss within one year, 2012-2013.

These real time factual readings are very interesting indeed, especially considering the fact that the year 2012 was a record low year for ice extent, but look what happened in 2013 with an expanded ice extent, in spite of the record low year from the year before. Considerably more multi-year sea ice was lost… gone forever as Arctic Sea Ice continues to lose volume, year after year after year.

It’s a damn good thing that the cooling crowd did not focus on the core of the ice mass, which is multi-year ice, or they would have had to change their headlines to read: “Arctic Multi-year Core Ice Core Continues to Disappear.” Rather, they focused on first-year thin ice that often times diminish to nothing the following year.

The Arctic Sea Ice is not pregnant!

Let’s hope the poor ole polar bears do not take the “good news” too seriously just yet!

  1. The Sun, September 8, 2013. []
  2. Mail Online, September 7, 2013. []
  3. The Telegraph, September 8, 2013. []
  4. Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis, September 4, 2013. []
  5. Overview of Conditions, Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis, September 4, 2013. []
  6. Source: U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory []

Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide, like Z magazine, European Project on Ocean Acidification, Ecosocialism Canada, Climate Himalaya, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Comite Valmy, and UK Progressive. He has been interviewed about climate change on Pacifica Radio, KPFK, FM90.7, Indymedia On Air and World View Show/UK. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.