Predictably, the voices of denial are rising as Arctic sea ice melt season peaks and ranks only fifth-lowest ever. The clamor is being raised over Al Gore’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech quote supposedly saying that Arctic sea ice would be gone by 2013.1 What Gore did or didn’t say is beside the point: For the propagandists delivering this message, the objective is “cast doubt and discredit.” From Gore’s speech:
Last September 21 (2007), as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.2
And yes, the deniers cannot even add. Not only did Gore not say “by 2013,” but it would be 2014 at the soonest. … On to reality:
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The Navy researcher that leads this “new study” team that the former vice president alludes to is Wieslaw Maslowski at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. The team’s research was funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Maslowski also did not say “by 2013” in his original research in 2007 or when it was republished in 2009. This grandstanding about sea ice and Gore, for whatever reason, is a huge and egregious deception. The actual prediction from Maslowski’s 2009 publication is, “Autumn could become near ice free between 2011 and 2016.”3
Even with the chaos of weather manipulating Arctic sea ice, it is easy to see the great downward trend. The image below is based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change modeling and National Snow and Ice Data Center data. The blue shaded area is the range of Arctic sea ice area coverage over time as Earth warms. The broad range represents the chaos of weather. Actual ice coverage any year could be as high or low as the shading in the blue.4
The red line is actual satellite measurements of ice coverage and represents our climate reality that is some 70 years ahead of the models.5 The chaos is much more apparent in the jagged nature of the yearly measurements. But sea ice area coverage reporting is inherently a messy way to represent the real world.
Wind can blow sea ice around and bunch it up or spread it out and make the two-dimensional picture appear different than what is actually happening. A better measure is ice volume.
The graphic “Annual Minimum Arctic Sea Ice Volume” even more clearly shows the collapse that is occurring as well as the last several years of data since Maslowksi published his papers. This work was done by the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington. It was funded by the NSF, NASA, NOAA and ONR. By determining ice volume rather than surface coverage, we have a much more accurate and stable picture of the way the Arctic is responding to warming.
The latest work from the European Space Agency’s new CryoSat satellites maintains the rapid downward spiral. CryoSat went up in 2010 and has been providing the highest-resolution data yet on Arctic sea ice.6
The three images above are from the winter maximum set in spring 2013. Because of ocean warming in the Arctic, the summer minimum ice thickness usually follows the trend of the winter maximum. It is fairly easy to see with the naked eye, the decline in the red shading of the thickest sea ice caries on the long-observed trend.
The Arctic is Already Functionally Ice-Free
It has happened, just as the scientists said it would happen. Only, like almost everything else in climate science, a functionally ice-free Arctic Ocean has happened a little bit ahead of the earliest prediction.
Arctic sea ice was first deemed “almost seasonally ice free” in summer 2010 by professor David Barber. Barber is professor of environment and geography, Canada’s research chair in Arctic system science and director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg.
Dr. Barber has been searching for 200-foot thick multiyear Arctic sea ice in the Beaufort Sea, an area of the Arctic Ocean that stretches for almost 1,000 miles along the coasts of Alaska and Canada.
For his research in summer 2010, he cruised through the Beaufort Sea in the ice breaker Amundsen and never did find that multiyear ice. What Barber’s team did find was vastly different from what the satellites were telling them was there. They thought they would find 20- to 30-foot thick multiyear ice covering 7 percent to 9 percent of the Beaufort Sea.
Instead, they found 25 percent open water and very small remnant multiyear and first-year floes interspersed with thin new ice in between. Unfortunately, these satellite errors are not in our favor. The problem is because these conditions are new. They simply have not existed before, so there was no way to test for them and know that this sea icescape looks, to the eye of the satellite, exactly like a sea icescape that is thick and solid.7
The ice the Amundsen encountered was so rotten that it did not impede the forward progress of the ship. What they found was hundreds of miles of what Barber called “rotten ice.” This was 20-inch layers of fresh ice covering small chunks of older ice.8 This discovery came as a great surprise to this researcher as he cruised through the rotten ice of the Beaufort Sea at 14 miles per hour (the top speed of his vessel in open water is 15 miles per hour). The Amundsen was designed to break 1-meter thick sea ice (3.3 feet) at 3.4 miles per hour. The ice they found was so rotten that the Amundsen could break 19 to 26 feet of rotten multiyear ice at 5.7 miles per hour.9
This fascinating tale was from summer 2010, remember. Carbon dioxide continues to accumulate; physics marches on. Northwest Passage exploration of this new millennia has left us with these quotes from Barber attesting to this brave new world we have created for ourselves:
“Ship navigation across the pole is imminent as the type of ice which resides there is no longer a barrier to [normal] ships in the late summer and fall,”10
“If you want to ship across the pole, you’re concerned about multiyear sea ice. You’re not concerned about this rotten stuff we we’re doing 13 knots through. It’s easy to navigate through. I would argue that we almost have a seasonally ice-free Arctic now, because multiyear sea ice is the barrier to the use and development of the Arctic.”11
The recent record-breaking Arctic sea ice melt season has even greater significance if a few more details are understood. The 2007 record, which broke the recently set 2005 record by 22 percent, was considered a freak weather occurrence in the popular literature. This was because an unusual (for our old climate) weather system set up over the Arctic in summer 2007. Warmer-than normal-temperatures and high winds combined to reduce sea ice that year. The winds pushed ice up against Canada and out of the Arctic into the North Atlantic and down the Fram Straight to the east of Greenland. This weather system may or may not be unusual in our new climate.
However, the 2012 record is a different story. The 2012 record shattering comes after an “average” summer and the Barents and Kara Seas north of Russia were cooler than normal.
The past nine years have seen the lowest nine years of sea ice volume and extents ever recorded. Arctic sea ice truly is in collapse. You can see it yourself at the National Snow and Ice Data Center dynamic interactive sea ice graph. Click on each year of the record and watch the bottom fall out of the Arctic almost year after year.
After 170 years of searching for the Northwest Passage, it is almost open for business. Two Russian cargo ships made it across the top of Russia this summer without the aid of icebreakers.
But there is another piece of outlandish talk coming from conservative sources in reference to the sea ice situation that demonstrates the great lengths that they will go to, to do whatever it is that they think they are doing.
They are shouting that the Arctic has gained a record amount of sea ice this year over last. In climate science, this is about as embarrassing a statement as they come. But the public doesn’t know this. They only know that their authority figures, and their authoritative sources, are the ones that they trust. This is the reason climate propaganda is so effective: blind trust.
Climate science reality however is another matter. When the record is doubly smashed as it was in 2012 and the next year is only the fifth-lowest, of course there will be a record increase year over year – It wouldn’t be a record otherwise! The 2012 record shattered the 2007 record by 18 percent. The previous record (2007) shattered the record before that (2005) by 22 percent. So, why is such a large portion of the public taken in by such obvious disinformation?
It’s their innocence. The vested interests’ propaganda is so effective because the general public does not have the time or resources to remember the last record or do the math.
Now what do we do? Whatever you do, do not get frightened at climate change. It is only pollution. The same voices that tell us that Al Gore is a fraud also tell us that the solutions to climate change will ruin our economies; it’s a massive climate science conspiracy that climate change is a myth or that it won’t be good for us. These people are confused.
Cornell and Stanford have published a plan for a fossil-fuel-free New York state by 2030. The plan seems big at $569 billion. But upon completion, by 2030, the savings from health and environmental issues (not inclusive of climate change impacts), plus the higher profit margin from alternative energy sources, will equal $114 billion per year. This pays off the capital investment in less than five years. And each year thereafter, savings and profits will be higher under an alternative energy infrastructure because under a fossil fuel energy infrastructure, environmental and health costs go up only as profits diminish because of rising fuel costs.12
Don’t get frightened; get mad. Get really mad. … Get motivated. Take action. Tell your political leaders what they need to do.
3 Autumn could become near ice free between 2011 and 2016… Malsowski’s 2009 publication of Arctic Sea Ice Modeling, FreshNor – The freshwater budget of the Nordic seas: Page 2, paragraph of narrative beneath the graphic
4 Arctic Sea Ice, Real Coverage… Stroeve et al., Arctic Sea Ice Extent: Decline Faster than Forecast, American Geophysical Letters, February 2006, Updated through 2013 by the author from National Snow and Ice Data Center data. * 2013 from September 16.
5 70 Years ahead of the models…
7 Not at all what they found… Summary. Barber, et. al., Perennial pack ice in the southern Beaufort Sea was not as it appeared in the summer of 2009, Geophysical Research letters, December 2009.
8 Rotten Ice discussion… Reuters, October 29, 2009, Multiyear Arctic ice is effectively gone, paragraph
9Cruising through 26 feet of rotten ice at 24 kilometers per hour … University of Manitoba News Release, November 27, 2009, paragraph 5.
10 ibid… Ship navigation across the pole is imminent, paragraph 6.
12A Fossil Fuel Free New York State by 2030. Melton, A Fossil Fuel-Free New York State by 2050, Truthout.org, May 26, 2013. Original paper: Jacobson et al.; Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight, Energy Policy 57 (2013) 585-601.