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HomeClimate WatchThe climate scaremongers: Whatever happened to the ice-free Arctic?

The climate scaremongers: Whatever happened to the ice-free Arctic?


ACCORDING to all the experts, Arctic summers should have been ice-free years ago. In 2007, Nasa warned that the ice would all be gone within five years. Two years later, leading Arctic expert Al Gore told us it would probably disappear within seven years.

But when it comes to climate clowns, surely the gold medal must go to Peter Wadhams, who is amazingly still Professor of Ocean Physics and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University. His predictions include these beauties:

• In 2012, he predicted that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2015/16
• In 2014, he thought it might last till 2020.
• In 2016, he confidently forecast the Arctic would be ice-free that summer (though curiously he now defined ‘ice-free’ as less than 1million square kilometres!)

Back in the real world, summer ice extent has actually been very stable since 2007. (Arctic ice extent reaches its minimum in September, rather than during the summer):

Blue trend lines are mine

There is no question that sea ice extent fell between 1979 and 2007, but the data clearly shows that this decline has now ended.

Comprehensive satellite coverage began only in 1979, but earlier studies suggested that the ice extent grew considerably during the 1960s and 70s, when the Arctic went through a much colder climatic spell.

If full data had been available since, say, the 1930s, when temperatures around the Arctic were at a similar level to today, I suspect that the above graph would look completely different. One reconstruction by Alekseev et al shows a clear cyclical pattern, with ice extent now not much lower than in 1940:

Based on Alekseev et al

Indeed, Arctic scientists have long been aware of the big climatic shifts there in the 20th century. Dickson & Osterhus, for instance, identified four distinct phases in their 2007 paper:

•       The Great Chill 1900 – 1920

•       The Warming in the North 1920 – 1960

•       The Great Salinity Anomaly 1968 – 1982

•       The Warming of the Abyss 1970 – Present Day

Each shift coincided with changes in Atlantic Ocean currents. Both warming episodes were the direct result of warmer Atlantic seas flowing northwards into Arctic waters. Similarly, the two cooling episodes saw that process being reversed, with cold, fresh water replacing the warmer sea.

These oceanic changes are part of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, (AMO) which runs around a cycle of about 60 years. We are still in the warm phase, which began in the mid-1990s.

Just as the Warming in the North finished in the 1960s, so will the current warm period when the AMO turns negative. When that happens, the sea ice will return, just as it did in the 1960s.

It has nothing to do with CO2.

And at the other Pole . . .

WHILE polar scientists have remained strangely silent about the refusal of the Arctic sea ice to melt away as ordained, they have doubled down on record low sea ice extent in the Antarctic.

According to Walt Meier of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC): ‘It’s so far outside anything we’ve seen, it’s almost mind-blowing.’ Curiously he did not say the same thing when the ice extent there hit a record high as recently as 2014!

The simple reality is that, as with the Arctic, we have satellite data going back only to 1979, so any ‘record claims’ are meaningless. And a look at the map below shows that the ice extent is only slightly lower than average:

Claims that the ice has melted away are wide of the mark. What has happened is that wind patterns have changed this year, bringing winds from the north. This also happened in 2016, and it has had the effect of pushing the ice edge towards the continent.

These wind patterns are associated with what is called the Southern Annular Mode (SAM); for most of this year it has been running strongly negative – see here. This means that the normally strong west to east winds tend to break down, allowing winds to blow from the north. (See here).

How do we know the ice has been pushed polewards? Simple: we can see the evidence for this in the fact that sea ice has been thicker than normal this Antarctic winter.

The charts below are prepared by US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate scientist Zachary Labe using official NSIDC data.

The first confirms the increase in thickness, whilst the second shows the total volume, in other words the extent multiplied by the thickness. Note that volume was lower in 1980!

As with the rest of the world, climate changes all the time in the Antarctic. These changes, including the SAM, are perfectly natural events.

With data only since 1979, scientists have no idea what happened before. There is therefore no evidence that this year’s reduction in sea ice extent is anything other than a normal occurrence that has happened many times before.

Polar scientists, such as Walt Meier, know all this much better than me. So why are they pretending it is all somehow unprecedented?

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Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood is a former accountant who blogs about climate change at Not a Lot of People Know That

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