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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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HomeClimate WatchWhy the polar bears don’t need to worry

Why the polar bears don’t need to worry

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NOT A lot of people know, or rather a lot of people don’t want it to be common knowledge, that the maximum extent the Northern Hemisphere sea-ice cover occurs at approximately the same time as the Spring Equinox. This simple fact would undermine the foundations of the ‘warmist’ propaganda, which has focused for the last two months months on how warm the weather has been (especially in the middle-class, metropolitan bubble of SE England), and would scupper the hand-wringing by such luminaries as Saints Attenborough, Packham and Thunberg.

This graph clearly shows the annual fluctuation of ice cover over time.  It is worth emphasising that the range of year-on-year values is quite narrow, as indicated by the upper and lower quartile and decile bands (the grey areas on the graph). This demonstrates that the annual pattern is remarkably consistent, and not marked by sudden variations as the warmists would like to have us believe. The diagram shows the behaviour of this year’s ice growth and that of 2012, which was the year of minimum north polar ice extent. The fact that recent years, including this one, although below average, have not continued the falling trend is again contrary to the publicity of the Green lobby. From late December until the end of January, the extent of ice cover entered the decile range and for a few days had reached the quartile band, i.e. within +/- 25 per cent of the mean value. It is clear that the annual range of ice coverage is large, and runs into several millions of square kilometres: it is therefore a major physical entity on a global scale.

Geographical Extent of Arctic Sea Ice on March 22 2024
Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado

This map of the north polar regions illustrates the extent of ice on March 22 this year, and shows how complete and continuous the areas affected are. All the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is covered with ice, as is Hudson’s Bay and the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. This is contiguous with the seas to the north of Russia and Siberia, so the polar bears will have free range, and are not stranded on ice-floes like a famous advert for mints. Some obvious characteristics that reflect the basic pattern of the global atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns are evident from the ice distribution.  On the eastern side of Asia and on the east side of North America and Greenland, ice reaches a long way south. The Sea of Okhotsk is ice-bound, and ice almost reaches Hokkaido in the north of Japan. Icebergs calving from glaciers in eastern Greenland in April 1912 brought about the sinking of the Titanic. Conversely, the warm currents extending from the west across the Pacific and the Atlantic, e.g. the Gulf Stream, extend their influence far polewards. Thus the Pacific north-west coast is ice-free as far north of the Aleutian Islands, and the north Atlantic has no ice along the whole of the west and north coast of Norway and nearby, almost as far as Novaya Zemlya. Hence the interest of trying to keep access to Murmansk during World War II.

The holy grail of the North-West Passage has fascinated people for centuries and interests governments from time to time when ice extent is low. Recent enthusiasm to develop a sea corridor (Northern Sea Route) mainly to the north of Russia has seen a boost in shipping, but requires careful management and operations in a short window of opportunity in August-September. But the entrapment of a freighter and the atomic powered rescue ice breaker becoming stuck in the ice should act as a caution. The current confident notions on the route are both economic, strategic and the results of modern technological developments in shipping, rather than on climate amelioration alone. The dream of a North-West Passage was boosted by the explorations of the Cabots, father and son, from 1497-1508, who reached the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador. Their optimism was clearly enough to get the financial support of the famously parsimonious Henry VII, but the North-West passage saw the failure by major expeditions of Martin Frobisher and most tragically for Sir John Franklin in the 1840s.

Concluding on how changeable our perceptions on polar climatic variations are, here is a copy of the cover of Radio Times from November 1974.  Obviously then, with the winter of 1962-63 still relatively fresh in the memory, the climate change concerns focused on the next ice age and advancing North Pole ice. From a paleoclimatologist viewpoint, we may well still be in an ice age: advances, declines and lesser interstadials pepper the climate history of the last million years. So whether one is a fanatic for Net Zero to save the world, or harbouring dreams of a sea route from Murmansk to Vladivostok, it might be as well to remember the motto of the Royal Society: ‘Nullius in verba’ or ‘take nobody’s word for it’.

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James Dent
James Dent
James Dent FRMetS worked for many years in various aspects of meteorology and hydrology in UK and internationally. He has been engaged on long-term consultancies for the World Meteorological Organisation and the Met Office.

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