Archive for the ‘polar bears’ Category


TIME for Kids misinforms your children

September 26, 2009

An Arctic Passage 2The modern version of the weekly reader, TIME for Kids, published by the same folks who bring you TIME magazine, heralded the news of the very first ships to sail the legendary “Northeast Passage” in an article titled “An Arctic Passage.”   This route links Europe to the Pacific Ocean, while avoiding the much longer route through the Suez canal and Indian Ocean.  But the reality is that this route was travelled on a regular basis by the Russians from the 1930s to the 1990s.  Read on to see how bogus this propaganda, that was spoon fed to your children, really was.


Northeast passage

Northeast passage

Our kids were told very plainly that “It is the first time commercial ships have traveled this route…Shippers have dreamed of a northern shortcut.  right now, ships going from Asia to Europe take a southern route through the Suez Canal, in Egypt.  A northern route would shorten the trip saving time, fuel and money”

This is new, the kids are told, because normally it is “impassable, even in summer, because of packed ice.  But melting ice caps are making it easier for ships to navigate the Arctic.” 

But the real purpose of this article is to keep the drumbeat of global warming fear pounding in the heads of our children.  “Scientists say global warming is responsible for the arctic thaw, which is causing many frozen channels to thaw” they are told.

The Truth about the Northeast Passage from Russia’s  Gubernskaya Academy

As exciting as the above story sounds, it is essentially untrue.  You can read much about the history and exploration of the Northeast Passage as compiled by the Russian Gubernskaya Academy and presented for the International Polar Year.  Here are some of the highlights…

In 1934 the ice-cutter “Litke” made the voyage from Vladivostok to Murmansk without failure by the Northern Sea Route. “Litke” captain was N.M. Nikolaev, research manager V.Yu. Vize. In 1935 four cargo motor ships passed through the Route during a single navigation season.

During the 1930s the Soviets started regular navigated the waters of  the Northeast Passage.  Gubernskaya Academy documents remind us that…

Before the Great Patriotic War [WWII] the Soviet Union gained big experience of carriers navigation in the Arctic. The ports of Dickson, Dudinka, Tiksi, Pevek and Provideniya were under construction. During the war apart from supply of the Arctic construction sites and research stations it was necessary to ensure supply of garrisons and warships and to receive goods delivered from the USA and Canada.


Soviet ships would ply the Northeast passage regularly for the next six decades.  Shipping via the Northeast Passage peaked in 1993, but declined after that – not because of ice, but rather cold economic and political winds for the dissolved Soviet Union.

Dissolution of the Soviet Union followed by social and economic crisis of the post-Soviet space in the early 1990’s had a negative influence upon the condition of the Northern Sea Route. The supply system was destroyed due to dissolution of centralized maintenance supply of the Russian North. Due to price liberalization and credit system reconstruction most enterprises in the framework of the Northern Sea Route operation were in a difficult financial state….By 2003 the volume of freight decreased 5 times (1,7 million tons) in comparison with the golden age of the Soviet era.

The two German ships that TIME for Kids referred to are really just the beginning of what the Russians hope will be a revival of trade between Europe, Siberia and Pacific region of Asia:

At present, practical steps are made in Russia to overcome the crisis and to continue development of the Northern Sea Route. This proves high strategic significance of this unique Arctic itinerary. In the first place this high importance is connected with forthcoming development of immense Arctic offshore oil and gas fields. Transit functions of the Northern Sea Route are also of high importance, mainly for development of regions located in the Extreme North and the Far East. Nowadays, many countries of the world are interested in cargo transportation by the Northern Sea Route. This is mainly due to the growing commodity turnover between Europe and the countries of Asian and Pacific regions. Possibly the XXIst century may become an era of intensive development of the Northern Sea Route as of an important arctic transportation passage of national and international importance.

The last ice-cold hard facts

So, these two German ships simply were not the first to make this trip.  In 2000 the Minister of Transportation of the Russian Federation, Sergey Frank, planning for a revival of the trade route, pointed out…

“In 1993 – 1997 the volume of sea cargo along the Northern Sea Route was already 150 – 200 thousand tons a year. Cargo traffic peaked in 1993, during the Arctic’s summer shipping season. During that period, 15 Russian ships with 210 thousand tons of transit goods passed along the Route. Also, 8 ships carrying metals, fertilizers and timber traveled from ports in Russia, Latvia, Sweden and Finland to China, Japan, and Thailand. 7 ships from China carried oilcake, bauxite, magnetite and other operating supplies to Holland, England, Ireland, Germany, and Spain.”

Oh, by the way, TIME for Kids somehow forgot to mention that the two German cargo ships that made the Northwest Passage trip this year were accompanied by a NUCLEAR POWERED ICE_BREAKER!!!  The UK’s Independent,  like TIME for Kids, somehow overlooked the previous 70 years of shipping along the route.  But in the midst of their panic-stricken, end of the world report on this global warming disaster story, they let slip…

The voyage of the two [German] vessels was certainly no picnic. Although not thoroughbred ice-breakers themselves, both ships were designed to cope with ice-strewn waters and were accompanied by at least one Russian nuclear ice-breaker during the whole of the trip. The two ships encountered snow, fog, ice floes, and treacherous icebergs which showed only about one meter of their huge underwater volume on the sea’s surface.

The most challenging stretch of the voyage came at its northernmost point, the Vilkizi Strait on the tip of Siberia. Half of the sea’s surface was covered with pack ice and the captains of both vessels had to call Russian ice pilots on board to shepherd them through. Vlarey Durov, captain of the Beluga Foresight spoke of the stress he experienced from having to keep a constant lookout for ice and the time spent waiting for the seas to clear. (emphasis added)


Arctic sea ice gone by 2015? A challenge to David Barber.

December 10, 2008
Here we go again. Last March I wrote about the media predictions that the Arctic sea ice would be gone by the summer of 2012. As I showed back then, those wild predictions were based on a simple extrapolation of the minimum summer sea ice extents of 2006 and 2007.


I’ll repeat the basic facts:

The sea ice area in the Arctic has been monitored by satellite for almost 30 years, since 1979. The area of the ice rises and falls, as you would expect, as the year cycles through its seasons. It reaches its yearly minimum by late September or early October. On the average, this minimum has been declining for the last 30 years. After October the northern sea ice area increases until it reaches a maximum in late March or early April each year. The yearly cycle is huge. Typically, about 60% of the total sea ice area melts away as is goes from yearly maximum to the yearly minimum.

The 2007 melt season was very severe and the Arctic sea ice area anomaly reached its lowest level since satellite tracking began.  But that low level was immediately followed by an unprecedented rise in sea ice area in the Arctic in the months following the 2007 summer melt season. The 2008 melt season was quite severe, but not as severe as the 2007 melt season. In order to go from the minimum ice extent of 2007 to zero ice in 2012, the Arctic sea ice extent minimum needs to drop an average of about 600,000 square kilometers per year. But the Arctic ended up with slightly more ice area (about 100,000 square kilometers more) after the 2008 melt season than after the 2007 melt season.  Figure 1, below sums it up.

Figure 1

Figure 1

New predictions of meltdown

Now along comes David Barber  from the University of Manitoba, who estimates that the Arctic Basin will be ice free by the summer of 2015. The Star Phoenix reports:

The ice that has covered the Arctic basin for a million years will be gone in little more than six years because of global warming, a University of Manitoba geoscientist said. And David Barber said that once the sea ice is gone, more humans will be attracted to the Arctic, bringing with them even more ill effects…He said he estimates the Arctic sea should see its first ice-free summer around 2015…Barber has said before the Arctic basin would be free of summer sea ice some time between 2013 and 2030. But their research about recent changes in the Arctic has allowed them to pinpoint the date even closer.

Barber sounds like a smart guy, and was the scientist in charge of a $40-million Arctic research project, the Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study. He will present his preliminary findings at the International Arctic Change 2008 conference  in Quebec. However, his track record for predictions is rather spotty. Earlier this year National Geographic reported:

“We’re actually projecting this year that the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time [in history],” David Barber, of the University of Manitoba, told National Geographic News aboard the C.C.G.S. Amundsen, a Canadian research icebreaker.”

Prediction for summer of 2008 didn’t work out

The Arctic sea ice concentration reached its minimum around September 15th this year. Figure 2, below, from the Polar Research Group at the University of Illinois, shows the distribution of ice in the Arctic on that day. As you can see, the North Pole was not even close to being ice free. Figure 3 shows the Arctic Basin sea ice area for the last 365 days. Note that in mid-September the the sea ice area anomaly for the Arctic Basin was about negative 0.75 million square kilometers, but there were still 2.5 million square kilometers of ice yet to melt. Again, not even close to zero.

Figure 2

 Figure 2. Arctic Sea Ice Concentration on September 15th, 2008, when the Arctic sea ice reached its minimum for the year. Image from the University of Illinois Polar Research Group.

Figure 3. Figure 3. Arctic Basin sea ice area for the last 365 days.  In mid-September the sea ice anomaly was negative 0.75 million square kilometers, but there were 2.5 million square kilometers more than zero.  Image from the University of Illinois Polar Research Group.  Click on image to see clearer version. 

Those who like to parse words will note that National Geographic piece did not quote Barber as saying the “Arctic Basin” or the “Arctic Ocean” would be ice free during the summer of 2008.  They will correctly point out that he said “the North Pole.”  My answer to that is “So what.”  The North Pole has certainly seen open water in modern times, as attested to by the following images:
Figure 4.

 Figure 4. Skate (SSN-578), surfaced at the North Pole, 17 March 1959. US Navy photo courtesy of This image is from NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive

Figure 5.

 Figure 5. Seadragon (SSN-584), foreground, and her sister Skate (SSN-578) during a rendezvous at the North Pole in August 1962. Note the men on the ice beyond the submarines. USN photo from The American Submarine, by Norman Polmar. This image is from NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive


What about Barber’s prediction for 2015?

The December 5th StarPhoenix article mentioned above says that according to Barber, “The ice that has covered the Arctic basin for a million years will be gone in little more than six years because of global warming.”  I wonder if Barber can seriously believe that the Arctic Basin has been continuously ice covered for “a million years.”  There is considerable evidence  that the entire Arctic region was warmer just several thousand years ago than it is now. 

Open water from the northern coast of Greenland to the North Pole likely occurred in the not too distant past.  According to Science Daily, Astrid Lysa and colleagues have studied shore features, driftwood samples, microfossils and shore sediments from Northern Greenland. Science Daily reports:

 “The architecture of a sandy shore depends partly on whether wave activity or pack ice has influenced its formation. Beach ridges, which are generally distinct, very long, broad features running parallel to the shoreline, form when there is wave activity and occasional storms. This requires periodically open water,” Astrid Lyså explains.

Pack-ice ridges which form when drift ice is pressed onto the seashore piling up shore sediments that lie in its path, have a completely different character. They are generally shorter, narrower and more irregular in shape.

“The beach ridges which we have had dated to about 6000-7000 years ago were shaped by wave activity,” says Astrid Lyså. They are located at the mouth of Independence Fjord in North Greenland, on an open, flat plain facing directly onto the Arctic Ocean. Today, drift ice forms a continuous cover from the land here.

Astrid Lyså says that such old beach formations require that the sea all the way to the North Pole was periodically ice free for a long time.

“This stands in sharp contrast to the present-day situation where only ridges piled up by pack ice are being formed,” she says.

Funder and Kjaer reported similar results at the 2007 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. They point out that “Presently the North Greenland coastline is permanently beleaguered by pack ice…” but “that for a period in the Early Holocene, probably for a millennium or more, the Arctic Ocean was free of sea ice at least for short periods in the summer.” They date this time period to sometime between 8500 and 6000 years ago.  (Update 7/8/10 – Funder now believes “that multiyear sea ice was reduced to between half and a third of the present during the Holocene Thermal Optimum.”  Thanks to Kevin O’Neill and his persistence  in making this correction.)

An Open Challenge to David Barber

I am concerned about climate exaggerations and the effect  they have on public policy makers.  It seems quite clear that David Barber was off the mark when he predicted that “this year that the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time,” because neither the Arctic Ocean, the Arctic Basin nor the North Pole were ice free this past summer.  The North Pole being ice free is not that unusual, and the entire Arctic was probably ice free a relatively short 7,000 years ago.

Now Barber has made the slightly longer term prediction that “The ice that has covered the Arctic basin for a million years will be gone in little more than six years.”  I propose a friendly wager based on this prediction.  I will bet David Barber $1000(US) that the ice covering the Arctic Basin will not be gone anytime before December 31st, 2015.  The bet would involve no transfer of  cash between myself or Barber, but rather, the loser will pay the sum to a charitable organization designated by the winner.

 Definition of terms.  The Arctic Basin is defined by the regional map at Cryosphere Today.  “Gone” means the Arctic Basin sea ice area is less that 100,000 square kilometers, according to National Center for Environmental Prediction/NOAA as presented at Cryosphere Today .  Charitable organizations will be agreed upon at the time the bet is initiated. 

David Barber is a smart guy and evidently an expert in his field.  Taking on a wager with an amateur like me should be like shooting fish in a barrel.  I look forward to reaching an agreement soon.


I’m curious about Canadian Archipelago sea ice area

October 16, 2008

What is happening with the Canadian Archipelago sea ice area?  Like all Arctic regions, the sea ice area of the Canadian Archipelago expands in the winter and shrinks in the summer.  Many people have come believe that the average yearly behavior of the ice from 1979 to 2000 represents what is “normal.  The only special thing about these years is that they are the first 20 years over which satellite data on sea ice area was accumulated.

For the last several years the Canadian Archipelago sea ice area, and the Arctic sea ice area in general, have dropped below the “normal” at least for part of the year.  The headline grabbing stories have been about “first time” openings in the “Northwest passage” through the Canadian Archipelago.  There seems to be a lot of interest, concern and talk.

I have turned to Cryosphere Today, from the Polar Research Group at the University of Illinois, and The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer on the Earth Observing System Aqua satellite (AMSR-E) for my information.  The odd thing is that while Cryosphere Today’s 365 day plot of the Canadian Archipelago’s sea ice area (figure 1, below) indictes that the sea ice area is LESS today than it was one year ago, Cryosphere Today’s own graphics of arctic sea Ice area for 10/14/07 and 10/14/08 clearly show that the sea ice area in the Canadian Archipelago is GREATER now than it was a year ago.  The AMSR-E graphics show the same thing, as displayed in figures 2 and 3, below

Figure 1. CryoSphere Today's plot 365 days of Canadian Archipelago Sea Ice Area from 10/14/08.  Note that this plot shows the sea ice area about 25% greater one year ago.

Figure 1. Cryosphere Today's plot of 365 days of Canadian Archipelago Sea Ice Area from 10/14/08. Note that this plot shows the sea ice area about 25% greater one year ago.


AMSR-E data for 10/14/08.

figure 2. Sea ice area representations. Upper Left: Cryosphere Today for 10/14/07. Upper Right: Cryosphere Today for 10/14/08. Bottom Left: AMSR-E data for 10/14/07. Bottom Right: AMSR-E data for 10/14/08.


Figure 3.  Same as figure 2, except showing close-ups of Canadian Archipelag0.

Figure 3. Same as figure 2, except showing close-ups of Canadian Archipelago. Note that 2007 data is on the left, and the 2008 data is on the right. These graphics clearly show more ice in the Canadian Archipelago now (on the right) than there was one year ago (on the left).

 What gives?  Am I seeing this right? The ice distribution graphics from both Cryosphere Today and from AMSR-E instrument aboard the Aqua satellite both show GREATER sea ice cover now (10/14/08) than one year ago (10/14/07).  I am just trying to understand this discrepancy.  If anyone has an explanation, please comment below.

By the way, trips through the Northwest passage have been made long before now.  The wooden ship, St. Roch, made it twice in the 1940s.  Roald Amundsen did it even earlier aboard the Gjoa in 1905.  Of course, we do not have satellite data to show us the sea ice in the Northwest passage prior to 1979.  Who knows what could have been done with modern equipment thousands of years ago when the Arctic was warmer than today?


Don’t Panic – The Arctic has survived warmer temperatures in the past

October 15, 2008

Since we are in the season of comparing charts, graphs and interpretations of the summer Arctic ice melt, it may be useful to pause and consider the history of Arctic temperatures in the Holocene.  There is an abundance of data compiled by hardworking field researchers over the years.  Before everybody got so excited about global warming, it was understood that the Arctic was considerably warmer in earlier parts of the Holocene than in the present.  The evidence for these warmer periods seems to have been forgotten in an age when satellite data causes us to fixate on the last thirty years.

I have collected a short list of papers that indicate times during the mid-Holocene, and places in or near the Arctic, when it was warmer than the present.  Some of these papers may also indicate warmer periods in the early or late Holocene, but I am concentrating primarily on the mid-Holocene in this post.  Figure 1, below, shows the spatial distribution of areas covered by these papers.  Click on the image to get a larger view.  Figure 2 shows the times in the mid-Holocene that each paper says it was warmer than the present.

Figure 1.  Numbers correspond to the journal articles that are listed below.  They also correspond to the numbered lines in figure 2.


 Figure 2.  “Paper #” corresponds to the numbered journal articles listed below.  The colored areas indicate the time periods in the mid-Holocene for which the papers indicate it was warmer than present.


The evidence that the Arctic was warmer in the mid-Holocene than it is now is compelling.  At longitudes almost completely encircling the Arctic, palaeological proxies of all kinds speak from the past with the same message.  Treelines moved in latitudes and elevations.  Alkenone molecules produced from sun loving organisms in the top layer of ocean water recorded the temperature of the water and settled into the depths of the ocean, depositing their temperature record in the sediments.  The pollens of various species of plants changed their ratios with changing temperatures and forest locations, drifted over lakes and settled to the bottom, leaving layer upon layer of temperature history.  Choronomid midges, small insects that live out their short lives in just a few weeks, varied their physiology according to the temperature of their environment, and carried their temperature stories to lake sediments. Forest plant species came and went at temperatures rose and fell, leaving behind their seeds in successive layers of soil as positive reminders that they had been there.

These proxies, and others, strongly indicate that the arctic region was warmer around 5,000 years ago than it is today.  Read the papers listed below to see the details.

Please feel free to criticize my interpretations of the papers, or to point out contradictory or complementary papers.


1. Jung-Hyun Kim, Norel Rimbu, Stephan J. Lorenzb, Gerrit Lohmanna, Seung-IlNam, Stefan Schoutene, Carsten Ruhlemannf, Ralph R. Schneiderg, North Pacific and North Atlantic sea-surface temperature variability during the Holocene, Quaternary Science Reviews, 23, 2004

Kim, et. al., used alkenone-derived sea-surface temperature records from sediments from over 30 locations to derive temperature changes in the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans during the Holocene.  I have marked the locations of the five highest northern latitude cores, two above the arctic circle and three below it.  Kim’s data for these cores covers only the last 7,000 years, rather than the entire Holocene.  Nevertheless, the cores show temperatures clearly dropping to modern values over the last 7,000 years.  The northern-most core (75N) shows a temperature drop of 4.4 degrees C since 7,000 years ago.  Two other cores show temperature drops greater than 3 degrees C (3.3 and 3.8 degree drops at 57.8N, 8.7E and 57.7N, 7.1E respectively).  The remaining two cores show temperature drops of 1.8 and 0.6 degrees C.  Get copy here.

2. Kultti, S., et. al., Past changes in the Scots pine forest line and climate in Finnish Lapland: a study based on megafossils, lake sediments, and GIS-based vegetation and climate data,” The Holocene, Vol 16 No3, 2004b.

In this paper, Kultti, et. al., (2004b) looked at tree lines in Finnish Lapland and found “Results indicate that pine reached its maximum distribution between 8300 and 4000 cal. yr BP. The inferred minimum shift in mean July temperature was at that time c. +2.5.” Get copy here.

3. Solovieva, N., and Jones, V., A multiproxy record of Holocene environmental changes in the central Kola Peninsula, northwest Russia, Journal of Quaternary Science, 17(4), 2002. 

Solovieva and Jones studied a multi-proxy record of the Kola Peninsula in northern Russia and concluded that for the period from 8000 years ago to 5400 years ago “A maximum of forest cover and the high Pinus abundance during this period indicate the Holocene climate optimum. The multiproxy data from Chuna Lake generally agree with the temperature reconstructions based on the evidence from the Greenland ice-cores (Stuiver et al., 1995) and summer temperatures were likely to have been 2°–3 °C higher than at present.” Get copy here.

4. MacDonald, G., et. al., Radiocarbon dated Pinus sylvestris L. wood from beyond tree-line on the Kola Peninsula, Russia, The Holocene, Vol. 10, No.1, 2000.

MacDonald, et. al., dated Scots Pine wood (Pinus sylvestris L.) in Russia’s Kola Peninsula and found “the density of trees north of the modern tree-line was greatest between 7000 and 5000 BP.  Get copy here.

5. Sarnthein, et. al., Centennial-to-millennial-scale periodicities of Holocene climate and sediment injections off the western Barents shelf, 75°N, Boreas, Vol. 32, 2003.

Sarnthein, et. al., studied sediments on the Barents shelf and found “disappearing sea ice from 6.4–5.2” thousand years before the present, and again “3.0–1.6 kyr BP.” Get copy here.

6. Kultti, S., Oksanen, P., and Väliranta, M., Holocene tree line, permafrost, and climate dynamics in the Nenets Region, East European Arctic, Canadian Journal of Earth Science, Vol 41, 2004a.

 “Pollen, stomata, and macrofossils in a lake core with a basal date of 9700 14C BPwere used to reconstruct past changes in climate and vegetation in the arctic tree line area, northeast European Russia” … “We interpret summer temperatures to have been ca. 3–4 °C higher between ca. 8900 and 5500 BP than at present, and the lowest temperature regime of the Holocene to have occurred between 2700 and 2100 BP.”

7. V.L. Koshkarova and A.D. Koshkarov, RegionalSignatures of Changing Landscape and Climate of Northern Central Siberia in the Holocene, Russian geology and geophysics, N 6, v. 45, 2004

 Koshkarova and Koshkarov(2004) draw their conclusions based on “25 sections of Holocene deposits and soils of northern Central Siberia [that] were studied by paleocarpologicalmethods. Special attention was given to the reconstruction of the dynamics of speciation of forest cover in time and space.” These 25 sections are all above the arctic circle and range in longitude from 86 to 119°E. They divide the Holocene in the region into “intervals 9-8 ka (thermal maximum), 6.5-5ka (climate optimum – combination of higher temperatures and higher humidity), and 2.5-2 ka (thermal minimum).  Get copy here.

8. Robert A. Monserud, Nadja M. Tchebakova, and Olga V. Denissenko, Reconstuction of the mid-Holocene Palaeoclimate of Siberia using a bioclimatic vegetation model, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 139, 1998

 Monserud, et. al., concentrated on the mid-holocene, which they defined as 4600 to 6000 years before the present. They found that during this period the Siberian winters “between 60 and 65N the palaeoclimate was 5.3 C warmer on average, and between 65 and 70N it was 7.7 C warmer.” For the warmer months the found “Summer was 2-5 C warmer than today between 63 and 73N, embracing much of the Northern Taiga, Forest-Tundra, and Tundra zones. A band of moderate summer temperature anomalies (0 – 2 C) is centered at 65N, and a second band of greater anomalies (2-5 C) is centered at 70N.” Get copy here.

9. Ilyashuk, E.A., Ilyashuk, B.P., Andreev, A.A.b, Bennett, K.D., Hammarlund, D., Hubberten, H.W., Chironomid-inferred Holocene mean July air temperatures for the Lena River Delta area, East Siberia, and the Kola Peninsula, northwestern Russia, ACSYS Final Science Conference,11-14 November 2003, Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), St. Petersburg, Russia

 Ilyashuk, et. al. show that Radiocarbon-dated chironomid records from the lake Nikolay region of the Lena River Delta area “imply the warmest (up to 2-3°C warmer than nowadays) climate during ca. 10,200-9200 cal. yr BP…with two short warm oscillations (up to 8.9oC) at c. 5600 and 4500-4100 cal. yr BP…and a relatively long warm period ca. 2300-1400 cal. yr BP.” Get copy here.

10. Matul, A. G., et. al., Recent and Late Holocene Environments on the Southeastern Shelf of the Laptev Sea As Inferred from Microfossil Data, Oceanology, Vol. 47, No. 1, 2007.

Matul, et. al., (2007) from the Russian Academy of Science studied microfossils from the Laptev Sea, which is north of Siberia and well within the Arctic circle. They found that “Judging from the increased diversity and abundance of the benthic foraminifers, the appearance of moderately thermophilic diatom species, and the presence of forest tundra (instead of tundra) pollen, the Medieval warming exceeded the recent “industrial” one and is reflected in the near-delta sediments.” But they indicate that it was warmer even earlier by saying “..the warming in the Laptev Sea during the period of ~5100–6200 years B.P. corresponding to the Holocene climatic optimum could be even more significant as compared with the Medieval Warm Period.”

11. Lawson, D.E.,et. al., 2007, Early to mid-Holocene glacier fluctuations in Glacier Bay, Alaska, in Piatt, J.F., and Gende, S.M., eds., Proceedings of the Fourth Glacier Bay Science Symposium, October 26–28, 2004: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5047, p. 54-55.

Lawson looked at glacial advances and retreats in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Glacier Bay is well south of the Arctic circle, but yields information about northern latitude climates. They found a glacial retreat starting 6800 years ago followed by a new glacial advance starting 5000 years ago. The retreat “was long enough to develop a mature forest” on land that was subsequently recovered with ice. Get cop here.

12. Kaufman, D. S., et. al., Holocene thermal maximum in the western Arctic (0-180°W), Quaternary Science Reviews, 23, 2004

In a very comprehensive study of the western Arctic Kaufman and coauthors from the US, UK, Canada, Norway, Iceland, and Russia (2004), studied proxies from over 140 sites in the western hemisphere part of the arctic. Their abstract notes “Paleoclimateinferences based on a wide variety of proxy indicators provide clear evidence for warmer-than-present conditions at 120 of these sites. At the 16 terrestrialsites where quantitative estimates have been obtained, local HTM[Holocene Thermal Maximum] temperatures (primarily summer estimates) were on average 1.6 ± 0.8 ° C higher than present…”
They devided the region into four zones, which I have labeled on the map.
12a. Central Eastern Beringia.Sketchy evidence indicates that the Holocene Therma Maximum occurred very early and had a short duration in this region. Temperatures were several degrees above current temperatures for some period between 12.8 and 7.1 ka. (mean initiation plus one sigma to mean termination minus one sigma).
12b. Northern Continental Canada.Better evidence indicates that this zone experienced higher temperatures from about 7.3 to 4.3 ka.
12c. Canadian Arctic Islands.Good abundant data that this zone was warm from 8.6 to 4.9 ka.
12d. Greenland, Iceland and other Artic islands.Temperatures were high in this zone from 8.6 to 5.2 ka.

13. Stewart, T. and England, J., Holocene Sea-Ice Variations and Paleoenvironmental Change, Northernmost Ellesmere Island, NWT., Canada, Arctic and Alpine Research, Vol 15, No. 1, 1983.

 Stewart and England examined more than 70 samples or Holocene driftwood on Ellesmere at 82° N Latitude. The time distribution of the driftwood indicates “prolonged climatic amelioration at the highest terrestrial latitudes of the northern hemisphere” from 4200 to 6000 years before the present.  Get copy here.

14. D. Dahl-Jensen, K. Mosegaard, N. Gundestrup, G. D. Clow, S. J. Johnsen, A. W. Hansen, N. Balling, Past Temperatures Directly from the Greenland Ice Sheet, Science, 282, 1998

“Dahl-Jensen, et. al., use borehole data to conclude “After the termination of the glacial period, temperatures in our record increase steadily, reaching a period 2.5 K warmer than present during what is referred to as the
Climate Optimum (CO), at 8 to 5 ka. Following the CO, temperatures cool to a minimum of 0.5 K colder than the present at around 2 ka. The record implies that the medieval period around 1000 A.D. was 1 K warmer than present in Greenland.” Get copy here

Volcanos in Gakkel Ridge NOT responsible melting the Arctic ice

July 10, 2008

I am not only a global warming skeptic, but a skeptic in general.  I call ‘em as I see ‘em.

There have been some attempts to link the arctic sea ice loss of the last several years to reports of volcanoes under thousands of feet of water in the Gakkel Ridge,

The truth is that all the energy from a volcano the size of Mount St. Helens could only melt 100 square kilometers of three meter thick ice.  This is a trivial amount of ice for the arctic region, which typically oscillates between about 4 million and 14 million square kilometers every year.  100 square kilometers is only one hundred thousandth of the yearly change in Arctic sea ice extent


Arctic region showing the location of the Gekkal ridge.  This Google Earthimage, with annotation by Moriarty, obviously does not show the arctic sea ice.

Let’s do some simple math to work this out:

First, how much energy is released by a volcano?  Of course, if varies greatly, but we just need an order of magnitude approximation for now.  A common estimate  for the energy released by the Mount St. Helens explosion is 24 megatons, where a megaton is supposed to be equivalent to the energy released by a million tons of TNT.  A joule is the basic SI unit for energy, and one megaton is equal to 4.2 million billion joules (4.2e+15 joules).  Therefore the 24 megatons released by Mount St. Helens translates into about 100 million billion joules (1.0E+17 joules).  That is:

(4.2E+15 joules/megaton  X  24 megatons  = 1.0E+17 joules).

So now the question is: how much ice could be melted by 100 million billion joules of energy?  It takes about 4 joules to heat one gram of water by 1 degree C.  But it takes many more joules to melt a gram of ice.  The amount of energy needed to melt a gram of a solid to a liquid is called the “heat of fusion.”  The heat of fusion for water is 334 joules per gram.   If we divide the total energy of the volcano by the heat off fusion of water, we will get the number of grams of ice that could be melted.  Doing the math:

1.0E+17 joules   /   334 joules per gram   =   3.0E+14 grams

OK, the energy released by Mount St. Helens would melt about 3.0E+14 (three hundred million million) grams of ice.  A gram of ice is about 1.1 cubic centimeters (1.1 cc), so we can round it to 1 cc just to make things simple.  That means that Mount St Helens released enough energy to melt 3.0E+14 cubic centimeters of ice. 

Let’s get a handle on what “3.0E+14 cubic centimeters of ice” means.  A cubic meter of ice is the same as 1,000,000 cubic centimeters of ice.   So, 3.0E+14 cubic centimeters of ice are the same as 3.0E+8 cubic meters of ice.  Still a pretty big number to grasp.  A sheet of ice that is one meter thick and one square kilometer would have a volume of 1 million cubic meters (1.0E+6 m3).  In this case, 3.0E+8 cubic meters of ice would be the same as 300 square kilometers of ice that is 1 meter thick.

Now we have a number that is easier to deal with.  That is, the energy of Mount St. Helens would be enough to melt 300 square kilometers or ice that is 1 meter thick.  Finally, we’ll make the estimate that the ice is about 3 meters thick in the arctic.  (Of course, it is much thicker some places and much thinner in others.)  Then the energy of Mount St. Helens would melt about 100 square kilometers of ice in the Arctic.

The bottom line

The Arctic goes through some serious changes in sea ice extent every year as the season change.  The sea ice extent changes by about 10 million square kilometers every year.  100 square kilometers is about one hundred thousandth of that.  It would take a thousand volcanos the size of Mount St. Helens every year to account for just 1% of the yearly Arctic ice loss.

I am not only a global warming sceptic, but a skeptic in general.  I call ‘em as I see ‘em.

Mount St Helens explosion, May 18th, 1980.


Polar bears listed as endangered, while global sea ice anomaly is above average

May 15, 2008

They finally did it.  Today the polar bear was listed as an endangered species.  The New York Times reports 

The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit in 2005 to force a listing of the polar bear. The center, based in Arizona, has been explicit about its hopes to use this — and the earlier listing of two species of coral threatened by warming seas — as a legal cudgel to attack proposed coal-fired power plants or other new sources of carbon dioxide emissions.

The thrust of the argument that echoes around the internet and appears over and over again in the popular press is the following sequence: 1. Anthropogenic CO2 causes the planet to heat. 2. This causes more summer ice melt. 3. The longer duration of open water in the summer and fall hampers the bear’s seal hunting and breeding. 4. Bear population diminishes.

There was, in fact, a fairly rapid decrease in Arctic sea ice extent sea ice extent over the last few years.  But the losses were almost entirely recovered in an unprecedented ice build-up of Arctic sea ice in the last months of  2007 and the first months of 2008

The alarmists base their argument on the studies of the bear’s habitat by the IUCN World Conservation Union.   Much has been made of the IUCN’s list of the “observed or predicted trend” for the nineteen sub-populations of polar bears. Most people are not aware that only five of these nineteen populations are listed as “declining.”  These sub-populations are the Southern Beaufort Sea population, Norwegian Bay population, Western Hudson population, Baffin Bay population, and Kane Basin population.

What is the condition of the sea ice for these five populations today? See for yourself in the following graphs of sea ice area.*

Figure 1.  The Beaufort Sea, home of the Southern Beaufort Sea sub-population of polar bears, has had an almost exactly average seasonally adjusted sea ice extent for the last six months.

Figure 2.  The Canadian Archipelago is the home of the Norwegian Bay sub-population of polar bears.  This region has had an average seasonally adjusted ice extent for the last six months.

Figure 3.  The Hudson Bay is the home of the Western Hudson population.  The Hudson Bay seasonally adjusted sea ice extent has hovered around average for the last six months.  Although it has been below average for brief periods in the last month, at the time this post is being written it is slightly above average.

Figure 4.  The Baffin Bay / Newfoundland region contains the Baffin Bay and Kane subpopulations.  For most of the last six months the sea ice extent has been greater than the seasonally adjusted average.

 As the NYT article mentioned above made perfectly clear, this has been a battle over the alarmist’s fear of global warming, not about polar bears per se.  Global warming, they worry, is going to yield an ice free Arctic, and the land bound ice in the Antarctic is on the verge of melting and flooding the coastal regions of the planet.  So, how does the overall global sea ice extent look, as of today?  While it has wiggled up an down about the average since satellites have been measuring it, and it stayed below average for several years, it is currently above average, as shown in figure 5, below.

Figure 5. Global sea ice area and anomaly.  Click on the image to enlarge the most recent anomaly data.  For the last several months the anomaly has been positive.  That is, the seasonally adjusted anomaly has been greater than the 1979 to 2000 average. 

My guess is that most of the alarmists are hoping and praying for a significant meltdown in the Arctic this summer.  Without such a meltdown it won’t be polar bears that are endangered, but their credibility.

*  Data for all figures from the University of Illinois Polar Research Group.  For figures 1 through 4 of the sea ice areas and averages were digitized from the U of I graphs of sea ice areas and anomalies using 48 increments per year.  Then the anomalies were subtracted from the sea ice area to give the 1979 to 2000 average.  Figure 5 is from the U of I web page, with additional annotation by ClimateSanity.


Arctic Sea Ice Gone by Summer 2012?

March 21, 2008

You have heard and read it all over the media in the last several months. An Associated Press article picked up by newspapers and the web (See National Geographic version here) reported that one scientist “speculated that summer sea ice could be gone in five years.”  The article warns…

“”The Arctic is screaming,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government’s snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colorado. “


“The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming,” said Zwally, who as a teenager hauled coal. “Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines.”


This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”

Wow!  Where did this ominously close date of 2012 come from?  The sea ice extent in the Arctic (and Antarctic) has been monitored by satellite for almost 30 years, since 1979.  The extent of the ice rises and falls, as you would expect, as the year cycles through its seasons.  It reaches its yearly minimum by late September or early October.  On the average, this minimum has been declining for the last 30 years.  After October the northern sea ice extent increases until it reaches a maximum in late March or early April  each year. 

The yearly cycle is huge.  Typically, about 60% of the total sea ice extent melts away as is goes from yearly maximum to the yearly minimum.  Figure 1, below, shows the northern sea ice extent from 1979 to November 2007.  Note the large drop in the yearly minimum sea ice extent by October 2007.  This is the canary that Zwally was talking about.  The prediction of an ice free arctic summer by 2012 comes by simply extrapolating the change in the minimum ice extent between 2006 and 2007 into the future, as shown.



Figure 1.  Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Extent from 1979 to November 2007.  Rapid drop in minimum sea ice extent from 2006 to 2007 is extrapolated to show total loss of ice by 2012. Click on image to enlarge.

Nature, ever the jokester, has had her fun with the climate alarmists since last November.  The Arctic has had more than its usual run up of ice this winter.  Today’s (3/20/08) version of the Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Extent shows an unprecedented (Ever heard that word before?) run up of ice in the Arctic in the last five months 



Figure 2.  Same as figure 1, but updated to March 20th, 2008.  The last five months have shown a rapid ice increase in the Northern Hemisphere. Click on image to enlarge.

The 11 million square kilometer gain in sea ice extent is the greatest seasonal ice gain in history (where history, according to alarmist rhetoric, began in 1979 when satellites started tracking the ice extent).  You can read about a little bit of “pre-history” here.  Take a look at this long list of peer reviewed journal articles showing that the “pre-history” or the Arctic was warmer than the present.

 While we are at it, lets not forget about the Southern Hemisphere.  After all, they didn’t put the word “global” in “global warming” for nothing.  Figure 3, below shows the sea ice extent for the Southern Hemisphere going back to 1979 from the same satellites tracking the northern ice.  The peak at the upper right corner of the graph shows that at about the same time that the Arctic ice was at its lowest “historic” extent, the Antarctic ice was at its highest “unprecedented” extent.



Figure 3.  Sea ice extent in the Southern Hemisphere.  Click on image to enlarge.

I would not  predict that the Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent will reach 17 million square kilometers in 2012 by simply extrapolating the increases of the last four years out another four years.  The changes are to complex.  But that never seems to stop the alarmists.

All the graphs in this post are from the University of Illinois Polar Research Group.  They got the data from the National Center for Environmental Prediction/NOAA


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