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


  1. Good Stuff! Apparently fear and dogma still rule in scientific circles.

  2. oh my God! I don’t believe that some people still think that global warming is a joke! They must be crazy!

    All human being in this earth! lets save our lovely earth today! we can’t wait any longer! We only have one earth, one planet, to lived…

    Lets fight global warming!

  3. Tya,

    Thinking people don’t think global warming is a joke. They know that anthropogenic (means man-caused) global warming is a hoax.

  4. […] may also find this Blog of […]

  5. I think Tya is being sarcastic. At least I hope so.

  6. The graphs above show conclusive proof of Anthropogenic Global Cooling. This one year trend should further strengthen the concensus that a new ice age is just over the horizon. Within 10 years there will be no open water anywhere on the planet.


  7. Man made global warming is real from, but hey you might not believe pier reviewed climatologist!

    Australian Academy of Sciences,
    Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts,
    Brazilian Academy of Sciences,
    Royal Society of Canada,
    Caribbean Academy of Sciences,
    Chinese Academy of Sciences,
    French Academy of Sciences,
    German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina,
    Indian National Science Academy,
    Indonesian Academy of Sciences,
    Royal Irish Academy,
    Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy),
    Academy of Sciences Malaysia,
    Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand,
    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences,
    Royal Society (UK)

  8. John Nicklin: Yeah! I’m so tired of this global warming stuff now so I agree! Counter alarmism!!! In 10 years from now we’ll have ice which normaly takes at least 10000 years to create!

    (A snowball earth may take 100000s of years to evolve, btw.)

    But I really am a so called skeptic… 😉 I think we’ll may have a little or large little ice age now. Hopefully a little one!

  9. Sure ice extent grew this last winter but thickness continues to decrease.
    Ice extent grows quickly when temperatures suddenly drop for shorter periods of time (a weather event) while thickness is influenced more by year round temperature ( a climate factor). Continued decrease in thickness= continued warming.

  10. Oops


    You know what is happening don’t you? Those evil liberals and those misled scientist have (out of abject fear of having their liberal, ecofriendly, tutti-fruitti global warming hoax exposed) run up to the Arctic with their hair dryers on full blast and quickly melted the ice cap.

    Evils sods…

  11. AV,
    Thanks for your comment. The odd thing is that the graph you sited actually makes my point, not yours. That graph shows three curves. One is the average (1979 – 2000) arctic ice extent as a fuction of the day of the year; one is the 2007 ice extent as function of the day of the year; and the third is the 2008 ice extent as a function of the day of the year.

    After the big melt and the subsequent refreeze of the arctic last year, we heard much about “perennial ice.” The arguement was made (and repeated and repeated and repeated) that the newly frozen ice somehow didn’t count, because it was not “perennial ice.” Therefore, the arguement goes, it will melt more quickly, and by the end of the 2008 melt season there would be even less ice than by the end of the 2007 melt season. This pattern, repeated over several years would ultimately lead to the “ice free arctic” by 2012.

    But the graph shows that, day by day, there is still more ice in the arctic this year than last year. So, if the pattern shown in the graph does repeat for several years (and I am not saying that it will), then there would be MORE ice in 2012 than in 2007.

    Best Regards,

  12. Thank you Tom for sharing real facts and not man-made computer models and quirky formulae and calculations. . .just plain, anyone can see and understand – FACTS! It is more proof that the anthroprogenic GW “craze” IS a religion. Remain watchful and Keep it up!!


  13. Hello alarmists. Welcome to 2012!
    Don’t forget, one famous French diver stated Manhattan will be underwater in 30 years due to global warming.

    He said that in the mid ’70’s.

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