Kevin O’Neill, I accept your challengeJuly 15, 2010
A frequent commenter on this blog has challenged me to a wager. In a comment on one of my previous posts Kevin O’Neill writes…
Now, you and I both know what ice free means in regards to the Arctic. You changed ice free to open water and claimed victory. BUT even if we accept your pointilist definition, then you have no proof the North Pole was ever ice free. Every picture of the North Pole has ice in it. And not one of those pictures shows the North Pole as being in one of the areas of open water. If the pole is a point – then point it out in the pictures. Otherwise you have no proof.
You’ve played bait and switch with the terminology, taking Barber’s terminology and replacing it with your own. It’s an attempt to win the argument through semantics, but it fails even on that level.
The North Pole has never been ice-free; not once in the history of the earth.
… and I can prove it. I’ll wager you $100 to be given to the other’s favorite charity. I suggest we use NSIDC’s 15% as the threshold for ice-free. Do you accept?
Yes, I accept, with some definitions and clarifications.
Definition of Terms
Ice. This is normal water ice, floating on the surface of the water or grounded on land. It does not include hydrates, such as methane hydrate. It is what any ordinary observer would in common parlance call “ice.”
History. Mr. O’Neill said “the history of the [E]arth.” This is geologic history, not human history. And certainly not satellite era history.
North Pole. This means the area at which the axis of rotation exits the current Northern Hemisphere. It is not the magnetic pole. The North Pole, for the purposes of this wager, does not change with a magnetic reversal. The North Pole is not required to include the entire Arctic Ocean or the entire Arctic Basin (features that have not even existed through the whole “history of the [E]arth”).
The goal of these definitions is simplicity and clarity, and to avoid word parsing that may be aimed at making the statement “The North Pole has never been ice-free; not once in the history of the earth. ” into something other than as it would be interpreted by a reasonable person.
You will present your proof in written form as a comment on this blog. I will include your proof in another post with my criticisms. You will then have an opportunity to address my criticisms, and I will again present your statements on this blog.
Burden of proof.
Mr. O’Neill said
“The North Pole has never been ice-free; not once in the history of the earth. …and I can prove it.”
The burden of proof is on him. If I present criticisms of his proof that show that the North Pole was, in fact, ice-free at some point in geological history, it is his responsibility to prove my sources wrong.
Determination of Winner
This is difficult. An unbiased judge or panel must be found and agree to make the final call. I am open to suggestions. I could arrange an opinion poll on this site.
Charities must be agreed upon before the wager is initiated, so that neither side can be forced to contribute to a cause that he may find objectionable. Objections to proposed charities must be accompanied by an explanation of the objection. My Choice is Save the Children.
Origin of Dispute
Mr O’Neill has taken exception to several statements I have made in my blog posts and in comments to my blog posts. You can see his comments in these locations…
While Mr. O’Neill does make some good arguments, he is as obsessive as he is wrong about several points. He is particularly obsessive about the following paragraphs (from here), which I wrote on December 10th, 2008, concerning David Barber’s projection, made earlier in 2008, that “this year that the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time [in history]” during the summer melt of 2008…
“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.”
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: [followed by images of submarines in open water at the North Pole}
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 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.
I will place all of Mr. O’Neill’s comments from this point on in the moderation queue until he gives me a simple response to this post, accepting the wager and my conditions and definitions. I will read his comments for reasonable modifications of terms. But I am not interested in torrents artful obfuscation. I reserve the right to release his comments from the moderation queue as I deem appropriate.
Update (7/16/10, 11:15 pm): Kevin O’Neill has submitted his “semi-formal proof” to me. However, I need clarification of two of his terms. Kevin, it is not at all clear to me what “Li” and “Lt” are . Please submit another comment with these terms defined.
Update (7/18/10, 10:15 pm): Mr. O’Neill has submitted his “semi-formal proof,” and I have published it. I will publish my criticisms at a later time. All of his other comments are remaining in the moderation queue and will likely be published at a future time.
Update (7/22/10, 8:23 pm): I published my criticisms of Mr. O’Neill’s “proof” last night. You can see them here.