the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Schizo Sea Ice

Posted by Jeff Id on April 28, 2010

Confusion about sea ice still reigns as some climate scientists still haven’t got the news about climategate.  Business as usual seems to be the mantra amongst most, while others have clearer vision of what science should be.

The NSIDC released its report on sea ice which shows this plot.

This plot and associated post has changed my once good view of the NSIDC.  Previously they seemed slightly biased but within the bounds of reason, this post on the state of sea ice has changed my mind.  They pasted observations on pre1978 data to continue to make the sea ice appear to be melting.  Since we currently have average sea ice conditions, seeing them tack on weak data to continue the alarm is as obnoxious a trick as any ‘hide the decline’.

Here is an image of the good data from Cryosphere:

Everything before this graph as shown by the NSIDC is bull, and they know it but they put this statement which a layperson (more lay than myself) would find little information in.

While the pre-satellite records are not as reliable, their trends are in good general agreement with the satellite record and indicate that Arctic sea ice extent has been declining since at least the early 1950s.

More Mannian words have never been written.  Gee we like the appearance of even more decline, even though global warming didn’t start until after 1978.  Like I said above though, some scientists are getting the message.

From planetsave:

“We found that these patterns can explain in large part why the ice cover decreased so much more rapidly after 2000. Wind patterns depend on the position of major high-pressure and low-pressure systems. We discovered that months with very little ice cover and high temperatures corresponded with crucial variations in the wind patterns,” explains Mr Sorteberg.

Which is something we’ve been saying here for a long time now.

“The dramatic changes in the extent of Arctic sea ice in recent years have mainly been caused by atmospheric circulation patterns that have tended to reduce ice cover, combined with a slow process of climate change. Variations in the circulation patterns are part of the natural fluctuations in the weather. In certain periods these fluctuations will reinforce human-made changes, while at other times they will mask them,” says Mr Sorteberg.

Guh, yup.  Change in global sea ice from Cryosphere, as confirmed many times by myself is below.

You can see that global sea ice has achieved a net change of  about zero in over 30 years of global warming.

Anyway, on the NSIDC side of the universe other scientists are so concerned about melting research funds climate they have discovered that the massive loss of sea ice is going to propagate inter-animal relations.

UAF Marine Biology Professor Mike Castellini agrees the likelihood of mixed-species breeding is growing in the far north. He said many uncertainties remain, but they’re underscored by a simple fact — Arctic animals are coming into contact with each other more than at any other time in the past 10,000 years.

My BS meter got pegged by that one.  Wow, they will say anything won’t they.

The coverage area of summer sea ice in the Arctic has actually increased slightly in each of the last few years, although it remains about 25 percent below the 30-year average for the area, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA projects that the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer within 30 years.

I suppose that saying that last summer was 25% lower than the average isn’t a lie but saying ‘remains below’ fails the unbiased test fairly spectacularly.  Below is a plot of the ice anomaly offset by average area.  Widely hated and scorned by believers, this  plot puts the anomaly magnitude into context.  It ends about a month ago and probably just crossed the red line at some point this month.  This plot is the same data as figure 1 of this post but the red line is average for the full timespan of the data so it’s offset slightly lower relative to the data than cryosphere.

For more sea ice stuff, including some great videos of sea ice 😉 see Islands of Reason.

Finally, from the article linked above:

Significantly, the researchers state that the extent of the ice cover around the North Pole should not be used as a barometer for whether climate change is affecting the ice coverage, and whether climate change is occurring in the Arctic at all. They also believe that the recent decrease in ice cover should not be used as an indicator that the Arctic will be ice free in 10 to 20 years.

Thank god that there is reason in climate science.  It really is like a breath of fresh air compared to the ‘polar bears in bikinis’ propaganda.  The NSIDC should be ashamed of their state of the cryoshpere article.

37 Responses to “Schizo Sea Ice”

  1. Adam Gallon said

    Climate causes crash in Black Grouse population.
    One decline that might get hidden!

  2. tarpon said

    With tax and ration on the line, what did you expect from a government funded source?

  3. Jam52 said

    There appears to be a mismatch of about 0.5 for the pre-satellite and satellite monthly anomaly data at 1978 for the NSIDC graph, but I can’t tell for sure because they overwrote the line with their red average line. If this data mismatch is the case then that average line is very useful to there presentation, because it allows them to ‘hide the mismatch.’ A very cleaver “trick” indeed! Did they give Mike credit in the article, at least Mr. Jones did.

  4. Jeff Id said

    #3 The problem is that everyone knows the pre-sat trend is not good – except the public. I beleive the step you are looking at is actually in the data and don’t believe the NSIDC offset the curves. Previously I’ve been complimentary to the NSIDC’s fairness but this curve and the associated post are Saddam Hussein style propaganda.

  5. How very sad it is that observational science – once one of mankind’s greatest achievements – has become a tool of government propaganda:

    a.) Not only in a backward countries, but in the most “industrialized” ones too.

    b.) The involvement of the UN’s IPCC shows that the corruption is worldwide.

    c.) It involves current, as well as former, world leaders like Al Gore.

    d.) The NAS and most of the other national academies of science.

    e.) Our once reliable news sources – BBC, PBS, NY Times, etc.

    f.) Our best research journals and institutions – (you know).

    g.) Hundreds of climate scientists who were praised by

    h.) The Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, too.

    Thank you Jeff and Steve and Anthony and Joann and Bishop and Lucia and Piers and Ian, and Kirt, etc. for having the courage to speak out against the use of public tax funds to deceive the public.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  6. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    It’s not hard to understand the motivation for such non-sense being pushed on the public: it’s politics. These are folks with an extreme green agenda, as well as a need for continued public financial support. They are aware that a reasoned analysis of the sea ice data will produce no public alarm, because there is nothing terribly alarming going on with the sea ice trend. With no public alarm, people will not accept the kinds of changes that Greens desire (more government restrictions/controls on the actions of individuals and businesses, a smaller economy, reduced wealth, reduced population, etc.). So they exaggerate trends, use weasel words like “consistent with”, and always suggest terrible future consequences of AGW that are nothing more than wild-ass guesses.

    Shameful and duplicitous, but easy to understand.

  7. Thoughtful Tom said

    It now seems standard: Skeptic sites take up this issue in March, and AGW sites are relatively quiet. In September AGW sites are all over the issue.

    What I have not see enough information on is ice volume. While ice extent is important (albedo for one). It has some problems (15% is somewhat arbitrary, requires some analysis).

    Here is a link on ice volume:

    Problems with ice volume is very short record ~5 years and even more analysis required to figure it out.

    To my mind it is premature to claim either catastrophic loss or all is good.

  8. Jeff Id said

    #7 we do sea ice year round.

  9. Carrick said

    Jeff, I’m not sure why you think the pre-satellite data are so bad. I didn’t see anything here that explained that. Satellite isn’t a panacea either and it has it’s own systematics.

    Basically what I would find as strong evidence of a problem is comparison of data using both methods.

    They look “reasonable”. What the data say though is the melt-off occurred at least 10 years in advance of the so-called anthropogenic forcings.

    It’s not my or your problem if the good folk at NSIDC don’t grok that.

  10. Jeff Id said

    #9 Pre-sat data are from individual observations of small locations at different times. It would be completely impossible to judge the recession of summer ice because of the rate at which it happens and the areas of breaking up ice which cannot be traversed.

    No I didn’t present evidence here, but it does exist and I have read several comments on it, including at the NSIDC I believe.

    Problems in the sat data do exist and some are apparently not discussed in the literature.

  11. Carrick said

    Jeff, what I know about the pre-sat observations is limited. My impression it’s not that different than trying to reconstruct global SST from an ad hoc series of SST temperature.

    You did notice the problem with their graph, right? From the models, the AGW CO2 and sulfate emissions pretty much cancelled each other until after 1980. But if you look at the graph, 2/3s of the ice “die off” occur before 1980.

  12. Jeff Id said

    One thing I noticed from the sat videos is that the oldest satellites (large blue hole) didn’t seem to react the same way to cloud cover. The new sat data has shadowed cloud cover over the ice. I’ve never determined if this is acutally a response of the ice to snow or rain or if it is actually cloud. It get’s stronger in the more recent data so I think it causes a slight additional downtrend.

    A second issue is in 2007 the sea ice minimum recovered so quickly, I wonder if there wasn’t water on the surface of existing ice for long stretches of ocean. In the JAXA high resolution video I can see what looks like a bit of an edge in the ocean water indicating that maybe the ice didn’t melt as much but the surface of it did. This effect though is commonly discussed in the literature.

  13. Jeff Id said

    #11, The pre-sat observation is combined images from planes and ocean observations. The sources are incredibly inconsistent as I understand but I’ve not viewed the data directly.

    I did notice the problem you mention. You’ve called my attention in the past to this during my endless mash of temp series creations so I picked up on the too early loss of ice.

  14. Earle Williams said


    You still need to work on packaging your “offset by average ice area” plot. Go with a proven winner “Seasonally adjusted ice area”. It works for the aconomists! 🙂

  15. Bill Illis said

    You get the daily sea ice extent satellite data back to 1972.

    The 1972 data comes from the polar orbiting Nimbus 5 satellite which used microwave radar.

    The daily dataset merged with other satellite data only shows a decline of about 1M km2 from 1972 to 2002 in this directory.

    I note the NSIDC chart is scaled in Standard Deviations (whatever that means).

  16. Howard said

    I agree Jeff. It would be nice if they also tacked on the Arctic sea ice extent for the Holocene Optimum as a comparison as well.

  17. Derek said

    Dr. Jonathan Drake has done a very good piece relating to this topic. His own website is,
    He looks in the below linked to pdf at possible instrument drift, algorithms used, and
    considers a few other relevant “things” with regards to Arctic sea ice extent.
    I think you’ll find it useful.
    pdf available here,

    and also here, in an archive at the GWS forum with his other pieces (updated as appropriate)

    Dr. Jonathan Drake, aka, Questioning_Climate at the GWS forum, where he is a regular visitor, and contributor.

  18. tonyb said

    Hi Jeff

    I am afraid that the NSIDC (and the IPCC) are historically challenged-neither are really not very good at putting things into context and appear unaware of anything that happened more than a half century or so ago, unless it comes from a certain tree ring researcher.Both groups seenm to prefer proxies to actual observations.

    You will remember my article on ‘Historic variations in sea ice’ that you kindly carried here;

    Towards the end of that article are a number of graphs and first hand accounts of records from explorers, Royal Navy ships, whalers, Hudson Bay co etc, from around 1700 to the present day. These records amply illustrate that sea ice waxes and wanes with astonishing regularity. Amongst the causes for this are wind, warm currents, storms etc, as well as periods of cold or warm weather.

    The charts you carry from NSIDC fall into that pattern of continual change, but if you were to be able to look at their chart from further back in time we would see that the 1920-1938 period would look remarkably similar to today, as did 1817 to 1860 and so on back to Viking times, when sea ice would be much less than at present for much of the 250 years or so of the high points of the MWP.

    Extracts showing some of the various charts/ships logs etc from my article follows below. There is a great deal more out there-some of which I have, but unfortunately much material lies behind pay walls.


    “The full IPCC section on arctic ice in Assessment 4 is under.

    Page 352 graphic picture 4.10 shows a steady decline of ice from a high point in 1860, the exact time when contemporary observations were being made that the ice was increasing again following a long period of low levels. So if you were to incorporate that sharp dip in levels from 1815 to 1860 into the graph it would put the 60 year oscillations into a better context and the entire series would not be seen as a steady decline at all, but a series of peaks and troughs. The reconstructions given earlier in this article -and repeated under- provides a better understanding of clear evidence of an arctic oscillation. This from the earlier extract;

    “The following is a modern day reconstruction of sea ice around Newfoundland from 1810 to 2000 demonstrating the huge variability (which compares with modern times) and perhaps illustrates the 60/70 year arctic oscillation amongst other cycles. (under the heading “195 years of sea ice ice off Newfoundland”)”

    “Even more remarkable in this relatively recent document (drawing on historic sources) are the annual indices of summer sea ice from 1750 to 1870 on page 122 fig2”

    This is an additional study;

    where researchers have looked at 44 ships log from around 1818 to 1910 and concludes;

    ‘the distribution and thickness of annual sea ice, monthly air surface temperatures, and the onset of melt and freeze were within the present range of variabilty. “ and that;

    “paleoclimate reconstructions based on ice core stratigraphy suggest that exceptionally cool conditions prevailed in the 19th century. Analys of first hand observations such as monthly mean temperatures, the onset of the melt season and the onset of freezing are not consistent with the hypotheses. “

    This matches my earlier comment (before I came across this report) that loking at the Board of Trade journals for Newfoundland from 1676., it was difficult to see much mention of exceptionally cold conditions.

    This is the present ice range from 1979-which suffers from the satellites seeming inabilty to determine the difference between solidly frozen ice and that with melt water lying on it.

    So within the IPCC assessment even the observed figures back to 1860 or earlier, are not given much weight, with more attention paid to modelled linear trends rather than cycles and great reliance placed on the evidence provided in the very short time scale afforded by satellites.”


  19. Paul Brand said

    When you say sea ice is back to normal, does ice volume factor into your assessment?

    Doesn’t look normal to me.

  20. Jeff Id said

    #19, The volume argument is meaningless in that much of it was flushed from the pole during the big weather change in 2007 summer. The sea ice sprung right back – see the video’s linked above. If trees are a reasonable proxy for temp, certainly ice extent is reasonable for volume

    You note that the supporting info for your plot is from the sea ice extent graps shown here. It’s the same data tweaked into a black box ice model which shows an enhanced decline.

  21. a reader said


    I think they may have gotten their data from “Climatic Atlas of Arctic Sea Ice Extent and Anomilies 1953-1984” by Manak and Mysak, CRG Report 87-8. It’s available on the web.

  22. Howard said

    Paul Brand: Thanks for the link. Very interesting site. My previous comment had to do with context. They have a 60-year plot of arctic ice volume which indicates we are where we started in 1955. Matches up in a lose way to NAO: (I hope I got the xhtml right)

    title=”Ice Volume Perspective”

  23. John F. Pittman said

    Jeff OT a bit. Steve McI has found PRL that examines bimodal growth of larch in tundra conditions. But in this case it may not be the wind but favorable conditions. Perhaps the way the wind blows when it rains to make it more on thread. I cannot remember a discussion of wind and rainfall. Some areas are hydologicly connected such as here in SC from the Gulf humidity gathering in the Gulf, and how the wind transports it to SC. Say fronts versus tropical depressions.

  24. Tony Hansen said

    Why are they using the 1968-1996 mean?

  25. Søren Rosdahl Jensen said

    A while back I did a linear fit to the satellite data for the northen hemisphere ice extent anomaly (as defined above). I found a negative trend of:

    (- 0.0184704 +/- 0.0056719) mio sq. km / year, t-value: 3.2564861 p: 0.0006

    (p: probability of exceeding this t-value)

    In other words, a statistical significant decrease over the last 30 years.

    Hopefully the new Cryosat2 will give us a lot of better data on the amount of sea ice in the years to come.

  26. Carrick said

    I agree with Jeff on this, the volume argument is worthless, even if the numbers are reliable, which I think they aren’t (too short a duration of data to conclude that I believe).

    The reason is (I think this is hidden in Jeff’s comment) that looking at volume presupposes the ice loss comes from melting. If other mechanisms are at work (they are), then e.g., having the ice dragged south and decimated by wind, ocean currents and sun tells you nothing about the influence of polar arctic temperature on polar ice extent.

  27. Jeff Id said

    #25, Agreed, the northern decrease when fit to a linear trend is statistically significant. The cause of it is what I disagree with. If you look at the video linked above, you can see the weather pattern change in later years (among other things). One point I and others have made here is that even a small change in waterflow driven by wind would melt a heck of a lot more ice (energy transfer) than several C of warming climate.

  28. […] dinosaur in death throws , arctic sea ice back to normal NSIDC trying to hide the reality AKPC_IDS += […]

  29. AusieDan said

    There is an alarming article in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning (Thursday 29 April, Sydney time).
    It is all about the alarming rapid rate of temperature increase in the far north of the world and its implications for future ice cover etc etc.

    The accompaning article is about teenages playing a paint ball game, pretending they are defending a 2050 year attack on disappearing water storage reserves.

    A picture is being painted – forget Climategate – global warming is real and is very frightening.

    However, thanks to the internet and sites such as this, WUWT, Bislop Hill, and importantly CA, the truth is slowly getting out.

    The Australian Government have abandoned Carbon tax legeslation until at least 2013. The PM is still sprouting how important it all is, but no doubt he has some, I repeart “SOME”, good advisors who are warning that the truth is slowly seeping out.
    Belief in AGW is steading falling in Australia, as in other English speaking countries. (The others I cannot determine).

    Keep up the good work Jeff. The truth will out.
    I particularly like the post from tonyb, who put the whole artic ice issue into its proper historical framework.

    And for Sydney siders – fear not – our rainfall is very variable but the long term trend is zero (1859-2009). The recent water shortage was due to the normal rainfall fluctiation, plus a failure to keep growing supply in line with population – that is an engineering and finacial problem which is currently being solved, at last.

  30. Steve Hempell said


    I have been using Nick Stokes program to look the Arctic temperature record. I have been pretty skeptical of the panic about the northern Arctic. I was brought up in Vancouver, Canada where they have the St Roch in the maritime museum. She of course was the RCMP wooden hulled ship that made three passages of the Northwest passage in the 1940s – one by the most northernly route. So I have been aware as a child (born in 1944) of a bit of Arctic history.

    Here are the figure I get when I run the numbers in Nick’s version 1.4 (with SSTs). Trend are in Deg C/Decade.

    1914 to 1942 1974 to 2002

    Greenland 0.93 0.22
    Iceland 0.66 0.27
    Sweden 0.32 0.36
    Norway 0.31 0.36
    Finland 0.27 0.40
    Russia (Asian) 0.11 0.37

    West NA Arctic 0.52 0.36 (60 – 90N, 170W to 140W)
    Mid NA Arctic 0.28 0.51 (140W to 110W)
    East NA Arctic 0.36 0.40 (110W to 60W)
    West Eur Arctic 0.30 0.19 (5E to 60E)
    Mid Asian Arctic 0.20 0.38 (60E to 130E)
    East Asian Arctic 0.50 0.22 (130E to 180E)

    Try to make something of that dog’s breakfast. It doesn’t cause me to lose sleep over the Arctic. It seems to be doing pretty much what it did in the past.

    Now, I may have made a mistake here, but anyone can check the work by downloading Nick’s script (or I can provide the modified script).

    Uses GHCN v2.mean, and I have looked at the temperature record plots of every country in the country inventory. Now there is a real dog’s breakfast. Thank goodness they are working on an updated version 3!

  31. d55may said

    Has anyone here followed this:

  32. Mike D. said

    Mixed species breeding? That reminds me of the famous rant in GhostBusters:

    Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
    Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?
    Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
    Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
    Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
    Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
    Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
    Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

  33. Søren Rosdahl Jensen said

    # 27 Jeff
    Ok, sorry if I misunderstood you. Btw, I should mention that I did no correction for autocorrelation so my error estimate is too low (and t-value hence too big).

    So you suggest thtat reason for the ice melting is a change in weather pattern, instead of risning temperatures?

  34. BarryW said

    If the extent were driven by temperature then it would seem that the parameter that would track the Arctic ice minimas would be the length of time above the melt line as shown on this site.

    Actually it should be sea water temps I would guess.

    Artic Mean Temps

    h/t WUWT

  35. Jeff Id said

    #33 check the post linked in the article – islands of reason. In the video of sea ice, you can see the clouds/weather racing across the ice sheets. In 2007 the pattern is dramatically different from other years and it just rips away at the sea ice from the Bering strait inward. The ice flows out on the other side in several large drains, pushed into warmer water, where it melts.

  36. Søren Rosdahl Jensen said

    I don’t know if anyone already posted about this but this seem highly relevant to this discussion of what is causing the decrease in ice extent:

  37. Paul Brand said

    Sorry to come back to this so late. There seems to be a number of variables involved here, and I don’t have a good grasp of all them. Here are some numbered observations:

    1)Reliability of volume anomaly: I’m not in a position to personally verify the credibility of the data. Nevertheless, I accept it as it is, and I’m unaware of any good reasons to think it isn’t reliable.

    2)The effects of wind on ice volume. I think I agree that this was a large factor in the 2007 melt season, and obviously, when the ice is melted, it doesn’t necessarily all come back the following year. However, the melt seems to be sustained. Also, there still seems to be a large warming signal after netting out the -AO and the effects of wind, which over several decades, gets closer to zero impact.

    3)The effect of a -AO. I think it is pretty clear, that a -AO prevents ice from moving to warmer waters. I think this winter was close to a record, if not a record on the negative side. A continued -AO might suggest 2007 levels won’t be reached this year with regard to ice extent.

    4)Why is the ice extent close to normal? I think the standard answer I’ve seen is that the Bering Sea had a cold snap. One side of the Arcic got a cold, and the other got a fever. This early in the melt season, I typically wouldn’t read much into it. There is much less variability at ice extent maximums, than ice extent minimums. The Arctic is still very cold during the winter (even with uber high anomalies). Water tends to freeze in the Arctic winter (to state the obvious).

    5)Ice volume was also low in the 1950s (Howard #22). The ice volume graph goes to 2004. According to, ice volume decline 5000 km^3 since 2004, which widens the gap between 1955 and 2010 quite considerably. I agree, however, that NAO has some effect (which I understand is largely measuring the same thing as the AO). The idea behind the wind theory is to explain why the 2000s saw sea ice decline rather than increase, which is what the AO suggested. Looking at GISS’s zonal anomalies for the Arctic, it appears as though the Arctic was warmer than usual during the late 30s to mid-50s, cooled considerably through the mid-60s, and then warmed considerably since then. It certainly seems like a plausible explanation as a primary driver of the long-term decline in summer ice extent/volume (not to minimize, however, the impact of AO and wind on a decadal time scale).

    Anyway, I don’t pretend to have the expertise of a scientist on this issue, and there are issues in this discussion I don’t feel I have a good grasp of yet. I don’t expect 2010 to be a record setting year for sea ice extent, but the weather is hard to predict, and I could be surprised. Given low ice volumes, I would expect the melt season to move further away from the 30 year average. How much further away, I can’t say for sure. I think this is an important issue with regard to the impacts of ice albedo on surface temperatures. But, I would have to concur with the bulk of scientists who agree there exists significant uncertainty with regard to the rate of future declines.

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