Arctic sea ice extent now at record low levels

By Phil Plait | August 27, 2012 6:25 am

I’ve been holding off writing about this until it was official, and now it is: the area of the arctic covered by sea ice has reached a record low.

[Click to embiggen.]

"Sea ice extent" is (more or less) a measure of the amount of ice covering the sea surface. It’s measured using satellite data; the area is divided into many bins, and sea ice extent is calculated by adding up all the bins with more than 15% ice in them. Every year the ice starts to grow in the autumn and melts in the summer, so you get a sine-wave curve of extent every year.

Satellite observations began in 1979. In the graph above, the dark line is the average summer extent for the period 1979 – 2000. The gray area around it is the measurement uncertainty (2σ if you want to be exact). The dashed green line is the extent for 2007 – the previous record low year – and the blue line is 2012. I added the red line so you can compare 2007 to now. The data numbers show the record is broken, though on the graph they look tied. [UPDATE: The new plot made by the NSIDC for August 26 clearly shows the extent is now lower than the lowest point in 2007.]

As you can see, we’re still on the way down, weeks ahead of the date of the lowest extent in 2007. The minimum extent in 2007 was reached on September 16. In 2011 – which had the second-lowest extent on record, essentially equaling that of 2007 – lowest extent happened on September 9. This year it was August 25.

Notice any trend there? I don’t want to make too much of the idea that it’s happening earlier every year because there aren’t enough data points, but it’s consistent with the Earth’s temperature increasing. The massive heat wave that melted so much ice in Greenland this summer may have something to do with this as well.

Here’s a map from the National Snow and Ice Data Center showing the extent for August 25, 2012. The orange line is again the average for August 25 taken over the years 1979 – 2000. White shows ice, blue is ocean, gray is land; you can see Greenland directly below the ice, with Canada and the US to the lower left. Obviously, the sea ice extent for August 25 is way, way below average compared to the past.

I’ll be honest: this map and graph are making me unhappy. The fantastic website Skeptical Science has more about this. The most worrisome aspect of this to me is how this accelerates. Ice is bright white, so it reflects sunlight. Sea water is much darker and absorbs that light. So the more ice you lose, the darker overall the arctic gets, and the faster it melts.

Of course; we’ll hear the usual excuses and cherry-picking from the denier set, but here are the facts:

The Earth is warming up. The rate of warming has increased in the past century or so. This corresponds to the time of the Industrial Revolution, when we started dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases warm the planet (hence the name) — if they didn’t we’d have an average temperature below the freezing point of water. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which is dumped into the atmosphere by humans to the tune of 30 billion tons per year, 100 times the amount from volcanoes. And finally, approximately 97% of climatologists who actually study climate agree that global warming is real, and caused by humans.

Far from being a fluctuation, these records getting broken are more likely a trend, and it’s more likely we’ll see more of them.

Graph and image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center


Related Posts:

- Arctic ice at second-lowest extent since 1979
- Sea ice, coming and going
- As arctic ice shrinks, so does a denier claim
- Our ice is disappearing

Comments (64)

  1. Zafod

    Phil, You are doing it again, confusing the climate change deniers issues (including Paul Ryan) with facts!

  2. saphroneth

    It’s one of those things where you need to present a casual chain of events (for example, CO2 causes warming; the normal amount of warming is T; the delta-CO2 causes delta-T additional warming; the delta-CO2 is consistent with human emissons) and ask which part of that is a problem.
    Of course, I may have left one or two of the steps out…

  3. DanM

    I am personally acquainted with a few people who would fit into your category of ‘denier’, although I think they would prefer the term ‘skeptic’. Although I completely disagree with their opinions, I believe that I can do a passable job of articulating their view (danger, danger, expressing somebody else’s opinion, red flashing lights, read this at your own risk).

    The folks I know would agree that the planet is indeed warming up, but would express skepticism that humans are the only cause (or even the major cause). When asked, “what would be proposed alternative cause(s)?”, the answer is usually something like this: “we don’t know enough about climate to be able to predict it, ergo there are probably unknown factors at work. And if you’re going to propose huge changes to our way of life (e.g. regulating carbon emissions), you really shouldn’t be basing those proposals on unknown factors.”

    Now, couple this mind-set with the attitude that most scientists are self-serving individuals who would happily distort their results in order to enhance funding probabilities. You can see where this goes.

    My colleague who blogs about nanoscale physics recently wrote: “If the average person thinks that scientific research is a rigged game, full of corrupt scientists looking only to further their own image and careers, and that scientific research is no more objective than people arguing about untestable opinions, that’s tragic.” He wasn’t talking about climate science, but the conclusion is the same. We live in dangerous times.

  4. bellhop

    They arent deniers in the extent the champions of the cause would like everyone to believe.

    They simply know the champions of the cause have no answer to rectify the situation. Taxing wont stop the burning of hydrocarbons nor will it stop the clearing of the forests. It will only serve to enrich the champions of this cause.

  5. TheBlackCat

    I am personally acquainted with a few people who would fit into your category of ‘denier’, although I think they would prefer the term ‘skeptic’

    The term they prefer is irrelevant. What matters is the term that fits their behavior.

    When asked, “what would be proposed alternative cause(s)?”, the answer is usually something like this: “we don’t know enough about climate to be able to predict it, ergo there are probably unknown factors at work. And if you’re going to propose huge changes to our way of life (e.g. regulating carbon emissions), you really shouldn’t be basing those proposals on unknown factors.”

    And that is what we call denialism. The idea that unless we know absolutely everything about a given subject then we know shouldn’t take any position on the issue is the very definition of denialism. These same people would never say the same thing about medicine, automotive engineering, computers, mathematics, or any other subject. They cherry-pick one field they don’t like and demand it meet fundamentally impossible standards they would never think of applying to fields they don’t have political, financial, and/or emotional conflicts with.

    Now, couple this mind-set with the attitude that most scientists are self-serving individuals who would happily distort their results in order to enhance funding probabilities. You can see where this goes.

    Which is completely ignorant of how science actually works. The absolute worst way to get funding in science is to agree with everyone else. Someone who overturns global warming would be almost guaranteed a Nobel prize.

  6. Joesixpack

    Phil, you’ve given the deniers their ammo right here; “”Sea ice extent” is (more or less) a measure of the amount of ice covering the sea surface. ” The deniers will seize on “more or less” and use that as leverage to point out that climatology is inexact and that scientists as much as admit that they don’t do anything more than make educated guesses. And we all know that guessing is the same as not knowing.

  7. noen

    I think I’ll just quote the brilliant Brian Dunning:

    What Is Skepticism?

    To quote Dr. Shermer: Skepticism is not a position; it’s a process.

    The popular misconception is that skeptics, or critical thinkers, are people who disbelieve things. And indeed, the common usage of the word skeptical supports this: “He was skeptical of the numbers in the spreadsheet”, meaning he doubted their validity. To be skeptical, therefore, is to be negative about things and doubt or disbelieve them.

    The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It’s the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.

    The knee-jerk denial of any widely accepted scientific fact doesn’t make you a skeptic. It makes you a denialist.

  8. Bruce E

    Phil, is the 2-sigma the measurement uncertainty or the measure of the distribution of the 1979-2000 measurements. I’m thinking the measurements are not that uncertain, but rather the actual sea-ice coverage is variable and that is what is being shown by the 2-sigma.

    As an additional thing to think about, basic sea-ice coverage measurements, in area, do not distinguish single-year ice from multi-year ice. I seem to recall a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news story about a team looking at the single-year-verses multi-year and that the shrinking of the multi-year was even more pronounced than the overall ice coverage change. I believe they viewed that as a more powerful measurement of climate change.

  9. Travis

    It’s about time we figure out contingencies. Because if we cannot stop the melting of the polar ice then we at least can try and do something about what happens once it does.

    Anyone want to buy some “future” beach front property in Riverside, CA?

  10. Chris

    Actually I would think the time of lowest extent would actually occur later than earlier. Put a hot glass of water with an ice cube in the freezer vs a cold glass and it’ll melt longer before it starts freezing up again. Also today’s date is not the lowest extent, we still have a few more weeks of melting. Historically the minimum is sometime in mid-September and will likely be that way for a while. It’s getting colder up there because the amount of sunlight is decreasing as winter sets in. The actual date is dependent on weather conditions. We are going to smash that record this year. Yay?

  11. Pete Jackson

    It will be interesting to see when the minimum ice extent will be this year. For the 1979-2000 average, the minimum was around Sept 10. In 2007, the minimum was more like Sept 20. By Sept 1, there is essentially no significant solar heat getting to the Arctic Ocean because the sun has gotten so low in the sky. Any further melting after then is from warm water melting ice directly, or by keeping the air above freezing so that the air melts more ice. It makes sense that the more ice-free ocean that you have, the later the ice extent minimum will be.

    By early September, water close to land in the high arctic starts to freeze even though there is lots of melting still going on far off shore, because the land cools very fast when the solar heating drops off and can freeze the water next to the land.

  12. Lawrence

    Even if the earth is warming up a bit… what’s wrong with that? I live in a midwest state. I would love shorter winters. As for the people who live 5 ft over sea level… move. If I have to put extra sunscreen on to go outdoors… I will. The earth changes and always will. I would rather have my gasoline powered car than worry about a few hungry polar bears.

  13. BB Suss

    Remembering, of course, that we’ve been only keeping records of this area since 1979. Also, sea ice moves from both ocean current and wind. Has anyone bothered to check wind patterns to see of an abnormally persistent wind pattern existed this summer? (It did.)
    BTW: You blew your credibility when you reported as Fact (from Wikipedia!) that 97% of climate scientists believe mankind is responsible? It was ~500 members of the AGU & AMS that were surveyed five years ago. They never gave their individual areas of specialization.

  14. Lupine

    We are so screwed…

  15. TheBlackCat

    Even if the earth is warming up a bit… what’s wrong with that?

    Nothing, as long as you have enough money and resources to deal with it. But with 1.4 billion or so people living in poverty, and far more with much less money than the average person in the U.S., then we are talking billions of people without such a luxury.

    I live in a midwest state. I would love shorter winters.

    Would you love huge droughts and massive wildfires as well?

    As for the people who live 5 ft over sea level… move.

    Of course, why should you care what happens to anyone else, as long as things go well for you, right? Empathy so overrated.

    If I have to put extra sunscreen on to go outdoors… I will.

    This has nothing to do with the UV radiation or the ozone hole. Your ignorance is showing.

    The earth changes and always will.

    Unfortunately, our agricultural system is based on earth not changing. Our food production and distribution systems are all founded around a very stable (relatively speaking) climate that has persisted for the past ~9000 years or so. This system has never had to deal with the sorts of changes we are now facing. I don’t think you will be singing such a happy tune of the U.S. midwest agricultural base falls out from under you due to insufficient rainfall.

    I would rather have my gasoline powered car than worry about a few hungry polar bears.

    Yeah, I’ve got mine, who cares about anyone and anything else?

  16. Coracle

    @Lawrence Really? Which midwestern state would that be? 9 of the 12 are experiencing moderate to extreme, crop damaging drought this year. Most of them on the extreme end. Polar bears aren’t the only things that will be hungry at that rate. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/

  17. TheBlackCat

    @ BB Suss:

    Remembering, of course, that we’ve been only keeping records of this area since 1979.

    Thats 33 years, how much time do you think we need?

    Also, sea ice moves from both ocean current and wind. Has anyone bothered to check wind patterns to see of an abnormally persistent wind pattern existed this summer? (It did.)

    And this changes things how, exactly? Are you saying this wind pattern just appeared out of nowhere, with no cause? Why weren’t we seeing such wind patterns before? This is not some decades-old record, it was set in 2007, and matched in 2011.

    You do realize that these sorts of changing wind patterns were a prediction of global warming, right? Thermal gradients are the primary driving force behind low-altitude winds.

    BTW: You blew your credibility when you reported as Fact (from Wikipedia!) that 97% of climate scientists believe mankind is responsible? It was ~500 members of the AGU & AMS that were surveyed five years ago. They never gave their individual areas of specialization.

    You blew your credibility when you cherry-picked one survey out of a bunch. There are almost half-dozen surveys mentioned in the article, including one just last year and another the year before, and they all show pretty much the same thing.

  18. Trebuchet

    @Lawrence:
    “As for the people who live 5 ft over sea level… move.”

    So is this your invitation to half the population of Bangladesh to move into your midwestern state? Didn’t think so.

  19. Mark

    Embrace the horror folks, we’re all gonna die

  20. noen

    BB Suss said:
    “BTW: You blew your credibility when you reported as Fact (from Wikipedia!) that 97% of climate scientists believe mankind is responsible?”

    Only among climate deniers does referencing Wikipedia automatically disqualify you. Do you have any specific objections to the studies cited in that Wikipedia article?

    Conservapedia is a joke. A bad joke written by an 8th grader. No wait, that’s an insult to 8th graders.

  21. Mark

    So Mr Plait makes a plea last week about the general mood on commenting an such, yet he can’t go a week without using a holocaust term to describe people who haven’t swallowed the company line without asking questions. How long before he admits to that irony?

  22. noen

    @ Mark – You should get banned for that.

  23. Jeffrey

    I wish there was some kind of TV program that would be shown during primetime on a major network that would have real scientists try and explain science in a concise manner that anyone could understand and talk all kinds of fields of study that are of importance.

  24. Regner Trampedach

    Lawrence @ 12: “would rather have my gasoline powered car than worry about a few hungry polar bears.”
    I seems like you believe climate change is an environmental issue powered by greenies and tree-huggers. Alas, you are mistaken. Climate change is an issue of the survival of our modern, technological and comfortable society. Many in “your camp” believe we want to send society back to the stone-age, when we want the exact opposite – We want to avoid that stone-age scenario, but see our current path of ever increasing CO2 emissions as a certain path to wide-spread social disruption which will harm every single one of us in various ways.
    We want to keep our way of living, but realize that this will require large-scale change in how we produce and use energy.
    We can do this, but we will need to work together.
    Cheers, Regner

  25. amphiox

    Also, sea ice moves from both ocean current and wind. Has anyone bothered to check wind patterns to see of an abnormally persistent wind pattern existed this summer? (It did.)

    These measurements are made with satellite images of the whole earth. It doesn’t matter where the sea ice moves, unless the wind managed to teleport it to Mars.

  26. DSL

    Extent is a more consistent measure. Area is more important in terms of albedo loss, but automated analyses have a difficult time taking into account melt ponds (not an issue for trend if the methodology is consistent). Now that Cryosat2 has given a big bump of confidence to the PIOMAS model, we can start talking about ice thickness (volume). In 1979, at the summer minimum there was just under 17,000 km3 of Arctic sea ice. When PIOMAS updates August next week, there will be under 4,000 km3, with a couple weeks of melt to go.

    When an ice cap, after having been pretty stable for 1000+ years, loses 75% of its mass in 34 years, the bloody canary’s dead, even deader when taking into account the decline in total solar over the last half century.

  27. VinceRN

    I wish there were more than 30 years of good data on this. Hardly seems like enough.

  28. amphiox

    yet he can’t go a week without using a holocaust term

    What holocaust term? Citation please. With context.

  29. TheBlackCat

    @ Jeffrey: The problem is that the people who would most need such a show are also the sort who wouldn’t watch it.

  30. Daniel J. Andrews

    TBC …. I suspect Lawrence is a Poe. Someone that nakedly self-centered has to be a Poe. Or a sociopath.

    For those who don’t think the 97% of climate scientists stat is valid compile a list of practicing climate scientists who say otherwise and calculate what percent they compose of the whole. Then be sure to look up what each one is actually skeptical about (that’s not hard as it will be a very short list), and you’ll find they have more in common with the majority than they do with the Carters, the Watts and the Moncktons.

    Or just google Expert Credibility in Climate Change by Prall, Harold and Schneider, 2010, who said that using an extensive data set of 1372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data they showed that 97 to 98% of the researchers most actively publishing support the tenets of the IPCC. Or see Oreskes 2004 survey (before you ‘refute’ that with Peiser, note that Peiser retracted his criticism).

    Incidentally, where are all the counter studies showing the 98 percent figure is quite wrong? All we have are things like the discredited Oregon petition that could be and were signed by anyone, and only have a fraction of a percent of climate scientists. Or lists of actual scientists that only include a couple of climate scientists.

    Seems to me this is a good opportunity to get a paper published if your methodologies are any good. This could have been done at least 8 years ago but I’m sure there is a good explanation as to why it was not.

  31. Jeffrey

    @TBC yeah I know, but there’s always that small percent that could/will watch and hopefully change their views or at least question what was explained (get them thinking), and that should be enough

  32. DanM

    @5 BlackCat:
    I agree with you almost entirely. My lone exception: the term they use to describe themselves is not irrelevant, if only because we want to effect significant changes, and we can’t do that if we completely alienate the opposition before any negotiations begin. I do not see any merit to the position of those who deny overwhelming scientific data, but I also don’t see any value in pissing off a group of people whose participation in the solutions to our problems is unavoidable.

    I don’t mean to imply that your terminology would piss off those who call themselves skeptics. I can’t really say, since I’m not one. But I can say that people sometimes react badly when labeled with what they perceive as a perjorative term. We need EVERYBODY on board when it comes to finding solutions to this growing menace.

    @7 Noen:
    Brilliant. I love it. A valuable lesson for all.

  33. Ray

    This is awesome news! Hello ice-free Northwest Passage.

  34. Brain Hertz

    BTW: You blew your credibility when you reported as Fact (from Wikipedia!) that 97% of climate scientists believe mankind is responsible? It was ~500 members of the AGU & AMS that were surveyed five years ago. They never gave their individual areas of specialization.

    If you read the referenced Wikipedia section, it has nine inline citations that I can see, several of which are to peer reviewed publications. In your world, that constitutes “blowing your credibility”?

  35. Steve Metzler

    34. DanM Says:

    My lone exception: the term they use to describe themselves is not irrelevant, if only because we want to effect significant changes, and we can’t do that if we completely alienate the opposition before any negotiations begin. I do not see any merit to the position of those who deny overwhelming scientific data, but I also don’t see any value in pissing off a group of people whose participation in the solutions to our problems is unavoidable.

    The whole idea is for them to appear to be pissed off by a side issue, to distract from the real discussion. It’s fake anger, just like they are fake skeptics. It’s a tactic to draw sympathy by trying to make people in the know look like bullies.

    To avoid any association with holocaust deniers, imagined or otherwise, I think it’s just safer to call them ‘AGW deniers’. No ambiguity then. I don’t know why the BA doesn’t do that. They deny tons of evidence that show mankind is causing significant, damaging, and most likely irreversible changes to our environment.

    BTW, that is one well researched and really powerful article over on Skeptical Science by Neven and Kevin McKinney that the BA linked to in the OP. And the chances of any AGW denier/fake skeptic reading that are about zero. They prefer to remain ignorant of what’s really going on in the world around them.

  36. DanM

    I should slightly modify my earlier statement: we need (nearly) EVERYBODY on board, or nothing productive will happen. Sure, some small number of people are evil and won’t cooperate no matter what. I suspect that a much larger fraction are not evil, but merely misinformed. (‘merely’ in this context should not be read to indicate that I believe that being misinformed is somehow benign. It’s simply more benign than being evil.)

    If you say things like “they use tactics to draw sympathy…” then presumably you’re referring to the evil ones, not to the misinformed ones. I’m willing to agree that the evil ones are beyond redemption, but I refuse to give up on the misinformed majority. Those are the people who do not deserve to be called names – they deserve to be educated. And those are the people whose help we NEED in order to implement any kind of attempt at a solution. I think it is important, therefore, to be careful with name-calling.

    Alternatively, perhaps I am as bad as the so-called deniers/skeptics/whatever. After all, it appears that I am in denial about the number of evil people in the world ;)

  37. Steve Metzler

    Fair enough, Dan. I tend to have a zero tolerance approach to these guys, as I’ve been very active in the climate blogosphere for a number of years, and am sick of listening to their blatant dissembling. Perhaps I’m painting too many people with my rather broad brush :-)

  38. DanM

    I hear ya. It can wear you down, no question. Just remember that when one of the evil ones resorts to personal attacks or similar distractions, it is up to us to elevate the conversation.

  39. gameshowhost

    Once you cease being skeptical about your own position, you’re no longer allowed to call yourself a skeptic. Deniers.

  40. I’m wondering what the denialists will say when ACC causes massive crop failure and plunges the US into a great famine for a change?

    Probably not much, since their overlords from the petrochemical industry will have most likely jumped ship by then, consequently cutting off their money supply.

  41. DanM

    I have no doubt whatsoever about my own personal skepticism concerning that most recent remark.

    Huh? Now I’ve confused myself.

  42. Wzrd1

    I simply consider the fact that humanity HAS been measuring the weather for several centuries. Ben Franklin even measured the weather and logged it.
    But no, no thermometer existed in some people’s minds until 30 years ago.
    Meanwhile, in 2007, the Northwest Passage opened for the first time in recorded history (it’s been explored since the late 1500′s). It was fully navigated in 2008.

    Meanwhile, we hear from folks who say, “So what? Evacuate coastal areas”. These are the same folks who condemned help when ports flooded from hurricanes, some even agreeing that all ports should be moved 150 miles inland. Yes, I’m serious. I was the one that sarcastically suggested it and they readily agreed!
    Of course, such brilliant people also think that all earthquake zones should be evacuated. All hurricane zones evacuated. All severe winter storm zones evacuated. All tornado zones evacuated. All forest fire zones evacuated.
    The ONLY place I could find to meet their shortsighted (more like blindsighted) parameters for “safe, disaster free and hence cheap for them occupation areas” is a small patch of desert in Nevada.
    Don’t know what we’d do for water or food, but those brain trusts would be happy.

  43. Usual reminder that there are some pretty informative and good websites out there on the whole HIRGO* issue

    I’d also strongly advise and urge people interested in the HIRGO issue to look at the following :

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    Skeptical Science – the arguments list and why each climate contrarian claim is wrong.

    http://www.realclimate.org/

    Real Climate website – run by actual climatologists for the public.

    Plus :

    http://co2now.org/

    A website which has plenty of good info and lets you track the level of the main Greenhouse Gas , carbon dioxide, on a monthly basis plus more. The latter notes for instance that :

    July 2012 was the 36th July and 329th consecutive month with a global temperature above the average for the 20th century.

    I’ve also linked Ethan Siegel’s Starts With A Bang blogs excellently informative post on the topic to my name for this coment.

    There’s a huge amount of good information out there of which these are just some of my favourite sites.

    Please folks, do look at them and learn before commenting and especially posting the endless stale climate canards we seem to recieve – and debunk – so very often here.

    * Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating – because ‘”warming” is misleading mild, ‘anthropogenic” is a technical weaselword and the rapid rate of climate change is a major aspect of this problem.

  44. Notice any trend there?

    Notice it? Yes. This ain’t a faint trend exactly, its glare almost blinded me! ;-)

    Arctic Sea ice is one key indicator, a metaphorical coal miners canary telling us we’re in very big trouble.

    @35. Ray : This is awesome news! Hello ice-free Northwest Passage.

    Hello record breaking droughts, floods, fires and more? Those so awesome?

    Goodbye Florida, Holland and many low lying tropical paradises? :-(

  45. @4. bellhop :

    They arent deniers in the extent the champions of the cause would like everyone to believe.

    Huh? Which “cause” and “champions” are you referring to there precisely? Do you have anything other than asserted personal opinion to back up whatever you mean by that?

    We’re talking about a hard physical science (Climatology) here NOT politics. Amazing so many seem to get things so confused. :roll:

    They simply know the champions of the cause have no answer to rectify the situation. Taxing wont stop the burning of hydrocarbons nor will it stop the clearing of the forests. It will only serve to enrich the champions of this cause.

    You seem to be confusing recognising that, yes, there is a real scientifically demonstrated problem with some possible suggested politico-economic solutions here.

    Not all or even many (any?) climatologists who accept the scientific consensus that HIRGO is reality argue for increased taxation as a possible “fix” or means of mitigating and reducing the final severity of the problem. (Some severe consequences are now inevitable and irreversible.)

    Jim Hansen, NASA’s top climatologist for instance argues for an alternative fee’n'dividend plan which he outlines in his persuasive Storms of my Grandchildren book. hansen refers to the “cap’n'trade” scheme as carbon indulgences” and criticises it harshly and makes a good case. He’s not alone among climatologists in this either I think.

    Disagree with me? Please name a few examples and summarise their proposed plans for me then. Which people and tax plans are you meaning? I may even agree with you on some of them!

    Also what is better – doing something slight to at least raise awareness and have some minimal effect or doing absolutely nothing?

    What is your alternative solution and how would it be better? Not just for one or afew national economies but for all of us stuck on this planet?

    Sticking our collective heads in the sand and denying that there is a real climate issue here is NOT going to make reality go away. It seems very clear that the longer we wait before acting, the harder and harsher the measures we’re going to need to have any chance of success are going to be.

  46. JimmyDean Breakfastsausage

    I’m extremely concerned about climate change.
    Worst case scenarios are so bad that we need to do something, even if I didn’t believe.

    But I think that a portion of humans are simply too selfish to bother doing anything about it. And I’m concerned it may trigger a third world war in a fight for resources such as arable land and fresh water, or brutal subjugation of rioting starving citizens.

    We have already seen this as the price of grain rises.

    I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the long term planning of our species. The US is simply too screwed up for realistic change, at least until things are well past the point of no return and their eyes finally open. They are whining selfish ignorant brats, even though most are living better and longer then any other human in the past history of humanity. Or would be if they followed the rest of the civilized world when it comes to health care distribution.

  47. When it comes to this record low Arctic sea ice I think this relevant quote puts it very well :

    “Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. Its not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts.”
    - Dr Henry Pollack, geophysicist, University of Michigan.

    Source : Watts Up with Sea Ice? youtube video by Greenman3610 linked to my name, from the 1 minute 14 secs to the 1 min 51 secs marks.

    That’s what we’re seeing folks. Not polemical partison politics. Not debates or movies or radio talkers. Just ice melting undeniably. To ever lower lows.

    @37. Steve Metzler :

    To avoid any association with holocaust deniers, imagined or otherwise, I think it’s just safer to call them ‘AGW deniers’. No ambiguity then. I don’t know why the BA doesn’t do that.

    Agreed. That’s why I personally prefer to use Climate Contrarians instead which adds alliteration also. I like alliteration. (You noticed?) ;-)

  48. @44. Wzrd1 :

    I simply consider the fact that humanity HAS been measuring the weather for several centuries. Ben Franklin even measured the weather and logged it.
    But no, no thermometer existed in some people’s minds until 30 years ago.

    Indeed. Plus there are ice core records and pollen and varves (layers in lake sediments,) and more as palaeoclimatologists know very well. We can – & climatologists have – quite well reconstruct past temperatrues based on a whole range of natural records.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palaeoclimatology

    Meanwhile, in 2007, the Northwest Passage opened for the first time in recorded history (it’s been explored since the late 1500′s). It was fully navigated in 2008.

    Yup. The BA wrote about that at the time too. See :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/08/19/sea-ice-coming-and-going/

    One thing that we should point out is noted here :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRc_9nNTZg0&list=PL029130BFDC78FA33&index=18&feature=plpp_video

    The Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than predicted. Look at the 2 minute 30 mark especially where 15 climate models are compared with the observed reality. Reality has ice vanishing much *faster* suggesting the scientists are actually being too conservative and underestimating thespeed and scope of the HIRGO issue.

  49. TheBlackCat

    My lone exception: the term they use to describe themselves is not irrelevant, if only because we want to effect significant changes, and we can’t do that if we completely alienate the opposition before any negotiations begin. I do not see any merit to the position of those who deny overwhelming scientific data, but I also don’t see any value in pissing off a group of people whose participation in the solutions to our problems is unavoidable.

    So what should we call them? They are not skeptics, and agreeing to call them that is agreeing their position has scientific merit, when it doesn’t. It is fundamentally dishonest, and gives them the credibility they need to continue justifying their views.

    So we need some term to call them other than skeptics. But I guarantee you, no matter what that term is, they will find a way to be offended at it.

  50. mutleyeng

    Over on google plus, in phils stream where he posted this article, Noah Diffenbaugh – stanford assistant professor of climatology is offering people to take part in a hangout on air to discuss this data and any other climate related questions.
    Phil was asked if he wanted to join in too, but seeing as he never reads his comments i doubt he noticed.
    I see the same objections to this kind of data over and over again. Here they have an opportunity to put there doubts before an expert without the misinterpretation of the media getting in the way.
    Its an open invetation to anyone.

  51. Trent1492

    @Black Cat,

    I call them fake skeptics.

  52. Messier Tidy Upper

    @51. TheBlackCat asked : “So what should we call them?”

    Climate Contrarians?
    Anti-Climatologers / Anti-Climatologisters after anti-vaxxers maybe?
    HIRGOCTs – last 2 letters standing for Conspiracy Theorists possibly?

  53. TheBlackCat

    Anti-Climatologers / Anti-Climatologisters after anti-vaxxers maybe?

    Then they will complain about being compared to anti-vaxxers. I am sure someone, somewhere, used contrarians to refer to a currently-disliked group as well.

  54. Chris Winter

    Experts say that a strong Arctic storm helped in the breakup of the ice pack this year. But that leaves the warming trend as the ultimate cause of the fast-dropping ice extent and volume.

    I wonder if hypothetical alien civilizations, having attained the ability to image Earth-like planets in other star systems (as our scientists hope to do twenty or thirty years from now) would notice the change in brightness of our planet resulting from its rapid (in geologic terms) loss of ice cover and deduce that industry was the cause of that.

  55. Chris Winter

    Bellhop wrote: “They aren’t deniers in the extent the champions of the cause would like everyone to believe.”

    What I would like to believe is that these non-deniers (as you call them) could come up with some actual evidence to support their position. But in that it seems I am doomed to eternal disappointment.

  56. Chris Winter

    Mark wrote: “Embrace the horror folks, we’re all gonna die.”

    If that’s supposed to be sarcasm, it falls flat. The concern is how we will die, and whether or not we take our civilization with us.

  57. Chris Winter

    Noen wrote: “Conservapedia is a joke. A bad joke written by an 8th grader.”

    I agree that Conservapedia is a joke, but give Andrew Schafly some credit. He’s got degrees in engineering and law, from Princeton and Harvard respectively. It’s all about motivated reasoning. Chris Mooney explains that pretty well.

  58. fred_edison

    TheBlackCat said:
    “They are not skeptics.”

    I believe this fact is jackhammered deeper into our skulls by people like Roy Spencer, who after being dismayed and downtrodden by Richard Muller’s findings related to AGW, have begun the denier chant to toss Muller into the ‘not trusted’ bin. I assure you, I knew this was going to happen from the second I heard Muller’s name mentioned and hearing the decision he had reached. It fits the denier pattern.

    The fascination I have with Muller isn’t as much how/why Muller was “converted” (true skeptics don’t suddenly shed their skepticism but are “convinced” by the evidence/data to change their viewpoint), or why it took so long for him to ‘warm up’ to AGW when many of his peers reached his conclusion years ago, the tasty-bits is having a chance to observe the shocked and bitter reaction of the people who never desired to find any truth about climate change/global warming in the first place – the deceptive deniers who aren’t honest skeptics.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html?smid=pl-share

  59. Messier Tidy Upper

    Think in this context folks may want to check out this interview :

    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2012/s3579042.htm

    Climate Central’s chief climatologist Heidi Cullen joins Lateline to discuss the worrying new data about the extent of this summer’s arctic sea-ice melt.

    Via Aussie ABC TV’s Lateline show which also mentions a recent Hansen paper, the US attitudes to HIRGO and more.

    Hope y’all find it interesting /informative.

    @56. Chris Winter :

    I wonder if hypothetical alien civilizations, having attained the ability to image Earth-like planets in other star systems (as our scientists hope to do twenty or thirty years from now) would notice the change in brightness of our planet resulting from its rapid (in geologic terms) loss of ice cover and deduce that industry was the cause of that.

    Yup. Imagine such a sentience may conclude that our favourite environment type is desert and we’re deliberately “terraforming” our own planet into one that’s mostly that environment type. Well, as “mostly” as can be on a planet that’s two thirds saltwater covered.

  60. Ken Bowdon

    Geologists look at the world with a long view. The earth has been getting progressively cooler for millions of years. I for one hope we are causing the earth to warm. Notice the graph of the Vostok ice cores from Antarctica In the following link under “Quaternary sub-era”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palaeoclimatology
    Notice that there is a strong 120000 year cyclicity of long ice ages and short interglacial periods. We have been in an interglacial period period for about 13000 years. This warm will soon come to an end and the earth WILL go back into an ice age. Correlating current Interglacial period with the last, we should have about 100 years of warm climate before we fall once again into an ice age. Plants like warm better people do too.

  61. Joe Moog

    Call me a denier if you must, but this is taking data from a 21-year sample to explain a system that is billions of years old. That would be like taking a sample of 21 individuals who drank orange juice and later were diagnosed with cancer and then saying orange juice causes cancer based on that sample. There is simply not enough data collected to confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that orange juice was the cause, because the sample population is far too small and too many other possible factors were ignored.

    I don’t intend to argue whether or not the planet is warming — certainly the data shows this. But to call the cause “undeniably human” or “never before seen” based on such small samples when there is data available that contradicts this notion (see Discover’s own article at http://discovermagazine.com/2012/jul-aug/06-ice-age-flower-blooms-again about a plant that lay under the frozen Siberian tundra for 30,000 years until recent melting allowed the seeds to thaw) ignores basic scientific method, where true science does not try to prove a theory true, but tries continually to disprove that theory. This is what upsets the “deniers”more than anything.

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