Update: New NASA map of sea ice minimum

By Phil Plait | August 27, 2012 12:12 pm

Earlier, I wrote that arctic sea ice had yesterday reached record low levels, blowing through the previous lowest-seen minimum in 2007, even though there’s still a lot of melting left to go.

NASA just released this visualization of the arctic region showing just how bad it is:

The white area is the extent of sea ice as of August 26, 2012. The orange line is the average minimum extent from 1979 – 2010, the time covered by satellite observations. In other words, every year they measure the outline of the ice when it reaches its minimum, usually in September, and then averaged those positions for that timespan.

As you can see, we’ve been well below the usual minimum ice extent for some time – not just where we usually are this time of year, but the actual minimum amount… and we still have weeks of melting yet to go.

I want to note that this does not necessarily mean we’ll see sea level rising from this. That ice is floating on the water, and in general when ice melts the water level stays the same. You can see this for yourself: put ice in a glass, then fill it with water. Mark the level. Wait until the ice melts and you’ll see the level hasn’t changed. The ice displaces (pushes aside) an amount of water exactly equal to its own weight, so when it melts that water fills up the same volume the ice displaced. The level stays the same.

However, because ice is frozen fresh water, and the sea is salt water, floating ice may actually raise the sea level a bit. Still, the far bigger concern is ice on land that melts and flows into the ocean. That certainly can raise the sea level. Greenland has the second largest reservoir of frozen water on Earth, and it’s seeing unprecedented melting.

So yeah, global warming is a concern, no matter how many people deny it. And it’s not something we should blow off and worry about later. It’s happening now.

Image credit: Scientific Visualization Studio, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Related Posts:

Arctic sea ice now at record low levels
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

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, NASA, Piece of mind

Comments (90)

  1. Chris

    I don’t think people necessarily deny global warming, I think they deny the causes of it.

  2. DMc

    I would really like to see the min / max and median for this same picture.

  3. Keith Hearn

    There is a passage heading west from Baffin Bay that is just barely blocked as it enters the Arctic Ocean in that graphic. I’m pretty sure ships have made a northwest passage by going between Victoria Island (farther south) and the mainland, but this would be a very direct northwest passage. Has that passage ever been fully opened in recorded history?

  4. IW

    “The ice displaces (pushes aside) an amount of water exactly equal to its own weight”

    Its weight, or its volume?!

  5. Daniel J. Andrews

    Chris, they’ve been denying it is even happening make no mistake about that. In the last few years though it is getting harder to deny so they’ve retreated to a fall-back position which is, It is all natural cycles.

    Then they try and say “we never said it wasn’t warming”, apparently unaware of the existence of google’s way back machine and numerous snapshots and web captures which show they’ve been systematically denying warming for a long time.

    For a quick example see, http://nailsandcoffins.blogspot.ca/ Or just look up Mann’s hockey stick and see how many groups claim it is fraudulent and that there is no warming.

    By the way, I’ve watched them say it isn’t warming, it is warming but it is the sun, can’t tell if it is warming as temp records are corrupt, isn’t warming because satellites say it isn’t, it is warming but is due to el niño and AMO, was warming but it stopped in 1998, 2002, (pick a year), no statistical warming since 1998 etc, is really cooling (but aren’t temp records corrupt?), is warming but it won’t be that bad — and that is all from one popular website that changes its mind every month or two.

    In other words, it is the spaghetti on the wall approach and hope something sticks no matter how self-contradictory it is. Make no mistake though, the people who are now saying “we never said it wasn’t warming” will be saying there is no warming when we get a few bad snowstorms this winter. It happens like clockwork.

  6. Rorgg

    If you don’t think people deny global warming, go trawl through some previous GW threads’ comments sections here. Yes, there are some who quibble on the cause, but there are a WHOOOOLE lot of people who deny that it’s happening in the first place.

  7. notovny

    @IW

    Exactly equal to its own weight. Things that displace an amount of water exactly equal to their own volume are generally things that sink.

  8. Grizzly

    And in the world of geo politics, this is a BIG thing. Canada wants to assert and retain sovereignty over its Arctic waters, is busy building naval and army bases to help defend the territory.

    I don’t think that the US will stand for it.

  9. tim Rowledge

    A problem with a graphic like that is that it almost certainly under-plays the issue. To take a really simplistic view for purposes of explanation, assume that the change from ’79 to ’10 was monotonic and steady. A contour showing the average is going to be halfway from the ’79 state to the ’10 state, which will visually minimise the problem quite alarmingly. Show someone a picture like that, explain it’s the difference between the average and today and I bet most will see it as the difference between ‘before problem’ and ‘now’.
    I have to admit I can’t think of a better solution within the context of a single picture though. Get Edward Tufte on the job…

  10. neal

    @ Keith, exactly what I was wondering.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Passage
    Has some good info and images of the different routes.
    I am wondering what Dan Simmons would think about a free and Clear Northwest Passage. I love most of his writing, especially his semi-fictional account of Franklin’s ill-fated attempt to find the passage in The Terror. But I recently found out that he is very right wing.

  11. Kyle

    “However, because ice is frozen fresh water, and the sea is salt water, floating ice may actually raise the sea level a bit.”

    Uhhh maybe I’m off base but sea ice is salt water not fresh.

    Now if it’s glacier ice coming off Greenland then it is fresh water ice.

  12. F16 guy

    #1 hits the nail on the head.

    Global warming happened many times before man was ever on the planet, and will happen countless times after we are gone.

    Pardon the pun, but maybe its time to “chill out” over this issue.

  13. Becca Stareyes

    Kyle, when salt water freezes, it tends to leave the salt behind in the liquid.

  14. neal

    @kyle, when salt water freezes, it pushes most of the salt out, making sea ice surprisingly fresh and making the underlying water surprisingly briny.

  15. @Kyle – The freezing process purifies the water, so while it most likely does contain more salt (and other dissolved solids) than a mountain fresh stream or glacial melt, it is still fresher water than most of the world has access to.

    Also, I didn’t realize others had responded until after I posted, and now I can’t delete it. So I’ll leave you with this: Until I learned that freezing water would eject any salt therein, I would have thought sea ice was frozen salt water too.

  16. Unsettled Scientist

    > I don’t think people necessarily deny global warming, I think they deny the causes of it.

    They do both. On Friday Mitt Romney advisor Avik Roy denied global warming on Bill Maher’s show. Watch it on Overtime for yourself: http://www.hbo.com/real-time-with-bill-maher/index.html

    Regardless, denying either is denying the scientific consensus. So splitting that specific hair is not any better.

  17. Mejilan

    Never really understood the position of deniers. And note: I’m throwing the general global warming deniers and the man-made global warning deniers in the same camp here. Because ultimately, whether (weather? hehe) the cause is man-made or natural, you’d think peoples’ focus should be on mitigating the potentially disastrous repercussions of said warming, rather than arguing about semantics and idealogical tangents.

    I mean, Snowball Earth has happened a couple of times in our world’s ancient past. Quite naturally, I might add. Just because these events were naturally brought about, doesn’t mean we should fatalistically accept any possible future Snowball Earth event. I mean, we’re only talking about the extinction of 99% (or whatever number it actually was) of life on Earth. No big deal, right? Global warming may NOT be as big a deal, I’ll grant you. But it’s still an issue worth facing honestly and presently, in my opinion.

    I suppose it’s ever been an easy thing to ignore “long-term” problems and let future generations deal with the fallout. *shrugs*

    Pity.

  18. Unsettled Scientist

    > Uhhh maybe I’m off base but sea ice is salt water not fresh.

    Yes, you are wrong.

    http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/

    “When sea ice forms, most of the salt is pushed into the ocean water below the ice, although some salt may become trapped in small pockets between ice crystals.”

    http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/environment/global_climate.html

    “Although the ocean is salty, the sea ice on top of the Arctic ocean is fresh–-fresh enough to drink. Sea ice is fresh because sea ice expels salt into the water as it forms.”

  19. Kyle

    Thanks to those setting me straight on sea ice/fresh water. Dang it if I didn’t learned me something today. Guess that makes it a good day then ;-)

    Even if the current warming is completely natural (and it sure doesn’t look like it) then there are still potentially billions who are going to go through forced migration due to climatic and ecologic changes, species will have to evolve (if you believe in something that is only a theory) or go extinct and if the weather, not climate, does get more extreme with drought and flooding its going to be a wild ride and not very pleasant.

  20. Lars

    No rabid deniers scolding Dr. Plait for not writing exclusively about astronomy yet? I am disappoint!

  21. Unsettled Scientist

    Sadly, the changes to their habits occur faster than species can evolve. What the living specimens do is try to adapt, such as moving farther up the mountain. Once the mountain top is too warm for them bad things happen. It is called the “escalator effect” and you can read about it in Nature.
    http://www.nature.com/climate/2007/0712/full/climate.2007.70.html

  22. actuator

    The climate warms and cools and although many scientists actually study it and the various impactors on what makes it change, they unfortunately lack sufficient information to say what can be done to make it stay the same or utopianly ideal. BTW does anyone know what the ideal climate is? In fact anyone who thinks that humans using current or near term future technology can smooth out the substantial swing from about 100k years of cold to 15-20k years of (much more comfortable and liveable) warmth needs to write science fiction. If we stopped all CO2 emissions how much difference would it make and how soon. No one can answer that question. We are stuck with adapting to change as have all species that ever existed. Long live the tough and adaptable cockroach. They’ll be around for millions of years after humans are gone.

  23. Don’t say GLOBAL warming. Say POLAR warming. Globally H2O is the dominent green house gas. At poles and mountain tops the H2O precipitates out and CO2 is dominent. In the desert the relative humidity may be low, but the absolute humidity is high.

  24. Unsettled Scientist

    Jon Claerbout, it’s called global warming because the global mean temperature is rising. Water vapor is not the driver of climate change, it is a feedback.

    Now that people are starting the make claims that science has long since addressed, I think it is time for people like actuator to read this FAQ to make sure your arguments are completely ignorant of the facts.

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

  25. Actually, there ARE studies (see work by Archer, for instance) which predict how long it would take natural systems to resorb and sequester anthropogenic carbon dioxide if we were to stop immediately (or at various other points: he used several different models). It takes 10s of thousands of years for natural systems (dissolution in shallow ocean; weathering of carbonate rocks; weathering of silicate rocks; etc.) to really soak up that CO2.

    Analogous to the time difference as it takes to grow a tree (soaking up the CO2) vs. burning it (releasing it).

  26. Unsettled Scientist

    I used the wrong word above, it should read “Sadly, the changes to their habitats…” I hope that was clear, apologies for the typo.

  27. amphiox

    Global warming happened many times before man was ever on the planet, and will happen countless times after we are gone.

    1. Not ONCE in any of the previously documented episodes of global warming in the past has the rate of change ever been even close to 1/10th of the rate of change we are measuring now.

    2. Without exception, every time there has been global warming in the past, even though much slower to occur than it is occuring now, there have been observable impacts of the biosphere of the time. Sometimes incredibly large, sometimes relatively small. In almost every case, the species that were most successful and dominant before the warming were no longer the most successful or dominant afterwards. WE are currently the most successful and dominant species right now. Do you want us to cease being the most successful and dominant species on this planet?

    3. Our current civilization, the entire edifice of it, rests on agriculture. The ENTIRE history of human agriculture has occurred during a 10 000 year or so window of incredibly stable climate conditions. NEVER in this history has there ever been an episode of change as rapid or as far reaching as what is occurring now. We have NO IDEA how our agricultural crops will respond to this. We DO KNOW, though, that at multiple instances in the past of much smaller degrees of climate fluctuation on a local scale, agriculture became unsustainable and entire civilizations collapsed as a result.

    Pardon the pun, but maybe its time to “chill out” over this issue.

    Absolutely NOT.

  28. amphiox

    If we stopped all CO2 emissions how much difference would it make and how soon. No one can answer that question.

    It will make MORE difference SOONER than if we don’t cut back on CO2 emissions and continue our merry little fossil fuel addiction as if nothing will ever change.

    There, I answered the question.

    Easy.

  29. Hmmmm … I wonder …

    If a substantial amount of polar ice melts, it’ll “dilute” the rest of the ocean water.

    Would the reduction in ocean salinity be substantial enough to affect the critters that live there?

  30. Jess Tauber

    If Jesus, Billo, and the jumping fat man all deny global warming, who am I to criticize?

  31. ad

    Or maybe The Great Summer Cyclone of 2012 ( http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2012/08/a-summer-storm-in-the-arctic/ ) stirred things up a bit, such that the ice no longer registerd on the infrared. It will probably settle down for an unusually large winter ice extent.

  32. Yuri

    @ Daniel J. Andrews

    Minor correction of facts, the Wayback Machine is not associated with Google, it’s run by the Internet Archive (http://archive.org), a nonprofit organization, and funded through donations (http://archive.org/about/faqs.php#31). It is very useful though, as you point out…

  33. Hedin

    I flew over the Northwest Passage on the 18th of Aug coming back from Europe. What i noted most was the lack of sea ice. The only place that had any notable packice was North of Southampton Island. Also the Greenland Ice was pocked with lakes and runoff channels. Have never seen it like that before.

  34. MKS

    it’s so neat that in this outlier and abnormal 10,000 or so years of general climate calm we are experiencing now that there is still room for nifty and interesting climate events

    life certainly isn’t boring :3

  35. bad Jim

    The new polar ice minimum, the hot dry summer in the midwest and the warm winter in the northeast U.S. has made outright denial of the fact of global warming nearly untenable. The deniers are starting to fall back to their secondary positions: that humans aren’t to blame, that it’s an improvement or not that bad*, and that we can’t or shouldn’t do anything about it. That’s progress, of a sort.

    * Of course, the drought and the wild fires – of which the worst may be yet to come – tend to undercut that position.

  36. @32. MKS :

    it’s so neat that in this outlier and abnormal 10,000 or so years of general climate calm we are experiencing now that there is still room for nifty and interesting climate events. life certainly isn’t boring :3

    Especially not for the humans who are directly enduring record breaking, heatwaves, fires, droughts, floods, storms, rising seas and seeing their former ways of life become impossible.

    (Although being stuck inside by heatwaves because its wa-aay too hot outside, without electricity because the powers cut for safety reasons or downed trees or who knows what being “entertaining” by listening to bushfire reports on your battery powered radio can get more than a bit tedious and that’s just in the Western / First / Developed World.)

    Real human beings, women, men, chidren, families in pain and serious discomfort and anxiety falling victim to new unprecedented no-longer-so freak weather.

    Plus, of course, real species of fauna and flora under threat of extinction and being lost from our lives forevermore, leaving us a diminished place with less biodiversity, ecological webs missing more and more vital strands with various consequences that extend far beyond the merely sentimental.

    Yeah, that’s all really “nifty” and “interesting.” :roll:

    Also really horrendous for a heck of a lot of Humanity. Still as long as you’re happy, for now. I mean its not like the implications for (almost?) everybody’s future over upcoming decades and centuries aren’t unpredictable and disturbing is it?

    Also you do realise that the experts in the field of climatology kinda have a clear, evidence based understanding of just why this recent series of decades is so abnormal don’t you? No it isn’t natural.

    PS. Take a look at Greenman3610’s ‘Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives’ clip linked to my name here. Consequences and facts there are mostly USA focused.

  37. @11. Chris : “I don’t think people necessarily deny global warming, I think they deny the causes of it.”

    Sadly, incredibly in the face of the actual physical evidence some people still do deny its happening. In Australia (where I live) we have right-wing radio, TV and newspaper hack Andrew Bolt, radio “shock jock” Alan Jones & geologist Ian Plimer to name three prominent examples. In the States I gather you have Congresscritter Jim Inhofe, Michelle Bachmann and lobbyist Marc Morano to name another three.

    Of course, there are also perhaps but not certainly more people who deny its human induced such as Lindzen and others such as Lomborg who deny its that big a deal.

    But their position is also untenable and contradicted by the facts.

    We know it is caused by Humanity because of studies of their spectral signatures of various forms of carbon, because there are features of the current global overheating that match excatly what you’d expect with human emissions of Greenhouse gases and not other mechanisms and because the climatological experts have looked at and eliminated other possible causation factors such as our Sun, volcanoes and Milankovitch cycles.

    Climate scientists aren’t idiots; they have spent a lot of time and effort and energy researching and understanding and coming to terms with the whole HIRGO* issue and teh evdence for that theory keeps becoming more and more conclusive with teh recent additions of the climate contrarian think-tank funded Richard Muller BEST study for instance.

    We know its real. Yes, it is us. Now what are we going to do about it?

    PS. See Potholer54’s ‘Isn’t it Natural?’ clip linked tomy name here for a great explanationand debunking of that particular widely circulated climate canard.

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

  38. Pete Jackson

    While the sea ice has been at or near record lows in the Northern Hemisphere, the sea ice extent has been greater than normal in the Southern Hemisphere, both in summer and winter.

    See

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/

    While the Southern Hemisphere has been getting warmer overall, it is doing so at a much smaller rate than the Northern Hemisphere. My guess is that the feedback between less ice and more warming because of the loss of reflectivity of sunlight when the ice melts, is much more effective in the Northern Hemisphere. No matter how much warmer it gets, the continent of Antarctica will stay ice-covered and highly reflective

  39. MadScientist

    Oh goody – look at all those new shipping lanes. :)

  40. Well, (# 24.) Unsettled Scientist has already linked the Skeptical Science arguments page so that’s one I’ll just second and recommend.

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

    http://www.realclimate.org/

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

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/06/27/the-global-warming-crisis/

    Ethan Siegel -Starts With A Bang blogger’s excellently informative post on the topic.

    Plus :

    http://co2now.org/

    A website which has plentyof 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 NASA’s climate change page 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.

  41. VinceRN

    Global temperatures are most certainly rising, and human activity is most certainly pumping carbon out of the cruse and into the atmosphere. That can not fail to have an effect, and is most certainly a (or the) major reason for what’s going on now.

    Here is where I see a problem: The vast majority of people talking about this, including many of the scientist, and even including people here, are saying that natural processes that have been operating for hundreds of millions of years are no longer operating. That the environment would now be static if it were not for human activity. It is a mortal sin to suggest that any natural process might even be involved, it all has to be blamed on humans, and in fact mostly on the American political right. That is plainly absurd, but that is what most people are claiming.

    Yes, humans are having a large effect on the environment, and yes, there is a lot we could and should do to change that. but nature has not stopped functioning and it is not all being done by one very small political group.

    Another thing that bothers me is this: We are all quite good here at heaping scorn on the eschatological claims we see in the media so often, yet when it comes to global warming we throw around terms like HIRGO, designed to make it sound as apocalyptic as possible.

    The end is not nigh. The world is changing, we are changing it, and we must be careful how we do so. We should try to limit our impact, and we should try to manage the change that is happening as best we can.

    There are billions of people here on Earth, and in the future there will be billions more. We have to feed them, move them, educate them, provide them with energy, and we will do all these things and we will continue to get better at all these things. Like it or not this will change the world, it will change the environment.

    All we can do is try to minimize that change, or at least the damage done by it. We can not prevent it, unless you are advocating murder on a scale that Mao and Stalin could only dream of and then returning what little is left of humanity to a pre-industrial existence.

  42. Plus again at those claiming Humans aren’t to blame please also watch this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9ob9WdbXx0&feature=related

    short clip – ‘Sir David Attenborough: The Truth About Climate Change’ – just two minutes but concisely conclusively informative.

    In addition to :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwpPd_bBMpg&feature=related

    By glaciologist and climate expert Richard Alley : ‘How do we know the CO2 rise is Man Made?’ which is even shorter and adds extra info in that regard.

    Plus :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c90nab5i-TQ&list=PL029130BFDC78FA33&index=27&feature=plpp_video

    On ice core data and what it tells us by Peter Sinclair which is longer at a bit over ten minutes but also interesting and shows how real scientists really gather and analyse the literally cold, hard data.

    Note especially around the nine minute mark in that where alternatives are eliminated by extensive scientific investigation over an approximately thirty year long period. (The theory of HIRGO goes all the way back to Svante Arrhenius among others well over a century ago – it certainly *didn’t* start with a former US Vice President who made a movie about it.)

    PS. I’d also strongly recommend watching ‘What We Know about Climate Change’ the Youtube clip linked to my name here by Peter Sinclair. Its not just one piece of empirical scientific evidence that proves HIRGO’ s reality it is a very great many from a whole range of things and interdisciplinary (Physics, biology, glaciology, palaeo-geology, computer modelling, chemistry, satellite imaging, etc ..) sub-fields and scientific areas.

  43. Guilherme

    I am a little confused doesn’t ice occupy a greater volume then water (the reason bottles explode when frozen) shouldn’t ice when melted occupy a lesser volume?

  44. amphiox

    Here is where I see a problem: The vast majority of people talking about this, including many of the scientist, and even including people here, are saying that natural processes that have been operating for hundreds of millions of years are no longer operating.

    Except that I am not aware of a single credible climate scientist who actually says this.

    That the environment would now be static if it were not for human activity.

    And this is an absolutely GROSS distortion of what the climate science and scientists are actually saying.

    We can not prevent it, unless you are advocating murder on a scale that Mao and Stalin could only dream of and then returning what little is left of humanity to a pre-industrial existence.

    This is absolutely a ridiculous thing to say, and using an arbitrary definition of “prevent” so extreme and narrow as to be laughable.

    It is, quite frankly, an offensive comparison.

  45. Morellio

    The greatest loss are all of the ice cores, pockets of bacteria, etc that are disappearing from the oldest parts. Speaking of land-locked ice being let into the system, how’s the south pole doin’?

  46. @ ^ Morellio : Differently given the different circumstances of the Antartican continent. ;-)

    As the Skeptical Science – Is Antarctica losing or gaining ice?’ page linked to my name here notes, the situation with Antartica is complex with land ice shrinking and sea ice growing there because of various factors – the Southern ocean around Antartica is actually warming faster than any ocean. Plus parts of the Antartican ice shelves around the peninsula have being breaking up dramatically relatively recently notably the Larsen Ice Shelf.

    @20. Lars : ” No rabid deniers scolding Dr. Plait for not writing exclusively about astronomy yet? I am disappoint!”

    I’m not! ;-)

    @40. MadScientist : “Oh goody – look at all those new shipping lanes. “

    Well, yes, that is one positive – don’t think it offsets the negatives of HIRGO though somehow.

  47. Antartican HIRGO effects~wise, see :

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

    &

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/08/17/antarctic-sea-ice-grows-despite-global-warming%e2%80%94but-it-wont-last/

    Good 80 Beats blog item on that topic.

    Plus watch :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-wbzK4v7GsM

    Peter Sinclair’s Watts Up with Sea ice?’ clip especially from the 4 minute mark onwards. Great graph at the 4 min 55 secs mark specifically.

    In addition, the National Snow & Ice Data Centre has a page on the situation ice~wise in my planetary hemisphere which is pretty good too – ‘Sea ice down under: Antarctic ice and climate’ which can be found via their “Icelights: Your Burning Questions About Ice & Climate”section – and is also linked to my name for this comment.

  48. PS. @45. Morellio – August 28th, 2012 at 1:21 am asked :

    “Speaking of land-locked ice being let into the system, how’s the south pole doin’?”

    See the link in my name – ‘Sea ice down under: Antarctic ice and climate’ via the NSIDC. More for y’all in a comment awaiting moderation too.

    *****

    When it comes to this record low Arctic sea ice – Relevant quote here :

    “I like ice also as an indicator of climate change for its political neutrality.
    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, 1 minute 14 secs to 1min 51 secs marks.

  49. @Amphiox – certainly no credible climate scientist says it, but almost everyone that talks publicly about climate change either says it directly or implies it. Few of the folks you hear talking about it in media, in politics, and it day to day life are themselves credible climate scientists. It is generally stated, and generally believed, that human activity is the only factor in any change to the environment. Read some random blogs, listen to politicians, listen to just folks talking out into world, this is what you hear.

    Prevent is a verb, it means to keep something from happening. That definition is neither arbitrary, extreme, narrow, or laughable. It is in fact what the word actually means.

    We can moderate the effects of human activity on the environment, but we can not prevent them. Billions of humans can not exist without having an effect, and the environment being malleable and ever changing anyway, will be changed by the continuing existence of billions of humans.

    Not sure what comparison you are talking about, but if you think that billions of humans can exist without an effect on the system they are part of, end if you think the dictionary definitions of words are extreme, narrow, and laughable, I must say I don’t mind offending you at all.

  50. @amphiox – well said!

    Shall we not apply Newton’s flaming laser sword here?

    What cannot be settled by experiment is not worth debating.

    What I see with the “whole” topic is a huge collection of cognitive biases being pushed as “fact” by a bunch of politicians who are trying to sell their new tax which will benefit only them and their companies.
    That’s all politicians know how to do – make new taxes.
    They collect our modern druids -known as scientists- get them on their side to shift the reference called “normal” and redefine our belief system.

    Modern Science is a belief system – sorry, that’s how it is being used today.

    In the meantime while a minority of scientists are actually working with the data, the paranoid alarmists and sceptics are taking all the media attention, and the politicians are laughing their heads off because their new taxes are getting passed all over the world.

    Einstein said what?
    1 hour to save the world – I would use 55 minutes to define the problem and 5 minutes for the solution.

    We ARE STILL in the definition phase.
    Whether you modern druids like it or not – it has not been proven that carbon “drives” the climate.
    Indeed – carbon (which is a misnomer in itself) may be the by-product or side effect of global warming!
    See National Geographic’s article “where’s the missing carbon”.
    Which brings up another point – the “models” are not complete and most do not account for water vapor.

    So we are the blind leading the blind.
    A bunch of boats on a dark see and nobody has a friggin clue, if someone makes a good argument – usually emotional- then people will get on the band wagon.

    Still not what I call science!

    To quote my favorite astronomer “If there is an effect, and it’s real, it can be measured.”
    http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/astrology.html

    In this whole HIRGO debate , we still do not know if the things we are measuring are side effects or causes. What we are doing is second guessing and re-interpreting the statistics ad nauseum.

    Maybe HIRGO – AGW is the new astrology?

    We should define the problem accurately;
    then ascertain if we are able to do anything measurable(!) about it.

    One thing I do know – regardless if you are a believer or not – the new taxes will have NO measurable effect and we will have NO refund or recall of the new taxes.

    p.s.
    Whoa! They “may” have found where the missing carbon is!!!
    http://www.nature.com/climate/2007/0708/full/climate.2007.35.html

    This for me is unfortunately just more proof that we really don’t know what’s going on and any new taxes are not based on fact or measurable results!

    Again- until all parameters are correctly defined – all ACTIONS are based on fallacy and cognitive biases!

    The politicians will thank us for the tax money.

  51. Lars

    It is generally stated, and generally believed, that human activity is the only factor in any change to the environment.

    You know what? I don’t believe you, because it directly contradicts everything I’ve experienced about the debate.

    Read some random blogs, listen to politicians, listen to just folks talking out into world,

    I have.

    this is what you hear.

    Actually, it’s not.

    blah blah prevent blah blah

    I don’t see why anyone should let you derail the discussion by quibbling over the definition of the word “prevent”. It was you who brought the word to the table. You want more accurate use of language? So use language more accurately!

  52. TheBlackCat

    The vast majority of people talking about this, including many of the scientist, and even including people here, are saying that natural processes that have been operating for hundreds of millions of years are no longer operating. That the environment would now be static if it were not for human activity.

    That is a blatant lie. What people are saying is that the known natural processes either:
    1. operate on different time scales than the change we are seeing now
    2. are too small to cause the change we are seeing
    3. are operating in the wrong direction right now
    4. are due to factors that are not always occurring and that we can measure and show are not occurring now.

    Or, in many cases, more than one or all of these. Scientists have analyzed countless possible mechanisms and they have ruled them out as causes now.

    It is a mortal sin to suggest that any natural process might even be involved,

    No, it is a mortal sin to suggest that without saying what the mechanism is or showing that it is actually occuring. You can’t just say “it’s natural”, you need to actually:

    1. say what process is responsible
    2. show that it can cause a warming with the properties we see
    3. show that it is actually occurring.

    There is no other mechanism that meets all of these criteria.

    it all has to be blamed on humans, and in fact mostly on the American political right. That is plainly absurd, but that is what most people are claiming.

    Another blatant lie. This is not even remotely similar to what scientists are saying.

    It is true, however, that in the U.S. overwhelmingly AGW denialism is associated with the political right. That has absolutely nothing to do with who is responsible for causing it, all it has to do with is who is responsible for not stopping it.

    We are all quite good here at heaping scorn on the eschatological claims we see in the media so often, yet when it comes to global warming we throw around terms like HIRGO, designed to make it sound as apocalyptic as possible.

    What about the term is remotely apocalyptic? And what term would you prefer? Every term scientists have used so far has been attacked by denialists for some reason.

    The end is not nigh.

    Nothing about that term says it is.

    All we can do is try to minimize that change, or at least the damage done by it. We can not prevent it, unless you are advocating murder on a scale that Mao and Stalin could only dream of and then returning what little is left of humanity to a pre-industrial existence.

    Godwin much? Trying to minimize it is exactly what scientists are proposing. By any attempt to minimize it is opposed by a segment of the U.S. population, and this proportion is strongly associated with a particular political group.

  53. TheBlackCat

    certainly no credible climate scientist says it,

    You are contradicting yourself now. In your previous post you said:

    The vast majority of people talking about this, including many of the scientist, and even including people here, are saying that natural processes that have been operating for hundreds of millions of years are no longer operating.

    (emphasis added)

    You also claimed there that people here have said that. Quotes please.

    but almost everyone that talks publicly about climate change either says it directly or implies it.

    Citation needed.

    It is generally stated, and generally believed, that human activity is the only factor in any change to the environment. Read some random blogs, listen to politicians, listen to just folks talking out into world, this is what you hear

    Quotes or it didn’t happen.

  54. I just came back from holiday in Iceland. I was expecting it to be a cool 15 degrees as is normal this time of year. Most days, I had to put sun cream on because it was well into the 20’s. They had better weather than back in the UK. Nice for a holiday, but kinda scary.

  55. Nigel Depledge

    F16 Guy (12) said:

    #1 hits the nail on the head.

    What, you mean apart from the bit where the comment is demonstrably wrong?

    Global warming happened many times before man was ever on the planet, and will happen countless times after we are gone.

    So what?

    How does this in any way moderate the impact that AGW is likely to have on our current civilisation?

    Pardon the pun, but maybe its time to “chill out” over this issue.

    Or maybe it’s time to accept responsibility for it and actually do something to address the issue. If we do nothing, then London (and several other cities too) is likely to be underwater at every high tide some time next century. Oh, also about half of Bangladesh will disappear.

    Unless you advocate some form of anti-lowland eugenic programme, you really should be concerned about the effects that global warming will have.

  56. Steven

    How can you base such firm beliefs purely upon ‘Scientific Concensus’? If in the past we had moved on as soon as scientific consensus had been achieved would we still believe in the ether? Or still be using the Rutherford model of the atom?

  57. @Chris

    I don’t think people necessarily deny global warming, I think they deny the causes of it.

    You need to think harder. Try reading the comments section anywhere and everywhere on the internet on the subject of climate change and global warming.
    People really, really deny global warming. They even babble about “Global Cooling”.
    It’s stupid but that’s what they do.

    Climate Deniers: Making 9/11 Troofers look smart by comparison.

  58. noen

    “There are billions of people here on Earth, and in the future there will be billions more.”

    Actually there won’t be. The carrying capacity of the Earth is around 9 billion. At that point what will happen is what happens to all populations that exceed the capacity of their environment to support them.

    Ecologies can take a lot of stress. They take and take and take it…. until they don’t. When an ecology fails it fails catastrophically and *everything* goes down with it. That is because ecological systems do not all behave linearly. Systems can change due to a driver (CO2 in this case) and change can occur incrementally until a threshold is reached at which point there is a bifurcation and a rapid regime change to the system. Let’s hope we don’t discover any hidden thresholds any day soon.

  59. Catalyst

    @Steven – The Luminiferous Aether, or however it was spelled in ye olde days, was only ever a postulate. As soon as someone actually tested the postulate it was proven to be false. (Michelson/Morley) There was never a scientific consensus on the ether, at least, not one at all like what we see with climate science. The consensus on climate change is driven by the multitude of experiments, carried out over several decades (more than a century if you count the early experiments on CO2), by many separate institutions, all of which point to one thing – Earth’s climate is changing to a warmer climate, and humans are the main force propelling that change. The Rutherford model, while not completely accurate, is still a good way to grasp the basics of atomic structure. The atomic models used now are direct descendants of the Rutherford model. Not to mention, we accomplished quite a lot of chemistry and physics using the Rutherford model.

    Both examples you cited are off the mark. The ether never achieved a consensus equal to modern climate science, and the Rutherford model was a powerful tool for understanding as well as being a precursor to today’s modern atomic models.

  60. Nigel Depledge

    @ 11, 13, 14, 15 & 18 (& others maybe?) –

    As any solution freezes, the solvent forms crystals. In the case of water freezing, the crystals are ice crystals. As any chemist will tell you, crystallisation can be a means of purification, because as (in this case) water molecules add to the crystal lattice, they naturally exclude anything in the solution that isn’t water.

    Assuming any solutes (stuff that’s dissolved in the solvent) remain soluble at the freezing point of the solvent (and sodium chloride is very soluble in water), the solute remains dissolved in the remaining liquid solvent.

    Thus, as has been alluded to in previous comments, the last remaining bit of the solvent gets saltier and saltier, while the crystal (ice) is very much more pure than was the solution from which it is derived.

    In the case of sea ice forming on sea water, there is plenty of remaining solvent (the sea all the way down to the sea bed) in which the solutes can remain dissolved.

    Sea ice does something peculiar, too, because as the sea ice forms, small pockets or regions of very concentrated brine can form. As this concentrated (and therefore very dense) brine escapes, it falls through the less-dense sea water beneath it. Because the concentrated brine can remain liquid at lower temperatures than can less concentrated solutions, the concentrated brine tends to be colder than the sea water through which it falls. Sometimes, it is colder than the freezing point of the sea water through which it falls. This can result in tubes of ice forming around the falling streams of concentrated brine. If the sea is shallow, the very cold, dense concentrated brine can flash-freeze anything living on the sea floor. I get the feeling this has come up on the BA’s blog before.

  61. Gary

    Antarctic ice extent is above average. Must be global warming is a northern hemisphere phenomenon?

  62. Kullat Nunu

    The funniest thing is that in 2007 the weather conditions were very conductive for massive ice loss. However, this year is much more normal in this sense. But still the ice has disappeared so rapidly. This is because there is much less ice (in total volume, not just the area) as before.

    Antarctic ice extent is above average.

    You are comparing different things. Antarctic ice sheet behaves differently, and is now near its yearly maximum extent. Likewise in the last winter, the Arctic sea ice extent was not that far from the average… but that actually doesn’t tell much. The sea freezes eventually in winter when it is cold. Main problem is that old multi-year ice in the Arctic is disappearing rapidly.

    Must be global warming is a northern hemisphere phenomenon?

    Nope, but northern hemisphere warms much faster (along with the Antarctic peninsula, BTW). The eastern Antarctic is better “sealed” from warming compared to the rest of the polar regions.

  63. Infinite123Lifer

    @ 43 Bruce said:

    “Really? Not according to NOAA.”

    Really? From the link I am providing you:

    As of August 26, Arctic sea ice appears to have broken the 2007 record for smallest daily extent of the satellite era. Arctic sea ice extent fell to 1.58 million square miles on August 26, 2012. This was 27,000 square miles (slightly bigger than the state of West Virginia) below the previous record low of 1.61 million square miles, set in September 2007.

    http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/article/2012/arctic-sea-ice-breaks-2007-record-low

    and confirmed here again by this nsidc link:

    Arctic sea ice cover melted to its lowest extent in the satellite record yesterday, breaking the previous record low observed in 2007. Sea ice extent fell to 4.10 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles) on August 26, 2012. This was 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) below the September 18, 2007 daily extent of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles).

    and if your trying to split polar bear hairs . . . from the same link:

    NSIDC scientist Walt Meier said, “By itself it’s just a number, and occasionally records are going to get set. But in the context of what’s happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it’s an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing.”

    According to NSIDC Director Mark Serreze, “The previous record, set in 2007, occurred because of near perfect summer weather for melting ice. Apart from one big storm in early August, weather patterns this year were unremarkable. The ice is so thin and weak now, it doesn’t matter how the winds blow.”

    “The Arctic used to be dominated by multiyear ice, or ice that stayed around for several years,” Meier said. “Now it’s becoming more of a seasonal ice cover and large areas are now prone to melting out in summer.”

    http://nsidc.org/news/press/20120827_2012extentbreaks2007record.html

  64. Chris Winter

    VinceRN wrote (#42): “Here is where I see a problem: The vast majority of people talking about this, including many of the scientist, and even including people here, are saying that natural processes that have been operating for hundreds of millions of years are no longer operating. That the environment would now be static if it were not for human activity. It is a mortal sin to suggest that any natural process might even be involved, it all has to be blamed on humans, and in fact mostly on the American political right. That is plainly absurd, but that is what most people are claiming.”

    Show me someone who claims that, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t credible.

    Of course natural processes continue to operate; they are just overwhelmed by what we are doing, in time scale or in magnitude. A suggestion: Read Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum by William F. Ruddiman. He makes a pretty good case that a natural cooling trend was overridden by human releases of CO2 (from clearing forests by fire) and methane (from rice paddies) throughout history. Now, of course, we have industrial-strength overrides.

  65. Steven

    @catalyst – The Michelson Morley experiment was deemed to be an invalid experiment when it was unable to show the presence of the ether wind, which strongly reflects the strong scientific consensus at the time. I was more trying to point out that the vast majority of scientific breakthroughs come as a result of opposing thoughts which are generally against the accepted ideas of the time. I’m not trying to say whether global warming is human induced or not, just that by calling people with opposing thoughts ‘denialists’ is suppressing scientific progression, and the entire basis of the system which has brought us this far.

  66. Steve Metzler

    67. Steven Says:

    I’m not trying to say whether global warming is human induced or not, just that by calling people with opposing thoughts ‘denialists’ is suppressing scientific progression, and the entire basis of the system which has brought us this far.

    Having opposing thoughts is one thing; denying all the evidence of what is happening to the Arctic, in particular, is quite another thing. Tell us, Steven… when the Arctic becomes ice free in summer within the next decade, do you think that will be attributable to natural causes?

  67. Infinite123Lifer

    Looks like the g+ hang out mutleyeng mentioned in the other thread is scheduled.

    From the event created by Noah Diffenbaugh:

    I’ll be hosting a Hangouts On Air to discuss this year’s record sea ice decline, whether global warming is likely playing a role, and what the current state of scientific knowledge suggests that we might expect in the coming years. The Hangout will be Thursday, August 30, and 4:30pm Pacific time (23:30 GMT). Let me know if you are interested in joining the Hangouts On Air.

    —–

    I think hangouts and public discussion are quite encouraging while I consider being in the face of the facts about what we are doing in this world. I know some will say that the contrarians or deniers or HIRGOCT’s or whatever you may want to call them wont show up or listen or do anything constructive to further understand the issue or to face facts . . . well, I am not really thinking about converting AGW deniers. I am thinking this type of stuff is good for people in general. In the last week, two of my friends have made off hand comments about GW. So off hand that I stopped them and made very sure to acknowledge their thoughts on the matter. I made sure to let them know that the Earth *IS* warming, its not a joke. It turns out that its always this same problem *I* see . . . people do not get their information from any credible sources because they are generally not looking for it or concerned about it and in *my experience* with the layperson, AGW is actually treated as a conspiracy theory by the very same side of folks who generally decry conspiracy theory. I had to first convince them of GW before we could acknowledge an AGW discussion.

    In the last week I have heard: “that global warming crap is so old” and “what is up with these global warming people, god talk about looney” by people I consider my friends both times my mouth dropped and I froze and I was like “wait a second”. I had to have a long talk with them to at least get them to recognize that you cannot suck on an exhaust pipe for long without dieing and what that invisible greenhouse gas does by trapping heat and that fossil fuel is buried in the ground and then released (every second) by humans into the atmosphere and its *a lot*. From there with both of them I had to continue to forge through the “so . . . should we change for the better or just keep on consuming till the poison possibly wrecks this world? We could you know work on things like solar power, green energy, less waste, better stewards of the land, less polltuion” They both answered change for the better. I do not think it is a tough decision to reach once confronted with the actualities of considering a long term flourishing future for us but it is tough to bring people who are really just unconcerned to the truth of the matter. I think hangouts could improve on that situation.

    I am a layperson. Sometimes I can barely tell between conniving lunatic articles and reputable ones. I am pretty interested to see how this goes. I am unaware of any other possible live discussions about GW or AGW.

  68. The principal short term contribution to sea level rise is thermal expansion of warming ocean water. Most of the energy, fortunately or not, from re-radiation of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being sunk into the oceans, as well as a good chunk of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide dissolving in seawater. That warming causes water to expand. Counterintuitively, the effect is not like a bathtub, and because of dynamics and complicated coastal shapes, even this sea level rise affects different places in differing amounts.

    We know that human produced carbon dioxide is causing the warming because fossil fuel-derived CO2 is isotopically different than more recently produced CO2 at the surface. We also know that natural systems are a net sink of CO2 and, so, cannot be contributing this CO2 in the atmosphere. We know that because we know how much CO2 is being released by fossil fuel combustion and related processes, and the amount of CO2 in atmosphere is increasing less than that.

    We also know that because we have put so much CO2 into the atmosphere already, warming will continue for something under 100 years even if it were all stopped right now.

    We also know that at the rate of production and projected production through 2030, and based upon conservative climate sensitivity numbers, we’re talking about something like 5 degrees Celsius warming. That may not sound like a lot, but remember that temperature is energy density, and fluctuations will make lots of energy available in pockets on the planet more than others … The ramifications of this, even if we assume linear models of impact, are huge. We do not understand the climate system to know if there might not be bad nonlinear impacts. Surely, the rapid melt of the Arctic was not anticipated by climate models.

    To say “It’s just Nature doing things” is being ignorant and putting your head in the sand. We understand this stuff. If we didn’t, we couldn’t build the semiconductor chips that power your iPhones and stuff.

  69. TheBlackCat

    I was more trying to point out that the vast majority of scientific breakthroughs come as a result of opposing thoughts which are generally against the accepted ideas of the time.

    Wrong. The vast majority of scientific breakthroughs come as a result of opposing evidence. Countless people have thoughts opposed to the current scientific consensus in just about any field imaginable. Nothing comes from them, because they have no evidence.

    Until global warming denialists have evidence, their ideas have not merit, and they are just left with denying the evidence we do have, denying the understanding we do have, but not contributing anything else that could replace it.

    Heck, they don’t even have opposing ideas, that is an idea about what could replace our current ideas about global warming. Your average physics crackpot trying to overthrow relativity (of which there are tons) usually has at least has that much.

    That is why they are denialists, not because they disagree with our current understanding, but because that is all they offer, disagreement, they don’t offer anything that could actually allow science to progress.

    just that by calling people with opposing thoughts ‘denialists’ is suppressing scientific progression, and the entire basis of the system which has brought us this far.

    No calling people with opposing evidence would be suppressing scientific progress. We call people who only have opposing thoughts denialists all the time, because that is what distinguishes a denialist from a skeptic in the first place.

  70. Still not sure as it is deemed to be happened by so-called “gloval warming” or ” the transition of solar system” or “movement of the axis of rotation’.

  71. James Evans

    @#63 Gary:

    Antarctic ice extent is above average. Must be global warming is a northern hemisphere phenomenon?

    Or, if you think this comment refutes climate change in the slightest, it must be that you are omitting/ignoring several critical details. Maybe the most important oversight on your part is the difference between Antarctic sea ice and Antarctic land ice. One has greater impact on sea level rise, and is not only decreasing in extent (i.e.: this particular type of Antarctic ice extent is below average, not “above average”), but the rate of decrease is accelerating. I leave it to you, Gary, to do the exciting, suspense-filled, online research to educate yourself which one it is!

    A couple additional important details—which you will probably care about as much as the one I already mentioned—involve why it is ultimately Arctic ice that should concern us more than either type of Antarctic ice (this has to do with albedo), and what is causing the other type of Antarctic ice to increase in extent (troubling environmental issues, some of which may be due to climate change itself).

    So, Gary, get back to us and let us know which is the more important, shrinking type of Antarctic ice. And, if you’re interested, you can also ask for further explanation regarding the other unfortunate errors of omission your statement implies.

  72. Sharku

    @Daniel J. Andrews: Here are a couple more claims I’ve heard/read in addition to the ones you mentioned (I’ve seen those too), with my own thoughts in parentheses:

    – Weather/climate is a chaotic system, we can’t accurately measure it.
    – The data has been deliberately corrupted/tampered with to ensure a steady flow of research grants (for years and years and years without a single person of integrity blowing the whistle on the whole shebang? That borders on New World Order/Illuminati/Alien Overlords levels of conspiracy paranoia IMO.)
    – But Al Gore… (Sigh. Cynic in me says he’s a politician at heart focusing on a hot issue, pun not intended, for his own purposes; be they political or financial. Optimist in me says he genuinely believes that by attaching his name and fame to an issue he feels people need rallying behind, people will actually do so. Which side of me gets the upper hand depends on what mood you catch me in. Either way, his getting involved with it doesn’t say anything about the validity of the research, and on the whole I believe he’s done more bad than good by doing so; giving those politically disinclined to accept global warming an ideal target to crystallize their opposition against.)
    – Global warming has become a religion and we shouldn’t let religion decide on matters of policy. (I find that rich considering that a lot of people who’d oppose taking any measures to mitigate global warming are more than happy to let religion decide on any number of other issues.)
    – Cap & trade, carbon taxing are bad, they do nothing but penalize First World countries, don’t reduce actual CO2 output etc. etc. (That may all very well be true, but it’s a start at least. If you don’t like the current solution, come up with a better one, instead of using the logic loop of “current solution bad therefore problem doesn’t exist therefore no better solution needed”.)
    – Climatologists haven’t taken [insert arbitrary factoid] into account, any fool can see that. (Yep, every climatologist in existence is a moron, and yet these “morons” are getting published in Nature and the like, while you Mr. Random Internet Denizen are blogging about it. Okay granted, that’s borderline appeal to authority, but I feel that sometimes you just have to acknowledge actual authority. Give credit where it’s due, as it were.)
    – Climate science is only reviewed by climatologists, of course they’d agree with each other/would clear other climatologists of any accusations of fraud. (Really? When your doctor diagnoses you with some illness, do you get a second opinion from the IT guy at work? Your accountant? Your lawyer? All very intelligent and competent people I’m sure, but just maybe you want to get that second opinion from another doctor? More appeal to authority, I know, but seriously how absurd do you want to get?)
    – Other planets are warming too. (a. That’s been debunked several times over. b. Supposedly a bunch of morons with thousands upon thousands of satellites, measuring stations, ice cores and whatnot at their disposition can’t accurately tell what’s going on right here on Earth and yet those same morons with only a handful of probes can accurately measure what’s going on on other planets? You see no logic disconnect in that?)

    I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter, but all in all the overall feeling I get from the whole “climate debate” is: climatologists have been consistent in their message for years and have evidence to back up their claims, while deniers can’t even get their story straight on what exactly it is they’re opposing nor do they have any evidence to back them up. In fact, generally speaking, deniers come off as being everything they accuse climatologists of being: a squabbling bunch of idiots, each trying to advance their own pet theories (theory used in the colloquial sense here) based not on evidence but on an agenda… Apologies for the rantishness of this post, but this is something that has been simmering with me for a long time now.

  73. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Sharku : No worries. Sometimes its good to have a good rant ain’t it!;-)

    Agree with most of what you’ve written there – and, natch, its why there’s sites like Skeptical Science that take on all those Climate Contrarian canards.

    ***

    Via Aussie ABC TV’s lateline show earlier tonight good video and trasncript :

    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.

    Plus good mentions of many other things including the latest Jim Hansen study.

  74. Messier Tidy Upper

    PS. Just one minor very minor stylistic nitpick Sharku – & this could be a subjective personal thing too – but I reckon a little white space and blank lines between points helps presentation and readability~wise if y’know what I mean. ‘Course we all have our own quirks style~wise. ;-)

  75. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    #17:

    “Just because these events were naturally brought about, doesn’t mean we should fatalistically accept any possible future Snowball Earth event. I mean, we’re only talking about the extinction of 99% (or whatever number it actually was) of life on Earth. No big deal, right? Global warming may NOT be as big a deal, I’ll grant you. But it’s still an issue worth facing honestly and presently, in my opinion.”

    The larger problem is the moral problem IMO. We already see an increase in amplitude of (warm) extreme climate events, and those kills. And the increase in sea level will mean poor people suffer more than rich.

    Then we have the cost problem. It is already more expensive for US to bear the increased cost from extreme climate events than it was to prevent them early on. (Ref: Some article from this spring, you can google it.)

    The future problem is that while a warmer Earth means a more habitable (potentially productive) Earth, the recovery from mass extinctions takes some million year (ref: google) and the degree of recovered diversity (which more or less translates to actually productive) will be random (ref: new result this summer, you should be able to google it though).

  76. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    #19:

    “species will have to evolve (if you believe in something that is only a theory) or go extinct”

    Evolution is a process, a fact (the observation of the process of evolution), theory (the theory of the evolution process, and a pathway (the pathway the process took).

    The fact of evolution is simply the observation that we aren’t clones of our parents, meaning a living population goes to another population by heredity). The fact of speciation is simply the observation that no matter what the material, extant species traits, fossil species traits or genome traits, they can without exception be ordered as nested sets. Only the evolution process predicts that.

    And as for theory, if you think about a well tested theory is an interacting set of hypotheses joining observations. In that sense it is more solid than any one observation or ad hoc hypotheses. It is “a super fact”.

    Note that extinction is an evolutionary mechanism, biologists like to have their theories inclusive and it _is_ a change in the genome albeit a catastrophe one, it is a population of size 0. When you see a species go extinct, it is therefore also an observation of evolution. (But this time most any idea about populations can predict the same. =D)

  77. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    #22:

    “The climate warms and cools and although many scientists actually study it and the various impactors on what makes it change, they unfortunately lack sufficient information to say what can be done to make it stay the same or utopianly ideal. BTW does anyone know what the ideal climate is?”

    Absolutely _no one_ is interested in “the ideal climate” as much as preserving what we have, in order to preserve our society, economy and biosphere as much as possible.

    The rate of change is unprecedented, so noting that it have changed more before isn’t comforting but a disturbing observation. We are now outside all known regimes in rate, and we know it can get much worse in amplitude as well.

    And yes, climate scientists can do all what you claim they don’t. Go and read the science itself, an excellent review is IPCC ’07.

    #58:

    “How can you base such firm beliefs purely upon ‘Scientific Concensus’?”

    We aren’t, it is just the outsider’s test of a scientific issue. We are basing, not beliefs, but our acceptance of findings on consensus.

    And I would add to what #61 said, that we have passed way past 50 % consensus. ~ 97 – 98 % of the climate scientists agree on this.

    # 63:

    “Antarctic ice extent is above average. Must be global warming is a northern hemisphere phenomenon?”

    We know the cause is global warming in some specific cases of local climate change. This is one of them.

    Also the warm extrems are now so extreme that they constitute 5 sigma observations of the warming all by themselves. (See Hansen et al latest paper.)

  78. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    #38:

    “‘anthropogenic” is a technical weaselword”.

    Of course not, it is the commonly used term in these cases, compare with “anthropic principle” et cetera.

    If it is the best term considering the outcome no one thought we would have to live in is another thing,* but it is not a priori ‘weaselly’.

    * Yes, scientists can be naive about the human ability to resist knowledge.

    But really, the ozone hole vs PFC restrictions were the precedent, where humanity for the first time got together and prevented a global catastrophe, and it was an environmental catastrophe to boot. I think the uncertainty of all that at the time was much larger.

    Who suspected that the old and easily recognizable tobacco companies’ strategy would be promoted in this subsequent case, that of “doubt”, and successfully?

    And that is likely why they succeeded, it worked to prolong tobacco production killings for decades and now we have passed into CO2 production killings (the last year’s thousands of deaths in Russian, French and US heat waves, all retrodicted to AGW AFAIK) without having the denialists pause.

    We should have been prepared. I predict that after we get our shit together, some more powerful agency will be created that can cut through bullshit that prevents saving lives.

    #45:

    “I am a little confused doesn’t ice occupy a greater volume then water (the reason bottles explode when frozen) shouldn’t ice when melted occupy a lesser volume?”

    Precisely, it occupies the volume its weight determined, hence neatly fitting that volume after melting as it should. Otherwise you would have “a hole” or “a density increase” to explain.

  79. Sharku

    @Messier Tidy Upper: you’re right about the white space thing. I usually do that, but this post sort of ran away on me.

  80. Lee

    @0, BA
    Why do you persist in calling the Greenland melt ‘unprecedented’ when even the glaciologists analysing the melt data said it was not?

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/greenland-melt.html

    “Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data. “But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.”

  81. TheBlackCat

    @ Lee: Did you bother reading the title of the article you linked to?

  82. Nigel Depledge

    Steven (67) said:

    @catalyst – The Michelson Morley experiment was deemed to be an invalid experiment when it was unable to show the presence of the ether wind, which strongly reflects the strong scientific consensus at the time.

    I think you need more than a bald assertion to make that argument.

    OK, you claim that the existence of the Aether was accepted as a consensus, so there must be many references to it. Perhaps you could provide a few?

    I was more trying to point out that the vast majority of scientific breakthroughs come as a result of opposing thoughts which are generally against the accepted ideas of the time.

    Such as what?

    The only “discovery” that comes to mind in which a lone individual went against the scientific consensus was Wegener’s idea of continental drift, and there is reason his arguments were dismissed – the evidence was not strong enough.

    Later, as more and better evidence was obtained, he was shown to have been right, kind of.

    Einstein’s breakthroughs on relativity built on earlier work (Special Relativity) and explained an anomalous observation that did not fit the prevailing Newtonian paradigm (General Relativity), but for neither did he have to fight against a consensus. His evidence and his arguments were strong enough from the word “go” to convince most physicists stright away.

    So, have you any examples?

  83. Lee

    @83 TheBlackCat
    Why yes I did, “unprecedented melt”, only to go on and say that it is a cyclic event. As the researcher said, it is only a matter for concern if we see it repeat quickly. Seems like a misnomer to me.

  84. TheBlackCat

    @ Lee: Or maybe the people who wrote the article know more about its content than you do.

    This is clearly the case, since your quote is only talking about melting at one particular location, Summit Station, while the “Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt” refers to Greenland at a whole.

  85. Messier Tidy Upper

    @81. Sharku : No worries. Happens to me all the time too. ;-)

    I love the ability to edit my commenst for 15 minutes here – and even then there’s a lot I still miss & plenty of times I run out of editing time too I know! :-(

    @80. Torbjörn Larsson, OM :

    #38:“‘anthropogenic” is a technical weaselword”. -MTU
    Of course not, it is the commonly used term in these cases, compare with “anthropic principle” et cetera. If it is the best term considering the outcome no one thought we would have to live in is another thing,* but it is not a priori ‘weaselly’.
    * Yes, scientists can be naive about the human ability to resist knowledge.

    Okay. Maybe calling “anthropogenic ” a weasel word (euphemism) was a bit too harsh but I still prefer the plainer less technical english description here for clarity, ok? :-)

    @85. Lee :

    Why yes I did, “unprecedented melt”, only to go on and say that it is a cyclic event. As the researcher said, it is only a matter for concern if we see it repeat quickly. Seems like a misnomer to me.

    To me, not-so-much although I do see a slight point to what you noted there. Cyclic event? Maybe. Just maybe.

    Or maybe not. If this sort of melting happens again within the next year or even decade or two’s time then it’ll look a lot less like a freak cycle and a lot more like a pattern starting to develop. We’ll see what happens.

    But so much of Greenland melting so quickly in the same year as this record low sea ice is certainly food for thought I reckon. Also certainly an extremely rare and extraordinary melting event.

  86. Matt B.

    If some of the Canadian islands “pop up” when they lose their ice, would that lower sea level or raise it? It’s hard to figure out.

  87. Lee

    This is probably too late a reply to be seen by those to whom I am replying, but here it is nonetheless.

    @86 TheBlackCat
    If you had read the full article, it would be clear that the Summit melt referred to was the same event as the larger Greenland-wide melt event:

    Even the area around Summit Station in central Greenland, which at 2 miles above sea level is near the highest point of the ice sheet, showed signs of melting. Such pronounced melting at Summit and across the ice sheet has not occurred since 1889, according to ice cores analyzed by Kaitlin Keegan at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station at Summit confirmed air temperatures hovered above or within a degree of freezing for several hours July 11-12.

    Clearly, the one is the subset of the other. The Summit was given particular mention most likely due to the extreme altitude and remoteness, but it was one and the same event.

    @87 Messier…
    Your thoughts are precisely addressed by the linked article. The glaciologists found a ~150 year pattern in widespread melt events, stretching back …dammit, the article makes no mention of the time spanned but they seem quite confident about this cycle. As TheBlackCat so kindly pointed out, they do indeed know their own work better than I, or he, or you ever could.

    Cyclic event? Definitely so.
    They even make mention of exactly the same concern you did. As I quoted at #82, the melt event itself is not a concern unless it repeats.

    Remember, these are glaciologists, and it has been pointed out to me that they know far more than me about this stuff. Good thing I read the article in its entirety, though. I’d hate to pass judgement on it after reading only a snippet…

    Finally, please note that I am not trying to use this as some kind of ammunition against the warming of the planet, or any of that ilk. I consider it important to be at least as critical of my own ‘side’ of a matter as I am of the other, and this headline strikes me as being considerably more strong in tone than the article would warrant, not to mention misleading.

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