We Deserve At Least Half the Blame for Declining Arctic Sea Ice

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 16, 2017 7:00 am

(Credit: CatchaSnap/Shutterstock)

Natural variability in atmospheric conditions could account for as much as half of the recent decline in Arctic sea ice, according to a new study.

While the masses of ice that float atop the planet have been in steady decline over the past few decades, scientists haven’t been able to say how much of the losses are attributable to human-driven climate change and how much is simply the result of periodic swings in climate conditions. While the scientific consensus is that human activities have had a significant impact, the unpredictable nature of weather patterns has made determining the extent of our culpability problematic. 

Divvying Up the Blame

Using a pair of models to look at how weather patterns circulate air through the region and how sea ice behaves, researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara say that they’ve generated some of the best estimates of how weather patterns and anthropogenic global warming interact to chip away at Arctic ice.

As the first order of business, the researchers eliminated a feedback cycle whereby disappearing sea ice caused changes in temperatures. They then averaged together a number of simulations to rule out random short-term fluctuations in the data and allow longer-term trends to emerge. This gave them a look at how much internal variability played into atmospheric conditions, and how much atmospheric conditions impact sea ice.

The results indicated that decade-long changes in atmospheric conditions have had a significant impact on the extent to which sea ice melts. In their paper published Monday in Nature Climate Change, they estimate that anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the melting is due to natural trends.

Long-term Trends

Long-term swings in climate conditions are driven mostly by the ocean, where currents and temperature conditions shift slowly, but have far-reaching effects. For example, much of the weather in the Arctic is affected by conditions in the Pacific tropics, the researchers say, so any changes there will propagate northward and alter weather patterns over the North Pole.

Human emissions have played an important role shifting weather conditions as well, and even the researchers most generous estimates pin half of the blame on us. Pushing the planet outside of normal boundaries within a short time period also makes reaching so-called “tipping points” more likely, triggering feedback cycles of ever more intense warming.

The updated estimates will allow researchers to better predict how the Arctic ice pack will look in the future, as well as when we can expect it to disappear completely in the summers. Current estimates put that date around the middle of the century, although those were made without much knowledge of how human and natural factors played into sea ice loss. With this new data, researchers will be able to sketch out a more complete picture of the Arctic’s changing future.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
  • OWilson

    So much for “settled science”! :)

    The “pair of models” considered man made changes, and “decade long atmospheric changes”, but strangely no mention of natural glacial or inter glacial effects on global average temperatures.

    The good news is that there is new data on which to sketch out a more complete picture of the Arctic’s changing future! :)

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

      The only way to save the Arctic is to have polar bears stop eating meat! Government must mount massive humanitarian cantaloupe airdrops, each melon bearing a cold gas rocket thruster for soft landing and a biodegradable sticky label with nutritional information.

      • okiejoe

        It appears we are working toward your solution. When the last polar bear dies of starvation then the problem will be solved! Of course, seven billion humans eating meat have no effect.

        • OWilson

          There’s this little matter of governments issuing licenses to kill Polar Bears for pleasure and sport.

          Licenses that can be traded to you rich Americans to chase them down in your hired helicopters, and shoot them in front of their cubs!

          A “quick start” way to save the Polar Bears, but the Left would prefer to leave them to be slaughtered, and look for “other” solutions.:)

          (Like giving in to America’s enemies, communists and islamists alike by cutting off their supply of Industrial Energy. LOL)

    • https://ridingtheirownmelting.wordpress.com/ cgs

      Hmmm…as I have stated many times, in many places, there are indeed things about climate science that are “settled”.

      But even a cursory look at a report like AR5 will show that attribution of Arctic sea ice melt between natural and anthropogenic causes has never been one of them.

      Climate scientists have understood for a long time both play a role as pointed out in the very first sentence of this paper:

      “It is well recognized that recent Arctic sea ice decline has both natural and anthropogenic drivers.”

      At a minimum, the first nine references provide background research on the topic.

      And as far as glacial/interglacial warming, is this just a throw-away line??

      Interglacial warming occurred 12,000 years ago as we transitioned to the Holocene. The Earth had been in a cooling trend since the Holocene maximum.

      But I do like your new-found confidence in climate models! 😉

      • OWilson

        Always glad to hear “both natural AND anthropogenic drivers” attributed to the much maligned and exaggerated Arctic Ice loss.

        As a Global Warmer/End of Worlder said to me the other day, “Why believe anything Al Gore says? He’s not a scientist!”

        Optimism is back in the U.S.!

        It’s morning in America!

        • okiejoe

          Well, we can’t do much about natural drivers but do we have let the anthropogenic drivers run unchecked? We have at least some control over those if we have the guts to do it.

          • OWilson

            You forgot the important stuff, the money to pay for it.

            The Left have no concept of CBA

            That’s because they are easily led by emotional; arguments that lead them to endorse throwing away $25,000,000,000.00, or so, of borrowed taxpayer money to their crony capitalist pals the 3 biggest Solar Power Companies in the World, who are now defunct, but who promised the dupes that solar power is actually viable at large scale.

            It’s also why you are servicing a National Debt of $3,000,0000,0000,0000.00 that you have no way of paying back unless you steal it from the generations yet unborn.

            It’s all about choices, wise and foolish!

            And, selfishness!

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    better predict how the Arctic ice pack will look in the future” The recent US East Coast nor-easter was not predicted accurately 24 hours prior, with all the data in the world, multiple weather models, and supercomputers burning deep into the night.

    motls dot blogspot dot com slash 2017 slash 03 slash selection-of-climate-model-survivors dot html
    …”Divvying Up the Blame” bullšit.

    • OWilson

      But, the Hillary voters will insist, you are talking about weather, which is basically unpredictable a couple days out.

      What is “settled science” they tell you, is knowing what the world’s longer term weather actually WILL be exactly a hundred years from now. They tend to work in even numbered years, 2050, 2100, that sort of thing!

      Bless ’em they mean well, but give them control of the government and you finish up with the same global warming and a $3,000,000,000,000.00 National Debt, which they have absolutely no idea how to pay, except for kicking in down the road to our grandkids, to pay after they are all dead.

      Evil selfish people, or just dupes?

      We report, you decide! :)

      • Mike Richardson

        Cutting back on environmental protection, meals for the impoverished elderly and schoolchildren, and healthcare, all while spending the public dime on lavish dinner parties and every-weekend vacations at Mara Logo — are those who support this “evil selfish people, or just dupes?” How about a mix of both.

        • OWilson

          He’s still way ahead of Option B, Hillary, who ran amassed a $3,000,000,000.00 “Family” foundation while Secretary of State, by running the State Department out of a bathroom server, destroying government records that were under government subpoena to cover it all up. How did she ever find the time?

          If you didn’t have a 9-5 Government Swamp job. you might also realize that when you are a Head of a Business, Head of a Government, Head of anything, you are the Head 24/7, even on weekends! :)

          A strange concept for losers! :)

          • Mike Richardson

            That explains why you have so many strange concepts, then. It’s sad to see someone so afflicted by Trump’s Unbelievable Reality Denying Syndrome that they continue to delude themselves into thinking we’ve gotten the lesser evil. Someone so afflicted with T.U.R.D.S. might well need a mental enema. Might I suggest a prolonged visit to your nearest sanitarium? :)

          • OWilson

            If you wanna see all of the above, in spades, just look at the latest demented, unhinged, profane,mental enema from one of your pals on CNN Fake News, last evening. :)

            (Warning, don’t let the kids see it!)

          • Mike Richardson

            And exactly why wouldn’t you get on a plane with him? Please, I’d love to hear your (LOL) logic on this. Or is it just simple prejudice, which seems to motivate you quite a bit?

  • John C

    Uncertainty about the % of human contribution and the Rube Goldberg complexity of climate physics is one thing.

    But the solution, even if you are an unquestioning Global Warming believer, is apparently just as elusive:

    “In Germany, the world leader in green energy, electricity prices have now reached a level triple those paid in the United States.

    In Britain, to comply with renewable energy requirements, power stations are burning hundreds of millions of pounds of wood pellets (pellets imported from the U.S.). Environmental experts confirm that burning wood is much worse for the environment than burning natural gas or even coal.

    Australia, another green energy leader, saw its electricity prices skyrocket this past winter from $100 per megawatt hour to $10,000 per megawatt hour. This was because of heavy dependence on an unreliable renewable energy program. The government had to reopen one of its shuttered natural-gas plants to keep prices from further exploding.

    Sweden announced a decade ago that it was all-in on green energy, and the government launched a wind-power program. Swedish politicians now have had to acknowledge the program has become so expensive and inefficient that the government will phase out the subsidies for the industry.”


    NatGas and fission as a bridge until we some day figure out fusion. Windmills and solar cells can’t run a modern industrial economy.

    • OWilson

      The “solutions” are often cited as “renewable” solar and wind power.

      What the Fake News outlets (we now know who you are) will not tell you is that the World’s 3 Largest Solar Power Companies in the world have recently gone bankrupt.


      They have taken with them over $25,000,000,000.00 of U.S. borrowed tax money.

      And of course the U.N. is still making the case for $1,500,000,000.00 per year to help Genocidal Dictator Robert Mugabe with his “climate reparations” from the West (AKA the U.S)

      As a wise man once said, “Who makes these deals?” :)

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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    A one gigawatt thermal coal-fired power plant burns 538 tonnes/hr of high grade coal 24/7, 28.5 million pounds of coal/day. A state-of-the-art, integrated gasification combined cycle coal power plant emits 726 tonnes of CO2/GW-hr thermal. Thermodynamics cannot be evaded. Combustion power plant carbon capture must consume minimum 30% of raw energy output. What will you do with CO2 on a truly vast scale? Lose another 20% of raw output for liquefaction and deep pumping. PV = energy, 101.325 J/liter-atm.

    Generating terawatts of electricity from wind, waves, and sunlight will cannibalize wallets and screw everything that metabolizes. Burn coal and natural gas, iron fertilize the Southern Ocean.

    Bayer process bauxite to pure alumina produces 77 million tons/year of “red mud,” micronized iron oxide in pH 13 water. North Carolina produces 40 million gallons/day of liquid hog waste. Erect spray towers (and wind power generators) along Macquarie Island’s southeast coast. The Furious 50s and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current will blow and row sustainable 10 billion gallons/year each of red mud and liquid hog manure east. Phytoplankton, zooplankton (copepods being dominant), krill, then fish will gorge. Feed the world – and carbon tax that to pay the bills.


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