The Case of the Alternating Ice Sheets
Nansen's ship Fram in the Arctic ice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There has been a wave of triumphal announcements by climate change proponents recently, almost giddy over the summer shrinkage of the Arctic ice sheet. “Lowest level ever!” they proclaim, thought that is not quite true. Nonetheless, The Arctic pack ice has been receding over the last decade or so, but that is only natural. You see, there is a well known, if poorly understood, linkage between the ice at the north pole and the ice in and around Antarctica—and the ice around Antarctica is doing quite well.
Satellite radar altimetry measurements indicate that the East Antarctic ice sheet interior increased in mass by 45±7 billion metric tons per year from 1992 to 2003. This trend continues today, reinforcing recent scientific investigations into this millennial scale oscillation between the poles. According to studies, this is how things have been for hundreds of thousands of years.
By now everyone who pays attention to climate matters has heard the news, the Nations Ice and Snow Data Center (NSIDC) has proclaimed a new record low for the Arctic ice sheet. The dweebs over at RealClimate are beside themselves with joy, smugly celebrating the impending ecological doom of all mankind. “Take to the lifeboats, the seas are a risin'.” Ok, maybe they are not quite that ecstatic, but this “record” is being used as a see-I-told-you-so to prop up anthropogenic global warming. Here is what the NSIDC had to say in their press release:
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).
NSIDC scientist Walt Meier commented, “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.” Problem is the record is not all that meaningful. As I will explain, these folks are all missing the bigger picture.