Latest posts by James M. Taylor (see all)
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Expanding polar ice caps are defying alarmist global warming claims, sending global warming alarmists into desperate damage control. Since late 2012, polar ice extent has averaged greater than the long term mean. When I pointed this out in a recent Forbes.com column, and after more than a quarter million people learned the truth by reading my column, the alarmists predictably began searching for ways to spin the expanding polar ice. Fortunately, the truth will always win out over scientifically unsupported spin and fearmongering.
In an article posted yesterday at the Washington Post, climate alarmist Chris Mooney tries his hand at damage control. Responding to my article, “Updated NASA Data: Global Warming Not Causing Any Polar Ice Retreat,” Mooney makes three arguments: “1) total (or global) polar sea ice is in fact declining, according to both NASA and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Cryosphere Today; 2) if you analyze the Arctic and Antarctic separately — which makes more sense to do, as very different things are happening to sea ice in the two places — you realize that the Arctic sea ice decline in particular is very stark; 3) there is also bad news about the melting of ice atop land, based on data that are completely outside of this discussion, but that are perhaps the most worrying of all.” Let’s examine Mooney’s arguments one-by-one.
(1) Government-funded spokespersons at NASA and the University of Illinois’ Polar Research Group indeed have attempted to spin the latest polar sea ice data to preserve their bloated climate research budgets. Without an ongoing global warming crisis, their taxpayer-funded staffing and budgets will be cut. Fortunately, however, we don’t need to rely on people with a financial self-interest to “interpret” data that are readily available for objective review. And the objective polar sea ice data, linked here and explained in my Forbes.com column, show “the polar ice caps remained at approximately their 1979 extent until the middle of the last decade. Beginning in 2005, however, polar ice modestly receded for several years. By 2012, polar sea ice had receded by approximately 10 percent from 1979 measurements. (Total polar ice area – factoring in both sea and land ice – had receded by much less than 10 percent, but alarmists focused on the sea ice loss as “proof” of a global warming crisis.) A 10-percent decline in polar sea ice is not very remarkable, especially considering the 1979 baseline was abnormally high anyway. … In late 2012, however, polar ice dramatically rebounded and quickly surpassed the post-1979 average. Ever since, the polar ice caps have been at a greater average extent than the post-1979 mean.”
You don’t have to take my word for it, you can see it for yourself in the data. Yes, there was a very modest decline from 2005-2012, but polar ice extent has averaged above the long-term mean since 2012. NASA and the University of Illinois’ Polar Research Group may argue polar sea ice may decline again in the future, but such self-serving speculation does not rebut the objective truth that polar ice extent has averaged above the long-term mean since 2012.
(2) Analyzing the Arctic and Antarctic polar ice data separately is disingenuous when the issue is global warming and global polar ice extent. Alarmists have long predicted a decline in Arctic sea ice, Antarctic sea ice, and total global sea ice, yet only one of the three has occurred. Two of the three predictions have proven spectacularly wrong. Now, like a street-corner shell-game hustler hiding one ping-pong ball among three coconut shells, Mooney and other global warming alarmists tell us we should ignore the two datasets showing an increase in Antarctic and global polar ice extent and only consider the one dataset showing a decline in Arctic ice extent.
Mooney also claims the decline in Arctic ice extent is “very stark” and the increase in Antarctic ice extent is only “modest.” If that is the case, then how does the increase in Antarctic ice extent dwarf the decline in Arctic ice extent such that global ice extent is above the long-term average? Mooney has a very interesting way of defining “very stark” vs. “modest.”
(3) Mooney argues melting polar ice on land masses are more consequential than sea ice because melting ice from land masses raises sea level. Mooney, however, supports his argument merely by linking to an article he wrote himself. Mooney’s linked article mentions thinning ice in two individual sections of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, but fails to mention the ice is thickening throughout the larger East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Mooney also fails to mention that global sea level is rising no faster now than it did throughout the twentieth century. If human civilization was able to cope with modestly rising sea levels last century utilizing twentieth century technologies, it is difficult to imagine human civilization having a much harder time coping with the same sea level rise this upcoming century utilizing twenty-first century technologies.
So in sum, it is hard to find anything worrying about the polar ice caps, even when the Washington Post assigns its best spin doctor to raise the alarm.
In an article yesterday for Slate online magazine, columnist Phil Plait attempted to divert attention away from the expanding polar ice by alternately attacking the messenger and presenting false and misleading arguments. Let’s examine them one-by-one.
Responding to my article on global polar ice, “Updated NASA Data: Global Warming Not Causing Any Polar Ice Retreat,” Plait first attempts to misdirect his readers by cherry-picking Northern Hemisphere polar ice rather than global polar ice. Presenting a large graph purporting to show recent Arctic ice trends, Plait writes:
“In the op-ed, he [Taylor] claims that global warming has not caused global sea ice retreat. This is a gross distortion of reality. The truth is that in the arctic we’re seeing record low levels of sea ice year after year, including just this year, when in March the North Pole saw the lowest maximum ice extent on record.”
Well, if we are talking about global warming, it is of course necessary to talk about global polar ice, not cherry-picked regional ice. Modestly declining Northern Hemisphere sea ice is not very indicative of global warming if Southern Hemisphere polar ice is expanding by a greater amount than modestly declining Northern Hemisphere polar ice. And that is indeed what is happening. As I documented in my Forbes.com article, objective data gathered by NASA satellite instruments show global polar ice has averaged above the long-term mean since late 2012.
“It takes a very twisted view of the world to claim global warming isn’t doing anything to polar ice not two months after that record was broken,” writes Plait. “And as we know very, very well, Arctic sea ice is on a long, drastic decline that does not show any signs of recovery at all.”
Actually, it takes a very twisted view of scientific ethics to attempt to fool your readers into believing a lie about global polar ice by presenting a chart that only addresses Northern Hemisphere sea ice.
Plait eventually gets around to addressing the topic of global polar ice, but does so again in a grossly misleading manner.
First, he attempts to rebut my objective, up-to-date polar ice data by linking to a chart that ends in 2009. The fact that a minor, very short-lived decline in polar ice ended in 2012 was a focal point in my Forbes article. Nevertheless, Plait attempts to rebut the post-2012 data showing a complete recovery since 2012 by presenting data from 2009. Not only is such an argument misleading, it is transparently ridiculous.
Second, Plait attempts to rebut the objective data showing above-average polar ice extent by arguing the ice may not be as thick as before. “In fact, land ice in Antarctica is melting away extremely rapidly,” writes Plait. This is quite a novel claim, considering Antarctic temperatures only rarely rise above freezing.
“January is the second warmest month of the year in Antarctica, according to data gathered at the American Amundsen-Scott station from 1957 to 1988,” USA Today reports. “The average high temperature in Antarctica in January is -18 degrees F.” That’s an average high temperature, during the peak of the Antarctic summer, a full 50 degrees F below the freezing mark. The warmest month, December, averages a high temperature of -16 degrees F, or fully 48 degrees F below the freezing mark.
So how can Plait claim the Antarctic ice cap is melting? Well, the only supporting sources he cites are two similarly misleading articles written by himself. In one of the articles, he misrepresents the reasons, pace, and significance of receding ice in a very, very small portion of Antarctica that is primarily affected by local geography, sea water temperatures, and nearby undersea volcanoes. In the other article, he asserts the smaller West Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass while grudgingly admitting the larger East Antarctic ice sheet is gaining mass.
Sure, the very edges of Antarctica occasionally top the freezing mark in the very brief Antarctic summer, but it is difficult to argue warmer temperatures are “rapidly” melting ice and afflicting the edges of Antarctica when this is the very region where polar sea ice sets new records almost every year. In short, temperatures do not get warm enough to melt the Antarctic interior, and polar ice is expanding in the only regions where melting is possible. Plait’s speculation about Antarctic thickness decline, if true, would have more to do with a decline in snowfall than “rapidly” melting ice.
Indeed, Plait inadvertently contradicts his own argument when he adds, “in fact wind-driven snow can be increased by global warming (warmer air can hold more moisture).” In other words, Plait points out warmer temperatures can cause in increase in the Antarctic snow and ice thickness. It therefore follows that cooling temperatures can cause a decline in the Antarctic snow and ice pack because less snow falls when below-freezing temperatures become even colder. Even if Plait’s assertion were correct that the Antarctic ice sheet is slightly less thick, Plait himself points out this would likely be due to a cold-induced decline in snowfall rather than “rapid” melting in places where average summer high temperatures struggle to get within 50 degrees F of the melting point.
Plait’s final attempt to mislead his readers about the expanding polar ice sheets is to link to a statement by the University of Illinois Polar Research Group claiming the expanding post-2012 polar ice will likely end soon. While the Polar Research Group – much of whose public funding is dependent on the continuation of an asserted global warming crisis – is free to make whatever prediction it wishes, the objective fact remains that the short-lived, minor decline (merely 10%) in polar ice extent is over, is now fully recovered, and has been since 2012. Indeed, the Polar Research.