Tag archive for Arctic

“It’s getting worse”: Alt-Right denies NASA data

Charlie Sykes, a popular and sane host of a right-wing talk show called Right Wisconsin, a man who declared his opposition to Trump early in the campaign, just penned an editorial in Politico that warns that the “Alt-Reality” media attack/denial machine will be “emboldened” by President-Elect Trump’s victory.

As Trump slouched toward the nomination he was backed by a conservative media that had successfully created an alternative reality bubble around his candidacy. When Trump claimed that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey had celebrated the attacks on 9/11, for instance, callers to my show lined up to provide supporting evidence the only source of which was an echo chamber of partisan bloggers; listeners chimed in with evidence they had seen on Facebook linking Ted Cruz’ father to the JFK assassination.

Sykes is talking about a problem for the conservative media (such as himself) that opposed Trump, but he quickly adds that the problem will be even worse for the mainstream media.

For years, Rush Limbaugh has gibed about what he calls the “state-controlled media”—the fawning liberal news outlets that Limbaugh has long decried for their lack of critical coverage of President Obama—but we may be about to see what one actually looks like—an alt-reality news outlet operating from within 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The new media will not only provide propaganda cover for the administration, but also direct the fire of a loose confederation of conservative outlets against critics and dissenters. Already, Fox’s Sean Hannity has urged Trump to freeze out the mainstream media and talk directly to the nation.

Worse, Sykes — who was vilified by Trump followers for his lack of faith — warns of “counter-narratives” to be launched by conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones and alt-right warriors such as Breitbart, run by Trump’s newly named chief advisor. Such as denying global warming for example — as in a post this week from Brietbart. Also known as lies and lying.

The headline says it all. No need to read it in the original German.


So the battle lines are drawn: the Trumpers will deny NASA data on global warming, using “politcally correct environmental monitoring‘ as an excuse to defund the agency, according to his science advisor Bob Walker.

Even as the Arctic is 36 degrees above normal in November (not reflected in this graph of a couple of years ago).

Which is more terrifying: the lying of the Alt-Right or a physical reality our species has never experienced?


Guess we’ll find out.

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Uncorking catastrophic climate change? Tom Toles

As usual, Tom Toles finds a funny way to dramatize a disaster: a methane explosion in Siberia


Which raises the question: Well, how dangerous is the methane that is emerging from the Arctic? Is it just blowing holes in the permafrost, or does it presage global atmospheric doom?

It's not a small volume of methane, after all, and we know that methane in the short term is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2– about 30x more potent, to be exact. So the concept of a "methane time bomb" that will set off the greatly feared runaway global warming seems plausible at a glance. 

But look closer, says RealClimate, with lots and lots of data. (From last week.) They conclude: 

…the future of Earth’s climate in this century and beyond will be determined mostly by the fossil fuel industry, and not by Arctic methane. We should keep our eyes on the ball. 

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Seasonal Forecaster: Cold winter for Eurasia, Northeast

In his talk at the American Meteorological Society convention Tuesday, Judah Cohen repeated a forecast made in December — that Eurasia and New England — will likely have a cold winter this year.

He' laid it out the fundamentals of his new prediction idea about ten years ago in the Journal of Climate, although since then he's brought out a Snow Advance Index and with a fellow researcher at his firm has a Polar Vortex Index in the works. That index appears to be demonstrating predictive skill thirty days out.

He made the essential point that ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) forecasts are skillful mostly for the West Coast in winter, and less so for the rest of the nation, whereas the nature of his polar vortex/snow advance projections speak for New England and Europe in winter. He also suggested that the global climate models have difficulty capturing heat exchanges at high altitudes at the poles.

The explanation for these "winter severity" forecasts is not simple, but here's a look at the warm Arctic/cold continents idea from NOAA, and here's an excellent story on Cohen from Wired, that teases out the various threads, and the connection to global warming.

Plus, an impressive graphic he gave to the magazine, showing how warming upsets the apple cart (the polar vortex) in the Arctic, leading to the famed Snowmaggedon of 2010.  


The broad effects of global warming have been predicted for decades; now the shorter-term consequences are becoming easier to understand. Could this lead to the end of denial?  

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How to deny climate change with Antarctic sea ice record

A recent study, brilliantly explained in November by the Guardian, lays out the story of a slight but consistent rise in the extent of Antarctic sea ice.

The mystery of the expansion of sea ice around Antarctica, at the same time as global warming is melting swaths of Arctic sea ice, has been solved using data from US military satellites.

Two decades of measurements show that changing wind patterns around Antarctica have caused a small increase in sea ice, the result of cold winds off the continent blowing ice away from the coastline.

"Until now these changes in ice drift were only speculated upon using computer models," said Paul Holland at the British Antarctic Survey. "Our study of direct satellite observations shows the complexity of climate change.

"The Arctic is losing sea ice five times faster than the Antarctic is gaining it, so, on average, the Earth is losing sea ice very quickly. There is no inconsistency between our results and global warming.


A relative of a friend of mine is a climate change "lukewarmer," to use his own description. In practice this means in response to ever bit of new factual evidence of global warming, he reflexively issues a denial, a minimization, or a misleading statement. I hear about this from my friend. It's frustrating.

As Timothy Egan of the NYTimes wrote this week:

It’s not just “the other side of the story” to say that global warming is
a hoax or that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. It’s a serious
injection of misinformation into a nation already woefully misinformed.
And it’s a lapse for responsible journalists to air “both sides” without
calling out the lie on one.

But mostly our "lukewarmer" follows like a lemming the most prominent of all climate change deniers. In this case that means touting the sea ice extent in the Southern Hemisphere, with a reference to a graph that compares Artic Sea Ice and Antarctic sea ice.

Here's the graph: 


If you look closely, or click to enlarge, you can see that even by sunshine hours' own evidence, the same evidence cited by legions of deniers, sea ice overall in the Arctic and Antarctic combined has sharply decreased over the last twenty-five years. 

At NPR, Richard Harris recorded a piece on this exact subject, and looked directly at this claim: 

HARRIS: Bloggers who are skeptical of climate change like to point to the growth in wintertime Antarctic sea ice as evidence that the Earth isn't really warming up. But scientists who actually study this phenomenon say that's silly.

At the Crock of the Week, Peter Sinclair piggy-backs on Harris's story, adding some interviews and commentary of his own, along with satellite records from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

I once published an op-ed about global warming in the Star and got a fair number of complaints, including one unhappy conservative who wrote me to say in effect, if this is true, what can I do for my children?

I sympathized. Perhaps in the end denial is a species of frustration.

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Global Weirding: bizarre summer storm in the Arctic

Via Dot Earth, a fascinating discussion of a truly weird summer storm over the Arctic Ocean. Here's what it looks like from the NASA satellite Aqua, with Greenland's ice sheet at lower left:

 Summer Storm Spins Over Arctic

Andrew Revkin points to the uncertainty about what this means for Arctic sea ice, but to me the expert William Chapman at the Arctic Sea Ice Blog sounds a different note — this major breakup of sea ice is unprecedented.

That large patch of sea ice in the East Siberian Sea is almost entirely detached from the main ice pack. This is something I for one have never seen before, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's unprecedented in the satellite era. We have speculated a lot about this in previous melting seasons, but now the moment seems to have finally arrived. The fact that the ice pack can get divided like this, is yet another sign that the ice is exceptionally thin, as thin ice gets pushed around more easily and melts quicker, leaving open space between thicker, slower moving ice floes.

Not easy for a novice to see what he's talking about in the picture. Revkin talks to Chapman, an Arctic expert with whom he has traveled to the frozen north, and Chapman speaks of the strangeness of this storm — but does suggest these sort of polar lows are more likely on a warming planet. 

This storm is intense for any time of year, but especially for summer, when the weather is normally fairly benign in the Arctic. This storm formed and intensified near the Beaufort Sea and moved to the central Arctic Ocean where it will slowly lose its intensity over the next several days. Ordinarily, the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean are dominated by high pressure, so having a low pressure system form and intensify here is quite uncommon. Although, it has been happening with more frequency over the past few decades as pressures have dropped significantly in the Arctic during this time and are projected to drop even more during the next century by the global climate models.

This is only the eighth such storm in the last 34 years in August in the Arctic. They're calling it The Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012.

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Whales, algae cross melting Arctic for first time in eons

First this year, in June, came the algae

A single-celled alga that went extinct in the North Atlantic Ocean about 800,000 years ago has returned after drifting from the Pacific through the Arctic thanks to melting polar ice. And while its appearance marks the first trans-Arctic migration in modern times, scientists say it signals something potentially bigger.

"It is an indicator of rapid change and what might come if the Arctic continues to melt," said Chris Reid, a professor of oceanography at the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in the United Kingdom.

Now researchers have tracked a pair of bowhead whales crossing the Arctic: 

For the first time, scientists have documented bowhead whales traveling from opposite sides of the Canadian High Arctic and mingling in the Northwest Passage, a usually ice-clogged route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans…. 

The rapid loss of Arctic sea ice in recent years — earlier this month ice reached record lows and has declined dramatically since continuous measurements began in 1979 — has probably made this intermingling easier, the researchers write in a study published online in the journal Biology Letters on Sept 1.

"Given recent rates of sea ice loss, climate change may eliminate geographical divisions between stocks of bowhead whales and open new areas that have not been inhabited by bowhead whales for millennia," they write.  

800,000 years. Millennia. Think of that. This is a new world we're entering — rapidly.

[pic of bowhead whales from NOAA] 

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Arctic ice not yet at point of no return, researchers say

Given the dramatic decline in summer ice coverage in the Arctic in recent years, some researchers have feared we are approaching the end of summer ice in the Arctic. But a new study, examining ancient driftwood found along the shores of Greenland, argues in Science that in fact it was much warmer 5000-8000 years ago. This means that summer ice in the Arctic may be able to survive human-caused global warming, presuming we are able to get a handle on emissions sometime this century.  

From the Vancouver Sun

While the researchers say they expect global warming will eventually make the Arctic sea ice disappear, they say the dire warnings about its imminent demise have been overstated. 

"The bad news is that there is a clear connection between temperature and the amount of sea ice," says lead author Svend Funder, at the University of Copenhagen, adding there is "no doubt" continued global warming will reduce Arctic summer sea ice. 

"The good news is that even with a reduction to less than 50 per cent of the current amount of sea ice, the ice will not reach a point of no return," says Funder, who has headed several treks to the inhospitable north coast of Greenland to get a better read on how the ice waxes and wanes. 

Satellite records showing how the ice grows and retreats only go back to early 1979 — and suggest 2011 could see another record ice loss.

It's not great news. We are continuing to lose ice rapidly in the Arctic, as this graph from the National Snow and Ice Data Center illustrates:


At first I thought this news would be helpful, because it would help keep us connected to the planet,m Now I wonder if it will simply help us ignore the whole problem.  
[Note: after extended discussion in comments below, headline corrected above]

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Thin ice in the Arctic means cold winters back East?

Put perhaps as simply as possible, that's the speculation among some experts about the cold snowy winters experienced this year in many Northern hemisphere climates, such as New York.

Here's the most concise, detailed explanation I've found so far, from Climate Central:

Recent scientific studies have shown that the dramatic warming that has been occurring in the Arctic during the past few decades, along with the associated loss of sea ice cover, may be changing atmospheric circulation patterns throughout the northern hemisphere. This could be contributing to the recent outbreaks of unusually cold and snowy weather. Sea ice loss during the spring and summer melt season, which leaves a thinner and more sparse ice cover throughout the fall and early winter, is a key suspect in influencing winter weather patterns. When the ice melts, it allows incoming solar radiation to warm water and air temperatures, which in turn has an influence on atmospheric pressure and circulation, and may help shift Arctic air southward, while the Arctic remains unusually warm.

One meteorologist has described the pattern this way: "This pattern is kind of like leaving the refrigerator door ajar — the refrigerator warm up, but all the cold air spills out into the house."

It's important not to overlook the ancient planetary cycles, of course. Down here in SoCal, it feels the past few days as if La Niña has taken hold. It's cold and dry, with no sign of precip in sight. 


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Global warming unpredictability: two stories

Global warming is not for the simple-minded, two stories from the same day last week remind us.

As the invaluable Andrew Revkin notes on Dot Earth on 6/15, this past May was the warmest on record. On the same day, from a polar science conference in Oslo, researcher James Overland of NOAA presents evidence to show that the loss of Arctic sea ice will mean more cold, snowy winters in northern regions.

"The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010
Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected
to unique physical processes in the Arctic," said James
Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
in the United States.

"In future, cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather
than the exception" in these regions, Overland told IPS.

Scientists have been surprised by the rapid warming of the
Arctic, where annual temperatures have increased two to
three times faster than the global average. In one part of
the Arctic, over the Barents and Karas Seas north of
Scandinavia, average annual temperatures are now 10 degrees
C higher than they were in 1990.

Overland explains the warming of the Arctic as the result of
a combination of climate change, natural variability, loss
of sea ice reflectivity, ocean heat storage and changing
wind patterns, which has disrupted the stability of the
Arctic climate system.

For the curious about this aspect of "global weirding," here's a link to a series of papers presented at the Polar Year conference in Oslo on the subject of Polar Science — Global Impact.

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Battle of the Headlines: “World’s Ocean Temps Warmest Ever Recorded” vs. “Arctic Sea Ice Is Again on the Rise”

The first headline for USA Today, atop veteran science writer Seth Borenstein's story for the AP, was inspired by world-wide records from the National Climactic Data Center. As the story said:

WASHINGTON — The world's oceans this summer are the warmest on record.

The National Climatic Data Center, the
government agency that keeps weather records, says the average global
ocean temperature in July was 62.6 degrees. It is the hottest since
record-keeping began in 1880. The previous record was set in 1998.

Meteorologists blame a combination of a natural
El Nino weather pattern on top of worsening manmade global warming. The
warmer water could add to the melting of sea ice and possibly
strengthen some hurricanes.

The second headline, atop the entertaining denier site Watts Up With That, leads to a post from Anthony Watts that begins:

Yesterday I looked at JAXA data and ventured that:

“Arctic sea ice melt appears to have turned the corner for 2009″

The Sept 15th JAXA Arctic Sea Ice extent graph was published this evening
about 8PM PST (and updated overnight which is the image now shown) and
shows an increase in sea ice for the second day in a row. It seems
clear that Arctic sea ice is now on the rise.

Read with a modicum of attention, and it's quickly apparent why sea ice in the Arctic is on the rise…winter is coming, and fall is nearly here!

So — ignore the long-term trend!

Oy. Could a more obvious, flat-footed way to avoid facing the truth about global warming be imagined? Ignore that man behind the curtain — winter is coming! 

For those who want a little reporting with their facts, Dot Earth helpfully labels a graphic from NOAA:

Adds Andrew Revkin, dead of climate reporting, adds pointedly:

Variations in polar sea ice on short time scales, up or down, are
essentially meaningless, my contacts studying the cryosphere always

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