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Polar Realities made Visible and Simple

Temperatures in the polar regions have always fluctuated a lot, far more than folk in the temperate zones are used to. Temperatures have also been warmer than today, in the Medieval Warm Period and earlier. For a growing collection of anecdotal, historical, geological, and archaeological evidence for warmer Arctic conditions in the past, see here. For current maps of sea ice etc, see Cryosphere Today.

For other excellent single pages of Polar scientific information, see The Arctic by Alan Cheetham; Circling the Arctic (I used John Daly's temperature records); and Circling Yamal (Siberia: using temperature records to question treering proxies for temperature used in the latest Hockey Stick and many of the other Hockey Sticks).

Cutting off Frozen Toes to fit the shoe of Global Warming - Arctic & Antarctic evidence of no alarming global warming

2009 Steig paper claims to show a warming Antarctica - but there is evidence of "warming by paintwork".

More graphic facts, to widen the perspective.   Evidence that CO2 NEVER amplified temperature.

Ozone hole clearly shows a natural pattern of fluctuation - how much was our "success" actually natural not manmade?

Watch just a month of sea ice grow back, Sept- Oct 2007. Sea ice comes and goes, unlike continental snowfields that are several kilometres thick and growing.

One source says the Greenland icecap averages 1.6km thickness; another says 2.3km average thickness, and over 3km in places. Different sources suggest a rate of accumulation of 1cm a year or 5.4cm a year as ice. The low figure could yield an ice core record of ~30,000 years). However, the snow on the surface builds up far more rapidly, at the rate of about a metre a year. Looking at the real Arctic conditions, and checking with those who actually know the Arctic, is very necessary to counter an unbelievable media hype, and the confusion of different accounts. Polar bears dying of warmth! such ignorance! Kayaking to the North Pole because sea ice is vanishing! Record warm spells! - but there have only been records since satellite temp measurements started in 1979! Greenland has been navigated to the north, and the NW Passage has been open, at regular times through history.

<--- Sea ice thickness over the whole Arctic has not been measured for very long. So we do not know if there is any really "old" ice at all, or whether, as I suspect, it melts regularly underneath as fast as it accumulates above, after a critical point is reached. And if undersea volcanoes are active in the Arctic ocean, the melt will be hastened. The thickest sea ice (~5m) is next to the most northerly land masses; it is nowhere very thick. The Greenland icecap adds around 1 cm ice each year (but uncompressed snow engulfs structures much faster); this suggests the sea ice cannot be that old anywhere in the Arctic ocean.

Sea Ice Extent: this fluctuates hugely every year in the Arctic - between 4 and 14 million sq km; though the Antarctic fluctuations are even bigger, the Arctic ones are more familiar and dramatic. Many times in past centuries the North-West Passage has been free to navigate; more rarely, the north of Greenland. See 2009 max ice compared with average (since measurements started) - nothing special at all! --->

John Daly has collected loads of  records of "rural" weather stations worldwide, divided into continent-size global areas. See here. Note that there are many, many polar records both Arctic and Antarctic; note also how long that records have been kept at Bodø, Norway (1868), and at Stykkisholmur and Teigarhorn, Iceland (1823).

The two graphs show clearly:
(1) the cyclic nature of temperature changes, especially visible in the Arctic;
(2) the close link of maritime land temperatures with oceancurrents.
Recent changes in Greenland
(1) the ice cap, which outweighs the rest of the landmass, has been cooling overall and gaining 5.4 cm ice each year, as the abandoned station pictures show all too clearly;
(2) only the maritime areas have warmed;
(3) the central anomaly may indicate volcanic activity.



Cutting-off frozen toes to fit the shoe of "global warming"

160 years Arctic - what change? when?
North Pole - what ice?
Antarctic - Warming??

Less than three years ago, the paper Antarctic Temperature and Sea Ice Trends was published showing the 8 station temperature records below, showing clearly no temperature rise overall. It describes evidence of cooling since 1986. And even last year (2008), the flagship warmist website RealClimate proudly announced that they had known for some time that Antarctica would be cooling, and that this was consistent with their climate models for global warming.

These graphs show:
(1) the real variation of temperature over time - three stations with signs of warming.
(2) the incredibly low temperatures we are dealing with
The map shows Faraday, Rothera and Scott are all in volcanic areas, in the part of Antarctica that has been warming.

It looks as if we have high fluctuation, extreme cold, some warming (and more fluctuations) in the vicinity of volcanoes, and an Antarctica that has cooled overall during the time that the rest of the planet has warmed, as predicted not by AGW but by Svensmark.


Warming Antarctica By Paintwork?
Enter the ardent team of believers in global warming. The blue map was drawn from measurements by NASA members Gavin Schmidt and Drew Shindell in 2004. In 2005, the warming had increased to purple, but by 2007 had clearly become an embarrassment and was scribbled over, and replaced by orange. Warming has progressed. Slightly changed start and end times can make a crucial difference to the "trend". Now Nature magazine has published Steig's paper, er, letter. Now it's hot. A mere -50ºC. And the last picture shows all: the prophetic 2004 model (yellow-orange) with blood-red inset map taken from Steig's 2009 study.

Eric Steig, Drew Shindell, Michael "Hockey Stick" Mann, & others published (Jan 2009) the letter Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year in Nature magazine, claiming that Antarctica's temperature has been rising. Steig says "our results (which are partly statistical) don’t violate the model physics. That’s good", an announcement in apparent contradiction to RealClimate's February 2008 announcement.

This paper is acclaimed as plugging a big gap in the AGW thesis. After all, Global Warming suggests that Antarctica should warm. But the actual text, read carefully, does not add up to a clear indication of warming. First, there is a "lucky" choice of dates which if changed by only a small amount either way would not give the desired warming. Second, the actual temperature rise in West Antarctica is said to be 0.7ºC over 50 years, and East Antarctica (most of the continent) is 0.1ºC plus or minus 0.07ºC/decade. "The continent-wide mean trend remains at 0.08ºC per decade, although it is no longer demonstrably different from zero (95% confidence)". What, it could be zero warming after all?? Anyway, how to explain East Antarctica which was believed to be cooling for 40 years?? And how to explain the difference between the East which has cooled, and the West Antarctic peninsula which has warmed substantially?

While this Letter does not and cannot claim significant or even certain warming, Nature sold it as "ANTARCTIC WARMING". People go away thinking Antarctica is warming significantly, in line with the rest of the planet, probably to become habitable in the near future - even though the actual figures strenuously indicate otherwise. Yet it is not clear that the scientists have technically lied - and neither has the magazine.

"We use a method (notes 9,10) adapted from the regularized expectation maximization algorithm11 (RegEM) for estimating missing data points in climate fields. RegEM is an iterative algorithm similar to principal-component analysis... We assess reconstruction skill using reduction-of-error (RE) and coefficient-of-efficiency (CE) scores as well as conventional correlation (r) scores." This rings alarm bells since (note 10) is "Mann, M. E., Rutherford, S., Wahl, E. & Ammann, C. Robustness of proxy-based climate field reconstruction methods". Mann, Wahl and Ammann are all involved in the Hockey Stick fiasco; and (note 9) refers to Rutherford who is suspect by association.

"At Siple Station (76º S, 84º W) and Byrd Station (80º S, 120º W)... the results show mean trends of 1.16 plus-or-minus 0.8 ºCper decade and 0.45 plus-or-minus 1.3 ºC per decade at Siple and Byrd, respectively. Our reconstruction yields 0.29 plus-or-minus 0.26 ºC per decade and 0.36 plus-or-minus 0.37 ºC per decade over the same interval. In our full 50-year reconstruction, the trends are significant, although smaller, at both Byrd (0.23 plus-or-minus 0.09 ºC per decade) and Siple (0.18 plus-or-minus 0.06 ºC per decade)." Whoaaa!!!! Look carefully at the figures! What significant warming?

"Infrared data are strictly a measure of clear-sky temperature... Trends in cloudiness... could both produce spurious trends in the temperature reconstruction". More alarm bells as per Svensmark: the recent 30 years have probably seen clearer skies due to lower GCR which seeds low cloud; elsewhere in the world clear skies increase average temperature, but over ice fields they lower average temperature due to the higher albedo (reflectivity) of ice over clouds. In this context, omitting cloudy measurements could mean that earlier higher temperatures in cloudy weather, that would contribute to a cooling trend, have been omitted.

Whatever the temperature measurements, over the last 30 years the mean ice area surrounding Antarctica has increased while the mean Arctic Ocean ice area has decreased (see graphs below). This is as would be expected from the conclusions of Svensmark. (a) Northern hemisphere: most of the planet has been warming (1979-2000) under clearer skies; the only permanent N.H. ice sheet is Greenland; thus the Arctic ocean has been warming on balance; (b) Antarctica: permanent ice sheet under clearer skies causes cooling.

For a frequently hilarious / disturbing audit of the paper, see Watts Up With That here and here, and Climate Audit Antarctic RegEM , Dirty Harry 4, Carnage, Gavin's Complaint, Deconstructing, Steig's Corrections , and Lest Sweetness be Wasted on the Desert Air (as of 8 Feb). Map of Automated Weather Stations here. NASA GISS data on these AWS here. Now there's an excellent WUWT post by Jeff C & Jeff Id (pdf here) explaining the deconstruction story and results so far. I hope this will grow to become a proper paper.

Now, a year later (Dec 2010) the intrepid amateurs Ryan O'Donnell, Nicholas Lewis, Steve McIntyre and Jeff Condon (Jeff Id) have succeeded, against ridiculous opposition, in getting a peer-reviewed paper published to rebut Steig 2009. Steig is still criticizing them ridiculously.

But Steig have scored the points that were really desired with airspace on BBC a year ago to proclaim "warming Antarctica"; there is, of course, no BBC airspace now to say

"Steig's paper was mistaken -
Antarctica is not warming overall,
it was only a tiny amount anyway,
in a continent so cold that there is not the remotest chance of ice melting".

Here are Steig's mistakes flagged up so anyone can see them

Bishop Hill explains very clearly




Wider perspective in the polar regions
For other versions of what has happened with Antarctic temperature, visit Prof. Ole Humlum's 2005 study of Antarctic temperature changes by location, season, and decade (picture below right), a 2008 study "Twentieth century Antarctic air temperature and snowfall simulations by IPCC climate models" which claims that climate models overheat Antarctica, and Jeff Id's Sea Ice Trends and Antarctic Sea Ice Complete Video.

Jeff Id's magnificent animation of Antarctic sea ice between 1978 and 2009. See how the huge annual cycle completely dwarfs the longer interannual variations and cycles. Prof. Ole Humlum's 2005 study of Antarctic temperature changes by location, season, and decade

Perspective over time - 30 years' fluctuations are individually far greater than anomaly changes - which leads one to doubt that the "lessening of Arctic ice" is anything to worry about. In the last year, the anomaly is positive again.

Arctic down; Antarctic up: as expected. What does not show is known warmer Arctic ice times in earlier centuries.


See how thin is the Peninsula - MARITIME on the outer side, with warm currents coming south from Cape Horn and cooling clockwise.

See how the line of volcanoes closely mirrors the first NASA temperature picture above? There may be more inland and underwater volcanoes - most bases are near the sea.
Sea Surface Temp in the ocean surrounding Antarctica
We see that the paper could show warming, by picking the starting date of 1957; whereas a century ago, Antarctica was possibly warmer than now


Superficially, temperature levels and CO2 levels have changed together over the last 7 Ice Ages and interglacials. Only by expanding the time axis considerably does the lag of CO2 become visible. See Lansner's study below. Map of Antarctica showing Automated Weather Stations. Click on map to expand; original here


Ice cores 4.5 km depth from Vostok, Antarctica, give a powerful record going back 450,000 years - the ice is still thickening. This is from a study of temp and CO2 by F Lansner, showing the strong evidence that temp leads CO2. It's a composite of the last 4 ice ages, to show the archetypal pattern.

Was the ozone hole ever really affected by our chloro-fluoro-carbons? Mann's claim that "the well known cooling of the Antarctic interior which took place during the 1970s through 1990s (and is believed to be, as confirmed by our study, due to stratospheric ozone depletion which was greatest over that particular time interval) is not sustained well by this picture.

Vostok ice core: Temperatures are measured indirectly by proxy; CO2 levels are measured directly as it is trapped in the ice. There is some doubt over the accuracy of the CO2 levels measured. Some CO2 may have escaped, either before being originally embedded in the ice sheet forming under the weight of the accumulating snow, or when lifted for analysing. Note: my original write-up of Lansner's work here had a picture that was somewhat misleading, as reader Robert Paglee pointed out. Thanks Bob!

See the huge seasonal temperature fluctuations at the South Pole. Temperatures sink far lower than at the North Pole. Averages for each year's temperatures. The slight drop in temp seems quite clear. Racer Rock Automated Weather Station, at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.


Page edited 10th February 2011



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