I felt the chill before the winter came

Being keen on accuracy in all things, I feel I should draw the attention of the readers of Hot Topic to a prediction failure. Back in August, in a post called Arctic Sea Ice Forecast: It’s going to be tough to stay cool, I made a number of predictions about how the climate crank echo chamber would respond to the record-breaking Arctic sea ice summer minimum that was then on its way. A number of those predictions came to pass, as this recent accounting demonstrates, but I made some longer term predictions that we can now examine.

Here’s what I wrote on August 12:

When the re-freeze starts, and the Arctic basin is covered in ice once more (early December), Anthony Watts will report on the record rate of ice formation, calling it a “stunning recovery“.

I wish to apologise to Mr Watts, because I got both the timing of his statement and his precise words wrong. Here’s what he said in a post dated October 18 – Sea Ice News Volume 3 Number 15 – Arctic refreeze fastest ever:

After all of the news about a minimum record ice extent last month, this is interesting. As we know when water loses its ice cover, it allows a lot of heat to radiate into space as LWIR. many predictied that as a result of the extra open ocean surface, we see a very fast refreeze in the Arctic. It appears they were right. In fact, this is the fastest monthly scale refreeze rate in the NSIDC satellite record going back to 19791. [My emphasis]

He couldn’t wait until December before commenting on the freeze-up, but perhaps he’s saving the phrase “stunning recovery” for later use — or leaving it for his friend Steven Goddard, who has been exploring novel metrics for the autumn freeze. Sorry, Anthony.

[Elvis Costello]

  1. Copied and pasted from µWatts, so the typos are his. []

Record Arctic Sea-ice minimum 2012 declared – it’s the Silly Season!

In early August I posted my predictions for the “sceptical” response to the record sea ice minimum. Time to call myself to account. I had planned to do my own analysis, but John Mason at Skeptical Science has done such an excellent job of ploughing through the mountains of bullshit that I asked his permission to repost his comprehensive scorecard here…

The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is. Winston Churchill, 1916.

Late summer has long been known in media circles as the Silly Season, when any old story, embellished a bit here and a bit there, is trundled out to fill column space normally occupied by the graver matters of politics and business.

In the world of climate science, late summer is of course rather more important, marking the peak of the annual sea-ice melting season of the Northern Hemisphere, and this year has been extraordinary, with the canary in the coal mine tweeting louder than ever that something is seriously amiss with the climate.

With Arctic sea-ice having reached a record low extent, area and volume, several weeks ahead of the usual end-of-melt date, the Blogosphere has been ablaze with lengthy discussions of this event and its potential and worrisome ramifications. There have also been mass-outbreaks of denial accompanied by varying degrees of silliness, as one might expect when faced with an event like a record Arctic melt-out. Many commentators could see the meltdown approaching, both in the Arctic and around parts of the Blogosphere, with Gareth Renowden over at Hot Topic speculating in early August as follows:

“When Arctic sea ice area sets a new record low in the next couple of weeks, the usual suspects will say: “You can’t trust area, sea ice extent is the only valid metric“.

When Arctic sea ice extent sets a new record low in September, the following arguments will be run in parallel:

1) There will be a frantic search for a definition of extent in which a new record was not set

2) There will be a complaint that the satellite record has been blighted by the failure of a sensor and the calibrations needed to get a new sensor in operation have corrupted the record

3) It will be claimed that it was all caused by the major Arctic storm that hit in August, and thus can’t be attributed to global warming

4) It’s cyclical — it’s all happened before, in the 1930s, and is therefore nothing unusual

5) That it’s irrelevant, because it’s not global and not happening where anyone lives so can’t possibly matter.

When the sea ice extent and area anomalies blow out to record levels in early October because of the delayed freeze-up, there will be silence.

When the re-freeze starts, and the Arctic basin is covered in ice once more (early December), Anthony Watts will report on the record rate of ice formation, calling it a “stunning recovery“.”

They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent. Winston Churchill, 1936.

How closely did Gareth’s predictions above conform to the reality on the media airwaves? In this post-minimum-declared Blogosphere round-up, we take a light-hearted look.

Continue reading “Record Arctic Sea-ice minimum 2012 declared – it’s the Silly Season!”