Santa’s blues

Polarbear.jpg What’s a Christmas icon to do, when all the ice at the North Pole disappears in summer? This startling question is posed by the latest flush of media attention to events in the Arctic. First there was a National Geographic story on June 20th speculating that the North Pole would be ice free this summer (note: this is nothing to do with record minima, just do with ice around the pole itself). This was picked up by CNN, who went to Mark Serreze of the NSIDC in Boulder, Colorado for comment:

“We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is ‘does the North Pole melt out this summer?’ and it may well,” said the center’s senior research scientist, Mark Serreze. It’s a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice, which was frozen in autumn, will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole, Serreze said.

And then everything went quiet, until The Independent in Britain (referred to as The Indescribablyoverhyped on climate matters by Stoat) picked up the story and ran with it under the headline – Exclusive: no ice at the North Pole:

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

They seem to be having problems with their choice of tense, and quite how they can justify the “exclusive” tag escapes me… The Drudge Report noticed, and then everyone in the world had to have a go [Telegraph, AP(*)]. Andy Revkin at DotEarth covers it well, and RealClimate chips in with its own analysis. It won’t be long before the usual denialist sites will be spluttering with indignation, despite the fact that the North Pole has a very good chance of being open ocean this summer – even if a new record minimum is not set.

None of this has any relevance to the odds of my winning my various sea-ice bets, but it does give me a chance to post a few interesting Arctic-related links from the last week… As part of its beat-up, The Independent went to Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, for his impressions on the changes in the Arctic, and the BBC’s been carrying a blog from Liz Kalaugher aboard a Canadian icebreaker that over-wintered near Banks Island. Interesting stuff – note Liz’s comments about the weather. Meanwhile, across the melting ice, the Russian defence establishment is beginning to get worried about the impact of melting permafrost.

(*) The AP story uncovers this truly remarkable and hitherto unnoticed fact: “That pushed the older thicker sea ice that had been over the North Pole south toward Greenland and eventually out of the Arctic, Serreze said. That left just a thin one-year layer of ice that previously covered part of Siberia.” So that ice has somehow left the land and started floating towards the Pole. Be afraid, be very afraid…

8 thoughts on “Santa’s blues”

  1. Mark: two things…

    1. If land-based ice is suddenly able to move onto the ocean we have a big problem…

    2. If journalists and their subs don’t know what they’re doing, what chance has the public got of getting a reasonable picture of what’s going on?

    But really I’m just being snarky…

    To be fair to Steve Connor, the Independent journalist who wrote the story everyone picked up on, he’s popped up on RealClimate (here) pointing out that the newspaper story had a better headline than the web version.

  2. Gareth,

    I don’t see the AP quote as reason to be alarmed.

    The AP story seems to me to be referring to the outflushing through the Fram Strait which has worsened the state of the perennial ice over the winter. This is the same outflushing as in the early 1990s that preconditioned the ice for what is currently going on (Rigor/Wallace). Watching QuikScat series over the winter have shown how this movement has removed perennial from the pole.

    I really doubt it’s land based ice moving into the sea.

    As for what is scaring me…

    Secondary impacts from what’s going on in the Arctic (as discussed here), combined with what’s increasingly looking like peak oil (up again – $142 today! – when will it stop???): These 2 factors combined have left me so alarmed that I want to arm myself to the teeth, refresh old skills, and head for the hills. The only reason I don’t is because that’s not an attainable option in my circumstances. This is not rhetoric, I am seriously frightened.

  3. From alarmism to heresy… 😉

    I’ve been pondering the mixing of 2 metaphors:
    1) The party at which everyone politely engages in chatter as they studiously ignore the 600 lb gorrilla in the corner.
    2) Ben starts running from the tiger, Bill follows him. Bill asks Ben, “Why are you running? You can’t possibly outrun a tiger!” To which Ben replies, “I’m not trying to outrun the tiger, I’m trying to outrun you!”

    I’m watching a TV programme right now – apparently here in the UK people with gas-guzzling SUVs are finding they’re depreciating substantially. They didn’t pay attention, now they’re losing out. Ahhh that’s a shame. 😉

    Maybe it’s time to drop the arguing and get ready for what’s coming. Let those clinging to the past and the dream of “business as usual” take the brunt of what’s coming. I’ve already bugged out of the stock markets, I’ve not had a car for years. My garden isn’t big, but it’s about to be turned over to food plants. Every little helps…

    PS, not climate related but check this graph out.

  4. Anthony has finally gotten around to this story, as usual his enthusiasm has blinded him – in this case to the difference between “ice free Arctic” and “ice free North Pole”.

  5. That’s some graph, CW, and already out of date!

    AW: I very nearly commented there, just to add to your tweaking, but I really should be posting here, not there. I suspect some of the commenters here have correctly assessed Mr Watts grasp of his material….

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