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Rose-colored glasses: Antarctic sea ice is the Mail on Sunday's latest global warming distraction

Posted on 7 July 2014 by dana1981

David Rose and The Mail on Sunday produce the most reliable global warming journalism, in the sense that they can be relied upon to consistently misrepresent climate science. Their latest piece focuses on Antarctic sea ice.

You might wonder why we should particularly care about Antarctic sea ice. The answer is that it provides a nice distraction from rapidly declining Arctic sea ice, glaciers around the world, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, the warming oceans, the warming atmosphere, and so on. Antarctic sea ice has bucked these trends by modestly increasing in extent and volume.

To put this increase in context, the volume of Antarctic sea ice has risen by about 7.5% since 1992, according to a recent study. The volume of Arctic sea ice, on the other hand, has declined by about 75% since 1980. Antarctica has been gaining about 30 cubic kilometers (km3) of sea ice volume per year, while the Arctic has been losing 10 times as much – 300 km3 per year.

Annual arctic sea ice minimum volumes 1979–2013, from PIOMAS data, created by Andy Lee Robinson.

What's causing Antarctic sea ice to increase is an interesting scientific question. After all, the Antarctic region is warming, including its oceans. As a result, two recent studies concluded that the collapse of the Western Antarctic ice sheet is already underway and is unstoppable.

Some studies have suggested that the influx of cold fresh water from melting Antarctic ice shelves may be contributing to the increase in Antarctic sea ice. Others argue the increase can be explained by natural variability. Yet others have suggested that the increase may not be real, but rather an error in satellite measurements, although this explanation seems unlikely.

Human influences may be responsible, or they might not. This remains an open question that climate scientists are investigating. It's also true that global climate models tend to have difficulty in simulating the Antarctic sea ice increase. While they're good with the big global picture, regional changes are more challenging for climate models.

Meanwhile, surface temperatures in 2014 are on pace to be the hottest on record. Despite this, David Rose at The Mail on Sunday tells us,

Prof Curry also revealed that because of the ‘pause’, in which world average temperatures have not risen for more than 16 years, the Arctic ice decline has been ‘touted’ by many as the most important evidence for continued global warming.

First of all, surface temperatures have risen over the past 16 years. Second, during that time the planet as a whole has accumulated heat at a rate equivalent to 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second. I don't know who the "many" are that Curry refers to in the above quote, the most important evidence for continued global warming is quite obviously the measurements that show the planet continues to warm. And contrary to Curry's refuted hypothesis, which she also references in Rose's piece, the warming and rapid sea ice decline in the Arctic are mostly human-caused.

The Mail piece finishes with a blurb written by contrarian climate blogger Andrew Montford (consistent with the accuracy of the rest of the piece, the Mail spells his name wrong). Montford rehashes the zombie climate myth that climate scientists are somehow fudging the surface temperature record. He claims,

In recent days a new scandal over the integrity of temperature data has emerged, this time in America, where it has been revealed as much as 40 per cent of temperature data there are not real thermometer readings.

This manufactured scandal centers around the fact that climate scientists use statistical techniques to fill in gaps in areas without temperature station coverage. That includes areas where one of thousands of surface temperature stations around the world goes out of service.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 9:

  1. The persistence of the popularity of unfounded claim-making, not reporting, like the Mail's can best be explained by a consistency of thought processes by some people.

    People who desire benefits from actions that are unacceptable are eager to create and accept unacceptable excuses for the things they want to get away with benefiting from. They are consistently unacceptable in their thoughts and actions. And the worst of them cannot be expected to change their mind. They will persist in attempting to get as much benefit from unacceptable actions and attitudes as they can get away with.

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  2. If Tamino's Antarctic sea ice extent reconstruction (1870-2010) is correct (extent in 10^6 km2)Antarctic Sea Ice Extent Reconstruction (1870-2010)


    (or, see third graph in this link), Antarctica's sea ice extent mostly collapsed between 1940 and 1980.  Although there's been a rise in extent since 1980, you can see that, taken in context, its in the noise.  The bottom line is that Antarctica's sea ice is less than half of what it was a century ago, and shows no indication that it will recover its former glory.

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  3. Regarding pre-1979 Antarctic Sea Ice:-
    Tamino was using HADISST ice concentrations which use all sorts of data to create a very ambitious gridded reconstruction.
    If seeing is believing, there is the Numbus-5 data for 1973-6 as well as the Nimbus-1 data for September 1964. Figure 5-13 in Zwally et al (1983) shows SIA from Nimbus-5 as high or higher than this recent "record" anomaly, while Figure 4 in Meier et al (2013) directly compares SIE from Nimbus-1 with 1979-2012 data (although sadly not the same 1979-2012 SIE values as derived by NSIDC) showing yet more ice back in the 1960s.

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  4. What's important in Antarctica is what is happening to the land ice and surprise, surprise, the Mail on Sunday doesn't say anything about that. After all, if all the Antarctic land ice were to suddenly destabilise and fall into the sea, then sea ice extent would rise dramatically and sea levels would rise by about 60 metres. Presumably, David Rose would regard this as nothing to worry about.

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  5. David Rose is the wrong target. He would not get published if his work were not in line with that of the Mail Group's management, who must therefor be the target. Go after them, and David Rose and any like him will be caught in the cross-fire.

    There is another aspect to be considered. It just might be the case that the Mail Group is following private briefing by the government. Why would the government do this? Read the Our Finite World blog and the Peak Prosperity blog and watch Oil, Smoke and Mirrors ( and Peak mining & implications for natural resource management - Simon Michaux ( Oil, Smoke and Mirrors contains an interview with Michael Meacher, Minister of State for the Environment under Prime Minister Blair, which is worth watching for an insight into government policy. I think it would be difficult to read and watch these and still think that b.a.u. is remotely in possible. It certainly explains why the government might privately brief a newspaper's editor if it wanted the public to think that b.a.u. was not harmful in any way. 

    This site, having gained a reputation for honesty, should decide what it does about discussing the resource situation we face. Carry on as though b.a.u. is the likely outcome, or try and fix just what the climate is likely to be like and thus inform policy decisions accordingly.

    Perhaps sks could do worse than call for an enquiry into how the press (and blogs?) should handle matters of concern to the security of the country. I have in mind a Leverson type of enquiry, but dealing with science, not scandal. Surely, we need something more formal than private briefings, if indeed they are in play. We need to decide how we deal with any who profit from publishing 'facts' harmful to their country that they can reasonably be assumed to know to be false. I don't see how that harms the principle of free speech, indeed surely it strengthens it. Today, you simply cannot believe anything a newspaper prints. If I knew that the author of a newspaper article and his editor could be punished, perhaps even banned from working in the media, I would believe what it says. Isn't that for the good of all?

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  6. Chris, sorry to give thums down, the amount of sea level rise from Antarctica is a lot more than 60 meters, its closer to 200m. But perhaps I am wrong about that. What I calculate is 217 meters from all ice, and only 8 meters from Greenland ice. What I also understand is that Antarctica contributes more water to see level than Greenland. I think we will discover that the one meter or even the 4 meters forecasted by the most well accepted models are too optimistic. We need to plan for much more sea level change. That's the big deal. Antarctic sea ice, is probably an anomoly from our understanding of the mechanics of A-ice propagation, probably a little bit from additional fresh water, a little bit from additional energy in the Antarctic Ocean from higher energy content in the globe overall, and a little bit of something else. But it does not matter at all since it all melts, and has no effect on sea level.

    Currently I am writing a paper on how to control sea level rise by moving equal or larger amounts of fresh water from the sea onto the land. To control it we need to move about 8000 km3 per year for 180 years. Its a big order, but duable. 1km3 is 18 days of the historic average Colorado.  Any brave souls out there who might want to colaborate?

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  7. 28,000,000 km**3 ice on Antarctica so it's 78m of sea level rise for the whole lot. End of last glaciation was ~130m SLR from Laurentide ice sheet, the smaller one to its West & Scandanavian ~2x as much as Antarctica. I read that Antarctica ice = ~10x Greenland ice so that sounds right. I also read Antarctica ice = ~7x Greenland ice some place that seemed knowledgeable (maybe a lecture) but I'm staying with 10x for now. I still got my daughter's bucket & spade from 40 years ago if you need a hand moving the ocean up onto the land a bit.

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  8. PluviAL@6: it seems to me we're having trouble maintaining our freshwater reservoirs as they are, and indeed, are quickly draining underwater aquifers (like the Ogallala) as quickly as we can.  I'm not hopeful, especially in a globally warmed world of drought, etc, that we could long keep our hands off the irrigation cornucopia that is a freshwater reservoir designed to counter sea level rise.  But its an original idea you have, so don't want to discourage you.  Perhaps elevated seawater reservoirs over marginal lands is possible.

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  9. PluviAL - Potential sea level rise for _total_ icecap melt would be ~80.32m, not 200: 

    Potential sea level contributions from ice melt


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