Maybe next time
An ice drift in the Ross Sea in the Antarctic. (Credit: AP/John Weller)
This weekend the climate change skeptic blog Real Science posted the following:
Antarctica has broken the record for the greatest sea ice extent ever measured at either pole.
NSIDC [National Snow and Ice Data Center] seems disinterested in their own data, choosing instead to write stories about Penguins being threatened by declining Antarctic sea ice.
If current trends continue, the Earth will be completely covered with ice much faster than the climate models predicted.
Renowned climatologist Jonah Goldberg (who moonlights as a pundit for the conservative magazine National Review) picked up on the post and tweeted it to his followers:
Antarctica sea ice growth breaks all records. stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/sea… another Obama promise fulfilled!— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) October 2, 2012
Does the size of Antarctic ice have anything to do with climate change? Sounds reasonable! Sadly, I don’t know anything more about climate science than Jonah Goldberg does, but Walt Meier, Ph.D., a research scientist at NSIDC who specializes in sea ice, was kind enough to explain.
The end of the Antarctic winter — the northern hemisphere’s early fall — is generally when the expanse of Antarctic ice reaches its greatest breadth. Indeed, this year’s record high of 19.5 million square kilometers was a jump from 18.8 million last year. (The previous high of 19.35 was in 2006.) However, Meier called this year’s total “barely above what we might consider a normal range.” Moreover, he said the breadth of the continent’s ice is governed more by northerly wind patterns, which have likely strengthened due to the hole in the ozone layer.
“The changes are much bigger in the Arctic,” Meier said. The two polar regions are “really two very different parts of the Earth even though they’re both cold.”
According to the NSIDC site:
Arctic sea ice extent averaged for September 2012 was the lowest in the satellite record, and was 16% lower than the previous low for the month, which occurred in 2007…Compared to the 1979 to 2000 average ice conditions, the September 2012 ice cover represents a 49% reduction in the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by sea ice. It is 2.91 million square kilometers (1.12 million square miles), or 45%, below the 30-year average over 1981 to 2010.
Meier called the drop in Arctic ice “a much more significant minimum than the Antarctic is a significant maximum.” Goldberg is undoubtedly hard at work on an article that will clarify this complex phenomenon. Either that or he’s the kind of hack who has zero interest in whether the available evidence supports his cherished beliefs.