Unusual Winds Caused Arctic Ice Melts, Not Global Warming

October 5th, 2007 10:36 AM

Assume for a moment that a new study by NASA proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that manmade global warming was indeed responsible for the recent ice melts in the Arctic. Think media would have reported it?

In reality, that's a bit of a trick question, for in the past several weeks, television newscasts, papers, and magazines have been filled with hysterical assertions about decreasing Arctic ice levels destined to cause imminent flooding to coastal regions around the world.

As such, it certainly was no surprise when NASA released a report Monday claiming "the rapid decline in winter perennial ice the past two years was caused by unusual winds," virtually no media outlets shared the information with the citizenry, and those that did still blamed the melting ice on - you guessed it - global warming.

The largely boycotted announcement out of NASA stated no such thing (emphasis added):

A team led by Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., studied trends in Arctic perennial ice cover by combining data from NASA's Quick Scatterometer (QuikScat) satellite with a computing model based on observations of sea ice drift from the International Arctic Buoy Programme. QuikScat can identify and map different classes of sea ice, including older, thicker perennial ice and younger, thinner seasonal ice.


Nghiem said the rapid decline in winter perennial ice the past two years was caused by unusual winds. "Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic," he said. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters.

"The winds causing this trend in ice reduction were set up by an unusual pattern of atmospheric pressure that began at the beginning of this century," Nghiem said.

Hmmm. So, unusual winds pushed ice south into warmer waters causing the above average melt rates. That should be newsworthy, right?

Well, it clearly wasn't, as from a print perspective, only the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor felt this matter to be at all important; no other major dailies thought this announcement to be something the public would care about.

Yet, even those papers skewed the study to make the results support the global warming myth. For instance, the Times' Andrew Revkin wrote Tuesday:

  • The pace of change has far exceeded what had been estimated by almost all the simulations used to envision how the Arctic will respond to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.
  • Proponents of cuts in greenhouse gases cited the meltdown as proof that human activities are propelling a slide toward climate calamity
  • Still, many of those scientists said they were becoming convinced that the system is heading toward a new, more watery state, and that human-caused global warming is playing a significant role.

The Monitor also used this report to advance global warming hysteria (emphasis added):

"While a number of natural factors have certainly contributed to the overall decline ... the effects of greenhouse warming are coming through loud and clear," notes Mark Serreze, a senior scientist at the Snow and Ice Data Center.

Maybe even more disappointing, the broadcast networks, which had been all over this supposed "record" Arctic ice melt a few weeks ago, completely ignored this announcement.

And, leading the pack for the most disgraceful performance regarding this matter was ABC's Sam Champion who did a story concerning Arctic ice on Tuesday's "Good Morning America" that absurdly omitted this NASA announcement Monday:

Now, in August, we showed you those record levels of the melt of the sea ice. The new information out from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and those are the people who watch the ice all around the world, is that September levels are even lower and they also set a record. On this side of the screen, we're gonna show you generally an average from 1979 when we first started taking pictures with a satellite, all the way to about 2000. You can see the ice stays just about the same even though there is some melting there and almost runs all the way up to the Bering Strait.

This is a picture of the 2007 levels. Now take a look at the empty gap that goes all the way around here. That's what we're talking about. We're talking about the unprecedented melt of all that entire area. Now remember, that important sea ice is there. We believe it kind of regulates the global weather patterns and there's lots of it than ever before.

Out at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, their quote is that every summer, we melt more ice and it's just not getting replaced in the colder winter months because of the unusual amount of warm air that's still around the North Pole.

Nice job, Sam. Thanks for sharing.

As for the cable networks, only CNN thought this issue warranted air time, though not much. When "the most trusted name in news" finally got around to mentioning this study two days after the announcement, Jonathan Mann offered more fear than fact on Wednesday's "Your World Today":

This is big news. Literally news you can measure in miles and tons. News that's trouble for the environment. The Arctic has hit another milestone, or more accurately, you could say it's melted it. Less ice than ever measured before.


Look at this graph created by NASA. At first, the total of Arctic ice goes up and down year to year. But long-term, the total year-round ice has been going down ever since NASA started studying it by satellite. At first 10 percent per decade, then a whole lot faster.

And 2005 was the worst year, the previous record until just a few weeks ago when NASA saw ice was down by nearly 25 percent. It just about drops off the chart. That is a big, big thaw. The effect is to open up a million square miles or 2.5 million square kilometers of open water in a little less than 30 years. That's an area bigger than Greenland, up in the north, right next door.

To be fair, not all of it is melting. Some of it is actually moving, which is a little weird, too. Wind is pushing huge amounts of it to the west, and it is melting off there. That is still bad news though, because with less ice now, next year's thaw will probably be even bigger. Something to watch and worry about. Back to you.

That's all, folks: one sentence about this issue from all the cable news networks.

Yet, what might be even more disturbing about press coverage concerning polar ice is not just how media ignored something occurring in the Arctic that offerred a contrary explanation of recent melts, but also how what's happening in the Antarctic is similarly boycotted.

As Anthony Watts reported Wednesday:

The Arctic is almost as warm now as it was seventy years ago. Unsurprisingly, Arctic ice has diminished. But, as Polyakov et al.show, the long-term changes are "generally statistically insignificant". But there's more ice in Antarctica now. It seems that points more to a natural, cyclical variation on a global scale when one pole diminishes while another gains.

In fact, when you add up the total square kilometers of ice in the Arctic and the Antarctic, it is only five percent below normal.

Yep. Five percent.

As such, not only are there other explanations for what's happening to Arctic ice than the hysterical claims by media, the total picture at both poles is vastly less dire than what the press are leading the public to believe.

Why might that be?