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All Da King's Men

Melting Arctic Ice

By Da King Published: December 14, 2009

While reading an Associated Press article about how developing countries, led by China and India, are boycotting the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, I came upon the following reference to Al Gore, the world's pre-eminent climatologist, who graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government (Gore did take a class on climate science, however):

Former Vice President Al Gore told the conference that new data suggests a 75 percent chance the entire Arctic polar ice cap may disappear in the summertime as soon as five to seven years from now.

I hadn't heard this before, so I set out to find some corroboration that the polar ice cap was going to melt away in five years or so. The closest I came was this article from October 2009:

LONDON, England (CNN) -- New data released Thursday suggests that the Arctic Ocean will be "largely ice free" during summer within a decade. The report, complied by the UK-based Catlin Arctic Survey and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), is the latest research into ice thickness in the Arctic. Researchers predict that within 20 years ice cover will be completely gone during the warmer months. The expedition, which was completed in May, was led by UK explorer Pen Hadow. He and his team collected data by manually drilling into the ice and noting its thickness along a 450-kilometer route across the northern part of the Beaufort Sea. They found that the area surveyed was comprised almost exclusively of first year ice.

If the area was comprised almost exclusively of first year ice, this means that the area was almost exclusively ice-free one year ago. We already knew this was true (as did the scientists at Catlin Arctic and WWF), because the Northwest Passage has been open in the summertime. We know that Arctic sea ice is melting, which has sounded the alarm for global action on CO2 emissions.

What we need to determine is WHY the Arctic sea ice is melting. The IPCC and fellow global warming advocates attribute it all to a rise in atmospheric CO2, creating a greenhouse effect, warming the planet. Is this correct ? Maybe it is, the attendees in Copenhagen certainly think so, but, being the skeptical sort, as I thought scientists are supposed to be, I like to look at all the information available before I make a determination. Global weather systems are complex, and the reason for melting Arctic sea ice could also be complex. Let's look at some more data, the kind that doesn't ever seem to make the headlines.

The Arctic ice cap is most vulnerable to warming temperatures because it consists entirely of ice, unlike the South Pole region, which sits on top of a gigantic land mass, Antarctica. There are two ways for Arctic ice to melt, either by an increase in the atmospheric temperature above the ice, or a warming of the water beneath the ice. Interestingly, while overall global atmospheric temperatures have increased over the last century, Arctic temperatures have not, though there are fluctuating patterns, which we'll get to in a minute. At the North Pole, temperatures range from -45F to -15F. I don't think the ice there will be melting anytime soon due to the atmospheric temperature. Here is a graph of Arctic Rim annual mean temperatures from 1951-2000:

I don't see much change in these temperatures, do you ? They fluctuate up some, then down some. To me, this leaves the explanation for persistent melting Arctic ice to warming sea waters under the ice, unless it's just a natural fluctuation. When the Northwest Passage opened a couple years ago, the man-made global warming advocates predicted doom and stated it proved their case. Okay, maybe it does, but then, how do they explain this ???

"It will without doubt have come to your Lordship's knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated.

(This) affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations." - President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817

Was there a lot of man-made global warming taking place in 1817, before the Industrial Revolution, before automobiles, before deforestation ? I wonder how that polar ice melted back then. I'm just asking.

If warming oceans are causing the Arctic sea ice to melt, it is almost certainly due to warming of the Atlantic Ocean, which flows in much more volume into the Arctic region than does the Pacific Ocean through the narrow Bering Strait. This could be explained by man-made global warming, because the oceans serve as heat traps and carbon sinks, absorbing much of the atmospheric CO2. I assume all readers are familiar with global warming theory by now, so I won't go into that further here. Man-made global warming is one explanation, and there's little doubt that the North Atlantic has been warming. What I will do is ask, are there any other explanations for a warming North Atlantic Ocean, which would result in a warming Arctic region ?

The answer is yes. Here's one:

An analysis of available records shows that while the North Atlantic Oceans surface waters warmed in the 50 years between 1950 and 2000, the change was not uniform. In fact, the subpolar regions cooled at the same time that subtropical and tropical waters warmed. This striking pattern can be explained largely by the influence of a natural and cyclical wind circulation pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)...the NAO produces strong natural variability. This suggests that these large-scale, decadal changes associated with the NAO, are primarily responsible for the ocean heat content changes in the North Atlantic over the past 50 years.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is the Atlantic equivalent of the the Southern Oscillation known more commonly as El Nino and La Nina. These heavily influence temperatures and weather phenomenon (floods, droughts, hurricanes, etc). We already know that the record high 1998 global temperatures that the global warmers trumpeted as proving their case was greately due to a particularly intense El Nino effect. It wasn't man-made global warming. It was the trade winds.

A positive NAO cycle will push waters into the Arctic region faster, causing those waters to be warmer, melting Arctic sea ice faster. Let's look at the NAO trends:

From this, we see the NAO was strongly positive from 1900 to around 1930, while its most significant negative period was during the late 1950's and 1960's, the very time when we first started reliably measuring Arctic sea ice, when it would have been thicker. Since then, the NAO has been strongly positive again, resulting in increasingly thinner Arctic ice as the waters warmed. This effect takes place WITHOUT any consideration of man-made global warming.

Funny how we never read about this in the newspaper.

When I look at ALL the weather data available, as opposed to only the part that the IPCC and the global warming alarmists want me to look at, I generally still reach the conclusion that rising CO2 levels do have an impact on the climate and the environment. It's just not the impact the warmers would have us believe. There are other factors to consider, and when the global warmers leave those factors out of their equation, it only makes me more skeptical, being the scientific-minded person that I am.



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