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HH Lamb & Cooling In The Arctic

October 8, 2014

By Paul Homewood  



HH Lamb, in “Climate, History & The Modern World” had this to say about the state of the Arctic in the 1960’s and 70’s.


This is from the Chapter “ CLIMATE SINCE 1950”.



Over the years since the 1940’s it has become apparent that many of the tendencies in world climate which marked the previous 50 to 80 years or more have either ceased or changed. It is undoubtedly this that has stimulated interest in climate  and increased effort in climatic research in recent years. It was only after the end of the Second World War that the benign trend of the climate towards general warming over those previous decades really came in for much scientific discussion and began to attract public notice.

Attention at that time was focused on where continuation of the trend might lead: on the possible disappearance of the Arctic sea ice by the end of the century, and what effect that might have on agriculture…..



The cooling of the Arctic since 1950-60 [bear in mind the book was published in 1982] has been most marked in the very same regions which experienced the strongest warming in the earlier decades of the 20thC, namely the central Arctic and northernmost parts of the two great continents remote from the world’s oceans, but also in the Norwegian-East Greenland Sea….

A greatly increased flow of the cold East Greenland Current has in several years (especially 1968 and 1969, but also 1965, 1975 and 1979) brought more Arctic sea ice to the coasts of Iceland than for fifty years. In April-May 1968 and 1969, the island was half surrounded by ice, as had not occurred since 1888.

Such sea ice years have always been dreaded in Iceland’s history because of the depression of summer temperatures and the effects on farm production….. The 1960’s also saw the abandonment of attempts at grain growing in Iceland, which had been resumed in the warmer decades of this century after a lapse of some hundreds of years…



 Let me finish with this graph showing variation of Arctic sea ice around the coast of Iceland since 800 AD.




It shows the huge expansion of ice during the LIA, and also puts into perspective the warmer 1930’s and 40’s, when temperatures in Iceland were similar to now, which still had more ice than during most of the MWP.

Above all it shows the sharp increase in ice coverage during the 1955-75 period.


Anybody who suggests we should only concern ourselves with Arctic sea ice trends since satellites began to monitor in 1979 either does not know what he is talking about, or is being dishonest.

  1. Green Sand permalink
    October 8, 2014 5:48 pm

    Paul, you may find the following to be of interest:-

    “Sea ice incidents in Icelandic waters and their monitoring”

    “Figure 4 shows the sea ice index during most of 20th century. During the first two decades heavy sea ice was quite common along the coasts of Iceland, but in the 1920s a drastic change occurred. Sea ice along the coasts of Iceland became an uncommon characteristic and almost a forgotten phenomena around the middle of the century. An abrupt change occurred in the mid-1960s.

    “Figure 5 shows the distribution of sea ice along the northern coast of Iceland in February 1965. Heavy sea ice distribution occurred almost each year following, but since 1980 widespread and long-lasting sea ice off Iceland took place at rather irregular intervals.”

    Thor Edward Jakobsson 2003. Dr Jakobsson is Project Manager, Sea ice Research Unit at the Icelandic Meteorological Office in Reykjavik, Iceland.

  2. Ben Vorlich permalink
    October 8, 2014 6:02 pm

    This is an image of a WW2 map relevant to the convoys to Russia vis North Cape. It shows the approximate limit of winter sea ice, which was important in determining the winter convoy route.

  3. Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter) permalink
    October 8, 2014 9:37 pm

    Well now, Look, there’s a Koch family member involved. That chart was definitely fabricated to confuse the public about climate change!


  4. Walter permalink
    October 8, 2014 9:38 pm

    Tired of the scientific dishonesty of the global warming religion that. is a threat to everyone’s freedom. How did it happen before without cars or factories and far less people?

  5. October 9, 2014 8:09 am

    Lamb’s interest in North Atlantic sea ice also fits well with his investigations of the North Atlantic Oscillation from the early 1960s.

    Here is an early 1960s version of a graph giving the frequency of Westerly winds over the British Isles:

    This graph shows the early 20th century peak corresponding to milder winters at that time.
    When this and other data sets where updated during the 1970s, Lamb (and others) noted them coming out of a deep cyclic minimum in the late 1960s. Here is a news story from 1975 reporting these results:

    In Lamb’s attempts to quantify possible external causation, also back during the early 1960s he investigated the possible impact of volcanic emissions. His report quickly dismisses CO2 as too weak a driver of change (neither on the geological or historical scales). Instead, he developed an index of the net veiling effect of various types of dust injected into the stratosphere. He then used various proxy/historical sources to estimate the effective NH dust veil back across the last 40 decades. His results showed an extraordinary lack of a dust veil during the early decades of the 20th century, and he suggested that this might have influenced the warming then. See the 2nd graph here:

    So, already by the mid-1970s, Lamb was developing some ideas about the patterns and causes of North Atlantic climate change — not only across the last two millennium (as is more well known with MWP and LIA) but also across recent decades. During his final days at CRU (he retired Sept 1978) and his first years of retirement (when he wrote Climate, History & The Modern World) he noted cooling continuing in the Arctic while there was a turn to warming in the more populous mid-latitude. The impacts of this turn to warming he noted in various ways, both natural and human. One human impact was on the WMO and its statement of June, 1976, which turned against ice age alarm while cautiously supporting AGW concerns; cautious it was, but nonetheless triggering this rather alarming article in the Times.

    Lamb discusses (with subdued skepticism) both the statement and the article in Climate, History & The Modern World), but he could not resist adding this footnote:

    Coincidentally Europe was experiencing an exceptional heat wave at the time, in the second of the two great warm summers of the 1970s; and both Europe and much of North America had enjoyed an unbroken run of 3 to 6 mild winters.

    (The importance of this WMO statement to Lamb’s story–in particular, to an understanding of his astute and prescient view of the AGW scare–I thank Paul for previously pointed out.)

  6. Ron C. permalink
    October 9, 2014 9:54 pm

    The Vinje study from 2001 is relevant to this post.

    Figure 16-3: Time series of April sea-ice extent in Nordic Sea (1864-1998) given by 2-year running mean and second-order polynomial curves. Top: Nordic Sea; middle: eastern area; bottom: western area (after Vinje, 2000).

  7. Ron C. permalink
    October 9, 2014 9:56 pm

    Vinje et al had this to say about Arctic Sea Ice trends:

    “The extent of ice in the Nordic Seas measured in April has been subject to a reduction of ~33% over the past 135 yr. Nearly half of this reduction is observed over the period ~1860–1900, prior to the warming of the
    Arctic. Decadal variations with an average period of 12–14 yr are observed for the whole period. The observation series indicates that less than 3% of the variance with respect to time can be explained for a series
    shorter than 30 yr, less than 18% for a series shorter than 90 yr, and less than 42% for the whole 135-yr long series. While the mean annual reduction of the April ice extent is decelerating by a factor of 3 between 1880 and 1980, the mean annual reduction of the August ice extent
    is proceeding linearly.

    The August ice extent in the Eastern area has been more than halved over the past 80 yr. A similar meltback has not been observed since the temperature optimum during the eighteenth century. This retrospective
    comparison indicates accordingly that the recent reduction of the ice extent in the Eastern area is still within the variation range observed over the past 300 yr.

    Anomalies and Trends of Sea-Ice Extent and Atmospheric Circulation in the Nordic Seas during the Period 1864–1998 by TORGNY VINJE, Norwegian Polar Institute, Oslo, Norway

  8. October 10, 2014 12:10 am

    Very important information, thanks for sharing it with us Paul!

  9. Doug Brodie permalink
    December 30, 2015 1:56 pm

    Paul Homewood did an interesting post on Arctic sea ice over a year ago, quoting from HH Lamb and including a graph of Arctic sea ice around the coast of Iceland since 800 AD. See

    • Doug Brodie permalink
      December 30, 2015 1:58 pm

      Oops, comment posted against the wrong article!


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