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The Elusive Ice Free Arctic

September 22, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




From the “Science is settled department”:


The Arctic is nearing its seasonal sea ice minimum this month, but predicting exactly when the region will see its first ice-free summer may be more difficult than previously believed, according to the results of new University of Colorado Boulder research.

After examining both high- and medium-level carbon dioxide emission modeling scenarios for the rest of the 21st century, the study found that it is not possible to reduce the uncertainty window for an ice-free Arctic to a period of less than 21 years due to the inherently chaotic nature of the climate.

The study also found that commonly-used metrics of past and present sea ice thickness, extent and volume are not predictive enough to reduce this long-range uncertainty.

The new findings were published online today in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Scientists typically define an "ice-free Arctic" as having fewer than 1 million square kilometers worth of ice cover, which would leave the Arctic Ocean virtually clear while some pockets of ice would remain in the northern reaches of Canada and Greenland.

"When it comes to predicting the timing of an ice-free Arctic, climate models show a large spread of over 100 years. Many studies have attempted to narrow this wide range to as little as five years in some cases," said Alexandra Jahn, an assistant professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC) and lead author of the new research. "Here, however, we find that the low bound of our predictive ability is significantly longer due to inherent climate variability."

The study, which employed a large collection of simulations from the Community Earth System Model developed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, also found that consecutive ice-free summers would become common after 2060 under the high emission scenario while remaining the exception in the medium emission scenario.

"Overall, these results serve as a sort of caution against over-narrowing the long-term sea ice predictions from climate models" said Jahn, who is also a fellow in CU Boulder’s Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR).


David Hempleman-Adams says we should listen to the scientists. 

  1. Bloke down the pub permalink
    September 22, 2016 11:31 am

    If it can be shown that, as I believe, ice free water in the Arctic is a negative feedback rather than positive as the warmists would have us believe, then the likelihood of reaching their threshold becomes very remote.

  2. Bitter&twisted permalink
    September 22, 2016 11:41 am

    Climate Scientists typically measure sea ice extent in ‘Wadhams’ (1 million square kilometers worth of ice cover). One proposal of an “ice-free Arctic” is when sea-ice extent falls below 1 Wadham., Apparently this would leave the Arctic Ocean virtually clear while some pockets of ice would remain in the northern reaches of Canada and Greenland.

    • NeilC permalink
      September 22, 2016 12:20 pm

      B&T, I thought 1 Wadham was equivalent to 4.08 million Km^2

      • AndyG55 permalink
        September 23, 2016 2:07 am

        No, I defined 1 Wadham = 1 million km²

        This is the value that Prof Wadham declared was zero sea ice, to be reached this year … or was it last year… or in 10 years time??

        Whatever. 😉

  3. Gerry, England permalink
    September 22, 2016 12:41 pm

    In summary – ‘We have no idea, but don’t forget that the science is settled’. At this point you could use that well used phrase ‘you couldn’t make it up’ but then they already have.

  4. Edmonton Al permalink
    September 22, 2016 12:45 pm

    Every year more and more graduates with PhDs are graduating and getting postions at Universities to sit in front of a computer and do modelling. [mostly useless].
    They get big salaries and benefits, but produce little of value.
    Where does this all end?
    Does the Government just keep printing money ad infinitum?
    Something has to give. IMO.

  5. TonyM permalink
    September 22, 2016 1:07 pm

    What? The climate is chaotic? Computer climate models are useless when trying to predict climate outcomes? Why weren’t we told this before? An amazing revelation.

  6. richard walker permalink
    September 22, 2016 1:15 pm

    The study also found that commonly-used metrics of past and present sea ice thickness, extent and volume are not predictive enough to reduce this long-range uncertainty. This sentence is nonsense, metrics are measurements and such they themselves cannot predict anything!

    • John F permalink
      September 22, 2016 4:03 pm

      RW, Absolutely agree. There appears to be a worrying trend amongst young scientists (and some older ones, I suspect) to confuse measurements and modelled data, even more worrying when these scientists believe measurements are predictive. And what a surprise, natural systems are complex.

  7. tom0mason permalink
    September 22, 2016 1:16 pm

    It’s not difficult to predict!

    Just do what happens now…
    ……….. ..every year predict that next year is year when all the ice will disappear and hope that it happens. Litter all your guesswork in pseudoscientific clap-trap research style graphs and tables of figures, all linked with lots of plausible deniability phases. — Simple.

    I predict that next year will be the hottest year ever! And all the ice at the North Pole will turn to steam. And I have every confidence that my computer modelled projections will happen as, ..well, …er, it’s my turn to be right!

    See simple!
    I call it Wadhamizing my procedure and ensures it will be published in ‘The Guardian’ and if lucky all the fashionable scientific (fiction) journals everywhere, might even have that smiling ejit Cox repeat it on the BBC.

    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

    – Mark Twain
    – Life on the Mississippi.

  8. September 22, 2016 1:21 pm

    Professor Madwash says: ‘Doom gloom and disaster – lovely jubbly! Buy my Arctic scare book now before it becomes a laughing stock – oops, too late.’

  9. September 22, 2016 1:27 pm

    In Wadhams BBC R4Today segment
    Presenter : “But you have predicted Ice-Free many times, like this year”
    PW : “Well it’s difficult to be exact cos the natural variation which sits on top of the under-lying trend of decline”..So he’s saying that natural variation is absolutely massive
    ..and never mentions ice gain at the south pole

  10. Broadlands permalink
    September 22, 2016 1:29 pm

    It is interesting that they say… “… due to inherent climate variability.”

    Haven’t we been told repeatedly that we humans are overwhelming climate variability with our added CO2? Maybe they have stumbled onto the truth?

    • September 22, 2016 8:06 pm

      “… due to inherent climate variability.” – is the last resort of the desperate climate theorist when predictions of scary ‘man-made’ scenarios have obviously failed.

  11. 2hmp permalink
    September 22, 2016 2:59 pm

    They are still linking temperature to CO2 when all the heating effect is gone at about 250ppm. Will they never admit their errors ?

  12. NeilC permalink
    September 22, 2016 2:59 pm

    Well, if computer models of climate change are easy to preditct/project based on CO2 theory, how come they keep getting it wrong, I wonder if all these well paid professors have ever thought to try and predict natural variation without CO2 theory.

    Oh wait the UKMO do and can’t even predict 5 days ahead with any accuracy never mind next year, the year after or in 10 or 20 years time. After all, we are told, they use the same models.

    This is not science, it’s a scam.

    • CheshireRed permalink
      September 22, 2016 6:27 pm

      Exactly. If the science was ‘settled’ they’d be able to accurately predict global temperatures. They can’t. Attaching error bars wider than the Forth road bridge doesn’t cut it, either.

  13. September 22, 2016 3:44 pm

    Another move the goal posts small climb down. Their problem is that the internet has a memory, and ‘death spiral’ Mark Serrize heads NSIDC also at UC in Boulder.

  14. September 22, 2016 5:16 pm

    In other words the human effect on the climate system undetectable in the context of random chaotic natural variability. It makes sense because we can’t even detect human fossil fuel emissions in the context of uncertainties in natural flows.

  15. John F. Hultquist permalink
    September 22, 2016 6:19 pm

    “… it is not possible to reduce the uncertainty window for an ice-free Arctic to a period of less than 21 years …

    Note that 21 is half of 42, and 42 is the answer. Now what was the question?

    21! I wonder if the average of the models was exactly 21 or whether they rounded up or down?

    One Wadhams is the goal post now (file under “they just make numbers up”) but the next 2 questions are :
    How many days, weeks, or months, does the ice on the Arctic Ocean have to be under 1 Wadhams for any consequence to be apparent? What will that be?

  16. john cooknell permalink
    September 22, 2016 6:56 pm

    My 100% reliable forecast is the Artic will be ice free one day.

    • September 22, 2016 8:10 pm

      But which one?

      • John F. Hultquist permalink
        September 23, 2016 12:02 am

        “the 12th of Never”

    • AndyG55 permalink
      September 23, 2016 2:10 am

      Biodata indicates it was often ice free in summer during periods in the first 3/4 of the Holocene.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        September 23, 2016 8:41 am

        Things seemed quite good for humans during that time. What are called the earliest civilisations began about 5-6 thousand years ago. Jericho is thought to be a least 10,000 years old.

  17. September 23, 2016 4:19 pm

    Look away now Professor Scaremonger and co.


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