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Guardian’s Latest Arctic Scare

August 21, 2018

By Paul Homewood



Today’s scare story from the Guardian:



The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.

This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.

One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.

The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as “the last ice area” because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet.

But abnormal temperature spikes in February and earlier this month have left it vulnerable to winds, which have pushed the ice further away from the coast than at any time since satellite records began in the 1970s.

“Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile,” said Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute. “Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual. This area has often been called ‘the last ice area’ as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here. The events of the last week suggest that, actually, the last ice area may be further west.”

Ice to the north of Greenland is usually particularly compacted due to the Transpolar Drift Stream, one of two major weather patterns that push ice from Siberia across the Arctic to the coastline, where it packs.

Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, said: “The ice there has nowhere else to go so it piles up. On average, it’s over four metres thick and can be piled up into ridges 20 metres thick or more. This thick, compacted ice is generally not easily moved around.

“However, that was not the case this past winter (in February and March) and now. The ice is being pushed away from the coast by the winds.” 


In fact there is nothing unusual at all about winds moving sea ice around, particularly in summer when the ice is thin and sparse. Even Keld Qvistgaard, the ice service coordinator in Denmark, admits this was not the first time a gap had appeared between the shore and the main ice pack in this area. And, of course, we only have satellite data available since the 1970s.

You would not guess it from the article though that most of the sea ice in the central Arctic is two and three meters thick, much thicker than in most recent years.

Or that sea ice volume is actually above the 2004-13 average for this time of year:




Or that Arctic sea ice extent is holding up well this summer:





Or that Arctic temperatures have been below average for almost all of the summer:



And air temperatures to the north of Greenland are already well below freezing:




By comparison, in 2008 most of the thick ice had already gone from the Arctic, and the bit that was left to the north of Greenland was about to be washed out through the Fram Strait.

Indeed, far from the north Greenland coast being the “last ice area”, home of perennial sea ice, as the unreliable Ruth Mottram claims, that area is always highly vulnerable 2008 type events. Rather, it is the Canadian Archipelago which attracts the thickest and oldest ice.



This is unlikely to happen this summer, because there is high pressure over the pole, which will work the ice in a clockwise direction, away from the Fram Strait.





As for “scary”, I suggest we would all be a lot more worried if Arctic sea ice recovered to 1979 levels.

  1. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 21, 2018 6:36 pm

    Without a record low extent/area/volume to scream about, they had to come up with something.

    • dave permalink
      August 22, 2018 9:25 am

      Truthfully, this “something” is so trivial that it is almost pathetic.

      It will moderately excite the naifs and the hyper-convinced, for a little. That is all.

      It looks as if the minimum for this year may have been reached:

  2. Ian permalink
    August 21, 2018 6:57 pm

    Just heard this sorry tale on the LBC news. The silly ‘business correspondent suggested the Suez Canal may soon become redundant!

    • Mack permalink
      August 21, 2018 7:59 pm

      That would be why the Ruskis have been investing in a new fleet of the strongest ice breakers ever built then. Not! They are worried about their northern ports freezing up as the Arctic turns to a natural cooling phase, not for escorting gullible western scientists through the imaginary holes where climate models say there shouldn’t be any ice. Whatever you think about Russian lip service to western climate change dogma, in reality they are a practical hard nosed bunch who don’t believe a word of the ‘man made’ global warming malarkey. Centuries of bitter experience at the hands of Mother Nature’s fickle icy embrace has taught them to have a slightly more practical and evidence based approach to ‘climate change’.

    • dave permalink
      August 22, 2018 9:38 am

      “…the Suez canal may become redundant.”

      Way back when – in 1972 – there was some excitement in Canadian business circles because of predictions by scientific experts (them again) that the Arctic Ocean would be ice-free by 2000. Not because of Global Warming, which nobody had thought of, but because of an expectation that the region would warm by 20 F. Proper bit of warming that would have been!

      World shipping trade would sail in Canadian waters. Big bags of oil would be dragged, year round, by monster submarines from Alaska to New York!

      It did not happen.

    • richard permalink
      August 22, 2018 5:27 pm

      Back in 1968 the Russians were about to make an offer to International shipping to use the NSR. They even made a journey to Japan through this route with a cargo ship to prove the route was open ready for business. A political crisis put paid to that and the offer was not made formal until the 1980s.

  3. August 21, 2018 8:09 pm

    Does anybody know when the last time was that the Grauniad produced a truthful article concerning the climate?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 22, 2018 1:29 pm

      Did you not mean to say ‘If’?

  4. August 21, 2018 8:10 pm

    BBC News Channel covered this, with the news presenter claiming it “had never happened before” and was.caused by “a change in climatic conditions”, (not climate change).
    BBC Environment Correspondent, Matt McGrath said that “it was the first time it had been recorded since we have had satellites” and it the arctic had been “unusually warm” which had caused the winds, but later said it was caused the wind but by high temperatures.
    It is amazing how what facts there are, get so twisted by the BBC.

    • August 22, 2018 8:51 am

      “since we have had satellites” means the 1970s, which is little more than yesterday in historical terms. They’re clutching at straws as usual.

      • August 22, 2018 9:11 am

        What was incredible was the way they switched from “it had never happened before”, to “since we have had satellites”., without apparently knowing the difference.
        Of course the news presenters just read out what they are told to read, without any real understanding. Someone behind the scenes (a 18 year old producer?) is probably to blame.
        I feel a complaint coming on, if I can work up the enthusiasm.

  5. August 21, 2018 9:59 pm

    If someone sneezed in a Guardian office they would be touting fears of a global pandemic. They really are full-on scaremongers of the worst kind.

    • dave permalink
      August 22, 2018 11:38 am

      Always, there appears to be genuine confusion between something being “a canary in the coal-mine,” and being important in its own right.

      For example, if the maximum temperature this summer, in place X, is a degree warmer than the previous record ten years ago, that MIGHT be evidence of a change occurring; but the few minutes it was this hot – that CANNOT matter in itself. Alternatively, a terrible hurricane in Florida might not actually be anything unusual, but does matter in itself.

      I blame the sports and political mentalities of modern man with the emphasis on ‘winning’ – even if ‘by a whisker’; and also I blame excessive time spent in school. Somehow, minute distinctions become the object of obsessive interest. If I get 90% in an exam and you get 92% you are better than me and we are both nothing compared to the one who got 96%

  6. Broadlands permalink
    August 21, 2018 10:08 pm

    Has Paul not been over all this before?

    Under date of October 10, 1922 the American consul at Bergen Norway, submitted the following paper to the State Department, Washington, D. C. THE CHANGING ARCTIC by George Nicolas Ifft

    “In August, 1922, the Norwegian Department of Commerce sent an expedition to Spitzbergen and Bear Island under the leadership of Dr. Adolf Hoel, lecturer on geology at the University of Christiania. Its purpose was to survey and chart the lands adjacent to the Norwegian mines on those islands, take soundings of the adjacent waters, and make other oceanographic.investigations.”

    “Ice conditions were exceptional. In fact, so little ice has never before been noted. The expedition all but established a record, sailing as far north as 80°29′ in ice-free water. Many old landmarks are so changed as to be unrecognizable. At many points where glaciers formerly far extended into the sea they have entirely disappeared.”

  7. August 21, 2018 10:51 pm

    I’m not an expert on sea ice but…

    …the Guardian’s pic looks like pancake ice, which is formed when liquid water begins to freeze. Thin plates of ice collide and slush piles up on the edges and freezes, which is what the pic looks like.

    Photo credit goes to some bod slash Greenpeace. ‘Nuff said.

  8. August 21, 2018 11:15 pm

    The data do not show that Arctic sea ice decline is related to global warming

  9. Athelstan permalink
    August 21, 2018 11:18 pm

    ‘the guardian’

    Insofar as, truthful factual analysis is concerned, a thirty year old copy of the ‘Beano’ is probably likely to reveal more accurate prognostications or, better yet is, divining the tea leaves.

  10. John Plummer permalink
    August 21, 2018 11:29 pm

    If the Arctic continues to warm, all the ice will have gone by the year 2013!

    • Athelstan permalink
      August 21, 2018 11:38 pm

      It was supposed to have all disappeared in 05.

      anecdotal evidence points to the Arctic Ocean sea ice being much reduced at times during the last few Centuries.

      The point is though, even if it did all disappear – ie Arctic sea ice in Summer – it still means Berger all, it is not significant of a warming world and it is certainly FA to do with mankind.

      That’s what the gruan snowflakes need to get into their tiny minds.

  11. August 22, 2018 6:40 am

    On the unbiased BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, a look at today’s newspapers started with the NYT on the Donald, followed by this Grauniad headline – nuff said.

    • Mike Stoddart permalink
      August 22, 2018 7:15 am

      According to the date at the top of this post it should have have been “what yesterday’s papers said.”
      They’re even recycling the news these days.

  12. Bitter@twisted permalink
    August 22, 2018 8:12 am

    Where is Professor Wadhams when you need some academic rigour?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 22, 2018 1:33 pm

      Hiding from the Big Oil Hit Squad?

  13. dave permalink
    August 22, 2018 9:11 am

    “…scientists described as scary…”

    What puerile language! And yet, these people probably think they are the worthy heirs of Aristotle and Newton. On second thoughts, they will not even have heard of these real thinkers.

  14. Chris Lynch permalink
    August 22, 2018 10:21 am

    Just exhibits the utter dishonesty of these people that they would try to “spin” disaster out of an utterly unremarkable Arctic Summer. Is there anyone out there who can seriously argue that this is still a scientific pursuit?

    • dave permalink
      August 22, 2018 10:32 am

      “…still a scientific pursuit…”

      For those who are stuck with their somewhat foolish career choice.

  15. dennisambler permalink
    August 22, 2018 10:37 am

    This is re-cycling in action:

    3 October 2007 “Record 22C temperatures in Arctic heatwave ”
    By Steve Connor, Science Editor Independent

    “Parts of the Arctic have experienced an unprecedented heatwave this summer, with
    one research station in the Canadian High Arctic recording temperatures above
    20C, about 15C higher than the long-term average.

    The high temperatures were accompanied by a dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice in September to the lowest levels ever recorded, a further indication of how sensitive this region of the world is to global warming.

    And this summer, for the first time, an American sailing boat managed to traverse the North-west Passage from Nova Scotia to Alaska, a voyage usually made by icebreakers. Never before has a sail-powered vessel managed to get straight through the usually ice-blocked sea passage.”


    “We encountered no ice with the exception of a few narrow strips of old sound ice, carried by the wash. Of large Polar ice we saw absolutely nothing.

    Between the ice and the land, on either side, there were large and perfectly clear channels, through which we passed easily and unimpeded.

    The entire accumulation of ice was not very extensive. We were soon out again in open water.

    Outside the promontories, some pieces of ice had accumulated; otherwise the sea was free from ice.

    The water to the south was open, the impenetrable wall of ice was not there.”

    Ah well…..

  16. August 22, 2018 12:04 pm

    Current advice from Canadian Coastguard re North West Passage.

    “From: “NordReg1 Iqaluit” 
Subject: 9H9573 – INFO – 08-18-1256 – LR – HEAVIER ICE CONDITIONS
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2018 13:06:44 +0000
    Good morning,
Due to heavier than normal ice concentrations in the Canadian arctic waters north of 70 degrees, the Canadian Coast Guard, recommends that pleasure craft do not navigate in the Beaufort Sea, Barrow, Peel Sound, Franklin Strait and Prince Regent. CCG icebreakers cannot safely escort pleasure craft. Operators of pleasure craft considering a northwest passage should also consider the risk of having to winter in a safe haven in the Arctic, or in the case of an emergency, be evacuated from beset vessels. Safety of mariners is our primary concern.

    That is, don’t go, you won’t get through!!

  17. Colin bain permalink
    August 22, 2018 12:09 pm

    Will the BBC “fire” the stats.
    On the recent More or Less podcast asking are the wild fires burning more than before came to the surprising (for the BBC) conclusion that neither were there more or less fires than usual. Of course they have a side swipe to a scientist going against the mainstream and asking that the headlines stop saying that more fires were burning. However they did not sideswipe the Guardian for their inappropriate use of “science”. Still it was at least somewhat independent to report that it could not be concluded that there were more or less fires. It’s only 8 minutes and worth listening to.

  18. saparonia permalink
    August 22, 2018 12:30 pm

    The poles of other, more remote, SolarSystem planets are hot, e.g. Saturn, and all the planets are active. Auroras can even be seen on Uranus. We are part of a dynamic system.

  19. August 22, 2018 6:32 pm

    There was another BBC report, on outside source which showed a graphic of the area on ice involved. The rest of the north pole was shown totally free of ice.
    I suspect that many people who were not well informed would assume that there was no ice at the North Pole.
    It really is disgraceful that the BBC get away with this fake news.

    • August 22, 2018 6:52 pm

      I posted a pic of the graphic here:!topic/weatherandclimate/g4OjrD4D96Q

      • Athelstan permalink
        August 22, 2018 9:23 pm

        ‘Outside source’

        ‘newsround’ for adult kids.

        The graphic was and no doubt of it, deviously intended sleight of hand, disgusting but unsurprising – the bbc have given up all pretence to even handed objectivity. Presently the bbc, most of their output is downright propaganda – not news: just pure politicized deceit.

      • dave permalink
        August 23, 2018 7:15 am

        “The graphic…”

        There is probably an element of the “true believer” not being able to stomach the sight of something which makes him doubt his senses. He will blue out the “unimportant ice.”

        We also see a constant vacillation as to what is important to the narrative. If sea-ice volume were really still decreasing THAT is what would be graphed.

        The silly thing about the multi-year ice is that it all disappeared – except for a few hundred thousand square kilometers – years ago – flushed down the Fram Strait by extra wind.

        This was supposed to herald a ‘death spiral’ but did not.

      • dave permalink
        August 23, 2018 8:52 am

        The summer melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet (the land ice) is ending. There were brief times when the melting was widespread, but this was offset by some unusual falls of snow. Both phenomena were possibly connected with the jet-stream meander which gave a good summer to England.

        The Surface Mass Balance can now be evaluated, and for the second year in a row it is markedly positive:

      • nigel permalink
        August 23, 2018 9:00 am

        There is a superstition that if a man has been slain and the murderer approaches him, the body will gush blood. I think a similar idea is presented with this story and the graphic.

        “The strongest ice has melted – in mute rebuke of us!”

      • August 23, 2018 9:07 am

        Sorry, that reference is a bit too subtle for me!

      • nigel permalink
        August 23, 2018 12:36 pm

        “…reference is a bit too subtle…”

        In the superstition, the body gushes blood in mute rebuke of the murderer.

        The melting of ice that was ‘never meant to melt’ is the poor old world’s way of telling us that we are killing it with carbon dioxide.

        As with most ‘news’ nowadays, it is all about force-feeding the people with crude emotion.

  20. Green Sand permalink
    August 23, 2018 11:06 am

    O dear, how sad, never mind! Well at least they are safe!

    ‘Dogbark Turns Back’

    “Good morning,
    Due to heavier than normal ice concentrations in the Canadian arctic
    waters north of 70 degrees, the Canadian Coast Guard, recommends that
    pleasure craft do not navigate in the Beaufort Sea, Barrow, Peel Sound,
    Franklin Strait and Prince Regent. CCG icebreakers cannot safely escort
    pleasure craft. Operators of pleasure craft considering a northwest
    passage should also consider the risk of having to winter in a safe
    haven in the Arctic, or in the case of an emergency, be evacuated from
    beset vessels. Safety of mariners is our primary concern.

    Then he told me that Franklin Strait has started to refreeze. Franklin Strait is one of the main bottlenecks that we hoped to traverse to complete the passage to Greenland. We can’t even get there because the border between Alaska and Canada is blocked, with the only other boat westbound with us stuck in the ice, unable to move forward or retreat.

    He painted a wonderful picture of us stuck in Cambridge with Dogbark frozen in and the girls breathing air that freezes right out of your lungs.

    We got the hint.

    Turning back was a very hard decision. There were some tears, and some group hugs……

  21. matthew dalby permalink
    August 23, 2018 10:11 pm

    Presumably once temperatures drop close to 0 ice free ocean will lose more heat than water that is insulated by ice. Therefore low sea ice extent is part of natures thermostat and should be celebrated.

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