Arctic sea ice delusions strike the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph

Iceland 046sThe Mail strikes yet again, and is as usual reliably unreliable. We have had a raft of articles this weekend claiming that the panic is over …

The basis for both articles is the observation that Arctic sea ice extent grew 60 percent in August 2013 as compared to August 2012. While this is factually correct, the conclusions they derive from this are a gross distortion of what is actually going on, it is exactly what the Climate Scientists expected. Reading climate scientist Ed Hawkins noted last year,

“Around 80% of the ~100 scientists at the Bjerknes [Arctic climate science] conference thought that there would be MORE Arctic sea-ice in 2013, compared to 2012.”

The nice chaps over at the Guardian do a great job of debunking this tabloid daftness and explain it like this

The reason so many climate scientists predicted more ice this year than last is quite simple. There’s a principle in statistics known as “regression toward the mean,” which is the phenomenon that if an extreme value of a variable is observed, the next measurement will generally be less extreme. In other words, we should not often expect to observe records in consecutive years. 2012 shattered the previous record low sea ice extent; hence ‘regression towards the mean’ told us that 2013 would likely have a higher minimum extent.

They also have a rather nice graph that paints the real picture …
Side note, minor quibble – I don’t like the use of the term “skeptic” in the above, it is an abuse of the word, a better term is “Climate change denier”, but that aside, it illustrates the problem quite well, when we get an extreme and then a regression towards the mean, the story that uptick generates in isolation is not telling you what is actually going on.

The stark reality is that  the Arctic has lost 75 percent of its summer sea ice volume over the past three decades primarily due to human-caused global warming, and so while last year the weather helped melt more ice, and this year the weather helped preserve more ice, the long-term trend has not changed, we are still heading for an ice free Arctic.

Is that it?

You could forgive the Mail and Telegraph articles if perhaps they had simply made a mistake by latching on to this difference between last year and this year, but alas they went further and claimed that “scientists” are predicting that we’re headed into a period of global cooling. They both quote just one scientist making this claim – Professor Tsonis of the University of Wisconsin,whose research shows that slowed global surface warming is only temporary. The problem with that claim, as noted by Tsonis’ co-author Kyle Swanson is this …

“What do our results have to do with Global Warming, i.e., the century-scale response to greenhouse gas emissions? VERY LITTLE, contrary to claims that others have made on our behalf.”

The chaps in the Guardian also proceed to trash the mail and Telegraph articles as follows …

Both articles also wrongly claimed that global warming has “paused” since 1997. In reality, global surface temperatures have warmed over the past 15 years, albeit more slowly than during the previous 15 years. [They then proceed to explain why]

Both articles also claimed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose Fifth Assessment Report is due out in a few weeks, has been forced “to hold a crisis meeting.” This claim made both articles even though Ed Hawkins noted,

“I told David Rose on the phone and by email on Thursday about the IPCC process and lack of ‘crisis’ meeting.”

Unfortunately that didn’t stop Rose from inventing this meeting, or Dixon from repeating Rose’s fictional reporting in the Telegraph.

Finally, both articles quoted climate scientist Judith Curry claiming that the anticipated IPCC statement of 95 percent confidence that humans are the main cause of the current global warming is unjustified. However, Curry has no expertise in global warming attribution, and has a reputation for exaggerating climate uncertainties. In reality, the confident IPCC statement is based on recent global warming attribution research.

In other words, both the Mail and Telegraph articles are in essence … (I can say it in print, the nice chaps over at the Guardian can’t, they are too polite) … complete are utter bollocks. It is not a unique occurance, they both have a track record for this, the Telegraph gives Dellingpole a platform for his anti-science lunacy and David Rose at the Mail has a track record for getting the climate science consistently wrong.

The problem with all this is that it helps to create a huge disconnect between the public perception of what is going on, and what is actually going on, so when it comes to the hard decisions that need to be made, the politicians don’t get the support they need due to this flow of disinformation.

Lesson for the day: If you read something about Climate Science in either the Mail or the Telegraph, you should discard it because it is most probably wrong.

[PS .. no I did not nick the picture at the top off the Internet, its mine, I personally took it.]

Leave a Reply