One of the favorite arguments of the Climate Alarmists is that we are losing Arctic Sea Ice. This is pure sophistry and exposes why Climate Alarmism is more theater than science. Real science simply doesn’t rely on half-truths, gimmicks, one-sided explanations and deliberate sophistry to deceive the public. This topic is so well known to be sophistry, it has even been identified in congressional testimony. It is also a frequent topic of Q&A, often asked by an ill-informed Climate Alarmists that end up getting an answer that doesn’t fit with their climate dogma.
What makes this such great sophistry, is that it is so convincing, but it is only a half-truth, only half the story. The Earth has two poles. Why do the Climate Alarmists only focus on one pole? That alone is a dead giveaway that something isn’t passing the “stink test.” When you look at the South Pole, you get the exact opposite chart. Funny how this fact is never mentioned. Oddly, the NSIDC has a dedicated page for Arctic Sea Ice but doesn’t have one for Antarctic Sea Ice, yet if you dig deep enough you can find they do track the Antarctic Sea Ice. This chart highlights why the Climate Alarmists only talk of the North Pole, and not the South. Antarctica hasn’t been losing ice, it has been gaining ice. 2016 looks to be an outlier, but the trend since 1980 has been an upward slope of 1.2%/year.
When the two data sets are combined into a “Global Sea Ice Area” chart, the global sea ice has been basically unchanged over the past 37 years, with the gains at the South Pole offsetting the losses at the North Pole.
Before you get too alarmed however due to the data only going back to 1979, there is plenty of evidence that the North Pole has had less Sea Ice prior to this time, when CO2 was at a much lower concentration.
Using Arctic Sea Ice also has another problem. The Arctic Sea Ice is contained with the borders of continents and has a rather limited Maximum size. The data, unfortunately, starts during one of the coldest periods in modern history. Back in 1979, the Climate Alarmism Du Jour was the coming ice age, so the data sets begin during a period of unusually large sea ice areas in the North Pole.
The real problem the Climate Alarmists have with scientifically explaining the loss of Artic Sea Ice is the same problem they have everything else, how to tie the loss of Arctic Sea Ice to CO2’s only mechanism by which to affect climate change, that being absorbing infrared radiation between 13 and 18 microns.
Trying to blame CO2 for the loss of the Arctic Sea Ice presents the same problem Climate Alarmists face trying to explain the loss of the Mt Kilimanjaro Glacier. For something to “melt” physics demands that the temperature must be above the “melting-point.” The North Pole’s atmospheric temperature rarely gets above freezing. How do you melt Sea Ice with below freezing temperatures? Temperatures in the Arctic are only above freezing for a very short period of time each year.
In reality, it would be very difficult for such short time periods of warmth to melt such vast areas of ice. The needed energy simply isn’t there considering melting is an endothermic reaction, and would pull vast amounts of energy out of the atmosphere. To melt that much ice, you need a lot of energy. The logical supply of this needed heat would be the extremely dense heat sinks of the oceans, and sure enough, the Arctic Ocean has been warming.
If it is concluded that imported energy from the oceans is the culprit, then the Climate Alarmists need to explain how CO2 trapping infrared radiation between 13 and 18 microns is warming the vast oceans, and they simply can’t. The physics don’t exist for CO2 to warm the oceans.
The other problem the Climate Alarmists have is trying to explain a variation with a constant. CO2 doesn’t vari around the globe or through most of the atmosphere. Unlike water vapor, CO2 is 400 ppm at the North Pole, it is 400 ppm at the South Pole, it is 400 ppm at the equator, it is 400 ppm at the surface and it is 400 ppm 70 km up in the atmosphere. CO2 evenly blankets the globe. How can CO2 cause Sea Ice loss in the Arctic, and Sea Ice gain in the Antarctic? It can’t under any falsifiable hypothesis approach.
Not only can constant CO2 not explain the differential in Sea Ice, it can’t explain the differential in temperatures between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The Northern Hemisphere is warming at a rate greater than the Southern Hemisphere. In any regression model (defined as Y = mX + b), that is dependent upon the location on the globe, CO2 is considered a constant. In the linear regression model Y = mX + b, CO2 is the “b,” and has no impact on the variation of “Y,” which is usually temperature. In any real science, constants are used to explain variations, that is why they are constants and have no slope assigned to them.
Once the cause is narrowed down to the oceans, the explanation for the loss of the Arctic Sea Ice becomes easy…the sun and the polar winds.
Unlike CO2 which is constant, the solar radiation that reaches the earth’s surface and the impact that it has on global climate is anything but constant, and explaining variations in temperature and climate with a variable is easy. In addition, the Northern Hemisphere has a disproportionate amount of land when compared to the Southern Hemisphere, so solar radiation that reaches the Northern Hemisphere has a different impact on the global climate as solar radiation that reaches the Southern Hemisphere.
Changes in the earth’s “eccentricity,” “obliquity,” “precession,” cloud cover, atmospheric particulate matter and sea ice extent all impact the amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. More solar radiation reaching the Southern Hemisphere would result in warmer oceans. Additionally, warmer oceans, especially previously cold oceans, would outgas CO2 (Henry’s Law), so an increase in atmospheric CO2 is highly correlated with warming oceans, but warming oceans have nothing to do with atmospheric CO2. Visible radiation, not infrared radiation between 13 and 18 microns, warms the oceans. Recent research, in fact, has demonstrated the concepts detailed in this article to be valid, and the 100,000 year ice age cycle does link orbital periods and sea ice.
Polar winds also impact the polar ice. When the polar wind blows the ice out into the Northern Atlantic, more of the ice melts. In this case, the warmth isn’t brought to the ice, the ice is brought to the warmth. When the winds blow in the opposite direction, it contains the ice in the cold polar region.
Now that the wind is reversing, the ice has begun to thicken. If this trend continues, it is going to be interesting to see how the climate alarmists blame the thickening of the ice on CO2.