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Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com

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History Books can Explain the Recent Record Low of Arctic Sea Ice

Recent headlines have referred to the fact that the arctic ice has melted to a record low and many are using this as evidence to support the theory of global warming.

The earth is tilted on an axis of 23.5 degrees in relation to its orbit of the sun. This means that in winter the sun is below the horizon in Arctic, plunging the whole region into perpetual darkness and causing temperatures to plummet to around 40 to 60 degrees below zero. At this time the whole of the arctic sea freezes over, but during the summer the opposite occurs. The sun is constantly above the horizon and temperatures reach into the 30’s causing the sea ice to melt. Lately the sea ice has been melting more and more, leading some to claim that the reason is manmade global warming.

The problem is that the people who make these claims, and the authors of the articles that report on the shrinking sea ice do not take into account the history of the Arctic and the natural cycle of the sea ice. Only by studying historic records could we understand the natural variations, and put the current levels into context.

Walt Meier, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, took the first steps to comparing current data with previous records and concluded that “in the context of what’s happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it’s an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing.”

Unfortunately Walt just didn’t look back far enough. The “satellite record” which he used only started in 1979 when the polar orbiting satellites were brought online. His study of the 33 years of records showed that there was no change in the amount of Arctic sea ice until the late 1990’s and this lends itself to support a different theory, that the sea ice is melting at the moment because the North Atlantic Ocean is in the warming phase of its long term cooling and warming cycle known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).

 In the mid 1980’s Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University used this cycle of warming and cooling to correctly forecast the era of increased hurricane activity we are experiencing now. Another natural result of the warming and cooling cycle will be a that the sea ice melts quicker, but to test this theory we must look for historic references to the amount of sea ice present in the Arctic during a previous warming phase in the Atlantic.

During the 1930’s the North Atlantic was in such a phase, and it was reported that the Soviet ice-breaker ships were able to sail waters that had never before been open for travel, the ship Sadko even managed to sail within 500 miles of the North Pole. And the average coal shipping season at Spitsbergen, Norway almost doubled in length from 95 days from 1909-1912 to 175 days from 1930 to 1938 due to the lack of sea ice.

Maybe global warming should not be given as much credit as it is for the current extreme weathers that are being experienced around the world.


By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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  • Leslie Graham on September 03 2012 said:
    Psudo-scientific gibberish from start to finish.So many basic errors I don't know where to start.
    But then you KNOW that already don't you.
    Have you people no shame at all.
    The Arctic has been in the AMO phase for 45 years just for starters.
    We know exactly why it's melting now.
    I hope one day you and your disgusting ilk will be brought to trial.
  • John on September 03 2012 said:
    Dear Charles

    I dont think you need an icebreaker to sail to 500 miles from the pole now it is generally clear water and in 20 years you may be able to sail to the pole.

    Thats 4 million squared Kilometres lost at summer since the 80's.

    on the good side we have more areas where oil can be accessd and so we will keep producing more C02 into the future from oil.
    Regards John
  • Christian on September 04 2012 said:
    When the NSIDC say that we're seeing fundamental changes, it's probably safe to assume they are making a considered statement, with reference to the scientific literature, rather than just ignoring everything other than the satellite data, as you suggest.

    So what does the scientific literature say? Here are a few papers I found with a quick google:

    This scientific paper, which summarises a wide range of other research, suggests that "[current] ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities."


    Another paper uses proxy records, and concludes that Arctic sea ice extent is the lowest it's been for 1450 years - it's covered here:


    What about the idea that the Arctic multi-decadal oscillation is to blame for ice loss? Well, this recent paper suggests, based on modelling, that there is a link between the natural cycle of the Arctic Multi-decadal Oscillation and sea ice loss:

    "The method used here shows that for the period 1979–2010, 0.5–3.1%/decade of the observed decline of 10.1%/decade is associated with the natural cycle of the AMO"


    In other words, the study suggests that up to a third of the ice loss may be due to this natural cycle - not all of it.
  • bmz on September 04 2012 said:
    "it was reported that the Soviet ice-breaker ships were able to sail waters that had never before been open for travel, the ship Sadko even managed to sail within 500 miles of the North Pole. And the average coal shipping season at Spitsbergen, Norway almost doubled in length from 95 days from 1909-1912 to 175 days from 1930 to 1938 due to the lack of sea ice."

    OK; how does that compare to 2012?
  • kharris on September 04 2012 said:
    Have to agree with the other two comments. The problem here is not just that the argument is thin, though it is. The problem is that the argument is thin in a way that suggests more eagerness to argue against global warming than to argue from the facts.

    That AMO was used to predict hurricanes is interesting in itself, and might be useful to argue that knowledge of AMO helps in making weather predictions. Putting aside the possible confusion of weather and climate, there is nothing in the hurricane anecdote which makes AMO the likely explanation for this year's ice melt. Similarly, knowing that an icebreaker could approach withing 500 miles of the Pole in the 1930s is not evidence for any particular cause of this year's ice melt. It all smacks of what Colbert calls "truthiness". To someone who wants to hear an explanation, a couple of anecdotes may sound like one. To anybody who is objectively looking at what you've presented, you've merely talked around the issue, without presenting any real evidence, at all.
  • Gordon on September 04 2012 said:
    The global warming proponents are out in force.

    They must be energized by a new months' supply of food stamps and promises of U.N. grants.....if, of course, their funded studies can produce the "right" conclusions.

  • John (Alaska) on September 04 2012 said:
    Gordon I agree 100%! We had record Snow fall last winter and record cold here in Alaska. Shell oil has been waiting for the sea ice to melt so they can start drilling offshore along with permits, looks like they are going to have a short open season. Want to know how mother nature works read the book Shadows on the Koyukuk. I'm 68 and had heard this BS since the 50's first it was we we going into an ice age now it's global warming, just a way for the people that want to run our lives down to the smallest detail to get more money. (FOLLOW THE MONEY)
  • Harold (Texas) on September 04 2012 said:
    The author needs to check the facts on the hurricanes. They've been on a decreasing trend in recent years. Not that it really matters. They'll be on a increasing trend soon enough followed by another decreasing trend. We'll also face droughts, floods, decreasing temps and increasing temps interspersed with "normal" years. In the same way that the Arctic ice will return to greater proportions, the end-of-the-worlders will just change their story.
  • Charles Higley on September 04 2012 said:
    It should be pointed out that low Arctic ice area is more a product of winds and Arctic storms driving the ice together. Melting is NOT the issue here.

    What is notable is the ice volume. Ice volume has at least doubled since the 2007 low and may have come closer to tripling in volume. Thus, melting has not been very good in recent years as the multiyear ice and ice thickness have both been increasing quite nicely.

    Leave it to the alarmists to chose a parameter that has little meaning.
  • Brian Carpenter on September 05 2012 said:
    I think the response of the Global Warming Advocates (henceforth GWA's) to any attempt to question their conclusions or have any kind of debate on an agenda which will impose a massive economic cost on the world is interesting. Leslie Graham wants the skeptics brought to trial for thought crimes. That attitude seems disconcertingly prevalent.

    And here's what bothers me most and gives me the most pause about fully accepting the GWA's position: shrieking and applications of social pressure (and if Leslie had his/her way, legal pressure) in the face of questions and challenges to one's assertions has all the hallmarks, not of civil discourse or scientific debate, but rather of a kind of Fundamentalist mindset which is easily recognize widely considered abhorrent when it is seen in religious people. Those possessing this mindset find their core identity threatened by the mere questioning of their worldview, and they lash out at anyone who dares to do so. That's a poor foundation upon which to construct a world energy and environmental policy, in my opinion.
  • David on September 05 2012 said:
    Maybe humanity will be able to drill for more oil if the Arctic ice keeps melting! I'm looking forward to this.
  • Landlubber on December 03 2012 said:
    I think this guy is on to something. The early 20th century was the beginning of the industrial age. Smoke was pouring out of steel mills and anything else that the world was producing. There was no concern over pollution
    This might be a good time to compare what happened after the Arctic melt then and whats happening today and what is going to happen tomorrow.
  • Lee on May 20 2014 said:
    I think more attention should be paid to the effects of soot on the Arctic ice melt. Black soot from industrializing nations has poured into the atmosphere and settled on the Arctic ice. It absorbs more radiation, of course, than white snow, heating and melting the ice. At different periods, the U.S. and Europe poured a lot of soot into the atmosphere, and now it's China and other quickly industrializing nations pouring ever more.

    Even James Hansen of NASA thought that it could be causing most of the Arctic melting--until he decided to become a doomsday profit against CO2. The point, after all, is not to blame industrializing nations for soot production but to have an excuse to tax rich nations for oil and coal use. The point is to build the UN up as an international body with some power and money, run by elitists who think they know what's best for society, to limit and ration resources.

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