Even journalists get tripped up into thinking this is photo from the North Pole. At the real North Pole, history shows this to be a relatively common occurrence.
It isn’t very hard to catch Al Gore and his Climate Reality project followers in ridiculous claims that don’t hold up. For example there was his statement on national television where he claimed the temperature of the interior of the Earth was “millions of degrees” and then there is his “Climate 101″ video that failed so they had to fake the results in post production. None of his followers call him out on such things, so it isn’t a surprise to find that they think this photo proves the North Pole is melting, far worse than before.
Only one problem: that picture wasn’t taken at the North Pole, it was taken over 300 miles away.
You see while they were busy lecturing the faithful, they forgot the one teensy-eeensy little detail about the source of this photo. It is from camera on top of the sea ice, and sea ice isn’t static, it moves. In fact according to the University of Washington who manages and tracks these floating cameras and weather stations, while they started out near the North Pole, they aren’t anywhere close to it now. See the map:
My annotations added, original source: http://psc.apl.washington.edu/northpole/
The North Pole Environmental Observatory web page describes their weather stations and webcams as “an automated scientific observatory in the central Arctic ocean” and describes the “Barneo 2013 buoy farm — including webcams.”
This “North Pole melted” image (and variants) got a lot of media play last week, showing the “lake at the North Pole” such as this AtlanticWire story saying “The North Pole has Metled Again” and this Daily Mail story, titled “The North Pole turns into a lake: Webcam captures melting ice following a spell of warm weather“.
That was enough to spur the sans-factually emotive Huffington Post into action with a before and after comparator:
Of course, like the Gore Reality Bots, all of these “journalists” also missed the simple fact that the photo was taken hundreds of miles away where the buoy had drifted to. They could easily check this themselves with about 30 seconds of work, visiting the source for the photo here:
Some of the blame for this nonsense goes to the University of Washington’s Dr. James Morison, who manages the page titled: “North Pole Environmental Laboratory”. When that page was put together, the Arctic hadn’t become the poster child for global warming yet, so the the naming was probably innocuous. However, that naming leaves the “webcam at the North Pole” assumption wide open for those that are factually challenged or just too lazy to check.
Using the contact info linked above, I’m sending a letter to Dr. Morison, asking him to fix this issue, naming the page something else, so fools won’t make the same mistake again next year. The webcam/weather station buoys spend most of their lifetime away from the North Pole, so the name of the web page is misleading, as has been aptly demonstrated by the fools in journalism and activism that didn’t look beyond the title this past week.
And, as of today, the “North Pole melt crisis” seems to be over.
And, of course, photos actually taken at the North Pole by the US Navy show that such open water is a regular occurrence in the past:
UPDATE: NYT’s Andrew Revkin pointed out the same issue is his essay:
Revkin has a unique perspective, in that he’s one of the few reporters on the planet that has actually visited the North Pole with a science team.
A Web search for “North Pole lake” turns up a lot of hype. I posted a YouTube video trying to clarify what is and isn’t going on:
Ponds of meltwater form routinely on Arctic Ocean sea ice in the summer. The sea ice is floating on the Arctic Ocean and in constant motion. The autonomous camera that took these images was placed on the ice a few dozen miles from the North Pole in early spring, but has since drifted hundreds of miles.
I’ve heard back from Dr. Morison at UW. He’s aware of the problem saying:
The lesson I’ve taken from this is that we need to do a much better job of explaining these images. What looks normal to those of us familiar with this particular environment can look alarming if we don’t provide the context.
I expect that we’ll see some improvements to the web page to discourage such future misunderstandings. I thank Dr. Morison for the willingness to engage the issue with me and to consider improvements.