Global Warming At The Pole Since 1913

Guest post by Steven Goddard


From the Catlin web site today – a first hand description of what motivates the explorers, and what they are learning about Arctic warming.

Thursday, 02 Apr 2009 10:04

“Men wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful.  Honour and recognition in case of success.”

Thousands of men (and three women) replied to Ernest Shackleton’s advertisement, which (the story goes) was placed in a London newspaper in 1913, ahead of his Antarctic expedition aboard the Endurance.

Polar expeditions have moved on in terms of technology and equipment, but the motivation and commitment to research that fuelled Shackleton and his team seem not to have altered.

“There’s a cocktail of motivational forces at work”, commented Expedition Leader Pen Hadow from the team tent, huddled over the sat-phone at the end of another long, cold day.  “You can sum it up by saying we feel a commitment to represent the Arctic Ocean as an eco-system and the three of us have the skills that allow us to gather the information that will enable people to be better informed about the state of the region and its future“.

But given temperatures of -40 degrees centigrade with a wind chill factor in the minus seventies, does the motivation that fuelled the team from their warm UK base in the planning stages, diminish?

Photographer Martin Hartley who’s been crawling into a frozen sleeping back that becomes a wet sponge overnight for longer than he cares to remember, remarks I’m getting extremely frustrated with the stupidly cold temperatures that are making my life a misery, day after day.  All I can think about, 24 hours a day, is getting a new sleeping bag on the next re-supply”.

But Hadow says he’s speaking for all three team members, himself, Hartley and Ann Daniels, when he concludes, “We’ve absolutely no regrets about being here.  Given that it’s so awful, our commitment to the research and our motivation is in fact what keeps us going”.

With a team currently preparing the next re-supply, Hartley should get his new sleeping bag within the next few days.

What I find interesting is the use of the word “But” and “stupidly cold” highlighted in red above.  It appears that what they are experiencing on the ground is not what they were expecting to find.

From yesterday :

The team covered a staggering 16.7km today, the biggest distance achieved to date. By covering so much distance since the last resupply (134.5km in 13 days), the team have observed the ice they are crossing is getting significantly older and thicker

So it is extremely cold and they are finding old, thick ice.  That does not sound like the sub-tropical Arctic as portrayed by The Guardian.

Flashback to February, 2008 OSLO, Feb. 29 (Xinhua) — The polar cap in the Arctic may well disappear this summer due to the global warming, Dr. Olav Orheim, head of the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, said on Friday.


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Harold Ambler

Alarmism about the Arctic continues.
Cryosphere Today shows the 2007 melt as a highlight video and insists upon calling it “this year’s ice,” despite an e-mail requesting that they update the site.
Do you think that they would have updated the video if 2008 had seen more melting than 2007? Do you think that most casual visitors to the site even know that the video of “this year’s ice” is not of this year’s ice?
Similarly, Cryosphere chooses to “bury” the information about the Antarctic ice’s resiliency far down on its front page, likewise with the global sea ice information.
Does the average person walking around in London, New York, and Paris have any idea that global sea ice is above the mean yet again in April of 2009?
Don’t answer that question.

Roger Knights

Shouldn’t there be a question mark at the end of this thread’s title?

Leon Brozyna

A concrete example of the power of cognitive dissonance.
I believe … I believe … I believe … and in the face of any evidence that may contradict any belief system, the True Believer trudges on, blinders in place, prepared to die in support of the belief system.
In this way are martyrs born.

What a great political marketing stunt!
The AGW crowd will use this “scientific expedition” for political gain for years even though the so-called data that they gain from the ice will probably not support their political agenda. They will “spin” the data!


Someone please remind me again why we cant get these measurements via satellite?


Ok, 2007 was an anomalous year when wind patterns blew a lot of the ice out of the Arctic and into the Atlantic where it melted.
2008 saw a recovery with more ice for a longer period than 2007 had but the ice was still mostly young and thinner.
2009 so far shows ice about a half-meter thicker than 2008 was, and there is a larger percentage of older, fresher ice (ice gets less salty with age) this year than last. It would be reasonable to assume that under “normal” arctic conditions this summer, there should be more ice in 2009 than there was in 2008.


The latest attempt to denigrate dissenters
They must find us threatening to be sending us to cyber Gulags.

Barry Foster

These Catlin people are certainly not scientists. I had better not convey my true feelings for them here – there may be children reading. Thing is though, they are being given a lesson – and that’s good. But it will take them so long to get to the Pole that they’re bound to come across thin ice somewhere that they will make a mountain out of for their cameras. It’s inevitable – a bit like the FIA banning Lewis Hamilton from at least one race this Grands Prix season.

Bill in AZ

Anyone with the least amount of investigative preparation for an expedition in extreme cold would know that you need a vapor barrier in your sleeping bag to prevent normal body moisture from accumulating in it. It accumulates because it freezes in the insulation and won’t evaporate. Some early expedition talked about 10 lb bags weighing 70 lbs after a period of time. I’m guessing they substituted swim trunks for vapor barriers, expecting sandy beaches and warm sunshine due to GloBull Warming.
Vapor barriers take some getting used to, but it is far better to have a dry bag and insulation, than melting all that ice around you every night – as they have discovered.

John Egan

But, but, but – – –
Didn’t the Wicked Witch of the West scream, “I’m melting!” ??

Alec, a.k.a Daffy Duck

speaking of sea ice, FYI:
WASHINGTON, April 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., will hold a media teleconference on Monday, April 6, at 11 a.m. EDT, to present the latest observations of sea ice conditions in the Arctic…..
To participate in the teleconference, reporters must contact Steve Cole at 202-358-0918 or for dial-in instructions no later than 5 p.m. EDT on April 3.

I have to admire their courage and fortitude, but the whole thing seems more and more like a nutty stunt.
It could be difficult for them by the sound of it, to eventually translate their “findings” into PC speak…

Robert Bateman

Stupidly cold as Stupidly deluded have concluded.
There’s a reason why people have died trying.
Even if they do make it to the pole before winter hits again, their measurements will be skewed by increasing temps as it takes way too long to survey the line.

Adam from Kansas

The ice seems fine for now if that’s what they’re saying, so not to worry too much about the polar bears.
The extent is declining now, but Cryosphere’s graphic shows more than half at least is in one spot which is the Sea of Oshtosk or however you spell it.
Meanwhile I look at today’s SST map and the negative PDO phase remains strong and should have an effect even with ENSO being neutral (the PDO negative anomaly area even seeing a couple spots of cold water upwelling, plus the cold spot off Africa remains and some very cold spots in the southern ocean.

John Egan

In a more serious vein –
On March 30, the National Snow and Ice Data Center published its report on the Arctic ice maximum.
“On February 28, Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent for the year, at 15.14 million square kilometers (5.85 million square miles). The maximum extent was 720,000 square kilometers (278,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average of 15.86 million square kilometers (6.12 million square miles), making it the fifth-lowest maximum extent in the satellite record. The six lowest maximum extents since 1979 have all occurred in the last six years (2004 to 2009).”
If you look at the satellite photo map, you will notice that Arctic ice is generally at 30-year extent except for two areas. It is beyond the 30-year line in the Bering Sea, but it is well less than normal in the Sea of Okhotsk.
And that is my main question – –
Why is the Sea of Okhotsk included in overall Arctic ice figures?
Yes, it seems that icing in the Sea of Okhotsk has undergone a significant change over the past 30 years, but the Sea of Okhotsk is an arm of the North Pacific Ocean – not the Arctic Ocean. Although there may likely be some deep current water mixing in the mid-to-long term, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Arctic Ocean are separated by more than 1500 miles. In fact, the Oyashio current off the coast of Kamchatka is southerly.
What gives?
What portion of Arctic ice shortfall comes for the Sea of Okhotsk?

Bruce Cobb

“There’s a cocktail of motivational forces at work”, commented Expedition Leader Pen Hadow… You can sum it up by saying we feel a commitment to represent the Arctic Ocean as an eco-system and the three of us have the skills that allow us to gather the information that will enable people to be better informed about the state of the region and its future“.
Yes, good sound bite. Sounds much better than “we’re really just here for the adventure, fame, and hopefully, the book and/or movie deals in the future.” The “scientific” aspect, and supposed “concern” for the arctic eco-system of course helped get them the backing for the expedition, and gives the whole thing a noble spin.


One used to be able to view data on the Catlin web site, but I can no longer find it. Anyone know if they are still publishing this data?


With this ill planned expedition we have a fine example of the power of belief. As Maxwell Anderson put it in his play about Joan D’Arc: “Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, nevertheless they give up their lives to that little or nothing, but to surrender what you are, and live without belief, that is more terrible than dying, more terrible than dying young.” They would rather die that surrender their beliefs, ill founded as they may be. These brave expeditionists (exhibitionists???) have chosen to risk their lives for such a doubtful cause that it surely increases the tragedy if they meet what is their likely fate. A simple well timed 3 day blizzard would pretty much wipe them out, And while the scientific value of their quest (belief) is obviously in the ‘little or nothing” category, they do believe in it, and so are willing to give up their lives for it.
The lesson for the rest of us? Choose your beliefs carefully.


Reality bites, as does frost.
I hope the damage to Martin’s hhands isn’t permanent, and that they get thei new sleeping bags issued with the vapour barriers they should have taken in the first place. As a seasoned cold weather backpacker, it seems to me that by deciding against taking them, they were making an assumption that the daytime sunlight and temperatures would be sufficient to dry the bags.
Pen Hadow is an experienced arctic explorer, I wonder how he is feeling about his influence on gear selection given Martin’s difficulties.


I wasn’t sure where to post this but I just received a letter from our Canadian Environment Ministry. I have a real problem with the fact that our government thinks the IPCC is sound science. I have told them so and suggested that they also look at the NIPCC. Any other suggestions.
1+1 Environment
MAR 3 1 2009
Ms. Eve Stevens
Dear Ms. Stevens:
On behalf of the Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Jim Prentice,
I am responding to your email message of February 18, concerning climate
change science.
For policy-makers, one of the challenges in developing policy on science-based
issues is to base this policy on “sound science.” Thousands of scientists around
the world are undertaking research relevant to climate change, and innumerable
new scientific papers are published in the scientific literature each year. The
generally accepted method for evaluating this evolving body of knowledge
is through a process of formal scientific assessment. The prerequisite for
inclusion in such an assessment is that the science has been peer reviewed
and is publicly available.
Through the assessment process, the results of any single scientist or paper
are put in context within the broader information base. I believe that the best
process for evaluating the scientific literature on climate change is that of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The rigorous scientific
assessment process used by the Panel is widely acknowledged by the scientific
community, and has been endorsed by National Academies of Science from
many countries around the world, including Canada. The Government of Canada
believes that Canada is served better by having this country’s distinguished and
well-respected climate experts contribute to the authoritative and rigorous
scientific assessments of the Panel, than by undertaking a more limited Canadian
scientific assessment or “audit” as you request.
The value of the Panel assessment process, as with other assessment
processes on science issues of public interest, is in the consensus building that
occurs during the preparation of assessment reports. This “consensus” does
not mean that there is unanimity among scientists, but rather that the authors
of the assessment agree that their report is a fair representation of the state of
scientific understanding at that point in time. Individual papers and individual
scientists may disagree with the conclusions, but the conclusions are consistent
with the larger body of literature that exists.
The most recent Panel assessment report was published in 2007. One of
the conclusions of this report was that warming of the climate system is
unequivocal, that most of the warming since the mid-20th century is very likely
due to the increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse ~~ses arisin
from human activity, and that of these gases, carbon dioxide has l’ik(l\th’e’ ;”
greatest impact.
The Government of Canada is very concerned about climate change, and there
is more than enough scientific evidence to warrant aggressive action to deal with
the problem.
I hope that the foregoing information is of assistance.
Brian T. Gray, Ph.D.
Assistant Deputy Minister
Science and Technology Branch
Environment Canada

Ian M

It is tempting to rush in with a comment just so I’ll be the first to post. But I won’t…..
Let us hope that the expedition members come to their senses soon.


A true sign of intelligence is that something is learned when the facts don’t confirm your bias. Cognitive dissonance can be a useful thing, but only if you really look at it objectively.

P Folkens

An integrity test is in the offing: will they report that the Arctic is wonderfully cold with plenty of thick ice and little or no signs of AGW-induced melting if that is indeed the case? Will they have the integrity to say that maybe all the global warming hype seems a bit exaggerated and the frozen north is not cooperating with predictions of an ice-free Arctic anytime soon?


Looks like the ultimate case of cognitive dissonance to me…

Layman Lurker

The book “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing is the most incredible book I have ever read.


Incredible… I am in agreement with comments from prior threads on this topic. These folks need to be brought home before they become meatcicles.

But so far not any contemplation of the expedition members about maybe some of the global warming prediction about the artic ice are not correct!?


I wonder how Shackleton’s crew would have fared if they had satellite phones and a regular “re-supply” of sleeping bags and the like. 😉 Don’t get me wrong – I’m not questioning the Catlin team’s determination or level of commitment. It’s their “cause” that is silly. But, reality tends to boot idealist’s arses in the end.

D Caldwell

Perhaps there will be a bit of real science contributed by this expedition. I cannot really say.
However, the greater purpose is obviously to contribute to the advocacy and awareness efforts that now make up a majority of the “climate science” community’s activities.

John H.- 55

I fail to see how their measurements will have any use whatsoever.
It doesn’t appear they are going over a previously measured pattern.
They are randomly measuring?
Will they be compared to prior measurements?
I don’t get it.
What is the point?
To discover ice and that it’s really cold up there?

Jeff B.

It almost appears that these fools are trying to become martyrs for the cause of AGW alarmism. Death takes all the sport out of it.

Adam Soereg

They must’ve seen the starving polar bears promoted by the AGW camp up there. Why is that I can’t find any post about this so-called ‘fact’ on their blog? Strange, very strange…
Mr. Goddard,
I would say you have a very good point here. Spending months on floating ice, in darkness and continuous blizzard conditions with temperatures reaching 40 below zero can be quite disappointing for someone who wants to see catastrophic melting. They have to face these extreme conditions day by day. Maybe after some frostbite, they will thinkt twice about warming is a disaster or not. But what had they expected in the end of Arctic winter? And about their ice thickness measurements, the results will be completely meaningless from a scientific point of view. Firstly, they can’t guarantee an acceptable coverage for their observations. Secondly, at the moment we don’t have any reliable data about average sea ice thickness in the past, so we can’t compare the newly gathered information to anything. However, I can give much more respect to the Catlin Explorers than to Mr. Pugh and his alarmist crew.
I have to believe that real motivation of these people are quite different from the one represented in the MSM. To prove the shrinkage of the polar ice at this time of the year seems to be nonsense, it must be something else. “Men wanted for Hazardous Journey. […]Honour and recognition in case of success.”

B Kerr

If you do not mind me saying, that is a rather poor picture of the North Pole.
Not the North Pole that I want to go to.
Oh no!
To me the North Pole should be friendly and have lots and lots of flags were we can hold hands and where we can all put on a yellow Parkas, which we can keep.
Now that is the North Pole.
None of this silliness about pulling sledges and getting frost bite.

Antonio San

Nature is the biggest denier of all…
The NSIDC and Walt Meier never answered when challenged about the 30 y average versus their ad-hoc 20 y average. Meier also did not explain why the Arctic sea ice has started to decline specifically from the 1970s, coincidental with the well documented climatic change in atmospheric circulation patterns (Leroux, Favre & Gershunov, Pommier).
Fortunately the IJIS website provides more objective data (graphs from 2002) and anyone can see that maximum Arctic sea ice doesn’t always translate with less melt. People like Serreze are just pushing their agenda while Meier looks like he is trying to keep his job with such an extremist breathing on his neck.
As for this Catlin expedition, their media circus is now turning against them and this is justice.


Eve (09:05:56) :
From the letter, it is obvious that this big bureaucratic machine won’t move position until the next report. Let’s just hope real science will be incorporated in the next report.

Steven Goddard

From the NSIDC press release:

the fifth-lowest maximum extent in the satellite record. The six lowest maximum extents since 1979 have all occurred in the last six years (2004 to 2009).

In other words, the second highest in the last six years – and a 10% increase over the last three years.
Surprising that NSIDC didn’t mention those minor details.


I am pretty sure the Catlin team feel they are extreme sportsmen rather than “explorers” or “scientists”. They know perfectly well that any science (whatever it amounts to) could have been done more safely and comfortably if science was the purpose. But it’s not and never was. The test of endurance and flirting with danger is the whole point of their approach. People don’t run marathons to get from A to B; same deal. The “science” is a fig-leaf.


Eve, the reply you got from Environment Canada seems to be in large part a form letter. We can be certain that Brian T. Gray, Ph.D. Assistant Deputy Minister is himself a devoted AGW believer. What I know as a Canadian is that PM Stephen Harper used to be a non-believer, but is now running scared of canadian and world opinion on this subject. Remember that publicly displaying skepticism about AGW cost ex-environment minister Rona Ambrose her job.

Steven Goddard

My problem with the value of detailed measurements of ice thickness, is that the state of the ice is the product of a chaotic sequence of vents over many years, particularly due to the effects of wind.
Since the ability to model wind more than a few days in advance is essentially nil, I don’t see how the detailed measurements they are taking can be particularly useful in modeling the future behaviour of the ice.
It is similar to equity modeling programs which are based on observed data from the past. They generally are completely useless at forecasting the future.
Sounds like a good blog topic………

Mark Nodine

FWIW, according to the ASMR-E Sea Ice Extent graph, 2009 appears to have had the earliest maximum ice extent on record. Horrors!

Steven Goddard

When I was younger, I did a number of solo winter backpacking adventures in extreme cold and very deep snow in the mountains. They were all very high risk and I don’t regret having done them.
I completely respect the crew for their daring exploits, and hope they are as lucky as I was in returning unharmed. Imagine the stories they will tell their grandchildren! Kids love adventure stories.


That reminds me of pretty much all the episodes of Star Trek where the “scientists” would always die in the process of showing they were right on their “science”.
Do we have a case of Star Trek Red Uniform Syndrome? (i.e. you could always tell which one would die, because they were always new, and had a red uniform)

Jim Arndt

Gee Grandma how did Grandpa die? He died on the Arctic Ice cap, he froze to death. Why was Grandpa there? He was measuring how thick the ice was there. Why was he doing that? He was studing global warming. Grandma whats “global warming”?
Seriously these guys need to leave before they do become a footnote.

An insufferable quote from the article:
“Given that it’s so awful, our commitment to the research…”
These people wouldn’t know ‘research’ if it bit them on the nose.


There was yet another example of alarmism over the last month whose predictions failed to materialise. Conficker was supposed to hijack millions of computers on April the 1st and start swallowing up loads of bandwidth and messing around with computers. Nothing noticeable happened.


FWIW, according to the ASMR-E Sea Ice Extent graph, 2009 appears to have had the earliest maximum ice extent on record. Horrors!


Team’s equipment designer expects the ice to be gone in a few years. Did he design equipment which can handle thick old ice?

Perry Debell

D Caldwell (09:47:25) :
OT, but your name is a famous one amongst British mariners of WW2.
The CO when the ship was disabled in the Atlantic was Lt.Cdr. Eric Morrison Mackay, DSC, RD, RNR who went on to command HMS Braithwaite.
The full stories of both ships were recorded in the book “Yankee RN” by an American who joined the Royal Navy before Pearl Harbour.

are you lookin at me, pal?

Antonio San (10:19:05) :
In response to my question some time ago to NSIDC:
“Has anyone published a narrative explanation of the entire sea ice satellite record from 1978 onwards, and what has caused the year to year variations, presumably a combination of oceanographic and meteorological factors.”
I received the reply:
“The following paragraphs were provided by NSIDC’s sea ice scientist, Walt Meier. I thought this might be helpful to you. In general sense, no, no one has published a detailed narrative explanation of the entire sea ice record from 1978 onwards. That’s because scientifically, it’s not particularly interesting. Short term year-to-year variations are mostly influenced by seasonal weather variation – warm summers tend yield lower extents, etc. – that are pretty clear and don’t yield any particular insights. Where the interesting things happen is most notably the long-term changes, about which there have been many many papers written.”
I still think that a description of the year to year variations is a worthwhile project. Anyone got a graduate student looking for a project?

tallbloke (08:52:15) wrote:

… and that they get thei new sleeping bags issued with the vapour barriers they should have taken in the first place. As a seasoned cold weather backpacker, it seems to me that by deciding against taking them, they were making an assumption that the daytime sunlight and temperatures would be sufficient to dry the bags.

The thing is, in weather as cold as they’re experiencing, there is no reason to climb into a wet sleeping bag, or clothes, for that matter. Lay the bag out, fully open. All the water will freeze. Then you beat the ice out as you would whisk a rug to remove the dirt. Been there, done that, don’t plan to do it again.