What if the Catlin Arctic Ice Survey is for naught?

Guest post by Steven Goddard

Hell Hath No Fury….

A very hard day.

Catlin team member Ann Daniels had another very difficult day.

Today has been a difficult day of highs and lows, particularly for Ann, whose morning got off to a particularly bad start. In order to power the different technical components of the kit, the team use large batteries, which need to be heated to a certain temperature in order to extract the maximum amount of power. The process of heating batteries involves Ann, sitting by her stoves for several hours, using a specially insulated piece of equipment to capture the steam from boiling water, in order to get the batteries to the correct temperature.

Ann reached her lowest point of the expedition so far, when after tending the boiling pans of water for several hours, she realised she had pre-heated the wrong battery and had accidently picked up the dead battery from the previous day. It was a painful and frustrating realisation at the end of a cold morning.

On the plus side, at the end of the day, Ann felt warm enough to take off her sledging jacket when getting into her sleeping bag for the night. This is the first time in the 41 days of the expedition so far that she has felt warm enough for this luxury. She adds that she was still wearing 3 pairs of trousers, 2 thermal top layers, 2 hats and 4 pairs of gloves, but still, quite a landmark in the expedition so far!

Consider the following scenario.  All goes well and the team arrives home safely some time in the next six weeks.  Now, suppose that the Arctic continues to show recovery this summer, and the realization sinks in that the very premise of the expedition may have been flawed.

Such a surface Survey has never before been attempted, and the need for the information has never been greater. Current estimates for the disappearance of the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover vary from 100 years away down to just 4 years from now. Whatever happens, the consequences of its meltdown will be of global significance in terms of sea level rise(due to thermal expansion of the oceans), the geo-politics of energy resources, rainfall patterns and the availability of water supplies and, of course, the impact on biodiversity, including polar bear.

How would she feel?  One can only speculate.  But as the Catlin team suffers on the ground, the satellites are watching the ice recover.

Since 2007, the global sea ice area anomaly has increased by more than 3,000,000 km2 and is now more than 600,000 km2 above the 1979-2000 mean.  You could fit England, Spain, France and Mexico inside the recovered ice area.



Arctic sea ice extent is rapidly approaching an eight year high for the date:



Arctic ice extent is converging on the 1979-2000 mean:




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this is fun stuff…i can’t wait to see what the summer brings!

GW Denier

Oh come on, the conclusion has already been written. This is the first part of Climate (won’t use the word science) Alchemy.
These idiots are going to get the data and select the results which shows their flawed hypothesis is correct.


“…suppose that the Arctic continues to show recovery this summer, and the realization sinks in that the very premise of the expedition may have been flawed…”
Simply deny the obvious.
I can image a response something along the lines of: “Due to insignificant variations found in all complex systems there may possibly have been some slight increase in the ice cover recently, however at a deeper analytical level it is obvious that the long range trend continues in an ominous direction.”

Jeff Norman

“How would she feel? One can only speculate.” Okay. 😉
Like a self righteous martyr?

Mike Bryant

That IPod graph has it higher now at +.933
OOPS they just changed it to -.341
I guess they didn’t like the looks of the Global Sea Ice Picture so they changed it to the Arctic Sea Ice only… Ya just gotta love those guys at CT.


Is it just me, or does the anomaly graph have an absolutely huge amount of variability at the end of it? That leaves me with the question, which takes more energy: melting or freezing?
The realization the expedition is for naught is the scenario I hope for, but just to have them home and alive (though still brain-addled) would suffice. The worst scenario would be to have them don their immersion suits and never come back for naught.

Leon Brozyna

Sadly, it won’t be for naught. If nothing else, the proponents of this belief system are skilled propagandists. They will point to the ‘success’ of this effort and show how thin the ice is, even if the extent increases.
Expect the effort to be cut short because of the amount of ice that opens up; proof of how fast the ice is melting. I bet it was planned this way.
No science, just a great propaganda coup.

Mike Bryant

They also haven’t updated the NH seasonal graph for IPod, can’t be showing people those rises I guess…


Collecting measurements in a year when the ice has recovered tends to set the stage for future expeditions which will be contrasted with the colder conditions of 2009 and the thicker ice.
I presume these guys are getting paid, and of course they are getting publicity, so I think so long as they don’t suffer any serious injury or health effect, they won’t feel too bad about their adventure, even if the mission gets aborted.


Fred (20:39:18) :
“… however at a deeper analytical level it is obvious that the long range trend continues in an ominous direction.”
and at a deeper analytical level than yours, it is also obvious, that a time range below a full period of the relevant ocean current cycles is not a long range trend.

Mike Bryant

I don’t think that was the Global Sea Ice graph before, I think they just made a mistake. But the seasonal graph hasn’t been updated in a while, and who knows what other problems they have. I guess since it is just an amateur part time effort, we should forgive all… even all those problems they STILL haven’t corrected…

Steven Goddard

I’m not sure what you are seeing, but the global ice area graph shows a modification time of:
Saturday, April 11, 2009 9:54:30 AM

Mike Bryant

I was looking at the IPod product, the link is at the bottom right side of the home page.

Mike Bryant

This is the graph I saw at first, I probably should have played with the IPod program a little more before I commented.

barbee butts

I really and truly wish that global warming had caught up w/ our crew and that it was as warm as Miami in February!
UMMMMM Not to be a kill joy. BUT!
This is a classic sign of hypothermia. The victim ‘feels’ warm. When, in fact, they are in dire, extreme, danger of death.
Please, Someone-save them. Their ignorance may be killing them! Like children. Poor, misguided, uneducated, children. Please, someone save them.


“This is the first part of Climate (won’t use the word science) Alchemy.”
I prefer Climate Gamer, since most of their predictions comes from nothing more than a glorified SimEarth.

If they come up empty-handed, they’ll just continue per the normal procedure. When it was clear that Arctic ice extent was rebounding, they started wringing their hands and saying that it was “new ice” that doesn’t count. The really, really important ice, they say, is the old, multi-year ice. When the average ice thickness is found to be another meter thicker than last year, we’ll hear something like this:
“The expedition has made an ominous discovery. They have found that the new Arctic ice, though several millimeters thicker than last year, is not high albedo ice, but darker, low albedo ice. This means that the Arctic ice cap is doomed to disappear this summer forever and possibly longer. ‘The situation is worse than we ever imagined,’ Pencil Shadow, experienced Arctic explorer, lamented. ‘Santa and his elves are already missing and believed drowned.'”

John F. Hultquist

Is the following done in their tent?
The process of heating batteries involves Ann, sitting by her stoves for several hours, using a specially insulated piece of equipment to capture the steam from boiling water, . . .
I think I now understand how the sleeping bags and outer-wear got so wet.
Or did I miss the part about her going outside the tent to generate steam?
In either case, there ought to be a better way.


I figure it this way. Man is an explorer species. Even without climate crisis he is driven to climb the highest peak, ford the deepest valley and trek his silly behind thru conditions that would kill him. Their data has been pretty useless from the begining as they are zig zagging their way across a moving ice pack. So what are they really measuring? How fast the ice moved that day more than anything else:P
What they are doing is however raising awareness. Look at their pictures, does it look like there is a lack of ice up there? Hahah I think for the most part they are proving that the ice is fine as most people will look and see rather than believe the written word. It is however a very bad time for science. Most scientists are coming off lookin like radical kooks.. sad.

John F. Hultquist

I’m still curious about the term “ice free.”
Current estimates for the disappearance of the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover vary from 100 years away down to just 4 years from now.
Consider this paragraph from Wikipedia
In 1940 the St Roch was sent on a mission to travel from the Western Arctic to the Eastern Arctic. The St. Roch completed the West to East voyage in 1942, taking 28 months to do so. For most of these 28 months the St Roch was frozen in. The St. Roch was the second vessel to traverse the Northwest Passage, and the first to do so from west to east. Upon her arrival in Halifax the St. Roch was given an extensive refit, giving her a larger engine, and a deckhouse, increasing her accommodation. The refit was completed in time for her to make the return voyage to Vancouver during the ice-free period, completing her voyage in less than eighty-six days.
Does the term mean “no ice anywhere” or does it mean “a whole lot of unconnected patches” or does it mean “some ice that one can easily maneuver around in a ship.”
The folks on the St. Roch – would they not have keep detailed records of the conditions and described what is called “ice-free” in the above? The ship on its previous voyage was frozen in and took 28 months to make a one way passage. The return took only 86 days. Were they prepared for a trip like the first, or did they know they would encounter an “ice free” period?
Did “ice free” mean to the crew of the St. Roch what it means in 2009 to the Gorical and friends?

John F. Hultquist

The italics didn’t work as expected. Sorry.

Bobby Lane

Ohioholic (20:53:07) :
That leaves me with the question, which takes more energy: melting or freezing?
I’m no scientist, but from what little I know I think the answer to your question would be melting. Cold is just a lack of heat, which is a low form of energy. When something like water freezes that means the molecules in it are less excited and thus have a lower energy content. It is when water is heated, like say to a boil, that the molecules become excited enough to release energy in the form of heat which we see as steam. Of course, heating water requires some external source whereas freezing water just requires the lack of a heat source and some way to release/radiate heat away from the molecules. Think of it this way: which is easier – to eat or to starve. To eat is preferable by far, of course, but if there is a lack of food there is not much one needs to actually “do” to starve other than not eat.

Robert Wykoff

I agree with barbee…the “warm” comment stuck right out to me immediately. Get them out of there before its too late.
OT…Its official…600 spotless days!!! And going on 36 since the last official NOAA sunspeck. Though, I don’t want to jinx it by having Anthony the bringer of spots and the destroyer of spots commenting on it…lol

Bobby Lane

well, let me correct myself slightly. the effect of boiling water is to transform it from a liquid to a gas over time. the energy release is heat. the physical effect is steam as water goes from a liquid state to a gaseous state. that is nit picking perhaps, but I thought it warranted a slight correction.

Tom in Norway

Reading the description of Ann’s domestic chores above I am somewhat reminded of “The Famous Five” by Enid Blyton:

Les Francis

Long time ice extent.
Does this mean 1979 – 2000 or 1900 – 2000 or 1000 – 2000?
It seems like comparing ice extent to a period of only 20 years which has a known warming anomaly is fruitless.
More meaningful would be a comparison within the Holocene boundary would it not?


Jeremy Clarkson will soon pick them up.
In an SUV, because that is what he used to get to the North Pole over a year ago when the sea ice extent was less.


Whatever happens, the consequences of its meltdown will be of global significance in terms of sea level rise(due to thermal expansion of the oceans)

Haven’t they got this the wrong way round? Isn’t the so-called meltdown because of ocean temperature rise?
Also, surely the albedo of the ice depends on it’s extent and not on it’s thickness.

That leaves me with the question, which takes more energy: melting or freezing?

Melting involves a greater difference in energy than freezing does, due to the latent heat.

In this sense, they may help the global warming church if they sink – perhaps including an airplane – and “prove” that some ice has disappeared there. If they can easily get to the North Pole during the late spring or summer, it will be strong circumstantial evidence that nothing is really melting over there.
So the church is waiting for its first martyrs! I am sure that the survivors will say that the death was not caused by fanatic bigotry and profound mistakes in planning but rather by SUVs. But I am less certain that in this case, there will be too many insane people who will buy this explanation.

John Edmondson

Freezing and Melting are 2 sides of the same coin. It takes exactly the same amount of energy to melt ice as to freeze it.


What evidence for a recovery this summer is there currently? I see none so far.


how does that gloabl ice area graph fit into a story about the arctic exploration?
Arctic sea ice extent is rapidly approaching an eight year high for the date:
i think this is a pretty weird statement. current sea ice is below the 2008 one. and 2008 happened to become the second lowest summer extent that we have on record.

Paul S

Such a surface Survey has never before been attempted, and the need for the information has never been greater.
Therefore if this is to be a correct scientific experiment, there is no comparable data. This expedition would have to be re-run again to get data to make comparisons with.

Tom P

The Catlin team might be more interested in the Arctic rather than the global ice anomaly. The up-to-data anomaly is here:
with the iPhone version here:
Both are in agreement and show that the current Arctic anomaly is an ice loss of 341,000 square kilometers.

Pierre Gosselin

Ann mixing up the batteries is a sign of poor cognitive ability, possibly brought on by hypothermia – or just plain fatigue. Both are a hazard in such an environement. People who suffer from hypothermia often do “feel warm”. I hope this is not the case for Ann.
This all reminds me of Jack London’s short story:
Given the fatigue the crew appears to have, it seems very unlikely they’ll have strength left to make any real progress in the weeks ahead. Mistakes in such a harsh environment can be very costly.
Again, why didn’t they use snow machines or dog sleds?
They would certainly have been far more productive.

Richard Lawson

Listening to Pen speak on the Daily Telegraph site he says that he is drilling the ice only “most days”
That’s different from four drills a day!

Roger Knights

AndyW (00:17:15) wrote:
“What evidence for a recovery this summer is there currently? I see none so far.”
Take a look at the first and third figures atop this thread. They show that there’s been a recovery relative to 2007.

Barry Foster

What hope have we got realistically of knowing whether we’re into warming or cooling? For a little while I’ve been following the radar forecast for weather for the UK here http://news.bbc.co.uk/weather/ It’s REALLY poor! What is forecast one day for the next gets changed almost every day! You’ve got to follow it to believe it. They’ll say it’s going to be fine, then whoosh – the cloud comes in where yesterday it was forecast to be cloud-free! It’s dire – we haven’t a hope of apparently knowing weather or climate the very next day! Sorry for all the exclamation marks – annoyed and bemused.

Roger Knights

Here’s my key takeaway from the conclusions to Drake’s article (cited above):
“5. Presently, based upon the reportedly “most accurate” satellite data from AMSR-E (IRAC JAXA), Arctic sea ice extent is increasing at an accelerating rate.”


Predictions are difficult, especially about the future 🙂
According to http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm ,
the only date ice extent values higher than april 11 2009 was 2003 and 2008.
If 2009 follow the same steep decline as some of the other 21 century years in april/may, it may move back to a “typical” 21 century year. If the current trend (slope) continues, it might however soon be the post 2002 year with highest april/may NH ice extent.
In Cod we trust

Roger Knights

Oops: In my reply to Andy, I should have said that we’ll have to wait to see how this summer compares to prior ones. (But the trend is looking good, and the decadal oscillations have turned cool, so I’m hoping.)

Margo's Maid

Being an alarmist means never having to say you’re wrong.


A more general comment, on the ice-extent trends. When the Polar basin is fully frozen, the possible expansion of ice-extent will be the Beering sea, the Okhotsk sea, the Barents Sea, and the Danmark and Baffin Straits.
When the ice is reciding, there is a conspicuous “uniformation” of extent around may. I suspect this coincides with the desintergration of Beering Sea Ice, and when the disintegration of ice in the Chukchi Sea starts.
In Cod we trust


I just hope that someone gets the poor buggers out of there in time to save them. Commitment to a cause it one thing but there are better informed folk, even on the AGW side of the argument who should have stopped their stupidity. Why not I ask….?

M White

OT “The Weather Show looks at the arguments surrounding climate change”
“The more we control our environment” a definite God complex there.
Climate expert – definition – I’d love to know


About the recovery:
2007 was a very special year with a very special wind pattern, everybody knows that. Projections based on actual models estimate an ice-free Artic in the summer not before 2030-2040.
The question one really needs to answer is: will 2009 confirm the multi-decennal declining trend or not? For the moment, 2009 is below 2008. Looking at the seasonal sea ice extent evolution
a confirmation of the actual decline trend would place a summer average extent of about 7 million km^2. If it is above that, then we could speak of a recovery.

Alan the Brit

What is the actual significance of sea ice thickness unless it is measured over a significant period of say 30 years but even then it is only a snapshot there & then so to speak.
As we are delving into the realms of fiction, I recall that marvellous spy thriller Ice Station Zebra! The nuclear submarine had to search for “thin” ice so that it was able to surface & break through the ice. So for something written & filmed almost 45 years ago, it suggests that the ice thickness varies considerably & probably always has done & therefore mos likely (95%) always will! Just a thought.
Anyway, Happy Easter to one & all, up to & including those three poor souls up there on the ice pack, if they are actually there.

anna v

There are two streams in the arctic melting.
Is it melting since the little ice age? It sure is, and I am very happy it has because I like the present climate.
Is the northern hemisphere melting faster because of CO2?
check the two :
From 2003, last time it hit the 0 anomaly, to now, the CO2 curve and the ice curve are anti correlated. So is not a candidate for any causation.
Let us stick to that. The A in AGW is not CO2 and all these idiotic cap and trade that will enrich the rich and kill the poor are not necessary at all.
So whatever is happening, it is not CO2 that is at falt. It might be soot, as we have seen elsewhere, I have no curve for soot.( http://www.junkscience.com/may03/wsj-Asian_Brown_Cloud.html ) to see if there are correlations. If it there is an A and it is soot, the problem is already solved without taxations: filters and scrubbings.
Maybe they should be measuring the soot content of the ice encountered, and then the trip might not be in vain.

F Rasmin

What is all this’Someone should save them’, and ‘They should step in and save them’. Apart from who this ‘someone’ or ‘Them’ is, the Catlin group are volunteers. The West is a democracy where we can do what we like so long as it does not frighten the horses! Next time these pleaders go trail walking or fishing, ‘Someone’ or ‘Them’ might come along to ‘Save’ them!