Busted: Catlin Arctic Ice Survey "Didn't Expect" To Find First Year Ice

The farcical account of the Catlin Crew continues. You don’t even have to dig deep anymore to find as many holes in their stories as they say they are drilling. In addition to what Steve points out, our own “Charles the moderator” provided the video framegrab below, notice anything interesting? You can watch the Quicktime video showing how they do “drilling and measurement” on the Catlin website developer, Indigopapa.tv,  is here .


Click for larger image

In case you don’t see it, the answer for the clip above is at the end of the article. – Anthony

Guest post by Steven Goddard

In the April 15 Catlin blog, they made the following statement:

Wednesday, 15 Apr 2009 12:39

The Catlin Arctic Survey has now released its first set of ice and snow thickness measurements, showing the floating sea ice cover it has travelled over in the early stage is predominantly new ice, with an average thickness of 1.77m.  The findings were obtained by manual drilling and are currently being analysed by science partners.

Finding ‘First Year Ice’ in this part of the Ocean was not what the Ice Team had expected at this stage of a route chosen, in conjunction with science advisors, to begin in an area where there would be multi-year ice. It suggests that the older, thicker ice has either moved to a different part of the ocean or has melted. This First Year Ice will only have formed since September 2008 and, being thinner, is less likely to survive the annual summer thaw. It points to an ever-smaller summer ice covering around the North Geographic Pole this year.

This is interesting, because according to the NSIDC map of ice age, their start point was squarely on first year ice – as measured by NSIDC in February.  I overlaid the NSIDC February map on top of the Catlin route map – seen below.  NSIDC shows multi-year ice as shades of red and orange, and their start point was more than 100km away from the edge of the multi-year ice.
See below:
If they were looking for older ice, there were many obvious (and shorter) routes they could have chosen.  What made them choose this route, which was apparently too long to be completed and which started on first year ice?
NSIDC map – yellow is first year ice
On April 2, the team reported that they were on “older and thicker” ice:

We’ve noticed that the ice is older and thicker than before

yet on the April 15 blog they state:

The Catlin Arctic Survey has now released its first set of ice and snow thickness measurements, showing the floating sea ice cover it has travelled over in the early stage is predominantly new ice, with an average thickness of 1.77m.

Ice age is quantized.  The age of the ice is either one, two, three, four, or more years.  There are no intermediate values, so their apparently contradictory statements are difficult to reconcile.

At the other end of the measurement spectrum, NASA’s IceSat has made more than 1.9 billion ice measurements already this spring – with no hypothermia or frostbite.

ICESAT Satellite Image

ANSWER: The tape measure shows a red 7F marker. That’s 7 feet for our Euro and UK visitors. Now why would they measure in feet then convert to meters?:

“…with an average thickness of 1.77m” source: April 15 Catlin blog

when you can easily buy metric tape measures with calibration certificates in Great Britain?


I could be wrong, but I watched the video several times to see if I could see evidence of perhaps printing in English units one side and Metric on the other, I did not see any and I did several frame grabs. It looks to me as if one side is blank and the other printed only in Feet and Inches. It appears to me that the tape is translucent white, perhaps a cloth or vinyl tape which would be lighter than a steel one since they have gear carrying considerations to make.

Readers feel free to double check my observation and report in comments. – Anthony


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That’s what you call really, really talented spin! What are the odds that the MSM will eat it up while conveniently overlooking the facts.

Jack Green

Catlin = amateur . You can’t believe anything out of these guys. They are activists with an agenda not scientists. you could get the data you want from these pros. http://expeditions.iceaxe.tv They get to the pole in 10 days.


Obviously, they wanted a forum where they can pander their pre-conceived conclusions. This expedition provided such and has generally been acceptable to the willing audience. They will find what they are looking for, with no pretense of objectivity.

Perhaps they are lost? 🙂


This is easy to explain. The people at the home camp simply misheard ‘first year ice’ when Pen said ‘My beer is ice.’

Mike Bryant

So sad that the scientists planning the route did NOT realize that it was over first year ice. Does anyone know the name of the scientist that planned the route without knowing what type of ice they would measuring? Is the Guardian going to be all over these lies? Will Prince Charles demand the royal monies be refunded so he is not made a laughingstock?
Please… Don’t Catlin me Bro…

Craig Moore

The quality and usefulness of the expedition’s science reminds me of the fly joke. As the wife returned home her husband said to her that he killed 5 flies, 3 males and 2 females. She asked how the heck did you determine that? The husband said that 3 were on my beer can and 2 were on your phone.
Not much different than finding thin ice when drilling in thin ice but declaring surprise by the discovery.


Come on, you didn’t really expect them say something else did you?

George M

Well, I haven’t installed a quicktime viewer, but enlarging the screen grab provided in the article, I believe I see digits on the reverse side just at the water level. I didn’t see them until I enlarged the picture, but it sure looks like there is something printed there. Any other frame grabs of longer sections the obverse, Steven?
REPLY: I saw that too, but there is also a lack of index marks. As I mentioned, I believe the tape is translucent, and that is the number showing through from the other side. There’s so much light and reflections from high albedo ice that the whole scene is filled with light in all directions. – Anthony


I have been following the Catlin group daily reports since they first started. I seems that I recall seeing collum diagrams of ice thickness and snow thickness for guite a number of days. The ice seemed to show about 3 meters in thickness and the snow on top aout 2 to 2.5 meters. I assumed at that time they were using there electronic gear to measure thickness. Does anyone else recall these measurements or am I wrong?

Dave Wendt

Interesting that they quote an ice thickness to centimeter accuracy, when the miserable condition of their test hole would make taking a reading to closer than 3-4 inches mostly meaningless. Also when they were attempting to highlight the grueling and perilous nature of their trek the website was littered with pics of them dragging their sledges over ice structures that all appeared to be 10′-20’+ high. I wonder how many ice thickness readings they took in those areas.

Anthony, it seems they brought more than one tape measure with them…this one appears to be in cms.
REPLY: I agree, that appears to be metric. But, note that this is an audio only report. Do we know the photo to be from the 3/14/09 date taken with the audio? There are lots of photos and videos taken before the expedition that are on the Catlin website, and the one I’m bringing attention to may well be one also. The problem that we have here is that we can’t verify anything they are presenting. – Anthony


I don’t get it.
They have a tape measure that measures in feet – probably because it was bought in the US.
But they report the results in metric because that is what the world uses.
Maybe it just me because I have a several tape measures and tend to use whatever I have on hand and convert as necessary….
REPLY: Possibly, but when planning a well funded science expedition, do you grab the old tape measure from your toolbox? 😉 – Anthony

Gary P

From the sidebar, the sea ice extent is very close the the seven year record high.
I never thought that watching ice not melt could be so much fun.
The forecast for the Alaska Arctic coast has highs of 15°F for the next week Lows of -5 to +5 °F.

Mr Watts, my dear friend, you are mistaken in thinking we do metric over here. Well, ok, the young people do but they soon grow out of it when they realise how much easier our crusty old Imperial measures are.
Some of us are still firmly wedded to that implacable truth: “Fog in English Channel, Europe isolated”.

I don’t doubt that, but metric is the measure of science, they are reporting thicknesses in metric, so why measure in feet? That is my main point. It is a curiosity. – Anthony


Err 7ft is over 2 metres why is no one saying that? You can not have 7ft on one side and 1.77 metres on the other! If the tape is actually metric then the measure is 2.1 metres. If the measure was in fact 5 feet 9.7 inches what are we worried about? Perhaps they didn’t realize there was anything other than imperial measure before this jaunt.


How do they keep the tape from freezing to itself when they are done?

Tom in Florida

I thought the whole world was on the metric system except for the U.S.
Couldn’t they obtain a metric tape measure in the UK? Or is ft/inches a standard international measurement? If so then why don’t they report it as such?


What is their method? Has the method been calibrated?

Ozzie John

Here’s another thought…..
The angle of the shadow from the small piece of ice just above the hole looks to be more than 20 degrees above the horizon. Given their location and time/day of the measurement what sun angle would be expected ?


My industry uses such radar imaging devices in much the same conditions. We don’t seem to have such problems with them. Hypothetically speaking, if I wanted to make my own preconceived results and I wasn’t getting such from the recorded data, I might, hypothetically speaking, make my equipment fail. Then I could, hypothetically speaking, make my own holes in the ice, which no-one will ever see, and measure whatever I wanted to measure, hypothetically speaking..


Catlin conversion, 100 inches = 1 meter?

Pamela Gray

That measurement was probably taken on a demonstrational lake using a demonstrational hole, with a demonstrational tape, that shows that the lake ice is equivocal to the Arctic ice measurement in situ.


Because of numerous previous “downwards adustments of ice extent” it may be wise at this point to peg this one
There is now a permanent record of most of these changes here
In particular cryosphere today does not seem to like it when either SH or NH ice goes up to much and downwards adjustments ALWAYS (LOL) changes due to “computer glitches” are quite common. Take note of current NH ice at cryosphere today and compare with AMSR anyone care to comment?

Slightly different rulers used in preparation in the Canadian Arctic-a carpenters rule?
I can’t believe they didn’t check the NSIDC maps before they departed.


They may actually be using a tape in English units. After a month or so of watching the results from the planning by this thoroughly experienced team I wouldn’t be surprised by much of anything.
They certainly faked me out. I wished them luck and thought they really intended to practice science in the old fashioned way, by going and seeing. It didn’t seem a very good way to get the data but why discourage adventurers doing no harm?
And their bios said they we all experienced in travel across polar ice.
I still wish them luck. Luck in not becoming so befuddled as to perish before asking for removal.
In a short while we may be reading an authoritive account of this. No need to be too sure of what happened until then.

Ozzie John

Pamela Gray (20:18:41) :
That measurement was probably taken on a demonstrational lake using a demonstrational hole, with a demonstrational tape, that shows that the lake ice is equivocal to the Arctic ice measurement in situ.
You maybe right ?
This is what I was also alluding to in my previous post. It looks like there is too much sunshine for this latitude. From a rough calc I think the sun should be at around 10 degrees above the horizon at it’s highest point.
The imperial tape could relate to a different expedition ?

Anthony, I suspect you are right. Comparing the state of clothing in the three photos it appears that all these were taken during training prior to them setting off. Perhaps they forgot to take the right measuring tape with them!

Paul Linsay

Meh, I can’t get too worked up about whether the tape is in English or metric units, it’s easy enough to convert between them.
But I do have a question for the experts here. The temperature at the time was supposed to be about -40C. How long would the water that filled the bore hole stay liquid before it froze over? Shouldn’t a skin of ice begin to form almost immediately at those temperatures? I haven’t been able to get the video to download and play so I haven’t been able to inspect what they’re doing.
REPLY: Oh I didn’t mean to imply that this was earthshaking news, it just seems odd. – Anthony

Anthony, What I see is that the shadow projected shows a sun quite high for this time of the year on THAT latitude.
Could it be these guys made the video on August 2008 and show it now?
REPLY: It could be, perhaps another “demonstrational” element of the website. They seem long on demos but try finding any videos or photos that look recent. – Anthony


I think Ozzie John is onto something!
Now I don’t know the sun angles at this time of the year in the Arctic but the shadows from that large lump of ice on the upper left of the hole and the shadows from the small ice pillar in the upper left hand corner seem to indicate a remarkably high sun angle for a season that still has 2 months to run to maximum sun elevation.

Bill Jamison

“showing the floating sea ice cover it has travelled over in the early stage is predominantly new ice”
This is true – the first 26 days of the expedition they made so little progress they were predominantly over new ice.
If they had made better progress then this statement would be false.
Can this expedition still be considered scientific? WUWT has pointed out so many flaws that no one should condsider them to be doing serious science.

Lindsay H

Britian and the old commonwealth countries all used imperial measure , feet inches etc up till the 1960’s 70’s when many converted to metric.
Metric might be good for scientific measurement, but its a pain in the engineering and building trades, there are even rumbles of going back to feet and inches. So some countries still use miles feet etc for distance, land measure but metric for small stuff.


Hmmm, mixing English and metric units. Are these guys from NASA?

Chris D.

They ARE noting the coordinates of every site sampled like good little scientists should…aren’t they? I sure don’t see them anywhere on their website, so far.

Photos of the route planning meeting…. perhaps too much chardonnay explain the final choice of route?
I’m surprised that Profs Maslowski and Wadhams (both it seems present at the meeting) didn’t show Pen where to find the older ice?

Steve Keohane

I’m on a fairly high speed satellite connection and after 15 minutes the movie is still down loading, how many gigabytes is it? My first thought from the still is that the sun angle is way too high, as Ozzie John pointed out as well. I would guess it is at least 40 degrees. When they mentioned a day or two ago that they were moving onto thicker ice and a picture of the artic with their measurements was posted here, the thicker measurements were at the south end of the string of measurements. I noted this and asked if they were moving to the south? It has been 25 minutes now and the movie hasn’t finished downloading so there must be something wrong, I’m shutting it down.


Coming in late and I’m sure it’s been pointed out,
In Canada we have both, metric on one side and imperial on the other for the soft nylon/plastic “long” measuring tapes. Most retracting tape measures have the measurement of both side by side.
(And yes, I’m a fountain of useless knowledge! Lol :p)

April E. Coggins

The Catlin crew is a fraud, pure and simple. It appears to me that they are being flown in from the support site for photo ops. No one is this stupidly self-destructive. Not even the suicidal. People just don’t operate in this way.
I am tired of giving them the benefit of the doubt (pretending) that they are real scientists on a real expedition.

Larry Sheldon

How big is that clip? — I have been down-loading it for quite a while.
REPLY: I think WUWT may have crashed their server. – Anthony


A bit OT, but relevant to bad science and the state of our current Science establishments…..
The CSIRO can’t even get grape varieties correct….. So imagine how good they’d be trying to work out Climate variables, Ice thickness, temp records, etc….. They can’t even scientifically validate common plant species…..
Science is dead in Australia. Socialism’s cold dead hand has ruined free and unfettered thinking…. It has replaced good scientists with party political apparatchiks.
Bad science has real effects.

Charles Platt

Long ago I was an activist volunteer for Zero Population Growth. My work for them ended when I found them using two different projections for population, and I drew this discrepancy to their attention. “Well, we’ll just use the larger one,” was their response. Without a moment’s hesitation.
At that point I realized that in many organizations, especially those driven by ideological zeal, some basic assumptions become so firmly embedded, evidence becomes irrelevant. To the people involved, this is not unethical. They are so utterly confident of the conclusion, they automatically accept any datum that supports it, while passing over anything that conflicts with it. In my ZPG days, if anyone had found a prediction that population growth rates would diminish, the source would have been discarded without even thinking about it.*
I am convinced that a similar mindset is endemic among warming believers. Skeptics carefully assess the evidence, but believers already know the answer. The two sides are speaking different languages. Debate is pointless.
It doesn’t matter what’s on the tape measure in the ice. It really, really doesn’t matter, because I don’t believe there was any fair-minded attempt to determine the ice thickness. The people on the scene already knew what the correct answer was.
Bear in mind, you would have to begin with a fairly fanatical mindset just to contemplate such an expedition through truly miserable, dangerous conditions. To expect these people to acknowledge evidence that contradicts their most fundamental convictions AND renders their expedition pointless is quite unrealistic.


They are using a metric tape measure.
It’s tied to the bottom of this one.
Tied to that is the can of beer that they’re using to feel for the bottom of the hole.


Q&A with Mr. Warm
Q. I just looked on Cryosphere Today, and global sea ice extent is well above the mean from 1979 – 2000. That’s a good sign for the planet, isn’t it ??
A. No, that’s a common fallacy endorsed by big oil companies. It’s the multi-year ice that’s important, and the ice thickness. Global sea ice extent is of absolutely NO importance as a marker for determining catastrophic climate change due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases.
Q. Oh, OK. So how thick is the ice then in Antarctica and the Arctic ??
A. Good question. That’s exactly why the brave Catlin team has gone up to the Arctic – to measure this directly, with tape measures.
Q. Any results so far ??
A. Yes, they’ve measured some thin ice and found that it’s really, really thin. These were very robust and accurate measurements.
Q. Wow, it’s really, really thin ??
A. Yes, really, really thin, and it’s first year ice too – there’s barely any multi-year ice.
Q. So what are the ramifications of all this then ??
A. Well, it should be pretty obvious that being first year ice and being really, really thin, then it will melt really, really quickly.
Q. ….. and global sea ice extent levels will go down below the mean ??
A. Yes, absolutely.
Q. That would be a bad sign for the planet then, yes ??
A. Absolutely.

Dave Wendt

Finally got the video to load. What a cluster fornication. I suspect that what you see the guy on the right coiling up into a semi-ball in the opening seconds of the video is their precision measuring device, note the high tech attachment to the end of the tape. A suitably sized piece of scrap metal tied on to index on the bottom of the ice perhaps. To my old surveyors eyes the tape appears to be fairly low buck cloth version of the reel tape featured in the post. That’s either one wizard augur they have or they had the hole predrilled. I’ve rarely seen a power auger cut thru ice that deep, that quickly. Also can’t help but wonder how many of those augur segments they’re packing and who was to be on the handle if they had to hand drill through more than twelve foot of ice

Larry Sheldon

Yeah looks like.
I went after it with IE — 375 mB 69 min 40 sec remaining.
I think I’m losing interest since it is after 2300 here.


Catlin, how about more info? An average thickness of 1.77m +/- ??. What are your error limits? Standard deviation?
This whole thing is so amateurish.

David Ball

My question would be, at 6 or 7 feet deep, how can you be sure you have hooked the bottom of the ice with the end of a fiber tape? If there is a weight attached to sink the tape, you would be hard pressed to tell exactly where the underside edge is. I have drilled countless holes through ice, and even at -25c, the water skims over VERY QUICKLY. My wife probably won’t let me watch the press conference after this fiasco is over. She won’t let me watch the CBC anymore, as I am scaring the children !! “Why is daddy yelling at the TV?” :^]

Austin (20:08:31) :
> What is their method? Has the method been calibrated?
I think there’s a madness to their method. 🙂
I thought the lighting angles looked odd too, but another possibility is that since they have a real(tm) videographer, he might have used a reflector to get more light on the hole. some of the coloring around the hole might be to a reflected stream of light or it could just be due to different consistencies. It could also be a pre-expedition shot (I won’t bother to download the video). All in all, not exciting enough to get excited about.
Lord Monckton’s paper is pretty exciting, though!


“The Catlin crew is a fraud”
I wouldn’t say it is “fraud” but I would say that it is theater. The income will be rolling in for years from this stunt. Once the money starts to tail off in a few years they will have to do it again … in order to “compare” with the results from this trip. They have a never ending stream of money as long as they keep these theatrics up. All you have to do is tell people what they want to hear and they will gladly give you their money to hear it.