"rotten" sea ice – not even in Denmark

There’s plenty of stories about how Arctic sea ice is now “rotten”. There’s darn few that talk about yearly comparisons or what other scientific outlets are saying about the claim.

As many WUWT readers know, 2007 was the minimum year of summer extent in sea ice, a year that is routinely held up as a cause for alarm. Another cause for alarm has been the “decline of multi-year sea ice”. Most recently we’ve gotten claims of “rotten ice” in the news media. That “rotten” ice is “duping the satellites” they say. This all from one fellow, Dr. David Barber on a  ship that took a short expedition in the Arctic and observed what he called “rotten ice”. Here’s Dr. Barber using the poster child for sea ice loss in a  presentation.


David Barber hypes polar bears - Image from University of Manitoba files

Seems that his “rotten” message resonated, even the media in Alaska (who can observe sea ice on their own) are saying it: New study: Arctic ice is rotten (Anchorage Daily News)

Over at the Greenbang Blog, they say that: ‘Rotten’ sea ice creates false impression of Arctic recovery

They cite:

Satellite data in 2008 and 2009 appeared to indicate that Arctic sea ice cover had started to grow again after reaching a record low, leading some to claim that global warming was reversing. However, University of Manitoba researcher David Barber found that wasn’t the case after he viewed the ice firsthand this September from an ice breaker travelling through the southern Beaufort Sea.

What the satellites had identified as thick, multiyear ice, it turned out, was in fact thin, “rotten” ice, Barber and his colleagues discovered.

This apparently was the conclusion from watching Dr. Barber’s YouTube video:

You can read Barber’s study here (Word DOC file)

So if the satellites are “duped” into seeing more ice than actually exists, then 2007 ice must have been really, really, rotten:

From Cryosphere today - click to enlarge

Compare for yourself, here.

Looks like it has firmed up since then. So no matter how you spin it, there has indeed been improvement in sea ice in 2007. Going from “really, really rotten” in 2007 to simply “rotten” Arctic sea ice in 2009 is definitely an improvement.

One other note, if this “rotten ice” problem and satellite duping proposed by Dr. Barber is in fact real, I’d fully expect that the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) would make some sort of announcement or post a caveat about it on the “Arctic Sea Ice News and analysis” web page where they present the satellite data. I couldn’t find anything on that page about “rotten ice” or satellite data being inaccurate.

Looking further, I used a Google search for “rotten” within NSIDC’s web site (available from their search tool in the upper right of their web page) reveals no recent documents or web pages using that word. Odd.

OK maybe Cryosphere Today? Nope nothing there either.

JAXA‘s sea ice page? Their News page?  Not a peep.

Nansen’s Arctic ROOS sea ice page? Or their news page? All quiet on the Arctic front.

Maybe the Danish Meteorological Institute (in Copenhagen no less) sea ice page? Surely, something must be “rotten” in Denmark, no? Alas, they don’t mention it either.

Gosh, the Arctic ice is rotten, the satellites are duped, and none of the major scientific organzations that track sea ice have anything to say about it?

It seems Dr. Barber’s conclusions are being left out in the cold by his peers.


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The pole is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t! What can you do to shake the conviction of these people? Rotten ice isn’t the issue here but rotten science. The only decline they should worry about is the decline in the willingness of the public to accept their spin without question.

Tim S.

It’s worse than we thought.


They cannot compare the “rotten” ice this year to the amount of “rotten” ice in years past, because this ad hoc theory was not around then. So to claim that “rotten” ice is a sign of climate change is unfounded.


Hudson Bay seems to be the major difference this year.

Gordon Ford

Seem like this trip was a one shot deal. No comparison to previous surveys and contrary to the Polar 8 flight. The ice is normally at its minimum (and probably its rottenest) in September. Nothing to see here, lets move along. (unless his funding is running out)

The only thing rotten here is the ‘rotten ice’ theory. Ice does not rot.
There is no physical mechanism for it. It may melt (fat chance at the below zero temps up there) and it may be chewed up by constantly running ice breakers through it to see how thick it is, though 😉


Sooo…one 2 minute utube posting from one researcher is the basis for all these news articles and facts?
I guess they’ve just abandoned peer-review altogether!
Or maybe they just want to get out a shot before cop15 is done to try to get the one world government kicked off.


Rotten really refers to the science of global warming advocates.

Arn Riewe

What the hell is “rotten ice”?
Sounds like a very scientific measurement. I’d also like to see Barber’s comparison of 2007 rotten ice to 2009 rotten ice to show the increase. (Thanks, Anthony for the CT comparison). This is grasping at straws and nothing else.
What’s next? Rotten ice with inferior characteristics because it lacks cultural diversity?


Not so sure what i’m supposed to be looking at. Does the whitish patches on the purple ice imply thinner ice? Also, neat how it looks like solid ice between Russia and Alaska, but in 2009, we seem to be missing a bit of ice north of Canada. Wonder why, also looks like Russia is also under much more snow/ice cover then 2007.


Warmist: “There’s less and less Arctic Sea ice every year.”
Skeptic: “Really, isn’t there more this year than there was in 2007?”
Warmist: “Yes, but it’s rotten.”


Wait a minute! The thick multi-year ice is disappearing but not the “thin, rotten” one???

Indiana Bones

Is it me or does this guy look disturbingly like Doc Briffa? Makeup!

Jim B in Canada

So now more ice is actually less ice,
global cooling is global warming and
the people who scream repent world is going to end! are now the sane ones.
Can some one tell me when I fell into 1984?
“How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Winston.
Sometimes they are five.
Sometimes they are three.
Sometimes they are all of them at once.
You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

Tony Brookes

Ice is ice is ice. They should grow up and recognise when they have made a mistake,


Good reference thanks. Always nice to see another view. Barber was on Mansbridge “One on One” the other night and that gets a wide coverage. Oh well.
But a comment/question. The current image shows Hudson Bay being mainly open. I wonder if that is accurate. Comments on HB?
Will we still be hearing that the ice has completely gone … when it is still there? Seems so.
From the frozen plains of western Canada where cold temperature records have been shattered this week. Brrrrrrrrrrr


For a lack of better scientific word, they used the word “rotten” to talk about porous ice. In any case, more “rotten” ice is still more ice. What do these guys know about ice recovery? Maybe this is how it works, by expansion first of porous ice…


Rick (10:03:17) :
The accompanying document says ‘Geophysical Letters’, In Press. I guess that journal is peer-reviewed, what do you think Rick?


I think all of the ice went over to the Bering Strait.

The PR guy for the AGW priesthood is falling asleep at the switch. “Rotten Ice” is a poor bit of jargon. They should have found the proper eskimo word for it and labeled it as “distressed”.


“”As we went further and further north, we saw less and less polar bears because this ice wasn’t even strong enough for the polar bears to stand on,””
So the ice WAS strong enough for the polar bears to stand on in the south, but the ice wasn’t strong enough as they went further and further north????
That doesn’t make any sense.

Solomon Green

“he viewed the ice firsthand this September from an ice breaker travelling through the southern Beaufort Sea.”
I flunked geography at school but I seem to remember that the Southern Beaufort Sea lies somewhere below the 75th parallel. Would not this be the very edge of the arctic ice pack?
Would be much more convincing if he had sailed, say, event 6 or 7 degrees furrther North or perhaps the ice there wasn’t rotten enough.

In a weird way, I’m not bothered by this – it shows variance and promotes debate.
I’m a big watcher of political polling data and it’s just the same – the results change when using slightly different methodologies such as when the research calls are made [get more home-makers/retired/unemployed], past voting behaviour [again depends on the time of the call – one pollster shows a bias to the government payroll vote], intention to vote [tends to bias older voters who also tend to be more conservative in outlook], am I in a marginal seat and may vote for a candidate I don’t want to win in order to keep another which is worse?
If climate scientists applied the same level of rigour to stats that people like me apply to betting on political outcomes, perhaps we’d have a much better chance of knowing what was really going on.

jack mosevich

Something is rotten in Denmark too

Alan Bore

As a skeptic, I can’t say I find any comfort in this. He’s been studying it for twenty years, had thought it was recovering and now predicts it’s receding due to warming.
What’s there to crow about?


If the satellites have been “duped” … then how we we be sure that previous satellite measurements were correct?

Green Turtle

If satellites are incorrectly reporting ice cover, then would not the people at NASA be responsible for this lack of “cover” in the ice? Or should I have used the word “cover up”?
Perhaps we see more un-justified playing with software code that the public don’t get to see? Is this another hide the decline type of deal here?
Perhaps this is just more junk coming home to roost? You can only build a house up on so many lies. Eventually Madoff ran out of incoming money to pay the outgoing money. Perhaps NASA is running out of tricks? (oh..yes..more tricks? Sounds familiar).
I mean, if they messed up from a few years ago, then how can we even decide if ice is growing or shrinking then?
If satellite are reporting open water as thick ice, then as real ice forms it would look like ice is melting! The satellite would actually be showing a decline in ice when in fact open waters are decreasing and freezing up!
If the satellite can’t tell the difference between open water as opposed to water with dirty chunks of ice in it then this does beg more questions.
This could very well be much ado about nothing, but we must always question question question, especially now since the trust between the public and the keepers of the weather let us down. In normal times, this is a non question. With so much junk science junk we seen so far, this is real question.
Green Turtle

jack mosevich

Definition of rotten ice:
“Rotten ice may appear transparent (and thus dark) when saturated with seawater and so may be easily confused with newly forming black ice.”
So it should not appear as “thick, multi-year ice” to satellites
REPLY: The satellites use microwave emissions, not visible light to measure ice. They don’t see any “color”. So black, white, purple, or polka dot colros won’t matter. – Anthony


O/T and this is a few days old, but really, really good from Dr. Gray. Might be worth a thread, eh?
Norfolk, VA, USA

Mark Buehner

Look, that ice may be made of hydrogen and oxygen, but its poisoned I tell you. Poisoned by man’s hubris. And probably CO2. Maybe a dash of oil.

Oh blimey – I wrote my last post before Mr WUWT added in a load of info – looks like there was little to prove the Prf’s case at all.


Lots of chatter about “rotten ice.”
The satellite images have always (??) shown “sea ice” as areas where at least 15 of an area has hard ice, thin ice, thick ice AND ice slush vs. rock solid. Yes? No?
If so, the “rotten ice” comments by researchers are silly as we have no comparative data. One boat can’t cover all areas can it? (Ice locations shift year to year, so one trip is meaningless. Yes?)
We can ONLY use the data from 1979 to now as a real basis for comparisons … as others have noted: who was commenting ion “rotten ice” thirty years ago. No one.
Rules keep changing to support the need to keep us alarmed.
Seems like the ultimate in cherry picking. Barber must need a few more years of grants before he retires. ☺ Seems like a nice guy.
This old Far Side sums up the Alberta weather… ☺☺


rotten ice: Old ice that has weakened just prior to melting—really dangerous if you step or drive on it
Gee, just what one would expect to find in September in the Artic when sea ice reaches its lowest point of extent.
Now, if this were happening in Feb/Mar this might be news.

David L. Hagen

What the satellites had identified as thick, multiyear ice, it turned out, was in fact thin, “rotten” ice, Barber and his colleagues discovered.

Is this an appeal to authority – by Barber to Barber?


Something smells rotten, and it isn’t the ice.

Ipse Dixit

Travelling on an icebreaker through the Beaufort Sea, Dr. Barber was doing his part to fulfill his prophesy that arctic ice is shrinking.


Does rotten ice smell bad in summer?

Leon Brozyna

First there was record low ice extent. When the ice began its recovery, the new metric became ice volume. Now that multi-year ice is increasing, they announce it’s “rotten”?
And they did this in the southern Beaufort Sea? Which is where ice usually melts every summer?
We have now gone from junk science to rotten science.
FWIW, yesterday the ice extent (as reported by JAXA) increased by 170,000 km², mostly in Hudson Bay and the Bering Sea. That was quite a bump up in the ice extent. While it may be those cold temps finally taking care of business over Hudson Bay, it was probably a reversal of the jet stream over the Bering Sea that helped its sea ice expansion. Last week the jet stream was from the southeast, helping to compress the ice. Now its from the northwest, which may serve to spread the ice out even more. The next few days should tell if that’s the case.
And we should see next year if the mantra of “rotten” sea ice is taken up as the amount of multi-year ice further increases.


I love the laid back irony of Anthony’s article. You just gotta laugh at arctich*l*s like Barber.

P Wilson

I get it. If extent trumps the ice model expectations, then its rotten ice. Rather like when Anthropogenic warming doesn’t happen, its being “masked” (ie, rotten warming).
Anyway, there’s no denying the fact that 2007 ice was rotten to the core. If its just been discovered, then it must have been even rottener than now. Maybe CRU could do a rotten ice parameter and trace it back to 1960, with appropriate adjustments. Proxies of course, only this time to emphasise the decline


So, a new metric needs to be manned…er..ginned up, that shows the growth of rotten ice?

Henry chance

Tony Brookes (10:09:24) :
Ice is ice is ice. They should grow up and recognise when they have made a mistake
Hey. You missed the point. Watch the pea under the thimble as they move the argument around.
Now it shifted to qualitative data on ice instead of quantitative data on ice.
We even have mud slides in California. Low quality rain. High quality rain serves for bottled water and washing a lady’s hair.


So, where does this playbook come from?
“The Christian Science Monitor
reported on the potential ice age
as well, on July 3, 1923. “Captain
MacMillan left Wicasset, Me., two
weeks ago for Sydney, the jumping-
off point for the north seas,
announcing that one of the purposes
of his cruise was to determine
whether there is beginning
another ‘ice age,’ as the advance
of glaciers in the last 70 years
would seem to indicate.”
Then on Sept. 18, 1924, The
New York Times declared the
threat was real, saying
“MacMillan Reports Signs of New
Ice Age.”
Yes, scientists and explorers have travelled to the Artic before looking for evidence of
what they wanted to find. And they found it. Both ways.

Bob Shapiro

It sounds like he’s right but doesn’t (want to) understand what he’s seeing.
First he says that the 2007 season left highly fragmented multi-year ice. Then he says that, while he expected to see greatly expanded multi-year ice in 2009, he was surprised to see a lot of rotten ice. Finally, he explains that rotten ice is an agglomeration of multi-year ice mixed into new, thinner ice.
Did he really expect the surviving multi-year ice to grow, and for the pieces to be joined together by new, multi-year ice?
Duh! As the water refreezes, isn’t it just logical to expect the new ice to be thin, first (and second) year ice? Doesn’t multi-year ice take multiple years to grow?

Astonishing, which person can claim to be a scientist today.
Has been that “study” peer-reviewed at all?

Fred from Canuckistan . . .

Maybe he should see if his “rotten” category fits in the official methodology.
I think his category would be Goose Egg.
Or maybe he could teach a new course . .


More references to ‘rotten ice’. I like the bush pilots term – ‘punky’.
rotten ice – honeycombed ice starting to melt
Rotten Ice – In hydrologic terms, ice in an advanced stage of disintegration.
Punky: Rotten ice on rivers or lakes that makes landing planes dangerous, particularly in late spring or with an early or unexpected thaw. Also used to describe someone who is a little “bushwacky” or soft in the head, especially after a long winter in the bush.
Rotten ice is loose term for ice that is melting, disintegrating, or otherwise formed, having water, air or contaminants between ice grains, causing the ice to be honeycombed. It forms on open water, when snowpack and ice are mixed together and other conditions.
As before, this is exactly what one would expect to find in September when Barber took his boat ride.

jack mosevich

RE: Jack M (10:21:09) : Thanks for correcting me Anthony.
REPLY: Thanks for being nice about it 🙂


Post hoc rationalisation
same as:
– recent warming changed tree ring width sensitivity to temp
– I deleted that data
– I didn’t delete that data
– the model predicted right so AGW is proven
– the model didn’t predict right because climate is complex
These scientists are all budding Einsteins
BTW, can anyone describe what the theory of catastrophic AGW is, as a set of hypotheses falsifiable by physical experiments?


As a geologist we sometimes talk about “rotten rock”–altered in some way that changes the original minerals/fabric/overall composition. I suppose if one were to alter ice in some way it could be considered “rotten ice”… The problem is, however, that the only component they’ve been talking about to make ice rotten is heat. And since H2O in the solid state is ice and, after application of more heat, in the liquid form is water, maybe he meant all that rotten water that wasn’t ice is what’s considered rotten ice. And while my argument sounds like something they’d probably cook up at the CAP in Denmark or at the Hadley CRU, no matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney. 🙂