By Steve Goddard and Anthony Watts
If you zoom in far enough, most anything looks scary, like this picture of a human head louse.
But when you look at it in the scale of our normal experience, not so much.
Be it lice or ice, the scale of presentation matters.
There is often criticism of cherry picking when it comes to time scales of climate data. In the case of satellite sea ice data presentation, both time scale and vertical scale are magnified. There’s only about 30 years of satellite ice data, whereas Arctic sea ice has been around for millions of years. Vertical scale is magnified to show the smallest fluctuations. Willis Eschenbach made and excellent point about scale when he comparatively demonstrated the scale of ice melt in Greenland in his essay: On Being the Wrong Size. When compared to the bulk volume of ice, the current Greenland melt is statistically insignificant.
There has been a lot of talk about commercial shipping opportunities through the “soon to be ice free” Arctic. These are normally based on highly magnified graphs published by organisations like NSIDC, similar to the one below.
A different view emerges when you take the raw data from NSIDC’s web site and plot it on graphs with a more appropriate vertical scale. Done that way, the downwards trend for April ice is 0.039 million km²/year.
The surprise of scale?
When you calculate the slope, it suggests that April sea ice extent won’t reach zero until the year 2385.
Oh, that can’t be right. How about May? May will be ice free in the year 2404, only 394 years from now. (The US is 234 years old. Copernicus was placed on the “Catholic Forbidden index” 394 years ago.)
June will be ice free in the year 2296.
July will be ice free by the year 2151.
August will be ice free by the year 2103
September will be ice free by the year 2065. (Note that September 2009 was right on the trend line.)
All of the data and plots are available here in this Google online spreadsheet.
September is the minimum and ice starts to freeze up again. No chance of an ice free Arctic in October. But something must be wrong. The experts said that the Arctic would be ice free by 2008, and that it would be ice free by 2013.
“Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer is not accounting for the last two minima, in 2005 and 2007,” the researcher from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, explained to the BBC. “So given that fact, you can argue that may be our projection of 2013 is already too conservative.” “In the end, it will just melt away quite suddenly”
NSIDC director, Dr. Mark Serreze also says this in this 5/20/10 Globe and Mail article:
“We are going to lose the summer sea-ice cover. We can’t go back.”
While skeptics see cycles, by saying “we can’t go back” Dr. Serreze apparently assumes the linear trend will continue to zero.
You can see from the graphs above how ridiculous those claims are. Even if the current trends continue, there is no reason to expect an ice free Arctic anytime in the next 50 years. And even more interesting to me is the fact that September, 2007 was really not that interesting. It was only 1.5 standard deviations off the trend line, i.e. almost following the 30 year trend.
All of the the main Arctic ice experts underpredicted the 2009 minimum, except for WUWT – which predicted it correctly and early.
Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts