We all know how much NSIDC’s Dr. Mark Serreze has been touting the idea of the “Arctic death spiral“, and we’ve had predictions of ice free summers in 2008, 2013, 2015, 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050, 2060, 2070, and 2100 to name a few. Other forecasts don’t give specific dates but say things like within 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 100 years, decades, and sooner than expected. Such “all over the road forecast certainty” doesn’t really build any confidence that any of these climate soothsayers have any idea when or even if the Arctic will be “ice free” in the summer in the next 100 years.
Now, inconveniently, we have this new paper via ScienceDirect New insights on Arctic Quaternary climate variability from palaeo-records and numerical modelling which says that their studies show that the early Holocene might very well have had ice free summers. This is interesting, because as this generally well accepted graph shows, temperature was higher then. But there’s more.
From the description for this graphic: The main figure shows eight records of local temperature variability on multi-centennial scales throughout the course of the Holocene, and an average of these (thick dark line). (to 10000 BC-2000CE (from 0 — 12000 BP)) The records are plotted with respect to the mid 20th century average temperature, and the global average temperature in 2004 is indicated. An inset plot compares the most recent two millennia of the average to other recent reconstructions. At the far right of this plot it is possible to observe the emergence of climate from the last glacial period of the current ice age. During the Holocene itself, there is general scientific agreement that temperatures on the average have been quite stable compared to fluctuations during the preceding glacial period. The above average curve supports this belief. However, there is a slightly warmer period in the middle which might be identified with the proposed Holocene climatic optimum. The magnitude and nature of this warm event is disputed, and it may have been largely limited to high northern latitudes.
But, the other rub of the early Holocene is CO2 in the atmosphere. We know from ice core records that CO2 concentration has varied with ice ages. Coming out of the last ice age into the Holocene, we know that atmospheric CO2 concentrations rose as CO2 came out of the oceans as they warmed. This graph from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) shows that the early Holocene (~10,000 years before present), had a rise coming out of the ice age and then had CO2 concentrations stabilize lower than that of today, about 260-270 ppm:
Figure 1. Top: One sigma-calibrated age ranges for the 14C control points 1, 2 and 6 as an indicator of the possible age range of the CO2 record reconstructed from stomatal frequency. The labels are the same as in Wagner et al. (1). Center and Bottom: Atmospheric CO2 concentration reconstructed from stomatal index () (1) and direct measurements of CO2 concentration of air enclosed in bubbles in the ice cores from Taylor Dome () (3, 4) and Vostok () (7, 8).
This new paper in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews throws a formidable monkey wrench into the the theory that CO2 induced warming is the cause of current Arctic ice loss. Because if we had ice free summers ten thousand years ago at ~ 260 ppm CO2, and we had warmer temperatures than today, we can’t then conclude that an additional 100 ppm of CO2 since then would be the cause of an ice free summer in the Arctic today. And ice free summer at lower CO2 and higher temperature is an incongruity with today’s theory of the “Arctic Death Spiral”.
Here’s the paper abstract:
New insights on Arctic Quaternary climate variability from palaeo-records and numerical modelling
Terrestrial and marine geological archives in the Arctic contain information on environmental change through Quaternary interglacial–glacial cycles. The Arctic Palaeoclimate and its Extremes (APEX) scientific network aims to better understand the magnitude and frequency of past Arctic climate variability, with focus on the “extreme” versus the “normal” conditions of the climate system. One important motivation for studying the amplitude of past natural environmental changes in the Arctic is to better understand the role of this region in a global perspective and provide base-line conditions against which to explore potential future changes in Arctic climate under scenarios of global warming. In this review we identify several areas that are distinct to the present programme and highlight some recent advances presented in this special issue concerning Arctic palaeo-records and natural variability, including spatial and temporal variability of the Greenland Ice Sheet, Arctic Ocean sediment stratigraphy, past ice shelves and marginal marine ice sheets, and the Cenozoic history of Arctic Ocean sea ice in general and Holocene oscillations in sea ice concentrations in particular. The combined sea ice data suggest that the seasonal Arctic sea ice cover was strongly reduced during most of the early Holocene and there appear to have been periods of ice free summers in the central Arctic Ocean. This has important consequences for our understanding of the recent trend of declining sea ice, and calls for further research on causal links between Arctic climate and sea ice.
Fig. 1. Map showing the locations of some of the studies included in the papers presented in this special issue. Numbers refer to Table 1, which contains the references to the respective study. Some of the papers on the Arctic Ocean involve sediment cores from a large spatial area; these are only plotted with boxes enclosing the areas of the studied cores. Furthermore, Cronin et al. (2010) analyzed sediment cores from virtually the entire central Arctic Ocean and, therefore, there is no number representing that study on the map. The maximum extensions of the Eurasian Ice Sheet during the late Quaternary compiled by the QUEEN project (Svendsen et al., 2004) are shown. LS: Late Saalian (>140 ka), EW: Early Weichselian (100–80 ka), MW: Middle Weichselian (60–50 ka), LGM: Late Weichselian (25–15 ka). The speculative extent of an MIS 6 ice shelf inferred by Jakobsson et al. (2010) is shown by the hatched area enclosed by a gray stippled line. The approximate spatial minimum cover of sea ice during 2007 is shown with a white shaded area enclosed by a black stippled line as a comparison to the median extension for the period 1979–2005 shown by a blue stippled line (Data is from National Snow and Ice Data Center). MJR: Morris Jesup Rise; YP: Yermak Plateau. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
h/t to WUWT reader “josh”
Addendum: Some follow up graphic from comments, in my response to Richard Telford:
Here’s an interesting plot of solar insolation at 65 degrees north over time. To give readers an idea of this line, here is a map:
(Map from WikiMedia) Fairbanks, AK is at 64.5° N
The plot below shows how insolation varied with the Milankovitch cycles at 65° N. I’ve added the deltas comparing 10KYA to present.
The “Fermi Paradox” blogger who originally made the graph I annotated wrote: The graph shows the insolation in W/m^2 at 65 degrees norther latitude from 20ky before present to 10 ky in the future, calculated with the program insola from J. Laskar et al. The four plots are for the two months after the summer solstice and the two months before. It can be seen that the change in insolation over time is quite significant. Note though that this only applies at high latitudes – the global mean barely changes at all.
Note the magnitude of the change in insolation from 10K years ago to present, from 15 to 40 Watts/m2
Now look at this image from NOAA’ s Environmental Research Laboratory (ESRL):
CO2 accounts for 1.4 Watts/m2 of forcing in the last 150 years, so compared to the forcings of the Milankovitch cycles (at least at 65N) it is an order of magnitude lower. My point is that given the small impact of CO2 in forcings, it is not likely to be the driver of Arctic ice melt in the present, just like it wasn’t much of a significant factor 10K years ago.