Frozen Global Warming Research

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

A number of nations conduct research in Antarctica. To do research in Antarctica, you need to have an icebreaker. As the old saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few icebergs … or something like that.

For the last few years, said icebreaker has been the Swedish ship Oden, leased to us by the noble Swedes, who (other than being a bit confused about how to spell the name of the god Odin) built a wonderful dual-purpose icebreaker and research vessel. Here’s a photo of the good ship “Oden”:

Given the dependence of the US McMurdo Sound and Amundsen-Scott South Pole bases on the availability of an icebreaker to allow resupply by ship, it must have been an unpleasant surprise for our Secretary of State, Hillary R. C., to receive the following missive from the aforesaid perfidious Swedes …

This is unfortunate for the scientific work in the Antarctic, as it will require extensive reshuffling of existing studies and projects. However, it does have its ironic side.

The first irony is that the main thing that is brought in by ship, the one thing that really can’t be brought in by plane, is fossil fuel. Can’t do global warming research without fossil fuel, particularly in Antarctica, and running a couple of US bases through an Antarctic winter takes a lot of fossil fuel.

The second irony is that research into global warming is being curtailed by, of all things, too much ice. Or as Mr. Bildt described it, “transport delays due to vessels having been blocked by ice.” 

I do feel bad and have compassion for the scientists and the scientific studies that will be disturbed, and I know I’m on the primrose path to perdition for saying this, but it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle of scientists who can’t do global warming research because the Northern Hemisphere is too cold.


PS—As of a few days ago, the US has lined up an icebreaker, the Ignatyuk, to replace the Oden. It is run by a Russian firm, the Murmansk Shipping Company. So that’s good news. Unfortunately it is not set up as a research vessel, just an icebreaker, but it can break the path for the tankers.

It will steam off  from Murmansk half way round the world, burning lots and lots of fossil fuel, to clear the ice to allow the tankers to deliver much more fossil fuel to McMurdo Sound and even send fossil fuel to the South Pole to power inter alia the global warming research …

So there’s the final irony—with the laying up of the US Coast Guard “Polar Star” icebreaker, and the decommissioning of the “Polar Sea” icebreaker, the US has only the lightweight “Healy”, not fit for the Antarctic needs. So the US is reduced to renting an icebreaker from a Russian shipping company … and some folks in Alaska are not happy about that state of affairs.

[UPDATE] From some of the comments below, it’s clear that my eco-felony in writing this is admitting to feeling “schadenfreude”, which means taking pleasure in your opponents misfortunes. It’s one of those emotions that everyone has, but nobody is supposed to admit they have. What, you never laughed when irony overtook your opponent? And you gotta admit, global warming research cancelled because of too much ice? That’s funny anywhere.

I’m no different than the rest in relishing life’s ironic turns, except for the fact that I’m willing to admit that I’m not PC (politically correct) in the slightest, and to take the inevitable heat for saying so. Consider it my small protest at the ongoing vanillafication of the planet.


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Not happy in Alaska? I can’t think why. To have a good relationship with old enemies someone has got to start by breaking the ice.

hehe.. the same goes for travel to low Earth orbit, hire your transport from the Russians.

Mike Bromley the Kurd

Dang, Willis, this is the second time in as many weeks your post has caused me to snork a mouthful of tea. Those darn ‘warmest-ever’ Boreal winters are sure making a slush-pile out of all that Baltic ice, again.


“it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle”
That really does say a whole lot more about this site, your character and your motivation to the public than you probably realise. Enjoy your self indulgent and childish chuckle to yourself as civilisation misses an opportunity to expand on our understanding of the planet we inhabit.
‘burning lots and lots’
What is that in SI units?


Hey, Canada would loan them an icebreaker BUT all ours are busy wintertime breaking ice for our own citizens with an actual Arctic Ocean that freezes to the pole. Plus real live icebergs off our eastern seaboard and winter freeze up stranding coastal communities that need food and services in winter. You know, the none AGW season in Canada we call winter. Who knew? What is also not lost on me was the reason why the Swedes needed their ice breaker – too much ice during their none AGW season – winter. What ever happened to ice free Europe never mind the Arctic?


Hmmm. Are the Swedes expecting colder weather in the Baltic, this year? I thought the past two winters were flukes, or “outliers.”


I am confident that readers of WUWT will recall the last winter, when the Sea of Okhotst froze rather more solidly than expected. It suprised the Russians, that’s for sure. Dr. Richard A. North catalogued the sage over 29 posts on his site.
The NH winter to come is going to be nasty. Prepare!


too much irony in my diet now, willis.
i have to laugh it out!

Britain gave up its shipbuilding capacity years ago. A sad state of affairs for an island nation with a once proud history of world leading engineering prowess. The world’s first ‘icebreaker’ capable ship was I.K. Brunel’s iron built ship SS Great Britain.
I suppose we still have the Channel Tunnel. 🙁

Paul Deacon

Tallbloke, I believe Napoleon considered digging a Channel Tunnel in order to invade Britain.

1. Any fule no that the evil fossil fuel is rendered good by virtue of the use to which it is put. Preventing the elderly from dying of Hypothermia is BAD, whilst gathering the Faithful at Cancun or Copenhagen is GOOD.
2. There is an old story that when a Nepalese war party was stranded by a Himalayan blizzard and running out of food, the priest in the party blessed the yaks used as pack animals and declared that they were no longer cattle, thus ensuring the survival of the party.
Maybe Pope Al, Head of the Church of AGW, can be persuaded to do similar to ensure the survival of global warming research in the Antartic?

halfacow says:
September 7, 2011 at 12:30 am
“it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle”
That really does say a whole lot more about this site, your character and your motivation to the public than you probably realise. Enjoy your self indulgent and childish chuckle to yourself as civilisation misses an opportunity to expand on our understanding of the planet we inhabit.
Garethman says,
A little harsh there Halfacow? As a luke warmist I give Willis a fair amount of stick when I think he is wrong, but on this issue I think it’s natural to see Willis’ own take on the science being strangely supported by those who oppose them as a somewhat entertaining, especially for Willis. If Willis was wrong in some fundamental concepts, and you were proved right, would you not experience some degree of Schadenfreude ? Or are you saying you would remain entirely objective at all times? To take amusement at such issues is better than becoming cynical about the whole science. I’m sure the Antarctic bases will be OK and the science will continue.


halfacow, while I admit to having a laugh about this state of affairs myself, and also to laughing about Heathrow being shut down because they weren’t prepared for cold weather, I failed to laugh about the millions that died from food shortages caused by perverse subsidies for converting crops for biofuels. How about you?

Willis Eschenbach

halfacow says:
September 7, 2011 at 12:30 am

“it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle”

That really does say a whole lot more about this site, your character and your motivation to the public than you probably realise. Enjoy your self indulgent and childish chuckle to yourself as civilisation misses an opportunity to expand on our understanding of the planet we inhabit.

Actually, we haven’t missed any opportunity at all, because the icebreaker has been replaced. Didn’t you read the whole article? Your lack of realization that nobody lost anything and that I was just laughing at the foolishness of it all says a whole lot more about your culture and your motivation than you probably realize. I enjoyed the irony and nobody ran out of fossil fuel, get over yourself.

‘burning lots and lots’

What is that in SI units?

A whole big metric bunch?


Oden is Odin in Swedish.


But why do you need an icebreaker now that the ice has all melted?

John Marshall

Fossil fuel is available in Antarctica as coal, on the Antarctic peninsula, but international treaties prohibit any mineral of fossil fuel extraction there.
So hoist by their own petard again.


Does any one know the effect of icebreakers on the sea ice extents? By breaking up the ice and carving many channels through the sea ice it would melt faster (esp come spring/summer) wouldn’t it, and perhaps reduce the extents somewhat. More shipping leads to more ice breaking, leading to less sea ice.


‘burning lots and lots’
What is that in SI units?
A whole big metric bunch?
A shit^Hpload?


hey gary.larson.joke:
Under the current operations, the USCG icebreaker typically arrives at 60 deg S on or about December 25. Anticipated departure from McMurdo is mid-February of the following year (6-8 weeks after arrival). The basic tasks are to open a channel to the McMurdo Station pier, and escort a tanker and a freighter through the sea ice and channel to the pier and back to the open ocean as required. By 2008 the overriding question was how to open the channel through the ice to McMurdo Station so that year-round operation of the nation’s McMurdo and South Pole stations can continue. This year-round occupation is central to demonstrating the “active and influential presence” which is the cornerstone of U.S. policy in Antarctica as articulated in Presidential Memorandum No. 6646 on U.S. Antarctic Policy and Programs (February 5, 1982).
Name: Oden
Owner: Swedish Maritime Administration
General characteristics
Type: Icebreaker
Tonnage: 9 438 GRT
Installed power: 18.0 MW
Propulsion: Diesel mechanical
Speed: 16 knots
Range: 30 000 nautical miles or 55 600 km
Capacity: 80 passengers and crew
To get them all the raw materials to produce CO2, down there, the icebreaker has to visit.
Table 2. Estimates of daily fuel consumption for a Polar-class icebreaker.
Fuel consumption rate
Ship status (gallons/day) (tons/day)*
Stationary—systems providing only
normal hotel services 4,000 12
Open water transit (three propulsion diesel) 14,000 42
Icebreaking (six propulsion diesel) 25,000 75
Icebreaking (diesel on wing shafts,
gas turbine on center shaft) 35,000 105
Icebreaking (three gas turbines) 60,000 180
* Relation used for conversion: 1000 gallons/day » 3 tons/day.
The largest component by far is the 5 million gallons of diesel fuel used to run the stations and fly the planes that ferry researchers to various sites on the frozen continent.
Year-round and summer science projects are supported at McMurdo. Its summer population reaches 1100; the winter population of McTown is about 150.


Posted in uncategorized, it should be posted in Humour.
It’s the best laugh I’ve had all day.

We don’t have a base on the moon, I can’t see why taxpayers should fund a bunch of self indulgent scientists to do research in Antarctica. It’s not like you would be allowed to drill for oil or mine coal or anything else. Useless. They’ve had over 50 years to figure it out. Enough is enough.

did someone wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning halfacow ?

Willis, I don’t know if it’s right, as I don’t have access to Nature Journal of Science but Big Government is reporting, the publication has stated that AGW is false. This must mean curtains for the warmist hypothesis. there must be choking over the cereal bowls in the US climate science institutions this morning, and coffee exploded over the computer screens.
Copied from Big Government in full here.

Swede says:
September 7, 2011 at 1:47 am
Oden is Odin in Swedish.

w.’s point is that almost all Swedish words are misspelt. >:)

Viv Evans

Can we say ‘ice coming home to roost’?
These top science bureaucrats are believers in ‘no more cold winters and snow because of AGW’ – so why keep ice breakers?
The same happened here in the UK last winter: local councils up and down the country had run out of road gritting before mid December – because a) there would be no more winter; b) the MET Office had said the winter would be mild; c) stocking up on gritting would not be cost effective when winters are a thing of the past …
Well, we all know what happened next.
So will this experience change the minds of the science bureaucrats? One doubts this.

IIRC, a nuclear-powered ice-breaker wouldn’t be permitted in Antarctic waters by “Convention”.

tallbloke said:

I suppose we still have the Channel Tunnel. 🙁

Not if you have the wrong snow.
Invest in steam locomotives. They’re the only all-weather trains in the UK. 😉


halfacow should direct his ire to Jack Frost, not Willis. Jack Frost is the real culprit here; Willis is simply the messenger.
(Now how did Jack Frost find the wherewithall to do his develish deed? Or has Al Gore been spending his winters in the Baltic, and the Arctic, and the…)


Look, if the Europeans are seeing colder winters and even their governments acknowledge this by planing for it, as your example outlines, how does the Team continue to play hockey?
I understand that England is planning to have many of their people “enjoy” the dark and cold without power soon to “save” the planet from the trace gas CO2. Can they keep this up?


Oden is the correct modern swedish name, Odin is old style nordic. Don’t tell us how to spell our gods names 😉
And Thor should be spelled Tor, take note marvel comics.


I think “halfacow” needs Geritol — he has irony-poor blood.
[Only persons of a certain age will know the allusion.]

Neil Jones

A little O/T but related to ice
Apparently their computer model says it’s thinner now than it’s ever been. Why didn’t they just measure it?


Could extensive use of ice-breakers be the cause of breaking ice and melting?
not sure if i am serious with that comment

Sam Hall

Bernd Felsche says:
September 7, 2011 at 3:38 am
IIRC, a nuclear-powered ice-breaker wouldn’t be permitted in Antarctic waters by “Convention”.

Nuclear power is fine in Antarctica, just no nuclear weapons. The U.S. Navy operated a nuclear plant at McMurdo for ten years 1962-1972.

Sandy Rham

”John Marshall says:
September 7, 2011 at 1:57 am
Fossil fuel is available in Antarctica as coal, on the Antarctic peninsula, but international treaties prohibit any mineral of fossil fuel extraction there.”
For now.


Isn’t it rich. The US Coast Guard can’t provide access to research stations in Antartica and NASA can’t provide access to the international Space Station. Meanwhile the government spends billions to produce expensive, unreliable electricity and the most expensive healthcare in the world.


My point was just that everyone should expect that the Swedish vessel’s name is in, eh, Swedish. So of course it’s name is Oden, not Odin or Islandic name Óðinn.
So where is the confusion of spelling caused by Swedes? But, this is a minor point so I leave it here. Cultural and linguistic background is just a blessing.

Brian S

One of the things that started my questioning of the Global Warming theory was that the SANAE 3 base had to be replaced because it was being crushed by the weight of ice that had accumulated on top of it over the few years of its existence – some 30m seem to recall. Also, the Agulhas icebreaker was fitted with a hot water cannon with which to cut an off-loading ramp into the ice cliffs that develop between its annual visits. Then some years back it was called to rescue a Russian ship trapped by the early onset of winter ice.

Stephen Skinner

tallbloke says:
September 7, 2011 at 12:43 am
“Britain gave up its shipbuilding capacity years ago”
We did not give it up. One of our leaders chose to block funding to upgrade the ship yards on the grounds that ship building was old fashioned, ignoring the fact that 2/3rds of the world’s surface is sea! Now,all the luxury liners and some of the large utility ships that come into ports like Southampton have been built by old economies such as Germany, France, Italy and Norway that did upgrade their yards and where labour costs are not cheap.

Staffan Lindström

September 7, 2011 at 3:38 am
…Bernd, I think no country in the SH has a nuclear icebreaker, and tropical waters are too hot to be cooling the reactor…correct me somebody if I’m wrong…?! Reawakening the “Manhattan project” and make it/them a/some clean steamship/s….that would do the trick…South Africa and China and Australia…???

Just for ‘halfacow’, I have posted an obituary here:

I definitely get a deep sense of Schadenfreude when I read this sort of thing. Most parasites do not intentionally seek to destroy the host (they just want to feed off it), yet in the bizarro world of environmental activism, they not only seek to do so, they revel in it.

John Silver

Ach, Schadenfreude, mon amour.

As a Swede I like to point out that Oden and a few other icebreakers are paid by the Swedish taxpayers to keep the ship lanes open during the winters.
Good to see that the likelihood of colder winters in the coming years is now acknowledge by the government.
How long it will take until they realize the CAGW is a mirage is anyone’s guess.

Coach Springer

Why don’t they just install several hundred thousand acres of solar panels and a couple of batteries? Or a hundred acres of 5-story wind turbines and several hundred thousand batteries to keep them warm enough to operate, the steel in the towers from being too brittle, and the snow and ice from piling up around them?

Alan the Brit

Excellent post & I get the irony, being British I have like many fellow Countrymen, watched our once proud seafaring nation become poorer & poorer, less & less well equipped, with skills reduced to that of rank amatuers, all because of political ideology & the desire to look to the PDREU for our future, as opposed to your good selves as we used to do!!! You chaps & chapesses in the Virginian Colonies will be next, & you can see it happening before your very eyes, like the train wreck in slow motion, you see it happening, but are powerless to prevent it!
Then there is this little gem whilst we’re in the area:-
No scientific evidence of what caused these little chaps to be where they are, & no evidence that they haven’t always been there, or that it is not a natural occurrence! Just what “experts” didn’t expect to see, & some guess work, rather like those “experts” who claimed tigers couldn’t live above a certain altitude in Bhutan until they filmed them where they shouldn’t be!


The lesson here is that sovereign nations look out for their own best interest first and is it about time the US looked out for the best interest of the US first for a change and for the better?


halfacow says:
September 7, 2011 at 12:30 am
Would it have been better if the ice breakers were under sail?