The Guardian's ridiculous claim of 75% Arctic sea ice loss in 30 years – patently false

This time series, based on satellite data, sho...

This time series, based on satellite data, shows the annual Arctic sea ice minimum since 1979. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reposted from “Haunting the Library” (well worth a bookmark), another clueless journalist combined with an artist/activist makes The Guardian look pretty darned stupid. Five minutes or less of checking would have prevented this blunder.

Guardian Goes “Full Stupid” on Arctic Ice, Contradicts Itself.

The Guardian managed to outdo itself in it’s latest foray into global warming, claiming that Arctic sea ice has declined by three quarters in the last three decades. In a series of “factoids” following an interview with pop celebrity and latest Greenpeace spokesperson for the Arctic ice, Jarvis Cocker, Lucy Seigle, the Guardian’s environment reporter, informed readers that:

Of the Arctic sea ice, 75% has been lost over the past 30 years. Last year saw sea-ice levels plummet to the second-lowest since records began. It is estimated that the North Pole could be ice-free in the summer within the next 10-20 years.

The Guardian. Jarvis Cocker: The Iceman Cometh.

However, the problem with this was not just it’s total departure from both reality and common sense, but the fact that an article in the Guardian only a couple of weeks beforehand had pointed out that this simply isn’t the case.

Quoting the Met Office’s Chief Scientist, Julia Sligo, the article noted that such claims were simply “not credible” –

She also said that suggestions the volume of sea ice had already declined by 75% already were not credible. “We know there is something [happening on the thinning of sea ice] but it’s not as dramatic as those numbers suggest.”

The problem, she explained, was that researchers did not know the thickness of Arctic sea ice with any confidence.

The Guardian. Met Office: Arctic Sea Ice Loss Linked to Drier, Colder UK Winters.

In fact, as the NSIDC points out, the extent of Arctic sea ice is very close to the average for the last three decades, not down by 75% as The Guardian’s environment reporter seems to be confused about:

Overview of Conditions

Arctic sea ice extent in April 2012 averaged 14.73 million square kilometers (5.69 million square miles). Because of the very slow rate of ice loss through the last half of March and the first three weeks of April, ice extent averaged for April ranked close to average out of 34 years of satellite data.

NSIDC: Arctic Sea Ice Extent Reaches Near Average in April.

Someone should really help them out over at the Guardian’s environment section. Do you have an hour or two to spare, some basic common sense,  plenty of paper and some crayons?

==============================================================

Here’s the proof that Arctic Sea Ice has not declined 75% in 30 years, this graph of Arctic Sea Ice Extent from good buddy Dr. Peter Gleick using NSIDC data. Here is his original from his Huffington post article where he’s beating up Apollo 17 astronaut Dr. Harrison Schmidt for comparing 1989 and 2009 20 year differences.

I’ve extended that graph of Gleick’s down to the zero line, and annotated the 1980 and 2010 year values and the 75% loss of 1980 value line (3.125) for reference. As you can see, there’s a loooonnnng way to go from 12.5 million square kilometers in 1980 to 3.125 million square kilometers in 2010 to make a 75% loss in 30 years.

The Guardian is only off by 7.675 million square kilometers…close enough for journo work I suppose.

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Merovign

Sounds like a typical news day.

I think the argument is about sea ice volume rather than area/extent. Although as Julia Sligo states, the 75% claim isn’t credible for volume either.
As the satellite sent up to measure sea ice thickness doesn’t work apparently, estimates of changes to sea ice thickness/volume are little better than guesswork. But as we know, speculation in the absence of data passes as science in a large part of the CAGW camp.
REPLY: The original article http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jun/02/jarvis-cocker-arctic-oil-environment does not contain any discussion of ice volume. I double checked.
The bullet point:
■ Of the Arctic sea ice, 75% has been lost over the past 30 years. Last year saw sea-ice levels plummet to the second-lowest since records began. It is estimated that the North Pole could be ice-free in the summer within the next 10-20 years.
Doesn’t either. Only Slingo’s discussion does. And, I was addressing this:

In fact, as the NSIDC points out, the extent of Arctic sea ice is very close to the average for the last three decades, not down by 75% as The Guardian’s environment reporter seems to be confused about

-Anthony

Rhys Jaggar

You probably get a bigger number by comparing the extent at minimum, I guess.
What’s more important is what the most relevant metric is for that Armageddon of ‘rising sea levels’.
Clearly, to anyone with primary school physics at their fingertips, that is total global sea ice extent.
If you look at how that changes annually, you’ll see the fluctuations are rather smaller.
One thing people should get comfortable with is that newspapers are basically ‘factoid drug dealers’ serving up their addicts with a ‘daily fix’.
Our generation were brought up to believe newspapers formed a valuable societal role in education.
I now believe that they are comics. All of them. Playthings of rich proprietors. Tools of political influence and/or intimidation.
Thing is: if you want a newspaper to really inform and educate, enough people need to buy them/pick them up (for free ones) and enough advertisers need to buy into the message. Newspapers, after all, are ultimately advertising plays.
I only read them now to find out what the latest informational drug is. And to try and force journalists to tell some semblance of truth.

The old Seadog.

We have had 195 years of false reports of the Arctic melting…..
“It will without doubt have come to your Lordship’s knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated.
(This) affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations.”
President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817 ( Royal Society Archives)

Oakwood

And today it’s: “…the seas are rising much faster now thanks to global warming.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/01/north-carolina-sea-level-rises?intcmp=122

Glenn

There must be some mistake, since:
“The Guardian has built this unrivalled team in the belief that environmental issues, and in particular global warming, is the defining issue of our age, combining politics, economics and social justice,” said James Randerson, editor of EnvironmentGuardian.co.uk, in a release from Guardian News & Media.”
http://blogs.journalism.co.uk/tag/lucy-siegle/

FrankSW

As part of the “Don’t destroy the Arctic” campaign Greenpace UK have a web form to tell Shell not to exploit the Artic. You can of course change both the subject and body of the email before sending….perhaps to let them know how much misinformation Greenpeace are pushing out.
http://act.greenpeace.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=18&ea.campaign.id=13413

KnR

If you want good science reporting form the Guardian you will have to wait until they actual get a journalists that knows something about science. For despite them being chock full of people with a very privileged background and so good eduction , they have not one member of staff how actual did science for their degree . Or to be frank given that their editors made it clear they are fully and blindly supportive of the AGW scare, if you want accurate reporting over AGW your going to have to wait until ,ironically, hell freezes over.

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley

You should know that here (in England) Cocker is known as a ‘twat’, and the Guardian as a leftist rag. I don’t know if you Americans know this either, but the Guardian is often referred to as the ‘Grauniad’ – since they once made so many spelling mistakes in thier (see what I did there?) articles.

Martin

If you go right to the bottom of the article it says ” Source: Greenpeace ” – says it all really !

Glenn

“Her work is underpinned by rigorous research and scientific debate”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jan/13/observer-ethical-awards-2012-judge-lucy-siegle

The Guardian is held in contempt by those of us in the UK who aren’t socialists. Facts never get in the way of its leftist views, if the Guardian told me that grass was green and the sky was blue I would go outside to check! If anyone wants a job as a Diversity Co-ordinator or a Gay and Lesbian Outreach Officer for a Labour town or city council, the Guardian every Thursday is an essential read.
If AGW is affecting the whole planet and ice in the Arctic is decreasing, why in the Antarctic, is it increasing?

Byron

Meanwhile , in the real world heavy sea ice looks likely to delay Shell Acrtic`s drilling
http://phys.org/news/2012-05-heavy-ice-shell-alaska-arctic.html

Silver Ralph

.
The Grauniad is not going to change the habits of a lifetime overnight. They were born as a Marxist pressure group, and following the predictable demise of Marxism in the Communist East they jumped on the next great Marxist crusade – Environmentalism. The Grauniad have been trying to subvert Western culture for over 100 years now, along with their anti-establishment cousins at the BBC, and they are not about to stop tomorrow.
The interesting thing about the Grauniad is the way it jumps on bandwagons to champion any minority cause. Back in 1917 they were instrumental in the setting up of the state of Israel, because that was the celebrity minority cause of the early 20th century. But today, they and the liberal-left are so rabidly anti-Israel, one would have thought that they were being funded by Saudi Arabia. Today, the Grauniad (and the BBC) support Hamas as being the only bastion of liberal democracy in the Near East (!?) Such, are the absurd politics of the European left.
But the underlying subversiveness of the Grauniad is slowly sinking in to the general public, and Grauniad sales are declining much faster than the sea-ice charts. Perhaps that was the problem here – Lucy Seigle mixed up the Arctic Sea Ice chart with the Grauniad circulation chart, and thus thought the ice had declined by 75% in 30 years….
.

Last financial year end, the Guardian was running at a loss of £25 million pounds. With reporting like that, I look forward to next year’s numbers.
Pointman

If you don’t have a proper baseline any claim you make can be ‘true’. For sure you can’t falsify it. But, indeed, good enough for what passes for journalism these days.

sadbutmadlad

Like all journalists and numbers are they getting it the wrong way round. Did she mean 75% of levels from 30 years ago. In other words sea ice is down 25%? Percentages is such a hard concept to understand you know for media types.

Rick Bradford

“The Guardian is only off by 7.675 million square kilometers…close enough for journo work I suppose.”
No, but close enough for The Guardian, which has very little to do with journalism.

ID deKlein

Aren’t the “facts” supplied by “Greenpeace”? Isn’t that what “Source: Greenpeace” means?

Jimbo

It’s worthwhile reading some of the news reports going back to the 1940s up till the present. Claims of Arctic spiral meltdown are not new. Claims of ice-free North Pole are not new either.
In 1972 an Arctic specialist by the name of Bernt Balchen claimed the Arctic ocean could be ice-free by the year 2000. 😉
http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/polar-meltdown/

cui bono

From other press:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a first-hand look Saturday at the way a warming climate is changing the Arctic, opening the region to competition for vast oil reserves.
Returning from a tour of the Arctic coastline aboard a Norwegian research trawler with scientists and government officials, Clinton told reporters that she learned “many of the predictions about warming in the Arctic are being surpassed by the actual data.”
Well, easier to pontificate on this than Syria….

The Arctic could become ice-free in 10-20 years? I thought it was 5 years, ending this year, next year, two years ago or sometime. There are so many claims of impending doom that I find it hard to track them. They should have a section in doom central for ice-free Arctic, so I’d know when and how much worry to schedule.

George Tetley

Only if. If I had the MONEY I would sue, there are volumes of lies and deceptive manipulation in this A/wipe!

BJ

Is comparing extent to volume the same thing? Not an expert and don’t even play one on TV, but coverage and volume seem to be comparing apples and oranges to me. Not that I think the arctic is screaming, just wondering how the two relate.

I thought Jarvis Cocker was lead singer for Pulp. If this is the same Cocker then that says it all.

Yes, I think the Guardian is wrong. I think they are misinterpreting this calculation, which says that the minimum ice volume in Sep 2011 was 75% down on the maximum for 1979.

Olavi

There is lot of nonsense in climate related issues, like ocean surfface temperatures. How it is possible that ice covered sea area has temperature above normal? Example eastern Gereenland coast http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/NEWIMAGES/arctic.seaice.color.000.png
http://weather.unisys.com/surface/sst_anom.gif
One of theese pictures shows something wrong.

Athelstan.

The guardian has long ceased to be a serious newspaper, the organ of the left with its plethora of science illiterate and jejune journalists. Hacks, who are a mirror on the Marxist ethos which pervades the so called British chatterati. Unfortunately, though its readership is small and pedantic – its sway is great.
In other words it is a comic of the left in Britain, this comic story of ridiculous guff, is typical copy.
I would posit, that the starting point for Arctic sea ice in 1979 was to high and only now are we at the sea ice mean, if one looks further back into the past [and not so long ago] the ice has fluctuated much below the 80-2010 parameters [true – it has to be said anecdotal evidence] – so what’s the big deal? As Joe Bastardi likes to tell us, the sea ice mean is in equilibrium, imho Joe’s always right;)
BTW, its Julia Slingo @ the Met Office -http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/our-scientists/senior-scientists/julia-slingo

Kelvin Vaughan

At last a graph that has zero and shows the true extent of the ice loss. It gives you an idea how an anomoly can mislead the uneducated.

son of mulder

I can get 69% by comparing the peak in Winter 1979 to the minimum in summer 2011 so the Grauniad must be even stupider than that.

JohnB

Maybe not so ridiculous…
Depends on your measure for “sea ice”.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/09/07/313873/arctic-death-spiral-continues-sea-ice-volume-hits-record-low-for-second-straight-year/?mobile=nc
Summer minimum volume has dropped from 16.9Km3 in 1979 to 4.3kM3 in 2011 (yes, there are error bars). That’s 75% loss, near as dammit. So all you can really fault them on is not being clear that “estimates of summer minimum sea ice volume” have dropped by 75% in 30 years.
REPLY:Perhaps, but Four things. 1. PIOMAS is a model. 2. PIOMAS is not an actual measurement. 3. Saying a model predicts a 75% loss is no better than NASA’s Jay Zwally saying the Arctic could be nearly ice free by 2012. (See the sidebar and link above it) 4. Slingo said the 75% loss for volume isn’t supported.
So, no matter how you look at it, extent or volume, it doesn’t work. – Anthony

Is comparing extent to volume the same thing? Not an expert and don’t even play one on TV, but coverage and volume seem to be comparing apples and oranges to me. Not that I think the arctic is screaming, just wondering how the two relate.
There are studies showing older thicker ice is melting faster than new ice in recent years. Of course, given that sea ice extent has been increasing over the last 5 years, the logical corollary of this fact is the new ice is melting slower than old ice.
The likely reason is that old ice has more particulates embedded in it, and with increased solar insolation (which I believe to be the main cause of the post 1970s sea ice melt) these particulates become concentrated on the surface as the ice melts (and sublimates) from above, reducing the ice’s albedo.
You can demonstrate this at home. On a below freezing day, put two ice cubes in the sun. Sprinkle something dark on one of them, and you will find it melts/sublimates a lot faster.

John Peter

“Pointman says:
June 3, 2012 at 1:43 am
Last financial year end, the Guardian was running at a loss of £25 million pounds. With reporting like that, I look forward to next year’s numbers.
Pointman”.
I seem to recollect that someone asserted some time ago that things would look grimmer for The Guardian was it not for the large number of papers taken by the BBC every day.

Olavi

JohnB says:
June 3, 2012 at 3:54 am
Maybe not so ridiculous…
Depends on your measure for “sea ice”.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/09/07/313873/arctic-death-spiral-continues-sea-ice-volume-hits-record-low-for-second-straight-year/?mobile=nc
Summer minimum volume has dropped from 16.9Km3 in 1979 to 4.3kM3 in 2011 (yes, there are error bars). That’s 75% loss, near as dammit. So all you can really fault them on is not being clear that “estimates of summer minimum sea ice volume” have dropped by 75% in 30 years.
————————————————————————————————————————
That piomass model has nothing to do with reality and truth. Anybody can make that kind model with laptop, but has it any value?

Alan the Brit

The old Seadog. says:
June 3, 2012 at 1:00 am
I’d regularly check that site to make sure that particlular embarrassment stays posted on it, it’s likely to be misplaced permanently at the R S!
As for the Grauniad, Lucy Siegle is as lefty greeny as they come, she never checks her facts especially when they don’t fit her view. Another favourite is Polly Toynbe, who was once humiliated by Peter Hitchins on BBC’s Question Time because she proceeded to lecture everyone on the dangers of Global Warming & we must all stop flying abroad or pay more taxes, when she was identified as a chief traveller toing & froing to her “pad” in Tuscony for the Summer, oh how lucky she is to be able to affrord such luxury!!! AND Greenpeace tells lies, they admitted as much two years ago.

JohnB

Olavi says:
June 3, 2012 at 4:15 am
That piomass model has nothing to do with reality and truth. Anybody can make that kind model with laptop, but has it any value?
————————–
Translation: “I don’t like the numbers it produces”

Ken Harvey

The rapidly declining Graundiad is approaching its demise even faster than I am.

Andrew

WUWT? http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/icecover.uk.php its into 15 june already!
REPLY: I’m waiting for an email response from DMI – Anthony

Don Keiller

Facts don’t matter to the Guardian, or its readers.
It is the message that counts.
On this basis the Guardian is bang on target.
The “Useful Idiots”, who are now in places of power and influence will ensure the Guardian’s
message is promoted and implemented.
Someone needs to sue the paper for misrepresentation.

Steve from Rockwood

JohnB says:
June 3, 2012 at 3:54 am
Maybe not so ridiculous…
Depends on your measure for “sea ice”.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/09/07/313873/arctic-death-spiral-continues-sea-ice-volume-hits-record-low-for-second-straight-year/?mobile=nc
Summer minimum volume has dropped from 16.9Km3 in 1979 to 4.3kM3 in 2011 (yes, there are error bars). That’s 75% loss, near as dammit. So all you can really fault them on is not being clear that “estimates of summer minimum sea ice volume” have dropped by 75% in 30 years.
———————————————————————————-
From the NANSEN database:
Aug-2011 Arctic sea-ice minimum: 3.819 km2
Sep-1979 Arctic sea-ice minimum: 6.339 km2
3.819/6.339 = 0.60. So roughly 40% less minimum ice “extent” compared to 1979.
In discussing ice volume, how do they reliably estimate volume from the satellite data? Also let’s not forget that from a winter high of 14.6 km2 to a summer low of 6.34 km2 (1979), almost 60% of Arctic ice is “new” ice every year.

Andrew
Chuck L

JohnB says:
June 3, 2012 at 3:54 am
Maybe not so ridiculous…
Depends on your measure for “sea ice”.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/09/07/313873/arctic-death-spiral-continues-sea-ice-volume-hits-record-low-for-second-straight-year/?mobile=nc
Summer minimum volume has dropped from 16.9Km3 in 1979 to 4.3kM3 in 2011 (yes, there are error bars). That’s 75% loss, near as dammit. So all you can really fault them on is not being clear that “estimates of summer minimum sea ice volume” have dropped by 75% in 30 years.
Think Progress? That’s about as reliable and objective a source as the Grauniad, I mean Guardian, is. Romm should work for the Guardian, it would be a perfect fit. Wait, maybe Lucy Siegle is a nom de plume of Joe Romm!

James

Is this not great news??
If we have already lost 75% of the ice, then we have suffered 75% of the consequences. 75% of the albedo change, and not much warming. 75% of the ocean rise and no perceptible acceleration in sea level rise.
All praise to Gaia folks! We are through most of it, and it has been a non event, phew!
We can stop worrying now and get back to using cheap energy…
James

Jimbo

There is one death spiral I am aware of and that’s the Guardian’s circulation figures. Heh, heh.

Glenn says:
June 3, 2012 at 1:07 am
There must be some mistake, since: “The Guardian has built this unrivalled team in the belief that environmental issues, and in particular global warming, is the defining issue of our age, combining politics, economics and social justice,” said James Randerson…

Saying they’re an “unrivalled team” would be appropriate enough — after all, Curly, Larry and Moe are three decades a-gone…

Ed Barbar

In fairness, that sea ice area has not dropped 75% is not proof the volume has dropped 75%. Yes, Julia Sligo also noted that it’s highly unlikely volume has dropped 75%, good. However, saying the sea ice area is proof is over the top, in my view. I would rather see a statement like “Perhaps they are talking about area, then, Nope, not that either.”

REPLY:
The original article http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jun/02/jarvis-cocker-arctic-oil-environment does not contain any discussion of ice volume. I double checked.
The bullet point:
■ Of the Arctic sea ice, 75% has been lost over the past 30 years. Last year saw sea-ice levels plummet to the second-lowest since records began. It is estimated that the North Pole could be ice-free in the summer within the next 10-20 years.
Doesn’t either. Only Slingo’s discussion does. And, I was addressing this:
In fact, as the NSIDC points out, the extent of Arctic sea ice is very close to the average for the last three decades, not down by 75% as The Guardian’s environment reporter seems to be confused about
-Anthony

C.M. Carmichael

If everyone who reads WUWT took just one alarmist for a tour of the Sea Ice Reference page at WUWT, there would be a lot of confused or ex-alarmists around. If anyone can consider the informatiom on that one page and find a sea ice “death spiral”, I would love to know how. Help an alarmist out, but be gentle, the first time they get “facts” in the head it may hurt a little. Some reddening around the ears may occur.

beesaman

The Guardian, read by idiots, written by fools….

jones

Alan the Brit.
Apologies for correcting you but that was Richard Littlejohn…He did an excellent job of it too.
Polly didn’t really give a sh*t anyway….do as I say and all that…

MattN

Gonna take a lot more than just an hour or two to get those guys straight….