Claim: Arctic sea ice helps remove CO2 from the atmosphere

From the University of Southern Denmark. This is a bit of a surprise, and may well be true, but I’m not too keen on the first couple of paragraphs. Summer sea ice extent has most surely reduced, winter sea ice the last couple of years has been near normal.

Climate change is a fact, and most of the warming is caused by human activity. The Arctic is now so warm that the extent of sea ice has decreased by about 30 pct. in summer and in winter, sea ice is getting thinner. New research has shown that sea ice removes CO2 from the atmosphere. If Arctic sea ice is reduced, we may therefore be facing an increase of atmospheric concentration of CO2, researchers warn.

Due to global warming, larger and larger areas of sea ice melt in the summer and when sea ice  freezes over in the winter it is thinner and more reduced. As the Arctic summers are getting warmer we may see an acceleration of global warming, because reduced sea ice in the Arctic will remove less CO2 from the atmosphere, Danish scientists report. “If our results are representative, then sea ice plays a greater role than expected, and we should take this into account in future global CO2 budgets”, says Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard, PhD Fellow, Nordic Center for Earth Evolution, University of Southern Denmark and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk.

Dorte%20Haubjerg%20S%C3%B8gaard%20studying%20sea%20ice%20in%20Greenland%20LOW[1]Sea ice draws CO2 from the atmosphereOnly recently scientists have realized that sea ice has an impact on the planet’s CO2 balance.”We have long known that the Earth’s oceans are able to absorb huge amounts of CO2. But we also thought that this did not apply to ocean areas covered by ice, because the ice was considered impenetrable. However, this is not true: New research shows that sea ice in the Arctic draws large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere into the ocean”, says Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard.Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard has just completed her studies of sea ice in Greenland. The studies show that sea ice may have a major impact on the global carbon cycle, and that chemical processes have a much greater impact on the sea ice’s ability to remove CO2 than biological processes. The research is published as a series of articles in scientific journals.”The chemical removal of CO2 in sea ice occurs in two phases. First crystals of calcium carbonate are formed in sea ice in winter. During this formation CO2 splits off and is dissolved in a heavy cold brine, which gets squeezed out of the ice and sinks into the deeper parts of the ocean. Calcium carbonate cannot move as freely as CO2 and therefore it stays in the sea ice. In summer, when the sea ice melts, calcium carbonate dissolves, and CO2 is needed for this process. Thus, CO2 gets drawn from the atmosphere into the ocean – and therefore CO2 gets removed from the atmosphere”, explains Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard.

The biological removal of CO2 is done by algae binding of carbon in organic material.

Frost flowers also contribute

Another important discovery is that every winter flower-like ice formations are formed on the surface of newly formed sea ice. They are called frost flowers. Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard has discovered that these frost flowers hold extremely high concentrations of calcium carbonate, which can have a further significant impact on the potential CO2 uptake in the Arctic.

Photo top: Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard from University of Denmark/Grønlands Naturinstitut studies how sea ice removes CO2 from the atmosphere. Photo: Søren Rysgaard.

Photo below: A frost flower has emerged on new sea ice. Photo: David Barber.

Contact Ph.d. Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard, Tel: +299321200 and


The relative contributions of biological and abiotic processes to carbon dynamics in subarctic sea ice, Polar Biology: Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard, David N. Thomas, Søren Rysgaard, Ronnie Nøhr Glud, Louiza Norman, Hermanni Kaartokallio, Thomas Juul-Pedersen, Nicolas-Xavier Geilfus. doi 10.1007/s00300-013-1396-3.

Ikaite crystal distribution in winter sea ice and implications for CO2 system dynamics, The Cryosphere: S. Rysgaard, D. H. Søgaard, M. Cooper, M. Pućko, K. Lennert, T. N. Papakyriakou, F. Wang, N. X. Geilfus, R. N. Glud, J. Ehn, D. F. McGinnis, K. Attard, J. Sievers, J. W. Deming, and D. Barber. doi:10.5194/tc-7-707-2013.

Frost flowers on young Arctic sea ice, The climatic, chemical and microbial significance of an emerging ice type, Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres: D. G. Barber, J. K. Ehn, M. Pućko, S. Rysgaard,  J. W. Deming,  J. S. Bowman, T. Papakyriakou, R. J. Galley and  D. H. Søgaard. doi: 10.1002/2014JD021736.

Autotrophic and heterotrophic activity in Arctic first-year sea ice: seasonal study from Malene Bight, SW Greenland, Marine Ecology: Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard, Morten Kristensen, Søren Rysgaard, Ronnie Nøhr Glud, Per Juel Hansen, Karen Marie Hilligsøe. doi:10.3354/meps08845.

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September 22, 2014 2:11 pm

“Climate change is a fact….”
Stop the presses!!!

Reply to  Mark and two Cats
September 22, 2014 2:18 pm

The climate used to never change. ever. ever. Fact.
(PS “Fact” is the new “/sarc”)

Reply to  Mark and two Cats
September 22, 2014 2:27 pm

Funny wording too…Would be more consistent as

Global Warming is a fact, and most of the warming is caused by human activity.

Problem, of course, is that it hasn’t warmed in a long time. Or, one could have

Climate change is a fact, and most of the change is caused by human activity.

but then, it’s just sort of a vague “change”, and not scary “warming”, I guess.

Tom Moran
Reply to  Mark and two Cats
September 22, 2014 5:53 pm

Have you ever noticed that in climate porn, the money shot is always in the first few paragraphs? It’s almost like the people who give grants only read the first few lines, make some ooooo’s and aaaaaahs, then roll over and have a ciggy.

Reply to  Tom Moran
September 22, 2014 11:56 pm

Have you ever noticed that in climate porn, the money shot is always in the first few paragraphs?

premature interjection

Reply to  Tom Moran
September 23, 2014 3:21 pm

the money shot is always in the first few paragraphs?
That’s because once global warming / climate change has died, these same papers will have the first paragraph or two deleted and the paper will still stand!
Sounds logical to me!

September 22, 2014 2:18 pm

I need to see the data.

Reply to  mpainter
September 22, 2014 2:43 pm

Why should they show you their data when you just want to find something wrong with it? Right?

Reply to  jorgekafkazar
September 22, 2014 4:00 pm

Wrong, I want to see if I can find something right.

Michael Wassil
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
September 22, 2014 5:06 pm

mpainter September 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm
Maybe, but they don’t know that.

Reply to  mpainter
September 22, 2014 4:42 pm

Per the Sogaard paper, “Knowledge on the relative effects of biological activity and precipitation/dissolution of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in influencing the air-ice CO2 exchange in sea-ice-covered season is currently lacking.” Does this throw into doubt the entire method of ice core sampling-historic CO2 correlation? How accurate is it when they can’t get a measurement that reflects actual atmospheric concentrations?

Reply to  PeteLJ
September 22, 2014 6:13 pm

“Does this throw into doubt the entire method of ice core sampling-historic CO2 correlation?”
It absolutely should discard absolute measures of CO2, but there may still be some value in relative measures… but perhaps not. The ice cores do show troubling stable CO2 concentrations at times.

Reply to  PeteLJ
September 23, 2014 10:28 am

“Does this throw into doubt the entire method of ice core sampling-historic CO2 correlation?”
Aren’t ice cores taken from glacial ice, and not sea ice? The calcium and concentrated brine required for CO2 removal are present in sea water, but would be mostly absent from glacial ice.

Boulder Skeptic
Reply to  PeteLJ
September 23, 2014 12:28 pm

That’s one thing that came to mind for me as well (ice core accuracy) plus another thought…
Could this help explain a causal link between temperature and atmospheric CO2 content. There is significant evidence that CO2 LAGS temperature. With warming temps and decreasing sea ice, does atmospheric CO2 go up because there’s not as much ice to suck it out. Then when temperatures drop (sun, or other unknown factors) and sea ice is on the rise, CO2 then drops as the increasing sea ice “absorbs” it.
Just a thought.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  PeteLJ
September 23, 2014 12:41 pm

Indeed there is a huge difference between sea ice and glacial ice, which has much less sea-salts incorporated. Coastal glacial ice somewhat more than inland Antarctic ice, due to wind transport. Bacteria are omnipresent also more in coastal cores than in inland cores, but they just survive the extreme cold (-40°C) inland ice cores like Vostok and Dome C. All that the bacteria do is using some CO2 as carbon source for DNA repair, which gives a “loss” of ~0.1 ppmv CO2 over hundred thousands of years. But the bacteria survive…
Looncraz: absolute CO2 values from ice cores are valid, but reflect a weighted average of several years to several centuries, depending of snow accumulation rate, which gives the speed at which the air bubbles are sealed from the atmosphere.
The smallest resolution is from two coastal Law Dome ice cores: ~10 years over the past 150 years, including a 20 year overlap (1960-1980) with direct measurements at the South Pole for the same average gas age.
The longest resolutions are for Vostok (~600 year over 420 kyear) and Dome C (~560 years over 800 kyear).

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  PeteLJ
September 23, 2014 12:45 pm

Boulder Skeptic, the total sea ice area is currently at record level for the past 30 years of satellite measurements, thus if the ice area is a significant CO2 player, then the CO2 levels should decrease, not the steady increase we see over the past 55 year…

Reply to  PeteLJ
September 23, 2014 2:29 pm

“…thus if the ice area is a significant CO2 player, then the CO2 levels should decrease, not the steady increase we see over the past 55 year…”
Another falacious, circular argument. Let me fix it for you: “…thus if the ice area is a significant CO2 player, then the CO2 levels should decrease relative to what they otherwise would be doing“.
Since you do not know what they otherwise would be doing, you can reach no conclusion on this basis.
You always do this, Ferdinand. You assume your answer a priori, implicitly factor it into your logic, and seem to think it conclusory when, mirabile dictu, you end up “proving” the answer you assumed at the beginning.

Reply to  PeteLJ
September 23, 2014 2:30 pm

Meant to say “fallacious”…

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  PeteLJ
September 23, 2014 2:58 pm

Bart, I was reacting on what Boulder Skeptic said. I don’t see that this plays a huge role in the carbon cycle: seasonal happens the opposite of what the researchers have found: more CO2 for more ice (thanks to vegetation). Over middle long periods, the opposite happens too: record global sea ice cover and record CO2 levels. Which proves that sea ice is not a dominant player in the carbon cycle and certainly not the cause of the CO2 increase in the atmosphere…

Reply to  mpainter
September 23, 2014 3:51 am

That’s a good idea, why didn’t they think of that? (And publish?)

Reply to  johnmarshall
September 23, 2014 3:53 am

This was for ‘mpainter’

richard verney
Reply to  johnmarshall
September 23, 2014 5:03 pm

The clue is in the heading: It is Arctic ice.
Everyone knows that Antarctic ice behaves diffferently!

September 22, 2014 2:19 pm

What about Antarctic sea ice – surely the same thing happens there AND Antarctic sea ice is increasing and breaking all records.

Keith Gordon
Reply to  David Whitehead
September 22, 2014 2:33 pm

I agree David and the Arctic ice is at similar levels to last year, don’t these people read the news

Reply to  Keith Gordon
September 22, 2014 5:34 pm

Yeah, but they need to say the magic words to guarantee funding and publication. /sarc

Billy Liar
Reply to  David Whitehead
September 22, 2014 3:52 pm

Current global anomaly is about +0.5 million km². Currently, there wouldn’t appear to be a problem.

September 22, 2014 2:20 pm

“Summer sea ice extent has most surely reduced, winter sea ice has been near normal.”
In the Arctic. I guess this phenomenon does not occur at the South Pole. I wonder how the ice knows which pole it is at?

September 22, 2014 2:23 pm

It’s grammatically awkward, but I think this is what is meant:
sea ice has decreased by about 30 pct. in summer
and in winter, sea ice is getting thinner.

September 22, 2014 2:28 pm

This seems to indicate that melting of ice is the important phase that pulls atmospheric carbon dioxide into the ocean. Thus it would seem the more freezing and melting the more is removed from the atmosphere. So if there was less melting and refreezing as in the early eighties, there would he less pulled from the atmosphere.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  Dennis
September 23, 2014 12:52 pm

I don’t think so, the main seasonal variation is in the NH, where the extra-tropical forests are the dominant cause: δ13C and CO2 go in opposite ways:
There is far less seasonal variation in the SH.
As the winter ice area in the Arctic remained more stable than the summer ice area, the melting and refreezing in the past decades was larger than in previous decades…

Bryan A
September 22, 2014 2:31 pm

With Arctic Sea Ice decreasing and total Arctic Sea Ice ammount also slightly decreasing thien this could be a problem for the overall Global CO2 sink process. Problem with the Science presented is thet the Overall Global Sea Ice levels are increasing. Antarctic Sea Ice levels are (probably) at greater levels than ever recorded in Human History (if they can use the term to prove global warming then it is OK to use them to disprove it), and are increasing on an annual basis at a rate that is faster than the Arctic Ice is deminishing.
Nature working in balance like nautre always does.

September 22, 2014 2:32 pm

One should expect these reactions to occur, but once the sea ice thickens there will be little transport of CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean. This sink rate is at a minimum when the ice thickness and extent are at their maximum. It is at a maximum when the extent is at a minimum.

Reply to  fhhaynie
September 22, 2014 2:57 pm

That’s what I’m thinking. Ice is static; water is dynamic and can carry CO2 deeper. I believe the transport rate of CO2 through ice is orders of magnitude slower than through water. The addition of “frost flowers,” algae, and CaCO3 to the mix appears to be just razzle-dazzle to obscure ice’s poor CO2 transport rate and relatively fast surface saturation.

September 22, 2014 2:32 pm

One more entry in the long march of “here’s another part of the carbon cycle we formerly knew nothing about, but we’re sure humans control atmospheric concentration anyway.”

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  Bart
September 23, 2014 3:08 pm

Even if nothing was known of any part of the carbon cycle, the net result is known and the net natural variability over the past 55 years is known: about +/- 1 ppmv year by year variability over an increase of 0.5-2 ppmv net sink rate.
As there is not the slightest indication that the natural cycle increased in intensity, the human emissions are the sole cause of the increase.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
September 23, 2014 4:14 pm

@Ferdinand. The net result is known. The individual sources are guestimates with error bars greater than the human contribution. Scientists find “new” sources every year. Since the smoking gun of carbon isotopes doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, I don’t know how anyone can claim with a straight face how much CO2 in the atmosphere comes from humans.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
September 24, 2014 2:02 pm

Johnny, it doesn’t matter how many new natural sources the researchers find, the natural sinks outnumber the natural sources in quantity for each year in the past 55 years.
That is something most housewives with a strict household budget seem to understand, but some skeptics refuse to accept…
I know that the carbon isotopic composition of vegetation and fossil fuel burning are similar, but the oxygen budget shows that the biosphere as a whole (vegetation growth + decay/bacteria/molds + insects + animals) is a net source of O2, thus a net sink for CO2 and thus preferably 12CO2, thus not the cause of the 13C/12C ratio decline. Only humans are, as all other sources (oceans, volcanoes, rock weathering) have a higher 13C/12C ratio than the atmosphere…

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
September 25, 2014 11:53 am

Because it’s the stupid, circular “mass balance” argument again, Ferdinand.

September 22, 2014 2:34 pm

There are ocean currents that flow beneath the ice over all or most of the Arctic. So it makes very little difference whether or not CO2 gets into the water below via the ice. In the end, the amount of CO2 in the ocean will be essentially the same. ie, the amount of Arctic ice is completely or almost completely irrelevant to the amount of CO2 in the ocean. Especially given that absence of ice gives atmospheric CO2 direct access to the water (ie, the fact that CO2 can enter via ice doesn’t mean that the ocean collects more CO2 if there is ice). And the Arcitic is a small enough area that it wouldn’t make any significant difference anyway.

September 22, 2014 2:36 pm

Where does the calcium come from on the surface of old multiyear sea ice?

Billy Liar
Reply to  Genghis
September 22, 2014 3:55 pm

… and what happens to the CaO when the CO2 ‘splits off’???

Billy Liar
Reply to  Genghis
September 22, 2014 4:29 pm

I’ve now skimmed a couple of the papers. The calcium is in the water and CaCO3.6H20 (ikaite) crystallizes out of the seawater at -2.2°C so it is abundant (relatively speaking!) in the surface layer of sea ice. Other salts crystallize at much lower temperatures. See the second listed reference above.

Ed Barbar
September 22, 2014 2:40 pm

In summer, when the sea ice melts, calcium carbonate dissolves, and CO2 is needed for this process. Thus, CO2 gets drawn from the atmosphere into the ocean – and therefore CO2 gets removed from the atmosphere”, explains Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard.

So doesn’t this mean the more ice area that melts (and re-freezes) the more CO2 gets sucked into the ocean? I’m not understanding the problem in the arctic. Anyone?

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Ed Barbar
September 22, 2014 3:05 pm

That’s what I first thought when I read that. Perhaps someone more learned can explain.

Reply to  Ed Barbar
September 22, 2014 3:07 pm

The scientific problem, it seems to me, is that there is so much we don’t know and that we know so little about what we know.
The political problem is that we have acted so much based on wrong scientific conclusions.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Ed Barbar
September 22, 2014 3:20 pm

The first step freezing, creates the heavy brine which pulls CO2 down to benthic depths. The second step, melting, draws atmospheric CO2 into the melted ice to dissolve the CaCO2. This is an application of Le Chatelier’s Principle with a change of concentration of a solute.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 22, 2014 4:55 pm

But is not “melted ice” water? And do not CaCO3 crystals sink? It seems to be incomprehensible, meaning the study.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 22, 2014 5:17 pm

I’m not saying it is right, but that is how I interpret what the authors are proposing. As the ice melts, it releases CaCO2 crystals which then to dissolve back into solution take additional CO2 drawn from the atmosphere. What this would mean if it is correct is that the physical ice formation process itself acts as a sink to sequester CO2 to the deep ocean, and the melting and release of CaCO2 crystals re-primes the pump using CO2 from the air.
The part I find hard to accept that that deep CO2 briny ocean water should eventually upwell and release its CO2 back to the surface, i.e. the AMOC. So overall it is zero net.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 22, 2014 6:03 pm

“So overall it is zero net.”
Perhaps, averaged over geologic time. But, transport phenomena cannot be so easily taken for granted over finite time. There can be standing waves in the steady state, and traveling waves with unsteady boundary conditions.
Furthermore if, as this article indicates, we have significant gaps in our knowledge of effects at the surface where we can easily investigate them, what confidence can we have that we know everything that happens to the flows in the deeps of the oceans?

Ed Barbar
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 22, 2014 11:48 pm

So, if there is more freezing and melting going on, why isn’t that pulling in more CO2. If area doesn’t melt, the CACO2 sits in the ice, not sucking CO2 into the water.

Ed Barbar
Reply to  Ed Barbar
September 23, 2014 6:06 pm

To those still reading this, I asked the author, and here is her response. I think it’s exactly right: it’s hard to know!

Hi Ed Barber
It is not an easy question to answer but resent studies indicates that the observed changes in Arctic sea ice cover during
the last decade and, in particular, the shift from multiyear sea ice to first-year sea ice cover could increase the
importance of the sea-ice-driven carbon pump (Rysgaard et al. 2007; 2011), as this shift will increase the area that
undergoes the cycle of sea ice formation and decay. Contradicting this scenario, however, is the fact that the length of the average seasonal sea-ice free
period has increased in the same period (Comiso et al. 2008, Parkinson 2000), which potentially weakens the sea ice-driven carbon pump.
Furthermore, recent studies also indicate that the current sea ice thinning may enhance ice-algal export due to algal aggregation (Boetius et al. 2013). As a consequence, the biological drawdown of CO2 is expected to increase as sea ice cover is reduced, which will lead to increased net oceanic uptake of CO2 (Bates et al. 2006, Arrigo et al. 2008, Bates and Mathis 2009, MacGilchrist et al. 2014). However, recent studies show that the uptake capacity of the Arctic Ocean for atmospheric CO2 is limited as a result of surface warming and increased stratification (Fransson et al. 2009, Cai et al. 2010, Brent et al. 2013, Else et al. 2013) and that these changes will also stimulate bacterial production and, consequently, limit the sink function of the Arctic Ocean when the sea ice cover is reduced (Xie et al. 2009). Furthermore, observation has shown that the Arctic river runoff has increased, which would lead to an even stronger stratification in the Arctic Ocean (Fransson et al. 2009). This will most likely result in a decrease in the annual biological production in these areas and, consequently, also limit the sink function of the Arctic Ocean in summer (Fransson et al. 2009).
I hope this answers your question

“I hope this answers your question”
No, but it tells me what all of us know: It’s complex!!!!!

Mike McMillan
September 22, 2014 3:01 pm

The frost flowers contain a high concentration of microbes, which I suspect may have something to do with their formation.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
September 22, 2014 3:17 pm

If this is true, I would expect to see discernible effects of changing arctic sea ice on atmospheric CO2 concentration, as measured at Mona Loa. Or maybe not since in the past decade antarctic sea is has been increasing while arctic sea is has been decreasing.

September 22, 2014 3:35 pm

“Due to global warming, larger and larger areas of sea ice melt in the summer and when sea ice freezes over in the winter it is thinner and more reduced. As the Arctic summers are getting warmer we may see an acceleration of global warming, because reduced sea ice in the Arctic will remove less CO2 from the atmosphere, Danish scientists report.”
Well, that explains the recent pause in atmospheric warming.
Oh, wait… no, it doesn’t.

September 22, 2014 3:38 pm

New user and fairly recent covert to the “dark side”.
I’ve been reading a lot on this site over the last few weeks, and the comments section is as enlightening as the posts. I don’t understand all that’s posted, but the more I read convinces me of the misleading facts in the MSM.
Anyway, can someone explain or point me to any articles which give a fair representation of what’s happening with the land ice at Antarctica. I’ve seen posts/articles in the news saying about some of the ice sheets breaking away and the potential to impact sea level by up to 4 feet. But other comments have implied that the land ice is actually increasing.

Dennis Hoy
Reply to  keithdhinde
September 22, 2014 6:18 pm

Keith You might find this interesting.
Antarctic contribution to sea level rise observed by GRACE with improved GIA correction
Erik R. Ivins, Thomas S. James, John Wahr, Ernst J. O. Schrama, Felix W. Landerer,
and Karen M. Simon.
“The new estimate for Antarctic mass balance by GRACE during 2003.0–2012.0 is –57 +/-34 Gt/yr with the improved IJ05_R2-GIA correction. Similar conclusions concerning the lower Antarctic contribution to sea level rise during the GRACE era have also followed from the implementation of the W12a model by King et al.[2012] and by Sasgen et al. [2012], who used a hybrid GPS-GIA model. The reduction in mass contribution to sea level rise from Antarctica is notable.”
Note: Total Antarctic ice is on the order of 26.5 million cub. km. One gigaton of ice is equivalent to roughly one cub. km., making 57 Gt. 0.0002% of total Antarctic ice.
For a brief discussion of the current range of estimates see

Reply to  Dennis Hoy
September 22, 2014 11:36 pm

Thanks Dennis.

September 22, 2014 3:55 pm

Arctic sea ice has turned past minimum (in case anyone is interested). For the second year in a row the minimum has grown from the previous year. This may not mean much but it does make next year interesting.

We have long known that the Earth’s oceans are able to absorb huge amounts of CO2. But we also thought …

This is a strange use of the word “huge”. To the oceans the total CO2 in the atmosphere is tiny.
But we also thought …
No. You may think you thought but you did not. You parroted a learned text. You recited a religious liturgy. You ranted a tribal slogan.
But for you thinking lies only in the future, if at all.

Reply to  phlogiston
September 22, 2014 6:06 pm

If you thought you knew it all before, and were wrong, why should we believe you now?

Robert of Ottawa
September 22, 2014 4:28 pm

This is clutching at straws

September 22, 2014 4:45 pm

What does this finding mean for ice core records? More specifically, does this finding change the interpretation of CO2 levels in ice core records?

Dave Wendt
Reply to  KovacM
September 22, 2014 7:05 pm

That was the thought that occurred to me first when reading this. I recall a comment discussion some while ago regarding the reliability of ice core CO2 readings where, when I expresed my dubiousness that CO2 encapsulated in microscopic ice bubbles and subjected to massive hydraulic and mechanical forces, pressurizations and depressurizations, contaminations, and other perturbations would preserve a perfect copy of atmospheric air for a hundred thousand years or more, another commentor assured me that it had been established conclusively that the walls of those micro bubbles in the ice were completely impermeable to the gases contained within them.
I’ve always admitted to being very much an epistemological hardcase, i.e. I don’t claim to “know” much at all, but my own confirmation bias leads me to suspect that these lads are closer to an understanding of reality than those folks who fill their lives with endless days of grinding up ice cores. On the other hand, the logic and hypothesis they suggest is hardly snare drum tight either. It just shows to go ya, the only place in science where the oft ballyhooed 97% deserves to appear is in discussions of the more than 97% of the “known” universe which we pretend to understand just a little by calling it Dark matter and Dark energy
“Ninety-seven-and-a-half per cent of the universe is invisible. This has got to be one of the most extraordinary discoveries in the history of science. Yet it still hasn’t trickled into the consciousness of most scientists. They still have not woken up to the shocking fact that everything they have been studying – everything science has been looking at over the past 350 years – is no more than a minor contaminant of the universe, like the frosting of snow on a mountaintop.”

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  Dave Wendt
September 23, 2014 1:15 pm

Dave, there are some alternative proxies (sediments) which show similar values as CO2 in the ice cores.
The main reason I find that ice cores CO2 levels are reliable is the fact that CO2 levels follow temperature (proxy) levels at a quite constant ratio of ~8 ppmv/K between glacials and interglacials. If there was any distortion of the gas bubbles or diffusion of CO2, the ratio would fade away for each glacial 100 kyear back in time over 8 interglacials, which isn’t the case…

September 22, 2014 4:45 pm

They must be ecstatic about the Antarctic then.

Michael Wassil
September 22, 2014 5:16 pm

Well, knock me down with a feather. Who would’a thought ice sequestered CO2? Like the Pleistocene glaciation never happened. Like atmospheric CO2 never fell to less than 200ppm because of the last glacial max. The ice melts and releases the CO2 back into the atmosphere. Who could have imagined that? Where exactly did they think the 97% of CO2 that wasn’t the result of ‘human activity’TM added to the atmosphere came from? Fairy dust?

September 22, 2014 7:30 pm

I’ve just glanced through the first of the Søgaard papers in the list. Maybe I missed something, but nowhere could I find anything that even remotely implies “Climate change is a fact, and most of the warming is caused by human activity.”
Has anyone found it in the other papers?

September 22, 2014 7:30 pm

First, the Antarctic has about 10X the volume of ice that the Arctic has. With that in mind, see here. You can see that the Antarctic more than makes up for any Arctic loss. The polar see-saw explains the difference.
Next, the Arctic has been ice free in the past, during our current Holocene. That has happened when human emitted CO2 was non-existent. Per the Null Hypothesis, what is being observed now is simply naltural climate variability, nothing more.
Next, global sea ice is above its long term average.
Next, older Arctic ice is beginning to build up to former levels. At the same time, Antarctic ice has reached record highs.
Finally, for those new to the subject, there is nowhere better to learn the basics of Arctic ice than here at John Daly’s excellent site.
Despite the usual hand-waving over every minor fluctuation in ice cover, there is nothing happening that cannot be fully explained by natural variability. And of course, CO2 has nothing whatever to do with polar ice.

September 22, 2014 9:00 pm

Sorry, I don’t buy it. I believe any calcium or CO2 they are finding in the ice is from what was already in the sea water & it returns to the sea water when the ice melts.
If this process were so as they present it (presuming an atmospheric influence), it (the process) should be able to be reproduced with fresh water or even distilled water. Freeze that & see how much calcium carbonate/CO2 is in it…
Just my HO – FWIW

September 22, 2014 9:07 pm

“Sea ice draws CO2 from the atmosphere…”
Does that also mean the Greenland / Antarctic ice caps “draw CO2 from the atmosphere” as well? If sea ice does it, why wouldn’t other ice creation do it as well. Wouldn’t that kind-of throw a wrench into the whole CO2 in ice core issue?
Again, just some thoughts – FWIW

Reply to  JKrob
September 23, 2014 7:19 am

The problem is with the skimpy information given in the posting. We are left trying to figure what the authors meant.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  JKrob
September 23, 2014 1:35 pm

No, sea ice and glacial ice are completely different. Glacial ice is formed by the compression of snow under its own weight. That contains far less sea salts than sea-ice.

Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)
September 23, 2014 1:20 am

Haven’t the last few summers been the coldest on record for the Arctic?

September 23, 2014 2:35 am

How many significant factors in the CO2 budget are not well considered by the climate modeling consensus?
Soil, ice, land use, fresh water systems, etc. etc.
Since world sea ice levels are high and CO2 is a well mixed gas, this has large implications that the cliamte obsessed have not even considered. Yet for them the science is settled.
As to the authors bit of self-policing, that is no more than when scientists were discovering things that falsified the young earth of biblical interpretation and felt the need to make pro-forma nods to the Church.

Bloke down the pub
September 23, 2014 3:04 am

‘As the Arctic summers are getting warmer we may see an acceleration of global warming, because reduced sea ice in the Arctic will remove less CO2 from the atmosphere, Danish scientists report.’
Meanwhile, other Danish scientists report-
Talk about left hand not knowing what the right hand’s doing.

Reply to  Bloke down the pub
September 23, 2014 7:12 am

I was thinking the same thing, and also remembering that last years Arctic summer temperatures were also below average:

George E. Smith
September 23, 2014 7:56 am

Well climate has been changing ever since the big bang, which actually was a very tiny bang.
But as to this icy CO2 thing, it is well known that the seasonal cycle of CO2 in the Arctic, is more than three times the amplitude of the ML cycle, and the south polar amplitude is almost zero.
Now years ago, I proposed that the cause of the big arctic cycle (there’s no trees in the arctic ocean), was the segregation coefficient of CO2 between water and ice in the freeze / melt cycle. The same thing that causes the ice to be fresh water rather than salt (besides those brines).
That idea was pooh-poohed by someone who is a CO2 expert, at Scripps as I recall (seemed like a nice chap).
But I don’t see plant growth explaining the 18-20 ppm of CO2 cycle in the north polar region.
Now I dunno, whether this new study either supports, or refutes MY theory, but it is interesting, and obvious from the first few paragraphs, that the author(s) were clearly intoxicated at the time of writing that.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  George E. Smith
September 23, 2014 1:42 pm

There is a large exchange of air masses between the mid-latitudes and the high North via the Ferrel cells.
The seasonal variation at Schauinsland, Southern Germany is as big as at Barrow. Anyway, it is plant growing that is dominant, even at Barrow, as the opposite δ13C and CO2 changes show (see the graph above).

September 23, 2014 9:28 am

That will also make the oceans under the ice less alkaline if co2 reduces PH. So with retreating ice you must see an increase in PH. And with recovering ice we will see a reduction. So the acidification of the oceans must be a sign of recovery then since the sea ice is increasing !

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Chennai
September 23, 2014 10:40 am

It seems to me that if the melting of sea ice filled with calcium carbonate requires CO2 from the atmosphere, then the conclusion that the melting of Arctic sea ice (lower winter limits) will not create the result claimed by the authors.
The claimed effect is only available if the ice melts. There is NO reason to think that having thicker multi-year ice will increase the drawdown of CO2 from the atmosphere. Quite the opposite.
Suppose the Arctic ice melted entirely each summer. Then the melting would be complete each year. At the moment only a portion of the ice melts. With the entire sea ice cap melted, that would give the extraction of the maximum amount of CO2 possible.
In winter the water would freeze again and the process would continue, presumably with a lower total extent depending on the severity of the winter. Fine. What is the total mass involved?
The cycling of the mass of ice (Delta ICE) from melting to freezing is the key, not the temperature at which it takes place or the extent of sea ice in any one year. The idea that if it was thicker when it melted means that the summer temps should be higher than usual, and melt more, and that winters should be colder and freeze more. That is the only way to increase the pumping through the system. The only way to decrease the pumping is to re-freeze and re-melt a smaller total mass, which is not yet evident, is it? Any ice-free Arctic winter days yet?
The analysis fails on this point. In general the claim is that having a reduced extent (limit) means having less mass of ice that is cycled through the melt-freeze process. But if it melts back father, there is the same Delta Ice and there is no change in CO2 pumping.
On the other hand long-frozen sea ice stuck to the sea floor in Antarctica might melt and result in a permanent, once-off pumping of CO2 into the ocean, after which it will cycle in the same way as the Arctic, resulting in a much great drawdown than before.

The definition guy
September 23, 2014 12:25 pm

Pardon me for asking such a stupid question but how would a melting ice cap prove that co2 is responsible for warming the planet uncontrollably in the first place?
In the good news department I have discovered what has so far been a flawless predictor of impending rain. I observed large numbers of people walking down my street and noticed that every time they pull out and open umbrellas or cover their heads with newspapers the rain begins immediately. When the umbrellas start closing and the newspapers come down the rain invariably stops. Clearly, based on the evidence, umbrellas and newspapers regulate precipitation.
I deserve a Nobel Peace prize for this discovery.

Reply to  The definition guy
September 24, 2014 2:10 pm

“Pardon me for asking such a stupid question but how would a melting ice cap prove that co2 is responsible for warming the planet uncontrollably in the first place?”
It doesn’t. In fact, the only means by which CO2 is claimed to facilitate Arctic melt if by temperature increase. But the temperatures during the melt season have decreased. Winter temperatures, however, have increased slightly at the same time (and at a higher rate). The temperatures, though, aren’t likely to be responsible for the increased melt – unless, of course, you are talking about a reduction in evaporation which results in great exposure to the sun for melting… a result of lower temperatures.
These effects, however, are quite possible due to CO2. But not, necessarily, by any radiative qualities it possesses, but by its specific heat alone. You’d expect warmer lows and lower highs as a result of CO2, with the delta of change being greater at lower temperatures (relative to Earth’s conditions – Venus is another story).

September 24, 2014 12:21 am

A) There was no comparison of CO2 uptake for whole season cycle. I mean open sea compared to time to time ice covered and melting sea.
B) There was no measurement of CO2 outflow at freezing process. High concentration of ikaite in frost flowers is sign of CO2 outflow.
C) Claims concerning global CO2 are not directly found in publications but in the press release.
D) It seems that mainly the increase of CO2 uptake at melting process is more or less compensation of slower uptake of ice covered sea.
E) You can read more in plain Finnish here:

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