Monday Mirthiness – polar melting test

state-of-sea-ice-jan2015WUWT reader Warren Smith writes in with this quiz:

TEST YOURSELF: What is your knowledge of how fast the polar ice caps are melting?

1) According to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, as of the end of December 2014, the extent of Arctic sea ice coverage, when compared to the year-end averages from 1981 through 2010, was: 

  A) About 90% below normal

  B) About 75% below normal

  C) About 50% below normal

  D) About 25% below normal

  E) Less than 5% below normal

  F) About 33% above normal

2) According to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, as of the end of December 2014, the extent of Antarctic sea ice coverage, when compared to the year-end averages from 1981 through 2010, was:  

  A) About 90% below normal

  B) About 75% below normal

  C) About 50% below normal

  D) About 25% below normal

  E) Less than 5% below normal

  F) About 33% above normal

3) Anybody who questions that the polar ice caps are in the process of a catastrophic melt-off most likely:

  A) Is a mentally retarded orangutan who is not a real climate scientist, so should sit down and shut up

  B) Works for Fox News

  C) Is directly or indirectly on the payroll of the Koch Brothers

  D) Is a racist, homophobic, creationist, evangelical, birther, gun-toting, inbred, flat-Earth Republican bigot who tortures puppies for fun on weekends, and who is actively waging war not just on the environment, but on women, people of color, and poor people as well.

  E) Is committing a thought crime, and should be prosecuted as a danger to society. 

  F) All of the above



1) E: Less than 5% below normal. The average extent of Arctic sea ice coverage for the end of December from 1981 to 2010 is given as 13.06 million square kilometers. This year it was 12.52 million square kilometers, down about 4.1% from the average. This is about the same as the historic low in 2011-2012. SOURCE:

2) F: About 33% above normal. The average extent of Antarctic sea ice coverage for the end of December from 1981 to 2010 is shown as about 4.2 million square kilometers. This year it is shown as about 5.7 million square kilometers, up about 33% from the average. This is the greatest Antarctic ice coverage since records were kept. SOURCE: (the “Antarctic Daily Images” link)

For those “warmists” who are alarmed that global warming is not going as catastrophically as planned, take heart: there is an encouraging statement at the top of the official analysis, stating that although Antarctic sea ice extent was again at a record high, it is “poised for a rapid decline as the austral summer wears on.” There is still hope that the catastrophe we have all been so excited about may yet materialize!

3) This is a trick question. ALL of the answers are equally correct. As is the case with most things having to do with “climate change,” what is important is not the correct (that is, “scientifically supported”) answer, but the socially constructed reality (i.e., “mass hysteria”) that drives the policy to save us from the evils of fossil fuels. The correct answer is whatever helps you to best maintain your belief in the boogie man of global warming.

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January 26, 2015 6:55 am

Haha Perfect! Reposting.

January 26, 2015 6:56 am

at a record high, it is “poised for a rapid decline as the austral summer wears on…..well yeah duh

January 26, 2015 7:04 am

For many years now it has been clear that “climate” is a social mani, not an objective scientific problem. I appreciate that Guest Blogger emphasizes this in this article.
My saying (which gets me in trouble) is that, “the climate changing and nothing is happening.”.

Phil Clarke
January 26, 2015 7:11 am

LOL. Bet you will not repeat the quiz in September.

Reply to  Phil Clarke
January 26, 2015 10:00 am

Hey! 2014 is missing in your chart! Tell me where the graph has gone, long time passing…

Reply to  Phil Clarke
January 26, 2015 10:31 am

P. Clarke,
In other words… you flunked?

Reply to  dbstealey
January 27, 2015 11:41 pm

How about swapping the word extent for volume and see what your numbers are. You are looking at the tree and missing the forest.

Reply to  Phil Clarke
January 26, 2015 10:51 am

why would you say that?
In your opinion, It will be even less than 5% below average?

Mark Luhman
Reply to  Phil Clarke
January 27, 2015 8:43 pm

Phil you seem to be someone is suffering from optical rectitis.

January 26, 2015 7:12 am

The historic, unprecedented, never before experienced Blizzard of 2015 yet to be fully developed can only be explained by pointing to the rapidly melting polar ice caps!
Now, can I get my grant?

TImo Soren
January 26, 2015 7:15 am

I would put ABC (au) and MSNBC (us) not FoxNews in the camp of alarmism.

Reply to  TImo Soren
January 27, 2015 3:41 pm

BBC (uk)

January 26, 2015 7:16 am

Can’t top that, Warren; I salute!

Reply to  kim
January 26, 2015 7:35 am

Me too. Especially Question 3; Option D. Can’t wait for more options from G onwards . . . .

January 26, 2015 7:17 am

The hyperlinks are bad. I believe this is actually the permalink you want.

Crispin in Waterloo
January 26, 2015 7:28 am

What a great set of questions. So simple yet illustrative of the difference between reality and managed perception.
I call it ‘measured physics’ as opposed to the ‘known physics’ upon which the climate models are based. The difference between measured physics and known physics is important.

January 26, 2015 7:58 am

I got #3 wrong. 😉

bob alou
January 26, 2015 8:07 am

Sorry to quibble but in questions 1 and 2 what is “normal”? When did normal replace average? They are not interchangeable, but they are, seemingly, when it comes to weather and climate.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  bob alou
January 26, 2015 8:22 am

Exactly. And, it’s a VERY short term average at that.

Chip Javert
Reply to  bob alou
January 26, 2015 12:27 pm

Stop quibbling; the questions explicitly define it as “… when compared to the year-end averages from 1981 through 2010…”.

January 26, 2015 8:32 am

Thanks, Warren. Always good to look at data.
From Bremen:

January 26, 2015 8:44 am

No, my copy/paste is weird. I meant to show
This shows 2015 is going like 2007 and 2014; at the bottom, but not too far from from their average.

Neil Jordan
January 26, 2015 9:19 am

Today’s California Water News reports a request to use the movie “Frozen” to teach children about climate change.
“I said, you’ve taught an entire generation about the Arctic,” Papp said, relaying his conversation with the Disney exec. “Unfortunately, the Arctic that you’ve taught them about is a fantasy kingdom in Norway where everything is nice. What we really need to do is educate the American youth about the plight of the polar bear, about the thawing tundra, about Alaskan villages that run the risk of falling into the sea because of the lack of sea ice protecting their shores.”

January 26, 2015 9:36 am

…and this is how we win the debate, through satire. Put out the most fanciful wrong answers, the point out the currect answers. For response 1-F, I would have had “Ice? What Ice? It all melted years ago.”

Rob Dawg
January 26, 2015 10:32 am

Friday funny.
Saturday silly.
Sunday funday.
Monday mirth.
Tuesday twaddle.
Wednesday wacky.
Thursday… ?
Hmmm, any suggestions?

Reply to  Rob Dawg
January 26, 2015 11:39 am

Thursday Thigh-slapper – I nominated a comment that had me in giggle-fits to be made a “Thursday Thigh-slapper” a few months ago.
Read all of the comments on Thursdays for the last several months and I’m sure you’ll find it ;o)

Gunga Din
Reply to  Rob Dawg
January 26, 2015 2:39 pm

Thursday Turkey?

January 26, 2015 10:33 am

Humor and climate facts combined in a brilliant column with humor at a Dave Barry level — at that’s a huge complement from this Dave Barry fan..
I have been reading about climate change since 1997 and can not recall any column that was so much fun and so effectively communicated “the climate is normal” message to counter the climate hysteria of the leftists..
It takes good knowledge of the climate to explain things in a simple, easy to understand way, and using humor is a plus. This column leaves me wanting to read more by Warren Smith and I’ll google his name right after this comment.
I do, however, have one extremely serious criticism of Mr. Smith (assuming that is his REAL name): In the last sentence he used the term “boogie man”.
Well, Mr. Smith, a “boogie man” might be confused with a piano player who loves to play 1940s-era boogie music.
What does THAT have to do with the climate?
And can I believe ANYTHING from a person who thinks boogeyman is two words?
I believe the most common spelling for the one word you were thinking of is “Boogeyman”.
Here is an example of properly using the word three times in one sentence, which may be a world record: — The climate change boogeyman, is the latest boogeyman in a fifty years series of environmental boogeymen, invented by the “environmentalists” to get attention, and get government grants to play computer games and make scary predictions for another year.
And seriously now, even leftists could understand Smith’s column — they won’t read it, of course, as they never seek alternative views, and consider an “open mind” to be reading the opinions at a variety of different leftist-biased sites.
The best way to communicate with a leftist, I’ve found, is to swat him with a rolled up newspaper, preferably the New York Times, just before you use it for your birdcage floor liner.
Saul Alinsky’s prime strategy for the Have-Nots to gain concessions from the Haves was to get public attention by ridiculing the Haves (rather than trying to debate them).
In the world of climate we “deniers” are the Have Nots.
The government is against us.
The mainstream press is against us too.
But the press also loves a fight, and if we skeptics can ridicule the warmists in clever and/or funny ways, we have a MUCH better chance of getting some attention in the mainstream press.
It’s also fun and lets off some steam.
Warren Smith knows the art of effective climate change communication.
I know it is beneath most scientists and engineers to ridicule or character attack others … or even to be funny without drinking a lot of alcohol first … but the coming climate change catastrophe fantasy is not about science at all — the computer game predictions are merely a tool to gain political power.
The climate does not even have to change — if enough people BELIEVE a climate catastrophe is coming, then the climate “boogeyman” can work exactly as intended.
The increasing government control of private sector energy use affects all of us, and Republicans in Congress seem to have no plan, and no courage, to stop Obama’s EPA in 2015 and 2016 … and beyond if Shrillary Clinton is elected in 2016.

Dr. Warren Smith
Reply to  Richard Greene
January 26, 2015 2:54 pm

Question 3, Answer G: Probably doesn’t know how to spell “boogeyman,” so should not be trusted. 🙂

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 26, 2015 5:32 pm

As a child in England it was known as the ‘Bogeyman’.

Reply to  Annie
January 27, 2015 2:56 am

Not to be confused with Bogey…..could be a golf score, an enemy aircraft or (ahem) ‘nose pickings’.

Reply to  Annie
January 29, 2015 7:18 am

An acceptable alternative spelling … but could be confused with fans of Humphrey Bogart’s style and lines in the movies, who call themselves “Bogiemen”.

January 26, 2015 10:36 am

Seriously, the first two questions should be re-posted in all available mainstream media comment sections that mention polar ice.
I only got them correct because of WUWT. I doubt that 10% of average readers would guess them correctly. It would open lots of eyes.

Reply to  dbstealey
January 26, 2015 11:42 am

Yeah, but… you probably got #3 wrong just like philjourdan did.

January 26, 2015 10:50 am

Scored 66%…
The mean of my model based reanalysis indicates that I should end up at around 97% though.
Had I answered the questions differently and had you asked different questions.

Christopher Hanley
January 26, 2015 11:55 am

There is nothing happening in the Arctic that hasn’t happened before, unless CO2 has a hitherto unknown property of melting ice.
There is nothing happening in the Antarctic, period.

James at 48
Reply to  Christopher Hanley
January 26, 2015 12:19 pm

Hypothesis: During the latter portion of a Positive Phase PDO and during the early part of the following Negative Phase PDO, the Arctic warms. And during the latter portion of the Negative Phase PDO, and early part of the following Positive Phase, it cools.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Christopher Hanley
January 26, 2015 2:43 pm

Well, the Enterprise has made several trips into the past. Maybe Kirk just didn’t like snow in Iowa?

James at 48
January 26, 2015 12:17 pm

Most of my extended family believe the polar bears are all cast adrift on shrinking little bits of ice and are on the verge of drowning. And we are talking people with graduate and post-graduate degrees here.

Chip Javert
Reply to  James at 48
January 26, 2015 12:30 pm

Win-Win solution: Have them swap places with the drifting poor bears

Reply to  James at 48
January 26, 2015 7:19 pm

… hide their kool-aide.

Gerald Machnee
January 26, 2015 12:35 pm

Something that I could not find in the media. The ship Sea Adventurer had a problem, possibly getting stuck in ice near Antarctica about Jan 23. The Chilean military did a rescue. This same ship, which was Clipper Adventurer in 2010, ran aground on a shoal in the Canadian Arctic on a Northwest passage trip.

January 26, 2015 12:58 pm

Very nice!! But, as with all Globalwarmists, you missed one salient fact: The Flat Earth Society, or at least its chief executive Daniel Shenton, wholeheartedly endorses anthropogenic global warming. Seems appropriate to me.

Reply to  Richard
January 26, 2015 1:00 pm

Sorry. Poor wording. You aren’t a globalwarmist, and I didn’t mean to imply such. It should have read, “along with all Globalwarmists…”
My apologies for inadvertently placing you in that camp.

January 26, 2015 1:52 pm

Ho, ho. ho. Xmas is coming!
Is there a Badger in the house by any chance? If so, in answer to the question “Is Antarctic albedo increasing?” please see:,1128.0.html
“After 2050 the Antarctic Sea Ice extent will almost certainly decrease”

January 26, 2015 3:36 pm

Please let Warren and DB have a go at this one first. Do you fancy your chances too Anthony?
Q4. When was the NSIDC Arctic sea ice extent last at the lowest level ever (since satellite records began) for the day of the year?
Answers on a postcard to:
Snow White
Great White Con Ivory Towers
Nr. Santa’s Secret Summer Swimming Pool
Cloud Cuckoo Land

Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 26, 2015 4:23 pm

Jim Hunt

Q4. When was the NSIDC Arctic sea ice extent last at the lowest level ever (since satellite records began) for the day of the year?

Answer: Who cares?
From today’s Arctic sea ice extents, the more sea ice is lost to open ocean between August and April each year, the greater the heat loss to the atmosphere and then into space.
The greater the Antarctic sea ice excess, the more heat energy is lost being reflected back into space.
Catastrophic Arctic sea ice loss feedback is a myth.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
January 26, 2015 6:39 pm

I care! No prizes for that.
Anybody else care to hazard a guess?

Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 27, 2015 12:55 pm

That is all you do, which leaves you no time to think or learn.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
January 27, 2015 1:23 pm

No prizes for that Phil. Not even close.
Can nobody here even look up the right answer?

Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 28, 2015 10:28 am

Whooosh! Goes right over your head again. Which just proves, you have no time for thinking.

Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 26, 2015 8:38 pm

Not sure about NSIDC but for the IARC-JAXA Arctic Sea-Ice Monitor I think it was about January 9th 2015 that the most recent all-time low for that day in the satellite era occurred.

Reply to  David Sanger
January 27, 2015 3:41 pm

Even with the benefit of your helpful hint, it seems nobody else here can work out how to work out the correct answer. You are close, but still no cigar I’m afraid.
Could you possibly be persuaded to make a final push, go the last extra mile, and claim the astonishing prize? A no expenses paid trip to sample the myriad delights that await you up here in the penthouse at GWC Ivory Towers and outside in Santa’s Secret Summer Swimming Pool!

Dr. Warren Smith
Reply to  David Sanger
January 29, 2015 10:25 am

You see, David, this is why proper contextual reporting is so critically important! Rather than leaving it as “Panic — Arctic ice is at an all-time low” (the gist of your posting, causing one to envision a 95% melt-off or something), it is much more HONEST to add the fuller picture of “…. which is about 7% below the average for the previous three decades — and the total extent of polar sea ice is at a historic high.” Presenting the “all-time low” statement along promotes MISunderstanding, and thus despite the fact being true, in my opinion is fundamentally dishonest.

January 26, 2015 3:46 pm

Gave me a good chuckle but I can already hear the warmistas response. Ice increase is due to the Antarctic and not the Arctic. We all know the Antarctic is melting away to nothing with all that fresh water laying on top of the salt water and we all know it’s easier to freeze fresh water…At least that’s what I’ve been told several times.

Reply to  Darrin
January 26, 2015 4:58 pm

Well Darren – Those who believe in the CAGW religion do often make that argument, don’t they?
So, let’s start a conversation about it perhaps even in a different thread if it gets interesting, shall we?
1. How deep would freshwater runoff from the continent have to be to affect seawater salinity off the coast? 10 meters of seawater diluted?
1 meter of seawater – right up at the bottom of the sea ice?
100 meters? (Seems a bit too deep.)
50 feet is only 15 meters, is that deep enough to avoid the freshwater getting swept away by the currents around Antarctica? .
How dilute does the “original” sea water around Antarctica have to become before the air temperature above the diluted seawater is able to freeze it out – freeze it out more than of course it has ever been freezing before, that is?
How much freshwater is running off of the Antarctic continent every year?
Is this runoff constant, or does it vary by the seasons of the year?
Is this freshwater runoff evenly spread around the whole continent, or is it localized to one area or one bay or one glacier or one peninsula?
What was the freshwater runoff rate (seasonally or yearly or by area) BEFORE the recent Antarctic sea ice increase, and when were those original measurements made, and how were they made and who made the original measurements?
Having asked that, who made the new measurements and when were they made and how were they made over what intervals of the melt season around Antarctica?
The premise of the entire argument is that the freshwater runoff is diluting the seawater around Antarctica, and thus the global warming “problem” is causing the increasing sea ice around Antarctica. If so, what were the original seawater salinity measurements, where were they made and how were they taken? Who made the new (latest) seawater salinity measurements and where were they made and when were they made?
Any other parts of the question I’ve missed?

Bruce Cobb
January 26, 2015 3:50 pm

100% here. What did I win?

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
January 27, 2015 5:43 am

An all expenses paid 1-week vacation in Detroit, Bruce.
(I missed #3. I won an all expenses paid 2-week vacation in Detroit.)

January 26, 2015 3:59 pm

But I just saw a TV report about the Totten Glacier in Antarctica melting from warm seas. We are all doomed.
(Though the scientist being interviewed did say doom would take several hundred years)

January 26, 2015 4:16 pm

Warren: This is a science blog; you need to define what you mean by “normal” sea ice coverage and explain why you chose that definition. You also need to explain why you chose or cherry-picked sea ice coverage on one particular day (December 31, 2014) when the answer to your questions varies from day-to-day throughout the year and between years. Given that Arctic sea ice levels have fallen during the satellite era and the globe has warmed, it is difficult to characterize the 1980-2010 average sea ice coverage as something that is “normal”. The 1980-2010 period is merely useful for defining sea ice anomalies. Both you and the alarmists are over-simplifying a fairly complicated phenomena. Over-simplification aids the enemy in characterizing skeptics are orangutans, Fox News or Koch Brothers employees, bigoted, or heretical.

Dr. Warren Smith
Reply to  Frank
January 29, 2015 10:12 am

This is a great question, Frank, and deserves a thoughtful answer. It should be understood however that the point of the blog entry was not to provide a scientific paper that postulates new knowledge, but to provide an educational tool to enhance understanding by putting old facts in context. Specifically, among climate activists, the general population, and (shockingly) even among professional climatologists there is a pervasive belief that the ice caps have essentially vanished. My posting was supposed to be a snap shot indicating that the ice caps are still there (at least for now), and that the common perception is grossly incorrect.
To answer your specific questions: First regarding the selection of the particular day, clearly this was an arbitrary decision. If the extent of polar sea is were a rapidly-varying metric then “cherry picking” the day for which the data is reported could be used in deceptive reporting. In this case, however, the RATIO of sea ice extent to a given reference denominator for that day of the year greatly eliminates all short-term noise factors and cyclicality (as sea ice extent is a factor that acts as an integral (in respect to time) for a host of other factors), making the choice of day less susceptible to any reporting bias. Hence, such “cherry picking” is not really possibility. My actual choice of date was purely for convenience — this was the date of the year-end reporting by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, meaning that data were readily available. More importantly, the data I used were already discussed and in circulation, giving them more credibility. Even more importantly, these were data produced and endorsed by a decidedly alarmist organization (as indicated by their “poised for a rapid decline” comment), so were apt to be accepted by even the alarmist crowd.
Your second question is much more important — how can I characterize the 1980 – 2010 values as “normal”? You are exactly right, of course. How can one define “normal” amidst a sea of short- and long-term cyclical and non-cyclical variable factors, many of which are yet poorly understood? Fortunately the point of the posting was not to define “normal,” but merely to provide a snap shot showing that, despite the media hype, the extent of sea ice is not that much different from what it has been for many year: “Yes, the polar ice is somewhat smaller, but not materially so!” For this purpose, I was happy to again use the denominator already used by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, to use the data from the year-end report from that institution to provide a greater understanding of the numbers that THEY (not I) reported. I agree that their choice is of questionable validity and value — but because the numbers they published based on that choice are in circulation, it seemed wise to put those same numbers into a clearer context.
I have to admit though — when, in an attempt to understand their report, I calculated the reduction in the extent of the arctic ice from their baseline, I was flabbergasted, and had to recheck my thought process/calculation several time (and even again as I write this response!). Even I, a regular reader of WUST and a bit of a “rational policy” activist, expected to find a substantial DECREASE in sea ice, not a net gain. Given that my informal surveying of people’s perceptions regarding “melting of the polar ice caps” indicates that nearly everyone (including professionals who really ought to know better!) reports a belief that the ice caps are at least 90% smaller than they were a few years ago, pointing out that the Arctic sea ice extent is down only trivially, and that the Antarctic sea ice extent is up substantially is important to helping both the layman and the professional to have a more realistic understanding of “climate change.”

January 26, 2015 8:04 pm

Well done!

Reply to  jim Steele
January 27, 2015 2:41 am

Hey Jim!
That makes two of us, plus a James.
Would you care to take a stab at question 4?

January 27, 2015 10:40 am

Normal is ice all the way to Cleveland.

January 27, 2015 2:00 pm

Just a small correction in Item “Quiz” 3) above, A and D are already accounted for in the requirements for B so the author is repeating himself! Hate that!

Dr. Strangelove
January 28, 2015 12:22 am
Look at this chart. It looks like December 2014 Arctic sea ice extent is the highest since 2005.

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
January 28, 2015 1:14 am

Yet not long afterwards the daily extent was at the lowest ever (satellite era) value for the day of the year!
Q4 redux. When exactly?

Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 28, 2015 11:21 am

So you create trends from a single point, eh? NO wonder you are clueless.

Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 28, 2015 3:02 pm

NO Phil! Who mentioned trends, apart from you? Just what ought to be a simple quiz question.

Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 29, 2015 8:38 am

NO JIM. Do you always base your predictions on single points? I thought the in thing was spot the trend. So how do you do that with a single point?
The climate science way! Draw the line any way you want to! Right show white?

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 28, 2015 7:26 pm

The chart is average for month of December. I don’t know what day of the year you are referring to as lowest ever. For sure a month is more relevant than a day. Seasonal and annual variations in sea ice extent cannot be represented by a single day datum.

Dr. Warren Smith
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
January 29, 2015 12:35 pm

Very odd indeed. I just downloaded the “raw data” from the National Snow and Ice Data Center from and graphed it, and while the overall shape is the same, there are substantial differences from the graph above. I wonder why. (The differences are not substantial enough that the data would tell a different story, its just that the data are different….)

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