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.

74 thoughts on “Monday Mirthiness – polar melting test

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

  2. 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.”.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.”

  7. …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.”

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

    • 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)

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    • 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.

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    • 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.

  15. 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

    • 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.

      • David,
        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!

      • 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.

  16. 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.

    • 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?

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

  17. 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)

  18. 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.

    • 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.”

        • 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?

      • 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.

    • 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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