Study: Increase in Antarctic Sea Ice due to changes in cloud cover

Increased cloud cover acts as a blanket, keeping heat in, less clouds allows cooling and more ice.

Data from National Snow and Ice Data Center

BEIJING, April 26 (Xinhua) — Researchers have discovered that lower cloud coverage in the Antarctic can promote sea ice growth.

Unlike the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice in the warming climate, Antarctic sea ice witnessed a modest extension over the past four decades, according to the paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

The researchers from China and the United States found that Antarctic sea ice had a strong rebound from 2011 to 2012.

“We quantified the effects on sea ice growth via a thermodynamic model based on reanalysis and satellite data and concluded that lower cloud coverage cooled the sea surface and accelerated the sea ice storage,” said Wang Yunhe, a researcher from the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“Clouds are like a down jacket for the Antarctic to preserve heat during winter,” said Bi Haibo, a researcher from the institute. “Fewer clouds mean more heat is lost from the ocean.”

Rapid temperature decline and thicker sea ice in the Antarctic during the winter in 2011 was mainly due to fewer clouds, he said.

The paper:

The Contributions of Winter Cloud Anomalies in 2011 to the Summer Sea‐Ice Rebound in 2012 in the Antarctic


Unlike the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice in the warming climate, Antarctic sea‐ice extent exhibits a modest positive trend in the period of near four decades. In recent years, the fluctuation in Antarctic sea ice has been strengthened, including a decrease toward the lowest sea‐ice extent in February 2011 for the period of 1978–2016 and a strong rebound in the summer of 2012. The sea‐ice recovery mainly occurs in the Weddell Sea, Bellingshausen Sea, Amundsen Sea, southern Ross Sea, and the eastern Somov Sea. This study offers a new mechanism for this summertime sea‐ice rebound. We demonstrate that cloud‐fraction anomalies in winter 2011 contributed to the positive Antarctic sea‐ice anomaly in summer 2012. The results show that the negative cloud‐fraction anomalies in winter 2011 related to the large‐scale atmospheric circulation resulted in a substantial negative surface‐radiation budget, which cooled the surface and promoted more sea‐ice growth. The sea‐ice growth anomalies due to the negative cloud forcing propagated by sea‐ice motion vectors from September 2011 to January 2012. The distribution of the sea‐ice anomalies corresponded well with the sea‐ice concentration anomalies in February 2012 in the Weddell Sea and eastern Somov Sea. Thus, negative cloud‐fraction anomalies in winter can play a vital role in the following summer sea‐ice distribution.

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Nick Schroeder
April 27, 2019 11:58 am

A blanket obeys Q = U A dT. More blanket means more U & higher dT. Notice that LWIR is absent.

One popular geoengineering strategy proposed for countering imaginary global warming is increasing the earth’s albedo.

This is accomplished by various physical methods, e.g. injecting reflective aerosols into the atmosphere, spraying water vapor into the air to enhance marine cloud brightening, spreading shiny glass spheres around the poles with the goal of reducing the amount of solar energy absorbed by the atmosphere and surface and cooling the earth.

More albedo and the earth cools.

Less albedo and the earth warms.

No atmosphere means no clouds, ice, snow, vegetation, oceans and near zero albedo.

Zero albedo and the earth bakes in that 250 F solar wind.

These geoengineering plans expose the error and delusion of greenhouse theory which says the atmosphere warms the earth and with no atmosphere the earth becomes a -430 F frozen ball of ice.

A failure of greenhouse theory means no CO2 warming and no man caused climate change.

And the entire alarmist cabal of GHG mafia, faux experts, clueless academics, hack reporters and talking air heads are instantly unemployed and will have to go find something useful to do.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
April 27, 2019 7:23 pm

With no atmosphere, the Earth would not approach absolute zero, as you state. Earth’s Moon has neither, and its average temperature is far above -430 F, and its mid-day temperature can become unpleasantly warm. You forget that the surface also interacts with solar radiation. Its albedo is not zero.

Reply to  donb
April 28, 2019 11:35 pm

Moreover the moon reaches well above 390K on average on its equator, when the sun is the zenith. As the moon has an albedo of roughly 0.13, and as the moon has a bound slow rotation, and as there is no atmosphere, and as the soil is “dusty”, we may assume that temperatures could reach their theoretical maximum. This would be ((1-0.13)*342*4)/5.67e-8)^0.25 = 380.6K.

The moon is much warmer than it should be in theory. In other words, the moon has a massive GHE.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
April 28, 2019 12:50 am

“A blanket obeys Q = U A dT”

The blanket analogy is totally inappropriate, it is just the usual condescending talk from scientists when trying to explain things to plebs. Don’t try taking it any further or applying thermal conductivity equations to it.

The main effects of clouds are absorption and reflection at different wavelengths, it is not about conduction.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Greg
April 28, 2019 5:25 am

The only conduction involved is the surface being heated by the sun and the air in contact with it being heated as a result. No GHG’s involved in that pathway. Note in the discussion immediately above the deft switcheroo talking first about an atmosphere with GHG’s and water vapour, then a planet with no atmosphere, but no discussion of an atmosphere without GHG’s or water vapour. That is how the IPCC fooled everyone. They don’t want a discussion of the effect of GHG’s starting from zero, they want a discussion about the atmosphere from zero.

Stop falling for it.

Arctic sea ice melting is not caused by “warmer air temperatures” it is caused by cyclic ocean currents. Nearly all sea ice melt is caused by the sea, not the air. Duh! The sea is never below -2 C even in the dead of winter. If it is cooled rapidly enough from above, by the cold air, sea ice forms!

Antarctica is not covered by sea ice. The formation process is different, yet what do we hear?

Antarctic sea ice is created by the same process at work in the Arctic – cooling of the water into the sky.

There was no discussion in the Article of ozone formation and the important effect ozone plays in heat retention and shielding at the poles – just talk about the clouds which also have an effect. The analysis is not yet comprehensive.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
April 28, 2019 8:05 am

Crispin, Good on you for pointing out the misdirection of Nick’s usual anti-GHG spiel and his oft-stated UAdT formula. The paper is pay-walled but the abstract is simply about radiation of heat to outer space due to lack of cloud cover, and that their findings confirm its magnitude. Nick should actually be happy with the temp-is-controlled-by-clouds rather than the usual temp-is-controlled-by-CO2 approach of IPPC adherents.

April 27, 2019 12:18 pm

All bases covered, per usual. It is getting tedious.

Reply to  Dave
April 27, 2019 1:19 pm

For someone in the hard sciences, it has been tedious for a looooong time.

April 27, 2019 12:42 pm

How about it was colder and that made less clouds and more ice……

god forbid it’s global warming…can’t have it getting cold first

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Latitude
April 27, 2019 1:58 pm

Lat. That was my thought immediately! A case of confusing effect with cause. In extreme cold there is little water vapor in the atmosphere to get together to form clouds.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
April 28, 2019 8:15 am

No, something has to cause the cooling, and they show it to be reduced cloud cover and hence radiation of heat to the -270 sink of outer space. Remember this is the Antarctic…little sunlight all winter. Not like the Tropics where increased cloud cover just reflects more SW causing cooling a day later.

April 27, 2019 12:51 pm

Weak article. They don’t demonstrate what they say they demonstrate. And it is silly to analyze a single year and describe a general mechanism based on it.

The fact is that the more sea-ice melts, the more it refreezes the following season. Rebounds don’t require a specific mechanism, and much less a cloud based one.

Reply to  Javier
April 27, 2019 3:51 pm

No comment about the dramatic “phase change” in 2014?

Richard M
Reply to  Loydo
April 27, 2019 5:42 pm

Loydo, no phase change, just a super El Nino?

Reply to  Richard M
April 27, 2019 8:20 pm

Accorcing to Javier in the Arctic in 2006-2007 season there was “cyclical phase shift” which I think he got from here:

I was wondering if the same thing was happening in the Antarctic given the far more pronounced change.

Can’t see much sign of the 1997-98 event…but maybe ask Javier to consult his Cyclophasic Shiftatron he might be able to ‘splain it without referring to emissions.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Javier
April 27, 2019 11:44 pm

“The fact is that the more sea-ice melts, the more it refreezes the following season. ”

We dont see the rebound(freeze /unfreeze) data every 2nd year either in the Antarctica data nor in the Great Lakes ice coverage data. The reasons are far more complicated than what you are saying and the truth is that no one has an acceptable explanation. However what the data does show is that global warming doesnt exist because there is no long term decline in either the Antarctica sea ice extent nor the Great Lakes long term ice coverage data.

Reply to  Javier
April 28, 2019 8:56 am

Javier – “silly to analyse a single year“. Precisely. Why should it do this in 2011/12 and not in any other year? I’ve done a quick check of Southern Ocean cloud cover vs temperature, and clearly other things are doing much of the driving. What an unimpressive paper (as **** usual).

Michael Carter
April 27, 2019 12:52 pm

The most accurate conclusion on influence of clouds I have seen on this forum came from Dr Spencer:
“Clouds are complicated”

I have been saying that at certain latitudes “Increased cloud cover acts as a blanket, keeping heat in, less clouds allows cooling ” for some time here, to be met with stony silence or rebuttal.

My conclusion came from personal observation as a farmer not from my training in science.

Its just another example of behind-the-desk climate theory being far too simplistic



Gary Pearse
Reply to  Michael Carter
April 27, 2019 2:14 pm

Michael, re-recall Spencer’s saying. Clouds in the daytime reflect sunshine back cooling the surface in the tropics, for example. The clouds also got there because of evaporation/ convection which also cooled the surface. A blanket of cloud at night when there is no sunshine, in the temperate zones keeps the air below warmer, notably in winter. In extreme cold, there isn’t enough water vapor being fed to the atmosphere to form clouds (Antartica). Clouds blown in get snowed out. Of course there is more.

Jim Steele
Reply to  Michael Carter
April 27, 2019 3:00 pm

Michael you are absolutely correct.There is a balance between solar heating vs clouds’ greenhouse effect and clouds’ shading effect. ion the same elevation and density of the clouds that balance depends on the latitude and seasonal solar insolation. Clouds can have a net cooling effect or a net warming effects.

That effect is different from the dynamics that cause low clouds to have little greenhouse effect compared to high clouds

Reply to  Michael Carter
April 27, 2019 3:17 pm

That being said, I do not think cloud cover is a major player in Antarctic sea ice as suggested by this arcticle. Changes in the meridonal wind strength are much more important.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Michael Carter
April 28, 2019 11:08 am

(bout time to repost the following)

The influence of – clouds, fog and mists are all forms of water vapor which have collected into larger “droplets” of water and are visible to the naked eye, …. and are the same as humidity which cannot be seen with the naked eye. And that is because of the density of the larger “droplets” of water and the fact that any source of visible light that strikes them will be absorbed more readily and/or reflected away from them more easily.

But now the effects of clouds, fogs and mists relative to incoming solar energy and re-emitted energy from the earth’s surface ….. are quite different (extremely more pronounced) than the effects of humidity. Again, this is because of their density (mass).

Clouds, fogs and mists act as a unidirectional buffer to both the incoming solar energy and the re-radiated energy from the earth’s surface. And the best way to explain this is by examples.

Night time cloud cover or fog will prevent near surface air temperatures from cooling off as fast because they per say buffer the re-radiated energy from the earth’s surface.

Day time cloud cover or morning fog will prevent near surface air temperatures from warming up as fast because they per say buffer the incoming solar energy.

And this conundrum is what confuses the ell out of scientists who are trying to calculate “average surface air temperatures” ….. and which wrecks havoc with their Climate Modeling Programs ….. because it is such an important but indeterminate variable.

And thus, because they cannot accurately calculate the effect of the aforesaid radiated energy transfers, …… nor can they accurately calculate the effect of the bidirectional molecule-to-molecule conduction of thermal energy between the surface and the atmosphere, ……they completely ignore and omit said from any of their calculations …… and attempt to CTA by blaming everything on atmospheric CO2.

April 27, 2019 1:11 pm

The graph shows in total 10 minor and major peaks in about 40 years long period; this would suggest elNino association.

April 27, 2019 1:28 pm

Sometimes I like to go through the thought-experiment, “suppose climate science were actually a science.” Not the endless activism/propaganda that it is today.

So here’s a paper that claims to identify a mechanism, changes in cloud cover, that appears to cause sea ice growth in Antarctica. If climate science really were science, some climate scientist would take this paper’s methodology, apply it to Arctic sea ice changes, and look to see if cloud cover changes similarly explain the last decade’s changes in Arctic sea ice.

But of course that would threaten the consensus that Arctic sea ice changes are caused by global warming — can’t have that.

April 27, 2019 1:35 pm

Facts are not enough, propaganda will always win while we have a poorly
educated science wise population.

Lies will always beat facts.


Pop Piasa
Reply to  Michael
April 27, 2019 7:25 pm

Fantasy is always more satisfying than reality in my experience.
Facts only mess up expectations where propaganda builds them up.

April 27, 2019 1:55 pm

More clouds would seem to support a greater accumulation of snow/ice on land and existing sea ice. So what metric is most important if you want a frozen winter wonderland?

Extremely rapid flash freezing of the surface that would insulate the sea surface vs a slower but deeper cooling of the upper sea depth while adding ice/snow to existing surfaces. Can the pencil pushers look at two probabilities/possibilities at the same time? They will never achieve the logical reasoning abilities of even an elementary understanding of engineering.

April 27, 2019 2:12 pm

Not knowing that it cools faster and farther on dry, cloudless dry desert nights than it does on clear nights where it is humid is science ignorance.
Not understanding why is science incompetence.

The same phenomena that makes clear desert nights cold causes more ice at the poles. Researchers needed a thermodynamic model to discover this???

April 27, 2019 2:57 pm

“We quantified the effects on sea ice growth via a thermodynamic model based on reanalysis and satellite data and concluded that lower cloud coverage cooled the sea surface and accelerated the sea ice storage,”
I always knew picnic coolers were somehow broken.
It was the bright sunny skies, all along.

Robert of Ottawa
April 27, 2019 3:03 pm

My emprical, some may call it anecdotal, observation is that cloud at night warms, in the day cools.

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
April 27, 2019 3:03 pm

Or rather, porevents warming in the day.

donald penman
Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
April 28, 2019 1:50 pm

My empirical observation is in the UK in the middle of winter is that cloudy days are less cold than non cloudy days. The temperature is higher when it is cloudy although it could depend also where the surface air is coming from.

Nick Schroeder
April 27, 2019 7:34 pm

USCRN data shows that RH and DB takes turns trading energy back and forth.
As the daytime DB increases, RH falls.
As the day cools and into night DB falls and RH increases.
This surge tank of energy interchange plays a major role in moderating the day/night temperature fluctuations.
Pierrehumbert notes that most climate models consider RH fixed because it, like clouds, is too difficult to model.
And CO2 just sits on the bench watching.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
April 28, 2019 8:36 am

And DB is what, Nick? Short for Double Baloney at the diner down the street.

Geoff Withnell
April 27, 2019 7:34 pm

I have spent a lengthy career analyzing process charts. Like the one at the start of this article. Without looking at the labels, it is obvious that the process being charted was fairly stable, with largely random variation until 2016. MAYBE a slight increase in variability. Then the process had a shift at 2017. The shift may or may not be stable, a longer run would be needed to determine. So my question is- What changed at 2017? Something did. Could be in the process or in the measurement, but something changed.

Reply to  Geoff Withnell
April 27, 2019 8:54 pm

Geoff is the increasing variability an early indication of the approach of a tipping point.

The global sea-ice picture is similar with a relatively small variability until a few years ago but now ‘flickering’.
comment image

Geoff Withnell
Reply to  Loydo
April 28, 2019 2:06 pm

I did just a quick visual scan, I am not sure if the variability signal is real or not. Even if real, it doesn’t point to a particular cause, it just says that something more than random variation is in play. I am going to get the actual numbers, do a formal individual/moving range statistical process chart, and see if Anthony is interested in posting the analysis.

Reply to  Geoff Withnell
April 29, 2019 1:01 am

That sounds interesting good luck with it. Stats are not my strong suit but when I see a quasi-stable system venture into 6 and 8 sigma territory its hard not to guess something fundamental has changed or is changing. But hey it could also be some kind of artifact too.

Geoffrey Withnell
Reply to  Loydo
April 29, 2019 11:46 am

The thing one must remember is that measurement is part of the system, and sometimes what has changed is the measurement method.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
April 28, 2019 12:48 pm

From that link:
“It is tempting to think that the 2016 low ice conditions may mark this turn toward decreasing ice, but that temptation is not warranted,” Meier added. “It’s too soon to tell whether the low ice conditions are an ephemeral downturn or the start of something more long-term.”

Two winters later and the ice extent is even lower…

Reply to  Loydo
April 29, 2019 8:36 am

There are El Ninos and there are super El Ninos and then there are differences among super El Ninos. The after effects of these cyclical events are not created equal.

April 27, 2019 7:59 pm

Out here in the bald prairies of western Canada, a clear winter night sky is a guarantee of it getting brass monkey cold before the next days’ 8 hours of low angle sunlight. So I vote these guys correct.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
April 27, 2019 8:13 pm

Even at -40 the radiation to outer space at -270, without much -60 water vapour in the way, will make your brass monkey plead for a parka.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  DMacKenzie
April 28, 2019 1:51 am

You know what a brass monkey is? It was to keep steel balls in place on the deck of a British warship. Trouble is back then they didn’t know the two metals had two different thermal coefficients. Shame the cafe at the very southern tip of the North Island of NZ is no longer called The Brass Monkey cafe.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
April 28, 2019 7:33 am

And a brass monkey was a popular fireplace ornament in Victorian times, imported from India by the hundreds.

April 27, 2019 10:15 pm

“The results show that the negative cloud‐fraction anomalies in winter 2011 related to the large‐scale atmospheric circulation resulted in a substantial negative surface‐radiation budget, which cooled the surface and promoted more sea‐ice growth. ”

Isn’t this a convoluted way to reinvent the wheel ?

Mr Sir
April 28, 2019 12:09 am

I love how you use the slight uptick in the early 2010s to “prove the Antarctic is recovering” when the graph outright shows a huge decrease in Antarctic sea ice extent in the late 2010s.

Patrick MJD
April 28, 2019 1:35 am

So clouds *DO* have an effect! Who’a thought that! They needed a model for that? So the big shiny yellow ball in the sky has no effect on clouds…yet another model deficiency.

William Astley
April 28, 2019 11:45 am

It is odd the paper does not mention that there is a cycle of warming and cooling in the paleo record.

This cyclic change in planetary temperature warming always followed by cooling is called Bond cycles or Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles.

The extreme AGW paradigm pushers have no explanation as to what causes the past cyclic warming followed by cooling and have conveniently ignored the fact that the paleoclimatic data shows the Arctic cyclically warms and cools.

Interesting the Antarctic ice sheet also warms and cools, however, the Antarctic ice sheet warming and cooling is out of phase with the Arctic warming and cooling.

The out of phase warming and cooling of the two poles called by the specialists ‘the polar see-saw’. (i.e. Exactly what we are observing now, a polar see-saw.)

The called Polar see-saw which is also called the polar anomaly.

The Antarctic ice sheet is out of phase with the Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles and hence cools when the Northern high latitude regions warms cyclically and vice versa.

Svensmark explains the mechanism in the attached paper.

The albedo of the Antarctic ice sheet is greater than that of clouds.

That fact and the fact that the Antarctic ice sheet is isolated from the surrounding Southern Ocean by the polar vortex explains the phenomenon.

The Southern Ocean warms and cools in phase in with the D-O cycles.

The Greenland ice sheet (the Greenland Ice sheet is not isolated by a polar vortex so it warms and cools in phase with D-O cycles.

The out of phase temperature changes comparing the Greenland Ice sheet to the Antarctic Ice sheet is called the Polar See-Saw.

The Antarctic climate anomaly and galactic cosmic rays

…If changes in cloudiness play a part in climate change, their effect changes sign in Antarctica. Satellite data from the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) are here used to calculate the changes in surface temperatures at all latitudes, due to small percentage changes in cloudiness. The results match the observed contrasts in temperature changes, globally and in Antarctica. Evidently clouds do not just respond passively to climate changes but take an active part in the forcing, in accordance with changes in the …

Borehole temperatures in the ice sheets spanning the past 6000 years show Antarctica repeatedly warming when Greenland cooled, and vice versa (Fig. 1) [13, 14]. North-south oscillations of greater amplitude associated with Dansgaard-Oeschger events are evident in oxygenisotope data from the Wurm-Wisconsin glaciation[15]. The phenomenon has been called the polar see-saw[15, 16], but that implies a north-south symmetry that is absent. Greenland is better coupled to global temperatures than Antarctica is, and the fulcrum of the temperature swings is near the Antarctic Circle. A more apt term for the effect is the Antarctic climate anomaly.

Attempts to account for it have included the hypothesis of a south-flowing warm ocean current crossing the Equator[17] with a built-in time lag supposedly intended to match paleoclimatic data. That there is no significant delay in the Antarctic climate anomaly is already apparent at the high-frequency end of Fig. (1). While mechanisms involving ocean currents might help to intensify or reverse the effects of climate changes, they are too slow to explain the almost instantaneous operation of the Antarctic climate anomaly.

Figure (2a) also shows that the polar warming effect of clouds is not symmetrical, being most pronounced beyond 75◦S.

In the Arctic it does no more than offset the cooling effect, despite the fact that the Arctic is much cloudier than the Antarctic (Fig. (2b)). The main reason for the difference seems to be the exceptionally high albedo of Antarctica in the absence of clouds.

April 28, 2019 2:53 pm

Not “lower” cloud cover, “less” cloud cover.

April 28, 2019 5:02 pm

Well, of course clouds are WARMING the planet, not just Antarctica. The only problem is, that the whole GHE is based on the assumption that clouds would be (massively) cooling the planet. One should add climatologists have never been consistent on the role of clouds within the GH-model, as they have serious trouble arguing against reality.

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