Right Hooks

Still No Ice-Free Arctic

Another melt season ends with inconvenient facts.

Jordan Candler · Sep. 16, 2015
2015 ice coverage was within two standard deviations of normal for most of the season.

With the fall equinox right around the corner, now’s a good time to assess the summer impact on seasonal Arctic ice melt. And make no mistake: It was another lousy season. But that doesn’t mean panic is in order. According to a report released Tuesday by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), “On September 11, 2015, sea ice extent dropped to 4.41 million square kilometers (1.70 million square miles), the fourth lowest minimum in the satellite record.” Another minimum is possible sometime in the next several weeks, but the recovery period is likely underway as the Northern Hemisphere transitions toward winter. Which brings us to one particularly noteworthy excerpt from the report: “The minimum extent was reached four days earlier than the 1981 to 2010 average minimum date of September 15. The extent ranked behind 2012 (lowest), 2007 (second lowest), and 2011 (third lowest).” So even though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration alleges the globe is on pace to set another record warm year, the Arctic — where melt season ended early — isn’t exactly sizzling. Either that, or global warming has changed the temperature at which ice melts. And lest we forget, the 1.7 million square miles of present ice coverage is still 1.7 million square miles more than what the experts predicted some years ago. In 2009, then-Sen. John Kerry said, “Scientists project that the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer of 2013.” In that same year, Al Gore reiterated the claim: “Some of the models suggest that there is a 75% chance that the entire north polar ice cap during some of the summer months will be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years.” Well, those time frames have passed, and not only is ice still around, its coverage is higher than 2007, 2011 and 2012.

As a final note, while NSIDC claims “the nine lowest extents in the satellite era have all occurred in the last nine years,” why is it that satellites are suddenly relevant? Other satellite measurements depict an 18-year-old global warming hiatus, and we in our humble shop don’t recall those statistics heating up coverage in climate reports.

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