Right Opinion

Evaluating Sea Ice

Joe Bastardi · Oct. 24, 2013

“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” –Captain Renault, Casablanca

This just about sums up the attitude on Antarctic sea ice which continues to break records, this time doing so about 10 days after the average annual peak.

This article is what caught my eye:

Spiegel Surprised By “Amazingly Robust”, Record Antarctic Sea Ice – NASA’s Walt Meier Bewildered, Can Only Speculate

Additionally, the Arctic has recovered to almost the mid-point of the past 35 years (satellite era) – still nothing to write home about as it’s still below normal.

But, it’s certainly a stunning increase in ice/snow compared to the death spiral year of 2007 at this same time of year.

I explained why at the Heartland conference last year, but of course no one on the other side want to listen to any idea that they don’t support or haven’t thought of.

When the Pacific and Atlantic enter their warm cycles – like we saw in 1978 in the Pacific and the early 90s in the Atlantic – the increase in heat to the atmosphere is seen most where it’s coldest and driest as it takes less energy to heat something that’s very cold than to heat something that’s warmer. Here’s the dirty little secret: The sun heats the earth, and the earth heats the air above it. The warming of the Arctic is cyclical in nature from decades, perhaps even centuries of action and reaction to all the natural forces that affect the climate.

(Once again, here is Dr. Gray’s idea on this, also presented at Heartland, but something he has been talking about since the 1970s.)

The sun heats the Northern Hemisphere more than the Southern Hemisphere. Because of this, there is a “distortion” in the temperature pattern of the planet that is misrepresented as warming. When it comes to energy, though, a degree is not a degree. There is far more bang for the buck in warm water than cold, dry air. Therefore, it’s easier to “warm” where it’s very cold.

So what do you think happens to ice in what is essentially a land-locked ocean when the seas and continents around them warm? Brace yourselves: It shrinks.

But the earth – which has been compensating naturally for imbalances for its entire existence without any contribution from you and me – has compensated that warming with cooling elsewhere. The fact that the southern ice cap has increased is completely consistent with the idea that there is a back and forth swing that goes on. The assumption was that the earth was warming, so Antarctic sea ice would shrink. Instead, in classic climate cycle fashion, the warming in one place is compensated by cooling in another. This is why the temperatures leveled off once the atmosphere absorbed the added input of the warm oceanic cycles.

The increase in sea ice around Antarctica is impressive and of equal significance to the decrease in the Arctic because it is surrounded by water. This signifies that the large scale energy picture of the earth hasn’t changed, or at least not in a way that should force a conclusion that a climatic catastrophe is lurking. Slight drops in water, even where it’s near freezing, carry far more bang for the buck than 5-10 degrees of warming where temperatures are routinely well below 0 in dry air. In fact, if the southern ice cap does not decrease in the coming years, that would be a big problem. Why? The Pacific flipped into its cold cycle in 2008, and since then, the Bering sea ice has been increasing. But the Arctic ice cap has far less exposure to the Pacific than the Atlantic, and when the Atlantic flips to cold, the Arctic sea ice will recover to normal. This was all forecasted by me (and roundly trashed) about 4 years ago when I predicted we would return to the temperatures globally that we experienced in the late 1970s (the beginning of the satellite era) and the northern ice cap would recover to where it was then. The southern oceans should warm a bit as the northern lands chill. If the increase in Arctic ice that is coming isn’t met with a decrease in ice in the Southern Hemisphere, that spells trouble – and not of the warmer variety.

By the way, since that forecast, the leveling has turned into a slight cooling, which will be more pronounced once the Atlantic’s cycle turns colder.

Shocking, isn’t it? The earth has done this for millenniums and is doing so again.

Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

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