Right Opinion

Debunking the Arctic Death Spiral Myth

Joe Bastardi · Jun. 1, 2017

Ah yes, another summer. But even though record low Arctic ice is highly unlikely, a forecast that is a sure bet is that climate alarmists will let us know about how much the Arctic is melting. While winter levels were indeed at record low levels for that time of the year, the rate of melt has slowed so much that we are now closer to the running 30-year mean than we were last year at this time. That’s the pale blue line; the current level is the red line:

This can be found on the Danish Meteorological Center site, which also has records of the current snow and ice situation on Greenland — way above average for the date:

The Danish Meteorological Institute has arctic temperature records going back to 1958:

I have gone through all of them. I have come to the conclusion that summers in the Arctic are no warmer (and may be a little cooler the past few years) and winters are warmer. But is it unprecedented in records?

Well, here is this past very warm winter:

Notice how it’s been below normal for quite some time now in spring. Remember, you don’t parallel the line but use the north-south axis for temps, and you will see for the date it’s 3-4C below normal. But back to other winters.

Look at 1974:

That looks pretty warm, even a higher spike.

Look at 1976:

There were some times when it did get below normal, but some impressive spikes. Yet even the spikes were way, way below the freezing point.

When one looks at actual records, it leads to improved perspective.

Looking through the records over the last 60 years, the warming is not all that great, and what has occurred is in the heart of the coldest time of the year. But even when CO2 was much lower, there are examples of warmth in the Arctic. The cry then — even though it’s being erased and denied now — was global cooling! In fact, the warming in the winter means it’s water vapor that has a big impact on temperature increases where it’s very cold and dry. That is the key. Slight increases in water vapor lead to higher temperatures. It’s not CO2, which has been increasing steadily in minute amounts. A naturally warming ocean due to cyclical events adds more water vapor and it affects cold, dry areas more. It also disproportionately affects nighttime lows, which is why it’s not the maximum temperatures that are warming but the nighttime lows.

John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, wrote these words in his book from the early 1970s, Global Ecology: Readings Toward a Rational Strategy for Man:

“It seems … that a competing effect has dominated the situation since 1940. This is the reduced transparency of the atmosphere to incoming light as a result of urban air pollution (smoke, aerosols), agricultural air pollution (dust), and volcanic ash. This screening phenomenon is said to be responsible for the present world cooling trend — a total of about .2°C in the world mean surface temperature over the past quarter century. This number seems small until it is realized that a decrease of only 4°C would probably be sufficient to start another ice age. Moreover, other effects besides simple screening by air pollution threaten to move us in the same direction. In particular, a mere one percent increase in low cloud cover would decrease the surface temperature by .8°C. We may be in the process of providing just such a cloud increase, and more, by adding man-made condensation nuclei to the atmosphere in the form of jet exhausts and other suitable pollutants. A final push in the cooling direction comes from man-made changes in the direct reflectivity of the earth’s surface (albedo) through urbanization, deforestation, and the enlargement of deserts. The effects of a new ice age on agriculture and the supportability of large human populations scarcely need elaboration here. Even more dramatic results are possible, however; for instance, a sudden outward slumping in the Antarctic ice cap, induced by added weight, could generate a tidal wave of proportions unprecedented in recorded history…”

Notice the wording to encourage rapid action on this matter. Unprecedented in recorded history… Sound familiar?

Here’s what’s interesting. Volcanic ash is natural. But in regards to the other man-made causes, there is no mention of CO2 — unless one wishes to call something you exhale 100 times more than you inhale and plants use to grow a pollutant. (That is a key contention from modern day Climate Ambulance Chasers — to label a colorless, odorless gas needed for life a pollutant. It wasn’t then.) In fact, we have really done great in this country getting rid of urban air pollution and agricultural air pollution.

Since Holdren’s idea is that these are causes of cooling, would not the opposite be true – if we took care of them it would lead to warming? Look at his comments about urbanization, deforestation and enlargements of deserts. All of these are man-made, and none of them had anything to do with CO2. But he was using them as a rationale then for cooling when they are perhaps actual arguments for warming!

Another irony: The earth is getting greener, but if deforestation makes it cooler, as Holdren claims, is a greener planet then making it warmer? So by Holdren’s logic, we have two positive effects — the cleaning of the air and more greenery that would also lead to warming!

The bottom line is people like this believe that anything you do to create a better world leads to adversity. Clean the air, it warms the planet. Pollute the air, it cools the globe. But wait — isn’t CO2 a pollutant, therefore it’s now helping to warm our world? CO2 helps plants! More plants, warmer earth. Up is down, down is up.

Urbanization is huge. Holdren thinks this leads to cooling? Does anyone really believe that? We had articles about the urban heat island from the ‘50s and '60s, but Holdren thinks it leads to cooling here? Think about what has happened around the big cities over the last 40 years and how thermometers that were relatively exposed are now surrounded by concrete. Las Vegas is a classic example — the airport there was in the middle of nowhere 50 years ago; now it’s surrounded by sprawl, so it warmed. Even at Penn State, which sits in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, the site of the thermometer when I left school in 1978 was exposed to a golf course to the southwest, so around sunrise, chilly air would drain in on calm nights. Now it’s surrounded by buildings, including one that bridges across US 322 and blocks any cool air drainage from areas where it’s much chillier at night.

Urbanization and many other man-made effects have very real influences that lead to warming! The point is that nowhere does Holdren mention CO2 and, ironically, he even had causes for cooling listed that if cleaned up — as they were — would have to result in the opposite by his own logic! And we have taken steps to counter them, so by his logic, would not the steps we took to improve those items have led to warming that the Climate Ambulance Chaser crowd is blaming on something else?

This was President Obama’s science adviser. And I hear people complaining about Dr. Will Happer, arguably the world’s foremost nuclear physicist, being unqualified?

What is the conclusion? I wouldn’t panic about the Arctic melting until such a time when summer temperatures are higher by more than a degree or two. And there is no sign of that. If you want a simple example, just try to defrost a freezer if it’s encased in ice. Now think about how long that takes (even with me using a hot blow drier to move things along) and imagine ice multi-feet thick in air that is slightly above freezing during summer. I wouldn’t sweat the ice cap, and given U.S. model-based CFSV2 anomaly forecasts (they are likely overdone, but they certainly are not crashing it to record lows), Arctic temperatures are turning lower than normal going into the warm season.

Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm, and contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues.

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