February 23, 2009
Media Credibility, Not Ice Caps, In Meltdown
Eco-warriors and media hype aside, the fact is, as we head into 2009, that the world's ice mass has been expanding not contracting. Which will surprise evening news junkies fed a diet of polar bears floating about on ice floes and snow shelves falling into the oceans. But if a whole series of reports on ice growth in the Arctic, the Antarctic and among glaciers are right, then it is truth in the mainstream media (MSM) that's in meltdown not the polar ice caps.
The problem for the MSM is that it long ago nailed its colors to the climate alarmist mast. No ice cap meltdown, no rising waters. No disappearing islands, no reason for alarm. No alarm, no story. Worst of all having called yet another global apocalypse wrong: No credibility. So the MSM has a significant stake in running highly selective warm-mongering headlines. Not to mention disparaging those scientists who have the temerity to disagree as 'holocaust deniers' and 'pseudo-scientists'.
There's nothing more the climate alarmist media loves than a 'melting Arctic' ice cap story. So why not stories from the far larger expanse of ice that is the 'melting' Antarctic? Well it might have something to do with the fact that the Antarctic ice grew to record levels in 2007 - and continues to grow.
Climate scientist Dr Ben Herman, past director of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics and former head of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona, notes that for the media, "What happens in the Arctic may be an indicator of what will happen in the rest of the world. How about what happens in the Antarctic then? Since its ice area has been increasing, is this also an indicator of what might be happening in the rest of the world?" The FACT is that the majority of Antarctica has cooled over the past 50 years and ice coverage has grown to record levels. Take the well-publicized collapse of a 160 square mile block of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica in March 2008. For the alarmist media this was conclusive proof of the dramatic global warming effects. The Los Angeles Times ran, 'Antarctica Collapse' referring to the "rapid melt of the Wilkins Shelf". The Sydney Morning Herald ran 'Ice Shelf Hangs By a Thread' and the Salon online news site had the absurd headline 'Bye-bye Antarctica?' But Joseph D'Aleo, first Director of Meteorology at The Weather Channel and Chief Meteorologist at Weather Services International, was more prosaic. On his IceCap website, D'Aleo wrote that the collapse was the equivalent, given the enormity of Antarctica, of "an icicle falling from a snow and ice covered roof." He added, "The latest satellite images and reports suggest the ice has already refrozen around the broken pieces. In fact the ice is returning so fast, it is running an amazing 60 percent ahead of last year when it set a new record." Noting the ludicrous media hype, D`Aleo laments, "Yet the world is left with the false impression Antarctica's ice sheet is also starting to disappear."
Dr Herman adds an apposite footnote: "It is interesting that all of the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) stories concerning Antarctica are always about what's happening around the western peninsula, which seems to be the only place on Antarctica that has shown any warming." Herman asks, "How about the rest of the continent, which is probably about 95 percent of the land mass, not to mention the record sea ice coverage recently."
Former Colorado State Climatologist and current senior scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Dr Roger Pielke Sr is severely critical of the "typical bias that many journalists have." Pielke notes, "The media has ignored the increase in Antarctica sea ice cover in recent years, with at present, a coverage that is one million square kilometres above average."
In December 2006, Dr Duncan Wingham, Professor of Climate Physics at University College London and Director for Polar Observation and Modelling, presented evidence that showed "Antarctic thinning was no more common than thickening". Wingham and his colleagues found that 72 percent of the Antarctica ice sheet was growing at the rate of 5 millimetres per year. Most significantly, Dr Wingham commits media heresy when he states: "That makes Antarctica a sink, not a source, of ocean water. According to their best estimates, Antarctica will 'lower global sea levels by 0.08 mm' per year." Sacrilege.
Statistician Dr Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and professor at the Copenhagen Business School, observes the media covers only the "2 percent of Antarctica [that] is dramatically warming and ignores the 98 percent that has largely cooled over the past 35 years." Lomborg also rounds on Al Gore who "points to shrinking sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, but doesn't mention that sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere is increasing."
And for those for whom the UN IPCC is the last word on all things climate, Dr Madhav L. Khandekar, retired Environment Canada scientist and an expert IPCC reviewer, says, "In the Southern Hemisphere, the land-sea mean temperature has slowly but surely declined in the last few years." He adds, "Several other locations in the Southern Hemisphere have experienced lower temperatures in the last few years" the result of "surface temperatures over world oceans slowly declining since mid-1998." Interestingly the very year the mean global temperature itself began a decline.
Fair enough. But the Arctic is melting, right? Sorry, it just ain't that simple. October 2008 saw the fastest Arctic sea ice extent growth ever recorded.
During October and November 2008 the extent of Arctic ice was 28.7 percent greater than during the same period in 2007. According to data published by the International Arctic Research Center (IARC/JAXA) October 2008 saw "the fastest ever growth" of Arctic Sea ice since records began. Not good news for doomsayers like Dr Mark Serreze of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Dr Serreze had predicted an ice-free North Pole in the summer of 2008.
The Arctic has indeed undergone some warming in some areas, especially Greenland, a warming that culminated in a summer temperature high of 5 degrees C in 2007. The gradual melt has opened up the prospect of newly navigable seaways - and a rush for the Arctic's energy-rich deepwater reserves. The reality is, however, warming periods are nothing new to the Arctic. When the Vikings settled Greenland they grew crops in temperatures higher than those of today.
The media has also made much of the potential opening of the Northwest Passage. But it rarely mentions that similar weather patterns prevailed in the 1930s when two boats, the Nascopie and Aklavik, famously met up in the Passage in 1937. In October 2008, a study by Ohio University confirmed that current Arctic warming patterns mimic those in the 1920s-1940s. By July 2008 the Arctic ice had increased by nearly half a million square miles over the same first half year period in 2007. A NASA study published in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters in October 2007 had already noted that thinning Arctic ice was more likely the result of "unusual winds" that had blown "older thicker" ice into warmer southern waters. In other words, the Arctic warming experienced more recently could well be the result of the unusual strength of winds, not man-made warming.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center's own figures, world sea ice in April 2008 reached "unprecedented" levels for the month of April. The World Meteorlogical Organization (WMO) went to declare 2008 the coolest since 2000. Moreover, the WMO reports that the fall in the global mean temperature since 1998 is not just affecting the polar ice caps either, it is also affecting glaciers elsewhere.
In October 2008, after a particularly bitterly cold Alaskan summer, glaciologists began reporting that Alaskan glaciers, particularly those at Glacier Bay where the shrinkage had mainly been had begun advancing for the first time in years. Glaciologist Bruce Molnia of the US Geological Survey said, "In mid-June, I was surprised to see snow still at sea level in Prince William Sound." He adds "On the Juneau Icefield, there was still 20 feet of new snow on the surface in late July. At Bering Glacier, a landslide I am studying did not become snow free until early August." In short, 2008 was the first time since record began that Alaskan glaciers did not shrink during the summer months.
In late November 2008, reports from Norway showed that Alaska's glacier experience was being replicated there too. Hallgeir Elvehoy of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) reported that the magnitude of glacial growth appears to have been underway for two years. Glacier growth has also been reported from Canada and New Zealand.
The facts adduced here represent just the tip of an under-reported iceberg (no pun intended). The fact that the world's ice mass is expanding not contracting is plainly of seismic importance in the climate debate. But, in many of its parts, the Western media appears to have a stake in freezing out the truth - having sold its journalistic soul for a mess of warm-mongering alarmist pottage.
Peter C Glover is a British writer specializing in political and energy issues and is European Associate Editor at Energy Tribune and has been published widely on climate issues. His website is here.