Arctic Sea Ice 50 Percent Lower In Past


Arctic beaches littered with polar bear toothpicks

A new study in Science this week by Danish researchers analyzing ancient driftwood finds that Arctic sea ice coverage has been substantially lower than it is today in the past 10,000 years. From Eurekalert:

For the last 10,000 years, summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has been far from constant. For several thousand years, there was much less sea ice in The Arctic Ocean – probably less than half of current amounts. This is indicated by new findings by the Danish National Research Foundation for Geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen…

Team leader Svend Funder, and two other team members and co-authors of the Science article, Eske Willerslev and Kurt Kjær, are all associated with the Danish Research Foundation at the University of Copenhagen.

Regarding the research results, Funder says, "Our studies show that there have been large fluctuations in the amount of summer sea ice during the last 10,000 years. During the so-called Holocene Climate Optimum, from approximately 8000 to 5000 years ago, when the temperatures were somewhat warmer than today, there was significantly less sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, probably less than 50% of the summer 2007 coverage, which was absolutely lowest on record. Our studies also show that when the ice disappears in one area, it may accumulate in another. We have discovered this by comparing our results with observations from northern Canada. While the amount of sea ice decreased in northern Greenland, it increased in Canada. This is probably due to changes in the prevailing wind systems. This factor has not been sufficiently taken into account when forecasting the imminent disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean." …

"Our studies show that there are great natural variations in the amount of Arctic sea ice. The bad news is that there is a clear connection between temperature and the amount of sea ice. And there is no doubt that continued global warming will lead to a reduction in the amount of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The good news is that even with a reduction to less than 50% of the current amount of sea ice the ice will not reach a point of no return: a level where the ice no longer can regenerate itself even if the climate was to return to cooler temperatures. Finally, our studies show that the changes to a large degree are caused by the effect that temperature has on the prevailing wind systems. This has not been sufficiently taken into account when forecasting the imminent disappearance of the ice, as often portrayed in the media," Funder says.

In addition to giving us a better understanding of what the climate in northern Greenland was like thousands of years ago, it could also reveal how polar bears fared in warmer climate. The team plans to use DNA in fossil polar bear bones to study polar bear population levels during the Holocene Climate Optimum.

In other news, Bloomberg is reporting today that Arctic sea ice melted rapidly in July:

Arctic sea ice, a benchmark for the earth's rising temperature, may approach a record low in September after its biggest July melt since 2007, researchers at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said.

Ice covered an average of 7.92 million square kilometers (3.06 million square miles) of ocean last month, 210,000 square kilometers less than the average for the same period in 2007, when there was a record melt season, according to the center. After a recovery toward the end of the month, an all-time low is "an outside possibility," said Walt Meier, an NSIDC scientist.

"It will be another low year, very likely one of the five lowest," Meier said today in an e-mail. "One year doesn't say too much in and of itself, but the long-term downward trend and the series of very low years is indicative of a thinner ice cover and warming temperatures."

The Arctic ice typically melts until September, before freezing again through March. Scientists at the Boulder, Colorado-based center say the declining ice pack is a harbinger of global warming. By 2030, there may "consistently" be summers where little or no ice remains on the ocean, Meier said.

However, the BBC notes that Funder and his fellow researchers are a bit less concerned about the imminent fate of Arctic sea ice:

Dr Funder and his team say their data shows a clear connection between temperature and the amount of sea ice. The researchers concluded that for about 3,000 years, during a period called the Holocene Climate Optimum, there was more open water and far less ice than today—probably less than 50% of the minimum Arctic sea ice recorded in 2007.

But the researcher says that even with a loss of this size, the sea ice will not reach a point of no return.

"I think we can say that with the loss of 50% of the current ice, the tipping point wasn't reached."

The idea of an Arctic tipping point has been highlighted by many scientists in recent years. They have argued that when enough ice is lost it could cause a runaway effect with disastrous consequences.

"I don't say that our current worries are not justified, but I think that there are factors which will work to delay the action in relation to some of the models that have been in the media.

"I think the effect of temperature and global warming may cause a change in the general wind systems which maybe will delay the effects of the rapidly rising temperatures a little bit."

Interesting. Very interesting.

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  1. in related news the northwest passage is open for the first time in centuries. and the coast guard is requesting more assets for patrol of the now-open waters.

  2. For the last 10,000 years-

    Stop right there.

  3. Who gives a fuck about artic sea ice?

    1. Polar bears and people who like polar bears. Also, anyone interested in drilling for oil or gas in the arctic ocean. Inuits, too. And Al Gore, but he falls into one of the first two categories.

      1. So less artic sea ice is good for non-fruits because it means more energy.

        1. No, polar bears eat ice and without arctic ice polar bears will starve.

    2. “The melting back of the glaciers and ice sheets has two major impacts. First, areas that rely on the runoff from the melting of mountain glaciers are very likely to experience severe water shortages as the glaciers disappear. Less runoff will lead to a reduced capability to irrigate crops as freshwater dams and reservoirs more frequently go dry. Water shortages could be especially severe in parts of South America and Central Asia, where summertime runoff from the Andes and the Himalayas, respectively, is crucial for fresh water supplies (6). Also, in areas of North America and Europe, glacial runoff is used to power hydroelectric plants, sustain fish runs and irrigate crops as well as to supply the needs of large metropolitan areas. As the volume of runoff decreases, then the energy, urban, and agricultural infrastructures of such locations are likely to be stressed (7).

      In addition, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets adds water to the oceans, contributing to sea level rise…While there are obviously many challenges to projecting future sea level rise, even a seemingly small increase in sea level can have a dramatic impact on many coastal environments. Over 600 million people live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level, and two-thirds of the world’s cities that have populations over five million are located in these at-risk areas (12). With sea level projected to rise at an accelerated rate for at least several centuries, very large numbers of people in vulnerable locations are going to be forced to relocate. If relocation is delayed or populations do not evacuate during times when the areas are inundated by storm surges, very large numbers of environmental refugees are likely to result.”

      1. What is the source of this information? What do the numbers (6), (7) and (12) mean?

        1. They are magic numbers. If you say them three times a genie will appear and read stories to you.


          1. Thank you for providing the source of the posted material. Without attribution I thought you wanted us to accept it as revealed knowledge or some sort of holy scripture.

  4. “the so-called Holocene Climate Optimum.” Oh, come on, guys! Show some balls! Admit it! the Holocene Climate was not “optimal” at all! It was total bullshit! Total, total bullshit!

    As for Dr. “I’m not saying that current worries aren’t justified, I’m just saying they aren’t justified” Funder, you could grow a pair too.

    As for you, Ron, if the polar bears start moving south, don’t blame me. And if they ask me where their next meal is coming from, I’ll be pointing to you.


      1. I’ll be playing Steve Smith in the movie.

      2. Luck for STEVE later this month in Fox’s

    2. But they’re experts!
      They’re authority!

      The are so much smarter and better educated than us!

      They know what the optimal global temperature is because they just do.
      And not only that but they can predict the future with computer models.
      How dare you challenge them!
      They’re experts!
      Who the fuck are you?

    3. Hello, Mr. Polar Bear. I’d like you to meet my friend, Mr. .30-06.

      1. It would be more fun with this

    4. “As for you, Ron, if the polar bears start moving south, don’t blame me.”

      Here we were told the polar bears were going extinct. You mean they might adapt?!

      1. Apparently they adapted 3000 years ago.

  5. Well since there are tropical fossils under the “melting” ice, it is safe to assume that it has been warm before. It’s still climate variation, the great unsolved mystery and not caused by my SUV.

    1. You’re aware of plate tectonics, right?

      1. v mpg = ^ kia

  6. The Arctic Sea is a place.

  7. Dr Funder and his team say their data shows a clear connection between temperature and the amount of sea ice.

    This is what real genius looks like.

  8. Ron, you can try for open-mindedness and nuance all you like, but the mouthbreathers who “know” all the answers will not be lulled into discussion, rationality or other pussy things like that.

  9. Well, come on, the answer’s obvious: cavemen had SUVs!

    1. Fucking cave men with their fires!

      It seems planetary temperature controls CO2 levels, not humans.

    2. SUVs powered by the energy of running feet, you mean (along with fast bongo sound effects). Yabba dabba doo!

  10. When did the Danes become deniers?

  11. B-but but all scientists working on this subject are on the take from Big Socialist Government Agencies and Soros Foundations, and GroupThink and SocialistEnvironmentalistCabals and Hockey Stick! We can’t believe anything they say!

    1. B-but all denier scientists working on the subject are on the take from Big Corporate Oil and the Koch Brothers, and Heritage and ConervativeCapitalistCabals and ClimateGate! We can’t believe anything they say!

      1. I don’t think I’ve ever argued, like you have, that either side is on the take or not to be trusted. My argument has been simple: when 100 experts say x and 5 say Y, a non-expert would do better to bet on X.

        It’s you guys that have to come up with some explanation with why the 100 believe x since you want so badly for x to be false. And so you conjure up feverish conspiracy theory one after another…

        1. My argument is that if you would distrust the results if funding came from Big Oil because they have a profit motive, why do you trust results funded by Big Government who has a power motive?

          At least I am consistent in trusting neither based upon their obvious motives.

          1. Because it’s silly to find government funding to have some monolithic intent. Are we supposed to believe that funding that had to pass through the Watt administration had the same intent as that which passed through the Babbit one? WTF?

            1. The intent of government is to write legislation and control things. That is what they do. That is all they do.
              If government studies something it is for the purpose of controlling it. Period.
              The purpose of power is power. The details are irrelevant.
              It’s not some silly grand conspiracy, it’s reality.
              Politicians see something that they do not control, and their reflex response is to find a way to control it. That is what they do. That is all they do. They don’t care what it is, they care that they do not control it.
              So when government funds a study to prove human activity is affecting the climate, the obvious purpose is to then write legislation and regulation to control that human activity.

        2. Oh, and I don’t care what kind of expert someone is, I’ve got zero faith in their ability to predict the future.

          1. Right. So if your doctor told you that you had a terminal disease and would likely not live much longer you’d go out and start making thirty year commitments or something.

            Look at the nuttiness your stance leads you into dude.

            1. So you’re saying that these scientists are earth doctors who have identified humanity as a terminal disease?

              Look at the nuttiness your stance leads you into dude.

              1. Hahaha owned.

                +1 internets to sarcasmic.

        3. What I take from studies like this is that the supposed experts on climate really don’t know that much about how climate works. It is not anywhere close to the level of hard science. Here is how science is supposed to work: you make a prediction based on your theory. If the prediction does not align with what actually happens, your theory is wrong and needs to be changed or discarded. I don’t see climate science being anywhere close to this yet. We have a lot more to learn about the past before we can really understand what will happen in the future.

    2. I’ve got plenty more straw men where that came from, so watch out, deniers!

      1. What’s the straw man? I can easily supply you with comments made here that argue that AGW proponents are “on the take,” that any consensus is actually do to Groupthink, and that the East Anglia mess “proves AGW is not true.”

        I wish they were straw men, but they are actually common arguments around here.

        1. Actually, if anything, what I would be concerned about is personal beliefs and biases influencing the climate studies.

          1. And considering the literally hundreds of experts that propose AGW, that would be a hell of a coincidence of shared personal beliefs and biases pointing in the same direction…

            1. I think institutional bias is a more powerful force than you might think. We see the same thing in nutritional biochemistry with 50 years of studies trying to prove that animal fats are unhealthy, the diet-heart hypothesis, although there is starting to be some backlash against that. Nutrition, like climate science, is a pretty nebulous field and it is clear, to me at least, that there’s been an awful lot of bad science being done by “experts”.

              Science is not about consensus. I’m pretty skeptical of the entrenched nature of string theory and that is in no way politicized, beyond the fact that it seems to be the default theory for academic physicists despite the its very obvious shortcomings.

    3. No, Munge, the reason we can’t trust them is because they were caught cooking the books, and still haven’t accepted responsibility or acknowledged wrongdoing. If they were honest they would have started by shunning Phil Jones. Also, they made a mockery of the whole peer-reviewed journal process. And failure to release data and code also didn’t help. Intellectually dishonest much?

      1. But they’re experts!
        You know more than the experts?
        We must appeal to the experts!

        1. Er, yes, people with more expertise in a subject are more likely to be correct in that subject than people without. You must have some feverish committment to your ideology if you are going to ride it to a place where you deny that simple truism.

          1. Yeah.
            Experts can predict the future a hundred years out.
            So can that guy downtown wearing a sign that says “The End is Near!”
            Use a little common sense. Oh yeah, you’re a liberal. You don’t have any common sense.

      2. “we can’t trust them is because they were caught cooking the books”

        You’re massive fallacy rests in this use of “them” and “they”. Them that got caught cooking the books* are not the entire class of experts that propose AGW. According to your logic all gun proponents work is false because J. Lott did something dishonest.

        See the terrible logic that underlies your position?

        1. You conveniently skipped reading this line: “If they were honest they would have started by shunning Phil Jones.”

          1. That’s because he can’t answer it.

            It’s the perfect point. If AGW researchers were in fact independent, then they should be condemning the actions of those caught “cooking the books”.

            Instead, they circle the wagons.

            1. Haha owned again, MNG.

              +1 internets to Apogee

        2. Would you leave me the fuck alone, please?

  12. “we towed it out of the environment”

      1. No wonder he’s blue. You took him out of his home.

  13. Interesting? Hardly. What’s interesting is that there are scientists who wouldn’t bother to surmise that there’s been way less ice before, and it wasn’t the end of the world.

  14. Pretty scary stuff when you think about it dude. WOw.

  15. earlier, MNG said:…when 100 experts say x and 5 say Y, a non-expert would do better to bet on X.

    so you would have bet against Galileo?

    1. and Einstein.

  16. I’d like to think scientists were a lot smarter than the climate change “debate” shows them to be. I’d like to think that they understand the wide variability in climate that has occurred over the eons due to strictly natural causes. I’d like to think that they understand our present conditions as merely one point in a cycle which can only be affected negligibly in either direction — if at all — by the presence and activity of human beings. But if that were all true, then I might have to conclude that they are pulling a Christopher Columbus on us poor rubes — “predicting” the worrisome result of a natural cycle (in Chris’ case, an eclipse) and ascribing a fictitious cause to further the attainment of personal goals. THAT I would NOT like to think about, so I am now going to pursue the mindless activity of filling out healthcare enrollment forms. Come on, little brain, it’s nap time.

    1. Can you specify your qualifications to dispute the opinion of serious scientists and your reason for supposing they have ulterior motives? As someone with a Ph.D. in a science other than climatology I find that I lack the knowledge to second guess the experts.

  17. United Nations Ambassador Phillip Muller of the Marshall Islands said there is no sense of urgency to find not only those answers, but also to address the causes of climate change, which many believe to be responsible for rising ocean levels.
    “Even if we reach a legal agreement sometime soon, which I don’t think we will, the major players are not in the process,” Muller said.
    Those players, the participants said, include industrial nations such as the United States and China that emit the most carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases. Many climate scientists say those gases are responsible for global warming. Mary-Elena Carr of Columbia University’s Earth Institute said what is now an annual sea level rise of a few millimeters will increase dramatically by the year 2100. “The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from Geneva. International legal experts are discovering climate change law, and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is a case in point: The Polynesian archipelago is doomed to disappear beneath the ocean. Now lawyers are asking what sort of rights citizens have when their homeland no longer exists.
    t present, however, there appear to be at least three possibilities that could advance the international debate about ‘climate refugee’ protections and fill existing gaps in international law.
    The first option is to revise the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees to include climate (or environmental) refugees and to offer legal protections similar to those for refugees fleeing political persecution. A second, more ambitious option is to negotiate a completely new convention, one that would try to guarantee specific rights and protections to climate or environmental ‘refugees

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