ARCTIC SEA ICE –Disappointing Sunshine–

For those-who-hope-for-an-ice-free-Pole, the sun has become a traitor to the cause. They are all but shaking their fingers at it. They have wished for certain events, and all they have wished for has happened. They may even be starting to think they can control the weather, so many of their wishes have come true. But…I probably shouldn’t say that. Only very simple people believe they can control the weather by throwing virgins into a volcano or purchasing curly light bulbs. Surely educated people do not indulge in such preposterous claims. I apologize.

In any case, it sure has been a year to remember, when it comes to afflicting the icecap on the Arctic Sea. To begin with, there was a lovely, warm “super” El-Nino that set records (at least in the central Pacific, if not in the east), and it exploded umpteen Hiroshima’s worth of energy into the atmosphere, (in the form of non-radioactive cumulus in the middle of a pristine ocean). There is no way for this huge energy to dissipate into outer space by normal means, so, after the allotted amount is lost upwards, the remainder of the heat must head north for the Pole (if not south to the other Pole) to be dissipated up (or down) there.

It is important to knock it through my thick skull how huge this northward-bound energy is. You, who are thin-headed, probably already understand this, but a layman like myself tends to have these silly ideas, and thinks a degree of temperature is the same in the tropics as it is up at the Pole.  Not. In the tropics the warm air is loaded with water, and to raise it a degree involves warming all the attached water, while at the Pole the air is bone dry, and warming the air ten degrees can involve less energy.

How to explain it to a layman?  Well, to imagine all the energy pent-up in tropical air, imagine a juicy air-mass of 90° bumping against a cooler air-mass of 80°. Only cooling the air ten degrees can result in stupendous thunderstorms. But then imagine a Siberian air-mass of -70° bumping north into a Polar air-mass of -40°. In this case the air is cooled thirty degrees, but there isn’t even a cloud in the sky as the air-masses clash, because both air-masses are bone dry to begin with. Conclusion? Water matters. Second conclusion? Air- made-two-degrees-warmer by an El Nino is loaded with energy which air-made-seven-degrees-warmer at the Pole utterly lacks.

Third conclusion? Temperatures should be “weighted” in some way, to show the energy they hold. Otherwise you might behave like a silly layman, and just average all the temperatures together, giving the dry air at the Pole the same weight as the juicy air at the tropics. Ha ha ha ha ha! Who could be so stupid!?

In any case, all that juicy air from the tropics headed north to the Pole, and cold air from the Pole headed south, and there were wonderful collisions and confusions last winter, and record warmth north and record cold south, the first recorded snow in Kuwait and thin ice in Norway, which all seems to be an attempt on the part of the atmosphere to achieve a state of boring blandness. The atmosphere wants peace, and is in a constant state of war to get there. It is almost human.

The Pole did not escape this confusion, and a series of storms, (which my peculiar sense of humor made generic and called “Ralph”), tore at the sea-ice. Leads opened, and in cases grew to be many miles wide. When this happened the winter atmosphere, rather than touching an  ice-surface chilled to -31°, was touching open water chilled to +29°.  This is a sixty degree difference, and so of course the water warmed the arctic air further.

So how much warmer was the arctic air?  With exposed water heating it from below and El Nino air-masses surging north from the south?  Thirty degrees above normal? No? Twenty degrees? No? What the heck!!?? Ten degrees!?  No?  What are you saying? With all this assistance it could only manage 5-7 degrees above normal?

And that 5-7 degrees of slightly less-frigid,  slightly less bone-dry air called “Ralph”  was what made the entire planet be above normal in a “warmest evah” manner?

Oh well, never mind that. The important thing is that the ice was bashed and crashed and lots of open water appeared all through the winter, and increased through the summer, reaching near record levels by September. Right? After all, once the deep blue of open water is exposed it will absorb the sun much better than the white of sea-ice will. Right?

Wrong. And this is where the sun is a traitor to the cause. Everyone has worked really, really hard to expose that open water, but all the work is in vain, because the sun gets coy and insists upon bouncing off the water, despite the fact the water is deep blue, and sea-ice is white.

Actually, this late in the summer, the sea-ice isn’t so white any more. All sorts of crud dirties it, ranging from soot from coal-fired plants in China, to volcano dust from Iceland and the far east of Russia, to algae that grows on the bottom of bergs that see the light of day when bergs are flipped like pancakes. In actual fact the bergs are so dirty that they can absorb more sun than the deep blue water, and utterly screw up the calculations of overly-simple “albedo” modeling.  Why?  It is all because of this dumb graph:


The above graph shows how much sunlight penetrates water, as the angle at which the sun strikes the water increases. (It has an idea of “normal” as being when the sun is directly overhead. This is only at noon, south of the Tropic of Cancer, on certain days of the year, but never happens north of there. Odd sort of “normal”, if you ask me.)

What you should notice is that, when the sun gets down close to the horizon, the water does an increasingly  bad job of absorbing the sunlight.  Around now, even though the sun is still up 24 hours a day at the Pole, it is down so low on the horizon that all it does is make the open water spangle and glitter, as nearly all the sunshine is repelled from the sea into our poor eyes. It is not warming the open water in the proper manner, to the proper degree.

In fact, despite the fact the sun is still up 24 hours a day, temperatures are rapidly plunging at the Pole.


These temperatures are so low salt water will start to refreeze. Not only has the -5°C  isotherm reappeared, but the -10°C isotherm is rearing its head.


What this means is that the open water we have worked so long and hard to create is not making the Pole warmer, as some suggested, but is losing heat. It may even be losing heat at an “unprecedented” rate. Why? Because not only does open water have a higher “albedo” than dirty ice, once the sun gets down to 5° of the horizon, (85° from zenith, in the above graph), but also open water loses much, much more heat from the Arctic Ocean than ice-covered water does, and that heat is not returned to the equator in a manner that can warm the earth, but is largely lost to outer space.

In other words, all the wishing people did for open water, (perhaps using uncanny powers of wish-fulfillment,)  may have an opposite effect than the effect they envisioned. The bad people who refused to buy curly light-bulbs may have made the arctic ice-free, but open water may be cooling the planet, rather than leading to “runaway warming”.

You want proof?  If I give you proof you’ll call it circumstantial evidence, but take a gander at the open water O-buoy 14 saw on September 4.

Obuoy 14 0903C webcam

And then take a gander at the scene on September 7.


(I apologize for not saving the view from September 9, at 02:31:24, when the sea was surging slush.) Now look at the view from tonight, (early on September 12, camera time).

Ask yourself, “How much heat did the open water absorb?”


Forgive me for using my lying eyes, but the open water didn’t seem to absorb diddlesquat of heat. In fact, the entire idea of a “Death Spiral” seems even more idiotic than ever.

I know the above is circumstantial evidence, but at least it is evidence. The “Death Spiral” crowd has “some ‘splainin’ t’do”. They can blather all they want about a “consensus”, but the above makes the “consensus” look like the flat-earthers  who said Columbus was wrong.

The “Death Spiral” crowd has had everything they could have possibly wanted, to make the arctic Ice-free, this year. When the cards were dealt they got ace after ace.  El Nino, PDO, AMO, storms to smash the ice. What more could they ask for? (Likely more sunspots.) Yet, even with nearly all going for them, they couldn’t set a record, in terms of there being less ice than 2012.

They assured us that it was an escalating situation. Less ice would make waters warmer, which would lead to less ice. Even with conditions most favorable, it ain’t happening.


Now don’t get me wrong. I am not down on the “Death Spiral” people because they proposed a hypothesis that isn’t working out. That is actually a sign of science at its best. You have the guts to stick your neck out. You walk out on a limb. And (hopefully in a merciful manner) your peers test your ideas, expose your perfectly human weaknesses, and you see your theory fall flaming to earth. This is how progress occurs. Imperfect idea after imperfect idea, increment after increment.

However I am very down on the “Death Spiral” crowd when they insist they are perfect. They are part of “settled science”. They are of the “consensus”. Worst of, some of them even  start saying anyone (like me) who dares suggest they aren’t more perfect than God should be punished, for I am one of the no-good “deniers.” Me? Punished? For pointing out what I’ve pointed out?

I am very, very down on any Death Spiral person who resorts to that sort of defensive behavior. They have been paid lots of money to propose an incorrect hypothesis, while I have never earned a red cent for attempting to help them improve their science. They make ten times as much money as I do, being politically correct (and scientifically incorrect), yet they have the nerve to say I am a lackey of “Big Oil” or “Big Coal” or “Big Something-or-another”. Balderdash. Let me repeat myself. I have never earned a red cent for attempting to help them improve their science.

I am sorry if I inadvertently attack their livelihood, and threaten to deprive their children of the luxury of a father with a six figure income. But I just have this idea science isn’t about money. It is suppose to be about Truth. Once filthy lucre gets involved, people sniff a stink, and rather than seeing the scientist as wearing a white coat they see a scientist with a red cloak, as a “junk-scientist”, as “post normal”,  and lastly, rather than as “inquiring”, instead as part of a cruel, red-cloaked “Inquisition”.

I am down on this sort of response to criticism because it is not merely arrogant, but it is a thing few dare say:  It is evil.






40 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –Disappointing Sunshine–

  1. I love the gentle yet convincing way you write your blog. I’m sure it will appeal to the vast majority of the non-scientific among us whose eyes glaze over at the sight of statistics in any form, those millions who seriously need to be convinced about the myriad lies that make up the warming nonsense. Keep up your good work!

      • Hey – it looks like I called the sea ice bottom correctly several days ago … if so that is a first.
        The Naughtyboat is through but they are still spinning the “lack” of ice even though they barely passed through two iced up areas and their trips has been done many times in the past by many different boat types and most without satellite assistance or modern maps and PGS.

    • Interesting. Thanks for sharing that.

      Franklin had the misfortune to chose a time when the sea-ice was making a come-back. I’ve been reading about William Parry, for whom the Parry Channel is named, and his remarkable voyage in 1819. He went cruising through places where poor Franklin felt the grip of growing ice.

      The ice comes and the ice goes. What is amazing is what fools it makes of us mere mortals, as it does so.

      I am toying with the idea of writing about how ice-free the arctic was around 1815-1820, and how it tricked many into thinking the arctic would soon be ice-free.

      Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.

  2. Thanks for the great post!

    What I despise are the blatant lies, the corrupted data, the notion that if we don’t act RIGHT AWAY and throw massive money at the “climate crisis” that we are DOOMED! It is like when the bandit puts a gun to your head and says “Your money or your life!”

    Those who can think for themselves and have actually checked the data realize there is no climate crisis or death spiral. The dire predictions from 20-30 years ago have not happened. Another record corn crop and the hurricane drought continues. As you said, the dice were loaded by Super El Nino and Ralph for a record sea ice min and it failed to materialized!

    • I never thought of it as “Your money or your life,” but it is getting like that, isn’t it?

      It would make a good comic skit. The salesman starts out saying things like “a limited supply offer” and “only available while supplies last,” but, when no one is buying it, the salesman grows increasingly desperate and crazy, and in the end shouts, “Your money or your life!”

  3. Evil? Yes. Thanks for saying it. All of a sudden I am supposed to agree with people who can’t show me real data to prove their point and then I’m the heritic? My wife doesn’t understand why this interests me but I tell her it’s because they are butchering the Scientific Method. She’s got an engineering degree too but when I try to get into the details of what’s really going on she kind of gets this glassy look about her. I think it’s a self defense mechanism. Sometimes I wish I had it. Nicely written post, though. It really gets to the main point that that we just want a chance to find out the truth.

    • Some say Truth hurts, but what it usually hurts is our vanity. If we get into a more self-forgetful state, Truth leads to wonder, and, as Keats said, “Truth is Beauty.”

      What is “evil”? It is to deny the Truth.

      It seems so odd to me that the people asking for the Truth get called “deniers”. It reminds me of the gestapo in old World War Two movies. When confronted by the Truth, how did they predictably respond? By saying, “Lies! Lies!”

  4. Excellent post. I brought up this question of surface reflection an alarmist Canadian arctic field researcher who was out three doing light intensity measurements through this ice but did not account for surface reflection. He said he was unaware of the effect.

    I also tried to bring it to the attention of the ice volume modelling group based in the UK. and got soundly ignored. They claim their code is ‘open source’ but only let you see a 4 year old version. So it was not possible to acertain whether they even have it in their model.

    The other aspect is evaporation. It is pretty clear from the massive recovery in ice volume measured by Cryosat-2 in 2013 and which held up in 2014, that there is no overall positive feedback from open water. This recovery followed the OMG minimum on in 2012.

    This is strong evidence of a dominant negative feedback.

    We are now 4 years on from the 2012 OMG minimum and there is still more ice. Sorry guys, the death spiral is dead.

    You also bring up the invalidity of adding and averaging air temperatures with different water content.

    I wrote an article about the validity of averaging land and sea temperatures into a global mean temp. This is basically the same issue: temperature is not an additive quantity !

    After 30y of intense effort and funding they can not even get the basic physics right.

    Very nice article. Amusing and a pleasure to read.

    • I’m glad you were amused. Humor allows us to handle hot topics without being as badly burned as usual.

      That guy doing the “light intensity measurements” through the ice sounds interesting. Getting under the ice to take the measurements would be a bit of a problem, but, once you were under there, simply measuring the light would free you up from having to calculate what it “should” be.

      It gets complex, figuring out how much sunlight “should” be absorbed when the water has ripples. The front of a wave has one angle of incidence, and the back of the wave another. Also the waves are constantly changing their shape as the wind rises and then dies away. Not that someone couldn’t model it, but it would be faster to just don a wet suit and take measurements. Nor would one need to go to the arctic. I’d prefer to do the study in Florida, in the late afternoon.

      It’s too bad you got no response from the “ice volume modeling group.” I’ve had pretty good luck getting responses from the fellows in the trenches doing the actual work, if not from the higher-ups. But I’ve heard that some colleges are starting to act as if data is classified information, and we are spies seeking to commit industrial espionage and steal a copyright that otherwise would make the college rich. (Not that sea-ice research produces a product, in the manner genetic research might.)

      I’ll check out the article over at Judith Curry’s site later. Thanks.

      • It would be good to at least prosecute a few cases of egregious fraud, to put the fear of fines back into colleges. However the worst fraud, in my humble opinion, was initiated by people in the government, and the various researchers are but puppets.

        Hansen should have had the book thrown at him nearly a decade ago, but all he got was wink-wink nudge-nudge.

        Fish rots from the head down. The government, or people within it, is/are to blame for Hansen’s “adjustments.”

      • Fish rots from the head down. The government, or people within it, is/are to blame for Hansen’s “adjustments.”

        It’s best to avoid simplistic explanations. The web of perverse motivations is very complex and varied. The wonderful thing about AGW is that everyone gets a corner of the action ( except the mugs that pay for it and get lied to ).

      • I’m reading a very good book on the evolution of “post normal” thinking called “Hubris” by Michael Hart. It makes me more aware of what we’ve been up against, the past decade. It is almost as if some tried to turn science into social-science. A different rule book.

      • I know a meteorology professor from a major university, a good man that hates the grant groveling process. He has told me that, without any prompting. But he goes along and slings the BS as part of his job. It’s called survival.

        I don’t blame him, I like him. I blame the corrupt system and the corrupt politics.

    • I scanned the post over at Judith Curry’s very quickly. You are miles ahead of me. I liked this line: “If you take the average of an apple and an orange, the answer is a fruit salad..”

      I know that the nuts-and-bolts meteorologists like Bastardi and D’Aleo pay close attention to SST, and how SST influences weather patterns. In September the land starts cooling much faster than the sea, and suddenly the location and persistence of highs and lows switches about.

      The problem we mortals often display is that we want things nailed down, when in fact reality is in a state of constant flux.

      • Steve Mosher ( a very smart guy, originally a literature graduate, who has been working as part of the Berkeley BEST team ) tried to dismiss the problem by calling the fruit salad a “index”. We did not get far on that one. However, he did raise much the same point you make about water content and air temps, saying that global average air temps were even more open to this criticism than land + sea averages.

        If you look at the foot note I added to the article, I proposed a way that the difference in heat capacity could be addressed ( although this remains a gross approximation, it is better than pretending these quantities can be averaged ). A similar idea could be applied when comparing tropical and polar. This was one thing that caught my eye in your article here.

        This may provide a means of comparing quantitatively what you have out lined in principal. I’m sure one can look up values of specific heat capacity for air of various humidity values.

        I’ll try to find a link to the guy doing work under the ice. I’m pretty sure that if he paid attention to surface melt pools he would be able to get some empirical data on the effect of surface reflection. Dry ice surfaces should transmit more light than ice covered in melt water. Maybe he picked up on the idea.

      • I noticed the difference sun-angle makes when snorkeling late in the afternoon. It gets dark under water before it does above.

      • The problem with albedo measured from above is that the direct reflections will be totally missed unless observed at exactly the right angle. His earlier paper give 0.21% for melt pools but this was not accounting for direct reflection.

        Since a direct reflection would probably saturate the measuing instrument it seems that measurement from under the ice is most reliable way to assess this.

      • I wondered about that. Just using my lying eyes, there were views from airplanes and the space shuttle that made it look like a lot of sunshine was being reflected. Blinding.

      • Ironically , one of the photos used in the press release by U. Calgary was a beautiful shot into the low sun showing the incident reflection. Everyone who has been fishing, swimming or has a pool knows about it but they did not account for it in their assessments of albedo.

  5. There a one thing to take into account with the low angle argument: that the sea is rarely flat in the Arctic. It’s pretty choppy with a lot of strong winds. Strong winds lead to more evaporation and the energy that absorbs is enormous. From memory the energy to evaporate a mass of water is the same as that required to change it’s temperature by about 60 deg C

    To put it another way to evaporate one gram of water you need to cool 60g of water by one degree.

    Where the low angle is probably more significant is on melt pools. These shallow ponds of water on top of the ice were supposed to be another positive feedback because of absorbed sunlight. Changes were made to PIOMAS ice volume model to add this extra melting. But like I said they chose not to reply when I raised the question of surface reflection.

    • I hadn’t thought about the fact the melt-water pools are glassy more often than the open water, which is more choppy. It would make quite a difference if those pools went from absorbing heat in July to reflecting heat in August.

      One reason I like the cameras is that you need no thermometer to see if the pools are getting warmer or colder. You just eyeball them, and see if they are skimming over with ice, or not.

      It has seemed to me that the past two summers have seen less growth in the size of the pools, as I’ve watched the size of melt-water pools. Even in July they get skimmed over and even dusted with snow. Of course this is just subjective observation, such as that the old captains of the whaling ships used.

    • Greg just curious … when was it you were asking and getting now reply? Recently?
      I get stressed by the nonsense of all the changes / adjustments being only in the “its worse than we thought” direction. Almost like they had an agenda 😉

      • 2 or 3 years back from PIOMAS. Also got a shut out when trying to get data from HISTALP ( Austrian meteo group ). I wanted to validate some sizeable “corrections” they’d made to their long term land temp datasets.

        They did communicate and ended up having to take the false claim that their raw data was available off their web site. But they would not part with the data so the two 0.5 deg C “corrections” remain spurious, non validated and non scientific.

        Like most of this so-called science, the doors soon shut if you want to check any of it in a scientific manner.

  6. Ah, the guy was John Yackel at Calgery. I had a fairly good exchange with him, it was the UK and German participants at PIOMAS that where uncooperative. I have generally found that north american academics are a lot more open and recognise the public are the ones paying. In Europe they tend to be much more guarded and regard even banal temperature records as some sort of state secret or their own private property.

      • US publicly funded science should ALL be in the public domain, legally. There are a lot of foot draggers and serial non archivers like Lonnie Thomson but it works quite will in general.

        Most public research in the UK gets to be “crown property” especially meteo since the Met. Office is officially part of the ministry of defence.

        We all remember Phil Jones’ immortal “why should I give him our data, he only wants to find something wrong with it”.

    • Here’s the picture, so people will know what you are talking about.

      Compare with the view from the same camera on September 4

      I always like to dust off the pictures from 1975. First, Hercules aircraft setting up a base north of Alaska in March (or perhaps April).

      And then just before they moved the base that October (or perhaps late September).

      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  7. I have been wondering, these past few months – perhaps we humans lived in the age of Magical thinking for aeons until the Enlightenment when among other things the scientific method appeared, and since about 1600 more or less until 2000 one could argue that, by and large, truth as demonstrated through that method was determined and generally agreed to. Now, it appears, we are slipping back into Magical thinking again – belief-sponsored “facts”. This seems widespread, ranging from the commercialization of science, and the religious holding to dogma, even among scientists, to the current election where facts don’t matter at all. What matters is belief, and that belief then becomes fact. I wonder if way out in the future, those of us surviving in another time of Great Cold, will hold on to myths of a time when there was Logic and Fact and magic, real magic, happened all over the world – heat, power, diseases solved, exploration of earth and space – a time that lasted a few short centuries before zealotry and dogma again overcame society…..

    I applaud you – your blog is terrific – and I know there are millions out there like you who are NOT “alarmists” but have now been relegated and bullied into silence else they be labelled as Koch – brother – right wing – Tea Party – fools.

    • I actually am limping today, due to stacking my firewood yesterday. Our endless summer abruptly gave way to a cold wind off the Atlantic. The Atlantic might be above-normal southeast of Cape Cod, but winds from the Gulf of Maine get people starting up their wood stoves, for the first time in months.

      Tucson sounds very nice to me, especially in December. Smart choice.

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