Antarctic Sea Ice Grew, the Arctic Sea Ice Melted–Do They Cancel Each Other Out, as the Skeptics Say?

If you have an iPad, download the Zite app to create a personal magazine on topics of interest or passion. I created a Climate Change section; on any given day there are two dozen articles reposted there, and many stay for a week or more. You can act as gatekeeper, blocking some sources you don’t want because they aren’t relevant to a topic. But I don’t block articles that argue against the reality of climate change or that try to discredit the movement to force political action to solve the problem. I want to know what the skeptics’ claims are, especially when they are from popular and influential sites like the Freakonomics blog, so that I can find articles and columns that refute them when they question or flat-out deny that the Earth is warming. I thought no one could question the sensational news in September about the much-diminished Arctic sea ice, which is well-documented and has very scary implications for our near future.

But a short piece in Zite from News Max claimed that the record extent of Antarctic sea ice, reached this September, balanced out the melting of the sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere. What’s more, the blogger claimed that climate scientists are ignoring the Antarctic increase while playing up the Arctic sea ice loss  in order to advance their dubious “belief” that the Earth is warming. News Max quoted the skeptic site Real Science as saying that if this trend continues, “the earth will be completely covered with ice much faster than the climate models predicted.”

Finding no scientific support for this startling claim–only an attack on what is called “climatism,” the “belief that man-made greenhouse gases are destroying earth’s climate”– I immediately searched on Bing to see if that story was being downplayed (it’s not), and what scientific explanations there might be for the seeming contradiction. I struck gold with a thorough explanation on the Washington Post blog Capital Weather Gang The writer, Jason Samenow, says it’s misleading to compare the “stunning” record low extent of Arctic ice–50 percent below average–to the increase in Antarctic sea ice, which is only 5 to 10  percent above average. Furthermore, the increase in the Antarctic is “not directly related to local air temperatures, which are actually going up.”  Samenow excerpts three posts by scientists and science journalists (in the Houston Chronicle SciGuy, Live Science, and Skeptical Science) that explain in detail why it takes longer for Antarctic sea ice to respond to climate warming compared to the Arctic. Also cited is the explanation on the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) website.

It’s important to steer students and others not educated in the science of climate change to these science-based sites, and to show them the difference between made-up charges that come without support, and scientific arguments buttressed by evidence and explanation. According to a Christian Science Monitor LiveScience story by Natalie Wolchover, a blog post by a climate change skeptic, Steven Goddard, is distracting from the dramatic news about the loss of Arctic sea ice. And it’s getting legs on the internet because Goddard does not back down even in the face of scientific explanation. He claims that the “Southern Hemisphere must be balancing the warming of the Northern Hemisphere by becoming colder (and thus, net global warming is zero)”; and he doesn’t accept the NSIDC’s explanation that the difference in melting rates was  expected because the Arctic is surrounded by land and its southern counterpart by water–among other differences.  Wolchover writes, “If anyone had asked an actual scientist, they would have learned that a good year for sea ice in the Antarctic in no way nullifies the precipitous drop in Arctic sea-ice levels year after year — or the mounds of other evidence indicating global warming is really happening.” Too bad for us, but the scientists are unanimous, and the journalists reporting the harsh facts of climate warming don’t have to apologize–as another skeptic in said they should, for “misrepresenting scientific data.”


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