Graph of the Day: Arctic Ice Melt – How Much Faster Than Predicted?

September 9, 2011



A popular bonehead meme often heard from climate deniers is, “climate models don’t work and are inaccurate”.

Sadly, in the case of arctic sea ice melt, that’s true – but not in the way we would wish. In the graph above, dotted lines are IPCC models for arctic sea ice melt. Red line is actual observations. Dot is from NSIDC graph of 9/7/11.

Stroeve et al, Geophysical Research Letters, 2007:

From 1953 to 2006, Arctic sea ice extent at the end of the melt season in September has declined sharply. All models participating in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) show declining Arctic ice cover over this period. However, depending on the time window for analysis, none or very few individual model simulations show trends comparable to observations.

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38 Responses to “Graph of the Day: Arctic Ice Melt – How Much Faster Than Predicted?”

  1. David Oertel Says:

    This is a huge point! It shows that these processes are not necessarily linear but may be subject to fast and large changes, or “state changes” in the words of systems science.

  2. otter17 Says:

    With the ice volume decreasing so much, we have to prepare for a potential rapid ice loss event (like a 3 million km^2 loss in extent within 5-10 years as described by Lawrence, et al, 2008). We have to start nipping our emissions in the bud before the Arctic ice is gone. I don’t like the prospects of open water heating up the methane clathrates north of Siberia, or increasing the air temperatures even more over the permafrost throughout the Arctic.


  3. it is surely happening faster then the IPCC predicted in 2007

    both linear ice and sea loss are pure fantasy – they will happen far faster.


  4. [...] was immediately taken to task by none other than Julienne Stroeve, NSIDC researcher whose iconic graph of accelerated sea ice loss I recently featured in a post. See [...]

  5. daveburton Says:

    Arctic ice varies a lot, because it is greatly influenced by capricious wind. 2007 represented a low; by 2009 it was back up substantially; now it is back down to close to 2007 levels (either slightly above or slightly below, depending on whose data you believe).

    But neither the decreases nor the decreases in Arctic ice extent represent significant evidence for global warming or cooling. They mainly represent evidence of wind patterns, i.e., weather.

    Unlike ice on the Southern Ocean, Arctic ice blows around, because it isn’t anchored to a continent. When it is blown into warmer water, it melts, and ice extent & volume go down (relative to historical averages). When it isn’t blown into warmer water, more of it stays frozen, and ice extent and volume go up.

    Unfortunately, an awful lot of climate alarmists seem to have an awful lot of difficulty telling the difference between weather and climate. Every spike in temperature and every drop in Arctic ice extent generate a flurry of breathless warnings about catastrophic runaway warming & melting. (Though, oddly enough, when temperatures drop or ice extent rises, they always seem to remember La Niña — can you say, “confirmation bias?”)

    Meteorologists, however, are well-equipped to tell the difference between weather and climate. Perhaps that’s why most of them are climate realists, who distrust the IPCC and doubt that most climate change is anthropogenic in origin.

    Changing subjects slightly… David Oretel, do you know something of Systems Science? If so, will you please tell the folks here what tends to happen to a system when it has delayed negative feedbacks? (I’m a Systems Scientist, but most folks here don’t seem to believe much of anything I tell them, but perhaps they will believe you.)

    • greenman3610 Says:

      so we’ve had unfavorable weather for arctic ice, for the last 40 years?

      • melharte Says:

        Peter, Mary Ellen Harte of the huffingtonpost’s Climate Change This Week column. May I have permission to reprint this graphic in my column?

        Tried clicking your “contact me” button, but it kept trying to turn on a wizard to software that asked communication questions I couldn’t answer… would like to give more exposure to your graphics in the future, but need a better way to contact u. My email is m e l h a r t e @ y a h o o . c o m minus the spaces – just email me directly with your answer, if possible… thanks!


  6. [...] of all IPCC climate models — by NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve updated through 2011 (via Climate Crocks, click to [...]


  7. [...] observations in red). The reason is most likely unmodeled amplifying feedbacks. The image (from Climate Crocks via Arctic Sea Ice Blog) comes from a 2007 GRL research paper by Stroeve et [...]


  8. [...] observations in red). The reason is most likely unmodeled amplifying feedbacks. The image (from Climate Crocks via Arctic Sea Ice Blog) comes from a 2007 GRL research paper by Stroeve et [...]


  9. [...] observations in red). The reason is most likely unmodeled amplifying feedbacks. The image (from Climate Crocks via Arctic Sea Ice Blog) comes from a 2007 GRL research paper by Stroeve et [...]


  10. [...] observations in red). The reason is most likely unmodeled amplifying feedbacks. The image (from Climate Crocks via Arctic Sea Ice Blog) comes from a 2007 GRL research paper by Stroeve et [...]


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