Guest Post: It’s Ice Melt Season, Deniers let the Conspiracy Theories Flow

July 14, 2013

nsidc0712

Arctic ice melt season is in full swing, so it’s the time of year for climate deniers to jingle shiny distractions and distortions to keep their adherents from thinking too hard about the implications. Vlogger Collin Maessen, has analyzed the latest dodge, and reports in this guest post.

I’m heading up to the “Oil and Water Don’t Mix” rally in St. Ignace, MI, today. 

One of the things I do is to keep an ear out to what the so-called sceptics are saying in their corner on the internet. I do this on for example Twitter where I follow several well-known figures and organisations among the climate science deniers, one of them being Marc Morano. His account @climatedepot on twitter tweets mostly articles from his website climatedepot.com and one of these tweets stated something that sounded really odd to me:

climate-depot-arctic-data

I followed the link to his website and ended up on the Steven Goddard WordPress blog that said the following:

NSIDC likes to pretend that there is no satellite data for Arctic ice prior to 1979.

goddard-nsidc

N_05_plot.png (420◊240)

This makes for scary graphs showing disappearing Arctic ice, which are highly misleading.

The 1990 IPCC report had satellite data going back much earlier than 1979, which showed that Arctic peaked in that year, and was much lower in 1974.

goddard-ipcc

www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/far/wg_I/ipcc_far_wg_I_full_report.pdf

If NSIDC used all of the available data, their scary story wouldnít look so scary. Starting their graphs during the peak ice year is pretty dodgy.

Looks damning doesn’t it?

But lets follow his links and check what the report has to say so we can verify if Goddard has a point.†And I found the graph he used on page 272 of the WG1 report where it states the following about it:

Sea-ice conditions are now reported regularly in marine synoptic observations, as well as by special reconnaissance flights, and coastal radar. Especially importantly, satellite observations have been used to map sea-ice extent routinely since the early 1970s. The American Navy Joint Ice Center has produced weekly charts which have been digitised by NOAA. These data are summarized in Figure 7.20 which is based on analyses carried out on a 1∞ latitude x 2.5∞ longitude grid.

What you need to know about this graph is that the first useful satellite data was gathered in December 1972 with Electrically Scanning Microwave Radiometer (ESMR) instruments. Why this is important is that this data is not directly comparable with satellites carrying Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR) instrumentation. The data from the first satellites using this system became available in late 1978 (we also have some other systems that in use that you can’t directly compare with ESMR data).

This is probably the reason why ESMR data isn’t used by the NSIDC in their graphs, it has nothing to do with hiding inconvenient data. For them 1979 is just the point where their data starts.

Another very important detail is that the current NSIDC graph shown by Goddard can’t be directly compared with the graph from the IPCC report. How the two graphs display their data is just too different to do a simple visual comparison and see if he has a point. But that doesn’t mean the NSIDC doesn’t have a graph that is comparable with the one from the IPCC report.

The NSIDC page “Sea Ice” contains a slew of information and graphs on what’s happening in the arctic, and it has the following one for Arctic sea ice extent:

mean_anomaly_1953-2012

Sea ice extent departures from monthly means for the Northern Hemisphere. For January 1953 through December 1979, data have been obtained from the UK Hadley Centre and are based on operational ice charts and other sources. For January 1979 through December 2012, data are derived from passive microwave (SMMR / SSM/I). Image by Walt Meier and Julienne Stroeve, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder.

This graph you can directly compare with the one used in the IPCC report as it uses SSMR data and displays it in a similar way. When you compare them you’ll notice that what happened in the 70s is nothing to the amount of ice that was lost during the past few decades.

What happened here wasn’t scepticism. This was going through old data and graphs to try to get an answer you wanted to find. Which was then presented in a way, intentionally or not, that most people wouldn’t even be able to put it into context and figure out what it actually means. It even ignores the little detail that ESMR data is available on the NSIDC website.

It’s easy to find little pieces that out of context look damning; the whole kerfuffle surrounding Climategate proved that. But this isn’t how science is done or how a true sceptic looks at the scientific findings. What is happening to our climate is just too complex, and the science too robust, to undermine scientific findings†with a few graphs and a couple of sentences.
Collin Maessen is a long time advocate for sound evidence based environmental policies and mostly writes about the subjects of climate change, a range of environmental issues, and the politics surrounding them. He releases his materials via his YouTube channel with supplementary materials, and further original works, on his website RealSceptic.com

22 Responses to “Guest Post: It’s Ice Melt Season, Deniers let the Conspiracy Theories Flow”

  1. astrostevo Says:

    “The 1990 IPCC report had satellite data going back much earlier than 1979, which showed that Arctic peaked in that year, and was much lower in 1974.”

    FWIW, looks from that last graph like 1968 or 69 was the peak year not 1979.
    Of course, this also shows the continued dramatic decline of Arctic sea ice. Also that ice levels in 1974 were lower than what? Certainly NOT recent years so the HIRGO* Deniers are scoring a big own goal straightaway to anyone who actually looks at the data. Which surprises me not one little bit.

    * Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating.

    • astrostevo Says:

      Summing up here :

      According to the conspiracy theory the NSIDC was nefariously hiding earlier satellite data which, uh, umm, well, actually ties in pretty closely with and confirms what the climatologists have been saying all along!


      • Well the data from 68 and 69 is either from records from ships where the edge of the ice or or visual records from satellites (i.e. pictures). Both are rejected by them because they see them as incomplete records.

        Which they are, as they don’t measure the full surface area of the Arctic ice sheet. But it doesn’t mean they are useless. Same goes for the proxy records I’ve seen them often reject.


  2. They can see it coming.

    When the top of the planet has no sea ice, their game is up.

    And the trials can begin.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      here, here.


      • Bill, Peter are you two on a different planet then us?

        The arguments will be something Like this:

        They were crocodile in the arctic 55 Million years ago that proves this is a natural cycle.

        The climate scientists in the first few years of the 21th century predicted that it should have happed long before now. This prove that they know nothing about climate. ….

        Never underestimate the power of stupidity; especially when money can be poured into their brains.


  3. Misinform, distract, distract… Sad to say, but that’s the Goddard way.

    Or, it could just be that NSIDC is a part of a giant tin foil hat conspiracy, that the Illuminati are still waiting to pull the plug on Goddard because they find him amusing, and that men never walked on the moon.

    For my part, I’m sticking with NSIDC…

  4. NevenA Says:

    So, Goddard is still pushing this lie, eh? If I’m not mistaken I went through this with him two years ago. There are so many differences between the graphs that you can’t just go and splice them together.


    • True, you actually can’t directly compare them as methodology has changed over the years which has consequences for how the data is processed and displayed.

      I just found it interesting to point out what he didn’t show; as that undermines his whole point.


  5. Speaking of Goddard and sea ice, if you haven’t already seen this Downfall parody video, you should definitely check it out. It nails Goddard and Watts — just *nails* ’em: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ARJK0MWAITM

    Caveats: Hitler theme (but non-Godwin), and some salty language in the subtitles. Also, the DMCA has been invoked on the video, so you may have to sit through a commercial first (but it’s worth it).


  6. […] Arctic ice melt season is in full swing, so it's the time of year for climate deniers to jingle shiny distractions and distortions to keep their adherents from thinking too hard about the implicati…  […]

  7. indy222 Says:

    I’m glad someone has the stomach for watching that “corner of the internet”. Every time I try, I get so enraged/hopeless that it’s just not good for my health. I just can’t do it, even though I teach climate and need to bring some of this stuff into my course materials.


    • I can’t produce my content if I don’t do that. 😉

      Besides, it helps with keeping myself informed on the subject matter as sometimes they do have a point. Although that’s rare and always not as earth shattering as they then tend to portray it.

  8. dillweed7 Says:

    Hilarious!

    There needs to be a link to this video on every post about the arctic sea ice.

    Definitely a decompressor.


  9. […] a little heads-up for my readers that I’ve written a guest post for Climate Crocks. The following is a snippet from the beginning of the guest […]


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