Could Arctic Sea Ice be Simple?

November 18, 2016

Times Colonist, Victoria, BC:

New research is cutting through the confusion on disappearing Arctic sea ice by replacing complex computer models with simple math that links everyday activities to the health of Earth’s climate regulator.

“It might just be rather simple,” said Julienne Stroeve, senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado and professor at University College London.

Her paper, published Thursday in Science magazine, outlines an easy-to-understand relationship between increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the slow vanishing of summer sea ice in the North.

For every new tonne of CO2 that enters the atmosphere, says the paper, the southern edge of the sea ice loses another three square metres. That’s it.

Or, in the words of the paper: “The 30-year running mean of monthly mean September Arctic sea-ice area is almost linearly related to cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions.”

The direct relationship between greenhouse gases and sea-ice retreat has been pointed out before. Stroeve and her co-author Dirk Notz, of Germany’s Max Planck Institute, have put hard numbers to it and explained how it works.

In a stable ice pack, the warming effect of infrared radiation generated by the sun is balanced by cold temperatures in the atmosphere. But increasing levels of carbon dioxide prevent those infrared rays from escaping into space.

As a result, the ice retreats northward where there’s less solar radiation.

“The ice is migrating to re-establish equilibrium,” said Stroeve.

Establishing that hard link between CO2 and sea ice has important consequences.

For years, climate modellers have attempted to pinpoint when summer sea ice is likely to disappear. Some scientists have estimated the end of this century; others have said it should already be gone.

Stroeve and Notz say the most likely date is sometime around mid-century — unless CO2 emissions slow significantly.

That date is important for any number of reasons.

A seasonally open Arctic would ease northern shipping and resource development. It would be catastrophic for plants and animals that live on sea ice, as well as for the people who depend on them.

It would also have unknown consequences for climate around the world. Sea ice is often referred to as the Earth’s air-conditioning unit and it has been linked to the behaviour of the jet stream, a high-altitude river of air that influences rainfall, drought and extreme instances of both.

Sea ice affects more than just polar bears, said Stroeve.

“We are all ice-dependent species.”

Stroeve’s work illuminates the impact of everyday living on the Arctic. She said she deliberately reported her results per tonne because that’s an easily relatable amount of CO2.

An individual’s share of a round-trip economy class fare between Edmonton and Toronto is almost exactly one tonne of CO2. A typical Canadian house heated by natural gas emits an average of one tonne of CO2 about every 13 or 14 weeks. Roughly the same amount is generated by a back-and-forth road trip from Saskatoon to Ottawa.

Each tonne that increases the atmosphere’s CO2 load costs the Arctic another three square metres of ice.

“We need to try and make our science more relevant to people and policy-makers,” said Stroeve. “I guess that’s one attempt to do so.”

– See more at:


14 Responses to “Could Arctic Sea Ice be Simple?”

  1. […] Source: Could Arctic Sea Ice be Simple? | Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  2. Tom Bates Says:

    Just another junk study. Per NASA the current warming is due to changes in earths tilt and orbit, 25000 years of warmer climate. That warming is 340 times the warming from CO2 as measured in a Berkeley study which found the warming was 2/10-ths of a watt when solar gain is 1360 watts per square meter.

    What is really interesting about this whole thing is the total absence of their models showing why we had the ice ages, the melt downs from them, the medieval warm period and the little ice age. Everybody pretends those events were natural yet our present anemic warmup is somehow all caused by man. If the world was not warmer at least a billion possibly more people would be dead from starvation if the world had stayed at the little ice age low. One recent study showed the increased CO2 increased plant mass by 8 percent, that is 8 percent more food, or 415 million people alive instead of dead.

    • otter17 Says:

      Your analysis is a junk study. Send your rebuttal to the Science publication, and get back to us.

    • Lol, Dunning-Kruger much? Perhaps you should read up on the Milakovich cycles. Earth has been on the path to a new ice age for 8000 years or so and even the temperature proxy record show this gradual cooling until the industrial civilisation began. Also the current warming is way faster than what the Milankovich cycles can alter the amount of energy hitting earth. In fact the cycles would not have that much of an impact if they did not also cause carbon to be released or sequestered in the process to amplify their effect. But this time we are helping with the addition of carbon to the system.

      But why I am even bothering you with facts and real science. You don’t seem to care much anyway.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “But why I am even bothering you with facts and real science. You don’t seem to care much anyway”.

        To repeat the clich—-“Truer words were never spoken”. I said exactly that to myself as I read your comment. Whatever Tommy-Poo’s game is, it has nothing to do with facts or real science.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      ??? “earths tilt and orbit” ??? “25000 years of warmer climate” ???

      Get prepared for dizzy times then…

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    JFC!!!!!!! Can we PLEASE get rid of this moronic parrot???!!!!!!

    He just keeps repeating the same mindless crap over and over and wasting our time. (At least he has given up on the “trees under the Alaskan glaciers”—-be thankful for small favors).

    “We need to try and make our science more relevant to people and policy-makers” is obviously true, and this “simple math” idea may be helpful (although one would think that plain old common sense would have caused anyone with half a brain to figure out what’s going on and recognize how serious it is).

    I DO object to the anthropomorphizing evident in “As a result, the ice retreats northward where there’s less solar radiation. “The ice is migrating to re-establish equilibrium,” said Stroeve”. Are “the people and policy-makers” that dumb that they need to be talked to like kindergartners?

    • otter17 Says:

      It wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t just a drive-by poster. He never comes back to acknowledge a rebuttal… just endlessly posting the same type of one-off stuff.

      • Torsten Says:

        Tom won’t learn. He continues to spout this 2/10th watt “warming”, “per a Berkeley study”, without knowing what it means. A few months ago (August 24) he actually posted a link to his source for this figure, which was a press release from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (managed by UC Berkley), here:

        I pointed out that the 2/10ths watt per square metre was the decadal change. More precisely, it’s the change in radiative forcing (not warming”) due to the 22 ppm change in atmospheric CO2 between 2000 and 2010. I also quoted from the press release this important statement:

        “The results agree with theoretical predictions of the greenhouse effect due to human activity. The research also provides further confirmation that the calculations used in today’s climate models are on track when it comes to representing the impact of CO2.”.

        Clearly, it’s too much for Tom to understand.

        I’ve noticed he hasn’t talked about the “broken satellite” recently. Did he actually follow the links we provided and learn that he was wrong? That would be amazing!

        • otter17 Says:

          I recall a few years back when the Anthony Watts posted an article clearly showing that he didn’t understand what radiative forcing as a concept, I believe conflating it with temperature rate of rise. Some of these guys do not know enough to even know when they are wrong, and they probably don’t have the capability to get their knowledge to a point when they can realize it. Well, that or the ideological barriers impede any intellectual curiosity to improve.

  4. otter17 Says:

    It is amazing sometimes how a confluence of interactions in a process can simplify down to a fairly easy mathematical relationship given the constraints for the problem.

    Here, we have a sheet of ice over a body of water with two different albedo values for absorbing the incoming radiation, whiter ice being reflective, water being an absorber. Maybe it turns out that despite all the apparent complexity and mixing in such a thermodynamics problem, it shakes out roughly to a simple relationship.

    We don’t have to solve Maxwell’s equations to figure out how a circuit works to a usually very high degree of accuracy. “V=IR” and a few others can get the job done. We don’t have to dive into the microscopic causes of force/motion or gravity, we just need to keep in mind some relatively simple algebra equations to figure out such large problems as getting a spacecraft to orbit another body in the solar system.

    Very interesting research, though one can’t help but wonder about the long term usefulness without an Arctic ice sheet. Possibly this concept could be tweaked to estimate other ice sheet problems.

  5. redskylite Says:

    I like this approach of simplification, maybe models can get over complex in their attempt to parallel the real world. Some in the community seem impatient for summer sea ice to go away. They are either opportunists looking for business benefits in shipping and exploitation, or environmentalists hoping it will spur increased remedial action (with a hint of “I told you so)”. How do you panic Trump and the ilk into taking action.

    Nature will plod away in it’s own time and mid century seems a realistic aim. The sea old ice is rotting away and we are only carrying on because of cold Arctic winters, recent signs of abnormal heat, is it a tend or a fluke ? I’m watching the daily NSIDC sea ice report and graph daily and it’s exciting enough for me at my age.

    Crazy Cryosphere: Record Low Sea Ice, An Overheated Arctic, and a Snowbound Eurasia.

    There are weather and climate records, and then there are truly exceptional events that leave all others in the dust. Such has been the case across Earth’s high latitudes during this last quarter of 2016, on track to be the planet’s warmest year on record.

    • redskylite Says:

      Don’t believe everything you read in the Wall Street Journal or Brietbart, or see on Fox news.

      North Pole above freezing in sign of ‘sudden’ and ‘very serious’ climate change
      ‘It is very serious…it is an increasing concern that this is happening rapidly on so many fronts’

    • otter17 Says:

      “How do you panic Trump and the ilk into taking action.”

      It may not be possible. A change in the climate would probably have to affect the temperate climate of the USA and adversely affect their wallet to a significant degree. By that point, they could just fall back on the denial stances they have already been road testing a little: “adaptation only” and “it’s too late”.

      “We have always said that this warming is natural. We never made the claim of no warming. We have always been at war with Eastasia.”

      A psychologist friend had once told me that she thought it would be very difficult, nigh impossible, to change those minds en masse once they have taken on ideas such as the concept of climate change is a hoax, etc as an internalized assumption. The only chance would be if their authority figures were convinced and attempted to change the minds of the followers. This would have to be done somewhat carefully, without admitting too much guilt or wrong. So, diplomats from around the world and possibly activists from within would probably have to really sit down behind closed doors with Trump and possibly some political figures in talk radio and TV in order to quietly negotiate.

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