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Friday, February 27, 2009

Mark Serreze (NSIDC) weighs in on George F. Will 's distortion of facts on Arctic sea ice extent 1979 and 2009

From Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth blog post on the George F. Will response:

P.S.: In his column defending his climate claims, Mr. Will says a flaw reported in sea-ice data at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., justifies his statements about the Illinois group’s ice trends. Both Mr. Chapman in Illinois and Mark Serreze of the Boulder center reject this. Here’s Dr. Serreze’s view of the incident and that particular assertion:

Regarding the sensor problem, see our latest post where we discuss the issue in detail. The sensor problem on the F15 has no bearing on the Univ. IL numbers, which are based on the earlier F13 satellite (which we have temporarily gone back to). I got a call from George Will’s fact checker regarding his latest piece. I was a bit terse with the gentleman but of course gave him the info he was looking for. My response was something like “Well, I certainly would not want Mr. Will to be speaking from a viewpoint of ignorance.”

Regarding the “global ice at 1980 levels”, here is the canned response we wrote in rebuttal to the astonishingly twisted piece in Daily Tech: What the graph shows is that the global sea ice area for early January 2009 is on the long term average (zero anomaly). The author tries to read some relevance into the fact that the anomaly at the end of 1979 is also about zero. Given that there are many periods throughout the time series with a zero anomaly for the global total, it is puzzling why the end of 1979 was singled out.

Presumably the point is to somehow cast doubt on global warming. However, if so, the author could have instead made an equally silly case for global cooling by contrasting the near zero anomaly of early January 2009 with the strong negative anomalies characterizing the later part of 2008.

The key point is that looking at the global total area is not relevant. All climate models tell us that it is the Arctic sea ice cover that declines first, and that Antarctic ice extent falls only later, and may even (as observed) temporarily increase in response to changing patterns of atmospheric circulation. In other words, events are unfolding pretty much as expected. Finally, the statement that there was “substantial recovery” this year in the Arctic is simply rubbish. Ice extent at the end of the melt season in the Arctic was second lowest on record and ice extent is still (as of early January) well below normal.

Simply put, this article is a masterpiece of cherry picking, misinterpretation and misrepresentation.

Also, I worked very closely with a woman from Slate Magazine, who wrote a pretty decent piece on the issue:


BLOGGER'S NOTE: Also from the Cryosphere:

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