Flap Over Arctic Ice Rebound

Update October 4

Fooling Around

Dosbat has commented on my Arctic Ice posts: http://dosbat.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/a-fool-by-any-other-name.html

He sees clearly and correctly that I am “playing the fool.” That is, I am not taking the conventional view of Arctic Sea Ice. We call someone “foolish” for not saying and seeing things the same as the rest of us.

It’s a long, respected tradition. Monarchs valued highly their fools because they would speak to the king of things contrary to what everyone, including the king believed to be true. King Canute himself played the fool to show his court the truth. And it was an innocent child who broke the silence over a king’s nakedness.

It’s a risky business, because you could be right or wrong.  Who’s fooling whom?

More foolery coming soon.

And from the “Open Mind”

Tamino (Grant Foster) recently posted a hit piece against my Arctic Ice Rebound article.

I went there, to the  “Open Mind”  blog to clarify some misunderstandings, but for my few comments I was ridiculed and insulted.  So I disengaged.

Some commentators thought I should be ashamed of my last name.  So let me introduce them to my extended family:

That’s right, we had a starring role in the Oscar-winning movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Meet the Lutzes:


They take very seriously insults against the family name, and as the movie shows, they can be quite determined and extreme in their retaliations.  Just saying.

But Seriously, What is the Problem?

Grant Foster and friends are committed to a warmer future and expect Arctic Ice extent to decline.  They are unhappy with me pointing out the lack of decline recently. So my post is off-message, and they are attacking the messenger.  Same old, same old.

Foster was considerate to write a longish post against my work, and he included a number of graphs that confirm one of my main points: not much is happening with the Arctic ice cap, despite the seasonal fluctuations.  Tamino found an issue as an excuse to dismiss my entire analysis (and me and my blog along with it). I had included an annual average for 2015 which covers only the first 3/4 of this year.  I mentioned this figure would not be known for certain until year end.  Foster cleverly figured out that in the days (and weeks) ahead the figure will go down.  But come November and December it will rise again.  Not even Tamino knows what it will be until December 31.  It depends on the future rate of seasonal ice recovery.

My graph included only historical observations from MASIE, not projections or estimations.  The proper scientific thing would be to wait for the year to end.  But climate science, as we all know, is not only science, it is a movement and a media blitz ahead of a major (last ditch?) conference in Paris.  The story of Arctic ice will be written and sold to the public long before the year’s observations are complete.

Another Way to Get Perspective

I prefer a calendar year frame for Arctic Ice not only for ease of understanding, but also because the break point in annual cycle is neutral, occurring mid-way between minimum and maximum.  In order to avoid using a provisional value, but still incorporate all the data, I have done an analysis taking 12 month averages from the end of September backwards; in effect combining the last quarter of the previous year with 3/4 of the current year, and so forth for preceding years.  For the first year, 2006, I present the average as reported; that is, rather than estimating the last quarter of 2005, I have included the actual 2006 data.

masie annuallarge273

The graph shows the annual averages Oct 1 through Sept. 30.  On this basis, the variability of ice extent is reduced, and  2014 has the highest extent, with 2015 in second place.  The decadal  trend is still an increasing one, though at a lower rate than when the calendar year is used.  The basic findings are the same.  This analysis substitutes the 2014 last quarter recovery rate for the actual  next 3 months yet to be observed.  Since the 2015 maximum was unusually low, the actual next quarter results may go higher.  We shall have to wait and see.

Note: I use the term “trend” in its dictionary definition: “the general direction of changes or developments” (Cambridge Dictionary).  In any time series, there is an overall trend or direction, and within are usually periods identifiable by change points where short-term trends deviate from the overall.  Evidence is mounting that 2007 may be such a change point.

Some say that trend can only be mentioned with the meaning of expected values, and the dataset is not long enough to say this surely. This is the same gambit made when surface temperatures stopped rising.  Whether it is the temperature or the ice plateau, the advice is the same: “You should ignore what is happening before your eyes because it is not real, statistically speaking, unless it continues for another decade or so.  Meanwhile let’s wrap up the emissions treaty.”


Those hoping for an Arctic ice collapse this year are disappointed.  Everything was in their favor: a low March maximum, the Blob melting out Bering Sea early, a negative AO (Arctic Oscillation) with higher insolation most of the summer, and a major cyclone last August when ice edges are most fragile. Despite all that working against the ice, the extent was lower than 5M km2 ( 2014 minimum) for a period of only 28 days. Furthermore, the 12 month averages show extent slightly rising over the last 10 years, with 2015 second only to 2014.

Note on datasets

MASIE is not the only dataset to show this lull in Arctic ice decline. It is also obvious in Foster’s final graph.  Some were upset that I used the MASIE data, despite NSIDC cautions against it.  For the record, the NSIDC Background cites as support a study by Partington et al (2003).  Reading that study, one finds that the authors preferred the MASIE data and said this:
“This analysis has been based on ice chart data rather than the more commonly analyzed passive microwave derived ice concentrations. Differences between the NIC ice chart sea ice record and the passive microwave sea ice record are highly significant despite the fact that the NIC charts are semi-dependent on the passive microwave data, and it is worth noting these differences. . .In summer, the difference between the two sources of data rises to a maximum of 23% peaking in early August, equivalent to ice coverage the size of Greenland.” (my bold)  For clarity: the ice chart data show higher extents than passive microwave data.


In any case, NSIDC’s last word was this:  “In June 2014, we decided to make the MASIE product available back to 2006. This was done in response to user requests, and because the IMS product output, upon which MASIE is based, appeared to be reasonably consistent.”  And thus, the data appeared this September.


Arctic ice extent is no longer declining and a slight increase was observed in the last decade.  People have a right to know about this as a context to evaluate claims that are coming.

Nothing alarming is happening to Arctic ice.


  1. Pingback: Ron Clutz Responds To Tamino | NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT
  2. Richard Mallett · October 1, 2015

    OTOH http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/ does show that Arctic sea ice is declining by 10.4 +/- 2.0 % per decade, or 1.04 +/- 0.2 % per year, so an ice free Arctic is only 81 to 119 years away.


    • Ron Clutz · October 1, 2015

      Richard, thanks for linking to that. The graph reveals several problems. In using anomalies, they have made 2012 the lowest year, when in fact the annual averages show it much above 2007. Their processing is emphasizing the record low in 2012 (due to a freak storm) and disregarding the record maximum that year. The other point is the rapid drop from 1998 to 2007, occasioned by the flushing of multi-year ice out through the Fram Strait. There are 3 distinct periods in that graph with 2 change points: 1998 and 2007. (assuming 2012 is corrected.


      • Richard Mallett · October 2, 2015

        Did you mean to stop there ?


      • Ron Clutz · October 2, 2015

        Richard, I just realized there’s a larger point here requiring a post and some time to prepare it.


  3. gallopingcamel · October 2, 2015

    Short term variations to Arctic ice were not a big deal for me, but you piqued my interest so your blog has been added to my favorites.

    To date, my interest has been the long term record based on ice cores:

    Do you have any comments to share?


  4. John F. Hultquist · October 2, 2015

    Richard says, “119 years”

    Now that’s funny.
    In any case, it has melted – in the early 1800s.
    Please read the part in red at the following:


    • Ron Clutz · October 2, 2015

      Thanks for that link. John Daly says it all–clear, comprehensive and reasonable.


      • Richard Mallett · October 2, 2015

        As you know, I’m a great believer in natural cycles over multi-decadal time scales.


  5. roll · October 2, 2015

    It appears the commenters over there love a straw man.


  6. Richard Mallett · October 3, 2015

    My (and others’) experience with Grant Foster is that his idea of a debate is to delete those comments that he disagrees with, so that only his opinions (and those that agree with him) remain.


    • Ron Clutz · October 3, 2015

      It was like wandering into a pack of dogs marking their territory to keep strangers away.


  7. Richard Mallett · October 3, 2015

    When Grant Foster deletes dissenting comments, it becomes his own little echo chamber (and a promotion site for his own little book)


  8. Hifast · October 3, 2015

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


  9. Richard Mallett · October 4, 2015

    Corporate image, at very little cost.


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