Arctic Warming Unalarming

Locations of arctic stations examined in this study

Locations of arctic stations examined in this study

An recent extensive analysis of Northern surface temperature records gives no support for Arctic “amplification” fears.

The Arctic has warmed at the same rate as Europe over the past two centuries. Heretofore, it has been supposed that any global warming would be amplified in the Arctic. This may still be true if urban heat island effects are responsible for part of the observed temperature increase at European stations. However, European and Arctic temperatures have remained closely synchronized for over 200 years during the rapid growth of urban centres.

And the warming pattern in Europe and the Arctic is familiar and unalarming.

Arctic temperatures have increased during the period 1820– 2014. The warming has been larger in January than in July. Siberia, Alaska and Western Canada appear to have warmed slightly more than Eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Northern Europe. The warming has not occurred at a steady rate. Much of the warming trends found during 1820 to 2014 occurred in the late 1990s, and the data show temperatures levelled off after 2000. The July temperature trend is even slightly negative for the period 1820–1990. The time series exhibit multidecadal temperature fluctuations which have also been found by other temperature reconstructions.

The paper is:

Arctic temperature trends from the early nineteenth century to the present W. A. van Wijngaarden, Theoretical & Applied Climatology (2015) here

Temperatures were examined at 118 stations located in the Arctic and compared to observations at 50 European stations whose records averaged 200 years and in a few cases extend to the early 1700s.

Fig. 3 Temperature change for a January, b July and c annual relative to the temperature during 1961 to 1990 for Arctic stations. The red curve is the moving 5-year average while the blue curve is the number of stations

Fig. 3 Temperature change for a January, b July and c annual relative to the temperature during 1961 to 1990 for Arctic stations. The red curve is the moving 5-year average while the blue curve is the number of stations


The data and results for all stations are provided in detail, and the findings are inescapable.

The Arctic has warmed at the same rate as Europe over the past two centuries. . . The warming has not occurred at a steady rate. . .During the 1900s, all four (Arctic) regions experienced increasing temperatures until about 1940. Temperatures then decreased by about 1 °C over the next 50 years until rising in the 1990s.

For the period 1820–2014, the trends for the January, July and annual temperatures are 1.0, 0.0 and 0.7 °C per century, respectively. . . Much of the warming trends found during 1820 to 2014 occurred in the late 1990s, and the data show temperatures levelled off after 2000.

Once again conclusions based on observations are ignored while projections from models are broadcast and circulated like gossip. The only amplification going on is the promotion of global warming alarms.


Footnote: I did a study last year of 25 World Class surface temperature records (all European) and found the same patterns (here).

Cutting Edge Sea Level Data


PSLMPThis post is about the SEAFRAME network measuring sea levels in the Pacific, and about the difficulty to discern multi-decadal trends of rising or accelerating sea levels as evidence of climate change.

Update May 10 below, regarding recent Solomon Islands news

Pacific Sea Level Monitoring Network

The PSLM project was established in response to concerns voiced by Pacific Island countries about the potential effects of climate change. The project aims to provide an accurate long-term record of sea levels in the area for partner countries and the international scientific community, and enable the former to make informed decisions about managing their coastal environments and resources.

In 1991, the National Tidal Facility (NTF) of the Flinders University of South Australia was awarded the contract to undertake the management of the project.  Between July 1991 and December 2000 sea level and meteorological monitoring stations were installed at 11 sites. Between 2001 and 2005 another station was established in the Federated States of Micronesia and continuous global positioning systems (CGPS) were installed in numerous locations to monitor the islands’ vertical movements.

The 14 Pacific Island countries now participating in the project provide a wide coverage across the Pacific Basin: the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.


Each of these SEA Level Fine Resolution Acoustic Measuring Equipment (SEAFRAME) stations in the Pacific region are continuously monitoring the Sea Level, Wind Speed and Direction, Wind Gust, Air and Water Temperatures and Atmospheric Pressure.

In addition to its system of tide gauge facilities, the Pacific Sea-Level Monitoring Network also includes a network of earth monitoring stations for geodetic observations, implemented and maintained by Geoscience Australia. The earth monitoring installations provide Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) measurements to allow absolute determination of the vertical height of the tide gauges that measure sea level.

Sea Level Datasets from PSLM

Data and reports are here.

Monthly reports are detailed and informative. At each station water levels are measured every six minutes in order to calculate daily maxs, mins and means, as a basis for monthly averages. So the daily mean sea level value is averaged from 240 readings, and the daily min and max are single readings taken from the 240.



A typical monthly graph appears above. It shows how tides for these stations range between 1 to 3 meters daily, as well variations during the month.

According to the calibrations, measurement errors are in the range of +/- 1 mm. Vertical movement of the land is monitored relative to a GPS benchmark. So far, land movement at these stations has also been within the +/- 1 mm range (with one exception related to an earthquake).

The PSLM Record

March SL range

In the Monthly reports are graphs showing results of six minute observations, indicating tidal movements daily over the course of a month.The chart above shows how sea level varied in each location during March 2016 compared to long term March results. Since many stations were installed in 1993, long term means about 22 years of history.

This dataset for Pacific Sea Level Monitoring provides a realistic context for interpreting studies claiming sea level trends and/or acceleration of such trends. Of course, one can draw a line through any scatter of datapoints and assert the existence of a trend. And the error ranges above allow for annual changes of a few mm to be meaningful. Here is a table produced in just that way.

Location Installation date Sea-level trend (mm/yr)
Cook Islands Feb 2003 +5.5
Federated States of Micronesia Dec 2001 +17.7
Fiji Oct 1992 +2.9
Kiribati Dec 1992 +2.9
Marshall Islands May 1993 +5.2
Nauru Jul 1993 +3.6
Papua New Guinea Sept 1994 +8.0
Samoa Feb 1993 +6.9
Solomon Islands Jul 1994 +7.7
Tonga Jan 1993 +8.6
Tuvalu Mar 1993 +4.1
Vanuatu Jan 1993 +5.3

The rising trends range from 2.9 to 8.6 mm/year (FSM is too short to be meaningful).

Looking into the details of the monthly anomalies, it is clear that sea level changes at the mm level are swamped by volatility of movements greater by orders of magnitude.  And there are obvious effects from ENSO events. The 1997-98 El Nino shows up in a dramatic fall of sea levels almost everywhere, and that event alone creates most of the rising trends in the table above.  The 2014-2016 El Nino is also causing sea levels to fall, but is too recent to affect the long term trend.


Sea Level Rise is another metric for climate change that demonstrates the difficulty discerning a small change of a few millimeters in a dataset where tides vary thousands of millimeters every day. And the record is also subject to irregular fluctuations from storms, currents and oceanic oscillations, such as the ENSO.

On page 8 of its monthly reports (here), PSLM project provides this caution regarding the measurements:

The overall rates of movement are updated every month by calculating the linear slope during the tidal analysis of all the data available at individual stations. The rates are relative to the SEAFRAME sensor benchmark, whose movement relative to inland benchmarks is monitored by Geosciences Australia.
Please exercise caution in interpreting the overall rates of movement of sea level – the records are too short to be inferring long-term trends.

A longer record will bring more insight, but even then sea level trends are a very weak signal inside a noisy dataset. Even with state-of-the-art equipment, it is a fool’s errand to discern any acceleration in sea levels, in order to link it to CO2. Such changes are in fractions of millimeters when the measurement error is +/- 1 mm.

For more on the worldwide network of tidal gauges, as well as satellite systems attempting to measure sea level, sea Dave Burton’s excellent website.

May 10 update Regarding recent news about Solomon Islands.

As the charts above show, there is negligible sea level rise in the West Pacific, and receding a bit lately at Solomon Islands.  So it was curious that the media was declaring those islands inundating because of climate change.

Now the real story is coming out (but don’t wait for the retractions)

A new study published in Environmental Research Letters shows that some low-lying reef islands in the Solomon Islands are being gobbled up by “extreme events, seawalls and inappropriate development, rather than sea level rise alone.” Despite headlines claiming that man-made climate change has caused five Islands (out of nearly a thousand) to disappear from rising sea levels, a closer inspection of the study reveals the true cause is natural, and the report’s lead author says many of the headlines have been ‘exaggerated’ to ill-effect.




Arctic Mayday? Not

On May1, we have the complete Arctic ice extent record for April 2016.  So we can look at how the melt season is progressing. As you can see, the ice is down a little, but no reason to put out a distress signal.

These are results from MASIE, the most accurate dataset. SII from NOAA is shown with the data available as of today. Clearly, SII is having unresolved technical difficulties, and April stats are NA.

MASIE shows 2016 less than the ten-year average and slightly less than last year at end of April. 2016 average for April is about 200k km2 less than 2015, exactly offsetting the surpluses of ice in February and March.

Here is how the melting is occurring in the various Arctic seas.

April 30, 2016 day 121 km2 loss % loss
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 1774019 11.77%
 (6) Barents_Sea 250990 41.87%
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 461154 28.04%
 (12) Bering_Sea 432513 56.30%
 (13) Baltic_Sea 76897 78.80%
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 800810 61.19%

The losses are the difference from the recorded maximums. All other seas are at or more than 96% of max.

Since some seas are not at max on the day of NH max, adding losses from individual seas will vary from the NH total.

So May starts with this year and last in similar overall positions. However, the details are different. Here is the two Day 121 extents compared.

Ice Extents 2015 2016 Ice Extent
Region 2015121 2016121 km2 Diff.
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 13369057 13303581  -65476
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070445 1070445 0
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 965922 965989 67
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1086657 1087120 463
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897809 -36
 (5) Kara_Sea 934122 904700 -29422
 (6) Barents_Sea 441590 348389 -93201
 (7) Greenland_Sea 583660 633443 49783
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1329843 1183429 -146415
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853214 853178 -36
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1230587 1254066 23479
 (11) Central_Arctic 3240913 3238746 -2167
 (12) Bering_Sea 401377 335719 -65658
 (13) Baltic_Sea 4407 20686 16279
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 326536 507886 181351

The table shows a small overall difference of 65k km2. The losses are principally in Bering, Barents and Baffin bay, offset by surpluses in Okhotsk and Greenland Seas. So far the main locations of persistent ice are showing no signs of melting: BCE, Central Arctic and CAA (Canadian Arctic Archipelago).


Arctic ice is melting as it normally does in April, and no one knows what will happen in May and afterwards.  Stay tuned.

Behind the Alarmist Scene


Update May 24, 2016: The shareholder vote is scheduled for tomorrow, May 25, according to this article.

We can look into the climate activist mental frame thanks to documents supporting the current strategy using the legal system to implement actions against fossil fuel consumption.

For example, there is this recent text explaining a shareholder proposal to be tabled at ExxonMobil annual meeting. From Attorney Sanford Lewis:

The Proposal states:

“RESOLVED: Shareholders request that by 2017 ExxonMobil publish an annual assessment of long term portfolio impacts of public climate change policies, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information. The assessment can be incorporated into existing reporting and should analyze the impacts on ExxonMobil’s oil and gas reserves and resources under a scenario in which reduction in demand results from carbon restrictions and related rules or commitments adopted by governments consistent with the globally agreed upon 2 degree target. The reporting should assess the resilience of the company’s full portfolio of reserves and resources through 2040 and beyond and address the financial risks associated with such a scenario.

Now let’s unbundle the chain of suppositions that comprise this proposal.

  • Supposition 1: A 2C global warming target is internationally agreed.
  • Supposition 2: Carbon Restrictions are enacted by governments to comply with the target.
  • Supposition 3: Demand for oil and gas products is reduced due to restrictions
  • Supposition 4: Oil and gas assets become uneconomic for lack of demand.
  • Supposition 5: Company net worth declines by depressed assets and investors lose value.

1.Suppose an International Agreement to limit global warming to 2C.

From the supporting statement to the above proposal, Sanford Lewis provides these assertions:

Recognizing the severe and pervasive economic and societal risks associated with a warming climate, global governments have agreed that increases in global temperature should be held below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels (Cancun Agreement).

Failing to meet the 2 degree goal means, according to scientists, that the world will face massive coastal flooding, increasingly severe weather events, and deepening climate disruption. It will impose billions of dollars in damage on the global economy, and generate an increasing number of climate refugees worldwide.

Climate change and the risks it is generating for companies have become major concerns for investors. These concerns have been magnified by the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris, where 195 global governments agreed to restrict greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to no more than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels and submitted plans to begin achieving the necessary GHG emission reductions. In the agreement, signatories also acknowledged the need to strive to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees, recognizing current and projected harms to low lying islands.

Yet a careful reading of UN agreements shows commitment is exaggerated:
David Campbell (here):

Neither 2°C nor any other specific target has ever been agreed at the UN climate change negotiations.

Article 2 of the Paris Agreement in fact provides only that it ‘aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change … including by the holding the increase to well below 2°C’. This is an expression, not of setting a concrete limit, but merely of an aspiration to set such a limit. It is true that Article 2 is expressed in a deplorably equivocatory and convoluted language which fails to convey this vital point, indeed it obscures it. But nevertheless that is what Article 2 means.

Dieter Helm (here):

Nothing of substance has been achieved in the last quarter of a century despite all the efforts and political capital that has been applied. The Paris Agreement follows on from Kyoto. The pledges – in the unlikely event they are met – will not meet the 2C target, shipping and aviation are excluded, and the key developing countries (China and India) are not committed to capping their emission for at least another decade and a half (or longer in India’s case)

None of the pledges is, in any event, legally binding. For this reason, the Paris Agreement can be regarded as the point at which the UN negotiating approach turned effectively away from a top down approach, and instead started to rely on a more country driven and hence bottom up one.

Paul Spedding:

The international community is unlikely to agree any time soon on a global mechanism for putting a price on carbon emissions.

2: Suppose Governments enact restrictions that limit use of fossil fuels.

Despite the wishful thinking in the first supposition, the activists proceed on the basis of aspirations and reporting accountability. Sanford Lewis:

Although the reduction goals are not set forth in an enforceable agreement, the parties put mechanisms in place for transparent reporting by countries and a ratcheting mechanism every five years to create accountability for achieving these goals. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon summarized the Paris Agreement as follows: “The once Unthinkable [global action on climate change] has become the Unstoppable.”

Now we come to an interesting bait and switch. Since Cancun, IPCC is asserting that global warming is capped at 2C by keeping CO2 concentration below 450 ppm. From Summary for Policymakers (SPM) AR5

Emissions scenarios leading to CO2-equivalent concentrations in 2100 of about 450 ppm or lower are likely to maintain warming below 2°C over the 21st century relative to pre-industrial levels. These scenarios are characterized by 40 to 70% global anthropogenic GHG emissions reductions by 2050 compared to 2010, and emissions levels near zero or below in 2100.

Thus is born the “450 Scenario” by which governments can be focused upon reducing emissions without any reference to temperature measurements, which are troublesome and inconvenient.

Sanford Lewis:

Within the international expert community, “2 degree” is generally used as shorthand for a low carbon scenario under which CO2 concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere are stabilized at a level of 450 parts per million (ppm) or lower, representing approximately an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from current levels, which according to certain computer simulations would be likely to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and is considered by some to reduce the likelihood of significant adverse impacts based on analyses of historical climate variability. Company Letter, page 4.

Clever as it is to substitute a 450 ppm target for 2C, the mathematics are daunting. Joe Romm:

We’re at 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year — rising 3.3% per year — and we have to average below 18 billion tons a year for the entire century if we’re going to stabilize at 450 ppm. We need to peak around 2015 to 2020 at the latest, then drop at least 60% by 2050 to 15 billion tons (4 billion tons of carbon), and then go to near zero net carbon emissions by 2100.

And the presumed climate sensitivity to CO2 is hypothetical and unsupported by observations:

3.Suppose that demand for oil and gas products is reduced by the high costs imposed on such fuels.

Sanford Lewis:

ExxonMobil recognized in its 2014 10-K that “a number of countries have adopted, or are considering adoption of, regulatory frameworks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” and that such policies, regulations, and actions could make its “products more expensive, lengthen project implementation timelines and reduce demand for hydrocarbons,” but ExxonMobil has not presented any analysis of how its portfolio performs under a 2 degree scenario.

Moreover, the Company’s current use of a carbon proxy price, which it asserts as its means of calculating climate policy impacts, merely amplifies and reflects its optimistic assessments of national and global climate policies. The Company Letter notes that ExxonMobil is setting an internal price as high as $80 per ton; in contrast, the 2014 Report notes a carbon price of $1000 per ton to achieve the 450 ppm (2 degree scenario) and the Company reportedly stated during the recent Paris climate talks that a 1.5 degree scenario would require a carbon price as high as $2000 per ton within the next hundred years.

Peter Trelenberg, manager of environmental policy and planning at Exxon Mobil reportedly told the Houston Chronicle editorial board: Trimming carbon emissions to the point that average temperatures would rise roughly 1.6 degrees Celsius – enabling the planet to avoid dangerous symptoms of carbon pollution – would bring costs up to $2,000 a ton of CO2. That translates to a $20 a gallon boost to pump prices by the end of this century… .

Even those who think emissions should be capped somehow see through the wishful thinking in these numbers. Dieter Helm:

The combination of the shale revolution and the ending of the commodity super cycle probably point to a period of low prices for sometime to come. This is unfortunate timing for current decarbonisation policies, many of which are predicated on precisely the opposite happening – high and rising prices, rendering current renewables economic. Low oil prices, cheap coal, and falling gas prices, and their impacts on driving down wholesale electricity prices, are the new baseline against which to consider policy interventions.

With existing technologies, it is a matter of political will, and the ability to bring the main polluters on board, as to whether the envelope will be breached. There are good reasons to doubt that any top down agreement will work sufficiently well to achieve it.

The end of fossil fuels is not about to happen anytime soon, and will not be caused by running out of any of them. There is more than enough to fry the planet several times over, and technological progress in the extraction of fossil fuels has recently been at least as fast as for renewables. We live in an age of fossil fuel abundance.

We also live in a world where fossil fuel prices have fallen, and where the common assumption that prices will bounce back, and that the cycle of fossil fuel prices will not only reassert itself but also continue on a rising trend, may be seriously misguided. It is plausible to at least argue that the oil price may never regain its peaks in 1979 and 2008 again.

A world with stable or falling fossil fuel prices turns the policy assumptions of the last decade or so on their heads. Instead of assuming that rising prices would ease the transition to low carbon alternatives, many of the existing technologies will probably need permanent subsidies. Once the full system costs are incorporated, current generation wind (especially offshore) and current generation solar may be out of the market except in special locations for the foreseeable future. In any event, neither can do much to address the sheer scale of global emissions.

Primary Energy Demand Projection

4.Suppose oil and gas reserves are stranded for lack of demand.

Sanford Lewis:

Achievement of even a 2 degree goal requires net zero global emissions to be attained by 2100. Achieving net zero emissions this century means that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned. As noted by Mark Carney, the President of the Bank of England, the carbon budget associated with meeting the 2 degree goal will “render the vast majority of reserves ‘stranded’ – oil, gas, and coal that will be literally unburnable without expensive carbon capture technology, which itself alters fossil fuel economics.”

A concern expressed by some of our stakeholders is whether such a “low carbon scenario” could impact ExxonMobil’s reserves and operations – i.e., whether this would result in unburnable proved reserves of oil and natural gas.

Decisions to abandon reserves are not as simple or have the effects as desired by activists.

Financial Post (here):

The 450 Scenario is not the IEA’s central scenario. At this point, government policies to limit GHG emissions are not stringent enough to stimulate this level of change. However, for discussion purposes let’s use the IEA’s 450 Scenario to examine the question of stranded assets in crude oil investing. Would some oil reserves be “stranded” under the IEA’s scenario of demand reversal?

A considerable amount of new oil projects must be developed to offset the almost 80 per cent loss in legacy production by 2040. This continued need for new oil projects for the next few decades and beyond means that the majority of the value of oil reserves on the books of public companies must be realized, and will not be “stranded”.

While most of these reserves will be developed, could any portion be stranded in this scenario? The answer is surely “yes.” In any industry a subset of the inventory that is comprised of inferior products will be susceptible to being marginalized when there is declining demand for goods. In a 450 ppm world, inferior products in the oil business will be defined by higher cost and higher carbon intensity.

5.Suppose shareholders fear declining company net worth.

Now we come to the underlying rationale for this initiative.

Paul Spedding:

Commodity markets have repeatedly proved vulnerable to expectations that prices will fall. Given the political pressure to mitigate the impact of climate change, smart investors will be watching closely for indications of policies that will lead to a drop in demand and the possibility that their assets will become financially stranded.

Equity markets are famously irrational, and if energy company shareholders can be spooked into selling off, a death spiral can be instigated. So far though, investors are smarter than they are given credit.


Fossil-fuel divestment has been a popular issue in recent years among college students, who have protested at campuses around the country. Yet even with the movement spreading to more than 1,000 campuses, only a few dozen schools have placed some restrictions on their commitments to the energy sector. Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University are among the largest endowments to reject demands to divest.

Stanford Board of Trustees even said:

As trustees, we are convinced that the global community must develop effective alternatives to fossil fuels at sufficient scale, so that fossil fuels will not continue to be extracted and used at the present rate. Stanford is deeply engaged in finding alternatives through its research. However, despite the progress being made, at the present moment oil and gas remain integral components of the global economy, essential to the daily lives of billions of people in both developed and emerging economies. Moreover, some oil and gas companies are themselves working to advance alternative energy sources and develop other solutions to climate change. The complexity of this picture does not allow us to conclude that the conditions for divestment outlined in the Statement on Investment Responsibility have been met.

Update:  Universities are not the exception in finding the alarmist case unconvincing, according to a survey:

Almost half of the world’s top 500 investors are failing to act on climate change — an increase of 6 percent from 236 in 2014, according to a report Monday by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, which surveys global companies on their climate change risk and management.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Japan Post Insurance Co Ltd., Kuwait Investment Authority and China’s SAFE Investment Company, are the four biggest funds that scored zero in the survey. The 246 “laggards” identified as not acting hold $14 trillion in assets, the report said.


Alarmists have failed to achieve their goals through political persuasion and elections. So they are turning to legal and financial tactics. Their wishful thinking appears as an improbable chain of events built upon a Paris agreement without substance.

Last word to David Campbell:

International policy has so far been based on the premise that mitigation is the wisest course, but it is time for those committed to environmental intervention to abandon the idea of mitigation in favour of adaptation to climate change’s effects.

For more on adapting vs. mitigating, see Adapting Works, Mitigating Fails