Sea ice again.
I was reading Gareth who had been reading Monbiot. And so I did too. After I’d waded through the goo and the dribble about Bush, the first item of substance was A new summary of the science published since last year’s Intergovernmental Panel report suggests that – almost a century ahead of schedule – the critical climate processes might have begun. Just a year ago the Intergovernmental Panel warned that the Arctic’s “late-summer sea ice is projected to disappear almost completely towards the end of the 21st century … in some models.” But, as the new report by the Public Interest Research Centre (Pirc) shows, climate scientists are now predicting the end of late-summer sea ice within three to seven years. The trajectory of current melting plummets through the graphs like a meteorite falling to earth.
This being journalism, Monbiot is obliged not to cite his source (I’ve said that before, haven’t I? Ah well), but the answer appears to be here. But its not a report; its not a summary of the science since IPCC, its a blog posting. And it is not true that The trajectory of current melting plummets through the graphs like a meteorite falling to earth – as we all know, there was marginally more ice this year than last – and if Monbiot, PIRC, or anyone from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, or indeed anyone else is stupid enough to believe that all the late-summer ice will be gone by 2013 (or within “within three to seven years”), I’ve got money that says otherwise: wanna bet?
Forgive me for being outraged by the Monbiot writing or the Grauniad printing junk; we don’t actually get it as a daily paper any more (I read very little of it, and only ever did the kakuro) but my wife gets it on saturday largely for the review section. Oh, and Daniel likes the comic.
So, Monbiot has misrepresented PIRC. Following the chain of twaddle, we find that PIRC has misrepresented its sources, too. The assertion that Scientists are now predicting an ice-free Arctic by the summer of 2013, a full 80 years ahead of IPCC predictions is sourced to that well-known scientific journal, IHT: Retreating Ice: A blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013?. To be fair, the IHT piece isn’t particularly bad, just badly abused by the PIRC. It contains some stuff shown to be wrong by subsequent events – Experts say that next summer is quite likely to see an even bigger ice retreat because this winter’s freeze is starting from such a huge ice deficit. – well it didn’t. The IHT didn’t know that at the time, of course, but Monbiot should know it by now. And whoever was the unnamed source of At least one researcher, of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, projects a blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013 is presumably now keeping their head down. The article even quotes some of the folks at the time who were quite well aware of what might happen: Natural variations could turn around and counteract the greenhouse-gas-forced change, perhaps stabilizing the ice for a bit.
[Update: Thanks to Baz, who points out that my jibes against Monbiot are unjust. If you read his original column, rather than the grauniad reprint, you do get something closer to a source: “Public Interest Research Centre, 25th November 2008. Climate Safety. www.pirc.info”. Its still a bit vague, but a lot better. Following that, I get to http://www.pirc.info/content/view/60/54/, then to http://climatesafety.org/, then to http://climatesafety.org/wp-content/uploads/climatesafety.pdf, which I presume is the URL Monbiot meant to cite.
The language is slightly saner (Given the unprecedented changes seen in recent years, many Arctic scientists are now predicting an ice-free summer Arctic by somewhere between 2011 and 2015.15,16,17) but then veers off into stupidity again (Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate College in California predicts an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice by the
summer of 2013, but notes that on the basis of data from 2007 and 2005, this prediction could already be seen as too conservative. Louis Fortier, scientific director of the Canadian research network ArcticNet, believes that the ocean could be ice-free in summertime as soon as 2010,19
while NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally suggests 2012.20) Why is a report published in Nov 2008 not taking into account the 2008 ice extent. Could it be… inconvenient? Having had a quick browse, none of 15-20 look like reliable sources, so I suspect most of those “could”‘s have had their caveats stripped away.
So I’m obliged to retract my complains about his journalism: he has represented the PIRC report quite fairly. The PIRC report still looks like nonsense, though, and I would have hoped Monbiot would have been aware enough to know that.
Oh, and (see comments) the unnamed is Maslowski, who isn’t keeping his head down, but has retreated to vagueness Our findings imply that sea ice might be melting faster than predicted by both climate models and estimated from satellite observations. This implies that the Arctic not only might, but is likely to be ice-free during the summer in the near future.