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Entropic man

In Northern Ireland they rarely talk about the outside world, except for the football.
5 feet of snow in Belfast before Easter had a fair few people asking what was happening.
More of them are paying attention now.

Julian Brimelow

Hi Neven,

My first post on your blog :)

You are not going to believe this. Ironically, I linked to the garbage below from the news feed on your blog:

Lawrence Solomon: Arctic sea ice back to 1989 levels, now exceeds previous decade

The denial is quite incredible. So I don't think it is sinking in yet, whether it be b/c of denial or indifference. Collectively we are like frogs in a not-so-slowly warming pot of water. How stupid we humans can be.


While it is encouraging to see that 45% of New Hampshire Republicans see the demise of Arctic Sea Ice as a serious threat, I don't think that those same numbers would hold true in a southern State. In my home state of Texas, I would be willing to bet money that the numbers for Republicans would be at least 10-15% lower. I would even suspect some lower numbers for the Democrats and Independents as well. This is sad because Texas has been devastated by drought for two years and the Gulf Coast, where I just spent 4 days fishing, is so vulnerable to storm surge and rising sea levels.


@ Julian

I like to ask people such as Lawrence Solomon if they enjoy the money oil companies pay them to spread such rank and obvious disinformation. And if they're not being paid, they should be for providing the oil companies with such a fine propaganda service.


Neven and the group;

I think in order to understand how the scientific community (and the world, for that matter) are reacting to observed vs modelled changes in the arctic, we might benefit from a brief trip back through the history of science.

Back when rocks were soft, and dirt was a dollar a pound, if you could get it, I studied Geology. As I was also (and still am) a student of history, one story that piqued my interest was the experience of J Harlan Bretz and the interpretation of land forms in Eastern Washington referred to as the channeled scablands. (Bear with me, there is a connection to the arctic here...)

Geology as a science started to split off from what was referred to as "natural philosophy" in the 18th century, driven in no small part by James Hutton, who was able to establish more reliable methods for dating stratigraphy that revolutionized perceptions of the world. At the time, science had been driven by a paradigm of "catastrophism" - the basic principle that dramatic changes could (specifically by divine fiat) happen almost over night. Hutton and others broke that model, and forced science to examine phenomena from the stand point of incremental change. In Zoology, others such as Lyell, Wallace and Darwin began reinforcing began reinforcing a new paradigm - "incrementalism", which drove science to understand phenomena as driven by modest, smaller changes over what were rapidly becoming vast timescales.

Enter the puzzle of the Channeled Scablands. In Eastern Washington, there are extensive portions of the Columbia Plateau which are completely stripped of the otherwise ubiquitous post-glacial soils and loess that covers most of the region. In addition, there are dry canyons - coulees - which which are distributed across the the plateau, with no identifiable source of water to explain their presence; in fact in some cases, they are in the "wrong direction" as far as the general watershed is concerned. Field Geology at the time became obsessed with these questions - Where did the water come from? Where did it go? How long ago did it happen? Via incrementalism, the explanations lead to descriptive theories which were framed in time scales of millions of years. However, they couldn't find the required pieces to explain the visible evidence.

Enter J Harlan Bretz. In the early 20th century, Bretz took up the challenge of explaining the terrain in a new way. He found some pretty remarkable pieces of evidence, which when scaled up lead to some remarkable and very supportable conclusions. First, that very large volumes of water could have produced the scablands and coulee's in a very short time, by flowing at depth (50-70 meters or more) at high speed (15-40 meters per second), in flows 10's of kilometers across. Second, he found ripple marks. Not the little bumps in the beach, but monsters, 10-15 meters high, and 100 meters from crest to crest, in ripple trains, at the "outflows" of a number of the coulees. His assertion was then, that the landforms were created by a single, massive flood, occuring sometime towards the end of the last glaciation. He of course, was not taken seriously.

Enter J.T. Pardee, a Washington State Geologist. He had worked with Bretz, and understood one of the key problems with Bretz's theory - the lack of a source with sufficient volume, that could have dumped enough water over a short enough time to produce the flood. Pardee found it, in the form of Glacial Missoula. Pardee mapped parts of the lake, and determined it was formed by way of the Okanogan lobe of the Cordilleran Glacier blocking the Clark Fork river. By examining stranded shorelines, Pardee determined that at some point in the lakes history, the depth at the ice dam reached over 700 meters. At that point, the pressure of the water at the base of the dam exceeded the strength of the ice, and as a result, the close order of 15 KM3 of ice got blown out of the valley... along with almost 1000 KM3 of glacial meltwater. A jökulhlaup of immense proportions. The impact on Geology, in fact all natural sciences was profound; as a partial result, the tight grip "incrementalism" had had for a generation on the natural sciences was loosened dramatically. Later research determined that not one, but possibly scores of flood events occured similar to what Bretz had hypothesized.

While incrementalism was loosened, it is still a dominant paradigm in science for explaining phenomena. However, it does not do well at providing a framework for understanding "chaotic" events, or systems in a unstable states, such as we see currently with Arctic ice, and climate in general. The models, are intended to follow an expected path of incremental change. As such, with their first design premise, they lose the ability to anticipate non-incremental change.

Now, *designing* a model which could do that, is going to be a fairly mighty enterprise, so I have no criticism of the original work. I *do* think that as we are starting to see, science needs to step away from the models, and their underlying paradigm assumptions, and rethink how it approaches its understanding of our current observations.

Dan Green

At work (a water utility) we have lunchtime talks, given by members of staff, on work and projects that they're involved in. I took the opportunity last October to give a talk on the Arctic sea ice (with the somewhat lamentable title of 'Dude, where's my icecap?'), using visuals & info from here and other likeminded sources. The turnout wasn't bad, albeit lower than average - probably because it's not a core business topic. Those who came were also the usual suspects, but hopefully some awareness was raised.
Anyway, if you're lucky enough to work for an organisation that can hold informal talks at lunch or after work, it's one option for getting the news out. The question is how to extend further to those who don't have as much latent curiosity in things going on beyond their backyard.


Somewhat off topic but since we're talking about the public's perception it gave me an idea.

Perhaps you can create a link - in a prominent place - to Skeptical Science's argument list or create a list of basic level arguments just like theirs. Better yet, dedicate an entire site to that.

It would have to be dumbed down a bit but it could be very successful in reaching out to the general public.


@Dan (& others)

I think you're on exactly the right track. My personal "pulpit" is FB, and a couple of other lists I exchange correspondence with. Material from this site figures highly in my arguments, which are various and many.

Increasing awareness works best I think, when it starts one-on-one, and expands from there. Each additional individual you can convince to spread awareness of what is happening doubles your impact. Proceed accordingly.


I've had a short comment dropped twice after posting. The second time it actually came up but disappeared when I hit the refreshed button. ;-(

[TypePad has been implementing a new spam filter system for several weeks now. It goes well for a while, but then suddenly a lot of comments get stuck in the spam filter. I try to release them as quickly as I can. I apologize for the inconvenience. It's very annoying and better improve soon.]

Lou Grinzo

I've found when I give local (Western NY State) presentations on climate change that even many pretty hard core environmentalists are notably ignorant of what's going on Up There. They know the environment is warming, of course, and they often have some idea that there's something of interest happening at the poles and to continental glaciers, but they have no idea of how serious it is. I show them some of the PIOMAS or death spiral charts, and they look horrified.

Just one more big, important piece of this mess we have to find a way to communicate to newcomers, I guess...


@Lou @22:03

"...many pretty hard core environmentalists are notably ignorant of what's going on Up There."

Last week I had a conversation with a Greenpeace activist who said that the Arctic would be ice free in the summer in 30 (not 3) years. He was exitable when he mentioned it.


The message from Greenpeace has improved a bit. At first it was about 'Save the Arctic'. Now it has shifted more towards 'Save humans because things are looking bad in the Arctic'.


Very interesting post and comments - as usual. In terms of awareness - the UK Ed Minister is introducing reforms to remove Climate Change from Under 14 curriculum. There is a petition against this which I think closes end tomorrow Tuesday http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/michael-gove-keep-climate-change-in-the-curriculum

Crozet Dutchie

you'd think that we as Dutch people living below sea level would take notice, ha! I will send my family still in the Netherlands a link of your superb blog, and hope they spread it. Now in Virgina USA I won't get my feet wet just yet, but we had our coldest March here in many years as did my family back home (we do share weather effects in common!).

L. Hamilton

"While it is encouraging to see that 45% of New Hampshire Republicans see the demise of Arctic Sea Ice as a serious threat, I don't think that those same numbers would hold true in a southern State."

You're probably right that our New Hampshire survey would have come out differently in Texas, but New Hampshire seems to be a surprisingly good proxy for the US as a whole. The article Neven cites describes some other climate questions where US and New Hampshire responses are fairly close.

The statewide New Hampshire surveys (which interview random samples of 500 people four times each year) provide a cost-effective testbed for new science perception and knowledge questions. For example, We've been repeating a basic question about climate beliefs every few months since 2010, now almost 7,000 interviews forming a unique tracking poll.


The biggest issue, as I understand it, is the press. Every time the press let a denialist have air time to refute the claims of science, all people remember is the challenge. Then when they are asked about it later, all they remember was that there was some question as to whether the Scientists knew what they were talking about.

So when asked, people who have no interest give completely the wrong answer. To stop this, there needs to be a sea change in the reporting. If they want a controversy, then they need to be reporting about falsified denial material and corrupt business attempts to sway public opinion for their benefit. The kind of story the press is "supposed" to uncover.

If they want dissent, they should report the differences in studies and the timeline and size of the impact of the change. There is more than enough disaster material in there to sell a decades worth of "news".

We need to get away from the press constantly sowing doubt about the veracity of the scientific studies and start sowing doubt about the denialist movement and the big business funds behind them. I mean, what is a monopolistic move to raise the price of cat food for the average cat lover compared to the monopolistic attempt to destroy the liveable habitat of the planet to make a fast buck off the uncaring???? The scope for reporting is "huge"... But it seems that the news "corporations" stand with their corporate buddies.

Yes, personally we can raise awareness. I have been doing this in my personal and business life for 17 years. But we also have to move the press to ask the right questions and get the right answers. Hansen, as ever, was right about language. We have to turn around the uncertainty and put it on the positive side rather than the negative side. "Almost certainly this would NOT have happened without global warming" as opposed to "we cannot assign one single event to global warming".

Just how we change the focus of the press and, as a result, the awareness of the people at large, is a question I have no answer for apart from appealing to their general avarice.

The other side of this is also how we communicate timeline. 100 years won't cut it. however the journey is going to be one long deterioration with massive impact long, long before the end game. This is also something we should promote. There are >1m people in Africa right now designated as drought refugees. That should be "climate refugees" as the climate drove the drought. Another 5% of the proposed change by 2100 will change that from millions to hundreds of millions and at that level, war is unavoidable.

Whilst the Arctic is the canary, we need to also communicate the other effects to the coal mine along the way....

Josh McDonald

Neven, et al -

I have been a lurker on this blog for well over a year now. I have it in my "must read" RSS feeds and make a point of reading through all of the numbers posted by so many fantastic contributors here who obviously take great care in "getting it right", since there is SO MUCH disinformation out there. This is my first comment.

That said, I come here for the facts. Where is it melting/freezing and in what quantities and at what speed? I have NEVER come here to engage in or read "the debate". Frankly, I don't believe that the debate is relevant anymore. The climate is changing. The ice is melting. It isn't a question of if but of when...and the answer is, MUCH sooner than we thought.

Additionally, and I realize just how pessimistic this sounds, I no longer care to engage in questions of "denialist perception". I honestly don't care if the conservatives in the US finally come to their senses and start believing in crazy things like science or empirical data. In fact, the longer they go before accepting the facts the more likely it is that they are booted out of office as the general populous wakes up.

Finally, and I KNOW that this is pessimistic, I don't think there is a solution. Yes, we need to radically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and we need to do so immediately. But even then the feedback loops we've triggered and the amount of gas in our atmosphere already means that we are going to continue warming for decades even with radical change...which isn't coming any time soon anyway. Thus, we need to concern ourselves with adaptation to a new reality which has yet to come. And the path to this reality is not going to be pretty by any stretch. If we survive at all it is going to be a turbulent period filled with societal and economic collapse...and blood.

I don't really know why I'm writing this. I imagine that most people here feel similarly but don't like to think about it; I get that. But since this blog is usually so factual and tends to stay away from "the debate" I felt like this post was appropriate to sound off on.

Thank you so much for this blog.


Perhaps this blog post is a bit about therapy or venting for us.

Today, I took the last of our children on a visit to check out a very well known University in our area. We sat in an Engineering admissions session. They put up a pie chart of the number of students in the various engineering programs. Environmental engineering seemed to be the smallest slice of the pie. And Climate Change studies was mentioned. Not as the first part of that slice, but as an small part of that slice. Climate Change was not mentioned the rest of the day.

It was still very much business as usual in training up the next generation.

Bob Bingham

I have a similar time scale for learning about climate change. Each piece of news is worse than the forecast and its getting worse faster than anyone ever considered. I have two web sites dealing with our situation in New Zealand
http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/ I have also put together a power point presentation and give talks to groups in the locality to raise awareness regarding the future.
Change can only come from the grass roots so its up to us to convince the population which in turn will influence politicians.

Fairfax Climate Watch

Texans are different, or so I've recently learned - apparently if you say anything that suggests Texas could experience negative consequences from climate change, they take it as a personal insult - actually as an insult against the state of Texas, which is much worse than a personal insult for them. By Texans, I mean white (non-Hispanic) men from Texas (about 25% of the state's population).

Here in northern Virginia, most people don't understand about climate change, let alone the Arctic. Most Democrats and a good number of Republicans are willing to do something about pollution and like the idea of clean energy, but it's just not a priority. So the Arctic is hardly on people's mind around me.

I don't think that's a surprise either, because thinking back to primary school - if I do a rough recollection of my classmates interests and habits, it seems about 10% or less were actually genuinely interested in learning any type of science (or perhaps any other subject).

And looking at my adult life - most people I know have a limited understanding of physical sciences, and no interest in learning - so it seems reasonable that most people will never understand the Arctic's importance for themselves. But this is true of many other issues in their lives that they do have strong opinions on! So it is a question of how to influence opinions, not convince them of the facts or mechanics...because those have no meaning to them.

Along those lines, I started a petition to have the US President address the country about climate change, and so far it's got 11 signatures, despite my best efforts to promote it: http://climatewatch.typepad.com/blog/2013/04/a-national-address-of-critical-urgency-on-climate-change.html

Fairfax Climate Watch

Josh, I've looked at those feedbacks quite a bit, I don't think we're doomed yet. By my estimation, we've got a few more years before a very hard decision will have to be made, and then we may be doomed (or some of us may choose to doom the rest). Yes we're probably not going to avoid a +3C world, but trust me, it can get a lot worse! So we have to keep trying.

Fairfax Climate Watch

If worse comes to worse, we can always nuke Greenland. That would get the sea ice back in a hurry! (sort of kidding)


I fear that this is precisely what will happen when Homo sap finds him/herself in a real bind due to climate change 50 years of so down the road.....and really HAVE to do something.

After all, why did we spend all that money on nukes anyway?

We have done enough atmospheric nuclear air bursts since "Mike" at Eniwetok to know that the fallout won't be nearly as bad as climate change itself in the near term.

I know, I know, but that's how humans think..........

So get ready for limited, controlled nuclear winter as the antidote for greenhouse warming - titrated by the bomb; delivered by missile to some agreed upon and unfortunate spot in the Queen Elizabeth Islands, or maybe Severnaya Zemlya.

It will (I hope....gulp) stave off SLR by the meter due to GIS melting and will be cheaper than moving New York, Shanghai, London, Rio, Sydney, etc. etc. etc.

And Florida, too. Did I mention Florida? And Holland, And Bangladesh, and.....................

Glenn Tamblyn


"Perhaps this blog post is a bit about therapy or venting for us."

OH, I am involved behind the scenes at SkepticalScience. Believe me, there is a lot of therapy and venting. We all need it.

Glenn Tamblyn

"Texans are different, or so I've recently learned - apparently if you say anything that suggests Texas could experience negative consequences from climate change, they take it as a personal insult - actually as an insult against the state of Texas, which is much worse than a personal insult for them. "

It isn't a Texan thing. It is a thing associated with certain kinds of conservative personality types. Capitalism, Free-Enterprise, The Consumer Society etc. To some people the deep and visceral 'goodness' of these things is so profound, so deeply unconsciously real that any notion that calls them into question or suggests they may have any sort of negative consequences, or might need to be curtailed is anathema.

Emotionally anathema.

Probably the best analogy is to consider deeply conservative Christians. Evolution is anathema. Almost literally Blasphemy.

To the economically conservative that Capitalism/Free Enterprise might have negative aspects or consequences is also Blasphemy.

And ideas of blasphemy are never ever rational. But very visceral.

Josh McDonald

Yes, therapy...and venting. And sad at the statistics re: Climate Science study. Unfortunately, the very thing which might drive enrollment numbers is the further deterioration of our climate. How's THAT for a feedback loop.

Josh McDonald

@Glenn T
The "Texans" thing...not me.

But, more than that...yes. The primary issue is, of course, our value systems. Money, faith, cultural/racial, etc. definition; each with their embedded hierarchies.

And, unfortunately, not one of them seems to line up with the actual preservation of the species anymore. We've lost the forest for the trees. Literally.

Account Deleted

Hi, I'm new here, but have been following the blog for a while. This is a great place, Neven!

Forgive my bluntness: I just don't agree with the uncalled-for cliches that I just read in some comments to this post.

I am Christian *and* do embrace Evolutionism as a scientific theory that explains many observations, a theory that has been successfully validated by observing fast evolution of certain bacteriae in changing environments. It is a mistake to identify Christians with Creationists in general.

My feeling is that Global Warming is a very serious and real concern too, although the scientific, hypothetical-deductive method cannot, and should not, rush to explain things, like for instance a direct relation between Arctic Ice volume decline and sudden climate change in the northern hemisphere. And BTW this is my perception related to this post.

Also, I know a few Texans too that wouldn't feel happy with what was written about them a few posts above.


Account Deleted

Just read twice the comment above. Glenn, you referred to "deeply conservative Christians", so maybe I went too far with my previous comment, sorry. Still, I would recommend not to put personal beliefs, geographical origins, and so in the mix here...

By Global Warming, I meant *human-made* GW. It is not firmly demonstrated, but scientific conclusions point strongly in that direction...

By Global Warming, I meant *human-made* GW. It is not firmly demonstrated, but scientific conclusions point strongly in that direction...

It's not about firm demonstrations, but about risk management. Would you be willing to step on a plane if you knew there's a 50% chance it will crash? 30%? 10%? 5%? 1%? 0.1%?




“The European Parliament has rejected a plan to rescue the EU’s ailing carbon trading scheme.

Members narrowly voted against a so-called “backloading” proposal that would have cut the huge surplus of allowances currently being traded.

Because of this excess, the price of carbon on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has plunged to less than 5 euros a tonne.

But opponents won the day by arguing the plan would push up energy costs.

The price of carbon once stood at 32 euros per tonne.”

That article has now been extended.

Where now? Doubt the committee will propose a carbon tax instead.


Neven, you said this:

the jaw-dropping sight of an ice-free Arctic that was projected to occur somewhere towards the end of this century, could be witnessed towards the end of this decade (if not earlier).
Here is what I fear will happen.

All the Arctic sea ice will melt, relatively soon.

There will be a lot of talk about how this is very important, and we must do something, but nothing will really change in people's day to day lives.

Deniers will post that photo of that submarine and claim that nothing exceptional has happened, that there were no satellites when the Vikings were in Greenland, or the Romans were growing vines in northern Brittania, and so it's quite likely there was no Arctic ice then and this is no big deal.

No Arctic sea ice will become the new normal, and, well, some days it will rain and other days it won't and it will generally be colder in winter than in summer and most people will see that nothing much has changed in their daily lives, except for food prices going up, etc, and although this huge momentous thing will be different - an ice-free Arctic for the first time in Millennia - everything will pretty much stay the same.

There's a lot of very interesting rational analysis, but it turns out that humans simply aren't as rational as we thought.

The problem is too big, and yet too incremental, for us to address it. Like the proverbial frog we are going to allow ourselves to be boiled alive (figuratively speaking).

I mention Arctic sea ice melt and the response of most people is to shrug their shoulders because it doesn't affect how easy it is for them to rent a flat, or pay for the groceries, or forge a romantic relationship, or anything to do with their day-to-day concerns.

Everyone is transfixed at how amazingly cold this March has been - the 14th coldest in the Central England Temperature record stretching back to 1659. Nobody really noticed when March last year was the 4th warmest in the same record.

The ridicule heaped on Dr David Viner for that article in the Independent on snow now comes from mainstream people looking for an easy chuckle, whenever it happens to snow. Everyone ignores that it is still getting warmer.

I tend to think that we have lost, or at least that we are losing very badly. Facts and data are not helping us when the other side is proving so very good at using the natural variability to hide the problem.

Account Deleted

Hi Neven. Arctic ice cap collapse is undeniable and unprecedented, and we all should be alarmed for that. We should be bringing down politicians (democratically) and changing policies like madmen.

But I just meant science cannot rush, that's the way it is whether we like it or not.

I'm afraid the obsession of politicians (and of most of us voters) is not risk management but economic growth. Radical policy changes will only come after mother nature sends a few huge and disruptive blows to the first world economies.

Shared Humanity

Misfratz....I agree with your suggestion that humans simply adjust to incremental change as if it is not occurring and will behave like frogs in a heating pot on a stove. However, I think the pot stove is on full blast and we are facing drastic , not incremental change.

NOAA is forecasting a strengthening of the drought in the western U.S. in 2013.

The annual spring outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted hotter, drier conditions across much of the US, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where farmers have been fighting to hang on to crops of winter wheat.

The three-month forecast noted an additional hazard, however, for the midwest: with heavy, late snows setting up conditions for flooding along the Red and Souris rivers in North Dakota.

“It’s a mixed bag of flooding, drought and warm weather,” Laura Furgione, the deputy director of Noaa’s weather service told a conference call with reporters.

Last year produced the hottest year since record keeping began more than a century ago, with several weeks in a row of 100+degree days. It also brought drought to close to 65% of the country by summer’s end.

The cost of the drought is estimated at above $50bn, greater than the economic damage caused by hurricane Sandy The drought area has now fallen back somewhat to 51 per cent of the country. But even the heavy snowfalls some parts of the country have seen were not enough to recharge the soil, the NOAA scientists said.

Meanwhile, crop losses accelerate.


This is the third disappointing corn crop in a row, with production down by 18 percent from 2009's record crop. Corn use by exporters, ethanol plants and livestock feeders will drop by 9 percent this marketing year because of the short crop, USDA said, on top of a 5.5 percent contraction last year.

At the end of this marketing year, U.S. grain bins will hold a scanty 3-1/2 week supply of corn when the carryover commonly used to be six or eight weeks. The soybean stockpile will be thinner still -- barely more than a two-week supply.

The 2013 winter wheat harvest is at risk.


Higher prices for corn and desertification of huge swaths of grazing land is decimating U.S, cattle numbers as ranchers are forced to bring cattle to market before they are fully grown.

"The U.S. cattle inventory is expected to continue contracting in 2013," said Shagam, attributing the decline mostly to a fall in the availability of forage. Given the forage situation, and a slight decline in the total number of heifers expected to calve during 2013, USDA expects a further decline in the calf crop this year.

USDA estimates the number of cattle and calves last year fell by about 2% to 89.3 million head. It estimates the cow herd at 38.5 million head, more than 2% smaller than a year earlier. And it has the 2012 calf crop at 34.3 million head, the smallest calf crop since 1949.

The small calf crop will lead to tighter cattle supplies moving into 2014 and to the extent producers retain heifers for breeding from the 2013 calf crop, it is unlikely that calf supplies could support an increase in beef production before 2016, according to USDA’s report.

Meanwhile, 2012 set a record for forest fires in the U.S, surpassing the previous record from 2006. In fact, since accurate records began in the early 1960s, six of the top ten years for forest acreage loss have occurred since 2004.

Finally, cities across the west are declaring water emergencies as supplies drop below demand.

Denver Water, Colorado's largest water utility, declared on Wednesday that a Stage 2 drought was in effect and that mandatory water restrictions will begin April 1.

“The last time we declared a Stage 2 drought was in 2002,” said Greg Austin, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners in a statement. “We are facing a more serious drought now than we faced then. Our goal this summer is to insure the availability of high-quality water to our citizens, given current conditions and an unknowable end to the drought cycle, protecting not only the quality of life of our community but also the long-term security of our city’s system.”

The western U.S., the breadbasket for the world, is burning up.

[I hope I fixed the italics the right way, N.]

Shared Humanity

Above post doesn't look the way I intended. The sentences beginning with meanwhile or finally were written by me and not suppose to be italic. The last sentence in the post was also written by me. The rest of the post (intended to be italic) are quotes from sources.

k eotw

Ice free conditions in the Arctic will only be the beginning, a milestone but only the beginning. The next record-watch after that will be for "number of days with zero ice".

As that extends it will result in low ice conditions moving deeper into earlier summer months.

The Arctic receives more insolation in June and July than the equator. Then insolation drops off a cliff during August. To date much of the high insolation in June/July/early August could not be absorbed by the arctic ocean because it was largely covered in sea ice.

What will be the impact if late July/early August becomes largely ice free?


Over on WUWT, they've determined that Arctic warming is on "pause":


Tamino has a nice analysis of the WUWT post as it relates to the poles:


Wayne Kernochan

@dabize: please stamp on the idea that nuclear winter will save us, very firmly. The chilling effects of nuclear winter, according to Hansen (I think), as well as those of a massive above-ground volcanic eruption, will last for about seven years, on average. After that, we will be right back where we would have been had no nuclear explosion occurred. And, right now, the "overkill" in nuclear winter will create massive problems of starvation on its own.


I'm afraid the obsession of politicians (and of most of us voters) is not risk management but economic growth. Radical policy changes will only come after mother nature sends a few huge and disruptive blows to the first world economies.

We are in full agreement. The decisive moment will come right after mother nature has convinced a critical mass that there indeed are limits to growth. The question is whether that critical mass will have a sufficient understanding of the problem of growth/power to demand true systemic changes.

We'll see. I will do everything in my power to make as many people as possible get this sufficient understanding. But first there's a need for the establishment of the idea that there really are real problems that won't go away. Arctic sea ice so far has been showing just that.

No Arctic sea ice will become the new normal, and, well, some days it will rain and other days it won't and it will generally be colder in winter than in summer and most people will see that nothing much has changed in their daily lives, except for food prices going up, etc, and although this huge momentous thing will be different - an ice-free Arctic for the first time in Millennia - everything will pretty much stay the same.

It could very well go the way you say, but this will also mean that most people will know where the Arctic is, what sea ice is, and that polar bears don't hunt penguins. Or vice versa. All those things that were murky in my mind only 6 years ago.

And it won't end there. Like keotw says: "Ice free conditions in the Arctic will only be the beginning, a milestone but only the beginning. The next record-watch after that will be for "number of days with zero ice"."

And then there's the consequences...

Conrad Schmidt

An IT site in the UK, The Register, does not get global warming. Here's an example:
Note the last paragraph. This guy thinks the IPPC is alarmist and he regularly dishes global warming. I'm not particularly knowledgeable or persuasive enough to change his mind - if that's possible. Anyone here care to try?


Let's not link to all kinds of denialist claptrap that has nothing to do with Arctic sea ice, okay?

This blog post is about whether commenters are noticing any increase in knowledge and understanding wrt Arctic sea ice in their social environment. I'm not even talking about AGW in general, but about Arctic and its sea ice and its loss.

I recently had a long chat with a friend of mine about the Arctic. I explained the whole thing, where we stand right now, what the consequences could be. To show me that he cared and respected I'm so into the subject, he sent me a link to a news article on recent scientific research a couple of days later. The one that tries to show why Antarctic sea ice is growing.

He'll get there... :-)

Mark Kosir

I'll say this, as I've had many recent conversations with friends and colleagues about Arctic ice and AGW in general...

The existence of the issues have made their way into the collective consciousness, however the gloss-over media presentation has slowed the impact that deep facts would make. 80% of the perception around me personally can be summed up as this: "Warming exists, yes we will have an impact on climate/weather globally, however the timescale is a century, and not decades, or years".

Now this is a sad consequence, however perception is reality (one only needs to look at, for example, the stock markets). It is easy to be informed when likeminded folks collect together and share knowledge. The fast majority of working folks have an attention span to line of sight events (eg, what they're doing on the weekend) rather than events just beyond the horizon.

Nevertheless, this topic makes its way into conversation over beers and dinner when I'm around. I see it, its scary. Other folks are slowly waking up, but most will miss the event horizon.

It also doesn't take long to accept the new normal, which is again a function of typical line of sight thinking/perceptions. Saddest of all, is the fact that I'm in Canada, and the arctic is just next door. If our population doesn't hear the alarm bells.... who would?

L. Hamilton

Since the discussion is ranging widely ... I did a brief radio interview about this line of research yesterday. It's not specifically about the polar questions but explains more generally what we've found about knowledge/belief connections.

Artful Dodger

Again, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. The loss of the sea ice is the first domino to fall, but after that events will accelerate and become unstoppable:

  • The Gulf Stream moves North
  • Meridional heat transport increases
  • polar jet stream stagnates
  • droughts and floods become recurrent
  • agriculture crashes
  • Greenland melting accelerates
  • Sea level rise accelerates
  • Entire Nations fail destabilizing Regions
  • Climate refugees spawn military conflict
  • Corporations challenge Governments
  • Breakdown of Government, fragmentation into regional fiefdoms and zones of anarchy
Basically the worst parts of the bible, if you believe in that kind of stuff. If not, think of the 1940s x 10. An order of magnitude worse than WW2.

That's what's at stake. Notice that at no point above do Governments move to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or reform land use practices?

It's up to us, because they respond only to their masters, the monied special interests.


Here's more from Gwynne Dyer Dec 9, 2012:
Coasting toward climate change disaster



Neven, this is your best post ever. Really.

As we all try, I've tried to inform people around me (in France and Iceland - but they don't care, or just say I'm obsessed. Frankly, I'm quite a bit...

Well, the first No Ice September will make the news. For 2 days.

Then some Most Interesting News (new iphone? a new baby from a celeb? some new dance by Psy?) will come and push the Arctic away.

The following year the deniers will claim Recovery has begun because it will be slighty more ice-covered.

The following year, the Second Iceless September, it will get half a column.

Then it will be the New Normal and attention will shift.

Oh, it will also get some attention when first August, October, July are Iceless, too.

Don't believe me? Just look at the news coverage about the opening of the North Passages in recent years. Went to High to none in 4 years.

And, nobody will act.

So, it may be optimistic to say I'm pessimistic - it's much, much worse.

Some years ago Konrad Stefen said from Greenland I think, "Greenland is the canary in the mine, and the canary is dead".

It's time to react and fight around us to spread the word ! Let's not give up!


Quoting Lodger

"Again, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. The loss of the sea ice is the first domino to fall, but after that events will accelerate and become unstoppable:
•The Gulf Stream moves North
•Meridional heat transport increases
•polar jet stream stagnates
•droughts and floods become recurrent
•agriculture crashes
•Greenland melting accelerates
•Sea level rise accelerates
•Entire Nations fail destabilizing Regions
•Climate refugees spawn military conflict
•Corporations challenge Governments
•Breakdown of Government, fragmentation into regional fiefdoms and zones of anarchy"

I've got a topic on the Forum that addresses the events that Lodger just listed, including a very hypothetical timeline chart. While the chart is "Doomerish" I'm convinced that the depicted events are plausible, if not possible or probable, within this century. More thoughts are welcome:

Global Impact of Declining Arctic Sea Ice (Economic and Societal)



"Again, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. The loss of the sea ice is the first domino to fall, but after that events will accelerate and become unstoppable:
•The Gulf Stream moves North
•Meridional heat transport increases
•polar jet stream stagnates
•droughts and floods become recurrent
•agriculture crashes
•Greenland melting accelerates
•Sea level rise accelerates
•Entire Nations fail destabilizing Regions
•Climate refugees spawn military conflict
•Corporations challenge Governments
•Breakdown of Government, fragmentation into regional fiefdoms and zones of anarchy"

I've got a topic on the Forum addressing the events that Lodger has just identified, including a very hypothetical chart depicting a timeline of events being triggered by what is occurring in the arctic. While the chart may seem "Doomerish", I believe that the events are plausible, if not probable, to occur this century. More insights and thoughts are welcome.

Global Impacts of Declining Arctic Sea Ice (Economic and Societal)



I'm glad you've devoted a post to Larry's work. The well educated right are adept at finding justification for their preconceptions & I think do so at a subconscious level. When new data is presented they may concur, but soon find something they can counter with.

I shared your experience of having a long passionate discussion resulting in an agreement about the demise of Arctic Ice, only to find a terse Email a few days later explaining how I'd missed the "growth" of Antarctic sea ice.

Very disheartening. - this took place in Canada & involved a tenured Prof. of mathematics.

I'm not sure it's the screaming loonies on the right that we have to go after so much as the rational, soft spoken, intellectual authority figures that keep their political leanings well hidden and whose easy dismissal of the problem can influence many.


Tor Bejnar

I talked to some folks at a party a few weekends ago about Arctic sea ice projections (“Neven's cadre”) vs. models (“the professionals”). My wife twice, in the following few days, berated me for talking about what “nobody is interested.” In polite society, apparantly, climate change is in the same category as sex and religion. (She did allow that the geologist daughter of our host was possibly actually interested.)

I regularly post short articles on a bulletin board in the hallway where I work (often from Grist or Climate Progress). The shelf-life of these articles seems to be much shorter than "free kittens" or "subs with free ice tea" flyers. Although it is a science-friendly environment with lots of engineers, biologists and geologists around, there are many outspoken Biblical creationists, too, who believe in "fire next time". Someday soon, I hope, these neighbors of mine (whom I count as friends) will realize that Anthropogenic Global Warming is that fire.


From what I experience, concern about climate change is generally covered up under thick layers of BAU worries on economy, Europe, senseless violence etc.

Even in politically engaged green people’s circuits, most concern goes out to concrete, close to citizens health, lifestyle or food security matters.

Generally, knowledge of the Arctic isn’t widespread or deep. Nor on geosciences. I guess people do soak up images through success- and beautiful film series like Planet Earth. At least some of the last episode on Frozen Earth might have made some mark?

I’m not surprised. I’ve often felt a bit weird about my own preoccupations. I never met anyone sharing my obsessive interests in maps and landforms. I remember feeling completely alienized as my primary school teacher suggested I would arrange a ten question topography exam and pointed to the Finnish town of Tampere…

In my opinion Al Gore’s movie was one of the best moments to get attention, if you would care to look around the small flaws any person exhibits while exposing on that level…
There won’t be much more opportunities like that. A ‘The day after Tomorrow’ event is ludicrous and if so, would be immediately fatal, it wouldn’t be a case to worry about. Like a meteor full hit or a supervolcano.
The nervewrecking aspect is the rubberband-effect… we’re confronted with processes that extrapolate on a three generations of peoples time frame. The rubberband (buffering capacity of the biosphere) is now stretched into inevitable realisation but we have a hard time making the connections and showing them unequivocally.

To be able to, the audience would have to be interested and basically informed… the task isn’t even picked up by the Dutch education system.
So let's get to work...

Hans Gunnstaddar

I agree with k eotw several posts above that: (Ice free conditions in the Arctic will only be the beginning, a milestone but only the beginning. The next record-watch after that will be for "number of days with zero ice".

As that extends it will result in low ice conditions moving deeper into earlier summer months.)

It's one thing to have ice to melt, but once it's gone and all that energy is being absorbed 24/7 in Summer, the methane, a bubbling up en masse she will come, and then the weather's going to really start changing fast.

However, so far there have not been two successive years with new arctic ice extent minimum records set. Thus it may be a case of an undulating trendline, in which 2012 will be broken in 2014 or later. After all, it took five years from 2007 to get a new minimum. I know ice volume is dropping, but even still this year will probably not be a new record.

I think the denialists are black and white thinkers that have a very difficult time comprehending a trend that is not perfectly linear, and for that reason it is a waste of time and energy trying to convert them.

For many denialists I also think they get a charge out of people trying to convince them otherwise. It's a position of power to reject something and have people bend over backwards trying ever conceivable explanation to try and make it understandable to them. In other words many of us are falling for a power game that can never be won, because that's the point, it's a game, nothing more.


@Buster Douglas,

"For many denialists I also think they get a charge out of people trying to convince them otherwise. It's a position of power to reject something and have people bend over backwards trying ever conceivable explanation to try and make it understandable to them. In other words many of us are falling for a power game that can never be won, because that's the point, it's a game, nothing more."

Very well put.


Some comments got stuck in the spam filter again. Sorry, Terry, Fred and OLN.

I shared your experience of having a long passionate discussion resulting in an agreement about the demise of Arctic Ice, only to find a terse Email a few days later explaining how I'd missed the "growth" of Antarctic sea ice.

Yes, that's horrible. It has happened to me many times. But in this case my friend just confounded the Arctic and Antarctic, saying he liked (the Dutch version of) my Arctic Winter Ends With a Loud Crack-piece much better.

Someday I will have to break the news to him that polar bears and penguins have never met. ;-)

Neven, this is your best post ever. Really.

Thanks, Fred!

With 2012 behind us and probably more to come in the next couple of years, I wanted to mark this point in time. I believe that there's a good chance that in 10 years everyone will know about the Arctic and its ice loss. It will be just as famous as Justin Bieber and Rihanna are now (I know their names, but have never heard their music BTW, which is fantastic; I mean, the fact that I never heard their music, which of course is horribly shallow and hypnotic so it stays in your head forever).

Steve Bloom

Thanks for the Dyer link, Lodger. It's part of the view I've held for a while now, although of course he expresses it far better than I could.

It's going to come down to sulfates, and I'm afraid that by then the amount needed to actually stop and reverse warming is going to have consequences even more severe than just letting the warming continue. But a country getting the worst of the warming impacts that has the technical capability to do the injection (i.e. China) indeed may just do it anyway (albeit badly since to be very effective the injection has to be done more or less evenly around the globe). And note they have nukes to defend themselves from anyone who objects. Messy.


To return a little closer to the original responses. Yes, I think the New Hampshire results are atypical for the US as a whole. NH weather alternates between continental and oceanic dominance and most Granite Staters (as are many people) are especially proud of their weather. Ask anyone from Pittsburg to Portsmouth where the worlds fastest, non-tornadic wind speed was recorded. Also NH republicans are somewhat independent of the National Party. They have a very old and strong tradition that does not mesh cleanly with the tea party or evangelical, in your face, Christian politics; They stem from Methodists and Congregationalists not Mountain Presbyterians and Baptists. New England probably has a slightly higher interest level in things polar than much of the country. In High School I skied with the Nansen Ski Club; yes, named for Fridtjof. Maine was home to Commodore Perry. My first exposure to climate science/change was in 1979 when an undergrad friend returned from an ice coring trip to Antarctica with Paul Mayewski. Then we were debating what climate change effects in 100 to 1000 years would be and if they were anthropogenic. When I return to NH I still find a higher degree of informed awareness if not agreement than I experience here in Michigan. So although Mr. Hamilton's numbers seem a bit high, my sense here in Michigan is that they are slowly improving. But I think we feed the deniers whenever we talk about annual records and trends. We should talk about running averages and decadel records instead, climatological measures instead of weather measures.

Glenn Tamblyn


I wasn't trying to diss' anyone's religious beliefs or anything similar. Rather I was trying to highlight how people with particular types of psychological makeup and value system can be deeply uncomfortable and resistant to ideas that challenge their core value system.

2 people may share the same religious beliefs for example yet bring very different psychologies to how they 'process' their beliefs. It is the underlying psychology that is the focus, not the beliefs.

And it is the impact of different peoples psychological makeup on how they 'process' ideas such notions as 'our way of life is leading to a dangerous change in the climate'.

2 people may both have a deep support for the capitalist/free enterprise system and defend it strongly.
However, when presented with evidence that it is causing harm, one person may come to accept that fact. It is distressing for them, disturbing, that something they cherish could cause harm. But they are able to travel the painful road to accepting that fact.
The other person is literally unable to accept it. Mere facts aren't strong enough to overturn inner certainties because they have a personality that is built very strongly on inner, perhaps subconscious beliefs. For them their economic conservatism for example isn't an opinion they hold; it is their identity.

And when confronted with ideas that are a challenge to their identity, rejecting minor things like evidence is easy in comparison.

This difference is an issue of personality type, not political views.


Next year's Winter Olympics might be a good time for Arctic related weather effects to get a bit of a run.

I suspect that gardeners, some sports enthusiasts, bird watchers, fishing/ boating/ walking/ climbing groups might be more receptive to factual information than specifically technical people.

Charles Longway

So what are Texans like who are white, male, old, republican, and conservative Christians? I think I have a good understanding of this kind of person being one of them. I found my way onto the Sea Ice blog and started following in the 2011 season. By 2012, I realized that I had a moral responsibility to respond. Last year my family went solar and this year we will buy a Volt at which time we will be a fully green family. What convinced me was PIOMAS and Methane data - both of which I found on the sea ice blog.
I have discussed the Arctic situation with my brothers and sisters (5 of them) and have only convinced one sister to take my position. With another large melt I will likely win over the others, who are still not fully convinced. The sea ice blog is my best resource to inform my family. At work I have talked to people about the sea ice and some people have been very offended. Others have asked how to go solar and what to look for in an electric car. I am a choir member at a conservative church. I once lightly mentioned my concern over the arctic ice to our head elder and came to find that since he is Russian he knows about the Methane research of Igor Semiletov and completely shares my concern. Not the expected response. I will talk to my priest before the melting season progresses, but do want to finish my personal changes so I can speak with personal experience of what it takes to respond to the truth of the arctic.
I need the blog to believe that people like me exist in Texas are not hopeless, and will respond. I would like to make contact with OldLeatherneck and others in Texas, if there are any others. I can be reached at CWLongway on gmail.

[Changed your mail address, Charles, to prevent it from getting harvested by spam bots; hope that's OK]


How prevalent is the view that methane hydrates are to be seen as energy source?

Methane hydrates, which exist in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico, were touted by the Department of Energy in 2012 as “a vast, entirely untapped resource that holds enormous potential for U.S. economic and energy security.”

Perhaps I'm unaware of a environmentally sound process to extract methane hydrates, but this initially strikes me as the last thing we would want to do in the Arctic.

Jazzed by Methane Hydrates Potential, State Agrees to Cooperate with Feds

Longtime lurker - Thanks Neven for this wonderful resource.

Gareth Renowden

Just to let you know that my own form of outreach is to contribute to a blog other than my own, with a more general readership. Today's piece is here, and germane: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/04/17/watching-the-ice-melt/

Here's the punchline:

What’s going on in the Arctic is rapid climate change, and it’s happening now. It’s changing the weather that most of the world experiences. It’s the most important and most visible of the multitude of climate impacts we’re forcing on the planet, and it’s worth watching every day. Will this year set a new record summer low for sea ice? It’s too early to call, but one thing is certain. Northern hemisphere climate has already changed, and will continue to change in ways we’re only beginning to fathom.

Climate change is going to bite, soon, and will be undeniable.


no offence, but

'a country getting the worst of the warming impacts that has the technical capability to do the injection (i.e. China) indeed may just do it anyway (albeit badly since to be very effective the injection has to be done more or less evenly around the globe). And note they have nukes to defend themselves from anyone who objects. Messy.'

is just a tired update of the old 'yellow peril' nonsense. it's difficult to know where to begin criticising a post which appears to seriously suggest that - well, i can't even begin to get my head around what the hypothetical scenario that ends in thermonuclear war is supposed to be, but it should be pretty obvious that a more appropriate and effective response by outraged neighbours to initial attempts at cowboy geoengineering would be the threat of sanctions, trade embargoes and overseas asset seizures. which wouldn't be pretty, either, but there's no need to invoke the apocalypse



Perhaps I'm unaware of a environmentally sound process to extract methane hydrates, but this initially strikes me as the last thing we would want to do in the Arctic.
I suppose the best thing you can say about extracting the methane hydrates to burn is that converting it straight into carbon dioxide is marginally less damaging to the climate than having it released as methane directly into the atmosphere.

People have talked about the importance of not leaving this as a problem for governments to address. A positive development in this regard has been the Transition Towns movement, which is seeking to involve local people in creating a more resilient local economy.

It would be a good use of my time to become more involved in this, I think.

Steve Bloom

You seem to have misunderstood me, sofouuk. I mentioned China because of all the major countries with the capability of undertaking a project like sulfate geoengineering on their own, they're the one that's most under the gun in terms of climate change impacts. It sounds as if you might not have been aware of that. Re the nukes, while a nuclear war will remain possible so long as the weapons remain, my point was that such intimidation would be ineffective against them (as would any form of military intimidation). "Messy" was a reference to both the politics of such a circumstance and the consequences the geoengineering itself, although I could have been more clear about that.

Jim Hunt

I've had an interesting few days exploring this topic from a number of different angles. At TEDxExeter on Friday my own slant on their "Living the Questions" theme was to ask people both face to face and virtually "Are you worried about the #Arctic #SeaIce?". This was obviously a highly self-selecting audience, but the answer was overwhelmingly YES!, with a wide range of "knowledge about the problem".

As my most recent "tweet" suggests, I went up to London to attend the "Smart Grid GB" conference yesterday. From my perspective the omens were not good concerning whether the EU and UK regulators, standards writers and electricity industry would deliver a "free market led" low carbon economy any time soon. However whilst there I also put my "sea-ice" question to Prof. Harriet Bulkeley, who answered YES! also. She was there trying to persuade the assembled throng that "People are not consumers!" Apparently she's also been doing some research that will be published shortly which reveals that a fair few people (although unfortunately not a majority) say they are willing to change their behaviour "for the right reasons" and not just "for the money".

Account Deleted

Glenn, thanks for the comment. Yes I understand your point of view and that not being offensive (btw no offense taken :)). I have irrational beliefs, I won't easily lose them. And some rational beliefs too. For instance, that unearthing carbon that was buried millions of years ago when Earth was very warm and very rich in CO2, turned out to be recipe for disaster.

Remko Kampen

Took an interest in the Arctic and Antarctic in my teens, early 1980's. Read everything about those regions, from early expeditions to daily what-is-known on then current conditions. Fancied myself emigrating to Cape Farvell (Greenland).

What I knew about Arctic sea ice was rather static until about 2003. Before that the region was always about (September) to totally full of ice cover usually 2-4 m thick (with some 'ice islands' and packing zones thicker. A boring age that was re sea ice: it was basically a constant with some seasonal variation. Passages never opened up in a way you could sail them within a single season.

From 2004 onwards I was looking at what I called since then 'science fiction becoming fact'. From developments on the Beaufort side of the pack I realized THEN already average ice thickness might already have halved compared to centuries/millenia before - hence the big holes starting to appear in regions where the Soviets simply landed aircraft in all seasons to do their measurements on the pack (as of the second half of the 1920's).

In 2005 I gave the pack another 10-15 years. The trend seems even a little faster than I guessed it would be in 2005 - I might actually fail this year or next with my prediction :)

Remko Kampen

"What is your perspective on the public perception of Arctic sea ice loss?"

My perception is that only a very small fraction of the public knows more about the region than did Neven before 2006, which is basically nothing.
It is too remote, too wild and empty an area. It is not a place one goes for the usual totally boring holiday everybody seems to think is the pinnacle of life (meeting the same party people in some climate of stifling heat having sun up, sun under as the full list of weather events to experience).

Moreover, those who do know something about the regions are instantly élite. There is just no-one to talk with. Nowadays this is changing. IRL I have actually met someone who is not totally ignorant about the area and better still: he even takes an interest. Well, wow, that means for me the general public's interest had increased infinitely.


To be on track Neven, I’d say that my experience of awareness of Arctic sea ice decline is probably at an all time high.

So far, so good.

But on the flip side I’d say that that awareness of the “impact” of that ice loss is probably at an all time low.

Much has been said about Climate Change/Global Warming and the impact of those changes. But, honestly, people don’t see it as an issue. In 2011 the farmers around our home in France lost 30% of their crops, purely from drought. It drove up prices of French meat and caused more hardship. I’d say it played a part in the downfall of Sarcozy at his election.

People’s awareness is as good, or bad, as the press they read. Very few of them have the motivation to research it for themselves. We live in an increasingly “push” world. If it is not being pushed at them 24 x 7 x 365, then it’s not happening.

Sad but true.

Personally, nowadays, I always finish my conversations on the impact of the Arctic with the 2 billion question? That question is what do we do with the bodies when the planet can only support 2 billion less than it has today. It’s not a popular subject, people would rather obsess on what they are doing today, next week or next month. Very, very few people want to plan for their grandchildren’s old age. Even fewer want to pay for it.

Of course anyone in their 40’s today is going to see and pay a stiff price for the excesses they think are normal. They just don’t believe it.

The longer people are given an avenue of hope, that either the scientists are idiots or that there is some technological marvel, that nobody has heard of before, which will come over the hill to save them; the longer the avoidance will continue.

The people haven’t even reached denial yet. They don’t even need to deny it as they are not faced with having to believe it.

What can we do? There is only one thing which will pierce this bubble of unconcern. That is to invade the media and have the Arctic as the poster boy of the environmental impacts. For the general public to see, every single day, the impacts and disasters of an ice free arctic debated without any of the usual denialist crap that pervades every current news or chat show presentation of the problem.

In short we have to convince the journalists that they and their families will not escape the consequences unless they take their part in bringing the world to the understanding that the time to act is NOW and not after we have already broken it beyond repair.

After all, technology only goes so far. The entire population of the planet, and their machines, have taken 200 years to create this problem.

Do you feel lucky? Do you feel that the press could stop looking at their ratings for causing dissent and divisiveness and start playing their role of responsibility in the community?

Somehow I don’t see it.

My main focus, now, in communicating this, is around the survival of my family and friends and their families. Decisions taken in the next two decades will decide that for them….

Oh and one other thing, in comment from above. The lowest solar minimum of the last 100 years is not natural variability. Yet there was no recovery from 2007. There was, in fact, only a settling between one state and a new state brought on by the 2007 melt….

Lynn Shwadchuck

I'm surrounded by well-informed people relatively newly-arrived in a rural community. They all agree that climate change is messing hugely with the weather, but most will also rail against any rise in fossil fuel prices, so they're not ware how dire things are or that a serious global carbon tax is in order. I suspect Lars Von Trier was feeling like us when he conceived his film Melancholia. The idea is that a stray planet is heading straight for earth and people go on squabbling about the usual little stuff. One character has been watching with his telescope the way we watch the Arctic sea ice, but nobody pays him any attention. I won't give away the ending, but I can see one thing that might feed this filmmaker's chronic depression.

Remko Kampen

Lynn Shwadchuck, we live in most interesting times, in many respects possibly the most exciting age in the history of homo erectus and his (or her) descendents.
This is one way of evading misanthropy and depression.
The other way is: indulge in them. I wish four Sandy's a year at 900 hPa each, for instance - not to hit NY or NJ though because the people there got the message (even if even they already forgot Irene the year before Sandy). Confrontation will be the only tutor.
Finally I have a little snippet of latin that gives me some consolation just for the pseudopoetic sound of it: ceterum censeo mundum esse delendum :)

John Smith

An easy life is a boring life. Homo Sapiens needs a good challenge, otherwise things go badly wrong - look at a typical rich kid if you don't believe me.

We're setting things up for the biggest challenge our species has faced since we took on and licked (and then became) the top predators. It will probably be painful, but it certainly won't be boring. Those who can adapt best, those who can co-operate best, those who can see new solutions, will thrive.

In the long term, the race will be greatly improved. Our grandchildren will spit on our graves; our great-to-the-tenth grandchildren (if they're among the survivors) will say "they didn't know what they were doing, but it all worked out pretty well."

Hans Gunnstaddar

Remko: "we live in most interesting times, in many respects possibly the most exciting age in the history of homo erectus and his (or her) descendents."

No doubt, and the excitement level will reach a crescendo as we all try to do our best to fit through a bottle-neck of converging limits and consequences.

George Divoky

My concern with how the public, and even many parts of the scientific community, view the loss of summer ice is that it is looked on as being a physical loss and not the disruption and destruction of an ecosystem.

I study seabirds on an island off northern Alaska where in the past forty years I have seen the shift in the marine ecosystem with earlier and increasing ice retreat.
While the public may see that polar bears are being displaced by melting ice they fail to view the recent unprecedented loss of sea ice as the same type of large-scale ecosystem loss occurring with tropical rain forests.

While there are now major efforts to study the little-known pack-ice ecosystem, it is too late to examine it in an undisturbed state. We can only get a snapshot of what is like during a period of decline before the loss of summer ice.

The recent Beaufort Sea ice event (and the attention it was getting) caused me to put together this video showing the location of my research as well as an excellent graphic from the Arctic Council showing the pack ice ecosystem.


A great post brings great comments in. Charles, thanks a lot for your words!

Neven, I think you have no choice but to go on with the blog now...


OT but have we had some ijis "century breaks" ?

Nightvid Cole

Crandles said:

The price of carbon once stood at 32 euros per tonne.”

That article has now been extended.

Where now? Doubt the committee will propose a carbon tax instead.

The EU central banks perhaps ought to buy (and subsequently destroy) carbon permits on the open market in order to target a certain price level, which would be increased slowly, over time. If it works for bond prices, why wouldn't it also work for carbon permit prices?


Because the EU central banks are already about bankrupt. Those which aren't are struggling to bail out countries who have destroyed themselves within the Eurozone and also to re-fund the ECB which is virtually out of capital.

This is just one example of immediate "now" pressures which push climate change and the impact in the Arctic onto the back burner.

What they are not thinking of is that if they don't do something to resolve climate change and Arctic climatic destruction, there will be no "next century" for their economies to grow into. They will be destroyed.

A typical political conundrum.

Fairfax Climate Watch

Hi Charles Longway, and everyone:

Thanks for your comment, I'm very glad you made it - I am the one who made the original statement about Texans. The comment was partly a result of a recent - and unpleasant - interaction with one Texan soil scientist in a Linked-in discussion. This man apparently took my statement that Texas is on the front-lines of climate change (e.g. heat waves and droughts), as a deep insult and proceeded to insult me personally while implying I had offended some sanctified notion of Texas. It's very true that this is not a reaction unique to Texans, but it certainly took a dramatic flare from this man going on about "you and your kind better stay out of our great state." A saying comes to mind: "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." Being proud is fine, but throwing your pride around like a battering ram to defend the indefensible is another thing entirely.

As for religion, a few overly-zealous religious types religious types have stepped over the line and harassed or insulted others - in a way generally prohibited by their own religious institutions! However, when it comes to climate change, several religious organizations are taking strong stands. In the February climate rally that drew about 40,000 people to Washington DC, there were several religious affiliations sponsoring groups and participants. I recently learned that the previous Pope for one, made an official statement on the matter in such clear and unequivocal language, that it could have been a quote from James Hansen or Bill McKibben.

So, no offense was meant towards Texans! Bravo Charles for your excellent success so far - it must start somewhere! We've all got to carefully overcome the false confidence our fellow global citizens are placing in false assumptions that climate cannot change from man's activities.

p.s. Anyone wishing to sign a petition to the use Pres about climate and the Arctic: (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/national-address-critical-urgency-climate-change/thsHlt4K)


Steve Bloom, im living in china doing a phd on carbon management at the chinese academy of sciences. im perfectly well aware of the potential climate change impacts on china, and it's great that other countries would not be to resort to military intimidation, because, that's rarely a good thing. and china would be vulnerable to economic intimidation, which it seems you might not be aware of


the few people i've tried to talk to about the arctic simply refuse to believe it, even after they see death spiral graphics. they all agree that climate change is happening, but they think it's slow and remote, and don't believe it could make any real difference in their lives. i haven't managed to persuade anyone to take seriously the possibility that the arctic might be ice free at end of summer before 2020 - it seems it's too much of a mental leap.

what those conversations did bring home to me was how little interest 'normal' people have in science generally. the best response to 'all the ice in the arctic might melt in the next x years!!' was a vaguely distracted 'oh. right.', before they wandered off to do something else. i really don't think most people are interested in how things work or how one thing leads to another, because they're fully absorbed in their work and play routine

Jeff Poole

Hi and thanks for all you do.

I gave a short talk to Green activists yesterday on the arctic death spiral and the exponential methane releases from clathrates and tundra fully expecting them to be as aware of the danger as I am.

But here in the capital of the state that exports more coal than anywhere else on the planet, Brisbane Australia, my simple little talk was all new to them.

Now these are serious activists, they have done more to alert Queenslanders to the dangers of fossil fuel burning than most anyone else. As one young activist said, "we're so busy trying to protect farms from coal seam gas wells (our equivalent of shale gas) and nature reserves from coal mines that we don't really look at this stuff."

I fear that I may have depressed them more than I expected.

Frankd 1977

"Not here in Austria, not in the Netherlands where I was born and bred, not in Germany where I lived for two years, not in Croatia where my roots lie."

Neven, I had assumed you were Dutch all this time. I had no idea you are Croatian.


Unfortunately, there's probably going to be a lot of social conflict before everything gets straightened out. There's just too many vested interests with an ox that's going to get gored if we start the needed rapid response. I just hope we can manage the conflict well and that it ramps up soon enough and has enough good impacts to have a positive end result.

IF we manage this transition, it will be one of the most important in history. Probably as important as the shift to agriculture. Unfortunately, we're going to have to get this thing right and we're going to have to get it right soon.

Lots of inertia dragging us toward that climate cliff at the moment. Not liking it at all.

Hans Gunnstaddar

Jeff, you mentioned, "...the exponential methane releases from clathrates and tundra." I'm not disagreeing because it is probably true, just wondered if you have graphs or a link.

Steve Bloom

Well, sofouuk, of course any country can be subjected to economic pressure to a degree, but very large ones less so. Under the extreme circumstances we're talking about, my point was that I don't think China would feel sufficiently intimidated to change course. I'm glad you're up on the relevant science.

If you feel free to write about it, I'd like to hear some of your views of what's going on there in terms of both perception of current/likely impacts and policy responses.

Re the impending near-sea-ice-free summer conditions in the Arctic, IMO the problem is that a) it's been discussed enough in the media that it won't come as a surprise to many and b) there are no specific knock-on effects. So it's hard to get people worked up about it. The boiling frog metaphor comes to mind.

But you describe people being in denial about it going ice-free at all. My experience is different, but maybe that's not really a surprise since we're probably working from fairly small samples of differing populations.


well, I mean that people I know are in denial about an ice free arctic happening in the next few years, not sometime later this century. like I say, they think its something vague and remote.

china's response to climate change will driven purely by their perception of their nationalistic self interest. economic concerns will always trump environmental ones. they have major historical grievances and think that developed countries caused the problem. they also point out that their per capita emissions are low, n that a lot of their emissions are driven by export demand (my research is in this area). they are trying to move away from coal but they won't be rushed or take kindly to international pressure. in short, it's not good


Neven, I had assumed you were Dutch all this time. I had no idea you are Croatian.

I am Dutch, but my father is from Croatia.

But here in the capital of the state that exports more coal than anywhere else on the planet, Brisbane Australia, my simple little talk was all new to them.

Can't blame them really. The Arctic is even further away from Australia. 'Luckily', Australia is an Arctic of its own. For me it's the place - after the Arctic - where AGW is becoming most visible.

Ac A


I fear that I may have depressed them more than I expected.

Cannot happen to me. I can be only pleased at this stage :-)


Ac A

There is a very nice presentation of

prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber from yesterday,

recommended for everybody here - he starts speaking at around 25:00 min...


Jim Hunt

The Beaufort sea ice is cracking at the seams yet again:


What's your perception? Will it refreeze yet again, or has this season's melt already started in earnest?

James Dunlap

Hi Neven,

I tried to post this yesterday and must be lost in the spam filter. Here it is again.

Jim Hansen has an interesting post on his site regarding methane, Venus effect possibilities and such. I think you would find it interesting. This seems like a good place to put it.

Titled: Exaggeration, Jumping the Gun, and the Venus Syndrome
dated April 15th

link to his web location below.




I think the whole arctic is pretty cracked - some parts are already refrozen, but everywhere new cracking is developing.


I've been appalled by the number of allied sites that are propagating a very serious misunderstanding about this cracking.

The qualitative view is not terribly alarming: yes, the ice has cracked before.

The quantitative view paints a very different picture: no, it has never cracked this much, this early, this pervasively in the Beaufort, and not ever to this extent in the extreme multi-year non-coastal ice.

I posted earlier a simple method for year-to-year comparison of crack density (the linear kilometers of cracks of 1 km or greater width per unit area) between any two dates since the first of February. This is tantamount to counting future floes, measuring mean floe size, evaluating total future water perimter.

This takes perhaps 5 minutes -- mostly locating the files -- and reveals a colossal discrepancy between 2013 and 2012 (or any other year in the satellite record), any way you slice it.

The Arctic Basin this year has hundreds of thousands of kilometers of cracks -- as far as we know, not remotely with precedent in human history (the ice was way thicker beyond the satellite observational record).

The ice has crossed a major threshold into the structure failure domain relative to the same old forces it used to resist quite well. It's like a beer can -- 20 years ago, only a circus strongman could crush one, now a child can.

For cracks, infrared is far better than Modis visible -- these sites are terribly naive to fall back on Modis in this situation. I suspect the moderators are unacquainted with the light spectrum.

Jim Williams

A-Team, can you come up with some sort of estimate of the area and extent of the cracks? I'd be interested in (total area)-(cracked area) and how that compares to previous years. (As in...just how real is this year's extent? Maybe March extent, just to give it some sort of fixed boundaries.)


Jim and wanderer, I see what you mean, now the cracks are cracking. Looks like concentric shear lines are developing from today's Beaufort shot. It means the motion of the ice pack has changed recently -- and dramatically -- in this region.

Meanwhile, over in the oldest of the oldest ice, the safe-haven triangle above the Nares Strait has continued fracturing way landward of the common coastal arc fracture.

The other thing to watch is the ice surface temperature creeping upward (provided in the upper right of the avhrr imagery).

Beaufort is now showing 12.8ºC, Ellesmere 15.9ºC. It's warming by the day.

Remember this is not your grandfather's heat diffusion equation any more -- the ice is not a slab between cold sea water and thin dry poorly heat transfering but even colder air above because the sunlight is trapped and warming the ice from within.

 photo cracksCracking_zpsdb2eca5c.jpg


I'm confused by the ice surface temperature information in your last post. How can the ice surface temperature be 12.8 or 15.9 degrees C? Is that Farenheit? Or am I missing something.

I wish my first comment was a little more enlightening, but as a somewhat mathematically and scientifically literate lay-citizen, I figure I'm better off reading and asking simple questions than opening my mouth further and removing all doubt as to my ignorance.

Thank you, Neven for this blog. I appreciate what you and everyone else here does.


Scott --

I think he means negative 12.8 and 15.9 degrees C, respectively.

It's worth noting that the region of the CAA is currently about the coldest in the Arctic (sans Greenland).


Sea surface temps are above average, though. Warmer ocean + thinner ice = lots of cracks. And A-Team is right to point out that this much cracking has probably never occurred. The problem we have here is that there's never been an objective measure (at least that's been widely reported) measuring how much the ice cracks year to year.

Instead, we rely on spot observation, a record of satellite shots, and reports. Might be some work, but it might be worthwhile providing a scientific report showing area of cracked ice in square kilometers over the past 10-20 years (whenever good satellite records began). Then we could say that this year, for example, had twice the number of square kilometers of cracks as any prior year.

Because there is no widely disseminated objective measure and because the influence of cracks on melt is less well understood (broadly in the community), I think it's possible that the issue here has been understated. At the very least, it is difficult to generate a context people can easily grasp. Total volume, extent, and area are much easier to grasp objective measures. When explaining how cracks affect the ice flow you run into more difficult to define and explain measures like albedo of the ice flow, consistency of the ice flow, ice flow vulnerability to melt, ice flow vulnerability to separation, and general ice flow integrity.

And the last line, perhaps, gives us a good way of explaining what appears to be happening. It looks like the sea ice is in the process of a radical loss of integrity.

Unfortunately, because there's not much in the way of predictive science on this front, we can only wait and see how this will affect ice come late April, May, and June. We can reason that it will likely result in more rapid melt. And we can probably provide some evidence given that fracturing is usually preceded by breakage and melt. However, thus far the temperatures in the regions of fractured ice have been low enough to promote flash refreeze of surface water in the leeds even as the cracking has continued. This is a bizarre combination of contradictory conditions and hits at the fact that ocean warming is providing a pretty heavy blow to the sea ice.

I suppose the question we have to honestly ask is what happens given the current fragile and continuously cracking state of the ice once the air temps hit high enough to promote surface melt even as the bottom stress/melt is ongoing?

Given this line of reasoning (albeit speculative), it doesn't seem to be a good potential outcome. It looks like the ice will be very vulnerable once air temps warm and once the sun gets a few months of incessant pounding in on the surface ice.

Kevin McKinney

"economic concerns will always trump environmental ones."

Except that environmental concerns become economic concerns. I think there are some signs of that, one being the emergence of internal Chinese "clean air tourism."
Last year's US drought was another example, albeit less clear-cut.

And if weather- and climate-related disaster costs continue to rise, that will cease being controversial as well. (Last year, for example, it was Munich Re vs. Pielke Sr. and co about whether a 'signal' had emerged from the noise or not.)

Anna May

Slightly off-topic -- Looking at today's images at http://www.iup.uni-bremen.de:8084/ssmis/index.html , I notice significant melting in the CAA straits & waterways. Is this typical for this time of year? I seem to recall melting in this region only occurring at the end of the melt season, not in spring. Not an encouraging sign if this is new behavior...


Anna, only if you see orange-pink-green-yellow colours for several days in a row in the same spot, there's something going on. Otherwise it's clouds or melt ponds or whatever that are confusing the satellite sensor.

There's no melting yet in the CAA, in the sense that sea ice concentration is going down, meaning there's open water there.

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