Whisper it quietly, but Arctic ice is making a comeback. The coverage is now very close to the 1991-2020 average, well above a 2012 low point and higher than 2020. According to the latest report from Copernicus, the EU’s Earth observation programme, the 2021 March sea ice extent was just 3% below the 30 year average. March is the annual maximum extent of sea ice in the Arctic.
The red line on the graph on the left plots the 2021 record and it can be seen that it is an improvement on recent years. Deviations from the average in March and September shown on the right have both eased in recent years. Of course in historical and geological terms these changes are insignificant, but they are likely to put a dampener on the generally hysterical tone about polar weather encountered in most climate change debate. This tone was set back in 2009 when former US vice president Al Gore reported there was a high chance that the North Pole would be summer ice free by 2013. So far as climate catastrophism is concerned, the Arctic is the gift that keeps on giving. Discussing a crackpot scheme to ‘save the Arctic ice’ by sprinkling it with glass, the BBC Future Planet site noted in 2020 that the area was in a “self-destructive feedback loop”. Much of the ice was said to be “rapidly vanishing”.
Back in less feverish times, the president of the British Royal Society reported to the Admiralty in November 1817 as follows:
It will without doubt have come to your Lordship’s knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated … This affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past.
The geological record shows that the Earth has often been ice free, but present day alarmists concentrate on the rate of change. However, the historical record suggests similar rates of change were not unknown in the near past. The Royal Society president went on to report:
Mr Scoresby, a very intelligent young man who commands a whaling vessel from Whitby observed last year that 2,000 square leagues [a league is three miles] of ice with which the Greenland Seas between latitudes of 74° and 80°N have been hitherto covered, has in the last two years entirely disappeared.
Around the turn of the 19th century there was a great deal of trade, fishing and scientific observation around the Arctic. Britain’s expanding empire was looking for new sea routes. Attempts were started to find a Northwest Arctic passage. As a result of all this activity, we have evidence of substantial melting of Arctic ice before and after 1817. There are suggestions that the ice returned in later years, only to retreat again.
This pattern seems to have been confirmed by a group of Canadian scientists who complied over 25,000 records from the early 1800s for east Newfoundland and the Gulf of St Lawrence.
The graph above shows the low extent of sea ice in the early 1800s, suggesting that the observations reported at the time to the Admiralty in London represented conditions in the wider Arctic area. The subsequent increases are also confirmed by the graph. Lighter amounts of ice seem to have been a feature since the 1930s, a process that started before the onset of mass industrialisation and increased use of fossil fuel.
In February, the Daily Sceptic published an article entitled “The climate fairytales Boris was told at his Net Zero re-education briefing“. The schooling was headed by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and took place in January 2020. It featured a number of extreme weather scares and junk science cherry picking, while a short record of Arctic sea ice was headed a “tipping point”. The meeting seems to have converted the Prime Minister to the green activist Net Zero agenda. By the end of 2021, he was telling the COP26 meeting that there was just “one minute to midnight” on the doomsday clock.
Back in the real world, Emeritus Professor Ole Humlum in his recent GWPF climate report noted: “The trend towards stable or higher ice extent at both poles probably began in 2018 and has since strengthened”. GWPF director Dr. Benny Peiser added that it was extraordinary that anyone should think there is a climate crisis. Little has changed over the last 30 years. “The habitual climate alarmism is mainly driven by scientists’ computer modelling rather than observational evidence,” he added.
Make that 200 years for Arctic ice. Sometimes there is a lot of it, sometimes much less. About 20,000 years ago, thick ice covered much of Europe. It’s called coming out of an Ice Age.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.
Postscript: This article has been fact-checked by Reuters, who quote several climate scientists disputing its claims. You can read that fact check here and Chris Morrison’s response here.
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