The continent of Antarctica is a difficult hunting ground for climate apocalypse fanatics since there has been barely any overall warming over the last 70 years. The exception is West Antarctica where there has been some local climate variation, possibly helped by significant geothermal activity. Of course this is enough for a scare or two, so don’t expect to see reported in mainstream media some startling new evidence showing significant cooling in West Antarctica starting in the early 1990s, with temperatures falling by 0.93°C each decade from 1999-2018, a total of 2°C over the 20 years.
In a paper published by the American Meteorological Society, a group of international scientists note the “statistically significant” rate of temperature decline with the strongest cooling occurring in spring. During this season, the temperature fell by a massive 1.84°C every decade between 1999-2018. In the winter, the decadal fall was 1.19°C. The cooling was measured by a number of databases, while an accurate consistent record was collected from the Marie Byrd weather station. Despite some differences in cooling, all the databases are said to have shared similar changes across seasons and throughout the region. The graph below plots the temperature record at Marie Byrd back to the 1950s.
So what has caused this precipitous temperature decline? As we have seen in many science papers, whenever temperatures fall, consideration of rising human-caused carbon dioxide levels is put to one side. The scientists come down firmly on the side of natural causes, with the changes mostly attributed to tropical Pacific influences. In particular, sea surface temperatures have dropped in the eastern Pacific equatorial region over the last 20 years. A reference to “atmospheric teleconnections” refers to the natural processes at work in the climate as heat is transferred around the planet in a not-fully-understood process involving ocean and atmospheric currents.
Almost needless to say, none of this cooling was forecast by climate models. The authors suggest that models are an “important tool” in making future projections of future climate changes over Antarctica. But they admit that the models did not pick up the recent significant cooling in West Antarctica. There is said to be “no robust agreement” among the models on the important sea temperatures driving the western Antarctica air temperatures. Tropical Pacific climate oscillation is still an important source of uncertainty in future projections of West Antarctica air temperatures, it is observed.
Was it ever thus? Forty years of hopelessly inaccurate temperature forecasts, along with unrealistic climate ‘tipping’ impacts driven by ridiculous suggestions that the temperature will rise by 4°C in less than 80 years, is hardly a record that inspires confidence. The recent appearance of clickbait attributions trying to pin individual weather events on human activities is little more than a scientific joke. These politicised attempts to measure the unmeasurable are a complete waste of time and money, the uncharitable might note. Not least because the models are corrupted by the notion promoted by the UN’s IPCC that all or most global warming since 1900 is caused by humans burning fossil fuel. This might seem an increasingly implausible suggestion in the light of much science including this latest paper on the recent dramatic drop in Antarctica temperatures.
Despite the refusal of Antarctica to show any significant warming, the climate apocalypse circus regularly rides into town to drum up catastrophe business. Last September, the headlines were full of a “mind-blowing” fall in winter sea ice to 17 million square kilometres. The BBC said it showed a “worrying new benchmark” for a region that once seemed resistance to global warming. The “mind-blowing” remark was attributed to Dr. Walter Meier, who monitors sea ice with the Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC). He added that it was “far outside anything we’ve seen”. Inexplicably, he seemed to forget that he was part of an earlier team that had reviewed photos from the 1960s Nimbus weather satellites that showed similar levels of ice in 1966. Just seven years ago, Meier held the view that extreme highs and lows of Antarctica sea ice “are not unusual”.
Of course, the 2023 low sea ice story has moved on. In mainstream media it would be considered very bad form to note that according to the latest figures from the NSIDC, the start of summer in October saw below-trend ice melt – 903,000 square kilometres compared with the average of 985,000 sq kms. Up in the Arctic, pickings have been thin for some years following the small cyclical recovery in sea ice that set in around 2014. As the winter takes hold, the NSIDC reports that the ice has increased “at a faster than average pace”. The freeze is said to have been particularly rapid along the Siberian seas where the ice cover expanded to the coast by the end of last month. Things are not look good for Sir David Attenborough’s claim in last year’s Frozen Planet II that summer sea ice could all be gone in 12 years. Over at the Greenland ice sheet, the latest information from the Danish Polar Portal shows winter ice growing back faster than the 1981-2010 average.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.