Climate

The war on Santa Claus (and Superman)

The question of the season is “” What will happen to Santa Claus (and Superman) when the North Pole is ice free in the summer?

North Pole Sometime in the Next Two Decades - No Ice, No Workshop

On our current path, that seems inevitable by the end of the decade.  Rear Admiral David Titley, the U.S. Navy’s chief oceanographer and director of its climate change task force, “predicts an ice-free Arctic in late summer by 2020.”

Yes, there is study in Nature that suggests we aren’t past the tipping point — but if you actually read the study, you’ll see their survival scenario is all but inconceivable at this point (I’ll blog on that soon).  Also, they focus their model on sea ice area and not volume, so I’m more inclined to buy Titley’s data-driven projection based on three dimensions than the study’s model based on two (see “Arctic Death Spiral 2010“).

In any case, even if some Arctic sea ice survives 2020, that seems unlikely to encompass the North Pole, as Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School explained to me (see Arctic death spiral: Naval Postgrad School’s Maslowski “projects ice-free* fall by 2016 (+/- 3 yrs)” and inset below]:

Maslowski SMALL

Where will we tell kids that Santa lives? Some sort of North Pole Atlantis? But he can’t live under the water, since much of the Arctic will still ice over by December, though a few feet of ice can’t support a huge house and a factory and an elf-dormitory. Kids are smarter than that. If only adults were smarter”¦.

Probably the best choice is to ship him off to the South Pole (with Superman’s Fortress of Solitude). Indeed the fact that Santa lives in the North Pole is no doubt a residue of our general Northern-hemisphere-centric worldview. How ironic would it be to outsource Santa to the Southern hemisphere. Not the Antarctic Peninsula or West Antarctic ice sheet, of course, since those may not last the century (see “Deep ocean heat is rapidly melting Antarctic ice“) “” we don’t want to keep moving him!  But much of the East Antarctic ice sheet will probably hopefully be around for centuries, and, in any case, Antarctica is a real continent, so even when the ice is gone, Santa can still have his whole operation above water.

Of course, if we ruin the Christmas tradition with our short-sighted inability to develop sane greenhouse gas policies, Santa may just decide all of us are too “naughty” to deserve his largess.

I also wonder what future generations will think about all those old Christmas movies with Santa based at the North Pole. Probably the same thing they think about all those epic stories of brave explorers struggling to get to the North Pole. More tall tales from adults, no doubt “” at least until they are old enough to understand the sad truth.

If we don’t change course soon, we won’t just transform the climate “” we will transform our culture, from one of abundance to one of scarcity “” and that has profound implications for all of humanity, including our native optimism and our generous, gift-giving nature. ‘Tis the season to say: ‘Tis time to act!

54 Responses to The war on Santa Claus (and Superman)

  1. iceman says:

    Note the recent decrease in Arctic sea ice extent, mostly consistent across the various graphs at
    wattsupwiththat.com/reference-pages/sea-ice-page/
    While this is unusual so late in the season, I see that Steve Bloom anticipated it in a recent post: “This year’s polar vortex breakdown may give us another late melt month (by moving warm air masses across the ice sheet)…” The current blip might owe more to winds than warmth (i.e., compression of the ice pack rather than outright melting). Yet the temperature distribution will retard ice formation for at least a little longer.
    I predict that 2010 will end with a record low Arctic sea ice km2 reading.

  2. Scrooge says:

    Truth is I think santa is a hoax so we shouldn’t use that to divert attention from superman.

  3. John McCormick says:

    Google “Shishmaref, AK” to get an understanding of the real impact of “retard ice formation for at least a little longer”. It means the end of a culture that survived on the edge of the earth for several thousand years.

    Now, they have about ten years before their civilization, on that thin stretch of land, is washed into the Chukchi Sea.

    John McCormick

  4. Scrooge says:

    One question I have is when the AO breaks down and the arctic dumps is that going to speed up warming and melting? Also it seems to me I have never seen the arctic dump two years in a row.

  5. peter whitehead says:

    Arctic sea ice graph today is worth a look:

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

  6. BB says:

    Since “ice-free” doesn’t truly mean “ice-free”, I think Superman will be fine. Not sure about Santa though…his operation needs some serious real estate.

  7. Esop says:

    Will be interesting to see how the deniers are going to spin an ice free Arctic ocean sometime before 2020.
    Response will likely be: “It’s natural”
    Well, it hasn’t been natural for the approx. last 1 million years or so, and aren’t we supposedly headed into an iceage due to their claimed catastrophic global cooling. The irony is delicious. They’ve dug themselves a deep hole with the global cooling nonsense, and that is great, since the average citizen will be able to spot their BS (when the MSM finally starts reporting on the discrepancy between denier claims and reality, that is…)
    BTW, I assume that many deniers reckon the age of the earth to be around 6000 years old, so would that not indicate that the Arctic has never been ice free before?

  8. When my children were small, we read a Little Golden Book called “Santa’s Toy Shop” over and over again. It began (and I know this by heart) “Way up north in the land of ice and snow…” Last year, my daughter gave me a used book called “When Santa Turned Green”. The copyright is 2007. It’s about Santa and, through him, the children of the world (“the real future”) realizing that the North Pole is melting, and making changes that reverse it. It’s sad to look at this book this year, given what we know about the rate of melting of the Arctic.
    This kind of light-hearted question about Santa and Superman, though, gets at more serious questions about loss of cultural diversity. When Arctic peoples can no longer live where and how they have lived for generations, cultures disappear. (Ditto for Pacific Island nations.)
    Our family has always enjoyed creating the wonder of Santa for our children, and it saddens me to think that we will lose that piece of our culture. How much worse, though, to have the places that anchor one’s entire culture disappear, to know your grandchildren will lose not only some of your stories, but your language! That loss of cultural diversity is a loss for all of us.

  9. MapleLeaf says:

    Almost the winter solstice and Hudson Bay is still not frozen over– and I’m confident that it will still not be frozen over come next Tuesday (21 December). It will be interesting to see what happens with sea ice over the Bay in the coming years. The Bay covers almost one million km^2, and is located under what is typically an upper-long wave trough.

    Looks like the current cold spell in Europe will end shortly after Christmas. In the meantime, those Europeans longing for warm temperatures should be heading to eastern Canada.

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/images/rnl/sfctmpmer_30b.rnl.html

    To be honest the top figure in the body post is a little misleading–although Joe does clarify matters in the body text, one probably should have had some ice near the northern tip of Greenland and the Canadian archipelago.

  10. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Sea Ice Extent: more inter-annual comparisons and a general explanation:
    http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

  11. “Yes, there is study in Nature that suggests we aren’t past the tipping point [2] — but if you actually read the study, you’ll see their survival scenario is all but inconceivable at this point (I’ll blog on that soon). Also, they focus their model on sea ice and not volume…”

    Very eagerly awaiting your blog on these issues, Joe. And, actually, it would be great if someone would publish a paper addressing precisely those subjects. When reading the new issue of Nature, I was immediately struck by the same concerns you’ve expressed. I’m also worried that the news media coverage of the new study and associated articles in Nature is leading the general public to believe that everything in the Arctic is okay after all, vis-a-vis both sea ice and polar bears (and other ice-dependent animals). In my efforts to educate the masses about climate change, I interact with non-scientists all the time. And I can attest that scientific nuances are completely lost in translation when the average person sees headlines such as “Arctic icecap safe from runaway melting: study” and “Polar Bears: On Thin Ice? Extinction Can Be Averted, Scientists Say”. (Incidentally, although polar bear – brown bear hybridization is a very real concern, the Kazlowski photo published in association with the Comment in Nature about hybridization, and labeled “possible hybrid pictured”, is almost certainly just a dirty polar bear. As far as I can tell, there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to suppose it’s a hybrid. I’m surprised Nature would publish such a thing.)

  12. Michael says:

    Santa always has North Pole, Alaska (which bills itself as Santa’s postal address).

    Also, it appears that the current extreme negative phase of the AO is aiding in ice export and even melting (ice area is decreasing as well as extent) due to strong winds across the Arctic, as seen in the PIPS ice displacement forecast:

    http://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/pips2/idis.html

    CT ice area:

    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.recent.arctic.png

    Also interesting is that the Barents Sea, among other areas, shows stalled ice growth or even a decrease despite the cold just to the south in Europe:

    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/recent365.anom.region.6.html

  13. Steve Bloom says:

    Joe, I’m reminded of this extremely effective Greenpeace video (“unofficial” since it was done by a volunteer) from a couple of years ago. The denialists went absolutely ballistic over it since it’s so damned effective. Let’s help spread it around again this year.

  14. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #1: iceman, I was referring to the Greenland ice sheet, but I agree that the sea ice has the same vulnerability.

    Re #7: Esop, your comment points out the problem with the lack of abruptness (in human terms) of such climate events. We’re talking here about a <50 year transition from an Arctic basin that was still ice-filled at minimum (ice coverage was still lost, but in lower-latitude places like Baffin Bay) to one that is ice-free or nearly so. This is a blink of an eye in climate terms, but it's been talked about so much for so long that denialists have already been inoculated against it. The obvious follow-on changes in climate (basically the manifestations of accelerated warming in the far north) have the same PR problem. It's possible that a consistently sea ice-free summer Arctic could quickly result in much nastier things like a definite transition into the feared Big Drought here in the southwest U.S. and far more frequent blocking events such as the one visited on central Russia last summer, but those will need to be severe indeed for most people (and politicians) to be willing to accept the connection.

  15. From Peru says:

    Well, Santa Claus could perfectly not be in the North Pole but in Scandinavia or Siberia.

    In effect, in an Italian TV News it apperared that Santa (“Babbo Natale” in Italian) resides in Lapponia, Finland. A factory on land, either in Norway, Finland or Russia, make much more sense than a factory on thin ice.

    For kids that is very obvious, they are not stupid as most adults!

    By the way, the real Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas of Bari, lived in the Bizantine Empire, near the present day Turkey-Syrian border, and his corpse is buried in Bari, Italy, being the Patron saint of the italian city of Bari in South Italy.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas

    Why insist that Santa lives in the North Pole, when Saint Nicholas, the true Santa, lived in Turkey?

    When I will have children, I will told them that Santa lives in Italy!
    (and struggles with desertification in the Mediterranean Basin, by the way)

  16. Climate Warrior says:

    He will move to the South Pole, of course — until that melts. Then he might be contemplating another planet.

  17. “…Also, they focus their model on sea ice and not volume…”

    Missing a word here — should be: “Also, they focus their model on sea ice EXTENT and not volume.”

  18. RB says:

    Joe,

    There’s a new story up on Cryosat at BBC.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12025283

    They have a great map at top showing the ice thickness. That and Steve Bloom suggested Greenpeace video should put the deniers ballistically into orbit.

  19. dorveK says:

    Can’t Superman save the day by reversing time, if we happen too reach a tipping point?

    [JR: Sadly, he’s tried that three times already. Same result. As time travel buffs know, it is almost impossible for time travel to undo the force of history — or human myopia. And don’t forget, the Kryptonians couldn’t stop their own planet from being destroyed!

    Now if we could harness Superman’s limitless supply of energy….]

  20. Barry says:

    “we won’t just transform the climate — we will transform our culture, from one of abundance to one of scarcity”

    Another excellent and pithy messaging winner. Thanks Joe. I’m going to use that phrasing often.

  21. J Bowers says:

    Does anyone know what’s happening with BPL’s paper on drought? Has it gone through peer review yet? OT, sorry Joe.

  22. From Peru says:

    Now WUWT has made a virulent attack to the Associated Press:

    “Associated Press gone wild: 2010 disaster article is unadulterated trash”

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/12/19/associated-press-gone-wild-2010-disaster-article-is-unadulterated-trash/

    WUWT cannot tollerate the link between record warmth and extreme weather, unlike the way they link cold weather to the alleged “global cooling”!

  23. J Bowers says:

    Re. 22 Peru

    Notice how Watts put a pic of Al Gore in there to get the faithful riled up before they even start to read. Dogwhistling at its finest.

  24. RB says:

    J Bowers Re #23

    That AP post is by Dr. Ryan Maue. Watts is to be despised, but in this case he didn’t make that post.

  25. Joe, re North Pole musings for future, here is note from amateur non PHD climate activist Danny Bloom over in hot sunny tropical Taiwan, in which he
    talks about the ”moral imperative of
    standing up and fighting against the conditions that have created
    global warming and climate change”, and
    which threaten, in his words, “the future existence of the human
    species on Earth”:

    Danny writes:

    “I am not a scientist, so I leave the science of global warming up to
    the experts, and I know there are many
    sides to these issues, so let the debates go on. But I am concerned that:

    1. The status quo regarding the use of coal and oil is morally wrong.

    2. “All my bones shake” when I ponder the possible fate of humankind
    due to AGW.

    3. Will future generations be forced to migrate north to regions
    Lawrence C. Smith at UCLA calls
    the New North when things
    get really bad? The time
    to tighten the noose around coal and oil and CO2 emissions is NOW. It
    is a moral issue, not just a scientific issue.

    4. Who among us will stand up and say ”no” to the status quo? And
    how will we frame our collective ”no”?

    LINK: Danny Bloom’s Virtual Graduation Speech to the Class of 2099

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-wnrm2jE-E

    LINK TO article in Wash Post by William Easterly

    ”John Lennon vs. Bono: The death of the celebrity activist”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/09/AR2010120904262.html

  26. Dickensian American says:

    Is anyone out there openly gambling on this one? At least that might begin to make news in a way that makes more sense those who listen to the cc deniers?

    In a morbid way, I’d love to see some of the commenters here go on record, each calling which year will be the first iceless year, in the same way that folks at calculated risk have made a sport out of bank failure fridays. Not that I think this is a light matter, but for those of us that have already made significant life changes and continue that slow march, what else can we do in the meantime in the face of this inevitability and collective habits that still work against whatever small individual efforts we each make on a daily basis?

  27. David Gould says:

    I have a bet with Willis over at WUWT that the sea ice minimum will drop below 100,000 before the end of the melt season in 2014. I hope not to win it, but, based on the volume numbers, think that there is a good change that I will. That is basically an ice free day.

    An ice free year is, I think, extremely unlikely to occur this century. As a previous commentator has noted, the Arctic gets no sun for months in winter. The waters would have to have warmed by tens of degrees celsius to avoid any ice forming. Even with Arctic amplification, that is the equivalent of global temperatures rising by close to 10 degrees celsius. If that happens within 90 years, I do not think that those bets are worth the trouble of making …

  28. Anonymous says:

    Silly me. Santa can still live on the rocks of the South Pole if all the ice melts there too. He may be delivering very different and fewer toys though. That thought makes me very sad.

  29. 350 Now says:

    USS Prius: op-ed by Tom Friedman
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/opinion/19friedman.html?src=me&ref=general

    And when you have time, take a listen at:
    http://blog.energy.gov/blog/2010/07/27/white-house-forum-energy-security-update
    (Especially at time stamp 1:53 of the 3 hour press conference)

  30. J Bowers says:

    Re. 24 RB

    I’ll bet the choice of picture was an editorial decision.

  31. Esop says:

    UAH channel 5 is 0.29 degrees warmer than on the same day last year. So much for the powerful La Nina, seems that it can’t overpower the greenhouse signal.
    Check out the graph, currently goes Straight Up.
    2010 should now handily beat 1998.

  32. Michael says:

    Esop, there is also a tropical storm in the Central Pacific right now – in December; the only other case occurred during the strongest El Nino on record (and in early December), and they didn’t have any storms at all this year until now – so much for La Nina.

    TROPICAL STORM OMEKA ADVISORY NUMBER 1
    NWS CENTRAL PACIFIC HURRICANE CENTER HONOLULU HI CP012010
    1100 PM HST SUN DEC 19 2010

    …TROPICAL STORM OMEKA FAR WEST OF HAWAII AND TURNING TO THE
    NORTH…

    http://www.prh.noaa.gov/cphc/tcpages/OMEKA.php

  33. Esop says:

    #28 (David):
    Actually, one would hope that you win it. Based on the science, the Arctic will become ice free pretty soon anyway, unless some magical negative feedback kicks in. The sooner these very visible signs of warming kicks in, the sooner there is hope that something will actually be done to reduce emissions and avoid the real catastrophies that still lie well into the future.
    The warm Arctic, cold continents pattern that we are seeing right now is the worst thing that could happen: dramatic warming, but the public believes the globe is cooling, since almost nothing is written on the fact that we are smashing global warm records.

  34. MoonOverChicago says:

    #34, Esop,(Aesop?)

    What science, exactly? Are you buying into the extrapolater’s Surface Temperature Analysis?

    In engineering school, we were taught never ever to make up a number, but only to measure things. And, it the instrument used to measure was inaccurate, get a better one. If none is available, go with what you have and estimate errors. But, there is a thing called Significant Digits, and if the instrument is accurate to such and such a level, do not report data as if the instrument could be more accurate than it is.

    “NASA GISS, because they extrapolate Arctic temperatures using the northernmost latitude stations, whereas HadCRUT just omits the region. Since the warming is greatest at the highest latitudes, even NASA GISS’s method likely underestimates the warming trend, but by less than HadCRUT underestimates it.

    This was confirmed by an independent analysis of HadCRUT’s record by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, which found “the Met Office’s HadCRUT record is at the lower end of likely warming…because HadCRUT is sampling regions that have exhibited less change, on average, than the entire globe over this particular period.”
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pr…

    NASA GISS also compared their method to that of HadCRUT. GISS analysis puts 2005 as the hottest year on record, whereas HadCRUT has it at 1998. The GISS study found “there is 95 percent confidence that 2005 was warmer than 1998.” More details in Section 7 here:
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/paper/…

    This is a test, this is only a test. I understand that no dissent is tolerated here, let’s see…

  35. Andrew says:

    “Santa lives on a magical iceberg somewhere near the north pole” would probably suffice for the children.
    There is a story on spaceweather.com that says the clear air due to lack of volcanoes is responsible for 0.2C of the warming in the last 50 years. Where does that put 2010 as the warmest year if you put in that trend?

  36. Esop says:

    #35 (MOC): check the latest UAH data (that actually cover most of the Arctic). Considering the very strong La Nina, the channel 4 and 5 graphs are not a pretty sight. “No warming since 2010” will very likely be the new meme in about two weeks time.
    BTW, ice extent in the Barents sea has actually dropped over the past few days. In mid December. Way above normal temperatures up there.

  37. MapleLeaf says:

    MoonOverChicago@35,

    You are arguing a strawman. I’m not even sure what the point is that you are trying to make– that 1998 is allegedly still the warmest year globally on record? What matters though is the long-term trend…

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/2005/ann/ts-sfc-radiosonde-jan-nov-pg.gif

    And don’t forget NCDC which also has 2005 in a statistical tie for warmest year with 1998 (worth the read):

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2005/13

    Re “But, there is a thing called Significant Digits, and if the instrument is accurate to such and such a level, do not report data as if the instrument could be more accurate than it is”

    Please go and lecture Pat Michaels for doing just that in his recent testimony to Congress.

    And this is all moot anyways, the Arctic is losing sea ice volume rapidly. Only those in denial about AGW/ACC would ignore that fact, and one which is the topic of this thread.

  38. Michael says:

    Not only has the Barents Sea lost ice, the entire Arctic has been loosing ice in recent days, and as measured by ice area, so it isn’t just winds blowing the ice together, or only extent would drop:

    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.recent.arctic.png

    It will also be interesting to see if the winter of 2010-2011 breaks the recent pattern of ice “recovering” to near average over the winter.

  39. Anne van der Bom says:

    MoonOverChicago,

    In engineering school, we were taught never ever to make up a number, but only to measure things

    Think about it: if you have 10 stations per acre, you still have to interpolate for the areas in between those stations. In general, the more measurements you take, the better the accuracy. The question is: how accurate do you want it? GISS publishes their data to within a hundredth of a degree celcius. If adding stations would not raise accuracy by an appreciable amount, why do the extra work?

    Suppose you want to know the average height of the US population. What do you do? Measure every man, woman and child in the US. Or do you state a goal, eg: “I want to know it with an accuracy of ±1 mm”, and base your sample size on that requirement? The data for the other US citizens is extrapolated from that sample. Spatial measurement of temperatures works in the same way.

    There is also a temporal interpolation going on. Temperature stations do not continuously measure temperature, but every hour or so, or sometimes a few times per day. The average temperature for a day is derived from that limited number of samples.

    That is good enough for the desired accuracy. Adding more stations would not change the results in a significant way.

    I understand that no dissent is tolerated here, let’s see…

    Surprise surprise ;-)

  40. MoonOverChicago says:

    #40, Anne Van der Bom,

    Interpolation is fine. There is no other way to do many calculations. Do you know the difference between interpolation and extrapolation? Extrapolation is beyond the limits of the data one has. GISS’s Surface Temperature Analysis extrapolates from weather stations hundreds of miles away in the Arctic, where they claim the most dramatic warming is occuring. The bright red Arctic on their maps is an artifact of this policy, not actual data at all.

    #38, MapleLeaf,

    I build no straw men. My point is that thermometers used for weather typically are accurate to one degree, and charting temperatures to the hundredth of a degree is meaningless. Was 1998 the hottest year? GISS said 1934 was, then changed their minds, adjusted temperatures down back then with a nefarious reference to Urban Heat Island, chose 1998, and now says 2010 even though it isn’t over yet.

    No honorable engineer or scientist would ever alter data after it had already been archived. Get it right the first time, that’s the main thing…

  41. Leif says:

    #41 MOC: “The bright red Arctic on their maps is an artifact of this policy, not actual data at all.”

    The actual data is the fact that the Arctic is loosing ICE, open water abounds in the summer, permafrost is melting, food webs are shattering, and more.

  42. MapleLeaf says:

    MoonOverChicago,

    “I build no straw men.”

    You might not build them, but you were making what is called a strawman argument.

    “My point is that thermometers used for weather typically are accurate to one degree:

    Not sure what thermometer you are using. My measures accurately to 0.1 C.

    “Was 1998 the hottest year? GISS said 1934 was, then changed their minds, adjusted temperatures down back then with a nefarious reference to Urban Heat Island, chose 1998, and now says 2010 even though it isn’t over yet.”

    You seem to be confusing global temperatures with those over the USA (<2% of the planet's surface). The warmest year globally in the GISS data was 2005, and that will in all likelihood be beaten by 2010.And he change in USA temperatures (1934 vs. 1998) was not because of the UHI, but b/c of a Y2K bug.

    Regardless, There is nothing nefarious about adjusting for the UHI. Would you rather that the scientists did not take it into account and have the records contaminated by artificial warming? Really in so-called skeptics' eyes scientists are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Please read <a href="http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/the-great-conspiracy-to-destroy-freedom-sabotage-the-usa-increase-taxes-undermine-the-economy-institute-world-government-based-on-socialism-with-al-gore-as-dictator-and-of-course-drive-us-all/"this.

    An interesting that you think that none of your instrument ever had any measurement biases that needed to be corrected for. Get real.

    I’m not sure where you are getting your misinformation on climate science from. But please consider going to a reputable site like SkepticalScience or CP.

    Again, you seem to be wanting to convince yourself that there is no issue. But the Arctic sea ice volume says there is a very big problem. Ignore it at your grand children’s peril.

  43. Esop says:

    It is obvious that the Arctic sea ice has agreed to take part in NASAs cunning scheme: it is melting in December.

  44. Anonymous says:

    The question of the season is — What will happen to Santa Claus (and Superman) when the North Pole is ice free in the summer?

    Santa doesn’t live in North Pole in summer. He migrates to Antarctica.

  45. sHx says:

    Didn’t really wanna be that anonymous.

  46. sHx says:

    And I suspect Superman flies to Antarctica as well in summer. Not enough data. More research is needed.

  47. Anne van der Bom says:

    MOC,

    The Arctic may be at the top of your map, making you think it is an extrapolation, but in reality the Earth is a sphere, making it an interpolation between the stations in Alaska and Nunavut and Siberia.

    Also keep in mind that the area above 80 degrees North is less than 1% of the globe, so any error resulting from the interpolation hardly affects global temperatures.

  48. David Gould says:

    MoonOverChicago,

    As Esop says, check out this dataset:

    http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/uahncdc.lt

    Look at the NoPol figures. This satellite data is telling us that the Arctic is warming dramatically: indeed, it is warming more than three times the rate of the planet as a whole.

    If that trend continues – and given that we are not going to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere at alarming rates any time soon, it will – at some point in the near future there will be no ice left in the Arctic at the end of the melt season.

  49. David Gould says:

    correction: my bet with Willis is that it will be less than 1 million square kilometre, not 100,000 square kilometres.

  50. riverat says:

    #41, MOC,

    Don’t you think the GISS checks their Arctic temperature extrapolations against the spotty measurements that do occur and against the satellite data that covers the Arctic? I’m sure they are well aware of the limitations of what they are doing.

    Regarding the accuracy of temperature measurements, when you are reporting the results of a synthesis or aggregation of a large number of measurements it is reasonable to report a greater precision than the original measurement. In fact I believe it is a valid statistical technique. It lets you see changes in the overall picture better than if you limit it to the precision of a single instrument. For example if say 100 out of 1000 stations have an unusual temperature trend you’re more likely to see it if you’re reporting the averages to 100ths of a degree than if you are only reporting to 1 degree. In climate science the change in temperature over time is as important if not more so than the absolute value of the temperature. If you don’t like the accuracy then round it off and you’ll have the number that you prefer.

    GISS said 1934 was the hottest year in the continental US, not the globe as a whole. Big difference there. The CONUS is only about 3% of the surface of the Earth.

    I’m not aware of any original raw data being altered. If it has been then I’m sure why and what was done has been well documented. But in order to work with the large quantity of temperature data from different instruments it has to be normalized and known errors have to be accounted for. It’s impossible to go back and redo the measurements from 100 years ago but that doesn’t mean they are not usable as long as you keep the limitations in mind.

  51. MapleLeaf says:

    MOC is confusing issues with the dataset, and regional versus global trends. The issue with the 1934 versus 1998 record was for the USA (<2% of the planet's surface), not the global temperatures, and the small correction was required because of a Y2K bug and not the UHI adjustment.

    Regardless, there is nothing nefarious about adjusting station temperatures down to take into account the impact of the UHI.

    "No honorable engineer or scientist would ever alter data after it had already been archived."

    This is nonsense. No respectable engineer would fail to adjust reading for bias (e.g,. instrument error) and sensor drift. I'm sure MOC has no issues with Spencer et al. inferring temperatures in layers of the atmosphere using radiance data. Does he not realize that because Spencer et al. failed to adjust their data and apply the appropriate corrections led them to believe that the planet was cooling when in fact it was warming?

  52. Anne van der Bom says:

    David,

    correction: my bet with Willis is that it will be less than 1 million square kilometre, not 100,000 square kilometres.

    “What is HE thinking” was my first reaction to your bet. With this corrected value I still think your chance of winning is minute, but at least you have a chance.

  53. Esop says:

    I think David will have a pretty good shot at winning the 2014 bet. Keep in mind that the Arctic sea ice is melting in places right now, on December 21st, the shortest day of the year in the NH. Something is very, very wrong up there.
    2011 will likely set a record low, and 2012 can easily see something bordering on a collapse.