Hansen On The Ice Free Arctic

“We see a tipping point occurring right before our eyes,” Hansen told the AP before the luncheon. “The Arctic is the first tipping point and it’s occurring exactly the way we said it would.”

Hansen, echoing work by other scientists, said that in five to 10 years, the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer.

Ed Markey, D-Mass., committee chairman, said, “Dr. Hansen was right. Twenty years later, we recognize him as a climate prophet.”


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49 Responses to Hansen On The Ice Free Arctic

  1. Brendon says:

    And do you think the ice will recover? What’s your prediction Steve?

    Where’s the long term trend headed? Up or downwards?

    Or will you cherry pick your way out of this one too?

    • 20,000 years ago, ice covered Chicago a mile deep. The 20,000 year trend is clearly downwards.

      During the Triassic, there wasn’t much ice, so the long term trend is upwards since then.

      • Brendon says:

        How about for the period in which is relevant to AGW. The period during which we’re raised atmospheric CO2 levels to 390?

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        The ice extent trends since the Triassic and 20,000 years ago though do no cast much light on whether carbon emissions are affecting the climate in general and sea ice extent in particular given that we weren’t burning fossil fuels 20,000 years ago and we didn’t exist (other than as primitive rodent-like mammals) in the Triassic. Sorry Steve that is just evasion, and it still does you no credit.

    • Amino says:

      Brendon says:
      October 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      And do you think the ice will recover? What’s your prediction Steve?

      Where’s the long term trend headed? Up or downwards?



      Arctic sea ice extent was on a declining trend over the past 9000 years, but recovered beginning sometime over the past 1000 years and has been relatively stable and extensive since.


      • Brendon says:

        Amino, You’re not Steve.

        Steve doesn’t seem capable of making a prediction beyond a few weeks, and even then it’s a “perhaps”.

  2. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Making testable predictions is a core component of scientific method. That is exactly what Hansen has just done, you should be applauding him for having the balls for commiting himself to a falsifiable prediction. Personally I think he will be proven wrong, we will very probably see ice free Arctic summers, but I very much doubt it will be as soon as that.

    • So is Waslowski on the fringe, or is he mainstream with Hansen (the world’s preeminent climatologist?”

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        I don’t think Hansen is in the mainstream on this particular question. He clearly sees AGW much more of a probable catastrophe that the mainstream scientific view (as represented by the IPCC reports). So yes, IMHO Waslowski and Hansen are on the fringe on this one.

        In forming a view on scientific questions where there is uncertainty, the best thing to do is look at the distribution of predictions made by different groups, and treat that as a forecast of the plausibility of different outcomes. The most likely outcome is usually near the average of the committe. Paying attention only to the fringe is essentially a straw man, the extreme predictions generally are easily attacked, but that doesn’t mean the mainstream is wrong.

      • How about his forecast of 3-6 metres sea level rise this century?

      • Conrad Dunkerson says:

        Hansen and Waslowski are likely basing their estimates on the Arctic sea ice volume trend. Current best estimates of September volumes for various years are;

        1979: ~18,000 km^3
        1979-2009 average: ~13,400 km^3
        2009: ~5,800 km^3
        2010: ~4,000 km^3

        1979-2009 average change: -400 km^3 per year
        2000-2009 average change: -1000 km^3 per year

        Thus, if the most recent 1,800 km^3 decline repeated almost all the ice would be gone in two years… if the average over the last decade continued it’d be four years… and if the average since 1979 continued it’d be 10. Thus the estimates within that timeframe from Hansen and Waslowski.

        Estimates of longer timeframes are instead based on the trends of the Arctic ice EXTENT.

        Thus far the ~80% decrease in volume (area x thickness) has only produced a ~40% decrease in extent (area / concentration), but a 100% decrease in volume would perforce require a 100% decrease in extent… so the gap will start to close fast if the volume drops any further.

        The question then becomes… why would the volume trend STOP declining? Volume losses are believed to be primarily due to increased ocean heat content and the more broken up ice then being exported out of the Arctic by currents in greater quantities. Barring some change to those factors I don’t see why the volume would stabilize.

    • Dikran Marsupial says:

      The IPCC reports are pretty much the de facto statement of the mainstream view of the climate science community. If you want to know if Hansens personal view is mainstream or not, why not just look up the comparable view in the IPCC report for yourself?

      • 90% of the press coverage goes to Hansen/Gore/Serreze/Waslowski/Holdren.

        They are the genre which influence policy. The mainstream IPCC has little or no influence on public perception.

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        Evasion again, the fact that the press doesn’t give balanced coverage of the mainstream scientific view doesn’t change what the mainstream scientific view actually is. Anybody that expects the press to give balance coverage is naive in the extreme, and if you are going to take the issue seriously you ought to check the facts for yourself.

        The funny thing is that the IPCC reports are probably the best weapon to use against such biased reporting, if extreme claims are not supported by IPCC science, point it out! It is a shame that so many “skeptics” don’t seem to have actually read the reports that they so often criticise!

      • The IPCC doesn’t influence government policy in any significant fashion. Hansen/Gore et al do.

      • Brendon says:

        Steve the repeater. Steve the repeater. Steve the repeater. Steve the repeater. Steve the repeater. Steve the repeater. Steve the repeater. Steve the repeater. Steve the repeater.

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        If policy is determined by press coverage more than the IPCC then your politicians are incompetent and the fault lies with them, not with the mainstream climate science community who have taken great pains to clearly state their position (the IPCC reports). The blame for incompetent politicians ultimately lies with the electorate, but that is democracy for you.

        BTW your repetition could not make your evasion more obvious.

  3. PJB says:

    In the Roman warm period, was the arctic ice-free in summer? If so, (and if the RWP was as warm or warmer than now) is being ice-free the precursor for a Little Ice Age….or worse? Are we saving ourselves from cooling by bumping up the temps by a few tenths of a degree? Should we increase the rate of warming to counteract further “natural” cooling?

    Questions that are germane to our continued comfort and sustenance. Probably worth investigating before we shoot ourselves in the foot, climatologically speaking.

  4. bruce says:


    Would it matter if glaciers in Alaska started melting in the 1800s or so. The date is relative to Western observation, so the actual start of the melt, who knows?

    • Brendon says:

      Evidence shows it has been melting for quite some time. The problem for us now is the speed at which that melt is occurring is accelerating.

      The second issue is that the “denialists” wish to pretent that it is not warming at all.

      Steve wishes to suggest everything is ok with the ice because, by looking at this exact time of the year and comparing that to the last 5 years the area looks ok.

      In this post Steve fails to breathe a word about volume or how the ice is much thinner now than it was five years ago.

    • Amino says:

      there is no problem

  5. Malaga View says:

    Brendon says:
    October 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm
    Where’s the long term trend headed? Up or downwards?

    Or will you cherry pick your way out of this one too?

    The graph is NOT a long term trend… it is a short term downward trend of about 30 years… in the medium term the trend goes up and down… and the longer term trend will probably downward into the next ice age… and in the geologic timeframe the trend seems to be brief periods of warming during a big freeze.

    It is partly about which time frame you pick… or cherry pick… and partly about which location you pick… or cherry pick… depending upon your point of view.

    We will have to wait until we have some reliable and consistent real measurements covering many more decades, or maybe even hundreds and thousands of years, across many variables before we will be able to make any really intelligent guesses about the short and medium term climate trends. Predicting weather has been able to advance quickly because it is based upon hourly and daily events… unfortunately you will have to be patient and accumulate some longer term weather data before making any informed predictions about short and medium term climate trends… such is life.

    • Brendon says:

      Try picking the period in which we are emitting GHG. That would be most relevant.

      The long term trend in the data is that which uses the whole data, not just the last 5 years as Steve tries to do with little success.

      It would be nice to have satellite data extending prior to this, but we don’t.

      I disagree that we need to wait thousands of years before making intelligent decision; do you need to watch our orbit for 40,000 years to understand the Milankovitch cycles?

      • NoMoreGore says:

        Well, Brendon, why don’t you put your scissors where your mouth is? Have you self snipped, yet? Are you and Dikran ridesharing a tryke to climate church every day?

        Our entire satellite record is not long enough to determine much of anything. If you’ve followed this issue, you’ve personally seen how wind compacted the ice late in the melt season. What has this to do with C02? You can see for yourself that DMI reads the temperature this summer as lowest on record in the arctic. Where’s the heat?

        You guys keep talking about long term trends, but you’re never referring to more than 30 years. Correlation is not causation.

        We’ve heard all the fantasy arguments. There isn’t anything concrete. You’re not presenting anything new. Maybe if you guys fervently sing to the climate god a miracle can happen?

        All together now….

        Ama-zing trace, of C, O, 2….. commands the rising sea!

        I once was lost, but now am found, I sold my S U V!!!


      • Amino says:

        Brendon says:
        October 11, 2010 at 1:56 pm

        Try picking the period in which we are emitting GHG. That would be most relevant.


        No. That hasn’t changed anything. Everything is carrying on the same.

      • Brendon says:

        NoMoreGore says “Our entire satellite record is not long enough to determine much of anything.”

        Except that the sea ice is melting and due to disappear within this century.

        NoMoreGore says “If you’ve followed this issue, you’ve personally seen how wind compacted the ice late in the melt season.”

        Riiiight!!! That’s a new one, it’s not melting, it’s wind compacted.

        The 5m thinck ice that used to be there has been compacted!!! It’s so obvious!!! LOL.

        NoMoreGore says “What has this to do with C02? You can see for yourself that DMI reads the temperature this summer as lowest on record in the arctic. Where’s the heat?”

        Give you a hint, what’s the ice floating on. 😉

        NoMoreGore says “You guys keep talking about long term trends, but you’re never referring to more than 30 years. Correlation is not causation.”

        Funny how one moment you guys are telling us it’s not melting, the next you’re telling us it’s always been melting.

      • Brendon says:

        Amino says “No. That hasn’t changed anything. Everything is carrying on the same.”

        What’s with the fingers in the ears again?

        Funny how you guys trip over each other, one says it will regain ice, one says to ignore the accelaration in decline, it’s always been declining.

  6. TimC says:

    Surely this was nicely covered by your previous post:


    Assuming the sea level rise graph shown there is correct it is almost conclusive evidence that the position since 1900 has been one of steady, constant, sea level rise. There has been no accelerated ice sheet/glacier melt, no unusual AGW-driven thermal expansion affecting sea levels and there is no indication of any impending so-called “tipping point”. Hansen’s comments were overblown, as usual.

  7. mallfly says:

    Arctic ice or lack of it 1922:

  8. R. de Haan says:

    It is a travesty that the greens and the AGW proponents in general have this fiction of a beautiful bright green world where everything is in the balance, onlu to be disturbed by the evil human race.

    The real world is subject to natural cycles and variability.
    This fact alone has brought the proponents of the AGW theory in big trouble already because at this moment in time non of the IPCC forecasts (even on the conservative side of the equation are happening. The cold cycle we are entering now end will destroy the entire AGW doctrine without the skeptics (or deniers) having to lift a single finger.

    The fact that multiple posters here are accusing our host of “evasion”, “cherry picking while at the same time waving the flag for people like Hanson, Serreze Waslowvsli and Holdren, people who manifest themselfs as activists rather than scientists and from which at least two (Holdren and Hanson) have a proven track record of false predictions is unbelievable.

    Especially because:
    1. it has been impossible for the propoents of AGW to deliver any empirical proof that CO2 is melting our ice caps let alone to show evidence for the Anthropogenic factor.

    There is NO empirical evidence to show for that CO2 is melting our ice caps.

    I am very glad however we only have to wait until 2013 to see your hog wash claims go up in smoke.

    I only hope we are able to keep the peace until this time.

    There are to much button pushing trigger happy nuts on the loose these day’s.

  9. PJB says:

    Strange how the “Idealists” want a cooler planet. That would be a less amenable environment for human existence. The only question is how many of our tax dollars will be wasted on advocacy, idle speculation and futile exploits? Thankfully, the cooling is occurring BEFORE they got their carbon controls enacted. At least they won’t be able to claim credit for that natural process.

    • Dikran Marsupial says:

      Sorry, that is a straw man. Our civilisation and agricultural practices have evolved to suite a particular climate, and substantial change to that climate will require adaption with has costs. Hence it is the change that is the problem, not the absolite temperature. If there is such a thing as an idealist, they would argue for the status quo to be maintained.

      • Steinbeck wrote of the migration from the Great Plains to California due to changing climate in the 1930s.

        The assumption of a base stable climate is not valid.

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        All you have done is point out that any change in the climate requires adaption which may be costly. Of course climate changes naturally, but that doesn’t mean that additional climate change caused by our carbon emissions is therefore nothing to worry about.

      • Arctic warming should produce less severe weather, not more.

        The long term reduction in tornadoes and hurricanes making landfall supports this.

      • PJB says:

        Hardly a strawman. Believing that we are able to change or control the climate is ambitious, to say the least.

      • Brendon says:

        stevengoddard says: “The long term reduction in tornadoes and hurricanes making landfall supports this.”

        The reduction in severe floods and temperature supports this too … oh hang on, no it doesn’t.

    • Dikran Marsupial says:

      You are being selective. Some climate change may be beneficial to some, however that doesn’t mean that the change is a net benefit for us all. You need to consider the benefits (and fossil fuel use does indeed have many benefits) as well as the hazards.

      StevenGoddard wrote:
      “I might preferentially look for things which suit my agenda.”

      well quite.

      • What do you think my agenda is?

        I receive no compensation of any form for doing this.

      • PJB says:

        Well, your agenda (like mine) can’t be too full since you have lots of time to spend on this… 😉

        Your advocacy seems to be tilting at windmills that are turning furiously but not producing anything but threats of climate doom and gloom.

        Your advantage is that you are tenacious.

  10. NoMoreGore says:

    Verse II for the climate hymm “Amazing Trace”:

    Con-vert ye all, to Malthus ways, Say Cameron, Marx and Gore!

    You now must cut, your own nuts off….While we live by the shore!

  11. truthsword says:

    Wohoo you got dark side folk posting now… you’ve made it!

  12. DN says:

    Brendon et al. keep demanding records from the “AGW period”. If you accept the IPCCs own figures, then this cannot have begun prior to significant human emissions of carbon dioxide which did not begin until the 1950s (which sort of begs the question, why did most of the 20th Century warming take place prior to 1940? But I digest).

    I think it’s a little more instructive, therefore, to look at how current ice extent compares to what Brendon et al. would call the “pre-AGW period”. According to data maintained by the University of Illinois Cryosphere site, average Arctic sea ice coverage has declined slightly in recent years, a development balanced globally, as noted above, by a larger increase in Antarctic sea ice. However, the long-term trend is small and may not be instructive, as the baseline is only 30 years. History records periods when there was both more and less sea ice in the Arctic. US nuclear submarines surfaced to find open water at the geographic North Pole in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1980s; the Northwest Passage was open in 1945; according to a Soviet author writing in the 1940s, Arctic ice in the Greenland Sea, ice quantity in the Barents Sea was “exceptionally low” in 1930, 1931 and 1932, with “catastrophic” receding of the Spitzbergen glaciers in 1934, and that ice cover “for the period 1921 to 1938 [was] 15 to 20 per cent less than for the period 1898 to 1920”; a Norwegian research vessel was able to sail within 90 nautical miles of the Pole in 1921 (a feat that would have been impossible in 2007); Commander Robert E. Peary, during the first trek to the North Pole, reported having to “cross and re-cross…open leads”, i.e. clear water gaps in the Arctic Ice, during his approach march in the depths of the winter of 1907; Amundsen traversed the Northwest Passage in a sailing ship in 1903; and the Royal Society urged the Admiralty to send a naval expedition to investigate a “change of climate” that was causing a reduction of Arctic sea ice in 1817. Most of these records predate the “AGW period”. And I haven’t even mentioned the Norse settlements on Greenland during the MWP, not their extinction during the LIA.

    History disproves both the “catastrophic melting” and the “rapid sea level rise” nonsense. AGW proponents hate it, though, when you talk about climate changing before the internal combustion engine came along and ruined Gaia for everybody.

    Full disclosure: I don’t work for, nor am I funded by, any conventional power concern. In fact, my wife runs a green power company specializing in ground-source heat pumps. As a scientist, I believe in science, particularly the sanctity of the scientific method, which means you show your data and your work (instead of, you know, refusing to release data or models, or conspiring to destroy emails to frustrate access to information requests. Or indulging in ad hominem attacks instead of a useful dialectic). So in that spirit, here are the refs for my above argument:

    – [http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/]. Accessed 26 March 2010.
    – Official U.S. Navy Photographs: photo # DN-ST-87-09888, and photo # DN-ST-87-09889, available from [dodmedia.osd.mil].
    – N.N. Zubov, Arctic Ice (1943), trans. By the U.S. Navy Oceanographic Office (Washington, D.C.: US Navy Electronics Laboratory, 1963), 457 and 472. Zubov writes that “the period from 1869 to 1898 was a warm one for the Kara Sea”; “the period from 1899 through 1929 was a cold one”; “a warm period began again in 1929”;and that according to Burke, “the warming of the Kara Sea will attain its maximum temperature around 1943 and 1944 while cooling will not commence until 1959.” Zubov, 458. In other words, the Kara Sea ice fluctuated according to a cycle approximately 30 years in length. Concerning the Burke prediction cited by Zubov, it is worth noting that even the IPCC acknowledges that global average temperatures troughed from roughly 1940-1980. See Figure 3.1 in “Annual anomalies of global land-surface air temperature (°C), 1850 to 2005”, Fourth Assessment Report, Report of Working Group I, The Physical Science Basis [http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch3s3-2-2.html]. Accessed 10 May 2010.
    Interestingly, Zubov also notes that “The Norwegian Vikings in the 10th and 11th centuries evidently experience no difficulties due to ice when sailing to Greenland,” but that “Starting with the year 1261 the first written indications appear of an ice blockade of Iceland.” Zubov, 461. The colonization voyages of Erik the Red, which took place in 984 and 987, occurred during the Medieval Warm Period, while the cited “ice blockade” coincides with the onset of the Little Ice Age.
    – Sea ice data from the IARC-JAXA website [http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm].
    – Henry Collins Walsh, “The Pole At Last”, The New York Times, 1 October 1910, 533.
    – “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 the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated.” President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817, Minutes of Council, Volume 8. pp.149-153, Royal Society, London. 20th November, 1817 [via http://www.john-daly.com/polar/arctic.htm%5D. Incidentally, this letter urged the Admiralty to engage in exploration of the Arctic. It is probably not an accident that increased naval exploration was being considered just as the Royal Navy was paying off the better part of the world’s largest naval establishment in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars.

    • Mike Bromley says:

      DN, thanks for the breath of fresh air. The Ad Hominem is typical of those who espouse a company line at all costs. The short, precise sampling period is wrongly compared with the long, imprecise historical period…which at root is very short on science and long on cult-of-personality response.

  13. TimC says:

    DN: masterly analysis (the “I digest” in para 1 was very apt!); this is just normal, natural variability. Steven: is there any reliable data on wind direction/speed in the “open” years, and do the models correctly handle albedo effects of open water?

  14. PresqueVu says:

    Ask yourself a question.

    Do you think the Eskimo migrated to the Arctic circle specifically because it was an icy wasteland or is it more likely it was a little bit more inhabitable when they first arrived.

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