Loss Of Old Ice In The Early 1990s – Due To El Niño?

According to NSIDC, most of the loss of older ice occurred in the early 1990s.




Probably not coincidentally, there was almost a continuous El Niño during that period. In fact, ENSO was positive for the vast majority of the Arctic satellite record.


Since 2007, ENSO has been mostly negative – which may explain why the ice is recovering.


About stevengoddard

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72 Responses to Loss Of Old Ice In The Early 1990s – Due To El Niño?

  1. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Oh, so there is data on sea ice going back more than six years then? ;o)

    • Oh, so I have been writing articles for more than six days, then?

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        That is very much my point, using six years worth of data when you KNOW there is a longer data datset which (if subjected to the same analysis) would not support your conclusion is cherry picking. It would reflect better on you if this WERE your first post where you used the full dataset, at least then you would have the defense of ignorance.

      • There is always a longer data set, unless you go back 4.5 billion years.

        DMI is the only 30% concentration extent chart, and their record only goes back to 2005. I used the entire data set.

        The frame of reference of the article is what determines the usefulness of the data. If I am showing that this is not the hottest year, and that the ice won’t be gone by 2013, – six years worth of data is more than adequate.

      • Amino says:

        Dikran Marsupial says:
        October 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm

        is cherry picking

        Can you imagine any other term to call Steven Goddard other than the one Tamino uses? Or don’t you have an imagination? Are you just a clone of global warming believer blogs?

        I think you are.

    • Dikran Marsupial says:

      So why is 30% cover interesting and 15% not interesting? That is a specious argument and you know it.

      “If I am showing that this is not the hottest year,”

      Arctic sea ice extent cannot be used to show that this is not the hottest year, as the Arctic is not the whole globe and it is perfectly possible for this to be the warmest year on the instrumental record according to global mean temperature and it to be the coldest year in the last six in just the Arctic.

      “and that the ice won’t be gone by 2013, – six years worth of data is more than adequate.”

      Nobody has claimed it will be gone by 2013, that was the soonest ONE group of scientists claims it COULD bey gone, so that is a straw man.

      Six years of data is nowhere near enough to estimate a long term trend. Your own post suggesting that ENSO caused multi-year ice decreases shows that as six years of data is about the characteristic time span of ENSO, so you wouldn’t be able to reliable distinguish a trend from the effects of ENSO.

      Scientists need self-scepticism, give it a try.,

      • Ice cover less than 30% gets blown around by the wind very easily. It can change extent drastically when the wind changes.

        Extent numbers based on 15% tell us more about weather conditions than they do about the state of the ice.

      • You seem bound and determined to avoid ever discussing the content of the article.

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        Do you think that explains why the 15% ice extent is currently 2 standard deviations below average rather than a record high? Give me a break!

        Where is your evidence that shows the 15% data tells more about weather conditions? Science doesn’t work by making assertions, you need to back them up with evidence.

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        “You seem bound and determined to avoid ever discussing the content of the article.”

        No, actually I made a flippant comment, clearly marked as such with an appropriate emoticon. It was you that chose to make a big song and dance of it, I have just been responding to your replies.

        As to the content of the article. Yes, it is possible that ENSO has an effect on sea ice, but the post is just speculation, if you could do some actual science, perhaps establish a statistically significant relationship between sea ice and ENSO, I would find it very interesting, but mere speculation that something might be related to something else isn’t really worth commenting on.

        P.S. you would need to check for other confounding factors that may have affected sea ice in your analysis.

      • Do you have any comment on this article?

        You have made a half dozen off-topic posts so far, which seems to be your pattern here.

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        I just made one, namely that it was O.K. as speculation, but that you needed to do some actual science to see if it actually had some validity (at which point I’d be more interested). If you don’t wan’t off-topic comments, quit replying to them in a way that provokes more.

        Why not go and try, say a regression analysis? There you are constructive criticism (by do check for things like hidden variable bias – or at least give the appropriate caveats).

      • I’ve got a better idea. If you are actually interested in the subject matter, why don’t you do the analysis – instead of posting straw men over and over again.

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        LOL, so I make an on-topic constructive comment about the article and Steve STILL isn’t happy!

        Sorry Steve, I’ll provide evidence for MY speculations, it is your job to provide support for yours (if you want them to be of genuine interest – note I said I’d be interested IF you could provide some support)

      • The first steps of science are observation and hypothesis. You seem to frown on that.

        Carrying the mentality further, Obama’s science advisor wants to skip the research and jump straight into taxation and forced sterilization.

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        “The first steps of science are observation and hypothesis. You seem to frown on that.”

        No not at all, providing it is made VERY clear that it is only speculation/hypothesis, it is fine. It just isn’t nearly as interesting as some observation and hypothesis that are acompanied by solid analysis and statistically robust evidence. The reason being is that speculation/hypothesis formation is easy, but all to often the data tell us that our intution is wrong, which is why science involves experimentation and statistics.

        Seriously, this is well-meant advice, the skeptic argument is damaged by strong conclusions drawn from weak analysis. The purpose of peer review in science is to improve the quality of what is published, if you take the criticism you get here on board, your arguments will become stronger and your conclusions less easily ignored. But if you carry on with the misrepresentation and cherry picking, you will just make yourself an object of ridicule for your opposition. Who wants that?

      • It is almost as if you didn’t read the article.

      • Amino says:

        Dikran Marsupial says:
        October 13, 2010 at 3:38 pm

        So why is 30% cover interesting and 15% not interesting? That is a specious argument and you know it.

        You presume to know what others think.

        DMi is not interesting to you because you do not want it to be, it appears. You see what you want to see. There are valid reasons why 30% is more important than 15%. They are obvious. But you know everything and feel smarter than others who won’t believe in global warming.

        Do you know how tedious you are?

    • Paul H says:


      Why not discuss the issue raised instead of making irrelevant comments?

      • Amino says:

        Because I don’t think he would admit that someone who doesn’t believe in his paradigm of global warming could be right. So, any reason to depreciate them will do. He doesn’t know how intolerant he is.

    • Amino says:

      Dikran Marsupial,

      Are you saying El Ninos and La Ninas don’t effect Arctic ice? Please make yourself clear.

      If you say they do not then lay out the case why you say that. And if you do have that case please submit it for the peer review of a publication. Don’t just talk big here. Put some real action to your words.

      Otherwise you are nothing more than a contrarian.

    • Amino says:

      Dikran Marsupial says:
      October 13, 2010 at 3:07 pm

      Oh, so there is data on sea ice going back more than six years then? ;o)

      This question wasn’t cute. It was below the belt.

    • Dikran Marsupial says:

      I am happy to critcise cherry picking on either side of the argument. Balance is not appropriate if there is more cherry picking going on on one side than there is on the other. Science isn’t about balance, or taking turns, it is about being able to justify your conclusions, and you can’t do that with cherry picked arguments, or misrepresenting your opponents claims, or rhetoric or evasion. The sooner the blog-skeptics learn that the better off they will be.

      • ML says:

        —–Science isn’t about balance, or taking turns, it is about being able to justify your conclusions, and you can’t do that with cherry picked arguments, or misrepresenting your opponents claims, or rhetoric or evasion.——–

        Could you post it on RC, please ?

      • Philip Finck says:

        Are you really suggesting that the satellite ice data set for 15% is “the full data set”. That is crap. Your suggesting an absolute data cut-off of data – no data. There is obviously lots of ice data going back another century. Perhaps we can append that written, recorded data onto the beginning of the satellite data record? It was fine when temp. data was stuck onto the end of the tree reing proxy data. Actually, why not delete the first ten years of the satellite data. That was exactly what was done to the tree ring data, only deleted on the opposite end.

        With all due respect to Marsupial, nit-picking, cherry picking, arguing day is night and night is day and day is day and night is night adds little …….. is tiresome……… and severely detracts from anything constructive you would add to the discussion..

        If a data set is 6 years old, state that, indicate the limitations and go from there.
        If it is 30 years long, state that, indicate the limitations, and go from there.

      • Amino says:

        Dikran Marsupial says:
        October 13, 2010 at 3:28 pm

        I am happy to critcise cherry picking on either side of the argument.

        So you will criticize the cherry picking of the time frame 1979 to 2007 to draw conclusions of where Arctic ice is going? I’m sure you’ll be happy to point out that cherry picking.

    • Amino says:

      Philip Finck

      There is this data too:

      The paper also finds that 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.


  2. pyromancer76 says:

    Dikran Marsupial, do you have an antipathy to considering El Ninos in relationship to multi-year ice in the Arctic — the topic of the post? If you want to claim cherry picking, do it once, give your evidence with the proposed period you would “cherry pick” instead, and get lost. Personally, I would much rather see the Arctic ice free; I think Earth, the biosphere, and we humans would be better off in a warmer environment — like a number of times in the past. You, D.M., under the guise of “the scientific method” are acting exactly like a troll.

    • Dikran Marsupial says:

      No, not at all, the idea of some link seems reasonable to me, and it would be good news if ENSO explained some of the melting, as it meant the Arctic was less sensitive to anthropogenic influences than is considered the case by mainstream scientific thought. I don’t understand why anyone would not welcome evidence (rather than mere speculation) of such a link.

      The cherry picking relates to another post, and wouldn’t be being discussed here if not for Steve wanting to make a big fuss about a flippant comment made in good humour.

      BTW, science is truth seeking, I don’t want AGW, I have children and unlike Steve I rather enjoy driving my car. But not wanting AGW is no reason for me to be in denial about what the science actually says.

      • ML says:

        Like this kind of science.
        News from University of Leicester
        Ancient urinary deposits provide a unique insight into Africa’s prehistoric climate change.

      • Dikran Marsupial says:

        LOL, piss-poor bit of research that! ;o)

        thanks for that, post of the day!

      • Philip Finck says:

        Main stream scientific thought? I’m a scientist and I am main stream. That doesn’t mean that if I disagree with a lot of the climate science crap that I am not main stream. Stereotyping! “…..no reason for me to be in denial about what the science says.”
        Attempting to add authority to your statement and attempting to stereotype anyone who disagrees with you again? Why not write, “But not wanting purported AGW is not a good reason for me to question what some scientists are saying”? That better represents what main stream scientists think…. at least the ones I know.

    • Amino says:

      Dikran Marsupial says:
      October 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

      The cherry picking relates to another post

      No, it relates to you being a contrarian.

      You may need to sit back and look at this comment thread objectively. You look like you just don’t like Steven Goddard because others in the global warming movement have criticized him. You don’t have any original thought here. It’s just more reiteration of things that have become hackneyed years ago.

      But you don’t care.

  3. ML says:

    I maybe accused of selfplagiarism (posted already on different blog ) :-), but this is my proposition for authors of this study
    (To the authors of this “research”.
    On my last fishing trip in Canadian wilderness, I’ve discovered old, abandoned cabin with the s..t house nearby. Because the location is only accessible by a float plane, I’m sure that the s..t is in undisturbed and pristine condition, thus can be used as proxy for temperature reconstruction ( I did not see any Stevenson’s screens in the area )
    Fell free to use this info on the application for your next research grant)

  4. AO/NAO?

    “the areal coverage of thick multi-year ice decreased precipitously during 1989-1990 when the Arctic Oscillation was in an extreme high index state”


  5. “1.) A large Beaufort Gyre which covers most of the Arctic Ocean during the 1980�s, and a transpolar drift stream shifted towards the Eurasian Arctic. Older, thicker sea ice (white ice) covers about 80% of the Arctic Ocean up to 1988. The date is shown in the upper left corner.

    2.) With the step to high-AO conditions in 1989, the Beaufort Gyre shrinks and is confined to the corner between Alaska and Canada. The Transpolar Drift Stream now sweeps across most of the Arctic Ocean, carrying most of the older, thicker sea ice out of the Arctic Ocean through Fram Strait (lower right). By 1990, only about 30% of the Arctic Ocean is covered by older thicker sea ice.”


  6. Julienne Stroeve says:

    There have been several papers that have discussed the positive winter AO period of the late 1980s/early 1990s and it’s impact on the ice cover and ice age.
    Some examples:

    Maslanik et al., 2007
    Lindsay and Zhang, 2005
    Rigor and Wallace, 2004

  7. Espen says:

    The AO record is here: http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/daily_ao_index/month_ao_index.shtml

    It’s really interesting that the real melting of multiyear ice may have happened in the extremely positive AO period in 1989-1993.

    Looking at the AO graph, it’s interesting that it looks very much as how I remember the skiing conditions since my childhood in the seventies in Norway. During the mid-seventies there were many mild winters (most extreme: January 1973, when people around Oslo were doing gardening instead of skiing at the usual -10 C). These were replaced by some very harsh and cold winters in the late seventies, rounded off in 1985-1986 with both lots of snow and extremely cold weather. But in 1989 it rained at christmas eve, and the skiing fun was definitely over. Wonderful skiing conditions made a brief return just in time for the 1994 olympics, but in the early 2000s “low land skiing may be a thing of the past in these times of global warming”. Until 2009… the last winter provided lots of cold and lots of snow again.

    There’s supposed to be satellite data going further back than 1979. Are there reliable ice records from these? I’d really like to know if Arctic ice may have been GROWING in the late seventies, and if it might have been decreasing in the 1972-1976 period.

    Anyway, with the AO apparently planning to stay in negative land now, and the AMO also possibly declining again, I think we might see a steady growth of sea ice in the years to come. It’s a pity this natural disaster strengthens itself again, but if it can make some naked emperors ashamed, I’m willing to suffer some cold. And maybe have decent skiing conditions as a bonus (if it doesn’t get too cold).

  8. PJB says:


    A classic death spiral….errr curve….errr slope…..errrr descent….errrrr rebound?

    p.s. Regarding the RS (Reliable Source as I was told) belette is French for stoat and that is a giveaway to the origin of the document.

  9. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    Interesting that volcanoes seem to fire during the El Nino event, it may be related with solar effects (both El Nino and volcanic). Everything balances out on earth

  10. Amino says:

    I think some people are not going to like what La Nine will do to Arctic ice the next 2 years.

  11. Amino says:

    With the effect El Nino and La Nina have on the Atlantic it would be a dicey undertaking to claim El Nino and La Nina do not effect Arctic ice.

    • Scott says:

      I agree they affect the ice. But what drives this phenomenon? I don’t know anything about ENSO other than El Nino’s lead to warmer “global temps” and La Nina the opposite.

      Is it possible that man has an influence on ENSO?


  12. don penman says:

    Do you think it could have some thing to do with this?

  13. barrufa says:

    Steve I think the second map of multiyear ice you put in your article and dated in 1996 really belongs to 2007, at least is the date shown on the map.


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