Why The Gain In Antarctic Sea Ice Is Important

There is more sea ice around Antarctica than in the Arctic, and it is all at lower latitudes than in the Arctic – so it reflects a lot more sunlight back into space. The whole point of alarmists being hysterical about September Arctic ice loss is the albedo feedback (as if there was actually any sunshine at the North Pole in September) – but the negative feedback around Antarctica is probably larger than any Arctic effects. Missing Arctic ice in the autumn also allows more LW radiative loss into space.

Additionally, NSIDC reports ice loss or gain as a percentage rather than absolute numbers – which conveniently hides the incline in Antarctica.

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22 Responses to Why The Gain In Antarctic Sea Ice Is Important

  1. daveburton says:

    The issue of feedbacks from Arctic ice melt came up over on WUWT today, and I have a question about it. Here’s what I wrote there:

    MiCro says (on August 13, 2012 at 6:52 am), “I’ve commented for about the last year, that melting arctic ice would expose more warm waters that originated in the tropics to frigid polar sky’s and would make an effective cooling system, similar in design to an automotive cooling system that’s thermostatically controlled.”

    Now that is one of the more interesting comments I’ve read in a while.

    What you’re describing is a “negative feedback” mechanism. One of the alarmists’ major arguments for an unstable climate (high “climate sensitivity” to “forcings”) is that reduced albedo of the sea from melting arctic ice would cause increased absorption of sunlight (a “positive feedback”), and accelerated global warming. But does that make sense?

    If we ask, “what part of the globe should that cause to warm?” the answer is obviously, “the part with the reduced albedo, of course – i.e., the Arctic Ocean.” But, will reduced ice cover really warm the thus-exposed water? Reduced albedo works both ways: it reduces emission as well as absorption, and a layer of ice insulates the water below, preventing the agitation that transports heat to and from the surface.

    Does someone here know the answer to this question: what are the heat flows for open Arctic Ocean water during the summer (which is mostly daytime)? Does heat gained from absorption of sunlight exceed heat lost from longwave radiation emitted? Or are ocean currents, moving water from warmer latitudes, the only reason that Arctic Ocean water ever warms at all, even in the summer?

    In other words, is reduction of Arctic sea ice in a warmer world a net positive feedback mechanism (due to increased sunlight absorption), or a net negative feedback mechanism (due to increased radiative heat loss, per MiCro’s observation)?

    • Arctic ice loss is quite possibly a negative feedback, because it comes late in the summer when the sun is low – and it allows a lot of heat to radiate out from the ocean back into space.

  2. gator69 says:

    I’ve come to understand that alarmist theories, are from areas where the Sun does NOT shine.

  3. Eric Webb says:

    Steve great post, great job pointing out that a gain or loss of ice over the Antarctic is greater than the Arctic, totally agree. You could also say as Joe Bastardi has said that the Antarctic is surrounded by ocean which makes any changes harder to come by because of water’s natural high heat content, and the Arctic is surrounded by land, which makes those changes less impressive.

  4. John B., M.D. says:


    “There is little recognition by either side that current policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are inadequate for dealing with the threat that they pose. It is the coal-fueled growth of countries like China and India that generates much of these emissions. Unless a cheap, rapidly deployable substitute fuel is found for coal, then it will be next to impossible to safely rein in rising carbon dioxide levels around the world.

    Although the green movement might at first see shale gas as an enemy in this fight, it may in fact turn out to be a friend.”

    Bullshit. AGW skeptics have been complaining for years that CO2 emissions from Chinese and Indian coal, and have strongly supported fracking. There has been plenty of “recognition” from the skeptic side.

  5. jak says:


    “(as if there was actually any sunshine at the North Pole in September) ”


    • 2007 minimum occurred at about the same time as the sun set for the winter.

      • Whatever says:

        The 2007 Arctic Ice minimum was on Sept. 16 and full sun continued for 8 days after at the North Pole. Then there is strong to medium twilight for another 2 weeks. At the Arctic Circle, the sun never completely sets. The lowest daylight on the Circle is 2 hours 11 minutes during Winter Solstice.

      • daveburton says:

        Whatever says, “At the Arctic Circle, the sun never completely sets.”

        Near summer solstice it doesn’t, but it sure does the rest of the year.

      • Whatever says:

        Read and learn:

      • daveburton says:

        Whatever, did you bother to look at that link? It says that on January 1, on the Arctic Circle, “The sun comes up for 2 hours 39 minutes.” That means it stays below the horizon for over 21 hours,

        They’re telling you that your statement that “at the Arctic Circle, the sun never completely sets” is very wrong.

    • Curt says:

      Even before it goes below the horizon at the autumnal equinox, its angle is so low that (a) its power density in watts per meter squared of surface is virtually zero, and (b) almost all of what does hit the water is reflected anyway.

  6. Eric Webb says:

    Lol, did David Appell even see this? He seriously doesn’t have any idea what he is talking about.

  7. Whatever says:

    I would say better than “nice try”:
    ScienceDaily (Sep. 21, 2007) — Scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center said today that the extent of Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its minimum for 2007 on Sept. 16, shattering all previous lows since satellite record-keeping began nearly 30 years ago.http://nsidc.org/news/press/2007_seaiceminimum/20071001_pressrelease.html

  8. John Silver says:

    “and it is all at lower latitudes than in the Arctic”

    So, does anybody know what the sum of albedo is for the two poles?

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