Understanding NASA Press Releases

NASA announced a day or two ago that Arctic sea ice was “the sixth lowest on record”

What they meant by this is that Arctic sea ice is second highest of the past decade, and the minimum was up 60% from two years ago.

ScreenHunter_3043 Sep. 25 05.45

COI | Centre for Ocean and Ice | Danmarks Meteorologiske Institut

Green shows the gain in ice over the past week.

ScreenHunter_3044 Sep. 25 05.54


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37 Responses to Understanding NASA Press Releases

  1. daveandrews723 says:

    The official record only goes back about 35 years, doesn’t it? Isn’t it true that there is lots of annecdotal evidence from the 1950’s and even back in the late 1800’s that arctic summertime ice extents were very similar to those of the past decade?

  2. Dave N says:

    “sixth lowest on record”: What they also didn’t say was how long that “record” is.

    I could say that a figure was “2nd lowest on record”; never mind that my record has only 3 data points, the figure I’m referring to is just below the highest and the lowest is somewhere in the cellar.

    Complete and utter tossers.

  3. Centinel2012 says:

    Reblogged this on Centinel2012 and commented:
    The art of manipulation is something to behold!

  4. philjourdan says:

    During the old Soviet Union, a Dual track meet was held with the USA. The USA won. Pravda then announced that the “glorious heroes of the Soviet State placed second in the meet! While the filthy capitalist pigs of the USA placed second to last”.

    We have our new Pravda.

  5. rah says:

    Sort of OT but found this excellent explanation of Equinox Myths that explains why the true period of darkness at the Arctic is only about 11 weeks. http://www.accuweather.com/en/outdoor-articles/astronomy/fall-begins-monday-equinox-myt/34460777

    • Crashex says:

      Just remember that the diffuse illumination available during twilight provides no significant insolation (heat). For thermal analysis purposes, i.e. sea ice behavior, the only uncertainty is the offset from the center of the solar disc to it’s top.

  6. mitigatedsceptic says:

    See http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/live/2014/sep/23/un-climate-change-summit-in-new-york-live-coverage 12.07 pm provided by NSIDC. The text reads –
    Talks or not talks, climate change is busily reshaping the world. As we reported last week, and was confirmed by official data on Monday, sea ice in the Arctic this year was at its sixth lowest extent ever. That doesn’t sound so bad until you consider it was was still over a million square kilometres less than the longterm average. The Arctic sea ice minimum was 5.02m square kilometres this year, up from the record low of 3.5m in 2012, but well below the long-term average of 6.3m.

  7. Crashex says:

    It’s as though no one noticed that the late drop in area and extent was due to a persistent cyclone that tracked from Laptev through the ESS to the Beaufort. I expect it’s a short term loss of ice that tilled the sea to removed heat for a big rebound this fall.

  8. Frank K. says:

    If you think about it, there is a compelling reason, besides the obvious grant funding, that climatologists hold tightly to their beliefs. Climatologists’ entire careers have been spent writing papers and doing research to prove man-made global warming is true, and they cannot fathom that most everything they believed in all these years is in fact NOT true. This phenomenon is not unknown in science and mathematics. One of the best examples is the story of the Luminiferous Ether:


    Basically, physicists of the 19th century believed that light had to travel through a medium, and so they made up the concept of the luminiferous ether to explain how light travels through space. This was considered “settled science” until the Michelson–Morley experiment helped to debunk this idea. Today, the notion of space being filled with a magical “ether” is laughable, but the concept is understandable given the development of physics at the time.

    And so it is (and will be) with climate science…the notion of catastrophic global warming will seem as quaint and goofy fifty years from now as the idea of liminiferous ether is to us today.

    • rah says:

      And so as has been pointed out many times before, the belief in ACGW is an article of faith, not science. We who deny their claims or challenge them are apostates as far as they’re concerned and should suffer an inquisition.

    • mjc says:

      It’s kind of funny, but CAGW is tied to the aether by Arrhenius. In some ways, it seems that CAGW requires aether to be valid.

      • nielszoo says:

        I wanna do the aether experiment again. If I remember correctly the series of experiments Michelson did (or Michelson-Morley) used a big granite optical bench floating in a tub of mercury. I always thought that would be so cool see.

    • Jason Calley says:

      Hey Frank! You draw an interesting parallel between the aether and CAGW. One difference though (in my opinion) is that the supporters of the aether theory did not lie about the data. I would certainly grant that most CAGW believers, the rank and file, truly are just trusting the higher up “climate scientists” and do not realize that the data has been so massively altered — but the guys on top know what they are doing when they fudge the numbers.

    • Frank K. says:

      Well, there may be reasons to adjust raw climate data to account for station moves, TOBS, and obviously incorrect entries (human error). But the main problem I see (and the central problem chronicled daily on this blog) is that the climatologists attempt to “derive” data from incomplete records, and then draw conclusions based on the “synthesized” data. Rather than saying “we just don’t know what the mean temperature of the Earth was in 1930 because we don’t have enough information,” they instead make questionable justifications for their adjustments and plow ahead anyway.

      And one of the data sets which is REALLY questionable in my mind is the sea surface temperature record. I mean come on – do you think we really can know the mean temperature of the entire ocean surface from circa 1910 when (a) all we have are ship records, (b) ships were never in any one spot for very long during their voyages, (c) they measured sea water temperature from a bucket (!) – then changed to engine inlets sometime in the 40s (!). We simply can not know what the mean sea surface temperature was in 1910 – we don’t have enough information. (And after all, if GISS can heat the world up in 2014 using spurious temperature anomalies from Antarctica, who is to say that those same anomalies didn’t exist in 1910?).

      So, fast forward to today. We now have a wealth of modern data of several decades – presumably enough to reconstruct the Earth’s average temperature for at least two decades. And guess what? There hasn’t been ANY significant global warming for 17 years…

      • mjc says:

        There’s one problem with adjusting for things like station moves and TOBS.

        For station moves, before any adjustment is made, it has to be confirmed that an actual move happened. Just changing the coordinate system used to calculate its position is NOT a move (and yes, I have proof of this happening for at least one station that is ‘immovable’).

        And for TOBS…it should be a ‘one off’ adjustment when the observation methods change.

        Also using things like a fractional degree adjustment for UHI don’t make sense either.

        In reality, there are two ways of going about using the old data…one is to make all these adjustments (many of which probably aren’t really needed, in the first place) or increasing the ‘error bars’ on the data.

        Of course, adjusting the ‘error bars’ shows just how much they don’t know and how uncertain what they do know really is. And of course, that all assumes tracking anomalies is actually the best way of doing it (to use anomalies, you really do need a ‘spot on’ baseline…which, as far as I can tell is impossible to create with the existing data).

        • cdquarles says:

          That’s just one of the errors not properly propagated.

        • Dave1billion says:

          I can vouch for the fact that changes in coordinates don’t necessarily mean a physical location change.

          Working at three different places ove the past 205 years or so, I’ve come across coordinates in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that were thousands of miles off (from Louisiana).

          In most cases, until recent years with GPS and better databases, Google Earth, etc., if it was within one degree it was generally considered ‘close enough’. Some cases warranted a more detailed examination, but in general, for a lot of data points you don’t have the time to verify each one.

          Even in my current job we accept that our lat/long coordinates are basically crap. And these were measured using GPS. The design of the user/machine interface can’t always be counted on.

        • Tel says:

          Early sea surface records were done by throwing a canvas cup over the side, pulling it up on a rope and measuring the temperature with a thermometer. It always reads more cold tha true because of evaporation through the canvas, but exactly how cold depends on wind speed, humidity, etc.

          Later they made better cups with insulated sides but these phased in without any clear documentation of exactly when the canvas cups went away.

          Then they moved to built-in thermometers on the engine inlets (measuring water from slightly below the surface) but the engine man usually doesn’t want to put his head too close to the engine so precision reading to fraction of a degree didn’t happen.

          The Argos data is much more accurate but also too recent to give a trend (other than to indicate nothing dramatic happened in the last decade).

      • David A says:

        You make a good point about currently we cover most of the globe, unless your GISS, then you do better filling in. The point is perhaps we should compare todays data areas only using the same methodology of older coverage areas.

    • Billy Liar says:

      No it won’t. Abolishing the luminiferous aether relied on progress in physics. I am not sure there will be any progress in climatology despite (or maybe because of) the ludicrous amount of cash spent on it.

  9. Beau Jeste says:

    Does anyone know how much of an impact ‘weather modification’ systems affect, the Arctic climate?

  10. Donna K. Becker says:
  11. Andy says:

    So normally the satellite record on ice extent is too short for sceptics, but now it suits to look at even smaller range of years, then it’s ok ? Well taking that to it’s logical conclusion, ice minima is lower than last year ! So suck on that.

    Also, your estimate that ice extent would be similar to 2006 was hopeless and you no longer mention it, mine however of between 2009 and 2013 was pretty good, so I will keep mentioning it 🙂 See below.

    Also, stop using


    Even the people who show it say it should not be used as inacurate for historical purposes, they tell you which one to use –

    “The plot above replaces an earlier sea ice extent plot, that was based on data with the coastal zones masked out. This coastal mask implied that the previous sea ice extent estimates were underestimated”

    You are using the earlier one with the coastal areas masked out.

    • Tel says:

      Checking your chart, from lowest minimum to highest minimum we get:

      * 2012 (1st)
      * 2007 (2nd)
      * 2011 (3rd)
      * 2008 (4th)
      * 2010 (5th)
      * 2013 (6th)
      * 2014 (7th)

      Presumably climatologists can still count on their fingers without requiring adjustments. Maybe we need a 97% consensus on that?

    • Gail Combs says:

      You forgot to mention that even NASA ackmowledges that the low point in Arctic Sea Ice was NOT from melting but from a storm that pushed the ice out of the Arctic. Since then the Arctic Sea Ice has been RECOVERING.

      A powerful storm wreaked havoc on the Arctic sea ice cover in August 2012. This visualization shows the strength and direction of the winds and their impact on the ice: the red vectors represent the fastest winds, while blue vectors stand for slower winds. Credit: NASA/Goddard Science Visualization Studio

      Reuters – Sept. 21 –

      NASA says a powerful cyclone formed off the coast of Alaska in early August and moved toward the center of the Arctic ocean, weakening the already thin sea ice as it went.

      A large section North of the Chukchi Sea was cut off by the churning storm and pushed south to warmer waters where it melted.

      The cyclone remained stalled over the arctic for several days…

      As I said the Arctic Sea Ice has been RECOVERING and is now well within 2 standard deviations of the mean.

      A confidence interval gives an estimated range of values which is likely to include an unknown population parameter, the estimated range being calculated from a given set of sample data. Confidence intervals are usually calculated so that this percentage is 95% or plus or minus two standard deviations. The Confidence Interval is the grey area in the following graph and the 2014 data is within that grey area.

  12. Alf says:

    Andy; along with increasing multi year ice you should see the potential for a trend.

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