back to article Arctic ice panics sparked by half-baked sat data

Listeners to Radio 4's Today programme - and this includes much of the political elite - will have been alarmed to be told that "the Arctic could be ice-free on a summer’s day by the end of the decade". Yet the evidence for this "trend" turns out to be drawn from less than two years worth of data. Dr Seymour Laxon of …


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  1. Blitheringeejit

    To paraphrase...

    "There's no unequivocal evidence that fucking with the earth's atmospheric CO2 level will definitely hurt us now or in the future, therefore any rational person would agree that we should continue fucking with it at least until we have such evidence."

    Bodycount, or it didn't happen!


  2. Andy Watt

    Ah, I thought as much.

    I heard this yesterday on the radio, and the way they reported how the predictions had seemingly shrunk by vast amounts over less than 5 years of estimations of the shrinkage didn't ring true.

    Well, this'll certainly help give climate scepticism a shot in the arm. Well done, idiot scientist trying to show off his own project.

  3. Keith 72

    If the ice *has* gone by the end of the decade...

    ... then waiting until it's gone, to be sure we have enough data, doesn't really seem worthwhile!

  4. BigPicture

    It doesn't matter?

    Everyone but idiots know the ice is melting, EVERYWHERE! Does it matter if it is within the next 10 years or in 25? If anyone thinks in a 100 years life on earth is going to be fun they are dead wrong. Oil Gone!! Enough clean water to satisfy the population, nope!! We consume as if there is an endless supply of everything. The way of life we have grown accustom to will be gone.

    What is unfortunate is that nothing can be done to change it. Technology is growing light years faster than we are evolving. Humans are not smart enough to change. The writing is on the wall folks. I will be close to the end of my life as we start to see the impact we truly have had on earth. My son will know what life was like before (8 years old). My son’s children will not be so lucky.

  5. SleepyJohn

    The public is probably not so ignorant

    I suspect the reason for the public's apparent disinterest is really quite simple:

    1 - There is clearly no definite proof that anything catastrophic and irreversible is happening.

    2 - If such a thing does loom, they believe that battling forward to an inspired solution is likely to be a better option than crawling back to the stone age.

    The public is probably less ignorant of the wider issues than the hysterical doomsayers. I think history shows that mankind is actually rather adept at putting right its mistakes.

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: The public is probably not so ignorant

      "I think history shows that mankind is actually rather adept at putting right its mistakes."

      Give me an example of a mistake on a global climate scale that man has put right.

      Man could barely cope with plugging a relatively small oil leak in the gulf two years back.

      1. Tim Parker

        Re: The public is probably not so ignorant

        "Give me an example of a mistake on a global climate scale that man has put right."

        Well there was the CFC / ozone issue - we screwed up, realised we had, and then - most surprisingly - did something about it. Not entirely global, but significant - perhaps an interesting subject for the folk who repeatedly spout on about how nothing little ol' Mankind can do can have any noticeable effect on the big, old Earth and all it's protective feedbacks....

        "Man could barely cope with plugging a relatively small oil leak in the gulf two years back."

        That was a bit shit really, wasn't it...

  6. Bob 18

    Why Sea Ice Matters

    It's true, melting sea ice will have no perceptible direct impact on sea level. But ice reflects 70%+ of the sunlight it receives, whereas open water reflects only 30%. The arctic receives sunlight 24/7 in the summer with few clouds to block it: that is more energy from the sun than the tropics during the summer months! Without ice to reflect the sunlight and insulate the ocean, the Arctic ocean would become more like a tropical sea during the summer months! And THAT is the real problem: remove the sea ice, and you set up a whole chain reaction of effects that result in a significantly warmer arctic, changed ocean currents, etc. All of which ultimately contributes to the astonishing melting of Greenland we have been observing in recent years.

  7. rsb1

    where's the SCIENCE ?

    Of course there's a melt-off ! That's exactly what happens when the Earth's geographic inclination to the sun is changed by 18 degrees as a result of the polar shift. There is recorded historical evidence since the year 982 telling the same sad tale in cycles of 666 years in Greenland. It seems that ‘thought’ as to the causes of the current climate changes has been completely eliminated by a compliant propagandizing mainstream media and dependence on ‘bought-and-paid-for talking heads’ for solutions. Look to history for the solution. The historical record shows that the current changes to climate are naturally-occurring cyclic phenomena – our planet’s magnetic poles are shifting in a heretofore apparent and easily explained manner. FACT: the current events of 2012 were predicted in 1841 (source: 1841 Edition of The New York Dissector, Vol 2, ppg 379-383)

    And here’s the link:

    None of the "scientists" who provide the senseless 'panic causing' propaganda seem to be thinking beyond their immediate references - the answer lies in the historical record and the application of scientific 'knowns'.

    Maybe someone smarter that I will answer me this: If the Earth's inclination to the sun is determined by the positioning of the magnetic poles, what is the effect of an 18 degree change ? Surely it would mean (in simple terms) that areas once warm would become colder and areas once cold would become warmer. This would happen at the same time, so the overall effect is no change - even though some specific geographic areas would become warmer (melting=less ice) and other places would become colder (freezing=more ice). Maybe this is too simplistic an answer ?

    The solution for us all might be two-fold: (1) everyone needs to adapt quickly to the changes in climate to ensure survival/comfort/food; and (2), we all need to demand that those who sequester proven/patented alternate energy solutions for purposes of self-enrichment desist immediately and release this knowledge to everyone.

    I look forward to fact-based a rebuttal.


    1. Chris Miller

      Brilliant spoof

      But to cater for the remote chance that you're actually serious:

      "If the Earth's inclination to the sun is determined by the positioning of the magnetic poles" - it isn't. The magnetic poles wander fairly chaotically and the N and S poles change places frequently (in geological time). The geographic poles are much more stable (the Earth being a very large gyroscope). There are long-term, predictable cycles, which have been known for a century to be a significant cause of ice ages - see Milankovitch cycles.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: where's the SCIENCE ?

      The Earth's tilt has been changing to REDUCE sunlight to the arctic in the last 10,000 years, not increase it as you claim. The last 10,000 years shows a gradual cooling trend for this reason. The recent warming and melting of arctic ice has nothing to do with orbital changes.

  8. SeymourLaxon

    Get the facts right Andrew

    The statement in this article that these new results rely on just two years of data is, quite simply, false.

    If you wish to know why then listen to my Today interview ( where I state that the trends are derived by combining CryoSat-2 volume estimates with earlier (2003-2008) volume estimates from NASA's ICESat mission [Kwok, JGR, 2009].

    I also state that one must be cautious in extrapolating these trends forwards.

    Seymour Laxon

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Cautious, Seymour?

      A cautious scientist would be expected to go through the peer review process. You, by contrast, haven't even published this work yet. It is not available for scrutiny. Nevertheless, you are willing to appear on the national media making dramatic long-term claims, based on *new* data of less than two years observations.

      You have been anything but cautious.

      Your science may be well turn out be sound, but until it has been independently scrutinized, we just don't know. Your argument boils own to: "Trust me, I'm a scientist."

      1. NevenA

        Re: Cautious, Seymour?

        "Your science may be well turn out be sound, but until it has been independently scrutinized, we just don't know."

        We can know quite a bit if we closely follow what is going up north with the sea ice. Not just because it is looking very much as if CryoSat is confirming the modeled volume data from PIOMAS, but also because this year and last year records are being equaled or set despite the fact that 2011 and 2012 didn't quite have the perfect weather conditions that turn 2007 into such a spectacular ice melt year.

        As it says in the recent Arcus SEARCH August Sea Ice Outlook (

        "Except for early June, the weather was not particularly favorable for sea ice loss in summer 2012 as it was in 2007 and some other recent years."

        But still 2012 is leading on all graphs ( from all data sets. This is a sure sign that a large part of the ice pack has become so thin that it no longer cares what the weather does and just melts out in place.

        "A cautious scientist would be expected to go through the peer review process. You, by contrast, haven't even published this work yet."

        On the contrary, one could say that Dr. Laxon and CPOM/ESA are much too cautious, although perhaps I'm too impatient to wait for the validation and calibration process to end (mind you, it's been almost two and a half years since CryoSat-2 was launched). This data is of crucial importance, given the disconcerting state of Arctic sea ice. The only thing missing is observations that support the evidence that the ice is thinner than ever.

        It might be difficult to logically deduce for some, but Arctic sea ice plays a vital role in Northern Hemispheric weather patterns, and acts as a buffer that prevents sea water from warming up too much and then increasingly melt Greenland glaciers from below, and various stores of carbon and methane on land (permafrost) as well as in the ocean (clathrates). Not to mention the role sea ice plays for wildlife and human communities along Arctic coasts.

        So to conclude: No, Dr. Laxon is not "anything but cautious" and it's almost certain that CryoSat-2 data is on the ball.

  9. scatter


    Why hasn't a correction or clarification been published on this article? One of the authors of the research has commented above to point out the error in the story and yet nothing has appeared on the article itself.

  10. Doug Bostrom

    More information

    See here:

    "1) The numbers are PROVISIONAL but are our best estimates right now. We are working hard to finalise (i.e. check the details of) the numbers at which point a paper will be submitted which will hopefully be published in due course. At that point everyone will have access to the whole story/figures etc.

    2) The trends are from the period 2004 to 2012 and are obtained by combining CryoSat ice volume with ice volume from NASA's ICESat mission for years 2003-2008 (see Kwok et al, JGR, 2009).

    3) The trends are for the two campaign periods which ICESat operated in each year that overlap with the times of year when CryoSat-2's provides data. That is a month during October/November (ON) and February/March (FM).

    4) The numbers refer only to the central Arctic (the ICESat domain) and cannot always be compared with the PIOMAS "whole arctic domain" available on the PIOMAS website (i.e. there are times of year when some ice lies outside the central Arctic).

    5) Both ICESat and CryoSat-2 measurements have been validated (checked) against data gathered by aircraft and undersea moorings."


  11. pierrot

    pissing in the wind

    Arctic sea ice affects climate by reflecting sunlight back into outer space.

    The data is combined from Cryosat and ICESat.

    Things done now can take years to reach their full effect as systems balance to new equilibrium points.

    If you go beyond news media back to the published papers you will find error bars.


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