back to article No 'tipping point' for Arctic sea ice - latest science

OK, so the floating Arctic ice cap appears to be shrinking. Catastrophe if it goes on, right? As white ice reflects heat into space, past a certain point more and more heat will not be reflected, more and more ice will melt. Past such a "tipping point", the ice cap would never recover - it would vanish completely, taking with it …


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  1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge


    ...this is based on a simulation. Are simulations acceptable only when you agree with the results?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: But...

      You probably want to ask an AGW evangelist that. They're the ones famous for discarding out of hand anything that doesn't fit their theories and prognostications, simulated or real world.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        I rather think...

        ...that's already been asked of AGW "evangelists" ad nauseam, hence my questioning of the "other side's" apparent readiness to rely on similar methods. Sauce for the goose and all that, doncha know.

      2. breakfast

        Re: Re: But...

        Whereas the Creationists are famous for rejecting all evidence that doesn't fit their theories and then, in classic "big lie" style, accusing the people they are disputing ( typically using emotive and anti-rational arguments rather than anything that stands up to even cursory scientific examination ) with of doing precisely the thing that the Creationists are doing with the whole cherrypicked evidence thing. You will not find a single detail-based argument anywhere in the Creationist lexicon that does not go back to cherry picked data. That is why they have to go over to emotive anti-scientific and anti-rational stuff- it sounds good to people who don't know how to think through a problem and there aren't enough people who do, or who are prepared to examine evidence, for their voices to make a big difference.

        The fact that papers like this get published and discussed in the climate science community is a marker that they are ready to take on evidence as it arises and use it. That is what science does.

        1. Nightkiller

          Tell that

 Al Gore and Michael Moore. And they don't believe in the Creationist stuff either.

    2. Shakje


      I was going to post the exact same thing

    3. rciafardone

      No simulation needed.

      Its being observed in real life already.

  2. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Growth in Antarctic sea ice

    Now, now Lewis, you know that's a red herring.

    Left as it is in your article a casual reader might think the growth in seasonal sea ice around Antarctica is due to a cooling ocean. In fact, it's quite the opposite; the ocean around Antarctica has warmed by about 0.5C in the last thirty years.

    Warmer water evaporates more and produces more precipitation around the margins of the continent which dilutes the cool surface water and produces a highly stratified ocean. Heat can't circulate up from deeper, warmer, more saline water, encouraging the growth of a thin layer of ice. Antarctic sea ice is also much less important to the Earth's energy balance than that in the Arctic. Since we have been exploring the region around Antarctica, there have been almost no years where sea ice has not melted in early summer allowing the Sun to warm the surface of the ocean.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Hold on.....

    The register doesn't trust climate scientists....remember?

    1. Anton Ivanov

      It is all based around one particular bit in the models

      The conclusion in this model is that it will freeze over again because heat radiates up unfettered.

      The conclusions in AGW models are based around the fact that heat reflects back from CO2, methane and other stuff.

      The truth is somewhere in between. Where - nobody knows. One too many people on both sides of the fence have been caught fiddling data, having vested interests and outright talking out of their a**e to know what really is going on here.

  4. Fred 1

    Tipping Point

    I wonder if we will see a tipping point sometime in the future where Lewis finally admits that global warming is actually going to cause us some catastrophic problems.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @Fred 1

      Didn't you know that the global warming is caused by man's over population and increased biomass?

      Forget you smug attitude, but just the increase in human population will cause all of our future woes.

      So what are you going to do?

      The smart people will limit the number of children they have.

      The less intelligent/under educated will continue to breed like Rabbits. (Especially in the year of the Rabbit)

      Ultimately we'll live in a future where the marching morons will control the world and we're doomed.

      Maybe I'll write a si-fi story about it.

      Oops! Someone already did. ;-)

      Kill all humans! Rise of the mech people!

      1. Fred 1

        Ignorant Coward

        "Didn't you know that the global warming is caused by man's over population and increased biomass?"

        I could not possibly know that as I don't believe that it is true.

        Global warming is caused by our burning of lakes of oil and mountains of coal every year, releasing vast quantities of stored CO2 into the atmosphere.

        Most of this happens in the more affluent countries where the population is not booming.

        I'm not saying that overpopulation is not a massive problem, but it is not currently the main driver of global warming.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Reminds me of that episode of the Simpsons:

      Lisa: "Help me, I'd drowning in the lake!"

      AGW denier: "You're WALKING on the GLACIER"

      And anyway...

      "So the gradual decline in ice extent seen in recent decades may continue, but even if a very hot summer seriously eats away at the sea ice - even so much as to completely melt it all - it will recover; there will be no sudden disaster this century." - tell that to the polar bears, seals and arctic foxes, as well as the many sea creatures that survive on the krill that gathers in the shade underneath the arctic ice.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    no "sudden disaster"?

    Thank God for that. We can all look forward to the much more enjoyable

    slow-motion disaster instead.

  6. maclovinz


    People only want to hear what they want to hear. It doesn't matter what facts are presented.

    Find me one study that shows one thing and I'll find you another that shows the opposite.

    (In Soviet Russia!) Results can be purchased, too!

    I hear.....

  7. Dirk Vandenheuvel


    Wait... if it completely melts in summer, isn't that already a catastrophe? It doesn't really matter if it freezes again in winter.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    The climate change debate is getting boring

    For f**k's sake, nobody is disputing that climate change isn't happening BUT IT HAPPENS ALL THE F**KING TIME throughout the Earth's history. What is the big deal about it?

    The one thing I know for sure is that it is a great way of making money - carbon tax and all that. It is a big scam. Everything you do now cost more money and who is getting richer? Not you or me but some rich f**ker who knows how to exploit the system and these are the people who pollute the environment because no one gets rich by being nice and unselfish.

    All you climate change advocates are doing is sounding very boring with your message while the rich bastards are getting richer by exploiting your evangelism.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      The big deal is...

      ...that if temperatures increase by more than a couple of degrees, we will have to radically change our way of life, society, economy etc. way beyond what most people would be happy with. Sure it can be accommodated, but only with major (and possibly destabilizing) consequences for our species and all those we rely on.

      The only ones getting rich ATM are those who've always gotten rich - oil company owners, governments of oil-producing countries etc. You don't see too many scientists covered in bling...

      1. Ammaross Danan

        I ask you this

        What was earth's global average temperature during the Cretaceous as opposed to now? Climate change happens. We were lucky enough to land in a moderate ice-age period as opposed to a warmer period.

  9. The Prevaricator


    I can burn my massive reserves of shale gas after all. What's the worst that can happen?

    Don't worry, I do realise how lucky I am. I don't have to cherry-pick the research papers I read in order to gain rose-tinted climate predictions. Lewis is already doing it for me.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: phew

      Just don't forget to bask in the glory of being able to comment on this article, as opposed to the Orlowski ones where the shale gas story is told anew with accompanying puerile jibes about "Mystic Met", and where the ex-Greenpeace bloke gets some cheap digs in at his old colleagues about palm oil (skipping over or trivialising the genuine environmental concerns) and comes out with gems like, "So when people say global temperature is going to go up 2°C, and we're going to die, I just laugh. We're a tropical species. We haven't adapted to cold and ice, except we have fires."

      I'm all for holding people to high standards of research, but that doesn't mean running out opinion pieces that are the equivalent of egging someone's front door and claiming that you're engaging in a thoughtful dialogue with them.

  10. Zingaiya


    So it can recover from one anomolously hot summer. Hooray! How about a sequence of hot summers?

    Also, please remember that it isn't the area of ice cover that counts, it's the volume. Wide thin sheets of sea ice are much more vulnerable than smaller, thicker sheets.

  11. DominicT

    For goodness sake..

    When is the Register going to drop it's weird obsession with climate science and just get on with talking about IT? Asking someone like Lewis Page to understand climate is like going to a meteorological news site and talking about operating systems.

    Stop talking about stuff you know nothing about and get on with talking about what we come here to read. There are plenty of other places out there that will accept your bizarre conspiracy-theory 'anti-science agenda' articles.

  12. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: Tipping Point

    That doesn't sound any more likely than a future where you "finally admit" that he was right all along. Still, as long as it keeps us viewing pages, El Reg keeps getting paid for the ads, right?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Blessed youth...

    I wonder, with all the hype, when people are going to remember why Greenland is called "Green" land.

    We have had periods of no ice, loads of ice, some ice... etc, etc for millions, if not billions of years (obviously this should read 6000 years for the God botherers). Climate change will continue to happen regardless of what we do, time to get over it...

    1. system


      "I wonder, with all the hype, when people are going to remember why Greenland is called "Green" land."

      To encourage settlers.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Strong acid, man!

      I can't even see this "interview with Patrick Moore" you're talking about.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You didn't look hard enough then...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          So, comment was indeed posted in the wrong thread then.

          As confirmed by its subsequent withdrawal by the author.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Strong acid man

        Were you thinking of this Patrick Moore?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Speech is free

    Always good to have comments to balance out an opinion piece, if only more followed Lewis' example.

  16. JimC

    The point is...

    That climate science is extraordinarily complicated and the sort of media friendly "the sky is falling the sky is falling" stuff is not well substantiated because the science is so complicated. Then its also messed up with the AGW peseudo environmentalist catastophe thing that says that human intervention must be the cause, and the only way to reverse it is to stop all human action.

    Some clearer thinking lets you know that:-

    World climate is always changing.

    It has been both a fair bit warmer and a lot cooler in geologically fairly recent times

    Natural changes are more than large enough to cause large disruption to current human civilisation patterns.

    There is some evidence that natural changes can occur rather swiftly, but frankly the evidence is pretty skimpy - remember this stuff is difficult.

    So given all that it really doesn't matter a stuff whether climate change is artificially stimulated or natural: civilisation will still have to deal with it and it makes sense to deal with it in the most efficient way, whether that be stopping burning petrochemicals, creating an artificial winter or putting huge mirrors in space to block sunlight whould we be getting excessively warmer, or correponding opposites whould we be getting cooler. And to know what we do we need decent neutral climate science, not people who are committed to one view or another and are always tempted to find the evidence to back their preconceptions.

    And if all this is beyond our technology at the moment we'd better work out a way to deal with very large scale migrations of people: if Siberia is about to become the worlds fertile grain basket for instance how is that going to be handled. Current National boundaries are going to look damn silly and if we want to avoid large scale wars something dramatic will have to happen.

    Some things are damn obvious: burning oil is a damn silly idea no matter what its effect on the climate: its just plain wasteful, so progress on sensible replacement can only be a good thing. Wind power is of course not a sensible replacement: two thousand years of human exploitation of natural power tells us that wind is only ever used where nothing else works.

    I could rant on indefinietly...

  17. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    hysteretic threshold behavior

    maybe he meant 'hysteric behaviour'

  18. Anonymous Coward

    mis-read that

    Misread hysteretic threshold behavior as hysteric threshold behavior. Easy mistake. We all know what that looks like

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Another tipping point

    I wonder if we will see a tipping point sometime in the future where Fred1 finally admits that the Sun expanding to a red giant is actually going to cause us some catastrophic problems.


    1. Fred 1

      Another tipping point

      Absolutely not. You don't seriously expect me to believe any prediction made by those so called astronomy scientists. They are just scaremongering to get government handouts for shiny new telescopes.

  20. Nick Galloway
    Thumb Up

    And if there was...

    If a tipping point existed, what the hell are we going to do about it anyway?

    Climate change is happening, that's what climates do. Just get ready for the changes that are going to happen, like food security, nuclear power, geothermal power and lifestyle changes (get that toasted Glaswegian off the Spanish beach!).

  21. Banther dodo

    Yes of course

    Climate change is real and has been happening continuously since the beginning. Ice caps grow and shrink over the centuries. Even if you could show genuine -and not faked- climate data that showed warming was taking place, you could not even prove this was caused by human carbon emissions.

    1. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: Yes of course

      It's irrelevant, lets take a couple of facts;

      1. Global Climate Change happens.

      2. We are releasing more CO2 than ever before.

      So what if these two are not related?

      Firstly we have to be prepared for changes in the environment which affect our ability to live on this planet, over the last couple of years, too much water in some places (floods/rain) and not enough in others (drought) has meant the world-wide food production has been devastated, the knock-on effect is the increase in global food prices (driving things like revolt in Tunisia/Egypt), we need to be able to predict measure and perhaps work out a way of getting though these periods with more people on the planet than ever existed before.

      Secondly, the release of CO2 means we are chugging through our fossil fuels faster than we are finding them, this will produce an energy crisis and leave us vulnerable to the countries that have the fossil fuels, some estimates say that 10 years and the reserves are gone, but it doesn;t matter if it's 10, 20, 100 or 1000 years, one day it will be gone and we need to have an alternative power source.

      It actually doesn't matter if these two things are connected or not, we need to replace fossil fuel usage with something else and prepare ourselves for climates that our present population has not experienced, "massaged" results from one university determined to find a link shouldn't distract you from looking at the real issues that need addressing.

      1. Libertarian

        Cugging through our fossil fuels faster than we are finding them??????????

        Check this out: <> ;

        Thoroughly agree though that climate change just happens. We inhabit a dynamic biosphere after all. Stasis is anathema!

    2. BraveOak


      Just psuedoscience piffle in another form

      "Even if you could show genuine -and not faked- fossil data that showed evolution was taking place, you could not prove monkeys turned into men!


    3. strum

      Try science

      > Even if you could show genuine -and not faked- climate data that showed warming was taking place, you could not even prove this was caused by human carbon emissions.

      'Proof' has no place in science. But observations can be demonstrated - and the characteristics of fossil-generated CO2 are identifiable. And they represent the bulk of the increase in CO2 which we have also observed (many times, in many places, by many people).

    4. Plantiful

      And the converse is true also-- cannot prove that warming is not caused by human-produced carbon emissions, either. The only way to do that is by having another Earth as a control, where humans are living without burning every fossil fuel available. Since we have only one Earth, what is the issue with taking some caution and using the technology that we have made available to us?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not Friday...

    Can't you wait until Friday to publish articles like this, I'm reliably informed that the Met Office like to pass them round as a "Friday Funny" email. It just spoils it for them publishing on a Thursday.

  23. Paul Shirley

    it's the landlocked ice we're worried about

    Silly me, all this time I've been thinking the tipping point for landlocked ice to fall into the sea is the problem - apparently it's the floating ice the skeptics think we're talking about. Ice that does bugger all to sea level when it melts and wasn't considered a major part of the heat radiative balance problem.

    The big issue with disappearing floating ice is when it's the stuff holding the landlocked ice on the land. Because when that falls off, sea level rises and it takes decades to rebuild. Doesn't matter if the sea ice comes back quickly, it's too late to save the important ice.

  24. Rastamouse

    So it recovers after 2 years...

    I wonder if polar bears can swim non stop for that long?

    Even if it comes back I doubt much life would return with it

    1. Chris Miller

      Read up about the Medieval Warm Period

      When there was no (or very little) polar ice about for a couple of centuries. Did Polar Bears become extinct as a result? No they retreated to the land, where there was still plenty of ice. This was 'only' 1,000 years ago.

      A climate model that predicts a global meltdown based on the loss of Arctic ice cover is demonstrably incorrect, since it contradicts the historical record.

  25. famousringo
    Thumb Up

    This is good

    It means that molten sea ice won't become part of a vicious feedback loop that causes further climate change.

    Now we just have to worry about all that land ice over Greenland and Antarctica that isn't forming an insulating layer over warm sea water. Oh, and whatever other factors were so powerful that they melted all that polar ice in the first place.

  26. meno

    Lewis, you misunderstand the journal article

    They're not arguing that there is no feedback mechanism whereby lack of ice leads to overall warming which leads to more lack of ice.

    What their model shows is that this feedback mechanism is not a quick short term effect powerful enough to dominate everything else. In particular their simulation shows that one anomalous hot summer can't suddenly tip you over the edge in a situation where the world has warmed by only 2.1 degrees C.

    I'm not aware of any of the major climate models having assumed that one anomalous hot summer *can* tip you over the edge. So honestly, I don't see the fuss.

  27. Spotthelemon

    What The Register forgot to include

    The researchers underline that their results do not question the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice or its relation to anthropogenic climate change. "If we don't slow down global warming extensively, we will lose the summer sea-ice cover in the Arctic within a few decades," says Tietsche. "Our research shows that the speed of sea-ice loss is closely coupled to the speed of global warming. We think that it's important to know that we can still do something about slowing down or possibly even stopping the loss of the sea-ice cover."

    1. Thought About IT

      What The Register forgot to include

      You'll find cherry picking like that in all the articles The Register writes on this subject. However, at least Lewis allows his readers to fill in the gaps.

  28. Plantiful

    No mention of the latest changes in the Polar Vortex

    The latest findings of the unusual weather that we have experienced over the past few years have been related to the weakening of the Polar Vortex ( Yes, it's great that the warmer arctic ocean waters will evaporate more quickly and provide some level of water cooling (And air warming), but it has been suggested that this same heat weakens this vortex, letting the cold air travel to lover latitudes. This brings more heat to the arctic, which then starts a convenient, positive feedback loop towards a drastically changed climate system.

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