back to article NASA finds ancient films that extend Arctic ice record by 15 years

An ancient and now public trove of imagery from one of the world's earliest Earth-sensing satellites, one of the American Nimbus spacecraft fleet, has been recovered and celebrated for the fact it extends climate records by 15 years. This feat of data archaeology means that scientists now have access to 250,000 images from the …

  1. Thomas Gray

    Old film reader?

    Why would NASA need to help them find an "old film reader"? If the photographs were on 35mm, surely it would be trivial to scan them. All current film labs (yes, people still use 35mm!) will scan your film at the same time as processing and printing it.

    1. Geoff Campbell

      Re: Old film reader?

      Ah, but this had to be a *military spec* film scanner.

      Which is like a home one, but 20 times the price, of course.


    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Old film reader?

      Try loading 60 year old film into that. It will disintegrate.

      Old film readers are rather special beasts because they also have to take care of the mechanical fragility of the film after decades of storage. They cost a fortune too. The joke about "military spec" and 7 times higher cost was far off. You are looking at hundreds times more expensive than your average 35mm film reader.

  2. Corinne

    I'm sorry to rain on their parade, but an extra 15 years of data extending the records to a whole FIFTY years means very little when it comes to climate change. For that matter, 500 years wouldn't mean that much. 50,000 would mean something...

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge


      Its not rain its snow you idiot!

    2. Geoff Campbell


      Well, I guess that about wraps it up for climate research. Thanks for opening our eyes to what a waste of time trying to understand the world around us is.


      1. Stevie

        Re: that about wraps it up for climate research

        Next up: World Peace.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Er, that's fifty years of JUST satellite data.

      Nobody is talking about ice cores, tree rings, mineral cores, and basic geology and written records.

    4. rh587 Silver badge

      Extending the ice extent records by 15 years adds a complete extra edition of the decadal oceanographic and meteorological oscillations, as well as getting us significantly closer to seeing any impact of a full cycle of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which is thought to last 50-70 years.

      Going from 35 years of data to 50 years is a big deal in terms of changes measured directly with satellites and modern instrumentation. Increasing the dataset by as much as 30% is big news.

    5. Apdsmith

      Hi Corinne,

      Nevertheless, it'll still be interesting to see how well the data matches with modelled data - modelling is hard and I'd be interested to see how well current models hold up when compared against the real world.


      1. chris lively

        Don't worry. The models will be retroactively changed to fit the picture.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          You jest @chris lively

          but that is part of the iterative process of developing an accurate model!

          If a model doesn't indicate what actually happened, then it's not accurate. So you try to understand why it was wrong, change it so that it does agree more closely with reality, and then wait for the next discrepancy. All the time, your running it against historical data to see how accurate it is. So a slew of new data is quite useful.

          What would be wrong would be to silently correct the models (or even worse, manipulate the data or start conditions), and then claim that they were accurate all along. But I don't think that this is what would happen.

          If you think that anybody with serious climate credentials believes that the current climate models are complete or accurate at the moment then you're bonkers (and so are they!). We just aren't that clever.

          Unfortunately, a lot of the people taking note of the models have political agendas.

    6. Dan Paul

      Have an upvote for the common sense!

      Too many backyard "climatologists" downvotes for my taste. I completely agree that even 500 years of data is not a significant dataset to produce a reliable trend over something that has been happening cyclically forever. But let's not let a little real math get in the way of "science".

      1. Fluffy Bunny

        Re: Have an upvote for the common sense!

        I agree with you in general, but you are being much to narrow in your dataset. We only have data for a small time period of a SINGLE PLANET. To make climate science into a real science, we need to collect data from multiple planets. And then also, do experiments.

        Until you do experiments, you are just collecting data. Oh, and arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

      2. Geoff Campbell

        Re: Have an upvote for the common sense!

        "Common sense" and maths in the same breath? Boy, are you in for a surprise...


  3. Steve Crook


    "An ancient and now public trove"

    From 1964? Ancient? Thanks ever so much, I'm ancient too!

    1. Lord Raa

      Re: Ancient?

      You know how it is with Star Trek - "ancient" covers things like the Bronze Age and the development of thermonuclear weapons.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: Ancient?

      "From 1964? Ancient? Thanks ever so much, I'm ancient too!"

      Well, to be fair, technology ages a lot quicker than us mere mortals.

      A 25 year old human is just hitting its stride, while some 25 year old tech needs archeological forensics to decipher.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So are they saying that in 1966 we had less ice cover than any time since but either side of it we had lots more and one of those was an early coverage?

    If so what does that imply apart from the fact that it's all looking rather random?

    1. MrXavia
      Black Helicopters

      Re: 1966

      It will imply whatever they want it to imply... which at the moment is AGW... yes the world has warmed up, no doubt about it.. but since the world is in a warming trend, is it mainly caused by humans?

      What can we do to rectify the problem, rather than associating blame we need to start looking at ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.....

      Oh and we should get back on with building fission nuclear power stations with decent reprocessing facilities, unlike the US of A we should not bury usable fissionable material deep in the ground...

      Who cares about the costs? its cleaner, more reliable and safer than Coal....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 1966

      I don't think I'll ever understand down votes on here... a question was asked and a perfectly reasonable point made in that it's all looking a bit random.... but somehow that gets down voted...

    3. Fluffy Bunny

      Re: 1966

      Put in simple terms, the Earth is a combination of an ordered system, with several layers of chaotic systems built on top of it. Obviously the chaotic parts completely overwhelm the ordered part.

  5. Nigel The Pigeon


    Amazing how some people have already made up their minds that the new data is worthless, or will not change their minds, before it has even properly been analysed.

  6. ecofeco Silver badge

    So much data has been lost

    So much data has been lost due to funding cuts and short sighted leaders.

    We haven't even analyzed all the data from the Surveyor and Pioneer missions and may not ever be able to at this point due to it being on mag tape and written in an obsolete custom format and thus no longer readable.

    Much like all the movies that were lost.

    We humans iz be smart!

  7. Hugh Pumphrey

    Cracking story: more like this please!

    But, "UC Bounder"? Is that a university peopled entirely by cads and rotters?

    1. Pedigree-Pete

      UC Bounder...

      Damn Sir, you beat me to it. Don't you just love typos. :)

    2. John Hughes

      I quite liked "client science".

      data that's already helping confirm records of sea ice extent from the 1970s (when measurements currently used by client science begin).

      Shouldn't that be "began"?

  8. The Bobster

    @Hugh Needs Terry-Thomas icon.

    1. ToddR

      or Leslie Phillips

  9. Unicornpiss

    The blind men and the elephant

    Agreed that 50 years isn't much to go on as far as determining trends, though it's a start. Our climate (and many other things in the environment and life in general) is made up of cycles within cycles within cycles, and 50 years of observing same ain't much to go on. Varying solar output needs to be taken into account as well besides human factors, IMHO, as it's literally shining on our faces and is utterly beyond our control. Fortunately some researchers seem to be looking at this now.

    So the moral of the story in my opinion is to not jump to any conclusions about "Global Warming", "Global Cooling", or any other current fad theory. Most of the most vocal supporters of these theories don't even understand how the electricity in their homes works, much less any grasp on any deeper scientific principles. People say "that's bad" and they jump on the bandwagon and freak out: "Why aren't we doing something about it?! Think of the children!" Sure, we should do what we can to control CO2 emissions and other things that may be detrimental to our world--it is after all currently the only world we have to live on. But all the people screeching about global warming need to STFU, as do its detractors. We just don't have enough data to make a conclusion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The blind men and the elephant

      Whenever I don't know how something will turn out,I always assume it will turn out for the best, because if it turns out good I'm happy anyway, and if it turns out bad at least I was happy for a while. Of course even when I know it's bad, like my diet of bacon butties soaked in cigarette tar with cider and methanol chasers, I can always stick my fingers in my ears and hum, and keep feeling happy.

      And don't you just love the new fashion for invoking cycles , the great thing about them is that really you need to observe more than one, so if for instance you have 50 years of satellite data you can say 'oh - but that could be a 50 years + n cycle, and the great thing is that n can be any number you choose.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The blind men and the elephant

      "People say "that's bad" and they jump on the bandwagon and freak out: "Why aren't we doing something about it?! Think of the children!" "

      Generally well made point, BUT ...

      ... when there is compelling but inconclusive evidence to suggest that we could positively influence something which is negatively impacting us, simply doing nothing is not that great an idea either. The world did nothing about CFC emissions either for decades until it was eventually conclusively proven that they were destroying the Ozone layer .. and only then started reluctantly reducing their usage.

      I as one of the children that no-one thought about grew up in New Zealand without the benefit of an ozone layer to protect us from the sun. The place still to this day is the skin cancer capital of the world, because the Ozone layer is only very slowly recovering and the population is constantly exposed to extreme levels of UV. Thanks for that.

    3. John Hughes

      Re: The blind men and the elephant

      Our climate (and many other things in the environment and life in general) is made up of cycles within cycles within cycles
      Meaningless drivel.

      Varying solar output needs to be taken into account [...] Fortunately some researchers seem to be looking at this now.
      What on earth makes you think that varying solar output hasn't been considered before?

      Most of the most vocal supporters of these theories don't even understand how the electricity in their homes works

      It's entirely possible that Svante Arrhenius didn't even have electricity in his house when he calculated the greenhouse effect.

  10. 0_Flybert_0

    .. well .. since the guys at Boulder that compile and release the satellite data for NASA / NOAA

    .. have been screaming for years about having to determine what natural variability is

    .. before you can determine what differences land use / burning fossil fuels might make

    .. it's good to see this statement made outside of Dr. Roy Spencer's site

    .. "science will get a better understanding of things like the natural variability of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice – something vital to a better understanding of climate change."

    .. it is vital to understanding man's role at all

  11. Rick Giles

    And yet...

    Al Gore is still a total idiot waving the Global Warming flag...

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: And yet...

      Well, to be fair, he'd look a lot less like an idiot if he wasn't constantly buzzing about the planet on chartered jets to tell people that they need to reduce their carbon footprint.

      (Oh, if only someone had invented some type of network to disseminate information globally from a single location!)

    2. Rick Giles

      Re: And yet...

      Don't get me wrong. I do think that we should all be good stewards. We all can't be granola eating, hemp wearing, non-bathing hippies. I guess I could have just said Democrats...

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