Max Greenberg: Antarctic Sea Ice And The Art Of Climate Distraction

In order to distract from the announcement this week that Arctic sea ice is at a record low, right-wing media are pointing to Antarctic sea ice as proof that climate change isn’t occurring. But Antarctic sea ice gains have been slight, whereas Arctic ice decline — a key indicator of climate change — has been extreme. Furthermore, scientists have long expected the Arctic to experience the first impacts of climate change, and still project that in the long run, sea ice in both regions will decline as greenhouse gas concentrations increase.

On September 16, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that Arctic sea ice reached its minimum extent for the year and the lowest seasonal minimum measured since record keeping began in 1979. But in a blog post published the day of that record low, climate contrarian Steven Goddard changed the subject, asserting that Antarctic ice on “day 256″ (September 12 in a leap year) was the highest ever recorded for that date, and the eighth highest daily recording ever. A few days earlier, contrarian Anthony Watts cited satellite readings showing “mass gains of the Antarctic ice sheet” to similar end.

Heartland Institute fellow and Forbes contributor James Taylor quickly seized on the argument, complaining that instead of covering the Antarctic, news reporters were “breathlessly spreading fear and warning of calamity because Arctic sea ice recently set a 33-year low.” Investor’s Business Daily used the Antarctic ice growth to pass judgment on “global warming alarmists” for noting record summer temperatures across much of the U.S. and concluded ” The alarmists’ bible has turned out to be full of false prophets.”

But the low Arctic sea ice came on the heels of a “record-breaking summer,” and it is lower than any since observation began “by a wide margin.” According to a NASA release on the record, the difference between the new Arctic sea ice extent and the old mark is larger than the state of Texas, whereas, as National Snow & Ice Date Center [NSIDC] Director Mark Serreze told LiveScience, “Antarctic sea ice hasn’t seen these big reductions we’ve seen in the Arctic.”

Indeed, the daily sea ice extent for the Arctic is well outside of two standard deviations from the 1997-2000 average, while the Antarctic daily sea ice extent is only slightly outside of this range for 2012:

And according to a study published in Nature of 69 sites around the Arctic, the drop in late summer sea ice in the Arctic is unprecedented in over a thousand years:

Media Matters for America – County Fair

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