Is Arctic ice loss related to temperature in the Arctic?

Well, I’ve hit a slow spot in my sea-level study, so to fill some empty spots on this blog I thought I’d visit everyone’s issue de jour.  ‘Tis the season for the annual horse race all of us engaged in the climate science blogosphere know as the sea-ice minimum.  For me, this is a tedious exercise of little or no meaning.  It is a ridiculous discussion.  The thought is that as the earth warms, our polar cap will melt and we will have additional (dare I say catastrophic!) warming.  Well, it’s a ludicrous proposition.  But, I won’t go into all of the details as to why, but I’ll just simply state that given the historical, geological, and archeological evidence, we can state that there has been much less ice in the arctic than today.

For today, however, we’re going to forgo all of that and concentrate on the phenomena of melting.  Now, we’ve all seen the graphs…..  and there are many to pick from…..  this is one that is probably most often referred to.


Viewing this graph, we can see that it is uncontroversial that our ice extent is diminishing.  But, one of the things I would point out, is the “bunching” of the various years of ice extent that goes from the end of April to about the middle of July……and then it occurs again in November and parts of December……. every year!  There seems to be no pattern as to minimum or maximum.  Note the years 2003 and 2007.  2003 had the most maximum and minimum extent in recent years, but when it goes toward the bunching periods, it disappears toward the middle of the pack.  2007 had the lowest minimum extent, but it too, during the bunching period moves toward the middle of the pack!  Why do I point this out?  Because the timing of divergence.  This would seem to back up the posit that melt is occurring to cause less ice extent in the minimum.  Let’s look……  Here is a graph of this year’s temps in the arctic.


Ok, first, let’s explain the graph.  It is in Kelvins.  The red line is 2011 and the green is the mean of 1958-2002!  (Go here.  For an explanation and more links to more details.)  The straight blue line is 0 degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  (Yes, sea ice has a slightly lower melt point than pure H20 at sea level.)  The X-axis is in days of the year.  So, lets see…….  the bunching occurs mostly in April, May and June.  This would correspond with days about 100-180 and the minimum occurs in September, which corresponds to days 244-273, give or take.  Note the spike in temps seen after day 100.  2011 actually increased in its ranking during that time period.  Today, we are at day 220, about 30 or so days away from this year’s minimum.  Much has been discussed this year as to whether 2011 would equal or exceed 2007 as the lowest ever.  And, the graph shown earlier would indicate that this is a possibility.  I would point to the most recent temps.  If anything, the temps in the arctic, this year, are slightly below normal.  So, for this year, the temps of arctic are not related to the ice loss.  It would seem the word melt is an overused and misused word in applying it to arctic ice loss.  This year, and I suspect other years, arctic temps are not a function of ice loss.  If I get bored, I’ll research the other years.  It’ll probably show the same thing.  I think the recent ice extent loss is more of a function of the technological advancements made by icebreakers more than anything else.  More on that to follow.


GISS polar maps….. the first one with Hadley SST’s and the other without.



Note, while the visual representation seems identical, the Anomaly value is different…. (upper right of both graphics)

Alarmists and skeptics alike, agree the maps above are meaningless towards Arctic ice loss!!



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38 Responses to Is Arctic ice loss related to temperature in the Arctic?

  1. PJB says:

    It is, indeed, a horse race and everyone seems to be backing their own horse! (What a surprise…)
    As one of the poster-childish examples of CAGW, this phenomenon captivates because it occurs on a time-scale that seems to be definitive. The longer-term cycle (30, 60 or maybe 100 years or all of them) is less obvious until historical reports are assayed. The recent paper on driftwood lends credence to the resilience of ASI as an indicator of weather conditions at the pole being far from catastrophic.

    Thanks for the resumé and do continue as it improves perspective when there is less invective.

    • suyts says:

      Thanks PJB! Given the recent “driftwood” paper and the “zombie ice” study, (both referenced at WUWT), I’d say we can be pretty sure there isn’t a “tipping” point for this thermageddon relating to the Arctic ice.

      Not wishing to encourage invective….. (I agree we could all do with less.) But……… notice the recent temps in the arctic. Notice how that doesn’t bear any resemblance with this, …….. make the period June….. I did a polar map with 1200 km smoothing. DMI says its running slightly below the 1958-2002 mean…… GISS says its running much hotter.

      • Peter Ellis says:

        That’s unsurprising. DMI models the actual 2m temperature, which as discussed below is useless in the presence of melting ice. GISS masks out ice areas and extrapolates from the nearest non-ice-covered area – this type of extrapolation is known to be valid in other areas of the world. If you like, therefore, you can interpret GISS as modeling what the 2m air temperature would be if it were not buffered to zero by the melting ice. Alternatively, in ice-covered regions you can interpret it as a model not of temperature, but of heat content – the excess heat energy being “stored” as latent heat of fusion.

        If you actually got out there on the ice with a thermistor, what you’d find is a massive temperature gradient near the surface. The melting ice would be slightly below zero degrees (because it’s saline rather than fresh); the air a couple of metres above the ground would be a couple of degrees higher, and it would continue on getting warmer the further from the ice you get.

        All of these temperatures are true, the question is which ones are useful from the point of view of climate modeling, and of understanding what’s going on with the heat balance of the planet. In the specific area of detecting changes in climate, which is what GISS is designed for, then the GISS approach is the appropriate one. There is no point in using the actual surface temperature, which physically cannot change by even a fraction of a degree until all the ice is gone. I reckon if you run your analysis using GISS values instead of DMI values, you’ll see a closer relationship between Arctic summer temperature and minimum sea ice extent.

      • suyts says:

        🙂 Thanks Peter, your conclusions and mine are exactly the same ….oops was in a hurry and didn’t read properly….. I doubt there’s much validity to the GISS method and is just as meaningful to the ice records as DMI’s temp records. In other words, temps are not a function of ice loss in the arctic.

        Peter, so your argument is, fictional surface temps are more meaningful than ones derived from real temp readings?..oooookkaaayyy

        I’ll just have to leave that one alone. They are both intended to reflect the real temps of the surface of the arctic. One is derived from actual measurements, the other invented…… So which comparison would you like me to do? The one where they extend a temp reading 1200 km? I’m pretty sure I could run a comparison on both thermometers fairly quickly, but I’m also pretty sure it wouldn’t represent anything close to reality of the temps north of 80 degrees.

        Feel free to reply or make other comments….. I’m off to test the calculus of spheres on planes.

        (Edited for clarity)

      • Peter Ellis says:

        Peter, so your argument is, fictional surface temps are more meaningful than ones derived from real temp readings?

        In a nutshell, yes – although I’d say “modelled” rather than “fictional”, and I’d be happier if they labelled it as “heat content” rather than “temperature”. Let’s pretend I have a lump of ice in a pan with a flame under it, and I want to know how long it’ll take to melt. To work that out, I need to calculate the energy input to the ice rather than just sticking a thermometer in it (because the thermometer will always read zero). I could do so by putting a thermometer under the pan, taking the temperature there, and working out how much of that heat was getting transferred to the ice. That’s the closest simple analogy I can make for what GISS is doing.

        • suyts says:

          Peter, your analogy fails, because the ambient temp isn’t remaining at or near 0 in the pan. If the ambient temp around the ice remains at or near 0 you’ll see very little melt. You can test this in your freezer if it has a proper adjustment settings. You can even put a fire outside the ambient area and keep the ambient temps the same….trick, I know…:-) Remember, DMI’s temps states 2 meters. You can even match the salinity of ocean water in that area and determine how much ice melt is due to temps. It isn’t that complicated and I don’t know why you’re trying to argue using your circular and contradictory logic. Unlike other sites, I’m not interested in combative arguments here. I suppose they will be inevitable but that’s not the purpose.

  2. Tony Duncan says:

    I either didn’t know or forgot you had a blog.

    So do you have an opinion as to what is causing the ice loss, if it is not from an increase in yearly temperature since the 70’s?

    • suyts says:

      Hmm…. Tony, I want to be clear and not mislead you as to my conclusion. I know I tend to get a bit wordy at times, so perhaps you missed it.

      This year, and I suspect other years, arctic temps are not a function of ice loss.

      Now, there are things we can infer, others we can guess at, but I wanted to show something that is fairly conclusive. I viewed this year only. I referenced only temps above 80 degrees latitude.

      As to why there is recent ice loss……. I think its pretty clear now, that its the various oscillating and osculating events, combined with wind patterns that manages the ice extent and area. I’m sure sending slightly warmer water up to the arctic by the various mechanism play a part, but I think its a pretty small part. I don’t believe the SST’s of the north Pacific and North Atlantic have increased enough to make a significant difference.

      Just my thoughts.

      Thanks for popping by.

      • Mike Davis says:

        The wind patterns are a part of the Ocean Atmosphere Oscillations. Different phases of the cycle will set up primary air movements and strengths.

      • Mike Davis says:

        Think of it as an orchestra playing a concert and different variations of set pieces repeated over time!

      • suyts says:

        That’s a great analogy! Musical pieces have seemingly non-related events that occur. If done properly, the musician ties them all together in a coherent number.

  3. Peter Ellis says:

    Arctic temperatures during the summer are meaningless – they are constrained to be very close to the freezing point. That’s simply what happens as you melt ice. It starts below zero, then as you add energy the temperature rises until you hit zero. It then stays at zero until all the ice is gone – all the extra energy input goes into the latent heat required to convert solid into liquid.

    Note that the “clamp” at zero applies whether you melt only 1% of the ice or 99% of it, so measuring temperature tells you literally nothing about how much ice has melted. It physically cannot give you that information under any circumstances – making this blog post a little pointless, I fear.

    Arctic ice loss relates to Arctic energy input, which is not the same as Arctic temperature. Where this extra energy input shows up is in an earlier thaw, a later re-freeze and a lower summer ice minimum – but not in the surface temperature.

    • suyts says:

      Sigh, Peter, your knowledge level is good, your level of understanding is lacking.

      making this blog post a little pointless, I fear. It probably would be pointless if your assumptions were true. As I recall, some of the temps gathered by DMI are from balloons. This would be reflective of energy in and out of the system. Further, Peter, what you’ve stated isn’t clearly understood by many. While it is true if one’s thermometer is planted on melting ice (if in equilibrium) will read zero, how many alarmists can express that thought? We’re told over and over again about how the arctic is hotting up causing drastic ice melt. GISS gives us surface temp anomalies to prove it! You should read my response to PJB. Given your comments, and accepting them, one can see the red and pink crayons of J.H. in an entirely new light…… illuminating, no?

      Thanks for coming by Peter. Do be sure to drop by again when you feel clarification is needed.


  4. Grumpy Grampy ;) says:

    You probably already know what I am going to contribute! Historical ocean atmosphere variable weather patterns are the primary cause of changing ice conditions in both polar regions.
    I actually think of them as cyclic patterns of variable lengths. There is also evidence of patterns within patterns, yearly, mltiyear, multidecade, multicentury, and on into history. The Ice Age phenomena the globe is experiencing is a many millions of years old and when the plates relocate to allow “Better” circulation patterns the globe will be once again ice free as it was for most of the history of the globe. I do not think the globe will again experience the conditions of the Holocene Thermal Optimum, probably not a good descriptive name for the period but relative to today’s conditions it would have been considered Optimum, until the next interglacial. There is always the chance that the globe can experience a double Optimum during this interglacial as it has happened in the past, at least some research claims that.
    So many claim it can not be either a cycle or a osculation as there is not a defined length or the peak trough varies from cycle to cycle. I came to the conclusion that weather / climate is constrained chaos. The global system is attempting to reach equilibrium but overshooting the mark and then “Tipping” the other way. Equilibrium can not be reached because of because of variable outside forces that provide the system with energy.
    Weather patterns in the Arctic region work in conjunction or opposition to other adjoining weather patterns with strengthening,weakening, or neutral effect. The Arctic region is not isolated as it is part of the globe.
    The majority of the ice lose is from the ice being pushed out of the region after being broken up by weather patterns or human activity, ecotourists/ shipping.

    • suyts says:

      So many claim it can not be either a cycle or a osculation as there is not a defined length….

      Yeh, I’ve ran into that claim too, but simply considering the variables that go into well know oscillating events….. the PDO, the AO and the AMO. Then factor in the ones we haven’t defined yet, throw in some cyclic wind currents, and we have a cycle that’s almost impossible to define.

      • Grumpy Grampy ;) says:

        And when you have cycles within cycles within cycles on and on it is hard to see the small cycle or even some of the larger ones. Then you have , as an example for the Arctic, the AO with a time period between 40 and 80 years, but it does not exist in a vacuum because to each side there is an Ocean Atmosphere cycle that is also doing its thing, as well as some weather movements related to land.
        Let us say the AO is tooling along thinking it is positive and the PDO is negative as related to the AO. The AO will be restrained from showing its full potential. When you throw the NAO/ AMO into the game it becomes like three team football each team attempting to make a goal and the others trying to restrict the goals. At times all three will be positive related to each other then you see the full effects. The reverse is also seen when they are all in sympathy Negative. I do have a problem as Positive and negative are relative terms as they indicate a positive reference to a certain sub region. The PDO was discovered while researching fish habits due to loss / reduction of fish in the fishing grounds used by the US but the fish population increased in another location.
        There are more unknowns in global weather patterns than knowns but cycles of many lengths are well displayed unless they are smoothed out and weather being regional smoothing Globally destroys valuable information that would help better understand
        weather and in turn climate.
        What Peter say sounds good in theory but I have been at ski resorts with temperatures in the 60 and snow on the ground. It depends on at what elevation you measure the temperature.

        • suyts says:

          I think he realized that’s where it was heading if we continued in his vein during the discussion. What he was stating, is true, at the melt point, it is right at zero. But, that’s not the ambient temp. I’m pretty sure Peter knows all of this and perhaps he was just being a bit …. well, perhaps nitpicking is the best word.

      • Peter Ellis says:

        No, I’m saying that the DMI graph is a model (yes it is) of the temperatures at ground level and thus bears no relation to the actual heat input to the Arctic. If you had data for the air temperatures some distance above the ground, where it’s not constrained by the temperature of the melting ice surface, I think you’d see much closer correlation to Arctic ice minimum.

        For instance, you could try the 850 hPa temperatures, which indicate the air temperature at ~1,500 metres above ground level. This is a good measure of the air temperature below the cloud deck, and is a much better way to measure of the amount of heat getting past the clouds into the Arctic system.

        For the next week or so, we are forecast to have a large area sitting over the East Siberian sea with 850 hPa temps of 5-10 degrees C. This is likely to dramatically speed up melt in this area. The DMI graph will not and cannot show this, it’s constrained by the surface melt effects to read between 0 and 1 degrees C for the entire summer.

        Unfortunately I don’t know of a historical source of 850 hPa data which you could try and correlate to minimum summer extent – but I do know that the surface temperature is physically incapable of showing any such correlation.

      • Peter Ellis says:

        Specifically, DMI models the temperature at 2m above ground level, as covered here:

        Click to access arctic_mean_temp_data_explanation_newest.pdf

        It is not possible for air temperature that close to the melting ice to be an accurate reflection of the heat input into the system. The graph in effect “cuts off” the top of the summer peak, meaning you have no idea how the true peak is varying from year to year.

      • Tony Duncan says:


        I was thinking the same thing (without having a clue how to express it ;-).

        I certainly understand and can accept that the various complicated ocean effects can have local, time constrained (a few years, in extreme congruence maybe a decade or more?) impact on the ice in the arctic. I am not sure how they can cause trend line changes over decades. I have not heard the argument about the overlapping cycles not having defined length. that seems pretty bogus to me. What I do believe is that there has to be an external change of energy, either directly or indirectly from the sun to drive decade (or longer) long changes of the nature that we are seeing today. That could be galactic dust clouds, Milankovitch cycles, or CO2.
        I am probably misreading grumpy, but it seems like he is saying something similar -“Equilibrium can not be reached because of because of variable outside forces that provide the system with energy.”
        of course over geological periods his reference to changes in plate movements seems totally reasonable as well.
        It had not occurred to me that human actions could effect ice loss due to shipping, etc. That is an interesting hypothesis.
        I appreciate your patience

  5. Tony Duncan says:


    While not nearly as exciting as Steve’s site. this is much more interesting!
    thanks for starting this blog!

  6. suyts says:

    Tony and Peter, thanks for coming by guys! It’s appreciated. Tony, I’d specifically address your questions, but it would take a few separate posts to clearly articulate what I’m trying to state. But, for now, please accept that equilibrium is only a theoretical state and can never be totally achieved in reality.

    As to both, with the response about the significance of surface temps in the arctic. 🙂

    You both win the prize! Now, I promise to keep this a secret just between us and the people that visit from time to time. I’ve tot to state, though, even though my link provided doesn’t work,(the one in response to PJB) it does provide obvious clues as to what I was articulating.

    Since it wasn’t obvious to you fellows, you’re probably wondering why I’ve promised to keep this a secret.

    Peter, since you are the resident expert on surface thermometer height, can you tell me the height of GISS’ surface thermometers in the arctic, above melting ice, in the same latitudes DMI gets theirs?

    I guess the title was too vague, Is Arctic ice loss related to temperature in the Arctic? I should have qualified it to something like….. Is Arctic ice loss related to our temperature readings in the Arctic?

    Given the response of skeptic and alarmist alike, we can state that it is not! Isn’t that nice? We agree! Now, I’ve promised to keep this a secret, so, I would think it would behoove one of you two to take it upon yourselves to tell Dr. Hansen he can now put away his red and pink crayons. So, who will it be? You guys going to draw straws?

    BTW, and I’m sorry I didn’t bring this up in my earlier response, the data GISS uses to give us those maps, may or may not include Hadley SST’s depending upon one’s selection…… however, it appears exactly the same, with or without! I’ll update the post to show what I’m stating…… bear with me.

    • Peter Ellis says:

      As I told you in my other post above, GISS masks out ice-covered areas and doesn’t use them as part of the model, because data from such areas is uninformative. Thus, including the SSTs will only alter the calculation for the parts of the world where there is no ice.

      I agree that your title would be better formulated as ” Is Arctic ice loss related to our temperature readings in the Arctic?” – and the simple physics of melting ice tells us that it can’t be. Which is why I said the blog post was a bit pointless…

      • suyts says:

        Peter, I think you’re missing the point of the post, so, I’ll explain it in a clearer fashion.

        The first part was to show the uninformed reader that temps up there don’t mean anything. And they won’t unless things get really, really hot up there.

        You seem to concur, but for some reason believe there may be some validity in GISS’ rendering. The second part, where I wanted the conversation to go…. was to discuss GISS and their representations of our surface temps.

        You and I will have to part ways there. I’ve shown you how they use SST’s and as you pointed out, they use ground temps and then extend those temps 1200 km….. which the extension is silly by itself, but they also seem to be inventing surface temps. Look at the map above to determine where the GISS thermometer is on Greenland. Are you going to tell me there’s no ice or snow there? There is. Now, as to whether or not they’re just making up a temp reading or not is for a different post, but there it is. Their surface temp anomaly is showing +2-4 C Center point of the red sure looks like its right at the 80 degree mark. Clearly in conflict with DMI. It would be different if GISS was measuring the air temps, but they’re not.

        Oh, btw….. the link I provided in the post….. go here, DMI uses ….. well, here’s the quote, “The ERA40 reanalysis data set from ECMWF, has been applied to calculate daily mean temperatures for the period from 1958 to 2002, from 2002 to 2006 data from the global NWP model T511 is used and from 2006 to present the T799 model data are used. “

        While that isn’t very clear, you can go here…. for all of the models and data DMI uses for the various years. Among many things used, satellite data, not exclusively surface data. Oddly, so does GISS….. at times, they even use the exact same sat data………. hmm.

        So, to recap…… I say temps aren’t related to arctic ice loss….. you say surface temps won’t show anything anyway…. I agreed……. you seem to think GISS just making stuff up is acceptable. (I don’t)…. and is in great conflict with DMI even though they share some of the same data, which, isn’t exclusively surface thermometer readings.

  7. Latitude says:

    ok goofy….I think I’m back among the living
    I beat the hell out of F&W and the rest of them this past month

    My heads not clear yet, but I think I’m past the point of one liners………………………….

    If you want to get started again, give me some homework…
    ….it’s a shame to let this multi-million dollar computer go to waste……….LOL

  8. Effectively put from a great blogger

  9. Pingback: A Visual Assist —- Arctic Was Warmer In The Thirties!! | suyts space

  10. On the different factors, the amount of ice on individual polar cap depends; has being proven long time ago. If you are starting to discover that 2+2= 4, discover why is it is so:

    • suyts says:

      Hmm…. I don’t know about starting….. I wrote this last year. But, yes, we’ve known for some time that temps don’t dictate ice extent.

    • suyts says:July 21, 2012 at 10:38 pm said: ”Hmm…. I don’t know about starting….. I wrote this last year. But, yes, we’ve known for some time that temps don’t dictate ice extent”

      .Suyts, the ”consistency” I was referring. They have polar caps ice, sea temp, and land temperature; for brainwashing. As soon as one starts proving them wrong on one subject, instantly they jump to another. By dismissing that; the amount of ice has nothing to do with global temp = you are demolishing one of their tools = you are getting a step closer; to putting brown paper bag over the socialist head. But, if you say it ones; then for the rest of the year displaying reports, and arguing about GLOBAL temperature V polar ice = it can only make the Warmist laugh. Same as: if you predict rain for tomorrow – then you follow by 99 predictions of ‘’no rain’ – when it rains; does it make your ‘’prediction’’ correct…? Same as betting on every horse to win. If is only sea and land temp as their tool; easier to discredit them. On the post I gave you, proves the factors that control the amount of ice on the polar caps, it’s NOT CO2. Open challenge, to discredit my proofs

      Suyts, they have three punching bags: CO2, CH2 and H2O, as ‘’Water Wapor’’. They started in the beginning with: ”CO2, same as water wapor are GLOBAL warming gases”. Would you put this post on your blog, and create some real sleepless nights, to the Warmist: They will not like you very much, by supporting the truth; but they already don’t like you anyway. Correct the few misspellings, your English is impeccable.

      • suyts says:

        Well, my English is not impeccable, but then, I’m an American. :-)…. Stephan, I’ll be more than happy to do just that. I’m working on a couple of other things right now, but as soon as I get them done, I’ll post your water vapor post.

      • suyts says:

        And, you’re right, they already don’t like me! It’s a badge I proudly wear.

  11. Pingback: A Glimpse Into The Mind Of An Alarmist…. A Case Study! | suyts space

  12. omanuel says:

    Kepler’s 160 minute cycle

    Thanks to Climategate emails and the damning official responses, the Sun’s pulsar core is gaining traction:

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