Polar Amplification!!!! Earth’s Response to Sea Ice-Albedo Feedback


One of the memes we are continually barraged with is the thought that if (or once) the Arctic becomes ice free, the decrease in the albedo will cause a significant feedback and hot up the earth even more than just the CO2/GHG effect.  Scores of papers have tried to quantify the albedo effect and what it means to the earth’s temps.  I once read, what I considered a fairly well written and fairly comprehensive paper attempt at such quantification.  They even used some cool things I like to call “observations“. 

Estimating the global radiative impact of the sea ice–albedo feedback in the Arctic by Stephen R. Hudson

The thing that strikes me, is that this illustrates quit well that we don’t know what we don’t know.  Here is one of the graphics from the paper attempting to show the feedback……

image   source: http://www.npolar.no/npcms/export/sites/np/en/people/stephen.hudson/Hudson11_AlbedoFeedback.pdf

Hudson concluded that the feedback was  “if a complete removal of Arctic sea ice results in a forcing of about 0.7 W m−2, while a more realistic ice-free-summer scenario (no ice for one month, decreased ice at all other times of the year) results in a forcing of about 0.3 W m−2, similar to present-day anthropogenic forcing caused by halocarbons.”

Now, here we can see the most dramatic decrease in the arctic sea-ice is the most resent period.  Yes, the dreaded death spiral…… I’ll put a graphic up that most readers may be more familiar with……


Data from National Snow and Ice Data Center http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/ via http://www.woodfortrees.org

Ok, so with this dramatic loss of sea ice, going on for over a decade, we should see a response in our temps…. right?


I used the dynamic GISS data and then put the trends of the other temp tracking data sets and then offset them to show how they compared to each other.  But, as we can see, it doesn’t matter which one we use, it has had no effect or it may be causing some cooling.  So much for amplification. 

We don’t know what we don’t know.

UPDATE:  After I got done with this post, I poked my head up and saw that Anthony had posted Sea ice decline posited to be driving snowier NH winters  

This is about a paper stating that less sea ice means snowier winters.  Which could explain the zero response to the decrease in the arctic ice….. an albedo offset as it were.  Now, we know NH winters have increased in snow cover, but that really doesn’t explain the no response.  Winter is when we have the least sunlight to bounce back to the atmosphere.  So, I wanted to see how our snow cover was in totality.  I first did year around but, the graph showed nothing and was horrible to look at, so I removed May through August, because much of the NH wouldn’t have snow cover during that time anyway.  So, here’s what I found…….


While there is a slight increase in the snow coverage, I don’t believe this would account for the lack of response to ice decrease.

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10 Responses to Polar Amplification!!!! Earth’s Response to Sea Ice-Albedo Feedback

  1. Anything is possible says:

    The problem with numbnuts like Stephen Hudson is that they think they can describe the entire climate system using their precious radiative theory alone, and are completely oblivious to the fact that reducing sea ice cover has other consequences too.

    The most important property of sea-ice is that it is an insulator. It prevents heat exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere. Remove it, and sure you warm the atmosphere at the surface, but only at the expense of removing heat from the ocean, and it is a lot easier for heat to be lost to outer space (especially in the Arctic) once it gets into the atmosphere.

    Warming at the surface also causes the atmosphere to become more unstable, triggering convection and increasing precipitation. In the Arctic, that means more snowfall.

    Trying to actually quantify these “knock-on” effects is where it all gets messy and complicated, and is certainly way above my pay-grade. Hardly surprising therefore that climate “scientists” won’t touch it with a barge pole either – way too much like hard work.

    Doesn’t mean they’re not of critical importance, though…..

  2. Anything is possible says:

    Further to the subject of Polar Amplification James, I just found this.



  3. Anything is possible says:

    Thought you’d like it. Notice the date at the top of the article?

  4. Anything is possible says:

    The more we find out, the less we know..

    ….I love that song

  5. RACookPE1978 says:

    A few things to note. And, by the way, thank you for the topic.

    Hudson Bay is a large, roughly circular, enclosed bay whose center is at 60 north latitude. That far “south” its center is at the same latitude as the extreme southern tip of Greenland, well below the Arctic Circle. (Expressed differently, it is as far south as the Arctic Ocean’s mid-September minimum ice extent as Miami is from the frozen rivers and lakes of upstate New York.)

    Hudson Bay is completely ice freeze at minimum sea ice extent in today’s world. It doesn’t matter what the change in albedo of water and ice is at that latitude in that bay at that time of year! All of it has melted each summer, and all will re-freeze the next winter.

    This does not mean the data is wrong, nor the observations incorrect. It does mean that they are irrelevant to today’s Arctic sea ice extents.

    Further, At 60 north latitude, the sun’s angle of incidence is much higher at all times f the year than it is at the edge of the Arctic minimum sea ice extent. The 20 degrees in solar ray angle between Hudson Bay’s 55-65 (average 60) latitude and the Arctic’s 80-90 (average 85) latitude means a lot when water’s albedo is being used to calculate absorption of energy.

    At 30 degrees incidence angle, less than 10 percent of inbound light is reflected. (The remaining 90% is absorbed. Air mass losses of the inbound radiant energy at 60 north are (roughly) only 20% greater than at the equator.
    At 5 degrees incidence angle, less than 5% of the direct radiant heat energy is absorbed, and the remaining 95% is reflected back off of smooth water. Air mass losses of the inbound direct solar rays are between 3 and 11 times what they are at the equator.

    Remember too that radiative heat loss remains the same at both latitudes since the ocean (or ice) radiates heat directly “up” from either surface directly to space. Air mass = 1.0 just like at the equator.

    • suyts says:

      Hey, thanks for the comment….. you’re exactly right about the Hudson Bay….. “This does not mean the data is wrong, nor the observations incorrect. It does mean that they are irrelevant to today’s Arctic sea ice extents.”….. exactly…. I’d go a bit further though and say the ice extent, in terms of albedo, is as nearly irrelevant.

  6. Pingback: Really GISS? Dishonesty Continues In Post Hansen Era!!! | suyts space

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