Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent, 1900-2010. Graphic: NOAA / Cryosphere Today

By Gavin Schmidt
8 July 2013

(RealClimate) – At the weekend, Christopher Booker at the Daily Telegraph made another attempt (see previous) to downplay the obvious decreases in Arctic sea ice by (mis-)quoting a statement from Arctic oceanographer Ken Drinkwater and colleagues:

Panic over Arctic ice – what else can the warmists get wrong?

As evidence to support their belief system continues to crumble in all directions, acolytes of the warming cult fall back ever more desperately on the summer melting of Arctic ice to justify their wishful thinking that the world is still warming, and to explain why we are enjoying such cold winters and wet summers. Real scientists (as opposed to climate modellers) have long maintained that the decline in Arctic ice is caused not by warmer air – in the past year or two Arctic air temperatures have actually been falling – but by shifts in major ocean currents, pushing warmer water up into the Arctic Circle. Ken Drinkwater, one of a team of scientists at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen who have been observing the Arctic for decades, dismisses the idea that the ice is melting because of any rise in global temperatures. “The warming,” he says, “is primarily due to currents. A greater amount of warm Atlantic water is flowing into the North Atlantic and up to the Barents Sea.” He points out that this is just what happened in the 1920s and 1930s, when the ice melted even more dramatically than it has done in recent years, before it recovered again during the decades of what is called “the Little Cooling”.

This was added to by Andrew Neil as well, despite the best estimates of sea ice history showing nothing of the sort.

In the comments yesterday, Ken responded directly to this to make the context far more plain (slightly edited):

The article by Christopher Booker … is a misrepresentation of my views. He does not state where he obtained his information but it might have been from [this press release] in which I was discussing the increase in the abundance of Atlantic cod in the Barents Sea and its relationship to sea temperatures from studies we had conducted, or in Drinkwater et al., (2011, Progress in Oceanography 90, 47-61). In both articles, my comments focussed upon the Barents Sea and not the Arctic Basin. Our studies did indicate that much of the heat entering the Barents Sea in recent years was advected in by the inflow of warm Atlantic Waters and although direct warming through air-sea heat exchanges no doubt occurred, it appeared not be the dominate process at the time of our studies. This increase in heat led to the melting of the sea ice. I did NOT dismiss “the idea that the ice is melting because of any rise in global temperatures” as Mr. Booker claims. [more]

Arctic misrepresentations

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